Monday, 23 April 2018

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 4

Derbyshire 265 and 333-3

Middlesex 157 and 340 (Harris 64 not, Helm 52, Roland-Jones 46, Olivier 4-82)

Derbyshire won by 101 runs

A home win. The first since 2014. In the first game of the summer too, so the weight is removed from our neck, the monkey from our back, the albatross consigned to history.

Full credit to Middlesex tonight, because the game looked as good as done at lunch, but Harris, Helm and Roland-Jones batted sensibly and with great skill and courage to take things into the final hour. Truth be told, I couldn't see where we were splitting that ninth wicket stand, as they had defied everything we threw at them. Helm made the first fifty of his county career and Harris barely looked troubled as the wicket got slower.

There was a very close shout for lbw, when Hardus Viljoen hit Harris on the pad with a full toss. When that was turned down I feared the worst, but Matt Critchley returned from an earlier, one-over mauling by Roland-Jones, in which he finished a flurry of boundaries by hitting straight to Ben Slater.

A good ball, what looked like his googly, was enough to see the umpire's finger raised and that exposed Tim Murtagh, one of the more rabbit-like tail enders in the county game. He handled Critchley OK, but once the quicks returned he wasn't going to stay for long and Duanne Olivier bowled him to seal a memorable win.

Critchley did well, two wickets showing his value to the side, while Wayne Madsen's crucial wicket just before lunch opened up what we thought was the tail. So much for that, eh?

Olivier finished with four wickets, to go with four in the first innings, while Hardus Viljoen ran in hard and didn't quite get his just reward in this game. I thought Ravi Rampaul's post-tea spell was excellent, troubled the batsmen and made them work, though we were a little wide with lines at times again today.

When Holden and Rayner were quickly removed this morning, an easy win looked on the cards, but Derbyshire had to work, the bowlers had to bend their backs and the fielders, as they did throughout the match, held most of what came their way.

It wasn't a bad wicket and credit to Neil Godrich and his team for producing one, after all the weather we have had, that took the game into the final hour of the fourth day.

We'd have liked it a little less worrying than that, but this was a superb advert for county championship cricket. Middlesex, with their fighting spirit to the very end, showed why they will challenge for promotion this year, irrespective of this result.

Derbyshire? We've shown a few non-believers what we are capable of.

Those pre-season predictions of tenth place might be even less clever now.

Well done guys. You stuck to it well and got your reward in the end.

Leicestershire next...

Mohammad Azharullah in second team today

Interesting to see that Mohammad Azharullah, as well as Charlie Hartley are in our second team for the game against Lancashire second eleven, that starts today at Liverpool.

Thinking over the weekend, I reckon we are a bowler light for the RLODC, which is coming up fast.

I wouldn't expect Tony Palladino to play, nor Will Davis, as both will be key to our four-day fortunes this summer. That leaves us with Messrs Viljoen, Olivier and Rampaul to bowl thirty overs, but where do the other twenty come from?

Yes, we have Alex Hughes, Wayne Madsen, Luis Reece and Matt Critchley, but I would prefer them to cover the final ten between them, rather than twenty.

Azharullah is a proven bowler of county class and is currently without a county. Hartley was unlucky to be released by Kent and has a lot to give, in my opinion.

It will be worth keeping an eye on their fortunes in that match, as well as following the first eleven at the 3aaa County Ground. With Will Davis also in the squad, that's a decent seam attack, even before Alfie Gleadall and Sam Connors are considered.

Keep an eye on Daryn Smit's performance too. Another big score would make his first team claims very difficult to ignore.

The Derbyshire squad:

Kettleborough, Smit, Brodrick, Hosein, Qadri, Dal, Hartley, Azharullah, Sonczak, Gleadall, Connors, Davis.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 3

Derbyshire 265 and 333-3 (Reece 157* Slater 99, Madsen 52)

Middlesex 157 and 86-3 (Olivier 2-25)

Derbyshire lead by 355 runs

Another day, another disciplined effort by Derbyshire, as they moved within seven wickets of their first home championship win in four seasons.

Seven wickets are needed tomorrow, on what looks like a full day of cricket. The wicket is not playing undue tricks, but seemed to have more in it when we bowled, especially as the visitors were shorn of the injured Harris and Roland-Jones.

That takes nothing away from Ben Slater and Luis Reece, who took their opening stand to 219, a county record against Middlesex, before Ben got bogged down on 99 and hit to cover. It takes nothing, bar a digit in the record book, from an excellent innings that continued his fine early season form and confirmed his ability to get his head down.

Reece went on and on, remaining unbeaten when the declaration came after another top innings. His success since moving from Lancashire has been entirely gratifying in all forms of the game, though not especially if you go to cricket matches with a red rose on your jumper. His short spell late in the day was also promising, bowling a full length that troubled the batsmen and got the ball to swing. I cannot think of too many opening batsmen who gave you a left-arm seam option over the years, and he is becoming a very special cricketer.

Tony Palladino was also on the mark and beat the batsmen with late movement in a typical display, but the star turn was again Duanne Olivier.

Hardus Viljoen ran in hard and took the key wicket of Robson with a big in-swinger, but he didn't appear to have full rhythm today. It will come, but when Olivier switched to the Racecourse/Media Centre End, he really seemed to slip himself. He had taken a wicket with his first ball from the City End, but from the other he looked a handful and the quickest bowler on show.

The sight of a Derbyshire quick bowler with five slips and two short legs brought back memories of Messrs Holding, Bishop and Malcolm in their pomp and Olivier responded to being pulled for four with a fine delivery that left Cartwright and gave a simple catch to Gary Wilson.

I still think the keeper is too far back and he was taking a lot of deliveries at his ankles, which seemed to confirm that, but to find faults in this performance is churlish in the extreme.

It won't be easy to take the last seven wickets tomorrow, but I was heartened by how Billy Godleman switched his bowlers around and tried them at different ends. It looked like a captain in control of things and with the confidence that he had the firepower to win a four-day match, perhaps for the first time in his captaincy.

We'll see if that is the case tomorrow, but we have had three very impressive days so far.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 2

Derbyshire 265 and 118-0 (Slater 63 not Reece 47 not)

Middlesex 157 (Olivier 4-26)

Derbyshire lead by 226 runs

If you had offered this position to Derbyshire supporters at the start of the match, they may well have laughed. Even at the start of the day for that matter. To be 226 runs ahead of the county fancied by many to win this division this summer, with two days of good weather to come, is a very impressive effort.

Two days do not make a summer, of course and the key for us now will be to finish off a job that we have started extremely well, then continue with the high intensity level of cricket we have displayed for the rest of the summer.

Kim Barnett must be happy with the initial return on the investment in Ravi Rampaul and Duanne Olivier. Both showed their class over the opening two days, bowling with skill and purpose that was simply too much for the visiting line up.

Rampaul runs up to the crease looking nothing out of the ordinary, yet the final rock back sees a strong body and shoulder deliver a ball that is likely quicker than it appears to the casual bystander. I said pre-season that he may benefit from 'flying under the radar'  and I think he will do so in the months ahead, a steadying influence at one end, like Tony Palladino, steadily nipping it one way and the other, making the batsmen think.

Olivier, I think, we have got at the right time. A good spell here will put him to the front of the queue of would be South African bowlers and everything about him strikes me as a cricketer of purpose. His run accelerates, unlike Rampaul, into a final coil and whip which must make him awkward to face, with bounce and lateral movement a potent combo. In the flesh he looks quicker than on video and he is a key component of what looks a very strong seam attack. He shows the same purpose in the field and is a fine cricketer.

That attack apportioned the wickets out quite nicely today and Middlesex were never allowed to get going. The only criticism one could make was in some of the direction, which made Gary Wilson's life a difficult one and added too many unnecessary runs to the visiting tally for most tastes.

When we went in again, with a lead of 108, Ben Slater and Luis Reece did extremely well. Slater, as he did in the first innings and in pre-season, looked a player of real talent, playing shots all around the wicket. Reece led a more charmed life, with a couple of lbw calls and a rap on the hand before the rain stoppage, but they are phlegmatic characters who could become a fixture at the top of the county order for years to come.

As the clock passed six, the partnership a hundred and the lead 200, those supporters who remained could reflect on two impressive, professional days of cricket.

Proper cricket.

Let's keep it going gentlemen...

Friday, 20 April 2018

Derbyshire v Middlesex day one

Derbyshire 265 (Viljoen 60 not, Madsen 47, Harris 4-68)

Middlesex 45-3

A glorious sunny day greeted the arrival of the first-class season at the 3aaa County Ground in Derby and a decent crowd arrived to witness it. A good number will have come in on the back of the 'bring  friend free' offer that was extended to county members, but I'd like to think a few might have come along, as will be the case through the summer, to show support for a form of the game that the English Cricket Board seems intent on marginalising.

Derbyshire got through to lunch pretty well, at 117-3, after Middlesex opted to bowl. It was a decision that may have taken some thought, but there was movement for the seamers and one or two balls lifted from around a length. It was a wicket that kept the bowlers interested as the day progressed and offered lateral movement; similarly, it was one on which a batsman was never truly 'in'.

Luis Reece and Ben Slater opened, Billy Godleman having opted for a middle order berth this year. The two looked pretty comfortable, until Reece departed to a stunning, one-handed catch by Ollie Rayner at second slip, the first of four that he took. That brought in Wayne Madsen, restored to his (and my) preferred position of number three. We were soon being treated to trademark drives and though there were a few alarms, he survived through to the interval on an unbeaten 46.

Not so his partners. Ben Slater batted well, before a miscalculation on line saw him bowled, while Alex Hughes, after a few nice shots, was caught behind off the final delivery of the session, from the bowling of Cartwright.

Still 117-3 at the interval was better than most other sides batting first, at a traditionally tricky time of year. There was a need for a partnership, though, as the players came out for the afternoon session.

It was not to be. The consensus was that 250 was a score with which we could be fairly happy, but the departures in quick succession of Godleman (17) and Madsen (47) left a lengthy-looking tail dangerously exposed with the county at 143-5.

Gary Wilson gave it away with a half-hearted attempt at a pull that lobbed up to mid-wicket  and a decent lunch position had evaporated in the space of half an hour.

Thereafter the position improved, thanks to a dogged innings by Tony Palladino and one of impressive quality from Hardus Viljoen. Those of us with concerns over the tail end batting were heartened to see the giant South African go to his fifty with three sixes, a huge one over mid wicket sandwiched between two effortless drives.

There was a fourth six before the end came quickly and Derbyshire's mood was lightened by these late order runs, obvious from their demeanour as they came on to the field. Ravi Rampaul took the new ball and and shaped it beautifully, getting Holden caught behind as he ran one across, after swinging the previous ones into him.His initial spell for the county was an impressive one.

Viljoen and Olivier worked up good pace, but the line was often wanting. Both suggested though, when the line is adjusted, that the wickets will come, plenty of balls leaving the batsmen groping.and a couple of edges falling short of the slips, who could perhaps have been up a yard or two with the batsmen not assaying too many aggressive strokes.

It was a spell of cricket that hinted at good times to come. Only twenty runs came from the bat in the first twenty overs, a good few of them from the edge of the bat and in stark contrast to an innings in which Derbyshire scored at four an over. Olivier took his first wicket for us, courtesy of a sharp catch from Matt Critchley at slip, while Viljoen adjusted his line and, bowling a fuller length, had the Australian, Cartwright, beautifully held at second slip by Alex Hughes.

All in all? A very encouraging day's work. There is more to to do tomorrow to get through the Middlesex batting, but we are ahead at the end of day one.

And that's against what most considered the likely champions this summer.

Not bad at all..

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Derbyshire v Middlesex preview - and so it begins

It's been a long cold, wet, dark winter. Come to think of it, a long cold, wet, dark Spring, but cricket is here again and to mark its arrival, Derby has once more been transformed into Derbados. I'm sure that Duanne Olivier and his new wife arrived in the city wondering what on earth they had done, but I am sure that both will enjoy their spell in God's own county now that the sun has remembered that it shines here from time to time.

If Duanne delivers, as part of a four-pronged pace and seam attack that promises much, we will all be very happy. Because despite what the doom-mongers of the media may say, in suggesting we will be lucky to finish tenth in the division, I still disagree.

IF Messrs Viljoen, Olivier, Rampaul and Davis, with assistance from Tony Palladino or anyone else, hit their straps early, no one will fancy batting against us. Especially if we have backed it up with pitches that offer assistance. If the batting can graft their way to totals that offer them something to work with, who knows?

The initial twelve effectively picked itself, the only question, for me, being whether Gary Wilson or Daryn Smit got the gloves. The vice-captain got the gig, which is hard luck on arguably the best keeper on the county circuit, who scored an unbeaten hundred the other day. You could say, of course, that Harvey Hosein can also feel unlucky, but therein is a measure of the strength of this Derbyshire squad.

There have been times, in the not too distant past, where you looked at a named twelve and had concerns in certain areas. I don't here, save for there being no top spin option, but that's not an issue at this time of year and Matt Critchley and Wayne Madsen can fill that gap if required. A spinner might have been the reason for preferring Smit behind the timbers, as a better all round glove man.

Here's the squad:

Godleman
Slater
Reece
Madsen
Hughes
Critchley
Wilson
Viljoen
Rampaul
Olivier
Davis
Palladino.

One assumes Palladino will miss out, but that depends on the expected wicket and he knows Derby tracks pretty well, besides lengthening the batting order.

As for the visitors, they are fresh off their first win last week, against Northamptonshire, but it is no bad time to be playing them. They have a few players missing, including Steven Finn and Nick Gubbins, as well as Dawid Malan and Eoin Morgan.

Their squad:

Robson
Cartwright
Franklin
Harris
Helm
Holden
Murtagh
Rayner
Roland-Jones
Scott
Simpson
Stirling
White

I see Middlesex as the most likely winners of the division, so this is a chance for us to make a statement and benchmark ourselves against the best. They have a very strong seam attack, but will be looking at ours and thinking 'this might be a test'.

All very exciting and I look forward to seeing how the game unfolds over the next four days - or less, if the wicket is anything like those of last week around the country.

I hope the club gets the support it deserves and that 2018 is a year we can all be proud of.

Let's get going gentleman.

Maybe it's the year of the Falcon...

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Live stream announcement wonderful news

Two days before the season starts, Derbyshire announced today that all of their home county championship and RLODC matches will streamed live this summer, together with selected other games.

This is wonderful news and the club is to be congratulated for providing this service, in conjunction with Stream AMG and Purpose Media UK.

There will apparently be a fixed camera behind the bowler's arm at each end, with commentary provided by BBC Radio Derby as the season progresses, for those who want it.

It deserves to do well and I think will do. I know from the many emails that I receive that so many people follow the county from a distance, yet their love for the county cricket club is no less than those whose circumstances allow them to attend on a regular basis.

If I lived close enough to go more often it would not stop me doing so, but for those of us many miles, many counties and many countries away it will be a means of keeping close to the action.

All this in what promises to be a special summer.

Bring it on...

And thanks to all involved in this excellent development.

Hartley takes five as seconds beat Nottinghamshire

Derbyshire 419-4 declared and second innings forfeit

Nottinghamshire 69-1 declared and 287 (Hartley 5-62, Qadri 3-40)

Derbyshire won by 63 runs

A win is a win and our second team forced a last afternoon win after three declarations against Nottinghamshire at Lady Bay.

Charlie Hartley, on trial from Kent, took 5-62 and Hamidullah Qadri took 3-40 as our opponents never got close, although an astonishing 46 no balls by the Derbyshire bowlers gave the figures a little artificial  massaging.

Nonetheless  the win was wrapped up in mid-afternoon and there is something satisfying about one achieved by pace at one end and spin at the other.

I'd be surprised if we didn't have another look at Hartley, who seems a talented lad worthy of another opportunity at first class level.

Wickets also for James Taylor and Alfie Gleadall in the win which is an excellent start to the club's summer.

Now for Derby, on Friday!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Slater and Smit make hay for the seconds

Derbyshire Seconds 419-4 (Slater 221 not, Smit 101 not Hosein 45)

v Nottinghamshire Seconds

It may have taken Derbyshire a few attempts to get out on to the pitch for a day's cricket, but when they finally got on today, against Nottinghamshire's second team, our lads did pretty well indeed.

After the early loss of skipper James Kettleborough brought Harvey Hosein to the crease. Ben Slater was very severe on Mark Footitt, whose first six overs went for 41 runs and the pair added 119 for the second wicket before Hosein fell for 45 to the accurate Milnes, who finished with 2-29.

Alex Hughes and Matt Critchley got starts but didn't go on, but the latter's departure brought in Daryn Smit, who shared an unbroken stand of 198 with Slater, reaching his century just before the close, with ten fours from 152 balls.

As for Slater, he has started the summer in golden form and ended the day on an unbeaten 221, with 5 sixes and 26 fours.

Of course, both will face more stringent tests as the summer goes on, but you can only play what is in front of you.

For me, Smit cemented a place in the starting eleven on Friday (not that it should have been in doubt) and took his second team average to a little under 400,  while Slater confirmed what I said he needed to do in the winter.

He batted beautifully, and long. All day in fact and if he can translate undoubted talent into weight of runs this summer, Derbyshire will have another very good player on their hands. I was thrilled to see him reach his hundred, chuffed to see him go on to 150 and astonished when he sailed past 200.

Quite an effort, Mr Slater.

Finally, it was also nice to see the make up of the second team attack today.

Hamidullah Qadri, Sam Connors, Alfie Gleadall, James Taylor and Nils Priestly - all of them comfortably teenagers, together with trialist from Kent, Charlie Hartley.

That's what you need. Talented young players getting stretched and tested at an early age, not killing time awaiting an opportunity in the academy.

There will be days they get hammered, but they will learn from them, perhaps even more than the ones where the wickets fall for them.

Good portents, my friends.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

County game abandoned before start of day 2

That went well.

Derbyshire's pre-season matches have all fallen foul to the weather, which means that we will go into this weekend's season opener against Middlesex with little game time.

Only Ben Slater and Luis Reece have had any time in the middle, while the bowlers have yet to turn their arms over in earnest.

I am sure that this has been replicated around the country, accounting for why teams have been rolled over for next to nothing in the season's early skirmishes.

Middlesex already look like living up to my prediction as the team to beat and their seam attack is likely to complete a win over Northamptonshire today. A target of 303 is considerably higher than any innings thus far and should be too much, even for a good batting side.

I don't see the announced Derbyshire side for the coming weekend game as being much different to the one for this match, with Daryn Smit's return to it the only likely amendment.

More on that, later in the week.