Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 1

Both at Swansea and Belper, Derbyshire enjoyed excellent days against Glamorgan today.

After a delayed start at Swansea, the home side made 175-7, with Tony Palladino taking four wickets, Ravi Rampaul two and Duanne Olivier the other.

It was a good effort and although the latter was expensive, we can be pleased with efforts on the first day. More so if it is finished off and our innings built on day 2.

Meanwhile at Belper, the seconds enjoyed a fine day at the delightful Belper Meadows ground.

There were four wickets each for Will Davis and Charlie Hartley, with Davis claiming a near un-noticed hat trick split over two overs. Hartley impressed me, bristling with aggression, while Davis seemed to be bowling within himself with only an occasional quicker ball.

Anoop Chima, of the county under-15 side, kept wicket very tidily and there was some good fielding to enjoy. Especially nice was to see Daryn Smit offering advice and encouragment to Chima and a good spirit among the side, well-captained by James Kettleborough.

When we batted, there was a Chesney-style 67 from Chesney, full of booming drives and powerful pulls. Tom Wood also made a fine half century and we ended the day only fifty-odd short of the lead with six wickets in hand.

I thought Chesney looked thinner than I remembered and he looked secure in his time at the crease. Nice to see.

More from me tomorrow.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Glamorgan v Derbyshire preview

A fourteen-man squad has been named for the visit to Glamorgan and the game that starts at Swansea tomorrow. Of that squad, I would expect Alfie Gleadall and Calum Brodrick to miss out, with the final place between Qadri, Palladino and Rampaul, with one missing out. It is not inconceivable for Hardus Viljoen to be rested, ahead of a lot of bowling in the T20, but I would reckon it unlikely.

Harvey Hosein and Gary Wilson are in the squad and I would expect the latter to keep and Harvey to play as a specialist batsman, again with one eye on the Vitality Blast. With three keepers in the club, the quest goes on to find the one that will offer the required runs/keeping combo. Daryn Smit did nothing wrong at Durham, but scores of 0 and 1 didn't help his cause.

If Billy Godleman perseveres in his reinvention as a middle order bat, we could even see Hosein open the batting in this side:

Slater
Hosein
Madsen
Godleman
Hughes
Wilson
Critchley
Viljoen
Rampaul/Palladino
Qadri
Olivier

As for our hosts, they have named a 12 that features Usman Khawaja in the overseas role, but is missing several players, including the influential Colin Ingram. Prem Sisodya, a young left-arm spinner, is in the squad, suggesting it may well turn. He will support Andrew Salter, who has been bowling well.

Their squad:

Hogan (C), Lloyd, Selman, Khawaja, Murphy, Carlson, Morgan, Salter, Cooke, Carey, Sisodiya, Lawlor

I am going for a Derbyshire win here, though suspect both sides will want to bowl last after a toss.

As for me, I plan to be at Belper tomorrow, to watch most of the first day's play in the second team fixture there. All this while keeping a close eye on events in Wales...

If you are going along, please come over and say hello! 

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Back to business - and T20 preparation

Derbyshire make the journey to Wales this week for a game against Glamorgan in the scenic splendours of Swansea.

When I realised that the fixture coincided with a week's holiday, I toyed with the idea of a trip down to south Wales, but the realisation quickly dawned that on a good day it would be a seven-hour journey each way for me.  On a bad one - well, that was something I didn't wish to entertain.

So it is that the coming week will see me head down the M74, A66 and A1 to God's own county. It gives me a chance to catch up with my parents and with friends old and new. I plan to get along to see the second team at Belper on a couple of days, with the weather set fine for the week and the game affording a chance to see who is playing and (hopefully) doing well. Maybe even a belated trialist, who might force his way into the T20 squad with a stellar performance.

My guess is that spin will play a major part in Wales, so Hamidullah Qadri can expect a game and Billy Godleman is likely to have a bat if he wins the toss, as I don't see the wicket green enough to warrant an automatic decision to bowl. I hope that Duanne Olivier is rested well after a spell at Durham that would have tested a spinner, while we can only hope that Hardus Viljoen is back to Sussex, 2017 mode.

I didn't go with one or two suggestions that we should drop Hardus after Durham. In the first innings he looked terrific and bristled with aggression, but in the second I am sure he will admit himself he was poor. He is, however, a professional who will hopefully look back on what he should have done better and is, still, in my opinion, the second best bowler in the club. You don't omit the second best bowler in any club.

I think the reaction to the Durham defeat is a back-handed compliment. Two years ago, we wouldn't have expected to go there and win. Now, we do. Likewise we wouldn't have expected to beat some of these division one sides in T20, which we did last year. Progress is being made, but all of us need to realise that we can't always win and the opposition, as someone pointed out recently, do have a right to play well against us. We are doing OK on limited resources and are competing, something that has not always been the case. Next is winning more, but that will come.

The T20 is around the corner and John Wright, Dominic Cork and Grant Bradburn will already be discussing their plans for the competition. I think that they have some tough calls to make, with the opening partner for, presumably, Matt Critchley among them. I also think that the necessary make up of the side may mean that either Daryn Smit or Gary Wilson can play, but not both. Whoever gets the nod should also skipper the side, a big ask for a keeper, but for me it is one of them or Alex Hughes, to allow Billy Godleman a breather.

We need to fit in Calum MacLeod, one assumes at three in the role vacated by Luis Reece. Riaz, Viljoen and Rampaul are pretty much shoo-ins and that leaves the other overseas role. There has been very little on this from the club and I am not convinced that a quality spinner, our preference when we lost the services of Mitchell Santner, is out there. I would have taken Keshav Maharaj or Tabraiz Shamsi of South Africa, but both are on tour in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile Yasir Shah, who was mentioned a few weeks back, would be a gamble considering he was unfit to tour England and I cannot think of another available spinner of a requisite standard.

One man who wasn't picked for that Sri Lankan tour, in a South African squad that has an expected emphasis on spin, is Duanne Olivier. I would be thrilled if the county were able to retain his services, because he has shown an ability to take wickets in all forms of the game. He also goes for less than eight an over in the T20 format and would take his place, for me, in this likely first choice side:

Godleman
Critchley
MacLeod
Madsen
Slater
Wilson/Smit
Hughes
Viljoen
Riaz
Olivier
Rampaul

Lengthy tail? Yes, but Viljoen and Riaz can both clump it and if you need 8-11 to dig you from a hole, 1-7 haven't done their job properly. Accentuating the positive, to quote Jimmy Durante and that attack SHOULDN'T concede too many runs. Sides may try to negate them on away tracks and prepare slow wickets, but that is where Critchley, Madsen and Hughes come into play.

Is it as strong as we would wish? No, because there's no Reece and no Santner, but you go with the resources you have and work within those constraints and talents.

If we shock the cricket world with the news that AB de Villiers is spending the summer with his granny in Belper I wouldn't say no, but time is running out now and I'd have no complaints if Olivier were to stay on. Nor should anyone else, but I have no idea if he needs to be home at this stage.

More from me when the squads are announced for the Glamorgan game.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Comments a-plenty after successive debacles

Given the nature of the people involved, I have no doubt that there has been plenty of discussion between Kim Barnett and Billy Godleman after the last two matches ended in defeats of embarrassing magnitude.

The defeat at Trent Bridge was understandable to some extent, because you are playing a high quality team with plenty at stake. They are desperate to hold on to the RLODC and came out fighting. We didn't, and with a couple of exceptions played poorly. As I have said before, if we don't have eleven men playing to their capability, we won't win many matches.

I thought the demons had been banished at Chester-le-Street, when after two days we were in a position of nigh total dominance. When, in the second over of the day, the home side were effectively 50-7, we should have wrapped it up. Bowlers of experience SHOULD have known what they had to do on that wicket. Why we didn't bowl Hughes or Madsen earlier, when others were  bowling rubbish is a moot point, but we now need the senior group of players to justify their roles and responsibilities.

None of them offered much at Durham, with the exception of Tony Palladino. Billy and Wayne both looked jumpy at the crease, Viljoen was dreadful in the second innings with the ball. Smit keeps wicket to a high standard, but has to start getting runs. Critics will point to the number of byes conceded, but we would have needed Wilson and Hosein alongside him with gloves to have stopped some of the stuff that was coming his way. The number of diving stops, either side of the wicket, that he had to do was ridiculous at this level of the game.

There has to be realism among supporters though, much as it hurts. We cannot bring in loan signings. because they will generally cost money we don't have. If a club wants a player to go on loan for experience, yet still cover their salary, which I believe happened last year with Conor McKerr, it is a different situation, but there is not the money in our coffers for much more playing expense.

I'm thinking ahead, but as things stand I think next summer would be the last for Gary Wilson and Hardus Viljoen, two senior players, both well-rewarded. The former because at the end of his current contract he becomes an overseas player, the latter because I am not convinced that we get value for money. He is a decent cricketer, but I would expect a seasoned professional to take us home in those situations. If struggling for line and length, a bowler might cut down his pace, or say to the skipper that he had a problem.

It left Duanne Olivier with a large workload and he was, and has been, magnificent. Someone said to me, tongue in cheek, that we could maybe swap Kolpaks, but Duanne has been a model professional. he has played every game, generally taken wickets, largely bowled well and been an asset to the team. All that while on an extended honeymoon...

With a small and generally young squad such as ours, there is an expectation and need for the senior men to set the standard and example.  Yet only Ben Slater, Tony Palladino and Duanne Olivier came away from that game with genuine credit. The squad as a collective needs to talk it through, dust themselves down, grit their teeth and go again next week.

Yesterday came news that Tim Bresnan was 'considering his options' at Yorkshire for next season, having not got the contract offer he was hoping for. I would have him in like a shot, a genuine all-rounder, at 33 with a few years in him and with the nous to do the right thing. I'd give him the vice-captaincy too and be confident he would do a fine job. He is the sort of senior professional you want and would be worth breaking open piggy banks to sign.

Finally, for now, we badly missed Ravi Rampaul in the last match and his greater accuracy would have been a huge asset. He should come back at Swansea and I hope to see far greater discipline next week.

Pride and professionalism gentlemen.

It is all we, as supporters, ask for.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Durham v Derbyshire day 4

Durham 96 and 376

Derbyshire 205 and 172 (Slater 68)

Durham won by 95 runs

And so the game that was lost on day three, after an opportunity to nail down a win on day two, came and went with nary a murmur in one session of day four.

Brodrick didn't last long, Smit lasted even less and despite a valiant and skilled fifty from Ben Slater that showed the rest what could be done, the good ship Derbyshire subsided beneath the waves of defeat with little more than a ripple to acknowledge its passing. Viljoen, who owed us plenty, didn't manage many either and it was left to Tony Palladino (again) to show that it was possible to bat on here, following a first innings 32 with an unbeaten 29.

It was all so predictable. Durham's seamers simply pitched the ball up and let the pitch do the rest. Ours, as I related with frustration last night, tried to be clever and macho by bouncing them out and ended up merely looking undisciplined and unprofessional.

I said at the ground the other day that a chase of 150, what I saw as 'worst case scenario' thinking, would have proved problematic. As it turned out, we lost nine wickets in passing that tally. Irrespective of the mettle and technique shown by the Durham lower order, on that wicket they should never have set close to the eventual target.

The time has come for a serious discussion on the make up of the team. Yet there are not enough people whose current form makes them an automatic choice for it. Godleman (after the RLODC and as skipper) Slater, Olivier, Madsen,  - but then who?

James Kettleborough hasn't got many runs in the second team, Harvey Hosein hasn't either and isn't fit. Reece is injured, Wilson with Ireland and calls for Chesney Hughes aren't valid for me, as there has been nothing in any opportunities elsewhere since his release to warrant a return.

All we can do is ride the current storm, work in the nets and hope that the ball finding the middle of the bat for key players comes sooner, rather than later. Maybe the T20, freed from the shackles of close fielders, is what some of them need.

We need a very good second overseas player named for T20 sometime soon, to lift spirits, as well as continued patience while they try to get it right. They aren't bad players, but there are too many in bad trots for us to do anything at the moment.

That's worrying for all of us.

But the sun will still come up tomorrow.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Durham v Derbyshire day 3

Durham 96 and 376 (Harte 114, Olivier 5-105)

Derbyshire 205 and 69-4 (Slater 41 not out)

Derbyshire need 199 to win

In fifty-one summers as a supporter I have watched a number of Derbyshire bowlers whose line and length, on an occasional basis, left a lot to be desired.

David Wilde lived up to his name, while Peter Hacker could be erratic at times. Devon Malcolm had days when direction was somewhat elusive, Simon Base could lose his run and radar to disastrous effect, while Nantie Hayward wasn't known as 'Wayward' for nothing.

Yet not much compared to the shambles that was our bowling this morning.

I am quick to acknowledge good things on this blog, but for Derbyshire to concede 81 extras in one innings, as they did here, was a disgrace. Just as I praised him earlier for his hundred per cent effort, I have to be highly critical, especially, of Hardus Viljoen tonight.

Some of the balls that were recorded as byes couldn't have been reached had Daryn Smit had rubber arms and been stood on a trampoline. Alfie Gleadall bowled some erratic stuff, but has at least the strong excuse of youth on his side. At two runs an over his figures look a paragon of parsimony, but a lot of those extras were down to the big South African.

I thought both Viljoen and Duanne Olivier, to a lesser extent, got carried away by the bounce this morning, rather than pitching it up and letting the wicket do its stuff. It was poor and I was very disappointed that what looked a routine target when Steel fell in the second over of the day got bigger and bigger. Harte passed a maiden fifty and thereafter a century was as inevitable as night following day.

It was hugely embarrassing and disappointing that a position of complete dominance and a nigh certain win  was chucked away with bowling more worthy of a beer match. Such carelessness and profligacy will get exactly what it deserves tomorrow, because we will lose this match by a distance and deservedly so. It is a shame on Olivier, because a ten-wicket match haul would normally be a cause for celebration. Sadly, the champagne looks like being cheap fizz here.

Late in the day, when we were set 268 to win, Matt Salisbury, from Essex second eleven via 27 first-class wickets, pitched the ball up and removed our best two batsmen in the blink of an eye. The admirable Chris Rushworth took the out of form Alex Hughes and Matt Critchley in another two pitched up balls and an easy win was turning into a hammering.

Optimists will cling to the hope of another twist worthy of Agatha Christie in the game, but as a paid-up member of that club I struggle to see where 200 runs can come from in the batting we have left. The presence of Ben Slater offers some solace, but someone has to score a hundred, and get the level of support that the excellent Harte got today. Well done to him.

For me, this was worse than Trent Bridge by a country mile, all this after my drive home last night was filled with thoughts of a promotion challenge after a professional two days.

Almost half this Durham side were making debuts.

There's no word other than 'shocking' will suffice tonight.

Calum MacLeod signs for Vitality Blast!

I had only just posted my thoughts on the Riverside trip and my suggestion that county moves would be worthwhile for those concerned in Scotland's great win yesterday, when news broke that Calum MacLeod would be joining us for this year's Vitality Blast.

I am assuming that this has been a work in progress for some time, unless Kim Barnett flew to Edinburgh by helicopter last night, contract in hand, but from a timing perspective it could scarcely be better for Cricket Scotland or for Derbyshire.

In addition, Scotland's Kiwi coach Grant Bradburn, who has done such a fine job north of the border, will work alongside John Wright and Dominic Cork in coaching the Derbyshire squad, that now includes Safyaan Sharif and MacLeod from the Scottish set up.

MacLeod is a very talented sportsman who, if you like interesting titbits of information, played hockey at the same club as me near Glasgow. It is fair to say that he was one of the talented juniors, whereas I was one of the journeyman old lags, but hey, it's a claim to fame. I am sure that we will see plenty of reverse stick/reverse sweeps from him and Wayne Madsen as the competition progresses.

As I wrote earlier, there were plenty at Durham who felt MacLeod  hard done by to be released there, having earlier been on the Warwckshire staff. Back then he was a promising all rounder, but issues with his action saw him gradually focus on his ability as a powerful batsman. A sweet timer of a cricket ball, he will give additional power to our top order and an average of just under thirty and strike rate of 126 suggest he will be a fine asset. Don't expect a contribution like yesterday every game, as it doesn't work like that, but if he comes off it should be well worth the admission fee.

As for the coach, there's a fine piece here that describes his ethics and his approach to the game. It is excellent and well worth a read. He has learned the hard way and has done fine jobs in a variety of roles.

Full marks to Derbyshire for an innovative and, as it turns out, timely approach for a cricketer, and coach who will now be hot property.

Coming to a ground near you, this summer.

Welcome to Derbyshire, Calum and Grant.

Like Scotland, we're on the move in the right direction.

Top ten blog ranking

As you can see from the side bar, I am proud to announce that the blog has been recognised by Feedspot as one of the ten best cricket blogs in the UK, which looks at 'thousands' of blogs on the internet.

Blogs are apparently ranked by:

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

There are some big and established names in that top ten, so I am thrilled to be nominated in such an elevated position and alongside such illustrious company.

You can see the top ten here

I can only say thanks to those concerned, and also to those of you who check in on a regular basis!

Thoughts from the Riverside

I got home yesterday evening after a delightful couple of days in Chester-le-Street, where the weather, for the most part, was fair to roasting, the locals very friendly and the cricket, from a Derbyshire perspective, generally impressive.

There's not that much wrong with our cricket, you know. What struck me was the togetherness of the squad, which despite the presence of a number of newer, younger players, was very tight. You could sense the enjoyment of their cricket and each other's company and, Trent Bridge notwithstanding, which was a collective 'brain freeze' they are playing some good cricket. There was no sense of 'them and us', the younger players, of which there are a number, being assimilated into the squad well. The shared joy in Alfie Gleadall's first wicket was a delight to see.

The purposeful cricket is being helped substantially by Hardus Viljoen and Duanne Olivier, two strapping blokes of contrasting physique who are giving it their all. The club allegedly paid a lot for Viljoen's services, but he is putting in the yards, bowling with serious pace and making a key contribution with bat and ball. Having said that, he must be a nightmare to keep to, and amidst searing yorkers and head-jerking bouncers are balls that saw Daryn Smit flinging himself full-length either way to stop.

That in itself is part of his armoury; at times he seems himself unsure where it might go, so what chance does that leave the batsmen? When he gets it right, which is often enough, he must be very awkward to face and the yorker that removed Michael Jones would have been a challenge for a more established batsman.

Olivier? I would keep him, or get him back, in a heartbeat. With long arms and a loping gait, he looks coltish, perhaps uncoordinated, until he gets a cricket ball in his hand. Then he runs in for every ball with the same gusto and those long arms get him 'whip' that makes him a handful, much in the same way that Bill Copson came through faster than it first appeared with his so-called 'gorilla arms'. Several times Olivier's bouncer discomforted batsmen and although it can be overdone - each new man in seems to get one first ball - he is a very good bowler.

It tells how well off South African cricket is for seam bowlers when he isn't that close to the international side at present. I think he has improved in his time here too and his lithe natural action seems to take little out of him. He has played every game this summer and I would gladly retain his services for the T20 and beyond, without expecting too much when it is his turn to bat.

The Derbyshire batting? There's plenty of talent there, but we have players from four to seven in the order who all lack major runs under their belt. We all know they can do it, because their career statistics confirm it, but there is a feeling that we are currently fallible beyond the top three of Slater, Godleman and Madsen. The former is currently looking in excellent nick, but, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I wish he would turn more of these cameos into something substantial, because when the form goes, those cameos define your average.

We all know form is a cyclical thing, but I would love to see Derbyshire, ahead of the T20 competition, make a move for one of Scotland's heroes from yesterday. The absence of Luis Reece is an all-round blow, but either Kyle Coetzer or man of the moment Calum MacLeod could replicate his dynamism at the top of the order. As news broke of the latter's innings against England yesterday, Durham supporters were telling me that they really liked him and felt he was released too soon 'for financial reasons' by Durham. He certainly hits a clean cricket ball and I think it would be to mutual benefit for any of the Scottish top five to get a county deal.

My understanding is that such a move would cost only travel and accommodation, as they are all contracted by Cricket Scotland, so there would be much to like in such an arrangement.

We will see later if Derbyshire can finish an excellent effort against Durham. It has been a good team effort in which the pace men have excelled and had good support from Tony Palladino and Alfie Gleadall. Someone yesterday suggested Alfie might be 'too small' to be a quick bowler, which caused me to rhyme off a number of names, including Trueman, Larwood, Marshall and Steyn, of players who were not especially tall but were brilliant bowlers.

Gleadall looks a talent and it is telling that he seems to have leapfrogged Will Davis. I hope the latter rediscovers his mojo, because he is a fine talent, but at present this looks like being a lost summer for him.

Finally, for now, thank you to all those whose company I enjoyed at Durham. There were plenty of smiling faces around at a club that has had some rough treatment from the ECB and has lost a lot of very good cricketers in recent seasons. A chronic injury situation hasn't helped either, but they are proud of their own and have some good cricketers still.

Hopefully their problems will ease. Equally hopefully, Derbyshire will wrap up a win here by mid-afternoon at the latest.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Durham v Derbyshire day 2

Durham 96 and 155-6 (Latham 67, Olivier 3-51)

Derbyshire 205

Durham lead by 46 runs

The Derbyshire tail wagged with sufficient vigour today to take the first innings past 200, gathering a bonus point en route, as well as a first innings lead of over three figures. Not by any means massive, but in the context of the game so far fairly substantial.

Tony Palladino was first out, caught behind when trying to leave the ball, before Alfie Gleadall continued the positive impression he made on the first day with more pleasing strokes on his way to an impressive, unbeaten 27. The innings and the composed way in which he batted suggested he will not long be at number ten in the line up. Besides an array of attacking shots, his cover drive being the pick of them, he has a sound defence and good footwork. One to watch.

When Durham went in again, Tom Latham adopted a more positive mentality than in the first innings and passed his first innings score in the first over. He was missed by Alex Hughes at second slip from Hardus Viljoen's first ball, the latter bowling better lines than Olivier early on.

Cameron Steel didn't open, after a blow on the arm in the first innings, and Michael Jones was clanged on the helmet by a skiddy bouncer from Olivier. Otherwise they progressed serenely, Latham looking secure, before Viljoen's yorker, once again, was too much for a batsman, Jones beaten for pace and losing his middle stump, almost his left foot.

Another tough opportunity to remove Latham was missed when Smit failed to get his fingers under a nick that was dropping short of slip and Palladino, the unlucky bowler, caused problems with a probing line and length. But aside from a stoppage when Latham became the latest to be struck on the helmet in the game, there was no further breakthrough for Derbyshire before lunch.

The bowling hadn't carried the same edge as the first innings and, with Durham 47-1, the afternoon looked like being the game's pivotal session.

As the score reached 84 with no further wickets falling, the teams were slowly moving back to parity, but Godleman's captaincy showed initiative in bringing on Alex Hughes, who induced a false shot for Clark to be caught by Brodrick at point. As so often happens, a second wicket fell quickly, Viljoen again too quick as Smith lobbed another up to Brodrick for a simple catch.

Harte came in and battled well alongside Latham, but the Kiwi's gutsy innings came to an end when Olivier was brought back and moved one away, Madsen taking a sharp catch at slip above his head. Then Smit, who had a torrid time with some wayward deliveries from Viljoen and Gleadall, held a fine diving catch down the legside to remove Davies, again off Olivier.

When the same bowler got Coughlin leg before, the pendulum had swung our way, but heavy clouds were gathering around the ground and spots of rain as the players went off for tea were followed by a deluge during the interval.

At 5.30pm, the rain still coming down heavily, it was time for me to go - there appeared little likelihood of any further play today, Yet the forecast for the next two days is good and Derbyshire SHOULD finish this game off tomorrow.

There's always that question mark, that fragility about our batting, butting from here we shouldn't be chasing more than a hundred. The lead is only 46 and there's not much batting to come.

Surely...?