Sunday, 24 June 2018

Derbyshire v Leicestershire preview

Derbyshire play Leicestershire at the 3aaa County Ground tomorrow, a match that marks the first pink ball county game at the ground and the last, at least for now, of Duanne Olivier.

The South African has been a terrific success, taking thirteen wickets in the RLODC and 27 (so far) in the county championship. He has stayed fit, bowled a lot of overs, kept a smile on his face and, from what he told me at Durham, thoroughly enjoyed himself. I hope it isn't the last time that we see him at Derbyshire, because I would have him back in a heartbeat. I've seen plenty of overseas bowlers over the years and many have a tendency to coast at times. I haven't seen that with Duanne and his willingness to bowl and keep bowling make him a captain's dream.

Good luck to him, and to his new wife, in the future.

As for Derbyshire, I don't see many changes for the day/night game against our local rivals. Hardus Viljoen should return, quite likely in place of Hamidullah Qadri, but I am unaware of anything that may preclude the involvement of others. I do hope that the skipper reverts to opening, which would create a more normal berth for Harvey Hosein in the middle order.

There's no news yet on our visitors line up either, but despite recent tarnish on our reputation, the game offers Derbyshire an opportunity to cement a place in the top half of the table at the half way point. Indeed, a win could see us move as high as fourth, making the capitulation at Durham all the more annoying. Had that been won, we would have been in contention for third and few would have been moaning then.

It is all about fine margins and the grasping of opportunities as they are presented. There will be more in this game, for sure.

How we set about taking them will dictate whether we go into the T20 on a downer, or with a skip in our step.

We'll find out in due course. My first report on this game won't be until Tuesday evening, however, as my next two days of work are long ones - and the game's late finish will otherwise preclude it.

Good luck lads. Show us what you can do.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 4

Glamorgan 283 and 403-7 (Carlson 152, Khawaja 126)

Derbyshire 362 and 147-8 (Madsen 55, Palladino 30 not)

Match drawn

Call me psychic, if you will, but I fully expect the number of comments tonight to outnumber those at the end of the first two days, when we did quite well and were ahead of this game.

It is the way of things. It is sad but true, but too many are quick to castigate, slow or unwilling to praise. Maybe, as a Derbyshire supporter, too many have had too great an experience of struggle to find praise an easy thing to do, but all of us, as supporters of Derbyshire, have to get behind the players and lend them our support.

No more than any other team, we don't aim to play badly. Sometimes, as I wrote on Twitter today, we need to accept that other teams are allowed to play better than us and outplay us. A few too many times of late we have been outplayed, though it hasn't been for the want of trying. Sometimes, like it or not, form can prove elusive, individually and collectively, results decline and a vicious circle perpetuates.

We don't have the monopoly on poor performance either, though at times it may feel that way. Look at the various social media channels of counties and see how many unhappy fans there are, even those of successful counties. Today I saw Essex fans berating their side after losing to Nottinghamshire, less than twelve months on from winning the biggest county cricket prize of all. Hardly a disgrace, is it? Surrey fans have been similar, while our neighbours in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire have had stern and unpleasant criticism. I read a Somerset fan refer to them as a 'shambles', after the season they are having.

We can do no more than we are, because resources are tight. We run a small playing staff because there is no money for more players. Of course we need 'better' players, whoever and wherever they are, but they need serious salaries and if you can't afford them, the only option is to work with what you have and adjust your aspirations accordingly.

The question that puzzles me is less the losing of games than how we do it. The Yorkshire RLODC was in our grasp, then the tailenders nicked it. The Lancashire game was there to win at 100-0, but we caved in as bowlers applied a little pressure, going for big shots instead of working the ones. The Durham game was ours after two days, then we bowled poorly and blew it, a game that was harder to lose than to win at that stage. At 350-5 we were well ahead here, then let Glamorgan back into it. Is it a collective relaxation, a lack of nous, or what?

I think the T20 will come as a welcome relief and we will be improved, under John Wright and Dominic Cork. As for four-day cricket, there is a growing acceptance that we have so much to learn. We can play well, but it seems that any opposition fightback is like a runaway train we cannot stop, body language betraying a slide to the inevitable.

At this level the game is all about mental toughness. All players have similar techniques, but senior players must hold up their hands and say 'I'm going to get us across the line'. They are the better rewarded and with that comes additional responsibility, because we can't realistically expect the kids to do it if the old heads are not. Individually, all the players must ask themselves if they have given their all each day and if they haven't, or can't, the question has to be 'why'?

There are things we can do to help ourselves in the four-day game. The skipper is a top opening batsman, so should open and the middle order experiment should be abandoned. We should look at the batting order and question it, given the fragility thus far. I'd give Harvey a run at five, but consider Smit there too. You'd be surprised how many players bat to their position in the order, at different levels of the game and he has scored well when batting 3-5 in South Africa. We also need more from Hardus Viljoen and Ravi Rampaul, as well as Gary Wilson. Big name, talented international players all, but at the moment not contributing on a regular enough basis that justifies the likely expense in signing them.

But remember tonight and other nights, when commenting, they are OUR players. They are doing their best, but at times we have to accept that it is not good enough.

Yet massive respect to Tony Palladino, who not only took his 400th first-class wicket today, but also batted 108 deliveries to save the game and the draw points. He is a model professional, emerging from this game with credit as he did at Durham in a game when few did so. Give me a team of Palladinos and you can take on the world.

Is he the most talented in the side? No, but he makes 100% use of his talent, when others sometimes don't. So too Duanne Olivier, who is some way from a batsman, yet showed guts and determination in 51 minutes of batting that has to be replicated throughout the order.

It wasn't great, but if we can pull this around and beat Leicestershire in our next game, we will be fourth in the table. As it is, there are four sides below us tonight and the much-vaunted Middlesex are only three points better off.

I wonder how they are feeling?

Friday, 22 June 2018

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 3

Were county cricket a film script, or novel, my guess is that this year's Derbyshire county championship campaign is brought to you by the pen of John Grisham, or Agatha Christie. Maybe even Roald Dahl, because there have been more than a few tales of the unexpected...

A bit of Barbara Cartland would be good, where you know everything will be alright in the end, come what may, but only a fool would predict the outcome in Swansea tomorrow. The home side must fancy their chances though, 122 runs ahead with seven wickets left. The ball has been turning and will turn, but with the four spinners in the game a combined age less than that of our county legend and president, Edwin Smith, one wouldn't expect one of them to run through the opposition.

Once again, being a perfectionist at heart, I would have to question why a position of dominance at 357-5 allowed our opponents back into the game, with an effete slump to 362 all out. Also why, of our first six wickets, two were  squandered to run outs. In four-day cricket that is pretty poor and, given that both involved Gary Wilson and he ran himself out calling for two, he has to accept at least some, if not all of the responsibility tonight.

He previously batted well, as did most of the top order, but the kudos tonight go to Alex Hughes. He battled back from a lean spell with an innings of character and skill, one that should have been bigger still but for the mix up with Wilson that cost him his wicket. It was an innings that came at the right time for him, coming into the T20 in which he will again be a key player.

The home side looked in trouble second time around, with wickets for Matt Critchley and Hamidullah Qadri, but Usman Khawaja batted well with Kiran Carlson to steer them to a very handy overnight lead.

I would guess that we will be left chasing around 275 tomorrow, which won't be easy, but runs have been proven to be possible and there is enough talent in the Derbyshire side to make a fist of that.

Sometimes I think they lack a little self-confidence in key situations and need to tell themselves they can do it. There is and has proven to be talent and swagger within the ranks.

Tomorrow would be a good time to show it.

Postscript - I have seen the footage of the run outs now. Hughes was running to the danger end and would have made it easily. Wilson turned his back on him. For me, that is poor running and cricket from Wilson and very much his fault.

Thoughts on a Belper sojourn

I like watching second team cricket.

There's a relaxed air to the proceedings and no need for stewards, though the cricket itself is competitive, the appeals vociferous and the talent patently obvious. Belper Meadows is a lovely ground, the crops in the neighbouring field giving a rustic, rural feel, reinforced by the pavilion boundary running a pronounced uphill. How many catches have been misjudged on that incline over the years?

It was a good game for a Derbyshire fan. James Kettleborough led the team with a quiet authority and the opening attack of Charlie Hartley and Will Davis was a potent one. Davis looked to be bowling more within himself, still lively, but not the express pace of the past two truncated summers. Hartley looked quicker and a talent. I could see why some Kent supporters were surprised at his release last season and why he has been taking plenty of wickets this summer. His run up and action were smooth and impressive, the end products even more so.

The change bowling of Sam Conners and James Taylor was more sedentary in pace, but both bowled well, accurately and with success. I have heard good things about both and their youth allows them a few years of growing and development time. It is good to see both at that level in their teenage years and augurs well. Equally so the selection of Anoop Chima of the county under-FIFTEENS as keeper. He was most impressive, the age being largely irrelevant. He held good catches, showed good hands throughout and must have enjoyed the supportive words of Daryn Smit at second slip.

It was good to see Smit make a typically compact and stylish century when it was our turn to bat. He has an average akin to Bradman at second team level and rarely looked like getting out, batting at five. Maybe, as he did latterly in South Africa, batting higher might be beneficial in first team cricket and offer a different mindset. Certainly he scored heavily at three in South Africa and the technique is there. With Aneurin Donald of Glamorgan he looked on a different level to some very good batsmen, though I would have loved to see more of Anuj Dal, who played some delightful shots before being dismissed.

It was good to see Chesney Hughes batting well, tested out with a number of yorkers that the big back lift came down on in time. He looked in good shape, was moving well, hitting the ball cleanly and I enjoyed a few words with the genial Anguillan in a break in play. Tom Wood also looked in decent shape and played an excellent first innings knock before a most unfortunate dismissal.

What perhaps most enthused me was Matt McKiernan, a leg spinner who gets genuine turn and looked a decent cricketer. A couple of times he went for six as the batsmen tried to get after him, but he came back well and deceived the talented Donald after being hit a couple of times, bowling a very good batsman. He also held a very sharp caught and bowled and is one to watch, I think.

Around the ground the chat was about the forthcoming T20 and who was going to be our second overseas player. My understanding is that Duanne Olivier has to go home, so it won't be him, but the county has to identify and bring over a player pretty soon, if they have not already done the former. To focus minds, the competition starts two weeks tonight.

All players need time to acclimatise to conditions, stretch their muscles and get the air miles out of their legs. That is especially so if we are going with John Wright's stated preference of a bowler. The embarrassment of bringing someone over late, who then pulled a muscle after inadequate preparation is too awful to contemplate.

Though not, I have to say, as awful as our not having a second overseas player, for whatever reason. I know that we were desperately unlucky in losing the services of Mitchell Santner and, after a hefty delay since his name was mentioned in the media, one assumes we haven't got Yasir Shah either. He would have been a gamble anyway, but with so many competing attractions for their services, overseas players of talent are not easily available.

Yet we need one. Have to have one. One who brings something different to the table than our existing personnel. Having gone out earlier in the year and said that T20 is our focus, to go into it with only one overseas player would be a huge faux pas. Having replaced Imran Tahir with the differently skilled but equally talented Wahab Riaz, we now need to find our Matt Henry for 2018. There may be a few titters around the shire at that one, but he's done Kent well this year and there will be bowlers out there who could do us a fine job. I have confidence that the collective nous of Messrs Barnett and Wright will come up with the goods and hope that confidence is proven correct.

I know that we aren't especially flush for cash, but the forthcoming Little Mix concert (see how hip I am?) should be an earner for them and produce the funds for a player to throw into the...er...little mix.

If not, supporters will rightly question why we are effectively starting a lengthy three-legged race with only two legs, while standing ten yards behind the others on the starting line.

Like you, I hope for news soon.

It had better be of the good variety...

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 2

It is perforce a shorter blog tonight. I am doing it on my phone and the interface is more clunky than on my laptop, which is out of power.

We can be happy with the match situation at Swansea, not too far behind and with seven wickets in hand. If we can kick on tomorrow and hopefully gain a healthy lead, we might be able to force a result.

Top work by Tony Palladino once again, while Ben Slater, Alex Hughes and Wayne Madsen did well with the bat. I would love to see Alex progress to a ton and there is good batting to come in.

Harvey Hosein helped in a solid opening stand and the club has had two good days. At Belper, a stylish century from Daryn Smit took the second team to a lead in excess of 150 and a win looks highly likely tomorrow for them.

I travel home tomorrow, so shall follow the scores as I can, en route.

More of my thoughts from the last few days when I get a little more time over the weekend!

In closing, it was lovely to meet up with a lot of people at Belper over the past two days and enjoy some excellent cricket.

Thank you to all involved!

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.