TOP ORDER batsman Cameron Steel is determined to turn Durham's misfortune to his advantage.

While he sympathises with the club's plight following their harsh punishment by the ECB, he says: “This has turned into the best opportunity of my career.

“I thought I deserved more of a chance at Middlesex, but now I have come to a great club with great lads and it's an opportunity I have to seize. Playing cricket has always been my dream.”

After a nomadic existence, the former Durham University captain, who also bowls leg spin, is pleased to be back in a county whose delights he first heard of from Mike Hirsch.

It was during his early teenage years in Australia s that Steel came under the wing of Hirsch, who spent summers in charge of the Durham School team before returning to coach in Perth.

“Mike told me what a lovely place Durham was and that partly influenced me to make the university my first choice.

“It also had the best history course and the University Centre of Excellence Scheme appealed to me because of the chance to combine cricket with studies.”

Steel's English parents had moved to California before he was born, but when he was three they returned to Somerset and he attended Millfield Prep School until they went to Australia when he was 13.

“I was very fortunate to go to Millfield and got a very good grounding in cricket,” he said. “I played for Somerset from under tens, then for Western Australia age groups from 15 to 17.

“My family are still in Perth, but I decided to come back to Somerset and take up the university course.”

It was Middlesex who took him on to their staff and he credits bowling coach Richard Johnson with helping him develop his leg spin.

“He worked for hours with me,” he said. “I had a few mental issues with it. I was OK in practice, but in a game I would get the yips and when I was released I told myself I was never going to bowl again.

“When I came to Durham for a second team trial late last season George Harding broke a finger and Neil Killeen said they needed me to bowl. It turned out fine, so I'm happy to bowl now.”

Steel scored 95 against Middlesex in last year's Second X1 Championship final, confirming the good impression he created in twice playing gritty innings for the university against Durham.

“I see myself as someone who can bat a long time, but I want to keep up with the tempo of the game. We all have to learn the T20 skills these days and I'm keen to play in all forms of the game.”