Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Happy New Year everyone!

I'd like to be the first to wish all Derbyshire fans a happy 2009.

I hope the celebrations are enjoyable for you all and a mere precursor for those that will take place when we bring home some silverware next season.

Optimistic? Maybe, but also realistic. In my opinion, we need to sign a good batsman from somewhere to bat three this year. If not, we need someone to step up to the plate and make the place their own. Dan Birch, Dom Telo, John Sadler and Garry Park will all aim to do just that in April and much will depend on their pre-season work.

I hope (call it my first New Year wish if you will) that Dan Redfern bats four and Wavell five next year, which gives us a solid order, especially with Greg Smith at six. With all rounders Wagg, Clare, Groenewald and wicket keeper Pipe for the lower order, we bat a long way down ON PAPER.

Last year the lower order bailed us out regularly, but the top order has to support Chris Rogers, assuming he's not with the touring Aussies, and there will be key roles for Steve Stubbings and Paul Borrington, who will battle for the other opening slot, though we're unlikely to see the latter until June as he has his finals at University.

My second New Year wish is that our seamers stay fit. If Clare and Wagg do so, Tom Lungley returns to the form of 2007 and Charl Langeveldt keeps going, I'd back that quartet against most sides. Worryingly, Charl could not bat in the Cape Cobras weekend game after he picked up an ankle injury. It was a game that highlighted why Champagne Charl joined Derbyshire as his side were bowled out for just 39... Compared to that, Chris Rogers must seem like Bradman. Hopefully the innings isn't too serious, but if it affords him a rest, then we shouldn't complain.

I'm baffled as to why the Aussies have given Matt Hayden another game against South Africa, after the Proteas hammered them last night. He looked in decent nick in the second innings before being suckered out by good field placing and bowling, but surely with the rubber dead from an Aussie perspective, it was an opportunity to try someone new? While their bowling resources look pretty thin at present, their batting conveyor belt looks full of talent, with Phil Hughes, Michael Klinger and Shaun Marsh all scoring well and worth a shout, even if the likes of Chris Rogers were overlooked. It suggests (good news from our viewpoint) that Hayden is regarded as an essential for the Ashes, when one would expect, irrespective of the result, that Hayden would retire from Test cricket.

I wouldn't be surprised if a number of Aussies, mindful of the jump start it might give them in the event of injuries, were up for some 20/20 in England next summer and Derbyshire simply must have an overseas player this time. Greg Smith and Wavell apart, our 20 over batting last year was shocking and a clean hitting, fast running Aussie, ideally one who can also bowl a few overs, would be a good acquisition. No one seems to know if Chris Rogers will play 20/20 in 2009, but if not a signing is imperative to remain competitive. Like it or not, 20/20 draws the crowds and if those coming in see consistently poor performances every time they are unlikely to transfer their interest to the longer, better forms of the game.

Which brings me neatly to my third and final New Year wish - that we approach one day batting like a 1500 metre race and not a 100 metre dash. Dashing strokes are all well and good, but too often last year we got to ten overs and were something like 50-6 and nowhere to go. If we aim for five singles an over and a four here and there, we'll make scores that will win more games than not. 60-1 off ten is a good springboard and doesn't require manic batting. It's common sense stuff and I would love to see a little more of that applied to our batting next year.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Derbyshire cricket on ebay

I regularly have a look on ebay to see if anyone is selling Derbyshire memorabilia and have bought some good things in the past.

There's quite a lot on at the moment, but a lot of items seem to be up there in perpetuity. A picture of the 1936 Championship winning side is still selling for £9.99 plus postage and must have been up for around six months now. It would be quite nice to have, but I wouldn't pay that much for it, especially when the same picture has been in several yearbooks and club histories in the past.

There are other team groups there at the same price, with some of them autographed. I may be in a minority of one, but some of the autographs on those of as more recent vintage probably detract from the item...no names of course!

You can buy a Derbyshire County flag (just the thing to get your windows put in round here, I would have thought) or various pictures, signed and otherwise of players from our past. Incredibly, one of William Chatterton, a Wills card from 1896 is available for £74.99 plus postage. Don't think I'll be in for that one somehow, and can't think there'll be many takers, to be fair. I'm sure that must be grounds for divorce...

You could buy club cufflinks, or maybe a pocket watch, perhaps even a teaspoon. Nice items all, but not really to my taste, thanks. Though maybe your tea would taste all the finer with a stir from the Derbyshire teaspoon. And no, its not wooden...

One thing that is evident is that there's no real market at present for the old club yearbooks. There are a number of them out there, but no takers. Perhaps all the genuine collectors have them and there's little doubt that the Holy Grail of yearbooks (1954) would still get its buyers and earns a fair price when it comes up from time to time.

On that very subject, I still feel really disappointed that the club will cease the yearbook from next season. Handing out to members an extended annual report is neither here nor there, and I can't understand why we're chopping it to save £5,000. I know that advertising money is tight in the recession, but this is the club's history being produced and the value of that cannot be measured in financial terms alone. Maybe an edition with less photographs might prove more cost-effective, like the ones produced by Peach and Dawn for many years. As I've written before, the yearbook was at its peak under the late Stan Tacey and people are more likely to buy something that is "a good read" than anything else. There has to be people out there who'd contribute an article without charge? I did it for Stan over the years and got a free copy of the book in exchange. Surely the local contributors could do the same, or am I being optimistic?

Back to ebay and the most surprising item is a "Simon Katich" long sleeve shirt, with the explanation:


Back name: KATICH (Or choose your own player)

Back number: 6 (Because he hits so many but please choose squad number if prefered)


Katich was a fine player in his year with us, but I won't look back on his time and think of a huge hitter. However, the back might look a little silly if it read "On occasion, perhaps, but overall he's a steady accumulator who times the ball well and relies on placement more than power"

Methinks Wagg might be the name of choice for many, or maybe Hinds. Presumably those who bought this last year and had "Clarke" on the back also had the wording - "Er...not very often".

Finally, there is, for a piffling £275, a signed bat in a display case signed by "stars" such as Simon Katich, Ant Botha, Graeme Welch, Ian Harvey (OK so far) Boyd Rankin and Phil Weston...

It was all going so well to the brackets. I'm not sure if the performances of Rankin and Weston in Derbyshire colours merit the term "star" and I'm even less sure that I'd pay that sort of money, but hey - if that's your fancy, go for it!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Done and dusted

So how was it for you?

Christmas, I mean. We'd a great time here up in the frozen north and the traditional turkey and trimmings was followed by the traditional dessert of Christmas Pudding and the even more traditional glass of Andrews later in the evening as the realisation hit that I'd overdone the eating yet again (despite vowing not to).

I'd a lovely clutch of presents including "The Derbyshire Chronicles" by Edward Giles which I'm enjoying becaise he's done his research and isn't just regurgitating the same old stuff. I even got a nice, home made cricket bookmark from my daughter to go with it.

I've spent a little time, as I'm off till early January, watching the Test from Melbourne and Matt Hayden's time as an Aussie opener seems to be coming to a close. Where that leaves us is a moot point, as Chris Rogers excellent form suggests that he may be next in line for an opening slot. Katich and Rogers, Derbyshire past and present, as opening batsmen would give us all something to be proud of.

Of course, it might also mean that we could be looking elsewhere for an overseas batsman/skipper next year if Rogers played and made a good fist of things. An Ashes tour may then be on the cards and we'd be back to that annual game we know and love, called "Replace the Overseas Pro".

It has happened with monotonous regularity of late, albeit through no fault of the club. They either get injured (Nathan Astle, Jacques Rudolph) or have commitments thrust upon them that they were unaware of (Mahela Jayawardene, Mohammad Yousuf) when they put pen to paper.

If Rogers did get an Ashes place, might an option be Matt Hayden, perhaps doing a similar job to Justin Langer (another we had for a short spell!) at Somerset? At 37 I suspect he'd retire from international cricket, but might just fancy a spell in the county game and one last payday. I've no doubt he wouldn't come cheap, but he's still a fine player, despite his recent Test problems. One only has to look at his average to see that and I'd be thrilled to see him in our colours next season if Buck was elevated to the national side.

His opposition would likely be either Shaun Marsh (son of ex-Aussie opener Geoff) or Phil Hughes, who has scored a lot of runs as an opener for New South Wales this year and is only 21. They may also consider playing Shane Watson as an opener/all rounder to get him in the side, and the Aussies certainly don't lack batting depth.

One that Derbyshire, like other counties, might keep an eye on, is Moises Henriques, a young all rounder, also from New South Wales, who has a Portuguese passport. At 21 he has precocious talent and bowls lively fast medium as well as being an aggressive middle order bat. At this stage I suspect he'll fancy his chances of making the national side as he's been called up for various training camps, but I hope we keep tabs on the youngster as his passport will certainly make him a target for counties in the future if national selection passes him by. Having said that, Jason Krejza was also linked with a county switch, with a Czech father and Polish mother. His recent Test call up knocked that for six, but I think his tendency to bowl a four ball every over might legislate against him unless he can eliminate this flaw in his game.

Anyway, that's it for now. I keep scouring the Internet and cricket sites for any club news and hope that we get something to be excited about in the near future. January is coming fast and then its full steam ahead to another season!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

One final piece...

I noted with interest earlier today a piece in which Rikki Clarke, erstwhile of this parish, claimed he is on a diet to aid his return to the big time of English cricket...

Sigh. Been there, heard it, bought the T shirt and put it through the washing machine on too high a wash, thereby wrecking it.

The nearest Rikki will get to the England team is when the Bears play a friendly against them next season. I will realise we are really down among the dead men if tricky Rikki ever makes the national side again. Should he do so ahead of the far more worthy Graham Wagg it will be an outright disgrace.

I can only assume that he got the idea after hearing Derbyshire fans refer to him as a "waist" of space...

I'll get me coat!

Happy Christmas!

Well, I started this blog back in April and if you'd have told me then that I'd have reached 20,000 hits by Christmas I'd have laughed.

I'm absolutely thrilled to have reached this milestone and it encourages me to continue, as do the many kind words expressed by people in e mails over the past few months.

I really appreciate your comments, either on the blog or to my e mail address at peakfan36@yahoo.co.uk

I hope you all have a great Christmas and look forward to renewing our acquaintance in the very near future.


Mike Hendrick - an appreciation

If, as one might rightly expect, we have seen the last of Mike Hendrick as a man of Derbyshire cricket, we owe him a debt of gratitude.

Many might say he was the last great Derbyshire-born seamer in a line that goes right back to the nineteenth century. You all know the names and while there have been fine seamers since, they've been imports, rather than county born and bred.

There was always a degree of reassurance in watching Hendo take the new ball. There was confidence that it would not be wasted and he was always probing on that spot that was always called the "Derbyshire length". Too far up to cut, too short to drive, too difficult for a great many batsmen. John Arlott, he of the apposite phrase, called it a "grudging length" which sums it up quite nicely. On those rare occasions that Hendo got hit, you knew that we were in big trouble. His run up was economical and his action a textbook and classical sideways on, with the body action generating movement and lift that took many by surprise

I recall a game against Yorkshire at Queens Park back in the 1970s when Hendrick was bowling from the Pavilion end and looked as if he had the ball on a string, ready to jerk away from the bat as the unsuspecting Yorkshireman played forward. The wicket appeared to be unplayable to all except one man, Geoffrey Boycott. In a two-hour masterclass of batting before stumps, the great Boycs played them all with the middle of his bat and looked the class act that he was.

Unlike many of his predecessors, Hendrick earned England call ups and ended up with thirty caps. Some might say that he was lucky to play in an age where there was less competition and cynics said that his regular length was aimed at containing, rather than getting top players out. Be that as it may, he was good enough to take 87 Test match wickets at 25 each and that average was better than those achieved by Messrs Larwood, Snow, Botham or Gough. What George Pope and Les Jackson may have done with similar opportunity is a matter of conjecture, but Hendrick's record stands up to scrutiny and allows him to take his place in the Derbyshire pantheon. I can still recall the feeling of pride when England won in Australia with a side that featured Hendrick, Geoff Miller and Bob Taylor.

770 first class wickets for the County at 20. Not bad is it? Nearly 300 one day wickets at 19. For the younger readers, think Charl Langeveldt. Maybe a little slower, possibly even more outrageous in the lift and movement. His best first class performance was 8-45, while his best one day bowling was a "mere" 6-7...

He was a very fine slip fielder, unusually so for a seam bowler, most of whom spend their fielding time ruminating in the outfield at third man or long leg. He also had a fine throwing arm and a number of players took him on and regretted it soon afterwards. As a batsman he was entertaining and worth a watch. Again, think Langeveldt - if it was in his arc, it went a long way, although often straight up in the air. If he got his range, the area between mid on and mid wicket could look out for a brief bombardment, though with a highest acore of 46 we always knew it was only a matter of time...

We were disappointed when he left us, a victim of that rare Derbyshire problem of dressing room discord - and devastated when his final years were spent across the border at Trent Bridge, where he was only a qualified success after a number of injuries.

He subsequently spent a short while as an umpire, before coaching both Scotland and Ireland prior to his return to Derbyshire. Hendo was pleasant company, very funny with a beer in his hand and an appreciative audience. Those of long memory will remember with fondness the Radio Derby recordings of he and Geoff Miller as old Derbyshire miners discussing Derbyshire's glorious past. "Gladstone and Jackson" were favourites, "Cliff Gladstone used to baaarl big benders". Then there was "that Eric Bartlett from South Africa" who got Derbyshire really fit. So fit, as Hendrick once said "if someone hits our bowling into the next county we'll be the fastest team around to fetch it back".

I remember a few convivial chats with him about the state of Scottish cricket. Like many up here, he became frustrated by the imbalance between Edinburgh and Glasgow (many feel that Edinburgh players have a much better chance of national selection and Glasgow players need to be twice as good to get a rub of the green). Maybe this was a reminder of the difficulties encountered by northern players in England selection. The ridiculous way that average county bowlers like JJ Warr gained England selection ahead of Les Jackson over the years still rankles, while one can go back to the likes of "Topsy" Wass of Nottinghamshire, apparently overlooked because his table manners were poor.

He didn't leave Scottish cricket on the best of terms and the amicability of the Derbyshire departure may be something we will hear in due course. Whatever else, Mike Hendrick can hold his head high in Derbyshire cricket circles. As they say in all the best places, he owes us nowt.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Hendrick leaves

So Mike Hendrick has left Derbyshire, as various rumours doing the rounds had been suggesting for a few weeks now.

According to the club site, John Morris is "restructuring" the bowling coaching. That could mean any number of things, from a new man coming in to a current player taking on additional responsibilities. I can't think that Morris and Andrew Brown would be taking on those responsibilities as neither were bowlers in their playing days.

It wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility for someone like Charl Langeveldt, highly respected (revered even) as a bowler to take on coaching as an "extra", but more realistically a new man could come in.

No doubt Graeme Welch would be a fans favourite, but whether he would leave Essex, where he is doing a fine job, for a position at Derby is a moot point. My gut feeling is that Pop would come back to the county, but only for the top position and that is entirely understandable. I'm not sure whether replacing Hendrick with anyone is technically a restructure. Where I come from, that's called a replacement...

It's not clear at this stage whether there has been a fall out between the two, or whether Morris feels we're needing something from the bowling coach that Hendrick couldn't give. I don't know whether Hendo is a better coach than Morris, but there is little doubt on the evidence of last season that all departments of the game next season need to be stepped up a level. While the bowlers at times seemed incapable of bowling to a line and length, especially in the one day games, our batsmen still seem to panic to an alarming degree.

If we get only one improvement from the side next year, I hope it is that we can be more professional in our run chases. Even following a game on teletext, it became obvious that the fall of Rogers and Hinds was accompanied by mental alarm bells, klaxons and a collective gnashing of teeth. If we could just appreciate that seven an over from the last ten is only one a ball and an occasional boundary, we'll go a long way to becoming a decent side.

And the bottom line is that if players at this level can't work into gaps for singles pretty much most of the time, they're really not first class players.

Like the rest of you, I'll be watching the next developments in this "restructure" with a great deal of interest.

Friday, 19 December 2008

All I want for Christmas is...

This afternoon my daughter, with an appropriate sigh, told me that "a week today it will be all over".

Yes, it will be Boxing Night (or should that be Boxing Day Night, which sounds a bit like a floodlit match?)The turkey will have been eaten, the presents unwrapped and the Christmas TV will be as poor as ever...

I'm hoping to get a cricket book this year, assuming that my wife has picked up on the hints I've been dropping. Edward Giles book on the Club's two Championship successes that I've fancied for a while. If it matches John Shawcroft's admirable book on the 1936 side I'll be very happy, as you felt you were playing alongside the team in Mr Shawcroft's book. Time will tell, but if not I'm sure I can pick a copy up soon.

What will our players be getting this year? Or, put another way, what would you wish our players might get?

For starters, Steve Stubbings and Paul Borrington might enjoy a little puppy each. That way, they can practice a few strokes that might enliven proceedings in the season ahead.

Dom Telo might enjoy Take That's comeback album, Beautiful World. That single "Patience" might be useful listening as the diminutive South African prepares for a very important second season and stand him in good stead at the crease.

A Sat Nav or two may be in order for our bowlers as they lost the radar too frequently for my liking last year. Bowling better lines might be a good idea in 2009

That classic novel by Charles Dickens "Great Expectations" would be a good read for Jon Clare. After a memorable 2008, there will be many eyes on him this year to see if he can improve still further, or if he experiences that difficult second season.

How about a Wii Fit for Charl Langeveldt? Because if we keep him fit, there's a good chance of a better season this year.

An industrial sized bale of cotton wool would be my choice for Graham Wagg, so we can wrap him in it and ensure his fitness through a long and arduous season. Given Waggy's propensity for hard work, captaincy in the field should be a doddle this year. Let him bowl six overs of seam, give some else a few then bring him back to bowl slow left arm until the second new ball. Sorted!

Tom Lungley should probably not bother with crackers this year, as he pulled enough over the course of the season to last for some time. Unless you can buy crackers that have new knees in them...

For Chris Rogers, I'd suggest a false beard and moustache. That way he can bat at both ends and probably ensure that we do a lot better than might otherwise be the case.

Not too sure of a gift for John Morris, but maybe three wise men might call with whatever he gets to remind him that he HAS to sort that position for the coming season. Far too often last year we went from a good start to two down in no time at all and this key role needs attention.

For John Sadler a DVD of The Good Old Days might do nicely, reminding him of how he batted so well for Leicestershire. Sads is a fair player and could come again, but early season runs would get the critics off his back.

Finally, Wavell Hinds might actually fancy another three sweaters for April, when the conditions will be as far removed from Jamaica as they could possibly be.

I hope that everyone has a good Christmas and gets whatever they want. Like me, you'd probably take an extra present sometime next summer in the form of some silverware, but for now, have a great time and I'll be back on here soon!

PS As its the season to be jolly, I also hope that Rikki Clarke has a good Christmas. Mind you, if his festive season is anything like his batting last year, my guess is that he'll wake up on Boxing Day having missed it...

Fixtures are out

On the face of it, we should do much better next season.

In the Championship, we play the side who I'd see as the strongest in the division (Essex) first, then Surrey and Glamorgan. With Middlesex, Leicester, Northants, Kent and Gloucester in the division, I feel we could do quite well. Kent must also fancy their chances of bouncing back, with a strong batting line-up, but they'll miss their bowling spearhead Arafat who has returned to Sussex.

It is a strange old Championship season though. Three matches in April, then nothing until June. From a purely selfish viewpoint, no home game of any kind at the height of the holiday season when we normally head down there. From the 24th July to August 19th there's not a game at home, which is pretty strange.

I don't expect much from the T20 for two reasons. One, because we're in a strong group, with Durham, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Notts and Leicestershire, and two because - well, we're rubbish at the short game.

The FP Trophy perhaps offers the best hope of one-day success, with Essex, Northants, Glamorgan and Lancashire in the group this year. No Scotland, so bang goes my home game, but the others are sides we could feasibly beat (Essex as long as we get Bopara early).

Its too early just now to do any serious analysis of the season and opposition. How we will fare depends on improvements made by players over the close season and who else we sign.

Who knows, if Morris can pick up Sehwag or Yuvraj for the 20/20, we might even look a side in the shortest form of the game...sorry, that last bit must have been a dream!

Friday, 12 December 2008

So, no change there then...

Friday night, mid-December, wind blowing and the rain pouring down. Makes you think of the cricket...

In Australia at present, Chris Rogers averages just under 90 in 4-day games for Victoria, and just over 50 in the short form (that Western Australia thought he couldn't play). Hands up if you'd take those averages from Captain Buck next year?
The only slight concern is that if he carries on in such a rich vein of form and Messrs Hayden and Katich have trouble with the Saffer quicks, our skipper could feasibly get a Test recall and then end up on the plane to England wearing the baggy green. I know that Shaun Marsh is a good player and in the frame, but the Aussies generally reward a player in form with a place in the team, not necessarily bothering about the age of the individual.

Added to the fact that Chris has a proven track record in England and a lot of experience and its not too hard to see how he could be unavailable to us in 2009. I'm not sure where this would leave us, except somewhere up a creek and without a paddle. He is a huge part of our batting and looking at the current staff I can't see where there's an obvious 1,000 runs next year. Plenty of guys who may step up to the plate, lots of potential, but none that you'd put your next mortgage payment on to do so.

I think we need Rogers in there and also a number three batsman to be genuine contenders next year. We have Stubbings and Borrington, but neither are fluent players and if Rogers went early the scoreboard operator would be taking it easy for a while.

Dom Telo could emerge from last season's trauma but has a lot to prove. John Sadler has the ability, but again, needs a good start to redeem himself. Greg Smith is a number six for me, while Wavell will enjoy five, away from the moving ball, especially early season. Dan Redfern is a four, so....

Not sure where that leaves us. Could Garry Park get a chance at three? He's batted there for Durham and certainly their second string and one assumes that he's not come here to play second team cricket for a lesser team. It's an interesting one, that's for sure.

Meanwhile in South Africa, Charl Langeveldt has 23 wickets at 22 and still looks a class quick bowler. One only hopes he gets through the winter unscathed and is able to spearhead our attack in 2009.

If Langeveldt, Wagg, Clare and Lungley all stay fit, I'd expect that attack to carry us to a Championship promotion slot. With plenty of all-rounders, runs should come throughout the order, but ultimate success will be very much dependent on who bats three and how well they do.

Enough for now. Maybe we'll hear news of a signing next week. Now that would be a nice Christmas present!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Hello, again, hello...

Neil Diamond fans might recognise that line and its pretty apposite as I'm at last back in the land of internet full functionality with the replacement of my laptop by Acer.

Thank goodness for warranties, that's what I say. Had I not been covered, the repairs would have cost a few hundred pounds, especially when it turned out that the motherboard was the problem. Anyway, they've now given me a terrific new model (thanks guys) and I'm back with you all.

To be fair, I've not missed much. The club site has the news of three players and partners at the opening of a beauty salon (!) and a few winter talks by players and visiting celebrities.

The fixtures should be out soon and we can see who we'll be playing - or should that be thrashing - in the coming summer.

I've had a few e mails, which have been replied to by the family Wii console. Its a superb piece of kit but not much fun for typing letter by letter. Anyway, there's little news of new players at present and we all await a "big" signing. Whether that is for the season, or for someone to replace Chris Rogers for the 20/20 I don't know.

Someone on 606 suggests that Mike Hendrick has left Derbyshire, though how much truth there is in that rumour is anyone's guess. Its only been aired there and may well just be a typical story that does the rounds. We're used to them at Derby.

Thanks to Matt of Littleover for the link to a cracking article on Charl Langeveldt that appeared recently in the Saffer press. It is well worth a look and I link to it below. Thanks for that one Matt! Anyone else who comes across something that may be of interest to fans, please let me know and I'll broadcast it here and of course, credit the person concerned.

Rumours also suggest (thanks Tim) that Stuart Law is seeking 180K a year for next season. Again, you pay your money you takes your choice on the truth in this one, but I'm also looking for that sort of money and, like Stuart, am unlikely to get it. He has been a great player but his last season suggests the talent is on the wane and that's outside our compass. With Lance Klusener supposedly set for Glamorgan, there's no sign of the name player as yet.

Until the next time - sooner, rather than later!

Langeveldt article:


Wednesday, 12 November 2008

A winter warmer

I love where I live, but I wish it was in God's own county.

Scotland is a fantastic place to live and bring up a family. We live in a semi-rural village ten miles north of Glasgow. Close enough to be in the city in no time, but only an hour from the water in either direction. The cricket is good too and although the game doesn't have an especially high profile up here, there are a lot of good clubs and good players. Some clubs run four or five elevens, there are a lot of them with thriving junior sections and the main barrier is the weather.

My first game in Scotland was over 25 years ago, and however cold you've been on a cricket ground, I reckon I was colder that day. The East of Scotland in April is often dry but can be freezing and on this day I had pyjama trousers and long johns underneath my whites, while a vest, T shirt, cricket shirt, short sleeve sweater and two long sleeve sweaters made no impact except to make me look like the Michelin Man...

Of course, two hard chances came my way in the early overs and both went down. It was like trying to catch a ping pong ball between two planks of wood and I went home that evening thinking Scottish cricket was a non-starter.

Of course, years on and I'm still playing and enjoying it. I've played in balmy weather where the sun hat and cream were essential and come off with reddened arms when I forgot to apply it before going out to field for 40/50 overs.

Yet the one regret is that I've not been able to watch regular Derbyshire cricket for years. Any game on Sky is essential viewing and I usually get to two/three games every season when work/holidays/family commitments permit. I think back with a great deal of fondness to going to matches back home.

Of course, it was always sunny. We'd study the weather forecast and go when it was in any way favourable. Many's the time I'd go to bed when I was a kid and pray that the day would dawn bright and sunny, just like Michael Fish or whoever had said it would. I'd wake to a beam of sunshine between the bedroom curtains and sleep a while longer, safe in the knowledge that there'd be a game that day.

After breakfast we'd load the car. Deckchairs - check. Picnic (lunch and tea) - check. Pens and pencils for the scorecard - check. Binoculars - check. I always preferred Chesterfield when I was a youngster as you were closer to the action, but as the County Ground was developed it gained a space in my affections.

Even at that time for Championship matches it was a little like the old joke.

"What time does the game start?"
"What time can you come?"

The exception was the Yorkshire game, when there'd be a good crowd building from early on. You'd to get past the stewards first and Dad used to reckon that Derbyshire took retired SS men from Hitler's Germany. They were many things, but not helpful. Most comments were prefaced "You can't" and I've previously written about encounters with them. We used to get there early enough to be right on the boundary edge (just in case they needed a 12th man...)and we'd settle back to see who was knocking up.

Things were more leisurely then. A few took throw downs but there was little running around the boundary, loosening up or fielding practice before Eddie Barlow's time. I still smile at the thought of Fred Rumsey doing these activities.

Back in July at Chesterfield with my family, we sat on a bench across from the old scoreboard and my mind went back 40 years to my first game there. Yorkshire. We got beaten heavily. Over the years I'd guess I've seen far more defeats than wins, yet the latter are the ones that stay with me. You don't follow Derbyshire if trophies are your raison d'etre. Glory hunters need not apply. Occasionally we will rise from a morass of mediocrity to be competitive and from time to time will threaten to become something special. Under Eddie Barlow, Kim Barnett, Dean Jones and now Chris Rogers.

However many defeats there are, however many times I'll switch off the teletext or computer muttering about the "load of rubbish", I know I'll never get rid of the bug. On match days I'll still wake up and look for the sunshine, or if I'm up here I'll check the forecast to see if we're likely to get the chance to win (I know).

At all the home games, I'll imagine myself sat by the sightscreen with Dad, putting it to rights and getting frustrated when we collapse during a routine run chase.

Forty years of following Derbyshire does that for you.

But they're still MY Derbyshire.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

New contact detail

I understand one or two people have had problems with posting on Blogger with the way that it works.

I've now added an e mail contact to the "About Me" section on the left of the page. If you have any news about Derbyshire, would like to comment or have any suggestions, please feel free to get in touch. I'll reply as quickly as I can.

If you've been replying to posts via the blog, by all means carry on as you are.

For those who can't be bothered scrolling down the page, you can contact me at peakfan36@yahoo.co.uk

36? Now what could be the significance of that number..

Academy News

Its amazing how quickly time passes. That's a full calendar month since the end of the season and we're well into November already. Winter tours are underway, Christmas shopping is upon us and there's still little more news from the County Ground about additional signings.

Even the message boards are fairly quiet across the country but I would think it likely that discussions and negotiations continue apace between players, cricket managers and agents. There are still some big names to decide where their future lies and hopefully one of them may head towards Derbyshire.

On a lesser level, but very important, the club has announced the next intake to the Academy and they sound like promising players. Having come third in he national Under 15 county competition, the younger element in the game appear to have talent and we must hope that they continue to develop apace.

Paul Borrington, Dan Redfern, Jake Needham and left-arm fast-bowler Atif Sheikh will all be part of the professional squad next year, having progressed through the system.

Eddie Ikin, 15, a seam bowling all-rounder who plays his club cricket at Ticknall CC and opening batsman Tom Hamilton, also 15, a product of Swarkestone CC join for the first time having played a starring role for the Under-15 team that performed brilliantly in the ECB Under-15 County Cup.

The full academy intake for 2008/09 includes Ben Slater, Alex Hughes, Sam van Doesdonk, Chris Durham, Georgia Elwiss, Danielle Wyatt, Ikin and Hamilton.

They will benefit from specialist coaching and development throughout the winter, which will range from lifestyle information and sports psychology through to technical work on their cricketing skills.

In addition, fellow graduates - Staffordshire based fast-bowler Ed Jones, left-arm seam bowling all-rounder Ross Whiteley and wicketkeeping prospect Tom Poynton - have all signed summer contracts for 2009.

I'm pleased to see the conveyor belt working well, but there's two names missing that seemed to have a lot to offer. Akhil Patel is presumably too old for the Academy now but hasn't earned a summer contract, while there have been many good comments over the past couple of years about Jack Ratcliffe, who I seem to recall bowled leg spin as well as being a talented batsman. Does anyone know what happened to him? Patel looks to have a lot of talent but has maybe not done enough in either discipline to warrant a contract at this stage. I hope we don't end up missing out on a mercurial talent who is perhaps a later developer.

The only other news is that the England Sixes are doing well in Hong Kong and have made it through the group stages. There's little news on major sites (or if there is it is well concealed) but I hope Waggy acquits himself well.

See you next week - or when there's more news, whichever is the sooner!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Another quiet week

Well, just under half of those who voted think Stuart Law would be a good acquisition for next year.

Me too, but if there was a younger model out there I'd be more tempted. There's life in some of those old dogs though. Look at the impact of Shaun Udal last year and Ian Salisbury. Law may not be a whippet these days but fielding at slip and passing on the benefits of his experience would be a doddle for him. It may be inspired work too, but lets discuss that one if/when there's any news.

Elsewhere, Waggy is off to Hong Kong and the sixes so we'll wish him good luck with that. They've a good squad and could do well. I'm not normally that bothered, to be perfectly honest, but Wagg deserves his selection and could be a real asset out there.

Its the final of the Stanford series tonight. The multi-million match or however they are billing it.

Whoopy doop.

The fact that the main talking point thus far has been the WAGs and Mr Stanford tells its own story. The wickets are low and slow and the cricket singularly dull, especially so for 20/20. They have been great tracks for nurdling and for dibbly dobbly bowlers. I was left with the feeling that Wavell would have been hard to get away and Langaeveldt nigh impossible. Unless Gayle has one of his periodic blinders tonight, I expect England to win and head home with big cheques to guarantee their futures.

Outside of the players, however, who cares?

We'd our club AGM this week and first look at the stats for the year. I averaged 17 with the bat and 27 with the ball in 20/20 this year, including a strike rate of just 6 an over from my bowling. I'm less mobile in the field than I used to be (I had my 50th a couple of weeks back) but am available, if selected, for Derbyshire next year...

Mind you, I was also re-elected skipper for the ninth year in a row, so it will have to be around my club commitments!

Until next time. No poll this week. At this stage I can't think of something worthwhile, unless its "Will you be buying Christmas presents from the Club shop"?

Hopefully next week. Any ideas for a poll- let me know!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The joy of signings

Here we are, if not in the bleak midwinter (though yesterday felt like it)then a long way from the resumption of County cricket.

Tomorrow night we have our cricket AGM at the club and it couldn't be less like cricket weather. Then again, after last summer, maybe it is pretty close. Yesterday we had high winds and heavy rain, just like August...

When you're a fan of a team, each winter brings hope that you will make signings to galvanise the side and change fortunes, when the reality is that the following season brings the same old, age old problems to the fore.

I really feel that we are not too far away from a very good Derbyshire side, but it has not always been so. Winters have brought news of Derbyshire signings, potential and otherwise. Some have been met with interest (Garry Park recently), some with astonishment (James Graham-Brown - why?) and a few with unbelievable excitement.

I remember when we were set to sign Dennis Lillee back in the 1970's. The best young quick bowler in the world was coming to Derbyshire and we anticipated him destroying teams as he had done England.

Then he did his back and we ended up with (I think) Venkat...

There have been signings that resulted from a scouring of the Professional Cricketers Rest Home for the Elderly. Phil Sharpe, Ron Headley, Fred Rumsey, Fred Trueman - at one point you could have been forgiven for thinking the club was sponsored by SAGA.

Some were exciting but never materialised. Nathan Astle, Mohammad Yousuf and Mahela Jayawardene were all set to sign and pulled out for varying reasons. Jacques Rudolph was another (why didn't we check if he fancied playing as a Kolpak, instead of letting Yorkshire benefit?)

Geoff Boycott too. In the days of his disputes with Yorkshire, there were strong suggestions that he was set to move across the border to us and discussions were held, yet it never materialised.

There have been plenty of strange signings. Shahid Afridi was signed for April and May when he had built a reputation for being a flat track slogger. The results were predictable. He barely made a run (nor a defensive stroke) and his leggies hardly turned on early season wickets. Mohammad Kaif was signed as an up and coming Indian batsman but found the County grind difficult. Travis Birt was retained in place of the soon-to-be European player Michael Di Venuto and we all know how that turned out.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall at some of these discussions, just as long as I could have landed on the table and told the participants that they were mad. I'll defer to professionals on grounds of knowledge in many cases, but the logic of these decisions baffles me now as it did then.

The same with the signing of Peter Kirsten over Allan Lamb. No problem with the former, one of our finest-ever batsmen, but we could have had them both. No one gets it right every time, but we are looking for decisions that illustrate common sense has been applied.

In both of the winter signings so far, the signs are good in that respect. Garry Park was wanted by Durham, has good averages yet needed regular cricket that they could not offer. We signed him - result. Tim Groenewald is signed as a replacement for Wayne White. Is he a better player? Definitely, so again - result.

Whoever else comes in this winter, all that we as fans can ask for is that an obvious, logical thought process has been applied. As long as they appear an improvement on what we already have, were respected by their former employers and are not yet in a bath chair in the field I'm prepared to give them the benefit.

Yet it's difficult. John Sadler looked a sound signing last year after good seasons with Leicestershire, yet did poorly for us. Dom Telo had a good record in South African cricket (albeit at not quite top level) and also struggled. Nayan Doshi had bowled well in one day cricket for Surrey and did so for us, but rarely looked like bowling out sides who were happy to nudge him around for ones and twos. Then there was Rikki Clarke. Less said the better, I suppose, but most of us were excited by his signing last winter and hoped for a lot better than what later transpired.

So, with a few days of October to go, let's all hope that John Morris has something lined up that will get us through the winter months, anticipating better things when April comes round once more.

On my way home from the AGM tomorrow night I'll probably think of April, looking at a scoreboard that reads Derbyshire 375-2 and global dominance. As always, I'll settle for competitiveness and a few wins here and there.

Enough for a trophy, of course.

Friday, 24 October 2008

New poll

The news that Stuart Law was being released by Lancashire came as a surprise, despite a poorer season last year.

Would you want him as a close season signing for Derbyshire, or is he past it?

Alternatively, should we go the Kolpak route and sign Lance Klusener?

Those who read this blog regularly will know that a couple of weeks ago I suggested that we might go for Deon Kruis of Yorkshire, who has now agreed to return to the club on a new deal. I'd have to say that the Yorkies don't handle these contractual negotiations too well and never have. Still, at least they have their man for next year while we have signed Tim Groenewald who could be an interesting signing.

I'll be interested to see how this one goes.
Around half of you felt that Garry Park may well turn out to be a very astute signing, while 40% thought they would wait and see.

I'm in the first camp. He appears a good signing and I'm looking forward to seeing him in our colours.

Back in business

In the words of that old classic by Willie Nelson - well hello there, my it's been a long, long time.

Having lost internet connection for a couple of weeks when my laptop went away to hospital, I'm now back online and in possession of a much healthier and repaired machine.

So what's been happening? The answer to that is - not a lot.
After the signings of Messrs Park and Groenewald, we're all champing at the bit for more.

Of course, we don't know for sure that there will be much more, but it's a widely held assumption if one does the Maths of the departed. Given that Clarke was on a lot of money, Doshi would have been on a fair salary and Kevin Dean was an experienced professional, there must have been a fair amount on wages for that little lot. Throw in Wayne White's money and it's a fair chunk of the playing budget available.

Of course, Chris Rogers as overseas player would earn less than Rogers the overseas star and skipper, while Graham Wagg has deservedly got an improved deal. My guess, however, would be that we may have 70-80K left for team improvements.

Like most fans, I'd like to see this go on another batsman, ideally one of experience and reputation. A Law, Klusener or Blackwell if you will, though they may all be out of our league and compass. If we sign one of these, I still feel that there is a great need for someone to be our lynchpin in the 20/20 next year. Perhaps Chris Rogers is going to play the full season next year and that would give us an improved batting line-up, but we must have more from the top-order batting next year. Rogers apart, the early order was brittle and it is in need of an old and experienced head. Maybe Law is too old at 40, but his erstwhile team mates and supporters reckoned him the best batsman at the club. Given Hick had some good years post-40, Law might have something to offer the young talent coming through.

As for the new players, I think that Park could be a real gem. In recent seasons for the Durham seconds he has averaged between 50 and 70, while doing pretty well on the occasional first team appearance. His fielding should be worth a few runs before he goes out, so well worth a watch, that one.

Groenewald doesn't appear to have been a huge favourite with Bears fans, but interestingly his bowling average has come down every season. His batting is explosive and he definitely offers more than White, the man he replaced. Whether he is a regular in the four day side, only time will tell, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him in there.

I fancy us to do well next year in the Championship, though I'm wary of using the "P" word. With this side in April, I think we'd be a match for most sides:

Chris Rogers
Steve Stubbings
Wavell Hinds
Stuart Law
Dan Redfern
Garry Park
Greg Smith
James Pipe
Graham Wagg
Jonathan Clare
Charl Langeveldt

We'll need to fit Jake Needham in somewhere when it turns, and there's also Mark Lawson. Throw in Tom Lungley and Ian Hunter as reserve seamers with Groenewald and we've good competition.
Batting competition too.

Pipe at 8, Clare at 10. Good line-up eh?

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Tim Groenewald signs from Warwickshire

Breaking news today is that South African born but English-qualified all-rounder Tim Groenewald has left Warwickshire with a year to go on his contract to join Derbyshire.

Like Garry Park, he was a player that the county wished to retain but he has opted for the greater opportunities at Derby than there would be at Edgbaston, where the legend that is Rikki Clarke stands ahead of him...

He has a tough act to follow, as the previous all-rounders we signed from the Bears, Graeme Welch and Graham Wagg became huge favourites at Derby. A fast medium bowler and big hitting batsman, he has hit more sixes in limited over matches than he has fours, which suggests that life will not be dull when he goes in next season.

It also means that with Wagg, Smith, Clare, Park, Needham and now Groenewald we have plenty of all-rounders to call on next year. It's a good job the ex-captain did leave, as he would have slipped back to seventh best all-rounder at the club!

While Groenewald's first class record isn't spectacular, he has done enough to suggest that there is something there and I'm quite prepared to trust the coach's judgement on this one. I've not seen enough of him to comment, but players take a while to settle in the County game and I'd suggest that there is potential, just as long as we don't expect the new Ian Botham.

So we "give" them Botha, Rankin and Clarke and have had Welch, Wagg and Groenewald in return (OK and Tim Munton, who was unlucky with injuries)

Think we've done better in those exchanges, don't you?

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

FP Trophy Draw

So, next year in a de-regionalised draw, we have Glamorgan, Essex, Northants and Lancashire.
I think we could do OK. Lancashire are nothing to be scared of these days, likewise Northants. Glamorgan don't look world-beaters either, which leaves the holders Essex.
While much rests on recruitment over the winter, at this stage I'd say we could give it a go.
Mind you, it is a one day competition... maybe I should revise that one!
On a different tack, Stuart Law is now available and there are suggestions he could do a job for us.
I'm not keen. He has been a fine player for nearly 20 years, but the signs last year were not good. He averaged 37 in the Championship, about the same as Stubbings and Birch. Meanwhile, in the one days he averaged 22 and 11. Not great is it?
Having rejected a suggestion that we sign David Hemp from Glamorgan on grounds of age, I can't see merit in signing an older player.
It would be going back to the days of signing Phil Sharpe, Ron Headley, Fred Rumsey et al. They all did things of note and none pulled up the trees at Derby. While accepting Law has been a class act, he would logically take the place of either Redfern or Smith next year, players who need matches to improve. For me it would be a retrograde step. Added to the above would be that his ICL links would bar us from the big money if we were to win the 20/20.
Sorry...I forgot. Excuse my cynicism but I've little grounds for one day optimism at present. Loved the comment from a pal the other day who suggested that our one day strategy was for Greg Smith to get a hundred every match! Until our batsmen learn to push it around to keep the score moving, to run fast between the wickets having placed the ball well and not to panic when the run rate goes to 6.4 an over, we'll always be poor at this game.
My old man summed it up nicely last week.
"Batting in one day matches is easy" he said.
"One good thwock and three or four sensible taps an over and you can't lose".
Over-simplified perhaps, but something to consider over the dark nights ahead.

Derbyshire's season

I've posted, as requested, a review of Derbyshire's season on the Third Umpire blog.

You can read it at http://third-umpire.blogspot.com/

Hope it was good for you!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Last season's poll

A few people were pleased with last year, while most were split between being pleased with a little progress or disappointed we didn't do better.
I thought we might have done better, but was pleased with the progress of individuals and form in the Championship. We are still poor at one day cricket and gave away too many promising positions for my liking.
This week's poll is on Garry Park's signing. How was it for you?

Deon Kruis

Has anyone else wondered whether Kruis might be headed to Derbyshire?
The word from Headingley is that they expect him to sign a contract 'with a rival' having rejected terms for another deal. At 34 he's a solid fast-medium bowler and there's few out there and available. Last season I watched him bowl a couple of beautiful spells, including one at Paul Borrington in a 2nds game where he beat the bat every other ball.
He is the finished article and would have at least a couple of good years. Given we have lost two seamers in White and Dean with Clarke's bowling also away (yes, I know) and the ranks need supplemented. Tom Lungley hasn't the greatest injury record, Ian Hunter is perhaps lucky to get another contract and I'm not sure that it is realistic to expect Wagg, Clare and Langeveldt to play as many matches as they did last year every season.
Seam bowling is hard work and I'd be happy to see the Kruis missile bowling at Derby next season. Interestingly, that game I saw at Denby was watched by Messrs Morris, Hendrick and Krikken, so...
Anyway, that's enough for now. Apologies for the lesser frequency of the blog but my laptop is awaiting repair and this has been done on the family Wii console. More to follow, when it has been repaired.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Derbyshire sign Garry Park

Derbyshire have announced the signing of 25 year old Durham all-rounder Garry Park, who has rejected an offer at Durham in favour of greater opportunities at Derby on a two-year contract.
While not an established player, Park averages in the mid-30's with the bat and has a first class century to his name. He also bowls medium pace, is a brilliant fielder and can keep wicket. If we are stricken with injuries, it suggests that between the South African born but English qualified Park and 'Sobers' Wagg we cover most of the bases...
Another all-rounder, according to the club site, although with two first class wickets at 160 each, I'd suggest he is a batsman who can bowl, rather than a genuine one. Perhaps a swap - and one assumes less expensive - for Rikki Clarke, means that the balance of the squad is maintained. Park is a very competent wicket keeper, so I suspect we may not see Tom New signed this winter, despite an impressive spell at the end of the season. With Mark Lawson presumably a swap for Nayan Doshi, we are now needing another Kevin Dean. There appears few genuine options out there. Rumours persist that Liam Plunkett is unsettled at the Riverside, but he apparently signed a new contract recently which suggests bridges are not yet burnt. There'd be massive competition for his services anyway and Ashley Giles is probably camped outside his house as I write...
This is a solid signing and while we all hope for a top batsman, I don't see many options out there. Perhaps the rationale may be for Sadler or Telo to step up next year and the spare money could go on a top player for the 20/20?
In other news, I'm heartened by the inclusion of Dan Redfern, Tom Poynton and Atif Sheikh in the England U19 squad of 15 to tour South Africa this winter. We all know what a talent Redfern is, but Poynton will be the long term replacement for James Pipe and is a fine keeper and a batsman of talent too. Meanwhile, Sheikh must be a real find to be in the squad at just 17. The left arm quickie might be the'new Kevin Dean', although one assumes he has a long way to go. It is more evidence of the excellent work going on in the Academy under Karl Krikken, and there must be a few counties looking at our set up with a degree of envy.
More news and views as things happen - see you all soon!

Friday, 3 October 2008

Mark Lawson

83% of you wanted to see Mark Lawson earn a Derbyshire contract and John Morris has listened!

The Yorkshire youngster has got a week by week contract at the start of next season. I hope he makes a good fist of it.

Good luck Mark!

Random thoughts...

So Corky has gone down to the south coast and joined Hampshire. I suppose it was only to be expected, that he'd want to join another first division outfit, but I'd have liked to see him at Derby. Where we go now for a seamer I'm not sure. It may be that there's a good bowler out there waiting on offers, but I don't know who that may be.

It would be good if Tom Lungley was fit for next year and if he was, we'd have the extra seamer anyway as he was rarely available this season. A useful option may be Mark Hardinges, who I rate as a useful county all-rounder. He is especially good in one day cricket and I think someone may snap him up before too long. Gloucestershire may well come to regret letting him go as he has his best years ahead of him.

A comment on here the other night suggested Ali Brown of Surrey as a potential signing. Its not the worst idea in the world as he is, on his day, one of the most destructive batsmen in the country. My concerns would be that he is an eye player and recent performances suggest that its not as sharp as it once was. Allied to the fact that he has spent his career and made his reputation "dahn sarf" and there would be a few reservations.

The Ian Blackwell story still lingers and he is apparently unhappy at Somerset but he is another who may well want to stay in division one unless the pull of his home county is too strong - aka we make him an offer he can't refuse.

Lance Klusener would be another fine signing, but he's another one that will not be lacking suitors and whether we would want another Kolpak is debatable. Some player though, and I'd love to see him in Derbyshire colours.

I hope Morris doesn't top up the squad instead of signing genuine talent. We've some good players but they need experience and ideally more alongside them with that crucial ingredient. A post on 606 suggested David Hemp, who has been released by Glamorgan, but I don't think he has much to offer and I'd take Stubbo and Sadler over him quite frankly. He's been a decent cricketer but we can surely aim higher?

One final poll for this season. Let me know what you thought of the year for Derbyshire overall. Did it meet your exepctations?

In closing tonight, congratulations to Graham Wagg for his award as player of the year. There can be few grumbles from anyone, except maybe those at Edgbaston who allowed him to leave and tried to get him back. I don't care what Ashley Giles says, his role at Warwickshire and his selectorial role with England are diametrically opposed. He should be told to do one or the other, but not be allowed to do both. It gives him an emotional pull on players who presumably thinks that if he wants them at Warwickshire they must have a better-than-average chance of an England cap.

Until the next time, keep following the news in the links from this site. If anything breaks, I'll let you know...

Monday, 29 September 2008

Waggy for England!

Graham Wagg has been picked for England in the international sixes held in Hong Kong in November.

It's a well deserved honour for the Derbyshire all-rounder, who takes his place in a side that has plenty of hard hitters and useful bowlers, but should it have been more?

The "Performance Squad" is going to India this winter and features Mark Davies, Sajid Mahmood, Amjad Khan, Robbie Joseph and Liam Plunkett as seam bowlers, Adil Rashid and Ollie Rayner as spinners.

I'd have thought Wagg's versatility with the ball would make him an asset on the sub-continent and the selectors seem to have opted for the additional pace of the others. There may yet be an opening for the all-rounder, however as all of those named have had serious question marks over their fitness in the past couple of seasons, especially Amjad Khan and Mark Davies. Joseph has had a good season, but only one and even then he didn't "fire" until the second half of the year. Plunkett and Mahmood are both fair bowlers, but what more do the selectors need to know about them?

On a different tack, Mark Lawson's disappointment at his injury against Leicestershire has been eased by being offered a week-to-week contract for next season, which effectively lets us look at him in a more competitive environment. Whether England in April is a place for leggies to impress is debatable, but he at least has a chance and the rest is up to him.

Elsewhere, Steve Stubbings, Ian Hunter, Dan Birch and Wayne White are all awaiting news on new contracts, while John Morris considers his options after the departure of Rikki Clarke, Nayan Doshi and Kevin Dean. Who else goes is to some extent down to who may be available elsewhere, but there's money for squad improvements and while one of the seamers may go, I'd be surprised at the departure of Stubbings or Birch - not to mention a little disappointed.

Finally, the club site notes the death of Alwyn Eato, a quick bowler who took 50 wickets in his career that spanned the early 1950's. One of a number of bowlers who struggled to get a game with the brilliance and resilience of Gladwin and Jackson, Brian Furniss and Derek Hall were others and the former county skipper Donald Carr once described Eato as one of the quickest and most hostile bowlers he had ever seen. With that speed came a little erratic direction, unacceptable to a team so used to the parsimony of the great duo. He once took 5-14 against Leicestershire and took his career wickets at 28 each before a successful league career with Worksop in the late 1950's.

See you all again soon!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

The close season blog

Well folks, its been an interesting season and I'm looking forward to a relaxing winter in which I intend to continue the blog, but not on a nightly basis.

The problem is that there's often little to talk about in the depths of winter. If players become available in whom we may be interested, or if we sign someone, then hightail it over to the blog for my thoughts. I hope to post at least a couple of times a week, but it depends on what there is to say. I don't intend to spout for the sake of it!

Thanks to everyone who has helped me completely exceed my expectations in this blog. I thought maybe 2,000 hits might have been possible this season, but the growth has been exponential with each 1,000 hits quicker than the one that preceded it. Amazing stuff and I'm grateful to everyone for their interest.

Please tell your friends, team mates and fellow fans about the blog. The more the merrier, and while you're at it, tell them about the excellent fans forum In Morris We Trust which gives a far truer flavour of the way that fans are thinking than the heavily sanitised 606 site.

See you soon - here's hoping for some quick winter signings to get us dreaming of global domination, starting next April...

Saturday, 27 September 2008

End of season reports

Another year gone and there was the usual mixture of highs and lows to excite and frustrate us all. While we touched brilliance on occasion, all too often there was a quick slide back to mediocrity, often in the same match.

Yet it was not really a season of gloom and doom. The 50-over tournament could have been very different if the weather had been kinder to us and we produced some good performances. The Championship sustained interest until the penultimate match and we've been unable to say that many times in recent seasons and there were encouraging performances and an unbeaten home record to take heart from.

Only in the Pro 40 and the 20/20 were we disappointing. Indeed, the 20/20 was the low point of the season and aside from the fact that I don't like the format, the brutal truth was that we were rubbish at it. Aside from the first match at Headingley, we too often approached every over as if it was the last, with the result that we were usually too many batsmen down by half way. Until we realise that 60-70 for one after ten is a launch pad, we'll never compete in that game. Many a side panics chasing 150 and we should be aiming for that with anything else a bonus, rather than trying to reach 220. That only happens with small boundaries and poor bowling allied to good batting. For next year we MUST have an overseas batsman or all-rounder in that competition. This year we were left like a gunslinger in a quick draw who realises too late that he's no bullets in his gun. When you come up against Durham and face Di Venuto and Mustard, followed by Collingwood and then Pollock and Morkel you're on a road to nowhere without hired help. I know we had Hinds (who did well) and Langeveldt (who always does) but the batting was otherwise poor.

So, here's my marks and asessments of the players this season. Two marks - one for four day, one for their one day efforts. The guide to marks is

4- Poor
5- Below average
6- Average
7- Good
8 - Very good
9 - Excellent
10 - Bradman and Warne standard

Chris Rogers - 9/7

Can't fault the Aussie who ended up skipper in the four day game when he matched anyone in the country for weight of runs. This after a start where he failed to turn fifties into hundreds and we were all concerned... The only criticism of his one day game is that there were no centuries, but Buck was a fine import and a lot of teams would like him. Thankfully, he's signed for next season, which is great news.

Paul Borrington 7/-

The youngster could hardly be faulted after a fine mini season where he dug in and sold his wicket dearly. An average of 27 is not too spectacular, but three fifties in 13 innings suggests there's something to build on. Just needs to increase his range of strokes, but plenty of time to do that.

Steve Stubbings 6/-

Averaged 33 in the Champonship but had a highest of 62 in 17 knocks so not a vintage season. A shoulder injury troubled him and his benefit commitments distracted him but there were signs at the end that the old Stubbo was back. Under-utilised in the one day game where he would have been a better option than some that were used.

Dan Birch 6/6

Curiously did better in his second season than his first and showed signs of coming to terms with the County game when traditionally players are "found out second time around. Still has a tendency to lose concentration when well set which also affects him in the field, where he dropped some sitters. Still, an average of 36 suggests a man on the way up, and if he can work on his mobility and speed between the wickets could yet be a force in the county game.

Wavell Hinds 7/7

No big scores from Wavell either, but enough cameos to suggest he could be an asset next year, now he has come to terms with the county game. Played some good 20/20 innings and also contributed with the ball. Another who will do better next season, especially if the wickets are drier and harder.

Dominic Telo 4/4

A nightmare first season for the diminutive South African, who broke all the records a school but had a bad start that got worse as the season progressed. He has a two year deal and may return refreshed next year, but he made James Bryant look prolific and Andrew Gait Bradmanesque in comparison. Fine fielder, but that's not enough.

John Sadler 5/5

A few early grafting knocks suggested he was just what we needed, but Sads never got going and lost his place. A few more decent knocks later in the season suggested he may come again, but it was a poor return from a man who had averaged over 50 in successive seasons for Leicestershire in four then one day cricket. We need an in form Sadler in the middle order, but he never delivered.

Greg Smith 6/6

An early season muscle tear in his arm hampered Smith, who could never bowl seam this year. His off spin is useful, but not yet up to his seam bowling. His batting showed signs of maturity and there was a first Championship century and some punishing innings, while his 20/20 century was a season highlight. Next season is important for Smith, however and will dictate whether he is another Bruce Roberts, destined to be limited by poor starts, or a genuine quality all-rounder.

Dan Redfern 7/6

Came off a prolific year with England Under 19s and his A Levels to average 32 in six innings and look a cut above his contemporaries - and indeed many of his team mates. While we should not expect too much from an 18 year old, his two year contract should see the flowering of a major new batting talent. He also bowls tidy off spin so has a very, very big future. Lovely timer of a ball.

Rikki Clarke 4/4

A six-figure salary and big reputation came to naught as Clarke was a HUGE disappointment. Caught flies at slip, but I'd do that for a lot less than he commanded. His batting was a succession of big shots that looked like he didn't care, while every good ball was followed by dross. We were entitled to more from an "England all-rounder" (his words) and if he regarded it as a "wasted season" - well, at least he got the money. What did we get?

Graham Wagg 9/7

He bowls left arm seam and spin, fields brilliantly and on occasion times the ball beautifully and hits it a long way. Another to sign on for an extra year (two more in total), Wagg is an outstanding player in the long game. Only a tendency to bowl a hittable length rather than mixing it up a little in the one day game holds him back, but Waggy has had two successive good seasons now and the future is his for the taking if he carries on in this vein.

Jon Clare 8/6

An outstanding first full season for the youngster who looked a new man after all his gym work in the winter. Over 500 runs at 42 and over 30 wickets at 28 in a first year was an outstanding effort. Not had many chances to bat in the short game, but bowled steadily on a number of occasions and fielded well. Showed a rare resilience in a physically demanding role and can reflect on a job very well done.

James Pipe 8/7

More of the same from the keeper. Excellent wicket-keeping that compares to anyone in the country and batting that can turn a game in a few overs. Unfortunately there was another nasty injury that robbed us of his services for much of the second half of the season, but Pipe is a key member of this side and should be back to his best next year. Less of an influence in one day cricket than might be expected, but a fine player.

Jake Needham 7/6

It is easy to forget that Jake Needham is still a young man as he has been around the team for a few seasons now. A useful batsman who can battle it with the best of them, a good fielder and a bowler with a developing loop that might take him to the next level as an off spinner. Took a little flak in one day games but came back for more and was the best spinner this year by a distance

Tom New 7/7

New let no one down in his time with Derbyshire, batting solidly and with no little skill in both forms of the game. His wicket-keeping was solid, although he put down a few straight forward chances. Few would be worried if he were to be a regular in the side, but the excellence of James Pipe makes that unlikely, along with the potential of Tom Poynton.

Fred Klokker 6/5

Fred is a nice bloke and a good cricketer who everyone was pleased to see make a century against Warwickshire. He doesn't have a wide enough range of shots for the top level, nor is he quite a good enough keeper. Unlikely to appear next season with the competition in that position, but a sound year for a professional man.

Nayan Doshi 5/7

Doshi left shortly after Rikki Clarke. Who knows if the two were connected, but he wanted a regular place and didn't merit one. While he bowled with control in one day matches, he rarely looked like bowling sides out in any form of the game and was only an average batsman and fielder. His arrival was anticipated, but he sadly failed to deliver.

Tom Lungley 5/5

Back to the bad days for Tom. Last year he proved he could get good players out and did so regularly, but this year he was rarely fit and a succession of injuries wrecked his season. He is another top bloke and a good cricketer, but really needs to be fit and firing next year or his place on the staff, as he approaches 30, could be in jeopardy.

Wayne White 6/5

I'm not sure about Wayne. He bowls with good pace but bowls a lot of four balls and at times took some fearful stick in the occasional one day outing. If he is retained for next year he needs to take a leaf from the Clare book of pre-season training and come back with a stronger physique. A few sessions with Mike Hendrick on line and length might be useful too.

Ian Hunter 6/7

Ian is perhaps one of the unluckiest bowlers I've seen playing for us in recent years and suffers from a lot of dropped catches and near misses. He's also had his problems with injury but to be fair to him he bowled well, especially in one day matches, in the second half of the season and perhaps deserves another year, especially with Kevin Dean's retiral.

Kevin Dean 6/6

A modern legend, Kevin Dean called it a day this year after sterling service to the county. He could still swing the ball and get those lbw decisions, but the nip had gone from his bowling and he didn't look like running through teams like previous years. He will be missed and we will be looking for a new Kevin Dean in coming years. Thanks Kev!

Ross Whiteley 6/6

Ross could be the new Kevin Dean and has a lithe run up to the wicket, but his bowling looks like it has a way to go at first class level. His batting looked to have potential and he appears to be a clean hitter of a ball, so I think we may see more of him in the future as another successful product of the Academy.

Charl Langeveldt 9/9

What can be said about the South African I've not said already this season? He has a huge heart and bowled with pace and skill in all matches. When conditions were in his favour he took wickets, when they weren't he kept things tight - and still took wickets. A 100% fielder and a batsman who sends the ball a long way when he connects. A diamond of a cricketer and a man, thanks for the hard work Charl!

Let me know what you think guys - any major disagreements?

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 3

Well, that's it.

Day three was the final day of the season and although the game was ours last night, the last two days pretty much encapsulated the season.

On our day we are a match for anyone, but the inconsistency is the problem. Don't get me wrong, I know this was a very young side and the wonder was that we were still in the game after two innings against a more experienced outfit. The fact is that we slipped from 87-0 overnight to 128-5 and although Ross Whiteley supported Tom New in a useful stand of 47 for the seventh wicket, 190 was always a little tight on a wicket that had got easier.

I still think we could challenge for promotion in the Championship next season if we sign another good bowler and a middle order batsman. A full strength side would have won this game but we should not go into the winter too despondent.

There have been pluses and minuses through the year and over the weekend I'll give you my player ratings for the season. We still can't play one day cricket for toffee but I don't think there's a magic wand that can be waved to make us into one. Experience and more particularly experience of winning these games is needed. Maybe we should bring in Dean Jones to give a master class in approaching one day batting and let them all watch videos of Charl bowling. Again, though Langeveldt is the finished article and we need another experienced seamer to bowl with him next year.

Waggy has been superb and Jon Clare has done more than could have been dreamed of pre-season, but the winter recruits will dictate where we go from here.

Ah well, my 300th blog of the year records a loss, not the expected win. Never mind, to bed and perhaps sometime this winter I'll dream about our winning something next season.

Who knows? It might just come true...

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 2

Amazing as it may seem, this is the 299th article that I've written in 2008, on the third last day of the season.

I'd suggest that today was as encouraging a day as we have had all year too, which makes it a pleasure to write.

Notwithstanding the fact that the opposition aren't the best team in the country, you have to be impressed by the way we bowled them out today and then batted ourselves into a strong position by the close of play. All that with a side whose average age is 22...

A key factor was Graham Wagg's removal of Dippenaar and Ackerman in three balls. Last night I was concerned what they might do to a young and inexperienced attack. Well, Dippenaar did what he has done all season - nothing - and Ackerman was bowled second ball.

Nevertheless, Leicestershire were in a strong position at one stage with Smith and Nixon going well, but Jake Needham (pictured) ran through them after lunch with a wonderful spell of off spin bowling that actually earned him 5-24 in 11.2 overs. On the way to new career best figures of 6-49 Needham moved to second place in the Derbyshire bowling averages this season, his 16 wickets coming at just 23 runs each. Added to the fact that he averages the same with the bat and we have a good cricketer in young Needham, who has staked a claim for the spinning berth next year. Given his ability with the bat and in the field, he will be a good asset in 2009.

The irony was, of course, that the man who may be his biggest rival next year, Mark Lawson, was unable to bowl on a track that would have given him a lot of assistance. Had Lawson been able to bowl in tandem with Jake, Leicestershire may have struggled to make 150. The pitch has offered help throughout, with lateral movement and erratic bounce causing all the batsmen problems.

Which makes the efforts of Paul Borrington and Steve Stubbings all the more laudable. To get to stumps at 85-0 after 43 overs was a superb effort by both of them, despite the hosts using all their bowlers in an attempt to break through. It can't have made for exciting viewing, but who cares? After a season in which we have seen players giving their wicket away with careless strokes, it was nice to see two players selling their wickets dearly and having the technique to stay in when conditions were in favour of the bowlers.

Borrington looks set for a long career with the county and is a real find, while Stubbo did what he always does, playing straight and treating the bowling on its merits. In the absence of Chris Rogers, Bozza couldn't have wished for a better partner than Stubbings and it has been a pleasure to see the amiable opener back into the groove in the past two games. I suggest that he still has a lot to offer us next season and should be retained. Borrington's final year at University will occupy him until June and a Rogers/Stubbings opening pair would be a good option to have. He has not had a vintage year, but the distraction of his benefit, allied to struggles with a shoulder injury have been mitigating factors. Had he not waited for it to settle down over the winter, as advised by specialists, rather than having an operation straight away, we may well have seen a different Stubbo this year. I still feel he has much to offer in one day cricket, where I have seen him play a number of crucial knocks.

So, 71 runs ahead and nine wickets in hand. Remember Mark Lawson is unlikely to bat with his broken finger, so the others must bat with the same resolution shown by the openers. I would love to see Stubbo make a big score and also to see Dom Telo make some runs, but we could do with a lead of 250. I would reckon that the hosts will not fancy chasing much more than 200 on this wicket, so every run tomorrow is crucial.

Still, that's another day. Tonight we can enjoy the fact that our youngsters have put on a worthy show and staked a place for regular cricket next season. For what its worth, I have a feeling we could do very well in the Championship next year. While our one day form is in need of a serious overhaul, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful in Derbyshire cricket at the end of 2008.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


Well, there we have it.

Most of you, like me, see our greatest need as being a middle order batsman for next year. The question is - who?

While an Ed Joyce or Ed Smith would do nicely, there is little likelihood of them venturing north. A certain Mr Ramprakash appears keen to leave Surrey (rats and sinking ships come to mind with that place) but has also said in his column that he wants to finish his career in division one. Now that would be a coup and he'd only have to wait one year...

Rumours persist that HD Ackerman is off to pastures new, despite claims on the 606 board that he's signed a new one year deal at Leicester. There's talk of - surprise, surprise - Warwickshire courting him. They increasingly remind me of an aging lothario who won't take no for an answer with the bright young "society" things. Their aggressive courting of the talents of other counties is either immoral or unethical, maybe both. I'm glad Waggy told them where to go and heartbroken that a former captain of a northern county got a duck for them today.

No names, no packdrill...

So - penultimate poll of the season. Should we offer a contract for next year to Mark Lawson, erstwhile of a more northern parish? I'm looking forward to seeing your opinions and thanks once again for your interest.

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day one

It is all uphill here after being bowled out for under 200 on the first day.

To be fair, the eventual total of 194 was more than expected when both Steve Stubbings and Dom Telo were back in the pavilion before we'd reached double figures. It summed up young Telo's season and we'll know a lot about him by his response to these misfortunes.

Speaking of which, your heart goes out to Mark Lawson. Having impressed in the nets, he earned a Derbyshire debut as part of a four man spin attack, which was probably the reason for the decision to bat first on winning the toss. I would also assume that the omission of Ian Hunter was to give Wayne White another chance to impress as it has left us with a very inexperienced attack.

Anyway, Lawson sustained a broken finger while batting and will be unable to bowl in the match. This makes any decision on his future more problematic, so I'll make this week's poll on your thoughts on his future.

Dan Redfern showed his usual class when batting and Greg Smith and Tom New showed their ability. So too did Ross Whiteley on first class debut but no one stayed long enough to enable a big first innings score. With Graham Wagg, Wayne White and Whiteley as the seam attack and Greg Smith, Redfern and Jake Needham to bowl spin, a certain Mr Ackerman must tonight be thinking of boosting his season average. meanwhile Botha Dippenaar must surely score runs here or be out on his ear, having had a shocking season at Leicester.

So tonight the thinking money is on a defeat for the Derbyshire Academy, but the game could have important repercussions for several players, all of whom are staking a claim for next season on the staff.

Stubbo, White and Whiteley are all effectively playing for a contract, while Telo must be desperate for some runs to take into the winter. Tom New will be out to impress his own county and a potential suitor, but tonight Mark Lawson must be desolate after a bad piece of luck that has ended his season prematurely.

It would be a shame if it did the same to his career at Derby. Time will tell.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Leicestershire v Derbyshire preview

And now, the end is near and so we face the final curtain.

Four days to go until we sigh with the realisation that there will be no more cricket for six months or so. Or at least, cricket that counts. England will be on tour, but if, like me, you look on them as a side attraction, it's going to be a long cold winter.

Tomorrow's game should be sponsored by Farley's, as Derbyshire can rarely have put younger team into the field for a match. While rusks and milk may not be on the lunch menu, the Derbyshire team will have a youthful look. With no Kolpaks and no overseas player and with Tom Lungley and Jon Clare injured, the team pretty much picks itself as there's only a handful of players left.

John Sadler will be disapppointed to miss out on playing against his erstwhile colleages but can have few complaints after a poor year. Graham Wagg celebrates a year's extension to his contract by taking the captaincy in this side:

Paul Borrington
Steve Stubbings
Dan Redfern
Greg Smith
Dominic Telo
Tom New
Graham Wagg (captain)
Jake Needham
Ross Whiteley
Ian Hunter
Wayne White
Mark Lawson

Some interesting names in there. The biggie is former Yorkshire leggie Mark Lawson "probably" playing to see if he's worth a contract for next year. "Probably" is the official line, but it ould be a big surprise if he didn't play. What would they learn if he carries drinks for four days? I'd like to see him do well and earn a contract. There's something about leg-spinners that sends batsmen into panic on occasion and he has produced enough at Yorkshire to be worth a gamble. There's little option on the spin front and as a season progresses I'd see value in such a bowler, with harder tracks (if it ever stops raining...)

Ross Whiteley gets his first senior Championship call up after good performances for the second string and is another who could earn a contract. The other week he reminded me of a coltish young Kevin Dean against Glamorgan and although he was overtaken by nerves on that occasion, he showed enough at the crease to suggest talent as an all rounder in time.

Dom Telo has one last chance to put a nightmare first season to rest but I think we'll see more of the diminutive South African, who looks poised and organised at the crease. He needs a good winter in the indoor school and some sun on his back and we should see the strokeplay that earned him such a reputation back home.

It was so gratifying to see Graham Wagg show loyalty in the face of interest from other counties, including - surprise, surprise - Warwickshire. I'm sure that Waggy must have wondered where these offers were when he was looking for a club after his drugs ban, as Derbyshire were not involved in a bidding frenzy for his services at that time.

Now, however, he is a fine all rounder and one who would be welcomed into any side. I'm delighted that he will be in ours for the next two years and hope that we can secure some silverware with his assistance.

While a defeat with a young side would be no disgrace, a win would be a good way to go into the winter.

Go boys!

Tom Sears - an appreciation

When Tom Sears arrived at Derbyshire early in 2005 theclub was on the road to financial meltdown. Losses of over £200,000 had been recorded and the club was as vulnerable as it had probably been for years. While there were dark days after the First World War, in the 1950's and in the 1970's, no organisation could sustain that level of loss over a protracted period.

Sears took a little time to take stock of the situation then presented a radical plan for overhaul to the Committee. He had a good reputation from his days at Worcestershire and he had been appointed for his ability to make the tough decisions and get the club on an even footing.

Three years later he is off to pastures new with an important role within New Zealand cricket having ensured the club returned three successive positive balances in his tenure, a feat pretty much unique in these economic times. He streamlined the administrative side of the club and with the assistance of Keith Loring's team in commercial operations has made the club financially secure for the first time in living memory.

While one should not underestimate the guiding hand of Don Amott in this, the pair presented an off the field dream ticket that has seldom been ours, especially after the bitter years of in-fighting at Committee level that overshadowed so much of the 1980's and 1990's. A visit to the County Ground today is a contrast even from such a visit three years ago. The developments are there for everyone to see and the club has even had envious glances from supposedly bigger counties not all that far away.

Tom Sears has not always made himself popular within the corridors of power but has done his job to perfection. He has ensured that the County stood its ground and that our (and his) voice were heard when the tricky decisions wereup for debate. The future of one day cricket, Kolpak players, the County game and the structure were all subjects that Sears was happy to be quoted on.

One can only hope that Keith Loring, his successor, is as voluble and dogmatic when the tough decisions have to be made. For all the success off the pitch, until we can reinforce it with some more on it, the critics and cynics will be lying in wait. The only shame is that Sears will not be at Derbyshire to enjoy the fruits of his labours, but the additional revenue streams that he was able to create and direct into squad improvement will see results in the net few years.

Hopefully, Tom Sears will raise a glass to such achievements from his New Zealand home and realise the contribution that he made.

He goes with all of our good wishes. Hopefully we will see him back at the County Ground one day, but New Zealand's Cricket Board have got themselves a real good 'un.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Encouraging news

The announcement in the week that Derbyshire had introducedthe Donald Carr Scholarship, whereby a talented cricketer can both work at the club and on a University degree in Derby is another step in the right direction off the field, where the club are so well run by Messrs Amott and Sears.

Such a deal was the main reason that we lost Gary Ballance, David Houghton's nephew.
The offer made by Yorkshire to put him through University was too good to turn down and he moved north, although the departure of his uncle was obviously a factor.

I don't know much about the young quickie Ed Jones who is the first to benefit from the scholarship, but he is a strapping lad and it is good to see that the conveyor belt is continuing to produce young players.

The rejection rate in cricket is also quite high and this ensures that youngsters of talent have a little time in which to develop. To have to decide on a cricket or academic career at 18 will see players of genuine potential lost to the game. This gives an opportunity for the better ones to test themselves at a higher level before making a more informed decision further down the line.

Full credit to all concerned with this excellent initiative and here's hoping that it produces some diamonds in the years ahead.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 4

Although it took a fair amount of work, Derbyshire took the final eight wickets of the visitors today to win by mid-afternoon.

Massive credit for the win has to go to "Sobers" Wagg, who in taking ten wickets in the match, as well as scoring a hundred runs, became only the third man in Derbyshire history to achieve the feat and the first since Les Townsend in 1934. The only previous occurrence had been in 1927 when Garnett Lee scored an unbeaten century then took 12 wickets against Northamptonshire.

Wagg is earning himself a deserved reputation and there are few players in the game can bowl seam and spin with equal skill. I still think his batting can develop further and he could become a top-notch all rounder. He's a very fine player as things stand and has totally vindicated the opportunity he was given after the problems of a few years back.

Langeveldt again produced the goods when they were required, dismissing the two danger men in Marshall and Gidman, as well as the stubborn night watchman, Kirby.
He and Wagg now have the same number of wickets this season and it will be interesting to see who ends the year as leading wicket-taker.

We should not, however, forget the efforts of Steve Stubbings in this game. His unbeaten 62 in the first innings was crucial in getting us to a first innings total that was semi-respectable. Meanwhile his second effort was hampered by injury but he hung in there while Wagg put the bowling to the sword and the game out of Gloucestershire's reach. While big innings have been few and far between for Stubbo this year, he has been distracted by benefit commitments and still looks set to finish with a mid-30's average. While the likeliest victim if a batsman has to be sacrificed, we would need to get a good player in to replace him.

And so on to Leicester for the final acts of the season and there's a battle royal for third place in the table. Northants currently head us by one point with Essex five points behind. The latter visit Gloucester, while Northants entertain Middlesex. We should be quite happy to visit Leicester, who have some talented players but are in a transitional period. They are heavily reliant on HD Ackerman for runs and Dillon du Preez as a bowler, while Paul Nixon was back in the runs after a lean period today. The skipper would love a good knock, as eighty runs would see him end the season as the top scorer in the country, Worcestershire and Stephen Moore having finished their season. If he managed 128 in the match he would reach 1500 first class runs for the season, a magnificent effort.

Equally important would be a win sending the supporters into the close season in good heart. It is six months until we start all over again and there will be heightened optimism if this season concludes with two wins and third place.

Bring it on!

Supporters Player of the Season - Charl Langeveldt

The term "Kolpak" has evolved from one that describes a sportsman on a passport of convenience to one that is even more disparaging. Many players have used the loophole, which is essentially what it is, as a means of making a quick buck and have offered little in return. No names, no packdrill, but look around the county circuit and they will be obvious.

There have, of course been exceptions. Dale Benkenstein has led Durham with skill and has showed a tactical nous beyond many of his peers. HD Ackerman has bolstered a poor Leicestershire side over several seasons with his consistent batting displays and others like Ryan McLaren at Kent and Lance Klusener at Northants have given excellent value.

When Charl Langeveldt's name was linked with a move to Derby earlier in the year there were eyebrows raised. Surely he was in the frame to tour England with the South Africans? There were also several other - bigger, according to the press - counties in for him, so why would he choose Derbyshire?

When he did eventually sign after a delay that matched the "phony war" of 1939, we were all pleased. He'd done well in a brief spell at Leicester, less well in a shorter one at Somerset, but he came from a sensational season back home where he produced extraordinary figures, especially in 20/20 matches. We knew he was a man of principle, as he had by that stage retired from international cricket in protest at the quota system in the South African game. He was quite happy to be picked on merit, but not merely because of the colour of his skin.

South Africa's loss has definitely been our gain. It was a loss for them, as despite winning the Test series in this country, they appeared to have some fine fast bowlers but no one who could really put it on the spot consistently, especially when the focus switched to one day cricket.

From the start, Langeveldt has been an outstanding player for Derbyshire, nothing more, nohing less. Only Michael Holding in my memory has so consistently carried the burden of being both shock and stock bowler. Charl is a burly man, solidly built, probably as close to the ideal for a fast bowler as it is possible to be. From start to finish of the season he has walked back to the start of his runup and come in flat out every day, an economic action being the precursor to a baffling array of deliveries.

Quick one. Slow one. The one that swings away late. The one that cuts back. The toe crushing yorker (available in two varieties). The occasional bouncer just to keep batsmen on their toes. Langeveldt has them all and bowls them with such skill that we are surprised when he goes for - horror of horrors - three an over. In the 20/20 competition, no one really got hold of him and it has been especially noticeable, even on great batting tracks (Essex in the Pro 40) that when the ball has been flying everywhere, Langeveldt still has commanded respect. It is a pleasure to once again have an opening bowler who you EXPECT to take wickets. You don't hope with Charl, he's too good for that.

Times many this season he has been given the ball when batting was easy and has broken through, or tied things down at one end to the benefit of the man at the other. It's the old trick and many's the bowler who has profited from the accuracy of a Hendrick, Cartwright, Shackleton, Gladwin and Jackson. We've not had one for some time and it has been a pleasure to watch a craftsman in action.

The statistics don't lie. 413 overs in 12 matches. Only Graham Wagg, perhaps his closest rival for the award with Chris Rogers, has exceeded that and only by two overs. He's also played three more matches, so Langeveldt's workload has been considerable. He has had a niggle from his knee and a slight back problem but you'd not know that from the way he has run in. As the one day season has fallen apart from the side he has had an opportunity to rest for these matches, but his 54 wickets at 22 are testimony to the skill of his bowling. A further 16 wickets in one day matches at just 18 each, plus eight 20/20 victims at just under 15 tell their own story. So too does his run rate in the short slog game - a shade over five and a half an over. Amazing really.

I've not mentioned his batting and fielding. We didn't expect much from his batting but he has entertained when he has made it to the middle. An average of 17 from a man who has mainly batted at eleven is prefectly acceptable and the fact that 2/3 of these have come in boundaries show his attitude. The agricultural heave is a favorite shot, sometimes with more textbook strokes, but Charl really should be accompanied to the crease in matches to the music of "One man went to mow". It is often short, but never less than exhilarating.

His fielding meanwhile is like his bowling. Total commitment and if not the most lithe of movers he does what is required and has a good pair of hands when the need arises.

It has been a genuine pleasure to have Charl in the Derbyshire side this season and with the reassurance of his being back next year we can enjoy the winter. I hope that he continues in the colours for years to come, by which stage he will have cemented his place in Derbyshire cricket folklore.

Well done Charl - and thanks from all of us!