Monday, 24 July 2017

Derbyshire v Lancashire T20 preview

There is an opportunity for Derbyshire to lay down a marker tomorrow, in a game against Lancashire that marks the half way point of the T20 group stage.

Defeat wouldn't spell the end of our ambitions, in a group that is wide open and where seven or eight wins might take a team through. But it would suggest our recent decline could be terminal to those ambitions.

We need a statement in front of a likely good crowd and a repeat of last year's excellent win over the visitors. It was a game in which Jimmy Neesham, who for me should have been re-engaged for this year, produced a fine bowling performance, before one of the last Wes and Ches shows, with a fine knock from Hamish Rutherford, took us home.

We are a stronger side this year, but the bowling has been sketchy and thus far, for me, only Imran Tahir can be said to have genuinely improved it. Hardus Viljoen bowled well in the first two games, but since then, perhaps with injury, has struggled, while Matt Henry has bowled some good balls but been horribly punished. I know the bowlers will have talked and worked on the lines and lengths they need to be bowling with Dominic Cork, but it would appear they have been missing them. Badly.

I don't see them being dropped though, as one pundit wrote elsewhere the other night. They are players of proven ability and we can only hope that their mojo returns and a home crowd gets the best from them. I may be in a minority of one, but don't see better options languishing in the second team at this stage.

I do think we need to bring in an extra bowler and Ben Cotton could be that man. In previous summers he has managed to hit the wide yorker lengths pretty well and that will be important against a side that carries some punishing batsmen down the order.

I'm not going to predict this one, because I am unsure which Derbyshire side will turn up. As I wrote last night, we cannot keep leaving the batting almost 200 to chase and expect them to come up trumps.

Lancashire have had stronger sides in the past, but are doing well because they play as a team and have several players who can score the quick, requisite thirties. They also have Junaid Khan, a good death bowler who stifled us at Old Trafford and the presence of Joss Butler in the middle order is always a threat.

For Derbyshire to win, someone - batsman or bowler - needs to produce something magical for us.

Who will step up to the plate?

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Birmingham Bears v Derbyshire T20

Birmingham Bears 197-4 (De Grandhomme 65 not, Pollock 66)

Derbyshire 177-9 (Reece 33, Elliott 4-37)

Bears won by 20 runs

After seventeen overs of the home side's innings today, a betting man might have fancied a few bob on Derbyshire coming out on top in this game.

At 137-3, with Ian Bell dismissed, the thinking would have been a total of around 170, comfortably within the compass of a side that has been batting well.

Then the wheels came off, faster than a pit stop at a grand prix.

SIXTY runs conceded in the last three overs.Six, zero.

The target had gone from challenging, but possible, to unlikely in eighteen balls. A friend texted me to say that, according to the radio, we would fancy anything under 200. Sadly, not for me.

When the momentum swings against you, it is very difficult to stop it and swing it back. The home side will have been buzzing after the late assault by Colin De Grandhomme and Will Porterfield, something we appear to have been powerless to stop.

I am less concerned about Wayne Madsen conceding runs, though the question of bowling him at that stage, as a non-regular bowler, is a valid one. Both batsmen have reputations as hitters, though I guess he has been our best bowler and just had one of those overs. What is disappointing, however, is that we continue to hemorrhage runs from our overseas quicks, from who one would really expect better.

It is not fair to judge players at this stage, but is safe to say that both need to up their game if this is to be anything other than the latest in a long list of promising, but ultimately disappointing campaigns. We have gone from 3-1 to 3-3 in the blink of an eye and although the batting worked hard to the end, we cannot expect them to be chasing 200 every time and no one really got going today.

With the role of overseas professional and Kolpak come rewards, but also considerable expectation. If Ben Cotton and Tom Taylor had gone for those runs we would write it off to inexperience, but players who are well rewarded and experienced should be doing better. Just as De Grandhomme did, as Grant Elliott did and, indeed, as Imran Tahir did, after taking some stick in his opening over.

At the end of a disappointing weekend, we sit third in the table on run rate, one of four teams on six points with the reigning champions and Leicestershire, a side we have still to play twice, above us.

There is a lot to play for and we can get back on track.

But by crikey, those closing overs need to be a heck of lot better, even if I acknowledge a terrific effort by the two home batsmen.

Don't let us down now lads, after all the hard work you have put in so far.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Birmingham Bears v Derbyshire preview

You see, that's the thing with T20.

It only needs a batsman to come out flying on either side and it can make a mockery of predictions and form. Like Riki Wessels last night, after the hardest work appeared to have been done.

Tomorrow's opponents Warwickshire (for it is they, in an animal guise...) have some good players but are having a wretched summer. They seem destined for the drop in the four-day game and have committed the cardinal sporting sin of letting a good team grow old together. A look at the side that played Yorkshire last night shows a collection of players who are unlikely to be whippets in the field, but can still produce the goods with bat and ball.

As good as Yorkshire and Northamptonshire, who we beat? No. Probably on a par with Worcestershire, who we also beat, but carrying a threat beyond the playing field in possibly being underestimated, as the likes of Ian Bell, Tim Ambrose, Grant Elliott and Jeevan Patel have been good players for a long time. They may not have the constant flame of their pomp, but from time to time they can turn it on and still win games.

Such a game could easily be tomorrow, and our increasingly impressive side must guard against complacency or they will get badly burned.

I don't see any changes in the Derbyshire side, unless late injury dictates otherwise and the only question, as mentioned earlier, is if there is a need for an additional bowling or batting specialist in the side. The way our batting is going I don't think so and, if your top seven don't get you runs, why should you expect a bloke at eight to do so? It's a shame that Ben Cotton hasn't the form of a couple of years back, when he looked a very good limited overs bowler, as he would have strolled into the side otherwise .

Taking the pace off seems to be the way we go, so I think it will be a straight call between Callum Brodrick or Hamidullah Qadri, with the former likely to get the nod. Given he hasn't yet batted or bowled, it can hardly be claimed that he has let us down, can it? Slow and turning would be nice, though, for a wicket...

Our hosts look likely to field the side that lost to Yorkshire, which will thus line up:

Hain, Bell, Porterfield, Ambrose, Elliott, Thomason, de Grandhomme, Barker, Patel, Rankin, Hannon-Dalby.

With three Kiwis in that side, John Wright should have an idea what to expect, as should Matt Henry on the pitch.

A Derbyshire win? If we hope to progress in the competition, it has to be. Good players as they are, you would have to say we need to beat them, Durham and Leicestershire to go through. I can understand losing to Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire. To lose to the others, we are deluding ourselves with expectation of progress.

We'll see how it goes tomorrow.

Good luck lads.

A season-defining week ahead

The next week is one that will define whether the 2017 season will go down in history as where Derbyshire started their climb to a side of quality, or sparkled briefly, only to fizzle out once more.

It is undeniable that we have played a better quality of cricket than before in this T20.

So far.

The key is now to extend that through a week of largely home matches, against teams who we should have a chance of beating. Warwickshire away are beatable, after a wretched summer, while Lancashire could, with a little more batting nous, have been beaten at Old Trafford. If we can do better on Tuesday, it sets the return against Northamptonshire up nicely on Friday, before table-topping Leicestershire visit on Sunday.

In previous years I would have thought 'one win, three losses' among that set, but it is a sign of the change of mindset that all could be viewed as wins. They possibly won't be, but we are a better-equipped and more experienced side this year, if we maintain focus.

Yes, as a contributor said yesterday, we are missing Shiv Thakor, but I would be surprised if we see him, so must continue as we are. We are crying out for a Charl Langeveldt, but the batting in this format has evolved even since his time. With batsmen using the full depth and width of the crease and carrying bats that will mishit sixes, short boundaries make the task of the bowler an onerous one.

Any bowler, especially those who often bowl in the Powerplays, who hits the ten an over mark for runs conceded is probably achieving par. As we saw the other night with Matt Henry, his last three balls changed impressive figures to average, as they went for 16 runs. None were bad balls, but the batsman chanced his arm and strength and away the ball went, along with his figures. It was the same for Imran last night, they perhaps didn't always read him, but rode the luck and reaped the rewards.

If the eleven that played last night remain fit, I don't see changes this week. Who would you leave out, with all the batsmen scoring runs and three internationals in the bowling ranks? Callum Brodrick's place is the most vulnerable, but do you pick a batsman who might not bat, a bowler you may not need or your best fielder?

With Madsen, Henry, Viljoen and Tahir to bowl 16 overs, I think the other four will continue to be split between Reece, Hughes and Critchley, unless Ben Cotton rediscovers his best bowling form or Tom Wood hits furiously this weekend at club level. Maybe Charlie Macdonell, who bats well and offers another spin option. Perhaps Hamidullah Qadri, whose height may make him more difficult to get 'under'. If they are unlikely to be used, then pick the best fielder, whoever he is.

Will it be enough to make it a golden week? I know no more than you, but I reckon that the side goes into every game now with a fifty per cent chance of success, sometimes more.

It is a long time since we have been able to say that and the efforts of John Wright and the captaincy of Gary Wilson have been impressive. We have plans, something we haven't had for a year or two, but not rigid ones. Reece didn't bowl last night (and will doubtless be pleased!)while the opposition don't 'line up' our bowlers in longer spells. We are lessening the impact of dot balls on our totals and largely batting with greater urgency, batsmen encouraged to express themselves.

It will make for a worthy week of watching and I hope that the locals turn up in the numbers that the efforts of everyone deserve.

If I get to next Sunday evening and remain in a state of anticipation, it will be a job well done.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire T20

Nottinghamshire 227-3 (Wessels 110, Taylor 67 not, Madsen 2-32)

Derbyshire 222-5 (Madsen 86 not, Godleman 43 not)

Nottinghamshire won by 5 runs

You can forget the city-based competition, because there will be nothing remotely close to the excitement on a night when two East Midlands rivals slugged it out under the Trent Bridge floodlights.

Yes, in the end the home side prevailed, narrowly, when we couldn't get a six off the game's final ball to tie it. Be honest, how many of you had any idea we would get within a hair's breadth of a total of that magnitude?

There may well be criticisms of the bowlers tonight, but sometimes you need to credit batsmen who play a blinder, albeit with the aid of a boundary that was a tad on the short side. Riki Wessels is a perennial thorn in our side, and even when Wayne Madsen took the wickets of Hales and Patel, the danger of Wessels and Brendan Taylor was obvious. They hit us around the park, as we later did to their bowlers.

Madsen was the best by a distance, as he was later the best batsman. He is having a quite astonishing tournament and is in the form of his life, after a sketchy four-day season so far. The rest went for ten an over-plus, but if you combine big bats and short boundaries, something has to give. I had messages about poor fielding and Wessels was dropped, but this happens in any form of cricket. The side that fields the best often just shades it, but we came so close.

Critchley and Godleman again went off like a train, Reece ticked over steadily and then came Madsen. An unbeaten 86 from just 44 balls as we stayed in the game to the very end, with support from Gary Wilson and then Alex Hughes.

In the end it was...just...too much. But on a night when over fourteen thousand filled Trent Bridge, county cricket was the winner. Why do we need to introduce a 'better' competition, which will have all the competitive edge of Ethel and Mary knitting sweaters at the WRI? I am still firmly of the opinion - and hope - that it dies on its backside.

It was a magnificent game to follow, in my case on Twitter and Cricinfo, and a huge credit to both sides.

Where does it leave us? Still, I think, in a very strong position. If we can chase and not be fazed by a total of that size, other counties will be worried about what we might do. If the fielding and bowling can hold their own, the batting appears to be going from strength to strength.

In any other season, if you had told me the opposition had made 220, I would have backed us to fall a hundred short.

This year? We are a team of constant surprises.

Perhaps the best is yet to come.

Postscript - shameful piece on the BBC cricket site about Callum Brodrick's dropped catch at Worcester the other night. It was labelled 'an easy catch', which anyone who has ever played the game knows they never are.

When the eyes of everyone are on you and the ball is coming down from a great height, it is never easy. Some may make it seem so, but factor in a big crowd, a lad making his county debut and the television cameras and the complexity increases.

Whoever was responsible should be ashamed, as should whichever hack editor thought it a good idea.

They got their come-uppance on Twitter today, that's for sure.

And rightly so.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire T20 Preview

The first of the two big local derbies arrives tomorrow, with Derbyshire taking the short trip to Nottingham to play our long-standing rivals.

For a long time there was no real expectation of our lads winning, but now? I think if we are focused and can field a full-strength side, we can handle anyone. That's not a comment borne of last night's euphoria, more based on beating two very good sides earlier in the competition. We have chased down big totals with time to spare and have shown ourselves to be excellent pacers of a run chase. That may be the first time in the blog's history I have written that sentence...

Last night, before he was drowned out by the inanities of Rob Key, Dominic Cork was making the point that John Wright has told us that if we score one off every ball, we will win most matches. Key's response, almost too stupid to recount here, was 'but 120 won't win you many games, Dominic'. He missed the point, in failing to be a comedian, that Cork was making - you score something off every ball, putting away the bad ones when they come and eliminating the dot deliveries, you will score big and quickly. You'll gather I wasn't a fan of the commentary team last night, but Wright's words were exactly those that I have used for the past few seasons, at this stage of the summer.

Can we do it tomorrow? Well, our hosts are, I think, some way removed from the side they were even last season, since when they have lost, for one reason or another, Messrs Taylor, Lumb, Fletcher, Broad, Smith and Read. Such is their strength that they will still field a strong side, but there's not too much between the elevens tomorrow.

I think that we fielded our strongest eleven last night. There are plenty of bowling options and a depth to the batting, to which Callum Brodrick adds. He could also bowl, if needed and, a dropped catch apart (and who hasn't dropped one or two?) he fielded brilliantly. I suspect there will be no changes tomorrow and that Tom Wood's elevation to the side may have to wait for now.

I'm not sure that Hardus Viljoen is even 70% fit, based on his movements last night, but they need to keep strapping up his knee and he needs to find better lines and lengths than he did against Worcestershire. Nonetheless, he is a key component of the eleven. 

The home side? They will have England star Alex Hales to open and we will hope for a Nathan Rimmington-style departure for him in the early overs, in which he will feature in this squad:

Taylor, Mullaney, Wessels, Hales, Gurney, Wood, Patel, Moores, Hutton, Ball, Christian, Sodhi, Root.

Talented? Yes. Unbeatable? No, unless Hales produces another of his special innings. There's no Mark Footitt either, which might be the first suggestion to Mark that he won't get the regular cricket that a return to Derbyshire may have brought him.

There is an interesting battle of the leggies, between Imran Tahir and Ish Sodhi, with our challenge to stop an aggressive top order going berserk in the Powerplay. Madsen apart, if the others bowl as they did in that period last night, they could have 80 on the board by that stage.

Which brings me to my final point tonight. I wouldn't swap Wayne Madsen for any other batsman in county cricket. Seriously, would you? Last night's innings was so breathtakingly good I had to keep telling myself it was Derbyshire I was watching. When he and Godleman were going at full tilt, the standard of batting was so high it was astonishing. I don't recall feeling that way about our batsmen in a long, long time, with, as a contributor said last night, hardly a false stroke.

It could all go pear-shaped tomorrow, but we are ahead of the pack right now, along with Leicestershire, who won again tonight.

If we do win, there may be a few more people sit up and take notice.

More from me tomorrow.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Worcestershire v Derbyshire T20

Worcestershire 186-5 (Madsen 2-20)

Derbyshire 189-3 (18.2 overs, Godleman 70, Madsen 58 not, Critchley 31)

Derbyshire won by seven wickets

I'll admit, from the start, that Billy Godleman played the sort of knock that I didn't think he had in him tonight.

I respect him massively, but the statistic on Sky TV tonight, that showed it as his first T20 fifty since 2009, tells a story. Yet it also tells the success of Derbyshire's coach, John Wright, who has, as Billy said afterwards, taken the pressure off the batsmen and told them to go and play their normal game.

Back in 1970, I recall watching David Smith, a gritty Yorkshire left-hander for us, hammer Derek Shackleton, then one of the county game's most economical and successful bowlers, to all parts, during a Sunday afternoon fixture against Hampshire. I never saw him play another innings similar, so Billy's challenge now is to use this as his launch pad.

Today he batted superbly and the ring of the ball from his bat was a pleasure, as was the range of his shots. Once again, he was admirably partnered by Matt Critchley, whose clean hitting helped to get us off to the flyer we needed when chasing over nine an over. When the partnership ended, at 64 after five stunning overs, we had a platform to win the game.

Billy, partnered by the sublime Wayne Madsen, made sure that it was a walk in the park. I have seen Wayne bat many times, but don't think I have seen him in better nick than tonight. He should have been caught, without doubt, but his sweeping and switch-hits were magnificent and I haven't seen a more aesthetically-pleasing innings this summer. He really is a joy to watch.

In their contrasting styles they steered us to the edge of victory, before Billy took a huge swing at Mitchell Santner and was stumped, leaving Gary Wilson to ease us across the line with a typically bucolic cameo.

It was a breathtaking, brilliant run chase, professional and heart-warming for supporters used to years of failure. Maybe this could be the year we make the knockouts. Maybe that other, special day, but there's way too much cricket to get ahead of ourselves.

The bowling? A mixed bag. Madsen, again, was excellent and a shoo-in for man of the match with two wickets. So too Imran Tahir, who seemed unplayable until Ross Whiteley chanced his arm in his final over. It was brave to open with Luis Reece's slow left arm, yet kind of worked after an awful first over. I didn't think Matt Henry bowled badly at all tonight, but his figures suffered from a last over slog. He bowled some good balls though and it was good to see improved form.

Poor bowler tonight? Hardus Viljoen for me, who seemed to lack rhythm and direction. He did get the key wicket of Joe Clarke, who looked set for 150 the way he was batting, but it was with a fast full toss that hardly qualified as a good ball in school cricket.

Yet again, we came out on the right side. The ground fielding was sound and I was hugely impressed by Calum Brodrick, who was like a whippet in the deep, quick to the ball, brave and brilliant in his stops and sure with his throwing. It reinforced my opinion of his talent when I saw him at Belper and he is another young man to watch.

Three out of four. If we can string together both disciplines on an evening, we will really be special, but a third of the way through the competition, we are in a good position, ahead of a trip to Nottingham, which will be tough.

Full credit to Messrs Wright, Barnett, Cork and Stubbings. They are making a very good fist of this at present.

One final comment. Does Paul Allott of Sky watch any cricket, or follow the game? His surprise at Wayne Madsen opening the bowling couldn't have been greater had Wayne done so in a tutu. Likewise the commentators being surprised at our wanting to finish it quickly suggested they were oblivious to the niceties of net run rate, which could change fourth into fifth and vice versa at the end of the group stage.

Corky was entertaining and informative as ever, but I do hope he learns how to pronounce 'Madsen' sometime soon.

Just the one 'd', Dominic, thank you.

Still, I'll forgive that tonight.

Proper win, that one.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Worcestershire v Derbyshire T20

It is good to see Tom Wood in the Derbyshire squad for tomorrow's game at Worcester, which is live on Sky from 5.30pm.

Wood, now recovered from injury, played two good knocks for the second team in recent days and for me will get a place in a team that has so far struggled for starts in the competition.

If we are to be bold, I would like to see Tom open, or go in at first drop. Luis Reece then affords a left/right combo at the top of the innings and I would like to see the following side tomorrow:

Critchley
Reece
Wood
Madsen
Wilson
Hughes
Smit
Henry
Viljoen
Tahir
Qadri/Cotton

Billy Godleman and Callum Brodrick are also in the squad, but we need to take steps to offer a better start to the innings. Of course there is a danger, in two attacking players in the top three, of having wickets down quickly. Yet so far we have been wickets down and few runs on the board.

No matter how good the attack, we will win few matches from 30-1 after the Powerplay. Critchley and Wood offer the possibility of doubling that, a launch pad for a win more often than not.

Matt Henry will want to rediscover his best form against the side he played for in this competition last year and Derbyshire need him performing at international standard against a side that has some fine cricketers.

Their squad contains some dangerous cricketers, although Josh Tongue and Adam Finch are on England under-19 duty. With our old boy Ross Whiteley a danger man in the middle order, we will have to hope that our overseas seam and spin combo is better than theirs, John Hastings and Mitchell Santner.

There is enough in our side to win and I expect us to do so, but only if the whole attack bowls well. I expect Ben Cotton to get the nod for the final place, but much will depend on the look of the wicket and we must bat and bowl better than we did at Old Trafford.

If not, we will go into Friday's game in dire danger of a firework start turning into a damp squib.

Yet, in a competition of 14 games, there is a long way to go and a talented home side have still to win, illustrating the strength of the group.

Here's hoping I can still write that tomorrow...

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Lancashire v Derbyshire T20

Derbyshire 152-8 (Madsen 52, Critchley 40, Reece 37)

Lancashire 155-5 (Buttler 42 not)

Lancashire won by 5 wickets

At the halfway point of this game, a friend  texted me and asked what I thought of the Derbyshire score.

'About 20 runs short' was my concise reply and I don't think that I was too far wide of the mark in that assertion. Apart from a brief wobble when they were 56-3, there wasn't a point at which I thought we could claw this back, as we did at Chesterfield last weekend.

For us to do so, we needed a similarly tight bowling Power play and, after Matt Henry went for 17 in his first over, that theory was consigned to the waste bin. It was a game to forget for the Kiwi, his two overs going for 29 on a surface where most bowlers fancied at least keeping it tight. As his stronger suit, we really need him to do better than in this game, because there are several other seamers on the staff who can go for less than fifteen an over.

Batting first on a slow track made sense, as it was only going to get slower, but to win such games you need to get a total on the board and then bowl well across the unit. We didn't do either today, so, in a nutshell, deserved to lose.

The experiment with Matt Critchley opening worked, and despite the early loss of Billy Godleman (you know my thoughts there) we recovered well, first with Luis Reece and then Wayne Madsen. Critchley's strike rate was at odds with most others in the game, but when he went, Reece was perhaps a little slow. If a batsman is going to score at less than a strike rate of a hundred, he needs to bat through and let others hit around him. In getting out when he did, Luis rather fell between two stools. A steady innings, much like his bowling later, but not quite enough on the day.

At 111-2 in 14 overs, we should have been looking at the 170-180 I mentioned earlier. Instead, only 41 came from the last six and batsmen came and went with undue haste as the wheels on the bus, instead of going round and round, fell off with a clatter.

Full credit to Lancashire, who bowled tight to keep us to a run a ball in that period, but after Madsen's dismissal for a fluent 52, it was largely an example of binary batting, that was reminiscent of too many bad days past.

The ten an over start given to Lancashire by Livingstone and Brown put things into perspective, and although Imran Tahir got another two wickets and most of those who were tried did well, the four overs bowled by Henry, Qadri and Critchley went for 54, and so did the game.

No complaints regarding Qadri, whose T20 debut saw him bowl at one of the world's most destructive batsmen in Joss Buttler, but one would expect better from a specialist overseas bowler than to only bowl two of his allocation. He will, I think come back stronger but needs to, as one of the key men in the side.

It is not a night for weeping, wailing and gnashing teeth, since it is our first defeat in the competition, but it is one where the players will doubtless look at areas where they could and should have done better.

There were too many of those for another mark in the 'win' column tonight.

And doubtless things for John Wright to talk about in the nets tomorrow.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Lancashire v Derbyshire T20 preview

It is, I think, a sign of how Derbyshire has progressed that I don't look at tomorrow's game against Lancashire at Old Trafford and fear a hammering.

It could happen, of course, if we don't play with the same focus that was a highlight of our two straight wins so far. Any side with Joss Buttler in it can take a game away from you quickly, while the likes of Karl Brown, Liam Livingstone and a few others are very good players.

Yet you look through our squad and see the same. Any of their supporters, looking at the squad announced today, will see Wayne Madsen, Gary Wilson, Matt Henry, Hardus Viljoen, Imran Tahir and a few more, then think 'we've got a game on here'.

I watched the Roses match the other night and it was a fair game, but I saw nothing to worry me ahead of tomorrow. What I did see, and I am sure the Derbyshire players saw, was a slow wicket that will probably be replicated. The slow bowlers and those who took the pace off the ball reaped dividends and from a named Derbyshire fifteen, I expect to see the following side take the field.

Critchley
Slater
Reece
Madsen
Wilson
Hughes
Henry
Smit
Viljoen
Qadri
Tahir

While the risk of a young spinner getting slogged in this format is high, I watched Hamidullah Qadri bowl at Belper last week and was hugely impressed. He has astonishing command of line and length for his age, and while he will be picked on a 'horses for courses' basis, I suspect that this is one of those courses. Meanwhile I think Ben Slater's runs at Belper will see him retain his place, ahead of Billy Godleman, while Matt Critchley will get a chance to see his side off to a faster start than we have managed so far.

With four seamers and four spinners at his disposal, Gary Wilson won't lack options in the field and his task, somewhat obviously, will be to have them on at the right end at the right time.

Lancashire has announced an unchanged squad from their tied match against Yorkshire and I suspect the side will be the same. So expect them to line up:

Brown, Livingstone, Buttler, Vilas, McLaren, Croft, Lilley, Clark, Parry, Bailey, Junaid

It will be tough, with a hostile, partisan atmosphere that will test the faint-hearted. Yet I suspect that there's a tougher core to this Derbyshire side and we won't be easily intimidated.

I'll stick my neck out and predict a win, to keep the good times rolling.

More from me tomorrow.

And do let me know your thoughts in between times.