Di Venuto poised for T20 quarter-final call-up

Durham will consider pitching Michael Di Venuto into his first Twenty20 match for two years in their Friends Life t20 quarter-final on Sunday August 7 – if he is fit.

The opener’s recent form has persuaded one-day skipper Dale Benkenstein that he should be in the line-up for the match against holders Hampshire at the Rose Bowl.

After making 132 on the first day, Di Venuto injured a finger in diving for a very difficult slip catch in the County Championship match against Nottinghamshire on August 3 and it was stated that he would bat in the second innings only if absolutely necessary.

“He’s the best batsman we’ve got, but his finger is really sore,” said Benkenstein. “We brought him back into the 40-over team for the match at the Rose Bowl last month and he played really well on a poor pitch. He’d had a run of bad luck before that, but his innings that day kicked him on.”

Phil Mustard and Gordon Muchall opened the batting throughout the Twenty20 group stages, but after his 64 at home to Leicestershire Muchall totalled just 41 runs in five innings.

Di Venuto scored a 36-ball half-century in the Clydesdale Bank 40 win against Warwickshire on July 31 and Mustard said: “It helped me having him at the other end because he was hitting boundaries from the start.”

Mustard had totalled 59 runs in seven CB40 innings, but made 129 not out, the third highest score in the one-day league for Durham. The two ahead of him are Wayne Larkins and Ben Stokes, who made 150 not out at Edgbaston this season and will play his first Twenty20 match of the season in the quarter-final, having missed the group games because of his finger injury.

David Miller has flown back from South Africa for the game, giving Benkenstein the luxury of batting himself at No 7. Durham scraped into the quarter-finals with six wins and six defeats, but Benkenstein said: “We have done better recently in one-day cricket because the players are starting to know their roles and are performing them well. We have been a bit inconsistent, but when we play well we can beat the best sides around.”

Durham’s only visit to Twenty20 finals day was at the Rose Bowl in 2008, when a 19-ball half-century by Tyrone Henderson in the semi-final consigned them to a heavy defeat by Middlesex.

Di Venuto, who played in nine one-day internationals, but no Tests, for Australia, made a duck in that match and lost his T20 place midway through the 2009 season, when fellow Australian David Warner took over at the top of the order.

Durham will fly to Southampton, with Benkenstein observing: “Last time we went on the bus and seemed to be on it for about 400 hours. We want to give ourselves every chance. We set out this season to try to win everything and here we are in August still in contention, so it’s a great position to be in.”

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