A brief history of Durham

Sam Collins

Formed 1882
First-class debut 1992
Admitted to Championship1992
County Championship 2008
Gillette/NatWest/C&G 2007
Benson & Hedges Best - Quarter-Finals 1998, 2000, 2001
Sunday League Best - 8th (Div One) 2002, 2006
Twenty20 Best - Semi-final 2008

Durham may be the youngest first-class county, having joined the County Championship only in 1992, but their history is long and distinguished and after just 16 years they claimed the County Championship for the first time in 2008.

The club was established in May 1882, and they played their first match in June of that year, defeating Northumberland by four wickets in Sunderland. They were a dominant force in minor counties cricket for much of the 20th Century, and were Minor Counties Champions a record-equalling nine times between 1900 and 1984. The county had a reputation for producing top-quality players who had to move south to further their ambitions, with George Sharp, Colin Milburn and Bob Willis notable examples.

Their finest hour pre first-class status came in 1973 when they became the first minnows to defeat a first-class county in the Gillette Cup when they beat Yorkshire. The county also went 65 minor county matches without defeat between 1976 and 1982, a record which still stands.

They applied for first-class status in March 1989, and their prayers were answered on December 6 1991 when the Test and County Cricket Board approved their request, making Durham the first county to be awarded first-class status since Glamorgan in 1921.

The county's early first-class years were nomadic as they waited for the Riverside ground to be completed, and while the playing staff did boast names such as Ian Botham and Dean Jones, many of the senior players brought in were past their best. Their mix of youngsters and bought in experience found the going tough, and in these early days they had a reputation as whipping-boys, failing to finish outside the bottom three in their first six seasons in the Championship.

However, in the last few years the county has found a home at the Riverside and established themselves in the first division of the Championship. In 2006 they had three home-grown players; Steve Harmison, Paul Collingwood and Liam Plunkett, named in England's Ashes squad, a sure sign that cricket in the North-East is thriving. In 2007 claimed their first silverware, the FP Trophy before the Championship triumph in 2008 confirmed then as a major force.

Sam Collins is a freelance journalist based in London