Paul Collingwood's band of local boys triumph over adversity and bad luck

Year that hit rock bottom with coach Geoff Cook's heart attack ends in stirring Durham title win

Durham ICG

Durham secured their third County Championship title in six years today. If it was a remarkable achievement for a club which entered the first-class arena a mere 21 years ago it touched the miraculous given the travails which beset them this season.

They began the campaign broke and needed an emergency injection of local authority funds to survive. They were docked points for an inadvertent breach of the pay ceiling two years earlier.

Then they had only two days of grass nets before the season began because of the poor weather and inspired by their veteran captain, Paul Collingwood, ended up climbing a snow-laden Scottish mountain by way of team bonding. There were no funds for an overseas star and they needed to rely on a plethora of largely inexperienced players who were the products of their own academy.

They were forced to win one match, away against Nottinghamshire, in a race against the clock after the fire alarm in their hotel went off and left the players with only an hour's sleep. Off the field, much of the club's attention was on ensuring the success of the Ashes Test that was being staged, somewhat contentiously at their ground last month.

And then came the most cataclysmic blow. In late June midway through the competition, the county's head coach, Geoff Cook, who has been with them since the start of it all suffered a severe heart attack while jogging near the ground.

He was extremely fortunate to be found by a fellow runner but for days it was feared he may not pull through. Cook remained on the critical list for a fortnight. The county was enveloped by gloom which was matched by a renewed determination.

Cook, 61, is universally respected and admired. Nay, he is loved. The summer was already promising something unexpected but this terrible occurrence might have stiffened the resolve.

Perhaps it truly was a miracle because Cook was there today as Mark Stoneman, one of the local boys made good, drilled a cover-driven four off the back foot to clinch an eight-wicket victory against Nottinghamshire and the title.

Cook's return, albeit to light duties, astounded the players and the club management. But he is the sort of chap who is absorbed by the club and the job. He might have played for Northamptonshire for two decades (and more briefly for England) as a capable opening batsman but the blood is pure vintage Durham.

Everyone but Cook wanted to talk about him today. Collingwood, always a man to recognise the contribution of others, said: "There were about 10 of us went into the hospital and saw him. We all came out and the surgeons told us that it was looking ominous.

"Because that was the kind of language they were using it was devastating for everybody that went in. So for him to pull through was a miracle in itself."

Cook, trying to deflect attention from the personal and direct it to the club, said: "As soon as I was home for a week, honestly I just felt absolutely fine. The medical people were definite there was no damage to my heart, so I once I got the OK I could touch base again."

If Cook's dreadful plight affected and galvanised the youngsters in the team whom he had helped (10 of today's side came through the junior and academy ranks), the elevation of Collingwood to the captaincy looked like a masterstroke. When he was appointed last season, Durham were bottom of the First Division and looking bankrupt in many senses.

They went on to win five out of six matches under his stewardship in 2012 and have won 10 already this season, including the last five in succession, with one fixture against Sussex remaining. It can be difficult for a player who has paraded on the international stage as triumphantly as Collingwood to return to the county wings but the leadership of his home club has meant a great deal to him. He took them up Beinn Dubh near Loch Lomond in March when match practice at Loughborough was cancelled.

In Graham Onions he has had the one truly international-class performer they probably needed and he has taken 66 Championship wickets. Two batsmen, Stoneman, from Newcastle and the leg spinner Scott Borthwick, promoted to No 3 from eight on a hunch, are on the verge of 1000 Championship runs.

"It's been unbelievably satisfying," said Collingwood. "We keep getting tested every single game. Something happens that just keeps testing us and somehow we keep showing the resolve. I don't know what it is.

"I don't know if we can bottle it. It seems to be inside the North-east people. They just want to fight. They keep fighting. And these youngsters have just fought all year, through adversity, whether it be financial situations or Geoff Cook's illness. People have grown. Seeing the youngsters blossom has been absolutely wonderful."

And so it was today when, following a delayed start, Stoneman ensured they scored the paltry 69 runs required.

 

 

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York