Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Selection Dilemma Posed for Durham

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Selection Dilemma Posed for Durham

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

DURHAM will have to re-balance their side at The Oval this morning after injuries to Ian Blackwell, Ben Stokes and Dale Benkenstein.

The Riversiders have persisted with a two-spinner policy despite early-season conditions weighted heavily in favour of the seamers.

They have been able to do it because Blackwell and leg-spinner Scott Borthwick are worth selection as batsmen alone, and Stokes, Benkenstein and Paul Collingwood can chip in with valuable seam bowling.

But with Stokes suffering a bad back and Benkenstein an inflamed foot, the pair are unlikely to turn their arms over at The Oval.

It will lead to Durham fielding a fourth specialist seamer, with Ruel Brathwaite and Chris Rushworth competing for the spot. The latest recurrence of a shoulder problem which has dogged Blackwell throughout his Durham career is a concern, but coach Geoff Cook has not written off the slow left-armer returning at Warwickshire next week.

"He's gone to see a specialist to get it checked out, so we'll wait to see what comes of that," Cook revealed.

"He was feeling it when he came back from playing for the MCC against Lancashire in Abu Dhabi (in late March). "In the past he's been able to have an injection and a few days' rest, so we're hoping that will be the case this time."

Blackwell had the shoulder operated on in 2006, when at Somerset, and in the winter of 2009-10. Both procedures were to repair torn muscles.

Two spinners are a luxury in England in April - Middlesex opted to go without any in last week's draw at Lord's. Durham persevered with the policy for most of last season because of their faith in 22-yearold Borthwick who can make a big contribution without bowling.

But Blackwell and Borthwick have bowled a combined 42 overs in Durham's two County Championship matches this season. That their No.11, Mitchell Claydon, is one of only two players to have scored a half-century for them in the opening weeks means they can comfortably accommodate Brathwaite or Rushworth, two weak batsmen. …

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