July 11, 1986, Sunderland
Right hand bat
Right arm fast medium
Chris Rushworth was released by Durham in 2006, after which he took a series of jobs, selling satellite dishes and answering phones in a call centre. Yet he never lost the belief that he could play first-class cricket. As rugged a figure as the Durham Heritage Coast, he became a Durham Heritage Cricketer, a player who with every insistent delivery represents the traditions and the culture of the region that he represents.
Eight years later, Rushworth stood before his fellow professionals at Tobacco Dock in London as the PCA Player of the Year, the top wicket-taker in Division One of the Championship with 83 scalps at 20.61. Not particularly quick, but immensely busy; insistent rather than eye-catching; and increasingly challenging on good surfaces as well as the responsive pitches in the northeast, as could be testified by the fact that 50% of his wickets between 2013-15 had come away from home, he was a bit of a throwback. He even voiced ambitions to play for England.
Rushworth's tally was a Durham record, surpassing Ottis Gibson's 80-wicket season in 2007. A hat-trick divided between two innings against Hampshire saw him join Steve Harmison as one of only two players to achieve the feat for Durham in the Championship.
His rise helped Durham win the Championship in 2013 and, if most attention centred upon the tenacious talent of Graham Onions, he was an excellent foil, missing only one game and taking 54 wickets at 22.25 runs apiece with his bustling fast-medium.
It was all a fitting reward for a refusal to abandon hope of a future in county cricket. A product of Durham's academy, he had trials with Northants and Sussex after he was released, both of which came to nothing, but proved himself again in club cricket for Sunderland before, as he turned 27, he had a Championship medal on his mantelpiece.
A cousin of Durham's wicketkeeper and former captain Phil Mustard, Rushworth made his debut in county cricket for Northumberland against Suffolk in 2004 in the Minor Counties Championship before being given his Durham debut in a 50-over match against Sri Lanka A in the same season. Yet he would not feature for Durham again until 2010 when he made his first-class debut against Yorkshire in the Championship. As Paul Collingwood replaced Mustard as captain, he responded with the best form of his career, his 38 wickets at 16.39, three times claiming five in an innings, helping to stave off relegation in 2012 and similar form contributing to Durham's Championship win a year later.
But nothing compared with his match figures of 15 for 95 from 20 overs, including nine in the first innings - achieved within a single day - as Northamptonshire were bowled out twice at Chester-le-Street as the 2014 season drew to a close. Northants, already relegated, subsided for 83 and 90 to lose by an innings and 219 runs, batting for only 40.2 overs in total. Rushworth smashed the previous Durham record for most wickets in a match, held by the bowling coach Alan Walker, who took 14 for 177 against Essex at Chelmsford in 1995. Rushworth had abstained from alcohol for 2012 to raise money for charity. "I have to admit I feel like a drink," he said afterwards.
Another outstanding day ended Sussex's promotion ambitions in 2018 as he turned in a redoubtable shift of 8 for 51 against somewhat fatalistic batting, the second best figures of his career.
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