A desperate year for Durham has just got worse, after Jack Burnham, their promising young batsman, was served with a one-year ban from cricket after failing a drugs test for the third time.
Burnham, 20, is another product of Durham’s academy system, having played for the club from Under-9 level onwards. Despite a modest first-class record to date, he remains one of the club’s most promising up-and-coming players. In 2016, he made his mark with three centuries for England at the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, before going on to make his first – and so far only – Championship hundred against Surrey at The Oval.
Burnham is understood to have been punished for the use of recreational, rather than performance-enhancing drugs, after providing a hair sample to testers in early September. His second transgression occurred earlier this season, for which he was served with a 21-day ban – although his ban went under the radar as he was simultaneously sidelined with a broken thumb.
“I’m bitterly disappointed in my actions, I’ve let my team, members and supporters down,” Burnham said. “I will work exceptionally hard to retain my fitness and carry out the rehabilitation procedures that have been put in place.”
“We will continue to work closely with Durham and the ECB to support Jack,” said the PCA in a statement. “There is an illicit drugs policy in place and we are very much part of that policy. All current players are made aware of the policy and the consequences of any breaches of the policy, during our programme of pre-season visits to the first-class counties and MCC Young Cricketers.”
Burnham’s impending absence from the 2018 season is a further blow for a club that has been in crisis in the wake of last year’s relegation, and subsequent points deduction for receiving an ECB financial bail-out.
Following the departure last season of two of their top three batsmen in Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick, both for Surrey, the club’s drain of senior players has continued. Paul Coughlin, their T20 captain, is heading for Nottinghamshire next season, while two men with international experience – Keaton Jennings, their 50-over captain and Graham Onions, their all-time leading wicket-taker – have signed deals with Lancashire.
In the circumstances, a player of Burnham’s calibre and potential would have expected to play many more than the seven first-class matches he managed this summer. Only last month, he signed a new two-year deal, one that the club is expected to honour.
Burnham had been due to spend his winter playing club cricket in Australia, but will now be sidelined for 12 months, after which he will have to complete an approved rehabilitation programme including education, counselling and treatment. Any further transgressions would lead to a three-year ban.