Smith expects Essex challenge
Durham skipper heaps praise on Division One newcomers
Last Updated: 19/04/10 10:29am
Smith: Early season scare
Durham captain Will Smith believes Division One newcomers Essex will prove a genuine threat to his side's chances of retaining the championship.
"They've got a good squad, seem to have built it up over the last few years in one-day cricket - and are developing into a good four-day side. They played really, really good cricket here."
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Smith heaped praise on the Eagles after Mark Pettini's men came within a whisker of following up their season-opening win over Hampshire with a shock victory at the Riverside.
Only second-innings resistance from Michael Di Venuto (99), Dale Benkenstein (98), Ian Blackwell (52) and Phil Mustard (60no) prevented what looked for large periods of the match, a certain defeat.
While relieved to escape with a draw, Smith was quick to praise the quality of the opposition.
Asked if Essex may be a team capable of challenging for honours this summer, he said: "If they play a similar kind of cricket, definitely.
"They played some really good cricket over these four days, and obviously did in their first game against Hampshire too - when they played great four-day cricket, stayed in the game all the way down to the last session, then look what happened then.
"They've got some good cricketers. If they can have the (Alastair) Cooks and (Ravi) Boparas available for a few more games, that will surely help them.
"But they've got a good squad, seem to have built it up over the last few years in one-day cricket - and are developing into a good four-day side.
"They played really, really good cricket here."
Durham are currently vying for a third successive Division One title - a feat not achieved since Yorkshire dominated domestically in the 1960s.
However, Smith was quick to dismiss suggestions that his side are simply much better than everyone else in Division One.
"I don't see it that we are always the dominant team everyone has to look out for," he added.
"Every team was a decent team last year, and will be again this.
"It's just that we played consistently good, tough cricket last year - which saw us through.
"We'll have to do exactly the same this year if we want to go anywhere near repeating it."