On a day when wickets tumbled on a regular basis at Lords in the 2014 Royal London One-Day Cup final, Durham overcame Warwickshire by three wickets but not before a seemingly easy target of 166 runs for victory suddenly became a difficult total to achieve. The Warwickshire innings only lasted 47 overs during which the team had struggled to maintain any decent momentum in their runs per over ratio but a fine 52 by Durham opener Mark Stoneman provided decisive as his team mates laboured to victory.
Gareth Breese eventually scored the winning runs in the 41st over after joining Ben Stokes at the stumps with the Durham innings finely poised at 130-7 amid overcast skies and much tension in the air. In his final appearance for the county in a limited overs match, Breese compiled 15 runs to add to his 3-30 bowling figures to ensure that Durham clinched their first one day trophy since 2007.
Yet, such is the format of the current First Class one day tournament in English cricket that Durham were able to recover from losing three of their first four matches in the group stage and qualify for the quarter-finals by finishing fourth in Group B just one position below Saturday’s opponents Warwickshire.
As per the Twenty20 Blast competition, the County Cricket teams are divided into two groups of nine teams prior to eight qualifiers proceeding to the knockout phase. Basically, the two cup competitions are now leagues with the added excitement of quarters, semis and a final to determine the eventual winners.
The county teams now have the monopoly of the cup tournaments to the exclusion of the minor counties plus both Scotland and Ireland cricket squads. Gone are the days when a pure knockout competition prevailed as with the old Gillette Cup and Nat West trophy, when minor county teams were drawn to face their First Class equivalents and in which several shock results added to the interest of the tournaments.
Perhaps there is a case for allowing those teams from outside the County Championship to compete in competitions similar to the English FA Cup and Coupe de France in football whereby they can harbour thoughts of completing a giant-killing act and collect some much needed revenue at the same time.
Adding the minor counties teams to the group stages may be an alternative but that risks the possibility of them being marooned at the bottom after just a few games and does not provide the same thrill as a one-off knockout game in which anything can happen.
Although Durham have correctly earned the plaudits for winning the Royal London Cup, the idea of opening the competition to a more exciting format with extra teams may add ultimately add more spark to a competition which did not begin until late July. Maybe the governing body will consider yet another alteration to the ever changing style of English cricket cup tournaments.