Saturday, 25 April 2015

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire preview

Two unchanged teams will meet at Bristol tomorrow, which was always likely to be the case at this early stage of the season.

If you pick a team for the first game and then change it, the inference is that you got the selection wrong initially, so few counties will tinker with their sides until the current players have had at least one more opportunity.

Our hosts tomorrow have some good players and others with reputations to build, a little like us. They will give us a good test of both ability and of mental strength after the loss to Lancashire and it will be fascinating to follow the game over the next few days.

The Gloucestershire squad:

Will Tavaré
Chris Dent
Gareth Roderick (wkt)
Hamish Marshall
Geraint Jones (capt)
Kieran Noema-Barnett
Peter Handscomb
James Fuller
Matt Taylor
Liam Norwell
David Payne
Tom Smith
Craig Miles

Tavare and Dent are a good opening pair, while former England and Kent wicket-keeper Geraint Jones is a new recruit and playing as a batsman. Noema-Barnett is in from New Zealand on a British passport, while Aussie Peter Handscomb is on a similar deal. Their batting is, I think, a stronger suit but Derbyshire will need to sustain their focus for four days and twelve sessions, assuming the weather doesn't interfere too much.

I expect the same side to take the field for us, namely:

Slater
Godleman
Guptill
Madsen
Durston
Thakor
Hughes
Hosein
Palladino
Taylor
Footitt

We are a good enough team to bounce back from the Lancashire defeat and win this one. I still expect us to mount a promotion challenge this year and winning this is a good way to start.

If the weather allows it, my tip is smiley faces all round by Wednesday.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Weekend warmer

Thank you for your emails and comments after the Lancashire game, which were, as usually, well made. I thought I'd take a few moments before the next match to respond to them, where necessary.

Tom Knight in the team, as suggested by Mark? He will be a strong contender for the one-day matches, as a clean hitter, excellent fielder and good bowler. I think that the club are taking their time with his bowling, as evidenced by his only bowling four overs in the second team game at Northampton. To be fair, we were awash with spinners in that game anyway and there seemed little point on a terrific batting pitch to bowl someone who had worked hard on his action.

His day and time will come. He is a good cricketer and I am less bothered about the comment of  'Anon' that he would get 'hammered' at county level, based on his league form. In the medium to long term he will take his share of county wickets and, like every other bowler, will get some stick at times.

I once hit a Scotland bowler for four boundaries in an over. It didn't make me a better player than him (I wasn't) but I chanced my arm and got lucky. His figures took a hammering, my street cred went up but I never deluded myself that I was a better player. I remain confident that Tom Knight will become a very good county cricketer, though whether as an all-rounder, a batsman who bowls or a bowler who bats I couldn't say.

He would really only be in my championship team right now if Wes was unavailable and if his new action could be trusted. You don't often need two spinners in a side in April, May and June and only the coaches know if he is more likely than David Wainwright to fill such a role if required. Wainers scored an unbeaten 92 to earn a draw for the seconds yesterday, almost matching what Knight did in the first innings. He was stating a case for inclusion, just as Tom Poynton did.

Losing a point in that first game for a slow over rate was silly and unprofessional. We're better than that and sixteen overs an hour shouldn't be an issue, even with an attack largely made up of seam bowlers. I don't expect to see it happen again and am sure that the issues around it have been amply addressed within the confines of the dressing room.

As I said the other day, there's no need for knee-jerk reaction. I don't expect major, if any, change, for the next game because the perceived first eleven are better than they showed at Derby. Gloucestershire have some good players, but they're no Lancashire and I expect an improved performance from Sunday, weather permitting.

Finally for now, congratulations to Huw Lloyd who leads the Fantasy League after two matches, just ahead of Robert Tomlinson. Modesty forbids my saying who rose from nineteenth to seventh this week (ahem...) but I will be more surprised than any of you if it lasts.

I fully expect several key selections of my side to contract a mystery ailment later in the season, just when they are showing form and just after I have used my final substitute...

See you soon.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Derbyshire v Lancashire day 4

I would be lying if I said that today's result and performance wasn't disappointing.

As you will have read last night, I had no real expectation that we would knock off the biggest chase in our history against an attack led by two international bowlers, on a helpful track with a swinging ball.

I did hope that we would take the game into a little longer than marginally post-lunch, however and the speed of the demise was a disappointment. Our batting is long and supporters will expect a better standard of performance and greater resilience than that, without doubt.

However, it is the first game of the season, we were playing a good team and the difference was, essentially, their four overseas players/Kolpaks. Prince and Petersen made big runs, Siddle blew away our top order in the first innings and Jarvis ran through us in the second. The irony of a team managed by a recent England coach fielding four non-qualified players is obvious, but Lancashire fans will not be worried. The end justified the means and they were on the right side of the result, as, assuming they all stay fit, they should be for much of the season. Indeed, there should be inquests at Old Trafford if they don't go up...

What about Derbyshire? Well, for much of this game we competed against a strong side, but the game ran away from us in the last session yesterday. Only the players will know if the level of intensity slackened, that having disposed of the Lancashire tail in jig time in the first innings, there was an expectation that the last pair would fold quickly. They didn't and a hundred stand completely changed the game and the mindset of those involved, as it so often does.

260-ish was gettable, 360-plus was suggesting we boldly go where no one has gone before - at least not us and not on a fourth day wicket.

We will regroup and we will come again. Today hasn't changed my expectations - maybe if we'd lost like that to Glamorgan it would have - but it has highlighted that we need to be on top of our game for 96 overs and three sessions of every day, or we will suffer.

It is a blip in the foothills of the climb and I expect a reaction to it at Bristol on Sunday.

There are plenty of positives to take from the game and more came in the second team game at Northampton, where Tom Poynton clearly confirmed that he will not allow Harvey Hosein to be first choice keeper without a fight.

Yesterday Northamptonshire racked up 448-6 declared, with Kyle Coetzer scoring an unbeaten 250 and Matt Critchley, fresh from his unbeaten 92 from 41 balls for the Academy, taking 3-69 with his leg spin.

Today, Poynton and Tom Knight combined in a stand of 163 after Scott Elstone had been dismissed for 63. Poynton made 103 from 107 balls, with nineteen fours and a six, while Knight went on to an imperious unbeaten 156, with sixteen fours and five sixes, as Derbyshire declared in turn on 364-4.

The home side had reached 146-2 in their second innings by the close, no doubt setting us a run chase tomorrow afternoon. It serves to illustrate that those outside the team want to be involved and the two Toms will get their chances as the season progresses.

Full marks to both of them for getting their heads down. I shall follow that game tomorrow with great interest.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Derbyshire v Lancashire day 3

Lancashire 293 and 345 (Prince 97, Davies 89, Croft 70, Taylor 6-61
Derbyshire 274 and 27-2
Derbyshire need 338 more to win

For two and a half days, Derbyshire and Lancashire have slugged it out like a couple of prize fighters, both working to gain the initiative, neither giving nor seeking any quarter.

It is a sign of how far Derbyshire have come that they have been able to stand toe to toe with a side likely to be in the promotion mix come September. I think we will be up there too, as there are many worse sides in the division, but this game got away from us in the final session today.

At 245-9, a lead of 264, this game was in the balance, but Alex Davies' bold hitting in the final session today took the game away from us. I'm not being negative, but we have successfully chased in excess of 300 to win only a handful of times in our long history.

It is not all doom and gloom. Where there is Gup, there is hope and there are some good batsmen to come in this Derbyshire side. We bat long and showed that in the first innings, but just as Lancashire's big name players stood up to be counted when they batted, so must ours do the same tomorrow.

The ball is doing a bit, but Lancashire proved that it is possible to score runs on it. As is almost always the case at Derby, it will nip about before lunch and the longer Tom Taylor can hang in there and see off the opening overs the better. I wouldn't put my house on our scoring 338 in a day, but I wouldn't expect us to roll over either and if a couple of players get in, the runs can come quickly on a dry outfield.

It may be turning a little, but I'm with Marc, as he posted yesterday on this one. Kerrigan is a useful bowler, but he's not Bishen Bedi and there's no reason why we shouldn't make a decent fist of things tomorrow.

Star of today, and I suspect many tomorrows, was Tom Taylor (pictured), whose six wickets represented a terrific effort by a 20-year old in only his sixth first-class match. He used the new ball well and throughout was accurate and economical, not always things one associates with fledgling county bowlers.

He has a bright future, as does this Derbyshire side, but I suspect they will need to battle at their best to get anything from this game.

Hashim Amla signs for Derbyshire!

We're spoiled you know. We had Shiv Chanderpaul for the past two summers, we re-sign Martin Guptill and we engage one of Sri Lanka's greats, Tillakaratne Dilshan.

Now we have, albeit for a short time, one of the world's greatest batsmen in Hashim Amla covering the mid-season gap that appeared likely to be problematic.

Hashim Amla. Ranked three in the world for both Test and one-day internationals. A man who, at times, appears to be playing on a different wicket to the bloke at the other end (remember his innings against us at The Oval for Surrey, when everyone else struggled?) He averages over fifty in Test and one-day internationals and is, quite simply, one of the greats of the modern game.

He is also the subject of one of my favourite cricket comments, when a broadcaster who really should have known better, said that Amla's bat was 'quite literally a wand'. I think he was mistaking him for Harry Potter, to be honest, though I appreciated the sentiment, if not the use of language...

Genius is a much over-used word in sport, but Amla is worth it - as you can see from this excerpt from Wikipedia:

In January 2011 Amla became the fastest cricketer to reach 2000 Runs in ODIs in his 40th ODI innings. Recently, he became the fastest cricketer to score 20 ODI centuries. He is currently ranked by the ICC as the world's number 3 batsman in Test and ODIs. Amla became the first South African to score a Test match triple century when he scored 311 not out against England in 2012. In the 57th innings of his one-day international career, Amla became the fastest batsman to score 3,000 ODI runs, requiring 12 innings fewer than Sir Vivian Richards. Also on 8 December 2013, he became the fastest batsman to score 4,000 ODI runs, requiring 8 innings fewer than Sir Vivian Richards. In his 57th match, Hashim Amla became the fastest cricketer to reach 10 centuries in ODIs. In 2013, Hashim Amla became the first batsman since Ricky Ponting to head both the Test and ODI rankings at the same time in the latest ICC charts. In 2014 he became the fastest cricketer to reach 15 centuries in ODIs in his 86th inning. In the same year he became the fastest cricketer to reach 16 centuries in ODIs in his 94th inning and fastest cricketer to 17 centuries in ODIs in his 98th inning. He scored 5 hundreds in ODIs in 2014. On 16 January 2015 against West Indies he became the fastest to reach 5000 runs in ODIs in his 101st inning. On 18 January 2015 he became the fastest cricketer to 18 centuries in ODIs in his 102nd inning. On 3 March 2015 he became the fastest cricketer to reach 20 centuries in ODIs in his 108th inning. He has scored ODI centuries against all test playing countries and only the 4th person to do so. He was named as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the year in 2013.

Amla has had three similar stints before, playing for Essex, Nottinghamshire and Surrey with great success. While there is a danger of failure in 'revolving door' recruitment, it is reduced when the player concerned is as good as the South African, as well as having such high standards. I have every confidence he will prove a success in his brief stay and will now try to work out how and when I can see him.

Next time you're down at Derby and happen to bump into Chris Grant and Simon Storey, make sure you thank them for the sterling work they are doing for our club. Time was when we recruited less stellar names to our colours, largely because we hadn't the contacts nor the collateral for anything else.

Now, with the work going on behind the scenes, the playing budget has increased and we can see the evidence of things with our own eyes. Guptill and Dilshan, two of the stand-outs of the recent World Cup, are with us, as now is Hashim Amla, a man with more records to his name than Richard Branson had when he ran Virgin record shops.

He will be with us in May, for two championship and three T20 matches, the first of his appearances being in the championship game against Northamptonshire, starting on May 10, which will also be my first sighting of the county 'in the flesh' this year. Now that's what I call a lucky coincidence! I assume that Dilshan's July absence is currently being looked at, but this will take some topping.

Hashim Amla of Derbyshire.

I can't believe that I just wrote that...

Seconds start their campaign

Our second team start their season today, with a three-day game against Northamptonshire at Northampton.

I am sure that we will field a strong side, given the number of talented players outside the eleven, while our hosts have a lot of experience themselves.

Kyle Coetzer, the standout Scotland player in the World Cup and Steven Crook  are joined by the likes of Rob Newton, David Murphy and Ben Duckett, while paceman Maurice Chambers also has a run-out as he returns from injury.

A number of trialists - including fast bowler Gemaal Hussain, who enjoyed one very good season with Gloucestershire before moving to the less friendly bowling conditions of Taunton and not doing so well - are involved too, so opposition will be strong.

Good luck to them.

Finally, for now, Nathan Rimmington made his debut for Plumtree this weekend and eased himself back into the game with a fine all-round performance in a friendly.

He took 1-10 in six overs (love that economy rate!) before hitting an unbeaten 76 as his side won by four wickets. Not bad for someone easing back into match fitness after not playing for several weeks since the end of the Aussie season.

It augurs well.

Now, let's hope for seam-friendly conditions at Derby in the first session today...then settling down for the rest of the day...

Monday, 20 April 2015

Fascinating tweet tonight...

It has taken me a while but I am slowly but surely embracing the world of Twitter.

Why, I am now only six short of a hundred followers and having made that opening statement, much akin (I understand, you appreciate...) to that made my alcoholics and drug users in the world of rehab, I have to admit to not yet being prolific.

I now follow a few different people and am glad that I did. Tonight, Kevin Dean tweeted "Wow! You thought our overseas players were good so far? I might just have another for you"

That was closely followed by Chris Grant tweeting that the next overseas signing will be announced before lunchtime tomorrow.

Oh boy...

Derbyshire v Lancashire day 2

Lancashire 292 and 36-3 (Taylor 2-13)
Derbyshire 274 (Durston 85, Godleman 76)
Lancashire lead by 55 runs 

At the end of day two of what appears an absorbing contest on a good cricket wicket, one thing is clear.

If Lancashire can be reasonably used as a benchmark of the best that the division has to offer, then Derbyshire are set for a good season. The visitors are 55 runs ahead with seven second innings wickets left. The key partnership is the current one, between the two of the visiting side's three Kolpak players. If we can dismiss Petersen and/or Prince early tomorrow (ideally both) then we should not have to chase much more than 200 in the final innings. I suspect that we'd prefer the chase to be under that, if at all possible, given that five of our wickets went to spin.

You would have got long odds, were you inclined to visit your local bookie, on Guptill, Madsen and Thakor all getting ducks today. These things happen and do to everyone, but the fact that Derbyshire still came close to parity on first innings speaks volumes for the battling spirit in the side.

At 26-3, with our two best batsmen back in the pavilion, long-time supporters might even have feared the follow-on, but Billy Godleman and Wes Durston first stabilised the innings and then became more expansive, unfurling a full range of strokes to seize the initiative. It was a fine start to the summer for both batsmen, Godleman making an early positive statement in a big season for him. To be fair, it merely confirmed the positive 'vibe' about his game from the tail end of last summer, as he and Wes put on 148 in just 32 overs.

Durston in such form is a delight to watch and it is encouraging to see him in the runs at the start of a summer in which he will skipper the side in T20 matches. There was encouragement too in the late runs of Alex Hughes and Harvey Hosein, who with support from Tony Palladino took is to within 19 of the visitors tally.

'This is a big last eleven overs for Lancashire' wrote someone on Cricinfo's live feed. Indeed it was - and they struggled. Having bowled Reece in the first innings, Mark Footitt did for his opening partner this time, while Tom Taylor, given the new ball, responded in the best way by having Reece caught behind and night watchman Peter Siddle caught in the slips. This, coming after he summarily ended the visitor's innings this morning, made for a fine day for the young seamer.

It is all to play for at the middle of the match. With a good weather forecast, a positive result, one way or the other, seems likely and that first session tomorrow is huge in a fledgling season.

Aggression. Attack. Achieve. They're not the right words for the 3aaa County Ground's sponsors, but they're pretty close to what we need tomorrow.

The game is there for the taking after two good days of cricket. Games can be won from such positions and we have worked hard to get here.

Who is going to step up and do the business?

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Derbyshire v Lancashire day 1

Lancashire 292-8 (Petersen 115, Palladino 3-70) v Derbyshire

At the end of what appears to have been an excellent day's cricket, Derbyshire's skipper Wayne Madsen felt that Lancashire had been allowed off the hook.

The game is still even, but from 55-4, the red rose county will be delighted by the application shown by their lower order, led by one of their Kolpak recruits, Alviro Petersen. He is a good player, as he has shown in previous county stints and showed all of his experience in battling through tricky pre-lunch conditions.

At that point one sensed we were a wicket away from breaking through, but the experienced South African showed that runs could be scored with sufficient application. Derbyshire bowled with discipline, led by Tony Palladino's three wickets, while two each for Mark Footitt and debutant Shiv Thakor showed that there was something in the wicket for seamers.

By the same token, wickets largely fell around the two new balls and batting became easier thereafter. We are very much in this game and we will not know the significance of this score until we have batted ourselves. A solid opening stand would help us considerably.

All in all it was a good effort in the field against a side that most critics suggest will bounce back to the top tier this summer. The only surprise, for me, was that it took until the 50th over and a century stand had been compiled before Alex Hughes turned his arm over. He has established a reputation as a wicket-taking bowler and I thought he may have bowled before that, especially when Petersen and Smith had handled everyone else with increasing authority.

A worthy effort then. Let's hope that our own efforts with the bat are equally stoic and tomorrow night I am reporting on an impressive batting display.

One sleep to go...

And then the action begins...

Can't wait!!