Sunday, 31 July 2011

Middlesex v Derbyshire day 3

Unless Derbyshire come out tomorrow like men inspired, or alternatively it hoses down all day, we should lose this match sometime before lunch.

There was plenty of laudable fight from the middle order, but at 21-3 we were looking down a barrel with three experienced men gone. Hughes, Smith, Whiteley, Clare and skipper Luke Sutton fought hard, but it was not enough and even my optimism cannot see anything other than early and heavy defeat tomorrow.

Then it is time to regroup before the televised CB40 this week (ironic as the game doesn't really matter) and the next Championship match.

There's plenty to occupy the thoughts of Karl Krikken after this one.

Middlesex v Derbyshire update

At 80-3 Derbyshire are rebuilding after early disasters but still face an uphill task to take this game into a final day.

I know a few people who have had bad weekends in London but this has been pretty poor thus far. I have to say it gives me no pleasure to see my earlier expressed fears about Madsen and Guptill confirmed. I'd have loved to see them put on 150 to make me eat my words but it doesn't really look like happening for either at present in four-day cricket.

For what its worth, I'm getting to the point where bringing in both Lineker and Borrington to open, giving them valuable experience, begins to look a good idea. Madsen will come again, but maybe Guptill should play the CB40 matches and let two young players with a potential role in our long term future open for the rest of the season? Lineker scored 142 for Ockbrook yesterday, adding to his recent run glut.

Certainly it can be little fun for the genial Guptill to look at averages where only our number eleven is lower than him. Maybe he relishes the challenge of improving, and there's obvious awkwardness in omitting your overseas player, but surely there comes a point where that is in everyone interests? If we lose this, as looks likely, promotion is surely something for another year - which realistically it was always likely to be.

I'd welcome your comments, as always.

Middlesex v Derbyshire day 2

Busy day chez Peakfan yesterday so I flitted in an out of the match, which was perhaps as well given the score.

To be fair, we seem to have stuck to our task quite well, but 145 behind on first innings, even assuming they don't add to that today, leaves us with a mountain to climb. No doubt we're well equipped with grappling hooks ...

Of course, the team has shown on many occasions this season that they can fight and have turned matches on their head a time or two. Realistically, we need to score 350 as a minimum in the second innings - difficult but not impossible. I know they have Steve Finn, but he's not Glenn McGrath. They have a specialist spinner and a useful one in Dalrymple, but we need to get our heads down.

I'd love to see Wayne Madsen get a score, while Martin Guptill can show his international class when it is needed. There's enough talent in this side to give them a fourth innings chase they may not fancy, but it will need a massive team effort.

Yesterday 'Anon' said that fans haven't taken to Smith as they might, as he has always seemed to be leaving, or on the verge of it. That is a fair comment as most late seasons have seen suggestions he was on his way to another county. The fact that he has not pursued as he might his English 'qualification' is another factor. Without doubt, at his best he is a fine player but against Kent last weekend and here I rightly or wrongly had the impression he was trying hard to impress prospective employers.

I think he will end up with a southern county, where wickets may suit his attacking style. He put in a good bowling stint yesterday and played another cameo on the first day, but that's what it was - a cameo. A player with his experience needs to influence and win more games with scores that make a real difference.

At the end of the day, as I've said before, the club has a limited budget that has to finance a squad. Groenewald's financial demands were presumably realistic and commensurate to his value to the side. If Smith's were like Graham Wagg's last year, they aren't. If you're asking for 80K a season (I stress this is a guess) you need to be able to offer pretty good value for money. I suspect that you would get three or four young players - Whiteley, Borrrington, Poynton, Knight perhaps - for that outlay.

Last year Glamorgan felt Graham Wagg was worth £90K plus benefits and lured him from us. A batting average of 19 and a bowling one of 45  this season suggests that we were right not to pay such a sum. Time will tell if Smith goes and justifies whatever salary entices him away, but I don't think his performances for us justifies that.

Good player, but he ain't Sobers or Barlow.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Going to be tricky...

By that, I mean this landmark signing.

Like a good few of you I've given it considerable thought over recent weeks since Chris Grant first announced his plan and I struggle to come up with many names.

I don't think for a minute that Paul Collingwood will come. For what its worth, I think that he probably went public with Derbyshire's interest to local radio to secure a better deal on his own patch in Durham. Call my cynical, but I don't see him making a move down the A1 sometime soon.

Ricky Ponting will, I think, be more likely to move into a media career after he finishes playing, so I don't see him being interested in a coaching/playing role, especially one where he has to commit to six months in England. He's previously said that the county circuit is hard work and it will be harder for him now than a few years back when he had a month at Somerset.

South Africa tour England next summer and I don't see Kallis, de Villiers, Smith et al opting for a county stint instead of the national side. In any case, all of them can make a lot of money in IPL, so don't really need county cricket. Given the Indian slogfest runs until May, they would miss the opening month at least, hardly what we would want.

If Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, New Zealand or Bangladesh have a supremo in their midst I can't think of one. India? I might have said someone like Rahul Dravid as a real wildcard, but he doesn't need county cricket and is revitalised this summer, so will be a fixture in the side once more. Fine player that he is, he doesn't strike me as a Barlow-type player. The West Indies are also here and their players are too laid back to galvanise a team too, so it pretty much leaves Australia for me.

To further complicate things, Australia play one-day games here too next summer, so you're looking at a player who may retire in the near future, or is now out of the international reckoning.

Which pretty much leaves me with only two names. Michael Hussey and Simon Katich. Hussey is still in the national side, but for how long is anyone's guess. He is also a successful IPL player, so could again be unavailable for the early season.

Which then leaves Katich. A first class average of 55 and Test one of 45 indicates a fine player, as we know full well from his season at Derby when he averaged over 70. He's not a one day player in my opinion and he wouldn't automatically be seen as another Eddie Barlow, but if I'm honest he's the only player, apart from Marcus North, who would appear to be free at this stage and experienced enough to lead by example to a young team.

North is less reliable as a batsman, but does offer a useful off-spin element as a player, He is another to enjoy a successful (albeit short) stint with the county and with five Test centuries hardly qualifies as a mug. Like Katich, North is a very good, experienced cricketer who more likely than not would be available for a full season.

What I'm less sure about would be two things. I'm not convinced either has much to offer for T20, so would prefer to see others in that competition. A top batsman and bowler for next season, if we really aim to compete, is a must. Otherwise it will be much the same as this year and last - plenty of promise but nothing to get overly excited about.

Secondly, I'm not convinced that North or Katich are necessarily players of a 'landmark' status, especially when they've already played for us. Having said that, I think they would be more successful than this year's overseas players, worthy as they have been and the signing of one of them might just leave scope in the budget for a T20 signing, maybe two.

Landmark? Probably not, but we've had our fair share of Primark over the years. If Chris Grant pulls off something more spectacular than that I will be seriously impressed.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and other suggestions. Bear in mind though, that the Saffers are here next summer so that will rule them out...

1300 and counting

This week I wrote blog piece number 1300 in just over three years and the visit counter went past 170,000. Last year's 80,000 hits is already under threat from 30,000 more in just three months as interest continues to grow in Derbyshire cricket. Thanks to all of you for your continued interest, which keeps me out of the pub, and for your comments and e mails, which are always appreciated, whether agreeing or disagreeing with what I write.

You may or may not have picked up an article on Derbyshire's young players in the DET the other day. If not, here is the link to it

http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/County-youngsters-gaining-momentum-celebrating/story-13031729-detail/story.html

At both age groups we seem to have some very talented young players and the net is cast wide by the excellent Academy staff to pick up young boys (and girls) who have potential.

What's in a name? It was good to read in this article of continued success for Harry White (brother of Wayne) and Greg Cork (son of Dominic), both of who appear to be youngsters with considerable ability and a lot to offer.

It was another name that caught my eye though. No relation, but to see a lad named Eddie Barlow playing for the county under-12s is enough, as they say round these parts, to bring a tear to a glass eye.

Many factors come into play between the ages of these boys and their making an impression on the first-class game, but it is reassuring to realise that talent is being spotted so early, given proper coaching and mentoring, then taken through to the various county squads as deemed appropriate by their talent.

It augurs well.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Middlesex v Derbyshire day 1

As regular readers will know, I have a lot of time for Karl Krikken.

He has done a terrific job with the young players at the Academy and has taken them on to new heights since becoming head coach. The signs are that he will be outstanding in that role and we will see a talented crop of young players develop into talented professionals, serving the county with distinction for some years to come.

Having said that, I think he got his selection wrong today.

In his last thirteen innings in all competitions, Wayne Madsen has scored 14, 10, 12, 30, 1, 4, 0, 29, 0, 4, 1, 20 and 0. In the Championship those scores are 4, 0, 0, 48 and 0. On the other hand, Matt Lineker has scored 393 runs in three knocks for the Second XI.

I'm a big fan of Madsen, as a player and a man. I spent a pleasant half hour chatting to him at the County Ground earlier in the season and he is one of the nicest blokes you could wish to meet. He's also been our best batsman in the last couple of years or so, after Chris Rogers. Having said that, he needs time in the middle and a chance to get the ball in the middle of the bat again. Today should have been breather time, not an admission of weakness but an acceptance that every player hits a bad trot and needs to recharge batteries. With an in form batsman with the party, today should have been the day.

I know it is a big game, but big games need form players, something Madsen patently isn't right now. He'll come again, he's too good a player not to, but right now he must wonder where his next run is coming from. Look at it from another angle - had that recent record been that of a young player, a rest would have been essential. Experienced or not, Madsen needs the same.

To compound the problem, Martin Guptill now averages less than 17 in the Championship, 135 runs in nine innings, better than only Tony Palladino of regular players. 70 of those came in an important win at Cardiff, so his eight other innings have brought just 65 runs, way below expectations for an overseas player. Guptill did well in the T20 and scored a good hundred last weekend at Derby, but he will be disappointed with his contribution to the Championship campaign so far, as I'm sure fans are. Like Madsen, he's had his share of awkward deliveries, as he did today, but that's what happens when you open the innings.

The result, of course, was both of them back in the pavilion inside three overs.

There were decent efforts from Merssrs Durston and Smith, while Ross Whiteley played a good hand until he ran out of partners. Yet 252 after deciding to bat was only an average effort, quickly put into perspective by Middlesex's reply of 105-0.

At the end of day one we're tied to the railway tracks with the onrushing train yards away, the villain twirling his waxed moustache while cackling insanely.

In trouble? You bet. There's a lot of work to do from here.

Bozza signs for three years

Call me Psychic Peakie, but after writing about Paul Borrington and a likely contract last night, it was today announced that he has signed a new three-year deal.

Borrington has suffered from being introduced to county cricket at 17 when he was marginally wider across the shoulders than a garden cane and with roughly the same strength. He got a chance because we were a poor side and there was simply no one else. Gradually he has filled out and this season has been desperately unlucky to miss out on first team chances after an early season injury. Compare him, if you will, with Ben Slater, another batsman of talent who could get a first team chance in the next couple of years at 21/22. Five years older, without a burden of expectation to weigh him down, physically stronger and emotionally ready.

Eight centuries in the Premier League, a new record, suggest that Borrington is scoring more quickly these days. Less Paul the Prodder than the Ticknall Tornado, Bozza the Blaster. He'll probably never be mistaken for Gordon Greenidge, but you take my point. Only time will tell if he can translate a very sound technique and increasing power to the county game, but if he does so it HAS to be at Derbyshire. We should never have released Wayne White and he continues to thrive at Leicester - it would be galling if he had done the same elsewhere.

 Now we will see what he can do at Derbyshire. Next season could be for him what this year has been for Redfern, Whiteley and Knight. I'm delighted for the lad and remain confident that he can be a good county cricketer, a key component of a Derbyshire side that is effectively Academy-reared.

Funnily enough, last night I went into the garden and enjoyed half an hour after the game on a garden bench with Mrs P. We enjoyed hearing a lone blackbird sing and the sight of a plant that has done relatively little for the past five years flourishing and in full bloom. It has had plenty of encouraging foliage in the past, but the flowers we expected failed to appear.

This spring we dug out a load of soil that was holding it back and replaced it with fresh stuff; compost and plenty of feed to encourage it, which seems to have given it a new lease of life. Even the small flowers and plants around its base have a new lease of life and seem to be more vibrant than we have known them before.

When you think about it, the comparisons with the County Ground and Academy are quite remarkable...

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Contract talk...

It is the time of year when counties across the land are trying to sort out who they wish to retain for next year and who they will release to raise money for proposed additions to the staff.

Derbyshire are certainly at the forefront of this. We have already seen Ross Whiteley, Tom Poynton, Tom Knight and Tim Groenewald sign new contracts and I think they will be the first of many. Having scrutinised the clubs finances, Chris Grant will have a very good idea of what we can afford and will, as a very canny and successful businessman, ensure that we pay the going rate for a talented player within our budget.

Of course, the order in which signings are announced bears little significance to the importance of the player, nor the order in which the contracts were offered. Young players are less likely to have an agent, so contractual discussions with them are likely to be relatively short. They may run the offer by parents, but they are likely to sign a decent offer quickly, as we saw with the lads named above. When agents are involved such discussions are likely to be more protracted, but we should hopefully hear more good news from the club on this front in the next couple of weeks.

For young players, the key date in the calendar is April 1, the qualifying date for ECB payments. A young player of talent aged 23 (or less), free of university commitments, would be a sensible investment for a county on a three-year deal, as he would earn them money on each and every appearance. That being the case, I fully expect to see both Dan Redfern and Paul Borrington sign new contracts in the near future. Others, like Ben Slater and Hamza Siddique, may well do so in the future if they continue to progress, but the university commitments of both at this stage mean that summer contracts are more likely for them over the next couple of years.

Something I discovered today was that the ECB payments continue for the county that develops a player for as long as they play the county game. I recently mentioned Michael Thorneley as a potential player for a county and several people suggested he would be worthwhile for Derbyshire. If we did so, Thorneley at 23 would earn us £1600 a match at this year's rates, but HALF of that money would go to Sussex, even though they released him. Similarly, Somerset get half the money for Wes Durston, Essex for Tony Palladino and so on.

By the same token, every time that Wayne White plays for Leicestershire, or Ian Blackwell for Durham, half of the appearance money they earn as an English-qualified player comes to us. Now here's where it gets interesting...

If Derbyshire were to offer a contract for next year to Matt Lineker (which I hope they will), he would earn £800 a match (at this year's rates) as an English-qualified player discovered by Derbyshire - exactly what we'd get from the younger Thorneley when Sussex took their half of the cash. That being the case, I'd be inclined to give the opportunity to the local man.

I hope that Lineker, who could be seen on the Lords balcony this evening on the TV coverage, makes his debut for the county tomorrow. On the basis that players in form should be picked, he thoroughly deserves an opportunity. At the end of the day, we'll never know if he's good enough until he's given a chance at county level.

Of course, it is not and should not be all about money, but in the current economic climate all counties will need to consider such things. Our current ripening crop of young players might transform both our playing fortunes and finances in the years ahead.


By the same token, if Greg Smith doesn't sign a new deal in the near future I would now omit him for the remainder of the season, especially in the CB40, in which our interest effectively ended tonight. Dan Redfern will be fit soon and could be given more bowling to add to his increasingly impressive batting. I have always thought he could be used more, as a bowler who flights and turns the ball pretty well.

This season he's done less bowling than me.

And when I bowled my first overs last night that's rather a shame...

Middlesex v Derbyshire CB40

The long and short of it is that we played poorly tonight. The batting was, Durston apart, fairly average, although Steve Finn bowled a good spell for Middlesex.

The bowling was also lacking, especially at the start of the innings. Steffan Jones did OK, but I shared the commentators thoughts that we went on to the defensive too soon in the field. The only way to win the game was to take regular wickets and removing the slips early was maybe not the right method. At the same time, I thought we had the right field for Newman, who tends to play in the air at midwicket and gets frustrated when his route through there is blocked - hence the thrash to Madsen for the first wicket.

The commentators waxed lyrical about Paul Stirling, who can hit a ball, but he's a tonker, not necessarily blessed with a textbook technique for me. A long way to go for him, but a potential one-day player for England in the future if he doesn't over-complicate things along the way. His knock took the game away from us, so good luck to the lad.

Tomorrow we start the Championship match, apparently on the same track, and the way that one or two balls straightened today suggested that batting last might not be a breeze. Not that we have a regular spinner in the side...

Sad to relate, we didn't show up on a biggish occasion again this evening.

Tomorrow will hopefully be better. Maybe Steve Finn will be in the Test side....

Seconds win and five for Jake

A great win for the Seconds today, bowling out Leicestershire to win by a good distance.

I don't yet know the full scores but there were five wickets for Jake Needham.

Very welcome news on both counts!

In addition, 4-8 in six overs by Peter Burgoyne today for England Under-19s.

Well done Peter!

Groenewald signs three year deal

Regular readers will know that I was more hopeful of Tim Groenewald staying at Derbyshire than Greg Smith and I am delighted to see that he has signed on for another three seasons.

I understand that the player is very happy in the area and he is a key component of our team. As a bowler is is rarely injured, totally committed and usually penetrative. As a batsman he sells his wicket dearly but can hit the ball hard when required.

He is, in short, a model professional, the sort of player that a team of young Derbyshire-reared players can learn from, respect and work with.

I am thrilled that we will see him in our colours for the next three seasons.

Take a bow Timmy G - its nice to see that loyalty is still in the game and I look forward to many more wickets and runs in the years ahead.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Lineker follow up

Sorry about the lateness of the blog tonight but I've had my first game of the season tonight and showed the old magic was still there with second top score and a tight bowling spell. Just a shame that tomorrow my hamstrings will sound like a badly played violin and my shoulder could well detach in mid-morning...

We won too, which made for a nice evening on a glorious summer day. All is well in the cricketing world.

Thanks for your comments on Matt Lineker, which are appreciated as always. For what its worth, after scores of 125, 197 and 101 in four innings I think that Lineker has to be in with a shout of a first team appearance sometime soon. While I'm not disputing the talent and ability of Wayne Madsen and Wes Durston, Lineker's form has to put them under pressure as a man in prime form. I would expect him to travel to Lords for the four day game and he may yet play - though that's Krikk's call.

For what its worth, I think we should reward Lineker with a year's deal. He will be 27 by then and next year we should see whether he has what it takes. His recent form is making a very good case for retention...

Tomorrow is the biggie then, and Middlesex have announced a strong squad for the game, namely:

Neil Dexter (captain)

Corey Collymore
Steven Crook
Jamie Dalrymple
Steven Finn
Dawid Malan
Tim Murtagh
Scott Newman
Sam Robson
Chris Rogers
John Simpson
Tom Smith
Paul Stirling

A good squad, but not unbeatable. As we've shown on many occasions this summer, on our day we can take on anyone and win. Tomorrow may or may not be one of those days, but I expect them to compete and when that happens the opposition can crumble.

Our side for tomorrow? I'd guess the following and probably won't be far away

Hughes
Guptill
Durston
Madsen
Smith
Park
Whiteley
Sutton
Clare
Jones
Groenewald

Should be well worth a watch and I will be commenting on it later tomorrow - assuming that my fingers haven't also seized up by then...

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Lineker makes a case

In most other seasons of recent memory, Matt Lineker would have had a first team chance by now.

Last week I mentioned the consistency - solid, if not spectacular - of the batting line-up and Lineker, like Paul Borrington, has been unable to break into the side. Borrington has scored bucketfuls of runs with Ticknall this summer and has been steady, though not quite so prolific, for the Seconds.

Lineker, for a number of years the scourge of Premier League bowlers, has had his struggles in the Second XI. There have handy thirties and forties, but not enough big scores to make a convincing case for elevation to the senior side. Of course, there is a world of difference in playing cricket every day, for a living, and playing at the weekends. The levels of physical and mental fitness required are substantially different and doubtless Lineker found this transition as difficult as many others before him.

The signs are, however, that he has got there. 125 against Warwickshire recently was a worthy effort, while an unbeaten 165 against Leicestershire yesterday was indicative of a man who has got to grips with the requirements of professional cricket. The big question is, of course, whether it will be enough to earn him a full contract for next season, following on from his summer deal of this year.

That Lineker is a fine batsman is beyond dispute. The volume of runs he has scored over recent years indicates a player of quality, but Karl Krikken has two factors to take into account when mulling over his suitability for next year and beyond. For one thing, at 26 Lineker will not earn Derbyshire any ECB money. While mercenary, that is also a realistic consideration. If Krikken and his coaches feel that Lineker could genuinely make a prolific county batsman it would not be a deal breaker, but the other factor is, for me, the biggie.

Is he better than Hamza Siddique, Ben Slater or Peter Burgoyne? For that matter, is he a better option, to pick a name at random, than someone like Michael Thornely, who has done well for the Unicorns this summer and is crucially, at 23, a player who can offer a county three years of income. Derbyshire have only a finite budget and how it is best spent will doubtless occupy the thoughts of Karl Krikken in the coming months.

Once he knows (if he doesn't already) the plans of Greg Smith and Tim Groenewald he will be better placed. Replacing those players and Steffan Jones would be essential, but there are any number of ways in which to do so. There will also be a lot of players out there at the end of contracts, a number of others seeking an opportunity.

I would like to think that our players might follow the example of Jack Brooks, who today signed an extended contract at Northamptonshire despite interest from other counties. At 27 Brooks was a later starter and is rewarding the county who took a punt on him with another two years service. While no one can blame any individual for wanting the best deal for themselves, it is nice to see a player decide that his best option is to stay put, presumably better rewarded as a result.

Thumbs up for Mr Brooks from me. Hopefully at least one of ours in a similar situation might seek to follow his lead.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Book Review - Now I'm 62 by Stephen Chalke

I first read the latest book I have been sent for review before I went on holiday and finished it fairly quickly. I formed an instant impression but took it away with me to be sure that impression was correct. Since our return I have read it a third time and now feel well placed to give a true opinion, untarnished by the excitement of impending or ongoing vacation.

Now I'm 62 is, quite simply, the best book I have ever read about village cricket. In a departure from his normal style, Stephen Chalke has written an autobiography of a season in charge of a village third XI that is often funny yet can leave you in thoughtful and sombre mood a page or so later. It is a book on cricket, but also on love, loss, growing up and aging that is filled with humour and pathos in equal measure.

The author changed the names of his team mates and himself so he had greater freedom to play with the material. It was a wise move and perhaps allows for greater honesty than might otherwise have been the case.

Having captained a village side myself for nine seasons, the trials and tribulations of selecting a team, then finding players unavailable for a variety of reasons, often at the last minute, rings very true. Tales of good and bad performances, selfless captaincy and club characters make this a book that should be essential reading for anyone who has ever played the game.

Yet it is more than a cricket book. It is about relationships, with siblings, friends, spouses and most of all parents. A father who gave the love of the game but was in many ways distant, a mother who was much loved, yet prone to the eccentricities of all mothers. A relationship between his parents that comes across as, at best, cool and the piecing together of family stories as the author reaches an age where his best cricket is (probably) behind him.

I was engrossed from start to finish. The author writes so beautifully that you turn the page eagerly, yet come to dread the end of the book. Ten years younger than Stephen Chalke, his book convinced me that I still have plenty of cricket left in me. His frustrations over lack of form, enjoyment of a fine performance and celebration of the company of team mates will ring true for anyone - everyone - who has ever played the game, especially at lower levels where the umpires are members of the batting side, chances are held only 50% of the time and players often make up for lack of ability with their commitment and passion for the game, a keen wit and a willingness to turn up every week - especially to be the 'eleventh man', an especially amusing section of the book.

From Hugh de Selincourt's timeless "TheCricket Match" to Michael Simkins' "Fatty Batter" here have been numerous books on village cricket. For me though, this book sets a new benchmark, one that will be very difficult to beat. It has made it into my top five cricket books ever - and I'm pretty choosy when it comes to such things...

Not just about cricket then, but to quote CLR James - what do they know of cricket that only cricket know? Stephen Chalke knows his cricket and by the end of this book you feel that you know his family, friends and team mates in equal measure.

A quite wonderful read and highly recommended.

"Now I'm 62" by Stephen Chalke is available from Amazon for £12 and from all good book shops.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The reason why...

I've just spent a pleasant few minutes stats-watching and in doing so it has become clear why Derbyshire are an improved side this season.

I alluded to it earlier in the week, but this Derbyshire side really plays as a team. Take a look at the Championship batting averages at:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/derbyshire/engine/records/batting/highest_career_batting_average.html?class=4;id=2011;team=955;type=season

ELEVEN players averaging over 25 with the bat, ten of them around, or over 30. When one considers that our current overseas player isn't among them (but surely will be by season end) it is a remarkable feat and shows a collective responsibility towards putting a total on the board. In previous years we appeared too heavily dependent on the overseas player for most of the runs and to be fair had generally less gifted players too.

The same goes for the CB40. While Martin Guptill's first appearance in the format was marked by a century today, thus far we have been carried by Messrs Durston and Madsen, for who today was more or less their first failure. Wes averages 49 and Wayne 45, but there have been contributions down the order, as you will see at:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/derbyshire/engine/records/batting/highest_career_batting_average.html?class=5;id=2011;team=955;type=season

Meanwhile in the T20, six players averaged in excess of 20, with Guptill and Park over 30 and Whiteley over 50. These are good solid statistics in all forms of the game and the players have done a fine job.

As for the bowling, all the bowlers are going for less than 5.5 an over in the CB40, but only Tom Knight and Chesney Hughes of the regulars managed under 7 an over in the T20, an obvious factor in a less satisfying campaign. Nonetheless, with Tony Palladino, Tim Groenewald, Jon Clare and Greg Smith all taking their wickets at good averages in the Championship, we are much less reliant on individual brilliance than has been the case for many seasons. The team is the thing.

The emergence of young players such as Dan Redfern, Ross Whiteley and Tom Knight under Karl Krikken can be no coincidence and that emergence has put pressure on established players to perform and keep a place in the side. A year on, in addition to Chesney Hughes, we may see the likes of Tom Poynton, Paul Borrington, Peter Burgoyne, Alex Hughes, Atif Sheikh and Ben Slater push for a regular berth. It is good to see - I just hope that there is some young seam talent set to break through as that is the area that concerns me most in the short to medium term. We have Jon Clare, Mark Footitt, Tony Palladino and Mark Turner, but replacing Steffan Jones and Tim Groenewald (if he goes) will be the winter challenge. I think Greg Smith will go too, but for me Ross Whiteley is a ready made replacement as a batsman. Perhaps Burgoyne could emerge as an off-spinning all-rounder in 12 months time?

These are good days to be a Derbyshire fan. It is hard to believe that the Morris/Brown departures were actually this season. Few, myself included, can have expected the team to respond so impressively to a change of leadership and everyone involved deserves hearty congratulations.

Whatever happens from here, and as George Dobell said on cricinfo last night, this season may be too early for Derbyshire, the future looks rosier than it has for some considerable time.

Good times!

Derbyshir v Kent CB40

The successful run continued at Derby today, though there were a couple of points when my earlier observations about the poor finish to our innings coming back to bite us looked like a nasty premonition. Last week I wrote that Darren Stevens is a very underrated player and he played a good hand today. Then James Tredwell, another man with international experience, started to open out after a steady start and looked dangerous until Chesney had him leg before.

As a one day game it must have been good to watch. Nearly 500 runs, a century for Martin Guptill, a fine all round display by Greg Smith and crucially a win that keeps Derbyshire in contention in the group. There was some erratic bowling today and both Clare and Hughes were more expensive than we might have liked, but at the end of it all a win is a win and thoroughly deserved it was.

Martin Guptill's innings illustrated how important it is to have one man bat through in one day cricket. With a little support it guarantees a total of substance and although we should have been nearer 270 we can reflect on another job well done.

What it does, of course, is set up a battle royal with Middlesex on Thursday evening at Lords. While Sussex still look the team to beat in the group (and we're still the only side to beat them...) our rivals oop north Yorkshire can do us a favour on Wednesday evening by beating them at Hove. Tall order I know, but it just needs someone to have a special game for them. If they did, and we then beat Middlesex, we would be top of the group on Thursday evening.

Still, that's getting ahead of ourselves - all we can do is continue to compete, win matches and see what happens elsewhere in the fullness of time. It is possible that we could make a mess of things in London, but again that should not detract from what is becoming one of the best seasons in some time.

They did a job today and full credit to them. Good show lads.

Derbyshire v Kent - the halfway stage

A good batting effort by Derbyshire today, posting 249 in their 40 overs. Fine innings by Guptill and Smith, with cameos from Hughes and Whiteley got us to a competitive total.

Without wanting to sound like the Grinch, I just hope that our failure to put the total out of sight in the last three overs doesn't come back to bite us. At 238-4 from 36.5 we could have been looking at 270, when in fact we added only 11 more runs for the loss of five wickets.

Our opponents bat long and we must bowl and field well to defend that total.

1936 - June

Sorry about the delay in the coverage of the 1936 season but I've had a few holidays in the past month and, since I start my new job tomorrow, I thought I'd get the June coverage of the Championship season out of the way just now.

The month began with a match on a rain-damaged track at Northampton. Mitchell and Townsend bowled out the home side for 59, with the latter returning the remarkable figures of 4-3 in ten overs. We did little better, making 93 all out, Townsend top scoring with 31. The home side did better second time around, but Copson's six wickets left Derbyshire chasing 125 to win, a total they reached for the loss of just three wickets.

Then it was back to Derby and a match against Gloucestershire, Tom Mitchell's 7-26 bowling them out for just 95. Stan Worthington's 90 was the backbone of our 200 and although Gloucestershire did better in their second innings (Alf Pope and Tom Mitchell taking four wickets each) we were left with only 90 to win, a total that Albert Alderman and Denis Smith knocked off without losing a wicket.

The wins set us up nicely for what even at this stage looked an important game at Queens Park against Yorkshire. Rain prevented any play on the Saturday and when we slipped to 18-3 on the second morning the signs were not good. Worthington and Townsend then added 154 for the fourth wicket before the innings declined to 253 all out.

With Copson missing at the Test trial, Pope and Worthington opened the bowling but Tom Mitchell's leg spin had Yorkshire in serious trouble. 48-6 at one stage, they recovered to 112 all out but Derbyshire held an important lead and enforced the follow on under the rules of the day. In the second innings the young Len Hutton held us at bay as Yorkshire easily saw out time for a draw. Derbyshire were heartened by their display against the best side in the country over previous seasons.

Then came evidence of a perennial problem for us over the years - consistency. Somerset at Ilkeston should have been easy, but our 152 all out was followed by their 190 all out. Worse was to come, as our second innings subsided to 62 all out, leaving Somerset an easy 25 to win, which they managed without loss.

Were Derbyshire flattered by their high position in the table? Not on the evidence of the next match, when a first innings of 318 (Charlie Elliott 97, Worthington 81) was enough for an innings win, Les Townsend's off spin bringing him 12 wickets in the match as Warwickshire were caught on a drying pitch.

The penultimate game of the month was back at Chesterfield and was a close affair. Worcestershire were bowled out on the first day for 233, Bill Copson taking 5-34. We edged first innings lead thanks to Les Townsend's 76, which he then followed with four wickets as Worcestershire were bowled out for 162. 149 to win was always going to be awkward on a track offering increasing help to bowlers, but Harry Storer's 62 on a rare appearance that season, coupled with an unbeaten 29 when it mattered by Albert Alderman saw us home by three wickets for a seventh win of the season.

Then it was up to another ground no longer used by the county, Buxton, for the match that always attracted a healthy crowd, Lancashire. Copson led a fine bowling display as the visitors were bowled out for 194, but our batting collapsed and we were all out for just 61. Lancashire batted again and Copson and Pope bowled them out for just 94, leaving us 228 to win, an unlikely target given what had gone on before. Nonetheless, the batsmen dug in and in 59 overs we ground our way to 92-4 and important draw points.

There were nearly four thousand paying spectators on the first day and Derbyshire did well to survive on a rain-damaged track. They ended the month in second place in the table, with Nottinghamshire top, Kent third and Yorkshire in fourth place.

The next month was likely to be crucial and contained important matches...

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 4

A game that Derbyshire pretty much dominated from lunch time on the first day ended in a draw today, but we can take considerable encouragement from another fine display.

With Gloucestershire and Middlesex winning it was not the best of days, but after outplaying the leaders we can still play our way back into the promotion places - there is plenty of time in which to do so. Would we have won had the rain stayed out of it? Maybe, but then that counts for nothing.

This morning Ross Whiteley played another delightful knock, as did Greg Smith, but the ease with which they scored their runs suggested to me that the wicket had lost its devilment. Although Mark Turner took two wickets in his first over to complete a fine match, their was nothing we could do to force a positive result. Niall O'Brien and Andrew Hall (a good servant to Northamptonshire) saw them to a comfortable draw.

Some may suggest that Luke Sutton could have declared earlier, but he couldn't gift Northants a win after dominating the match and he obviously saw the wicket had eased. A correspondent on Falcons Forum suggested that we should have won and 'others do with five wickets down.' Yes, but not on tracks like that. We did ourselves in the last two matches...

So, another good effort and still plenty to play for. Time for the CB40 tomorrow and an opportunity to cement a strong position in that competition. Solid performances in different formats of the game - good to see!

Also good to see was an improvement in the club's Twitter today. I'll not flatter myself that my comments last night caused it, but regular updates arrived throughout the day and they were doubtless appreciated by all. A good team deserves good backup and support.

This Derbyshire side is shaping up to be a good team. We just need to keep it going now.

PS Another good write up by George Dobell on cricinfo

http://www.espncricinfo.com/county-cricket-2011/content/story/524480.html?CMP=OTC-RSS

Friday, 22 July 2011

Update

According to one of my favourite writers, George Dobell, Derbyshire might already have enough to win this game. Read his match report at

http://www.espncricinfo.com/county-cricket-2011/content/story/524373.html?CMP=OTC-RSS

By the sounds of it the top is going or has gone. If that is the case, and we bowl with discipline, 45 minutes to an hour of a thrash tomorrow, maybe 75 runs and let's get them in.

Given that we have four bowlers who hit the deck hard, I would think their batsmen will have a restless night tonight, especially if Mark Turner newfound length and line are retained and we hold our catches.

Incidentally, my earlier comments about the club Twitter feed have been confirmed by several e mails. I agree with Falcon Ram that it has been OK so far, but maybe there could/should be a service standard - an hourly text perhaps - with wickets when they happen?

I'm not being picky and I'm trying to be constructive - we're making great strides on the pitch and have a very good team off it - but that's all the more reason to raise the bar and maintain standards. If we got to the last game with a promotion chance and only heard the score for the first time mid-afternoon there'd be plenty to say, n'est ce pas?

Fingers crossed for tomorrow...

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 3

Anyone else get the impression that the Derbyshire juggernaut is gathering pace in the Championship?

This was yet another convincing day that was sadly ruined by an early finish due to rain. Otherwise we could well have been 350 ahead by now and set to challenge them tomorrow, with a full day to take the wickets.

It will be a difficult decision for Luke Sutton even if the rain stays out of it. A draw wouldn't be a problem for either side, though a win for us would be astonishing. Defeat wouldn't be good though, cementing their place at the top of the table, so I suspect that the skipper won't set too easy a target.

Today we did very well, with star turn being Mark Turner. That's something  I have waited all season to write and I'm very pleased for the lad, who got a good reward for a sustained and accurate spell of bowling. 5-32 in nearly eighteen overs is great bowling by any standards and Turner fully deserves his day/evening in the sun after a few trials this season. In the DET today he pays tribute to Steffan Jones' work with him and if he is now ready to let rip for the last couple of months of the season it will be a huge asset. With Mark Footitt back in the Seconds, we might just have the seam attack to take us clear of the pack over the last few weeks.

Meanwhile our batting was better in the second innings, with runs for Wayne Madsen and Wes Durston and 260 lead is a fine position against the league leaders. A cloudy day is forecast for tomorrow, hopefully with plenty of humidity. Our opponents won't fancy that at all, the way we're playing.

I genuinely feel that we can mount a promotion challenge on this form. My only hope is that the club can sort out its technology and improve its Twitter feed, which quite honestly is shockingly poor at present. On the first day of the current game there were no updates till 39-5, then nothing after 220-6. There was no acknowledgement or record of Ross Whiteley's ton until the end of day tweet, which even then didn't give the close of play score.

Today? I got nothing until 4.19pm when we were 148-2, then a further three before 5pm when it said that rain had stopped play. No record of how many Northants made, unless your mental arithmetic is a strong suit. The team deserves much better than this - and so do the fans who subscribe to it.

I'd be interested to hear if anyone else is having similar problems. Maybe its my provider, but I don't think so, based on what another couple of people have said to me. I would hope that someone at the match within the club could do something a little more professional than it is at present.

I guess it is another sign of improvement. Not that long ago we'd all have been glad to avoid the score updates...

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 2

Once again Derbyshire can be pretty pleased with their efforts at the end of the second day, having reduced the home side to 220-6 in reply to our 364.

I loved the reference by Steffan Jones to the Tifflex balls as being like 'bowling with a rabbit's head' after thirty overs, so the attack stuck well to their guns. While the dangerous James Middlebrook is due in next, at this stage we can perhaps look forward to a first innings lead.

Top marks go to Tony Palladino for his career best 60, while the attack largely stuck well to their task. Deserved credit goes to Mark Turner, with 2-32 in 14 overs, and the returning Tim Groenewald, similarly economical for his brace.

Breaking the potentially dangerous O'Brien/Vaas pairing early tomorrow will be key to success in this game, but Derbyshire have again stuck to their game plan and are proving difficult and worthy opposition.

Can't ask for more than that, can you?

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 1

Fantastic effort by Derbyshire today to get to 321-8 at the end of the first day. To be honest, when I went out at lunchtime with the score a pitiful 39-5, I doubted we would make 150. As 'Anon' says below the previous post, never presume anything with Derbyshire, certainly not this side. Two games running now we have returned 'from the dead' and the last couple of sessions must have been disheartening for the home side, after effectively having us on the ropes.

There was early movement of course and they would have fancied their chances of quick wickets as we would had Luke Sutton won the toss, but the top order were mown down in the first ninety minutes. In the course of that time Wayne Madsen registered his third duck in four championship innings, a rare bad trot for the opener.

The recovery was started by Luke Sutton and Ross Whiteley (pictured), but when the skipper departed it was completed by Whiteley and Jon Clare, another remarkable performance by two young players. Clare eventually departed for 82, but Whiteley went on to a sparkling maiden century with sixteen fours and a six before being lbw to Vaas. There was still time before the close for Tim Groenewald and Tony Palladino to add 41 runs and take us to a healthy-looking total at the end, way in excess of what looked likely earlier in the day.

The fight back again illustrated the spirit in this side. Some may point to another top order failure, but there were difficult early conditions to contend with. I prefer to focus on the positives, that once again a team ethic has seen us end the day in a healthy position. I don't expect the Northamptonshire batting to enjoy tomorrow against a predominantly seam Derbyshire attack.

In closing I'm pleased to say that my predictive powers are still intact. Back in September 2009, in an article 'Go Young Guns' I wrote:

"Ross Whiteley got little opportunity last night but I think he's a lad who has much to offer. Sometimes his radar goes a little but his left arm seam/swing can trouble batsmen when he is in the groove. He is also a very clean hitting batsman and I could see him developing into a good all rounder with greater opportunities. With Jon Clare to come again after the travails of the season, we have less to worry about than many counties for next season and the tighter visa regulations."


I am thrilled for both young men, one having put serious injury behind him to rekindle his original potential, while the other has shown everyone how good he can be, with the first of what I am sure will be many centuries for the county.

Well done lads!


 

"

Hello again!

Sorry about the brief hiatus in the blog but things have been a little hectic down here. I've been doing a few things for my parents, among them installing and explaining how to use a new TV/DVD recorder. There's money to be made for anyone who can write a version of that process for people of a certain age. I ended up writing a four pager that covered most of what they need and hopefully they'll be fine from here. Then again, I could be trying to explain removing Scandinavian subtitles from 230 miles away...

There's also been family trips to Chatsworth, Matlock and Bakewell and the weather has meant there's been little chance for cricket. We'd hoped to go to Leek to see the Seconds, but the weather looked distinctly unfavourable and the fixture was abandoned after only six overs, so we missed little.

Today Derbyshire theoretically start a four-day Championship fixture against Northamptonshire, a game of fair importance, although the likelihood is that the game will be truncated by the weather. I'm convinced that we have a decent side that can match our hosts and that we are as capable of promotion as any of the others in the mix. What the team now has to do is ensure that their focus and level of intensity is there for every day of every match. This season we have beaten a fair spread of teams from division one, a sign that the ability is there. Conversely, we have lost to teams of only average ability from our own division, a sign perhaps that we have not always been as 'switched on' as we might have been.

Some of that is down to inexperience, but aside from a few bad days - and tell me a side that hasn't had those - this has been an encouraging season thus far. For me, a big plus has been that the batting has largely fired well without major input from an overseas star. In recent seasons, we only scored runs when Rogers, Katich or Di Venuto did well. This season, the runs have been evenly shared among the top seven, with neither overseas player really dominating. Ideally, of course, your top six fires AND your overseas player is still scoring shedloads, but Derbyshire have adopted a team approach to scoring runs - as it should be - and done so with success in all competitions.

Usman Khawaja and Martin Guptill were always likely to find English wickets a challenge, but both have worked hard and Guptill may well find August and September wickets more to his liking than those he has come across thus far. Having said that, he led from the front in the T20 and we now need him to translate obvious ability to weight of runs in the Championship and CB40.

If he does that and the others keep up their work we will not be too far away come season end. We will also need a little luck with injuries and can hopefully count on a few injured seamers being fit before long. A fit and firing Footitt would do us no harm, nor would a Groenewald. If Tony Palladino maintains his current form he is capable of forcing a promotion challenge, with assistance from the rest.

For today, I await the team with interest. Will Paul Borrington replace Dan Redfern, or will Matt Lineker come in? I'd play Bozza, dropping Madsen down the order to accommodate him.

Then again, I'm not Karl Krikken, so we'll see what he does later this morning.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire preview

Thought I'd do this in the light of Marc's thought-provoking piece below the last article and before we hopefully head off today down south. We may yet have to wait till Tuesday as my son has an extra shift in his part time job that he is desperately trying to off-load as I write...

Anyway, I've seen comments in different places now regarding not picking players who won't be around, or may not be, next summer and giving a chance to players who will be here in the longer term.

I can't agree.

In both remaining competitions we have a chance, a good chance, of promotion. Whether we make a mess of that opportunity only time will tell, but for me it is petty (and silly) not to play your strongest side until that possibility has gone. As I said in my reply to Marc, Timmy G will always be in my first choice side and will be until he leaves the staff, whenever that is. I still feel there is more chance of him staying than Smith, but there's more chance of either doing so if we are in the first division, a strong possibility in our current form.

If you're not going to pick Smith or Groenewald, why pick Jones, who is also leaving? That he is doing so for different reasons is neither here nor there. Players have a right to talk over options with other teams and you can bet that Paul Collingwood will continue to feature for Durham, despite imminent talks with us. To do otherwise is hardly a bargaining tool if you want someone to stay. It comes over as small-minded and would only reinforce my thoughts of leaving if I hadn't yet decided.

Non-selection on form is a different matter, and Greg Smith could miss out at Northampton on those grounds. What might save him is his ability to bowl spin, though his recent injury may also limit his bowling, so...

While Wayne Madsen scored few against Glamorgan, I'm a firm believer in the old adage that form is temporary but class permanent. Madsen is a high quality player who will shortly be back in touch and scoring in his usual style. I still feel that he'd score even more in the middle order than he does up top and I've said that for some time, but he is a player of high calibre and should be in there.

We don't yet know if Dan Redfern or Martin Guptill are likely to be fit, but assuming full fitness my team for Wednesday would be:

Madsen
Guptill
Hughes
Durston
Redfern
Smith
Whiteley
Sutton
Clare
Groenewald
Palladino

The lack of a spinner worries me, but in the absence of Knight and Needham for differing reasons and no loan signing on the horizon, I would go with the best players and trust them to do well. Poynton's time as wicket-keeper/batsman will come, but Sutts averages 30 in the Championship and for now should be the man in possession.

There's enough batting depth and bowling talent in that team to beat Northamptonshire, runaway leaders or not. Mind you, they are acquiring a reputation as our bete noir, something it would be good to shake off.

Wednesday would be a good time to start.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Knight in shining armour

I don't know if many of you saw it, but Tom Knight looked a different class as a bowler for England under-19s today against their South African counterparts.

3-27 was an excellent return in seven overs and it was telling that he was the bowler chosen to bowl the extra over. He bowls an excellent, probing line and looks an outstanding prospect.

Meanwhile Peter Burgoyne gave a good account of himself too, scoring a few runs, holding a catch and taking a wicket in a solid display. Mind you, Daniel Bell-Drummond of Kent looked a batsman of very high quality for England, while the Saffers had some clean stroke players in their side.

If the youngsters keep coming through at this rate at Derbyshire I can see our T20 side being renamed once again next year.

Krikks Kreche has a ring to it...

Something for the weekend

I was up early this morning and enjoyed the quiet of the house to do a little surfing around cricket sites. In doing so I picked up a couple of scores that some of you may not have seen.

The Seconds suffered that rarity of a loss against table-topping Warwickshire in their match at Coventry. Thanks to Jake Needham's 54 we set the home side 222 to win and when they slipped to 42-6 a win was very much on the cards. A seventh wicket stand of 158 restored parity however and the Bears reserves ended up winning by three wickets after a fine game.

Elsewhere, I was looking at how Peter Burgoyne and Tom Knight have been getting on with England Under 19s. Their first international today has been affected and delayed by the weather, but both played in a couple of warm up matches against the Unicorns, games that featured a couple of extraordinary innings by former Sussex all-rounder Michael Thornely.

At 23 Thornely was perhaps unfortunate to be discarded after a brief career in which he averaged just under 19 in the first-class game but 36 in the one-day format. Wobbling medium pace was an asset although there were suggestions that he couldn't play real pace. I'm not sure how true that was, especially as I struggle to think of anyone in current first-class cricket who has any. I've written before that teams in the 70s, 80s and even 90s often had a real pace man, often from overseas, but there's no incentive for them to come here now, when they can earn their crust in the real money environment of IPL.

Anyway, Thornely has been playing with the Unicorns, attempting to find another deal in the same way that Wes Durston did last season. Back in May he scored 97 in the CB40 against Nottinghamshire and has continued to score with regularity, presumably against bowlers of a dibbly dobbly nature if that reputation is correct...

A week ago at Loughborough, against the full strength of England Under-19, Thornely scored an unbeaten 200 in a fifty-over match, with eight sixes and 22 fours among his runs. By any standards that is impressive and such bowlers as Ryan Topley and our own Tom Knight took some serious hammer (Knight six overs for 48).

The following day in ten overs he took 3-34 and then, again opening the innings, scored 86. I'll willingly accept that an old head might have done things differently and perhaps tried a few things, but Thornely must surely be worth someone having an extended look? A century against Worcestershire Seconds recently confirmed his talent and, with three years until he ceases to make money for a county, there are worse players around the circuit than him by some distance.

Finally today regular (and appreciated) contributor Marc says after last night that we can't risk Mark Turner in the CB40 due to his wayward bowling. I take his point, but John Morris must have been aware of his waywardness when he signed - last year's final for Somerset suggested his line and length could become a little awry at times, something that has been shown a time or two during the season. He needs a lot of work over the winter, that's for sure, but we may need him before September and he needs to keep working.

Groenewald, Footitt and Sheikh are injured. Palladino and Clare need to be fit and firing in the Championship, Smith is recovering from injury and Jones is retiring. With Knight in the England Under-19s, along with Peter Burgoyne and Needham needing work on his bowling, we aren't awash with options at present. If things carry on we might need to re-register AJ Harris as a player - or else I'll need to turn the clock back thirty years and come out of work enforced (for now) retirement...

Its down to confidence and maybe Turner just needs a really good day to get his back up to full kilter. Either way, selection of seamers is soon to become pretty much Hobson's choice if things continue as they are.

Have a good one. This time tomorrow I'll be en route to Gods own county for a few days. Sadly the weather doesn't look like welcoming me with open arms!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Derbyshire v Yorkshire T20

Despite some impressive form in the Championship and before it in the CB40, Derbyshire's T20 campaign fizzled out like a damp firework tonight as they were comprehensively beaten by Yorkshire. In doing so, our northern rivals exacted revenge for the defeat at Headingley that now seems a long time ago.

Martin Guptill again top-scored and can reflect on a campaign in which he scored an impressive 476 runs at 34. Tonight he and Wayne Madsen set up a platform for late carnage at 90-2 in 14 overs, but  two overs later we were 93-6 and in the unpleasant brown stuff up to our necks.

There were late runs for another Academy product, Alex Hughes, who also bowled a tidy spell, but Derbyshire needed to get Yorkshire bogged down at the start of their innings. Sadly, they got off to a flyer, courtesy of an eighteen-run over from Mark Turner. To be fair, Gale does that on a regular basis, but at 52 by the end of the powerplay the white rose was in bloom.

That Derbyshire then took them to the 18th over before winning again reflected the spirit in the camp. Greg Smith and Chesney Hughes bowled good spells, while Steffan Jones, in his final T20 match, bowled beautifully in his first three overs before being collared in his last, Yorkshire winning by eight wickets.

It was not the winning finish that Luke Sutton wanted to carry into the CB40 and again illustrated areas we can improve on. Losing four wickets in two overs was illustrative of panic and we missed some of the injured personnel, especially Garry Park and Tim Groenewald. That Clare didn't bowl and Palladino didn't play was hardly surprising after their efforts in the recent Glamorgan game.

So, much like last year, the T20 campaign promised but eventually came to naught. I remain convinced that our stronger suit is the longer forms of the game. If we can maintain the recent Championship form and recapture some of the cricket we played earlier in the CB40, ultimately no one will be too concerned come the season end.  

Reasons to be cheerful? Yes, but a lot of work still to be done.

Collingwood column inches

There have been a fair few column inches generated in the media regarding Derbyshire's move for Paul Collingwood and it is understandable. Mind you, it irks me considerably when our name is generally prefaced with "Second Division strugglers". I would happily kick the backside of the authors of such nonsense...

The other day I suggested that Collingwood may cost between £150K and £200K a season, which may or may not be the case. I based that figure on the reported £120K that Leicestershire paid to Matthew Hoggard, a man who doesn't have being the captain of a World Cup winning side on his CV, but it could be wide of the mark. Similarly, the length of contract 'offered' has been suggested elsewhere as three years, but since we have yet to meet with the player, I find it hard to see how such an offer can be in the public domain. If we were going to pay that sort of money and the player was going to get a three-year deal, I would expect some performance and appearance-related element to be in the deal. If the player was injured, or did badly, I don't think we'd be likely to pay top dollar, for example.

By the same token, I doubt that the player is the only iron in the fire and we will doubtless be talking to players and agents all the time from here. I don't expect a winter of revolving doors, but much will depend on who stays and who is available with what we need. I have few worries about the batting and the emergence of Tom Knight and Peter Burgoyne, as well as the hopeful re-emergence of Jake Needham, leaves spin fairly well catered for. Having said that, Burgoyne may not yet be ready for first team action and Knight, for all I know, could be heading  for university. If that was the case, I suspect we would be looking closely at Messrs Rafiq and Wainwright at Yorkshire, who could be good assets at the right age.

Similarly, we know that Steffan Jones is going, but if we also lost Greg Smith and Tim Groenewald we would need to bring in a seamer from somewhere, as that would be three gone. I would hope that any move for a senior English player might not preclude an overseas player and perhaps a seamer might be a winter target this time.

Anyway, it is all conjecture at this stage and the thinking money would still be on Collingwood opting to stay at the club where he learned the game. By the same token, we know the standard of player we're looking at now and if nothing else should be enthused by that.

Adieu for now - fingers crossed for a fine end to the T20 tonight!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 4

Last night I suggested that a win today might ignite Derbyshire's promotion aspirations while cautioning that Glamorgan might fancy any chase under 320. After all, we had scored the best part of 400 runs yesterday, so the wicket was far from an elysian fields for bowlers.

I'm delighted to say that I was wrong as Derbyshire, for the second time in as many games, thrashed a pretty decent side and in doing so put themselves very much back in the promotion reckoning. Again, having said last night that we have fielded better attacks this season, I am delighted to say that I was wrong. On paper that may well have been the case, but on the pitch, where it matters, the attack rose to the occasion and the visitors never looked like getting the runs. Especially when Tony Palladino (pictured), en route to another five-wicket haul, removed their talismanic skipper Alviro Petersen for a duck.

The former Essex seamer now has 34 Championship wickets at 22 each and has proved an inspired signing by John Morris. What has impressed me when I have seen him is that he bowls a full, wicket-taking length that always gives him a chance. Occasionally, when a batsman is going for it, such a length can cost a few runs, but Palladino has done remarkably well and thoroughly justified his move 'oop north.'

Conversely, Mark Turner has had his struggles since moving from Somerset and has had a few disparaging comments go his way via message boards. He has struggled for rhythm, but ironically it was when he quickly removed both Mark Wallace and James Harris that I knew we would win. Both are capable of batting for a long time, and with the wicket's reputation for flattening out after the seam has done the same on the ball, I didn't expect the win, if we got it, to be anywhere near so emphatic. Turner apparently bowled with good pace and took key wickets to go with his valuable first innings runs. He can be proud of his efforts in this game and I hope that it is the start of the good times for an amiable lad.

The wickets were shared around and Jon Clare took another two, giving him 24 for the season at 29 each. With 343 runs at the same average he is on course for the mini-double of 500 runs and 50 wickets and his return to full fitness has been one of the plus factors of the season. Having said that, such things are not especially hard to find right now.

Clare's first innings century turned the tide of a game going against us, though the initial work was done by the admirable Dan Redfern. now the leading scorer in the Championship with 659 runs at an average of 39. The young left-hander is surely going to score his first century this season and is on course for a thousand runs at his present rate of progress. He has long looked a player of talent, but his technique looks more secure and he will have a major part to play in our future. Similarly Chesney Hughes also passed 600 runs in this match. While he has not always looked as secure as he did at times last season, Hughes has done very well in his second year. At times he can look a little leaden footed against spin, especially when he has to force them as was the case in the T20, but his promise is evident and at 20 he is a real talent.

Then of course there's Ross Whiteley, who regular readers will know I have been praising for a good part of the last couple of seasons. At the moment his batting is more a series of delightful cameos, as evidenced in the T20 and again today, but here is another locally-produced lad who could be an asset for years. I was also pleased to see him get the final wicket today. His bowling needs a little more work and he has a tendency to drop one onto leg stump each over, but Whiteley has the potential to be an all-rounder for Derbyshire and make the number six berth his own in the long term.

It was stirring stuff, a fine team effort, well handled by the skipper. When you think that this win came about without a major contribution from Messrs Guptill, Madsen, Durston and Smith, it helps to reinforce somewhat forcibly the point that the chairman made with the blueprint for the future. There are good lads outside this side - Borrington, now a record-breaker in the Premier League; Poynton, a forcing batsman and ever-improving wicket-keeper; Knight, a left arm spinner of remarkable potential; Burgoyne, an all-rounder; Slater, a solid batsman and Sheikh, whose best is yet to come as a left-arm bowler of slippery pace. All that and I've not mentioned Jake Needham, who I still think will come again next summer.

Add into the mix that we had three youngsters in the Midlands Under-15 side for the Bunbury Festival and you see what remarkable work is going on in the academy and Second XI. I'm hoping that the weather holds as I hope to make it to Leek next Monday to see the Seconds on a flying visit down south. Sadly no first team games for me, but I look forward immensely to seeing some of the young tyros who will play a part in an exciting future.

The club site today highlights another good performance from them against Warwickshire, with Borrington and Matt Lineker adding 168 for the first wicket, Lineker making 125 and Borrington 66. While the prolific Lineker has had his struggles this summer, it is good to see him scoring with increasing regularity as it has progressed. With runs from Poynton and Needham, there was still time for Ally Evans to reduce Warwickshire to 30-3 in reply to 349-6. Evans, from the Carlton Cricket Club in Edinburgh via Loughborough University, has some impressive performances to his portfolio this summer and could be one to watch. Certainly, while occasionally erratic he takes wickets, not the worst of habits for a young bowler..

As I close, I note that there are six points between us in fifth place and Middlesex in second. There is absolutely no reason why we couldn't be the team making the late charge. Successive wins tells you we're a team growing in form and confidence.

The others will be noting that, bet your bottom dollar.

Come on the 'shire!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 3

Weather permitting, all is set fair for a cracking final day at the County Ground tomorrow, after the third day followed the first two in the way that it unfolded. Derbyshire ended it 295 ahead with two wickets in hand.

A brilliant century by Chesney Hughes was the stand out, the West Indian emerging from a less productive patch with a career-best 167. Dan Redfern made another composed and classy fifty before being run out, while good support came from Greg Smith, Luke Sutton and Ross Whiteley.

Whiteley and Jon Clare survived until the close and I would guess that the skipper will hope for another 40-50 runs from the hard-hitting pair tomorrow. For what its worth, I would think the visitors might fancy chasing anything under 340 on a wicket that offers help to the bowlers in the opening session each day and with the new ball, but becomes easier to bat on as the day progresses. Derbyshire's attack in this game is not the strongest we have fielded this season and they will need to do better (and certainly catch better) than they did in the first innings without doubt.

I think a word of congratulations is due for the groundstaff. One year after the square was turned they have consistently produced wickets this season that have taken games into exciting final days, giving bowlers encouragement but batsmen due reward for solid techniques and willingness to play shots. If only all county wickets were of a similar standard...

Big day tomorrow then. If we win, it would ignite our promotion aspirations. Losing wouldn't end them, but would leave us needing to string a real run together from here onwards.

Let's get at them boys!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 2

Funny game this one. Both sides made poor starts then the tail wagged and both ended up with scores much higher than seemed likely.

Our lack of experienced seam with injuries told today. Both Clare and Palladino did well, but Mark Turner was again very expensive. Smith is still feeling his way back to fitness and Whiteley needs more bowling at this level to be a genuine threat to top players. Perhaps Durston or Hughes could have been used earlier against the last pair, whose partnership left the visitors in the ascendent.

The loss of Wayne Madsen before the close wasn't in the script and tomorrow we could do with an international-class knock from Martin Guptill to restore parity. If the weather holds fair, the game seems set for another good finish.

Paul Collingwood

So we now know that target number one seems to be Paul Collingwood.

Its hard to fault the move. Having captained England to T20 World Cup success and been an integral part of the national side for the best part of a decade, he has a fine track record. My only concern was his fitness, but he seems to have come through early season surgery well and is back scoring runs and taking wickets (though he's had a poor batting campaign in this year's T20).

His bowling is still a useful weapon and he is one of the best fielders in the world game. As a batsman it may well be that he is slightly past his peak, but at 35 he should still have runs in the locker. A landmark signing? Yeah, I think so, if it happens. It has the added appeal of potentially allowing for an overseas player too, though that would be something to clarify further down the line.

His agent, former Lancashire batsman Neil Fairbrother, says that the player is likely to be reluctant to leave. He has been with Durham all his days, but one would expect the possibilities at Derbyshire, not that far away, must be of some interest to him. Having retired from international cricket, does he really want to sidle off into the sunset scoring a few runs here and there for Durham, or is he ready for another challenge?

Money is unlikely to be an issue. I would guess that a player of his stature would command £150-200K a season, but I have little doubt that Chris Grant could get other people to help cover some of that sort of money with him. Grant could probably do it himself, but this is the sort of venture that Peter Gadsby may also be interested in. Unless the player's demands got into the silly territory, I can't see finance being the stumbling block and Grant said in his blueprint announcement that the restructuring allowed for more money on a big name.

It will be down to the player and what Durham have to offer. If they have a coaching role in mind for him in the future my guess is that he would stay. Yet the lure of turning Derbyshire into a club like Durham, using his twenty years of experience there, might just be the challenge that he needs at the end of his career.

It might well be a real coup for Derbyshire too. I will await developments, like the rest of you, with considerable interest.

You got to love 'em...

Kids eh? They're great. Well mine are anyway.

While we were in Estartit on the Costa Brava our two went on a little shopping expedition up the town, leaving Mrs P and I some quality time together...

On their return, they presented us with a couple of gifts each, mine being the rather snazzy items you see in the photograph. A chap up the town had a baseball cap and garment business, where you could get anything you wanted on them free of charge. So my thoughtful offspring decided that some personal marketing of the blog might be in order and presented me with the cap and T-shirt you see in the photo.

I'm not sure that there would be many people in Spain who rushed to a computer as I passed them on the esplanade, but I might be easier to spot on my next visit to the County Ground!

PS After careful consideration, I decided not to add to my range of caps with others enscribed "Nottinghamshire - they get away with it all the time" and "Warwickshire nick your players." I was tempted, mind...

If anyone is looking for such stuff, get in touch though. The chap is happy to export personalised caps and garments and the quality and prices are excellent.

Rumours, schmumours...

I've had e-mails in recent days suggesting that Paul Collingwood, Jacques Kallis, Mike Hussey and Ricky Ponting were coming to Derbyshire as our capo di tutti capi next season. Thanks to all concerned, but since three suggested that the chairman had told them the name it suggests that Chris Grant is throwing a smokescreen around or that there are some people out there are trying to make summat out of nowt, to use the local vernacular.

We'll hear who the new man is going to be in due course and conjecture will be rife for much of that time. As for me, I'll bide my time. I see merits and negatives in all the above names, some being more realistic than others, but there's no point in writing screeds of stuff about hypotheticals when I can keep my powder dry for when we actually KNOW.

I'm more curious about other areas at this stage. With Steffan Jones leaving, we will have a vacancy for a bowling coach (presumably) and I just wondered whether this might be a change of remit for Andy 'AJ' Harris? I'm unaware of his coaching credentials but wouldn't have thought he'd be doing so well with the Seconds without them, so for me he would be a logical appointment.

Who would take over the Seconds? I gave a little thought to this on the beach over the last fortnight and again, subject to his having the requisite qualifications, I would see Garry Park as a good man in that role, for a variety of reasons.

For one, I'm not sure how having Park as a bit-part player in one day games fits with the new blueprint, and with his contract ending, I'm not sure if a player of his age (29 next year) fits in with it when he's not guaranteed a place. We can hardly pay a senior salary in such conditions, but if Park was in charge of the Seconds as justification for the cost, for me it could be a win-win situation. You retain his services for T20 and other one-day cricket as required, while the youngsters learn fielding techniques from the best fielder we've ever had. As a good, innovative batsman he has a lot to offer and pass on, while his bowling abilities (somewhat underused this year) are perhaps underrated. I would be very happy to see Park in such a role and it makes a lot of sense.

As always, I'd welcome your comments of course...

The T20 campaign

While the T20 campaign doesn't finish for Derbyshire until the weekend, the chance of progression disappeared with the defeat to Leicestershire and so the final game, against Yorkshire, effectively becomes one with bragging rights alone at stake.

Suggestions that our season is over are premature and silly. There is still a chance of winning the section in the Pro 40, while a decent run in the Championship could yet see us make a late challenge for promotion. Fanciful maybe, but look at the respective tables and it is hard to dispute if we get our act together.

As for the T20, it was once again a curate's egg of a campaign, mixing some very good with an occasional performance of a shambolic nature. Doing the double over Warwickshire, beating Yorkshire and Durham and probably winning the return against the latter were fine efforts against better sides than us. We should also have beaten Nottinghamshire at Derby and Leicestershire in either game, while the Worcestershire game at the County Ground was gift-wrapped and only needed opening.

Realistically, until we start to win our share of the close games and beat the teams that we should do, we will not move to another level as a side. Such things come from experience, of course, but there are enough players in the side among the tyros to be winning our share of these and showing a little more nous when it matters. If we can beat division one sides with some style, beating the Worcestershires and Northamptonshires of this world should be a doddle with a similar attitude.

Progression will be dependent on several factors, primarily the retention or replacement of key personnel. We know now that Steffan Jones will retire at the season's end, a major part of our T20 side gone. Greg Smith will probably go too, though his performances have flattered to deceive on occasion and he has played little part in this campaign. Should Tim Groenewald also leave, however, it would leave a major hole in the side that will take some filling. I doubt Leicestershire would have made the target last weekend were he available, but that's life and someone else needs to step into the breach and make a name. I hope that Groenewald stays and realises that opening the bowling for Derbyshire is more rewarding than being first/second change elsewhere. Money will be a major factor, but I think that Derbyshire will make a good cricketer a fair offer - the rest is up to him.

One persistent anonymous contributor has harped on about the lack of a second overseas player, something I've covered before and don't intend to go over again. Suffice to say that the failure to replace Usman Khawaja wasn't for the lack of trying. By the same token, had such a player come in, a batsman may well have taken Ross Whiteley's place, while a bowler would have had Tom Knight's. Who were the biggest successes of the campaign...?

Be sure though that those two players will face their challenges in summers ahead. Both have the talent to go a long way, but cricket form ebbs and flows for most people. Jon Clare had his detractors in the T20, but the young all-rounder is gradually returning to his form of two/three years back and will be a huge asset next year, with a near injury-free season behind him. The margin of error for all bowlers in T20 is tiny, the game being heavily weighted in favour of the batsmen. Big bats and short boundaries make bowling an awkward proposition, but Derbyshire got it right much of the time with the use of spin - or at least slow, accurate bowling - to frustrate the opposition. Chesney Hughes and Tom Knight did exceptionally well in the middle of innings, while Wes Durston bowled some intelligent spells at the start on some occasions.

The batting fired more often than not, with Guptill and Durston usually a good opening pair. For me, Hughes could have moved up and down the order, coming in against the seamers rather than spin where he had his struggles. Garry Park and Wayne Madsen had solid campaigns, the former perhaps a better option at three on some occasions for me. Ross Whiteley was a revelation at the end of innings and I've seen comments suggesting he too should have been elevated. I'm not so sure and feel his niche is going in to play shots and clear the boundary when the fielders are back, rather than when there are more close fielders in for the occasional shot in the air. Quite often promoting batsmen doesn't work. Although I take the point that if Whiteley got out he would score quickly in a brief knock, it would then need someone else to take up his mantle lower down.

Then there's the skipper. Luke Sutton generally kept wicket to a very high standard and rang the changes well. Perhaps on a couple of occasions he got it wrong and those were the things people picked up on, rather than applauding the times he got it right. I don't envy him his role in T20, when the game is moving at breakneck speed. Keeping wicket, often standing up to stop the batsman using his feet, leaves you exposed if the bowler then fires a couple wide down leg side, or a batsman gets one away off an inside edge. Similarly, keeping the field in the right places and changing it for different players is a tough job and combining the two in a pressure cooker environment is not for the faint-hearted. Then, of course, you have to go in and bat...

Sutton only scored three runs in the campaign. Then again, he only had four innings and generally came in when time was running out. Against Worcestershire, when his savvy might have made the difference, Chesney Hughes ran him out when Usain Bolt wouldn't have covered the 22 yards in the required time. Against Nottinghamshire he was run out by David Hussey (that's the unregistered one...) when we needed 68 from four overs. Against Lancashire he was caught and bowled, getting in with five overs to go on a turning track, then against Leicestershire got in with three overs left. You could hardly say that he might have played match-winning hands in the circumstances, nor hold him liable for not doing so.

I would agree that next season we might look to playing Tom Poynton in the shorter forms of the game, with our new star captain skippering the side. Mind you, I'd hope that people might be more respectful and understanding of Poynton if he only got in at such times and failed, as logically he would do more often than not with no time to get your eye in. By the same token, Sutton's merits behind the timbers are such that, freed of the captaincy, he might just contribute more with the bat anyway...

At the end of it all, only the foolhardy would suggest we failed to compete this year. With better luck from the weather and a little more savvy we could have been a win away from the quarter finals. For me, the emergence of Knight and Whiteley has been a major plus in this campaign. With the right man in to coax the best from them, these lads, together with the likes of Hughes, Redfern, Poynton and others form the nucleus of a young team  of some potential.

PS I should add that I was as puzzled as some of you at the absence of Tony Palladino, especially when Groenewald or Jones were unavailable. I came to the conclusion that a niggle he's had this year might have been the reason. He wasn't a T20 regular for Essex and it may be that his attacking length might have been more likely to be hit. We'll never know - at least not this year. I expect to see much more of him next time around though.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 1

If you thought we'd post 360 this afternoon when at one point we were 130-7 you're a better man than I.

I got back home with my family this afternoon to a text that read 160-7 and I thought we'd scrape 200. 360 was a fine recovery, courtesy of another fine effort from Dan Redfern - agonisingly one run short of that century so richly deserved  - and Jon Clare.

Clare has had a tough press in recent weeks from a few supposed fans and I was delighted that the lad answered his critics in the best possible way today. His second first class century was also a new career-best and he followed it with the early wicket of Glamorgan skipper Alviro Petersen as the visitors stumbled to 39-2 in reply. Big first session again tomorrow and if we see the usual first session movement for the seamers it could be an interesting one.

Tomorrow, all being well, I hope to do a piece on our T20 campaign, but I'd have to say that some recent comments about players on here and the Falcons Forum have been pretty poor. C'mon guys, whether they are having a bad run or not, they should get our support. Do you think they go out there to deliberately do badly?

There were comments on the Falcons Forum and on here in recent days about Luke Sutton that have been grossly unfair for a bloke who is working his socks off for the club. Yes, he's had a bad trot in the T20 with the bat, but his wicket-keeping is still largely impressive, much more so than anything we saw last year. I agree that consideration needs to be given to the role next year (more in my T20 piece) but I'd be interested to know how many of those critics have ever kept wicket or captained a side, let alone trying to do both? They are roles that require 100% concentration and, having captained a club side, let alone a county one, in many T20 games, I know how demanding that alone is. I don't know how Sutton has done as well as he has, quite frankly.

If he has made errors, then it is human. Was bowling Mark Turner against Leiestershire a mistake? Is bowling your opening bowler ever a mistake? Last year the lad was a star performer in limited overs cricket for Somerset, bowling key overs at the death. His bowling is erratic, for sure, but I think he was pretty much left to get on with things at Somerset and needs bowling in matches to augment his coaching and net work. You learn by mistakes. Yes, we should have won from the position we were in from five overs out against the Foxes, but poor bowling and inspired batting combined to take it away from us. It happens, it's cricket, move on.

Finally, for now, any comments about Morris, Brown and Chris Grant will be removed from now on. There may be legal issues to consider and I am not planning to be cited, especially when a comment comes from someone unwilling to put a name to their post.

Sorry, but that's the way it has to be. Constructive comment and expressions of disappointment are one thing. Personal suggestions of how things might be improved are fine. But no personal attacks guys - its not nice and its not clever.

See you tomorrow.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Leicestershire v Derbyshire

Well, another close finish that went the wrong way...

Good effort again by the boys, but Mark Turner took some late stick from the sound of it and we lost in narrow fashion.

For me it ends our T20 interest and we´d need real luck with results to progress from here. While not having studied results and fixtures, we´re probably mathematically stil in it but logic suggests we´re playing for honour now.

We´ll see. Catch you later.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

So what now?

Full credit to Derbyshire for turning things around from Sunday´s Lancastrian debacle to convincingly beat Warwickshire last night, a result due to some key performances. Wes Durston´s al-round ability, coupled with the increasingly mature talents of Tom Knight to take Derbyshire clear of the home side and keep our hopes alive of making the final stages.

Of course, we now need to do without Knight and it is tribute to the way the youngster has fitted into the side that we are now pondering what we will do without him.

One option might be to bring back Chesney Hughes, which would give a slow left arm option and a hard hitting batsmen if he rediscovers his form. Another would be to bring someone else in, presumably instead of David Wainwright who appears to be needed at Yorkshire due to a hamstring injury sustained by Azeem Rafiq.

I doubt whether Lancashire, another side in contention, would lend us one from Kerrigan, Parry and Keedy so the only loan option might be to see if we could borrow Ant Botha from Warwickshire, whose defeat last night effectively ended their interest in the campaign. It would only be a stop gap, but Botha is still a steady bowler and might do a job in the last three games. Of course, this pre-supposes that Jake Needham´s recovery is a work in progress and I suspect that it will be until next season.

So the choices are simple, if Wainwright isn´t allowed to leave Yorkshire right now. We could go with the following side and keep faith with the spin option that has served us pretty well:

Guptill, Durston, Smith, Madsen, Park, Whiteley, Hughes, Sutton, Clare, Groenewald, Jones

or perhaps bring back Botha. Any thoughts?

For what its worth, I´d go with Hughes. He would lengthen the batting, is one of our own and could offer late hitting against the seamers. Friday´s game against high-flying Leicestershire is massive and we might then expect to beat Northants and Yorkshire, two sides who have struggled in the competition.

Mind you, nothing can be taken for granted with Derbyshire and we all remember the Northants game at Derby last year that we should have breezed and made a mess of. Not forgetting Worcestershire at home either...you just don´t know which Derbyshire side will turn up.

But if the good one does - well, we´re still in this.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow!