Friday, 15 February 2019

Sponsor sought

I would appreciate any help you can offer with regard to a new blog sponsor for 2019.

Office Care have been very supportive for the past few years, but the search for a new sponsor continues, otherwise I will need to pop the dreaded Google Ads back on again to bring in some money.

If you and your company are interested, please drop me an email to and we can take it from there.

Please mention it to friends and I am happy to discuss options.

Cork return completes off-field picture

With this morning's announcement of the return of Dominic Cork to the Derbyhire coaching setup, the club's off-field picture is now complete.

It is welcome and common sense news. As a player, Dominic was second to none in his approach to the game and gave no quarter. He will expect the same from what is likely to be a young and fearless Derbyshire side in that format, where I fully expect high standard fielding to back up aggressive and common sense batting and bowling.

The players will not lack for support off the field and there is a definite 'feel good' factor around the club at present. There has not been massive recruitment over the winter, but what we have appears to fit very much into a common sense category.

Logan van Beek arrives from New Zealand as full season overseas player, and may well fly under the radar accordingly, while Tom Lace will have a season-long loan at the club from Middlesex. While critics may say that he has yet to make a first-class fifty, one has only to watch him bat to see that, and more, happening sometime soon.

The attack may be only one experienced player's injury from a problem, but the loan market could then be utilised. I would expect a few counties to look to Surrey in such a situation, where they seem to have three sides worth of seam bowlers. With two Currans, Dernbach, Dunn, McKerr, Meaker, Morkell, Plunkett, Jordan Clark and Rikki Clarke they have staggering depth, even allowing for England calls and the odd injury.

In closing today, good luck to Wayne Madsen, who starts his stint with Peshawar Zalmi in the PSL

I have every confidence he will do well.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Wood's stellar winter deserves reward

If there is any justice in this world, the next contract announced by Derbyshire County Cricket Club will be one for Tom Wood. Should it happen, only the churlish would suggest that it was anything other than fully deserved.

At the levels of the game that he has so far played, Tom has dominated. Not only has he scored runs in huge quantities, it is the way he has made them that has impressed.

For the last three years he has scored major runs for Derbyshire Second XI, for Ticknall in the Derbyshire Premier League and also for Frankston Peninsula, in the Victorian first grade.

Following on from a 2018 summer in which he scored over a thousand runs for the county second team as well as for his club, he has had a stellar winter in Australia, despite five weeks out with a broken thumb.

He has averaged just under 58 with the bat, including three centuries, 51 in twenty-over cricket and over 60 in the 50 over game. By any standards, that is highly impressive.

To put it into context, other county players such as Ben Slater, Matt Critchley, Luis Reece, Alex Hughes and Paul Borrington averaged around 35 in trips to Australia. In three winters over there, Tom's lowest average has been 45. 

He will be 25 this summer and the above statistics suggest that his time is now. I understand that Dave Houghton plans to have a good look at him on his return home and would be both surprised and disappointed were the player not to be offered a deal.

Of course, the Derbyshire batting side seems to be well established and assuming that everyone is fit, Tom would on paper be outside it, alongside Matt McKiernan and Anuj Dal. Yet in a side with several all rounders, the beauty is that Dave Houghton can select an extra batsman or bowler, depending on the greater need. 

All three of the above are capable of stepping in and making an important contribution. All are young enough to have their best years in front of them.

With a head of cricket who is keen to offer opportunity to the best young local talent, I would be surprised if there were many better options out there than Tom Wood.

Perhaps 2019 will be his summer and I could see him as a very strong option for us in the limited over game especially. A top six of Godleman, Reece, Madsen, Wood, Hughes and Critchley has a nice look to it. 

I hope he gets his chance. It would be very sad if a player of such obvious ability failed through a lack of opportunity alone. While Tom Lace will get four-day opportunity, Wood seems a better fit for the shorter forms. Indeed, a recent 160-ball innings of 141, with seven sixes and 13 fours, confirmed his power in the one-day game.

For me, the limited opportunities that he has had so far have not given him the chance to properly showcase his skills and a contract, together with an opportunity to justify a place, would be of mutual benefit.


Thursday, 7 February 2019

McKiernan extension is welcome news

Today's breaking news that Matt McKiernan has signed a contract extension at  Derbyshire may fly under the radar with some people.

He is not yet a big name, nor indeed a new one, having played for our second team last season. He did so with some success, scoring useful runs and  taking wickets with his leg spin variations. His displays earned him a call up to the senior side for one T20 match, when he let no one down.

That he has impressed over the winter months is no real surprise, as Matt is a very talented young player. He played in a successful Leigh Cricket Club team alongside Luis Reece, and has also played with success  for Cumberland. His all round talents will make him a useful player for Derbyshire and I could see him being particularly effective in the T20.

By the same token, it is never a bad thing to have a player in your side worthy of selection as either a batting or bowling specialist, who can slot into the side and give depths two both disciplines. As the summer progresses we could quite easily see Matt in the same team as his namesake, the talented Mr Critchley.

With Hamidullah Qadri also on the staff, Derbyshire has a trio of exciting young spin bowlers. Depending on the fitness of our seam attack as the summer progresses, they may each get plenty of bowling opportunities in 2019.

Matt has worked hard at lower levels of the game to get to this stage. Don't be surprised if that level of commitment and willingness to work hard takes him on still further.

Like the rest of you, I wish him well.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

New county sponsor, same old ECB

There was good news for Derbyshire County Cricket Club this week with the announcement of a new sponsor.

Pattonair, a multinational company with their headquarters in Derby will get naming rights for the County Ground and their support will back the clubs on-field ambitions. It can only be good news and I applaud the work of chief executive Ryan Duckett and his team in pulling this together.

Meanwhile, there was an interesting interview on the club's website in which wayne madsen said that Dave Houghton was the best coach that he had worked with and praised the work that the squad had done so far. Wayne will be flying out to play in the PSL shortly and I am sure that he will do well.

There is a feel good factor around the club at the moment, which is diametrically opposed to that around English cricket. With plans advancing in regard to a new tournament of whatever length is eventually decided, I have a feeling that 2019 will be the last summer in which the traditional county cricket fan will feel they are on a level of some kind with the other first class counties.

I am far from a betting man, but nothing that I have seen or heard has changed my mind from the opinion that this competition is a clandestine way of making eight 'super counties', with the rest simply becoming feeders for them in time.

While the argument of 1.3 million pounds per year over 5 years is strong, I do not feel alone in asserting that we have accepted 'conscience money' to wipe out debts but to the detriment of the overall standard and interests of the game as a whole.

It is all very sad.

Finally, in the Caribbean, we see a totally underprepared England team being hammered by a West Indies side that has some promising players but is far from the juggernaut that dominated world cricket from the 1970s onwards.

Joe Root asserts that the side was prepared for the tour, when it is perfectly obvious that they were not. With batsman struggling for touch and bowlers for rhythm, they will lose a series that should, with preparation, have been winnable.

The lack of preparation smacks of arrogance and it is always nice to see such an attitude put firmly its place. While the romantics among us will delight in seeing an improved West Indian team, I am not convinced that they are as good as our poorly  prepared team is making them look with poor shot selection and bowling of mediocre standard, in some cases.

Good luck to them though. Perhaps the embarrassing spectacle of our insipid performance will be the catalyst for future tours to allow for proper preparation.

Just as you would not expect Derbyshire's players to start a County season on the back of two days against a university side and a couple of nets, is it not common sense for the highest level of the game to be properly prepared for?

I rest my case.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Houghton plans to give youth its head

Like a few of you, from the emails and messages I have had in the last 24 hours, I was a little surprised at the interview with Dave Houghton  yesterday.

In it, for those who have been out of contact, the Head of Cricket said that we will not be immediately replacing Hardus Viljoen, but will offer opportunity to young players and retain the money in the cricket budget for when someone who would strengthen the side becomes available.

I understand the rationale. As I said yesterday, domestic players will have signed deals somewhere if they are good enough by this stage, while we can only assume that overseas options are either not there at the moment, or are too expensive or too great a risk at this time. The loan market may be one we tap into again, but no county is going to loan us a bowler in January and find themselves short in April.

I applaud the idea of giving youth its opportunity, and none of us outside of the club knows the progress made by Sam Conners, James Taylor and Alfie Gleadall over the winter. If they don't get the chance, we won't know if they can rise like cream to the top, or if they have the mental and physical resilience to make it in the first-class game. They have done well at age group level, so let's see what exposure to a higher level can do for them.

Houghton and Steve Kirby will know the ability of these lads and must feel they have something, on which basis I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt and bow to their knowledge, expertise and closer proximity to the players.

However, with that comes a couple of caveats.

One is that the club MUST now give the Head of Cricket a long-term opportunity to develop the club and the young players passing through it. Like many others, I have grown tired of the constant changing of coaches and John Morris, Karl Krikken and Graeme Welch were not bad at their job. They all had weaknesses, as we all do, but they each brought strengths to the party too, as did Kim Barnett in less of a hands on role.

Dave should now be given five years, if he wants that long at his age, to bring through this crop of talent and others. Let's see what he can do in the longer term, because in the short term he has been hamstrung by a departure ten weeks before the season.

Can we expect Tony Palladino to stay fit all summer and do as well as last year? He is 35 now, while Ravi Rampaul's fitness last summer, a year younger, was questionable. Is it equally realistic to expect Logan van Beek to stay fit for six months and play all cricket as a seam bowler? It is a long time since we had a full season overseas bowler and it will be a big ask again.

My notional side for the opening game would be:

Van Beek

Outside that eleven, at present, we have two other young seamers, Anuj Dal, Matt McKiernan and Hamidullah Qadri. Perhaps there will be a deal for Tom Wood too, and of course Daryn Smit is around but more likely in the second team and coaching.

So we need a lot of luck with injuries. Having three all-rounders in the top six is an asset and both Luis Reece and Alex Hughes could do well on early season pitches, but we will just need to wait and see. After all, if we signed one more player, we may have one more injury, as that's the way that the game can go...

This isn't like when Mark Footitt left, because he took a lot of wickets. Hardus had talent, but will go down for me as a massive disappointment. His supporters will refer to Hove, detractors to The Riverside and plenty of others when direction was quite simply shocking at this level. Nor was his plastering the trappings of his success all over social media especially conducive to team spirit either, when others are paid considerably less but are contributing much more.

Don't underestimate the value of team spirit. If luck goes our way and a relatively young squad stays fit, desire and togetherness can reap dividends.

Finally today, Gareth asked last night how much I thought we had saved from the departures of Gary Wilson, Hardus Viljoen, Ben Slater and Duanne Olivier.

The answer isn't simple, because the latter, for example, like Lockie Ferguson, has been replaced by Van Beek. You also need to factor in improved contracts for key players too, and the need to do the same for Matt Critchley, if things go to plan.

My guess - and I am no more privy to player salaries than any of you - is that we have the Viljoen salary as our 'pot', as and when there is a perceived need to use it. When the right player or players are available, that could prove very useful.

Only Dave Houghton will know when that is.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Viljoen leaves county

There was, at least as far as I am concerned, no great surprise in today's announcement regarding Hardus Viljoen.

The bowler has opted to be released from the final year of his contract and so will play no more for Derbyshire.

His success in the Pakistan 10 over competition, together with his selection for this year's Indian Premier League, will have allowed him to look quite differently at his future. It may well be that he is picked up for a stint in the Caribbean Premier League and his need to bowl long spells in county cricket is no longer there.

Regular readers will know that I suspected something may be afoot when there was no comment from the County on his IPL deal. Dave Houghton will be very keen to get off to a flyer in the season, yet we faced the first critical weeks without our highly paid Kolpak signing.

Furthermore, replacing him for a short spell would have been almost impossible, as any domestic bowler will be signed up at this stage.

I think that the parting of ways makes sense for both the club and the player. His signing, two years ago, suggested that we would have the attacking spearhead that was sorely needed after the departure of Mark Footitt, yet it didn't work out.

He missed much of his first season and was really only fit when it was coming to a conclusion. There was at least that golden game at Hove, when he entered the county record books, and supporters were optimistic about his second summer.

Sadly, aside from two or three useful spells in the T20, perhaps a portent for his future, it was far from spectacular. Too often line and length deserted him and the county needed someone of greater reliability. He took wickets, but the average was too high for an overseas signing  and too many runs were given away, as Messrs Smit and Hosein dived hither and thither in vain to stop the wayward exocets.

To some extent he will be missed, as a dangerous late order hitter, while if he did get it right he could bowl some very fast and awkward deliveries. It just didn't happen often enough though and the regular cost/benefit analysis of supporters too often found him wanting.

I wish him well for the future, wherever it takes him, but Dave Houghton will now seek better value from wherever he goes for a replacement.

With the season fast approaching, and this on the cards for some time, I would be surprised if there were not already irons in the fire. We are potentially able to bring in another Kolpak, or player with an English passport from overseas, hopefully better suited to our needs and to English conditions.

If we don't, we have a major gap in our seam bowling resources for the summer. Logan Van Beek may well need to bowl at one end, only coming off in September, while Tony Palladino and Ravi Rampaul will have heavier workloads than their ages really warrant. Nor would we want Luis Reece bowling 20-overs an innings, when he has to then bat in the top three. Aside from that we have the academy boys, which is asking a lot of them.

Like the rest of you, I will watch future developments with considerable interest.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Brief updates at a quiet time

It has been a few quiet weeks for Derbyshire cricket supporters.

We are now, however, enjoying the sight of the players hard at work in the gym and in the indoor nets. There are also good reports on the fitness of players who suffered disappointment with injuries in 2018.

Luis Reece, so sorely missed last year is reportedly well and raring to go, while Alfie Gleadall is recovering well from a stress fracture of the back. Gleadall, like the other  young seam bowlers, should see opportunity this summer, much depending on how well the senior bowlers retain form and fitness.

He looked a bowler of talent last year and bowled a couple of brisk spells in the ill fated game at Durham, where he also showed ability with the bat.

I am cautiously optimistic about the coming season IF we get the rub of the green and are able to get off to a good start. We still don't know what is happening with Hardus Viljoen, apart from the fact that he will miss the start of the summer at least, while we still don't know the identity of our second t20 player, or indeed the coach for that format.

The captain has also to be announced for the short form and with the season just over two months away there is much to be done.

The club is in good hands though and I remain confident in a competitive and enjoyable summer. Dave Houghton and Steve Kirby will doubtless do a good job.

In closing today, I would like to wish Chris Airey the best as he leaves shortly to take on a new role at Warwickshire. He has worked well to build on the groundwork of his predecessor, Tom Holdcroft and the club's social media and marketing presence is at a very high level.

There will be a new look to off field in 2019, just as there will to the coaching staff.

I wish them all well.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

All eyes point to New Zealand

It has all been very quiet on the Derbyshire cricket front. So quiet that I found myself watching New Zealand with the level of support this week that I usually reserve for my favourite county.

And why not? After all there were five former county players in their ranks. Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Jimmy Neesham Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson all acquitted themselves well.

Indeed, Neesham made a strong case for being the star turn. He has always been a powerful hitter of a cricket ball and can bowl some very useful medium pace, as well as being a brilliant fielder in any position. I have little doubt that his return to form will see him very much in demand for this year's T20 in England. There is a lot to like about him and I don't think that we utilised him to best effect in his stint a couple of years back.

He is not really a death bowler but was used as such in the absence of viable alternatives. He didn't do badly however and a return to a county where he has a lot of friends would not be the worst move.

Having said that, even more interesting was the news that Mitchell Santner is returning to the Kiwi national side. If he is fully fit and recovered from major knee surgery, he would prove a huge asset to Derbyshire in the T20, offering not just a spinner of quality but also a punishing batsman and outstanding fielder.

Unless we decide to get Wahab Riaz to return, I fully expect our other overseas player for the T20 to come from New Zealand, especially with John Wright as our overseas scout.

And with the season less than eleven weeks away, that has got to be exciting!

As an aside, this is the first blog piece that I have written with the help of voice recognition software. It seems to have done a decent job, my accent notwithstanding.

Perhaps something to persist with in the coming weeks.

Monday, 31 December 2018

The end of the year

Just a few quick words to wish you all the very best for 2019 and to thank you all for your support in 2018.

It wasn't a bad summer at all for Derbyshire and we can only hope that we can build on it this year. There is a strong nucleus of players and a feeling that we have it right in our off-field structure now. There are some question marks on the bowling, but we could be competitive again.

I will catch up with you again soon.

Happy New Year!