Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 3

Derbyshire 200 and 305-3 (Godleman 86, Lace 69*, Madsen 69)

Gloucestershire 419 (Reece 4-91)

Derbyshire lead by 86 runs

They still need to work hard tomorrow to avoid defeat, and I am not convinced that anything more than a draw is possible on a wicket that seems to have eased considerably, but today could scarce have gone better than it did for Derbyshire today.

It was a quite splendid, grafting, resilient effort that brought us back into a game that we appeared out of last night. Starting with the quick mopping up of the visiting tail, the batsmen without exception got in, got their heads down yet were unafraid to punish the bad ball.

With plenty of batting to come, and both sides needing a win to reinforce their promotion push, a contrived finish is not beyond the realms of possibility tomorrow, but I struggle to see how we can come out on the right side of it, if it was attempted.

Gloucestershire could bowl us out in the morning, when conditions at Derby are always most helpful to bowlers, but would themselves be wary if it started moving around when they have to bat last.

But a day off tomorrow will enable me to watch the day's play and I hope that something happens, rather than the game simply petering out into a dull draw. Though it is fair to say that we need the win from the game more than Gloucestershire, who will remain very much in the mix, whatever the result.

Even at that, however, from where we were at the start of the day, Derbyshire can take great credit. I have seen plenty of sides representing the county that would have folded when 200 runs and counting behind.

This squad is made of sterner stuff.

And it is a pleasure to see.

Derbyshire V Gloucestershire day 2

In short...Derbyshire will be battling to avoid defeat against Gloucestershire today.

Dont say I didn't warn you, but Chris Dent, a player who could solve England's issues, and the outstanding Ryan Higgins both scored centuries to take the game away from us.

At 396-7 Gloucestershire are 196 ahead and could stretch that, lead still further before our second innings.

Not looking good, is it?

Monday, 19 August 2019

Derbyshire V Gloucestershire day 1

Derbyshire 200 (Hughes 39, Hudson-Prentice 38, van Beek 34*)

Gloucestershire 46-2

Apologies for the lack of blog last night but family matters overtook me.

I don't think that Derbyshire did too badly, on a pitch that remained awkward until the end of the day. A truer picture will be known at lunch today, but the visiting batsmen had their own trials and tribulations in turn and this morning will be a test.

I appreciated the batsmen digging in and fighting, as elsewhere around the country wickets fell and teams capitulated. Alex Hughes again came up with runs when most needed, while Fynn Hudson-Prentice mixed grit with aggression and reinforced the positive impression he has made.

Late on, even Ravi Rampaul dug in for a, while and supported Logan van Beek to get us to a batting bonus point. The latter played his best innings in the county colours, as well as producing the shot of the day, a majestic 'hold the pose' six over long on, one of two.

200 was more than looked likely in the morning session, as wickets tumbled and both openers were quickly back in the hutch. Madsen batted well for a while but the wickets were the result of fine bowling, rather than lax batting.

All to play for today, then.

Just an early warning that a blog is unlikely tonight, as I am working a 12 hour shift and start early again tomorrow. Feel free to put your thoughts in here!

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire County Championship preview

Dave Houghton has named a 12-man squad as Derbyshire return to four-day cricket at the Pattonair County Ground tomorrow.

They play a Gloucestershire side currently in third place in the division, a position that we are chasing ourselves, along with most of the rest of the division. With the exception of Leicestershire, any side that strings together a late run could get into those places, with Lancashire looking certain winners and Glamorgan currently (just) in second place.

A few sides are strengthening for a final push. Tomorrow's visitors have signed Josh Shaw on a three-year deal and have taken him on loan from Yorkshire, while they have also signed Shannon Gabriel from the West Indies for the season's last three games. Meanwhile Glamorgan have signed Samit Patel on loan from Nottinghamshire for the rest of the season.

In Ryan Higgins they picked up a fantastic all round signing from Middlesex and he is high in the batting and bowling averages this year. Chris Dent continues to score a lot of runs too, while David Payne, free from injury issues, like Higgins has over thirty wickets this summer.

There is no news on their squad as yet, but it will be a tough game. If we lose it, promotion prospects will be slim, I think, as the gap would then be 30-40 points and we would need to play out of our skins to pull that back.

The Derbyshire squad sees a return for Tom Lace, Tony Palladino and Harvey Hosein, who take their places in this squad:

Billy Godleman
Luis Reece
Wayne Madsen
Tom Lace
Leus du Plooy
Alex Hughes
Matt Critchley
Fynn Hudson-Prentice
Harvey Hosein
Logan van Beek
Tony Palladino
Ravi Rampaul

My guess is that Alex Hughes may miss out, based purely on four-day form prior to the break. Hudson-Prentice has come into the side and done well, while most of the rest appear to pick themselves.

I will be hoping for a stream and will see most of the action tomorrow, which seems set to benefit from a good forecast. So is the rest of the match, so with both teams needing a win, it appears set for an enthralling four days of cricket.

Fingers crossed we come out on the right side of it, but much will depend on which side gets out of T20 mode the best.

More from me tomorrow.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Weekend thoughts

There's a return to county championship cricket for Derbyshire this weekend, with a game at Derby against Gloucestershire to occupy minds before next weekend's hectic end, or otherwise, to the Vitality Blast.

I would regard tonight's point in the washout against Nottinghamshire as a bonus, just the same as was our point against Lancashire previously. We don't have a great record against either, so two points from a possible four is OK, thank you very much.

I have returned home after a nice break in the Lakes, less traumatised than some of you from not having seen last night's debacle. Your many comments have been enjoyed and appreciated, with a lot of common sense among them.

Next weekend we play Northamptonshire on Friday at Derby, then travel to Leicester on the Sunday, before finishing off at Old Trafford on Monday.

The key thing to remember, despite last night, is that, as notoveryet says in his excellent post, we still control our own destiny. I will quote him for convenience:

'If we beat, as we should, both Northants and Leics, Leics will need to get three points from games against Notts and Lancs to overtake us, Warwickshire would need to win three out of four including beating one of Lancs or Worcs, and Durham would need to match our results. So it's still just about in our hands even if we don't beat Lancs in the last match'

We will, as he also points out, have Mark Watt back from Scotland duty, and that will be key for those games, especially at Old Trafford. I'm not, I have to say, especially sold on the idea of playing on used wickets, because the side batting second is at a great disadvantage and you pretty much rely on the coin toss to win the game - or lose it.

Nor am I sold on Darren Stevens or Boyd Rankin, based on performances so far. For all their fine careers, both seem to be running on empty and whatever the cost it has not been close to justified. Perhaps one of them will get further opportunity and will go on to win us a match from here, but nothing we have seen so far has suggested that. 

From the comments I have read, Stevens committed a schoolboy error in his running last night, and at his age you really need to be giving yourself every bit of help possible.  Neither are an asset in the field and the side would likely lose nothing in swapping Watt and Dal in for them. Truth is, with Watt's bowling and Dal's all round ability, especially in the field, we stand to gain quite a lot.

A side that has beaten Yorkshire twice and the reigning champions once, as well as running them close a second time, is capable of beating anyone. Yet we must not make the mistake of confusing aggressive cricket with constant hitting, because it isn't that. Aggression is standing toe to toe with an opponent and using your full range of skills to outwit and beat them. 

I totally understand, as several have commented, that we had to try and get boundaries against a hard, new ball, before it slowed down as it got softer. Yet clever placement could and should have been allied with that. To lose wicket after wicket to attempted big hits was what Geoff Boycott would call 'brainless cricket'. I'd have loved to see Dean Jones in his pomp on that run chase. He'd have worked the gaps, run the twos and made sure the others did the same. We needed little more than a run a ball from the outset and should have played it accordingly.

At least, again as notoveryet mentioned, Daryn Smit used his noggin and ensured we batted most of our overs, preserving, to some extent, the net run rate. It looks increasingly likely to decide this group's final place and we need to make sure that we are the right side of it.

IF we make the knock out stages of the competition, with the handicaps that have been in place, then Dominic Cork and his squad deserve all the plaudits that will go their way. Maybe, with the year's delay of the European T20 competition and one or two players missing out on both that and the CPL, there may be a decent overseas player available to enhance the squad at that point, for one match or otherwise.

But first things first. A win against Gloucestershire will do us good in the four-day game, and then we see what happens next weekend.

For all last night's disappointment, we can still do this.

Muscle AND  mind. 

That's what will do it.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Derbyshire V Leicestershire T20

Leicestershire 149-7

Derbyshire 94 all out

I can't say too much about it as (thankfully) I didn't see it, but Derbyshire did their best to put me off my evening meal in the pub tonight

The good news is that the results and no results in this group have left us still in it, but that must have been awful to watch, wherever you were doing so.

The concern was there when we lost the toss, given we were playing on a used pitch. It was never going to be easy batting second and we effectively gave ourselves a 50/50 chance of winning through the toss.

Yet the dismissals seem to have been poor and one would hope that we were better at playing on our own wicket than that.

From the sound of it there were too many given away with big shots, when a more prudent approach might have been beneficial.

The bowling was not too bad, but you have to balance that against what followed.

I will leave you to comment on the rest. A point from a rain off against Nottinghamshire is perhaps the summit of our ambitions in that game, then it is how we do in the return against Leicestershire, another against Northamptonshire and a final trip to Old Trafford, never a happy hunting ground for us.

We never do things the easy way, do we?

And the frustration felt by fans tonight is tangible from here.

Over to you.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Derbyshire V Leicestershire preview

Derbyshire face another challenge tomorrow night in their quest to make the knockout stages of the Vitality Blast for only the third time.

Having disposed of two teams, Yorkshire and Worcestershire, who are supposedly better than us, there is a different kind of challenge in a Leicestershire side which, like us, is  regarded as one of the sides that simply make up the numbers.

Given that they are on a hot winning streak at the moment, it would be very much to our detriment if we went into the game with anything less than 100% commitment.

In such matches we have fallen short this year, losing to Durham and Warwickshire sides that were not of the same quality as those that we have beaten.

So complacency is our biggest danger tomorrow. Colin Ackerman is a dangerous cricketer and Mark Cosgrove has been a thorn in our sides several times over the years. They have no overseas player, but like us are pulling together as a team in which everyone plays a part.

Once again I am missing us in front of the TV cameras, being away in the Lake District until Friday. Poor planning on my part, perhaps, but family always comes first.

So I must follow from afar and look forward to your informed comments later. I don't expect any changes to the side, because we have now got a pretty tight and cohesive unit that works. The batting has been solid, at times spectacular, and we just need the bowling to do the same.

The last two performances of Logan van Beek have been encouraging and I hope he is fit enough to play, having only bowled two overs against Worcestershire. Similarly we need Boyd Rankin to bowl  better than the last couple of games, as, the temptation to replace him with Anuj Dal or Darren Stevens may be strong.

If we can reproduce our form of the last two games - and I suspect win the toss - then we might be looking at a remarkable three in three tomorrow.

But Dominic Cork and Billy Godleman will know that performance and commitment levels from all eleven players must not drop from those past two matches.

I'm going to go for a win.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Derbyshire V Worcestershire T20

Derbyshire 181-2 (Godleman 92, Reece 51)

Worcestershire 161-7 (Critchley 4-36, Guptill 45)

Derbyshire won by 20 runs

And with a win against the competition's reigning champions Derbyshire catapulted themselves in two matches from bottom 2/4 place in the group.

They are halfway to Dominic Cork's target of winning the next 4 matches and have played some very good cricket in the process.

I only followed tonight's action at a distance, walking through a delightful park in Grange over Sands. Yet when I heard that we were batting first I felt that a solid performance would enable us to do to Worcestershire what Durham did to us last week.

Had it been scripted it could not have gone better. Billy Godleman registered his highest score in T20 cricket and shared in an excellent partnership with Luis Reece which ensured that the visitors were going to have their work cut out. Late impetus came from our Cape Crusaders, Messrs Madsen and du Plooy and at the halfway stage I was reasonably confident as long as we made quick inroads to a powerful batting line-up.

Alex Hughes ran out the dangerous Wessels but while Guptill and Ferguson were together they were not out of the game.

What I felt was canny tonight was in Billy Godleman's handling of Matt Critchley. He kept him back until the ball was older and the wicket slower, making him a tough proposition.

His excellent spell, which included four wickets, effectively changed and won the game. He was backed up in the field and the supporting bowlers appear to have done an excellent job.

I look forward to hearing the comments from those of you who were lucky enough to be there, and hope that we can continue this excellent run.

If we can beat Leicestershire, irrespective of the result at Trent Bridge, we are still capable of retaining our place in the top four.

From where we started, and taking into account our resources, that would be some achievement.

More from me soon.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Yorkshire v Derbyshire T20

Derbyshire 207-5 (Madsen 66, du Plooy 51, Bresnan 2-17)

Yorkshire 152 (Leaning 36, van Beek 4-17)

Derbyshire won by 55 runs

After ten years of doing this blog, I still haven't worked out if Derbyshire are a fine side that too often slips into the land of mediocrity, or a poor one that sometimes, eye-catchingly, plays way above itself.

Make no mistake, if we had gone out in previous matches with the same attitude that was displayed today, as we breezed past our Yorkshire rabbits for the sixth successive time in this competition, we would be sitting pretty in the northern section.

Maybe I should write them off more often, but the time to get excited is if we replicate this performance against Worcestershire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire this week. If we do, then at least two of those games are winnable, because we were brilliant today. Goodbye anaemic cricket, hello fresh plasma, with a topping of iron tablets.

We batted without fear, with lots of common sense and with terrific skill. There's no rocket science to a game plan that says if Madsen and du Plooy spend time at the crease, we will win a lot more games.Here, their partnership was only seven overs, but it produced 87 magical, maniacal runs as they put the home side to the sword. There were several top edges from Madsen, but his 66 from just 37 balls, with six fours and four sixes, saw him top score. When he does that, we do well, such is the rate at which he scores.

Yet he at times seemed pedestrian alongside the magnificent du Plooy. Reaching fifty from just twenty deliveries, he equalled Wes Durston's county record, to go with setting a new benchmark for fifty in the RLODC game on this ground in 23 balls. Not bad for half a season's work and for the second time on this ground he took Duanne Olivier apart.

  1. With one in the eye for those commentators who declare a six a 'maximum', he took 14 from the first ball of Olivier's final over. First he swatted an above waist height full toss for a straight six and then, having got two for the no ball, thrashed the free hit over mid on and out of the ground. 32 (yes, THIRTY-TWO) came from the over, which saw the chastened bowler retire from the attack.

du Plooy is a special talent and he will play international cricket, though whether for England or South Africa only he (and the terms of Brexit) will decide. His hand/eye coordination, coupled with his footwork, is breathtaking, his timing and placement extraordinary. He is not of brawny build, like a Wilkins or Kuiper, but he hits a ball a long way. With this summer's experience of English wickets behind him, he should be really something next season, that's for sure. I look forward to winter news of a contract extension for an outstanding cricketer and lovely bloke.

Eleven sixes came in the innings and the brisk start of Reece and Godleman should not be overlooked, nor the sensible batting of those who took us past 200, even if it was a little like after the Lord Mayor's show. I would still have Hudson-Prentice at five and a delicious sashay down the wicket and stroke over extra cover, when he first came in, oozed class.

Yet the home side were up with the rate for a long time, their main issue being the loss of regular wickets. Neither Rampaul nor Rankin bowled as well as in previous games and there were ten unnecessarily profligate wides in the innings. Yet today I am happy to say that Logan van Beek was star bowler by a mile, taking 4-17 in three overs of controlled aggression.

With the home side on 134-5 after thirteen overs, the dangerous Leaning and Thompson both in and going well, the result was far from certain. Yet the former was one of two catches by Godleman, to go with an excellent, direct hit run out before Leaning gloved a  sharp bouncer from van Beek to be brilliantly taken, around second leg slip, by the diving Smit. The game was over at that point.

Luis Reece bowled very well too, keeping an excellent line outside off stump, while Matt Critchley bowled another controlled spell of leg spin.Fittingly it was van Beek who finished things off with the run out of Shutt, capping an excellent performance, his best for the county.

For all their international absentees and their protestations to the contrary, this isn't a great Yorkshire side. Read or listen to their supporters, or the commentators today, who were just as bad, and one would assume they had a divine right to win matches. Team spirit didn't appear high to me, but it wouldn't be, as the defeat dropped them to the bottom of the group.

A 'little' county like Derbyshire really shouldn't be beating a 'big one' like Yorkshire, but we do so on a remarkably regular basis. If we can channel today's aggression and purpose, we are capable of winning at least two of the next three games, maybe even going on to qualify, but you just don't know.

Will the real Derbyshire County Cricket Club stand up?

Because I liked today's version. A lot.

Saturday, 10 August 2019


“None of the games are easy, we have Yorkshire, Worcestershire, Leicestershire and then Notts, they are four games that we have to go out believing that we can win. If we win all four, we have a chance of reaching the quarter-finals''

Thus spake Dominic Cork in this morning's press piece from Derbyshire. He's right, of course, and every team has to believe they can go out and win every game that they play, otherwise there is no point.

Yet, speaking as the realist I am, rather than a fantasist, it is unlikely. Having blown it big time last night, the chances of our winning those four games are toothpick-slim. While we have a good record against Yorkshire, we had a good chance in the first game against Worcestershire and threw it away, while our record against Leicestershire is nowhere near as good as it should be. As for Nottinghamshire, much as I dislike the club, they pretty much beat us at will, so I am not at all hopeful that this will change.

The loss of our overseas signings wasn't helpful, nor that the one that we have has added injury to a below-par summer. Yet the signing of Darren Stevens continues to puzzle and my overriding feeling is that he was signed by Dave Houghton, though not necessarily with the approval of Dominic Cork.

How can you otherwise explain his omission from so many matches? For me, a slow wicket yesterday would have been perfect for the Kent all-rounder's medium pace, while his batting might just have steered us to a win when it got tight at the death. Instead, van Beek got the nod and went for ten an over, while we all know his batting isn't going to win many matches. 

One could also have made a strong case for Mark Watt to play. One can only wonder what his figures may have been, when the out of form Matt Critchley returned fine figures of 2-22. I'd also question why we didn't bowl Wayne Madsen or Leus du Plooy, rather than 16 overs of seam. Durham bowled ten overs of spin, three of them albeit part time from Short, but their other spinners, especially Liam Trevaskis, stifled us and won the match.

What I am saying is that if we don't read our own wickets, and select the right eleven to do okay on them, we can believe all we like, but won't win enough matches to make a difference.

The toss was crucial last night, as scoring runs became difficult for both sides once the ball got softer. Batting second on a slow track is never easy, but especially when you have muddled team selection.Whether it was coach, captain or both who were responsible, we got it wrong last night.

Yorkshire tomorrow, so expect the same squad as there is no one else. And while I accept that 'little Derbyshire' did well to take Durham close, just as we took Worcestershire close, that doesn't amount to a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things.

Nor will it do, until someone, from somewhere, starts to regularly find that extra ten per cent needed to get us across the line. Like I said at the start of this summer (and every summer), we can be happy to just compete with the perceived 'big boys' , or we can get team selection right, hold our catches, pick the right captain for the format, hold our nerve when it matters and go out and beat them.

Belief, for me, needs to start much earlier than halfway through the competition. 

Of course I hope that Derbyshire win the next four, indeed the next seven games.

But I don't believe we yet have the mentality or personnel to do so.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Derbyshire v Durham T20

Durham 160-5 (Short 68, Steel 47, Critchley 2-22)

Derbyshire 153-7 (Godleman 39, Hudson-Prentice 31* Trevaskis 3-16)

Durham won by 7 runs

For me, that was the most disappointing result of the T20 campaign so far for Derbyshire.

They had done well at the half way point, but I had a feeling that the visiting side's decline from a position of 114-0 in 13 overs was as much down to a slowing pitch as it was to good bowling. No one was really collared, but the visiting side's subsequent use of three spinners with success suggests that the omission of Mark Watt may have been a mistake tonight. Darren Stevens' experience may have been useful too, but life is always easy in hindsight.

When we reached 42 in the fifth over, Godleman going like a train, the chase looked on target. Despite the quick loss of both openers, du Plooy and Madsen rebuilt and appeared to be making the run chase a formality, 87 on the board at the halfway stage. Billy's dismissal is not one that he will look back on with fondness, but my assumption is that he was trying to maximise the runs from the seamers, before the introduction of spin.

The advent of the excellent Trevaskis to the attack removed both of our main men in one over and although Derbyshire's cause wasn't helped by rain delays, the decline had set in at that stage and the middle order contributed disappointingly little.

Once again Hudson-Prentice hit well, but 29 were needed from two overs after the final rain delay and in the end we were narrowly beaten.

The visitors did well but will reflect on the winning of the toss being very important tonight.

But we face an uphill task to qualify from here and need to pull of a surprise result or two in order to do so.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Derbyshire v Durham preview

So tight is the northern section of the Vitality Blast that we sit bottom tonight, just two points behind third placed Nottinghamshire, with a game in hand.

It is that close and tomorrow's eminently winnable game against Durham at the Pattonair County Ground can go some way to maintaining our place in the race for the knock outs.

We warmed up today with back to back wins against Northamptonshire's second eleven. In the first, Leus du Plooy made a blistering 82 from 46 balls, while Tom Wood gave food for thought with 39 from 25 balls. Alfie Gleadall then took a hat trick, before Alex Hughes starred in the second game with an exhilarating fifty.

It augurs well, but warm up wins count for nothing and we must be at our best against Durham tomorrow. They have a decent side, but were beaten with ease by Northamptonshire the other night, a side that we beat ourselves last weekend.

I can't really second guess tomorrow's side, but Logan van Beek came through his game today and may reappear tomorrow night. There is a positive vibe emanating from the club at present and there is no reason why we cannot make a good fist of the remaining fixtures.

My guess at the side tomorrow:

Godleman, Reece, Madsen, du Plooy, Hughes, Critchley, Hudson-Prentice, Smit, Watt, Rampaul, Rankin

Matt Critchley made 150 for the second team in the week and getting the ball in the middle of the bat will improve his confidence and likely see him retain his place. The rest of the side broadly picks itself, unless Watt is omitted for van Beek or Stevens  and we go without a specialist spinner.

Durham have yet to announce their squad, but their side is unlikely to change from the other night, with Aussies Darcy Short and Peter Handscomb their overseas players and former Derbyshire player Nathan Rimmington also in the side.

The likely eleven:

Short, Steel, Clark, Handscomb, Lees, Trevaskis, Poynter, Burnham, Carse, Potts, Rimmington.

A decent, yet beatable side and they will look at ours and be wary of an increasingly impressive batting line up, together with an attack that looks a little better with the addition of Boyd Rankin.

I'm going for a home win, as long as we don't let the Aussies get away. If our own big guns fire, we can match them, for sure.

What do you think?

Monday, 5 August 2019

Thoughts on the T20 so far

Whisper it quietly, but it just may be that the signing of Boyd Rankin makes all the difference to Derbyshire's T20 prospects.

Aside from the fact that he is 35, there is great merit in signing a highly experienced bowler, especially one whose track record in the format is an average of just 7.25 runs an over. He was a fast but wild bowler in his formative years with us, but experience has made him into a solid cricketer. One who, I suspect, had he been available for the summer, might have made a difference in the overseas role.

He offers much needed support to the outstanding Ravi Rampaul, who has been a colossus for us throughout the season. At the end of last year I don't think too many would have been fussed had we found a creative way to release him. Yet this year, his performances have been diametrically opposed and he has bowled with consistent accuracy and penetration. He has looked every inch the international bowler he was for many years and deserves great praise for his efforts.

Maybe there is still time for Darren Stevens to show what he can do. You don't produce the statistics that he has over many years without being a very good player, but the pressure of effectively replacing an overseas would be tough for anyone, let alone a player of 43. I am not yet convinced by the signing as anything more than a panic buy, but would be happy to be proved wrong. At his pace, his bowling could go a long way on the wrong wicket, but on the right one he could yet tie the opposition down. There were glimpses of what he has to offer with the bat at Worcester, and he might find a key niche in the side for when the overs are running down.

There are three fine and aggressive batsmen in the top four, with Luis Reece, Wayne Madsen and Leus du Plooy all clean stroke players. Billy Godleman can hit, but sometimes he gets bogged down, something no side can afford in the format.

The out of form Matt Critchley is a source of concern, and he doesn't have the mojo with bat or ball right now. We could bolster the batting by bringing in Tom Lace or Anuj Dal, fine fielders both, but perhaps being dropped isn't the best for Matt right now. We do need him back to his best form to progress though, as there will be wickets to come where an extra spinner is important.

Alex Hughes will also come more into his own and his brief cameo at Northampton will do his confidence good. His lot with the ball was made easier last year by the perception that he was the bowler to 'get after', which was a big mistake. He isn't such a danger so far, but his all-round potential gets him in my side for this format.

I stand by my assertion that Lancashire, Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire will be three of the qualifiers, with the fourth place between pretty much everyone else. Only two points separate Nottinghamshire, in third after seven games, from Leicestershire, who are second bottom after the same number. We are third bottom but have played a game less, so the importance of Friday evening's game against Durham is clear.

Leicestershire have shown what is possible by beating both Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire in their last two matches, confirming for all to see that anyone can be beaten in a format that offers little margin for error.

If we can keep the opposition to under 200, ideally under 180, there is enough depth to our batting to fancy our chances. And if Messrs Critchley and Stevens can find their best form, that top six is as good as anyone, with the power and improvisation of Smit and Hudson-Prentice to follow.

Fynn, already in his fledgling career with the county, strikes me as someone who makes things happen. Taking key wickets, scoring quick runs and holding important catches, he offers additional balance and all round ability that confirms Dave Houghton's keen eye for talent.

I am enjoying the season. There have been disappointments, but plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

And likely a few more before the end of September...

Friday, 2 August 2019

Northamptonshire V Derbyshire T20

So Derbyshire earned their second T20 win of the summer tonight, a game that I perforce followed at a distance.

That being the case I will rely on your comments and observations tonight, including what you thought of the returning Boyd Rankin.

As a short-term signing it makes more sense to me than that of Darren Stevens. He seemed to bowl well, though once again Rampaul was outstanding.

Luis Reece and Wayne Madsen did the spade work with the bat, with a late blast from Alex Hughes.

So who impressed you tonight?

I look forward to your comments!

Northamptonshire V Derbyshire preview

Sorry folks, no time to do a preview of today's game at Northampton for family reasons, but it is a winnable game for Derbyshire.

I don't expect much change to the side, but hope we come out on top and get back to winning ways.

Sadly, I won't see it on Sky later either, but look forward to the comments of those of you who do!

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Worcestershire V Derbyshire T20

Derbyshire 156-4 (du Plooy 52*)

Worcestershire 159-8 (Rampaul 2-17, Parnell 81*)

Worcestershire won by 2 wickets

I have been a little short of time tonight, as family Peakfan are preparing for a short notice trip to God's Own County tomorrow.

Tonight's loss to Worcestershire was disappointing. We didn't look have scored enough runs, yet took a very strong batting side to the penultimate over before they won the game.

Their  match winner was Wayne Parnell, who played an excellent innings for his side. Without him we would have won, but it was exactly what you hope your overseas players and Kolpaks will do. Truth be told, I have always thought Parnell a little overrated, often promising more than he delivers, but he did the job tonight.

Once again the bowling of Ravi Rampaul was exemplary and he could scarcely have done more so far. Fynn Hudson-Prentice also did well, but the rest of the bowling wasn't quite up to the mark.

Neither side utilised their 20 overs especially well, there being 43 dot balls in each innings. Yet in Parnell the home side had the one man who regularly found and cleared the boundary.

For Derbyshire, Luis Reece got us off to a decent start, Wayne Madsen got a few and there was an encouraging late knock from Darren Stevens. There was another half century for Leus du Plooy, but even he struggled to get the ball away tonight.

15 to 20 more runs would have made a difference. Then again, so might a couple of overseas players, but that is ground that we have already covered.

Played four, won only one, with a tie.

We need to get back to winning ways sharpish.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Book Review: The Final Innings - the Cricketers of Summer 1939 by Christopher Sandford

When I was approached with a view to seeing a review copy of this book, I got my affirmative reply off inside two minutes.

Christopher Sandford is an excellent and popular writer, as well as an outstanding researcher. He has written several biographies of cricketers and celebrities and The Final Over, about the cricketers of 1914, was an excellent and enjoyed predecessor to this work.

The Final Innings pays homage to the men who played cricket in that final year before the outbreak of World War Two, using unpublished diaries and memoirs, as well as personal recollections and letters. Over two hundred first-class cricketers signed up to fight in the first year of the war and 52 of them never came back.

It is a quite wonderful read, though I was always likely to enjoy it, given my love of both cricket and social history. The way in which the author has interwoven events on the cricket field with those elsewhere is engaging and the book holds the reader's attention from first to last.

As the summer progressed, the outbreak of war became inevitable and it has often been recorded as the summer that ended the innocence. There was little innocent about some of the activities recorded here, with both Godfrey Evans and Bill Edrich, cricketing legends both, enjoying a summer where they lived life to the full and spent considerable time in local hostelries and in the company of an array of women. An attempt to enjoy life while they were able to, as no one knew how the future would pan out, which was perhaps as well. While cricketers were not especially well rewarded financially, their status appeared to be such that there were usually women to be found in their down time.

A rich array of characters flit across the pages. Ken Farnes, as diametrically opposed a fast bowler to the stereotype as one could imagine, quoting the classics, teaching for most of the summer then unleashed on unsuspecting batsmen in the holidays. A man with an outstanding physique and a liking for showing his impressive abdominal muscles to team mates, he never returned, killed in an air crash on his first unsupervised night time flight.

The stories of both Bill Bowes and Hedley Verity are well known to the cricket enthusiast, the former never the same physically and the latter to die on Italian soil. Less known players like Laurie Eastman catch the eye, dying from what appears to have been shock after an air raid, but also believed to have been suffering from cancer. Yet this book is far from a simple roll call of the dead.

It is more a celebration of life and of the human spirit. With war inevitable, people and certainly the cricketers made the most of what might have been their last matches, which in many cases it was. The closing weeks of the season were played out against a back drop of military call ups, buildings taken over by the Ministry of Defence and barrage balloons being installed around the grounds of the country. The West Indian cricket team, who are followed around the country on their tour and encountered plenty of casual racism along the way, cut short their final matches and got a boat home from Glasgow. The boat that they should have taken, the SS Athenia, left from Liverpool a week later and was torpedoed, with the loss of many lives.

It is a masterful piece of work, one that I enjoyed so much that I will read it again, and soon.

I would highly recommend it as a purchase, with both author and publisher to be commended for a wonderful addition to any cricket collection.

The Final Innings: The Cricketers of Summer 1939 is written by Christopher Sandford and published by The History Press. It is priced £20 and available from all good book shops.

Worcestershire v Derbyshire preview

I didn't bother doing a write up of the Lancashire game, because there's only so many ways one can describe torrential rain and puddles. 

On the respective current form of the two teams, it wasn't a bad wash out from our perspective. Tomorrow the big games keep on coming and we visit New Road to play a Worcestershire side that is formidable in this format. At the weekend they chased down a target of 182 in only twelve overs against Durham on the same ground and their top three of Guptill, Wessels and Ferguson is just about the most formidable in the country.

With our attack not really firing this year, it is hard to be positive about tomorrow and we will need to do much better with both bat and ball to avoid a hammering. I saw them against Nottinghamshire earlier in the group matches and while the batting didn't click that night, the bowling, led by South African Wayne Parnell and the impressive Pat Brown, will be a handful tomorrow. 

We will need early wickets or that top three will put the game out of sight, while our batting simply must take better advantage of the Powerplay, regardless of who bats where. Most sides are aiming for a minimum of ten an over at that stage and the best sides effectively seal the game. In that game at the weekend, Worcestershire scored 94 in the first six overs, and it was a stroll from there.

It is an unchanged squad for Derbyshire, because there really is no one else. I won't attempt to second guess the final eleven, but they will need to produce their very best form to come out of this one with the win points.

As for the home side, they have named the following squad:

D’Oliveira ©
Cox (w)

My forecast? I am afraid we are in for a defeat here, unless someone produces a spell of magic that can turn these matches. 

There's no reason that player cannot be on our side, as we have the ability, but we are up against big guns here and it may get messy.

Fingers crossed. And as always, I appreciate your thoughts.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Derbyshire v Lancashire preview

A wise former Derbyshire player once said to me that T20 was peculiar, because anyone can beat anyone on a given day. The length of game means that you only need someone to be in 'the zone' for half an hour or so and a result can be turned on its head from what logic otherwise suggests.

Thus we saw Leicestershire beating Nottinghamshire today, which few would have predicted. An even shorter format, of eleven overs a side, worked in their favour and crucially they made maximum use of the Powerplay. Derbyshire please take note.

Another said to me, before the weekend, that while one win from the two matches would be fine, we shouldn't be too upset if we lost them both. As it stands, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire look nailed on (even after today) for two of the top four slots, so we are scrapping with the other six counties for the last two.

We can do it, but like I said last night, we need to sort a batting order to make best use of the Powerplay. It annoys me to see Leus du Plooy come in and time it from the off, but the game gone by that stage. If we are telling a batsman to bat through, he would be my man, as the chances are he would get a hundred if he did so.

It is the same squad for Derbyshire, as it has to be. I am surprised that Logan van Beek is in it, after going off last night, but my eleven, and batting order tomorrow would be:

du Plooy

I understand Logan has a troublesome ankle, and also hurt his shoulder last night, so the risk of aggravating that is high. Stevens comes back in as there are few real options and he is a better player than he has so far shown. The attack is limited, but we know that. If we end up chasing under 180, I would put Billy back at the top, but more than that, or batting first and I would put the big guns in from the outset.

It may still not be enough. With Aussies James Faulkner and Glenn Maxwell as overseas stars, Lancashire look a good bet for this competition. They have plenty of bowling options and the batting range to chase down most targets. Their squad:

Vilas, Bohannon, Croft, Davies, Faulkner, Gleeson, Jennings, Jones, Lamb, Livingstone, Lester, Mahmood, Maxwell, Parkinson, Parry

I'm going for an away win here, as I struggle to see how we can come out on top. Unless, of course, someone goes berserk for half an hour or so and our bowlers find the lengths and lines that have eluded them in the last two games.

I won't follow much tomorrow, I'm afraid, as I will be at Ibrox with my son to see Rangers play Derby County. Your comments will be appreciated, as always, but I am not unduly hopeful of glad tidings tomorrow evening.

Postscript... I watched fifteen minutes of the Global T20 from Canada this afternoon.

Sparse crowd, very average cricket - regardless of the stars involved - and no one really seeming that fussed, with a total lack of intensity or meaning to the play.

Welcome to The Hundred. It will be just the same, but I doubt I will even give it fifteen minutes.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire T20

Nottinghamshire 198-5 (Duckett 64, Hales 63, Critchley 2-43)

Derbyshire 171-8 (Reece 61, Gurney 5-30)

Nottinghamshire won by 27 runs

Derbyshire were soundly beaten at the Pattonair County Ground tonight.

Our East Midlands rivals are just too strong for us at present and a result that most predicted came to pass without any real risk of an upset.

The task in hand wasn't simplified by missed catches, as well as some excellent ones, while what looks like a shoulder injury sustained by Logan van Beek looks like limiting his involvement in the near future.

An attack with no real menace is unlikely to go for less than 180 in most games. Compared to last year, when we had Ferguson, Riaz  and Viljoen, besides Rampaul, we had genuine hopes of keeping the opposition within range.

The batting is probably stronger this year, but the order isn't right. Billy batting through is a laudable concept, but chasing nine or ten an over it is no use when he is only scoring a run a ball.The best batsman in the side, on form, is du Plooy, yet he doesn't get in until 14 overs are gone and we need 87 from six overs.

Desperate times  - and we now look to be shorn of an overseas player, whatever your opinion on van Beek - need desperate, or at least improvised measures. I firmly subscribe to the rationale that you want your best batsmen at the crease for the longest time, so du Plooy should either open or go in at three, with Madsen doing the other position, alongside Reece. I also think we are asking too much of Fynn Hudson-Prentice, making his way in the county game, to go in and be the pinch-hitter, when we have players of greater experience who could simply go and play their natural game. Not sure why Fynn only got the one over tonight either, after getting the breakthrough. It seemed an oversight to me.

Billy can still play and come in for the last slog, but if we are likely to be chasing ten an over, we simply must have the batsmen most likely to score quickly at the crease for the maximum time.

Hales and Clarke, then Duckett put this game out of reach for the visitors, which is a depressingly familiar tale in these matches.

There is more work to be done before the visit of Lancashire on Sunday.

Discussion on the batting order, first and foremost.