Friday, 26 May 2017

Random and passing thoughts

My first half an hour free for a couple of days so thought I would pitch in with a few comments.

First up, my wife had eight-hour surgery on Wednesday and is recovering slowly but steadily. The surgical team are happy with progress and she has moved from intensive care to high dependency. She is likely to be in hospital for at least another week, as things stand, but a life-threatening issue appears to have been rectified. Needless to say, my respect and admiration for a wonderful team of surgeons, doctors and nurses knows no bounds and my thanks to them are absolute.

Hopefully I can report on continued progress sometime during the week.

On to cricket and our limited attack took a bit of a pasting, as expected, from Leicestershire. I don't recall a weaker county attack since the early 1970's, when we opened the bowling with the very pedestrian Ian Buxton, in the absence of viable alternatives. Having said that, Ian would have strengthened the attack in this game and was a gutsy cricketer.

The wicket appeared to me a road and I can't think Hardus Viljoen would have got much from it either. When you encounter such tracks, all you can do is grin and bear it, take the punishment when it is dished out and make sure that you cash in yourselves.

That is what Derbyshire has done. While the visitors have, on paper, a stronger attack, there's nowt short of a howitzer will get joy on such a wicket. While cloud and rain will likely truncate the play tomorrow, we should have no fears in such a track and should simply bat ourselves to safety.

Finally from me, I totally agree with Ian's post on the last article. Take the best two bowlers from any attack in the country and it will struggle and my pre-season post saying that we needed luck for success was entirely correct. Hardus Viljoen has remained fit for the past few years in South Africa, but has picked up an injury that rules him out of half of the summer. Meanwhile, Will Davis is also out and our likely impressive opening attack has been ripped apart.You can't blame anyone at the club for this, but they will likely be working on personal fitness plans for the two, much as was developed for Mark Footitt when he encountered such problems.

As for the wicket-keeping role, you pick your best player and do so until he fails to deliver. Daryn Smit kept for 144 overs in this game and conceded not a single bye, despite standing up for a lot of that time. Anyone who has seen him will doubtless agree he is one of the best glove men we have had in many years, much as I expected from reviews of his technique from South Africa.

Against that, arguments for his exclusion in favour of Harvey Hosein can generally only be the result of friendship and family loyalty. No one is clamouring for Tom Wood to play in place of Wayne Madsen, another player at the peak of his game. In any sport you pick your best players and in my opinion Smit is our best keeper, just as Madsen is the focal point of the batting.

He has been steady, if not yet prolific with the bat and set high standards behind the stumps. Harvey has scored some, but in my opinion not enough runs in the second eleven to make a strong case for himself.

Until he does so, or until Smit's standards drop, there is no argument.

With that, I say farewell  for another few days, bar for comments when I have time.

Thanks to the guest contributors for their help and please get in touch if you would like to run a piece.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Guest post: Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 1

On the wrong end of another vital toss on a warm morning at Derby.  Having said that we stuck to the task well in the morning session.  All the seamers bowled manfully in hot conditions. Special mention must go to Robert Hemmings whose opening spell of seven overs for nine runs was commendable.  Also interesting to see him open rather than come on first change.  Dino was back to his miserly best while snapping up the wicket of Horton, caught behind by Daryn Smit who kept the gloves despite the return of Gary Wilson.

We need a similar commitment after lunch.  The only downside, as ever, is where is the next wicket coming from?  That is, of course, the  perennial problem!

A couple of boundaries off Palladino following similar treatment to Taylor doesn't augur well.  Could be a long afternoon.

But then Dearden flashes at a delivery from Taylor and is well caught by Alex Hughes in the gully. Just need to get Cosgrove early!  Oh dear, Cosgrove dropped on eight off Tom Taylor.  Hope that doesn't prove expensive.

Interesting test for Rob Hemmings as he returns to the attack.  Cosgrove got hold of him and probably right to remove him from the front line.

Ackermann and Cosgrove beginning to look threatening. Oh for another wicket!

Leicestershire pass two hundred with only two down, it's looking ominous.  Tea can't come too soon!

Tea interval and time to regroup.  The attack is under the cosh and not sure where next wicket is coming from.  We just don't have a bowler in the ranks who can undermine the opposition.

What we need is a sporting declaration!!

Mendis and Madsen open the bowling after tea and Ackermann reaches his ton as the torment continues.

Two hundred and fifty up and no sign of a breakthrough.

Hang on a minute, we have another wicket as Mendis has Ackermann caught by Gary Wilson at slip.

Tom Taylor takes new ball as Leicestershire move on untroubled towards three hundred.

Last ten and we looking tired and a little ragged as opposition move on to three hundred and fifty.  No let up and heads dropping!

Four hundred up and there is no let up in the pain.  Another disappointing day for Derbyshire and their supporters.  Not sure where we go from here?

Interesting to see Graeme Welch in the Leicestershire camp.  He must have mixed feelings watching the sad demise of his old side.

Stuart, York

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Guest post: Derbyshire v Leicestershire preview


If you are doing some baking over the next four days and need your mixture stirring then the 3aaa County Ground is the place for you, as Leicestershire visit Derbyshire, who between them have collected the wooden spoon for the last four seasons in the County Championship Division Two. Leicestershire have three to Derbyshire’s one and both will looking to collect their first victory of the season to ensure they do not collect another this season. Derbyshire currently sit 8th in the table with Leicestershire one place above them separated by four points, although Leicestershire have played a game more, which means this match has all the ingredients to be a showstopper.

Both sides have had their issues over recent years, with Derbyshire still struggling to replace the wickets of Mark Footitt, who left for the Kia Oval two seasons ago and will again be without Hardus Viljoen and Will Davis who are both ruled out through injury until the end of June. This will mean the onus will fall to the other bowlers in the side to take the 20 wickets required and especially overseas leg spinner Jeevan Mendis who I have made my key man for Derbyshire in this game.

Leicestershire have lacked the ability to bowl sides out and put them in winning positions, although in their last match Dieter Klein showed that he could be the answer to their issues, bowling well and taking four wickets. They will also be looking for more a return from Clint McKay now he has returned to fitness. They will be hoping the impressive Ned Eckersey can continue his fine form and give the bowlers a target to defend.

Not for the first time this season the bookmakers have Derbyshire as the underdogs and it is easy to see why. However I feel it is too close to call and if I was a betting man I would be keeping my hard earned cash in my pocket. Both sides could win and both sides equally could collapse and lose.


Key Men
Derbyshire: As Derbyshire strive to win their first County Championship game in over a year, Jeevan Mendis will be key for Derbyshire. Mendis is a genuine international wicket taking threat with his leg spin, he can also offer control to captain Billy Godleman. Mendis has so far taken 11 wickets in the County Championship at an average of around 26, he can also score useful runs down the order and can quickly take a game from the opposition.

Leicestershire: In the modern game you want your Wicketkeeper to not only be a safe pair of hands behind the stumps, but also be able to score lots of runs too, in Ned Eckersley that is exactly what Leicestershire have. Eckersley is the club’s leading run scorer and is averaging over 45 in doing so, he has also taken five catches too. Having a high quality batsmen who is also a quality wicket keeper allows more balance to the side and for Leicestershire it is key to their success.

Team News:
Derbyshire have named a 14 man squad, Gary Wilson returns from international duty but is struggling with a sore knee so Smit looks set to continue behind the stumps. Viljoen and Davis remain side lined by injury so Godleman will have to use his other bowlers to take those elusive 20 wickets. The surprise inclusion in the squad is Alfie Gleadall, who is a young seamer who has impressed recently for the second XI.

Leicestershire welcome back Ben Raine to the squad, as the useful allrounder returns from injury, he will surely play and add balance to the Leicestershire side. Rob Sayer also returns from  injury, with Callum Parkinson and Tom Wells making way. The foxes still have injury issues though as Neil Dexter and Richard Jones are unavailable through injury and Charlie Shreck is only fit enough for the seconds.

Derbyshire squad: Billy Godleman (c), Alfie Gleadall, Alex Hughes, Rob Hemmings, Charlie MacDonnell, Wayne Madsen, Jeevan Mendis, Tony Palladino, Luis Reece, Ben Slater, Daryn Smit (wk), Tom Taylor, Shiv Thakor. Gary Wilson,

Leicestershire squad: Mark Cosgrove (c), Colin Ackermann, Zak Chappell, Harry Dearden, Ned Eckersley, Gavin Griffiths, Lewis Hill, Paul Horton, Dieter Klein, Clint McKay, Mark Pettini, Ben Raine, Rob Sayer.

Form

Derbyshire: LLLLD
Leicestershire: DDLLW

Weather and conditions
The weather looks set fair for the four days and whisper it quietly but you may even need your sun cream, especially if it goes to the fourth day. The pitches at Derby have generally been flat and true and not offered a great deal for the bowlers. There has been rain around in the lead up to the match and that may add a bit more spice to the pitch, but generally you can expect runs, runs and runs.

Date: 25th May 2017 to 28th May 2017
Time: 11:00am
Ground: 3aaa County Ground, Derby
Umpires: Millns and Taylor
Odds (SkyBet): Derbyshire: Evens  Leicestershire: 4/5

With sincere thanks for this preview to Huw Lloyd, writing for Deep Extra Cover.

Guest Piece: Unbalanced Squad

Oh dear, l think the good feel factor is disappearing faster than some of the loose deliveries despatched off a beleaguered Derbyshire attack.  
 
I thoroughly enjoyed the Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire matches, but since then the wheels seem to have come off.  Injuries, obviously, have not helped other than to underline lack of strength in depth, squad wise, especially in the bowling department.  Looking at the makeup of the squad it gives an impression of a lack of balance. We have more leggies than you can shake a stick at, and bizarrely three very good wicket keepers. The three keepers all offer slightly different qualities but nevertheless are fundamentally wicket keepers and you only need one in any given game.  HH hasn't had a look in and that seems like a waste of a talented cricketer.  I suppose at a push you could play all three but that seems unlikely.  The recruitment of one keeper was necessary but two, l don't think so, especially when reinforcements were required elsewhere.  Also to add to the unbalanced nature of the squad, we don't have an off spinner, okay we have 'Mads' but no SLA.

While the batting is not immune from criticism it's the bowling that has been the weak link and the signing of Hardus and Imran Tahir were welcome.  Obviously we have not seen the best of our strike bowler and Imran has yet to arrive, so in some respects we are left with last year's attack and that has not delivered on numerous occasions.  With hindsight another experienced seam bowler should probably have been signed rather than a third keeper.

Until the last few games, l thought we might have the makings of a strong and settled batting unit but those expectations were short lived.  Ben Slater has found himself a niche in the RLODC but he really needs to translate that into the longer version as, l think Adam said in an early response.  And why did Billy demote himself down the order, unless it was an attempt to avoid another unnecessary run out with Ben!  And there are still question marks about Shiv at three.  Is it asking too much with his bowling duties?  At the moment it seems as though if Wayne fails there is no one to take command of the innings at a vital time to either press on or repair the damage.

We have a handful of senior pros in Madsen, Palladino, Godleman and Wilson, along with our overseas contingent but the majority of the squad is made up of young cricketers trying to establish themselves in the game.  And while l am a big believer in home grown talent there is a case for a little more experience when you look at this youthful squad.  I am definitely not advocating going down the same route as Leicestershire , but maybe a tweak to the squad, with the introduction of an experienced loanee, especially in the absence of Viljoen.

In the meantime it will be interesting to compare our young guns with the senior citizens from Grace Road.  Just hope the Worcester debacle was a 'wake up call' for the team.

Stuart, York

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Guest pieces

If anyone is interested in doing a guest piece, either a review of a coming day's play, a preview of a match or a talking point/observational piece, please let me know at peakfan36@yahoo.co.uk

I am happy to publish it as a post, rather than comment, provided it doesn't contain personal attacks and is as well-written as most of your comments are.

Simply pop it into an email and I will paste it into the blog. Your name will be included too, so please don't simply post as 'Anon'. If you are especially shy, use a pen name, but be assured your email address will NOT be published! If you wish to use the comments box for such a piece that is fine, but please make its purpose clear.

The remuneration is the same as I get - which is nothing - but it will enable you to voice your opinions and share them around, while keeping the blog ticking over nicely.

I will be back intermittently in the week or so ahead,  but for now have bigger issues to deal with than a thirty-over capitulation.

I look forward to hearing from you and a preview, or previews, of the Leicestershire game will be appreciated.

Thanks to you all!




Time for a rethink, methinks...

Yesterday was a very bad day for Derbyshire, there's no getting away from that.

As I said last night, it was unacceptable, unprofessional and shockingly poor. Frustrating too, when the batting has been pretty good this summer. Let's not forget, only a week or so back we were hailing a side that was racking up one-day 300s for fun.

All sides have bad days and I don't agree with suggestions that wholesale changes are needed.

Tweaking is, however.

Billy Godleman is captain and a good, sound county opening batsman. So why move down to the middle order? It is a different game there. As captain and skipper, Billy should bat at the top of the order, partnered by whoever is deemed in form. Whether that is Ben Slater or Luis Reece is largely irrelevant, but the skipper should be and should stay at the top, where he handles a new ball well. Why Reece opened in the second innings when apparently with a runner is a questionable decision, some might say foolhardy.

The problem is best solved, in four day cricket, by either Slater or Reece dropping to three. I know they want to give Shiv Thakor a chance there, but a brilliant ton against Northamptonshire apart, he has played cameos, which isn't the job description of that position. Besides, with Jeevan Mendis he is one of only two bowlers who can be trusted to bowl steadily most of the time. Ben Cotton is a good one-day bowler, but I remain to be convinced he can bowl sides out, while Tom Taylor and Tom Milnes are struggling.

If we keep having to bowl Thakor for twenty overs an innings, he isn't going to be able to go in early and be mentally 'switched on' for batting three. Aside from Jacques Kallis, there aren't many have handled that over the years. Talented as Thakor is, he ain't no Kallis and he will struggle and eventually buckle under such a workload.

Then I read that wholesale changes are needed, with Harvey Hosein the first of them. I would like to see Tom Wood play the T20, but does anyone think that Wood and Macdonell in the batting would improve on who is there now? Who is going to bowl, other than what we have in the first team?

With Viljoen and Davis hors de combat until the end of June, we can largely write off four-day cricket success, as I just cannot see where twenty wickets will come. Put the two of them in a later season side with Imran Tahir and there's a different complexion on things, but three straight losses tells a sorry story. We could score 500 and not get first innings lead...

The Hosein story will keep coming back, but therein lies a self-inflicted problem. When I pushed for us to sign Daryn Smit last year, I knew of his stature as a wicket-keeper, but when we signed Gary Wilson I didn't expect it to happen. With Wilson away with Ireland regularly, Hosein was likely to get a lot of cricket.

Then we signed Smit and it was only a matter of time before those at the club saw what everyone in South Africa has known for years - that he is a very high standard wicket-keeper. You have only to watch the speed of his hand work in stumpings and the catches he has taken, with and without gloves to see that. Truth be told, he is probably better than Wilson and the call on who gets the gloves on his return will be a tough one.

So do they give them to Hosein? All he can do is score a load of runs and keep to a high standard in the twos and wait his turn. Both Smit and Wilson know that they need to maintain standards in both disciplines to retain the role, but a slip in one of them, with two of high standard in the wings, will be costly. Yet Wilson, a pugnacious and vibrant batsman, as well as vice-captain, needs to be in the side anyway, which creates another problem.

For the time being my four-day side, assuming all are fit, would be:

Godleman
Slater
Reece
Madsen
Thakor
Hughes
Smit
Mendis
X
X
X

A lot of X's, because not one bowler is making a case for guaranteed selection.

Therein lies the problem.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 4

I drifted in and out of the game today, for reasons you are well aware of. When I saw the visitors had 'only' got 140 runs ahead, I thought a draw would be well within our compass.

How wrong could I be?

To be bowled out inside 30 overs in a four day game is unacceptably poor. I don't care whether it was a fourth day wicket or helpful to the bowlers, that was quite horrible.

In the time it took me to leave my house to get to the hospital, the innings was in disrepair. Losing wickets to careless shots is poor, getting people run out in such a situation is unprofessional.

There need to be serious discussions after such a display, because long-suffering supporters deserve much better than that.

Thanks for your observations so far and please keep them coming in my hopefully brief break from the blog.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 3

While being able to bowl first was an obvious advantage for Worcestershire, the same frailties that have earmarked our cricket for the past couple of seasons were evident today.

I didn't follow play too closely but the scoreboard doesn't lie and we remain a side that struggles to take wickets.

I just hope that Imran Tahir is fit when he gets here, because he will probably be bowling at one end until September...

There could be a last afternoon battle against defeat here, so let's hope that this summer's saving grace, our batting, can at least get something from the game.

Over to you now...

Friday, 19 May 2017

Hiatus ahead...

Things are going to be intermittent over the next week or so folks.

My wife has been in hospital for the past fortnight after a heart attack and major surgery is taking place on Wednesday of next week to try and sort the thing that caused it, together with a bigger problem that has been discovered in the course of tests.

Much as I love Derbyshire cricket, her well-being is of far greater importance than any cricket match. I will blog when time allows, but there will be times when I don't and that is going to be the second half of next week at the very least, possibly longer.

I just want you to know that I'm not losing interest in the blog or the club, but some things are way more important than the winning or losing of a cricket match. With hospital visits and travel taking time, there just aren't enough hours in the day at present.

Do please keep your comments coming  and post them on the last blog available. I will add them and comment myself as time permits, but you will know the reason if there's a longer time lapse than normal. If I miss any, I will apologise now and assure you that normal service will resume as soon as she is restored to something resembling her normal rude health.

Thank you for your continued interest and support.

On the pitch, I don't think we will be too disappointed with today's effort. After the rain and the covers, Worcestershire were always going to bowl and probably fancied their chances of more wickets than they got.

That we got to the close with only three down is due to an excellent, gritty effort from Luis Reece, opening in the place of Billy Godleman. The two of them together, tomorrow morning, have an opportunity to push our total to respectability, on a wicket that will doubtless remain helpful to the bowlers.

Fingers crossed, in more ways than one.

Postscript - no Hardus Viljoen until the end of June...it makes sense, because the guy is in a no win situation. He bowls when not fit and people say he's no good. He doesn't play and they make silly accusations that he is just here for the money.

Get him fit, then let him loose in the second half of the summer with Imran Tahir.

It does make you wonder why he played in a dead game the other night though, when struggling with a hip injury.

I didn't get that at all.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Derbyshire v Worcestershire RLODC

And so, with more of a whimper than the roar of a lion, Derbyshire's RLODC campaign petered out on a murky day, perhaps in keeping with the way things ended.

The batting was adequate, but no more than that. It was a good toss to win and the ball zipped around early on. Shiv Thakor played a fine innings, much of it on the front foot as conditions dictated. Alex Hughes played a delightful cameo that threatened to make our score something challenging, while Daryn Smit played some inventive shots at the death, including a remarkable reverse sweep for six over the wicket-keeper.

Yet the target never looked challenging for the visitors and for the most part the Derbyshire attack looked pedestrian. The early assault by Kohler-Cadmore effectively won them the game and bruised too many bowling figures for comfort, while the out fielding was at times quite ordinary.

Later things improved. Smit held an excellent catch standing up to end the first wicket stand, technically better if not so spectacular as his later two handed grab from Viljoen. I thought the latter's second spell quite menacing and a couple of the batsmen were noticeably hurried by his pace and bounce. The catch by Mendis on the boundary to give him a third wicket was somewhat fortuitous for him, though stunning by the fielder, but it was all a little too late by then.

Worcestershire are a decent team in this competition and showed it by progressing to the knock out stages. For Derbyshire, it was a familiar tale of early promise that petered out in an all too familiar fashion.

I will acknowledge improvement, which is perhaps what we all hoped for, but there is work to be done before this side progresses further. Sorting all the problems in one winter was asking too much, considering where we were last summer, but we seem short of two bowlers of quality.

For another year, someone has to really kick on, or we need to look for options elsewhere and spend our Elton John swag on a proven wicket-taker.

There have been good spells by most of the bowlers, but until we have five who bowl more good than bad, we will continue to be consigned to the group stages of this competition.

Which is probably why we signed Matt Henry and Imran Tahir for the T20.

It makes a lot of sense, based on the efforts we all saw today.