After playing in only half of Durham’s 16 County Championship games last season, Steve Harmison observed in the build-up to the new campaign: “We play far too much cricket.”
He appeared, however, to approach his batting with renewed determination on his first visit to the crease at the Rose Bowl, only to suffer an injury while making 12.
It was acknowledged that Harmison, along with several of his team-mates, failed to prepare properly for last season as Durham’s bid to complete a hat-trick of titles quickly faltered.
In his eight appearances he had a top score of 11, but a more diligent approach was apparent as he helped Phil Mustard in a last-wicket stand of 33 against Hampshire in the season opener.
It lifted the total to 473, which was 55 more than Durham’s highest last season, achieved at Canterbury in mid-May. But hopes that Harmison the fast bowler would then come out on full throttle swiftly vanished as he initially did not emerge when Durham took the field.
When he did appear after two overs his left forearm was bandaged. He came on for the fourth over but after delivering two leg-side wides in his first four balls he took his sweater and trudged disconsolately back to the pavilion.
He was sent for an X-ray, but no break was revealed. There was deep bruising to the soft tissue, but Durham hoped he would be able to bowl in the second innings.
Opening batsman Mark Stoneman, who looked in excellent form in making 51, was also off the field. Despite the flatness of the Rose Bowl pitch, he had also suffered a hand injury, so the pace of Simon Jones and Friedel de Wet had taken its toll, despite their lack of wickets.
With Mark Davies and new paceman Ruel Brathwaite already on the casualty list, the jinx which struck Durham early last season appears to have returned. But no one will blame lack of preparation this time.
After scoring 118 at the Rose Bowl on returning to his favoured slot at No 5, Dale Benkenstein said: “Last season’s form was my fault. When you move up the order you have to be a bit sharper, and I wasn’t fit enough mentally or physically.
“In fact, the whole team was humbled a little. This season we’ve worked very hard to get our fitness levels and minds right.”