Sunday, 23 June 2019

Derbyshire V Australia A

Derbyshire 283-9 (du Plooy 115, Tye 6-65)

Australia A 287-3 (Wade 155, Head 68, Taylor 2-66)

Australia A won by 7 wickets

I am old enough to remember the days when a game against a touring side was something special.

For the players it was an opportunity to test themselves against the best, while for supporters it was a chance to see players they had not seen before, or only on television. Counties fielded their full first elevens as a matter of course.

Today's visit of the Australian A side was interesting, although several members of their side already have experience in the colours of various counties. Derbyshire, meanwhile, with a small squad, fielded a, largely youthful and inexperienced attack.

Having won the toss, the visitors decided to have a bowl and were rewarded with two early wickets. Godleman, having looked in fine touch, played around a straight one from Michael Neser, while Tom Lace will not look back on his dismissal with any fondness, playing at one he should have left alone.

A partnership between Wayne Madsen and Leus du Plooy was always going to be one for the aesthetes and produced both sumptuous stroke play and intelligent running. Madsen produced his full one-day repertoire, while his partner continues to look a player of the very highest class. He has so much time, always the sign of a good player, and they took the score past a hundred without incident. Wayne must have been disappointed to flick one off his toes to the waiting fielder when a hundred, let alone fifty, looked there for the taking.

The partnership had added 89 and another of 52 followed as Hughes joined du Plooy. A straight six aside, Alex struggled for timing and he eventually gave a catch to point. Matt Critchley was much the same, suggesting batting was not especially easy against a keen and accurate attack. Neser, Abbott and Tye dragged Derbyshire back and both batsmen perished in a similar, mistimed manner to the cover field.

Du Plooy had been more conservative as he approached a maiden century for the county but reached it, in the grandest of manners, with a straight 6. It was fully deserved and served to highlight further what a quality player we have picked up.

Fynn Hudson-Prentice was rightly elevated in the order and showed promise with some powerful strokes, before holing out in the deep as the overs ran out. Du Plooy finally perished for an excellent 115, caught behind from one that would likely have been called wide if left alone, but he had followed a century against the touring Sri Lankan side in South Africa with this fine display.

Anuj Dal showed his trademark running and some powerful shots to take the score to a respectable 283-9. It looked unlikely to be enough, with a second team attack bowling at a strong batting side, but it ensured a game, at least. Andrew Tye bowled well to take 6-65 for the visitors.

What followed was brutal. After Short edged Taylor to Madsen at slip, who took a sharp catch, Matthew Wade bludgeoned his way to a second successive tour century, following on from one against Northamptonshire.

What an asset someone like that would be to any side in the T20! His power and placement were simply astonishing and while one has to recognise the moderate attack, so one could only admire his talent. By the time it ended, Wade had hit 155 from 71 balls and ended the game as a contest. It was the second fastest List A century scored against Derbyshire, the 45 balls taken second only to Shahid Afridi's 42-ball effort for Hampshire in 2017. Yet for power and placement this was a far better innings.

I'm not sure why he felt the need to bat on, having reached his ton, and maybe colleagues might have enjoyed time in the middle, but it was spectacular batting.

Head, who played a good innings himself, fell in trying to match his partner, playing on as Taylor took pace off the ball, but the run chase was, complete inside 36 overs.

Credit must be given to Mark Watt, the only bowler to command respect in the face of the onslaught, though the figures of the rest may have been more palatable bar for Wade's astonishing onslaught.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Derbyshire V Australia A preview

The Derbyshire twelve for the game against Australia A at Derby tomorrow is largely as expected.

As Dave Houghton said after the defeat against Lancashire, all the batsman were keen to play and only Luis Reece misses out, presumably to protect his ankle and give him a breather after a lot of bowling recently.

Fynn Hudson-Prentice looks set to make his county debut in his place and I look forward to seeing a talented young cricketer at this level. If he makes that final, important step, Fynn and his all-round capabilities will be very important in the next few years.

There is also a place for Mark Watt, who took four wickets for the second team in the week.

The squad:

Billy Godleman
Tom Lace
Wayne Madsen
Leus du Plooy
Alex Hughes
Matt Critchley
Fynn Hudson-Prentice
Harvey Hosein
Anuj Dal
Mark Watt
James Taylor
Sam Conners

I won't attempt to second guess who misses out, but the game presents an opportunity for young players on the fringe of the first team to state a case for inclusion.

As for the visitors, it is a similar situation. All of them will want to play a part in the forthcoming Ashes series and some have a very good chance to do so.

Their squad:

Travis Head (c), Matthew Wade, Will Pucovski, Peter Handscomb, Ashton Turner, Mitch Marsh, D’Arcy Short, Kurtis Patterson, Ashton Agar, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood, Sean Abbott

There are exciting quick bowlers and dashing batsmen in the squad, although few of the latter have much experience of English conditions.

Even with a below strength home side, the game should make for fascinating watching. I hope that Derbyshire will continue the excellent streams of home games and also that those who are able to do so turn up to support the boys.

Logic suggests the visitors will come out on top, but perhaps this once the result is of less importance than individual performances.

We will find out soon enough.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

County round up

Thanks to the age old merits of a contrived finish, the final day of the second team game at Belper yesterday was an exciting affair, even though the end result was a draw.

McGladdery and Cox feasted on some 'buffet bowling' to add 125 and set Lancashire 269 to win and they finished on 222-7, Mark Watt taking four wickets. There was another impressive spell from Dustin Melton, who would appear, subject to having the requisite credentials, to be worthy of further investigation for another summer.

Melton is quick, probably Viljoen quick, but the factory appears to have fitted a sat-nav in this model. With such players being uncommon, and us having an obvious weakness in this area, the strapping South African may be just what we need for another year. He is a little older than the younger seamers, and at 24 has done a lot of the filling out that such bowlers need, before they can combine sustained pace with a body that can cope with the rigours of the trade. My understanding is that he is here with an ancestral visa, so technically would be able to play next summer, if Dave Houghton is sufficiently impressed.

Tony Palladino will be 37 next summer, Ravi Rampaul 35. They have done well this summer, but we cannot expect them to go on forever. Luis Reece has filled the gap admirably, but it was interesting hearing Dave Houghton say that he will be moved to the middle order, to protect him. It is impossible for Luis to bowl 20-25 overs, then get his mindset right to go and bat for several hours, so a move to the middle order, maybe to four or five, makes a lot of sense.

So too, for another year, would be a different quick bowler as an overseas, ideally one with greater experience than Logan van Beek. In average and in performance he is our fourth seamer, something you can only justify if that player is scoring runs. But the Kiwi averages only ten with the bat, while his sixteen championship wickets have come at 35 each, too high for the overseas role. To put it into context, no one was overly enthused with Jon Moss as overseas in 2004/5, but his bowling average was comparable, and he averaged over thirty with the bat. Logan is a lovely lad and no one could fault his effort, but the overseas role is a 'pressure gig' and he hasn't yet suggested that he has handled that pressure.

Perhaps there may be someone in the Australia A squad? It might be worth a look this weekend, if the player concerned qualifies through international matches by that stage. Joe Mennie did well for Lancashire last year, taking 28 wickets in seven matches and averaging 33 with the bat, so there are players out there.

It is not too long until the T20 starts and I just hope that Billy Stanlake arrives fit and firing. At his pace, he only needs to get it slightly wrong and the ball can go anywhere. We were lucky last year with Wahab Riaz and Lockie Ferguson, who both bowled economically and came with a reputation for being robust bowlers. Stanlake doesn't and my concern is that a player who has a long history of injury may not last the course in an intensive competition. Only time will tell on that one, but to lose your specialist overseas for the competition is a major impediment to any hopes of success.

It is nice to report, in off the field affairs, that the club is introducing reusable cups in an attempt to cut plastic waste. They are usually on the ball in such things and I am quite comfortable, given our resources, with where we are as club right now.

Yes, we are probably two or three peak performance players short of genuine progress, but we must walk before we run and must cut our cloth to suit the finances. I think we are doing alright, all things considered, far from the pushovers that most of the cricket writers expect us to be.

Contrast that with our neighbours down the A52, who seem to lurch from crisis to disaster and back. The natives are restless down in Nottingham, where there appears to be little willingness to fight when the going gets tough. Indeed, recent performances have suggested that the tough left town some time back. For all their signings, they appear to have little team spirit and last winter's big money signings, Messrs Duckett, Clarke and Slater, average 31, 26 and 24 respectively in the county championship. One wonders if the Alex Hales affair has been a contributory factor and it can certainly have done them no favours.

They already look relegation certainties, which is pretty poor, midway through June.

More from me before the Australia A match.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Derbyshire V Lancashire day 3

Derbyshire 153 and 84

Lancashire 236 and 4-0

Lancashire won by ten wickets

Much as I had predicted last night, the end of this game came before lunch and Lancashire ran out easy winners by ten wickets.

Jimmy Anderson had match figures of 9-47 and Graham Onions 8-57, highlighting their class for all to see. It was a baptism of fire for the Derbyshire batsmen, although Harvey Hosein fought well for his 29 runs.

There was a gulf between the two sides, but a quick look at the league table shows a similar gulf between Lancashire and everyone. As I write, we are still fourth in the league table and there is no disgrace in such a position.

It was nice to hear in Dave Houghton's post match interview that Anderson was impressed by Sam Conners and said so to Steve Kirby. He is a talented lad and will only get better with exposure to this level of cricket.

He will almost certainly get to bowl against Australia A on Sunday, when we will field a side made up of the senior batsmen and the younger bowlers. Houghton felt that Tony Palladino looked jaded against Glamorgan, while I thought Ravi Rampaul the same in this match. Both are in their mid-thirties, after all.

Hopefully a good crowd turns up to watch some exciting Australian talent on Sunday and the travails of this game can be consigned to history.

More from me between times.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Derbyshire V Lancashire day 2

Derbyshire 151 and 19-4

Lancashire 236 (Reece 6-58)

Lancashire lead by 66 runs

Unless anyone knows any good rain dances, ideally one that produces two days of rain, the thinking money is on a heavy defeat for Derbyshire sometime tomorrow morning.

There is no disgrace in being beaten by this Lancashire seam attack, for that has been the deciding factor in the match.

Luis Reece bowled really well for Derbyshire today, but for all of the huffing and puffing at the other end, he lacked support. As I said to a friend earlier today, Lancashire's batting would fare no better against Onions and Anderson than we have. After all, one has been a stand out county bowler over the past decade or so, while the other is an all-time international great.

It is laudable and very much the right thing to do for Dave Houghton to have extra grass left on the wicket to ensure results. Where the concept falls down is when the opposition attack is considerably better than yours.

I thought we bowled well today, with Reece excellent, but batting was a different prospect when the big guns start to bowl. Had this game been a little later in the season, Anderson away with England and Onions perhaps rested, things may have been different.

It is silly, however, to lay criticism on the batsmen, as I have seen in comments elsewhere. Maybe Tom Lace could have left alone the ball where he was caught down the leg side. Perhaps Wayne Madsen could have been a little tighter with his defensive shot. It's easy from the boundary edge, much less so when you have class bowlers testing your technique and are surrounded by fielders awaiting an opportunity.

I hope that we show similar fight to the first innings when we resume, but realistically it is unlikely to make any difference the result.

Congratulations to Sam Conners, who took his first  championship wicket today. I thought he looked lively and offers considerable potential for the future. One to keep an eye on.

To end on a high, the second team at least seem to be in control of their game at Belper against the same opponents.

We made 202 all out, with Daryn Smit making 89, before our visitors slipped  to 58-5 when the rain came. There were two wickets each for the very brisk Dustin Melton and for James Taylor.

More from me tomorrow.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Derbyshire V Lancashire day 1

Derbyshire 153 (du Plooy 38*Anderson 5-18, Onions 3-19)
Lancashire 8-1

There was an air of inevitability over proceedings at Derby today.

After the rain of the last few days, together with the covering of the wicket for a good part of that time, I would have put good money on our having to bat.

I might also have been inclined to wager we would struggle, too. Inside fifteen overs we were 21-5, as Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Onions weaved their magic, as both have done for years, of course.

Lancashire should not be in division two of the County Championship. With their resources they should be ashamed to be so, but their promotion at season end is another thing with an air of the inevitable.

Those opening bowlers are craftsmen, though just how good they would be when Anderson is with England, and if Onions is injured is a moot point. I was disappointed in my first sighting of Saqib Mahmood, who took more stick than a bowler should in such conditions. He struggled for length and direction and it was a relief that Richard Gleeson had been omitted from the final eleven.

There can be no criticism of the batting, as any side would have struggled against that attack and in such conditions.

Hughes and Critchley restored a little sanity to proceedings for Derbyshire, but trouble was always only one ball away. du Plooy again came in at eight and was again a class above some of those preceded him.

I find it hard to appreciate the rationale of having a top batsman so low, when all he has to bat with is the tail. He made a top score of an unbeaten 38 and spirited resistance from Sam Conners and Ravi Rampaul helped take the score past 150. We need to sort that, however, as for me it gives a disjointed look to the batting.

Lancashire lost the wicket of Keaton Jennings before the close, leg before to Luis Reece. At 8-1 they trail by 145 runs, but we will need something special with the ball tomorrow to stay in this game.    

Lancashire V Derbyshire preview

Family commitments prevented me from posting this preview last night, but today's game against Lancashire will be the toughest four day test that we have had so far.

They are a big club, albeit one that underperforms far too often for the liking of die-hard supporters. With the resources at their disposal, they really shouldn't be in this division, but their job is to do something about that.

Lancashire travel with the following squad. They have a very good seam attack and a side that will take some beating.

Dane Vilas (c)
James Anderson
Josh Bohannon
Steven Croft
Alex Davies
Richard Gleeson
Haseeb Hameed
Keaton Jennings
Rob Jones
Liam Livingstone
Saqib Mahmood
Graham Onions

Derbyshire are unchanged and will need to be at their very best to compete. Yet with the batting in robust form, there is no reason to think that we cannot do that.

It will make for compelling viewing and I, like many of you, will be watching later.

Good luck lads!

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Glamorgan V Derbyshire day 4

Glamorgan 394 and 184-2

Derbyshire 598-5d (Godleman 227, Lace 143, Hosein 91*)

Drawn

And so a game that was ruined by the rain, and a wicket that was far too heavily in favour of batsmen, petered out yesterday.

The only interest, to be fair, was in whether Billy Godleman could set a new record for the highest score made by a Derbyshire batsman, and if Harvey Hosein could make a century.

Neither happened, as it turned out. Billy was adjudged leg before for 227, while Harvey was unbeaten on 91 when the declaration came. It was a fine effort by both of them, but this sort of wicket is the kind that kills the game. The one at Durham last week had something for batsmen and bowlers alike, but the declaration here was but a token.

We move on to Derby against Lancashire on Monday, where batting, against a keen seam attack, will be much more of a challenge.
More from me over the weekend.

PS Could someone PLEASE tell the chap that does the ECB voiceovers on the highlights that it is Hu-sane and not Hoe-sin?

And while you are at it, let Sky know that 'six' is fine and 'maximum' is really unnecessary every time on the commentary.

Still, they will be on to annoy us with 'Derby' 'Madsden' and more before we know it...

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Glamorgan V Derbyshire day 3

Glamorgan 394

Derbyshire 504-4 (Godleman 211*, Lace 143, Hosein 53*)

Derbyshire lead by 110 runs

While the weather looks like it will have the final say on this match, Derbyshire's players will undoubtedly make the long journey home in fine fettle.

The only chance of a positive result is really in our batting till lunchtime tomorrow, then bowling our hosts out in two sessions. It seems unlikely, given the run glut that has taken place over the past two days, especially with the forecast suggesting more morning rain.

Irrespective of that, both Billy Godleman and Tom Lace will likely float their way home, having both made career-best scores today.

For Lace it was a maiden first class hundred, but hardly a surprise. Since the start of the season he has looked a very organised player, with plenty of time to play his shots. He has been creative in some of his dismissals, otherwise could have reached this landmark before now.

But I have every confidence that  this will be the catalyst for a long and glittering career. I just hope that the next few years of that will be in Derbyshire colours and I don't think that any of us should discount that possibility, especially as he seems to be enjoying his cricket.

As for the skipper, it is just the latest example of him doing what he knows and what he knows works. Also an example of a professional cricketer 'drinking at the well', a time when form and conditions mesh together to create an opportunity for something special.

Whisper it quietly, but another 64 runs tomorrow will see Billy with the highest score ever made by a Derbyshire batsman in first class cricket. I could think of no-one more deserving of that landmark total and I hope that the weather allows him that opportunity.

With no real merit in an early declaration tomorrow, whatever time is possible should be used to enable him to go for it.

I reckon that George Davidson would approve. That 1896 innings against Lancashire has stood atop the records for too long and it would be great to see it go before the club's 150th celebrations next year.

Harvey Hosein scored a half century of his own to help to take the score past 500 by the close of play. It is worthy of note that as a team we have scored more centuries this summer already than we did last year.

It speaks volumes for the batting coaching of Dave Houghton, as well as for a side that has generally taken an impressive, collective approach to run scoring.

Only a couple of times has this failed, but we are undoubtedly moving in the right direction.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Glamorgan V Derbyshire day 2

Glamorgan 394 (Wagg 100, Carey 62*, Reece 3-40)

Derbyshire 221-2 (Godleman 86* Lace 78*)

Derbyshire trail by 173 runs

It was a merry old day's cricket down in Wales today. First, Glamorgan advanced  their score from 167-5 to 394 all out, before Derbyshire eased to 221-2 in reply. That's 448 runs in the day and a high level of entertainment.

Former county favourite Graham Wagg scored a century for the home team, sharing in a record ninth wicket partnership of 167 runs as the bowlers wilted. When Tony Palladino is going around the park, you know that batting conditions are favorable. Yet there was time, at the end of the innings, for Leus du Plooy to take 2 wickets, his first for the county.

When it was our turn to bat, Luis Reece and Billy Godleman started brightly, before Luis was caught, then Wayne Madsen, in a poor trot at present, went for 20.

Thereafter, Billy Godleman (86*) and Tom Lace (78*) seemed to do pretty much as they wanted and we closed 173 runs behind with eight wickets in hand.

The players have enjoyed far more game time than seemed likely, though the thinking money would be very much on a draw here.

Nonetheless, it is nice to see the batting back in the groove and I hope that this continues tomorrow.

Fynn Hudson-Prentice signs three-year deal

I am delighted to read this morning that Derbyshire has signed the former Sussex all rounder, Fynn Hudson-Prentice on a three-year deal, until the end of 2021.

I have watched him on several occasions this season and been impressed. At 23 he is a cricketer of talent, one who should only get better in that period.

Based on what I have seen, I would say that his batting is his stronger suit and he has impressive strokes around the wicket. He scores at a decent rate too, suggesting that supporters will enjoy watching him.

Two centuries for the second team have helped his cause, though I would say that his bowling is medium-fast, perhaps just above the pace of Tony Palladino, rather than quick, as announced on Twitter. He is accurate and appears to have the useful habit of nicking a wicket here and there.
He is a good cricketer and since his release by Sussex appears to have improved within the MCC Young Cricketers programme, where he was undoubtedly known to Steve Kirby and Dave Houghton.

I have long felt that cricketers generally come into their own between the ages of 23 and 26. There are plenty of examples of this in our history and I hope that Fynn is the latest of these. He will prove an asset in all forms of the game and is likely to get game time in the Vitality Blast, where his versatility will be very useful to Dominic Cork.

It also offers another option in the four-day game and puts pressure on the top six to deliver. Healthy competition for places is never a bad thing.

I wish Fynn well and look forward to seeing his continued development in Derbyshire colours in the seasons ahead.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Glamorgan V Derbyshire day 1

Glamorgan 167-5 V Derbyshire

Well, there was more play than expected at Swansea today, but the forecast for the remaining three days makes it impossible to get too excited about the day's events.

Both sides will be fairly happy with the close of play score, Derbyshire having removed the home side's top five, with two wickets each for Luis Reece and Tony Palladino. It would be good to get maximum bowling points, at the very least, from this game, but a positive result looks unlikely.

More from me tomorrow, if only to record a rain-wrecked day.

Book Review: Cardus Uncovered: the Truth, the Untruth and the Higher Truth by Christopher O'Brien

I grew up with the writings on cricket of Neville Cardus.

Through his prolific works I became acquainted with the greats of the pre First World War 'Golden Age', as well as the wonderful players between the two wars.

He captured the character, the period and the whimsy of the game like no one I had read before, nor indeed since. Other writers impressed and captured my imagination in due course, but none has ever done so like Cardus.

Yet as I grew older I began to realise that the writing masked considerable inadequacies with regard to the actual events. The personality of Yorkshire cricketer Emmott Robinson, for example, was a creation of the writer, confirmed by the player, who said that he had never met him. 'I attributed to him the words that God intended him to say' said Cardus, his 'histrionic pen' rounding a character forever more.

Indeed, as this book confirms, Cardus was adept at writing match reports when he had seen none of the action. He was also inconsistent in his writing, confusing dates and deeds on a regular basis, laid a considerable smokescreen over his childhood days and never let research get in the way of his storytelling.

Some of this can be put down to the failing memories of an old man, perhaps more to a lack of source material, at that time, with which to verify those recollections. One gets the impression that such things probably didn't matter to much to Cardus, who made his name as the cricket correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, before spreading his wings and moving to London.

Was he really the illegitimate offspring of an unknown father and a prostitute? Did he really emerge from the slums of Manchester to become a revered, knighted writer on both cricket and music? Was there really universal acclaim for his writing, and was he the talented young cricketer that he professed to be?

The answers to these questions can be found in this wonderful book that I read, captivated, in four days. The author has done an extraordinary job in researching not just the genealogy of the subject, but also the accuracy of many of his stories.

In many instances, Cardus is found wanting. Not, I suspect through intentional deceit, but simply because he had taken at face value what he had been told about his family and had no means of verifying it. His birth date was wrong, he adopted the name of Neville and many of his published childhood memories are proven here to be falsehoods.

As for his cricket writing, Cardus enlivened the mundane with a fertile imagination and a vocabulary non pareil. A 'higher truth', as he called it, perhaps what he fancied should have been said and done, rather than what actually happened. Thus, Tom Richardson wasn't 'led wearily to the Old Trafford pavilion' at the end of an 1896 Test match. Rather he 'legged it like a stag and got two pints in before anyone else'.

His private life is cloaked in mystery, with a wife who was a 'life partner' but infrequently living under the same roof, or even in the same city. There was also a long-term mistress and stories of close female friends that made his life as exceptional as his writing.

Christopher O'Brien is a Derbyshire member who grew up in the shadow of Old Trafford Cricket Ground and has produced an excellent, self-published book. Having spent years in the business of information retrieval, I am genuinely in awe of the research that went into this book.

I would heartily recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed the writings of Neville Cardus. While it could have been done as a 'hatchet job' on his reputation, it is an acceptance of his failings, while at the same time being an appreciation of his genius.

That isn't too strong a word. Whether one can take his writings as a document of fact is questionable. Yet the truth remains that Cardus popularised, romanticised and glamorised cricket like no one before,  or since.

A recommended read, for sure.
Cardus Uncovered: The Truth, the Untruth and the Higher Truth is written by Christopher O'Brien and is available from all good book sellers, priced £10

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Glamorgan V Derbyshire preview

Despite the loss of two of their last three championship matches, few could deny Dave Houghton' assertion that we are playing some good cricket.

The frustration is that we are not yet playing good enough cricket, on a consistent basis.

The home fixture against Glamorgan, one in which the visiting side were shorn of several key players, should have been won. So too should last week's game at Durham. In both matches we had played well enough to be in the ascendancy, yet were not brave nor good enough to get across the line.

The reality is that our batting sometimes flatters to deceive, while our bowling simply doesn't have that cutting edge when it matters. Both Tony Palladino and Ravi Rampaul have done well this year, but neither are in the first flush of youth. We cannot realistically expect them to keep bowling teams out consistently, nor, for all his excellent efforts, should we really want Luis Reece to do his current amount of bowling. It has to have a detrimental effect on his batting average, which subsequently knocks on to the rest of the batting.

To progress further, and make a realistic promotion challenge, we need Logan van Beek to be the kind of bowler we hoped we had signed. One good enough, it should be said to take over 40 wickets at 14 each in New Zealand last winter. That sort of player, in a small squad, is crucial in our moving forward. I live in hope that Logan, by general consensus a lovely lad who is 100% committed, will become that player. If not, then we need to go back to the drawing board for next year.

We currently sit in fourth position in the league, but have yet to play any of the leading lights of the division. Given that our next four matches are against Glamorgan, who are second, Lancashire, Middlesex and Worcestershire, we will know, before the start of the T20, whether promotion ambitions are realistic, or just a pipe dream.

We all know, from recent seasons, that Derbyshire are capable of beating good sides, sometimes with equal alacrity as they capitulate to lesser ones. My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that we are competitive, but will win nothing until we develop, or recruit, the mentality to approach winning situations with greater confidence than a blindfolded man crossing a trapeze on a unicycle.

We have players you would back in those situations, but others who struggle. Dave Houghton will know this, but only time can realistically resolve those issues. There is a lot of talent, but much more work, both development and recruitment, to be done.

So we head down to Swansea needing a result. There may be changes, as Luis Reece would appear to be unlikely to bowl. That is a huge loss, but may just mean additional overs for Alex Hughes and certainly for Matt Critchley.

There is no news, at this stage, of the Glamorgan squad, but having beaten us without several key players, they will be confident in repeating this with South African quick bowler Marchant de Lange likely to be in the side and bowling well.

I am going for a draw here, for no other reason than a poor weather forecast that will take sizeable chunks from each day.

First innings points look to be important to maintain any promotion challenge, but based on recent form, the latter is an aspiration, rather than a realistic goal.

We will see.

What do you think?

Friday, 7 June 2019

Book Review: Sense of Humour, Sense of Justice by Fred Rumsey

Fred Rumsey was a very good county cricketer. One good enough to play for his country in five Test matches, in which he took 17 wickets.

Bowling quick left arm, he represented first Worcestershire and then Somerset with distinction, taking 580 wickets between 1960 and 1969, at an average of 20 runs each.

He finished his career at Derbyshire, where he was a key member of the side that reached the Gillette Cup Final at Lord's in 1969.

I saw Fred a few times, although in his time at Derbyshire he was considerably slower and heavier than in his salad days. He wasn't picked for his fielding, which was functional at best and usually saw him at third man or fine leg, though in his prime he was a decent slip fielder. Nor for his batting, which was bucolic and entertaining for the short time that it usually lasted, Fred being a genuine number eleven. His bowling, however, was probing, accurate and a success. He is still the most economical bowler in the history of List A cricket, from those who bowled over 400 overs. 2.73 an over he went for, cheaper than van der Bijl, Cartwright and Garner... 

It was only ever a short-term signing, one brought about by his accepting the role of public relations officer with the club. He played from 1969 to 1973 for Derbyshire and did invaluable work towards the county's centenary celebrations in 1970. 

Indeed, whatever his merits as a cricketer, they were dwarfed by his off-field achievements. He single-handedly advanced the idea of a Professional Cricketers' Association, was very much a pioneer of public relations in the game and also played a leading role in the expansion of the Lord's Taverners.

His has been a life worth living and one in which he has had considerable fun. Funny stories are liberally scattered throughout the book's 256 pages, and although some of them are undoubtedly apocryphal, and others have had different people as the subject, they bear the retelling. The Derbyshire committee of the time does not come out of some of the tales especially well, but many around the circuit were renowned for being well meaning but amateur in the extreme at that time.
His career brought him into contact with many people, inside and outside sport and a rich array of character flit in and out of the chapters.

The book has many photographs and my particular favourite was one I had not seen before, of a Derbyshire v MCC match at Chesterfield in 1970, a game that featured a number of retired Derbyshire players.

It was a pleasure to read, not recording one of the game's true greats, but a fine player who made a greater contribution than most to its development. It is all the more rewarding for this. It is a lasting tribute to Fred, and also to Fairfield Books. The publishing house was set up by Stephen Chalke, one of my favourite cricket writers, and has produced some wonderful reads over the past twenty years.

This is but the latest of them.

Highly recommended.

Sense of Humour, Sense of Justice is written by Fred Rumsey and is available from Amazon and from all good book shops, priced £16

Closing thoughts on Durham

We saw the good and bad sides of Derbyshire in the game just finished at Chester-le-Street.

It was good to see a return to form by Billy Godleman and Matt Critchley, though when the margin of defeat was so narrow, Wayne Madsen's pair was a blow, especially when one considers how important he is to our batting.

We bowled, on the whole, fairly well, but again, when you lose by 30 runs and concede 37 second innings extras it is not hard to see where there was fault. I accept that half of those were leg byes, but I am sure that you will take my point.

I just wasn't convinced by our second innings batting. It was hard to see the game plan, with some batsmen obviously going for it and others less so. The partnership between Matt Critchley and Alex Hughes after tea was excellent, but the dismissal of du Plooy was critical.

I think the latter should be at 4 or 5 in the order. He offers a left/right combination and here he would not have had to go at it as quickly as he did.

His dismissal triggered some dreadful cricket by Derbyshire. With five wickets in hand and 5 an over needed from ten, most teams would fancy a win. Hosein seemed to come in to play for the draw, Critchley was going for the win and the latter's dismissal should have seen us shut up shop for draw points. It was all very confusing and Harvey, for all his talent, will need to find ways to score runs quickly, when they are needed.

It was all very disappointing. Raine and Rushworth bowled well, but the batting at the death was muddled and poor.

We are better than that, and need to show it next week in Wales. An ankle problem looks set to see Luis Reece play as a batsman only, so the work load of the other seamers will increase.

I think Logan van Beek is an unlucky bowler, having watched him closely over two innings. Yet sometimes his length sees him beat the bat, but not take the edge. Then, in his frustration, he seems to strive for pace, to the detriment of his direction, and he becomes costly.

You cannot fault his commitment and were he playing on a Dutch passport, we would probably be quite happy with his efforts so far. He runs in hard, is an excellent fielder and a lovely bloke.

I think he is a decent cricketer, but some distance away from the all-rounder we looked to have signed. He looks only a tail end bat, and we can only hope that his overall direction with the ball improves ahead of the T20.

That overseas role is critical in any side. You need to be the best batsman or bowler, or good enough as all rounder to offer crucial balance.

At the moment, Logan is short of that, but isn't the first to struggle under the weight of expectation.

Let's hope it comes together in the months ahead.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Durham v Derbyshire day 4

Durham 293 and 242

Derbyshire 268 and 238

Durham won by 30 runs

For a good hour or so of the morning session, Durham looked set to leave Derbyshire around 300 to win in the final two sessions. As it was, the final target of 268 represented nose bleed territory for the county from an historical perspective, our previous highest successful chase being the 224 we successfully chased, for the loss of six wickets, in 2001.

That it got to that stage was the result of Durham going from 209-5 to 242 all out in the space of five overs. It smacked of declaration batting, but I would be surprised if the home side hadn't aimed a little higher than they made. Especially when the last wicket came from a communication breakdown between Rushworth and Alex Lees, who carried his bat for an unbeaten century.

There were two wickets each for Matt Critchley and Logan van Beek and the equation was thus 268 to win in 75 overs. The breaking of a record notwithstanding, it looked on, from the way that Lees and Ned Eckersley had batted. Yet the caution was that no one, with the possible exception of Matt Critchley in his excellent first innings, had really timed the ball consistently, while the home side's score had been boosted by 37 extras, a tally that could come back to bite us.

Reece and Godleman, left with an awkward half hour before the lunch break, took the score to thirty in that time. Afterwards they were quickly into their stride before Reece went for a wide one and edged through to the keeper, after a partnership worth 55 runs. The bounce was perhaps a little low, but he would have been disappointed with the dismissal.

Madsen came in on a pair, after a four-ball dismissal in the first innings, and this time lasted only six, before being adjudged leg before to Raine, who had just returned from treatment for an injury, sustained in the field. The old cricket adage of adding two wickets on to a score to see its true value came home, as we reached 60-2, Madsen recording only the fourth pair of his career.

Godleman was punching the ball well through the covers, but had a let off when caught at slip from the bowling of Rushworth, who had bowled a no ball. As he had in the first innings, Raine looked the biggest threat to Derbyshire's ambitions, though the skill of Rushworth has not diminished over the years and he ran in as willingly as ever. Eventually, near the end of a hostile spell, he brought one back into the Derbyshire skipper, who departed leg before for 42.

The top three gone, our dire need was for someone to play the role that Lees did so well yesterday. The scoreboard barely moved for several overs, as Harte attacked a perceived weakness of Lace with a straight and short mid-wicket, aiming to get him playing in the air. The young batsman handled it well and, as he usually does, looked calm and composed, yet on the stroke of tea Harte bowled him with one where he seemed to play inside the line.

The score was 96-4 at tea, with 172 needed from 36 overs. It hadn't been a good afternoon for Derbyshire and the greater challenge seemed to be in not losing the game, winning seemingly some way off. Hughes hadn't looked convincing and the next spell from Raine and Rushworth looked set to be pivotal.

And yet...after tea Critchley and Hughes ate into the target with calm assurance. There were no shots of undue ambition, just punishment of the bad ball, together with some judicious running between the wickets.The target came down to under a hundred when Hughes, on 40, was bowled by Carse, the ball jagging in and keeping a little low. The stand had put on 85 and given Derbyshire a very good chance of winning the game.

87 to win at five an over as du Plooy came to the wicket. Carse, bowling from the Castle End, worked up a good head of pace, but the 200 came up as both batsmen took fours from the over. There were 54 runs needed when du Plooy fenced at one from Raine he could have left alone and was caught behind for a breezy but too short 19.

Raine had a fine game for Durham and continued to look the main danger. That was his seventh wicket of the match and the last ten overs arrived with 51 needed to win. Yet 41 were still needed four overs later, as Hosein struggled to get the ball away An edged four gave some respite, but the last five overs arrived with 34 still needed.

When Critchley holed out at deep mid wicket for an excellent 71, the chase seemed over, and Hosein's suicidal run to mid off, two balls later ended an innings of eight from 17 balls, to leave defeat a greater possibility. van Beek was bowled next ball by Rushworth, to leave 34 needed, or 26 balls to survive.

It was another over of poor cricket from Derbyshire, and while not wishing to be overly critical of a young player, Hosein's inability to score put additional pressure on Critchley to do so. Palladino was bowled neck and crop by the first ball of Raine's next over, and that was it, defeat by 30 runs.

In the end it was hugely disappointing, a defeat that was somehow snatched from the jaws of victory. Though at the end of it all, a terrific game of cricket.

Back to the drawing board, and a trip to Wales next week.

But we really should have won this one.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Durham v Derbyshire day 3

Durham 293 and 160-5

Derbyshire 268 (Critchley 79*)

Durham lead by 185 runs

The reason, as I understand it, for the appearance of Leus du Plooy at number eight in the innings yesterday was simple. It was the position vacated by Anuj Dal, the onus being on Leus to work his way up the order on performance.

This innings was a struggle for him, his seventeen runs in 87 balls and two hours of resistance as diametrically opposed to previous innings we have seen as could be. Yet it is more time in English conditions and batting 'oop north' bears little similarity to those he will be used to back home. He hasn't had much batting of late, so the time in the middle will do him good.

He lasted a further half hour this morning, before being undone by one that moved away from Ben Raine. Van Beek helped in a partnership of thirty runs, not always off the middle of the bat, before the return of the same bowler saw his stumps rearranged.

Through it all Critchley had batted beautifully. It was an innings of some maturity, in which he steered away from over-ambition, played straight and punished the bad ball. Palladino kept him company for a while, before looping a catch off the shoulder of the bat to point, though the deficit had by that time been reduced to less than fifty. Rampaul, in typically bucolic fashion, helped to take the total to 268 before being caught behind just before lunch, leaving Critchley unbeaten on a very impressive 79. The deficit was only 25, when last night it looked like being much more than that, with credit due to the team's fighting spirit once again.

After lunch the home side's second innings began and it was once more a turgid affair. The fifty didn't come up until the thirtieth over, albeit faced by some accurate, probing bowling. There were wickets for Rampaul and Reece, but no suggestion of urgency from the home batting that would be required to set a target at some point. Alex Hughes pouched two good catches at second slip, but it was a session that mirrored the first of the game.

From a Derbyshire perspective, it was nice to see bowling that gave nothing away, after the fixture here last year, when shockingly poor bowling turned nigh-certain victory into an abject loss. This is a different, better, more disciplined side, though finding a win here looked to be problematic as tea came with the score 61-2.

Then, in the gathering gloom, it all started to happen. Harte's 80 balls of defiance ended with a catch to Critchley, then Rampaul got down with commendable speed to pouch Burnham off his own bowling, making eight wickets in the match. When Reece bowled Trevaskis, the home side were 86-5 and the pendulum had swung in Derbyshire's direction.

Through it all, Lees had stood defiant, unbeaten on 35 after 195 minutes of dogged defiance. The partnership with Eckersley, many times a thorn in Derbyshire sides, looked set to be match-defining, but bad light and light rain intervened with Durham 98-5.

When the players came back out, Eckersley injected greater urgency into proceedings with some crisp drives and pulls, while Lees reached an invaluable half century after four hours of batting. When play ended for the day, Durham had reached 160-5, Lace missing a golden opportunity to run out Lees with a poor throw to the keeper that went for overthrows.

That's 185 ahead with five wickets left and an intriguing final day is in store. The wicket is far from unplayable, but unless we get early wickets, the thinking money is on a draw. Durham will not want a fifth straight defeat, so any target set is unlikely to be generous.

Derbyshire? Historically we don't chase targets well, so there is a mould to be broken there.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Durham v Derbyshire day 2

Durham 293

Derbyshire 181-6 (Godleman 66, Critchley 38 not)

Derbyshire trail by 112 runs

The second day of this game began under cloudy skies, with an occasional spot of rain counter-balancing the warming effects of the shafts of sun that came through as play began.

Palladino quickly removed Potts, with one that nipped back through a gate of farmyard proportions, but it took several overs of cat and mouse before the final wicket fell. Eckersley, whose career average against Derbyshire must dwarf that against everyone else, refused a number of singles to protect Chris Rushworth, before Rampaul ended things by getting the last man caught above his head at point by Tom Lace. The innings closed for 293 and it gave Rampaul a five-wicket haul for the second successive match. The West Indian is in outstanding form and he, with Palladino, is having a special and appreciated summer.

Godleman and Reece led off the reply and there were few alarms. The skipper edged a couple into the slips, where they fell short of the waiting fielders, but both played some fine drives and the fifty came up before the interval, a landmark accomplished with commendable haste.

Derbyshire's first four-day half century opening stand of the summer continued apace after lunch, the bats of both men sounding encouragingly good. It came as a surprise, then, when, with the score on 83, Reece edged one through to Eckersley behind the stumps, the dismissal repeated a few balls later with Madsen's departure. Each time the bowler was the impressive Ben Raine, a whole-hearted cricketer for who I have a great deal of respect.

The skipper continued almost in one-day mode, bringing up his first championship half century of the summer with spanking drives. It was as if, frustrated by his four-day form so far, he had decided to bat with one-day abandon and it was lovely to watch. Indeed the side's response to strengthening winds and gathering clouds was purposeful, and Lace announced himself with wristy strokes through the off side.

Sadly, with his score on 66, Godleman assayed one expansive drive too many and dragged on, from the bowling of Harte. Lace played some pleasing shots, before surprisingly leaving one from Harte that demolished his stumps, the batsman's hunched frame over his bat telling a story.

The score was 128-4 at that stage and Hughes was joined by Hosein. Several overs of non-scoring defence followed, before Hosein assayed a loose drive, again off Harte, and was comprehensively bowled. Hughes was next, wafting airily at Rushworth to be caught at slip. 

To go from 117-2 to 128-6 was a poor effort by Derbyshire. While Harte had three wickets and had bowled in the right areas, each would have gone down as an assist from the batsman. The gathering cloud cover helped all of the bowlers, but it was disappointing to see the batting capitulate in such a manner, especially from such a recent position of dominance.

Sanity was restored by a partnership between du Plooy and Critchley. The former seemed to have an occasional limp, aggravated by a blow that required the physio to come on to the pitch and presumably the reason for his late appearance. His was largely a watchful role, while Critchley  accumulated steadily at the other end, showing sound technique as well as his trademark timing.

Rain and bad light brought an early end to proceedings, with Derbyshire 181-6.

A big first session is in store tomorrow.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Durham V Derbyshire day 1

Durham 254-8 (Rampaul 4-56, Reece 2-28, Burnham 67, Lees 63)

V Derbyshire

Derbyshire will not be unhappy with the close of play score today, with Durham 254-8.

Then again, the home side will be pleased still to be batting with a chance to add further runs tomorrow.

The ball did a bit all day, but we probably hoped to take more wickets before lunch. I thought that Ravi Rampaul again bowled splendidly, as did Luis Reece and Tony Palladino. Logan van Beek was unlucky, and could have had a couple of wickets before lunch, a sharp chance to Matt Critchley put down, while two appeals for lbw were turned down.

The home side got on top in the afternoon, but late wickets in the evening session brought a situation akin to parity by the close.

The next task is to finish things off tomorrow, then bat as doggedly as the home side did, on a day that would never be confused with goings-on at Trent Bridge.

Nonetheless, it had my main focus today, as will the rest of the game.

More from me tomorrow.