Thursday, 17 October 2019

The winter blog

After taking a few days break from blogging, it's time to return with a few updates.

The draft for The Hundred takes place on Sunday. Not that I am bothered, but I fully understand why people whose job is cricket have put their names in the frame. From my cursory look at the players in the draft, the only Derbyshire players not in for it are Tony Palladino, Harvey Hosein and Dustin Melton, none of them with a T20 record to speak for them.

What amused me was that of eight players with a reserve price of £40K, one was Wayne Madsen, which I fully understood, and the other Hamidullah Qadri. The latter astonished me and suggested a player poorly advised, when one looked at the talent pool with no reserve price, some from overseas. His chances of being picked up, I would reckon, are slightly better than mine, especially at that price.

Bizarre.

Anyway, I will henceforth only write about that competition as it affects Derbyshire. We will know soon enough who will miss a part of the county season, the only concern for me. My guess is that Madsen, Critchley, Rampaul and Reece will get a gig, but others may be unlucky. We'll see.

As for the blog over the winter, I will naturally report on any news and offer my thoughts, as well as running a fascinating interview that I did with Tony Palladino before the end of the season. Tony discussed his long and impressive career with me  and gave his thoughts on a number of things that interested me.

I will also, as the club prepares for its 150th anniversary celebration next year, be writing about my memories of the 100th anniversary in 1970, which is still one of my favourite cricket seasons.

It was a summer when the South Africans were banned from touring, so a Rest of the World side played England in some enthralling matches. A year when Ian Buxton led the Derbyshire side well and to a Sunday League challenge, and when Chris Wilkins exploded onto the county scene with a series of punishing displays in both three and one-day cricket.

A summer of three formats, memorable matches, considerable sunshine and golden memories for me, as my Dad and I travelled the length and breadth of Derbyshire in his Ford Anglia. I probably saw more cricket in the flesh that summer than since, on reflection, as our travels took us from Derby to Chesterfield, Buxton and Ilkeston.

There was much to enjoy and I hope our 150th proves equally memorable.

I just have to write it now...

Monday, 7 October 2019

Fantasy League winners look familiar

This year's Peakfan Blog Fantasy Cricket League winners roll has a familiar look.

With the inevitability of a Madsen cover drive going for four, David Aust came top again, beating runner up Marc Perni by six hundred points. Marc also came third with his other team, which represents a fine summer's work by him.

Sadly, there is nothing in fantasy cricket for runners up, because David Aust gets the medal for first place. However, Clive Whitmore won the runs league, while Marc won the wickets equivalent.

If all three gentlemen can get in touch in the next week or so with their addresses, I will get their medals in the post to them. As always, you can get me at peakfan36@yahoo.co.uk

As for yours truly, I am quite happy with mid-table respectability, or mediocrity if you will. Considering I never changed my side after the commencement of the Vitality Blast, I did pretty well really and never came close to using all my substitutes.

What I did do was pick Wayne Madsen and Luis Reece, each of who rewarded me with fine seasons. So too Dane Vilas at Lancashire, but I should have replaced out of form and injured players.

Maybe next season I will do better, but in all likelihood I won't. The advent of summer holidays normally spells the end of my close monitoring of the league and my team.

But it is fun and this year's 33 teams was a new record. Thank you to all of those who took part and I hope you enjoyed it.

See you next Spring, all being well!

Stumbling block to Lace deal?

It would appear that I and a few others may have been premature in suggesting that Tom Lace will be at Derbyshire next summer.

It may still happen, but a Google search in a quiet moment this weekend revealed that the player is contracted to Middlesex until the end of next season.

That Derbyshire want to sign him is almost certainly a given. Not just the runs he made, but the way that he made them suggested that Tom is a player to watch, one who thrived under the tutelage of Dave Houghton.

It's a funny game. Tom didn't score too many in his Derbyshire Premier League appearances last summer, whereas Tom Wood racked up the runs in his time honoured way. It was the same the year before, when Lace averaged 25 for Middlesex seconds, while Wood was just under 40 for us.

Yet Lace took to county cricket as a duck to water, registering three centuries, the support of Billy Godleman and Wayne Madsen key in his development. Indeed, if you look back at the footage of when he reached a century for the first time, against Glamorgan, you can see his captain, importantly at the crease with him, celebrating almost as much as the player himself  as they ran the run to get him to the landmark.

Such altruism is indicative of the positive culture that Dave Houghton and Billy have engendered at the club. It was evident again after Luis Reece reached a sublime century against Sussex, when Godleman gave him the longest hug I have ever seen on a cricket pitch. It showed a captain who cared, a club that had a tight and supportive dressing room. Who wouldn't want to play in such an environment? Reece's willingness to commit his next four years to the county last week spoke volumes.

I know Tom loved his summer in Derby and has made good friends. If the decision was solely his, I am sure that he would be signing on the dotted line at the earliest opportunity. That he has developed under Dave Houghton's coaching is beyond dispute.

But it isn't his decision alone.

IF he has requested to be released from the final year of his contract, my guess is that we should hear something by the end of this month. Stuart Law and Angus Fraser will want to move on with their own team building plans and Law has already said that he wants to bring in 'greater experience' to a Middlesex side that under-performed this summer.

Of course, that doesn't fit especially well with offering greater opportunity to a 21-year old with a handful of first-class matches under his belt. They could, however, insist that he stays as an option in a batting line up that has lost Paul Stirling (now classed as overseas) and looks set to lose Dawid Malan. Rumours suggest an Australian batsman coming in as captain, which would fill one of those positions, while there are plenty of candidates for the other within the club.

We all know, of course, that contracts have been cancelled by plenty of counties around the country when a player is keen to move. Tom doesn't strike me as the sort of player to go in a huff if he doesn't get his way, but the point of keeping a player who wants to be somewhere else, and feels such a move perhaps best for his development is debatable.

What might happen is that Lace starts the summer at Middlesex, but is then made available for loan if seen then as surplus to requirements. Houghton would undoubtedly be interested at that point, as I am sure he is now, but the beneficiary might be Tom Wood.

If Lace were at Middlesex until, say, June then Wood might be a handy batsman to have on the staff until that point. Equally, were Godleman, Madsen and Reece to be picked up for The Hundred, then Wood again could be a more than useful player to step up.

It is all up in the air, but I suspect we will know more before the fireworks night party at the 3aaa County Ground.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Recent signings make Wood move unlikely

A comment from Chaddesden Jim below my season review made me think a short piece was in order on Tom Wood.

Jim suggested that Tom was worth signing as batting cover, after his prolific run-scoring in the Derbyshire Premier League, for the second team and in Australia for the last few winters, where he has been a consistent and prolific scorer in first grade.

I am a fan of Tom and there is no doubt that he can play. At most points of our recent history, up to and including the early summer this year, I would have said him worthy of greater opportunity than he has had.

Then we signed Leus du Plooy and Fynn Hudson-Prentice, followed by a deal for Anuj Dal for the next two years.

The first two have made a big and immediate impact, both delivering runs and Fynn appearing to be an all-rounder of considerable talent. Anuj just missed out on a maiden century batting high in the order, fielded brilliantly and showed himself a bowler of some potential.

I just don't think that we can afford a batsman as cover, especially when one looks at the strength in depth of the current squad and people able to step up.

A notional first choice twelve for next summer would be Godleman, Reece, Madsen, du Plooy, Hughes, Critchley, Hosein, Hudson-Prentice, Dal, Overseas, Rampaul, Palladino.

That ignores the possiblity of signing Tom Lace on a permanent deal and sees good players already outside the squad. Most in that top nine could move up the order a place or two, and the ability of almost all of them to offer something with the ball makes them valuable cricketers.

Tom bowls a little off spin, but not to the standard of the others. Nor is he as fleet-footed in the field, though he has a fine pair of hands.

I think him deserving of an opportunity, based on his returns at lower levels, but I also think we would have heard by now, had that been an option. We cannot afford £20K-plus for a second team player for the summer, who may likely not be required in all but exceptional circumstances.

I feel for him though. He has put a career on hold to try to make it in the first-class game, travelled around the country for expenses only playing most second team matches over the last two summers and not got anywhere at the end of it. It's a shame, but such is professional sport, as such is life. It is a competition and a lot of people don't get what they want, or perhaps deserve in it.

Maybe, just maybe if Lace stays at Middlesex, there will be a gap in the resources, but I have a feeling that the staff can see and are buying in to what Dave Houghton is building at Derbyshire. I would be more surprised if Tom didn't sign, than if he did, but as his current employer Middlesex are entitled to enter and conclude contract discussions before we can make a move.

We'll see.

Reece news a weekend and winter tonic

Once again Dave Houghton has moved quickly to protect Derbyshire's prime assets from predatory rivals, with today's news on a contract extension for Luis Reece.

The all-rounder has signed a two-year contract extension, taking his current deal, which expired in 2021, to the end of the 2023 season.

There are few players in the game who return 1420 runs in the summer, fewer still who add to that with 67 wickets, also across all formats. That Luis has done so while opening the batting and sometimes the bowling makes his efforts all the more laudable.

While a sizeable section of the club support feels those demands are putting unnecessary pressure on him, the bottom line is that the player must feel that he can handle it. It is most likely to be an issue if a long session in the field is followed by his needing to 'switch on' his batting head, but Luis will rightly point to his performance against Sussex at Derby, where five wickets were followed by one of the finest innings you could wish to see.

He is a one of a kind player. Jacques Kallis bowled first change and batted three, Eddie Barlow opened for South Africa and was often second or third change. Yet Barlow bowled only occasionally for his country, whose attack was strong enough without him, while Kallis bowled less as he got older.

Lancashire supporters have been proved correct on this one. When he moved to Derbyshire, I was told by a number of their fans at cricket talks that we had a fine player and they had made a mistake. He had looked a player of talent at Old Trafford, but in cameo bursts, without stringing performances together. Perhaps they weren't sure how best to use him, but Kim Barnett, to give him his due, spotted something and gave him an opportunity.

He has repaid that in style. There was a brief flirtation with slow left arm, but he has since gone back to left arm seam and swing bowling that always threatens and usually delivers wickets, late inswing and one that goes across the batsman being potent weapons. He bowled at a good pace in 2019, though reducing it to good effect in the one-day game.

A stress fracture of the foot in 2018 was followed by an ankle issue this year, but he played through it and gave extraordinary value to the club. He played with a smile on his face too and what I like about Luis is that he looks like he enjoys and appreciates every minute on the cricket field. He bristles with aggression, but it is channelled correctly and he is a very good man to have on your side.

He can get better still. He is still at the crease and correct in technique, a man capable of teeing off from the start in one-day games, while digging in to bat time in the longer format. I don't expect to see many better innings than the one he played at Derby in the season closer, when a century between lunch and tea could have been followed by another between tea and the close, had a mix up with his skipper not seen him run out. Such mix ups cost him runs early season, but we must hope they are more used to one another now.

Anuj Dal has signed for two more years, Leus du Plooy for three, Reece for four. That has been a fine few weeks work by the Head of Cricket. Derbyshire supporters can head into the winter in fine fettle, more confident in the club's future than for a number of years.

That jigsaw is coming together very nicely.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

What next?

After a busy spell at work, I now have eleven blissful days off. Mrs P and daughter are heading to Poland for a few days next week, while son is in London for a long weekend.

I'll be at home with our dog, enjoying long walks, writing a few articles and perhaps making a start on my third book, which isn't about cricket...

It will also give me a chance to catch up on correspondence, which has slipped a little, so apologies if you have not heard back from me. There has been a regular subject in my emails, namely what do I expect us to do over the winter?

To be honest, I don't expect major business.I hope that we will see Matt Critchley sign a new deal, his current one running until the end of next summer. I think Matt is happy at the club, where he is respected and liked, as well as being in a set up that is settled and positive. He will have seen the travails of his good friend Ben Slater, who moved to the club down the road, averaged 20 and had a season-highest in four-day cricket of 76. At this stage, Ben will not be thinking he made the right move and he may not start next season in the first team, if his county do their normal winter scouring of young talent elsewhere and waving of a cheque book.

Matt's 2019 summer was not of the kind that made others sit up and take note, but he bowled well in the T20. He needs to work on his batting, which looks good but doesn't last long enough, and could then be a special player.

Indeed, his not signing is the only way I could see us show interest in Ollie Rayner. Several asked if I thought we might move for him, but he is an experienced, solid county player on commensurate salary. Unless someone leaves, or the club finds a suitcase of used notes buried under the Gateway Building, I don't see him being high on our list of needs, nor how we would fit him into a first-choice side, to be honest. A compact, competitive squad is Dave Houghton's preference and most of them did a good job in 2019.

I would like to see us sign Tom Lace, but then Middlesex may well want to keep him. What I saw of their batting this summer looked anaemic and rumours suggest another dressing room that isn't the happiest. It is a big decision for Tom to make this winter, but for not just parochial reasons I think playing in a welcoming, positive environment would be best for Tom's development. If he signed, it would give us a very strong top five in which I would have considerable confidence.

Our great need, touched on today in an interview by Dave Houghton, is a reliable strike bowler. I didn't realise that Logan van Beek had a knee injury all summer, though I know he struggled towards the end. Maybe, fully fit, he could have made a difference for us, because a promotion spot was definitely there for the taking, if we had that special overseas bowler who wins matches.

This summer's Australian squad had several fine bowlers, though I suspect their main international ones will struggle to get a No Objection Certificate from their board. More likely are the second tier ones, and as I said at the time, I thought Michael Neser looked a player of real quality against us. He took thirteen wickets on the tour for only 176 runs and is a good enough batsman to average mid-twenties too. I wondered about Joe Mennie, but I think his last international appearance is now too long ago to qualify to play, unless he has a UK passport in his ancestry. Neser hasn't yet played a Test match either, which would appear an issue, but I have every confidence that Dave Houghton will have irons in the fire.

One of them will be getting nicely hot in the coming weeks.

Add in, perhaps, another young bowler from elsewhere, I suspect that will be our winter.

But it will be a pretty good one, if that all comes together, don't you think?

Friday, 27 September 2019

Season review

For a side that based on the predictions of most critics was supposed to roll over and die, before ending bottom in everything, Derbyshire punched above their weight in 2019.

Mid-table in the RLODC, seventh in the four-day game and semi-finalists, praise be, in the T20 was a fine start for David Houghton. He recruited shrewdly in his coaches, Dominic Cork doing especially well in the Vitality Blast, and oversaw the season by exuding a reassuring calmness. I have heard no ill spoken of him and the respect of the players and supporters is evident when one walks around the ground.

The perennial financial constraints meant that he needed his big players to stand up to be counted and he was rewarded in spades. Billy Godleman had his best season, captaining in all formats and doing a solid job. He passed a thousand runs in the county championship and was only 26 runs short in the one-day formats. He led from the front, batted in his unique style and was a run machine, topping two thousand runs for the summer. We are lucky to have him.

His opening partner Luis Reece perhaps suffered from having to do too much bowling, but also had a fine summer. Over 1400 runs and almost seventy wickets in all formats made him a massive player for the club, all of it done with a smile on his face that showed a man who was enjoying life. Maybe a middle order role would be more beneficial for his batting, as well as his body, but his 184 against Sussex in the final home game will live long in the memories of those who saw it. He can rest easily this winter, like his captain, having done as much as anyone could have wished.

There was a little decline in the four-day returns of Wayne Madsen, who got 204 at Bristol but only 590 runs in his other 23 innings, but he remains the wicket most wanted by opponents and over 1650 runs in all competitions confirms there is plenty in the tank yet. In full flow he is still a joy to watch, while his fielding saw him take 35 catches in all formats. He remains a huge player for the club and one to enjoy for as long as it lasts.

Tom Lace enjoyed a fine summer in the middle order, though making only occasional appearances in the one-day side. His poise and balance at the crease was reminiscent of Ian Bell and three centuries and the same number of fifties in nineteen innings suggested him as one to watch. If Houghton can persuade him to make Derby his home for the next few years it would be a major coup this winter. A top five of Godleman, Reece, Madsen, Lace and du Plooy would give us our strongest in many a summer. At 21, Lace has the potential to go a long way in the game.

Leus du Plooy came in after the summer started and missed several weeks after breaking a thumb at Durham. Thereafter, he exuded class, exquisite timing and a destructive inventiveness in the one day game that is the preserve of the best. He took time to come to terms with the red Dukes ball on English wickets, something he had not faced before, but still averaged 40. In the one-day game he had a shot for every ball, while his fielding was reliable wherever required. If his bowling develops as it looks possible, we will have an extraordinary player on our hands, Houghton sensibly having extended his contract to the end of 2022.

It was a mixed season for Alex Hughes, whose early century at Bristol was his only one of the summer. He had few opportunities in the one-day game, such was the form of those above him, but was a key member of the attack in the T20, where his accuracy and variations made him hard to get after. His fielding remains brilliant in any position and criticism needs to take account of an injury that saw him struggle over the season's closing weeks

There were mixed returns too for Matt Critchley. He endured one of those seasons encountered by most young players, a batting average of 22 half that of his bowling one, where he struggled to take wickets in the four-day game. The injury that saw Matt McKiernan miss most of the summer, together with the lack of development with Hamidullah Qadri gave him a free run at the spinner's role. Mark Watt bowled tidily on occasion, but looks a one-day player only, so the club needs Critchley to kick on another year. The talent is there, for sure, but the spinner's role is very much up for grabs at the club and winter work is needed for a player of obvious talent.

Fynn Hudson-Prentice started the summer in the second team on trial and after some fine displays earned a 2.5 year contract. When he broke into the senior side he became a key member, playing some punishing innings and having a knack of breaking partnerships. Time will tell if he is a genuine all-rounder, but he has all the assets to become a really good county cricketer. Sussex's loss is very much a Derbyshire gain and he will prove another fine acquisition by the Head of Cricket.

It is hard to over-praise Ravi Rampaul. At the end of last summer he looked unfit and a shadow of the erstwhile international bowler he was. This year he responded to being the leader of the attack with remarkable consistency and fitness, taking 75 wickets in the various formats. Time after time he broke through, maintained control and was both shock and stock bowler. With better support at the other end we should have earned four-day promotion, but Logan van Beek disappointed as overseas player and Tony Palladino, while still a model of accuracy, struggled with injury as the season went on and understandably lost a little nip at the age of 36.

Harvey Hosein was entrusted with the gloves for most of the summer and was steady, both behind and in front of the stumps. Standing up his handling is not so sure, but the lack of quality spin meant this was rarely an issue. His batting was stylish when he got going, though early uncertainties took his average under thirty and more power at the crease would see him cement his role in the side. Daryn Smit took over for the T20 and kept beautifully, standing up as the pace was taken off in the middle overs and making few mistakes. He skippered a largely experimental second team well, but had few opportunities to bat at senior level.

The lack of progress by James Taylor and Alfie Gleadall saw both released, though they have only to look to the example of Hudson-Prentice to see what can happen if you go away and work at your game. Sam Conners did better and was retained, but will know that he has to get fitter over the winter. There is an opportunity for him if he does so, as his natural talent, whippy pace and height give him the basic tools of the trade.

Dustin Melton earned a contract for next year towards the end of the summer, on the back of some good displays for the second team. His pace was undeniable, but he will need to work on the line and length to become a regular next year. Like the departing Logan van Beek, raw pace is fine, but at senior level they will just wait for the bad ball and punish you. The potential is worthy of examination, but time will tell if senior cricket is a reality for him.

Finally, and a little out of turn, Anuj Dal. Released by Nottinghamshire, he looked good as a batsman but lacked opportunity, then turned out to be a very useful bowler, with a bustling medium pace. He too was rewarded with a contract, this time for two years, and it was well deserved. A batting average of 22 and bowling one of 20 suggests he too could add to the county's clutch of talented all-round cricketers, while his brilliance in the field is always likely to give him an edge in selection discussions.

It was an exhilarating summer, for Derbyshire and for cricket supporters generally. There were frustrating sessions of old-style Derbyshire ineptitude, but there was increasing evidence of a proper side emerging. If one of the spinners develops, or we sign one from elsewhere, with a good overseas seamer it would make a huge difference to this side. A deal for Tom Lace would leave no concerns over the batting and supporters can look forward to 2020, and all it offers, with a degree of anticipation and excitement.

Thanks to all of you for your support of the blog over the summer. Growth has again been remarkable and the two million views barrier has been left well behind.

I will be back soon - and I look forward immensely to your end of season comments.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Middlesex v Derbyshire day 4

Middlesex 260

Derbyshire 304-7 (du Plooy 100*, Hosein 57, Bamber 5-93)

Match drawn

There's not much to say about the shortened final day of the summer's cricket season than that two players who emerged during it made the biggest impression.

Leus du Plooy became the first Derbyshire batsman to make home and away centuries against Middlesex, ending a highly impressive first summer with the county in a way I expect to become quite commonplace. The raising of the bat and removal of the helmet to reveal a bandana could become a regular occurrence if this summer is anything to go by and his class has been evident from the start of his career with us.

So too that of Fynn Hudson-Prentice, who again showed how he could become a key player in the years ahead with a breezy cameo. Twenty wickets at 23, together with a batting average of 34 suggests that in Fynn and Luis Reece we have two genuine all rounders, not just bowlers who bat, or batsmen that bowl.

The recruitment of those two this summer has been a massive plus, but a look at the playing staff on the club website shows that strengthening is needed over the winter.

It lists twenty players on the staff, but that includes Tony Palladino, who plays only four-day cricket, Mark Watt who played only a few one-day games and Daryn Smit, who has been primarily in the seconds. With Logan van Beek there and already gone, Darren Stevens another and likewise, Qadri a third and going, it leaves a paper-thin squad in urgent need of reinforcement. Hopefully one of those might be Tom Lace, who is also up there, but still technically a Middlesex player.

I will be back over the weekend with my end of season review, and I look forward to your comments in due course.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Middlesex v Derbyshire day 3

Middlesex 260 (Reece 4-61, Hudson-Prentice 3-65)

Derbyshire 199-4 (Hosein 56*. du Plooy 55*)

Derbyshire trail by 61 runs

Maybe because it was the season's penultimate day, perhaps because we did pretty well, but I really enjoyed today's cricket from Lord's.

I thought Luis Reece and Fynn Hudson-Prentice bot did very well in the morning session, and whatever else happens over the winter, I think that we have two genuine all-rounders in that pair. Both average more with the bat than the ball  and will continue to progress in the years ahead.

Later, Godleman and Reece came out as if it was a Vitality Blast match, putting on 49 runs before each was out quickly, Wayne Madsen going in between for a first baller. At 55-3 a rebuild was needed, but Hughes helped Leus du Plooy add 48, before an unbroken stand of 96 between the latter and Harvey Hosein gave Derbyshire a position of dominance.

It was as well as I have seen Hosein play, the caveat being that Middlesex had a bizarre theory that he was weak against the short ball. This was disproved in convincing fashion, with a series of powerful hooks and pulls that merely confirmed it as one of his stronger strokes.

At the other end the silky du Plooy also eased to a composed fifty, an innings replete with the caressed cover drive that is fast becoming his trademark shot. Increasingly I am of the opinion that I have seen no better timer of a ball since Azharuddin and the thought of watching him over the next few summers is an engaging one.

As for the game, if the weather allows a full day tomorrow, there will doubtless be a last afternoon run chase. Derbyshire may want that extra run for a bonus point, but with the forecast showery a positive result looks unlikely and they may just aim to bat on.

A draw would make no difference to our league position, however, so we may be in for some interesting cricket tomorrow.

van Beek returns home

Logan van Beek ran in hard for the first game of his Derbyshire career, did the same in his last and maintained that same, one hundred per cent commitment throughout.

No one could fault his efforts for the club and despite his on field struggles he remained a genial, approachable lad. There was a ready and regular smile on his face and he bought readily into the club ethos.

Yet the bottom line was that his figures were not remotely close enough to a level required for the high pressure gig of overseas professional. In the county championship there were just nineteen wickets at 38 runs each, figures that ideally needed reversed, while a career batting average in the mid-twenties slipped to the mid-teens in Derbyshire colours, as the Dukes ball and English wickets proved challenging.

After a domestic winter in New Zealand where he had over forty wickets at fourteen each, we can only assume that whatever the quality in their national squad, there is not a lot of depth. Logan never found the right line and length consistently, and while he had a good bouncer that surprised a few with its venom, the perception from the boundary edge was that he was an 'Ooh' bowler, who beats the bat enough to impress those viewing, but bowls a length that will do that but not take wickets.

I watched a lot of him this summer, with time to do so post-surgery, and spent a lot of that time willing him to succeed. There were good spells, when he troubled batsmen, but most overs contained a 'release ball' that the batsman could get away for runs without being frustrated out. He would continue to run in hard, sometimes ending up on all fours with the effort, but it just didn't work out for him.

He never let us down in the field, where he was athletic with sure hands. His catch against Durham at Derby in early season turned the game, his subsequent spell perhaps as good as it got. Maybe, had he been playing under a European passport as a Netherlands player we may have been more understanding and he may have done better, but that overseas role is a tough gig.

He was not the first to find the going tough. Several before him came over in Kolpak and overseas roles and buckled under the strain. A player as brilliant as Lawrence Rowe couldn't cut it, nor Nantie Hayward, Hashim Amla, Dilshan, Telo, Rutherford, Broom et al. There is a world of difference between being expected to contribute to a win and being the one who does the winning.

I'd be surprised if he makes his goal as a Kiwi international, but you never know. Matt Henry struggled at Derbyshire, stood out for Kent and played a pivotal role in the World Cup this summer, as did Jimmy Neesham. None of those above were bad cricketers, some were great, but for whatever reason it never really worked out for them in Derbyshire colours.

The wording of the news in the club Twitter feed today suggested that he won't be back another year, given the benefit of the doubt on improvement. I think that is right, because to take the next step as a team we need a seam bowler who will lead the line. Rampaul has been brilliant this year, but will likely be in the new competition next year, after a stellar T20. Tony Palladino cannot go on forever and both Melton and Conners have much to do to prove themselves.

I think we may look to Australia, who have no international cricket over the next English summer and there are several players there who could do us a fine job. We would do very well, and may need to rob a bank to afford the likes of Hazlewood and Cummins, who may prefer to rest anyway, but there are others who would be very good options.

I am sure that Dave Houghton already has options and with Cameron Bancroft already signed for Durham and Travis Head for Sussex, other counties are already moving fast.

Last winter's evidence suggested that Houghton likes to move quickly on contracts, so expect news from Derbyshire in the coming weeks.

Middlesex v Derbyshire day 1 and 2 - plus Qadri leaves

Long, compressed hours at work have meant that I had no time to write about the little play on the first two days of this game, but the upside is that, weather permitting, I may get to see some play on the last two days of the summer's cricket.

I haven't missed much to be fair, though Luis Reece reaching fifty wickets for the summer was a terrific landmark. If the game has sufficient time left for him to reach a thousand runs - and he needs a further 82 to do so - he can put his feet up in the knowledge of being the first Derbyshire player to complete the 'modern double' of a thousand runs and fifty wickets. Either way, he can reflect on an outstanding summer.

There was a wicket at Lord's too for Sam Conners, who just might be the young breakthrough seam bowler we have been waiting for. He seems to have the requisite attributes, and just needs the luck with injuries and the right mindset to progress now.

Yesterday's news was dominated by the departure of another young Derbyshire player, following those of James Taylor and Alfie Gleadall last week.

Hamidullah Qadri will be joining Kent from the start of next season and, like all Derbyshire supporters, I wish him well.

As an honest man, I am not devastated by the news, nor surprised, as there were murmurings of Kent interest a few weeks ago. They have sought a spinner since Adam Riley's departure, another of those young players whose promising career was wrecked by too much advice (Tom Knight, anyone?) and asking him to change the muscle memory of years of bowling to his detriment. They are in division one, so you can't blame the player for seeing greener grass on the other side of the fence.

Maybe, if they let Hamidullah progress naturally and give him time, there will be a decent bowler in there. Spin bowling skills take a long time to master, but he didn't seem to have kicked on since his early performances for the Derbyshire senior eleven. I watched him in a few second team games and he didn't look especially threatening, though his summer has been dominated by his studies.

Truth be told, it was hard to see where he could break into this side. Matt Critchley is not much older but considerably better, at least in limited over formats, as well as having the talent to become a genuine all-rounder. Qadri doesn't appear to have that natural ability with the bat and Mattie McKiernan may well be a good additional option for the club across formats.

We will remember his five wickets in Cardiff a couple of summers back, which won us a memorable victory. That may prove to be the precursor to a career in which he becomes something special, or might just be another of those occasions where a player has his afternoon in the sun.

Either way, his future feats lie elsewhere and a club with a limited budget must ensure that the money we would have spent on these young players is well used.

An affordable and quality overseas, a younger seamer and a spinner (unless we sign one as overseas) would appear the major winter needs. Yet the academy failure to produce cricketers with the ability to progress is an ongoing issue, one that doesn't yet appear to have light at the end of the tunnel.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Middlesex v Derbyshire preview

My last preview of another season in which blog visiting figures have been broken and it seems to have flown by. A sure sign of having fun, as the old saying goes...

We visit Lord's tomorrow for the final four days of cricket this summer, which is not the worst place in the country to reach a conclusion. It affords a quick opportunity to put the travails of Saturday behind us and give the supporters a last winter warmer, before we replace baseball caps with woolly hats and follow the lesser sports of winter.

A squad of thirteen has been announced which holds no real surprises. I'd be surprised if Alex Hughes plays, but it would be nice to see Sam Conners get a run out at the end of a truncated season, to see what he might offer another year.

The squad as announced:

Godleman, Reece, Madsen, du Plooy, Hosein, Hudson-Prentice, Critchley, Dal, McKernan, Conners, Rampaul, Melton, Hughes

McKiernan v Conners for the final place, I think, both of them keen to have a bowl in senior cricket before the season end, having had seasons too truncated for either of their satisfaction.

It would thus appear that Logan van Beek has played his last game for the club, barring a close season contract offer that would surprise pretty much everyone. No one will ever doubt his commitment to the cause, because he gave a hundred per cent in every game, but the statistics on which cricketers stand or fall do not add up for the genial Kiwi.

More on him later, but tomorrow's game could, if one believes reports in the weekend media, be the last for Middlesex by Dawid Malan, apparently a target for Yorkshire. The white rose county seem to be heading into Nottinghamshire territory, though this will be worth watching, as he has two years on his current deal.

Whether it makes any difference to a potential Derbyshire move for Tom Lace is the angle in which I am most concerned.


Saturday, 21 September 2019

Derbyshire V Essex T20 Semi-Final

Essex 160-5 (Delport 55, Westley 39, Hughes and Reece each 2-24)
Derbyshire 126 (Hughes 23, Harmer 4-19, Nijjar 3-26)
Essex won by 34 runs

Alas, the writing was on the wall for Derbyshire today, from the moment that Simon Harmer won the toss for Essex and opted to bat.

The wicket was slow, it enabled the ball to grip at times and later, when Harmer came on, the spin was considerable.

Delport could have gone early, a skied pull going between converging fielders, but the fielding wasn't quite there for us today. There were several half chance run outs that need to go your way on the big occasions, while a handful of ground fielding errors were untypical of recent form.

Delport took advantage of some variation of line and length to play the match-winning innings of 55 from 31 balls, while Westley kept the other end ticking over.

There wasn't much wrong with the bowling. Fynn was a little more expensive than usual, while it never seemed a wicket for van Beek. I said on Twitter during the first game that I would have gone for Stevens in his place, and it may just have been his type of surface. Still, it didn't happen and we actually did well to drag Essex back to a total of 160 in their twenty overs. Hughes and Reece did especially well, further proof perhaps that the Kent man might have enjoyed conditions.

Luis Reece set off like a train with two fours and a six in the opening over, but a brilliant catch by Wheater saw him depart before he inflicted enough damage to make a difference. Godleman smoked two fine boundaries, but was then bowled by a ripper from Harmer, who got extravagant turn throughout.

Madsen looked good on the sweep and was taking toll of Nijjar's left arm spin, before he miscalculated against a quicker ball, left his leg stump open and was bowled. Du Plooy went to another that turned a long way, while both Critchley and Dal went to shots that didn't warrant replays.

Hughes fought for a while, but Nijjar turned one past his outside edge as he came down the wicket and he was easily stumped. With 75 needed from 44 balls at that point, the game was gone.

Essex brought on Lawrence's off spin to capitalise on conditions and he bowled Hudson-Prentice, as the collapse became definitive. Derbyshire were eventually all out for 126, after some late blows from Smit, van Beek and Rampaul took the score closer than was actually the case.

It was a disappointment for the support, both those who travelled and those at home, but the Derbyshire squad has broken new ground this summer and can be proud of their efforts. A small squad has done very well to get through to the end of the season, though not without injuries. Smit undergoes surgery on a shoulder injury on Monday, while others have been held together with tape for a few weeks now. With four days to go, they will be ready for a deserved rest.

It was no disgrace then, in a summer when they have mixed it with the best and often come out on top. Something to build on in future years, when having experienced the occasion, they will be more ready for it next time.

Earlier, Nottinghamshire completed an awful year with a late collapse that was as inexplicable as it was inept. The difficulties of batting second notwithstanding, they should have made 11 from the last 12 balls with wickets in hand. Why they sent in Patel, the slowest man in the team, when quick running was going to be needed, I have no idea. It  suggested muddied thinking that has ravaged their summer.

Still, every cloud has a silver lining, eh?

As for the final, the winner will likely be the side that wins the toss. I suspect Worcestershire, who held their nerve well, will retain their trophy.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Vitality Blast Finals Day preview

Somewhere in Australia, tomorrow, Kane Richardson and Billy Stanlake may well flick through the Sky TV channels and sit down to watch the Vitality Blast finals day from Edgbaston.

In their turn, each could have been there. Richardson withdrew from his Derbyshire contract to 'protect his workload' after selection for the World Cup, in which he played two warm up games, together with two in the tournament. He then failed to gain selection for the Ashes tour, which has left him protecting his workload for quite a long time.

Stanlake meanwhile sustained the latest stress fracture to blight his career and we will likely never know if his ninety miles an hour projectiles from around seven feet in height would have proved effective. Certainly it would be a brave man who went down that path again.

Yet despite those disappointments, despite what appeared then and now as panic signings of Darren Stevens and Boyd Rankin, Derbyshire will turn up at Edgbaston tomorrow with every chance of creating a shock.

To most, we are making up the numbers. 'Little Derbyshire', they usually say in a patronising manner, before they roll out that perennial phrase 'the only county to have never been to finals day'. It has frustrated and annoyed us all, despite, until now, its accuracy.

Essex supporters, on hearing the draw for the day, raced on to Twitter to proclaim it 'almost like a bye into the final', which betrayed a lack of class, together with a lack of knowledge. Because in sport, as in life, anything is possible.

Those of us who are battle-hardened over decades of supporting the county know that there are two sides to our cricket. We never know which side will turn up on a given day, yet in the season now drawing to an end there are increasing signs of a side that is learning to win with discipline, talent and professionalism.

We are still capable of sessions of madness, yet there is an increased resilience down the order that is starting to see the sprouting of something that could be special down Derby way. Yesterday's four-day win over a good Sussex side was an example, fighting back from being all out for 138 on the first day to win by nearly 200 runs. All that with an attack of three 23-year olds, plus one of 24 on his championship debut.

Regardless of tomorrow's results, Dave Houghton has done an admirable job in his first season. Likely mid-table in fifty-over and four-day cricket, which has seen them punch above their weight in the eyes of many critics, they have knocked out supposed heavyweights and strapped the belt around their waist in a tough T20 group. It saw them beat Yorkshire twice (comme d'habitude) do the same to Lancashire at Old Trafford, then beat the reigning champions at Derby, after narrowly failing to do so at Worcester.

Any side that takes beating us for granted is in for a surprise. The top four of Godleman, Reece, Madsen and du Plooy is a match for any in the country, with 1500 runs between them in the tournament. While the concern may be what happens if they don't come off, the threat is also what happens if they do. With a quartet of all-rounders to follow, as good a wicket-keeper as there is in the country and the tournament's leading wicket-taker to spearhead the attack, we need fear no one.

On these big occasions, the best roll up their sleeves and get on with their job, respecting, but not worrying unduly about the opposition. Essex will be tough opponents, and on a likely slow, previously used end of season wicket, their spinner, Harmer, may be a danger, as will be the evergreen Ravi Bopara. Likewise they have some fine batsmen, but I wouldn't swap top fours with them. With neither Amir or Zampa available, the game will not be dominated by overseas players.

Worcestershire have Wayne Parnell and Hamish Rutherford back, the latter well-known to Derbyshire supporters. With Rikki Wessels and Moeen Ali in prime form and a parsimonious bunch of seamers headed by Pat Brown, I think they will be too much for Nottinghamshire. Our local rivals need Alex Hales to fire at the top of the order or it will heap pressure on a young middle-order that has been exposed in four-day cricket this summer. Steve Mullaney will also be a key man, while Dan Christian is always a danger in the closing overs.

Supporters might like the idea of a final against our local rivals, though our record against them in the competition isn't the best. I'd prefer Worcestershire, but of course we need to win against Essex before getting too carried away.

Either way the players and staff have done an extraordinary job to get here and I applaud Dominic Cork for giving us our day in the sun. After that dreadful performance against Leicestershire, hardly anyone expected us to progress, yet Cork, in true bullish fashion, said that we now needed to win the next three.

We did, and the one after it, in a performance of great professionalism at Bristol.

Don't yet discount similar heroics tomorrow, as someone could be the Frankie Griffith of 2019. While there may be a consideration of  recall for Darren Stevens, after recent stellar form for Kent, his value as a closing overs hitter is likely to be overlooked in favour of Anuj Dal, whose brilliance in the field offers additional value to his fleet-footed running between the wickets and tidy bowling.

Good luck lads. You have made us proud.

You can win it from here.

Likely side: Godleman, Reece, Madsen, du Plooy, Hughes, Critchley, Hudson-Prentice, Dal, Smit, van Beek, Rampaul.

And now for your comments...


Gleadall and Taylor depart as winter overhaul begins

At least for now, the future of Alfie Gleadall and James Taylor does not lie with Derbyshire.

Both have been released from the club and are free to pursue their ambitions elsewhere. At nineteen and eighteen respectively, it seems harsh, but then professional sport is harsh and unforgiving.

That both boys have talent is undeniable. You don't play national age group cricket without that, but to progress to senior ranks, so much more is needed. You need the basic skills, but the mental approach has to be right, so too the willingness to get the body ready for the demands of the senior game.

Talking to Derbyshire players this week, most of them are carrying injuries. In some cases they have been for weeks, but it is this willingness to handle the pain barrier that sets apart the best. To make it as a contracted county cricketer, you are in the top 0.5% of players in the country, but it needs everything to be right. Not just ability, but a desire to get better, a willingness to listen and learn, as well as get your body right. Miss out one of those things, and all the natural talent in the world won't see you make it.

Few teenagers are blessed with strong physiques, but both these lads looked like they need to do some growing and filling out before they could potentially become county players. Sam Conners has been retained, and he has shown, in glimpses, the aptitude for the professional game, as well as the height, which is always an asset for a quick bowler.

Whether he will make it is a moot point, but he will know the work that lies ahead, A county with a limited and finite budget that allows only a small squad cannot gamble on two youngsters being fit next year, when they weren't for most of this. Better the budget goes on someone further on in his development, who can make the transition NOW to first-class cricket.

It seemed to me that neither Alfie nor James were close to the requisite standard at this stage. It may be that two or three years of mental and physical development might make a difference. They may get another chance to play second team and may make a better first of things next time, but wouldn't be the first lads to dominate at age group level and fail when they mixed it with the big boys.

I will retain the memory of Alfie bowling a rip-snorting yorker at Durham last year, ripping out a stump in the process, but he needs to fill out a lot to do that consistently. So does James, though both may make tracks elsewhere for trials over the winter.

There is a lesson for the county here, however. Last winter we were told that the three youngsters were making excellent progress and it was expected that they would push for the senior side. They didn't, and while bullish comments are fine in the world of sport, reality is also important.

They need look no further than Fynn Hudson-Prentice for inspiration. A player engaged by Sussex at 18, he was released at 20, but look at him now, at 23. He learned from the experience, went away and worked on his game (and physique) and this weekend will be a key component of a Derbyshire side in the Vitality Blast Finals Day. The same goes for Anuj Dal, released by Nottinghamshire at 21, but now looking better prepared for the game two years later, perhaps reinventing himself in the process.

Gleadall and Taylor's turn may come again, but for both there is a lot of work ahead,

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Derbyshire V Sussex day3

Derbyshire 138 and 437

Sussex 231 and 163 (Critchley 3-9, Dal 3-11, Hudson-Prentice 3-36)

Derbyshire won by 181 runs

The last two days of cricket in Derbados could scarce have gone better than they did.

Derbyshire roundly thrashed Sussex, ending their promotion aspirations while perhaps realising that it could have been us pushing to go up.

First day struggles notwithstanding, we played some excellent cricket here. Yesterday's Godleman/Reece stand was extraordinary, as was the bowling that preceded it. Today, without the injured Tony Palladino, an inexperienced attack tore through the visiting ranks.

Once again, Hudson-Prentice was outstanding taking the wickets of van Zyl and Wiese in successive balls. Yet so was Anuj Dal, who might just be confirming himself as a bowler who can offer useful runs, rather than the other way round. Who knows, a winter's work may see the emergence of a genuine all rounder.

Matt Critchley took the last three wickets and ensured that not only we go to Edgbaston in good heart, but have a day tomorrow to work on those T20 skills.

This morning's collapse suggested that Sussex may have a glimmer of hope, after a fine spell by Ollie Robinson, but they couldn't put together any kind of stand.

A win like that will keep us in good heart until the Spring.

A couple of wins on Saturday will see us floating on air until then.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Derbyshire v Sussex day 2

Derbyshire 138 and 360-2 (Reece 184, Godleman 106*, Madsen 42)

Sussex 233 (van Zyl 60, Garton 50, Reece 5-63, Hudson-Prentice 3-47)

Derbyshire lead by 265 runs


Today was my last day of 'live' cricket this summer. Fittingly it dawned sunny, if not especially warm and there was a decent crowd of seasoned regulars in attendance, together with some loyal support from the south coast.

It all kicked off early when play began, with Rawlins, who looks like a player who will never die wondering, played a couple of streaky shots for four, then holed out to Melton at wide mid on. Next ball, Brown gave a routine catch to Hosein, and a healthy overnight position was in danger of evaporating.

Luis Reece took both wickets, the second his fiftieth of an excellent summer. Whether he can sustain the workload of being a senior seamer as well as opening bat is debatable, but his importance to this side is undeniable, and was emphasised later. When he followed it with the wicket of van Zyl, who had led a charmed life yesterday, Sussex were in trouble.

Wiese, as he has done so many times, hinted at a recovery with some powerful strokes through the covers, but Hudson-Prentice worked up good pace from the Racecourse End and, beating him for pace, had him caught by McKiernan at long leg. He also had Jordan caught behind in a lively spell, which only ended with the advent of spin at both ends, one assumes to improve the slow over rate. It served to increase the run rate too, as Garton and Robinson clumped away in bucolic fashion.

A merry stand of 33 ended when Robinson assayed a reverse sweep to a straight ball from Madsen, missed and was palpably leg before. The umpire took a long time over what appeared a straightforward decision from behind the bowler's arm on the boundary, but the finger was eventually raised to local satisfaction. Garton continued on his merry way to an excellent fifty, before holing out from an uppercut at third man, a second catch for McKiernan, a first wicket for Melton, a 93-run lead for Sussex.

The feeling at the lunch interval, certainly among the travelling support, was that the lead would be match-defining. Instead, the afternoon and early evening became a masterclass from Luis Reece. He followed on his five wickets and the award of his county cap with a magnificent innings of 184 from 189 deliveries. His batting form has been patchy this summer, mainly on account of his bowling workload, but here he was superb, strong on the drive and pull, excelling on the sweep. His timing was exquisite throughout as good a knock as you would wish to see and he is quite a cricketer, one we are lucky to have.

Only Garnet Lee, in 1926, has previously scored 150 runs and taken five wickets in an innings for Derbyshire in the same match. That puts Reece's feat into context and I doubt Garnet scored a century in a session in doing so, as Luis did here between lunch and tea.

At the other end Billy Godleman eased past a thousand runs for the summer in first-class cricket and two thousand in total, annus mirabilis indeed. The two innings were great contrasts, Billy happy to knock it around in true Godlemanian fashion, but the partnership of 274 was the county highest for any wicket against Sussex. Thanks to club historian David Griffin for the statistics.

Godleman moved to yet another century, his sixteenth in first-class cricket for Derbyshire, but lost Madsen after an attractive 42, caught off a lifter from Reece Topley. He and Dal then saw it through to the close, which was reached, after all that had preceded it, at an extraordinary 360-2.

A special way to end a summer's live cricket watching indeed.

Postscript: it was a pleasure to meet so many lovely people around the ground over the past two days. Some for the first time, others once more. It was a thrill to do so and to hear your kind words.

Winter well, and I hope to see you again when it starts once more next Spring.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Derbyshire v Sussex day 1

Derbyshire 138 (Dal 35, Wiese 4-18)

Sussex 116-3

The last match of the county season is always one of mixed emotions.

Friends made and met, matches won and lost, exhilarating performances to remember, as well as a few to forget as quickly as possible. You cherish every day, especially as you get older, keeping fingers crossed that after another long and cold winter, we will all return again and be well.

Most cricket supporters are seeing this as a watershed summer, where things may never be the same again, while for players it is one of opportunity. There will be contracts for The Hundred for the best, a nice little earner to supplement their contracts, but the feeling around the ground today was one of hostility, fear and, it must be said, downright loathing.

It is hard to think how the English cricket authorities could have made a bigger mess of things than in a new competition that 'simplifies' a twenty over match. A competition that has been blessed by sell out crowds, terrific cricket and Derbyshire appearing on finals day, relegated to a sideshow that no one wants outside of the ECB.

Today it was nice to catch up with friends old and new at Derby. I had a chance encounter with Howard, a Derbyshire man through and through but now living in Florida, which put my trip to see the county into perspective. It was pleasant to spend time chatting Derbyshire cricket and family life, such meetings a major plus of writing this blog.

On the field it was rather as might have been expected. A Sussex side pressing for promotion, opting to bowl on a morning that was conducive to seam bowling. With an attack that contained three international bowlers and two young ones of genuine potential, batting was never easy. After the early loss of Luis Reece, Godleman and Madsen hinted at better things with a stand of 42, but after their dismissal in quick succession, either side of lunch, it was all downhill. du Plooy played a few pleasant shots, but some anaemic ones were coupled with sharp catching to adverse effect on the total.

du Plooy perished to a quick-witted rebound, Palladino to a fine grab by Rawlins at gully, but Hosein and McKiernan were both castled in consecutive balls by the excellent Wiese, one of the best Kolpaks on the circuit. It was an inauspicious championship debut for McKiernan, but his time will surely come.

My main concern, watching from various locations around the ground, is that we seem to have a lot of talented 'bits 'n' pieces players, but for another year need them to kick on to the next level. We know that Hughes (missed here), Dal, Hudson-Prentice, McKiernan and Critchley can all bat and bowl, but their natural place in the order is not obvious. Dal is the most stylish, but scored pleasing runs today on the back of a bad trot, despite a nasty blow on the thumb. I would bat both he and FHP  above Critchley and Hosein, but winter progress may see a natural batting order evolve. What was obvious was how badly Tom Lace is missed, as a quality middle-order batsman.

Tea was taken on the dismissal of Dal for a spirited 35, the innings ending at 138.

Yet any suggestion from the last wicket stand of 29 that conditions had eased were put to bed, as Palladino and Reece bowled beautifully with the new ball. Salt was caught by the swift-moving Critchley, running forward from slip, before Wells was comprehensively bowled, also by Reece, a bail being broken in the process. At the other end, Palladino, three wickets short of 350 for the county in first-class cricket, shaped the ball beautifully in both directions and gained several moral victories. A convincing shout from bowler, keeper and slips for a catch behind from van Zyl was met with a shake of the head from the umpire.

Thereafter, aside from FHP's removal of Beer, van Zyl and Rawlins rebuilt for the visitors. Melton, while lively, struggled for the right line and length in a short spell and there were too many extras from the home attack, twenty by the 25th over being overly generous. van Zyl continued to lead a charmed life and from successive deliveries from Luis the off bail was clipped, but not removed, then he was dropped by Critchley at gully. Rawlins too could have gone from strokes inappropriate in the last ten overs of the day but somehow they survived.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Derbyshire V Sussex preview

Dustin Melton potentially makes his championship debut for Derbyshire tomorrow, while Sam Conners is also in the 12 for the final home game of the summer against Sussex.

Alex Hughes and Ravi Rampaul earn a rest  as Derbyshire go with the following 12:

Godleman, Reece, Madsen, du Plooy, Dal, Hudson-Prentice, Hosein, Critchley, McKiernan, Conners, Palladino, Melton

I look forward to seeing the final cricket of the summer in what promises to be decent weather. The visitors are pushing for promotion and for me the big challenge is getting through the game with no injuries to key personnel ahead of Saturday's finals day.

Fingers crossed for some good cricket, and the inclusion of some of these names in the 12 will make it well worth watching.

I look forward to seeing some of you there!

Friday, 13 September 2019

Last two books available

In the course of a clear out chez Peakfan, I found what may well be the last two available copies (certainly from me) of In Their Own Words: Derbyshire Cricketers in conversation.

I am very grateful that the book was blessed with universally positive reviews and the friendships that it brought me have been an absolute joy.

The book recounts the county's history, since the Second World War, through the eyes and words of the men who helped create it. Beginning with the county's legendary then 98-year-old former groundsman Walter Goodyear, the book is made up of a number of interviews with personalities from every decade since the end of the war. Key characters from across the spectrum of cricket in Derbyshire each give their personal take on team-mates and opponents, trophy successes, fall-outs and life on the cricket circuit. 

County legends, including Edwin Smith, Harold Rhodes, Brian Jackson, Bob Taylor, Peter Gibbs, Geoff Miller, Wayne Madsen, Graeme Welch, Devon Malcolm, John Wright, Tony Borrington and many more talk about their lives and careers inside and outside the game, including an array of fascinating anecdotes to make this a club history with a difference.

A sampling of reviews:

"A very satisfying read. Particularly rewarding. In Their Own Words is an excellent book, and will be of interest well beyond the East Midlands and the Peak District." --CricketWeb.net

"The anecdotes are interesting, quirky and as funny as anecdotes should be, and yet there's something a little different here. A compendium of tales and gossip, history and reminiscence. More than facts, more than memories and more than Dolman's own excellent knowledge of the game a passion for Derbyshire CCC." --DeepExtraCover.com

"Inspired. Comes over well. Thoroughly enjoyed In Their Own Words. I have certainly found out more, enjoyed it and hope that other readers will read it and I wish Steve every success with it." --AndrewRobertsCricketStatistics.com

If you would like one of these two books, I will bring them to the Sussex game, where I will be at most of the first three days. I will happily inscribe it as you wish for the one-off price of £6.

If you can't make the game but would like one, please let me know and the price, including postage, is £9

Either way, drop me an email to peakfan36@yahoo.co.uk

Incidentally, there are a couple of copies of my biography of Edwin Smith available through Amazon, though at wildly different prices of £14 and £34.

That one has long since gone out of print, I'm afraid.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing a few of you at Derby. Please do say hello if you see me, as it is always nice to put a face to a blog name!