Monday, 25 July 2016

Monday Musings

It was good to listen to Dominic Cork on Radio Derby tonight.

I will give him his due, he has remained a Derbyshire fan, even before he came back into the fold and has always spoken up for us on Sky, an oasis of sanity in the desert of 'Derbys' 'Madsdens' and at times patronising nonsense.

It was especially good to hear that the approach came from John Sadler and that puts my mind at ease a little. Both Kevin Dean and Kim Barnett are offering assistance, as and when required, but staying at arm's length, which is the way it should be. We are doing OK just now and the big danger is in the 'too many cooks spoiling the broth' malarkey.

John has done well and despite a few losses in his tenure, the side has shown fight and tenacity. I have seen enough Derbyshire sides go down with a whimper over the years and the current batch are, in their spirit, a throw back to better times. They are playing some very good cricket too, individually and collectively.

It was obvious again yesterday that a great need for next summer is a 'go to' bowler for whichever captain and format. Kim Barnett had it with Michael Holding, an experienced man  who could bowl a tight over or two, maybe nick a wicket. Charl Langeveldt fulfilled a similar role over a shorter period and it is so important for any skipper.

When a batsman is going well, as Rikki Wessels was yesterday, as a captain you look at your resources and wonder who can make a difference. Such players can do that and find the lines and lengths required as a matter of course. They command respect on reputation, but follow it through with their deeds.

I wouldn't be averse to Jimmy Neesham again in T20, though I suspect the bigger fish of IPL will command his attention next year, if he stays fit. He averages 28 with the bat and is top wicket-taker with 14, albeit at nearly ten runs an over. He's bowled the key top and tail spells though, something he hasn't often done in the past and has performed steadily, if not spectacularly. That 'go to' bowler would help him too.

Tomorrow night I will be looking at Wednesday's game against Lancashire, who we have already proved we can beat this season. If we can get back to winning ways in that one, it sets us up royally for our big weekend.

The key to the biggest week the club has had in recent times will be in keeping the players relaxed but maintaining focus. If we can go out and play with maximum intensity, we can give anyone a good game and can beat a lot of sides. When Mick Newell says that his side produced a '9.5 out of ten' performance yesterday, but we were far from disgraced, it speaks volumes for the potential in a young team.

These are heady times, as exemplified by the visitors to this blog. There have been five thousand views over the last two days, as the blog has hit a new high in readership with a week of the month still to go.

Please do keep checking in and making comments. As long as I can understand them and they're not filed under 'personal attacks' they will be live pretty quickly!

Thanks for your interest.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire RLODC

Nottinghamshire 340-7 (Wessels 114, Read 59 not, Thakor 3-78)

Derbyshire 275 (Slater 51, Critchley 43, Hosein 41, Gurney 3-47)

Nottinghamshire won by 65 runs

Local cricket fans had a good day at Welbeck today, with 600 runs scored and good entertainment enjoyed by all.

Realistically, the result was as one might expect, as a team full of international experience overcame a young Derbyshire side. For us to compete, one of our internationals had to deliver a big innings and sadly, both Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom went for 20s, which has sadly become a season average.

The omission of Chesney Hughes was a pre-game talking point and whether he may have done better than the struggling Broom is a moot point, but the decision was made and there's no  point wondering at this juncture.

Derbyshire's main contributors were youngsters, who all showed a spirit that was impressive and bodes well for the future. Matt Critchley had a good game with bat and ball and has made major one-day strides this summer, while Harvey Hosein showed that he will, given time, be a very good all-round player for us. Meanwhile Ben Slater led off the innings with an array of shots that suggested a one-day role may become a regular occurrence in the near future. Ben can graft away in the four-day game, but with two centuries and a fifty in his last three List A games, he seems to have got his head around the one-day stuff quite nicely now.

Nottinghamshire's win was largely down to the late assault by Chris Read and Steve Mullaney. How they will eventually replace Read is a moot point, as he turned what looked like a sub-300 score into a very competitive one. A hundred runs from the last ten overs took it to nose bleed territory, this after Derbyshire had come back well in the middle overs. Rikki Wessels sizzling century helped them recover from the loss of two wickets to Shiv Thakor and such an innings had to be played at the top of our innings for us to get close.

Despite the best efforts of Slater, no one else in the top order got going and it was left to the two teenagers to give it their best shot.

Critchley had earlier been the most economical of the bowlers, even on a small ground. While four-day wickets will take him a while to get to grips with, he has done an astonishing one-day job this summer and can be proud of his progress.

So while we are off the top of the group, we control our own destiny. The Northamptonshire game, against a side just below us in the table, is a biggie, but we also play Lancashire and Leicestershire, the bottom two in the group.

A favourable finish, but most of us have seen Derbyshire stumble against sides that should be beaten.

Two wins from three will do it and a repeat of the recent win against Lancashire, on Wednesday, will send us into next weekend in fine fettle.

One final point...has there ever been a bigger weekend, finals excepted, in our history? Durham in the T20 on Friday, Northamptonshire on Sunday in the RLODC, then Leicestershire in the same competition on Monday.

Keep them calm and keep them focused John.

If they produce their best, they can do this.

Cork back in consultancy role

Interesting news breaking today in that club legend Dominic Cork is with the side at Welbeck for the game against Nottinghamshire.

Cork will be working under John Sadler on an occasional consultancy basis over the next few weeks and, of course, brings a lot of experience with him into the role. Not to mention his expertise and personality, which brought a never-say-die attitude into the Derbyshire dressing room of the time and makes him one of the most listenable commentators and experts on television.

No problem whatsoever on on this one, as long as Sadler gets to make the decisions and calls on Cork and anyone else required for advice, as and when required.

It is, in fact a sound move and having someone of such reputation, both on and off the pitch, involved in the club is good thinking.

We have got to an exciting position in both one-day competitions and any little extra that we can bring in to get a few per cent more from the players and team can only be seen as a positive and worthwhile move.

Thumbs up from me.

More match tickets available - Northamptonshire v Derbyshire

Adam has been winning a few competitions lately and this time has two tickets for the RLODC match at Northampton next Sunday available, that he cannot use.

First person to mail me with their address details can get them, free of charge.

Thanks again to Adam for getting in touch and next time you are doing the lottery, drop me a note of your numbers, mate!

Update - now gone...

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Knight and Elstone released by Derbyshire

The news of the release of young cricketers is always sad, because it is seen by many as the end of a potential career in the first-class game.

It isn't always so and there are plenty of players who were originally released by their counties, only to prove them wrong and go on to long careers. Colin Tunnicliffe and Tony Borrington were two such players at Derbyshire who spring immediately to mind, while Paul Taylor and Wayne White forged good county careers elsewhere.

Scott Elstone played a few good knocks for the county in both one and four-day cricket, the highlight being a last day century against Glamorgan last summer, albeit when the game was in its dying throes. He could score quickly but was vulnerable early at top level, which often proved his undoing. He will, however, be remembered as one of the best three outfielders I have seen in Derbyshire colours, which in almost fifty years is quite an accolade.

The case for Tom Knight is nowhere near so clear cut.

Let's keep in mind that at the age of 19 he was the best young spinner in England, taking wickets in the under-19 national side and looking to be on the verge of something special. He worked hard on his fielding, having come into the side as a schoolboy carrying puppy fat and became one of the best in the club. He worked impressively on his batting, to the extent that over the two summers prior to this one, he passed a thousand runs in the second team in all matches. He scored quickly too and translated that into the first team on occasion. Few will forget his assault on David Willey in 2014, striking the now-England man for three successive sixes on his way to 44 from 18 balls. He averaged mid-twenties with the bat, at a strike rate of 137, impressive for one who only got in during the closing overs.

Then there is his bowling.

Tom bowled at fair pace for a spinner and fizzed it in. He was hard to get away and in one-day cricket he took key scalps. Adam Voges of Nottinghamshire on his debut, Ian Blackwell in his second game, Solanki, Kervezee and Shakib in his fourth. Then there was Collingwood, Stokes and Smith of Durham in a forty-over game. Things were going well in the short formats, the bowler going for only seven an over on average. In short, he looked the business.

When Graeme Welch and Ant Botha came in, it was felt that he needed his action 'deconstructed' to help him to bowl sides out in the longer game. A laudable concept, if it worked, though many felt that, with limited over cricket being increasingly important, Knight could have become the Derbyshire Steven Parry, firing it in, keeping it tight, reaping the rewards. With his batting and fielding, he would have been a heck of a player.

He still might, but to watch him over the last two summers, as I did, was worrying. His smooth action, the result of a number of years of muscle memory, had gone and while the new look was, in fairness, more classical and aesthetically pleasing, everything was seemingly in a different place and there was no run up. As a result, Knight could no longer control line and length. He didn't even bowl in league cricket and this year in the seconds, strangely, batted at seven or eight, despite rarely being asked to bowl and being a leading batsman for the previous two summers. For me, the writing was on the wall.

Now, he finds himself released and I think he has been hard done by. The club coaches have done good work in many areas, but the previous regime made an unholy mess of Tom's fledgling career. According to good, experienced coaches that I have spoken to, small tweaks are required at times, things that then enable bowlers to work things out themselves. Yet to pretty much change EVERYTHING on a bowler runs a monumental risk of failure, especially when he is not doing badly to start with. If you are trying to remember where your feet, hips, head, shoulders and hand should be as you run in, letting go of the ball is something of an afterthought, with a nigh-inevitable consequence.

It is deeply disappointing, yet the key to it all is how the player reacts to it. I'd like to see him go back to basics, bowl as he always did and get back into league cricket next summer, maybe minor counties, and force a way back. He is young enough to do so at 23 and if it turns out that opportunity knocks elsewhere, so be it. If he recovers his old bowling style, there's a very fine young all-rounder waiting to be signed by someone. I have said over the past few seasons that Tom reminds me of Ian Blackwell and if he had 'only' got to that standard we wouldn't have complained. He still might, with the right attitude and the right coach.

One thing is for sure though. A county that, with justification, prides itself on its development and treatment of young players has badly let down one of its most talented. At a time when decent spinners are as rare as a steak on a broken cooker, we completely messed up one half of a young and exciting spin bowling duo.

Nothing to be proud of there, whatsoever.

Derbyshire video footage

I've had an enquiry from Jonathan, who is wanting to be put in contact with anyone who has video footage of Derbyshire cricket matches of the past that they would be happy to share/copy.

If you can help him with anything, please drop me an email and I will put you in touch.

Last copies of Edwin Smith book available

I have unexpectedly managed to acquire half a dozen copies of the Edwin Smith biography that I wrote last year, the very last copies of the book that will be available.

If you are interested in one, either mail me at the usual address that you will find on the left hand side of the blog as you scroll down, or go on to ebay, search under 'Edwin Smith cricket book' and order it from there.

The book is £14 plus £2.80 post and packing. Once these are gone, that's it!

In other news, I will be at the Leicestershire RLODC game a week on Monday, selling and signing copies of my latest post-war history of the club 'In Their Own Words: Derbyshire Cricketers in Conversation'.

There's a lovely review of the launch event at Chesterfield on the publisher's website and I am extremely grateful for a succession of favourable reviews for the new book, just as I was with last year's book on Edwin. With such a stellar cast of former and current heroes, it is hopefully both a funny and informative book that you will enjoy reading and will want to go back to.

I hope that you will take advantage of my flying visit a week on Monday to come and say hello, as well as to buy a copy of a book that should keep you warm and interested in the club over the winter months.

More in due course, but thanks for your continued interest!

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire RLODC

My biggest wish, ahead of this game, is that the real Derbyshire turn up.

We didn't for the T20 game at Derby a few weeks back and produced one of our more limp efforts of an increasingly encouraging season. A good barometer of the side's form is the interest in this blog and yesterday saw 2,500 visits to it. So...

We did well last night against a good Worcestershire side that play excellent one-day cricket. With the right winter recruitment we can push on next year and if we can emerge from two tough groups to the knock out stages of either one-day trophy we will have done very well indeed.

Tomorrow's game is one I would have loved to attend but domestic needs dictate otherwise, so I must follow from afar. While Derby is more intimate than most, there is something cosy, fun and typically English about a game at an out ground and the Welbeck Colliery venue looks quite splendid, from what I have seen.

There will be some tough decisions in the selection, with Ben Slater's form, with centuries in the last two List A matches he has played, pushing him for a recall. Were he to come in to the side, it would have to be at the expense of Neil Broom on current form, but the Kiwi's record suggests that when he strikes top nick he could be a destructive asset. Do you pick a young lad in good touch or an experienced player who might only be an innings away from it?

For what its worth, I would reward Slater and go with:

Hughes (C)
Hughes (A)

Mind you, if Wes Durston is fit to play, the selection process gets ever more complicated! Another sign of a side playing good cricket...

Nottinghamshire have a strong side and will start favourites in a competition where they racked up 400 in the first half of the season. Dan Christian has proved a solid overseas player for them and their side needs no introduction, whichever eleven takes the field. Our best chance will still be in chasing a total, despite last night's excellent effort.

Two wins from our last four games should take us through to the knock out stage of the competition and there is talent enough in this squad to do that.

Tomorrow will be the toughest of those games, but we have shown we can match some very good sides this season.

I hope tomorrow is no exception.

Andy Carter leaves

The news of Andy Carter's departure from Derbyshire, announced today, doesn't come as a surprise.

The player signed a two-year deal at the 3aaa County Ground and I had high hopes that, despite a career blighted by injury, he would be a competent replacement for Mark Footitt. Nowhere near the pace, of course, but hostile enough to be awkward and, based on his efforts for Glamorgan and Nottinghamshire last year, felt he could be a leader of the attack.

The truth is that he wasn't. I just got the impression that he was bowling differently and the new regulations on the toss didn't help him. Nor did they help Luke Fletcher, an old sparring partner across the East Midlands, when they briefly teamed up at the start of the season. Neither took many wickets, nor, truth be told, did they really look like doing so on wickets that were far too much in the batsman's favour for any meaningful cricket to be played.

Six wickets in four matches at an average of 73 in the first-class game. There were too many 'four balls' and he seemed some way removed from his best. He clumped away merrily as a tail end batsman, but that was always a bonus and the core need of the team wasn't fulfilled as many of us had hoped. At 27, playing in the second team was no more use to Carter than it was for the club and merely replicated last year when we had Jon Clare and David Wainwright in the second team. Their salary dictated that they should - needed to be - in the first eleven, but performances required otherwise and so it was with Carter.

The Derby Telegraph reported that he wanted to play red ball cricket and that prompted a fall out with John Sadler. The truth is that selection for any senior team has to be performance-based and Carter's returns in neither first nor second team made a strong case for inclusion on merit.

He did better in the one-day competitions, but again not well enough to suggest him an automatic pick in the side. Supporters felt we would get as much, quite likely more, from Ben Cotton or Tony Palladino and the emergence of Will Davis in recent weeks suggested that Carter would struggle for a first-team place next year, even before the club embarked on winter strengthening that may include an overseas bowler.

In short, it was a good idea that didn't work out for player or county and the parting of ways, a year early, is best for both.

I wish Andy well in future pursuits, whether that is inside or outside the game.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Derbyshire v Worcestershire T20

Derbyshire 192-5 (Rutherford 64, Madsen 50 not)

Worcestershire 163 (D'Oliveira 44, Critchley 3-36, Cotton 2-24, Thakor 2-29)

Derbyshire won by 29 runs

Well done lads!

A stirring win tonight - batting first - saw us enter the last round of matches next week within touching distance of the knockout stage.

IF we beat Durham at the Riverside and Lancashire beat Warwickshire at Old Trafford, we will qualify. Alternatively, if we win and Northamptonshire beat Yorkshire at Wantage Road, it will come down to net run rate. The bottom line is we need to do our stuff and let the rest take care of itself.

They couldn't have done more tonight. It is important to take advantage of the Power play and we did, thanks to Hamish Rutherford's early assault. His innings was well-paced and quick enough to see us to 128 in the fourteenth over when he was out.

At that point we could have imploded and been rolled over for 160, but Wayne Madsen nursed the closing overs beautifully and reached fifty in the final over.  Jimmy Neesham played another brisk and important cameo, while Shiv Thakor hit one of the three balls he faced for six, to take us to an impressive 192.

It was good to see Ben Cotton back in the starting eleven in this competition and he led the attack to fulfil the other need of this format - taking early wickets. The first three were back in the pavilion before the end of the Powerplay, by which time Derbyshire were firm favourites and the visitors on the back foot.

There appeared a slight wobble when Ross Whiteley joined Brett D'Oliveira and they added 38 in three overs, but brave and inspired captaincy saw Wes Durston bring Matt Critchley on and he removed the former Derbyshire man. Two overs later, Matt took the scalps of D'Oliveira and Ben Cox in successive balls after taking a little stick and it was effectively all over. Three for 36 was another fine effort by the young leg spinner, as was the continued discipline by the side in the field, conceding only seven extras.

The whole attack did well. Neesham and Cotton did well at the top of the innings, Alex Hughes bowled his usual tight spell in the middle, while Wes nicked in with the wicket of his opposite number, Mitchell, one of three catches for Chesney Hughes.

It was a good effort and showed sound thought processes and execution. Too often we have over-reached and lost too many wickets up top, yet tonight the innings was well placed and the catches were held.

Whatever happens next week, supporters must realise there's been an improvement in our T20 disciplines this year. Graeme Welch and John Sadler did excellent work over the winter and the genial Sadler deserves every credit for inspiring some excellent cricket from his young side since he took over.

Nottinghamshire at Welbeck Colliery on Sunday, then Lancashire at Derby, both in the RLODC. Then that big game at the Riverside. It is a long time since we were in such a healthy position in the one-day game and I hope you all enjoy it, like I am.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and especially comments of those who were there tonight.

Come on you Falcons!