Sunday, 28 June 2015

Burgoyne signs for Sussex

Just a note to say how surprised I was to see that Peter Burgoyne has signed for Sussex and is playing for them in the game against Warwickshire today.

Maybe he felt that a move away from Derbyshire was the best way to resume his career, but when we are crying out for a spin bowler, it seems a little surprising.

Maybe there will be more on that in due course, but I wish the lad well. He is a very talented cricketer and has a lot to offer.

It is just a shame it is not going to be for Derbyshire...

Postscript - having considered this, and thought about the well-documented stress-related issues that  led to Peter leaving in the first instance, I come to the conclusion that a move elsewhere for a fresh start was deemed best for both parties.

We don't miss much at Derbyshire these days, so I suspect that is the true reason.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Edwin Smith book launch in Chesterfield

I am very pleased to announce that my first book, a biography of Derbyshire cricket legend Edwin Smith, will be launched in his home town.

Chesterfield Public Library have kindly agreed to host the launch, which will take place on the evening of Tuesday, August 25 at 7.30pm.

I will be interviewing Edwin on the stage of the library lecture theatre and we will then take questions from the audience before signing copies of the book for interested parties.

Priced £14, Edwin Smith: a Life in Derbyshire Cricket is published by the Association of Cricket Historians and Statisticians and features Edwin's recollections of a career where he was the lead spin bowler in the Derbyshire side at the age of 18 and remained so for twenty summers.

Over the course of his career, which ran from 1951 to 1971, he took 1217 first-class wickets and is one of only seven Derbyshire bowlers to take more than a thousand. Of those players, only he and Derek Morgan survive and, as the last to the landmark, Edwin will almost certainly be the last man to do so.

Many good judges rated him among the finest off spin bowlers in the country and only the presence of other outstanding bowlers such as Jim Laker, David Allen, John Mortimore and Fred Titmus kept him from international recognition.

He is a quite remarkable man with a great sense of humour and an extraordinary recollection of the players that he played with and against. The book contains his memories of those players and many stories have emerged, many of them in print for the first time. Hopefully it has captured life as a county cricketer over a twenty-year period and many of his contemporaries have been kind enough to supply information and stories.

It would be great to see as many people there as possible, to acknowledge Edwin as the living Derbyshire legend that he is.

Tickets will be available from the library in the near future, priced £3 (£2 concession) and I will provide contact details as soon as I have them. Please try and keep the date free!

We will also be signing copies of the book during the lunch interval of the County Championship game against Kent on Sunday August 23, after the members forum on that day.

I would like to thank both Derbyshire County Cricket Club and Derbyshire Libraries for their support - and hopefully you as well!

Not to mention Edwin...

The morning after the night before...

There was no negativity, as it may have been perceived in some quarters, in my suggesting that Derbyshire would lose to Nottinghamshire last night.

It was a comment born out of realism. When we lost so badly and performed in such an ignominious fashion, as we did against Surrey, what real expectation was there of a win against our local rivals? The Surrey side we played was not far short of their second team, while Nottinghamshire have a team of galacticos, featuring seven players of international experience. It would have been easy to go gung-ho and say 'We can win this', perhaps shaking an inspirational fist for emphasis, but I like to think I base comments and forecast on more than crossing my fingers behind my back as I spout forth...

Yet win we did, in style. Indeed, after the dismissal of Rikki Wessels, the game always seemed to be there. Truth be told, it was there from the point when Hamish Rutherford injected the so-important 'oomph' into the first six overs. I said last week that I would gladly take him now for as much of next year as he can manage, so having shown his ability to play both the more restrained role and that of the dashing young blade I am even more convinced. Come to Derbyshire, build a reputation and get into your national side, lad. You know it makes sense.

Chesney's violent assault on the bowling will have entertained, but the greater common sense shown down the order was pleasing. Given a platform, there's no need for daft shots. Work it around, hit the bad balls for four and rotate the strike. When we got to 170, we had a shout, 200 was a terrific effort, made possible by everyone in the side. While the efforts of the top order in the Powerplay gave us the impetus, those of Messrs Hughes, Knight and Poynton in the last four overs took our score out of sight.

So which is the real Derbyshire? The timid, unprofessional outfit that lost to Surrey, or the slick, talented one that beat Nottinghamshire's finest? I guess we will need to wait and see. The words of Graeme Welch must have stung them last week, though they shouldn't need that to perform like they did last night. A reminder of professional obligations rarely does harm, though and perhaps it will serve as a catalyst for a strong end to the season. After all, there are three months of cricket to go...

I still maintain - and will continue to do so, be warned - that we need to factor in the youth of the side. Some of you scoff at the notion, but in your own place of work, how many of the key personnel are under 25 (unless you work in a creche...)? How many of the best footballers are under-25, rather than between that age and their early thirties?

Both Alex Hughes and Shiv Thakor bowled exceptionally well last night, Hughes also contributing key runs down the order. They have both come in for criticism, but both are learning their games and will have good and bad, perhaps not even in equal measure. They are 23 and 21 respectively. Tom Knight is 21 too and the staff is full of lads of similar age. They have not yet fully grown into their bodies, developed an awareness of what they can and can't do, mastered their game and realised what they need to do to compete regularly at top level.

Give them all another three years and we will see them fly. The ECB didn't select the age of 26 for making payments to counties fielding players under that age by accident. It was because by that stage there is every expectation that a player, if he is up to the requisite standard, will be pulling his weight on the staff. Not all of the current batch will get there, but we have a good chance of success.

It doesn't change the fact that we need players alongside them with the necessary combination of experience and talent. Rutherford and Rimmington did what you want your overseas players to do last night and we have not had that from those roles this year. By the same token, both have minimal experience of English conditions and each has had his own learning curve.

The frustration is that the perception of a season is based on narrow margins. We should have breezed a win against Northamptonshire in the championship and didn't. It was there for the taking against Durham in the T20 and we bottled it. We were awful against Surrey last week.

Yet we excelled against Gloucestershire, impressed against Lancashire at Derby and were something special last night. It is tapping into those wins for consistency, getting the right combination of youth and  experience on the field and pressing the button for maximum commitment, EVERY time, that will dictate how quickly we progress.

The talent is there. No question. They just need to prove it, prove it again, then keep proving it.

That's how you become a good side.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire T20

Derbyshire 201-7 (C Hughes 52, Rutherford 37)
Nottinghamshire 167 all out (Wessels 66, Rimmington 3-24)

Derbyshire won by 34 runs

What a fantastic response by the Derbyshire players tonight!

My arguments over the talent in the side were thoroughly vindicated tonight as we comfortably beat our 'big' yet perennially under-achieving local rivals by 34 runs.

It was a team performance, par excellence. Almost everyone got a few runs, led off by Hamish Rutherford, who gave the Powerplay overs the impetus we required. Then came Chesney, with five fours and three sixes in his 52, before Alex Hughes, Tom Knight and Tom Poynton showed common sense and power in the closing overs to steer us to a highest-ever T20 total of 201-7.

It gave us every chance of a memorable win, yet the visitors were going like a train before Wes Durston removed both Michael Lumb and the dangerous Rikki Wessels. Still, with a depth in batting, the game was far from won, but a key spell was bowled by Alex Hughes. He followed his useful innings with a spell of four overs for only 22 runs, priceless in such a high-scoring game.

With Nathan Rimmington bowling tight closing overs that he is famed for, finishing with 3-24, Derbyshire won when Mullaney was held by Wayne Madsen in the deep from the bowling of Wayne White.

It was an excellent effort, a team effort, with the entire eleven playing a part and showing that the talent is most definitely there. Shiv Thakor again bowled an excellent spell and got rid of middle order danger men Patel and Taylor, while the fielding held up well.

Seeing a performance like that proves the talent is there and, if we can just find a way of tapping into that conviction and commitment more often, we can win more matches.

Now, let's see everyone who is quickly on here to criticise be equally effusive with praise tonight, because it is fully deserved.

There will be more from me tomorrow night, but tomorrow is a working day and I must head to bed shortly.

The pride is back, now let's keep it there and get on a roll.

Well done. lads.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire preview

I am a little tight for time tonight, so will make this preview short and sweet.

I don't really expect David to slay Goliath tomorrow. Let's be honest, our moneybags neighbours should be walking this group with the players that they have. It could be argued that with the players they have they should be more disappointed with their fortunes than we are with ours. Their top six or seven are largely internationals and they are not delivering the goods.

By the same token, Derbyshire look to have a decent side out and, if they play to potential and with the added incentive of wounded pride, we should make them know that they have been in a game.

It just needs someone to produce that special performance to put them under pressure, just as Wes and Ches did in that ten-over thrash at Trent Bridge.

The squad:

Wes Durston (capt)
Hamish Rutherford
Chesney Hughes
Shiv Thakor
Wayne Madsen
Alex Hughes
Scott Elstone
Tom Poynton
Tom Knight
Wayne White
Nathan Rimmington
Will Davis

Nottinghamshire's squad is as follows:

Ball, Carter, Christian, Fletcher, Gidman, Gurney, Hales, Lumb, Mullaney, Patel, Smith, B Taylor, J Taylor, Wessels, Wood.

I will be back tomorrow, when hopefully I will have more time. My expectations are to be reporting on a defeat, but I will gladly take an improved performance against such opposition.

In closing: Luke Fletcher: is he stalking us?

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Time to circle the wagons

Well, the dust is starting to settle after a fairly awful day yesterday and it is time for Derbyshire to circle the wagons, regroup and prepare for the remainder of the season.

Thanks to all of you for your comments, all of them well-made and pertinent. Without exception they display the passion and desire that we all have for our club and the wish for the side to become a force in the game once more. What we need is for the players to show similar passion in their performances to the end of the summer.

I am not going to go down the path of a retained list, nor would I wish anyone else to do so. We are all aware of those who are doing better than others, but such decisions will be made by Graeme Welch, based on performance and potential, neatly counter-balanced by an obvious need to strengthen the side in key areas and releasing the budget to do so.

I mentioned yesterday that I went to see the second team in action at Belper and it made interesting viewing. Two players - Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes - looked way too good for that level and are likely to be back in the side for the next match. Thakor scored a century, while Hughes went onto a double century today and both looked fine players with big futures.

They may not yet be quite ready for sustained first team cricket, but they will be soon. I remain convinced that both will be an integral part of our team for a number of years to come. So too will Ben Slater, who is enduring a rocky patch at present but who will get back to form, simply because he is too good a player not to. Harvey Hosein has massive potential too, while I understand that Tom Knight is making good progress with his bowling and could yet be the answer to our spin bowling issue, as well as offering good runs.

Then there's Tom Taylor and Ben Cotton, both fine seamers with things to learn, but markedly improved from last year. Give them another couple, like Will Davis and the next generation attack is in place, all of it home-reared.

What we need, and right now, however, is experience in the batting order. The captain has had a stop/start summer with injury and has not yet discovered his best form, but Billy Godleman, Wes Durston and Chesney Hughes have all had their good days, without scoring the weight of runs we desperately need. To be honest, Wayne Madsen's absence through injury has highlighted all too clearly how often he has papered over cracks and carried us in recent summers.

Whatever happens in the close season, we need to inject greater experience into the side and somehow the nous to handle match situations. I know I have banged on about this, but we cannot fast track experience. Four years ago, at 26, Mark Footitt's career was going nowhere fast. Now he is on the threshold of the England team, having realised what he and his body could do. David Willey has been several seasons emerging as a quality all-rounder. He and Ben Stokes are mid-twenties, yet with two to three times the match experience of our lads. Which is why they are now winning them for their clubs and country.

The youngsters named above need games but they also need experience alongside them giving them support and setting examples. Willey has watched the likes of Andrew Hall, Stokes played with Paul Collingwood, and both will have learned from the experience. I watched Gareth Batty yesterday and we hadn't a player prepared to take on the role that he played.

We also need an overseas player who is prepared to graft but more importantly inspire. Eddie Barlow did that, Dean Jones did it too. We need someone on the pitch who is going to inspire with words and deeds. The teams that Eddie and Dean skippered lost games, but rarely, if ever, without a fight.

I have previously rejected the idea, but watching the last two days suggested to me that we could do worse than a time-served Kolpak, if only to get to parity with other teams. We would still be able to play the 9-2 formula mentioned in the blueprint, but the presence of an experienced batsman in there would be a godsend. A Petersen, Prince or Ingram, or maybe a Kiwi with a grannie from Bolsover...

It is obvious what we need and where, yet undeniable that the club has talent. We just need to give it an environment in which to flourish. The likes of Barnett, Morris and Adams became the players they were by being gradually eased into a strong batting side, that included the likes of Barry Wood, David Steele, Alan Hill and John Hampshire, besides John Wright and Peter Kirsten. Experienced players all, used to a range of match situations. The failures of youth were less obvious and their successes better appreciated than if they were all thrown in at the deep end, without the life jacket of experience to help as required.

I totally agree with Mr Grant and his comments yesterday, as well as his right to make them. He is a supporter, first and foremost, an unpaid volunteer who has put his considerable reputation and skills on the line for no other reason than a burning desire to make our club better. As the elected chairman of the club, he is entitled to say what he thinks. Players have been happy enough to accept his praise and generosity when things are going well. They must be equally prepared to accept criticism when it is deserved.

Which it was on this occasion. If anyone thinks it wasn't, then you have a different understanding of professionalism to me, because we were not professional yesterday, with bat, ball or in the field. What I am sure has been made patently clear by Graeme Welch is that the remainder of this season is where contracts will be won and lost. If people want to be a part of what I still think will be a bright future, they need to battle for places and work when they have one.

Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes went to the seconds, scored big and argued their case for a place. I applaud them for doing so and the next step is to translate undoubted talent into sustained performance in the first team. Not just a nice fifty now and again, but regular scores and contributions with the ball, too. Both can go a long way in the game, but need to be prepared to work for it, like David Willey and Ben Stokes have done.

There will be further pain in the weeks ahead, but if people step up to the plate, we can minimise the frequency.

Then build the future that we all want to see.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Derbyshire v Surrey day 3

Surrey 239 and 315
Derbyshire 207 and 125

Surrey won by 222 runs

I have to make an admission here.

I left this game with an hour to go before tea, once the Surrey lead had reached 275, as there was no way that we were going to score such a total. Instead, I opted to pop into the delightful Belper Meadows ground to watch the second team. Shiv Thakor got a hundred, Alex Hughes did the same (and was still batting beautifully when I left) while Tom Knight's  bat sounded like the finest piece of willow on the circuit as he was immediately timing the ball well, with Derbyshire 350-5 against Durham.

What did I miss? A shambles. No other word for it. Bowled out in little more than a session by an attack that was made to look much better than it was by a spineless piece of batting. I wasn't there, but that wasn't even a first-choice Surrey attack. I can take losing, but not in a manner that smacks of defeatism.

The chairman apologised on Twitter tonight and I don't blame him. He and the off field team have spent a lot of time and energy in bringing in players, attracting sponsors and trying to build a team that is fit for purpose in a vibrant and improving ground. Things are improving, slowly but surely, but we keep shooting ourselves in the foot with a twelve-gauge shotgun.

The first hour today was great cricket. We bowled good lines and there was barely a shot in anger. Yet Surrey saw it out and the runs gradually came. There were two or three strong shouts for catches behind, yet the umpire's finger stayed firmly in his pocket and Surrey reached lunch with only two wickets lost in the crucial morning.

The early afternoon session was critical. Footitt ran in and bowled very quickly, could have had more than the wicket he got and gave it everything. Yet at the other end, I think largely with an eye on another slow over rate, Wes Durston bowled tight, but a long way from dangerous, off spin. We needed wickets and Surrey were able to mount their score with relative ease.

They finally made 315, of which 61 - yes, SIXTY-ONE - were extras. If we were a good batting side I would struggle to excuse that, but we are not. We are, indeed, some way removed from that right now.

There is a crisis of confidence among the batting and it makes for painful viewing. Individually we have some good players in there, but in the last two to three weeks we have lurched from one crisis to another with our attempts with the bat.

Any hopes of promotion are well and truly over now. We must play for respectability and need a far better effort than this to get even that modest aspiration under our belts.

Supporters are hurting tonight and I know exactly why, because I am.

This was poor. Shockingly poor.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Derbyshire v Surrey day 2

Surrey 239 and 77-2
Derbyshire 207 (Rutherford 59)

Surrey lead by 109 runs

There is a big first session at the 3aaa County Ground tomorrow, with Derbyshire needing wickets to take back the initiative that they surrendered today.

After rising at 4am and leaving at 5, I got to the ground in time for the start, which was surprisingly prompt, considering the heavy rain showers I drove through not too far away. In all honesty, the Derbyshire batting was a little anaemic, albeit in conditions that helped the seam bowlers, as first session tracks tend to do at Derby.

Several batsmen were guilty of hesitant footwork and loose shots. That takes nothing away from the visitors who bowled steadily (especially Nottinghamshire loanee Luke Fletcher), but they didn't have to work unduly for some of their rewards.

The best batting came from Hamish Rutherford. I thought him quite like Michael Di Venuto in build and stance, though there is a bit of the Dave Warner in the way he punishes the bad ball. Strong off his legs like all the best left-handers, he was punishing if anything was short or over-pitched, though obviously disappointed with himself when he too rather gave it away when he was looking set. Previously he had looked a very well organised player.

On the basis of one viewing, I would happily take him for next summer. He is at a stage of his career where Martin Guptill was when he first came, eager to impress and with a point to prove to get into his national side. If he came here next summer and scored a thousand runs, he would make that point quite emphatically. On the basis of his play on an awkward track, he could do that if he cashes in when conditions are more favourable.

Only Wes Durston, who batted well before also playing a loose shot, and Tony Palladino, who clumped merrily in an important last wicket stand with Mark Footitt, suggested permanence thereafter. A first innings lead of even fifty would have been handy, but we surrendered one of 32, which could gain in significance as the game goes on.

There were two spectacular clean bowleds for Mark Footitt, amid some close shaves for others in the Surrey second innings, but we need to take advantage of the first session conditions tomorrow. If the visitors gain a lead in excess of 250, recent track record doesn't suggest we will chase with any confidence.

Stranger things have happened, but we need to bat much better than we did today. I still maintain that winning this one keeps us in the promotion shake-up, but a loss would leave too much to make up and, I think, only respectability to play for.

We will have a better idea by this time tomorrow.

For now, good night. Don't mind admitting that I am shattered tonight after that early start...

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Derbyshire v Surrey day 1

Surrey 239 (White 3-43, Footitt 3-74)

Derbyshire 64-1

Derbyshire trail by 175 runs

Were it not for a few missed opportunities to dismiss the visitors for under 200, this was a good effort from Derbyshire.

They have faced less imposing Surrey sides in the recent past and gradually worked their way through the batting order, finishing with a flourish in taking the last four wickets for just four runs.

Mark Footitt and Wayne White led the way with three wickets each. Mark's will send him off to the England training camp in good fettle, while Wayne maintained his current record of taking his wickets at just fourteen runs each. There will be those at Old Trafford who wonder why he never produced such form for them, but Derbyshire can be pleased with the pace man's form since his return from early season injury, as can the bowler himself.

White will be a key factor in our attack when Mark Footitt goes off. He is quick enough to be awkward and if he can rediscover his batting talents could become a key all rounder too. Support came from Tom Taylor, who went off injured at one point, while Wes Durston nipped in with a couple of handy wickets, especially on a first-day wicket. That one of them was the dangerous Dean Elgar was especially handy and we looked to have a chance of the ascendancy once the South African had been dismissed.

Billy Godleman didn't last long when we went in after tea, but Ben Slater got welcome runs on the board, if less flamboyantly than usual, while Hamish Rutherford showed the technique and concentration that is so important from a number three in English conditions.

There's a big first session in store tomorrow, assuming the weather allows a prompt start. Showers are forecast, which may truncate the play, make the batsmen restart their innings and keep the bowlers fresh. We need to work hard and build partnerships, but after the first day we have a good chance of taking the initiative here.

Time to go. Tomorrow I rise at 5 and hope to be at the ground in time for the start, traffic and weather permitting.

Might need a coffee when I get there...

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Jim Brailsford

Frank Collis 'Jim' Brailsford played only three matches for Derbyshire, all of them in 1958, after being on the staff since 1951. Yet his involvement in the county continued over the years that followed and he was always a supporter.

He returned to the club in 1975, becoming a member of the General Committee, before becoming Vice Chairman in 1976. He was also a life-long member of Chesterfield Cricket Club, spending close to 70 years with the Club as a player, supporter and benefactor.

He was a good player, scoring thousands of runs at club level, but his highest score in his three county appearances was 41. He could forever reflect on one of those appearances being in the game against Hampshire at Burton-on-Trent in 1958, when his aspirations as an opening batsman in county cricket were hardly helped by a rain-affected wicket that saw 39 wickets go down in a day.

It was a game that entered into the legend of the club and Jim was one of only eleven to recall it from the business end. I had hoped to speak to him as part of the series of interviews for the blog, but when I called him, only a few short months ago, he declined with an apology, not feeling well enough to do so.

At the age of 81, he has passed away. It is fitting that his wake will be held in a marquee at his beloved Queens Park cricket ground, just before the start of the cricket festival there.

He would have liked that.

Rest in Peace, Jim.

Derbyshire v Surrey preview

So it's ta-ta Tillakaratne and hello to Hamish at Derbyshire, at least for the time being, as we entertain a Sangakkara and Pietersen-free Surrey side at the 3aaa County Ground tomorrow.

The absence of their box-office stars has seen the visitors engage the services of Dean Elgar, a good cricketer who is an enigma (see what I did there, classical buffs?), capable of big runs and periods of drought in equal measure.

Which effectively makes him no different to any other cricketer, as I pointed out below yesterday's piece. There is, when you think about it, a matter of millimeters between a player in form or out of it, between the middle of the bat and its edge. There isn't a player in the world hasn't gone through a period where they can't find the middle of that bat and it has happened to the very best throughout the game's history.

That being the case, what price the rest? One or two of our lads have been out of sorts in recent weeks, but it doesn't make them bad players. By definition, as I have written before, if you are engaged to play professional cricket, you are in the top one per cent of your sport and therefore an extremely good player. None of us, watching from the boundary edge, has any real idea of what is involved from a mental and physical perspective.

Perhaps our biggest issue this summer has been that our overseas players haven't performed since Martin Guptill  joined up with New Zealand. Dilshan and Amla have career averages around the 45-55 mark, yet for Derbyshire they averaged 25, something a young county player may aspire to, but not a world-ranked cricketer.

A young side needs the hired overseas hands to take the lead and ours sit eighth and ninth in the batting averages at the halfway point of the season. Everyone applauded the club's ambition when these cricketing luminaries were engaged. Yet the bottom line is that, whatever their impact on the dressing room, or what positive message it sends out to other names around the world about our club, they haven't delivered the thing we really needed.

I hope that Hamish Marshall does better and I wish him well, because the role of professional at any club, amateur or otherwise, carries responsibility and all are ultimately judged on their statistics. Their success can make life a lot easier for young team mates; their failures leave them with undue responsibility. If an international player can't get runs, why should there be an expectation of them from far less experienced youngsters?

Tomorrow's game sees Scott Elstone take a breather, while Mark Footitt should earn the accolades of the supporters in his last home appearance before the pre-Ashes boot camp. One of Derbyshire's seamers will drop out, the final choice for me being between Shiv Thakor and Tom Taylor

The squad:

Wayne Madsen (c), Tom Poynton (wk), Ben Slater, Billy Godleman, Chesney Hughes, Hamish Rutherford, Shiv Thakor, Wayne White, Tony Palladino, Tom Taylor, Mark Footitt

A win in this one sees us catapult back into the promotion places and remember there is a lot of cricket still to play. Our attack will miss Mark Footitt if he gets into the England side, but handling that is another aspect of our development as a club.

Surrey have players out, with Moises Henriques and Rory Burns missing after their horror collision at Arundel last week. They have taken Nottinghamshire seam bowler Luke Fletcher on loan and have Tim Linley back from a loan spell at Sussex. Their squad:

Gareth Batty (c), Gary Wilson (wk), Zafar Ansari, James Burke, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Dean Elgar, Luke Fletcher, Ben Foakes, Arun Harinath, Aneesh Kapil, Tim Linley, Dominic Sibley

I am going for a Derbyshire win here, with a keen attack hopefully getting an opportunity to bowl first on a typical County Ground first morning wicket. We need to bat better, the inconsistency undoubtedly proving a frustration for Graeme Welch, but at out best we have good players who can win games.

I will be along to see the second and third days of the game and look forward to catching up with friends old and new. I'd have made the first day too, but my son's birthday ensures that I tend to  domestic responsibilities first.

I hope to see you there after a strong first day.

And happy birthday tomorrow, son!

Friday, 19 June 2015

Worcestershire v Derbyshire

Derbyshire 136-7 
Worcestershire 139-2

Worcestershire won by eight wickets

Put bluntly, we were outclassed and hammered tonight, by a Worcestershire side that looks well-suited to this format. Especially with Moeen Ali in their side and in such sparkling form.

From the reports it appears that some manic batting cost us any chance of gaining the ascendancy in the Power play, with wickets going down in each of the first four overs. No side would expect to win from such a start and we didn't. The lower order did well to get a score of respectability on the board, but no one managed the fifty-plus score that might have stretched Worcestershire.

As it happened, it wouldn't have mattered, because Moeen Ali came out and put the attack to the sword, having earlier taken three wickets. It is what you hope your international star will do on a rare county appearance and he didn't let them down. By the time he was out, for 65 in the eighth over, the game was effectively finished as a contest, with his side already on 83.

We didn't become world-beaters after last night's win, nor are we hopeless after tonight. Rather we were guilty of some injudicious shot selection and some suicidal running, neither of which, in a fragile batting line-up, are recipes for success.

There is a distance to travel before we can compete in this form of the game, but the biggest challenge isn't necessarily talent, but consistency. The better players produce their best game on a more frequent basis and at this stage we have too many young players who struggle to do that.

A work in progress.

Derbyshire v Leicestershire T20

Derbyshire 189-7 (Durston 88)

Leicestershire 172-7 

Derbyshire won by 17 runs

By definition, Derbyshire  have now improved in T20, winning their second game of the season to better last season's tally with plenty of cricket still to play.

That they did so was largely down to skipper Wes Durston, whose barnstorming innings of 88 gave us a total we could defend. Wes now has five our six top innings in the format and is a very good cricketer, especially when the requisite support allows him to go for his shots.

He got that down the order last night. T20 games are largely won by one player batting as lead and others lending appropriate support and so it proved. There was a better 'feel' to our batting line-up last night, not just because it came off. The return of Alex Hughes, a player I rate highly, was welcome after injury and his cameo at the end, including consecutive sixes in 21 from eleven balls, pushed Derbyshire from a competitive total to one that was going to stretch any side if we bowled well. While only one run, the difference between eight an over and over nine in this competition should not be underestimated.

As they have already proved, this is a better Leicestershire side than recent past and they have some strong players down the order, yet our bowlers held their nerve. Nathan Rimmington's first over went for nine, but he did very well afterwards and Wayne White reinforced the positive impact he has had on the attack with another good spell.

So too did Alex Hughes, whose first three overs went for only fifteen runs and wasn't hit for a boundary until his last, by which time it was too late. He removed the dangerous Mark Cosgrove and although Tom Wells battled hard towards the end of the innings, Derbyshire remained in control of this one and ran out comfortable winners.

And so to Worcester tonight, where I would expect the same team to take the field against a home side that beat Lancashire at Old Trafford last night.  It will be a tough game against a good side, but as we have seen, it just needs someone to raise the game and deliver that special performance. Hamish Rutherford will make his debut, replacing the largely disappointing Tillakaratne Dilshan and I look forward to seeing how the talented young New Zealander does in the coming weeks. He has a battle to get into a strong batting side for his country, but good performances at county level, as Martin Guptill knows all too well, can reap dividends.

In closing this morning, warm congratulations to Mark Footitt, on his selection for the pre-Ashes training camp. It is richly deserved and recognition, not just of excellent form over the last three summers, but also a level of fitness that once seemed unlikely in the lad.

I hope it goes well for him and wish him the very best. That he will be missed by Derbyshire is undeniable, but the 'buzz' we would all get from seeing 'Mark Footitt -Derbyshire' on an England team sheet is equally so.

It is within touching distance now, Mark. Show them what you can do..

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

T20 crunch

If we beat Leicestershire and Worcestershire in the T20s scheduled for the next two nights, Derbyshire will retain an interest in the competition. If they don't, they won't, simple as that.

There is no news on the squad yet, but expect little change as there are few alternatives. Tillakaratne Dilshan plays the first, then hands the overseas baton to Hamish Rutherford, while we welcome back Alex Hughes and welcome Will Davis to the competition.

Both opponents are beatable, but only if Derbyshire can shake the T20 monkey from their backs. They play really good cricket in the championship at times, and have showed this summer that they are learning to bowl better lines and lengths in the T20, if not yet consistently.

It is undeniable, however,  that until our batting shows greater resilience than a pack of cards in the middle order, we won't win many games. An old head coming in with four wickets down would be great for us, someone like Sean Ervine perhaps, but such a move would be for another season.

Last year we struggled in Power plays. This year we have done better, then undone all the good work by poor shot selection in the mid-section of the innings.

For now, let's hope that a poor week can be redeemed at the last. There are good enough players in the Derbyshire side to win at least one of these games.

They just need to believe it themselves.

Essex v Derbyshire - final thoughts

Apologies for the lack of a blog last night, but a domestic emergency meant that I wasn't home till after midnight, by which time it was way too late for coherent thought.

Were I a betting man, I would have put good money on Wayne Madsen scoring runs yesterday. He is a class act and just needed some time in the middle after missing several weeks with a broken finger. We missed him badly, just as the absence of an overseas batsman in form has hit us since the departure of Martin Guptill.

I've covered that before and look forward to seeing how Hamish Rutherford does in the coming weeks, as a man with a reputation to build. One thing he cannot do, any more than the captain, is address the lack of form in our batting order. Chesney is in decent nick, as is Billy, but after an excellent third-wicket stand yesterday, he and Wayne deserved a little better than the rest capitulating for not an awful lot.

It all makes for a frustrating time at present, with other batsmen out of nick, but you can only deal with the hand that you are dealt. It wasn't that long ago that we were acknowledging Ben Slater reaching a thousand first-team runs at over 40, yet right now he can't buy a run. Scott Elstone needs to convert attractive twenties into something worthwhile, at the same time that Shiv Thakor could do with a score under his belt.

They are a long way from bad players and only a fool would suggest otherwise, but they are out of touch just now, something that affects all players, no matter how good, at some stage. England's captain couldn't buy an international score for around a year, now he can't stop scoring. It doesn't help that we have a small squad and there is little point in wishing for more until the close season.

I don't see the loan market as an option, unless we made a sudden leap up the table, in which case we wouldn't need loan players anyway. I see little merit in someone else's player doing well for you, unless, like with Wayne White, it is a precursor to a permanent move. The bottom line is that we have a young squad that needs time to develop. The top averaging batsmen are the experienced ones and it is exactly the same with the bowlers. It is no surprise and one has to accept that inexperience, of which we have plenty, breeds inconsistency.

It doesn't help, of course, that we have two senior players in the second team, both struggling for form and fitness. David Wainwright has struggled to recapture the form of 2012, while Jon Clare has been seen only sporadically in the past four years because of injury.

There is no doubt that either in their best form would walk into and enhance the side, but Wainwright's absence has highlighted a huge void in our staff, while Clare is the lost man of Derbyshire cricket. Four years ago he looked an England all-rounder in the making, but he is 30 next summer and has had little or no senior cricket in the intervening period.

His contract is up this year, while that of Wainwright, like most others, is probably one whereby the final year is by mutual agreement between both parties. If we could get both to anything approximating their best they would be a huge asset to Graeme Welch, but the reality is that at the moment they're not and, while I hope I am wrong, they may not return to their best days.

Both need big finishes to their summer, that's for sure.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Essex v Derbyshire day 2

Derbyshire 148

Essex 449-8 (White 4-102)

Essex lead by 301 runs

Well, Derbyshire plugged away all day today at Chelmsford but at the end of it Essex had compiled a lead of 301 runs, which should be more than enough for them to complete an innings win at some point tomorrow.

Wayne White took another four wickets and Tony Palladino bowled with his customary accuracy, but almost all of the Essex batsmen got runs. While I entertain no hopes of Derbyshire salvaging anything from this game (how could I?) I would at least like to see them battle and make it hard for the home side.

It would have been a good day for Mark Footitt to grab a few wickets, especially with an excellent article appearing about him on Cricinfo today. The demand for his inclusion against Australia is growing and I hope he gets the opportunity.

I always find it amusing, when people discuss the ability of players, that they focus on what they can't do, rather than what they can. The perfect action/grip/delivery/follow through really doesn't exist outwith the old MCC coaching manuals and what Graeme Welch appears to have done is encourage Mark to simply go for it and bowl fast. If only all coaches were the same...

Finally tonight, there's an increase in the number of 'Anonymous' posts to articles. I have no issue with anyone opting for that method of contribution, as long as you put a name at the bottom of the post.

Critical comments are always published unless personal attacks and it is important to represent the views of supporters. However, I don't like anonymous keyboard warriors, so please put a name on the bottom.

I have my name and face on the blog, so it's the least you can do.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Essex v Derbyshire day 1

Derbyshire 148 all out (Thakor 44)

Essex 108-0 

Every game at Chelmsford this season has seen the team winning the toss bowl first. On each occasion, the batting side has failed to make 200 and the bowling side has gone on to win the match.

Against such statistics, the breaking news this morning that we had lost the toss hardly filled me with excitement. Our batting is low on confidence and at present I had little expectation of a score that might enable us to dictate the game.

My worst fears were realised inside the first hour and although Shiv Thakor and Wayne White gave an element of minor respectability to the innings, we folded for under 150.

By the close, Essex were only forty behind with ten wickets in hand. Hard as it is to say it, the game is as good as gone after the first day's play

As regulars will know, I am a positive bloke, but June has largely been a horrible month. The expectation of April seems a long way off right now and there's much work to be done to get things back on an even keel.

Disappointing really. It is hard to say otherwise.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Essex v Derbyshire preview

After two fairly ordinary nights of T20 cricket, Derbyshire return to the comfort of a format they play rather well tomorrow, when they play against county cricket's perennial under-achievers, Essex, at Chelmsford.

There appears to be an epidemic of side strains running through the seam bowlers at present; first Wayne White, then Ben Cotton and now Tom Taylor ruled out with such an injury. Nevertheless, we will go in with a strong seam attack and the depth of that area of the playing staff is one consolation. Alex Hughes is still out, but Wayne Madsen returns to captain the side.

The Derbyshire squad:

Billy Godleman
Ben Slater
Chesney Hughes
Wayne Madsen
Wes Durston
Scott Elstone
Shiv Thakor
Tom Knight
Tom Poynton
Wayne White
Tony Palladino
Mark Footitt

Even without Tillakaratne Dilshan, missing for personal reasons, it is a strong-looking side and I expect an improved performance, one that will hopefully help ease the pain of the T20 performances.

Mark Footitt has a particular reason to bowl well and quickly, as England captain Alastair Cook lines up for his county in a rare county appearance, having made a big hundred in the corresponding game last year. Pre-season they were some people's favourites for promotion, yet sit bottom of the table despite a side that on paper looks the equal of any in the division. They have yet to pick up a batting bonus point at home this year, although the 'sporting' nature of the wickets thus far has been a contributory factor.

Their squad:

Alastair Cook
Nick Browne
Tom Westley
Ravi Bopara
Jesse Ryder
Ryan ten Doeschate
James Foster (Captain/Wicket-Keeper),
Graham  Napier
Matt Salisbury
Adeel  Malik
Jamie Porter
Jack Winslade

Nick Browne made two centuries in the game at Chesterfield last year and the batting looks to be their stronger suit, with David Masters injured and Reece Topley on what is effectively a phased return after a back injury. There's no Greg Smith either and the former Derbyshire man hasn't had much success since moving down south. Form has been elusive at times and he has had injury issues to contend with, all the more worrying in the last year of his contract.

We will need to bowl well to get through a batting side that, on paper at least has plenty of talent, but there is enough in the Derbyshire side to win it, if they maintain the intensity of the second and third days at Canterbury. The weather is set fair for the four days, so it is time to kick our four-day season into top gear.

Good luck lads!

Change of plan for another year?

Over the winter months, the gradual release of the news regarding our overseas stars for 2015 was met with considerable excitement on this blog and on social media.

Understandably so. A lot of hard work went into acquiring the signings of Hashim Amla, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Martin Guptill and Hamish Rutherford, the world of cricket impressed by the stature of those we recruited.  The first three, at least, had acquired big reputations and there was a quite natural assumption that each would bring the skills and runs that had created them.

To be fair, I've never been a fan of 'revolving door' recruitment. It backfired horribly on Essex when they spent a rumoured £10K on Dwayne Bravo for the knock out phase of the T20, only for him to have a disastrous first game in which line and length deserted him with the ball and form with the bat and they left the competition.

It is a difficult market. That revolving door is forced onto many sides by the increasingly congested calendar of international fixtures, leaving many players unavailable and those who technically would be in desperate need of a breather.

Derbyshire's signing of such names as those above looked to have nailed success, but with the exception of the admirable Guptill, it has been only a qualified success. I accept that Amla and Dilshan have been an asset in the dressing room with their experience, but the cold truth is that an inexperienced squad like ours really needed weight of runs from both. With the money we undoubtedly spent on them, the returns have been poor. Dilshan may return from his stint in the Caribbean Premier League invigorated and in form, but I look enviously at the likes of Michael Klinger at Gloucestershire for the sort of player we really need for another year.

No matter how good a player you are, it must be difficult turning up in another country for three weeks, quickly getting used to wickets and then performing to expectations. If people of their standing in the game struggle to do it, what hope for others? Far better if we could identify a fringe player for a national side, one who has played the requisite games to qualify to play here, but has either slipped out of the picture or retired from the international game.

Oh for a Chris Rogers or Michael Di Venuto! Maybe I'm alone on this, but I can't help thinking we may get more in the coming weeks from Hamish Rutherford, a batsman of talent with a reputation to build. Just as we would from, assuming they were qualified to play  through their international appearances, the likes of Chris Morris, David Wiese or Farhaan Behardien from South Africa, Jimmy Neesham of New Zealand or Mitchell Marsh of Australia. All of them players who might find their international claims revitalised or enhanced with a good season in England.

Or there's George Bailey, a very good batsman whose Australian international career is a peripheral one at the age of 32 and might be a good option for the middle order. Identifying a player in this bracket, perhaps not the very top tier in the world game, but who could play half a season or more, would for me be a better bet than a big name every four or five weeks.

I don't think, for example, that history has been kind to the memory of Jon Moss. A player of perhaps more modest talent, but who, in 2005, scored 1500 runs in all cricket for us, as well as taking fifty wickets to a similar mid-thirties average. I'd take that from a player who probably didn't cost the earth but offered something with bat and ball. That would then free 'big player' money for a reliable out-of-contract player from another county, one who could give us important experience in the middle order, perhaps.

The best overseas player in the county game in recent seasons has been Jeetan Patel at Warwickshire. He averages in the thirties with the bat, in the twenties with the ball, gives them control in one-day games and takes wickets. Can you ask for more?

Looking at the 2016 international schedule, there is hope, however. New Zealand have no scheduled tours during our summer and there are any number of talented players from that country who would be an asset to us. We'd take Mr Guptill in a heartbeat, but wouldn't say no to any of around seven or eight others, either.

Something to think about, for sure and while on that subject I'd suggest that they have been the most popular tourists to this country in many years. Not just for the way that they play the game, which is always aggressive, always on the front foot, but because they have done it with smiles on their faces.

They have been an absolute credit to their country and I hope that next time they are awarded more than a somewhat derisory two-Test series.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Lancashire v Derbyshire T20

Lancashire 201-3 (Croft 94 not, Faulkner 47 not)
Derbyshire 134 (Hughes 39, Parry 4-16)

Lancashire won by 67 runs

After the first twelve overs of the Lancashire innings, when they were  only 75-3, we were right in this game, memories of the game at the 3aaa County Ground coming back with the home side scoring at only six an over.

Eight overs later, their innings finished and so had the match as a contest. The last eight overs produced an extraordinary 126 runs, which was only eight runs less than we managed in our full quota. Steven Croft and James Faulkner simply destroyed our attack and our chance of recording home and away wins against the red rose county had well and truly gone.

Wes Durston came away well from the carnage, his four overs costing just 25 runs, making it all the more surprising that he didn't bowl last night. Tillakaratne Dilshan didn't bowl tonight, the use, or non -use of spin continuing to puzzle supporters.

Nathan Rimmington took some serious stick tonight and appears to be struggling to find the length for English wickets. I know he can bowl, having seen him do so in the Big Bash, but he is struggling for line and rhythm after weeks without cricket.

I feel for Graeme Welch, as I do for the decision-makers at the club. No one can fault the quality of the people we have brought in as overseas players. Each has a reputation for excellence that has been well-earned in high-level games around the globe, yet with the exception of Martin Guptill, none has delivered on the pitch. It must be immensely frustrating and for all the positive aspect of their influence in the dressing room, the acid test for any player will always be in performances and statistics. By that benchmark, and by the fact that good reputations don't come cheap, we are owed some performances, sometime soon.

More on that subject from me in the week, but Derbyshire's reply was somewhat pedestrian and predictable after the early loss of Wes Durston. Only Chesney Hughes suggested a fight and the logic of the batting order eluded me. Billy Godleman is a good player, but T20 isn't his forte, so why was he at four? Why was Scott Elstone, who did well last night, at seven and Shiv Thakor, who looked a fine, quick-scoring player at the start of the summer, down at eight?

I am a little baffled, to be honest, but the Falcons were well and truly struck by Lightning tonight. It seems to be one step forward and two steps back at the moment.

Hopefully Chelmsford on Sunday sees us move forward again.

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire T20

Derbyshire 166-7 (Durston 77 Elstone 37)
Northants 167-4 (Willey 60)

Northants won by six wickets

I don't think Derbyshire played especially badly in front of the TV cameras last night. It was a decent display with the bat that represented a good recovery from a poor start, but we were blown away by a stunning innings by David Willey, the sort that a player of his quality is likely to play.

Tillakaratne Dilshan, now heading for the Caribbean, had a bit of a nightmare with bat and ball, being clubbed for 24 in one over by Willey, this after going in the first over as he attempted to sweep/scoop the same bowler. The shot is like the reverse sweep - when it comes off, it looks magnificent, when it doesn't, it is some way removed from what Wilfred Rhodes used to call a 'business shot'. To be fair, the ball swung, which was enough to make it look rather awful on this occasion.

The player will have worked out the percentages and must score more than he concedes from it, but, somewhat like Hashim Amla, the jury is still out on the Sri Lankan star at this stage. You cannot doubt the talent, nor the effort in bringing them to Derbyshire, but the returns, at least on the field, have been only adequate so far.

Wes Durston batted well, without ever breaking free of the shackles, though he could hardly go crazy when wickets fell regularly at the other end. Scott Elstone played a delightful cameo and looked good, while Shiv Thakor and Tom Poynton played well at the end of the innings.

The total was OK, though with a dangerous top three in the opposition, there was always a likelihood of defeat if any of  them got going.Willey took us apart and despite decent spells by Wayne White and Tony Palladino we were never coming back from the carnage of the Powerplay. Willey simply took us apart, though the failure of the bowlers in that period to hit lines and lengths was disappointing. Given the freedom to swing by sufficient width, he carved the ball to the middle distance  and with it went any hopes of another disciplined bowling effort. On a night where the batsmen at least posted a competitive total, too many bowlers were off their game.

You have to accept it can happen. As I pointed out below the last piece, when computer issues prevented me doing this last night, at times you need to accept the opposition can and will play better than us. If they do, we look bad. This was much better than the dreadful Durham game, when we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but obviously not close to good enough on the night.

Lancashire at Old Trafford tonight. Into the lion's den, if you will - how many of the side will stand up to the pressure is anyone's guess, but we need to up our game and hope that one of the opposition doesn't play the blinder  - with bat, ball and in the field - that David Willey did last night.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire T20

First up tonight, thanks to all of you who have helped to make the past week the biggest since I started the blog. It has been running at around 1500 unique visits per day, which is pretty special and I am grateful to all of you for your continued support.

Of course, it helps when Derbyshire rise like Lazarus from a near-hopeless position after the first four sessions of the game at Canterbury. I've had several emails from fellow supporters who still can't believe we pulled that one off. With Lancashire winning again today, they are pulling clear of the pack, but we are very much in the mix for second place.

Tomorrow our team head down to Northampton for a T20 game that is on TV, offering the wider British public a chance to see our conquering heroes (memo to God...please...)

The squad is strengthened by the return of Wayne Madsen, who would, I'm sure, have steered us to a win last week against Durham. He takes his place in a squad of greater experience and one that is eminently capable of sealing a second win of the season. If the bowling, considerably improved on last year, continues to show its current discipline, we could add a few more  before the end of the campaign.

That squad:

Tillakaratne Dilshan
Wes Durston (capt)
Chesney Hughes
Wayne Madsen
Scott Elstone
Billy Godleman
Shiv Thakor
Tom Poynton
Tom Knight
Wayne White
Greg Cork
Tony Palladino
Nathan Rimmington

I'd be inclined to include Tom Knight, fresh from his 89 for the second team in their win over Warwickshire yesterday. I'd bat him at five when, if he gets in, he could cause serious damage with his clean hitting. I'd see Greg Cork as the other to miss out, but the coach knows who is fit and confident and it is just my gut feeling. I am sorry to see Ben Cotton out with a side strain, as he has looked very impressive so far.

Graeme Welch has admitted to some 'well chosen' words after the loss against Durham, which must now be consigned to memory's dustbin. It happened, it was awful, let's move on.

Our hosts are a dangerous side, their top three of Levi, Willey and Cobb as dangerous as any in the country in this format. With the mercurial Shahid Afridi in their ranks, the game will not be dull and it is a surprise that they are yet to win a game in this competition.

Their squad:

Alex Wakely
Rory Kleinveldt
Steven Crook
Josh Cobb
Richard Levi
 Ben Duckett
Muhammad Azharullah
David Willey
Rob Keogh
Olly Stone
Graeme White
Shahid Afridi

It will be a tough game, but I have come to a very simple conclusion about this Derbyshire team. If we go out on the field focused and fully committed, we can give anyone a game. It is when that intensity slips we struggle. Strong sides, perhaps with better individuals, can still win in such circumstances, but we need to be a maximum power, or we struggle.

Let's hope we are at our best tomorrow.

Talented as the opposition are, this is winnable.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Kent v Derbyshire day 3

Derbyshire 232-2 (Hughes 94, Godleman 82 not, Dilshan 27 not)

Derbyshire beat Kent by 8 wickets

The end, when it came, was professional and accomplished, the only disappointment that our Chesney didn't make it to a well-deserved century.

The spade work had been done yesterday, when senior players stood up to be counted. It continued today, with Tillakaratne Dilshan hurrying to a run-a-ball 27, while the skipper saw it through to the bitter end, ensuring the good ship Derbyshire came safely into port.

There's a good piece on Billy Godleman on Cricinfo, written by the excellent Tim Wigmore. Billy has done a very good job and let no one down in deputising for Wayne Madsen, though I like the way he pays tribute today to his seam bowlers.

After a horrid last session on the first day, Derbyshire turned the game around in remarkable fashion. It could be the catalyst to the season, the result lifting us to fourth place in the division and a place in the promotion mix. Lancashire and Surrey are currently some way clear, but I don't look at the southern county and see anything special, apart from the two very obvious players.

We have still to play them twice and there's a lot of cricket to be played. IF - that's the biggest if I can muster - we can maintain this intensity and level of performance, we might be up there at the business end of the summer.

Consistency. That's the thing all of the sides crave.

In closing tonight, I would like to pay tribute to a long-time contributor to this blog, Martin Moseling, who died yesterday.

I only met him once, but was immediately taken with a kindred spirit, a man for who cricket was as important as life itself. He loved the county game, especially Kent and we exchanged emails on a number of occasions, his kind words and sage comments often being the catalyst to a new piece.

He was a very good writer himself, his book on Kent's championship win just before the shades came down for the First World War being a particular favourite of mine. He did a blog on Kent cricket when time allowed and was a committee member of the Kent Heritage Trust, where his input and knowledge will have been valued highly.

In closing tonight, I can merely direct you to a piece he sent me when his beloved dog, Bear, passed away. Read it, smile a little and I defy you not to become a little emotional at a delightful story that exemplifies the love between one man and his dog.

Rest in peace Martin. You will be sorely missed, my friend.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Kent v Derbyshire day 2

Kent 205 and 112 (White 6-25)
Derbyshire 86 and 169-1 (Hughes 82 not, Godleman 61 not)

Derbyshire need 63 runs to win

Just when you think you have seen it all in the game of cricket, the greatest of games produces something new to rekindle, for the umpteenth time, the 'Wow' factor.

Around the homes of the shire, vast helpings of humble pie must have been made and eaten tonight, after the vitriol that poured forth only 24 hours earlier. To be fair to many of the culprits, they have been quick to address that today and have returned, not to bury Caesar, but to praise him. And his forces, naturellement...

I was busy at work today and checked in on the score from time to time. When our tail wagged with the alacrity of an arthritic dog, some Palladino clumps excepted, I feared the worst. More so when the home side eased to 63-1, 182 runs ahead. I went into a meeting with heavy heart, returning to find the home side all out for 112, Wayne White having registered a career best 6-25. I actually logged out, then back into Cricinfo, just in case there was a malfunction.

I am thrilled for White. Those who have been long-term readers of the blog will know I advocated a move for his services a year ago, when he was cast adrift in the Lancashire second team. I even entered into a discussion with a Lancashire fan on Cricinfo when we signed him, his ability being questioned. I suggested (OK, it might have been more than that) he could be a key member of our side this summer.

There is much to like in Wayne. He runs in hard, bowls quickly, puts the ball in good areas and can be a handful. He has struggled with injury so far this summer, but fully vindicated my comments on our need for experience with what appears to have been a fast, awkward spell of bowling, well backed in the field. If he can rediscover his batting mojo - because he can handle the old willow - there is a quality all-rounder in there, still bursting to get out.

232 to win. Based on our first innings, it may as well have been 450, but I have maintained faith in the side. I wrote last night that we would come through the recent troughs and we did. We are better than recent displays have suggested with the bat, capable of solidity but frustratingly nosediving to mediocrity too often for comfort. There may be one or two in the squad who are perhaps just short of the desired standard for this level, but for most the greater challenge is consistency. They have proved they can do it, but need to do so more frequently and cash in when the opportunity arises and they have played themselves in.

In the final session, Chesney Hughes and Billy Godleman overcame first the early loss of Ben Slater, then saw off the new ball, proceeded to give us hope and ended the day having all but won it with an unbroken partnership of 163 runs. Chesney looks a different player this year, less anxious at the crease, more willing to wait for the bad ball. An average just south of 40 is his reward, by no means a bad effort with the better tracks of high summer to come.

As for Billy, he has made a good fist of captaincy and currently averages just under 60. He needs only cement his reinvigorated career with a century or two sometime soon to enjoy a self-satisfied smile. Captaincy has affected his game, but only for the better. The erstwhile struggles at Middlesex and Essex are disappearing into the distance and he may be coming to terms with this county cricket lark. At 26, some might say he should, but we all know it is a tough apprenticeship and some don't get that far.

Others, many of them on our staff, have some time to go before they get to that stage.

I hope there isn't one final twist in the tail of a memorable match, but don't expect one. Coles will give it one last whirl tomorrow morning, but the incumbent batsmen have shown there are few terrors in the wicket for those prepared to graft. We should all enjoy a merry lunch tomorrow, the Derbyshire boys an enjoyable trip back home.

What a difference a day makes...well done lads.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Kent v Derbyshire day 1

Kent 205 ( Northeast 85, Footitt 5-45, Palladino 3-19)
Derbyshire 67-7

Derbyshire trail by 138 runs

Were the ghost of Oliver Hardy watching at the delightful St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury today, he would have doubtless have opined to his good friend, Stan Laurel, that it was another fine mess that we'd gotten ourselves into.

For the first two sessions of the day, Derbyshire largely controlled it. A third wicket stand by Northeast and Denly helped Kent to recover from Mark Footitt's two wickets in the opening over, while a fifty partnership for the ninth wicket between Haggett and Riley took Kent past two hundred and gave them a total that was more than looked likely at one stage.

Mark Footitt gave a timely reminder of his talents ahead of the Ashes series, while Tony Palladino produced exemplary line and length bowling to concede only one run an over in a spell that proved an admirable foil for the pace man at the other end.

In conditions that offered help to the seamers all day, both Tom Taylor and Wayne White will be disappointed, however,  to concede over five an over and lose a little of the initiative that had been hard-earned in the post-lunch exemplary bowling from the openers.

Yet that loss of initiative was nothing compared to what happened next. While Kent lost their first two for two runs, we lost our first three without scoring. Matt Coles cut a swathe through our batting, which looked like it was intent on registering a binary total, as five of the top seven registered ducks.

It was a poor effort, albeit in conditions that helped seamers. Were it not for 35 from the returning Wes Durston, it would have been feasible for us to have been forced to follow on after a largely ignominious display. There is a crisis of confidence in our batting at present and it is surprising after the largely impressive displays at the start of the summer. We have little option but to go with the current personnel, given the injury situation and hope that a return to form is imminent.

What I won't do, under any circumstances, is to agree with a couple of knee-jerk comments regarding the coach being under fire tonight, or 'feeling the heat'. I posted them, because I believe that the blog should represent the feelings of other supporters, as well as me, but I totally disagree with that sentiment. He will, with those who work with him, be frustrated, but no coach can go out and bat for a player. You can give them all the preparation in the world, but out in the middle it is up to them.

What Graeme Welch needs is a run of good luck. Things happened off the field last year that impacted on performances until late summer. This season, the coach has endured an injury list of astonishing proportions and has seldom been able to field a first-choice side. That some of those injuries may have been the result of winter workload is something I am sure they will look at in due course, but there have been muscle pulls, breaks and fractures that have seen an inexperienced squad taken to breaking point.

These are not, as one poster calls it, excuses. They are a rational statement of fact for an unfortunate set of circumstances that we could ill-afford. I said at the start of the summer that we could challenge IF we had our share of luck. Few would suggest that we have had our fair share of good fortune in the early months of the season.

If we had a full squad, there are players right now who would be pulled from the firing line to regain form and confidence in the seconds. As it is, because of the absence of viable alternatives, they are having to try and do that in a struggling side. It isn't easy.

It is painful to witness, but they WILL come through this. As I have said before, we cannot fast track this evolution process, unless we bring in worthwhile Kolpaks. That's an oxymoron, unless their names are Steyn and de Villiers...

You find out who your friends are in adversity.

I think the same goes for supporters, too.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Kent v Derbyshire preview

After the disappointment of Friday, Derbyshire return to what has more recently been their best form of the game tomorrow, with a trip down to the 'garden of England' to play Kent.

The game sees a recall for three senior players, Wes Durston, Wayne White and Tom Poynton. With all three fully fit, it is a sensible and understandable move, as it takes some of the young lads out of the firing line.

The squad:

Billy Godleman
Ben Slater
Chesney Hughes
Tillakaratne Dilshan
Wes Durston
Scott Elstone
Shiv Thakor
Tom Poynton
Wayne White
Tony Palladino
Tom Taylor
Mark Footitt

For me, either one of the seamers or Scott Elstone drops out, the latter perhaps more likely to do so after a poor run of scores. When he gets going, Scott is a lovely batsman to watch, as well as a brilliant fielder and useful bowler. The feeling remains that he is vulnerable early, however and perhaps prone to 'go after' the ball in his quest to get going.

Three youngsters drop out but all can do so with heads held high. Ben Cotton looks much improved and has bowled delightfully in T20, while Harvey Hosein has done well behind the stumps. It is the right time to give him a breather, however. His time will come again.

Matt Critchley also drops out and the spin department is one of my two concerns at present. With Wainwright out of sorts, Knight short of bowling and Critchley light on experience, we're down to Wes and Tillakaratne for spin and later season pitches could be an issue when it starts to turn. The back supports he tightened in the match against Lancashire suggested Chesney's back is a problem, so I don't see him bowling sometime soon.

Critchley has a big future, but his bowling needs a lot of work at this level. Then again, how many finished articles do you see as spinners at that age? His batting has been excellent though and he will be back.

As someone commented last night, we are missing experience in the middle order, especially in the T20. You look at other counties and they have overseas all rounders coming in at five or six, or players of experience. The return of Durston will help, but we don't look like we have middle/lower order runs a-plenty at this stage. Mind you, a few in the middle of the bat works wonders for a player, just like a Double Diamond used to do...

Kent have lost Sam Billings to England, but field a deep batting side, even if the bowling looks a little on the light side. Their squad:

Sam Northeast (c), Daniel Bell-Drummond, Joe Denly, Rob Key, Ben Harmison, Fabian Cowdrey,  Darren Stevens, Ryan Davies (w), Calum Haggett, Matt Coles, Ivan Thomas, Adam Riley

They are the sort of team that we have the talent to beat and I'd like to think that the return of some good, experienced cricketers will make a difference for us. With the weather set fair, it is a game we can win.

Just as long as we're not caught on a spinning track on the last day...

Friday, 5 June 2015

Derbyshire v Durham T20

Durham 147-7
Derbyshire 142-9

Durham won by 5 runs

Ignoring that we were playing a good side from division one tonight, that was a woefully inept batting effort from Derbyshire.

Another very good bowling effort kept the visitors to an eminently gettable 147-7 in their twenty overs. The bowlers, at the very least, seem to have mastered the skills of this form of the game and without exception appear to have bowled well. I am also pleased to see Wes Durston rotating them regularly, never allowing the batsmen to line them up.

It was a very good effort and gave us a chance of a surprise win.

We needed a start and got one. Dilshan and Durston did well, Chesney knocked it around and Scott Elstone and the overseas pro took us to 86-2 at the halfway stage, then 106-2 after 13. Forty-two to win, a run a ball, should be easy-peasy.

What a shambles we made of the batting from there. No other word will do, to be honest and I take nothing away from the Durham bowlers in saying that it was embarrassingly predictable and worryingly followed the pattern of the last couple of games.

We scored 36 for eight in the last seven overs and when Dilshan left for a well-played 54, it became a procession. I know we are missing Wayne Madsen and Alex Hughes, both of who would be in a first choice side, but there should have been enough in the tank tonight to breeze that game.

It was undoubtedly an opportunity missed. We have some talented players at Derbyshire and they are better than this inept closing effort.

The supporters were let down tonight.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Derbyshire v Durham T20 preview

Can Derbyshire replicate last week's form against Durham tomorrow?

Looking at the Durham side, my head says 'no'. I think our bowling has a robust look to it and there's much to admire in the more professional way that we are bowling this year. Hit the lines and lengths, make the batsmen work and wait for them to make a mistake.

Nathan Rimmington adds his considerable talents to our attack tomorrow, while Ben Stokes should put a few derrieres on seats with his return from England duty.

The teams:

DERBYSHIRE (from): Dilshan, Durston, C Hughes, Elstone, Godleman, Thakor, Poynton, Knight, W White, Cork, Palladino, Rimmington, Cotton.
DURHAM (from): Stoneman, Mustard, Stokes, Collingwood, Muchall, Hastings, Pringle, Borthwick, Jennings, Arshad, Rushworth, Onions, Coughlin.

For me, Greg Cork and Tom Knight look most likely to miss out in our thirteen, though Knight could get a chance as a replacement for Scott Elstone, who doesn't appear to be in the best of nick right now. 

Tom is a clean striker of a cricket ball and is as good a fielder as any in the side. In the absence of Alex Hughes, he offers all-round ability, but he doesn't appear to have had a lot of bowling this year and Elstone's occasional off spin may see him get the nod.

If we play to potential, with greater experience in the side, there's a chance we could upset the form book, but the thinking money will be on a solid Durham side going away with the points.

Still, when did form have anything to do with cricket? 
Just ask Leicestershire, after they beat Essex yesterday...

The merit of the thought process

I've grown to see the merits of Twitter from a promotional angle.

I wouldn't say that I was a regular tweeter, but largely try to do so when there's something worth saying, or at the very least acknowledging. Occasionally I reply to messages I have been sent too, but before I put something 'out there' I try to keep in mind the fact that once it has gone, it has gone.

A similar thought process would have been useful for Gloucestershire player Craig Miles yesterday. Miles, a useful, if not yet indispensable player, chose to take to Twitter with his thoughts after the undoubted disappointment of failing to force a win.

"Great effort from the lads today. Only one side competing for the win. #CricketJust Died In Derby" wrote the youngster on his Twitter account. It was a comment that displayed the naivety of youth and a lack of awareness of the game that is actually quite startling in one playing at a senior level.

Seriously, did he expect us to keep going for it, when we had slumped to 63-4? Would his side, had the roles been reversed? There were comments on here regarding our giving up on the chase too early, but I totally disagree.

I have always played cricket to win, but over the years, in competitive league cricket where a win was only achieved by the other side bowling you out, I was happy to battle for as long as it took, once it became clear that my side couldn't come out on top. Block out the ball, block out the comments of fielders, use anything you can to stay in there - but don't get out.

Then there's another comment from a Derbyshire 'supporter' that read:

@Derbyshire CCC claiming they went out to win today....lost 2 wickets and shut up shop against Gloucesters kids!

Ah yes, because our side was full of time-served professionals. Point of accuracy, we were 63-4 and beside our grizzled old professional captain (26) we had Shiv Thakor (21) at the crease with Harvey Hosein (18) and Matt Critchley (18) to follow. I'm all for discussion, debate and chat, but if you are going to make a point, be sure you can back it up with facts.

I will be honest. I don't have masses of faith in our batting at present, because we desperately lack experience. Dilshan needs some time in the middle, Durston has been injured and the skipper still is. Scott Elstone doesn't look in the greatest of touch and is vulnerable when he first goes in, but replacements are hard to find right now.

It is making me readjust horizons for the summer. There's no doubt that the return of such players would see improvement, but for now we must content ourselves with a battle for survival. Of course I would like to see us bat brilliantly, but we're some way off that at the moment on the learning curve of the first-class game.

For me, I am happy to take a second prize of battling for the draw and the points that go with it. We will not excite in doing so, but I will bet my bottom dollar that people would have been forming an orderly queue to moan yesterday had we made a gung-ho 130 all out and lost before tea. I'll take a man who makes me consider the merits of cross-stitch in his devotion to the cause, over one who gives it away after a couple of fancy dan swipes every time.

As for young master Miles, he would do well to recall the first match between the two sides, when Gloucestershire fought (unsuccessfully) for a draw and his 21 overs went for 111.

The game is a great leveller, but a touch of humility and a modicum of common sense never goes far amiss.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 4

There have been plenty of dogged Derbyshire opening batsmen over the years. Albert Alderman, Charlie Elliott, Ian Hall, Charlie Lee, Alan Hill - they would all have been proud of the application and grit shown by Billy Godleman today.

Without him, we'd have lost, pure and simple. Our batting, without Wayne Madsen and Wes Durston, is inexperienced and brittle in the middle order and you wouldn't catch me putting my beer money on us chasing 300 on a good day right now.

59-3 at lunch, with Dilshan already back in the pavilion, suggested that an early demise may be on the cards, but Godleman and Shiv Thakor did very well between lunch and tea and ensured that we got some draw points at the end of a frustrating game.

It was the sort of effort that one hopes for from a captain and while winning no prizes for flair, it was exactly what we needed in the circumstances. While we look some way off the promotion pace right now, those points may be useful some September.

More from me tomorrow, when I will have a little more time.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 3

As you were, everyone...

Nothing doing at the 3aaa County Ground today, with torrential overnight wind and rain getting under the covers and rendering one end of the wicket 'dangerous' for bowlers. The area where they plant their front foot was under a pool of water and conditions were just too dangerous for play to get underway.

Dry weather overnight and tomorrow should hopefully allow a declaration-led run chase on the final afternoon and Graeme Welch appears to be keen to set this up, as, I'm sure, is his Gloucestershire counterpart  Richard Dawson.

A positive result for either side would keep them in the mix for promotion, but there is still a lot of cricket to go. A strong run through late season can change things and if we can get more of our regulars fully fit, we could be up there.

We will see if that run is going to start tomorrow, but I'd guess that Derbyshire will use a few opening overs to see the state of the wicket before being overly bold with a declaration.

Keen on a result we may be, but we're not likely to subscribe to chasing 300 on the last afternoon on a dodgy wicket.

There's only one way that could go...

Monday, 1 June 2015

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 2

Gloucestershire 329 (Taylor 120, Footitt 4-60, Taylor 4-89)
Derbyshire 77-2 (Godleman 30 not Dilshan 17 not

There was even less cricket at Derby than yesterday, with Derbyshire ending 252 runs behind and eight wickets in hand.

Jack Taylor completed an excellent century for the visitors, sharing a valuable ninth wicket stand of 74 with David Payne, while Mark Footitt and Tom Taylor took four wickets each. The feeling remains that they were allowed to get 75 to 100 runs more than they should have, but we will know more about that tomorrow.

The weather forecast is better for the next two days and unless Derbyshire collapse tomorrow and are forced to follow on, the likelihood is that any result will need to be contrived.

At least we would then control our destiny. The first task is to successfully navigate the morning session tomorrow and then see the lie of the land from there. A run chase on the last afternoon would doubtless be challenging, but we will cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

Billy Godleman dug in well today and Tillkaratne Dilshan remains unbeaten after a frustrating session of stop start cricket. This enabled the bowlers to remain fresh and meant the batsmen needed to play themselves in more than they would have preferred.

Hopefully we make a good fist of our innings tomorrow. We know the next four in the order are short on experience but high on talent, so hopefully one or more of them amply illustrate the latter as the game continues.

More from me tomorrow.