Saturday, 14 October 2017

Rampaul signing a statement of intent for Derbyshire

Ravi Rampaul, eh?

I have to admit that I didn't know he was available. When I heard about an announcement of a new signing today, my first thought was that it would be Muhammad Azharullah. Word is that he left Northamptonshire to be closer to his family in Halifax, so if one discounts Lancashire and Yorkshire from the list of potential suitors, we seemed a fair bet.

Instead, we have picked up a man with over 800 wickets across the formats in senior  cricket, nearly 200 of them in the international game for the West Indies. At 33 (which he will be in two days time) his quicker days are behind him, but the Trinidadian still bowls a quick ball and has swapped pace for a greater nous that is usually the preserve of the experienced and talented.

I have referred to our need of a Charl Langeveldt kind of bowler and I think we have it in Rampaul. Over a long career that has covered a stint in the IPL, he has gone for under eight an over in T20 and mixes up line and length to good effect. He also takes wickets in List A and the longer form, so is an all-round asset to the team.

Speaking of all-round, Phil mentioned below my earlier piece that he carries more 'timber' than his younger days, but I don't see that as a major issue. While the modern trend is for quick bowlers to be athletes, traditionally the quick bowler has been a sturdy man with a big backside. There have been few better seamers in the county game over recent seasons than Rory Kleinveldt at Northamptonshire, a man who would never be confused with an athlete. But by crikey, he can bowl and if Rampaul can replicate his efforts, there will be few complaints.

It is a step closer to replicating the Derbyshire of Kim Barnett's heyday, when the skipper's rotation policy kept them all fit and firing. We are some way from that yet, but Rampaul will join Hardus Viljoen, Will Davis and Tony Palladino in a keen seam attack that will doubtless profit and thrive on early season tracks. If we could add a seam-bowling all rounder for the lower order overseas role at the start of the summer, Billy Godleman will have much more to work with in the field.

He has ruled out involvement in the Caribbean Premier League and so will be available all summer, news that can only be welcomed by supporters. I guess the only question mark, in a man of 33, is a three-year contract, but perhaps this security enabled the Derbyshire offer to be more enticing than those from elsewhere.

Kim Barnett will have done his homework and will know the sort of player he will be getting. Barnett's friendship with Alec Stewart will have done us no harm and he has, I think, got another player whose influence will extend beyond the field of play. With injuries par for the course in seam bowlers, the addition of another of quality will help us be more competitive next year and better withstand absences.

Ravi Rampaul is the victim of Surrey's attempt to squeeze a quart into a pint pot, with so many seam bowling options that a regular place was always going to be a challenge. I suspect a place will be easier to come by at Derbyshire, but don't expect a willing work horse to take it easy, in what will be a solid dressing room.

In conclusion? How can you dislike the addition of a man of considerable international experience to our ranks? I'm both pleased and surprised by the signing and suspect he could turn out a real asset.

Below, to whet your appetite, here he is in a splendid spell for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Not a bad set of victims there at all.

Welcome to Derbyshire, Ravi.

We wish you well


Derbyshire announce signing of Ravi Rampaul

The worst thing about today's announcement of the signing of Ravi Rampaul is that it has happened while I am at work...

Be assured that I will comment later, as soon as I am able.

From my perspective, and I think most of you out there, this is a signing that does exactly what they should do..it improves considerably on what we already have and brings a man of considerable experience into our club.

More from me later.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Reece BPL stint well deserved

It has been a busy old week chez Peakfan and there has been little spare time for blogging.

A couple of days off now afford a little more time and it is appropriate to start with warm congratulations to Luis Reece, who has earned himself a gig at theforthcoming Bangladesh Premier League with the Chittagong Vikings.

To my memory, he is the first non-overseas Derbyshire player to earn selection in an overseas T20 tournament, something of which he can be very proud. While it is safe to say that in my many years of following the club we have got more recruits wrong than right, Luis is very firmly in the 'job well done' camp.

In an object lesson to all young cricketers, he wasn't a regular choice at Lancashire and was surprisingly released. We moved quickly to offer him a trial, where he did well enough to be offered a contract. At the start of the season he wasn't one of the first names on the team sheet and missed out in the RLODC, where Ben Slater did well. Yet gradually he came into the side and, slowly but surely, confirmed his place in the side.

He will now be one of the first names on the team sheet, something he deserves after consistent scoring in both forms of the game. We know he will graft, yet also know he can play all the shots when the situation demands it. Aside from his bigger press innings, his second knock against Glamorgan in Cardiff was a major reason why we were able to set a challenging target. It showed good technique and temperament, keeping his head as wickets fell around him.

Chittagong will get a free-scoring batsman, a solid fielder and a useful medium-pacer if the conditions allow. More importantly, we have him secured on a three-year deal, one that should see him develop very nicely indeed.

Like you, I wish him well.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Fantasy League results

A little like Derbyshire, I chose the closing weeks of the season to make a surge up the league in the Peakfan Blog Fantasy Cricket League, courtesy of the Telegraph.

Again, like Derbyshire, it moved me away from the bottom of the table to the giddy heights of nineteenth, in a league of 25. Not bad, considering that I only changed the team once all season, having other things to occupy my mind in the first half of the summer. I ended up with most of my substitutes unused in a major tactical error...

Still, I ended up with a galaxy of talent that included Sangakarra, Ballance, Ingram, Mitchell and Collingwood as batsmen, Darren Stevens as all rounder and Abbott, Norwell, Coughlin and Coad as bowlers. I also picked a wicket-keeper who didn't often keep wicket...sigh.

You will note no Derbyshire players in there, largely because in past years it has been to the detriment of form and fitness as soon as their name hits the team sheet.

Anyway, I now have the medals from the Telegraph and am pleased to announce the following winners. Cue drum roll....

Overall winner - Clive Whitmore, who won by a piffling 1600 points and came 30th in the national competition. Dean Doherty was in second place and perennial winner, David Aust, was in third this year.

Runs League - Clive Whitmore, who saw off the challenge of Marc Perni for a second trophy, with Dean Doherty in third.

Wickets League - Dean Doherty, who edged out Clive and Gary Samuels, who was third.

Well done to all of you!

Who was bottom? I couldn't possibly say, but Paul Kirk has some work to do next year ;)

There were some great names - I especially liked Atomic Smiten (David Cooper), Real Ale Madrid CC (Gary Spencer), WakeleyMeUpB4IGogo (Paul Wright), Mambo in Seattle (Chris Hallam) and Clive Whitmore's 'Knott Out for a duck'.

In closing, thanks to all for taking part and if the winners can drop me an email with their address, I will get your medals in the mail.

Next year...there's always next year!

Macdonell earns new deal

In some ways, Charlie Macdonell is lucky to get another year on his Derbyshire contract, especially when Tom Wood didn't.

Yet the one-year deal announced yesterday gives the county another summer to assess his true worth, especially when the start of that summer will see him back at Durham University and doubtless exposed to the first-class game for the Durham MCCU side.

The past summer was perhaps not as prolific as he would have liked, but in his occasional first team appearances, Macdonell has not looked fazed by the environment and appears to be a well-organised player.

He will be 23 next summer and by the end of it, I think we will have a better idea of his potential at first-class level. His cause is helped by his bowling, which Cricinfo records as fast medium, yet is off spin. He bowled a lot of overs last summer and perhaps the feeling is there that his all round potential may be worth another look.

We'll see, but his fledgling first-class career sees him with an average in the forties, so his extended opportunity with the club is well merited.

It is all up to him, now and I wish him well.

Finally today, a racking of my brain to think of potentially available players for our 'seam bowler who can bat' requirement for the early season overseas role has come up with one name.

Jason Holder.

The West Indies captain is a good cricketer and, at 25, likely to get better. His first-class record is a good one and, on the recent tour of England, he proved himself a talent with both bat and ball. He takes wickets with his medium-fast bowling from a height of 6'7" and hits it a very long way.

He could get an IPL call up, of course, like other names I considered like Tim Southee, Chris Morris and Matt Henry. Like them, I think he could do well, given the opportunity. Caribbean stars are less common in overseas roles these days, but I'd fancy Holder, given opportunity, to do well.

And yes, that's the same Matt Henry who disappointed in the T20 this year. I think he is a better cricketer than that and would likely benefit from more bowling than he got in that competition, when he seemed at times to lack rhythm.

Any thoughts?

Friday, 6 October 2017

Reece signs three-year deal

More good news emanated from the 3aaa County Ground yesterday, with Luis Reece signing a three-year contract to the end of 2020.

He did a terrific job for us in his first season, looking increasingly solid in the long form of the game, as well as confirming that he has a full range of shots and can score as quickly as anyone in the short forms. Add in his fielding and his useful left-arm medium pace and you have a very valuable cricketer. I am unsure in how much bowling he can do when he is likely to be batting in the top three, but for the angle alone he is a useful option for any captain, even if only for a few overs.

With Matt Critchley heading off to Australia on another cricket scholarship for the winter, following on from the news on Hamid Qadri's Young Lions call-up earlier in the week, it is encouraging, to say the least.

Yesterday, Kim Barnett revealed in an interview that we were looking for a seam bowler who could bat for the overseas role in the first half of the season, as well as a non-overseas seamer. I still haven't seen many players being released around the county circuit, although none of us know who is out of contract around the country. I would be happy with Azharullah, from Northamptonshire, but am unaware of other availability at this stage.

It is quite difficult to get a handle on the couple of players that we have apparently approached for that overseas role. I can think of a number of overseas seam bowlers, some of who can bat, but some will have IPL involvement which may limit availability. Getting the right man in will make a big difference, of course and I am sure we all await developments.

Finally today, and sadly, a warning.

I have always enjoyed and appreciated your comments on the blog and good debate is always to be encouraged on a topic.

Yet the Daryn Smit v Harvey Hosein discussion is starting to cross the line in what I would deem acceptable comment.  We all know that you have a world-class wicket-keeper against a young local talent and the decision on who plays will always result in some people feeling that the decision is wrong.

Each of us is entitled to an opinion, but the team selection will be made by the senior group of players, who will want to win cricket matches and therefore have the best options available on the pitch. They are professionals, and while I have an opinion, I will usually defer to a professional. I don't call in a joiner or electrician to my house and tell him how to do his job.

A few recent comments have crossed what I would call the line of acceptable comment and brought into question the integrity and professionalism of the players at the club that we all support.

That is wrong.

Yesterday I deleted a comment that was some time in the writing, accordingly lengthy and, in its content, nothing more than a rant which the writer - 'Anon' of course - even mentioned at the end of the piece. I also deleted another that made abusive comments about me, which were not appreciated.

By all means continue to comment, because that is why I continue to write the blog and host it, but if I feel the line has been crossed, I will reserve the right to decline publication. And please avoid the assertion 'I know for a fact', because unless you are inside the club, the bottom line is that you can't. All you know is what a bloke down the pub told you, who was in turn told by someone who was making out he knew something, when he didn't.

We are supporters and, as I have said before, I care not which eleven take the field for us, as long as it gives us the best chance of winning a game. I have my own opinions, because it would be a dull old blog without that, but will not allow this blog to slip into the standard of other forums around the circuit.

Please keep that in mind when posting. Express your opinions, by all means, but please do not insult the professionalism of some very good people at our club, nor make personal comment about them or me, just because their opinion differs from yours.

The bottom line is that they all want the same thing that we do and, crucially, know what is required to get there.

See you soon.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Smit contract extension is excellent news

Good news on the contract front for Derbyshire today, with Daryn Smit signing a one-year extension to his contract that will keep him at the club until the end of 2019.

While his batting was less prolific than he or we would have hoped in 2017, I have a feeling that it will be a marker for him. Let's not forget that he played very little post-Christmas cricket in South Africa last year, after a shoulder operation. He then moved his life over here and joined the club a couple of weeks before the cricket started, thus having no real pre-season.

Playing county cricket on English tracks against a Dukes ball would have been an eye-opener for him and his average suffered. This, let's not forget, is a man who averages mid-thirties throughout his career and I suspect will do again. A couple of key innings in the T20 showed his capabilities, but I think that we will see a different player with the bat when the new season dawns.

What we do know, beyond doubt, are his credentials with the gloves. I'd be quite happy to apply the moniker 'world-class' to his wicket-keeping, having watched him sufficient times to pass judgement. Of course, there will be an occasional error, but he is human, like us all and makes far less than many others. With Kim Barnett bracketing him with Bob Taylor and Jack Russell in his experience, I'd suggest that we are well-served behind the timbers.

Daryn is a genial man and tales of his work with Harvey Hosein and willingness to help younger players already abound. They hail back to his days at Ramsbottom, where he had time for everyone who wanted advice and help.

Harvey could not wish for a better mentor and I suspect that they are the one/two behind the stumps. Gary Wilson will be another option, but perhaps concentrating on his batting may be of benefit to the club vice-captain.

Over the winter they will all work together and then the summer will begin with one of them being the preferred option.

I don't think Harvey would let anyone down, but nor do I think another couple of years or so working with Daryn would do him any harm either. He will end it a more complete player with bat and ball, getting cricket, I suspect, primarily in the four-day game  until his ability to find the boundary regularly increases as he fills out.

We are very lucky to have two talented players for the role. As I wrote last week, the player who improves his 'weaker suit' will win the day and from a personal perspective, and as someone who wants to see a winning Derbyshire side, I merely want one of them to make the place their own.

It promises to be a battle royal and the healthy competition can only benefit the side.

Good news to start the close season.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Completing the jigsaw

I got an email yesterday that suggested I was 'harsh' in saying, in my season review, that only two Derbyshire players had good seasons.

I don't think I was and my comments were borne of looking at the club having a good team in the making. That being the case, you judge by higher standards. If we are happy to be a nice club that plays decent cricket, winning a few games along the way, then a batting line-up averaging thirty-plus across the board is just dandy.

But you will win little with such figures, unless you have a bowling attack that takes its wickets at around twenty each.

We don't.

As I pointed out, Wayne Madsen, a man for who I have the greatest respect and admiration, had a wonderful T20 but will be the first to admit, I am sure, that his four-day average didn't reflect his talent. The same goes for Billy Godleman, a consummate professional, and as the two key components of our batting they fell short this summer in the county championship.

I am sure that they will be back to their regular scores next year, though I would still prefer to see Billy concentrate on the RLODC and championship. They deserve to be joined in a notional batting line-up for the four-day game by Luis Reece and Alex Hughes, the two players who I said had across the board good summers.

Then you get into more complex issues. Matt Critchley had an improved season and needs first team cricket to push on further, probably batting at six, though whether he becomes a spinning all rounder time will tell. Ben Slater could easily bat in the top three, but as I wrote yesterday, needs to convert a number of impressive cameos into three-figure, career-defining scores. I love watching him bat in his busy, all-action style, but those big scores need to come more often.

There's also what happens with the Shiv Thakor situation and I would urge all contributors to be sensitive to the niceties of the legal system in comments this week. I will make none until it is all done and dusted and, like you, I hope, will let things take their course.

I think we are a reliable batsman light, for what it is worth. I see little point in signing an up and coming batsman of potential and a twenties average, when we have let one go, in Tom Wood, who might have managed that and more. Neither is there point in signing one whose best days appear to be behind him. We have a lot of batsmen who can average in the thirties and need one whose statistics suggest better.

An overseas bowler who can bat would be handy for the first half of the season, but Tom Taylor has the ability with bat and ball if things just 'clicked'. Like Tom Milnes, we know he can handle a bat and score valuable runs, just as they can bowl a wicket-taking ball. Yet both give away too much around those balls. Call me old school, but on anything other than a shirt front I want to see my bowlers going for less than three an over. I'll make an exception for express pace, because the edges fly, but twenty overs for a hundred is way too profligate for me.

In short? We need another batsman and at least one more quality seamer. Harry Podmore did OK, but I am still unsure if he is noticeably better than the 'internal candidates'. Conor Mckerr was, but I would be astonished if we could lure him from Surrey. Nor am I sure what happened with Gurjit Sandhu, who had a decent debut against Durham and was never seen again. Maybe this is the winter that Taylor and Cotton put it all together, but next year will be a big one for each, the last of their current deals.

There are places to be earned and competition for them.

That can only be a good thing.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Palladino benefit well deserved

The news last night that Tony Palladino is to get a benefit in 2018 was, for me, the highlight of the evening's awards.

There were deserved winners through the night, but Tony has won a place in the hearts of supporters across the county, since his move from Essex seven years ago.

He is a wicket to wicket bowler, one who tests a batsman's judgement of line and length with bowling that moves the ball a little each way. Not too much, because 'too much' goes past the bat in a boomerang arc that looks impressive, but is less of a threat than the genuine late swing that near-caresses the outside or inside edge. Just as Wilfred Rhodes decried the ball that spun viciously, reckoning rightly that you only needed to beat the bat's middle for a wicket.

Cliff Gladwin was a master of the art, his contemporaries telling me that the ball would go straight for half of its trajectory, before either ducking in or zipping away to the bowler's will. While not in the same league, given helpful conditions Tony Palladino will cause trouble to any batsman.

As he approaches his mid-thirties, perhaps his best days are behind him, but he remains an object lesson for the young bowler, rarely wasting a delivery and usually ending the day with seventeen overs for under fifty, or similar.

The award is as much, for me, a recognition of his services to cricket, however impressive his displays. His brave stand against corruption in the game at Essex highlighted a man of rare integrity, one who is always happy to have a word with supporters and wave hello from his position in the field.

His batting has become an unexpected jewel and many an innings has been prolonged and enlivened by his clean hitting. Far more than a tail-end slogger, hard work has turned him into a batsman who plays the pull and hook well, just as he hits impressively down the ground.

Perhaps his greater contribution to the club is still to come, in his fledgling career as bowling coach. If he can translate his own considerable skills into the repertoire of others, instilling the need for high levels of personal fitness and metronomic accuracy into them, he could turn a talented next generation into something special.

Another Tony Palladino coming through the ranks would do everyone just fine. For now, let's appreciate and acknowledge the real thing, however long it lasts.

Enjoy your benefit Tony. I hope it is well-supported.

Because it is well-deserved.

Season review - shoots starting to appear

Can any county, outside of the Test match grounds, realistically sustain a challenge on all fronts?

The answer, I think, is no, unless recruitment is so shrewd that you end up with a group of players who are comfortable across the formats. Northamptonshire, with a small staff, have shown it is possible, adapting to the needs of various competitions with remarkable ease and considerable entertainment value.

There was little wrong with Derbyshire's recruitment last winter, but the problem was getting them all on the pitch at the same time. We never saw Hardus Viljoen till the T20, but he looked a class act in the season's closing weeks. Imran Tahir bowled steadily in the T20, but played little four-day cricket. When he played, like Viljoen, he took wickets and if we could get him back they would form the focal point of a decent attack.

The issue was a lack of quality support. Tom Milnes looked a shadow of the bowler of twelve months before, Tom Taylor was inconsistent and Ben Cotton kept it tight in the one-day game but struggled to get people out in the longer form. Conor McKerr had a successful loan spell from Surrey, but they quickly recalled him and we simply couldn't bowl teams out. Jeevan Mendis did pretty well with his leg spin in an unhelpful first half of the summer, but struggled badly with the bat.

Apart from Viljoen, in limited appearances and Mendis, only Tony Palladino took over twenty wickets and there is an obvious need for strengthening in the winter. Conversely, while plenty of batsmen averaged over thirty, only Alex Hughes managed to (just) top forty. Therein lies the crux of the matter.

For Derbyshire to advance, two or three players need to have very good seasons. In 2017, for a variety of reasons, too many had only average ones, while an unhealthy number slipped to sub-standard.

Indeed, the only two players who you would say had good seasons across the formats were Luis Reece and Alex Hughes. Reece emerged from a bit-part role at Lancashire to become a dependable batsman who could bowl useful left-arm seam. Hughes was deservedly player of the season, blossoming in the four-day game and enterprising in the one-day formats. Both have big parts to play in the future.

I have long felt that a batting average in the thirties was that of a decent county cricketer, forty a good one and over fifty worthy of the accolade 'very good'. Too many were in the thirties this year, including Billy Godleman and Wayne Madsen, both far better than that and unlikely to accept such a decline from previous summers. Shiv Thakor also declined with bat and ball, before an enforced lay-off mid-season saw him miss the rest of it, to the detriment of the balance of the side.

I expect a return to erstwhile glories next year, but they need support, continued progress from others and shrewd new signings. Not too many though, because the nucleus is there. Matt Critchley made encouraging steps forward and Harvey Hosein confirmed his batting technique and improving glove work.

The club needs to sort the wicket-keeping issue, however. Daryn Smit was the best we have seen in many years with the gloves, but struggled with the bat. Hosein has the best batting technique and is improving with the gloves, while Gary Wilson is the most pugnacious batsman and a shrewd vice-captain, but less consistent behind the stumps. We need one of them to step up their 'other' game and make the place their own at seven, because a likely first-choice attack for 2018, at this stage, contains little likelihood of regular runs from lower than that.

Hamidullah Qadri emerged as a spinner of outstanding potential, but he is too young to place major expectations on his shoulders, while Will Davis showed he can get players out but needs to be fitter and available for selection more often. Ben Slater remains a batsman of great talent, but three centuries in over a hundred first-class knocks isn't a good enough conversion rate. Next year is a big one for him and for a few others too.

There was enough potential in the T20 displays and those at the end of the four-day season to be cautiously optimistic. Wayne Madsen had a wonderful T20 and was as good as anyone in the country, something he is capable of repeating when relieved of the burden of benefit events next year. If the club can lure back John Wright, they have the personnel to again make a good fist of that competition, with shrewd recruitment.

Matt Henry was a disappointment, but if we can find a player who can galvanise in the short form, an overseas seamer who can bat for early summer and a spinner for later in the year, we can expect further progress in 2018.

There are reasons for optimism, but much work to do and we need a share of luck that wasn't always there this year. We should not lose sight of the fact that we were only third bottom of the championship because two sides started with a points deficit. For all the brilliance of some T20 displays, there were too many four-day sessions where we collectively batted and bowled poorly. Meanwhile, in the RLODC, we played some good cricket at times and probably batted better than we did for much of the rest of the summer, yet in the end missed out on progressing further.

In conclusion: it was better, in quite a few ways, but has to improve in many more before we can predict anything more special than a few more enjoyable days in the sun.

What do you think?

Friday, 29 September 2017

Wood and Cork leave, as Brodrick and Taylor come in

After many Autumns of seeing it happen, there is always some sadness in seeing unfulfilled talent depart the county scene.

How many who earn the call up to second eleven and senior cricket make the grade? A very small percentage, I would reckon, so the wheat is well and truly separated from the chaff. There are and have been some very good cricketers who didn't make it, going on to be excellent players at a lower level for many years.

Others take the opportunity to use rejection as a catalyst to redouble their efforts. Our own club's history will show how Paul Taylor went on to a fine county career elsewhere, after we decided he wasn't good enough. It also shows how Colin Tunnicliffe and Tony Borrington were released, before we signed them again after their performances in league cricket warranted another look. Then there was Les Jackson, our greatest-ever bowler, who wasn't rated until asked to bowl at Eddie Gothard in the nets. A few bruises and flying stumps later, Les was on his way to the finest of county careers.

This year we say farewell to Greg Cork and Tom Wood, though I suspect, as I wrote the other night, that other names may yet be announced. Cork had the onerous task of living up to the family name, difficult if it is that of a county legend. Like his father, Dominic, he was a pugnacious batsman who could bat attractively. Having seen him a few times, I always felt it his stronger suit, yet he never quite scored the runs to make a case for inclusion as a Luis Reece-type player.

His bowling was a few yards short of pace at top level, though he will likely take plenty of wickets in the leagues in years to come. Injuries this summer didn't help his case for retention and the emergence of Reece, a similar style of bowler, negated his selection on grounds of variety.

As for Tom Wood, he hits powerfully and is a good player, but after scoring a lot of runs for the Unicorns the previous summer, they were in shorter supply this year. There were some good scores, but a fairly established top six, for all its foibles, proved tough to break into. Limited one-day opportunities were not taken and he leaves, probably without showing how good he can really be.

As for those coming in, Callum Brodrick looks a player of talent and temperament and has already fought adversity to earn a crack at the first-class game. He played two or three innings that suggested he has what it takes this summer, but has to work on his fitness and physique in the months ahead. He is a brilliant fielder and could quite easily work his way into the senior reckoning in the next two years.

At nineteen, he has time on his side and an obvious determination to succeed.

As for James Taylor, at 16 he is one for the future, but his potential is obvious after good second team displays and a maiden first-class wicket against the West Indian tourists.

Taylor, Alfie Gleadall and Sam Conners make for a trio of young seamers who have much to offer, IF we can get them to the next level. Thus far, the careers of Ben Cotton, Tom Taylor and Tom Milnes have stalled and with Cork released, the search to be in the frame with Viljoen, Davis and Palladino would appear to be outside the county - for now.

Working alongside Viljoen and Palladino can only enhance the prospects of the young trio in the long term, though short-term reinforcements look to be required if 2018 is to be any more rewarding than this year in the four-day game.

One thought in closing. Muhammad Azharullah, as someone noted the other day, has been released by Northamptonshire. He took 31 wickets at 21 this year, hardly the figures of someone who is over the hill and remains a potent one-day bowler. Yet Buck, Sanderson, Kleinveldt and Gleeson block his path to regular cricket, hence the decision to release him, I assume.

He would be 34 next summer and my preference would be for someone younger to fill the gap in that area. I'd take Conor McKerr again in a heartbeat, but suspect that Surrey have lofty ambitions for a young man who showed his credentials on loan this summer.

There would be worse options out there, that's for sure. Either would be an improvement on what we have at present.

Thoughts?

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 4

Derbyshire 460 and 144-0 dec (Slater 74 not, Reece 61 not)

Gloucestershire 224-2 dec and 223 (Tahir 5-76, Critchley 2-21

Derbyshire won by 157 runs

Contrived finish or not, Derbyshire finished the season on a high and returned to Derby with the win points in the bag after a frenetic last day at Bristol.

Cynics will say that it doesn't really matter at this stage and they have a point to some extent, but I would sooner go into the winter on the back of a win - two, if you include the one at Hove, in the last competitive cricket of the season.

There is something more reassuring in an attack that features Viljoen and Tahir, two bowlers of proven class and the only shame is that we didn't see that combination together more often. It would be a thrill to get Tahir again, as the pleasure of seeing a world-class spinner strut his stuff on a last day pitch remains undimmed for me.

I just hope that we don't allow Matt Critchley to become a batsman who occasionally turns his arm just yet, because his breakthrough after tea opened the flood gates. As batsman and bowler, Matt is many years short of his prime, yet his potential is considerable. While he has done little match bowling this summer, I am sure that he has worked with Imran and Jeevan Mendis along the way and will work on his skills over the long winter ahead.

Earlier, Luis Reece and Ben Slater increased their averages against buffet bowling of the finest quality, before the home side chased a target that was stiff, on a last day pitch. Maybe we learned from the early season loss to Northamptonshire at Derby, but there is a difference between the attacks fielded in the games, as well as the respective batting line ups.

Harry Podmore made the early breakthrough with two wickets, one a superb catch by Harvey Hosein. I'm unsure if the Middlesex man has made a big enough impression to warrant a permanent deal, to be honest. Six wickets at 51 doesn't look overly impressive, but you can't always judge talent and potential on stats alone. Maybe the reassurance of a regular place might be the making of him, but we will doubtless hear in the coming weeks should anything transpire.

Thereafter it was all about Tahir. There was more air than we see in the one-day formats and yet the variations were there in all their glory. Three perished to the googly and slider, the former rapidly becoming his stock ball but none the less potent for that. The dismissal of Shaw was a classic of the leg spin art, the batsman leaving a presumed leggie in classic style, only to find it ripping back and bowling him.

And so it ends. An encouraging end to the season, aided by the fitness and availability of an international-class spinner and fast bowler. Yet also by the emergence of a few players who could become key performers in the summers ahead.

I'll look at the summer as a whole in a forthcoming piece, but there are building blocks in place.

With the right recruitment, it could result in an impressive structure.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 3

Derbyshire 460

Gloucestershire 224-2 

Another day where play was truncated by the weather. Probably as well, truth be told, as the game is going nowhere on the sort of track that no one loves who has to bowl for a living.

With another rain-shortened day forecast tomorrow, the game seems set to end in a draw.

Perhaps it is a shame it didn't all end at Hove, as since then it has all been anti-climactic.

In other news today, which I will look at with more time on Friday, Callum Brodrick has signed his first professional contract. It is a two-year deal that gives a player of genuine talent an opportunity to develop his game under the eye of some excellent senior players and coaches. I will watch his career with great interest, as I think he will be a good 'un.

At the other end of the scale, again looked at in a couple of days, the club has announced that both Greg Cork and Tom Wood have been released.

I suspect that there may be others to be announced, but again, I will look at those leaving the club at the weekend, as well as summing up the season over the coming days.

As always, I will look forward to your thoughts on the news stories as they are announced.

Finally tonight, I am delighted - nay, thrilled - to announce that my wife, Sylvia, has been given the all-clear to carry on with her life and discharged from the hospital and return visits.

Her recovery is testimony to her own fitness and attitude, together with the wonderful care she has received from a vast array of medical personnel.

Our gratitude to all of them knows no bounds and our sincere thanks goes to all of them, as well as to all of you who have kept her in your thoughts over the past months and enquired after her well-being.

Thank you!

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 2

Derbyshire 460 (Hughes 142, Madsen 121, Podmore 43)

Gloucs 47-1 (Viljoen 1-7)

There was perhaps a glimpse of the Derbyshire 2018 engine room at Bristol today.

A summer without a Wayne Madsen century would have been a surprise, and he filled his boots on a wicket that held few fears today. He shared a third-wicket stand of 233 with Alex Hughes, who can deem this as a real breakthrough season. Last week's award of his county cap was celebrated with a superb 142 as we batted very well.

Late wickets fell in the quest for quick runs, Harry Podmore hitting a quickfire 43 and Harvey Hosein a more restrained unbeaten 37, before we closed on 460.

Hardus Viljoen got an early wicket before the spinners closed the day with the home side 413 runs behind.

The wicket looks like making this a draw, unless someone produces something equally special with the ball.

Fingers crossed the season doesn't end in a last afternoon 'beer match' as the season closes.

Full praise for our batsmen today, though.

And especially Wayne and Alex. We might just have three and four nailed for a few summers to come...

Monday, 25 September 2017

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 1

Derbyshire 104 -2 (Slater 45, Madsen 24 not)
v Gloucestershire

On a rain and bad light-ruined day that made a mockery of attempting to play cricket at this time of year, we were put in to bat and, scoring at four an over, did pretty well.

Ben Slater appeared to be in prime touch yet again, frustratingly, got out when well set, albeit on a wicket that would have been lively early on. There's a fine player in there, but he needs to start converting these starts into proper scores next summer.

Luis Reece went early, but after Ben's dismissal, Wayne Madsen and Alex Hughes took us past the hundred before play ended prematurely.

I can't say much more than that really.

Hopefully there will be more tomorrow.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire preview

 The end of the season comes tomorrow, one in which, as usual, there have been contrasting highs and lows for Derbyshire supporters.

It would be nice if our four-day summer could finish on a high, but another win, a consecutive win, would do little but make us all think what might have been. Of course we want to end on a high, but we have the talent in this squad to be winning more often.

It is one more chance for those involved to state a case for a contract, or a role next summer, though for some I suspect that boat has already sailed and a decision made, soon to be announced. There are enough uncertainties about the staff to make the winter an interesting one.

Our hosts over the next few days have a largely unchanged side from their last match, with Liam Norwell's hamstring the only casualty from a high-scoring and boring draw that saw hardly a spectator in the ground when the end came. Let's hope for something more entertaining than that for this game.

So the home side is likely to line up:

Howell
Dent
Bracey
Hankins
Mustard
Taylor (J)
Noema-Barnett
Payne
Shaw
Taylor (M)
X

Our squad is announced as unchanged from Chesterfield. Gary Wilson will doubtless take his place as batsman and skipper, with Derbyshire likely to go with the following side:

Reece
Slater
Madsen
Hughes
Wilson
Critchley
Hosein
Podmore
Viljoen
Davis/Qadri
Tahir

Callum Brodrick is also in the squad, alongside Tony Palladino, but for me would only play if Wilson opts to take the gloves. Podmore has to, so we can take one more look before presumably making a decision on signing him, while most of the rest pick themselves. With Hosein doing well with the gloves and bat at Hove, it would be unfair for him to miss out on this occasion.

There's enough in this side to end with a win.

What do you think?

Friday, 22 September 2017

Adieu to the home season - and Hughes' deserved award

The early morning photographs on Twitter today confirmed what I wrote a couple of days ago. There will be no play at Chesterfield and the game is abandoned without a ball being bowled.

It is all deeply frustrating, especially when we think back to the season and, at one point, a two-week period where there was no cricket. I am fairly confident that the county wouldn't have taken the offer of a concert had we started the season better, because that would have been short-sighted in the extreme. Yet the likelihood of four good days at an out ground in the second half of September were as likely as Lord Lucan riding Shergar into the 3aaa County Ground tomorrow. They would have hoped for 2-3 days though, but for the second year in three, Chesterfield has been rained off.

I think most supporters want to see cricket continue there. Indeed, as a cricket-watching location it takes some beating, while there's something for batsmen and bowlers alike in the wicket. What we need to consider, if we are getting Derby onto the concert venue trail, is perhaps hosting two gigs in mid-summer and have a cricket fortnight at Chesterfield.

Of course there are inherent risks, but we will need to await the winter team-building to see if the money earned has been well spent and worthwhile. Over the last four days there would probably have been three days cricket at Derby, which has been traded in for a heavy risk elsewhere and forty thousand pounds.

Whether that was a risk worth taking will always be an individual opinion.

The only good cricket news in recent days has been the award of a county cap to Alex Hughes.

Those who have followed the blog over recent years will know that I have always been a fan of the player. From my first sightings of him, I have liked his battling approach to the game and his total immersion in it. Whether bowling his bustling medium pace, more a one-day weapon now, or fielding brilliantly in any position, he has made a case for himself in the side.

He remains the only man I have ever seen bowl with cotton wool shoved up his nose, stemming a nose bleed. The sight of Alex running in, nostrils flared, was impressive, if slightly amusing, confirming a commendable devotion to the cause in the process.

His batting is his stronger suit and this season has seen a step forward. He had limited opportunity in the T20, but averaged 35 in the four-day game and 58 in the RLODC. His presence at the wicket is starting to offer the calming effect of the better player; his target now is to turn those regular forty-plus scores into match-winning and career-defining efforts.

He is 25 now and has served a long apprenticeship, seemingly around the staff forever. Yet his earlier career was sporadic, a university education eating into his available time and leaving him a bit-part player in some eyes.

He has still only had 73 first-class innings, but a regular place this season has given him greater confidence, just as being part-time T20 skipper last year did him no harm. I see him as our next county captain, unless there's another Eddie Barlow out there somewhere. We live in hope...

2017 could be the watershed for Alex Hughes. If he can kick on further in 2018, turning that 35 average into one nearer 40, he could be the fulcrum of the county batting for many years to come.

A well-deserved award Alex. Make sure you keep that ready smile on your face.

Well done.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Derbyshire v Kent day 2

No play

Thank you all for your excellent comments below last night's post.

The levels of anger, disappointment and frustration are quite clear for the club to see and your posts have been well-written and presented.

I think the consensus is that the greater concern is Derby and I hope that we get a clear indication of what is planned to address the issues over the winter months. Of course it is frustrating to lose two days cricket at Chesterfield, the thinking money being squarely on there being no cricket over the four days, with more rain forecast tomorrow.

Yet Simon Storey today said that improvements had been done to the drainage there. So there are only two solutions in reality.

They need to look at the concert demands for Derby, then programme them in for a time of year when Chesterfield is a more viable option - in other words, midsummer. You can never legislate for heavy rain and its detrimental impact on a ground, always likely on an out ground. Yet, as notoveryet says tonight, why was Derby OK for Nottinghamshire and not for Glamorgan? What was different?

I think the buildings and their requisite foundations will be a reason for problems, but with the people we have involved at the club - good, professional people - one would hope that this would have been thought of and addressed with appropriate drainage when work was going on.

Either way, agreeing with everyone else, it has to be looked at. Of course, the concerts are a good thing and a ballpark 100K of income from two days buys you a good cricketer. Yet the bottom line is that I am as good as anyone they could sign, if they just want people to sit around and sign an occasional autograph. Likewise, marketing is going to get messy if you're citing the merits of joining with '40 days of cricket...or maybe 30, if it rains a lot'.

The supporters and players will be equally frustrated, because sitting around a wet cricket ground is no fun, especially when you can't even get out there when it has stopped raining for 24 hours.

They will get it sorted, I'm sure and I can only say that people should give those at the club the time, over the coming months, to address this summer's issues.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Derbyshire v Kent day 1

No play

I get the frustration from supporters, desperate to watch the last cricket of 2017 on home turf. The sun is shining, but the ground is waterlogged from heavy overnight rain and it is impossible.

Yet what, realistically, can the club be expected to do?

There has been a freakish amount of rain this summer and the volume that apparently fell on the Chesterfield area overnight would have done for many a county headquarters, let alone an out ground where the facilities are of a lesser standard.

Whether it allows for play tomorrow is a moot point, but with more rain forecast on Thursday, I have no hesitation in suggesting that this game will be a draw. With an obviously high water table, any volume on Thursday will rule out Friday. Such is the lot of the out ground.

It's a shame and frustrating, but the drainage at Queen's Park is improved yet couldn't cope. We might spend money on drainage this winter, and it may improve things, but there will still be days when simply too much rain has fallen and play is impossible.

It is a shame, but I don't know how you get around this one. There may have been play everywhere else, but unless you are a budding Carol Kirkwood, it may be that  they simply avoided the worst of the rain.

Let's see what tomorrow brings.

In other news, I read today that Glamorgan have a lot of work over the winter. To add to Jacques Rudolph's retirement, Colin Ingram only wants to play one-day cricket next year. In addition, Graham Wagg is out of contract and, after an injury-hit summer, it appears far from certain that he will be offered another deal.

Would you consider him for Derbyshire, or, at 35 next summer, is he too old now?

Monday, 18 September 2017

Derbyshire v Kent championship preview

Time for the penultimate preview of the 2017 season and, pleasingly, an extra game at that most scenic of grounds, Chesterfield.

Queen's Park will always be my favourite ground and I hope that the weather and crowds are good to it over the next four days.

Derbyshire come into the game on a high, the splendid win over Sussex a highlight of a summer that has had a few, for the first time in a while. Gary Wilson and Imran Tahir return from international duty and the home faithful will enjoy the sight of Hardus Viljoen and Tahir in the same attack.

A squad of fourteen has been announced, as below:

Luis Reece
Ben Slater
Callum Brodrick
Wayne Madsen
Alex Hughes
Matt Critchley
Gary Wilson (captain)
Harvey Hosein
Tony Palladino
Hardus Viljoen
Will Davis
Harry Podmore
Hamidullah Qadri
Imran Tahir


Unless there is a desire to again test the mettle of Callum Brodrick before the summer ends, I would assume that he, Qadri and Tony Palladino will miss out. We need to see if Harry Podmore is worth a permanent deal between now and the end of the summer and tomorrow's final home game is a chance to look at a possible attack for 2018.

There are opportunities across the team for people to make a statement. Team strengthening will take place over the winter and this is a chance for players to sell their own talents. I hope that plenty of them take that opportunity.

Kent have also named a fourteen-man squad that lacks Matt Coles but includes the evergreen Darren Stevens, after another fine season, as well as players of past and potential England pedigree. It would be unrealistic to expect Viljoen to repeat the heroics of the last game, so others need to step up and share the wicket-taking responsibilities.

Their squad:

Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sean Dickson, Joe Denly, Sam Northeast, Sam Billings, Zak Crawley, Darren Stevens, Will Gidman, Calum Haggett, Grant Stewart, James Tredwell, Imran Qayyum, Matt Hunn, Oliver Robinson.

Thursday looks a bit of a washout, but much will depend on the wicket as to whether there is sufficient time for a positive result.

Here's hoping the locals get something to remember over the long winter months ahead.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Derbyshire enigma

In a rollercoaster summer, I think there will be a lot of Derbyshire supporters of a similar mind to me this morning.

Do we have a good cricket team that too often lapses into mediocrity? Or a poor one, that sometimes plays above itself?

For what it is worth, I think we are two good players away from a side that could be promotion contenders in four-day cricket, as well as one that does well in one-day formats. Yet we are also the loss of two players away from also-rans.

Hardus Viljoen was brilliant in the game at Hove, but it would be unrealistic to expect him to be fit enough to do that from April to September. Perhaps the fact that he played hardly any cricket early season accounted for him being able to run in with the zest of a young gazelle. If he had four hundred overs in his legs, maybe the spring and zip that was too much for good batsmen may not have been there.

I am old enough to recall the September when a young Alan Ward arrived on the county scene and ran through county batting line-ups with some sizzling displays. Sadly, Alan was rarely fit enough to do that over a full season, though it was magnificent when it came together. Hardus is far more robust in build, and I suspect mentally tougher than Alan was, but 90mph for six months, with the body fit and the radar always locked on, is a huge ask for anyone. 

In his interview for my last book, Harold Rhodes told me that he quickly learned that you cannot give it all every time you bowl, and quickly have to learn to put in that lightning spell when conditions are in your favour, or the match is in the balance. Sage words from a man who would have enjoyed another quick bowler cutting a swathe through a batting line-up. Like Harold, Hardus is a canny enough bowler to be awkward when the wicket is slower and he has to cut down his pace and bowl an occasional quicker ball, itself a threat from shock value alone.

We saw the impact he had in this match, yet have seen the ineffectual nature of our attack in his absence. Without his whole-hearted approach, I doubt we would have come close to winning yesterday and the need to find quality support over the winter is clear.

Although I would have him back without question, I'm unsure if we have seen the best of Imran Tahir this summer. He bowled tidily in most T20 matches, won us one with a brilliant spell but has played little four-day cricket through injury and international duty. The prospect of Viljoen and Tahir together is a mouth-watering one, but for improvement another year we need to field three bowlers who can take wickets.

Shiv Thakor has been missed in that respect. Will Davis is a fine prospect, but raw, while Hamidullah Qadri is perhaps a decade from anything approaching a peak. Good players all, but addressing that missing link in the winter will determine if and how we progress.

Harry Podmore did his chances of a contract no harm at Hove. His batting was a revelation, while he overcame the disappointment of a dropped catch with the last two wickets. As Ash mentioned below yesterday's post, his frustration after that drop was obvious from video footage on Twitter, something he will need to handle better. No one deliberately drops catches, but it happens and you rise above it. Les Jackson used to shrug his shoulders and say 'catch next 'un', though Cliff Gladwin could be more volatile...

I'd like to see us sign a seam bowler who bats a bit for the early season overseas role. For all his expensive bowling in the T20, Matt Henry would be the type of player we need and would likely thrive in early summer here, with a spinner again for later season. Chris Morris would be terrific, but since he and Henry are normally involved in the IPL, that 'type' of player would be the target, those players themselves likely elsewhere.

Another player I like is Ben Raine at Leicestershire, sadly under contract until 2019. A combative cricketer who bowls good fast medium, battles with the bat and has the 'edge' that you want in a player. I'd see Raine as a player who would thrive in the right environment.

We're not far away. With continued progress from young players, better luck with fitness and sound 'tweaking' of the squad, 2017 may be seen as the year it all began, the watershed of Derbyshire cricket.

What do you think?

Postscript - I was amused yesterday to see that 87% of those voting felt Viljoen the star man for Derbyshire in the game just finished.

Turn that around though and 13% felt he wasn't...as I wrote on Twitter, what did he have to do to convince them?

Friday, 15 September 2017

Sussex v Derbyshire day 4 - Viljoen enters county legend

Derbyshire 338 and 322-8 dec

Sussex 271 (Viljoen 7-80) and 344 (Viljoen 8-90)

Derbyshire won by 45 runs

It might have taken longer for us to see Hardus Viljoen in action than we would have wanted, but having got his body right, it has taken him far less time to write himself into the county record books.

Eight wickets in the second innings of this game, following seven in the first innings, made him the first Derbyshire bowler since 1952 to take fifteen wickets in a match. The last man to do it was Cliff Gladwin, who took sixteen at considerably less pace than Hardus at Amblecote, in Worcestershire, where the wickets often favoured bowlers  and where Cliff would need no second bidding.

Viljoen took his on a wicket that was pretty good for batting, as evidenced by the match scores. Over on his excellent and informative Twitter account tonight, club historian and statistician David Griffin has some excellent statistics (and photographs) of the day's action and I acknowledge his assistance  in recording that Viljoen is only the fifth Derbyshire bowler to take fifteen wickets in a match for us, as well as the first non-English player to take more than thirteen wickets. There are plenty of other facts to savour, that will doubtless and rightly appear on the club site before long.

It is testament to the commitment and fitness of the big fast bowler that he reeled off 25 overs and seemed to maintain pace to the very end. It is also worth mentioning the efforts of Fran Clarkson, the club physio, in getting him to that stage after an early season ravaged by a knee injury that could have easily seen him play no more cricket in 2017.

It showed also what might be possible another summer, if he has more help at the other end and can maintain this fitness. As I noted this morning, a young attack was going to struggle to bowl out a lengthy batting line-up on a good wicket and at one point looked like they were not going to do so. Viljoen's excellent habit of getting an early wicket continued, but then Wells and van Zyl batted well to add 136, before the fast bowler's return took two quick wickets.

Harry Podmore then found the edge of van Zyl's bat and the catch, a difficult one, was put down by Harvey Hosein as the batsman and Luke Wright added another century stand. It looked like being a costly error.

At 267-3 there appeared only one winner in the game, but Viljoen's return ripped out three quick wickets, his next spell another two. The clips on Twitter show hostile, classic fast bowling, short and threatening, quick and straight. The photograph of Luke Wright's dismissal, when well set on 80, shows a man beaten for pace, no mean feat.

Harry Podmore's return to the attack saw him take the last two wickets and the players will enjoy their return journey tonight. They deserve to, after a job well done.

Rightly so, because, despite Hardus' tour de force it was a team performance. Everyone battled with the bat and some excellent catches were held, notably by Hughes and Qadri. Mention too of sound captaincy by Wayne Madsen, who would have loved another experienced bowler to work with, but who handled his young attack well.

They must have learned a lot from their giant spearhead's herculean effort today and David Griffin's photograph of Qadri and Viljoen with their arms around each other's shoulders is one of my new favourites.

Chesterfield is next. Hardus will enjoy the traditional bounce there. I reckon our supporters will too.

Well done Derbyshire and well done Hardus Viljoen.

Even Ian Bishop and Michael Holding didn't manage this.

You've entered county legend now...

Derbyshire Cricket Society ready to start winter programme

As the cricket season winds down this month, now is the time to join the Derbyshire Cricket Society and keep in touch with the game over the winter.

The society promotes and supports the interests of Derbyshire County Cricket Club. The programme of cricket speakers runs across six lunchtime meetings, usually the last Thursday in the month, starting in October and running through to March.

This year’s programme (below) starts on Thursday 26th October with a talk by Paul Smith, one of the most entertaining ex-county cricket speakers.

Membership for the year only costs £5. Please contact Marion Bingham, the Membership Secretary (address below) if you are interested.

Winter Programme 2017/18

Meetings are held with lunch, 12 Noon for 12.30, in the Legends Lounge, Elite Performance Centre (formerly the Gateway Centre), The 3aaa County Ground, Nottingham Rd, Derby DE21 6DA.

The cost of the two course lunch (Main Course; Dessert or Cheese & Biscuits; Coffee) is £20.00 for members; £22 for non-members.

BOOKING A LUNCH

Please send a cheque made out to Derbyshire Cricket Society to ARRIVE AT THE LATEST BY THURSDAY OF THE PREVIOUS WEEK to: Marion Bingham, 9 Malthouse Lane, Nether Heage, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 2AS.

Note that a vegetarian option is available and should be requested when booking along with Cheese & Biscuits, if required.

Thursday 26 October 2017 Paul Smith
Thursday 23 November 2017 Dean Allen
Thursday 14 December 2017 Wayne Madsen
Thursday 25 January 2018 Geoff Cope
Thursday 22 February 2018 James Graham Brown
Thursday 29 March 2018 Karl Krikken

Having spoken for the society before, I can vouch for a friendly welcome and a convivial atmosphere in which people are made to feel very welcome. 

That is also an excellent line-up of speakers, with a strong Derbyshire bias.

If anyone needs more information, please get in touch and I will connect you to them!

Names in the frame?

A comment from the always readable notoveryet caught my attention the other day.

He is a knowledgeable man and his opinions, like those of everyone who contributes on a regular basis, are respected and valued.

In the post in question, he suggested four players that may be worthy of Derbyshire's attention come the end of the season: Graham Onions, James Tredwell, Rolof Van der Merwe and Max Waller.

On the face of it, they are all players with things to like. Onions is one of the finest seamers in the county game, Tredwell an experienced spinner who can bat, Van der Merwe likewise, while Waller is a leg spinner who has found a niche in the 20-over game.

But would they really enhance our squad and would they really be available?

Onions is a very good bowler, another who has been unlucky with the timing of his county career, but at 35 I would be surprised if he left his home county. Another contract, primarily for the red ball game, is on the table and after an injury-hit summer I suspect that potential suitors will be wary. He has played little one-day cricket over recent summers and I think is too old for a contract elsewhere now. We may think otherwise, but our target market has surely to be among younger bowlers with more to offer? Something between what we have and Onions would be my preference and surely not someone older than Tony Palladino?

Tredwell? Not for me. 22 wickets at 42 in 2016, 3 at 76 this year. They aren't the figures of a bowler enjoying a golden Autumn to his career and I see little merit in any interest. Hamidullah Qadri needs cricket and will only kick on if he gets it. Whether Matt Critchley's leg spin falls by the wayside as his batting develops is anyone's guess, but both will have learned from Imran Tahir this year, a player I would be happy to have engaged next season in any capacity, for the record.

Geoff Miller's early career was blocked a little by the signing of Venkat years ago, just as one might argue that Tahir has done the same for today's tyros. Yet both overseas players were/are of world-class stature, something you couldn't really say about Tredwell, I'm afraid.

Max Waller? Again, no from me. With two young spinners on the staff and Matt Sonczak looking worthy of investigation in the seconds, I don't see enough in a player who would realistically play only T20 and who has today signed another deal with the county anyway.

Finally, Rolof Van der Merwe. On the face of it, I would rate him worthy of further enquiry, but he has played little four-day cricket in the past two seasons and only two games this year. He is, as notoveryet pointed out, a good hitter of a ball and a tidy spinner, certainly a handy number seven or eight and especially useful in the one-day formats, where he has produced his best.

Yet he signed a contract extension that keeps him at Taunton until the end of next season. We all know that these can be broken and frequently are, but I suspect that Somerset pay him more than we might be prepared to, based on his track record, so he would see things out there.

Daniel Bell-Drummond was also mentioned, a young player who is mentioned often in despatches as a future England player. Yet the figures again make interesting reading.

Bell-Drummond is currently averaging 25 for the four-day season. Probably not a true indicator of his talent, but how many cricketers would claim to be 'better than their average'? For what it is worth, that would leave him twelfth in our averages this year. As a comparator, Ben Slater, a 'rival' if you like, averages 31, Billy Godleman 40, Luis Reece 35.

As I have written before, our targets have to be better than what we have. Of course you would have a chat with an agent if the season was written off as one of those things for a player, but I remain convinced that we only need two or three players to improve next year.

If we're talking figures, look at these:

2017                                2016

Critchley 41                     24
Hughes 35                        33
Slater 31                          28
Godleman 40                   37

Each has improved on last season, Matt Critchley dramatically so. The biggest issue with our batting has been the decline of Wayne Madsen, from 59 to 26 and the absence of Shiv Thakor, who had gone from 67 to 33, before his enforced omission.

Both are such fine players that their decline can only be temporary and Wayne had such a fine one-day summer that something had to 'give' somewhere, in a season where he has also had to handle the commitments of his benefit, as well as being a father for the first time.

So for me, let's bring in the men we need, but be aware that existing personnel, in the batting ranks, are moving in the right direction.

As always, I welcome your comments. And suggestions of potential targets as future talking points!

Sussex v Derbyshire day 3

Derbyshire 338 and 322-8 (Podmore 66 not, Hosein 52, Critchley 51, Slater 45, Whittingham 5-80)

Sussex 271

Derbyshire lead by 389 runs

Based on their four-day form this season, I said that Derbyshire would lose this game. Yet I am pleased to say that they go into the final day in rude health, after an outstanding team display.

There was much to be proud of in the efforts of a young batting line-up yesterday, in which almost everyone batted time and made runs. With the home side needing a win to maintain their promotion aspirations, they will go for anything today and our task was to make their chase a challenge.

They could still get them, of course, against an attack that is some way removed from experienced. Sussex bat long and powerfully, but the crowd at Hove are set for an exciting last day with fair weather forecast.

The resilience of the young Derbyshire side was a joy to follow yesterday. Much seemed to depend on Wayne Madsen and when he went the likelihood of a collapse seemed high, Yet Alex Hughes batted time before being dismissed and Ben Slater did likewise, before being beaten by a terrific yorker from the Derby-born Stuart Whittingham.

Then came a partnership between Matt Critchley, who has grown considerably as a batsman this summer, and Harvey Hosein, who has spent most of it in the second team. I have previously written that Hosein had to bide his time then take his opportunity when it came, something he has done in this game. An unbeaten 38 in the first innings and 52 yesterday saw him do exactly that and he is hard to drop now, assuming his glove work is of a similar standard.

Both he and Critchley went after making their fifty, exposing a tail that suggested fragility and with the lead not yet conclusive. Yet Harry Podmore, with the career average of eight that I mentioned after the first day, confounded pundits with a career-best unbeaten 66 that was more than three times his personal best. With good support from Will Davis, who also made a career-best score, the lead approached 400 by the close, with a wicket in hand should we choose to bat on today.

The ease with which we made the runs suggested that the home side might do well in today's run chase, but I have nothing but respect for the way a young side went about its work here. With Billy Godleman unable to bat and out for the rest of the season, only Wayne Madsen, Hardus Viljoen and Luis Reece are over 27, with much of the side considerably younger.

Well done gentlemen, you have done us proud here.

Now finish the job today.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Sussex v Derbyshire day 2

Derbyshire 338 and 31-1

Sussex 271 (Viljoen 7-80)

Derbyshire lead by 98 runs

There's a cracking game of cricket going on at Hove.

I just hope that the weather doesn't disrupt things too much and that Derbyshire are as committed and focused over the next two days as they have been over the first two.

98 runs on with eight wickets in hand. Let's not forget that Billy Godleman won't bat, so an acknowledged short batting line-up has to find a hero or two tomorrow. Perhaps this is the day when Wayne Madsen returns to his usual four-day form, or the younger guns in the order steer us to a challenging score that sets 275-plus in the final innings.

We'll see, but today was all about Hardus Viljoen, fast and firing, taking seven wickets in the innings. It was the first time that this has been done by a Derbyshire bowler from overseas since 1992 (Ian Bishop, since you ask) and a reward for spells in which he ran in hard and got it down the other end a tad too briskly for some of the home batsmen. With four clean bowled, the radar was locked on today and Hardus got his just rewards.

We've done well, but could easily lose this game if we don't show the necessary application from here. Sussex are challenging for promotion and need to win this one, so will undoubtedly come out with guns blazing tomorrow.

That they are still in contention is largely down to two players of talent and experience, Luke Wright and David Wiese. The former has been a loyal servant of the county, while Wiese is a good, all-round cricketer, the kind we need for 2018. He scores valuable runs and takes wickets, a perfect player to have coming in at number eight when an innings is in freefall.

Wiese was dismissed by Hamidullah Qadri, a reward for another tight spell from the precociously talented youngster. After his first over went for eleven, Qadri's next eight went for only 20, control quite remarkable for a player who won't be seventeen until December.

To win, we need to bat and bowl well again and Viljoen cannot be expected to bowl them out twice. There was an early wicket for Harry Podmore and one for Will Davis, but both will need to lend strong support in the second innings if we are to come out on top at the end.

Big day tomorrow...

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Sussex v Derbyshire day 1

Derbyshire 338-9 (Reece 51, Godleman 51, Slater 48. Hughes 46)

v Sussex

It was bitter-sweet for Derbyshire today.

After Sussex elected to bowl, they would have hoped to bowl us out before the close, but resolute batting down the order ensured that we managed one of our better team displays with the bat. Frustratingly, once again a number of batsmen got starts, but none went past 51, on a day when the consensus was the home side bowled poorly.

Luis Reece batted as fluently as anyone and continued a fine season, his century stand with Ben Slater suggesting a major first innings score. When both departed with unseemly haste, Billy Godleman and Wayne Madsen continued to build, before Wayne was out leg before.

Yet the skipper and Alex Hughes built again and in  the evening session, with the score 232-3, we were perhaps even contemplating the giddy heights of 400. Yet it all went pear-shaped after Billy's dismissal, soon after he was hit on the hand by an accidental beamer. This was later deemed a break and likely end to his season, with Wayne Madsen taking over as skipper for the rest of this game.

Alex Hughes again batted well and has only to turn these good knocks into special ones to become a fine county cricketer, but the length of the tail was confirmed by the sight of Harry Podmore (career average eight) batting in that position.

Yet from 287-8, the last two wickets have so far added 51 runs. Will Davis hit merrily, while Hamidullah Qadri suggested he wouldn't be eleven in the order for too long, as he supported Harvey Hosein in the day's closing overs. Harvey finished unbeaten on 38, and the two youngsters have an opportunity to take us to 350 tomorrow.

Not a bad effort, by any means, but perhaps an opportunity missed for something special on a wicket that Billy Godleman described as 'a good one where you could trust the sideways movement'.

We'll know more tomorrow, no doubt.

As well as getting a first look at our Viljoen/Davis pace pairing.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Sussex v Derbyshire preview

Three games to go for Derbyshire and the one that starts tomorrow takes them to the scenic splendour of Hove, for a four-day game against Sussex.

Gary Wilson and Imran Tahir continue their hokey-cokey end to the season, out now because of international commitments, so our side isn't the strongest-looking that we have fielded this year. Nevertheless, there are reputations to be built and Harry Podmore, in particular, will hope for better opportunity to impress.

He didn't pull up any trees at Chester-le-Street in a poor team bowling performance, nor did he bowl at all against Glamorgan, so the game hopefully offers him a chance to impress. So too Callum Brodrick, who has looked a player of talent in his few appearances so far and perhaps has a chance to sparkle in the four-day game.

The Derbyshire squad:

Godleman
Reece
Slater
Madsen
Hughes
Critchley
Brodrick
Hosein
Palladino
Viljoen
Davis
Podmore
Qadri

The final side will be dictated by the pitch, as always, but it would be a surprise if we went in without a specialist spinner at this stage of the year, even one as such tender years as Qadri.

The home side has announced a talented squad with a number of exciting young cricketers. They will make for a stern test and, if the game goes its full course, we will do well to come away from this one with the points.

Their squad:

Ben Brown (captain)
Jofra Archer
Danny Briggs
Laurie Evans
George Garton
Chris Nash
Ollie Robinson
Angus Robson
Stiaan van Zyl
Luke Wells
Stuart Whittingham
David Wiese
Luke Wright

Sad to say, I'm predicting a defeat here. Sad to say, but in the light of our four-day performances this year, it's hard to say otherwise, I'm afraid.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Barnett staying is key for Derbyshire

The end of the county four-day season ended as the dampest of damp squibs, with rain forcing the abandonment without a ball being bowled on three of the four days against Glamorgan.

It affords me an opportunity to comment on the news, earlier this week, that Kim Barnett is staying on in a role that holds the new title of Cricket Advisor.

In reality, it would appear to be no different to the one that he held this year and enables the county legend to continue to support Billy Godleman and the cricket management team, made up of senior players within the squad.

It also allows the club to build on the successes of the year and take things on a stage further next season. I have already written that Barnett's signings - those of Jeevan Mendis, Imran Tahir, Luis Reece, Gary Wilson and Daryn Smit, have all come in and done good jobs.

Mendis took more spin wickets than any other bowler bar Simon Harmer at Essex in the first half of the summer, while Tahir was a stand out in the T20. Reece has been a resounding success in all formats, Wilson has played some punishing innings and Smit has taken the wicket-keeping role to a level not seen for several seasons.

Yet the job is not done and continuity is key for us to progress. The appointment of Mal Loye to the Academy is already bearing fruit, but these talented young players need time to develop into genuine county players. The experience of most of those named above will ensure that we buy them that time, hopefully allowing them to come into a strong and settled side .

More is needed and I have no doubt that Barnett, with a contacts book second to none, will be on the case. The batting still shows worrying signs of fragility and the key role of number three in the order has not yet been filled satisfactorily. There have been negligible signs of progress in the seam bowling ranks and a worry must be whether many, or any, of a large crop of talented young bowlers have what it takes for a long county career.

We are well catered for in the spin bowling ranks, thankfully and have options behind the stumps, even if one of them has to make the role his own next season.

That, together with the acquisition of a seam bowler who offers runs at number eight, are key to improving this side. Hamidullah Qadri will, in time, become a fine bowler and likely all-rounder, but needs time to do this. In between times, a first choice balanced attack at present offers little in the way of runs, something that needs to be addressed, unless one of our keepers turns into Adam Gilchrist over the winter...

There are frailties in the side, but Barnett is best-placed to address these and ensure that next season we are able to build on this season's successes.

As well as minimising its disappointments.

Like all of you, I'm sure, I wish him well.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 3

Derbyshire 236-9 (Reece 53, Wilson 45, Hughes 44)

v Glamorgan

Another day, another slightly disappointing batting display by Derbyshire.

After the wicket had been under covers for two days, it was a foregone conclusion that the visitors would opt to bowl first. They made regular inroads into a Derbyshire batting side that has hiccuped its way through the season and had removed all but the final wicket by the end of the day's play.

Luis Reece was the only batsman to reach fifty, although most got a start.  Although, on paper, the batting looks decent enough the sum of the parts aren't adding up right now and the area needs looked at in the close season. With the current four-day trough of form continuing for Wayne Madsen and Billy Godleman, previously our two most reliable batsmen in the format, no one else is coming forward to make up the deficit of runs. For us to move forward another year, the batting needs to be more reliable than has been the case in 2017.

And yet the game could still end in a win, if the weather allows play tomorrow. Logically, we will declare, they will forfeit their first innings and we will bat for an agreed time to set an agreed target. That's my summation of things and we can only hope that we bowl to greater effect.

It was, to be fair, never going to be easy to bat today and we can only hope that this continues into the final sessions of play at county headquarters this season. Perhaps then the value of today's runs might be better appreciated.

I'll be back tomorrow.

The lost summer, member's forum and...rain!

As it draws to a close, my fiftieth summer as a Derbyshire supporter has been one of mixed emotions.

We reached a quarter-final of the T20, played some good cricket, suffered too much poor cricket but saw the seeds of progress starting to sprout forth.

Yet despite my best intentions, I saw less of the team than in many years. As regular readers will know, I 'lost' May and June through my wife's ill-health, though she is thankfully now progressing really well. Subsequent family needs have ruled out further trips, until early this week we were able to travel south for the first time this summer.

Alas, the weather dictated there was no play on the first two days at Derby, which means that my cricket viewing 'in the flesh' was severely limited to early season this year. Next year, all being well, I will enjoy more and I hope to make Chesterfield festival, as well as a good few other games, depending on the fixture list when announced.

Yesterday we drove home and hit a series of flash, but torrential showers that we were through in less than five minutes but would have soaked anything that was unable to move.

Like a cricket ground.

I suspect that this is what happened at Derby yesterday. Early in the day it looked like cricket would go ahead and the early tweets from the club suggested as much. Yet it was later too wet and despite the efforts of a very good ground staff, play was abandoned for the day. Did someone make a mistake? I don't know, but it would be unusual.

It is not fair to compare Derby with Trent Bridge. The latter is a Test match ground with state of the art equipment and drainage, stuff that only an international ground, well subsidised, could afford. We aren't and so must make do with what we have. Of course, to answer another question asked yesterday, you could cover an entire ground, but the cost would be massive and the time to cover it and then take it all down would be prohibitive.

On to other things, and the recent discussion on the merits of Will Porterfield has been interesting. For what it is worth, he's not one for me, however. He has a decent record, but Ireland's increasing international commitments would make him a 'bit part' player and we are already going to see less of Gary Wilson. As notoveryet pointed out, his most recent statistics don't make the case for his signing a compelling one either. I accept that he can be a brilliant player on his day, but they haven't come often enough of late, I'm afraid.

Of the players so far released, the only one who made me think 'maybe' was Jim Allenby at Somerset. He has been an excellent all-rounder over the years, but  again, I don't think recent form a strong indicator of his current worth. I've also seen him in the field on occasion with very poor body language, hinting at disinterest and I'm wary of the club getting a squad that is too old.

Anyone we bring in HAS to be better than we have, not just a similar alternative. If we assume that our top three next year will be some combination of Godleman/Reece/Slater/Thakor,  then any new player has to have statistics that suggest an improvement on their figures. Much the same goes with the bowlers. We have plenty of 'promise' and have to find players who have the stats to improve things, while seeing off the interest of other counties to secure their services.

Michael Carberry may have been worthy of interest, but again, his recent figures aren't great and I understand he has offers elsewhere anyway.

Which brings me neatly to the Member's Forum. Thanks to Ash for his notes from this, which I hope are of interest to you all.

Simon Storey praised the success of the T20 campaign and felt (like we all do) that it was a freak innings from Shahid Afridi that 'did for us'. The club is in talks with John Wright regarding a return next year, but that will be down to Mumbai Indians allowing him to do so. Dominic Cork is also happy to return, but there is apparently interest from England in his services.

There was disappointment in the bowling and especially the returns of Matt Henry and Kim Barnett felt that we never really had an eleven playing at their best. He feels, apparently, that if we can pick up the right two or three players we can make finals day next year., but need a rethink on the last four overs, as neither Dominic Cork nor John Wright were happy with how we closed out the opposition innings.

Kim Barnett also said that we need a rethink on the county championship, especially at home, but again believes that with the right 2/3 additions we can win at least four games in that format next year.

He praised Billy Godleman, who he said had been 'brilliant', and said that it was the senior group of players who asked for a seamer to be brought in. Podmore has come in, with a view to signing, while we also apparently looked at James Harris at Middlesex.  Barnett was disappointed that none of the second team seamers had produced the figures to push for the first team, but praised Harvey Hosein as the outstanding player in the second team.

It was, apparently, Daryn Smit who held his hands up and said he wasn't getting enough runs, so Harvey Hosein should get a run. Barnett also praised Smit as the first one out in the nets with Hosein to practice, illustrating a togetherness that some may not expect.

There was also praise for Mal Loye, who has three players on the verge of England under-19s, and confirmation that they want to get Will Davis 'right' over the winter so he can stay fit and bowl more than this year. Davis is on board with fitness and conditioning plans for the coming months, so he can play a major role next year.

Finally the club will make in excess of the £60K-plus profit that Leicestershire made from their Elton John concert, because we offered more hospitality packages. They also expect to make over £40K from the forthcoming Boyzone concert, the money being ploughed back into the cricket side.

That's it from me for now. I'll be back later, hopefully with some cricket to write about..

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Derbyshire v Glamorgan preview

Derbyshire has named a 15-man squad for the four-day game at the County Ground that should start today, weather permitting. It represents the last opportunity to see cricket in Derby this summer, one in which there has been much to remember, though too great a proportion for the wrong reasons, especially in this format.

Gary Wilson returns after illness and takes his place in the following squad:

Billy Godleman
Luis Reece
Ben Slater
Wayne Madsen
Alex Hughes
Matt Critchley
Gary Wilson
Harvey Hosein
Tom Milnes
Tony Palladino
Hardus Viljoen
Harry Podmore
Will Davis
Imran Tahir
Hamidullah Qadri


I would expect the first six to be as is, with the question mark over whether Gary Wilson takes the gloves and lengthens the batting at seven. I would hope we might unleash the Viljoen/Davis partnership as a taster to a more healthy 2018, while logically we would need to see if Harry Podmore is the bowler that his career average suggests and not as his figures from Chester-le-Street showed.

That would be my thinking, anyway, with Godleman to open in his rightful place. There is always the chance that the wicket will have been prepared to turn later, offering a chance for Hamidullah Qadri to repeat his Cardiff heroics from June.

Glamorgan, like Derbyshire, suffered T20 heartbreak and they have an experienced squad traveling, namely:

Selman, Rudolph, Murphy, Ingram, Carlson, Cooke, Salter, Meschede, de Lange, Carey, Hogan, Smith

There is a last chance to see Jacques Rudolph, who retires at the end of the summer after a fine career. There's no Graham Wagg and no Aneurin Donald so two regular thorns in our side are absent. The game also offers a fast bowling sideshow, with Hardus Viljoen and Marchant de Lange both presumably wanting to show who is the fastest 'gun'.

It is a game that, weather permitting, we can win, but as always is dependent on which Derbyshire takes the field. 

Not to mention how much time the weather permits.

In the light of the latter forecast over the four days, I'm going for the draw.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Future planning key for Derbyshire in last few games

The last four wickets went down yesterday with nary a whimper, as Derbyshire slid to a defeat that appeared likely from the first day and inevitable from the second.

For all Billy Godleman's worthy comments of pride in the second innings battle, until we start to do that over four days we will continue to look second rate at the long form of the game. There are signs of promise among individual members of the squad, but for some of them, next year is going to be key to their continued development - or indeed involvement in the first-class game.

Sustained and regular contributions of merit are key for any professional sportsman and the longer careers are enjoyed by those who overcome adversity and, by hard work and determination, together with no little skill, manage just that. In the current squad there are several examples among those who have 'made it' against the odds.

There's Billy Godleman, who was rejected by two counties before making Derbyshire his home. Wayne Madsen, who had to leave the country of his birth to pursue a dream and become one of the most respected players in the game. Daryn Smit, who had to bide his time while two more experienced players were given the role he wanted, before moving to this country. Luis Reece, rejected by Lancashire but turning up at Derbyshire to offer impressive skills in all formats. Tony Palladino, who went through stressful times that we can only imagine at Essex, before becoming one of Derbyshire's most valued journeymen.

Each of these players has had challenges this summer, but they are individuals around who our side for next summer must take shape. For younger members of the squad, the desire to join them has to be matched by their taking that next step forward in terms of personal achievement.

Averages of 25-35 have to be taken to nearer 40 for Ben Slater, Alex Hughes and Matt Critchley. All have showed that they can play a fine innings, but they need to do it more often and turn useful scores into match-winning and career-defining ones if they and we are to progress. Each has produced, at times, innings of rich potential, but they need to do more and set the bar higher still.

Then there are the bowlers. We have all seen Ben Cotton, Tom Taylor and Will Davis bowl well, but each has challenges ahead. Cotton needs to prove he can get players out, as well as keep them quiet, Taylor needs to combine an ability to bowl a wicket-taking ball with the equally valuable one of a further five that makes a batsman think each over. Meanwhile Davis, for all his talent (confirmed by thirteen wickets in two games) needs to show that his body can stand up to the rigors of the first-class game.

Harvey Hosein? In my opinion he is a good, solid keeper, but has work to do for me to see more than that, while his batting, organised as it is, needs to have an equal focus on scoring runs as staying in. That he has an excellent technique is undeniable, as is the fact that he bats time. Yet Paul Borrington used to get stick for not scoring quickly enough (unfairly, in my opinion, as I rated him) and Harvey has to do more to be the long-term county keeper that we all hope he can be.

Neither he nor Daryn Smit has yet produced the runs that we will need from number seven. With a first choice attack another year, assuming signing and fitness, of Viljoen, Davis, Tahir and X, there's not many runs to come after seven and whoever holds the role has to nurse the tail and contribute regular scores to hold down the role.

If these players can't do it, they will be aware of others awaiting their chance. I don't think Tom Wood or Charlie Macdonell have scored the runs this summer to push their prospects, while James Kettleborough took the opportunity of a trial with us to score 180 for the seconds yesterday, against a Yorkshire second team that included Bresnan, Plunkett, Sidebottom, Coad and Rafiq.

Kettleborough is another who has been rejected by Northamptonshire and Glamorgan, yet at 24 he is nowhere near his prime. This was his eleventh century of the summer, three of them for Bedfordshire and he has approached his desire for a county career in exactly the right manner - score runs, then score some more. Wes Durston did the same and was a fine player for us over several seasons.

The first-class game contains the creme de la creme, as Jean Brodie once referred to her pupils. That's why I have little time for those who denigrate the efforts of players, because by definition they are in the top one per cent of players in the country. Some will fall short, despite their best efforts, and that is harsh, but true. All will experience barren periods, because that is the game, as anyone who has ever played it will testify.

Others, either up and coming or plying their trade elsewhere, will come in over time and replace them if they don't meet expectations. Because professional sport is an unforgiving business.

Yet I don't think, echoing the comments of notoveryet last night, wholesale change is required. Budget permitting, we need a quality batsman and a decent seamer, maybe two. Tahir for the second half of the summer and an overseas who can bat and bowl for the first.

Oh - and progress, coupled with improved fitness, for key personnel.

2018 will be big and the planning starts now.