Monday, 25 September 2017

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 1

Derbyshire 104 -2 (Slater 45, Madsen 24 not)
v Gloucestershire

On a rain and bad light-ruined day that made a mockery of attempting to play cricket at this time of year, we were put in to bat and, scoring at four an over, did pretty well.

Ben Slater appeared to be in prime touch yet again, frustratingly, got out when well set, albeit on a wicket that would have been lively early on. There's a fine player in there, but he needs to start converting these starts into proper scores next summer.

Luis Reece went early, but after Ben's dismissal, Wayne Madsen and Alex Hughes took us past the hundred before play ended prematurely.

I can't say much more than that really.

Hopefully there will be more tomorrow.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire preview

 The end of the season comes tomorrow, one in which, as usual, there have been contrasting highs and lows for Derbyshire supporters.

It would be nice if our four-day summer could finish on a high, but another win, a consecutive win, would do little but make us all think what might have been. Of course we want to end on a high, but we have the talent in this squad to be winning more often.

It is one more chance for those involved to state a case for a contract, or a role next summer, though for some I suspect that boat has already sailed and a decision made, soon to be announced. There are enough uncertainties about the staff to make the winter an interesting one.

Our hosts over the next few days have a largely unchanged side from their last match, with Liam Norwell's hamstring the only casualty from a high-scoring and boring draw that saw hardly a spectator in the ground when the end came. Let's hope for something more entertaining than that for this game.

So the home side is likely to line up:

Howell
Dent
Bracey
Hankins
Mustard
Taylor (J)
Noema-Barnett
Payne
Shaw
Taylor (M)
X

Our squad is announced as unchanged from Chesterfield. Gary Wilson will doubtless take his place as batsman and skipper, with Derbyshire likely to go with the following side:

Reece
Slater
Madsen
Hughes
Wilson
Critchley
Hosein
Podmore
Viljoen
Davis/Qadri
Tahir

Callum Brodrick is also in the squad, alongside Tony Palladino, but for me would only play if Wilson opts to take the gloves. Podmore has to, so we can take one more look before presumably making a decision on signing him, while most of the rest pick themselves. With Hosein doing well with the gloves and bat at Hove, it would be unfair for him to miss out on this occasion.

There's enough in this side to end with a win.

What do you think?

Friday, 22 September 2017

Adieu to the home season - and Hughes' deserved award

The early morning photographs on Twitter today confirmed what I wrote a couple of days ago. There will be no play at Chesterfield and the game is abandoned without a ball being bowled.

It is all deeply frustrating, especially when we think back to the season and, at one point, a two-week period where there was no cricket. I am fairly confident that the county wouldn't have taken the offer of a concert had we started the season better, because that would have been short-sighted in the extreme. Yet the likelihood of four good days at an out ground in the second half of September were as likely as Lord Lucan riding Shergar into the 3aaa County Ground tomorrow. They would have hoped for 2-3 days though, but for the second year in three, Chesterfield has been rained off.

I think most supporters want to see cricket continue there. Indeed, as a cricket-watching location it takes some beating, while there's something for batsmen and bowlers alike in the wicket. What we need to consider, if we are getting Derby onto the concert venue trail, is perhaps hosting two gigs in mid-summer and have a cricket fortnight at Chesterfield.

Of course there are inherent risks, but we will need to await the winter team-building to see if the money earned has been well spent and worthwhile. Over the last four days there would probably have been three days cricket at Derby, which has been traded in for a heavy risk elsewhere and forty thousand pounds.

Whether that was a risk worth taking will always be an individual opinion.

The only good cricket news in recent days has been the award of a county cap to Alex Hughes.

Those who have followed the blog over recent years will know that I have always been a fan of the player. From my first sightings of him, I have liked his battling approach to the game and his total immersion in it. Whether bowling his bustling medium pace, more a one-day weapon now, or fielding brilliantly in any position, he has made a case for himself in the side.

He remains the only man I have ever seen bowl with cotton wool shoved up his nose, stemming a nose bleed. The sight of Alex running in, nostrils flared, was impressive, if slightly amusing, confirming a commendable devotion to the cause in the process.

His batting is his stronger suit and this season has seen a step forward. He had limited opportunity in the T20, but averaged 35 in the four-day game and 58 in the RLODC. His presence at the wicket is starting to offer the calming effect of the better player; his target now is to turn those regular forty-plus scores into match-winning and career-defining efforts.

He is 25 now and has served a long apprenticeship, seemingly around the staff forever. Yet his earlier career was sporadic, a university education eating into his available time and leaving him a bit-part player in some eyes.

He has still only had 73 first-class innings, but a regular place this season has given him greater confidence, just as being part-time T20 skipper last year did him no harm. I see him as our next county captain, unless there's another Eddie Barlow out there somewhere. We live in hope...

2017 could be the watershed for Alex Hughes. If he can kick on further in 2018, turning that 35 average into one nearer 40, he could be the fulcrum of the county batting for many years to come.

A well-deserved award Alex. Make sure you keep that ready smile on your face.

Well done.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Derbyshire v Kent day 2

No play

Thank you all for your excellent comments below last night's post.

The levels of anger, disappointment and frustration are quite clear for the club to see and your posts have been well-written and presented.

I think the consensus is that the greater concern is Derby and I hope that we get a clear indication of what is planned to address the issues over the winter months. Of course it is frustrating to lose two days cricket at Chesterfield, the thinking money being squarely on there being no cricket over the four days, with more rain forecast tomorrow.

Yet Simon Storey today said that improvements had been done to the drainage there. So there are only two solutions in reality.

They need to look at the concert demands for Derby, then programme them in for a time of year when Chesterfield is a more viable option - in other words, midsummer. You can never legislate for heavy rain and its detrimental impact on a ground, always likely on an out ground. Yet, as notoveryet says tonight, why was Derby OK for Nottinghamshire and not for Glamorgan? What was different?

I think the buildings and their requisite foundations will be a reason for problems, but with the people we have involved at the club - good, professional people - one would hope that this would have been thought of and addressed with appropriate drainage when work was going on.

Either way, agreeing with everyone else, it has to be looked at. Of course, the concerts are a good thing and a ballpark 100K of income from two days buys you a good cricketer. Yet the bottom line is that I am as good as anyone they could sign, if they just want people to sit around and sign an occasional autograph. Likewise, marketing is going to get messy if you're citing the merits of joining with '40 days of cricket...or maybe 30, if it rains a lot'.

The supporters and players will be equally frustrated, because sitting around a wet cricket ground is no fun, especially when you can't even get out there when it has stopped raining for 24 hours.

They will get it sorted, I'm sure and I can only say that people should give those at the club the time, over the coming months, to address this summer's issues.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Derbyshire v Kent day 1

No play

I get the frustration from supporters, desperate to watch the last cricket of 2017 on home turf. The sun is shining, but the ground is waterlogged from heavy overnight rain and it is impossible.

Yet what, realistically, can the club be expected to do?

There has been a freakish amount of rain this summer and the volume that apparently fell on the Chesterfield area overnight would have done for many a county headquarters, let alone an out ground where the facilities are of a lesser standard.

Whether it allows for play tomorrow is a moot point, but with more rain forecast on Thursday, I have no hesitation in suggesting that this game will be a draw. With an obviously high water table, any volume on Thursday will rule out Friday. Such is the lot of the out ground.

It's a shame and frustrating, but the drainage at Queen's Park is improved yet couldn't cope. We might spend money on drainage this winter, and it may improve things, but there will still be days when simply too much rain has fallen and play is impossible.

It is a shame, but I don't know how you get around this one. There may have been play everywhere else, but unless you are a budding Carol Kirkwood, it may be that  they simply avoided the worst of the rain.

Let's see what tomorrow brings.

In other news, I read today that Glamorgan have a lot of work over the winter. To add to Jacques Rudolph's retirement, Colin Ingram only wants to play one-day cricket next year. In addition, Graham Wagg is out of contract and, after an injury-hit summer, it appears far from certain that he will be offered another deal.

Would you consider him for Derbyshire, or, at 35 next summer, is he too old now?

Monday, 18 September 2017

Derbyshire v Kent championship preview

Time for the penultimate preview of the 2017 season and, pleasingly, an extra game at that most scenic of grounds, Chesterfield.

Queen's Park will always be my favourite ground and I hope that the weather and crowds are good to it over the next four days.

Derbyshire come into the game on a high, the splendid win over Sussex a highlight of a summer that has had a few, for the first time in a while. Gary Wilson and Imran Tahir return from international duty and the home faithful will enjoy the sight of Hardus Viljoen and Tahir in the same attack.

A squad of fourteen has been announced, as below:

Luis Reece
Ben Slater
Callum Brodrick
Wayne Madsen
Alex Hughes
Matt Critchley
Gary Wilson (captain)
Harvey Hosein
Tony Palladino
Hardus Viljoen
Will Davis
Harry Podmore
Hamidullah Qadri
Imran Tahir


Unless there is a desire to again test the mettle of Callum Brodrick before the summer ends, I would assume that he, Qadri and Tony Palladino will miss out. We need to see if Harry Podmore is worth a permanent deal between now and the end of the summer and tomorrow's final home game is a chance to look at a possible attack for 2018.

There are opportunities across the team for people to make a statement. Team strengthening will take place over the winter and this is a chance for players to sell their own talents. I hope that plenty of them take that opportunity.

Kent have also named a fourteen-man squad that lacks Matt Coles but includes the evergreen Darren Stevens, after another fine season, as well as players of past and potential England pedigree. It would be unrealistic to expect Viljoen to repeat the heroics of the last game, so others need to step up and share the wicket-taking responsibilities.

Their squad:

Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sean Dickson, Joe Denly, Sam Northeast, Sam Billings, Zak Crawley, Darren Stevens, Will Gidman, Calum Haggett, Grant Stewart, James Tredwell, Imran Qayyum, Matt Hunn, Oliver Robinson.

Thursday looks a bit of a washout, but much will depend on the wicket as to whether there is sufficient time for a positive result.

Here's hoping the locals get something to remember over the long winter months ahead.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Derbyshire enigma

In a rollercoaster summer, I think there will be a lot of Derbyshire supporters of a similar mind to me this morning.

Do we have a good cricket team that too often lapses into mediocrity? Or a poor one, that sometimes plays above itself?

For what it is worth, I think we are two good players away from a side that could be promotion contenders in four-day cricket, as well as one that does well in one-day formats. Yet we are also the loss of two players away from also-rans.

Hardus Viljoen was brilliant in the game at Hove, but it would be unrealistic to expect him to be fit enough to do that from April to September. Perhaps the fact that he played hardly any cricket early season accounted for him being able to run in with the zest of a young gazelle. If he had four hundred overs in his legs, maybe the spring and zip that was too much for good batsmen may not have been there.

I am old enough to recall the September when a young Alan Ward arrived on the county scene and ran through county batting line-ups with some sizzling displays. Sadly, Alan was rarely fit enough to do that over a full season, though it was magnificent when it came together. Hardus is far more robust in build, and I suspect mentally tougher than Alan was, but 90mph for six months, with the body fit and the radar always locked on, is a huge ask for anyone. 

In his interview for my last book, Harold Rhodes told me that he quickly learned that you cannot give it all every time you bowl, and quickly have to learn to put in that lightning spell when conditions are in your favour, or the match is in the balance. Sage words from a man who would have enjoyed another quick bowler cutting a swathe through a batting line-up. Like Harold, Hardus is a canny enough bowler to be awkward when the wicket is slower and he has to cut down his pace and bowl an occasional quicker ball, itself a threat from shock value alone.

We saw the impact he had in this match, yet have seen the ineffectual nature of our attack in his absence. Without his whole-hearted approach, I doubt we would have come close to winning yesterday and the need to find quality support over the winter is clear.

Although I would have him back without question, I'm unsure if we have seen the best of Imran Tahir this summer. He bowled tidily in most T20 matches, won us one with a brilliant spell but has played little four-day cricket through injury and international duty. The prospect of Viljoen and Tahir together is a mouth-watering one, but for improvement another year we need to field three bowlers who can take wickets.

Shiv Thakor has been missed in that respect. Will Davis is a fine prospect, but raw, while Hamidullah Qadri is perhaps a decade from anything approaching a peak. Good players all, but addressing that missing link in the winter will determine if and how we progress.

Harry Podmore did his chances of a contract no harm at Hove. His batting was a revelation, while he overcame the disappointment of a dropped catch with the last two wickets. As Ash mentioned below yesterday's post, his frustration after that drop was obvious from video footage on Twitter, something he will need to handle better. No one deliberately drops catches, but it happens and you rise above it. Les Jackson used to shrug his shoulders and say 'catch next 'un', though Cliff Gladwin could be more volatile...

I'd like to see us sign a seam bowler who bats a bit for the early season overseas role. For all his expensive bowling in the T20, Matt Henry would be the type of player we need and would likely thrive in early summer here, with a spinner again for later season. Chris Morris would be terrific, but since he and Henry are normally involved in the IPL, that 'type' of player would be the target, those players themselves likely elsewhere.

Another player I like is Ben Raine at Leicestershire, sadly under contract until 2019. A combative cricketer who bowls good fast medium, battles with the bat and has the 'edge' that you want in a player. I'd see Raine as a player who would thrive in the right environment.

We're not far away. With continued progress from young players, better luck with fitness and sound 'tweaking' of the squad, 2017 may be seen as the year it all began, the watershed of Derbyshire cricket.

What do you think?

Postscript - I was amused yesterday to see that 87% of those voting felt Viljoen the star man for Derbyshire in the game just finished.

Turn that around though and 13% felt he wasn't...as I wrote on Twitter, what did he have to do to convince them?

Friday, 15 September 2017

Sussex v Derbyshire day 4 - Viljoen enters county legend

Derbyshire 338 and 322-8 dec

Sussex 271 (Viljoen 7-80) and 344 (Viljoen 8-90)

Derbyshire won by 45 runs

It might have taken longer for us to see Hardus Viljoen in action than we would have wanted, but having got his body right, it has taken him far less time to write himself into the county record books.

Eight wickets in the second innings of this game, following seven in the first innings, made him the first Derbyshire bowler since 1952 to take fifteen wickets in a match. The last man to do it was Cliff Gladwin, who took sixteen at considerably less pace than Hardus at Amblecote, in Worcestershire, where the wickets often favoured bowlers  and where Cliff would need no second bidding.

Viljoen took his on a wicket that was pretty good for batting, as evidenced by the match scores. Over on his excellent and informative Twitter account tonight, club historian and statistician David Griffin has some excellent statistics (and photographs) of the day's action and I acknowledge his assistance  in recording that Viljoen is only the fifth Derbyshire bowler to take fifteen wickets in a match for us, as well as the first non-English player to take more than thirteen wickets. There are plenty of other facts to savour, that will doubtless and rightly appear on the club site before long.

It is testament to the commitment and fitness of the big fast bowler that he reeled off 25 overs and seemed to maintain pace to the very end. It is also worth mentioning the efforts of Fran Clarkson, the club physio, in getting him to that stage after an early season ravaged by a knee injury that could have easily seen him play no more cricket in 2017.

It showed also what might be possible another summer, if he has more help at the other end and can maintain this fitness. As I noted this morning, a young attack was going to struggle to bowl out a lengthy batting line-up on a good wicket and at one point looked like they were not going to do so. Viljoen's excellent habit of getting an early wicket continued, but then Wells and van Zyl batted well to add 136, before the fast bowler's return took two quick wickets.

Harry Podmore then found the edge of van Zyl's bat and the catch, a difficult one, was put down by Harvey Hosein as the batsman and Luke Wright added another century stand. It looked like being a costly error.

At 267-3 there appeared only one winner in the game, but Viljoen's return ripped out three quick wickets, his next spell another two. The clips on Twitter show hostile, classic fast bowling, short and threatening, quick and straight. The photograph of Luke Wright's dismissal, when well set on 80, shows a man beaten for pace, no mean feat.

Harry Podmore's return to the attack saw him take the last two wickets and the players will enjoy their return journey tonight. They deserve to, after a job well done.

Rightly so, because, despite Hardus' tour de force it was a team performance. Everyone battled with the bat and some excellent catches were held, notably by Hughes and Qadri. Mention too of sound captaincy by Wayne Madsen, who would have loved another experienced bowler to work with, but who handled his young attack well.

They must have learned a lot from their giant spearhead's herculean effort today and David Griffin's photograph of Qadri and Viljoen with their arms around each other's shoulders is one of my new favourites.

Chesterfield is next. Hardus will enjoy the traditional bounce there. I reckon our supporters will too.

Well done Derbyshire and well done Hardus Viljoen.

Even Ian Bishop and Michael Holding didn't manage this.

You've entered county legend now...

Derbyshire Cricket Society ready to start winter programme

As the cricket season winds down this month, now is the time to join the Derbyshire Cricket Society and keep in touch with the game over the winter.

The society promotes and supports the interests of Derbyshire County Cricket Club. The programme of cricket speakers runs across six lunchtime meetings, usually the last Thursday in the month, starting in October and running through to March.

This year’s programme (below) starts on Thursday 26th October with a talk by Paul Smith, one of the most entertaining ex-county cricket speakers.

Membership for the year only costs £5. Please contact Marion Bingham, the Membership Secretary (address below) if you are interested.

Winter Programme 2017/18

Meetings are held with lunch, 12 Noon for 12.30, in the Legends Lounge, Elite Performance Centre (formerly the Gateway Centre), The 3aaa County Ground, Nottingham Rd, Derby DE21 6DA.

The cost of the two course lunch (Main Course; Dessert or Cheese & Biscuits; Coffee) is £20.00 for members; £22 for non-members.

BOOKING A LUNCH

Please send a cheque made out to Derbyshire Cricket Society to ARRIVE AT THE LATEST BY THURSDAY OF THE PREVIOUS WEEK to: Marion Bingham, 9 Malthouse Lane, Nether Heage, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 2AS.

Note that a vegetarian option is available and should be requested when booking along with Cheese & Biscuits, if required.

Thursday 26 October 2017 Paul Smith
Thursday 23 November 2017 Dean Allen
Thursday 14 December 2017 Wayne Madsen
Thursday 25 January 2018 Geoff Cope
Thursday 22 February 2018 James Graham Brown
Thursday 29 March 2018 Karl Krikken

Having spoken for the society before, I can vouch for a friendly welcome and a convivial atmosphere in which people are made to feel very welcome. 

That is also an excellent line-up of speakers, with a strong Derbyshire bias.

If anyone needs more information, please get in touch and I will connect you to them!

Names in the frame?

A comment from the always readable notoveryet caught my attention the other day.

He is a knowledgeable man and his opinions, like those of everyone who contributes on a regular basis, are respected and valued.

In the post in question, he suggested four players that may be worthy of Derbyshire's attention come the end of the season: Graham Onions, James Tredwell, Rolof Van der Merwe and Max Waller.

On the face of it, they are all players with things to like. Onions is one of the finest seamers in the county game, Tredwell an experienced spinner who can bat, Van der Merwe likewise, while Waller is a leg spinner who has found a niche in the 20-over game.

But would they really enhance our squad and would they really be available?

Onions is a very good bowler, another who has been unlucky with the timing of his county career, but at 35 I would be surprised if he left his home county. Another contract, primarily for the red ball game, is on the table and after an injury-hit summer I suspect that potential suitors will be wary. He has played little one-day cricket over recent summers and I think is too old for a contract elsewhere now. We may think otherwise, but our target market has surely to be among younger bowlers with more to offer? Something between what we have and Onions would be my preference and surely not someone older than Tony Palladino?

Tredwell? Not for me. 22 wickets at 42 in 2016, 3 at 76 this year. They aren't the figures of a bowler enjoying a golden Autumn to his career and I see little merit in any interest. Hamidullah Qadri needs cricket and will only kick on if he gets it. Whether Matt Critchley's leg spin falls by the wayside as his batting develops is anyone's guess, but both will have learned from Imran Tahir this year, a player I would be happy to have engaged next season in any capacity, for the record.

Geoff Miller's early career was blocked a little by the signing of Venkat years ago, just as one might argue that Tahir has done the same for today's tyros. Yet both overseas players were/are of world-class stature, something you couldn't really say about Tredwell, I'm afraid.

Max Waller? Again, no from me. With two young spinners on the staff and Matt Sonczak looking worthy of investigation in the seconds, I don't see enough in a player who would realistically play only T20 and who has today signed another deal with the county anyway.

Finally, Rolof Van der Merwe. On the face of it, I would rate him worthy of further enquiry, but he has played little four-day cricket in the past two seasons and only two games this year. He is, as notoveryet pointed out, a good hitter of a ball and a tidy spinner, certainly a handy number seven or eight and especially useful in the one-day formats, where he has produced his best.

Yet he signed a contract extension that keeps him at Taunton until the end of next season. We all know that these can be broken and frequently are, but I suspect that Somerset pay him more than we might be prepared to, based on his track record, so he would see things out there.

Daniel Bell-Drummond was also mentioned, a young player who is mentioned often in despatches as a future England player. Yet the figures again make interesting reading.

Bell-Drummond is currently averaging 25 for the four-day season. Probably not a true indicator of his talent, but how many cricketers would claim to be 'better than their average'? For what it is worth, that would leave him twelfth in our averages this year. As a comparator, Ben Slater, a 'rival' if you like, averages 31, Billy Godleman 40, Luis Reece 35.

As I have written before, our targets have to be better than what we have. Of course you would have a chat with an agent if the season was written off as one of those things for a player, but I remain convinced that we only need two or three players to improve next year.

If we're talking figures, look at these:

2017                                2016

Critchley 41                     24
Hughes 35                        33
Slater 31                          28
Godleman 40                   37

Each has improved on last season, Matt Critchley dramatically so. The biggest issue with our batting has been the decline of Wayne Madsen, from 59 to 26 and the absence of Shiv Thakor, who had gone from 67 to 33, before his enforced omission.

Both are such fine players that their decline can only be temporary and Wayne had such a fine one-day summer that something had to 'give' somewhere, in a season where he has also had to handle the commitments of his benefit, as well as being a father for the first time.

So for me, let's bring in the men we need, but be aware that existing personnel, in the batting ranks, are moving in the right direction.

As always, I welcome your comments. And suggestions of potential targets as future talking points!