Monday, 30 September 2013

Ah well...

Guess we'll not be signing Will Smith then...at least not THAT one.

Smith has signed for Hampshire and good luck to the lad. He's presumably been well rewarded by Rod Bransgrove and I am sure he will do a decent job for them.

I'll be back tomorrow with news of the club awards night. If Wayne Madsen doesn't win Player of the Year to go with today's William Hill County Player of the Year award, I will eat, not just my hat, but my cricket kit.

But tonight is Peakfan's birthday. 36 again...no, sorry, that's my waist size...

See you soon.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

A brief diversion...

I know this is a cricket blog, but I'm saddened by the sacking of Nigel Clough by Derby County.

Yes, we have been mid-table for a few seasons and we've lost three straight games, two against local rivals, but the man has done well on little money, shopping in the bargain basement and bringing through youngsters while playing an attractive brand of football. The names being banded around as a successor have not done that in most cases and it is a fine art that should not be underestimated.

It is much the same challenge for Karl Krikken. His job would be much easier if he could go and sign four established professionals of proven quality at the commensurate cost, but he can't. Progress will therefore be slower, but perhaps all the more rewarding when it happens.

Like Clough he has made decisions that not everyone agreed with, but he is paid to make them and does so ahead of the event, rather than, like most of us, being wise after it. Hard though it is after a heavy loss, better is the man who takes time to think things through, before coming out with knee-jerk comments and decisions.

Like all Rams I wish Nigel well and thank him for his efforts in trimming down a club with far too many overpaid players, to a lean outfit that sometimes fought above its weight.

Patience is a virtue and I'm glad the summer game still holds such things as worthwhile. As for football, it only confirms why I fell out of love with it some time ago.

Winter recruitment

The news, as revealed in the Daily Telegraph on Friday, that Dan Redfern has been given permission to talk to other counties confirms what a few people have suspected for a while.

For whatever reason, the club has decided that a parting of the ways is the best for the best and the player's lack of form in the season just finished suggested that he was neither at the peak of his form nor especially in the right frame of mind. Dismissals tended to be of a similar nature and indicative of a player who was not entirely 'there' from a mental attitude perspective.

As notoveryet points out below a previous post, ill-judged Twitter comments have done him few favours but will not be the reason behind the split and  one can only hope for cricket's sake that he gets his career back on track elsewhere. Last season he looked to be a player who had come to terms with his game, but this year, in a similar manner to Ross Whiteley, it has all gone pear-shaped, with form elusive. It has been frustrating to be only able to report on useful bowling spells, for a player who has so much natural talent as a batsman.

Natural talent will only get you so far in any sport though and I hope that Redfern finds an environment in which he can flourish. My guess is that he may end up with Ross Whiteley at Worcestershire, given that the pair share the same agent in the former county stalwart Phil Weston.We'll see. It is sad when the time and money invested in people comes to naught, but there is no point in keeping unhappy players and the club will go on.

His likely departure brings greater opportunities for others, which is the crux of today's piece.

I don't see us signing more than a couple of players, perhaps three, in the winter, as I don't think we need to. For me, it is crucial - and especially given the well-known limitations on the playing budget - that we encourage our own talent and afford them opportunity. At this stage, a first choice Derbyshire side next summer would look like this:

Borrington/Slater/Hughes (C)
X
Madsen
Chanderpaul
Hughes (C)/Durston
X
X
Poynton
Palladino
Groenewald
Footitt

There are a number of question marks. Will Chesney Hughes drop to his preferred middle order - hence appearing twice in the above list? Can Borrington or Slater, or both, become established county openers? Will the likes of Peter Burgoyne, Alex Hughes and Tom Knight step forward? Will Richard Johnson wrest the gloves from Tom Poynton, or emerge as a genuine middle order batsman?

I don't think we need any seamers, as we're unlikely to get better than we already have. If Jon Clare rediscovered form and fitness he would fill a position at number seven quite nicely. We don't yet know if Matt Higginbottom will be offered a deal, but with him and Mark Turner in reserve, plus the likes of Tommy Taylor, Ben Cotton, Greg Cork and Johnny Marsden coming through, we don't need to look elsewhere. These lads are coming to an age where we need to give them a try and know what they are capable of.

The same goes for spin. Wainwright, Knight, Burgoyne and Durston cover those bases pretty well and I'd hope that Chesney might be fit to bowl next year. I doubt we need to augment those resources, unless with someone who offers that as a second string to their bow.

So it is on batsmen where available resources should go. Next year is big for Paul Borrington, the final year of his contract and he needs to deliver and be given the opportunity to do so. I think he is further on in his development than Ben Slater but we need another player of experience who can open alongside one of them. The same goes for Alex Hughes and Peter Burgoyne - they have immense potential, but only time will tell if they are ready for day in, day out cricket at top level and we need an option if they need to be pulled from the firing line, or allow them more time to hone their techniques in a more forgiving environment.

A middle order batsman, or all-rounder then. The loss of Ross Whiteley affected the side's balance, but we have enough bits and pieces bowlers to give the main guys a rest. I'd be quite happy with that, if we can pick up the right players within the given budgetary constraints.

One thing to keep in mind. I don't think it will be too long before we see Shiv Chanderpaul announce his international retirement. He may go on for a little while, but I have a feeling that the politics of West Indian cricket - something that rears its head constantly in their game - will dictate that Brian Lara remains as their all-time top scorer before Shiv gets an opportunity to overtake him. He's around a thousand short at present, but Lara is a near-deity in the Caribbean, the Cavalier to Chanderpaul's Roundhead. I might be wrong, but watch this space...

If Shiv did retire from the international game, he could then play, should he wish, as a Kolpak, leaving scope for Derbyshire to recruit an overseas player. That would still, with Hughes and Madsen now England-qualified, leave them within the 9-2 scope of the club blueprint for fielding English-qualified players and maximising ECB money.

I can think of a popular New Zealand opener who would fit the bill very nicely, if we could go down that path...

Season review - the one-day season

It remains a puzzle why Derbyshire rarely play well in the one-day game.

We have batsmen in Wes Durston and Chesney Hughes for who one-day cricket is their forte, while others have the ability to score steadily and well. That Chanderpaul bloke can bat a bit too, despite what the West Indian selectors think, while this year the T20 side was augmented by a specialist, the most experienced player in the format in world cricket, Albie Morkel. Still we flopped, though with slightly less style and innovation than Dick Fosbury...

The problem is largely that we struggle to combine success in both facets of the game. We can bat beautifully, as we did at The Oval in the YB40, but still lose after an indisciplined bowling display. We can bowl well, but toss the win away by careless strokeplay, bad running and an overall lack of common sense as we did against Yorkshire in the T20.

Madsen, Chanderpaul and Chesney Hughes had decent YB40 campaigns, but no one set the tournament alight. Paul Borrington did better than most and showed a greater willingness and ability to rotate the strike than most. Too often the 'strategy' appeared to be to block four balls, then hit a boundary. That's fine for MS Dhoni, but for lesser players is rarely a route to success. A need to rest key bowlers for the championship saw others given opportunities, but the feeling remained among supporters that both Tom Knight and Tony Palladino should have had greater first team exposure in the one-day tournaments. Knight especially appeared hard done by and should have played more T20 cricket than he did.

To be fair, as I try to be, the T20 campaign started as if this might be our year, Albie Morkel's early influence with the new ball being backed up by good batting from a solid-looking top four. Yet when they failed there was an alarming lack of runs down the order, Morkel's blitz at Chesterfield and Clare's late composure at Headingley being exceptions.

The hamstring injury to Chanderpaul at Old Trafford saw the start of an alarming slide that saw only one more game won after three straight wins. Extraordinary batting by Durston and Hughes at Trent Bridge set a daunting total that Nottinghamshire couldn't get close to in a ten-over slog, but the end, when it came, was in a dreadfully inept display against Leicestershire, hardly the format force of their pomp and perhaps surprised themselves at the ease of their win.

Perhaps a longer competition and a change of opponents might be the fillip we need. The playing field is likely to be more level in 2014, with overseas players in short supply given the new scheduling, but we need to bat with more common sense and work the ball around far more than has been evident of late. Allowing a third of the available deliveries to pass without scoring, as we did in what should have been a routine run chase against Yorkshire in the T20, was careless to the point of unprofessional and the side is better than that.

My hopes are high that 2014 will see a strong challenge in the county championship. I'm less sure about our one-day skills at this stage, at least until I've seen winter recruitment and our squad isn't strong enough nor sufficiently experienced to challenge on all fronts. It's a pity, as T20 is still the money-spinner, as capacity home games in glorious weather against Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire showed.

If we could produce a top display in such circumstances it would go some way towards boosting attendances. As it was, our efforts in those games merely confirmed that this is still very much a work in progress.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Simon Storey on BBC Radio Derby

I've just finished listening to BBC Derby on i-player and I thought Simon Storey did a very good job in fielding an array of questions on ground developments, the season just past and the future on the breakfast show this morning.

I thought he did especially well in his response to 'Graeme from Belper' who suggested that Charlie Elliott was a far better batsman than Wayne Madsen and 'always scored 20 or 30' in the sort of tones that suggested this was a Bradman-esque feat. Madsen gets out cheaply too often, was his sketchy rationale, which justifies a look at the respective records:

                          Innings      Runs      Average      Centuries    Fifties

Elliott                   468        11965     27.25            9              59
Madsen               172          5951     36.96            16            29

Notwithstanding the changes of playing conditions, such as playing on uncovered wickets, I find it hard to see how anyone could come to such an idea. Elliott was a good servant to the county, but struggled to hold down a regular place on occasions when we were a poor batting side. I know it's all about opinions, but I struggle with that one and would just like to say that I wish we had five other batsmen who 'struggled' like the skipper...

I'd an interesting e-mail last night from James, my Durham counterpart on Cricinfo, who said that their financial issues mean that players could be leaving. Gareth Breese and Gordon Muchall have only been offered one-day deals, Callum Thorp is leaving, along with Will Smith, while there are apparently question marks over the future of Michael Richardson. Good players all and I'd expect there to be interest in any of them who decide to explore options (though Thorp, at 38 is now likely to retire).

I'd see either Muchall or Smith able to do a good job for us, while Richardson is a good and improving player, as befits the son of former South African wicket-keeper Dave. It shows the parlous financial state of some counties, when the champions are struggling.

As I've written before though - and doubtless will again - our recruitment has to be canny and strengthen the side, while not blocking the progress of young emerging players.

More on that soon.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Cricinfo piece

My final Cricinfo piece of the season can now be seen on the site.

It's a season review and I hope you enjoy it, with its pointers for the future.


Season review - the championship

It was a funny old season. We started it like a hundred metre runner in a suit of armour, came through towards the end like Usain Bolt, then tripped, just before the finish line.

A rude awakening after the expectancy and joy of 2012 and with some players obviously struggling at a level of greater intensity and skill. I was unsure of the differences back in April and that intensity at this level appears to be what sets the good sides apart. They never let up, a skill we acquired for a few short weeks but too late ultimately to escape the drop.

Only two batsmen looked consistently up to the level. Wayne Madsen stood head and shoulders above them all, with over 1200 championship runs made with considerable style and fine technique. Shiv Chanderpaul finished with just under 900 and only one century, less than was expected, but was one of many batting 'victims' of the result pitches that were part of a 'need to win' strategy at home.

The rest struggled, some of them badly. Richard Johnson made it to 500 runs, but an average of 26 was only that, while Chesney Hughes suggested a breakthrough with a monumental 270 at Headingley but made only 342 runs in his remaining nineteen innings. Paul Borrington played some useful knocks and looked a stronger player physically, while Ben Slater emerged from university to do the same. Both will be aware of greater expectations next summer and will doubtless be working hard over the winter to claim an opening berth for 2014.

Two young all-rounders, Peter Burgoyne and Alex Hughes had limited opportunities but showed enough potential to be optimistic. The challenge for both is now to establish themselves in the first choice side and improve both their techniques and their fitness for the county game. The jump from outstanding club player to county professional is substantial, but they will now be aware of what is required.

There were disappointments. Wes Durston played some good one-day hands, but looked out of his depth in the championship game. Dan Redfern never got going and we can only hope has the desire to get his career back on track. At his best he is wonderful to watch, but he seems to give it away too often for someone of now considerable experience. Ross Whiteley opted for pastures new mid-season and may never realise early potential. Billy Godleman came north for his third county, but managed only one fifty.

Such struggles for the batsmen put weight on the lower order but most were found wanting. Tom Poynton won the battle for the gloves and played some pugnacious innings while keeping to a high standard, but Jon Clare missed most of the campaign, while David Wainwright made only one fifty. With Tony Palladino missing half of the season, last season's effective lower order often passed with barely a whimper.

The bowling, as the batting, was dominated by one man. After a slow start, Tim Groenewald missed only one match and bowled consistently in four day as in all forms of the game. The team's 'Mr Reliable' is, like the captain, a model professional and could have done no more, while Mark Footitt emerged from an injury-ravaged career to a fine season. There were still erratic days, but his left-arm pace can be a potent weapon that we were glad to see secured for the next two seasons.

Tony Palladino's injuries were a blow, but he returned in the closing weeks to take wickets and be a constant threat. Few sides will look forward to facing those three next summer. Jon Clare had the best strike rate of the attack, but bowled only 124 overs on early season tracks that offered more help. His long-term county career appears to be dependent on improved fitness and a hard-working winter has to be in store.

Matt Higginbottom showed potential in August with some controlled displays, but Mark Turner had a summer to forget with only six wickets at 67. Next season is a big one for a whole-hearted player whose strike and economy rates are too high.

As for spin, we struggled. David Wainwright took only seventeen wickets at over fifty each, while Peter Burgoyne bowled with control but needs to do more with the ball at this level to get good players out. Time is very much on his side though, as it is with Tom Knight, who was curiously ignored for a player with the proven ability to dismiss good players. If he can improve his batting, there is an obvious challenge to Wainwright as top spinner, albeit as a different style of slow left-arm.

I expect a much-improved summer next year and another promotion challenge if we can get a good start. Much will depend on winter recruitment, something I will discuss in the near future. It was hard going, but we took it to the last game and that, at least, shows that the fighting spirit is largely intact.

We'll need that again in 2014.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The end of an era.

I've decided to take the link to the Falcon's Forum off this blog.

It comes after a lengthy and, as always amicable chat with Chris, the Forum's founder, who has announced on it today that he is no longer moderating the site. He's a top lad and I have a lot of time for him. He's a good mate and we go back to the dubious days of BBC 606, when we both decided, without knowing each other at that stage, to do something ourselves.

His vision for the site when it was created was a place for Derbyshire fans to get together and share in a love of the team, yet it has been ambushed by a handful of faceless individuals, whose comments at times are beyond the pale, on occasion have absolutely no relevance to cricket and quite often do a grave disservice to those at the club that they claim to support.

Let's be quite clear here. I run a blog where people know who I am. I have my face on it and a contact e-mail. If anyone took exception to a piece that I put on here, I would be accountable and expect to be. By the same token, in over five years of running it, no one has ever got in touch with me to tell me I have crossed a line. I have criticised events, performances and individuals, but there are ways in which that can be done without causing offence. Constructive criticism is valid; destructive comment - or worse, character assassination - is not.

Over on the Forum, no one uses a real name. No one is prepared to say "This is who I am, this is what I think and yes, I am accountable if you don't like it". Too many hide behind an electronic persona and make ill-thought and sometimes borderline defamatory comment about people who play for and work very hard for the club. At some point one will cross the line and I won't be damned by association.

"It shows we care  passionately about the club" said one poster yesterday. Hmmm...if people REALLY cared about the club and the people who represent it, I would hope that they might think twice before posting some of the hokum.They wouldn't be suggesting that we sack the board, the coach or players with scant regard for people's feelings and livelihoods.

That's what annoys me most. The Forum could have been something that was valued by those within the club and worth a read. Instead, it is perceived as a no-go area, where poisonous comments have become de rigeur and the vast majority try to outdo one another.

It would be wrong to tar all correspondents with the same brush, of course, but they are in danger of being subsumed by the nonsense. It is a salutory lesson for this site and I must again reinforce my occasional message to everyone when you are making your comments.

Remember that players, officials and their families WILL come across this site. For all I know, some may look at it on a regular basis and I hope that they will look at our differing opinions and at least see people who genuinely care about the club and can express their thoughts articulately and without being rude or unfair; critical without being personal.

That I now monitor comments prior to publication has changed little. Since doing so I have deleted none, but please remember that these are our players. Their families have the same feelings for them as we all have for our own. If you're writing something about a player ask yourself how YOU would feel if you read that about your Dad, brother, son or other relative. Saying 'it goes with the territory' doesn't wash with me. No it doesn't and no it shouldn't - at least not on here. By all means be critical if it is appropriate, but not cruel.

I'm sure that there will be comments about this on the Forum. Some will suggest I'm over-reacting; others will make a silly, inane comment. To be honest, I really couldn't care less as I'll no longer be involved, nor referring to it - certainly not reading it.

The club deserves better and until the individuals concerned appreciate their responsibilities, it will become increasingly marginalised, which is a shame.

Chris, it deserved much better than this, mate. But you did your best and no one can ask for more.

Derbyshire v Warwickshire day 3

When it came, the end was an anti-climax, in no way worthy of the performances that had lit up the month of August and most of September. It was, I think it's fair to say, more redolent of April to July.

The stuffing was well and truly knocked out of our side yesterday and in the closing stages of Tuesday. When that third bowling point was missed, the writing was on the wall, the side likely to need 350 runs to retain parity with events at Trent Bridge. As Nottinghamshire and Somerset traded big scores to end our hopes, the fight disappeared for the first time in some while and the end, when it came, was actually a relief.

The post mortems on the season can come in the days ahead, certainly on this blog. Within the club, there will doubtless be discussions over the season just finished, the slow start, the serious loss of form by too many players, the way ahead. Yet, as the season's embers died came news to cheer supporters.

Mark Footitt signed a new two-year deal, despite having been offered terms by other counties, most notably Surrey. While Mark remains an enigmatic cricketer, one who is still capable of bowling with a worrying lack of control at times, there were some outstanding performances over this season that suggested he is on the verge of becoming a very good county bowler, one set to become a key component of the new-look side.

We have a lot of good young players at the club, but the reality, as we go into a long close-season, is that places in around half of the side are up for grabs. It is safe to say that Madsen, Chanderpaul, Poynton, Palladino, Groenewald and Footitt would make up half of the first choice side for most supporters. The other places are there to be fought over between the rest of the staff and any close-season signings.

It is a great incentive for the young talent ahead of the winter. They can and will get fitter and stronger, will work on their techniques and be well aware, after the travails of this summer, just how great the demands of the first-class game can be. It is unfair to be overly critical of young players in their first summers of professional cricket, but how they move on from the collective dipping of toes into the water will largely dictate how quickly we are able to return to the top tier of the professional game.

It is one for another night and I look forward to exchanging thoughts with you all.

Thanks for your contributions over the course of the summer. Over the weekend I look forward to sharing plans for the winter blog with you all.

And as always, I look forward to your comments.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Derbyshire v Warwickshire day 2

Midway through the afternoon session, when the Warwickshire innings had extended way beyond what they would have realistically expected and what we would have wished, the window of opportunity for Derbyshire's top tier survival was reduced to the size of an especially neat porthole.

Once the Warwickshire ninth wicket had extended to a partnership of 166 runs and we had crucially been deprived of the third bowling point that had at one point appeared a formality, a light appeared to go out for our lads and the early batting collapse was not entirely unexpected.

Defeat sometime tomorrow, if things slide rapidly downhill, or Friday if we battle to the bitter end, seems a formality, but we really shouldn't be too surprised. After the first few months of the season, getting to this stage with a notional chance of survival was an achievement verging on minor miracle, but as I've pointed out before, it shouldn't be allowed to mask shortcomings that will need addressed in the close season.

Where there's Chanderpaul there's hope, but we cannot realistically expect to get to 242 and avoid the follow-on. Even if we do, the Trent Bridge game is building up to one where both sides get maximum bonus points, which is perhaps not the greatest of surprises...

Let's remember that our opponents were champions themselves only last season and only a chronic catalogue of injuries, together with international calls, has stopped them mounting a greater challenge this time. Weakened they may be, but they have some very fine players who look like being too much for our young side.

But of course, such things aren't understood by some supporters, as nonsense on the Forum tonight suggests. Some of the stuff is frighteningly naive and ill-thought out, with some comments almost painful to read. It saddens me, if I'm honest.

Anyway, enough for tonight. Celebration time chez Peakfan, as our son has secured a terrific job today that has left him - and us - on cloud nine.

Shame the cricket score couldn't be better on such a day, but...

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Derbyshire v Warwickshire day 1

All things considered, not a bad day for Derbyshire, though it could have been better.

Chris Woakes' century left the game well-poised, though runs on the board, as in any cricket match, are the most valuable of commodities. We will rue one or two chances and close opportunities that went begging, but, as with any other game of cricket, you simply cannot tell how this is going to go until we take our turn to bat.

Woakes enabled our visitors to go from a nadir of 148-7 to a closing score of 285-8. To be honest, we'd probably have taken that before the toss, but would have hoped to conclude their innings by the close, with expectations - no, a need - to do so promptly tomorrow.

The bowlers appear to have stuck to their task well and our batsmen will be hoping that the post-tea session is indicative of a wicket that has eased from a little early movement.

One thing appears clear at this stage. Barring our making a shambles of our first innings, we're likely to face a last day run chase, bringing back memories of last year against Hampshire. My guess would be that the target will be considerably greater though and we're going to have to pull out the stops to get to a win.

Nottinghamshire overcame early travails at Trent Bridge to earn a healthy closing position of 378-7 and Somerset may well be the most concerned of the bottom three at this stage. Our guys might well be the most disappointed, as a day where we looked to be totally dominant ended up as one where we did pretty well, but no more than that.

Time will tell.

Elsewhere, the first player who I thought "yes please" with regard to signing came on the market today.

Will Smith is that player and the very compact, organised Durham batsman, who can either open or play in the middle order is the sort of cricketer I would welcome at the club. He made a very composed and well organised 80-odd against us last week and has had a steady, if not spectacular season.

Whether he is lined up by a county at this stage it is hard to say, but his experience at Durham, a side he captained to the county championship in 2009, would be more than useful. He's had his share of injuries and he played for Nottinghamshire, but I'd be prepared to forgive that faux pas. He has a proven ability to score runs on northern wickets - not a formality, as many have found over the years - and would be an asset, not just to us but to a few sides.

Worth keeping an eye on that one.

The day dawns

Scheduled day off for old Peakfan today and tempted as I was to make the six hundred mile round trip for day one, family obligations dictate otherwise. Still, at least I can keep a closer eye on things than in the working environment.

It is apparently grey and overcast at Derby today. The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, as described by the great John Keats, is upon us and it's hard to imagine anything else at this time of year.

Mind you, on Sunday our Magnificent Seven produced an extraordinary display against my club to win a two innings T20 by seven wickets with seven overs to spare. Modesty forbids my mentioning the middle-aged, middle-order maestro who added an unbroken 43 to help build a first innings lead, but full credit to a side with three seamers, a leggie and slow left-armer, who helped augment the skipper's flighted filth (aka off spin in some quarters) with bowling of remarkable parsimony. Well done to Kieron, whose first innings four overs brought him a remarkable two wickets for no runs and to a side who brought off extraordinary catches. All this on a day that was redolent of high summer, with not even a sleeveless jumper in sight.

Back to first-class matters and I was pleased to see two Derbyshire alumni in the Ashes squad. I'm not convinced that Boyd Rankin is a better bowler than Graeme Onions, to be honest, but cricket thinking seems to be going the way of football. Better to have a lesser bowler bringing it down from the height of a modest mountain than a good one skidding it through. I appreciate the rationale is to make things more complex on bouncy, Australian pitches, but such thinking flies in the face of success by bowlers of more subtle stature like Dale Steyn, Malcolm Marshall and Harold Larwood, to name but three.

Rankin is an improved bowler, beyond doubt, to the erratic tyro who ensured that wicket-keepers were kept on their toes in his time at Derbyshire. I hope he gets selected though, because as the county that gave him his start in the game, we will then get money from the ECB accordingly.

The same goes for Ballance, who I think is a terrific player. I have every confidence that he will play the international game for years to come and will be a huge asset to the England side. He's looked a player of class for several seasons, but has now married the art of looking good to the unquestionable skill of making that count.

Around the county circuit, there's been more bad news for Leicestershire, where the old saying 'it never rains but it pours' is shortly to become 'it never rains but there's a perpetual monsoon'. Stalwart Claude Henderson is gone, Matthew Hoggard is also going, while Josh Cobb and Ned Eckersley have both been fined by the club after being arrested by police on a drunken night out.

I think it is sad when players of unquestionable talent endanger their careers by failing to realise they are seen as role models by young supporters. As such, their conduct has to be, if not squeaky clean, at least showing more than a modicum of common sense. I accept they are young lads (though not, at 23 and 24, THAT young) but they should know better.

Eckersley has had a fine season, with over 1200 first-class runs at an average of 53. The jury is still out on whether he will continue with his wicket-keeping or become a specialist batsman, but the news that he is considering a career elsewhere is interesting. I'm sure that he won't lack suitors and the lad can play, beyond doubt. Hey, we need another wicket-keeper...

Cobb can play too, another who appears set to move in the winter, which probably leaves Elsie, the tea lady, in their first-team squad. In one-day cricket he is a dangerous customer with the bat and bowls handy leg-spin, but he strikes me as their version of Dan Redfern. Talented. mercurial beyond doubt, a player who looks brilliant on his day, but who sometime soon has to start realising the obvious potential. For all his talent, Cobb has averaged 14 in the championship this summer and in over a hundred first-class knocks averages just 23 - six less than Redfern. Maybe a move would be the making of him, but he will need to get his head down and work at it, for sure.

Anyway, half an hour to the start and 'Dad's taxi' is set for its second trip of the day. See you later folks, hopefully with good news...

Monday, 23 September 2013

Derbyshire v Warwickshire preview

So this is it.

Six months of training and playing come to a conclusion at the County Ground over the next four days, the conclusion of which will decide the division in which we play our cricket next year.

While eyes and ears will naturally be drawn to events at Trent Bridge, the Derbyshire players should largely ignore goings-on there. All they can do is their best. If they win, it might be enough to keep us up; then again, it might not. Should both events occur it will be cause for celebration; if they don't we shouldn't be to down-hearted.

Our late-season form has been worthy of a top-level side. Sadly, our early-season cricket had no sparkle, no pzazz and none of the fight that has so characterised the efforts of the past month and for much of last season. Having survival hopes dashed now would be cruel, but we mustn't forget those early issues and must learn from them so that, come what may, we're ready next time.

Karl Krikken has announced a fifteen-man squad for tomorrow, namely:

Ben Slater
Paul Borrington
Chesney Hughes
Wayne Madsen
Shivnarine Chanderpaul
Richard Johnson
Alex Hughes
Tom Poynton
David Wainwright
Peter Burgoyne
Tony Palladino
Tim Groenewald
Mark Turner
Mark Footitt

There's little point in attempting to second guess the side for this one. Will Chesney Hughes return? Will we go exclusively with seam? Will we rise to the occasion or subside, somewhat sadly?

I think a win is a massive 'ask' against a Warwickshire squad that includes England men Boyd Rankin (congrats on the Ashes call-up, old Derbyshire boy) and Chris Woakes. They are missing a few players, but there's plenty of talent in their squad and they will want to finish strongly. Their squad:

Varun Chopra (Captain)
Keith Barker
Maurice Chambers
Rikki Clarke
Laurie Evans
Recordo Gordon
Ateeq Javid
Jeetan Patel
William Porterfield
Stuart Poynter (Wicketkeeper)
Boyd Rankin
Ian Westwood
Chris Woakes

You pay your money and take your choice on this one. I hope we win and I hope we stay up. I'll be happy as a sand boy if we manage it, but have a feeling that the fates might conspire against us somewhere along the line, either at Derby or Nottingham.

Should they do so, we can at least reflect on an excellent last month and look forward to a strengthened side competing strongly next summer. 

Then again, that could happen in the top tier, just as easily...

Give it your all, boys. We can ask no more than that.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Something for the weekend

Sorry about the lack of blogging last night, but it was a busy one. There was a trip into Glasgow for a couple of hours, followed by time spent attempting to salvage a team from the debris of my work side's game against my club tomorrow.

I have a magnificent seven when all is said and done, which effectively rules out such niceties as a slip, third man or fine leg, but will focus the bowlers on line and length and means that point and square leg have a lot of ground to cover. Think mid off will do me quite nicely thank you....oh, and do feel free to mail me if you fancy an early start and a game. We don't start till 1pm. An easy run from Derby in that time and still home in time for midnight...

First tonight, sincere congratulations to Wayne Madsen on winning the Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket award, the result of his 'walking' when given not out in his first innings against Yorkshire at Chesterfield. Coming, as it did, in a summer when the 'walking' controversy over Stuart Broad in the Test series ran deep, it was sure to make an impression and deservedly did so.

Then again, it highlights for the wider cricketing world what we at Derbyshire know - that Madsen is a diamond of a man and player who we are lucky to have at the county. John Morris brought some good players here and Madsen was his crowning glory. Even John probably didn't see him leading us to a trophy in his first full season as skipper, nor setting the tone for a late season fightback when we were nearly dead and buried.

On and off the pitch he is a model professional and an ideal figure head for the club. He thoroughly deserves the award, as he does the Player of the Year award that will almost certainly head his way once more at the end of the season.

Off the pitch, a player was released yesterday who is the sort that would have been good for us at his best.

Zander de Bruyn is the player, a casualty of a poor summer at The Oval. At 38 he is not unduly old and will look at the example of Murray Goodwin and consider continuing his career elsewhere. A career batting average just under 40 and over 250 wickets tells of a good cricketer, though his statistics this summer suggest one whose talents may be on the wane.

Then again, an opportunity elsewhere  might give him a new lease of life and I think that a middle order player of experience - especially one who could offer balance as a seamer - would be an asset to us for 2014. Mind you, I doubt a Surrey salary will be on offer in many places around the county circuit, so the player may need to adjust his financial needs to get another playing engagement - assuming he hasn't alternative plans, of course.

Finally tonight, the groups have been drawn for next summer's as yet unnamed fifty-over competition, which may yet end up being called something catchy like "the YB50".  We're in group A - naturally - and those groups in full are:

Group A: Derbyshire, Hampshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Worcestershire, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Essex

Group B: Surrey, Kent, Glamorgan, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire, Somerset, Durham, Sussex

Four home and four away games and we start on -2 points as things stand. Not a bad group though and at least some different opposition to the usual T20 groupings.

More soon, with a look at this week's game against Warwickshire. First, though, cue the music for the Magnificent Seven.

For tomorrow we ride...

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Bubbling up nicely

Final throw of the dice for Surrey today, as they forfeited their second innings to set Warwickshire 281 to win in 21 overs and the final day.

Earlier in the season, such a declaration may have led to cries for captain and coach to be summarily dismissed, but at this stage such a gamble has to be taken. With former Surrey men Evans and Clarke in their side, the Bears could consign erstwhile team mates to the drop. Then again, Surrey may come out on top and, as pointed out elsewhere by notoveryet, could be right back in the mix.

Mind you, they would then need to beat Yorkshire, who will be keen to finish in second place, but a win for the Londoners tomorrow would mean that Nottinghamshire and Somerset would have to go for a win next week. I'm not suggesting that there would be any collusion between the two sides, but the fact that both sides could survive with bonus points has set the conspiracy theorists twitching. Let's just say that a high scoring draw next week would be an unfortunate coincidence at Trent Bridge and that for cricket's sake I hope that it doesn't happen.

Elsewhere today, Lancashire have parted company with opening batsman Stephen Moore, who joined them on a very lucrative contract in 2009. It is natural for people to see him come onto the market, aware that we could do with an opening batsman and put two and two together.

I'm not so sure. I have no doubt that he remains a batsman of some talent, but his form has dipped alarmingly in recent seasons as his game seems to have become formulated on the 'hit everything' of T20. I wouldn't rule out interest, but it would have to be on considerably lower terms than Moore is on at Old Trafford. I suspect he may go back to his old county, Worcestershire, unless he prices himself out of the county game with his financial demands.

More tomorrow, when we'll see how the Surrey gamble has gone and be better placed to comment on the challenge facing Derbyshire next week.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Eventful day

Well folks, the East Midlands is going to be the hub of the cricketing world next week, after Nottinghamshire, as I expected, sank to a near two-day defeat against Durham. The latter will be crowned county champions tomorrow and deservedly so. They have played good, attacking cricket all summer and have been unstoppable for the past month.

All of which makes our display against them last week the more laudable. We made them work more than our dear neighbours, for all their expensive stars. Who comes out on top between them and Somerset is anyone's guess, though I'd not be surprised if both teams tried to include their international big guns in a match of such importance.

As I wrote last week, even if we dare to dream of a Derbyshire victory, it will almost certainly be on a 'result' track, which I'd expect to preclude a score of 400 and maximum batting points. My guess is that 300 would be a target, which, if we won and got our bowling points, would give us a haul of 22 from the game. Less than that makes the Somerset and Nottinghamshire tasks considerably easier.

Somerset could lose and stay up with seven bonus points, based on the above figures. Nottinghamshire would need maximum bonus points to avoid relegation if they lost, as we would have more wins over the season. A draw would suit both fine and we cannot do anything about the weather over Trent Bridge next week - nor the County Ground for that matter.

Few sides are anouncing full retained lists at this stage, as the uncertainty over their cricketing destiny will be a major factor. I am sure that Derbyshire, like other counties, will have players in mind for next summer, but the targets will depend on the tier we are playing in. Our pulling power will be different in division one, for one thing.

Glamorgan have pulled off a fine signing for the next two summers in Jacques Rudolph. Interestingly he has signed as an overseas player, not a Kolpak, so presumably retains hopes of an international recall, slim as they appear to be. Still, it worked for Chris Rogers, so you never know...

As I have written previously, I can see Kolpaks being back in favour next summer, if appropriate people can be found. The T20 is set to be played on Friday evenings across sixteen weeks and the likelihood of getting an overseas player to stay here for four months on a one-night a week deal is only marginally better than that of my being in the England tour squad this winter.

Finally tonight, confirmation from the club today that they are deadly serious in considering all options for their ground development plans. Quite right too. We have to be thorough and the viability of all locations has to be assessed and explored.

The County Ground may well remain a preferred option, but anyone who opts to call the bluff of the professionals we have at the County Ground could get a surprise. These gentlemen know what they are doing and will get the very best option for the club and its members.

I will be watching developments  - pun intended - with considerable interest.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Lively day in Durham...

Not a bad day for Derbyshire today.

Nottinghamshire had a nightmare - where? - down by the Riverside (a little musical joke there...) and it will require a herculean effort for them to salvage anything from this match. 129 runs behind on what is best described as a 'sporting' pitch, they look likely to max out with three points from this game, leaving them within range of a fine Derbyshire display and win against Warwickshire.

As are their opponents, Somerset of course. All we can do is concentrate on winning our game and allow the rest to take care of itself. As Doris Day once said, que sera, sera - whatever will be, will be.

Everything to play for, without doubt. And with that, I bid you adieu for the evening, as a busy day beckons tomorrow.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Monday Musings

As if by magic, to reinforce yesterday's post regarding the ambition of those in charge at Derbyshire County Cricket Club, comes news today that the club are considering moving from the County Ground. Potential sites in Chesterfield and South Derbyshire have been identified and the club, quite rightly in my opinion, is keeping its options open.

Derby City Council has put an estimated £27.5 million into the development of a velodrome at Pride Park, which will doubtless be a fine facility when it opens next October, as currently planned. I have no doubt that cycling is a popular pastime for many people, though how many of them would swap the countryside for a velodrome is a moot point. The planned new facility has a number of sports halls too and is being touted for potential use as a concert venue, though the acoustics would seem problematic from that perspective. Nor would the traditional layout of a velodrome lend itself to concerts in my humble opinion (I've probably organised a few dozen over the years, so have a good idea of what is involved).

Much less money would be required to develop the County Ground - probably a single figure sum in the millions - and the potential uses of that development, were it to become a miniature stadium, would earn the local authority a greater return on their investment.

It would also be of greater value to the city's ethnic populations, with the latest figures that I have seen suggesting that 8.6% of the city was now made up of people of Asian origin, with a further 2.2% of black origin. At the risk of this digressing into a sociological study, I'd suggest that more of these groups are interested in cricket than cycling, especially with most of those from Asia being of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi descent.

It would be understandable to expect the potential sites in Chesterfield and South Derbyshire to be at Queens Park and Burton, but I don't think that should be a given. Creating a stadium within the confines of tree-lined Queens Park would likely cause a few problems, while my recollection of the boundaries of the latter authority is that it touches on Derby anyway.

I am sure that the club's preference would be to stay at their home for so many years, but it is right and understandable that they are keeping all options open. As is pointed out in the Derby Telegraph this morning, we need to reduce our ground costs which would contribute to creating a more substantial playing budget, putting us in a position of greater parity with others on the county circuit.

The work that has gone into this confirms the quality of people at the helm of the club. These are professionals who know their jobs inside out. There will be a long way to go before anything is confirmed, one way or another, but I have total confidence in the people working on our behalf and know that in the medium to long term the club will benefit from their labours.

Finally tonight, Warwickshire are beset by injury woes and are pretty much fielding their last men standing for tomorrow's game against Surrey. Even at that, some are playing because they are less injured than others, while the club has confirmed that neither Jonathan Trott nor Ian Bell are likely to play against Derbyshire next week.

Bad news for them, better for us. It doesn't alter the odds on our survival, but we must keep working until we're down mathematically.

As we will, of course.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Book Review: When Cricket Was Cricket: The Ashes by Adam Powley

After forty years of reading cricket books of all shapes and sizes, it is quite something to come across one that has a collection of photographs that are previously unseen.

This delightful book from Haynes Publishing has some wonderful pictures of Ashes encounters from the nineteenth century onwards and each turn of the page is a joy. Whether it is CB Fry with a group of admirers, Jack Hobbs in his back garden or the Australians visiting a factory, this collection is quite special and is accompanied throughout by informative text.

Old photographs of Test match grounds are fascinating, while my personal favourite is of England legends "Tiger" Smith, Sydney Barnes, Frank Woolley and Wilfred Rhodes sitting together at a 1961 Test match. What tales those greats could tell...

A delightful coffee table book, or one for the side of the bed to dip into at will - this is well worth the money and is a fine addition to any cricket fan's collection. Adam Powley has done a very good job and the publishers can be proud of their efforts

When Cricket Was Cricket: The Ashes - a Nostalgic Look at a Century of the Greatest Rivalry is published by Haynes Publishing and is currently available on Amazon at £16.25. It is also available through all good book shops.

Post match thoughts

Safely ensconced in the bosom of my family, I settled down last night to read a few comments from supporters regarding recent events and came across one that I've seen used before but realised, for the first time, that it really annoys me.

"This will be a test of our ambition" wrote a correspondent on the Forum, referring to the news of Mark Footitt wishing to speak to other counties. That comment always hacks me off and if you stick with me and settle down I will tell you why.

Chris Grant and Simon Storey are men who have made a massive success of their careers elsewhere and have been rewarded for their talents and success accordingly. Both are working tirelessly on our behalf, one without remuneration and the other for considerably less than he would get in the industry where he made a name for himself.

Why are they doing it? Because they care, because the want to make something special at the county and because they want to 'give back'. I'm grateful to both that they expend such energy on the behalf of a club that is far from affluent, is one of the smallest in the country and has a small  - but let's say fairly vocal - fan base.

The latter is fine. Opinions are great. They make the world an interesting place, they get us talking and they open up communication with people who you previously never knew existed. Yet opinions should always be backed up by fact, which is the crux of today's little piece.

To suggest that the gentlemen named above are not ambitious is insulting. You could add the name of Karl Krikken in there too. All of them want to see Derbyshire taking a regular place at the game's top table, not just visiting it to take a few things home in a goodie bag, as we may end up doing this season.

In a brief tenure they have done remarkably well. Promotion in a first full season, fighting to the very last game to avoid a heavily predicted drop the next. The wider cricket world is now aware that something special IS happening at Derbyshire. Early on in the season we were overawed and outclassed too regularly for comfort and condescending comments showered on to us like confetti at a County Ground marquee wedding. We were upstarts and should know our place.

The last few weeks we have given good teams a bloody nose and changed perceptions. We have won three games, two against very good sides and have seen some young lads with very bright futures emerge. Sure, there have been disappointments too. There have been team selections that some of us have disagreed with, albeit without being in full possession of the facts from a fitness/availability standpoint. We're entitled to make such comments, while acknowledging that the one man who is paid to get them right has made his decision based on the facts and full knowledge of them, not just supposition and personal preference.

Mistakes have been made. Karl Krikken might well agree that he got an occasional team selection wrong (be honest, who doesn't?) We have dropped crucial catches and missed out on bonus points by a couple of runs when a little more savvy wouldn't have gone amiss. I think we also made a mistake in giving three-year contracts to players in the euphoria of the championship win that were a season too long in most cases.

Why? Because most were unproven at top level and some have been found wanting. Some may come back stronger, but for those who can't, we still have them for two more years, unless we pay them off, which costs money. Realistically, as the case of Ross Whiteley proves, they're of dubious merit anyway, if someone can walk away mid-season because he doesn't get his own way. For the record, the club's action in that instance was 100% correct in my opinion...

Of course Derbyshire are ambitious. That's why we secured the services of those championship-winning players last year. Yet a cursory glance at the staff tells you that Clare, Redfern, Durston and Godleman are currently out of the picture on senior player contracts. A club with our size of playing budget can ill-afford this, especially when the likes of Slater and Higginbottom need to have their contract situation addressed this winter and we all know that there are areas need strengthening.

Mark Footitt will have been offered what we can afford and what we feel he is worth. If he doesn't feel that offer is appropriate, he is entitled to see if anyone else has a better idea of that worth - or, more accurately, has more money to offer him. As I wrote the other night, I think Surrey will be offering him 2-3 times his Derbyshire salary as a 'carrot' and we cannot match that.

Again, why? Because despite the best efforts of Messrs Grant and Storey, together with the best pound for pound marketing team in the country, we're not on a level playing field. If we offered that sort of money to Mark, where does that leave other players, especially those who have made an even greater contribution to the successes of the summer? We'd end up with a staff of ten players on big money, some of them with a questionable fitness record, and nothing else.

As fans we have to accept that players will continue to go through the club like passengers on a bus. Some, like Wayne Madsen, Tony Palladino and Tim Groenewald, you would do your level best to keep, because you know they will always give good value. There may come a time that even our best offer for such players isn't enough, because we cannot match  what the likes of Surrey, Somerset, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire can offer. Note that the first two named, with all their money and big name players, are little better performing than our lads this summer - the last two haven't exactly set the heather on fire either.

There will be changes this winter, of that I am sure. But supporters will need to accept and understand that we cannot pick up England Lions. We're looking for good, honest professionals who could help the cause while the development of our own exciting talent carries on apace and in the hope that enough make the grade with the right support and coaching.

It has to be the Derbyshire way. We have an established and admired business model and a club that is self-sufficient. We have no debt and as such are the envy of many counties. Some have benefactors who have thrown serious money at their club, but not especially with the desired results. What happens when they eventually walk away?

It's not been a perfect season. But there have again been positive signs and lessons that will have been learned. Wherever we play our cricket next summer, it will be with players who want to play for Derbyshire and with administrators and coaches who want to be the best.

Stick with the ride. It's bumpy and it will have a few twists and turns on the way. But we will get there and we're all going to miss it for the next six months.

I know I am.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Derbyshire v Durham day 4

In the time that it took me to drive from my parents house to Scotch Corner today, Derbyshire were blown away by a Durham side that look like deserved champions. They have a fine seam attack - the best in the country by some distance - a solid batting line-up and a fine fielding side. They don't have an overseas player either, so good luck to them in showing other counties how it can be done.

Yes, it was disappointing to be bowled out so quickly, but I feared the worst when I saw how Tony Palladino was taking wickets in the morning. Onions in particular looked set to be a handful and so it transpired. If he isn't on the plane to Australia it will be a major error, as he is a bowler of the very highest class and simply ripped through our inexperienced batting line-up.

It was a return to the fallibility of early season, but at least with mitigating factors. It also clearly illustrated that our recent form, laudable and impressive as it has been, has papered over some cracks in a side that needs an overhaul before next summer. Perhaps the players were aware of events at Taunton, where the home side's impending win was making our situation increasingly parlous.

It is patently obvious that we need another batsman of experience in the side, at either five or six. The Wes Durston of last season was ideal for the role, but he has some work to do over the winter months to restore technique and confidence. Other personnel may be required too, depending on departures over the coming weeks and months, but supporters need to be realistic.

A cursory glance at the Forum since my return has seen a sadly typical knee-jerk reaction. I can understand frustration, but to suggest, for example, that there was no investment in the squad last winter is so incorrect as to be laughable. Between new players and improved contracts, over £200K went on to the playing budget, but top players cost around £100K, with no guarantee of success - isn't that right Surrey?

Of course we need to strengthen, but until we know where we will be playing, it is a guessing game as to how. Most clubs have yet to announce their retained lists, but with finances tight, there will be players of the right quality and price on the market. Fans should remember, however, that the club could lose sponsorship, membership or marketing income if we are relegated and will perforce need to cut their cloth accordingly. Equally, any strengthening will need to be done carefully, so as not to block off the route to a senior role of one of our better young players. The signing of David Wainwright, for example, won us promotion last year, but has done little for the career progression of Tom Knight.

There's time for all that at season-end. We're sixteen points behind Somerset now, so need something special from our last game against Warwickshire, while Nottinghamshire do us a favour (please). Cue a result pitch at Derby...

It will be tough though. A result pitch will probably see three batting points the summit of our ambitions (or two runs short of it, if I turn cynical for a moment) and a win therefore bringing us a maximum of 22 points were we to manage it.

Can Nottinghamshire keep Somerset six bonus points or less? Three for bowling, under 300 when they bat? Can we beat Warwickshire? All will be revealed this week. Meantime I must change the music in the car. Believe by Cher, You Sexy Thing (I believe in miracles...) by Hot Chocolate...maybe Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by the Pythons.

Its a long shot, but it is still a chance, going into the last game. Keep behind them and let's save the rest until the fat lady has had a last little warble.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Derbyshire v Durham day 3

I love you Nottinghamshire. No, really, I do...

OK, I forced myself to say that, because it looks increasingly like we'll need a favour from the East Midlands giants (that's the last one...) to retain our top tier status this summer.

After today's play, Somerset look set to beat Surrey at Taunton and with a favourable forecast for tomorrow would have to make an unholy mess of their final innings to lose. Either that or Surrey would need to bowl much better than has been their modus operandi of late. We can only hope that Zander de Bruyn and Steven Davies show form commensurate to their salaries and get support from the tail, as our game seems to have nowhere to go.

There's two options for it tomorrow. Durham have sixteen overs left to rack up more bonus points and could logically get to 350. That might allow us the opportunity to get an extra bowling point with two more wickets. Alternatively, they could declare overnight and allow us to set a target, but risk batting last on a track that is offering more to spin - though not enough, I suspect, to force a win for the home side.

For what it is worth. I can see them pushing for the bonus points, batting on to 400-450 (if they can)  and hope to bowl us out again in around 50-60 overs. I'd be surprised and disappointed if they did, as they only have one occasional spinner in the side. The greater danger will come from Onions and Rushworth, an excellent new ball pairing, but for me this game should be a draw from here.

We bowled well with little luck today. The ball at times did too much and a couple of loud appeals failed to go our way. Yet the fielding remained good and fine catches were held by Tim Groenewald and Tom Knight, who fielded all day in the place of Richard Johnson. Durham actually scored slower than we did, something that the not overly perceptive critics of our first innings might care to note. Palladino and Wainwright both bowled well without success and there was little between two teams that, on paper, are almost a league apart.

Off the pitch, the big news, as reported by the Telegraph today, was that Mark Footitt has rejected a contract offer and asked to speak to other counties. It has led to the usual outpouring of invective from the Forum, that completely neglects the fact that the player is perfectly entitled to do so. Given the size of the respective playing budgets, I'd hazard a guess that Mark would be offered perhaps three times his Derbyshire salary to play for Surrey, who are 'leading the chase'.

Notwithstanding that he may need that to live in London, can anyone reading this say they wouldn't at least discuss something of that nature? I enjoy my job, but if someone offered me thrice the going rate for it I'd be out of the door faster than Usain Bolt, assuming the location suited. What Footitt will doubtless size up is that he may or may not be a first choice there, will almost certainly be in division two and will lose access to a team who have got him fitter than ever before this summer, as well as a bowling coach in AJ Harris who deserves great credit for his work with the player.

If he goes, so be it, but he should be thanked for his efforts this summer, not castigated. I hope he stays, but departure offers opportunity to someone else, the wheels will keep turning and the club will go on as it always has.

Finally tonight, thanks to the many people with who I spent a convivial time at the cricket today. You know who you are, but your company and kind comments made a slow day on the field extremely pleasant. I hope you all winter well and, as with everyone else, I thank you for your continued support of this blog.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Derbyshire v Durham day 2

There's a massive day in prospect tomorrow, one that may define the eventual location of our 2014 championship cricket.

At 82-2 chasing 298, Durham could get away tomorrow morning. Conversely, early wickets could put them under pressure and we could establish a first innings lead. Nothing today suggested the wicket was playing up unduly, apart from a few deliveries that kept a little low. Mark Footitt's worst spell in some weeks let Durham get away, before Tony Palladino's late spell removed the openers and left us with a glimmer of hope to make early inroads tomorrow.

From 242-3, to fail to make 300 was disappointing. The middle order came and went in the blink of an eye and it took a late flourish from Palladino and Wainwright to get us close to the extra bonus point, which for the second game running we missed by two runs. Those two points may, come season end, make all the difference, but we'll have to wait and see on that one.

At this stage it is hard to see how we can win this game, short of a major spell tomorrow morning. If first innings scores are close, any declaration would have to be very carefully timed and I'm not sure if we would come out of a last day run chase on top, with the wicket as it is.

Somerset look like having little play tomorrow, so any finish there looks likely to be contrived. I don't see Surrey setting an easy target, especially when they are still forty behind on first innings. That being the case, maybe a draw would do us, something that our earlier batting deserved at the very least.

I was staggered - no, make that embarrassed - to read a Derbyshire supporter criticising Paul Borrington tonight after anchoring our innings with an innings of considerable skill. Making 75 against the best new ball attack in the country is a laudable effort and the lad should be praised for having the guts and technique to stay in there and allow others to bat around him, playing more expansive shots. He now averages 38 from five completed innings this summer, third in the averages and still gets people moaning.

It is a disgrace. I can only say that if we'd had similar application from players at the start of the summer, we may not be where we are right now. There was good support from Shiv and Richard Johnson before it all went somewhat pear-shaped with the second new ball.

Anyway, tomorrow is our bowler's turn. I'll be down there and look forward to a day of niggardly, aggressive bowling and sharp fielding. Any sort of lead is welcome and the next six sessions of cricket promise to be pulsating stuff.

It may be top v (near) bottom, but I doubt Durham feel they've outclassed us at this stage. As for our lads, they've given the likely title winners a tough battle for six sessions. We need to maintain that intensity tomorrow and Saturday.

Big effort, lads...

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Derbyshire v Durham day 1

As I came around Pentagon Island on the way to the Gateway car park today, the first drops of rain hit my windscreen and I feared the worst for the day's cricket.

As it happened, I saw around ninety minutes play, which was around eighty-five more than I expected at that point. I half expected Larry Grayson to pop out and say "What a grey day..."

In the time that remained the sparse crowd was treated to a fine partnership by Wayne Madsen and Paul Borrington after the dismissal of Ben Slater, The scoring rate was artificially enhanced by some very erratic bowling from Durham that gifted us 24 extras on the first morning of a crucial game. Such generosity was hardly indicative of the top side in the country and of the two sides it was our lads who had the greater purpose.

Onions bowled well and beat the bat on a few occasions, but Harrison strayed onto leg stump too many times and was punished by both batsmen with crisp shots.

It was business as usual from the skipper, who nicked one short of slip but otherwise batted with purpose and sound technique, while Paul Borrington played some good shots on either side of the wicket on his way to a largely untroubled unbeaten 30. His feet were moving especially well and although the Durham fielders were chirpy at any suggestion of a false shot (real or imagined) he remained unruffled and composed. It is a shame that play after lunch was truncated to one over as he looked in good shape and I would have enjoyed seeing more of both players later in the day.

I can't manage down tomorrow as there's things to do, but I will be back on Friday for what will hopefully be close to a full day of cricket.

You can't really say after one session that one team is ahead in this game, as it is not far enough advanced, but I know which skipper will be the happier tonight.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Derbyshire v Durham preview

Sorry about the late blog tonight but I've been out with the family ahead of tomorrow's trip. No need for much time packing - just like Cliff Richard, I'm travellin' light...

The twelve for tomorrow is much as I expected, with Chesney Hughes unavailable, so the same side looks set to take the field as did so well against Somerset, with Peter Burgoyne in the frame to play, but only if the track is set to turn later. I suspect the final place will be between Peter and Alex Hughes but Hughes' excellent second innings at Taunton may give him the nod. Mark Turner is back in the squad, replacing the injured Matt Higginbottom, but I suspect only for cover.

As for Durham, they travel with a strong squad top-heavy with quality seam bowlers and a squad that lines up as follows:

Mark Stoneman
Keaton Jennings
Scott Borthwick
Will Smith
Michael Richardson
Paul Collingwood
Phil Mustard
Usman Arshad
Jamie Harrison
Mitch Claydon
Ryan Buckley
Chris Rushworth
Graham Onions

The weather looks set to play a major part and there will be a few interruptions over the four days if the forecasts are correct. A draw would be no bad thing, but only if there's a similar result at Taunton, as we can live without losing ground on Somerset at this late stage.

Fingers crossed that everything goes our way - hope to see a few of you down there in the coming days!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Monday musings

"You're leaving when"? said Mrs P as I outlined the details of my trip down to God's own county this week.

It's a chance to see how my folks are getting on before winter sets in, do a few jobs for them, go out for a meal and pull in a couple of days at the cricket. Lovely....

When I told her I planned to be on the road before six on Wednesday, she shook her head, but smiled. It was a nice smile, one of the 'he's slightly mad, but I love him variety", as opposed to the "I really must get this bloke seen by a doctor" variant that it could have been - not that I often see that one, you understand.

Mrs P is staying home this time, as our daughter is at school, while our son's work commitments rule him out of the trip. So it will be just me and my aural companions - a bit of Zep, some Rush, classic country, Roy Orbison, Dylan, The Beatles - yeah, that should do nicely...

I'll not make the start of our game against Durham (pesky 10.30 starts...) but I should see some pre-lunch play and the rest of the day thereafter. It will be good to catch up with a few people and to see the smiling faces of the backroom  team and the gate personnel. They're a wonderfully friendly bunch these days, but 'twas not always so. My Dad had a theory that Simon Wiesenthal could have found the odd Nazi war criminal among the gate staff at one time and  he had a run in with them on more than one occasion.

Not now though. He's not up to the games these days but enjoys following the scores at home as much as ever. The staff there today are friendly and approachable though, their welcoming " 'ey up, mi duck" a sure sign that I am home.

No news yet on the two teams, but thanks for your comments and please keep them coming. Opinion is divided on the opening berth, with some of you favouring the retention of Paul Borrington and others keen to see the reinstatement of Chesney Hughes - assuming he's back from seeing baby Ches, of course.

I can see merit in both. Ben Slater is a certainty to play after his Taunton heroics, but I'm less sure than some of you that Chesney will walk back into the side. Don't get me wrong, I think the lad oozes talent, but he's had a mixed championship summer. Indeed, since his mammoth unbeaten 270 at Headingley he has only 342 in 19 innings, somewhat belying the comment of one correspondent that he was a 'match-winner'. Given that he's presumably not spent the last two weeks in the nets and may be jet-lagged, it's far from a formality that he will be straight into the team. I'm sure that Karl Krikken and Dave Houghton will know at this stage and at the end of the day it is their decision that counts.

We'll doubtless see the squad announced tomorrow and the excitement will start to build ahead of this game, the first of what Wayne Madsen has rightly called our 'cup finals'. After years of largely irrelevant cricket from August onwards, we've had two successive sensational Septembers, which has much more going for it than sibilance...

See you tomorrow night - then hopefully on Wednesday for real...

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Up where we belong....

Two games to go and there is one sure thing about the county championship relegation issue.

It is going to go to the last game.

Just as last year, when, while we were playing Hampshire at Derby we were keeping an eye on Yorkshire's game against Essex, Wednesday's game against Durham will see supporters keeping an eye on the one at Taunton, where Somerset and Surrey face off.

We could have had an easier game, for sure, but the game at the County Ground pits the two form teams of the country against one another. How many thought we would be saying that a month ago? Durham will start favourites as their form in the past month has been extraordinary, rising through the table like a phoenix from the ashes. They are a strong side, as befits one at the top of the table and there are similarities with Derbyshire.

Durham have no overseas player and have based their campaign on a batting line-up where everyone contributes and a strong seam attack that has produced the goods. time and time again. They beat us easily at The Riverside, although our batting line-up that day of Hughes, Johnson, Madsen, Chanderpaul, Durston and Redfern is some way removed from what will take the field on Wednesday. Chesney may be back from paternity leave, but Karl Krikken may stick with the pair who gave him good starts at Taunton in a side that I expect to show few, if any changes.

Their win in the earlier game was largely due to a big stand between Jennings and Borthwick, when we didn't bowl especially well and missed an opportunity or two. For us to win this one, we need the bowling to maintain discipline and be backed up by razor-sharp fielding. We're going to need the same resolution down the order that has been shown throughout the last month and a big innings from one or two players.

Confidence should be high though and whatever happens, the key will be results elsewhere.  If we beat Durham, I expect Somerset to be too strong for Surrey and it will then come down to the last game, when we host Warwickshire and Somerset play our near neighbours Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. Given that after a tricky trip to play Middlesex, Nottinghamshire have to go to Durham themselves, the relegation issue could yet prove to be a four-horse race.

Nottinghamshire have had a poor summer and theirs is not a happy camp, with Michael Lumb and Alex Hales at odds with the club, wanting to play IPL next year while the club says no. They would appear to have too much talent to go down, but not enough to be embroiled in a battle to avoid the drop. A squad that looks better than any in the country on paper continually fails to deliver, much in the same way as Surrey.

Both sides lack a major factor in the recent success of Derbyshire and Durham. Team spirit. That mentality was strong for us last year and the on-field 'chirpiness' of the side is evidence of its return. Opponents know they are playing a team, not a disparate group of individuals where the failure of the big names causes the collapse of the side.

I don't know if we will stay up any more than the rest of you, but we will go down fighting. If we stay up it will be as great a feat as any in the club's history given the radical shift in the club's fortunes from August onwards. It augurs well for next year if we stay up, while a repeat of this form would have division two sides wary of a (hopefully strengthened) Derbyshire side next summer.

Let's not think about that though. At The Riverside we bowled them out for 253 on the first day. In their second innings nine of their players made only 91 runs between them. We simply batted very badly, with the exception of Chanderpaul and Poynton and had a couple of bad sessions that characterised our earlier season with the ball.

If we can keep recent form going, they are beatable.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Weekend talking point - the how and the why...

Back at the end of July - yes, as recently as that - you would have got few takers, at even the best offered odds, on Derbyshire playing cricket in division one of the county championship next year.

Arguably the lowest point of the season had been reached, as the side were demolished by Yorkshire at Chesterfield. The white rose county racked up 617-5 as Derbyshire's bowlers, with the notable exception of debutant Peter Burgoyne, struggled to maintain line and length and were punished on a small ground with a fast outfield.

Our batting was little better, although a brave innings by Tom Poynton extended the first innings while a century of brilliance by Wayne Madsen gave us an element of respectability in the second, before we slid to an ignominious defeat inside three days. At that stage, we had drawn three and lost seven of our ten games. Relegation appeared to be a formality, as we appeared short on fight, luck and talent. Our overseas player was injured too. Nothing was going right.

So what happened?

A month later, we have beaten two of the best three teams in the country by some distance, probably should have beaten one of our relegation rivals and then disposed of the other. In sixteen days of cricket we have seen a reprise of the aggressive, fearless displays of 2012. Some may disagree with the word 'aggressive' but I don't interpret it in its widest sense. You don't have to play silly shots and score at five an over to be aggressive. Sometimes you just have to make it clear that you're not going to step back, or fold under pressure. The opposition comes at you hard and you give it back with interest. We've started to do that. Maybe that dressing room song should change to Tom Petty's I Won't Back Down...

A change of personnel has helped and Karl Krikken made it clear at the end of that Yorkshire game that he was unimpressed by some of the body language he had seen from the side. As a player, Krikken was someone who you knew would always give 100%. As a coach he does the same, but from the sidelines, pacing up and down and playing every ball with his team. He cares about his job and the club and wants to see similar passion from the team.

Shortly after that game came the news of Ross Whiteley's departure to Worcestershire. It seemed like little was going right at that time from a fan's perspective, but there was little point in the club keeping a player who didn't want to be there. Ross is a good lad, but it would be a surprise if his disenchantment at the club's refusal to allow him to go to Australia in the winter wasn't simmering in the background and being somewhat counter-productive to team spirit.

From that situation - and the laudable, decisive action taken by the club - came a new-look team, with Alex Hughes, Ben Slater and Matt Higginbottom being given runs in the side. All have done well. Hughes has played several good innings, fields very well and offers useful medium pace when the conditions favour him. Slater has emerged from largely irrelevant opportunities at number six to play some innings of high promise in the opening berth to which he is more accustomed. Higginbottom took good wickets but crucially bowled with control, something that had been sadly missing at Queens Park and on other occasions. Peter Burgoyne has batted, bowled and fielded well when required and the enthusiasm of the new boys has, I think, been a major boost for the captain.

Wayne Madsen has led with authority, performed to the very highest levels and remained an excellent figure-head for the club. It would be hard to find someone who had a bad word to say about the man and he's now got the confidence to bowl himself on occasions, a tactic that has proved more than worthwhile.

He has been helped with a rich vein of form from Tim Groenewald, while Mark Footitt has had his best season in the first-class game, having been encouraged to run in hard and bowl quickly. He's done so with increased control too and is a potent weapon for the captain. No one likes facing a bowler who can reach and exceed 90mph and when he comes in at an unusual angle (few left-armers have ever bowled at that speed) he brings variety to the attack. A fit Tony Palladino is also good to see and the captain and coach must both feel that they can match whatever is thrown at them in the field over these last two matches.

There's one other factor. Earlier in the season I noted with interest that Shivnarine Chanderpaul was often in the outfield at third man and fine leg. I assumed that this was a preference of the player, but it struck me that it was a waste of experience. A man with ten thousand Test runs and with international captaincy experience would surely have been of greater merit to the side in a more accessible position? More recently we have seen Shiv at slip, or in a short extra-cover position, where he can provide advice for the captain when needed and offer an encouraging word to the bowlers and fielders. Who wouldn't respond to a man of his reputation, especially young players? Batting with someone like Chanderpaul is what you dream of as you're growing up...getting a 'well done' from him must make you feel ten feet tall.

There have been comments - from myself and others - on the runs not being as abundant as we might have hoped, but he's hardly been a failure, just dropped from standards that most can only dream of. Yet his greater contribution may be one that to most outside the team isn't obvious.

It is commitment.

It is working on his game in the nets longer than anyone, then being happy to bowl at those who want to try and emulate him. It is in his preparation for a game, his willingness to talk cricket to young players, to pass on the knowledge of twenty years at the top. It is in his passion for excellence at the age of 39, when most are thinking of a career outside the game. It is in his touching of gloves with young players when they've played a good shot and the leaping into the arms of Tim Groenewald yesterday after he saw us to a crucial win, as well as his modesty in deflecting praise from his own performance by praising theirs. You get the impression that he cares. Yes, he will be getting well-paid for his role, but money can buy performance, not always commitment.

We may not (yet) have seen the very best of Chanderpaul the batsman from a weight of runs perspective, but his influence and attitude to the game will be something that his current young team mates can use as the basis of their own careers.

When Eddie Barlow played for us, his greatest days were behind him, but there was enough left in the tank to make fans grateful and place him on a pedestal from which he has never slipped. Go back through the year books and there were plenty of failures with the bat, but his contribution was so much more than that, on and off the field.

I suspect that much the same will happen with Shiv. In thirty years we will remember his T20 gem against Lancashire; his delightful knocks against Nottinghamshire, a classy century against Surrey and the technique that saw us to victory yesterday. We will all say to our families and friends "I saw Chanderpaul at Derbyshire". Players will say, quite proudly, "I played with him".

Who knows? Maybe the tales might even refer to a crucial knock in a game against the top side in the country, that turned the cricket world upside down and helped to make the story of the season.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Somerset v Derbyshire day 4

What a result!

While we all hoped, some of us prayed and a few remained sceptical, this young, ebullient side came up with a remarkable performance to steal a win in what must have been one of the best county championship games in many a year. After the concerns over pitch inspectors on the first day, Somerset are to be applauded for an excellent cricket wicket, so much better than the anodyne tracks of recent vintage that gave batsmen averages way ahead of their ability.

It was, as Shivnarine Chanderpaul pointed out on the club site, very much a team effort. Go through the side and there's not a player who didn't contribute in some way to the success. Shiv, with the humility that befits the man, name checks a few of them on the club site and tonight there should be special mention of the innings played by Alex Hughes. He will, I'm sure, go on to make centuries for Derbyshire that require less effort than the thirty-three runs he scored today. There's been debate over whether Peter Burgoyne should have played in his place, but the bottom line is that Hughes did us proud when we most needed it. And once again Karl Krikken's selection came off.

The same goes for the other youngsters in the side. Borrington and Slater led off with 52 and 49 in the two innings, partnerships that established momentum for the side and were of paramount importance. I've read unnecessary criticism of the pace of their batting, especially in the second innings, but those making such comments should try opening the batting on a pitch helpful to bowlers and in a pressurised situation. They did a grand job and such comments suggest that the team weren't fully au fait with the weather forecast. They are much better prepared than that.

Slater in particular can be proud of his contribution. 104 runs in the game is an excellent effort and I expect to see the lad given a full-time contract for 2014, at the very least. It was a wicket where failure would have been understandable, but Slats battled it out and played two very important hands for his side.

Another young player who is worthy of note is Tom Poynton. Over on the Somerset supporters board there were favourable comments about the standard of his wicket-keeping, especially in comparison to Craig Kieswetter, who had a nightmare match. His first innings partnership with Richard Johnson was of massive importance and took us to a lead that was more substantial than appeared likely. His work behind the stumps was, it would appear, near-exemplary.

Anyone else noticed the grit in these younger lads? There's been accusations in the past of youngsters coming in to a Derbyshire side and folding at the first sign of pressure. I don't know who or what has made the difference, but the battling spirit in this side is a joy to see and augurs so well for future summers.

It was apposite, however, that Tim Groenewald was in at the death. With 28 still to win and two wickets left, our senior pro was as good a man as you could wish for at number ten. He, Tony Palladino and Mark Footitt bowled splendidly and set the tone on the first day and the focus remained to the very end.

Yet I can't close without acknowledging a supreme innings from Shiv Chanderpaul. I've been critical of the volume of runs this summer and I'm sure the player himself would have hoped for and expected more. Yet on a day when we needed him so badly, he came up with the goods and steered us home. It is hard to evaluate the full significance of this win right now, but Shiv has given us a fighting chance of avoiding the drop and most of us will be talking about this win twenty years from now. It was that good - and so was our West Indian star.

Next up are Durham, top of the table and looking to be champions-elect. Logic suggests we are set for a fall, but this side of ours is currently defying logic. We might yet go down, but by crikey, we are going to do so fighting. Most importantly, the side  has restored pride for the fans, reputation for the club and made names for themselves.

It has been a remarkable few weeks and better still I will be at the County Ground this week to see the Durham fixture. A month ago it looked like being just another game. Now? It's huge. But there's time for that another day.

Tonight, we celebrate.

Well done lads!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Somerset v Derbyshire day 3

After all the fun and frolics on the first day, few of us will have expected the game to be going into a fourth. More to the point, it is doing so with the game on a knife edge and so has been a wonderful advert for championship cricket.

We've made a decent fist of the run chase so far, aided and abetted by some poor wicket-keeping by Craig Kieswetter. Can we get another 117 runs to get across the line, win the game and move out of the bottom two?

There's enough talent in the batting to do so. Alex Hughes is next in, then there's Johnson, Poynton, Wainwright and Groenewald, all of who can be relied on to make a decent fist of batting. Yet it is hard to escape the fact that this situation is made for Chanderpaul. I don't think anyone would consider this a vintage summer for the West Indian, but if he could get us to a win tomorrow it will make a big difference to the perceptions of supporters.

As I said last week when Hasim Amla took Surrey to a narrow victory over us, such situations are when you hope - quite possibly pray, tonight - that your overseas star will do his stuff. It was such a situation last year that brought the best from Usman Khawaja against Hampshire, albeit on an easier batting track than this one. Having said that, batting is far from an impossibility and until the late dismissals of Slater and Palladino, Derbyshire appeared to be cruising to some extent.

Top marks to Ben Slater, who has played two fine hands in this match and looks increasingly like a player with much to offer. He will be disappointed not to go on from his 59 today, after 45 in the first innings, but a good spinner will always present issues and Chawla is a pretty good bowler. He's not a mystery or 'demon' spinner though, and his figures suggest enough poor balls to enable the score to be kept moving along.

I genuinely cannot predict this one but we have the ability to win it. Do we have the temperament? We will see tomorrow. Repeating what I said last night, if we genuinely are a first division side, we will get there; if we still need some work done at the drawing board, we will subside to a defeat that will be hard to bear after the heroics of the first day. There's no new ball in sight, so that should not affect the outcome to any great extent, unless we go out merely to occupy the crease, which I don't think the best policy, especially with some rain forecast tomorrow.

That will keep the bowlers fresh, but might make the ball harder to grip for the spinners. Conversely, our batsmen will probably have to start their innings several times, It's a tough one to call, but while some suggest we should have gone for it tonight, I don't buy into it. We could hardly be expected to score at five an over on a track helping bowlers and for me, doing so would have been a recipe for disaster.

We may win or lose tomorrow. The weather may yet see the game end in a draw. We have, however, regained respect and I expect to see a much stronger showing in 2014.

But in which division?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Somerset v Derbyshire day 2

Roll up, roll up! Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen, on the winners of this absorbing game of cricket.

Somerset lead by 36 runs and will probably, with Piyush Chawla in their ranks, fancy the chance of a win if they can set us much over 150 in the final innings. As for Derbyshire, with six wickets still to take, we will entertain hopes of early inroads tomorrow if we can get past Nick Compton early on. On both days so far there has been movement for the seam bowlers in the first hour and we have a new ball coming up tomorrow morning.

While there is plenty of batting to come tomorrow, we just need one of our bowlers to pull something special out of the fire, then the batting to show composure in pursuit of whatever total we are set. The odds would have been long on Madsen and Chanderpaul taking a wicket each today, but the last ball dismissal of Kieswetter by Shiv could yet prove the pivotal moment of the game.

I'm not sure when Chanderpaul took his last first-class wicket, but we must be going back a few years, as I can't recall him turning his arm over recently, despite being a useful leggie in his youth. I suspect he won't run through Somerset tomorrow, but if you're going to turn your arm over, a wicket on the last ball of the day is pretty good timing. Full marks to the skipper for bringing him on.

We did well to add more runs this morning, though there will be disappointment at missing an extra bonus point by two runs. There were more good runs from Tim Groenewald, who has rediscovered his batting mojo in recent weeks. I hope that we don't need his trusty blade in the final innings, or things will be much closer than would be comfortable.

The bottom line? If we're genuinely a first division side we will win this game. If we're just a decent division two outfit with lofty aspirations alone at this stage we won't. It's as simple as that. A first innings lead of 195 should win you most games and Derbyshire will prove their credentials for the top tier tomorrow. It is another of those pivotal sessions that we lost too many of in the early part of the season. Have we learned from them?

Meanwhile, over at The Oval, Surrey look like losing to Middlesex after Ollie Rayner took eight wickets today. 282 runs behind on a spinning track, their chances of salvaging a win to boost hopes of avoiding relegation look remote.

All of which makes tomorrow on the massive side of huge for Derbyshire. No points penalty for Somerset (there's a surprise...) but a win for us will take us a point ahead of them and out of the relegation places.

If that's not an incentive, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Couple of random thoughts

First up, thanks to all of you for your continued support of the blog.

Visits are consistently over 20,000 a month and the past three months have been even busier than the end of last season when we gained promotion. Interest in Derbyshire cricket is alive and well and I'm grateful to you all for your time, comments and mails.

The site is now a featured blog on Sportskeeda and again, thanks to all of the readers coming to it from there.

On to cricket matters and for those who haven't seen today's scores elsewhere, Nottinghamshire are getting very close to being in the mix for relegation, after subsiding to 14-3 at the close against Warwickshire's 298. They crucially have a game in hand, but are playing some poor cricket at the moment.

Surrey did OK today, restricting Middlesex to 280-7, but we can only hope that the batting side can overcome the absence of Messrs Finn and Murtagh on international duty when it is their turn to bowl.

All we can do is play every session with the intensity and skill that was produced today.

You never know what might happen, but people are starting to look at us differently now, that's for sure.