Monday, 28 December 2015

Guptill and Broom in prime form

In (almost) the words of the old song, I hope you had yourself a merry little Christmas. Certainly, all went well chez Peakfan, in the usual seasonal excess of eating.

I was heartened to read of another century for Neil Broom in New Zealand, this time making 101 from 99 balls as his Otago side made 313 in 50 overs. Despite this, they were still beaten by Auckland, suggesting that their attack isn't especially strong, not for the first time this winter.

Meanwhile, Martin Guptill helped New Zealand to a ten-wicket win over Sri Lanka BEFORE LUNCH with an extraordinary unbeaten 93 from just 30 balls. The innings contained 8 sixes and 9 fours and was breathtaking in its savagery and remarkable even by Martin's standards. He really is a special player and if Neil Broom can take a similar place in our affections this summer he will have done well.

I caught a little of the Australia v West Indies match and the latter are shockingly poor now in this form of the game. I would actually rank them alongside Bangladesh and Zimbabwe now, which seems barely credible for someone who grew up watching the great sides from the 1960s to 1990s. They don't seem to have a batsman or bowler who promises consistency and whereas their best young talent used to come here as a 'finishing school', the reality is there is no one a county would seriously consider, in their Test squad. It is all very sad.

I also saw some of the South Africa/England Test and as I write England are on top. I am a long way from convinced that this is the best eleven the home side could put out and surely David Miller is a better player than Temba Bavuma? They would have been better balanced by the inclusion of someone like Chris Morris, who continues to score runs and take wickets in domestic cricket and again did both today.

Indeed, a player like Morris, or David Wiese would be my preference for our T20 specialist this year. In an ideal world, the return of Albie Morkel might be the perfect signing, the all-rounder still producing the goods and earning a return to his country's T20 side to good effect. He is likely to be in demand though, even if he was happy to play a game a week in the middle of the summer.

A 'finisher' with bat and ball would be my choice. A batting line up of Wes, Ches, Rutherford, Broom, Madsen and Alex Hughes should score runs and so someone with the experience to get us over the line when it got tight would be my preference.

More importantly, we need to wait and see if Graeme Welch agrees, as well as if one of his 'irons in the fire' for an extra seam bowler gets hot.

Finally today, the Christmas period brought more orders for the Edwin Smith book and I now have just one signed copy left. There are still a handful of unsigned copies left with the publishers, but then it is sold out for the second and final time.

Please get in touch quickly if you would like to buy it, or order through ebay by searching 'Edwin Smith cricket book'

Back soon!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

A Yule Blog

As we head into the Christmas season, here are a few random thoughts ahead of the festivities. There will be little time to blog over the next three days and I am sure you will all be in exactly the same boat.

Brendon McCullum retired from the international game...now there is a man who will be in demand around the world! The genial Kiwi has been one of the standout players of recent years and will be sought after for every T20 competition. A devastating batsman, competent wicket-keeper and thoughtful captain, there is much to like in a player whose teams play cricket the way that it should always be played - and enjoyed. He is also a man of considerable integrity and charm, one I hope we will continue to see on the world stage for many years to come. Today he was announced as a Middlesex player, the clamour for his services begins...

At the other end of the professional spectrum, Dan Redfern has signed to play Minor Counties cricket for Shropshire in 2016. I hope that it is a springboard for a talented cricketer to get his career back on track, because the player of 2012 was a genuine talent. Somewhere and somehow in between it all went rather wrong, but he is still young enough to rediscover his cricketing mojo. He has only to look at the example of Wes Durston to see how it can be done with hard work and the desire to keep doing so.

The news that the RLODC game against Yorkshire in June has been switched to Queens Park in Chesterfield is terrific, for fans of both counties. Allowing for good weather, there is a near-guarantee of a capacity crowd and there are few better sights in cricket than that delightful ground.

Finally tonight, I would just like to thank all of you for your support over the past twelve months, which have seen the blog close in on the magic one million hits mark. It has been a pleasure to meet and correspond with many of you over the course of the year and I look forward to doing so all over again in 2016.

Special thanks to Office Care for their support of the blog over the year. This allows it to look professional and remain advert-free and sincere thanks go to David and Martin Booth for their sponsorship.

In closing, there are now just three signed copies of the Edwin Smith book left and anyone wanting one of these should get in touch as soon as possible. Please search ebay under 'Edwin Smith book' or drop me an email to the usual address.

In between times, I wish you all a very happy Christmas.

I will catch up with you soon

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Only five signed copies of Edwin Smith book remain

As it says in the title, the last copies of the book are still available from me and you can get one, either by buying from ebay, or by contacting me by email - peakfan36atyahoodotcodotuk.

Search under 'Edwin Smith cricket book' on ebay and, subject to postal vagaries at this time of year, I will do my best to get the book to you in time for Christmas, if ordered today or tomorrow.

A few unsigned copies are still available from the publisher.

Please call  01323 460174

As always, a sincere thank you to everyone for your support!


How T20 can turn on one delivery

I was up early and tuned in to watch a bit of the T20 game from Australia, between the Sydney Thunder and the Melbourne Stars.

I ended up watching the whole of what was a superb game of cricket.

The first innings contained a batting masterclass by Usman Khawaja, who made a dazzling century that almost single-handed carried his side to a competitive total. He made an unbeaten 109 from 178-6 and played the kind of innings I didn't think he had in him for the format. There were all the shots, great timing, fine placement and even three sixes, as he looked a very fine player.

The only real support he got came from West Indian Andre Russell, who then bowled seriously quickly in the home side's reply. Yet a brilliant innings from Kevin Pietersen, in which he made 76 from 42 balls, turned the game on its head and the Melbourne side needed only 15 from the last two overs with Pietersen and James Faulkner going strong.

Yet one moment of over ambition from the former England man saw him play a shot no longer necessary, to hole out at fine leg. Jacques Kallis, still a fine cricketer at forty, was too canny in the last over and Sydney ended up winning by one run.

It was brilliant to watch and a fine example of how even the very best can panic when pressure is being applied towards the end of the game. It was the sort of position where we criticised our young players for losing last season, yet two experienced professionals couldn't carry their team home in a fine advert for the game.

All of which goes to show that it is much easier to call the tactics from the boundary edge and your armchair, than when you are facing two clever bowlers at the death. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but these situations call for clear heads and it turned out to be the veteran Kallis' day.

At forty Kallis still looks a class act and was capable of a near-ninety mph ball to keep batsmen guessing, as well as mixing up a full range of other balls. A player like Kallis (I can dream...) would be perfect as our overseas, though Russell, a fine athlete who contributes fully in this form, will be surely picked up by someone for the coming summer.

Over in New Zealand, Neil Broom made 85 in a losing cause for Otago, who were bowled out by the talented Jeetan Patel. Hamish Rutherford, skippering the side, is short of runs at present, but will doubtless be back in the runs in the near future.

Have a good Sunday!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Christmas approaches and the work is underway

Sincere apologies for the lack of blogging this week, but this time of year in retail is somewhat manic and this year seems to have overtaken all the others in that nature. Suffice to say that there have simply not been enough hours in the day and for a few days the blog has perforce had to take a backseat.

Things have been moving down Derby way. Work has commenced on the new media centre, which will be complete during the coming season. The difference that it will make to the look of the ground will be considerable, with the Falcons Stand moving towards the Gateway to accommodate a building which will be the next step in the transformation of the place.

There will be those who grumble, doubtless having enjoyed an excellent view behind the bowlers arm at the Racecourse End, but it is all in the name of progress and there is no dissent from me. I usually wander around the ground anyway, enjoying the cricket from various angles as the day progresses and catching up with friends old and new.

I was also pleased to see the players getting involved in the club's hospitality work. It is important, as far as I am concerned, that players are grounded and fully appreciate the lifestyle that first-class cricket affords. There is a lot of work, without doubt, but you wouldn't get many cricket fans loathe to swap places with them, talent permitting, in a heartbeat. Getting those players involved in other work around the club is a sensible approach, one typical of the people at the top.

Around the circuit there have been a few things happening at last. Ross Taylor has signed for Sussex for the first half of the season, a very shrewd signing of a fine cricketer, while Gloucestershire have picked up Australian Andrew Tye for the T20 Blast. It is a signing reminiscent of the one we made last year of Nathan Rimmington, though Tye will hope for better luck than his fellow countryman. His early injury set him back and he rarely showed the form that has made him a star T20 performer in his own country.

Meanwhile Rory Kleinveldt has re-signed for Northamptonshire, where he has proved a popular and hard-working professional. I still wonder whether the additional seam bowler that Graeme Welch has alluded to may come from there, or perhaps another Kiwi with a UK passport. I agree that it is one area where we are light on experience and one more player might make all the difference to our prospects and the supporters perception of them.

Mark Footitt took wickets in his first appearance in England colours, though the opposition barely seemed first-class standard for the most part. I do hope that Mark gets an opportunity, especially when Dale Steyn has been declared fit for the home side in the forthcoming Test series. Mark may not now be a Derbyshire player, but it was his feats in our colours that got him this opportunity.

Finally tonight, I have thoroughly enjoyed the DCCC Advent over on the club site.

For those who don't really know him, today's feature that shows all of Andy Carter's wickets from 2015 is very impressive. His whippy action gets bounce and movement and having seen this, I am even more convinced that he will be a major force for us in the 2016 season.

I like aggressive, in your face players, as they lift a team.

Andy Carter is all that.

See you soon

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Varying opportunities for Durston and Wainwright

There's a nice opportunity for Wes Durston, today, as he is announced as skipper of the MCC side to tour South Africa in the early new year.

It may not be an 'official' tour, but it is due recognition for a man whose career has turned around completely since joining Derbyshire, following his release by his native Somerset. At that stage, when he was playing for the Unicorns, such an accolade must have seemed a pipe dream, but the player has become a key member of the Derbyshire squad.

Especially in the one-day game, which makes up the majority of the short tour. Durston's ability in short form cricket is never in doubt and he has been head and shoulders our best one-day batsman over the past five years. He usually gives an innings early impetus, while his bowling is canny and more than useful.

He is, in short, a very good cricketer and perhaps our insurance policy at number seven this year in the four-day game, where his spin variation as the summer progresses will be invaluable.

Meanwhile, David Wainwright will join Karl Krikken at Shropshire in the Minor Counties, where he will undoubtedly do well. His best season in the first-class game was under Krikk and will doubtless hope that the resumption of the partnership will rejuvenate his career.

While it would appear unlikely that he will be seen in the first-class game again, he could enjoy several good summers in the Minor Counties. I wish him well, as I am sure you all do.

Finally tonight, good to see Martin Guptill back in the runs for New Zealand, with 156 against Sri Lanka in the first Test match. 

It would have been special to watch, like all of his innings are. 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Quiet week as Christmas approaches

There's little to report on at present in the world of Derbyshire cricket.

The club site is doing its best with a jolly little advent calendar that revisits some of the best bits of 2015, but it is a tough old time of year for the domestic cricket fan.

There was great news this week that the Christmas party season has sold out. Great news because the money made from this ploughs back into the cricket side. Having sampled the in-house catering at the club since they changed things, I can heartily recommend it. When I attended a function of the Derby Cricket Society, the lunch was excellent, both in quantity and quality.

Other than that, there's little news. Around the circuit, Mickey Arthur is a strong tip to take over at the under-achieving club that is Essex. One would have thought a coach worth his salt, armed with their resources and players, should have them as a perennial top-flight side, but it has not turned out that way.

Paul Nixon and Stuart Law are believed to be in the frame too, as is Andy Moles. The former Warwickshire batsman is linked with just about every coaching vacancy on the county circuit and has recently completed an impressive job with the Afghanistan side.

That's it from me just now - I'll be back towards the weekend, with hopefully a little more to report.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Last ten countdown for Edwin Smith book

With just under three weeks to go until Christmas, there are just ten signed copies of the second and final print run of my Edwin Smith book to be sold and then it is gone forever.

If you had offered me selling out the first print run, prior to publication in August, I would have been a happy man. For both to do so would be fantastic. Not just for me, but specifically for Edwin, a man who thoroughly deserves his second spell in the public eye.

He was a very fine bowler and one like him today would walk into the England side.

I understand that a handful of unsigned copies are still available from the publishers, the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians, by calling 01323 460174.

You can get a copy signed by both Edwin and I, or by him alone, by mailing me at peakfan36@yahoo.co.uk

Alternatively, you can buy a signed copy from ebay by searching under 'Edwin Smith book'

The book costs £16.80, including post and packing.

Thanks to everyone who has bought it. I am very grateful to each and every one of you.

Academy intake key to the future

For anyone as passionate about the county of Derbyshire, and specifically its cricket club, as I am, the number of county-reared youngsters currently in the senior squad is gratifying.

Ben Slater, Alex Hughes, Tom Taylor, Tom Poynton, Matt Critchley, Harvey Hosein, Ben Cotton, Greg Cork and Tom Knight played with varying degrees of success in 2015, while Harry White and Will Davis both made debuts of promise against the touring Australians.

The key to all these players is in 'kicking on' this winter and next summer. All have shown, though not consistently enough at this stage, that they have what it takes at senior level. The secret now is in developing the mental toughness to do that on a regular basis.

It is one thing to score good and attractive fifties that can make a score respectable and help a team to compete. It is another altogether to turn that fifty into a century that will in turn become a match-winning score. For bowlers, it is one thing to be able to bowl tidily and keep first-class batsman quiet, but something extra is needed to get them out and become an established county player.

I have been lucky enough to talk to many former Derbyshire players over the last eighteen months, some of them going on to become stars in the international game. All said that the key moment in their careers was when they realised they could do it and were not just making up the numbers  on the team sheet.

It takes hard work, both in getting fit enough to play and in maintaining that standard throughout a six-month season. It takes the work in getting your technique to sufficient standard, then your powers of concentration such that you can bowl six good balls an over, not four and two gifts. It takes realising that you have to be switched on for the first and every consequent ball of a session, not switching off for a little while, which is when the ball comes that gets you out, or goes for four, or results in a dropped catch.

It is that mental toughness that is the hardest. Going in as an opening batsmen to face two lively opening bowlers with a new ball, the fielders 'chirping' away at you, looking for signs of a weakness that they can exploit. Some will fall by the wayside, unable to master one of the above requirements. Others will get there, but take time in which to do it.

The new intake is: Cameron Ball (17, seam bowler), Tom Ball (19, wicketkeeper/batsman), Ryan Bramwell (17, batsman), Archie Gleadall (16, batsman/off-spinner), Harry Killoran (18, off-spinner/batsman), Hamaiz Mahmood (17, batsman/off-spinner), Callum Parkinson (19, batsman/left-arm spinner), Robert Peat (18, seam bowler), George Sellers (18, batsman).

I have heard good things about some of these lads, while others are less well-known. There is a good cross-section of the cricket disciplines and each has an opportunity to force a way into the second team and ultimately the senior side. It would be unfair to single out any one of them, but each has known and earned success in local and age group cricket.

It must be tough for the ones who just missed out, too, as there are some good young players in the county age groups. They proved that in their sterling efforts last summer

For them the challenge is clear - work and be a part of next year and those to come.

I can smell that fresh-cut grass already...

Thursday, 3 December 2015

The fixtures are out!

Morning everyone and sincere apologies for the lack of blogging this week.

I have been working nine to eight each day and will be until Friday, as the Christmas rush is well and truly underway. Additional domestic commitments have meant my time has been somewhat limited and time to actually switch on the computer, let alone blog, has been curtailed.

My apologies to anyone who has mailed me and I have not yet had the chance to answer. I promise to do so at the weekend and your comments are, as always, much appreciated!

Anyway, like the rest of you I was delighted to see the announcement of the fixtures, with games at Welbeck Colliery and Colwyn Bay, against Nottinghamshire and Glamorgan respectively, catching my eye. While fully appreciating the rationale of concentrating playing matters on one developed ground, the thrill of the outground never goes away and I hope to get down for the Welbeck fixture.

When I have a little more time I will study dates and make plans for my trips in greater detail and the Derby opener of Glamorgan on 24 April holds considerable appeal. It is around a month later than that arctic opener of 2012, which remains and is likely to be the coldest I have ever felt on a cricket ground. The sight of polar bears clasping mugs of bovril is one I have never seen before, though it may just have been hallucinations through severe cold...

Still, only 129 sleeps until our lads step back on to the green sward once more, honed to perfection and hopefully improved in technique and mental toughness. It cannot come soon enough, though between times it will be nice if Derby County can pull off an impressive promotion campaign.

As for me, it is back to the busy world of retail and the lead up to Christmas.

See you at the weekend!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Toss tinkering a good idea

No complaints from me about the latest bit of tinkering from the ECB, where in county championship matches next season, the away captain will have the opportunity to chose whether to bowl first. Should he decline to do so, the toss will then take place.

It takes away pitch 'preparation' that favours the home side, or at least gives them a 50/50 opportunity of getting off to a flyer on a wicket that gives bowlers undue assistance. Wickets must now be good cricket wickets, made to last four days and hopefully, by the end of the third, offering the spin bowlers sufficient assistance to merit inclusion in the side.

Those counties that have effectively frozen out spin bowlers in favour of a battery of seam and dibbly-dobbly swing bowlers will have to don their thinking caps. Derbyshire's Wes Durston may come even more into his own as a batting all-rounder, while both Tom Knight and Matt Critchley will have conditions that may be more to their liking.

Theoretically, it could see the overseas spinner becoming a prize commodity, but the game is hardly awash with prize tweakers at present. Not even in its ancestral home of India, where shocking pitch preparation has seen the home side trouncing South Africa on pitches that are barely lasting into a fourth day. I'd suggest it was a throwback to the Indian side of the 1970s, when such giants as Bedi, Prasanna, Venkat and Chandrasekhar made a trip to that part of the world the ultimate challenge to the batting technique against spin.

I don't see the current crop of spinners in that league, but the wickets they are bowling on would light up the eyes of a moderate club twirler, let alone a decent international bowler. Would it change pitch preparation if South Africa were offered the chance to bat each time? Of course it would. The writing is on the wall when the bowling is opened by an off-spinner.

I don't see the star Indian batsmen being unduly thrilled either. Much as big name batsmen never looked forward to playing at Derby in the days when one could barely spot the wicket from the rest of the square, nor can those used to 'filling their boots' on feather bed tracks be happy about the adverse conditions. Mind you, if they are winning, they will be resigned to their fate and accept it, albeit grudgingly, as they watch their averages plummet.

I don't see it changing much at Derby, to be honest. The advent of the Falcons stand did seem to produce a climatic microcosm, whereby the first session each day was challenging for batsmen and bowlers got their reward for skilled bowling. Our problem last year, certainly in the matches that I saw, was that we too often bowled too wide or too short in those sessions, thus giving batsmen a chance to watch the ball go sailing harmlessly by.

I am sure that Graeme Welch will this winter be stressing to his young charges that the key thing is to make the batsmen PLAY. A new man at the crease wants a few wide balls to assess the pace and bounce, rather than having to figure it out from something homing in on his stumps and body. A rejuvenated Tony Palladino and Andy Carter will enjoy their first sessions at Derby and be expected to set an example in that respect.

It was interesting listening to Graeme Welch yesterday, saying that he has 'irons in the fire' for a another seamer. The potential of the young brigade is obvious, but expecting one or more of them to become the 'real deal' over one winter is perhaps unrealistic. We need progress, but they will need periods of rest, too. As I have written before, Carter will, if he stays fit, get fifty-plus wickets this year, but Welch is savvy enough to realise that we need at least plans B and C for the coming year to be an improvement on last.

I am confident that the signings of Neil Broom and Hamish Rutherford will help our bowlers have something to bowl at this year, but we will need a team approach to all the disciplines if 2016, the eightieth anniversary of our county championship win, is to prove memorable for all the right reasons.

Postscript: I still fully intend to do a piece on the academy intake, but time has passed me by these last few days.

Hopefully this weekend...

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Good news comes in threes for Derbyshire

A 64% increase in the overall attendance in Derbyshire's T20 attendances reflects the a national boom for the format and amply illustrates the earning potential for the county - IF we can get better at the shortest form of the game.

The improvements in our bowling last season were well documented and easy to spot. It is not hard to see how there could be further progress if the bowlers kick on still further in 2016. Ben Cotton, Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes all looked vastly improved bowlers and with support from others could make up a handy attack in the competition. They bowled tight lines, fired in the yorkers to good effect and kept the batsmen guessing. With more winter work on mixing up the pace, our attack should be both young AND talented.

Which makes the news from New Zealand of Neil Broom's continued good form all the more exciting.

Broom currently averages over seventy for Otago and the thought of he and Hamish Rutherford alongside Wes Durston, Wayne Madsen and Chesney Hughes in the line-up must whet the appetite of Derbyshire fans - even before we appoint a T20 specialist. Add in Alex Hughes and Shiv Thakor - both of who will be keen to improve on this year - and we should bat deep.

Where we fell down last year was in some fairly abject batting performances, with games given away by batting collapses that at times stretched credibility. The loss of Wayne Madsen and Alex Hughes for several matches didn't help our cause and too often we needed a little nous in the middle when the key phases of the game commenced.

If Broom, Rutherford and our mystery man can inject that much needed experience and common sense, we might just see a Derbyshire side that wins more than its fair share of T20 matches.

We'll see.

Finally tonight, the new intake for the club Academy has been announced. For some, that may be run of the mill news, but one or two of these lads could quite possibly in the first team in a couple of years time.

I will look at them in more detail another night, time permitting, tomorrow.

Adieu, until then.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Book Review: Stumps and Runs and Rock n' Roll: Sixty Years Spent Beyond A Boundary by Tim Quelch

Part cricket book, part social history and part homage to popular music, Tim Quelch's latest book is the story of a life spent following cricket, primarily as a supporter.

He is late into cricket book writing, but as Stephen Chalke has so admirably proven, that should be no barrier to success, nor to the reader's enjoyment. That the proceeds from his books go to charity is laudable, but no charitable urges are needed to support a book that is enjoyable from start to finish.

The author's strength is an ability to come up with a phrase that takes the reader, almost effortlessly, to the action. Wes Hall 'pounded in off a prodigiously long run, that began just yards from my cupped chin' beautifully captures the fascination of the game for the ardent follower, while Derek Underwood 'waddling to the wicket with the menace of a reclusive accountant,  bewildered by exposure to dazzling daylight' encapsulates a great bowler in a phrase that John Arlott would have enjoyed.

I don't recall reading a cricket book before where the subject veers from Madonna to David Gower in the course of a paragraph, and any page that name checks both Jimi Hendrix and Curtley Ambrose has much going for it, at least for me. It is the surprise element that keeps the reader going, especially when the subject matter is well-known. The ardent cricket fan knows what happened in a given Test series, but the way in which Quelch presents his material is unique and thoroughly engaging.

The passage on Devon Malcolm's nine for 57 against South Africa in 1994 is superb and took me back to when I lay on the floor with my young son playing with Thomas the Tank Engine toys, yet with one eye willing the Derbyshire man on to even greater efforts. Such is the gift of fine writing, taking the reader back to that time and place, while for those too young to experience it, telling it like it really was. 

There are fascinating insights into a personal life that leaves one wanting more too, with genuinely funny anecdotes rubbing shoulders with others that remind of the daily challenges that we all experience. It leaves the reader wanting to know more about the author, yet confirms his genuine talent in knowing exactly when to let it go. Few readers will end the book without feeling that the author would make wonderfully engaging company in a day at the cricket.

Tim Quelch deserves warm congratulations on a book that should be indispensable for those of a certain age, as well as required reading for those who want to find out what English cricket has been all about during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Definitely one for the Christmas stocking and a book that will get you through the dark nights until it all starts again next April.

Stumps & Runs & Rock n' Roll: Sixty Years Spent Beyond a Boundary is written by Tim Quelch and published by Pitch Publishing. It is available on Amazon for £17.99 and is also available from good book shops.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Footitt selection a triumph for Derbyshire

I read a couple of pieces on Mark Footitt's England call-up yesterday.

One was from Graeme Welch, who said that Mark's selection for the England tour of South Africa was more to do with Derbyshire than Surrey. The other was from a friend, ever the wag, who said that Mark must have improved since he left Derbyshire...

Welch is almost right, yet I would have said that the selection had everything to do with Derbyshire and nothing to do with Mark's new home. Unless, of course, that contribution can now be measured in his being closer to where the journalists are, never to be umderestimated in national side selection process.

Were it not for Derbyshire, Welch and an outstanding fitness and conditioning team, it is quite possible that Mark would have been out of the game at this point. They were not exactly queuing around the block when he left Nottinghamshire, where he was acknowledged as a bowler of pace, but variable accuracy and disappointing levels of fitness.

Indeed, he took only 23 wickets in four summers at Trent Bridge, which increased to 49 in the following three years at Derbyshire. Then, at the age of 27, it all clicked and his final three summers brought 202 first-class wickets. It was a combination of factors - growing into his physique, being properly coached, getting fitter than he had ever been before and feeling appreciated.

The latter is important for any cricketer - indeed, anyone in any working environment and I just hope, for Mark's sake, that it is replicated at both The Oval and in the England set up. We all know that he can still lose his radar on occasion, but he is increasingly likely to produce the spell, or the ball, that will challenge the very best.

With the retirement of Mitchell Johnson from the international arena, Mark has the potential and, hopefully, the opportunity, to become the fastest left-armer in the international game. I hope that they look after him and I hope he goes on to do so.

If he does, it is down to his hard work and that at the 3aaa County Ground. Nothing else.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Quiet old week ends with Heritage Launch

Not much news emanating from the 3aaa County Ground this week, as the winter really set in, at least north of the border. I was on the verge of starting my own ark at one point, so much rain has fallen. Were it the first day of a four-day game, I would be confident that the game was a wash-out for the duration.

The players have been back in training and have no doubt had sore hands and muscles over the past few days. The video clips on the club's Twitter feed have been excellent and it shows that the work has started in earnest. We can only hope that the players find a double-figure percentage increase across the board in the coming summer, consigning 2015 to a dim and largely unsatisfactory memory.

For me, this is the hardest part of the year. County cricket is slipping into more distant memory itself and the next instalment seems a long way off. Whether there will be player news, pre-Christmas, is anyone's guess, but mine is that it will be a long time coming. Players and agents will await the quieter post-Christmas period before making decisions on their futures, certainly those from overseas, where finalised tour schedules are not yet complete.

Off the field, I am pleased to see the club's archive launched today, with a lunch at the 3aaa County Ground. Such a facility is long overdue and the photographic collection, largely the result of a collaboration with the Derby Telegraph, is a welcome addition to club resources.

Over the years I have seen various items of memorabilia appear on ebay - player caps and blazers among them - and thought that the club needed such a resource to keep these items in the public domain. Private collections are all well and good, but I would be delighted to see a permanent facility where the blazers, caps and sweaters of other club legends can join those of Stan Worthington and Les Jackson on display. The same goes for match balls and bats - my summer visit to the Camp Nou and the astonishing memorabilia of FC Barcelona shows what can be done, if someone has the foresight to start things off.

Today's launch is the first step along the way and I am delighted to see it.

Warm congratulations to everyone involved.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Thrilled at Edwin Smith book review

I was absolutely thrilled tonight to get home to a tweet, with a link to a review of my book on Edwin Smith.

That it came from one of my favourite cricket web sites was one thing, but I was absolutely delighted to get a review as favourable as this one, from Martin Chandler.

It came at a time when the supply of the book is dwindling. The reprint has sold very well and there are considerably fewer than a hundred remaining. With each day bringing fresh orders through ebay or email, I expect the book to be sold out - and gone forever, bar for the second-hand market - by Christmas.

Do make sure to order your copy by emailing me at peakfan36atyahoodotcodotuk. A copy signed by Edwin and I is £16.80, including postage and packing. You can also get a copy by searching ebay under 'Edwin Smith cricket book'.

Thanks very much to Martin for his kind words and to all those who have thus far bought a copy of the book.

I look forward to others getting in touch in the very near future.

Future bright for Knight and White

I wasn't going to miss out on a potential headline like that now, was I?

The engagement of Tom Knight (pictured)
and Harry White on one-year deals is one of those that might slip under the radar on a busy news day, but be assured that both have the potential to be big players for Derbyshire.

Cynics will point to the fact that neither played much senior cricket last season and Knight, one of our bijou collection of spinners, barely turned his arm over in club or county cricket. Yet such comment belies the fact that people who know the game far better than any of us feel that he has what it takes to be a serious player. His destructive ability with a bat in his hands is well known to local cricket fans and if the coaching team have changed his bowling in a positive manner, he could be a very good all-round asset.

As I have written before, Tom was formerly a spin bowler with good control but with insufficient flight and turn to dismiss good batsmen on anything other than a helpful track. If I play devil's advocate for a moment, that might have been enough to make him a useful one-day cricketer, in a similar way to Stephen Parry is at Lancashire. The latter has played only nine one-day games in eight summers, yet is a key member of their one-day side.

Yet I don't think we have the resources at Derbyshire to employ single format players and it is in both the player's and our interests to take time to mould him into something more at a formative stage of his career. In doing so there is, of course, a danger that he could fail to recapture the bowling skills of his teenage years, but also the possibility that he could be transformed from a decent cricketer to one who is quite special. Given the dearth of English spin bowlers at present, I'd suggest it was a 'gamble' worth taking.

White is less far on in his development, but has height and his left-handed style as an advantage. Now Mark Footitt has gone, Harry and Greg Cork have an opportunity to battle for the 'variety' role in the county's seam attack. A change of angle is always an asset for an attack and both have an opportunity to work with one of the country's finest seam bowling coaches.

Good news in my book.

I look forward to seeing how they both progress.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Broom solo effort fails to help Otago to win

Another fine innings by Neil Broom has given Derbyshire fans a tantalising taste of what they might expect next summer.

Broom opened the batting for Otago in their T20  game against Central Districts and top-scored with an unbeaten 70 in a total of 141-8. He faced only 49 balls, which suggests his team mates didn't do an especially good job of giving him the strike, but was not enough to prevent defeat by four wickets.

It doesn't look an especially strong side, truth be told, with Nathan McCullum's presence at five in the batting order a few places too high. He has been a decent cricketer, though not in his brother's class and his spell of two for 19 in four overs made the opposition work harder than might otherwise have been the case.

Other than that it has been another quiet week, the main news being the encouraging attendance of Derbyshire cricket legends at the Heritage lunch next weekend.

It is good to see the heroes of the past being recognised and celebrated. For me, Derbyshire County Cricket Club isn't just about those who are currently treading the green sward in the county colours, but every bit about those who gave years of loyal and fine service to the club.

Chatting to a number of these players in recent months has helped me to understand that sometimes they can feel distanced once their playing days are done. If it did nothing else, this project is worthy for reintegrating them with the club, yet it has done so much more.

I was lucky enough to see some of the sterling work that has been going on when I was down for the end of season Leicestershire game. Everyone involved deserves a pat on the back for their excellent efforts, which I hope continue to bear fruits in the months and years ahead.

It is the right way to go about things and I am delighted that it has gone so well for them.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

No fan of city re-branding

I have been looking for the chance to write about this for a while, but my recent hectic schedule at work and home has prevented me commenting as I wanted to do.

Gloucestershire are, apparently, considering the re-branding of their T20 side as 'Bristol' and have asked their members what they think of the idea. Given that they play all of their cricket there, with the exception of a handful of fixtures at Cheltenham, there is a certain logic to it, though less so, I'd have thought, if you live in an outlying part of the county.

Whatever else they do in their excellent attempts at reviving and upgrading our club, I hope that the people at Derbyshire never think that changing the name to 'Derby' is a good idea. It annoys me intensely when the Sky cameras are there and the commentators (Paul Allott and Nick Knight are the worst offenders) use the moniker when referring to our side.

There is a lot of offence taken in that missing syllable and way too much history to just toss it aside like yesterday's newspaper. We may now play all but one week of our season in the city, but historically it was never so. Chesterfield was the predominant playing venue for many years and enjoyed large crowds as a rule. Ilkeston had its share of games, especially the Nottinghamshire fixture, while Burton-on-Trent, Heanor and Buxton had their moments. Each had their charm, too, albeit of a fairly rustic variety in most cases, the toilet facilities being basic in the extreme.

Developing the 3aaa County Ground made sense from a financial perspective and the changes have been dramatic and pleasing, yet it would be naive in the extreme to believe that the majority of match day support is from the city alone. I am sure that the club will have statistics on the domicile of members, but the casual, but interested supporters are a well-travelled breed.

I love to walk around the ground on match days and chat to people I know, or who I want to get to know. They hail from Buxton, Matlock, Glossop, Bakewell, Crich and Belper, or from outwith the county boundaries. I am a Ripley man and we share a passion for the COUNTY cricket side. It is, after all, what they are called; Derbyshire County Cricket Club.

I am not sure what Birmingham Bears got from re-branding thus. Would people in the city suddenly realise after all this time that they had a cricket team in the city? Did a swathe of local arctophiles come forward to pledge their undying support, thanks to the new name? I suspect not, that it was just a gimmick and perhaps irritated more than it impressed.

There is nothing wrong with and much to like in the name Derbyshire Falcons. The traditionalist  in me can live without anything other than the county name, but I can go with the flow on that one.

Never drop the 'shire' though, gentlemen. It means a lot to us folk outside the city. I like Derby, but I am passionate about the county, the Peak District and the stunning scenery that makes you proud to hail from that part of the world.

Yes, I'm a Peak fan.

Lashings competition winners

Congratulations to Huw Lloyd, who was the first name pulled out of the hat by my daughter and wins one of the Lashings CC signed cricket shirts.

Sam Shelton wins the other and their prizes will be in the post in the next couple of days.

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Win a signed Lashings CC cricket shirt!

How would you like to get your hands on a signed piece of cricket memorabilia?

I have two signed Lashings CC cricket shirts to give away this weekend, one on Twitter and one here on the blog. Both are small sized, so are perhaps more for the young cricket fan in your life, unless you are petite yourself.

They will, however, be a lovely addition to your cricket collection and are quite striking, as can be seen in the photograph.

Those signing it were:

Chris Schofield (England, Lancashire & Surrey)
Paul Horton (Lancashire & Leicestershire) 
Chris Harris (New Zealand, Gloucestershire & Derbyshire)
Brenton Parchment (West Indies & Jamaica)
Preston Mommsen (Scotland Captain & Leicestershire) 
Adam Riley (Kent & MCC)
Yasir Arafat (Pakistan, Scotland, Perth, Sussex, Kent, Lancashire, Surrey & Hampshire)
Matthew Coles (England Lions, Kent & Hampshire)
Min Patel (England & Kent)
Charl Willoughby (South Africa, Essex & Somerset)
Greg Smith (Leicestershire & Nottinghamshire)

Go to my @Peakfanblog Twitter account for another chance to enter, where you simply need to retweet my tweet on the shirt and follow my account.

On here, entry is equally simple. Drop me an email before 6pm on Sunday evening and tell me which of the players who signed the shirt had a short stint in Derbyshire colours.

The information above might just help you with that, just in case you are not old enough to remember! The first name pulled out by my daughter will win the prize, so please enclose your address with your email.

Thanks go to Lashings Cricket Club and to Burson-Marsteller for the merchandise.

Weekend warmer

It has been a fairly quiet week cricket-wise, but I had the pleasure of a trip down to the 3aaa County Ground yesterday for a lunch and talk with the the Derbyshire Cricket Society.

Edwin Smith and I were to be there, but the Derbyshire legend was unwell, so I had to do a rapid rewrite mid-morning. It seemed to go well, however and it was an absolute pleasure to meet so many committed Derbyshire supporters  and such nice people.

Thank you to each and every one of you and I hope that the talk met your expectations.

The good news is that Edwin is much improved today and should soon be back to his best. I am sure that the good wishes of those present, duly conveyed, have helped him considerably!

I have to say that the lunch was absolutely delicious and the recent changes to the catering at the 3aaa County Ground seem to have improved things dramatically. If that is a standard that can be maintained, there will be few complaints over the forthcoming festive season.

On the subject of the book, which was being promoted, we are down to less than fifty copies now and then it will be gone. If you would like to buy a copy, perhaps for a Christmas gift, please get in touch by email to the usual address. It will also be available on ebay for the next month, or while stocks last - simply search under 'Edwin Smith book'.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Another year for Chesney

Good news tonight in Chesney Hughes signing a contract for another year, which will keep him at the club until at least the end of 2016.

It is a sensible move. That Chesney, in prime form, is a devastating batsman is beyond doubt. He bludgeons, rather than caresses the ball and I get an idea if it's his day in the first ten balls. Sometimes his feet are moving well and thoughts of a big score come to mind. Supporters can settle back for a treat when he is the groove, though sadly it ends prematurely too often for some tastes.

Last season hinted at a man on the up. It was his best and most consistent summer and there were enough innings of substance to hint that he may at last be coming to terms with the county game.

I think this contract reflects that. It is recognition of a good summer, but also a clear message to him to repeat it and show a level of consistency that has so far eluded him. He will doubtless be a key member of the one-day side, but will face a battle to hold down a place in the four-day game.

If one assumes that Godleman, Madsen, Rutherford and Broom will occupy four of the top six, then Chesney and Ben Slater are competing for one place, as, one assumes Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes are lower down, unless both play on the seam-friendly early season tracks.

So there are incentives for hard work in the winter. I think Slater and Hughes are batsmen of genuine talent, the latter more experienced now and really needing to kick on. Ben, I think, has more time on his side but the competition is fierce, which can only be to the side's advantage.

I wish Chesney well. He is a genial character and I just wish that his left-arm 'darts' were not seemingly a thing of the past. Maybe they will be resurrected over the winter months..

More from me later in the week.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Lessons to be learned from history

I awoke this morning to a tweet, acknowledging it is a hundred years today since the death of WG Grace.

The first 'great' cricketer, Grace had but a moderate record against Derbyshire, never registering a century against us in 24 innings and only making two half centuries in the process. Nor did Donald Bradman, who 'only' averaged 61 against us, and nor did Peter May, who averaged a very modest 32 against Derbyshire in an otherwise glittering career.

Three of the biggest names in the history of the game and none of them registered a century against us, though each played at times when the county had a pretty good attack, of course. Grace faced Joe Hulme, George Davidson, Arnold Warren and Bill Bestwick over a lengthy career, while Peter May had to handle Gladwin and Jackson on uncovered wickets, something few managed to do for long.

Bradman? Well, he faced a largely aging attack in 1948, but came up against an inexperienced one in 1930 and one that was coming to the height of its considerable powers in 1934. All of which brings me to the point of today's article.

That attack in the 1930s was probably the most complete in the club's history and carried all before it in the seasons leading up to the Second World War. There was the pace of Bill Copson. as fast as anyone in the country for half a dozen overs, then the Pope brothers, Alf and George, who moved it around at sufficient pace to be awkward on most surfaces. They were also willing and able to bowl long spells, especially when they were taking wickets...

If they failed to break through there was the mercurial Tommy Mitchell's leg spin, or Les Townsend's off spin, while if things really got tough Stan Worthington would turn back the years and bowl a few overs of medium pace, having increasingly focused on becoming a very sound batsman as the decade progressed.

Eighty years ago next year, in 1936, that attack carried Derbyshire to their only county championship success, after coming third in 1934 and second in 1935. The truth of the matter is, however, that the seeds were sown between five and ten years earlier. With the exception of Copson, who burst onto the scene in 1932 and George Pope (1933) it was a time-served attack that needed only a decent batting effort to be able to force wins.

Which is why we will need a little patience, or recruits, if we are to hope for success in 2016. As our squad stands, I think we will improve in the four-day game, but I will need to see the progress in our young seamers to be convinced we can bowl out sides twice. If we picked up a good Kolpak seamer or all-rounder I would be more convinced, but Andy Carter and Tony Palladino cannot realistically be expected to bowl teams out all the time from April through to September.

With a young spin attack too, there needs to be an acceptance that a good all-round side may take a year or two to come together. Graeme Welch has recruited prudently and brought in two Kiwis who will stiffen the batting and with Wayne Madsen and Billy Godleman, we shouldn't find runs elusive. They should enable us to save more games than we managed last year, but if they quickly find form we will find opponents setting less than generous targets, just as happened when John Wright and Peter Kirsten were in their pomp.

In time, one or two of the clutch of young seamers may earn reputations to rank alongside some of the greats named above, but they need time to learn and hone their craft. If it happens next year I will be as thrilled as anyone, but I remain to be convinced that match-winning experience can be fast-tracked over one winter.

In time though, the groundwork now being done will pay greater dividends and we should all remember and acknowledge that.

Just as they did in 1936, when Sam Cadman's earlier work was commended and came to the ultimate fruition.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Book Review : Grizzly: My Life and Times in Cricket by Chris Adams

Forget Kevin Pietersen, this was the book that I had eagerly awaited since hearing of its forthcoming publication, some time back. Chris Adams is, after all, a Derbyshire legend, the Whitwell lad who should have been the cornerstone of our batting for years.

Yet it all went sour for him at Derbyshire, as it did for so many others at that time, of course. For supporters of the county, the first part of the book will be the most interesting and is something I will return to, but this book is excellent value throughout and doesn't disappoint in any way.

Bruce Talbot has done a fine job in the ghost writing and the book moves along at great pace, like the best of action thrillers. It pulls no punches, just like Adams at the crease. It is patently clear why he was such a good captain, leading his Sussex side from the front and into the most successful county side of the 2000s with aggressive batting, innovative captaincy and the not inconsiderable weapon of Mushtaq Ahmed as the spearhead of a potent attack.

His international career never took off and he was guilty of squandering a few starts, albeit against a strong South African attack. Luck plays a part in careers and a debut against a lesser side may have seen him flourish, yet England's loss was Sussex's gain and Adams led them to a period of unprecedented success.

His move to coaching was predictable and his early success at Surrey came as no surprise. Yet in the space of twelve months the club was in turmoil, suffering the death of Tom Maynard and the consequential and inevitable disarray as players and management struggled to cope with the loss of such a precocious talent. Ultimately Adams lost his job, but remains a coach with unfinished business at a shrewd county prepared to give him the opportunity.

That could have been at Derbyshire, as he explains being in the frame for the current role held by Graeme Welch. It is not hard to see his return to the county game at some point in the future, when his experiences, good and bad, will doubtless have steeled him and prepared him for a fresh challenge.

So what are his thoughts on those years at Derbyshire? He had 'difficult times' with Kim Barnett, who he describes as a man of few words but as a fantastic batsman. It was a troubled dressing room with strong characters, one in which Barnett and John Morris had a 'strained' relationship and in which the 'outspoken' views of Dominic Cork failed to help.

He admired Mohammad Azharuddin, struggled with Daryl Cullinan, who took his cricket very seriously and suffered from an especially juvenile prank, but really hit it off with Dean Jones and Les Stillman. The latter is credited with transforming his batting, but the abrasive style of Jones saw him at odds with most of the dressing room. While they almost delivered a second county championship to Derbyshire in 1996, the 'brutal honesty' of Jones did not sit well with other team members and Adams felt increasingly marginalised.

There's also a vivid account of the 1993 Benson and Hedges Cup Final and the lunchtime row with Wasim Akram over the latter's earlier beamer. The lead up to this is well explained, the bowler's later assertion that Adams threatened him with 'a butter knife' being denied and coming across as ever so slightly laughable. Yet it galvanised Derbyshire and Kim Barnett's assertion that they should 'leave Mike Atherton out there to chew up a lot of balls' later turned the game.

All of which makes for a quite terrific read. The only minus mark I could put against it is a sloppy mis-spelling of Guy 'Willett' (sic), the then Derbyshire chairman and former club captain. It doesn't detract from a book that should be high on the Christmas list of any Derbyshire, Sussex or Surrey fan, however.

Or indeed for any cricket enthusiast, tired of anodyne autobiographies that add little to what is already known about the subject from assorted media. Full marks to Pitch Publishing for another excellent read and for a book in which the typeface is excellent and the overall production of a very high standard.

Get it in your Christmas stocking.

You won't be disappointed.

Grizzly: My Life and Times in Cricket is written by Chris Adams with Bruce Talbot and published by Pitch Publishing, It is available from all good book shops and is currently available in hard back from Amazon, priced £15.90

Monday, 19 October 2015

Pringle story gets crisp response from Derbyshire

From the press release that emanated from the club today, it would appear that Ryan Pringle - or perhaps, more specifically, his agent, may not be flavour of the month in Derby right now.

I have to admit that I was surprised to read of our supposed 'signing' of the player from a newspaper report on Saturday. The club normally conduct their business discreetly and professionally, so to see a new player announced through another source was a surprise. The only precedent was when an Indian news agency announced that Cheteshwar Pujara had signed for the club, a day or so ahead of the club releasing the news themselves. That was more credible though - and at least turned out to be true.

 I suspect that the player's agent has attempted a little leverage on the current employers by releasing the 'news', which is a little naughty, but probably not at all innovative. Interest from other counties is an obvious tactic to use in contractual negotiations, but can also be a dangerous game, if the current employer haven't made up their minds on your future.

Being in the public domain, as it was, I reported on it, but am sure my concerns as to the veracity of the information were obvious to those reading it. So it transpired and we must wait for news of further team strengthening, which it will in its own sweet time.

Truth be told, I am increasingly selective of the news agencies that I believe. The news feeds to which I subscribe (not pay for!) contain many wild and woolly stories to entice people into reading, then their laptops and tablets are bombarded with a gazillion adverts they hope you will click onto.

As the club rightly said today, the time to believe a signing is when it is announced on their site, until which time it can really only be conjecture and supposition.

Just wait until you read of our signing AB de Villiers for the T20 though...

And be aware, if you read it on here, that it may just be April 1st.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Broom and Rutherford in form for Otago

A fine century by Neil Broom saved the match for Otago, after they were largely outplayed by Central Districts over the past four days.

Otago's first innings was built around Hamish Rutherford's 79, then bolstered by a century from Jimmy Neesham, another fine and very underrated cricketer, before Central Districts replied with a mammoth 650-8.

When they took two wickets before the close, including that of Rutherford, they must have sniffed victory, but Broom batted for all of the last day to make an unbeaten 131, with fifteen fours.

The game ended in a draw, but the form of the two Derbyshire men is good to see!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Ryan Pringle set for Derbyshire switch?

Durham all-rounder Ryan Pringle is, according to the North East Chronicle, set to be confirmed as a Derbyshire player this week, after contract talks broke down with his home county.

Pringle, an exciting young talent who bowls off spin, can be classed as a genuine all rounder. At 23, he averages thirty with both bat and ball and had a very encouraging summer with Durham last year. He is seen as one of their best young players and the signing of a cricketer of division one pedigree would be a huge boost to Derbyshire. IF it happens...

A later edition says that Durham have made an eleventh hour bid to retain the player's services with an improved contract offer, but let's all hope that the lad fancies working with someone from his own part of the world and doesn't change his mind.

Be aware, though, that despite what is written in some quarters, this is not yet a done deal, so it is one for which we should keep fingers crossed.

We will need to wait for the official news to break for a more detailed write up from me, but if you want to see what I have read, here you are!


Friday, 16 October 2015

Cotton extension ends a lively week

Better news from the 3aaa County Ground today, as Ben Cotton signed a contract extension that will keep him at the club until the end of 2017.

The genial giant is a fine prospect. Some way removed from the finished product, but a lad whose potential is obvious. I still think he can gain a yard or two in pace and can get nastier with a ball in his hand, but his skills can only be enhanced by working with Graeme Welch and he showed in flashes this season that he has much to offer.

His T20 bowling, until a side strain truncated his campaign, was excellent. Bowling at the top and tail of the innings, he showed a remarkable ability to drop a yorker into the slot and conceded under seven an over. What he now needs to do is improve his wicket-taking skills in the longer format, something that will put him to the front of the queue for a place in a first-choice side.

That Cotts can bowl is undeniable and the raw talent is there. By the end of his two-year deal, we should have a good idea as to whether he can become a very good county bowler - or maybe even more.

I've had a few mails, tweets and messages about the departure of Mark Footitt and thankfully thay have all recognised the excellent service that Mark gave to us. We would all have liked the stay to be longer, but, as I said last night, he is entitled to do what he feels is best for him, his career and his family.

Below last night's piece, Mark suggests that Wayne Madsen will be next to leave the county. I don't see that, to be honest, because his circumstances are, for me, quite different.

Wayne is a focal point of Derbyshire cricket, the star batsman, the captain, the figurehead of the club. As such, I would assume he is as well paid as we can afford and is the most indispensable player in it. Yes, he could be approached by other counties, but would be unlikely to be captain and I wouldn't have thought would be as well treated as he has been at Derbyshire, where is both respected and valued.

The latter is important to any player - for that matter to an employee in any organisation. With his wife running a successful business locally, a career at Derbyshire remains a common sense option for the skipper, but there is a persuasive argument ahead at his next contract discussion.

Next year will be Wayne's eighth in Derbyshire colours and I would hope that the club offer him a tax-free benefit in 2018 or 2019. That would likely be more lucrative than any other deal offered to him and would set him up quite nicely for a future career, quite possibly in coaching.

He is a decent and honourable man and every interview suggests that he wants to lead a young group of players into a bright future. I hope so, because his calm persona and exemplary personal conduct are what an impressionable group of players needs.

His captaincy isn't yet perfect. I would love to see him try a few more things when wickets are elusive, such as introducing Wes Durston earlier, or bowling himself more, but he is a thoughtful man and an outstanding batsman. He exudes calm and confidence at the crease and, to quote Edwin Smith when I watched a session of play with him earlier this season, 'he looks a proper batsman'.

I hope that we see that immaculate defence, the stylish drives and the best reverse sweep in the game in our colours for many seasons to come.

And I think we will.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Farewell to Footitt...

And so it came to pass that Mark Footitt, as I suggested on this blog a couple of weeks ago, has headed for the bright lights and Big Smoke, in signing for Surrey for the next four seasons.

I wish him well, as I hope you all do. There will doubtless be dissenting voices who scream a lack of loyalty, but Mark has gone for top level county cricket where the journalists are, in the hope that he can capitalise on the form and fitness of his life with an England call up. It would be the icing on the cake that should, assuming his agent has done his sums properly, ensure Mark is comfortable for the rest of his cricket career.

He is now at his peak and Surrey should, if their fitness and conditioning team are as good as ours, enjoy the four years of his contract with plenty of lively displays. Like Derbyshire supporters, Oval fans (the ground, not their shape) will enjoy the days when he gets it right and bowls with a pace and hostility matched by few in the modern county game. They must also tolerate those when the radar has gone and he occasionally endangers the well-being of the wicket-keeper, with dives and leaps to the limit of their sinews.

He is a lovely lad who has been a credit to his family and his profession in his attitude. Any one of us would swap doing a job we enjoy in one place for the same job, but greater reward elsewhere. Mark deserves a crack at the top level and should an England call come, we can still enjoy the thought of Derbyshire's role in that achievement.

Will he be missed? Of course, but I have seen a number of comments around social media asking who we can sign to take sixty, seventy, eighty wickets in his stead. The simple answer is 'no one'.

I think we will see a new bowler come in, whether from this country or on a Kolpak deal. The money has to be there, as Surrey have paid up the last year of his current deal and we have that money in the wage bill anyway. Yet bowlers who can take wickets in that quantity are as rare as snowdrops on the Kalahari and I would be astonished if someone came in to do that.

More crucially, for me, is that two players step up to take 30 wickets each, or three emerge to take twenty more than this year. Mark was over-bowled at times this season, usually because he was the one fit, experienced bowler and offered the best, at times only chance of a breakthrough.

If Graeme Welch can accelerate a couple of his young proteges to that level, he will have done extremely well. It is not too great a leap of faith to see Tom Taylor doing that, as he took 28 wickets this year at a decent average. He wasn't quite the same bowler when he returned after his car accident and a knee injury reduced his effectiveness too, but he has shown in a fledgling career that he can get good players out. A winter of hard work  - some of it in understanding the importance of over rates - could easily see him make the next step, as the talent is there.

Ben Cotton has more to give too, while Greg Cork and Harry White could easily emerge as our next left-armer. It is not hard to see Will Davis kicking on over the winter either, while Tom Milnes is a player that Welch obviously rates. There is an obvious incentive for all of these players, but they must listen and learn, then deliver.

Having said all that, it is unrealistic for these lads to bowl all summer, just as it is to expect Andy Carter and Tony Palladino to remain fit and firing for six months in three competitions. Another seam bowler of experience, for me, is a must and I am sure Graeme Welch will have several irons in the fire, even as I write.

One suggestion from me - how about Chris Wright, at Warwickshire? He has a year on his current deal there, but so did Mark Footitt and we know how that ended. He followed Graeme Welch to Birmingham from Essex and there is obvious, mutual respect.

More than anything, he is a very good bowler. Again one with injuries over the course of his career, but also with a proven record of taking wickets, as well as contributing useful lower order runs.

Wouldn't say no, that's for sure, yet that is something for the future.

For now it is thanks for all you have done at Derbyshire to Mark Footitt. Watching you race in from the City End will remain a vivid memory, as will stumps flying behind batsmen who were simply not quick enough to handle you.

It has been a pleasure.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Midweek musings

Good news once more from Derbyshire this week, with Will Davis and Rob Hemmings signing contracts for next summer.

The former is better known, his debut against the Australians being highly impressive. He seems likely to break through over the next couple of summers and, bowling with good pace, appears to have a fine future.

Hemmings is less well known, but scored consistently in the summer just ended, as well as taking useful wickets with his medium pace. The emergence of these players is good to see and while both have much work to do, they provide further proof of the county's coaching network producing the goods. The next step is for them, and others, to become established county players and that will be more of a test .

In other news, Hamish Rutherford's call up to the New Zealand test Test squad has attracted attention, though it is as part of a squad of fifteen  with no guarantees that he will play. That he is on the edge of the side will be an encouragement to a fine batsman and give him every incentive to do well for us next summer.

Both he and Neil Broom appear to be in good form at the start of the New Zealand summer and I expect both to play a major part for us next summer in a side that should prove far more consistent with the bat.

Finally tonight, is there anyone else bored rigid by the Test in Dubai? I reckon I could make runs on that wicket after two years without holding a bat. Such wickets do little for the cause of the international game and the thought of another three days of such tedium doesn't thrill me.

Its minimal appeal to the crowd appears fairly clear too, given that you need to look close to spot anyone. It is poor fare and looking like a nailed on draw, even at this early stage.

More from me soon.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Fit Carter a huge asset to Derbyshire

We will whisper it quietly, lest it all turns out horrid in the wash, but the signing of Andy Carter for the next two seasons could turn out to be an 'under the radar' piece of business by Graeme Welch.

Let's look at the facts. Carter is just turned 27 and has yet to complete anything like a full season in the first-class game. Indeed, he has only played 29 first-class matches, as a succession of injuries have caused problems. All of them were of a kind one might expect from a tall fast-medium bowler with a long back. There was a stress fracture to that back, a bout or two of absence with torn or pulled stomach muscles and an operation on an ankle.

They are all things that subsequent rehabilitation, amendment to an action and top-quality off field care can circumvent. They are little different to the issues faced by Mark Footitt in his days at Nottinghamshire and that didn't turn out too badly. Be in no doubt that Derbyshire's fitness and conditioning people will have gone over Carter's body and medical history with the finest of tooth combs prior to his being offered a contract. They will have opined that the player is fit - or fit enough to sign, with the likelihood of getting fitter.

As they did with great success for Mark Footitt, a personal fitness plan will be put together that will get the player fitter than before, ready to take a place in the Derbyshire attack next season. Whether that will be alongside Footitt is a matter of conjecture at present, but here we must return to the facts.

Because Carter can, without doubt, play cricket. You don't earn selection for England Lions, as he did, without having something special in the eyes of people that know the game. You don't get offered a new deal by your county without having something to offer. That he turned it down to move to Derbyshire speaks volumes for his ambition and also the stature in the game of Graeme Welch, who he admitted he wanted to work with.

Carter finished top of Nottinghamshire's averages this year, with five wickets at 18, albeit in one match. He finished top of Glamorgan's, where he spent four matches on loan, with sixteen wickets at 23. It suggests he can take wickets and will probably have a smile on his face if Wayne Madsen wins the toss and bowls on the first morning at Derby.

Now, if we can just hang on to Mark Footitt, there might be more than a few jealous stares coming our way from Trent Bridge.

Not to mention a few batsmen having sleepless nights before a trip to Derby. With Tony Palladino hopefully restored to full fitness and the young bucks improving, our seam attack could contain serious firepower.

Work your magic, Mr Pipe and Mr Tallent...

Friday, 9 October 2015

Weekend warmer

There was a bit of cricket news this week that surprised me - and I am at a stage of my life where I am not so easily surprised...

Former Shropshire batsman Richard Oliver turned down a contract with Worcestershire, where he was offered only a one-year deal, a season after bursting so spectacularly into the first-class game.

I saw him bat a couple of times and was impressed by his crisp, decisive stroke play. He was a late arrival in the county game at the age of 24, but averaged forty for his county and looked set for a decent first-class career. The lad can fairly tonk a cricket ball.

This year, he was less successful and was undoubtedly the latest, but not the last batsman of talent to experience the travails of second season syndrome. Few escape it, their technique having been examined by bowlers and coaches and the smallest chink in their armour being exploited.

The better players come through it, sometimes in the third season, but for others it takes a while longer. Look at Billy Godleman, a teenage prodigy at Middlesex but only establishing himself as a county cricketer to be relied upon,  seven or eight years later.

I'm not sure what surprised me most, to be honest. That he was only offered a one-year deal, or that he turned it down.

I can see the county's stance. There is no ECB money to be had and they have some talented young batsmen already. Yet Oliver showed that he could score runs a year earlier and hasn't lost that ability. It needs someone with the patience to tease it out again, albeit with the slight risk that he might, just might be a one-season wonder.

Look at Daniel Redfern. In 2012 he appeared to have made the breakthrough he had threatened for years. Yet the next year was a disaster and, after an uninspiring couple of seasons with Leicestershire, it would appear that he will have to play in the Minor Counties to rediscover the talents that he was given in abundance. Attitude? Technique? Only he knows the answer to that one.

I assume Oliver has had interest shown from elsewhere. Probably Leicestershire, who seem to be signing up batsmen from around the county as if they were completing a football sticker book. Got Pettini, got Dexter, got Horton...not got Oliver.

Were I a Worcestershire fan, I would have liked to see him given a two-year deal. I accept that for an unproven talent, one year takes the risk out of it for them and keeps the player aware of the need to perform. Coasting is not an option, but nor, by extension, is relaxing and displaying your best form.

I think that another county could pick up a gem in Richard Oliver and I hope will give him the contract that his talent justifies. I'm not necessarily suggesting Derbyshire, because I still have confidence that Ben Slater will become a reliable county batsman, but I hope that a lad with a first-class average of 30 from only 36 first-class knocks gets another opportunity

Anyway, I'm off now to start reading the new autobiography by Chris Adams, which arrived at my door today, courtesy of those lovely people at Pitch Publishing. I will be reviewing it in the next couple of weeks and look forward to it immensely.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Second print run of Edwin Smith book published

I am really delighted to announce that my book on Derbyshire cricket legend Edwin Smith has been reprinted by the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians, after the first edition almost sold out in a month.

Five copies of the first edition are still available on ebay, or by contacting me at the usual email address (peakfan36atyahoodotcodotuk).

Once the forthcoming second print run has gone, however, the book is gone forever, so please get in early to avoid disappointment. Orders are still coming in and I am thrilled with the reviews and kind comments that the book has received.

Edwin and I will be speaking at the Derby Cricket Lovers lunch on Thursday October 29th, for those of you who are members. We also hope to do a few more engagements in the Spring, so watch this space!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Good news time part 2 - Billy Godleman signs two-year deal

Great news today as Billy Godleman signed a new deal that will keep him at Derbyshire until the end of the 2017 season.

It is just reward for a player who has discovered the form of his life in our colours, and also for the club. We have now got the solid opening batsman we have sought for years and it is tribute to both the player and also to the coaches.

Plenty of people have worked with Billy in the last few years, but he has been given that precious commodity of opportunity, coupled with trust at the 3aaa County Ground. The role of skipper in the four-day game, when Wayne Madsen was injured, probably assured him that he was valued and appreciated, something everyone likes at their work. He responded splendidly and there is every chance that the opportunity could come his way again at some point.

It's a decent batting line-up taking shape now. Godleman, Madsen, Rutherford. Broom. Perm in any two youngsters you desire, plus Wes at seven, and we SHOULD make runs next year.

Throw in a good, proven T20 batsman and we will be really worth a watch in that format.

More from me soon.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Good news time

One of the first bits of good news of the close season came today with news breaking that Matt Critchley has signed a two-year deal.

The youngster came from nowhere - be honest, few had heard of him pre-season - and produced a brilliant maiden century, two or three nice cameos and a couple of good bowling efforts. All this at the age of 18. Given that he is still years - perhaps as much as a decade - away from his peak, he now has the opportunity to work on his game and hone his skills.

Let's face it, leg spin is the toughest to master but he has time on his side, as does Tom Knight, who I expect will be announced for a new deal soon. Next year, the two will vie for the senior specialist role, though Wes will doubtless be lead spinner overall. I don't see a move for George Dockrell, as I was asked yesterday, because I think he will stay in the south and because Graeme Welch has already made his spin intentions clear.

Then comes news that Tom Taylor is one of six bowlers selected for the England Performance Programme, another sign that the work with the Academy is bearing fruit. I thought Taylor looked leggy towards the end of the season, but his potential is obvious. It's funny, the other day I was struck by how much my son's physique has changed, for the better, since he was 21 (he's now 24). Trips to the gym three times a week have seen him fill out and he has changed considerably from the willowy youth of just three years back. Similar physical development of our seamers in the next few years will doubtless see them all a few yards quicker, while their skills can only improve.

Well done to Tom and well done to Ben Cotton, for acknowledging the work ahead of the squad this winter. Taylor is a good bowler but there are others not too far behind him at Derbyshire, all of them capable of earning further recognition. They have an excellent group of coaches to work with and in Welch have one of the best seam bowling coaches around. If they listen and work, there's a clutch of talented bowlers who could go far.

Finally tonight, Graeme Welch acknowledges that Mark Footitt may yet stay with us, which is wonderful news. Replacing that quantity of wickets is a nigh-impossible task, but this is big decision time for Mark. He is perhaps at his peak, near the England squad, taking wickets and in prime fitness. Two years down the line and those stars may cease to be in alignment, so he needs to take his time and do what is best for him.

Sometimes though, as Greg Smith and Tim Groenewald have found, the grass isn't necessarily greener elsewhere. Smith may struggle for another county after being released by Essex, while Groeners did OK, but nothing more than that for Somerset. They may have earned a few quid more than they did at Derby, but has their career been prolonged? I'm not so sure...

More from me soon.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

David Aust wins Fantasy League

Congratulations to David Aust, who won the it by some considerable margin, and to Dean Doherty, whose two teams came second and third in the Fantasy League.

If both gentlemen can contact me with their address details, I will get their medals in the post.

David came 29th in the league overall, a terrific achievement.

Thanks to everyone who got involved!

Where do we go from here?

Any suggestions of where we go after a disappointing summer have to be qualified by the reality that resources are limited. We cannot move for every experienced player who comes on the market, one because we don't have the money and two because they don't guarantee results either, as evidenced this summer.

Significant money was spent on world-class players with a poor on-field return. While supporters will point to who Leicestershire are signing or have signed and ask 'why not us?' they were presumably deemed no better than what we have. Paul Horton averaged the same as Alex Hughes this year, Neil Dexter considerably less. Sometimes - a lot of the time -  we cast covetous glances in other directions without real justification for doing so.

James Vince, Jimmy Adams, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Rob Keogh, Alex Wakely, Hamish Marshall, Gareth Roderick, William Bragg, Ravi Bopara. How many of those would you say would improve our batting? Yet all, a few select names at random, aggregated no better than Chesney Hughes or Ben Slater and/or averaged less than Alex Hughes in the season just ended. Most supporters would leap at the chance of signing Bopara, yet he averaged 28 from 565 runs in 21 innings...

The feeling remains that we are light in the lower middle order, on both runs and experience. For me, this is a role that Wes Durston fills next season. Number seven, coming in to counter-attack when the bowlers are tiring and, hopefully, nursing the tail while offering a valid spin bowling option. As far as one could guess at this juncture, a first-choice side next year would look something like this:

Godleman
Slater/Hughes
Rutherford
Madsen
Broom
Hughes/Thakor
Durston
Wicket-keeper
Seamer
Seamer
Carter

The batting looks capable of runs with the two New Zealanders in there. Carter, if we keep him fit, WILL take fifty wickets and there is a reasonable depth to the side.

Yet there are many unknowns. Will Footitt stay? Will the young bowlers emerge at the rate we need? Will one of the wicket-keepers score 600 runs? Will people stay fit? Will there be any more signings?

I suspect we may not go overboard on signings. Hopefully a quality batsman for T20, but one who translates that talent into weight of runs. A Guptill, McCullum or Bailey would be nice, but everyone would chase them if available. Another experienced seamer maybe, but it was interesting listening to a revered football manager on the radio yesterday.

'How do you produce young footballers?' he was asked. 'Play them' was the quick reply. 'They need to play games, be in situations, make their mistakes and have their struggles. Then they will become players, if they are good enough.'

Sage words and equally relevant to cricket. Over the past six months, I have interviewed around twenty former and current Derbyshire stars for my second book, which should be out next year. One of my questions in our chats was 'at what age did you think you knew what you were doing as a first-class cricketer?'

The answer, in all cases, was between 26 and 30. That the ECB doesn't reward clubs for playing home-reared talent at that age runs the risk of some not getting there, but the message is clear. Perhaps expectations of returns from young players needs to be tempered in some quarters, because you cannot often fast track experience. Let's just say that I am more inclined to believe people who have been there and done it, than those who think they know the game.

Some are writing off young players because they 'haven't made it' after between forty and eighty first-class innings. Yet our player of the year, Billy Godleman, is now 26 and has hit the jackpot after 180 first-class knocks. Wayne Madsen has had 229, Wes Durston 184. They are our most consistent batsmen across the formats and there's a reason for that.

 Contrast that with Ben Slater, who averages 29 after just seventy innings, or Chesney who averages 31 after 105, even Alex Hughes who has still only had 43 knocks in the senior game, less than they used to have in a single season, back in the day.

It is the same for bowlers. Mark Footitt has bowled twelve thousand balls in the first-class game, Tony Palladino nineteen thousand. Tom Taylor has bowled two thousand, Cotton fifteen hundred. That's a lot of learning ahead and others are further back in the queue.

That is why we reap the rewards, because they have that experience, married with genuine talent. There will always be the especially precocious, but there aren't many Roots and Stokes out there. Even looking at their records at 24, they have 135 first-class knocks and have improved because of that exposure, coupled with the requisite talent and a desire to work hard.

Not all will make it. If three of our current crop become established county cricketers or more, we will have done well. Some will fade in the next couple of years and join the thousands of talented players who were 'nearly' there. Others will realise that the work required to realise their dreams has to start now, because there are opportunities for them if they are prepared to put the hours in.

Painful as it may be at times, we need to keep playing them. Enjoy their successes, be more tolerant of their failures and hope that they realise that to get to the stage where Billy Godleman, Wayne Madsen or Mark Footitt are, they need to work their socks off and listen to their coaches.

If they have it - and people better qualified than any of us think that they do - then we will eventually reap the rewards.

Season review - the bowlers

When reviewing the bowling for the season, at least in the four-day game, it is effectively a case of 'Footitt and the rest'.

Mark bowled almost two hundred overs more than anyone else and stayed remarkably fit once more. He was not quite as destructive as twelve months before, but that was largely down to being used as shock and stock bowler. On his day he remained a handful and while an occasional delivery left the wicket-keeper with nowhere to go, his presence in the attack usually offered wickets.

Tony Palladino remained economical and was the second leading wicket-taker, but was hampered by a knee injury from mid-season and had to be nursed thereafter. So too did Tom Taylor, who did well at the start of the summer but struggled as it went on. Second season syndrome hit a few players and Tom now knows what he needs to do to become an established county cricketer.

Ben Cotton bowled well in the one-day games and showed an ability to keep batsmen quiet, but the next step for a genial giant is to become more effective in the four-day game. Perhaps the addition of Andy Carter, an aggressive cricketer, will rub off on him, as I was left with the impression that Cotts has more pace and much more aggression to be unleashed before becoming the finished article.

Alex Hughes and Shiv Thakor were key members of the one-day attack and both bowled some excellent spells, though neither can be considered regular four-day options at this stage. They may get there, as both have time on their side, but hard work is needed to hone their skills still further.

Other young bowlers flitted in and out, displaying promise. Greg Cork did well in one-day games and may emerge next year, while Will Davis and Harry White showed promise in their game against the Australian tourists but are a little further back in their development.

Wayne White missed the start of the summer with injury and took wickets on his return, but was then released from his contract for whatever reason, to return to Leicestershire, where he enjoyed his best days. People will have their own thoughts on his departure, but it has happened and we must move on.

The spin department was effectively Wes Durston, another who missed a lot of cricket with a side strain. He continued to offer a viable spin option and perhaps next year may become a needed number seven, offering runs and an option other than seam. On the basis of this summer, Chesney's 'darts' are largely a thing of the past, although I still feel that Wayne Madsen should bowl himself more, if only for a little variety and for the surprise value.

With Tom Knight's bowling a work in progress, Matt Critchley emerged from nowhere to make a dazzling debut century and bowl some useful spells of leg spin. Yet it is silly to expect him to take on the mantle of lead spinner next year at eighteen. One of these young players will hopefully progress, but both are many years short of knowing their trade. I asked three former Derbyshire spinners during the summer when they felt they knew their trade and was told 'between 27 and 30'. Enough said, really...

Will Mark Footitt leave this winter? Only the player and his agent know the answer to that, although he will need to balance offers from elsewhere with cost of living (down south) and the support mechanisms in place that have kept him on the field. If he leaves, there is undoubtedly a gaping hole in our seam bowling and any prospects for next year will be dependent on Carter and Palladino being fit and younger options making considerable progress over the winter months.

No unbridled optimism from me at this stage, that's for sure, yet lesser expectations and flying in under the radar may be better than carrying the excess baggage of big names that fail to live up to expectations.