'˜They'll be back' - Yorkshire CCC's Liam Plunkett backs former club Durham to recover quickly

LIAM PLUNKETT believes his troubled former county Durham will not stay out of county cricket's top flight for long.

Liam Plunkett celebrates a wicket for Yorkshire against Somerset last season with former captain Andrew Gale, now first-team coach. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

The terms of a financial bailout from the England and Wales Cricket Board mean Durham, champions in 2008, 2009 and 2013, have dropped down to Division Two of the Specsavers County Championship and also been hit with a 48-point penalty this term.

The punitive nature of the action, which also includes points deductions in both white-ball competitions, has drawn plenty of debate but on Friday morning Paul Collingwood’s side will be back on the field against Nottinghamshire and starting the long road back.

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Plunkett may now be with Yorkshire but he is one in a long and talented list of internationals produced by the North East county in recent years – including Collingwood, Ben Stokes, Steve Harmison, Mark Wood and Graham Onions.

FLASHBACK: Liam Plunkett, second left, celebrates a wicket for Durham against Yorkshire at Headingley back in 2010. Picture: SWPIX.com

And he is both confident and hopeful that things can get back on track at Emirates Riverside, a proving ground for a wide demographic of cricketers who might otherwise slip off the radar of the first-class game.

“I loved my time at Durham and I owe a lot to the cricket I played there,” he said.

“I went from school in Middlesbrough, playing local cricket, to going there and being treated like a professional at 14,15,16 years old. It was the best years of my life.

“I’ve read about what’s happened to Durham and it’s a shame to see. You want to help all clubs out and see them have the same opportunities.

FLASHBACK: Liam Plunkett, second left, celebrates a wicket for Durham against Yorkshire at Headingley back in 2010. Picture: SWPIX.com

“You want the political stuff to improve and you want them to still be there fighting because they’re good enough to be in Division One. I know they’ll find their way back up, if not this year then the next couple of years.”

Durham lost key men Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick to Surrey in the close season but retained the likes of Keaton Jennings, Chris Rushworth and Wood to lead a youthful squad.

Alastair Cook is set to begin his first-class season for Essex against Somerset after missing his club’s opening match of the campaign because of a troublesome hip.

The former Test captain was cleared by the England and Wales Cricket Board, along with several fellow centrally-contracted players, to start the summer last week.

Cook had to pull out of that match at home to Lancashire, but has been named by Essex in a 13-man squad to take on Somerset at Taunton in Division One of the Specsavers County Championship today.

The 32-year-old opener tested his recovery, following injections to ease the injury, in the nets this week – and has been passed fit to be included in Essex’s plans and is therefore scheduled to play his first innings in first-class cricket since resigning as England captain two months ago.

Essex have also added all-rounder Ashar Zaidi to the line-up which battled hard for a draw against Lancashire.