A week after his 37th birthday, Dale Benkenstein goes into Durham’s LV County Championship match against Yorkshire at Chester-le-Street needing 148 runs to break the county’s record first-class tally.
Former captain Jon Lewis, now the second team coach, totalled 7,854 runs in 262 innings from the 1997-2006 seasons, while Benkenstein has scored 7,707 in 171 innings.
He has hit four centuries and four half-centuries in 12 knocks this season in the Championship, in which he has scored 856 runs at 77.72. He also scored 13 against Durham University and is the second highest run-scorer in the country behind Marcus Trescothick.
Benkenstein captained Natal for eight years before coming to Durham, where he has settled with his family. He took over the reins in 2006 but relinquished them after leading Durham to their first Championship title in 2008.
He is already Durham’s leading century-maker with 21 and has come back strongly this season after a lean time last year, when he struggled with injury and underwent a double hernia operation at the end of the season.
With five wins from eight, Durham are 17 clear at the top of the Championship with 139 points, while Yorkshire haven’t won since the opening match at Worcester and lie seventh with 62 points.
While the visitors await Tim Bresnan’s return to full fitness, Durham are able to reunite Steve Harmison and Graham Onions for the first time since August, 2009. They also have Liam Plunkett available for his first Championship action since he took Durham over the line at Headingley in April.
An eighth-wicket stand of 98 between Richard Pyrah and Ryan Sidebottom took Yorkshire into the final session on the last day before Plunkett was asked to produce an aggressive spell and obliged by taking two of the remaining three wickets.
He also scored 66 not out in that match but suffered a thigh injury and has missed six four-day games. His return will have to be at the expense of either Callum Thorp or Scott Borthwick.
Both have been ever-present in the Championship and Thorp is the leading wicket-taker with 23. His average of 33.91, however, leaves him seventh in the Durham list with Harmison top with ten wickets at 23.5.
There has been a good spread of wickets among the others with Ian Blackwell taking 19, Borthwick, Graham Onions and Ruel Brathwaite 18 and Ben Stokes 17.
Stokes will be out for a further three weeks with his finger injury, allowing Paul Collingwood to re-establish himself after making only four Championship appearances in five years. Prior to that he scored six centuries in the 2005 season – another record for Benkenstein to aim at.