Too many subs spoil the broth, says Cook

Durham coach Geoff Cook has called for the ECB to look again at the regulations surrounding replacement players in county matches.

Cook had voiced his concerns even before Keith Barker’s first involvement for Warwickshire against Durham was to score his maiden century.

Former England batsman Cook said: “He took his opportunity well, but the regulation has to be looked at in order to retain the integrity of the game.

“The ECB have done a lot of good things in recent years, but this sort of thing is a threat to what they are trying to achieve.

“Warwickshire had two players coming in with fresh legs and if that’s permissible you could extend the argument to say injured players can be replaced.”

Warwickshire discovered in the week before the match that the regulations had been changed to allow Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands players to be replaced in mid-match if they had to go away on international duty.

After the first two days against Durham, both Will Porterfield and Boyd Rankin had to link up with the Ireland squad for two one-day internationals against Pakistan.

Questions were asked about whether the regulations insisted on like-for-like replacements when they nominated Barker to take over from Porterfield, which appeared to alter the balance of their team.

Although they have sometimes batted him at No 3 in their one-day team, Barker had previously been considered more of a bowler than a batsman.

While Porterfield opened in the first innings, Barker went in at No 8 with a previous best first-class score of 31 and made 101. He was on 17 at lunch and was out in the over before tea.

Steve Harmison was off the field from lunchtime onwards with the back injury which has also kept him out of the top-of-the-table game at home to Lancashire.

On a very placid pitch, the Warwickshire tail showed far more application than the top order stroke-players and made Durham sweat until nine overs from the close for their second successive innings win, again with the maximum of 24 points.

The match was a triumph for Will Smith just over a year after being persuaded to step down as captain. He batted throughout the first day and went on to make 179.

After losing the captaincy following the first defeat for 23 games, Smith was left out of the four-day team for the rest of last season and only got back in when Mark Stoneman broke a hand in the first match of the current campaign.

“Everybody else in the top seven had made a century, so I was feeling under a bit of pressure,” he said. “It was tough for various reasons last year. I did reach a point where I was considering what else I might do, but I love playing for Durham and want to do it for many more years.

“It was in my hands. The captaincy’s gone – there’s no awkwardness, I just see myself as a member of the squad. I’m a batsman and I have to score runs.

“I got myself as fit as I’ve ever been in the winter and that helps you to bat all day. I felt fit when I was scoring runs in 2008, but the mental effort which goes into captaincy can drain you. I have huge admiration for any captain who scores big runs at the top of the order.”

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