PAUL Collingwood wants his title-chasing troops to ‘enjoy themselves’ in what could be a tense end to the season.
Durham entertain Sussex in the County Championship tomorrow knowing victory could take them another step closer to the 2013 title.
Collingwood’s side are second in the Division One table, six points behind leaders Yorkshire, but with a game in hand.
And having claimed the Tykes’ scalp at the weekend, they now have four championship matches to claim the crown.
The chase for the title could go right to the wire, and Collingwood is eager to keep the pressure off his side.
“We deserve to be up there in the table,” he said. “We’ve won a lot of games, and played some good cricket
“There are four important games to come now, and hopefully we stick to the same processes, and don’t let the emotion of what’s happening get to our play – and just enjoy it.
“There is a lot of enjoyment with our cricket at the moment, and that’s a good thing.
“It doesn’t feel as if there is any pressure, it’s just about going out there and performing, and making sure we keep enjoying it.”
Collingwood will be without all-rounder Ben Stokes, who has been called up on England ODI duty, and bowler Mark Wood, who picked up a side strain in the win over Yorkshire.
However, they could be boosted by the return of key attack bowler Graham Onions, who has been out with a broken finger.
And while admitting losing Stokes is a blow, Collingwood says his side just have to get on with it.
“You have to take your hat off to Ben. For an all-rounder, he just wants to keep going.
“He just says ‘give me the ball’ all of the time, and he is just a beast of a bloke, who just seems to have so much energy.
“Something like this always happens. Right the way throughout the season we have been tested, and we have been tested again with losing Stokesy and what looks like Mark Wood, so it’s going to put a bit of strain on our bowling attack.”
Sussex, third in the Division One table, are not out of the race themselevs, having won four of their 13 Championship games this season, losing just twice, and drawing seven.
On Saturday, Durham did superbly to dismiss Yorkshire for 419, with Stokes dismissing key men Phil Jacques and Kane Williamson early on.
Just seven runs had been added to the overnight score when Williamson, on 97, was caught at the second attempt by Will Smith at gully.
Then, off the second ball of his next over, Stokes produced a beauty which moved away from Jaques (152) late and found the edge for wicketkeeper Phil Mustard to hold the catch.
Yorkshire failed from there to build any meaningful partnerships and when the last wicket fell, Durham were left chasing 121.
Ryan Sidebottom’s first-ball dismissal of Mark Stoneman, caught at third slip by Williamson, gave home fans in the 2,500 crowd hope that Yorkshire could pull off their first win since 1951 after being forced to follow-on.
But Scott Borthwick struck the last two balls of the over for boundaries and Yorkshire were never able maintain the necessary momentum, with Borthwick making 65 as Durham sealed a famous win.