Durham to rely on 'home-grown' talent in 2016 season

Graham Onions
Gateshead-born Graham Onions has taken 533 first-class wickets

Without an overseas import for the 2016 season after John Hastings was called into the Australia player pool, Durham will again rely on largely home-grown talent.

Jon Lewis' side have a core of local players, many produced by the academy at Chester-le-Street, with both veterans, stalwarts and newcomers all ready to play their part this term.

So who is going to lead the county's bid to win a fourth County Championship title?

The superstar: Ben Stokes

Stokes' return to Durham for the start of the County Championship season might give fans a rare glimpse of his talents at the Riverside, after a winter away with England.

Ben Stokes
Ben Stokes saw Carlos Brathwaite smash four sixes from his deliveries in the final overs.

His last appearance for the national team came in agonising World Twenty20 final defeat by West Indies, in which he was hit for four consecutive sixes by Carlos Brathwaite in the final over, with them needing 19 to win.

County captain Paul Collingwood was with England as part of Trevor Bayliss' coaching team, and a familiar face at a tough time for all.

"Ben Stokes is the heartbeat of the England side, has plenty of friends in that dressing room but I know Stokesy really well," Collingwood told BBC Newcastle.

"When he goes through something as tough as that in such a big occasion he's obviously going to be upset.

"But he's the kind of character that bounces back straight away and he'll be desperate to get himself and his team into a situation like that again.

"Hopefully he'll have learned so much from those four balls he bowled in that over and make him stronger for the future.

"I'm sure he got a lot of people who put their arms around him and gave him a lot of advice and he'll be bouncing back in the future no doubt about that."

The skipper: Paul Collingwood

Collingwood, even at 39 and his 20th year with Durham, was a key player in 2015, only missing one Championship game. Despite the ongoing speculation about his retirement is determined to play his part again in 2016.

"Every year for the last three I've gone into it saying it my last season, so this year I'm going to try to play as much as I can," he said.

"The body still feels pretty good, I'm still enjoying it, I've still got plenty of ambition to go out there and do well, so I want to play as long as I can."

The bowlers: Graham Onions and Chris Rushworth

Few counties possess such devastating and experienced bowling attacks as Durham, with Graham Onions and Chris Rushworth leading the unit and cameos from England duo Mark Wood and Stokes.

Onions, 33, finished 2015 with 66 wickets while Rushworth, 29, was the Professional Cricketers Association player of the year with 90.

"I don't feel pressure, whether or not people say there is pressure," Rushworth said.

"We've got some big players here so I'm not feeling any pressure and will keep doing my job."

The combination of the two local lads has been a backbone of the county in recent seasons, although last year might take some catching for both.

"That was a really good season, but it's very hard to put into words what Rushy did," Onions added.

"He'll look back on that and think it was an incredible season and to break the records was an amazing achievement.

"If he gets anywhere near that then he's had another awesome season but myself I don't look at wickets, I look at bowling overs and when the opposition are 200-1, getting the ball in my hand and trying to change the game."

The future: Jack Burnham

Jack Burnham's name has been mentioned in various quarters after a sparkling effort for England under-19s in their World Cup campaign earlier this year.

The 19-year-old hit three centuries, finishing with 420 runs and is hopeful of adding to his four Championship appearances in 2015.

"It's been very good, I've learned a lot and played a lot better than I thought I was going to do," Burnham said.

"It's been a pleasure to be out there for my country with the under-19s team, but it's good to be home back at Durham to crack on.

"For the lads to talk about me the way they do in such a positive manner, gives me a lot of belief to back my own skills and do what I can do.

"They give us a bit of stick but it's a good laugh, I grew up watching these players and now to be in the same changing room with them is an absolute pleasure."

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