Sunday, 14 October 2018

Interesting news on Tom Wood from Australia

A scour of the overseas media outlets revealed this little gem on Tom Wood, from the Victorian press.

WOOD FIRES IN OZ!!

Derbyshire cricketer Tom Wood  has got off to a flying start in his third tour of duty in the land down under. 
Playing for Frankston Peninsula CC for the second year running, Wood started the campaign with a 96 in the grade A Victorian premier league, one level below state cricket. He backed it up this weekend with 141 in the 50 over competition, helping Frankston record their first win in the campaign. The out of contract ex-Derbyshire batsman played last season for the county in the second eleven, in an attempt to get another contract, amassing 1089 runs across all three formats. 
In addition he scored 1103 runs for his club side Ticknall, helping the south Derbyshire club to their first ever premier league and cup double. With no contract available at his home county, Wood remains far from despondent.  “The season was ultimately a failure, as my main aim was to force my way into the first team and a second county contract. Unfortunately that did not work out. However there were many highlights for both club and county with the top one being part of Ticknall's league and cup double. 
Dave Houghton has offered me the chance to play for the 2s again next season and if I work hard on my game throughout the winter and get the required runs for the seconds next year who knows? My only dream is to be a first class cricketer and I’ll keep working hard to achieve that goal. It’s nice to get the new campaign off to a good start and repay Frankston's faith in me as their overseas pro.'
I think Tom deserves an opportunity next year, when he will doubtless score a lot of runs again at those levels. He hasn't had much in the way of first team opportunity and perhaps a prolific winter and a good start back home might see him get that chance.

He averaged over a hundred in 2016, with several major innings for the second team and the Unicorns and while it dropped in 2017, it was far from a disaster and he had a couple of injuries, which didn't help.

2192 runs in all cricket last year suggests a bloke who must surely be worthy of opportunity, perhaps before we bring in someone from another county on loan.

After all, if he never gets the opportunity, how will we ever know if he can hack it at county level?  He will be 25 next May and at the stage where he has pretty much worked out what he can and can't do. By the sound of it, there's more of the former than the latter.

It is hard to argue against those statistics and I wish him well.

Work to be done as 3aaa ceases trading

I have had two or three emails and messages asking if Derbyshire County Cricket Club has major issues now that Aspire, Achieve, Advance (3aaa) has announced that it has ceased trading.

The short answer is 'no'. I feel sorry, as we all do, for those whose careers and lives are impacted by this closure, but from a cricket perspective it is no different than if a deal with a sponsor comes to an end.

The county will need to find both a new ground and shirt sponsor, but I have no doubt that they will already be on the case and speaking to people about this.

Whether the two end up being the same company is a moot point, but there will be companies out there who want to work with and have their name associated with a top sports club.

From our perspective, this couldn't have happened, if it had to do so, at a better time, as they now have around six months to sort things ahead of the 2019 season.

They will.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Bowling coach appointment 'imminent'

It has been another quick week and one without a lot of news from a Derbyshire cricket angle.

Doubtless there has been plenty going on behind the scenes as Dave Houghton gets his feet firmly 'under the table' and I understand that news on the appointment of a bowling coach is imminent.

I have heard a name and as it has come from three separate sources I don't doubt the veracity of the information. It is not for me, however, to set a hare around the park and announce someone ahead  of the official announcement for very good reasons.

First up, legal niceties will need to be adhered to and the person concerned will need to work a period of notice in his current role. He already has a good job and it would be quite a coup for the club to have a man of such quality.

Second and most importantly, Dave Houghton and the club have done all the work on this and deserve the credit and the publicity that the announcement of the name will bring. In the years I have done the blog I have never once broken news ahead of a club announcement, though once or twice have second guessed a signing with the application of common sense.

All I can say about this one is that the apparent successful candidate had a very good county career and has a growing reputation as a coach. I would deem it quite a coup for Dave to get him through the door on that basis.

More on that when the news breaks, but otherwise it is all quiet on the western front, as players take well-earned breaks.

Earlier in the week, someone wondered whether we might have been in for Billy Root, who moved from Nottinghamshire to Glamorgan.

I would have been surprised. He would have been on a good earner at Trent Bridge, one higher than we would have wanted to match. He is a talented lad, but I'm not sure he would have been worth it, an average of thirty no better than we already have. He may go on to a fine county career, but it didn't seem a good 'fit' for us.

In the absence of a move for an experienced Kolpak (and the money with which to do so) someone like Andy Umeed, who has also been mentioned in recent comments, might be a better option. Capable of batting in the middle order or open, he has shown potential at Warwickshire and might be worthy of further opportunity at the age of 22.

Finally, to respond to a couple of emails, Chesney Hughes? He played some big innings in the second team this summer and will be known to Dave Houghton from his time as batting coach.

Could I see him getting another deal? Yes, but only if his agent realised that he wasn't in a strong position to ask for silly money. At 27 he could be seen as coming into his prime, but conversely could be seen to be a boat that has sailed.

Like many other things in professional sport, most of it is only conjecture until announced by the club concerned.

We will see in the months ahead.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Houghton interview gives interesting pointers

Yesterday's interview with Dave Houghton on the club website gave some interesting pointers for the future.

“We will look at a couple of loanees, but we need to up-skill our youngsters. If you recruit you can often block the path for youngsters and we’ve got some good youngsters coming through" said the Head of Cricket.

He is absolutely right and the potential in the likes of Gleadall, Conners, Taylor and Qadri is without question. Yet it would be naive, I think, for supporters to expect them to step into first team cricket and make an impression when second team cricket, for most, has proven a challenge.

As it was always going to, of course. While Qadri is the most advanced, the others have all had injury challenges. The potential of Gleadall with bat and ball was obvious at Durham this summer, but he needs to be wary of pushing his young body too much, as they all do. They are only 17/18, so need to be carefully monitored.

The interest in a return for Duanne Olivier was worthy of note, but as I have previously mentioned, other counties will be keen on his services and Houghton referred to 'other irons in the fire'. One would assume that the likeliest source of these would be South Africa and New Zealand, given the county links with those countries. 

There was no mention of a Kolpak signing, though that may be considered if deals were reached to release either Ravi Rampaul and/or Hardus Viljoen. There are one or two from South Africa who may consider such an offer, especially those in their thirties whose international opportunities may be coming to an end. 

Such players as Farhaan Behardien and Chris Morris may be among them, but the key factor is the qualification ruling. Unless a foreign player has an EU passport, they cannot be signed as an overseas or Kolpak unless they have played either one Test match or 15 one-day/Twenty20 internationals in the two years prior to the official application for paperwork. That would exclude a few others who came to my mind and South Africa are getting canny in not giving Test caps indiscriminately, then risking losing the player. 

As for loans, they would make sense in our current financial state. There is an obvious 'in' at Middlesex, where Houghton has spent the last few seasons, while Surrey must surely be an option for a loan bowler, given they have so many. Two Currans, Morkel, Clark, Clarke, Dernbach, Plunkett, McKerr and Meaker is an embarrassment of riches. They might even go for Olivier...

Don't discount our dear neighbours in Nottingham either. Their signing of three batsmen and a bowler in the season's closing weeks looks like leaving a few players facing second team cricket and players like Jake Libby, Chris Nash and Billy Root will struggle for regular first team chances.

We'll see.

Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Weekend warmer

The opening week of David Houghton's return to Derbyshire is coming to an end and supporters must be very happy with the way things are going so far.

All of those that players would see as key personnel have had contracts extended, while both Anuj Dal and Matt McKiernan have been rewarded for summers of promise by one-year deals.

Only Matt Critchley has still to have a contract extended and we can only hope that this is imminent. While not an academy product, Matt has come through our ranks and will become a major player in the next three or four summers.

Yesterday we saw Alex Hughes sign a new deal and I fully expect to see his continued development with bat and ball. His bowling can be better utilised, especially in early season, and I expect to see him used more next year.

So what next?

Well, the release of Gary Wilson, with a year of his deal to go, has set precedent and I wouldn't be surprised if similar deals were not being considered, at the very least, for both Ravi Rampaul and Hardus Viljoen. Both had summers that would be deemed as acceptable for home-grown players, but not for overseas signings who are high earners. If similar deals could be struck with them both, would many supporters be disappointed? While both have the talent to win matches, they didn't do so too many times in 2018.

Viljoen frustrates me. That he can bowl quickly and trouble batsmen is beyond doubt. That he doesn't do it often enough is equally true. For both players, returns closer to those of Tony Palladino should have been attainable, and while Hardus' inconsistency frustrates, the concerns over Ravi Rampaul's fitness will not go away. Missing matches with breathing issues suggests an underlying health issue, but while we all hope that he is well, the bottom line is that we need players who will offer more for the county.

I think this is where John Wright's winter role will kick in.

Is there, for example, a player who might be a better option in a Kolpak role than these two players? Or is there a player out there with a British passport who could fill a gap in the side?

Realistically, I think we would be looking more at bowlers. If money could be freed up, we wouldn't need to spend a fair chunk of it to improve on the batting. Godleman, Reece, Madsen, Hughes, Critchley and Hosein will be six of the first choice top seven, as we wouldn't spend money on extending contracts for them to play second team cricket.

The window for Kolpak status will close with Brexit and there will be players in South Africa who could do a very good job. That country's policy of playing different elevens in the game's different forms potentially makes more players available and there might be a few options available. Many will know that for all their talent they will not be regular internationals, so for the right player a deal while exchange rates are favourable might hold considerable appeal.

We'll see. I have no doubt the agents of several available players have sent their details to Dave Houghton for perusal. There may be one or two names among those announced as released so far will be of interest, but I am happy to leave those names in my own personal pile named 'conjecture'.

I think we may utilise the loan market, for obvious reasons, but a key signing is likely to be the next, that of bowling coach.

If we can find someone who can develop the young academy prospects, upskill the existing talent and galvanise new players, they will be worth their weight in gold.

More from me soon.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Chris Wilkins - an obituary

The passing of Chris Wilkins, announced today, at the age of 74 is the passing of part of my childhood.

We all have our heroes, and the South African batsman was the first that I recall. He was usurped, on a permanent basis, by Eddie Barlow, but the thought of his cricket has always brought sunshine memories to the darkest days.

I started watching Derbyshire in 1967 and batsmen didn't so often bat against the clock so much as the sundial. 'He'll never die of a stroke' said my Dad about more than one regular. Attrition was the order of the day, an occasional shot a relief from the ongoing tedium.

I'd make honourable exception for Mike Page and also for Peter Gibbs, who came from university to play shots we were not used to seeing, especially through the covers. You wouldn't, however, go home saying you'd just seen an amazing innings by Ian Hall/Derek Morgan/David Smith et al. Worthy players all, but they ground it out and accumulated.

Then came Chris Wilkins.


Derbyshire were late in the overseas market and didn't sign one until the 1970 season. Only we and Yorkshire held firm, the latter because they had a very good team, didn't need one and - well, were Yorkshire. Us because we barely had the money to pay our own.

Essex had Keith Boyce, Glamorgan had Majid Khan, Gloucestershire had Mike Procter, Hampshire had Barry Richards - the list went on. Nottinghamshire signed the big cheese himself , the great Sobers.


And we signed a South African that no one had heard of called Chris Wilkins.


To be fair, good judges in that country suggested him 'better than Barry Richards'. That was not fair, as there have been few in the history of the game batted better than the imperious South African opener. And when Wilkins appeared over here and was first photographed swathed in sweaters at photo calls, which made him look the size of Colin Milburn, we wondered what we had let ourselves in for.


The first few damp weeks did little to dispel doubters. Wilkins opened the batting and struggled against the moving ball, making few scores above 30. It was decided to move him down the order to number four. Then it happened.


Wilkins showed himself to be a brilliant striker of a ball. You would turn up for matches hoping that Gibbs and Smith might make a start but that Smith wouldn't stay too long, as he wasn't, to my young and uneducated eyes, very exciting. Then Mike Page might get going and get a few, but you hoped, really hoped, that they'd see enough shine off the new ball for Wilkins to come in and play his shots.


I considered myself his lucky mascot, as I never saw him make less than 35. There was the usual 'ooh' when the second wicket went down, but it was as much a noise of anticipation as disappointment. As the outgoing batsman made his way to the pavilion gates, 
you would see people sitting up in their seats, others putting down newspapers and more hurrying back from the bar or the loo as we waited for Wilkins to make his way from the pavilion, arms swinging and eyes blinking to acclimatise to the light. To my young eyes he was the greatest thing I had ever seen.

The thing was, and it could be his downfall, Wilkins was as likely to go for the bowling first ball as any other time. In his superb book on cricket captaincy, Mike Brearley recounted how his arrival at the crease always required mid off and mid on to go deeper, the ball likely to sting their hands or clear them in a normal position. He played HIS game, sometimes with scant disregard for the match situation and I could imagine the frustration of team mates if he gave it away early. Yet when it came off...

I vividly remember several innings by him, one on a turning wicket at Chesterfield in 1970 where Northamptonshire spinners (Breakwell, Swinburne and Steele) were causing problems. Wilkins twice went down the track and hit off spinner John Swinburne into the boating lake, making it all look so easy. Finally perishing after a very brisk 68. he exceeded this in the second innings with the fastest century of the season, from seventy-odd balls.

At Derby in the John Player League there was a flawless 50 against Surrey, with one six over mid-wicket that just missed Dad's Ford Anglia. Then at Buxton, we were slaughtered by Jack Bond's marauding Lancashire, with Frank Hayes, Faroukh Engineer and John Sullivan putting them way out of our reach.


Still, Wilkins went down fighting. That day he hit Clive Lloyd's medium pace for a straight six that is still the biggest I have ever seen. Batting at the pavilion end, it was still rising as it left the arena, and another ball was required. 


Chris Wilkins was not the best overseas player we've had by a long way. His average was OK (30-40) but nothing spectacular. You couldn't play in that style and average over fifty though. In the modern era he would have made a fortune.


Don't get the idea he was like Shahid Afridi, all slog and little substance. He could play, but often chose to go with the muse and regularly chose the aerial route. He was a useful right arm medium pacer (he got Boycott once on 99 - how many have done that?!), a brilliant fielder in the covers, an excellent first slip and a stop gap keeper. He also once dismissed Zaheer Abbas while bowling slow left arm... Alan Hill told me that he was also the first player he saw play a switch hit, in the nets at Derby, when he hit David Wilde, no slouch, a country mile from a left-handed position. All things indicative of natural talent, even if it wasn't always applied.


Two more memories to close. At Ilkeston we were chasing a Hampshire score of around 170 in the 40-over John Player League and weren't too confident. They had a fair side and their opening bowlers were "Butch" White, a lively handful for any side, and the legendary Derek Shackleton, one of the game's most economical bowlers.


This was the day that David Smith went berserk. After a slow start where we despaired of any sort of challenge, he took on Shackleton and hit him to all parts. Well, mainly over mid wicket, with pulls, sweeps, hoiks and cow shots. He made 80 in the time he'd usually reserve for reaching double figures, then got out with only ten needed.


In came Wilkins. Bam! Bam! One four, one six, two balls, game won.


Finally a Sunday televised game against Hampshire. Barry Richards made a quite breathtaking 80 for them that day, but when it came our turn to bat.so did Chris Wilkins. We won on the last ball and at the end of the game it appeared that those good judges were right. 


On that afternoon, at least, there really was nothing between them.

Rest in Peace, Chris Wilkins. 

You entertained us royally.

Hosein contract reinforces his choice as 'the one'

Yesterday's news of a new two-year contract for Harvey Hosein, taking him to the end of 2020, reinforces the opening day of his tenure statement by David Houghton.

The role seems to be going to a young man who has looked likely to fill it for a number of summers now, but at last seems to have a clear run at making the job his own.

I have no problem with this at all. As a batsman I have always rated him highly and think we would get the best out of him batting higher than the more usual seven in the order. He has a very orthodox technique and has showed an ability to play straight and stay in when wickets are tumbling around him.

I would see him batting at six, but could make an argument for him at five, where his preferred method would enjoy the support of  'proper' batsmen at the other end. He is still very slight in build, of course, and as he fills out the boundary shots will become more frequent.

I thought him improved as a keeper when I saw him at the end of the season and he would look better still if we had more bowlers whose radar was more than a thing for only occasional use. The acid test will come in his work with the spinners and his standing up to Messrs Critchley, Qadri and McKiernan over the next summer or two will determine his long term suitability for the gloves.

As I said the other day, I would let him work with Daryn Smit over the winter and let Smit mentor his glove work. Indeed, let Smit skipper and mentor the seconds, available for the first team as required, because we all know his quality behind the stumps. His genial personality will work well with younger cricketers and trialists too.

No one will complain at this, though. Like the rest of you, I hope he makes the role his own and we can all celebrate long term success.

Well done Harvey!

Monday, 1 October 2018

Gary Wilson leaves Derbyshire

The departure from Derbyshire, announced today, of Gary Wilson comes as no real surprise.

I had a feeling, when he  was left out of the squad for the closing matches of the season, that a parting of the ways was on the cards. For both player and club, I think it is absolutely the right thing.

Especially in his time at Surrey, Gary was a solid county cricketer. I think he was more mobile then and he proved a good choice as captain for that county in a time of some turmoil. He took them to T20 finals day too and there were plenty of well-wishers from that county when he moved to Derbyshire, two years ago.

It didn't work out for him at Derbyshire. Partly because he was one of three wicket-keepers on a small staff and, by general consensus, wasn't in the top two, yet was vice-captain. With team selection done by the 'senior group' any drop in form was going to lead to accusations of players 'looking after each other', even when that wasn't the case.

With Daryn Smit the best glove man and Harvey Hosein the local lad that many wanted to see earn early promotion, it didn't make for an easy spell for any of them. When none was able to produce the consistency that was required to make the role their own, it became obvious that something had to give.

Wilson led the team through two T20 campaigns. Last year he played two or three pugnacious knocks to close out wins, but this season his batting drew criticism. He wasn't quick between the wickets, but he seemed to need longer to get going and ate up valuable deliveries before he got his eye in.

Nor was his captaincy innovative enough for a demanding format. A top captain would have thought on his feet when Afridi opened for Hampshire in last year's quarter-final, tore up the plan and changed the bowling order. Gary didn't, nor was he especially sharp with field placings or his batting order. Maybe that was more the coach's decision, but the man who leads the side on the field normally has a major call in such things.

The club statement today, in which Dave Houghton is quoted as saying 'we decided to give the wicket-keeper batsman duties to someone with a long term future at Derbyshire' suggests that Harvey Hosein is due his opportunity next year.

That being the case, I could see a lot of merit in using Daryn Smit's experience and coaching nous with the second eleven next year, available as required for first team duties. As things stand, it would allow Mal Loye to spend more time with the academy and both elevens would likely benefit as a result.

In closing, thanks to Gary for his efforts over the past two years.

It didn't really work out as all parties hoped, but he gave of his best and I am sure we all wish him well in his next venture, back in Ireland and with the Irish national side.

And for what it is worth, with precedent being set, I don't think this will be the last such departure this close season...

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Fantasy Cricket a huge success

Thirty-six teams were in this summer's Peakfan Blog League, the biggest number ever and I hope that you all enjoyed it.

I see my role as the facilitator, not just because I came third bottom, but because I seldom have time from mid-summer onwards to do anything with it. This is evidenced by my having thirteen available player transfers remaining at summer's end, as well as twenty captaincy switches...

Still, a lot of you have the skills of the game mastered and this year's overall winner was Paul Donkersley, who edged out Clive Whitmore by just 248 points. They came 123rd and 164th nationally, which was an excellent effort.

Perennial challenger Dean Doherty was third and sixth with two teams, while Paul was also fourth with his other team. David Aust, a past winner, came in fifth.

As they do every year, The Telegraph provide medals for various categories and I have been sent them. If the winners can mail me at peakfan36@yahoo.co.uk their address details, I can get these in the post.

Those winners are:

Overall winner - Paul Donkersley
Top run scorer - Clive Whitmore
Top wicket taker - Dean Doherty

Thank you to all of you for your involvement and I hope you are all involved again next year!

End of season review

The 2018 season marked the end of the Kim Barnett era, who left mid-season yet can reflect on two summers in which more games were won than in any year since 2011.

There should have been more, too and a frustration for supporters, and challenge for new Head of Cricket Dave Houghton, is to turn more positions of dominance into victories. That said, there have been years where positions of dominance were few and far between, so the 'Barnett model', giving greater responsibility to the captain and senior group, can not be said to have failed.

Houghton can take this on and still allow his captain a degree of freedom. Where it fell down was in the leadership 'group'. Such a group is a laudable idea and some thrive upon it, but where ours fell down was that we had too many senior players who contributed far less than they should have, given their reputation and, one assumes, salary.

There are good cricketers in the Derbyshire squad, some of them very good indeed. The nucleus of Madsen, Godleman, Palladino, Reece, Hughes and Critchley is something that could be quite special, but fresh, better contributing blood is needed around them. The feeling hasn't gone away that we are a batsman light, though the above names, less Palladino, would likely make up five of the top six. The addition of such a player would afford greater balance and confidence that match-winning scores can be made, though there is still a question mark on the resourcing of such a signing for a county that hardly identifies with the word 'affluent'.

On a small staff with, bizarrely, three wicket-keepers, none made the role their own, despite opportunities. The side's need for a wicket-keeper who could make game-changing runs at number seven remains, though Harvey Hosein now looks the most likely bet. A lengthy run in the side would either confirm his talent or highlight frailties in his glove work which are still evident at times. Gary Wilson was a disappointment with the bat and is only a functional keeper, while Daryn Smit, excellent with the gloves, continued to struggle to score the requisite runs. Filling that role properly will be a challenge for 2019, a James Pipe or Luke Sutton the great need.

The bowling was better, but largely because of a golden summer for its oldest member. Tony Palladino took wickets when conditions helped and kept things quiet when they were less in his favour. A new two-year deal followed at the end of the summer, just reward for a player who is hugely respected both inside and outside the county.

Both Hardus Viljoen and Ravi Rampaul disappointed. While both bowled good spells in the Vitality Blast, in four-day cricket they were expensive, erratic and not especially penetrative. Viljoen could occasionally be fast and hostile, but too often lapsed into direction that was shockingly poor at this level. Rampaul's fitness came into question around the ground and, if both players are still at the club next year, a massive improvement is needed in both for us to progress further.

Duanne Olivier was the overseas player for the first half of the summer and proved a great success. Most supporters would be keen to see him return, even keener were he to take up a Kolpak deal. Yet his success will have been noticed elsewhere, his ability to move the ball both ways at good pace, as well as a skiddy bouncer that caused  countless problems a prized asset. Watching him bowl, long arms generating unexpected 'whip', I was reminded of descriptions of Bill Copson. Duanne would not be upset with such comparisons with a county legend and his quiet, friendly persona would be welcomed back in the Derbyshire dressing room.

Lockie Ferguson did a sterling job in the T20 Blast, then was less successful, though whole-hearted, in the four-day game. In the short form, his combination of yorkers and short of a length bowling was a potent weapon, though more predictable from a batting perspective in the long form. His fitness enabled him to bowl long spells without his pace dropping though and he was a popular addition to the squad after arriving at short notice.

The spinners? Matt Critchley did better and a season's work in all formats of just short of a thousand runs and forty-four wickets was a good effort. Both his skill sets can improve still further and hopefully Houghton's coaching will turn a batsman who looks to have so much time into one who makes the big scores consistently. He had a golden week at Chesterfield and it is important that the club reward his talent and obvious potential with a deal that offers him medium term security.

Hamidullah Qadri had few opportunities but has plenty of time on his side and is not yet eighteen. His time will come and, like a few others, the appointment of the right bowling coach will see his game continue to develop. When he played he let no one down and his support bowling to Critchley at Chesterfield was perhaps overlooked at the time.

As for the batsmen, Madsen again passed a thousand runs and 1500 in all forms. His new four-year deal gives confidence for the future, as does the one signed by Billy Godleman. His one-day form was outstanding this year and his four-day form returned to the norm once he returned to his rightful place at the top of the order. Luis Reece was sorely missed for most of the summer and Alex Hughes came within sixty of his breakthrough 2017 tally, but at reduced average. His bowling came on dramatically, however and his value to the club could increase still further, as he turned 27 today and has his best years ahead.

Hughes had a tremendous Vitality Blast with the ball and the way in which Wahab Riaz mentored his bowling in the T20 should not be overlooked. The Pakistan international bowled with pace and nous at the top and tail of the innings, as well as playing some handy innings. His smiling demeanour made him a popular figure and many would be pleased to see him return in 2019.

My verdict on the summer? One of progress. Perhaps not as fast as some supporters would wish, but I like to base my expectations on reality, rather than fantasy. Pre-season I was one of few who saw them as better than bottom in the four-day game and also-rans in the short forms. We ended up mid-table across the board, which was about right. Yet three wins were there for the taking in the four-day game and had they done so would have finished in third place.

There is plenty to do in the winter. To allow for squad improvements, I wouldn't be surprised to see negotiated releases of some players from contracts, because we need much more from those who are the best rewarded. We need a batsman of quality and one, perhaps two bowlers who can be relied upon, but we are moving in the right direction.

The budget is the key factor and such additions do not come cheap. Thus the ongoing and stated development of our own talent is crucial and that will take time.

There were plenty of golden moments to look back on over the winter, however. That has to be worth something and sets us up for a hopefully exciting 2019.

Your thoughts?