Tuesday, 14 August 2018

In a parallel universe...

Just imagine if the very much in form Mitchell Santner had not sustained the knee injury that ruled him out of a Derbyshire stint. Or if the equally talented, and also left-handed Luis Reece hadn't been ruled out effectively for the season by his foot injury.

Or if we had been brave enough to make a change in the T20 captaincy and give it to Alex Hughes, who I think is talented and respected enough to handle the role. Or to Daryn Smit, a respected captain from his time in South Africa.

And if we had picked the best wicket-keeper in the club, who had the better rate with the bat, too, and not prevaricated and picked two of them for the first few games, thus unbalancing the squad.

How much better might our T20 performances been?

OK, we wouldn't have seen Lockie Ferguson, which would have been a huge loss, because his superb fast bowling has been the season highlight for me. Yet it could well have been far more successful had we been regularly able to field this eleven:


Eight bowlers and left/right combos down the order. Three left-arm bowlers too, giving greater variety. I would have fancied greater success with that eleven on the field.

So here is my question to you, ahead of our final match on Friday.

Assuming our new Head of Cricket is as impressed with this year's T20 selections as we were, would you bring back both Riaz and Ferguson? Or bring in Santner? If so, at the expense of which one?

I look forward to your responses!

Monday, 13 August 2018

T20 chances go with Nottinghamshire win

Rikki Wessels assault last night, on the same Worcestershire bowling that had strangled Derbyshire a few days earlier, quickly ended any remaining hopes, were they ever entertained, of our qualification from the northern group.

It also meant that I didn't need to seriously consider resurrecting my earlier plan of travelling down to the Riverside for the final match, which had been some time in the consideration stage, but discarded after the Northamptonshire defeat.

I  will have my thoughts on the T20 at the weekend, but we must try to finish on a high at Durham, then ensure that we get as high a finish as possible in the county championship. That is very possible, given the potency of Lockie Ferguson thus far, as long as we quickly adapt to the four day format once more.

Attention will also turn to off-field matters and the appointment of the Head of Cricket. There has been little from the club on the interviews and when they might be conducted, though logic suggests we would want someone in place sooner, rather than later, especially when John Wright and Dominic Cork are no longer around to offer some form of guidance and support.

I find it hard to believe that the club will not have had some very strong applicants for the role and remain adamant that it should go to someone completely new to the club. It needs to be a fresh eye on the place from top to bottom, not someone with 'previous' at the club. We have done that a number of times now and it hasn't worked out with some very good people.

I would be astonished if it went to Mal Loye, who with the greatest of respect would be seen by many as the 'easy' appointment. I don't doubt his credentials, nor discount the work he has done with the club's academy, but I can think of several very good external options (and I am including Grant Bradburn in that) with who I would be very happy.

Interestingly, from reading his Twitter account last night, one of them will not be Chris Adams.

'Surely it's time the powers that be sorted themselves out. Talk a good game, continue to fail in basic decision making - winners win, losers lose' was what he wrote. Subsequently, when asked, he said he had not been approached by Derbyshire. My understanding was that the role required an application process anyway, so maybe there's crossed wires, but the wording suggested that the return of who some see as the 'prodigal son' is not on the cards any time soon.

I dare say that we will find out soon enough, but this is going to be a very big winter for the club. I won't go down the path of 'who shall we sign', because my first concern is that we retain the services on appropriate deals of some of our better young players.

The wolves are always circling and there may be interest in some players, even those under contract. If those deals have not been appropriate to their contribution to the club, we run a high risk of losing them and others offering to buy out their deals.

I hope not, because board elections are coming up in the new year and from the tone of emails that I have been sent, a lot of supporters and members are unhappy at present.

Fingers crossed their concerns are allayed in the coming months...

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Derbyshire v Leicestershire Vitality Blast

Tonight's game contained much to admire from Derbyshire, but the grey and threatening skies eventually decided to unload their cargo and the game was rained off with the visitors 103-4 in the fifteenth over.

Lockie Ferguson again bowled some balls of blinding speed, one of them clocked at 93.5mph and the fastest ball bowled on Sky this summer. Again he went for under six an over on a night when all the bowlers did well. Hardus Viljoen was lucky to get the wicket of Cosgrove, caught behind off his, rather than the bat's shoulder, while Alex Hughes bowled three very tidy overs that included the wicket of Ben Raine.

That came about from a fine piece of work by Calum MacLeod on the boundary, who caught the ball and threw it up before his impetus took him over the rope, then held it with a degree of nonchalance.

The excellent Colin Ackermann, a fine signing by the Foxes, led a recovery with Atiq Javid and they seemed set for a total between 140 and 160 when the rains came.

Indeed they came with such vengeance that I am writing this blog an hour before the game needs to resume to constitute a match.

That isn't going to happen, judging by the forecast, so the small remaining hopes of qualification disappeared in the evening gloom.

The irony of Henry Nicholl flying over from New Zealand to field was not lost on me. Hopefully he gets a hit in the last game, at Chester-le-Street next weekend.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

I will be back soon.

Thoughts on two defeats

When I look back on the 2017 season, I think that I can broadly encapsulate it in one sentence.

It's not the losing that hurts, it's the fact that we threw away a win.

There was a time, and not that long ago, that we were hammered in most T20 matches and rarely entertained the prospect of beating bigger clubs. That has now changed and it is perhaps an inverted compliment that we have genuine expectations of beating most sides. Progress has been made, but it still hurts, perhaps even more, when we lose and will continue to do so when we continually throw away hard-fought advantages.

I didn't see any of the Northamptonshire game, although it was streamed, as I couldn't get a stable wi-fi signal, but it seemed to me that we fell around 20 runs short of what should have been attainable. Only eight came from the closing over and a half and when the visitors got off to a flyer it never seemed enough.

Apart from a snorter of a yorker from Ferguson, yet again, that would have removed the foot of Vasconcelos had it been in the way, we bowled poorly and gave away too many freebies. At the same time Duckett and Cobb, both free-scoring players, had one of those days and the fact that we lost to a bottom-place team  with ten balls to spare tells it all. It was a poor performance, one that critics would deem a 'typically Derbyshire' one when it matters. We can beat the best, but remain worryingly fallible against sides we should be beating.

Moving on a day, we bowled beautifully at Worcester and the discipline for which the attack has been known in previous games was fully restored. As I basked in the afternoon sunshine with my family at Morecambe, the regular tweets suggested that we could get back to the three wins in four that I suggested might see us through. Their free-scoring batsmen never got going, with the exception of the hugely talented Joe Clarke, and the final target of less than 140 looked well within our compass.

Yet we never threatened. This time our batting let us down and a dreadful start was only partially rescued by Gary Wilson and Billy Godleman, who built the innings but never at a rate that suggested a win was on the cards. It was again poor fare.

Yes, qualification is still theoretically possible, but only by dint of a sequence of results so unlikely that my hopes of one day playing for Derbyshire seem modest by comparison. I just think we have shot ourselves in the foot too many times this year and the batting order has made little sense to the casual observer.

Surely you want your best batsman, Wayne Madsen, in as early as possible, yet he came in at five at Worcester. Why do we promote Riaz to three, see him play two fine innings, then not bat there again? Why play Dal everywhere between three and nine? Why not bat Hughes higher than eight, where he seldom had a chance to make an impact? Why bat Critchley, a free hitter, as low as seven or eight? In this format both Alex and Matt will score more quickly than Gary Wilson, who can hit a ball but is a slow starter and limited on the off side.

It smacked of a batting order being pulled out of a hat, or otherwise the result of a power struggle where the coaches are saying one thing but the captain something else.

Have we improved? Yes, over two years, from where we were. But we could do so much better with greater consistency of plan, such as we had last year. It is as if we have taken on the lesson of the Hampshire game, where we were out-thought by their promotion of Afridi, and decided that no one will ever second guess our batting order.

For me it made no sense. Being an honest guy, I don't think we picked the best captain, nor wicket-keeper and I got the impression that results were being achieved despite selections, rather than because of them.

We engaged Sharif and he has never played a game, while McKiernan has played only one. The latter should have played at least another couple, but there seemed an unwillingness to change the bowling with four international bowlers. I get that to some extent, but top coaches make brave decisions and we didn't. Whether captain or coach has final say I am unsure, but that person has made errors.

Finally, the pitches. My understanding is that our home matches have been played on two pitches, which have naturally got slower. Why, with the fastest attack on the circuit? We saw at Northampton  how they destroyed a side, but they have since had to bowl on wickets resembling a beach. It makes no sense and they have to join up the dots for future seasons and prepare wickets that better suit the resources at our disposal.

Leicestershire tonight and I hope we win with the cameras on us. It will be good to see Henry Nicholls  in the county colours and see the impact of an international batsman on our fragile batting, but we will undoubtedly miss the excellent Wahab Riaz.

Overseas players flit through counties on an annual basis and five years down the line there are those who will barely register in the collective memory.

Riaz came and did a sterling job. He bowled quickly and accurately, kept things tight in both Power plays and played a couple of innings that some may not have considered possible. He was a positive role model for younger players and was often seen having a word at key moments, making up a potent overseas combo with Lockie Ferguson.

He did it all with a smile on his face that suggested he enjoyed the experience, an object lesson for some around the circuit who seem to scowl their way from day to day.

A successful signing, beyond any doubt.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

A deferred blog

I will need to get my apologies in early but I won't be able to blog on last night and tonight in detail until I get home tomorrow.

The southern lakes area is beautiful but WiFi is either limited or non-existent in the place we are staying.

Please add any comments you wish to make at this stage here and I will review the two games when I get a stable connection.


Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Derbyshire v Nothamptonshire Vitality Blast

As Twitter followers will know, I am currently on holiday with my family in the Lake District, but will naturally follow events at the 3aaa County Ground closely tonight.

It is a big game, but then they all are now. Logically, Northamptonshire having lost nine of their ten matches, we should win this one, but we will be blase about the match at our peril. They have some very good players, even if there seems a collective lack of confidence at present, after a series of poor defeats.

It will be a last home game for Wahab Riaz and will be likely played on a similar track to the Warwickshire game. The quicks will hope for a little more pace though and our batsmen will want to be able to play shots with a little more confidence.

Then it is on to high-flying Worcestershire tomorrow, so bottom follows top. It is a game that presents the biggest challenge for us on paper, as they have been playing so well, but if we focus on our game, anything is possible.

An added incentive would be to do well and boost our net run rate, as it looks increasingly likely that this will determine the final place in the group. While Worcestershire are running away with the section, the other three places are between six counties at this stage and I am just glad that it was Lancashire and not Derbyshire who 'choked' last night when needing only six from the final over to beat Durham.

I don't expect changes from the recent successful side tonight, though the line up will need tweaked in the days ahead to accommodate the arrival of Henry Nicholls.

All in good time. I will be back either after tonight's game or tomorrow with my thoughts, depending on what we are doing today.

Between times, give the boys a cheer for me.

I'm going for  a home win here.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Nicholls flies in for crucial fixtures

I am pleased that those in charge at Derbyshire County Cricket Club have seen sense and opened the purse strings to enable the signing of New Zealand batsman Henry Nicholls, an excellent, up and coming player.

Even more pleased that his signing makes it appear as if I have a crystal ball, when in fact I just applied a fair old dollop of logic to my suggestion at the weekend.

We have a New Zealand coach, together with an assistant coach from the same country. There's an obvious 'in' there, plus the Kiwi players are about the only country who are not currently touring or preparing to tour somewhere else. They are in pre-season though, which helps and from there it was a case of looking who had played IPL, or was playing CPL, who was already in this country and who would most benefit from a county stint in the furtherance of their career.

That took out a lot of players and left me with one name from their international squad - thus we welcome Henry Nicholls to Derbyshire.

He is an impressive left-hander who sprung to prominence last winter with an unbeaten 145 against England, having also scored a Test century against South Africa. While his first-class average, in the mid-thirties, has room to improve, his T20 one is over thirty, which for a middle order batsman in the format is the sign of a pretty good player.

Whether his signing is one of the shorter ones in the county history or not (his fellow countryman Chris Harris, to my memory, played one one-day game for us), Nicholls has an opportunity to make himself known in this country and indeed to Derbyshire.

Tom Latham has done extremely well at Durham, Corey Anderson and Martin Guptill likewise at Somerset and Worcestershire, while Ish Sodhi's work at Trent Bridge is well known to us. We should have seen how Mitchell Santner fared for us, but have enjoyed wonderful service from Lockie Ferguson.

Having said all that, Henry has some tough acts to follow, but if he is more John Wright than Neil Broom we will do OK. Mind you, Broom, like Hamish Rutherford, could hit a ball on his day and Nicholls must be rated by John Wright and Grant Bradburn.

And if he plays even one innings that gets us to the knock out stage, it is money well spent, as well as being absolutely the right thing to do, as I said the other day.

Welcome to Derbyshire, Henry.

We all hope that your stay is memorable, for the right reasons.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Another Nottinghamshire loss opens door a little wider

An uninspiring Nottinghamshire side was roundly thrashed by Worcestershire last night, never in the match as they were outbatted and outbowled.

Had we beaten them last week their fans would have been even more critical than they were on Twitter. 'Sack Moores' was a common comment and while their fickle support made me smile, because they win their fair share of matches, it shows how open and how tough this northern group really is.

We now lie fifth, and as I wrote the other day need to focus on winning and letting the others knock themselves out of the equation. If we keep doing so, we only need one from Durham, Yorkshire and Lancashire to fail and we are in the knockouts. Worcestershire are the best team in the group, though Surrey and Somerset in the southern group are the two sides that have most impressed me.

Their remaining fixtures:

Durham - Lancs (A) Leics (H) Northants (A) Lancs (H) Derbys (H)

Yorkshire - Lancs (H) Notts (A) Northants (A) Notts (H)

Lancashire  - Durham (H) Yorks (A) Durham (A) Birmingham (A)

And let's not forget Nottinghamshire, who have Birmingham (A) Yorkshire (H ) Worcs (A) Yorks (A)

Something has to give in those results and if we win ours, or even three out of four, qualification is still on. I'm even planning a trip down to Durham for that final game, just in case and their attack is now shorn of Imran Tahir who has been a major influence for them this year alongside the excellent Tom Latham.

We will have the services of the equally influential Wahab Riaz for the games against Northamptonshire at home and Worcestershire away, but would then be without him for the home game against Leicestershire and the final trip to Durham.

I take on board the comments from a couple of people about not replacing Riaz. I would agree but if - and only if - avenues have been explored to replace him. The market is restricted, as I have written before, but there are plenty of players in pre-season who would likely do a good job, especially in New Zealand, whose players usually give excellent service on the county scene.

As I replied to notoveryet yesterday, I understand that Jimmy Neesham isn't currently fit to bowl so wouldn't take him on as a batsman, but someone like Henry Nicholls, an excellent forcing batsman,  would be an asset.

It is unlikely we will find a bowler of such parsimony and talent as Riaz, so we would need to  make up the extra cost  with the bat. I am not totally convinced we have that in our batting line up as it stands, so bringing in someone to address the balance is worthwhile for me.

After all, we have brought in John Wright and Dominic Cork to show us how to play T20 and over two summers few would argue against their doing that. Equally, with a new Head of Cricket coming in few would expect their return next year.

With a quarter-final berth in sight, they should have the resources to make it happen.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Derbyshire v Birmingham Vitality Blast

Derbyshire 143-9  (MacLeod 39, Wilson 30 not)

Birmingham 127-9 (Bell 65, Wahab 3-27, Viljoen 2-12, Hughes 2-26)

Derbyshire won by 16 runs

At halfway in this match there might only have been the super-positive who saw Derbyshire in with a chance of victory.

Only 143 runs to defend, against a team with strong batting and led by Ian Bell, who has had a wonderful Indian summer in his career.

Yet we did it with sixteen runs to spare, with another superb, disciplined bowling display that limited the visitors to 127-9 in their innings. The bowlers were again backed up by keen fielding and safe catching, although I understand Gary Wilson did put down Ian Bell at a stage when it looked crucial.

Fair play to the captain, he played a slow knock tonight but after the dismissal of Billy Godleman and Calum MacLeod no one else really found scoring easy. Grant Elliott bowled a typically miserly spell but an innings that looked like it might end somewhere between 160 and 180 ended up considerably

Yet, to their immense credit, you simply cannot discount this Derbyshire attack. Riaz led the way with three wickets and closed out so well again, yet the best figures went to Hardus Viljoen, with a terrific 2-12 in his four over spell. No miscalculations tonight and the five seamers all did their jobs manfully. Rampaul was the most expensive, but when you bowl in both Powerplays that is always likely. Ferguson was for once wicketless, but again a model of parsimony and is going for only 6.59 an over at this stage in the competition, an outstanding effort. So too Riaz, at 7.25 and both bowlers could have done no more for their side.

I was a little baffled by the batting order again. I understood a rationale of replacing one pinch hitter for another with Godleman being replaced by Riaz, but the success of the last two games didn't come in until eight. Dal was rightly elevated, but overestimated his powers of acceleration and underestimated the arm of Woakes and was run out without scoring.

I still think Wilson is too early at five, but he can argue tonight that his knock, especially a four and six in the last over, won us the game. Yet so too did a return to normal bowling discipline, with only eight extras conceded.

At the end of it all we lifted ourselves up and won again. Five from six and very, very much in the shake up for the knockouts. Northamptonshire at home on Wednesday then Worcestershire away on Thursday, who won a high-scoring thriller against Durham in the last over.

That will be it for the magnificent Mr Riaz, but hopefully between times we will learn who is coming in to replace him.

Because someone surely has to.

You did us proud tonight boys, well done. And with Derby County getting off to a flyer under Frank Lampard, it's a good night to be a Derbyshire sports fan.

Postscript - there is still time to bid for the autographed Derbyshire T20 kit, size small. The current leading bid is £50. If you would like to win this, mail me with your top bid at peakfan36@yahoo.co.uk by midnight tomorrow. All proceeds to two very worthwhile charities.

Morning after thoughts

Having given the matter considerable thought, I think that some of our wounds - far too many, in fact - were self-inflicted last night.

Starting with selection. On a wicket which was dry and dusty, would it not have made a lot more sense to play Matt McKiernan? Another leggie, bowled at the right time and the right end (I'll come back to that) would have been better and, on a horses for courses basis I would have played him in preference to Rampaul last night. It was tailor-made for the lad and seems a waste of his talents to be omitted on such a surface.

Then there's tactics. I don't think Gary Wilson did a good job last night. As skipper, he would have had final say on the side's line up and for me, got it wrong. Then there was the game itself.

Bowling Critchley to a short leg side boundary, against a batsman far happier against spin than pace was professional suicide. Of course he was going to slog against the spin and a short boundary made the percentages very much in his favour. That over cost us the game and I am not blaming the bowler, but the skipper who put him on at the wrong end at the wrong time. He was always going to have a dart at that stage.

It meant that Viljoen, who bowled well and would have troubled the batsmen more, didn't bowl his allocation, which was quite an oversight.

Then there was the batting order. For me, when we lost Riaz, Dal should have gone in. He scores quickly from the outset, improvises well and crucially runs fast between the wickets. Wilson doesn't, and although he hits well when he gets going, we had our foot on the accelerator and with that quick running, could have kept it ticking over last night. That point was rather proven when he went in last night, at nine, when it was too late. And one should never discount the incentive a player has against a county who released him...

Tonight, I hope for a faster, bouncy pitch for those seamers and a win will still see us able to qualify. We then play Northamptonshire at home and Worcestershire away, followed by Leicestershire at home and Durham away.

I see all of those games as winnable at our best and other games, as a correspondent pointed out earlier, mean something has to give. Nottinghamshire have to play Worcestershire twice and Yorkshire twice, Lancashire play Durham twice and the latter have to play Worcestershire and Yorkshire.

Plenty to play for BUT we must have a replacement for Wahab Riaz for the closing games and then knockouts if we get there. Yes, it was great to hear that we have Riaz for two more games, but playing Leicestershire and then going to Durham without a second overseas would be silly, careless, thoughtless - call it as you will. We are allowed two, and if we are in the mix, we should have two.

If we are so strapped we can't afford one, say so. If we aren't, then let's have supporters' minds put at rest, because it is the main subject of my post bag at the moment.

To answer the question - yes, we do need that overseas. Ideally one who can bat and bowl but I would be open on that.

But I would be very unhappy if the role is not filled.

More from me later. Good luck tonight lads!