Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Worcestershire v Derbyshire preview

They may have beaten us in the last T20 of the campaign, but Worcestershire will be in no doubt that they have a game on their hands tomorrow.

Derbyshire's players must be brimming with confidence right now after two wins in the championship and two in this competition, both against sides where there was perhaps a greater likelihood of defeat on track records and reputation.

Our hosts tomorrow are a good side and have enjoyed a fine season, though the loss of Saeed Ajmal to the international game will test the depth of their squad. They were in trouble against us, before Ross Whiteley played his innings of the season and took the game out of reach, albeit against a second string attack.

Tomorrow should be different and I don't expect major changes in the Derbyshire side. Marcus North will replace Shivnarine Chanderpaul, so we have an extra bowler too, never a bad thing. North will also be looking for a strong finish to the summer, as a player who could theoretically be available all of 2015. His pedigree is beyond dispute, but he needs a weight of runs in the closing weeks of the campaign to make a compelling argument for consideration next year.

There's an argument for either Ben Slater or Tom Knight to replace Scott Elstone, but the latter is a quick-scoring player who may just get the nod and get his form back on track. There was no shame in being dismissed by the ball that got him at Leicester, that's for sure.

As for Worcestershire, their squad is:

 Mitchell, Oliver, Fell, Kervezee, Kohler-Cadmore, Whiteley, Cox, Leach, Choudhry, McClenaghan, Morris, Shantry, D'Oliveira

No Colin Munro in this competition, so Daryl Mitchell will lead the batting line up, something he has done very well all summer. He's a good cricketer, perhaps one of the most underrated batsmen in the country and will be a danger at the top of the innings. Alex Kervezee is so often a thorn in our side too, so the recent good form will be tested, for sure.

We can win this, no doubt about it. With Wayne 'Bradman' Madsen in top form and others firing nicely, there's enough in our batting and bowling to keep the run going. It will be a good game, that's for sure.

Go get 'em lads!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Monday musings

There's a convoluted nature to tonight's blog, written in the euphoric aftermath of a mighty fine weekend's cricket by the Derbyshire boys.

I still find it mildly amusing that my mail box and comments listing are much quieter after a win. Maybe it is that British mentality of being quicker to complain than to praise a job well done, but for those who got in touch to share the love after the weekend performances, I salute you.

But I digress. There are mixed messages tonight over the departure of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who returns to the Caribbean after the club's golf day tomorrow. The club's statement on his departure confirms that a return for 2015 is a possibility, as there was an option for a third year in the original contract. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that he could return, though it would be unrealistic, perhaps, to expect the runs to be so prolific past his fortieth birthday. Plenty of players in the past scored heavily up to the age of fifty, but it is less common these days  that players are even playing up to Shiv's age, let alone at Test level.

I wonder. The club are 'considering various options' for 2015 and they will probably need them. I've no intention of starting hares around the park with suggestions, as all the Test-playing nations have engagements during the English season. Much will depend on who is in and out of favour with national selectors, but with Australia and New Zealand touring this country next summer, a few favoured options may be naturally excluded, while the IPL will, as always, take many of the best out of the equation for the first couple of months.

Chanderpaul needs 540 runs to go past Brian Lara's all-time West Indian record of 11,953 in Test matches. With winter series to come against Bangladesh, India and South Africa, he could quite easily do that and set a new benchmark that is likely to stand for years - especially in the light of current West Indies batting strength.

Having done that, would he perhaps consider retirement from Test cricket and turn Kolpak? Much will depend on the finance, of course, but that brings me to my final point and to the piece I wrote last week on potential close season signings.

We have considerable resources available for new players in the winter, more than ever before. There is an avowed intention to bring 'match-winning' players to the County Ground and I came up with a list of potential names last week that could be in the frame.

But were they match-winners? Any player can be a match winner on their day -  I've won a few in my time, but don't think I am what the club is looking for right now. All of those I named were good players and all would strengthen our side, but none would perhaps be the kind to make the world of cricket sit up and take notice.

If anyone can convince such names that their career lies at Derbyshire it will be Chris Grant, together with Graeme Welch. A fully committed and highly respected chairman and a coach who, after early travails, is slowly turning the corner and will, in the summers ahead, enhance his fine reputation in charge of our club.

Yet the challenge is obvious and here's a question for you. How many players, at the peak of their powers, have signed for Derbyshire from other counties since 1970?  I can only come up with one  - Rikki Clarke - and you'd find few fans who would deem his short stay a successful one, even if his move to Warwickshire was subsequently of considerable mutual benefit.

If that unfortunate trend changes over the winter, we should all be thankful, because a lot of work will have gone into any move and the competition for the services of the best players will be strong. If things don't go our way, it won't be for the want of trying, but there's a very good plan B available.

And one of the all-time great batsmen playing another summer as a Kolpak would meet with the approval of most.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Leicestershire v Derbyshire Royal London One-Day Cup

Leicestershire 248-8 (Boyce 64, Footitt 5-59)

Derbyshire 251-3 (Madsen 105 not, Chanderpaul 52 not)

Derbyshire won by seven wickets 

Well, my friends, it would appear that while we need to learn plenty over twenty, we're nifty over fifty...

Two stunningly impressive one-day efforts by Derbyshire in two days saw us get off to the best possible start in the Royal London One-Day Cup and in the process we're starting to look like a team - a proper team.

We're not perfect yet by a long chalk, but the quality of displays this weekend must have thrilled Graeme Welch as it has done any Derbyshire fan, near or far. In two days we've beaten the side I saw as the best in the group, closely followed by another that has been a one-day bogey side in recent summers.

The biggest surprise in this one was the margin of victory, because we won this with ease. Derbyshire and run chases have so often gone together like a dress suit and moccasins, but this was totally professional from start to finish. While the bowlers did well and sub-250 seemed below par on a decent track, we've all seen such chases subside with regularity in the past.

Not today.

The Leicestershire tally was less than seemed likely at one stage thanks to another five-wicket haul for Mark Footitt, who also put Josh Cobb out of the rest of the match with a fierce blow to the hand. We must accept that there may be a few wild ones in the Footitt repertoire, though less than in his earlier years, but he is a potent weapon that we are lucky to have. To use an old line from Dad's Army, they don't like it up 'em. Very few do, anyhow and Mark is as capable as anyone of making batting an awkward proposition.

A couple of nights ago, I suggested that his one-day form was the reason for his omission from the England Lions squad, but a few more displays like this will make him hard to ignore. There was good support from his colleagues and at the halfway point it seemed to be a game we could win.

It never looked in doubt. Wes and Billy got us off to a solid start with 62 off ten overs and although Scott Elstone went cheaply as he did yesterday, the skipper appeared to be in prime touch from the outset. When Godleman went at 123 we essentially had 27 overs to double the score and Madsen, with the support of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, got us across the line with five overs to spare and with sublime professionalism.

Centuries in successive days for Captain Fantastic. His T20 batting this summer went to a new level, displaying a range of shots, timing and placement that has been rare in Derbyshire colours, while also highlighting the basics of rotating the strike. He and Chanderpaul did that beautifully today, clearly illustrating with a succession of singles that you don't need to hit the cover off the ball to score quickly. It was an absolute delight to follow such a display.

That may have been Shivnarine Chanderpaul's last innings for Derbyshire, as he returns to the Caribbean to prepare for international duty None of us know if he will return another year, though the thinking money would be on a different overseas player, but if the winter marked his retirement from the international game - and we could afford him - there would be worse calls than him returning in a Kolpak role.

As we know more about that, a full appreciation will appear, but for now he can reflect on unbeaten hands of 29 and 51 in his two fifty over appearances, together with an average of fifty in the championship. Maybe not the force of his younger days, but then, few of us are.

Then again, he didn't really let us down, did he?

Top effort this weekend lads.

And thanks, Shiv. It has been a privilege.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Derbyshire v Hampshire - One Day Cup

Wow...now that was impressive!

Derbyshire produced a magnificent all-round display of cricket against Hampshire today to render my pre-match prediction completely wrong and suggest, at least for 24 hours, that we might make a decent fist of this competition.

I was working today and was following the progress of the game sporadically. The early loss of two wickets gave cause for concern, but then Wayne Madsen and Wes Durston (pictured) shared a stunning partnership of 222 in 35 overs. Both made centuries and it was the skipper's first in List A cricket, though almost certainly not his last.

Durston appears to be back in the rich vein of 2012 and credit should go to batting coach John Sadler and the player himself for returning to former glories. That's an apposite word, as there are few better sights than Wes when he's 'on the go'. When he departed for a superb 134, the skipper took over as lead and ensured good use was made of the last ten overs, a period of the game where promising positions have so often gone awry for Derbyshire sides in the past.

Shiv did his bit and there was a characteristically lusty blow from Gaz Cross to take us to 340-5 and leave Hampshire a mountain to climb.

They went off like a train. Fifty in five overs, a hundred in ten but wickets fell regularly in an innings that perhaps redefined frenetic and suggested that they were still in T20 mode. Australian Glenn Maxwell has had a poor spell for them, well short of his IPL achievements earlier this year and his dismissal, quickly followed by that of skipper Jimmy Adams seemed to turn the game.

As so often has been the case, the advent of Tony Palladino slowed the scoring and those two dismissals were crucial, but the introduction of spin saw the innings slowly deteriorate and Derbyshire, with the aid of some steady catching, won by the impressive margin of 136 runs against a team that, on paper, is among the best in this section. Durston took two wickets to fully justify his man of the match award, while David Wainwright bowled most impressively for 4-34.

So are we about to see a one-day renaissance? I think we will know more tomorrow, after a game against a Leicestershire side that has become a bete noire for us in recent seasons over the shorter forms of the game. Anthony Ireland, a decent bowler, transforms into Richard Hadlee against us, while two or three of their batsmen rediscover their love for run-scoring against our attack.

Maybe tomorrow will be different. There's a definite improvement in the fortunes of the senior county eleven, not to be confused with the one that played at Worcester last night. While the championship batting has been of a mixed quality, that in one-day cricket has been fairly consistent. It would be hard to argue with one correspondent on Twitter today, who said it was the best one-day batting display he had seen from a Derbyshire side.

I wasn't there, obviously, but from the tempo of the innings, the way it was built and the way that it was concluded, I can't think of a better effort. It's a shame it didn't get our points tally moving, after the poor pitch deduction from last year, but any repeat should ensure that it won't be long before we're up and running.

Very impressive gentlemen. Well done.

Postscript - looking for an example of the levelling powers of cricket? Last night Ross Whiteley put Derbyshire to the sword with an unbeaten 84 from 38 balls for Worcestershire.

Today, playing for Chesterfield against Ticknall, he was out to Mark Turner for nought.

Wonderful game, this cricket.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Worcestershire v Derbyshire T20

I'm not going to go over old ground here.

What was effectively a second team and academy attack was put to the sword by old boy Ross Whiteley tonight. I hope that this doesn't bring forth comments of 'we shouldn't have let him go', because a first-class average of 17 and 136 T20 runs in ten knocks prior to tonight doesn't justify it.

Tonight was his night and an inexperienced attack felt it. The seniors were quite rightly being kept back for the Royal London Cup, but the big match atmosphere the young players have had this year, even in adversity, will stand them in good stead for the future. They now know what they have to do to succeed at this level and will redouble their efforts over the winter to be better prepared next time.

The batting let no one down, but if you're chasing over ten an over it's a tough ask from the start and the best efforts of the top order couldn't prevent a defeat. Someone had to replicate what Whiteley did and no one went on to the big score that would have changed the result.

Next up is the fifty-over cup, starting tomorrow and the late hour and work tomorrow prevents a full preview. A Derbyshire squad has been announced of :

Wayne Madsen (77)                                    Wes Durston (3)
Shivnarine Chanderpaul (11)                      Billy Godleman (1)
Scott Elstone (10)                                       Alex Hughes (18)
Gareth Cross (7)                                         David Wainwright (21)
Tony Palladino (28)                                    Tom Taylor (15)
Mark Footitt (4)                                         
Ben Cotton (36)
Tom Knight (27)

Hampshire's squad is:

Adams (c), Briggs, Carberry, Coles, Dawson, Ervine, Maxwell, Smith, Tomlinson, Vince, Wheater, Wood.

An improving Derbyshire side should give them a good game, but I think tomorrow's opponents will be too strong - although I hope I am proved wrong.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Midweek musings

There's a degree of irony in the fact that the eyes of the world over the next couple of weeks are on Glasgow, while mine are firmly fixed on Derbyshire.

Don't get me wrong, I love Glasgow and took great pride in the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony last night. It is a friendly city and, even though we live in a semi-rural location around nine miles north of it, we went into the back garden last night and on a beautiful, still evening could clearly hear the fireworks that heralded the end of proceedings.

On an enjoyable day off today, in between enjoying the sunshine, I watched the remarkable Brownlee brothers swimming, cycling and running around Strathclyde Park, the splendours of which are but ten minutes from our house. I pass it every day on my road to work and a lovely place it is.

It's not Derbyshire though and people round these parts excuse and understand my bias in such things.

The T20 draws to a close tomorrow and it has been a pretty depressing competition for us. Ironically, as has been pointed out, we've batted pretty well and posted totals that, with better bowling, should have resulted in positive results. Much work needs to be done on the skill sets required in the Power play and at the death before we can genuinely expect to compete in this competition. Perhaps another year some overseas input in this area will be available, courtesy of findmealangeveldt.com...

There has been encouragement in the performances of youth, however and the likes of Taylor, Cotton and Cork could, given hard work and experienced assistance, improve our performances another year. I'm regarding this as the nadir and look forward to a future improvement in our fortunes. 

As Graeme Welch points out in the Derby Telegraph today, there is no reason to be despondent about fifty-over prospects in the Royal London One-Day Cup, because the games tend to ebb and flow more. Innings need to be built and teams can over-extend in the quest for an unassailable score, when they are unaware that they are already going above par on a particular wicket.

Top half of the league will do us fine and enable us to reach the quarter-finals and on paper we should beat some of the opposition in our group. Whether we can win enough to make it count is a moot point, but we should be full of confidence and ready to give a good account of ourselves.

It was interesting to read that Shiv Chanderpaul looks likely to have played his last championship match for us and even more so to see Graeme Welch suggest that there are options other than Marcus North to replace him. Presumably that will be a portion of the Groenewald salary and it remains to be seen if we do bring someone in and who that might be.

It's going to make interesting watching, though.

Finally tonight and harking back to the references to loom bands of a night or two back, I realised today that Derbyshire's fortunes have taken a turn for the better since our daughter made me one in club colours. I say realised - actually she pointed it out to me... very nice it is too and I wear it with pride.

Think I'll be keeping it on for the immediate future!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Australian Michael Cranmer impresses in seconds debut

If you were to look for a way to impress a county with a view to gaining a professional contract, then South Australian Michael Cranmer did just that for Derbyshire's second team against Lancashire second eleven today.

Cranmer, a professional for Hoylandswaine Cricket Club in the Drakes Huddersfield Cricket League, made a stunning 171 from 221 balls as his side replied to Lancashire's 252 all out with 391-9. Tom Knight made 46 and Harvey Hosein 56. but it was all-rounder Cranmer, who bowls fast-medium, who caught the eye with a stunning display.

25 years old, he qualifies to play in the UK through an ancestral visa and, according to his club side's website, is assessing his future options at present after stunning success over three summers for them.

In his first year he scored 667 runs at 33, as well as taking 70 wickets at 17 each. A shorter stint in 2012 saw him score 500 runs at 38, along with 26 wickets at 19, while 2013 saw 335 runs at 33 and 50 wickets at 13.

This year he returned as captain and has been in spectacular form, taking his side to the allrounder.com T20 final last week with an extraordinary 138 from just 52 balls, with ten fours and fourteen sixes. His season highest score for the club is 186...

Having played for South Australia and Australia Under-19s, the pedigree is there. Hat tricks, five-wicket hauls and centuries litter his career in A Grade and state second eleven cricket and he seems a player of genuine talent.

Certainly, I would suggest - and not just on the basis of today's century, but on an excellent track record in two countries so far - he would be a very shrewd addition to the Derbyshire staff. I have no doubt that the Yorkshire connections on our coaching staff have been instrumental in getting him to Derby on trial, John Sadler having played for the same club. The next step would appear to get in for him quickly, before someone else does.

A hard-hitting batsman and fast medium bowler.

What's not to like?

PS If anyone from Hoylandswaine Cricket Club comes across this piece, I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 3

Regular readers will hopefully be pleased to see that this isn't a description on how to make a dragon tail loom band...

For indeed, victory was ours this morning and we rise, at least for now, to the giddy heights of  fifth in the county championship, division two. With four games to go, it is unlikely that we will rise much further and possible that we could drop a place or two lower, but pride has been restored and funny things happen when teams get on a roll. With games to come against Glamorgan and Surrey away, plus Worcestershire and Leicestershire at home, there are plenty of games and points still to be won.

I had a look at the footage of yesterday's play on the ECB website and the bowling of Mark Footitt was top drawer stuff. I'm not sure how Jacques Rudolph - or indeed anyone - could have played the ball that removed him and it was no real surprise, in seeing such a ball, that we lost four wickets in reaching today's victory target. The value of yesterday's partnership between Tony Palladino and David Wainwright became quite clear and we'd not have wanted to be chasing over 150, that's for sure.

The batting is sure to be the main focus of winter recruitment, our current line-up functional rather than reliable. Eighteen batting bonus points in twelve matches, the least in the country, tells its own sorry tale and we need a couple more people in the batting order who can offer more than sporadic success. By the same token, players improve over the winter and there will be hope and expectation that this will happen with some current members of the batting order.

The main seam bowling looks excellent, but in such form Mark Footitt must surely attract higher recognition. It would also be extraordinary if he were to stay at this level of fitness and credit is due to the physiotherapy and strength/conditioning staff that have kept him that way in a golden summer. The player deserves the utmost praise, thoroughly rewarding the club's faith in him and running in hard to bowl fast all season.

It was interesting to see Notts Viewer's assessment of him below yesterday's piece, though the bowler's old frailties with fitness appear to run deep. Like a good few before him, I don't think Mark realised the work that is required to bowl quickly at first-class level in his younger days, but since back surgery sorted a bulging disc now has a core that finally supports his raw talent to bowl fast. The ability to do that is given to very few cricketers; that to sustain such pace for fifteen to twenty overs a day over six months is a precious commodity indeed.

Tom Taylor's emergence is gratifying, though fans should not expect too much too soon. My understanding is that the young player will be going to university next summer, important for his long-term career prospects but likely meaning that we would be short of his services in the early season. Graeme Welch will be aware that his work load needs monitored and more so that he needs greater back up than a group of promising tyros, especially if it means more work is to fall on that most willing and able of work horses, Tony Palladino.

All that is for the future, but for now let us enjoy the present. Focus switches to one-day cricket this weekend and whether, after a game against Worcestershire on Friday in the T20, we can make a better fist of fifty-over cricket.

I remain to be convinced, at this early stage of the squad's evolution, but I await their performances with interest.

In closing, a couple of weeks back I wrote that a change in Derbyshire's fortunes was going to need a special performance or two.

It is immensely gratifying to report that there has been a collective holding up of hands to do just that.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 2

Glamorgan 138 and 175 (Footitt 6-48, Taylor 3-27)
Derbyshire 241 and 13-1

Derbyshire need 60 runs to win

All of a sudden, Derbyshire have got quite good at this four-day cricket...

The "worst team in our history", as described by a fan on another site, who should really be ashamed, has now won, barring a collapse tomorrow that is surely beyond even our darkest days, two games on the trot and moved neatly up the table in the process.

We're not yet a great side and the discerning are well aware of the areas for improvement. But we weren't the worst one either, just a squad short of confidence. That should now be flowing through the side like water through a colander, today's cricket every bit as impressive as that of the first day.

One gets the distinct impression, to use a phrase that Graeme Welch is fond of, that we are now bowling as a unit and, crucially, playing as a team. The trio of Footitt, Palladino and Taylor complement each other nicely and, unlike last year and the early part of this season, the bowlers give little away and act as a mutual support unit in which one or another takes the lead.

If it doesn't always work, David Wainwright chips in and, with Wes Durston back in the team and form, we look a decent and balanced side again - at least in four-day cricket.

Today, the tail did remarkably well to steer us to a lead of over a hundred, despite losing the wickets of the two men most likely to take us to that position in the opening overs. David Wainwright, Tony Palladino and Mark Footitt (pictured) then batted with common sense and no little skill to take us to a position of strength, before Footitt unleashed himself.

On this season's form, there's not a better left-arm bowler in English cricket than Footitt and his new-found fitness, coupled with a vastly improved radar and no loss of pace, makes him one of the most potent weapons in the county game. Only Saeed Ajmal has more wickets than him this summer and opening batsmen must be thinking of career alternatives when it all clicks, as it so obviously did today.

Quite simply, he destroyed a not insignificant batting order, ably assisted by Tom Taylor, whose own form has been quite extraordinary since he made his debut. It is tribute to the young man's progress that no one is mentioning Tim Groenewald  - and few of us would have seen that coming.

No chicken counting tonight, but if we don't seal the win tomorrow, look out for Peakfan's loom band site from next week.

Different author and perhaps a different target audience...

Postscript - if Mark Footitt doesn't get a Lions tour this winter, people at Lords should be ashamed of themselves...

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day one

Glamorgan 138 all out (Goodwin 44, Hughes 4-46, Palladino 3-14, Footitt 2-37)

Derbyshire 142-6 (Durston 50, Slater 40) 

No doubt about it, that was a very good day for Derbyshire today.

It could have been better, had we held all of our chances and Glamorgan might then not have made a hundred. Yet it is churlish to be overly critical on a day that we have ended four runs ahead with four wickets in hand.

A green track was always likely to make it a good toss to win and, in contrast to the early part of the summer when a few of these went against us, Wayne Madsen won this one and must have enjoyed watching his seam bowlers make excellent use of the conditions.

Irrespective of the help being offered by any wicket, you need to put the ball in the right areas to succeed and our seam quartet did that admirably. Tony Palladino once again returned remarkably parsimonious figures in the finest county tradition and appears not to have been flattered by 14-6-14-3. If Les and Cliff were keeping a wary eye on events today, they'd have nodded approvingly at such excellent bowling.

There was good support from Mark Footitt with two wickets, but the star turn with the ball, at least in so far as wickets are concerned, was Alex Hughes (pictured). 4-46 from twelve overs wasn't the most economical bowling of the day, but he came on, bowled a line and ended up with career-best figures that were well deserved.

With James Harris and Michael Hogan in the opposition, we were unlikely to find batting much easier, but Ben Slater reinforced his positive impression of recent weeks and Wes blazed a typically vibrant fifty. Though the ever-dangerous Hogan got Slater and Tom Taylor in consecutive balls before the close, we ended up four runs ahead with justifiable hopes of extending that tomorrow.

We really need that tail to wag and if we can get upwards of fifty of a lead it will be more than useful in a game that already seems sure to produce a positive result. There's enough batting to come to ensure that we forge on tomorrow, 200 being the first target.

In closing tonight, it is worth mentioning that in a season that has not been one of the better ones in living memory, we have seen plenty of young players make sizeable strides forward. Slater, Hughes, Taylor, Cork, Knight, Hosein, Cotton - that's quite an impressive list.

I'd also suggest that both Tony Palladino and Mark Footitt are improved, especially in their lines and length, both much more economical than has been the case in the past, without loss of potency in either case.

While there have been plenty of comments about the cricket played this year, credit has to be given where its due and, even in such a short time that they have been in post, the coaches are showing improvements in their charges.

Give them a winter to work on the younger ones, add in the new players we seek and...who knows?

Postscript - congratulations to Gareth Cross on his 200th first-class victim behind the stumps. A telling time to make a serious contribution with the bat, eh?