Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Yorkshire v Derbyshire day 2: Chesney's great day

While Chesney Hughes ran out of partners today on 270 not out, he can sleep well tonight in the knowledge that he has played one of the great innings in the 143-year history of our club.

It is worth noting that Chesney batted for four minutes over nine hours and faced 415 balls in his monumental knock. All the more remarkable was that with the exception of Wayne Madsen, no one else made more than 27.

It can said with a degree of confidence that he is now our number one choice of opening bat and it was nice to see him acknowledge the influence of Shivnarine Chanderpaul on his batting, the latter being willing to talk cricket and the art of batting to anyone who wants to learn how to do it properly. One cannot fault Hughes' willingness to work at his game and he has pretty much nailed, perhaps for good, the suggestion that he gives it away when set. It was telling that Chanderpaul urged him to fully capitalise on a couple of days when eyes, hands and feet moved in perfect unison and his bat must have seemed the width of a door to the Yorkshire bowlers.

Were it ever so for a batsman! There will be days to come when things just don't just feel right and the return to the pavilion is unpleasantly prompt, but as Hughes moved past Stan Worthington and Pat Vaulkhard today in the all-time highest innings list, only George Davidson lay ahead of him.

Davidson had made his epic 274 on August 10 and 11, 1896 and it was the major part of a Derbyshire total of 577against Lancashire, with William Chatterton and William Storer also recording centuries. We 'collapsed' from 542-3 to 577 all out in that game, which ended in a draw. After his innings, which surpassed his previous best of 88 by some margin, Davidson went on to bowl 57 overs in Lancashire's reply as we enforced the follow-on. 117 years later Davidson is still....just...at the top of the pile.

The thinking money would be on a draw in this game too, as Yorkshire look set to post a massive total themselves by the close of play. 164-1 with Root and Jaques entrenched and Gale, Ballance and Bairstow to come suggests that Chesney may have to bowl a few overs tomorrow too. Hopefully not quite as many as 57 though...

The word 'great' is overused in the modern world, but by the purest definition of that word, Chesney Hughes was elevated to greatness today and his name will be in the club records for a long. long time. He may never reach such heights again, or he may go on to surpass both that and Davidson's score in years to come. At 22, however, he has done even more for the club than perhaps himself over the past two days.

Because people now see that we have players of genuine talent. They all knew about Chanderpaul, that Madsen was an excellent professional and that Redfern was a young tyro of potential. But Hughes has opened eyes and started people talking about Derbyshire, the club that very shrewdly has him signed up for the next three years.

If his sterling, astonishing, remarkable effort can be emulated by a Whiteley, Redfern, Godleman or Burgoyne in the coming months, so much the better.

I fully accept that I was wrong to suggest that early season tracks and his technique may make for uneasy bedfellows. While one innings makes neither a summer nor career, we now know how good this fella can be. More importantly, he knows it himself.

Today was the day that Chesney Hughes came of age. For one night only, Derbyshire CCC, in recognition of Hughes and Chanderpaul, has become the Derbyshire Caribbean Concentration Collective...

Congratulations Chesney.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Yorkshire v Derbyshire day 1

Ladies and gentlemen...we look like we have found an opener...

What a magnificent innings from Chesney Hughes today! An unbeaten 171 gave us our first genuine excitement on the batting front this summer and the big Anguillan showed remarkable powers of concentration, the likes of which we haven't seen since he first burst on to the scene a few summers back.

"He hits the ball as hard as anyone on the circuit" said Andrew Gale, "but I haven't seen him play with that discipline before. Karl Krikken attributed it to both Dave Houghton and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, though one has to give credit to a player who has battled his way back from what appeared a crisis of confidence. Last summer he was barely recognisable, but pre-season some technical adjustments seemed to have helped him rediscover his mojo.

Failures at Lords were a setback, but Hughes dropped into the second team and responded with runs, which is all any player can do. I hope we see the same from Ross Whiteley, a very good cricketer who hasn't got going yet. He is too good a player for this to be a permanent, or even long-lasting issue and I'm sure it won't be long before we see him back in the side.

 It was a good day for Krikk. Elevating Chesney to opener paid off handsomely, while the return of Wayne Madsen to the middle order saw him make an admirable 93. There are few more worthy cricketers than the Derbyshire captain, a player who offers total commitment whether he is in or out of form. He fell short of fifty against Nottinghamshire and just short of a deserved century today, but it is good to see the skipper back in the runs.

I hope we see him stay in the middle order. As anyone who has played regular cricket will tell you, there is a substantially different mindset between opening and batting three. Even if an opener goes quickly, going in first wicket down feels different. If you're not convinced, think about the likes of Bradman, Kallis, Richards, Worrell and many more. You didn't see them open many times, did you?

Our middle order looked more substantial today, even though it was a somewhat lopsided innings. Two players score 264 runs between them and three others contribute a total of nine, one of them our overseas star. Mind you, Shivnarine could be excused as he'd probably seized up, waiting 68 overs with his pads on. Durston is another player struggling for his best form and fell before the close, but Dan Redfern seems to be getting to grips with this level and accompanied Hughes to the close. Those two players, 23 and 22 respectively, offer massive potential for our future.

There is a lot of work still to do, of course. I'd like to see us make 450 minimum, then the work of bowling out a lengthy batting side begins. We may or may not win this game by Thursday evening, but we have already gone some way towards restoring self-respect and boosting confidence.

There are some good comments below yesterday's post and notoveryet makes some especially pertinent points. Whatever happens this summer, good or bad, this is a young team and they WILL come again. If it transpires that relegation and another summer in the second tier are needed before they reach maturity, then so be it. Let's think about that in due course though and celebrate a very good day today.

It's a funny old game. As notoveryet also points out, James Taylor struggled last year, having been a stand out at Leicestershire. Likewise, Jack Brooks and Liam Plunkett presumably cost Yorkshire serious money in the close season and they're not yet pulling up trees.

Here's hoping they don't tomorrow. Onwards and upwards lads...onwards and upwards.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Yorkshire v Derbyshire preview

I don't know if Wayne Madsen knows any magic tricks, but if he can perfect a little sleight of hand that can produce a two-headed coin and an appropriate call at Headingley tomorrow it will get us off to a good start...

The skipper has lost three tosses running and we've lost two matches, the ensuing decision from the opposition skipper on whether or not to bowl being easier than that made by a hungry man who is offered a sandwich.

In the first round of rain-affected matches, every captain who won the toss fielded. Two subsequently won their matches, while Somerset lost at Durham. In the next round of six fixtures, five won the toss and fielded, three going on to win their game. In the latest round of six matches, five skippers actually chose to bat, but only one went on to win the game, two of them losing, with the other drawn.

It suggests that fielding first at this time of year pays dividends, but certain wickets (The Rose Bowl, The Oval) are already good for batting first. If one were to look at Headingley, Yorkshire were skittled for just 96 by Sussex on the season's opening day, so it would be a brave captain who won the toss and batted tomorrow.

Karl Krikken has named a thirteen-man squad, effectively the side that played Nottinghamshire, plus Mark Footitt and Chesney Hughes. Based on two decent innings for the seconds, I think Chesney will come in against Yorkshire at the expense of Ross Whiteley, who has yet to hit form this summer. I'd be inclined to give him a go at the top of the order, allowing the skipper to drop to the middle order where he would be so much more effective. The worry would be his footwork against a new ball, but maybe we need to see if it can work rather than base judgement on supposition. I just hope that Chesney, who has been involved in a few run outs over the past couple of summers, and Billy Godleman, who was involved in two at Lords, can get their calling sorted should it happen...

Mark Footitt deserves a call up to the squad after his six wickets against a Surrey/Hampshire XI for the seconds and would give us useful variety and pace. While Tony Palladino in top form would enjoy Headingley, he's not yet reached that and a blow on the foot yesterday from Stuart Broad might affect the decision to play one over the other. For what its worth, my team would be:


The irony being, of course, that omitting Palladino would weaken the batting - and substantially, based on his sterling efforts so far. Yet we need the guys above him to contribute now and reveal their true ability. When you depend on nine, ten, jack to score runs it is a worry, for sure. It has been a poor start, but the players know what to expect now and are going to play no one better than they've already faced. Yorkshire were, after all, behind us in the table last summer.

The Yorkshire side will likely be as chased down 338 to beat Durham, with England man Joe Root in top form and one of seven internationals in some format. Gary Ballance will no doubt fancy his usual runs against his former county, but the side is substantially one that we played last year. They have greater experience, but the sooner our lads go out mentally feeling they are on a par with the opposition the better we will do.

Fingers crossed the season proper starts tomorrow. Come on lads!

Postscript: Ryan Sidebottom rested for tomorrow, with the Yorkshire squad as follows:


Saturday, 27 April 2013

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire day 4

Well, the end came a little later than I expected, admittedly with assistance from the weather and thanks to some sterling last morning resistance from Dan Redfern and David Wainwright. Both will benefit from the runs they made, but were undone by a fine bowler in Stuart Broad, perhaps the only time this year he will be able to assist his county.

After three games we have a draw and two defeats, the natives are getting restless and there's much gnashing of teeth. But the season starts now, with matches coming up that we have a more realistic chance of winning. Don't get me wrong, Yorkshire and Sussex are good sides, or they wouldn't be in the top tier, but it is easier to see us beating them than the last three opponents.

Having said that, Yorkshire chased down 339 to beat Durham today, largely thanks to a magnificent 182 from England's Joe Root. It is patently clear that the England men make a massive difference to their counties and such a shame that the county game is largely deprived of their services due to central contracts.

We should keep in mind a few things before being overly critical of Derbyshire's start. We have played three very strong sides and the fact that we lost the toss in every match was undoubtedly a factor. I would dearly love to see Wayne Madsen win the toss at Headingley on Monday, as our chances of a win would then rise by around 20% in my humble opinion.

Also remember that a few players did get runs under their belt against Nottinghamshire and a fast bowler of genuine class. Again, that will be a morale booster for them as we move on with our season and we could do with replication of that up north.

Finally - and before making too many demands for change - we don't have too many options with the requisite experience. If things don't improve by July or August, I could see the likes of Burgoyne, Alex Hughes and Slater getting opportunities, but not, in the four-day game, before then. I still think that the lads in the current side will come good, but Headingley would be a fine place to start.

Tomorrow I will look at that game in a little more detail.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire day 3

I exchanged texts this afternoon with a friend who was as pleasantly surprised by our steady second innings as I was.

"If these two see it through to the close" I wrote, as our score sat at 70-2 with Wayne Madsen and Shivnarine Chanderpaul well set, "we could yet get a draw. But if one goes, we could be five down by the end of the day".

I take no pleasure in my Nostradamus-style powers of prophecy, but the slump from 107-2 to 139-5 was the latest in a season that has seen too many already. If county cricket were accompanied by the music to which we are subjected in T20, perhaps Paul Simon's Slip Slidin' Away might be appropriate.

The fight will continue tomorrow because that's what this team does, but the loss of Shivnarine Chanderpaul to a ball that he felt brushed his thigh pad triggered a mini collapse. It was good to see Wayne Madsen grafting his way to runs and he deserved a fifty, but Ross Whiteley went quickly to a good catch and we're left looking at rain dance options for tomorrow. Good as our lower order is, even optimistic old me can't see us lasting much past lunch time - though I hope I am wrong.

There are a few things concern me at the moment and they are indicative of players who perhaps are low on self-belief. Three dropped catches again today is one of them. Last year we held more than most sides and some were barely chances, yet that has not been replicated so far. It has to be, if we are to compete, as the opportunities are not coming with anywhere near the frequency of a year ago.

Tony Palladino and Tim Groenewald were a major factor in our promotion last summer, but in three matches so far the former has three wickets at 72, the latter four at 42. Both have bowled tidily enough, but the early inroads into innings haven't happened on wickets that have offered assistance. Maybe, as Paul mailed me this evening, we need to see if Mark Footitt's greater pace is a better bet, but we could do with our two main men returning to former glories before much longer.

Then again, the batting averages bear little study either. Take away Chanderpaul's 65 and Mark Turner's 40 (seriously...) and only Tony Palladino with 27 averages more than 20. I take no pleasure from recounting these statistics, but it illustrates that the issue doesn't lie only with the batsmen. We are struggling as a side right now.

I'd love to see us battle a draw tomorrow, but that would not and should not mask shortcomings at this early stage of the summer. The New Zealand game to come will take on added significance, with several players very keen to establish some form ahead of the next championship game, at home to Sussex.

I will be down for that one myself. Let's hope things have improved a little by then.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire day 2

A handy habit of taking relatively regular wickets kept the Nottinghamshire innings in reasonable bounds today, although missed opportunities in the field left them wondering what might have been.

The normally reliable Wes Durston spilled a couple at slip, while a run out opportunity to Billy Godleman went begging as Nottinghamshire closed on 325-5, 69 runs ahead. Derbyshire are not yet looking down a barrel in this game, although a bad morning tomorrow could turn them from mildly curious to decidedly intrigued onlookers.

The fighting qualities of this side are well known, but they will need to show them all to survive this one. The visitors will expect to declare at around 550 and then press home the advantage, but Derbyshire can and must bat better in the second innings. With Adams injured and Broad unlikely to be more than a short spell shock bowler, we really shouldn't be rolled over by Fletcher, Gurney and Patel.

Whether we lose or not, it would at least be encouraging to see a few batsmen find their best form, which is pretty much everyone save Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Along with Tony Palladino, he is the only player to look like he can bat at this level right now. I don't think that is the case for a minute, but the sooner we can post a 400 total the better it will be for everyone's confidence.

If the batting fails again in the second innings, there will have to be questions asked by Karl Krikken, as we simply cannot rely on the latter half of the innings to bail us out every time. The panic button doesn't yet need to be pressed, with only three games gone, but we will win little without totals to bowl at. This is a decent Derbyshire attack, but we don't have a Gladwin and Jackson...

It is early doors, but I believe tomorrow to be an early defining day in our championship summer. If we can keep the lead to around 175, then bat a heck of a lot better second time around, the mood of the camp will be improved, irrespective of the result. If we don't it may be time for a rethink and some long hard looks.

Nothing has changed. The path chosen for the club's future is absolutely, one hundred per cent the right one, but last year's promotion was an unexpected early consequence of the policy. The talented young players now need to show that their 'manning up', to use Karl Krikken's phrase, is another one.

They need to learn. And do so fast.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire day 1

At 75-6 today, most Derbyshire fans would have snatched your hand off for a total of 175.

That we made 256, our biggest total of the embryonic summer, was largely due to the sublime Shivnarine Chanderpaul, with excellent assistance from Jonathan Clare and Tony Palladino. The latter now contributes with the bat with sufficient regularity to be close to all-rounder status, while Clare displayed some trade mark powerful strokes before going just short of 50.

Chanderpaul is a wonderful player, albeit one with a technique all of his own. You wouldn't find it in a coaching manual, but you don't get many players closing fast on 300 first-class matches with an average of 57. His powers of concentration are quite remarkable and he looks set to be a massive asset to Derbyshire this summer.

Mind you, as things stand we could do with a re-writing of the rules so he can bat at both ends. The late innings recovery cannot and should not mask the failings of the batting once more. In their defence we again lost a toss, and as I suggested on Radio Derby this morning, Nottinghamshire were quick to decide to bowl.

Yet we need some of the top order to start scoring runs. Perhaps we do need to look at the skipper moving into the middle order, probably to five, and finding another opener. Dan Redfern is unquestionably a fine player, but needs to realise that the flashing (an apposite word) drives are not percentage shots at this time of year. We have next to nothing coming from five and six at present, but Madsen could be revitalised away from the new ball.

The visitors lost Andre Adams and he won't bowl again in this match. Given that Stuart Broad is unlikely to bowl 25 overs second time around, one would hope that we could make a better fist again Fletcher, Gurney and Patel than we did today.

Tomorrow will be a big one and Notts will aim to bat all of it and into Friday, before leaving us 250-300 behind. Can our attack limit them to a similar tally to the one we made?

We'll soon find out.

PS Thinking back to last week's Nottingham Post headline 'Mullaney sends message ahead of Derbyshire clash'.

I can only assume the message was "I know I'm not going to play, but..."

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire preview

Were Derby County to get back into the Premiership, see the fixtures and find that they had been drawn against Manchester United and Arsenal away in the opening games, few fans would have expectations of a good start.

Then they find that they have Chelsea in the first home game...

The analogy is apposite, as Derbyshire have found themselves facing all the big guns at the start of the summer. Tomorrow's visitors, our nearest and dearest neighbours Nottinghamshire, are the galacticos of the East Midlands, mainly because their resources have enabled them to attract the better players from elsewhere (including the East Midlands...)

Ed Cowan, Alex Hales, Michael Lumb, James Taylor, Samit Patel, Riki Wessels, Chris Read, Stuart Broad, Ajmal Shahzad, Luke Fletcher, Andre Adams, Harry Gurney...the squad for tomorrow's game is like an international cricket Who's Who, with eight of them (at a quick count) internationals in one format of the game or another.

By contrast Derbyshire's side has only one international (no prizes for guessing who...) but a team spirit that most sides would love to bottle. We've also brought in players from elsewhere, but ours, rather than established stars, are people with a point to prove; an opportunity to seek, rather than a major pay-day.

On paper, this game should be one-sided, but then again on paper this Nottinghamshire side should never lose. Yet lose they did to Middlesex and so heavily that the rumbling from Trent-side could almost be heard in Gretna. They will field few stronger sides this summer and are realistically only Graeme Swann from full strength.

It will be a major challenge for a young Derbyshire outfit, but they need to remember that it is still eleven against eleven. Winning the toss would help us immensely, but this is why they fought so hard last season, to mix it with the big boys. A good performance against this opposition in a local derby will hearten us as we go on to play 'lesser' sides in the division.

I'm not being defeatist when I say that I don't expect a win in this match, I'm being realistic. I want to hear and read of our side battling as they have in most sessions of a summer in its infancy, taking the game to the opposition, having a good go. 'Fearless cricket' is Karl Krikken's rallying cry before the game and it has to be. Respect the opposition, but don't fear them. As you see time and again in all sports, sometimes the all-star side isn't a team and comes a cropper as a result.

As I suggested last night, Derbyshire swap Ross Whiteley for Chesney Hughes and a return for David Wainwright seems highly likely after a long bowl and six wickets in club cricket at the weekend. Our twelve is:

Wayne Madsen, Billy Godleman, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Wes Durston, Dan Redfern, Ross Whiteley, David Wainwright, Tom Poynton, Jonathan Clare, Tony Palladino, Tim Groenewald, Mark Turner.

Do we read anything into the announced twelve on the club site? If Turner is 12th man he is unlucky, but so would any of them be, as the seamers have all done well so far. Do we equally read anything into Chanderpaul at three? In what are likely to be helpful conditions for bowlers, the presence of your big name player as early as possible could be a stabilising influence. I'm sure such things have been discussed in the dressing room, but we need to bat substantially better than in the first two games to get anything from this one. And yes, I know that's a case of stating the obvious...

If we lose this one it is not the end of the world, not the end of the season. There are many more games to come and plenty that we will have greater expectation of winning. If we get a result of any kind, or if we have opponents of this stature in trouble, our guys should start to realise that they are every bit as good as others in this division and can establish themselves.

One of the great benfactors of Nottinghamshire cricket, Sir Julien Cahn, had a favourite saying that is very appropriate as we head into this game. "Grasp the opportunity of a lifetime, in the lifetime of the opportunity".

Our lads have an opportunity to make a name for themselves tomorrow and over the ensuing days.

You never know...

Postscript 1 - Cricket nets for Peakfan tomorrow, so my blog will be later...just so you know

Postscript 2 - Chris Gayle  - how does anyone get a hundred from 30 balls? Extraordinary.

Postscript 3 - Radio Derby are having a chat with me tomorrow morning on the Breakfast Show around 8.15am. Hope you can listen in!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Monday musings

"They've done 'em proud".

Those were the words of my Dad today, having picked up the Derby Evening Telegraph. As you will appreciate, getting the Telegraph in Glasgow is slightly less likely than finding the latest copy of the Bavarian Bell Ringers quarterly, so he's keeping it for me. I should be down for a couple of days of the Sussex match, when I look forward to seeing division one Derbyshire.

It is good to see the local media getting behind the club. With Derby County doing OK, but little more due to lack of investment in the Championship, the cricket club is THE senior level sports side in the county. While acknowledging that Derby is a football city, the cricket club deserves its current prominence and I hope it lasts for a long time.

On Wednesday we come up against another strong side, local rivals Nottinghamshire and the signs are that the two sets of supporters are going to be there in some strength. It is good to hear and I just hope that 'in some strength' doesn't mean that the traditional two men and a dog isn't merely reinforced by a couple of extra canines.

I would hope that even the most partisan of visiting fans might realise the sterling work that has gone on at the County Ground to get Derbyshire to a position of parity - at least at this stage of the summer - with their more affluent neighbours. I think that the wider cricket world is split right now. There's a few who are waiting and hoping for us to fail, while there's others, perhaps a majority, who are pleasantly surprised and would love to see us bloody a few noses this summer.

It is David v Goliath after all, but I am still to be convinced that there's too much between our boys and other sides. The Warwickshire game had insufficient cricket to be conclusive, but there was little between a strong Middlesex side and our boys after the first innings. We handled swing bowling badly at Lords, but bad days can and do happen for all sides and perhaps we got ours out of the way early.

On Wednesday we will face both Samit Patel and Stuart Broad, but as the season progresses the international players will become as infrequent on the county circuit as daffodils in the Kalahari. Broad, Shahzad and Adams will doubtless make up a threatening attack and will test us, but as injuries and international calls hit the top tier sides I expect to see greater parity between sides. While accepting that injuries can hit us too, the fact that we have played three of the top sides (perhaps the top three sides?) early may well be in our favour. Certainly, competing at this level should encourage the boys that they have what it takes. 

I'll look at the game more closely tomorrow, but I'm hopeful that we will give a good account of ourselves in our first home game of the season and just hope that the weather is kind to us.

In closing tonight, it was good to see the name Chanderpaul in the runs at the weekend, with Tagenarine (who apparently is known as Brandon) making a 'delightful' 78 for Stainsby. They still lost, but there appears little doubt that the name will be seen in cricket circles for a number of years to come.

More from me tomorrow. Lords is history, let's go and do something special.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Something for the weekend

There were plenty of responses to last night's blog and, as always, thank you for them.

They highlight the passion for the club that exists among fans and the many and varied ideas that we all have. At the end of the day, the big cricket decisions have to be made by Karl Krikken and we should not forget what a sterling job he has done in his tenure thus far.

Looking through some of the comments on the Forum, I had to smile. It was as if last season never happened. Depending on the post, suddenly Madsen is inconsistent, Durston only a one-day player, Chanderpaul too slow etc, etc. I'd make one suggestion to posters before they go public with an obviously incorrect comment - read what you have written, then read it again. It is very easy to make a hasty comment on something that often comes back to bite you. Using the three players named above as examples, Durston had a superb summer in all competitions last year and was Most Valuable Player. Madsen, though less consistent than previous years, still scored heavily, while Chanderpaul is, not without reason, the second best batsman in the world. Telling someone of that quality how he should play an innings is like telling Villazon how to sing an aria, or Benedetti how to tune her violin...

There are a few things to remember before castigating our lads. Firstly, on both occasions we have lost an important toss and had to bat first. That is always crucial in April and early May and few teams win matches when they are inserted. It may or may not have changed the result at Lords, but I reckon our lads would have fancied bowling first last Wednesday, much as they will want to bowl on Wednesday at Derby.

Then there's the opposition. We played last year's champions on their own patch, then a team largely expected to be in the mix this summer on theirs. Neither is representative of the sides in this division and, as I have written before, it is the games against the lesser lights that we need to win. We competed pretty well at Edgbaston and did so again at Lords until a crazy 2-3 hours saw the wheels come off.

Yet we're not alone in that. Durham capitulated horribly today, much as a highly-rated Nottinghamshire side did against a weaker Middlesex attack than ripped us apart. Somerset failed twice at Durham with their highly-rated batting; Yorkshire had a nightmare against Sussex. We don't have an exclusive on it, but we have a better excuse - a young side that needs to acclimatise at this level. It can and will happen to any team caught in awkward conditions, as it takes time to hone your batting game at the start of the summer. The slightest error on a track offering movement will be punished, especially at the top level.

I still think that we will come through this, but patience is the key. IF this summer proved a disaster, the side will still be stronger for the experience. Only by playing against the best do you improve your game and your preparation for it. There is no team in the history of the game that hasn't had a bad day, in a game that is the greatest leveler of all. The same goes for individuals. How many times do we see batsmen follow a century with a low score?

I don't see a change to the top five for Nottinghamshire. The most vulnerable, Dan Redfern, looked in fine touch at Edgbaston and continues to learn. I would like to see Ross Whiteley back, partly because he lends balance, but also because he has a more solid game than Chesney at this stage of the summer. The latter's limited footwork leaves him vulnerable to a ball that is nipping around, but his chances will come as the summer goes on .

I think we'll also see David Wainwright back if he's fit, especially at Derby, where he did so well last year. That will leave Krikk a very tough call between his four seamers from Lords, with one of them making way. I'm unsure how that will go, as the worst figures there were Tony Palladino's, but I'd not leave him out for a Derby track where he has enjoyed considerable success. Tim Groenewald bowled beautifully, while Turner and Clare took the most wickets. Tough one, eh?

I've read a comment about bringing in Richard Johnson behind the stumps, but I don't see that at this stage. Tom Poynton has battled as hard as anyone and kept wicket well, There was a missed catch on the second day at Lords, but you don't drop a keeper for one error, or you have them on tenterhooks. You judge an out of form keeper by the balls he drops, when his hands aren't in the right place or his feet aren't moving, not on the odd missed catch - unless it becomes too costly, of course.

Krikk will show faith in his side and we need to as fans. These are the players who were feted last year and will come through this. Much the same as a kid who is put into a higher level class at school, we need time to find our feet. Not too much mind, but they need to realise that they are as good as most of their opponents and with the application of the same principles that served them well in 2012, results will come.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Middlesex v Derbyshire day 3

The great Willie Nelson wrote one of my favourite country songs of the 1960's, Funny How Time Slips Away. Well, almost in the blink of an eye today, we lost a game in which over two and a half days we had more than held our own.

It was a cruel and salutory lesson for us. There was no mischief in the pitch, simply conditions more conducive to swing bowling that we were patently incapable of handling on this occasion. It was a collective bad day at the office that those involved will struggle to replicate if they play together for another ten years.

Let's not get away from the fact that we were up against an attack of some talent. Finn is international class, Murtagh a very good county bowler and Roland-Jones highly rated. Yet we could and should have put up a better fight than was managed, with only Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dan Redfern and Tom Poynton resisting for long after the skipper was dismissed.

Testing, early season pitches notwithstanding, Derbyshire's batting has made an inauspicious start to the summer. As Karl Krikken points out on Cricinfo, we've made two half centuries in a collective 33 innings so far and it isn't good enough. The opinion of the wider cricketing world at this time is that we can't bat an eyelid, which is patently unfair and incorrect. There is enough talent in this side to make runs, but we need people to do that - and fast.

They will be hurting tonight, as Derbyshire fans are, but such things happen at cricket - and to better batting sides than ours. There's some patently unfair comments, some directed at Shivnarine Chanderpaul over on the Forum tonight. One correspondent suggests he should have scored more quickly when wickets were falling. In his defence, when five of his partners lasted seventeen balls between them, he'd have been hard pushed to do so. Given the resistance shown by the lower order thus far, he perhaps hoped that there might be similar support today. By the same token, we cannot rely on them to score the bulk of the runs on a regular basis.

There's lots of talk about changing the order tonight, but the reality is that Wayne Madsen is opening because no one else likes doing so. It is an honourable act by an honourable man,  even though I share the opinion of others that he would be at his best in the middle order.

It is nowhere near as easy as those suggesting that Whiteley should open, or Hughes, or Redfern. Opening the batting is a specialist skill and completely different from batting at five or six. A hard, red, shiny ball coming at you with a prominent seam focuses the mind and requires fast footwork, hand and eye co-ordination. Besides Billy Godleman, the only NATURAL openers on the staff are Ben Slater and Paul Borrington. Playing one of them means dropping a more established player from the middle order and Bozza isn't fully fit after facial surgery, even if that was deemed an option.

Everyone needs to remember, as I've written ad nauseam pre-season, that this is a work in progress. For every day where we are impressed by the efforts of our youngsters, there will be others when they disappoint and frustrate. Whether people like it or not, it is part of a learning curve, part of growing up. How many of you out there have never had a bad day at the office, or in your work? Bet you've not had folks dissecting it in public though...

I'll be honest, a lower middle-order with Ross Whiteley and David Wainwright in it suggests greater permanence when conditions favour bowlers. I think seven is too high for Jonathan Clare and Chesney's forte isn't a track where the ball moves around as it did in this match. Yet we did go with them and Clare bowled very well.

Indeed, when looking for reasons to be cheerful, our seam attack showed that it can take good wickets at this level.  They all bowled well, even if Tony Palladino was more expensive than usual. Mark Turner seems a much improved bowler, Tim Groenewald is always a threat and Clare hits the deck hard and works up good pace.

Give them something to bowl at and results can be different. There's a lot of work to do, but don't get on their backs after one defeat guys.

We're all disappointed tonight, but there's no reason to be daft...

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Middlesex v Derbyshire day 2

It can be said without fear of contradiction that Derbyshire did very well to get themselves back into the game at Lords today.

With Middlesex 180-6 at the close of play, 51 runs behind, the game is pretty even, although the home side's seventh wicket pair has perhaps got them into a slight position of ascendancy. We will know more tomorrow and I would suggest that the first session is a pivotal one for the match.

Good teams, when they get into these situations, come out on top more often than not. If Derbyshire can remain ahead after the first innings are completed they will be delighted. Even if they are no more than fifty behind, they are still in the game with the home side to bat last. Our season will be defined by how well we do when we get into such good situations: capitalise on them and success will come; squander them with loose bowling, poor fielding or bad batting and we will be fighting the drop for sure.

The bowlers deserve great credit for their efforts, with wickets shared out evenly. It makes it somewhat ironic that the same correspondents who suggested we would struggle for wickets at this level now claim bowling is our stronger suit. Frankly, I'm not sure how they can tell, after two innings either way so far.

One thing is for sure. If the bowlers do their stuff tomorrow, we have to bat much better second time around. We gave away two wickets to run outs in the first innings, there were a few loose shots and few could claim to have been dismissed by fine bowling. Our score was probably 50-60 short of par, but full credit to Tim Groenewald and Mark Turner for getting us to a semi-respectable 231. For a second game running, our last pair took us to a fair tally.

We cannot rely on ten and jack to do that all the time, but there's some nonsense being spouted by some people regarding our 'negative' approach to batting. It is a lot easier to play your shots on a true track where the ball comes on, than on those where it is slow and offering assistance to the bowlers. If Billy Godleman made 50 in a day's batting on a good track in August, I would lead a chorus of condemnation. But credit where it's due for yesterday. He had the technique and concentration to stay in and battle and you can't do that in the pavilion or from the boundary edge. Give me a gritty fifty over a breezy twenty any day...OK, perhaps not in a T20...

I don't think for a minute that we're intimidated by top tier bowling, but when the conditions allow it we should continue to be unafraid to play fearless cricket. That's not carte blanche to swing the bat like it's last ball in the T20 either, but backing your judgement and playing shots to the right ball. This is a track where playing across the line is fraught with danger and playing straight the likeliest route to success. Short boundary or no, I can't see anyone smacking a run a ball century on this wicket, but I hope not to see slip catching practice given from careless shots.

We could still win this match, but could equally easily lose out with indiscipline. In two games so far we have been a match for two good sides, yet that's some distance removed from being good enough to beat them. Tomorrow will be a fascinating day of cricket, one I would love to be able to see in person.

One thing is for sure. By Saturday, I think we will have a much clearer idea of our championship prospects for the summer and they will be defined by eleven men at Lords.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Middlesex v Derbyshire day 1

It is very easy, as some people were doing on Cricinfo and Twitter today, to make fun of Billy Godleman's 50 from 244 balls today. 'Son of Boycott' 'Yorkshire Digger' and a few others were doing the rounds as the day progressed.

Yet one has also to admire the monumental levels of concentration that went into that knock. By all accounts it is far from a straightforward track, on the edge of the square and offering help to the seamers. Yet Billy battled away all day and without him we would have been in dire straits.

He perished just before the close for 55, but aside from a solid effort from Wes Durston and valuable support from Tom Poynton, we didn't come to terms with the wicket. As I've written before though, never judge a match situation until both sides have batted...

Billy does need to take some responsibility for a role in two run outs, of Wayne Madsen and Tony Palladino. We cannot afford to be so profligate with our wickets as that at this level and that's now three bad run outs (following that of Ross Whiteley at Edgbaston) in two matches. It is, to be fair, hard to defend that happening, especially twice in an innings, in four-day cricket.

Whiteley was omitted today, with Jonathan Clare coming into the side. That gave us four quality seamers and Hughes was presumably retained to offer the spin balance with Wes Durston. The issue that gives us as a side is that neither Chesney nor Jon are great starters. On a bowler's track that can often see an innings slide, as happened today. David Wainwright's grit might have been useful in that middle order, but at the end of the day you can only fit eleven in a team and something has to give.

As I wrote last night, the wicket is green and bowlers have considerable help. It is now down to our seam attack to see what they can make of it. With the weather forecast favourable, this game will provide a positive result, one way or another.

We need to see some of that Derbyshire fighting spirit tomorrow, exemplified again late in the day with Tim Groenewald and Mark Turner's last wicket stand that took us to a batting point and closing score of 205-9. When ten and eleven in your side both average 20 in first-class cricket, they're not really tail-enders, despite what you may hear on the radio...

In closing tonight an observation regarding Samit Patel's 256 against Durham MCCU. Over on Cricinfo, there was considerable excitement at him scoring 300 in a day. In the end he didn't and I have two comments on that:

a) Why get excited about 256 against somewhat limited opposition?


b) Based on their batting against Middlesex last week, aren't there a few of their other batsmen could have used a knock? Surely he was in form once he'd made a hundred?

Fair play, 250 is good going, but perhaps somewhat akin to me taking my bat down to the local primary school for a knock tomorrow in comparative terms.

Adieu for now. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Middlesex v Derbyshire preview

Lord's. The home of cricket. Scene of a couple of the greatest days in our club's history and host once again to us tomorrow in our second championship match of the summer.

As I suggested last night, Derbyshire travel with the same 13 that crossed to the west midlands last week. The final place would appear to rest between a batsman, David Wainwright and Jonathan Clare and will be based on the look of the track tomorrow morning.

I 'd like to see one of the latter play for balance, especially as both are players capable of scoring good runs into the bargain. Chesney and Wes did well on the last day at Edgbaston, but I think an extra front-line seamer would be handy in this one, so Jonathan Clare would be my choice. Hughes would appear to be the most likely to make way for him, so I expect to see the following side:


I'm obviously making that selection not having seen the wicket, but it would be a surprise to see anything other than a green-tinged track. A Lords Test match wicket is some way removed from an April county track and I fully expect to see Middlesex prepare a track to suit their strong seam attack. It would be good to win the toss, of course, but our hosts will be as aware as all other sides that a few early wins can galvanise a summer and put others under pressure. In producing 'result' wickets there is an element of risk, but I would be surprised if this proved a high scoring game.

England man Steve Finn will be a danger man, but so too will be their skipper Chris Rogers, a former County Ground favourite who will be keen to impress against old colleagues. With Sam Robson and Joe Denly he makes up a strong top three. Tim Murtagh has been a fine county bowler over several seasons now, while Roland-Jones is a highly-rated young seamer. With Neil Dexter one of the most underrated players on the circuit, it will be a stiff task for Derbyshire to come out on top against this announced twelve:

Chris Rogers (captain)
Sam Robson
Joe Denly
Dawid Malan
Gareth Berg
Neil Dexter
John Simpson (wk)
Ollie Rayner
Steven Finn
Tim Murtagh
Toby Roland-Jones
Gurjit Sandhu

Stiff, but not impossible. Their supporters will look at our side and take little for granted, especially with the name Chanderpaul in the middle of the batting line up. I find this one a tough game to call, but be assured that Derbyshire's side has enough talent to get a result in this one.

Self-belief is key. The talent is there without any doubt.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Monday musings

On Wednesday we're going to Lords. Had we paid much heed to the pre-season comments of experts, it may well have been Lourdes. Pray for a miracle...

Yet we head there in good spirits after a battling display at Edgbaston. Early reports suggest that James Harris won't play, but Steve Finn looks set to do so. It will make for another stiff challenge, but we could hardly expect to gain promotion then play reserve sides. To become one of the best you have to mix it with them, so let's start now.

It looks like being a very open division, certainly if the opening round of games is anything to go by. Somerset and Nottinghamshire will have been among most people's favourites, yet both went down to defeats. As I wrote a couple of weeks back, any side could make a bad start, as Lancashire did last year, then spend the rest of the campaign playing catch up. The weather may have been a contributory factor to the Edgbaston draw, but no one should underestimate the importance of those draw points.

I don't expect any change to the thirteen from the first game, as no one deserves to be omitted after only one and a half innings in four days. Nor was there anyone making a forcible case for inclusion from the second team fixture last week, which ended in a heavy defeat to Essex. The final eleven will be decided after Karl Krikken and Wayne Madsen have a look at the Lords pitch, but at this stage of the season it is unlikely to be anything other than a track to help their star England seamer.

That being the case, it should be something that will make Messrs Palladino, Groenewald and Turner smile knowingly. It will then come down to which side's batting copes the best with conditions. Billy Godleman will know the track pretty well, having started his career there, while Shivnarine Chanderpaul has batted and batted and batted at Lords a few times...

It will be a thrill for Derbyshire fans to see their heroes back at the home of cricket. It will be an even greater one for the players themselves to appear there, many of them for the first time. One can only imagine what it will be like for them to walk through the Long Room on the way to the wicket.

I hope that the weather is favourable and we get a good game. Middlesex will be up for it after thrashing Nottinghamshire, so it will be a good test for our boys.

Will they rise to it? I think so, but we'll find out soon enough.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

From Distant Lands to Derbyshire 13: Michael Slater

Michael Slater will go down in Test cricket history as a very good player. To a great extent he broke the mould of how the international five-day game should be played and often set the pace for the outstanding Australian side of that era.

With Slater opening the batting, a wide half volley on the first ball of the match would no longer be allowed to go through to the wicket-keeper, as a sage opening batsman assessed the bounce and the pace of the track. Slater usually creamed it through the covers to the boundary and his approach to the game was one of asserting dominance. He took the attack to the opposition and scored centuries at unseemly pace for the international game at that time.

From the winter of 1992-93 he had become a fixture in the Australian side and had maintained an average of around 50 in playing shots all around the wicket. It was breathtaking stuff, yet the summer of 1997 had brought him down to earth, the Test series against England seeing him average under 20 with a highest score of just 47.

Part of the problem was that assertive nature. Slater  liked to make sure a new bowler knew who was boss and, rather than have a look at a new man and his action for a couple of overs, aimed to put him on the back foot straight away. When it worked it was magnificent. The problem came when it didn't, which in Derbyshire colours was all too often.

That 1997 summer suggested that sides had worked him out to some extent. Set the field, frustrate him for a while, then watch him get himself out. It worked for England, yet those in charge at Derbyshire still saw enough to engage him for the 1998 season. It was a major disappointment. In 24 knocks he had just under 850 runs at 35. There was a magnificent 185 at Derby against the visiting South Africans, Pollock, Ntini et al, but the highest championship score was 99 at the Oval and his championship average was just 27, way short of requirements for an overseas player.

Innings tended to follow similar patterns. There would be an explosion of dazzling shots and he would race to 20, then was usually caught behind or in the slips as ambition overtook common sense. It was not what a poor batting side needed and we struggled as a consequence. It perhaps didn't help that he was forever being compared unfavourably with Dean Jones.

You can see him in action below, making 169 against a very good Pakistan attack at the Gabba in the winter of 1999-2000. It contains all the trademark shots, yet for all its brilliance, there are a few where, on another day, he would have been gone.


He returned in 1999, his average rising to 31 but again largely caused by one innings, 171 against Northamptonshire where he added 296 with Steve Titchard. Had it not been for that one knock, that average barely scraped twenty. There were some decent efforts in one-day games but also a realisation that a batsman of his style and ability perhaps could and should have done better. For all the fours from good balls and shots that only the very gifted can play, we watched Michael Slater with the understanding that it would not last. It rarely did.

Fourteen Test centuries confirm the talent of the man, though nine dismissals in the nineties - more than any other player - suggests that nerves could get the better of him. His Test average ended higher than that for either Derbyshire or his home New South Wales, confirming a player who was seen at his best on the big stage.

He has subsequently become an intelligent and able commentator, while the disclosure that he is a long-term sufferer from bi-polar disorder explained a few things. Cricket is an unforgiving game. When you are doing well it is fantastic, but bad trots can bring self-doubt and perhaps the expectations and burdens of the overseas role, especially in a fairly ordinary side, must have weighed heavily on Michael Slater.

In conclusion? A fine player, delightful to watch. But a long, long way from being a success as an overseas import.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Warwickshire v Derbyshire day 4

In the end, the rain somewhat appropriately had the final word in this severely truncated game. Four days of cricket saw only one and a half innings completed, which tells its own story really.

Derbyshire will be happy with the draw - we'd have taken it before the game - but it could have been a decent match if not for the weather. The way that we fought back today was encouraging, with wickets coming along rather like buses - you wait a long while for one, then they all come at once. Wes showed he will continue to take good wickets at this level, which augurs well for Derbyshire and also for my fantasy cricket team...

I was a little mystified by some of the comments flying around over the past couple of days. One Warwickshire fan over on Cricinfo suggested yesterday that it might become a contrived, one innings a side game. That rather ignored the fact that Derbyshire had already batted and were hardly likely to forfeit  their second innings. Another today suggested that a good finish was on the cards when we had them four down with just two sessions to go. I struggled with that one.

Then there was the Derbyshire supporter on the Forum who suggested that we needed to play more shots, rather than concentrating on occupation of the crease, which completely missed the point.

On that first morning, the ball was, by general consensus, flying around all over the place. It was the sort of conditions where we could easily have gone in to lunch at 57-7. That Tony Palladino was able to play such an admirable and impressive innings later in the day was partly due to the sterling efforts of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Wes Durston before lunch. They took time out of the game and overs out of the bowlers and the ball. When an attractive, flamboyant stroke player like Wes faces 86 balls for 32 you know it is hard work out there. Likewise Shiv will bat for hours, but nearly two and a half hours for 15 is excessive, even for him.

It shows a willingness to battle in adversity. Dan Redfern has those skills and his counter attack was delightful while it lasted, but you can't play Gower-esque strokes all the time. When it comes off it is magnificent, but when it doesn't it smacks, sometimes unfairly, of carelessness. Dan released the shackles imposed by the bowlers, but gave it away to a poor ball and was undoubtedly disappointed to do so.

What Derbyshire really need this summer is for at least one of our openers - either Wayne Madsen or Billy Godleman - to show the adhesive qualities of someone like Alan Hill. 'Bud' may not have gone down as one of the more exciting batsmen in our history, but in these conditions - and any others -  he would sell his wicket dearly. Someone like Michael Slater might have hit five boundaries in a quick twenty-odd, but successful teams have an opener with 'stickability'. It is not always appreciated by fans as much as team mates, but a bloke who is still there at tea on 65 is worth his weight in gold. As the bowlers flag in the final session, those coming in to face an old ball and tired bowlers will  raise a silent toast to such a man, as the score mounts to something well above respectable.

Still, we showed greater resolve as a side than Nottinghamshire and certainly more than Yorkshire, whose coach Jason Gillespie has been scathing about their shortcomings against Sussex. After one match we are fifth and that's no bad thing. We showed guts and fighting spirit in abundance and will only get better.

Next up is Lords.We don't have too many of our lads have made a century there - now that's something to aspire to...

Friday, 12 April 2013

Warwickshire v Derbyshire day 3

For a positive result tomorrow, the last day of this game will need to be more contrived than the result of a "Who's the best rocker: Barry Manilow or Daniel O'Donnell?" competition.

Warwickshire's batsmen progressed, not without alarms, to 90-0 in reply to Derbyshire's 226, a deficit of 136. So where does that leave the game, with a decent forecast tomorrow?

Well, the hosts could declare tomorrow morning and lob up some cafeteria bowling in the hope that we set them a challenging but fair total. I suspect that we would not be overly generous in such circumstances and wouldn't want to lose our first game of the season. Conversely, a challenging chase of, say, 325 in 65-70 overs might be interesting, although a slow outfield and slowish pitch might make that implausible from both perspectives.

They could also bat for maximum bonus points and aim to rack up 400, accepting that the weather has taken too much out of the game. Doubtless the two skippers are chatting tonight about what may be possible and we'll get a fair idea of the respective ambitions of the sides when we see what ensues tomorrow.

We didn't take a wicket today, but as I pointed out last night, bowling with a wet ball isn't the easiest of things and trying to swing one is a thankless task, akin to trying to plait fog. Wickets tend to go down more by seam than swing at this stage of the year anyway and a wet seam will 'bite' less than a dry one. Don't read too much into the lack of wickets than that folks, because there isn't anything.

I'd share in the concern of others elsewhere regarding the limited play yesterday due to bad light. I find it hard to believe that with floodlights on the light is inadequate, especially when we play evening and night time games later in the summer. Perhaps some meteorological  phenomenon meant yesterday in Birmingham was blacker than night, but it's not very likely.

Unless these two teams produce something spectacular on either side of the competency divide tomorrow, we'll be looking at a draw and our first points of the season. We'd have happily taken that before the game and I'm sure we would do so now.

More from me tomorrow, but for now - it's Friday night. Enjoy...

PS Over at Trent Bridge, Nottinghamshire's much vaunted batting line up collapsed to 67-6 against Middlesex. 107 ahead with a wicket left, they have it all to do to avoid defeat in their season opener.

Shame, that...

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Warwickshire v Derbyshire day 2

If you wanted an idea of the interest in Derbyshire cricket as we embark on our 2013 season, it can be evidenced in well over a thousand visits to this blog yesterday. The figure has only been exceeded on the day after we signed Shivnarine Chanderpaul, so thanks to everyone who came along. Please keep coming back and hey - tell your friends!

Today's cricket followed an expected pattern, in that there was none. I came across a heading earlier today online that said "Warwickshire thwarted by rain" which was more than a little presumptuous. If the writer, or indeed anyone out there thinks that this Derbyshire side will lie down and die, they are needing to do a little research.

For what its worth, I don't expect our hosts to enjoy an apparently slow track any more than we did. Assuming that conditions ease tomorrow, I think we will make life difficult for them. Bowling with a wet ball won't be great, but Derbyshire's seam attack will trouble sides at any level and how much our hosts want a win will be dictated by their attitude tomorrow, in what is now a good old-fashioned three-day game. I find it hard to believe that they will smash 400 and put us under pressure on the last day, so will they go for the batting points in an accumulative manner, or declare in the hope we set a last innings target?

A question was asked about the selection of Mark Turner over Jonathan Clare. I think that Turner's greater resilience and sustained form pre-season was a factor. Clare has bowled well, but doesn't have as many overs under his belt. In playing an extra batsman, we needed three main seamers who could potentially bowl over twenty overs each. That's perhaps come a game or two early for Clare, but he will have a major role to play in a long and arduous summer. Ross Whiteley will have a role to play too, but I see him as a 10-15 over bowler who offers useful and dangerous variety. He offers balance to the side and we don't want to jeopardise that through overwork.

I got the impression through the many press reports that the media had grudging respect for our battling performance on day one. We can live without losing five wickets for nothing and the loss of Ross Whiteley to Chesney Hughes' poor running was unnecessary, but we will learn from this. As Vic Marks wrote today, the top tier will be less forgiving, but the way in which we were steered to calmer waters on the good ship Palladino was encouraging. The tail that wagged consistently last summer continues to offer resistance and few sides will get us six down, anticipating the end is nigh.

Hopefully tomorrow there will be action to report on. It will be a very interesting day...

Day 2 beckons

Not long now until day 2 of the game begins and I hope that the BBC website is in better fettle than yesterday. I actually went onto their site last night and complained about it, and also the digital text scorecards on TV. For older people - my Dad being a classic example - the text on TV is the only way to keep up to date with scores as they happen.

At 85 he has no interest in learning about computers and for him Twitter is something that birds do. His bemused call last night about the scores prompted my complaint and I'd urge anyone else to do so until they sort it. 'Madsen c Chopra' and so on down the order, with no bowler name and no individual score is hopeless.

Speaking of which, I awoke this morning to more mails and comments re our local radio station's resident cricket analyst (ahem...). None were in favour, some patently vitriolic. I think Radio Derby really needs to rethink its strategy, because if he can't cope with the action in a more sedate county game he's going to struggle in the one-day stuff. To be honest - and I say this as the most passionate Derbyshire fan you could ever meet - I won't listen to the commentaries when he's on. I'm on the late shift this week at work, so thankfully missed it, but if you can confuse Tom Poynton and Chesney Hughes, which I'm told happened yesterday, then it's not an encouraging sign...

I'm not going to labour the point over Charles Collins, but suffice to say that I'll get more from following scores on Cricinfo than listening in, which is about the worst indictment I can think of.

In closing, BBC Breakfast name checked Derbyshire yesterday and wished us luck - on national TV, no less - and showed a ball from the game today!! Sadly, 'twas a ball that Billy Godleman let go through to the wicket-keeper, not the greatest advert for the start of another season. Viewers were then teased with the news that legendary cricket 'commentator' Dickie Bird is on tomorrow.

Are they deliberately trying to upset us?

More later. Work beckons.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Warwickshire v Derbyshire day 1

On a day on which every county captain who won the toss asked the opposition to bat, Derbyshire cannot be entirely unhappy with their first day in the top tier.

I don't think many eastern betting syndicates would have lost money on that happening and it was equally expected that most of the sides struggled. We did too, but Karl Krikken will have been as heartened as the rest of us that the side continued to battle down the order.

At 105-2 we were looking good, but eight manic overs saw us reduced to 117-7. There have been many times when that would be a prelude to a sub-150 score. but this side is made of sterner stuff. 226 all out from there was good going and special mention has to be made of Tony Palladino (pictured), one of the most admirable of cricketers and men.

His batting last season came on in leaps and bounds and he put his new bat to good use with an excellent 68 full of powerful shots, well supported by the later batsmen. Credit too to Mark Turner, a much improved batsman who amply illustrated that this side doesn't really have a 'tail' - just later innings batsmen.

No one should be concerned. Had the toss gone the other way I suspect the result would have been similar. There are lessons to be learned from the careless loss of some mid-innings wickets, but that will have been discussed after the day ended.

The BBC's much vaunted launch of county coverage was, however, shockingly poor. I've had several comments and e mails today about the 'ineptitude' of Radio Derby's commentary and it really isn't good enough. I'm sorry, but if you don't know enough about your subject than to come out with some of the nonsense Charles Collins did today, you really should not be doing the job. To suggest that Palladino and Groenewald are only number elevens, as James (at the bottom of the previous post) says he did, is indicative of someone with minimal cricket knowledge.Indeed, it is insulting to two very good professionals

I followed the game on the BBC website at work, where the match scorecards failed to work all day, only the summary page, while the BBC cricket pages on TV text, or whatever they call it these days are an absolute disgrace. They don't display even half of the scorecard and if it wasn't so poor it would be laughable.

In conclusion? For Derbyshire there appear to be bright days ahead. The BBC? Looks like a relegation struggle. D minus, must do better...

Nice article

There's a good piece by Andy Wilson in yesterday's Guardian that is well worth a read.


And so it begins...

It is hard to be anything but impressed by the noises coming from Derbyshire County Cricket Club as we prepare for the first day proper of the county season.

There's a fully fit squad of players to choose from for starters, impressive work by James Pipe after the scene from Casualty that was the Barbados tour. Niggles and injuries to the likes of Jonathan Clare, Dan Redfern and David Wainwright have gone, the skipper's hamstring is fine and our two key seamers, Dino and Timmy G are fit and firing. Indeed the only injury is to the chairman himself, recovering from a broken toe but still as busy as ever.

We read of a committed overseas player, a legend of the game, who is keen to impart his experience to our young side. I'm sure that he will extol the virtues of hard work, as a player who prepares for batting long periods by doing just that for hours against a bowling machine and net bowlers, ensuring that his game is as grooved and honed as possible.

We also see the captain refer to Shivnarine Chanderpaul as the last man in the nets yesterday, bowling seam at the other players. Could any side ask for greater commitment from an overseas player, especially one of his stature in the game?

It all augurs well and there can be little doubt that Derbyshire will be ready for the season. There's no one-day cricket until May, which gives us time to hopefully make a positive statement in the county championship. I remain confident that we will cause some upsets along the way and surprise a few people, just as I was last year at this stage. I was, I think,  in a minority of one who predicted a promotion challenge and I am equally convinced that we will be a long way from push-overs this time.

Yet there will need to be understanding from fans. Young players, of which we have many, make mistakes and we cannot expect all of them to make a similar impact in the top tier immediately. It would be nice, if unrealistic, for them to do so but there is a need for patience. This side could easily be together for the next five years or more and they are only going to get better.

Likewise we must not expect Shivnarine Chanderpaul to score a hundred every time he bats. He will be doing his best to do so, but can make mistakes, or get a very good ball, the same as everyone else. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to seeing one of the modern greats of the game in Derbyshire colours and supporters have a right to be very proud of the efforts that went into getting him to the club.

With a modicum of luck we will do quite nicely this summer. To use that most hackneyed of phrases it will be a roller coaster ride, but it is one that will give us plenty of lasting memories.

And to quote James Brown, I feel good...

Postscript....technology eh? That countdown timer that has served us so well as we prepare for the season was impressive (thanks guys). Sadly, it didn't take into account the change to British Summer Time....c'est la vie...

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Fantasy cricket

There's still time to get a team or teams into the Derbyshire fans fantasy cricket league, over on the newspaper's website.

Go to http://fantasycricket.telegraph.co.uk/ and pick a team, then enter into the league.

The league name is PEAKFAN BLOG N FORUM and the pin is 8031395.

It would be great to get a few more people involved before the action starts. Thanks to those who have so far joined.

Let battle commence!

Warwickshire v Derbyshire preview

Derbyshire's first squad of the 2013 season has been announced by Karl Krikken and reads as follows:

Wayne Madsen
Billy Godleman
Chesney Hughes
Shivnarine Chanderpaul
Wes Durston
Dan Redfern
Ross Whiteley
David Wainwright
Tom Poynton
Jonathan Clare
Tony Palladino
Tim Groenewald
Mark Turner

It is as I suggested last night, with Tom Poynton retaining the gloves after, as Karl Krikken points out in the Derby Evening Telegraph, doing nothing to warrant losing them. I am sure that Richard Johnson will keep working away, at the same time that Poynton will be aware that standards need to be maintained at his usual high level.

Derbyshire could play an extra batsman and include Chesney Hughes at the expense of David Wainwright, or they could play all four front line seamers, plus all-rounder Ross Whiteley, though the latter seems the less likely scenario for me.

Given that heavy rain seems likely to wipe out at least one of the days, this appears set to be a three-day game. The wicket isn't likely to turn appreciably at this early stage of the season, so an extra batsman with Hughes and Durston to bowl spin may be the way we go tomorrow.

I'm delighted to see that Chesney is now England-qualified and he has every possibility of forcing his way into the minds of national selectors in the years ahead if he continues to listen to his coaches, work at his game and learn from the undeniable 'great ' playing alongside him in Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Shiv may score thousands of runs in the next two/three summers, but even that achievement could be dwarfed by his example and assistance to the very talented young players who will have an opportunity to work alongside him during that time.

As for Warwickshire, they have been dealt a blow by England withdrawing Chris Woakes from their side, which is already shorn of Paul Best, Boyd Rankin and Keith Barker. Chris Wright will be the danger man, though Woakes withdrawal through 'tiredness' will widen a few eyes at this stage of the summer. He had only occasional cricket in the winter and older fans, who saw the likes of Jackson and Gladwin bowl well over a thousand overs a summer, will be bemused.

"Tired?" said my old man when I broke the news to him. "He needs a few shifts down the pit...THEN he'd be tired..." As a comment it neglected the fact that there are precious few pits left, but the sentiment was patently obvious.

Not that Derbyshire will complain. Warwickshire have yet to announce a side, but as reigning county champions will be a stiff opponents. Oliver Hannon-Dalby, a winter signing from Yorkshire is likely to play, while youngster Tom Milnes and all-rounder Ricki Clarke should make up the rest of their seam attack.

I'm going to predict a draw for this one, unless the wicket is really tricky, in which case our lads are as likely to cause havoc as theirs.

The countdown timer is nearly at zero, the season has arrived, winter has gone. Cricket is here once again....

Go get 'em boys. Do us proud.

Postscript: Warwickshire side announced as 
  1. Varun Chopra
  2. Ian Westwood
  3. William Porterfield
  4. Jim Troughton (c)
  5. Laurie Evans
  6. Tim Ambrose (wk)
  7. Rikki Clarke
  8. Tom Milnes
  9. Jeetan Patel
  10. Chris Wright
  11. Oliver Hannon-Dalby

Monday, 8 April 2013

Excellent final run out

As final run outs go, there was little more that Derbyshire could have hoped for from the game against Nottinghamshire. We competed well, saw the bowlers find good lines and lengths and the batsmen get balls in the middle of the bat. You couldn't wish for more.

Ahead of his selection of the tea, for the first game, I think that Karl Krikken has three decisions to make.

The top four will be Godleman, Madsen, Durston and Chanderpaul. No worries there and Shivnarine seemed to be getting his range against our local rivals today, three big sixes confirming that he has the range for T20 as well as the powers of concentration that we have all come to admire and respect over the years.

The first decision is at number five. Dan Redfern had a fine 2012 but has had less pre-season opportunities than most with his finger injury. Nor has he converted the limited innings into scores, while his rival for the number five slot, Chesney Hughes, has been in fine fettle. Once again today, the big West Indian appeared to be booming his drives through the covers, always a sign that his game is grooved and it has been that way since the first tour game in Barbados.

It would be hard luck on Redfern to miss out on this one, but it is a big call for Krikk. Neither player would let him down, but perhaps Hughes gives the more immediate prospect of runs. Conversely, Redfern has the enviable knack of pulling out innings when they are needed, so it is a tough call for the coach.

Ross Whiteley is crucial to the balance of the side and will be at six with justified optimism of runs and crucial wickets. Then comes the second decision - Tom Poynton or Richard Johnson behind the stumps?

Again, there is little to choose between the two, as wicket-keepers or batsmen. Both keep to a very high standard and set the tone in the field. They are also capable of good, pugnacious runs and have shown it in the warm up matches. It is another tough call, but my gut feeling is that Krikken will go with Poynton, who did so well last summer. He has maintained high standards and deserves first crack at the top tier for me.

Assuming he is fully fit, David Wainwright is a number eight who offers runs as well as high quality spin, while Tony Palladino and Tim Groenewald are obvious and high quality choices. That leaves just one position, that of third seamer.

Mark Turner has bowled with impressive pace, increased accuracy and good stamina in the warm up games. I am convinced that this will be a big summer for him and he will have a major role to play. Yet Jonathan Clare has also done well and hits the pitch hard. If he is fully fit, he is a bowler with the rare knack of taking wickets in batches, never the worst of talents. He is also a player with centuries to his name and adds length to the batting.

So my team for the Warwickshire game?


We'll find out soon enough, but as always I'm keen to hear your thoughts.


Sunday, 7 April 2013

Impressive discipline at the County Ground

In the last warm up match before the start of the serious stuff, Derbyshire showed impressive discipline with bat and ball today against Nottinghamshire at the County Ground.

Our four main seamers bowled with impressive control and hostility on a helpful track, giving away precious few runs. Mark Footitt was a little more expensive and Wes Durston took some stick ahead of the Nottinghamshire declaration, but the bowlers can be very pleased with their efforts ahead of the season opener against Warwickshire.

The visitors declaration on 173-5 with forty overs to go would have been with a view to making inroads into our batting, but after the early loss of the skipper, Durston and Billy Godleman batted very well to see the score to 103-2 by the close, Wes departing in the deep to the last ball of the day.

Full marks to both of them, especially to Godleman, who showed not only that he had the technique, but also the stomach for a fight in conditions that continued to favour a seam attack. It is good to see a player with the requisite guts and technique to open in April, which is a very difficult task. I hope he continues in similar vein tomorrow, when supporters may get their first glimpse of Shivnarine Chanderpaul after a lengthy flight from the Caribbean.

Welcome to Derbyshire Shivnarine. We're delighted to see you and are sure that you will enjoy your stay!

More tomorrow.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Season preview - the four day game

A few years back, the pop group Steps had a hit with a song called 5-6-7-8. If they were asked to do a remake, in recognition of the pre-season forecasts for Derbyshire of the world's cricketing punters, it would be the somewhat irregular time signature of 7-8-9...

That's where most of them see us in the championship. Maybe, just maybe attaining the giddy heights of seventh, but more likely to be making up the numbers and easy prey for the big guns in the top tier.

It is codswallop, from people who should largely know better.

I'm sure that numerous hacks are already preparing their pieces ahead of  a supposed hammering at the hands of Warwickshire next week and will doubtless refer, should it happen, to it being the first of many such defeats in this season.

I disagree. I'll not pretend that we can take the division by storm, but I fully expect us to compete and shock a few sides along the way. We will need luck with fitness and the weather, but no side ever wins things without those precious commodities. We will also need to see continued progress from our younger brigade, all of who have the talent to do so. The cricket world is beginning to take note of the likes of Dan Redfern, Ross Whiteley, Chesney Hughes, Peter Burgoyne and Tom Knight, but they need to confirm that promise with a sustained level of performance when opportunities present themselves.

Supporters and members also need to show patience and understanding. There will be days when we're thrilled by an electric individual or team performance. There will also be days when, through no fault of any one person, the levels dip and we take a hiding. Such is the lot of professional sport, especially for the young players. I hope that supporters are patient with Billy Godleman, a young player of undoubted promise, but one who needs time to bed into a new environment, never easy for a young person in any walk of life. He will be an asset, but people need to offer a greater level of understanding than has been shown to Paul Borrington. Those who think opening the batting is easy have never done it...

Key to the season will be the displays of captain Wayne Madsen (pictured) and Wes Durston with the bat, as well as Tony Palladino and Tim Groenewald with the ball. All are old enough to know their games and the respective merits of the opposition; all need to set an example for their younger team mates. Madsen was a revelation as captain last year, but it is easier to skipper a good and winning team than one that is struggling. If he can maintain his calm, firm but fair persona in the face of difficulties he will go a long way towards leading us to safety, especially if his own game is well grooved. Durston will lend crucial and able support, while the two senior seamers have the job of making the early breakthroughs that can set the tone for games.

Whoever plays as third seamer, presumably from Messrs Clare, Turner and Footitt, will have an important role too, but sustained success will rely on wickets from spin at this level. David Wainwright's pre-season niggles were a worry and it would be unrealistic to expect Peter Burgoyne or Tom Knight to bowl out good sides at their ages. Again, fitness will be vital and will make all the difference to our final position by September. If Wainwright can replicate his form of 2012, it will be another key piece of the jigsaw.

When you have done and said all, however, the real difference will be made by Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Before he has hit a ball for us, the weight of expectation is there, but it is inevitable. This is Dave Mackay signing for Derby County all over again, but bigger. Mackay wasn't one of the world's top players when he joined the Rams, but Chanderpaul is at the top of the tree with a reputation that precedes him. Again, there needs to be understanding. He cannot score heavily every time he bats, but if he does so with sufficient regularity, our chances of staying up are considerably higher.

It will be a season of ups and downs, but stick with it. Remember that this is a work in progress, only just out of the embryonic stage. But there are teams in this division that we can beat and there are players in this side who don't yet understand how good they actually are. This could, given time, become one of the finest sides to ever represent the county.

Maybe this will be the year for a few more people to realise that we are on the up. If Lady Luck smiles on us, I think we're good enough to take fifth or sixth place, which would be a remarkable achievement.

We'll not think of the alternative right now. Just go out and play without fear boys.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Happy Birthday to me...

The blog is five years old today. Feel free to mark it with a little sotto voce song if you will, but I'll not be sending out bits of cake because I didn't have one...

Still, it was a good year to reach that landmark, with 150,000 visits recorded on the site. There's a further 20,000-plus come in through the blog's usage in India this year too, with the total combined visits now over 400,000. Amazing really and I still have to pinch myself to realise it has taken off so well. Interest in Derbyshire cricket is alive and well my friends.

There's a few jungle drums a-beating about the loss at Somerset, but if you're going to have a bad one, get it out of the way early and when it doesn't matter too much. Maybe it was all part of a cunning plan to lull them into a false sense of security, but we will look to do much better. I think we will too, but as I've said all along, anything we get from Somerset, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire is a bonus. I'd gladly take draw points from those games, as its the other sides who are our realistic wins.

That's not being defeatist, more honest. Whatever happens this summer, neither I nor no one else should lose sight of the fact that this side is a work in progress, one that will not peak for another four or five years. Maybe we over-achieved last year, but I think we got our just rewards for a solid campaign in which we played some terrific cricket.

Success this year would be third bottom; anything more than that would be remarkable. I think we can be comfortably mid-table, but we'll need to show the same resilience, especially with the bat, that was a feature of our cricket in 2012.

Our glittering diamond arrives tomorrow and there will be considerable focus on Shivnarine Chanderpaul and what he might achieve. In a full summer he could get close to 1500 runs, but we shouldn't lose track of the fact that he cannot - MUST not  - be a one man side. I'm sure that time spent in the nets, dressing room and middle with the West Indian legend over the next two years will be invaluable to our young batsmen. It is stupid to suggest that they are anything other than talented, but they need to take their games to the next level now.

As I said last night, breezy thirties and forties are of little use now. As my old Dad always said and anyone who has played the game will agree, when you get to that score your feet are moving, your hands and eyes are coordinated and you feel pretty good about your game. A momentary lapse of concentration can scupper you though. As Paul Nixon pointed out in his autobiography last year, the sight of a pretty girl on the boundary, a bag being blown across the outfield or seeing someone you know by the sightscreen can be all it takes to fail to focus on the next ball. Then boom...you're gone.

I'll be blogging my season preview this weekend, so look out for that.

On to other things and apologies to those trying to join in the Telegraph Fantasy League for  Derbyshire fans. To join it you need the PIN, which is 8031395 and its name, which is PEAKFAN BLOG N FORUM. Excuse the abbreviation in the middle but there's a somewhat limited number of characters available.

I'd love to see a number of you involved and if we get 15 teams involved there's medals available for the top three managers. Do you need further incentive? I hope not...

Finally tonight, much as I predicted in a recent post, Usman Khawaja failed to make the initial cut of Australians given contracts today. It was ironic, if a little amusing, to hear the noises being made about 'lack of cricket' and 'insufficient exposure to the red ball'. Hmmm...he was on tour with a national side that got seriously cuffed in India, so whose fault is that.

Former Derbyshire star Chris Rogers and Nottinghamshire man Adam Voges seem to be in contention for the Ashes, based on their experience of English conditions. The way they have batted in recent months, I'm surprised that Michael di Venuto himself and Cathy Freeman aren't in contention. Bad back or not, Diva would still be a better bet than some recently seen in the baggy green...

See you soon. Tomorrow is Friday. Bliss...

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Things can only get better

Well, Derbyshire had an early wake up call in their pre-season friendly at Taunton, going down by an innings and quite enough to a Somerset side that will surely challenge for the trophies by the time September comes around.

The batting will need to do much better, starting next week against Warwickshire. It was a friendly, a match that largely didn't matter, but it would have been nice to have seen a few batsmen doing a little more than producing innings that I'd refer to as a pot noodle. The latter are satisfying for a while, but don't leave any lasting effect on your appetite. Similarly a couple of thirties help to make a scoreboard look superficially better, but when that's all they amount to the effect on an innings is negligible.

Unless it is a T20, such innings win few matches and it is in the mental approach to playing longer ones where Shivnarine Chanderpaul will be invaluable. I have little doubt that the mental effort in batting for an hour or more at that level of the game is considerable. The bowlers will be constantly 'at' you, the fielders will be chirping away and the pressures of a match situation will be considerable.

Yet these are skills that need to be acquired quickly and produced on a regular basis if Derbyshire are to fulfil my prophecy of doing well this summer. A four-day game of cricket requires 400 runs as a minimum in the first innings or you are under pressure as a team. Under 300 against a good side leaves you very exposed and dependent on bowlers doing their stuff. While they can do that from time to time, it would need wickets of questionable quality to win match after match with such totals.

We have seen the fighting qualities of this Derbyshire side over the past twelve months and will undoubtedly see them again in the coming season. It would make the lives of all those following their fortunes a lot easier if they can dictate the course of matches with strong first innings, rather than having to come from behind and 'chase' the game.

My season preview comes soon. Today doesn't change anything, but clearly highlights the work that needs done, the efforts required and the level at which we are now playing.

We can compete - but we'll need to learn a few things quickly to do so.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Taunton tonking...

As I predicted last night, Somerset's batsmen led us a merry dance at Taunton today, racking up 470-5 to lead by 241 going into the final day.

Its not entirely unexpected. Somerset have a powerful, largely international batting line up and they're used to batting on what is normally a shirt front track. As happened yesterday, a side can easily get rolled on the first day at any ground in April, but Taunton is normally a place to drink at the well thereafter.

So it proved and will hopefully do again tomorrow. Results at this stage don't matter, but good habits do. There is absolutely no reason why Derbyshire's batsmen cannot emulate their Somerset counterparts and bat well in more favourable conditions. The Somerset attack is OK, but I wouldn't say especially penetrative.

In the first innings Derbyshire had several players who got starts but didn't go on to anything substantial. Tomorrow we need to see one or two of them start those good habits and bat for a long time.

A certain Mr Chanderpaul would be in his element in such circumstances.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Hard work at Taunton

While it was not the ideal first day of the three-day practice match against Somerset today, there were positives to come out of the first day.

The way that the lower middle order and tail fought back from a lunch position of 96-5  to an all out score of 229 was encouraging. Thanks to fifty from David Wainwright, together with contributions from Dan Redfern, Chesney Hughes, Tom Poynton and Jonathan Clare, we achieved respectability, if little more.

It was a battling effort and augurs well for those who worked at typically English early season conditions. Any side that wins the toss in April will usually insert the opposition and expect to have a few back in the pavilion by lunch time. So it transpired today, but there will be plenty of opportunities for our eminently capable top order to shine in the coming months.

Later in the day, Marcus Trescothick and Arul Suppiah batted with the confidence of two fine players conversant with a Taunton wicket that usually rolls  out well. Closing at 83-0, they will fancy a long day of batting tomorrow and then putting Derbyshire under pressure on the final day.

It doesn't matter too much, but the bowlers will benefit from a good work out and it will be especially worthwhile for David Wainwright and Jonathan Clare, neither of who bowled too many overs in Barbados.

There's likely to be another opportunity for the batsmen, when they will hope for longer knocks in more favourable batting conditions.

At the end of the day, that's what this one is all about. We can do better and we will, but there's reasons to be cheerful.