Thursday, 24 May 2018

Derbyshire v Leicestershire preview

Harvey Hosein and Hamidullah Qadri are added to the fourteen-man squad that has been together for the first three games, ahead of tomorrow's match against Leicestershire at Derby.

Logic suggests that only injury will change our line up from yesterday. The extra batsman that I had suggested ahead of the game proved his worth, as Gary Wilson joined Alex Hughes in the match-winning stand.

The question mark is on Luis Reece's fitness to bowl, but I am sure Fran Clarkson will have been working to sort the bruising from the heavy blow he took, when trying to stop a straight drive from his own bowling.

Reece has gone from being the useful batsman and occasional bowler that we signed to a key all-rounder who offers balance. He is starting to replace Shiv Thakor in that respect and it affords the option of an extra batsman if required. With Daryn Smit's brilliance allowing him to stand up to the stumps, batsmen cannot risk dancing down the track to him, while the bowler's accuracy is testimony to a lot of work over the winter, bowling both round and over the wicket to good effect.

The same goes for Alex Hughes. There is quite a change in his bowling method over the winter and in the last two games the two all-rounders have clawed things back when the quicker bowlers have been getting lined up. With Matt Critchley also much improved, we have three all-rounders, together with Ravi Rampaul, Hardus Viljoen and Wahab Riaz for the T20. If we keep in mind Wayne Madsen and Safyaan Sharif, the skipper will have plenty of options, irrespective of who comes in for the T20 as the other overseas specialist.

Tomorrow will be a tough game, as ours usually are against Leicestershire. They have a strong, experienced batting order, with skipper Michael Carberry heading it and Mark Cosgrove still scoring big runs for them. Ned Eckersley always does well against us, while all rounder Ben Raine is a player I would have in my side any time, a combative player with bat and ball.

I think we can win it, again as long as the right mental attitude and fighting spirit is there. The latter was exemplified in the way that we fought our way out of a slump yesterday to edge the result.

Here's hoping for more of the same tomorrow.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Derbyshire v Durham RLODC

Durham 272-8 (Latham 66, Reece 2-43)

Derbyshire 273-6 (Reece 92, Godleman 60, Hughes 42 not, Wilson 40)

Derbyshire won by four wickets with 2 balls remaining

In time-honoured Derbyshire fashion, and bear in mind I've watched it being done for over fifty summers now, we almost turned what looked a walk in the park into an arthritic hirple today, before getting across the line by the skin of our teeth.

The arthritic gait was apposite, given that it was triggered by Luis Reece, who batted with a runner after a blow while bowling, smacking one back and hitting Wayne Madsen in the small of the back. Then Madsen was limping and the whole thing looked like an embryonic comedy sketch, before Wayne was caught behind and Matt Critchley soon followed. Following on quickly from the dismissal of Billy Godleman,  163-1 had turned into 169-4 in the blink of an eye.

When Reece was eventually bowled for an excellent 92, we needed 81 from the last ten overs. It is something that in these days of T20 is usually easy, but Durham's dander was up and Nathan Rimmington bowled with greater hostility than I ever recall in our colours.

It was then then that Gary Wilson and Alex Hughes came together. Wilson, the vice-captain restored to the side (and good job too) started sketchily, but soon both batsmen were into their groove. Hughes effectively sealed the game with an assault on the last over of Dixon, who always looked the likely target. A four over extra cover, a straight six then another straight four made the equation a run-a-ball. Common sense prevailed with the batting thereafter, though Wilson's last over demise, as he attempted to clear the infield was not part of the home script.

A scrambled leg bye took Daryn Smit and Hughes home, closer than it should have been after the excellent start, once again, from the top three. Godleman is a fine player in this format, though was not as free as at Edgbaston. Reece goes from strength to strength and is such a good player now. His winter in Bangladesh has brought his bowling on remarkably and he did another fine turn today. He and we could have done without the blow on his leg that reduced him to a hobble later though, and we must hope he is fit for the next match.

I was more impressed by the bowling today, on a very good batting strip. Early on Durham looked like posting 300-plus, but Madsen's brilliant run out of Steel, was followed by consistent wicket-taking through the innings. Smit took another excellent catch standing up to Reece, his contribution to the latter's success in doing so not to be underestimated. When batsmen cannot use their feet with confidence, bowlers have a much better chance.

The two South Africans bowled much better lines, while Ravi Rampaul, after a first over that suggested he less needed to get loose than be fitted together, came back well and bowled the best death spell I have seen from him so far. There were a couple of late blows, but overall we did well in the field today and the discipline was considerably improved.

All of which leaves us, after three games, in third place.

I think we'll all take that, but next time can do without the nail chewing of the closing stages.

Leicestershire next, who were smashed for 409 by Nottinghamshire today. They will want to improve on that and we need to maintain focus  - and get everyone fit - to go three-one.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Derbyshire v Durham RLODC

It's 'as you were' for Derbyshire tomorrow, with an unnamed fourteen for the visit of Durham to the 3aaa County Ground for the RLODC.

Logically, with Durham the only side still to win a match, this is a game that we should win, but since when did logic come into cricket?

As I said after the defeat at Worcestershire, we made too many mistakes and I don't buy an excuse that there were 'better options' than Duanne Olivier available to bowl the closing overs. I've said myself that he is more expensive than we might have wanted at times, but he had bowled six overs for twelve and we were otherwise bowling at Ross Whiteley with a guy in his second match for the county.

It still makes little sense to me, but it is the past and we must aim to get back on track tomorrow. I would still tweak the side, as I said then, with an extra batsman in place of a bowler, especially with the excellent all round options available to us. Gary Wilson would give us greater depth to the batting line up, though Callum Brodrick would let no one down and adds considerably to the fielding.

As for our visitors, they welcome back the excellent Chris Rushworth, who has missed the last few matches with injury. Tom Latham replaces Aiden Markram as overseas player in this squad:

Tom Latham (c), Cameron Steel, Will Smith, Graham Clark, Michael Richardson, Paul Collingwood, Stuart Poynter (wk), Ryan Pringle, James Weighell, Nathan Rimmington, Chris Rushworth, Matt Dixon, George Harding

It is a game we can win, a game we have to win if we are to maintain interest in progression. On paper, our visitors are not one of the group's stronger teams, but they have plenty of talent, even without Mark Wood, who very nearly embarrassed us on the last day of the recent championship fixture.

I'm happy to predict a win, but only if we produce the team display that is usually required.

We'll see soon enough.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Worcestershire v Derbyshire RLODC

Worcestershire 323-6 (Whiteley 58, Cox 56 not, Fell 56 Hughes 2-49)

Derbyshire 273 (Madsen 87, Reece 62, Hughes 47)

Worcestershire won by 50 runs.

I am writing this as Derbyshire's innings has sadly subsided from the promise of 208-4 to the unlikely depths of 237-8. Indeed, even at 236-5 we looked to have a shout, with Smit and Hughes together, but the long tail has come back to haunt us in this game, as has ill-discipline in the field.

Whatever his merits as a bowler, Olivier is residing in the Devon Malcolm class as a batsman and is only at ten because Rampaul is at eleven. First impressions of Sharif the batsman are not good, so despite the presence of Alex Hughes at the crease, there will be nothing from the other end and we will slide to defeat here.

Yet we cannot blame nine, ten, jack if the top order don't make enough. Wayne Madsen played another fine innings, but went on the reverse sweep for the second time in three days, Luis Reece batted equally well but perished on an ugly slog sweep. No one else really got going and converted promise to substance.

The bowlers were the issue today, though credit has to be given to the home team for a solid, professional effort which gathered pace like a runaway locomotive. Sadly, we had no Casey Jones to stop it. The best bowling, for the second time in three days, came from Alex Hughes and Luis Reece, who slowed things a little, but there were one or two things that puzzled me.

I'm assuming that Duanne Olivier picked up an injury, because after an opening spell of six overs for twelve runs he didn't bowl again. Both Ravi Rampaul and Hardus Viljoen were horribly expensive and Safyaan Sharif didn't get a bowl until the thirtieth over. He copped some stick and came back to earth after his promising debut, but Ross Whiteley has done that to more experienced bowlers than him over the years.

We also gave away 28 extras, while Worcestershire conceded three. Smit took two excellent catches standing up to the seamers, but any lapse in line will then be costly and there were eleven byes, as well as eight no balls and seven wides. On such profligacy are matches won and lost. We can ill afford it, for sure and the main culprits were experienced men, Rampaul (2 wides, 2 no balls) and Viljoen (4 wides, 1 no ball)

Credit should be given to another fine effort by Matt Critchley, who conceded only two boundaries in ten overs, but the senior men should be doing better than that.

As I finish, despite some late heroics from Alex Hughes, who made a battling 47, we have lost by fifty runs. It is not the end of the world, having won one and lost one from our opening games, but we need to tighten up with the ball before Derby this week.

Had a we conceded what Worcestershire did, we were chasing under 300 and that's a world of difference for a run chase. Less than a run a ball is mentally much easier and we were never quite on the required rate today.

Things to work on, for sure, as well as a tweak to the team. With our all-rounders bowling well, might Gary Wilson coming in for a bowler not be a better option?

As always, your thoughts are welcome. But let's remember, today's opponents were semi-finalists in this competition last year.

Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Worcestershire v Derbyshire preview

Same as yesterday for Derbyshire, as they travel to New Road for their next RLODC game against Worcestershire tomorrow.

And why not? They produced a fine team performance and unless there are injuries we don't know about, I expect the same team to take the field.

Our hosts have been up against it in division one of the county championship after promotion last year, but they have a talented batting line up. Joe Clarke is one of the best young batsmen in the game, Travis Head is doing a good job in the overseas role and Ross Whiteley remains one of the most feared hitters in the domestic game. Daryl Mitchell will lead the batting, as he has done for many summers, while their seam attack will be led by Josh Tongue and Joe Leach, in the absence of Jack Shantry.

Their squad: Mitchell, Clarke, Head, Fell, D'Oliviera, Whiteley, Cox, Barnard, Leach, Tongue, Morris, Brown.

To be honest, if we play like we did at Warwickshire we can win this one as well. I look down this Derbyshire side and see a bunch of battlers and a whole lot of talent. I think that we supporters can be critical at times, but only the most churlish can look at this squad and not see some very good cricketers.

Yes, we can and we will lose matches, when someone on the opposition plays a blinder, or when we drop below the level of commitment that is required to beat teams of similar talent.

But if we are up for this or any other game there isn't anyone that we should fear.

Let's hope that we acquit ourselves well.

Good luck, gentlemen.

The T20 dilemma

Having watched Derbyshire a lot this summer, thanks to the excellent county streams and my compressed shifts at work, I am now quite open in our quest for another overseas player for the T20.

I thought that a spinner would be our main need, but I'm not so sure now.

I have watched Matt Critchley over the opening weeks and he has come on so much over the winter. I am at the point where I don't think he is a batsman who bowls a bit, but is becoming a genuine all rounder, providing the hard work to maintain both disciplines is not beyond him. There is a nice loop to his bowling, he has decent variations and he is eminently capable of being our slow bowler for T20. We also have Wayne Madsen, of course, who was successful last year and could easily be again.

Then look at the seam situation. There's Viljoen, Sharif, Rampaul and Wahab Riaz, plus Luis Reece and Alex Hughes in a likely eleven. It poses the question as to how many bowlers we really need to cover twenty overs and my hope is that whoever we sign is capable of biffing quick runs as well as turning his arm over.

Let's look at where we have gaps and near certainties for a T20 side:


I could make a case for Ben Slater to open, just as I could for Billy to do so. The skipper was improved in T20 last year, but isn't for me a certainty in the short form. You could have an either/or with Rampaul and Sharif if we went down the bowler route, but there are none of the others you would really omit from a first choice side.

Gary Wilson did a good job as skipper, apart from in the quarter final, when he should have changed the game plan when Afridi came in at the top of the order and we were out thought by our opponents. He will doubtless do well again and is a dangerous batsman in the middle order. Yet I wouldn't want him keeping as well, as it is too much for one man, and besides, Smit is peerless behind the timbers and, as he did yesterday, twice last year played key late innings knocks when they were most needed.

Among the other day's comments, James suggested the likes of Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Glenn Maxwell or Shakib Al Hasan. I don't think we could afford them sadly, even if they wanted to come and weren't on tour, but an all-rounder to slot in somewhere would do me fine, whether a spinner or not.

Luis Reece could then open and everyone else move around to suit. Maybe there's someone on the Pakistan tour worthy of interest, although I'd not be averse to Jimmy Neesham from New Zealand. For me he was the best of our Kiwis three summers back and did a good job for Kent last year. I didn't and don't think he is a death bowler, but he won't need to do that in our side. He's a good batsman and fine fielder, someone who would fit well into the current line up, but equally likely to be in demand for those very reasons.

We'll see what news breaks in the coming weeks.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Warwickshire v Derbyshire RLODC

Derbyshire 357-8 (Godleman 137, Slater 69, Madsen 58, Critchley 35 Trott 4-65)

Warwickshire 300 (Hain 108, Barker 48 not)

Derbyshire won by 57 runs

If the idea was to start their RLODC campaign as they mean to go on, Derbyshire did a fine job today in what was a pretty impressive team performance.

Last night I wrote that the batting hadn't yet functioned as a unit. They did today. I also wrote that the bowling had been too erratic for optimism, yet today the lines and discipline were there on a belting batting wicket. 657 runs in a day was a fine day's entertainment for all, especially those from the east side of the midlands.

Star turn with the bat was Billy Godleman. Restored to an opening berth, where I prefer to see him, he led from the front with a fine effort. As I have written before, you don't watch Billy for classical style, but he punches, nurdles and dabs, then broke loose after a disciplined century and was taking Jonathan Trott apart when he ran himself out. It was a captain's innings and anchored things quite beautifully for his side.

Earlier Ben Slater, who thrives in this competition, hit a typically breezy 69 before a loose drive, while Wayne Madsen was charm personified in a delightful 58. An effortless six over extra cover was matched by a swat from England hopeful Ollie Stone that sent the ball miles over mid wicket and had so much time in the playing. He perished on the reverse sweep, but it is a percentage shot and usually brings him so many runs.

Matt Critchley also looked a player with a lot of time and talent before he was foxed by Trott (foxtrot...) and stumped, then came the worst passage of our day. Hughes played two good shots then a needless one, Reece chipped to mid off and Viljoen was run out by half a pitch after a misunderstanding with the skipper. After Sharif's dismissal and a penultimate over when Hannon-Dalby bowled yorker after yorker and Olivier missed them all, Daryn Smit cut loose in the final over and took the score over 350 with reverse sweeps, conventional ones and a chip over mid on. Psychologically, those closing runs were important and again confirmed the keeper's contribution to the side.

It was a fine tally, but should have been over 375 and nearer 400 from the position we were in, a minor quibble perhaps. Surely an international attack could take us home from there?

When Duanne Olivier took two early wickets it looked a walk in the park, but the excellent Sam Hain and Ian Bell rebuilt before Matt Critchley had the former England man leg before. He bowled another fine spell today, but so too did Luis Reece and Alex Hughes. Just when Hain and Hose, at 173-3, had the home side starting to believe, they pegged them back then got them out. Smit's catch to dismiss Thomason, standing up off a thick edge, was apparently excellent and when the chances came, they were taken by everyone.

At the death, the final two wickets were taken by Safyaan Sharif, who impressed me. Before the home side's website and the feed went down for the remainder of the match, he made the batsmen play at every ball and ended with 2-31, narrowly beating Reece's 2-33 as the best figures of the day. He looks a find, and I hope he can build on an encouraging debut in which he also fielded well.

Played one won one. It is always nice to go to the home of a 'big county' and win. To do so with a degree of 'swagger' as we showed today was heartening.

There will be less enjoyable days ahead, but we'll deal with them as they happen.

Well done today, gentlemen.

That was very impressive.

Postscript: the second team also won today, beating a Lancashire side that included Hasib Hameed and Shiv Chanderpaul by seven wickets. The latter was dismissed by Alfie Gleadall, while there were wickets for Azarullah, Will Davis and Hamidullah Qadri.

The interesting name in the side was Zimbabwe quick bowler Blessing Muzarabani. Taller than Morne Morkel and rated a real talent by many critics in that country, he will be broadening his experience over here and isn't likely to be anywhere near senior cricket.

It's nice to see such players in a Derbyshire eleven though and it can only help a young squad in their future games.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Warwickshire v Derbyshire RLODC preview

Not content with adding one new seam bowler to the squad for tomorrow's opening RLODC match against Warwickshire, local cricketer Dan Wheeldon has been added to the fourteen for the game.

Wheeldon is well known to local cricket, having been a key all rounder for Sandiacre for the best part of a decade. He bowls fast medium, hitting the deck hard, as well as being a clean hitter of a ball. He showed this in his second tea appearance recently, smashing five sixes in a cameo innings that brought his side a glimmer of hope. He had earlier bowled well, taking wickets and bowling economically.

Why not give him a chance? He has played for The Unicorns and might just surprise a few people if he gets the opportunity to play. That might not be tomorrow, but I guess he is in the squad because of a niggle elsewhere.

Safyaan Sharif will play, so there is an opportunity to see him for the first time on the Warwickshire feed, if you can't get there yourself. Both new players can handle a bat, so there is the potential for late order runs at some point, should they appear together.

The Derbyshire squad:

Billy Godlemen, Callum Brodrick, Matt Critchley, Alex Hughes, Wayne Madsen, Duanne Olivier, Ravi Rampaul, Luis Reece, Safyaan Sharif, Ben Slater, Daryn Smit, Hardus Viljoen, Dan Wheeldon, Gary Wilson

My guess is that Brodrick, Wheeldon and one of the keepers will miss out, unless, as I say, there is a niggle among the regulars.

Warwickshire will take some beating and have added Hannon-Dalby and Stone to their sixteen-man squad that also includes two spinners. 

Their squad:

Jeetan Patel (c), Tim Ambrose (wk), Keith Barker, Ian Bell, Henry Brookes, Sam Hain, Adam Hose, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Ed Pollock, Josh Poysden, Dom Sibley, Olly Stone, Aaron Thomason, Alex Thomson, Jonathan Trott.

I'm not sufficiently convinced by our batting unit to predict a win here. Certain players are doing well, but not enough at the same time. Likewise the bowling, as I have documented, can take wickets but the lack of control is an ongoing source of concern. If we concede thirty extras, you are effectively letting the opposition bat an extra man.

When we can sort that, I will be more confident, but I struggle to see a win in this one.

Still...who knows?

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Sharif signing is interesting by Derbyshire ahead of RLODC

The announcement today of the signing of Safyaan Sharif, the Scotland international seam bowler, for all white ball cricket this summer is welcome.

Sharif, from Huddersfield, moved to Scotland with his parents when he was five and has since become a respected bowler on the club scene. He currently plys his domestic trade for Glenrothes, but had a fine winter that brought him to the attention of Derbyshire and other counties.

I've often thought that the celtic countries haven't always been considered seriously for cricketers, with the classic case being Kevin O'Brien, considered a bit part T20 slogger for the most part, yet scorer of Ireland's first Test century yesterday. O'Brien should have been an automatic pick for a county looking for a T20 cricketer in recent summers, just as his brother gave sterling service to Northamptonshire and Leicestershire as a combative wicket-keeper/batsman.

To be honest, when I read today that 'Derbyshire sign Scotland star for white ball cricket' I thought that we had picked up Kyle Coetzer, a man I still think would make a difference in the T20 at the top of the order. Sharif it was, and after ten wickets in three World Cup Qualifiers against Zimbabwe, Ireland and West Indies he fully deserves his chance.

He has earned a reputation as a death bowler, going for less than eight an over and that is perfect for Derbyshire. With the jury still out on the location of the radar of Hardus Viljoen and Duanne Olivier, another seamer who can find line and length alongside Ravi Rampaul will be no bad thing.

I think our batting capable of scoring big in the one-day game and would feel that more if Billy moved back to the top of the order. With Reece, Madsen, Hughes and Critchley to follow, the decision would be which keeper got the nod, with both capable of improvising well. The most vulnerable batsman on current form would be Alex Hughes, but dropping a man who is one of your best fielders and can offer bowling options might not be the smartest move.

If we assume that Viljoen, Olivier, Sharif and Rampaul all play, there would be no room for Smit and Wilson, though maybe the latter would be given a breather after Ireland's first Test match.

We'll see soon enough but Sharif will be no makeweight in the attack and will play a full and pivotal role as white ball cricket takes over the summer.

I wish him well, as I am sure you all do.

You can see him in action against the West Indies here

Monday, 14 May 2018

Derbyshire v Durham day 4

Derbyshire 427 and 279-9 (Slater 42, Critchley 40, Smit 34)

Durham 520

Match drawn

Following this on my desktop scoreboard at work, there were times when a disappointing defeat seemed quite likely for Derbyshire today.

Four down by lunch left a lot for the tail to handle, and though Matt Critchley and Billy Godleman steadied the boat, at 185-6 and both of them gone we were only 92 on and there was plenty of time to go.

Enter Daryn Smit and he Tony Palladino started a tail end resistance that ended with the latter, accompanied by Ravi Rampaul, adding a further 37 unbroken runs for the last wicket, which rendered the time/runs balance impossible from the visitors perspective.

Fair play to Mark Wood, who seemed to cause a lot of trouble, and also to the spirit shown by those tail enders in getting a draw that would not have been ours in other seasons.

Yet it also highlighted that we have work to do when the four day game recommences.

More from me on this, and the RLODC, in coming days.

Still, we are fourth in the table after four games, some way removed from propping up the table as many predicted.

And we move on from this.