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.

 

 

 

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
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

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?