Thursday, 30 June 2016

Worcestershire v Derbyshire T20 preview

Having started so brightly in an admittedly tough group, then lost narrowly to some very good sides, Derbyshire travel to the delights of Worcester tomorrow for a 'must win' game in the T20 Blast.

Four straight losses have taken us from potential qualifiers to third bottom, though a win tomorrow will put us back in the mix for the qualifying berths, especially if we can follow it up with a win at Queens Park on Sunday.

After excellent efforts in the second eleven's eight-wicket win over Nottinghamshire today (more later), Scott Elstone and Tom Milnes are back in the squad  for the game. It is one that we will approach in good heart, having acquitted ourselves well against them this season, though we really could do with our Kiwis coming up with the goods. When the situation gets tight, you want your hired hands to do that and they will line up in this squad:

Hamish Rutherford
Wes Durston
Chesney Hughes
Neil Broom
Wayne Madsen
Scott Elstone
Jimmy Neesham
Alex Hughes
Shiv Thakor
Matt Critchley
Tom Poynton
Tom Milnes
Andy Carter

Great to see Wes back in the side and his thunderous starts have been missed of late. Ben Cotton is rested after a lot of overs at Canterbury and I don't expect any changes to the recent eleven.

Our hosts welcome Saffer Kyle Abbott into their ranks and have a good team in this format. It will be a very good game of cricket against this squad:

 Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Daryl Mitchell, Joe Clarke, Alexei Kervezee, Brett D’Oliveira, Ross Whiteley, Ben Cox, Joe Leach, Ed Barnard, Matt Henry, Kyle Abbott, Jack Shantry

We have enough in the side to win the game, but whether we do so is  anyone's guess. I always feel we have a better chance when chasing, so the toss will be important.

Fingers crossed...

Meanwhile, at Worksop, the seconds limited our dear local neighbours to 191-8 in 43 overs. Will Gidman and Greg Smith made 33 each, while Andy Carter took 3-37 and Tom Milnes 2-35.

In reply, Wes and Jon Tattersall went cheaply, but Scott Elstone (85 not) and Charlie McDonnell (67 not) eased their side to a win with four overs to spare.

Good effort lads!

Book Review: The Hard Yards: Highs and Lows of a Life in Cricket by Mike Yardy

Over the years I have written this blog, as regulars will know, I have always chosen my words carefully when talking about players and their form.

There are places on the internet where anything goes, from personal comments to harsh criticism that never seems to take account of one simple thing. That cricketers, like all of us, have things going on in their lives that sometimes make performing at their best a very difficult thing.

We have had our share at Derbyshire in recent years and the mental side of the game is huge. Even if you have the requisite technique or impressive statistics, there is always the niggle that you might not be good enough , might not be able to maintain standard and perhaps cannot deal with critics and their words.

This book is essential reading for anyone who has gone online and been critical of a sportsman or woman. It is also an outstanding read, as it reinforces the fact that even those at, or near the top of the tree have their insecurities. Some of them, big ones.

Like Mike Yardy. A member of a T20 World Cup-winning side and captain of a Sussex side that won two one-day trophies in 2009, yet tormented by self-doubt. Unsure of his talent, whether people believed in him and whether he could sustain his form, he sought help in 2011, when he should have been preparing for a World Cup quarter-final.

This is a fine and brave book, because Yardy was a cricketer that any side would love to have as a member. If this kind of thing can happen to him, how many others might this crippling depression affect? Lots actually, more than you might think and in an age when every ball, shot, drop or decision is scrutinised and commented on by all and sundry, not everyone can handle the pressure and the attention.

Now retired and studying for a degree in sports psychology, a career in which he hopes to help others deal with the highs and lows of professional sport, Mike Yardy can reflect securely on two things.

One, that he WAS a very good cricketer - you don't produce those statistics, nor make it to the level that he did, without being so.

Two that, with his collorator Bruce Talbot, he has produced one of the most compelling cricket books of recent times.

Do yourself a massive favour and buy it. It will open your eyes...

The Hard Yards: Highs and Lows in A Life of Cricket is written by Mike Yardy and published by Pitch Publishing. It is currently available at £18.99 as a hardback

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Kent v Derbyshire day 4

Kent 379 and 238-3 

Derbyshire 574-9

Match drawn

The last day of a game in which Derbyshire acquitted themselves well petered out at tea. The deficit had been easily passed and was always going to be, considering that, with Will Davis injured, we only had two full-time bowlers to pit against a good batting side on a decent track.

Ben Cotton and Tony Palladino huffed and puffed in vain, then it was left to the occasional spin of Wayne, Chesney and Ben to try and winkle them out. Neil Broom got his sixth first-class wicket, while Hamish Rutherford even turned his arm over before the rain mercifully ended things. Such days are dull and entertain no one, to be honest. Four day cricket is pointless when the fourth is like too many have been this summer.

What does it mean for Derbyshire? Well, with seven games left, promotion is slightly more likely than me winning Miss World, but after the slow start we had in the four-day game, 'twas always likely to be so.

What I would like to see now is Harvey Hosein given the gloves for the rest of the summer's four-day cricket. By this stage, we know what Tom Poynton can do and he will doubtless play the one-day games. What we need to know, for next year, is whether Hosein has the mental toughness for day-in, day-out first-class cricket yet, or if we need to look at options.

At nineteen, being first-choice wicket-keeper at the top level is a tough gig, but I do think that we need more runs from that position than we're getting at present. It is the way of the modern game and our side would be so much stronger if we had an O'Brien, Roderick, Cox or Hodd behind the timbers. If TP or Harvey could provide that quality, then fantastic, but we need to look at that carefully in September and over the winter. We have an improved batting side, but there will be plenty of times when a James Pipe/Luke Sutton rearguard action is needed in all forms of the game.

I'd also like to see Matt Critchley get some overs under his belt. Of course, they want him to keep his limited overs bowling mindset right now and I get that, but a day like today cried out for a specialist spinner and we don't have one right now.

There's not many around, of course, but if I was in charge of winter recruitment this year, my number one target would be a spin bowler. If he could bat a bit, great, but a man who you could toss a ball to on the last day of a four-day game and say 'Bowl them out' would be a godsend. Likewise a man who could bowl tight overs in one-day cricket - and get people out too.

My choice? Imran Tahir. At 38 next year, his international days must be coming to a close, but his impact on someone like Matt Critchley for a couple of years could be considerable. Were he available, I'm sure most counties would be chasing him, but his effect on a young side would be massive. No side would fancy 200-plus on the last day with him bowling at one end.

An alternative might be a seamer for April to June and Tahir for the later summer, if he was loathe to commit to a full summer here. He's a match-winner for sure, but others would doubtless see him similarly.

The sad thing is, that's it. Unless Pakistan reveal a mystery spinner for the forthcoming Test series, I can't think of another spinner in the world game who I would bank on to bowl sides out on a regular basis and might be persuaded to come to England. While India has a few, they are unlikely to need county cricket when they can earn fortunes in the IPL.

Sad, isn't it?

Get yourself fit, Edwin. Your county needs you...

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Kent v Derbyshire day 3

Kent 379 and 32-0

Derbyshire 574-9 declared (Madsen 163, Thakor 123)

Kent trail by 163 runs

It would be a great surprise to me if this match ended in anything but a draw tomorrow, but another highly impressive Derbyshire performance has had the sports writers reaching for their thesaurus of superlatives.

Wayne Madsen made his fourth century of the summer and his 22nd for the county, a total surpassed only by JohnWright, Peter Kirsten, John Morris and Kim Barnett. Those names suggest the magnitude of the feat and I have no doubt that he will ultimately go past all but the supremely gifted, if unorthodox, Barnett.

Be in no doubt, while you enjoy watching him bat in coming seasons, that you are witnessing one of the greatest batsmen in the club's history. He is young enough and sufficiently motivated to double his current tally, unless his record comes under scrutiny at a higher level.

Wayne is now the highest scorer in the country. Sure, it is against division two attacks, as detractors will say, but runs are runs and it should not be ignored that in our summer in division one, he was one of the leading scorers in the country. First to the thousand mark, if memory serves me correctly.

I have no doubt that Wayne would score runs at the top level. He has a rock solid technique, being more organised than many who have played at that level. He is at home against pace and spin alike and has no discernible weakness. You can't bounce him out, because he rarely hooks; you can't bank on getting him early  as he gets hands, eyes and feet working more quickly than most. Were there any justice in the game, he will be under consideration for a winter tour, because he WILL get runs. He made them as a captain, he's made them as one of the ranks. He is simply an outstanding cricketer.

Some years his junior, Shiv Thakor is also emerging as a special talent. He looked it at Leicestershire, had a quiet and modest year last summer and this time has looked a player of genuine class with bat and ball. 522 runs at 87, eighteen wickets at 27: by crikey, the lad can play. His bowling is always likely to get wickets, while his batting has the flourish of the best. He will be an England player in the next five years, without any doubt - and quite possibly sooner.

Their efforts took Derbyshire to a sizeable lead today, but Will Davis is unlikely to bowl tomorrow with a hip injury and the wicket is simply too slow for anything other than TNT to cause batsmen problems.

Nonetheless, in both making centuries against Kent for the second time this summer, Wayne and Shiv set a little bit of Derbyshire history.

We may not win a trophy this summer, but slowly and surely the blocks are falling into place for a good little team over the next few years. Four or five solid batsmen, a couple of all-rounders, two good young seamers emerging...

Yeah, plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Kent v Derbyshire day 2

Kent 379 (Northeast 191, Palladino 4-76, Davis 3-86)

Derbyshire 291-3 (Hughes 83, Madsen 73 not, Rutherford 65)

Derbyshire trail by 88 runs

A good, solid day for Derbyshire today ended with the side in a position of some dominance and perhaps able to push ahead tomorrow and leave the hosts with a tricky final day.

The last Kent wickets went down with the minimum of fuss, leaving them 21 short of their final batting bonus point and Sam Northeast dismissed nine short of a double century. Four wickets for Tony Palladino completed another sound performance by the veteran seamer, who is enjoying a good season.

Our batting progress was solid, rather than spectacular, but with two days left in the game, that was the requirement at this stage. The Kent attack, shorn of Matt Coles for 'personal reasons', could make little impact and all of the batsmen got starts.

Both Hamish Rutherford and Chesney Hughes will be disappointed not to convert good innings into match-defining ones, though Wayne Madsen sailed serenely on to stumps in the company of Neil Broom. With Ben Slater and Shiv Thakor to come next, Derbyshire have plenty of batting to push ahead and make the final day a potential push for victory - albeit on a wicket that is now said to be slow and lifeless.

The thinking money will remain on the draw, so Derbyshire need to get ahead and then push on tomorrow.

At least, I'm sure, that's the plan at this stage. a jocular fashion, maybe it's time for whoever updates the score to stop saying 'X is going well' or 'This is a great partnership'. Invariably it results in a wicket. Today was 'Chesney is looking back to the form in which he started the campaign'. Next tweet is 'Wicket: Chesney is out'.

Sigh...I know - when they bat, try 'the Derbyshire attack is looking fairly ineffective today'.

We'll bowl 'em out in two sessions...

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Kent v Derbyshire day 1

Kent 354-7 (Northeast 173 not, Ball 66, Palladino 3-69, Davis 3-81)

v Derbyshire

Sam Northeast played a captain's innings for Kent today, steering them from the perils of 90-4 to a fairly satisfied 354-7 by the close.

It was a fine knock that prevented Derbyshire from capitalising on another fine spell by Will Davis. The teenage pace bowler apparently got good swing in the early sessions, before later in the day the batsmen were able to fight back and get a decent score on the board.

Davis suggests that with another couple of years on him he could be quite special, while Tony Palladino showed that experience is something that improves all bowlers with another three wickets. Ben Cotton bowled tidily, but Shiv Thakor was probably not bowling flat out and the Kent batsmen racked up runs against a makeshift spin attack of Madsen, Hughes and Slater.

We'll not know the true value of the score until Derbyshire has batted, of course, but there appear to be no undue perils in the wicket and we shouldn't be too concerned about batting when our turn comes tomorrow.

In closing, I must praise a very disciplined performance by Derbyshire in the field. Only six extras in the day, one bye, three leg byes and two no balls. On a wicket that according to reports flattened out after early assistance, that is a good effort.

More from me tomorrow.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Kent v Derbyshire preview

Shiv Thakor is back in the Derbyshire 13 for their game against Kent at Canterbury, starting tomorrow.

The following squad has travelled:

Billy Godleman
Hamish Rutherford
Chesney Hughes
Wayne Madsen
Neil Broom
Shiv Thakor
Ben Slater
Tom Poynton
Rob Hemmings
Tony Palladino
Matt Critchley
Ben Cotton
Will Davis

If I was selecting the side on current form, the two to miss out would be Chesney Hughes and Rob Hemmings. Rob let no one down on debut, but there are stronger claims, while Chesney's recent form has been sketchy and Ben Slater, to be honest, is more deserving of a place. I'd open with Bill and Ben, then have Hamish at first drop.

As for the home side, they have yet to announce a team but having beaten us at Derby will hope to complete the double. I still think they bat better than they bowl, but we will need to up our game to get anything from this.

We can do though and, last night apart, we have played well in the last month. Let's not forget that we'd have likely beaten Worcestershire given four days of cricket.

I think, given a decent forecast, we can get the win points here.

Your thoughts are, as always, appreciated!

Questions being asked

There's a couple of questions being asked of me in your post comments and personal emails that I would like to take the opportunity to address on an otherwise quiet day.

The recurring one is why Tom Poynton hasn't yet been replaced by Harvey Hosein.

Tom is a lovely bloke, a very competent wicket-keeper and a batsman of talent, not always realised when he gets to the crease. He will play an occasional innings that hints of what he can do and that his batting skills are coming to the fore, then lapse into a run of mediocre scores. His glove work is generally sound, though a mistake or two has proved costly of late, according to reports.

The trouble is, Harvey Hosein has no real batting form to force his case. At 19, I don't think there's much between the two behind the stumps. I think Poynton, older and more confident at 26, keeps on top of the fielders better, Hosein has the greater potential with the bat. Yet Harvey has only played T20 cricket since the end of May, when he made 50 against Nottinghamshire, since when his scores have been 12 not, 1, 7 not, 10, 5 not, 0 and 25. The figures don't push his claim, even if the lot of a middle order bat in T20 is not a happy one at times.

I have seen both men keep well, and less so, but it is a high-profile role and, like goalkeepers in football, when a keeper makes a mistake it is usually critical. Harvey has time on his side and will, I think, be first choice for years once he establishes himself. He may well be good enough to bat five or six too, something that Tom won't, in my opinion.

Both are very good cricketers, they all are at this level, but their batting returns won't yet stop Derbyshire supporters looking around the circuit at other counties and the match-winning knocks their glove men produce and wishing. A more productive wicket-keeper with the bat wouldn't have changed much this summer from a results perspective, but come season end we have to look around and see if there is someone out there who could offer more, even if just as a stop gap until Harvey comes of age.

For what it is worth, I'd prefer us to play Tom in one-day cricket and Harvey in the championship. It is a compromise, but one that will help the youngster learn the concentration skills he needs for a top-level career. With respect, he won't do that playing T20 after T20 in the seconds and having to swing the bat when he does get a knock.

The other question is what I think of Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom's efforts this year and have they been worthwhile signings so far.

The answer is no, they haven't. They seem lovely blokes and have good reputations, but the bottom line for any overseas cricketer is that you will be judged on your statistics and the number of matches you win for your side. A mid-twenties average is acceptable for a young lad making his way in the county game, but the expectations are much higher when you are brought from another country, provided with a car and accommodation and are well paid.

Both have shown what they can do in bursts, but to pluck two names at random, we could have played Tom Wood and Jon Tattersall in one and four-day cricket this year and they would have largely matched the return of the Kiwis. From the current staff, both Ben Slater and Scott Elstone may have averaged the same, or in Slater's case, likely better. None of them would be costing as much.

It's a tricky thing though. Amla, Dilshan, Rutherford - all good players with credentials, but disappointing returns. Where are you now, John Wright and Peter Kirsten. What we'd give for their like again.

I cannot fault the thought process of the signings, but in neither case have we yet had the evidence that the value is commensurate to the cost. You look at someone like Wayne Madsen, each year since he has been  'taking the place of a local lad' he has averaged 58, 34, 27, 37, 41, 39, 47 and this year 55. They are quality statistics, befitting a quality player and others must aspire to similar.

Good second halves of season required in both cases for me to be convinced.

Elvaston CC book launch - 15 July

I'm also thrilled to be doing an event with Edwin Smith at Elvaston CC on Friday 15 July.

I will be talking about the new book, then Edwin and I will chat about his career and answer questions from the audience. It will also be the last chance to pick up a copy of Edwin's biography, with final copies on sale on the night.

It is hoped that the evening will see the only two living men to take a thousand wickets for Derbyshire together again, which will be really special.

Elvaston Cricket Club is on Stable Drive, Elvaston,  DE72 3EP and tickets for the event are £3, with proceeds going to the club's Defibrillator Appeal Fund. There will be a bar and food available, with the evening starting at 7.30pm.
Tickets are available from the club, or by calling Andy on 07722 485213.
I do hope that you come along, say hello and enjoy a fun evening of cricket chat, as well as supporting a very worthy cause.
Sincere thanks to Andy for all the organisation!

Chesterfield Launch

There will be autograph opportunities a-plenty at the launch of my book on Derbyshire CCC on July 11 at Chesterfield Library, 7pm for 7.30pm.

Various Derbyshire players will be in attendance (no names, got to turn up to find out who...) and the evening represents a great opportunity to hear a short talk from me about the background to the book - and the blog - then answer questions, along with those great names from the club's history.

There will then be a chance to buy the book and get it autographed by some of those whose tales are told within its pages. It should make for a cracking evening and tickets seem to be going well.

They are £3 and are available from Chesterfield Library by calling 01629 533400. Alternatively, you can pop in and pick one up from the library.

I look forward to seeing you there!