Wes Durston’s journey back from the first-class cricket scrapheap was complete when he was named Derbyshire’s player of the year.
From becoming resigned to a future in teaching following his release by Somerset in 2009, Durston has scored over 1,000 first-class runs for the first time in his career this season, leading the Derbyshire averages at 42.16, and sits in the top four run-scorers in Division Two of the LV County Championship.
The 30-year-old has also been the county’s leading run-scorer in the Clydesdale Bank 40 – and finished as their most economical bowler in the competition as his off-spin brought him eight wickets at an average of just over 20.
Durston is closing in on 2,000 runs in all forms of the game this season and signed a new two-year contract a few weeks ago but knows the last two years might have been so different if not for what he calls the “hour that changed my life.”
An invitation to play for Unicorns, a side made up of ex-pros and young hopefuls, in last year’s CB40 competition was just about a last roll of the dice for Durston.
But, on May 23, 2010, he smashed the Sussex attack for 117 off 68 balls with 13 fours and five sixes as the Unicorns chased down 325-4 at Arundel. Durston was already on Derbyshire’s radar because Steffan Jones knew him from their days together at Somerset but that knock persuaded head of cricket John Morris to make his move.
“The innings was huge in terms of the game but it was an hour that changed my life,” said Durston. “It seems quite a long time ago now but that hour made a huge difference to me and my family. It’s a day I will never forget.”
Durston announced his arrival at Derbyshire with a sparkling Twenty20 century at Trent Bridge and though he took time to find his feet in the Championship last season, he has been outstanding this year. His only regret now is that he did not seek to leave Somerset sooner.
“At Somerset, I played not many games in eight years and my biggest regret was not actively seeking a way out,” he said. “I was always down the pecking order and had I been scoring big runs consistently I wouldn’t have been thinking about getting out, but I was never given a run of games at Somerset.
“What I should have done was to try to find another county and make a fresh start sooner rather than when it ended and then thinking ‘I’ve made a mistake here’. When I was released, that was a hard time for me. I didn’t see it coming, that was the hard thing. Suddenly, you have to try to find yourself another county.
“If you are making those phone calls when you are still at a club, that’s different, but when you are released they think ‘why has this guy been released? There has to be a reason’ and nobody really wanted to take a chance. They are the decisions you make at the time.
“My family was settled there but having seen what can happen at another county, I wish I’d looked to get out sooner rather than wait until it was too late. I took a chance with the Unicorns and the story after that is still a special story for me. I was lucky the Unicorns happened and I got back in. Other people might not be so lucky.”