Wednesday, 30 April 2008

More on the EPL proposals

Some interesting comments on the DET site today from "Bovril", obviously taking stock (ahem) of the situation...

I think I upset him by saying I didn't care about the England side. I should clarify that by saying I like to see them do well, but given the choice between seeing England do well or Derbyshire, I'll take the Peakites every time.

I think everyone is so obsessed with the idea of this franchised regional competition that they're missing a point. Let's have it in June and all the best players in the world will come! Well, perhaps they won't. These IPL riches will make players financially secure and there's a lot who will prefer a break rather than another hectic month in already over-populated fixture calendars.

I think he also denigrates unfairly the County game, comparing it to the very strong Australian competitions. While not denying that the Australians have some outstanding players, there's some poor ones too and no real depth to the pool of talent. Doug Bollinger, Shaun Tait, Jon Moss and Michael Dighton have all had fine careers in Oz, but none were setting the County game alight during their stays.

Success in cricket, as in all sport, goes in cycles. In the county game, Yorkshire were all-conquering in the 30's but had to wait for the 60's to be strong again. Somerset had a golden spell with Botham, Richards and Garner, while Sussex are ahead of the pack at present (largely thanks to Mushtaq). Internationally, most countries have had peaks and troughs. I'm still not convinced that stopping bowlers playing for their counties is good for their skills. Protect them, sure, but when a Test player bowls only 200 overs in a summer in which he is dropped for being erratic, Stephen Hawking doesn't need to provide the answer...

England will be strong again, despite any system that is introduced. So will Derbyshire, and I suspect our day will come first.

This year's top all rounder

So, most of you reckon Rikki Clarke is to be our top all rounder this year.

So do I, but I think his batting is most important to our hopes of success. Graham Wagg is tipped by a good number to do well, and a few rated the chances of Jon Clare to make an impression.

Thanks to all who voted - why not let me know who you think will be our most influential winter signing in today's new poll, that runs for the next week?

Derbyshire sign golden Hinds

I thought I'd use that one before someone from the press does this summer...

What do you think of the signing? I'm quite pleased, and think he's a decent cricketer. OK, I'd have preferred Brendan McCullum or James Hopes, but the reality is that the big names from the IPL are sufficiently secure financially to not need the County grind, for whatever length of time.

Hinds has a good, but not spectacular first class record, and didn't set the heather on fire in the ICL. After a quick 59 in the first game, he settled down to a tournament average of 21. To be fair to him, that is only to be expected in 20/20, as the nature of the game suggests that few will average over 40. I doubt Bradman would be especially prolific in that form of the game.

What it does is give us a player who can score quickly, bowl tidily and field brilliantly. In many ways, he's a better bet for that competition than Chris Rogers, who will earn a well deserved rest for the duration of the 20/20. Hinds will enable Morris to play an extra batsman if he wants, and will give him someone who can keep it tight. As we've got Charl Langeveldt, fresh from his exploits in South Africa's version of the game, and Nayan Doshi, arguably the best spinner in the form in recent years, we might surprise a few teams.

The problem is we're in a very tough group yet again. Durham, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Notts and Leicester is as tough a company as it gets and it is very much the group of death. That, plus the fact we play most of them in the FP trophy, is why I predicted pre-season that our best bet of one day success was in the Pro 40, where the teams look more beatable.

Anyway, full credit to the men in charge of the club for another sound signing. Here's hoping Wavell brings some real Caribbean panache to the County Ground in July!

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

20/20 Premier League - some thoughts

I'll be honest straight from the start and admit that I'm not a huge fan of 20/20 cricket.

I don't deny it's exciting at times, but it really doesn't thrill me. I've not yet watched an IPL game from start to finish, although I'll admit to being pleased when Derbyshire win matches in the competition, and I'd be shouting from the rooftops if we were to win it.

I'm with Neville Cardus. He once memorably described one day cricket as being "like Mozart played on a banjo". If that is so, 20/20 must be played on the comb and paper. If I think back to memorable passages of cricket, there are various things come to mind. Holding's torrid over to Boycott in 1981, ending with his brutal dismissal. Allan Donald's bowling to Mike Atherton one sunny evening, with barely a run scored but the cricket breathtaking. Derbyshire beating Sussex in the Gillette Cup semi-final of 1969, bowling them out for 49 with some astonishing bowling.

Cricket doesn't have to be all bish, bash, bosh to be good. We all like to see a sensational shot, a glorious cover drive, a clip through mid wicket, but 20/20 is a little like eating at a top restaurant. On an occasional basis it is really nice, but after a while you get fed up with it and yearn for something else, something more simple.

After my wife and kids, I love cricket. The only thing that comes close is music, but the truth is I don't like to mix my cricket and music. Snippets of rock music played after every boundary or wicket is neither here nor there. Nor is it new, as those who've read about the old festival weeks, with cricket accompanied by brass bands, will know. Anyone who knows me would say I was receptive to change and innovation, but 20/20 really isn't my bag, man. It's too biased in favour of batsmen, with short boundaries and fielding regulations. A game doesn't really evolve either. A 40 or 50 over game can ebb and flow, but a bad start in a 20/20 usually results in a team getting stuffed.

I don't like pyjama clothes either, so I suppose I'm a traditionalist. Which brings me neatly to the plans for the EPL in 2010. I'm left cold, stone cold, by plans to introduce regional or city teams. I was brought up to enjoy the "derby" matches, the battles against Yorkshire, Notts and Leicester, and now we're considering them being on our side. Hmmm...

I cannot deny the rationale that, as 20/20 has attracted a whole new audience, this crowd has not yet developed loyalties and may therefore embrace the new teams and new identities. It may attract international stars, most of whom would sooner walk barefoot over hot coals than endure a full season of county cricket. I just think that we're accelerating the time when the market for cricket is saturated.

We're not far away as it is. Who would be a fast bowler in the modern game? It's hard enough work as it is, without staggering from one game to the next, expected to run in hard and still dive to stop fours. I'm reminded of Bill Bowes, the old Yorkshire quick bowler before the war, saying how he got bawled out by his skipper for diving to stop the ball. "You're in the side to bowl, we've other buggers to do that sort of thing" he was told. No wonder the modern quicks have so many injuries.

For batsmen too, there's another innings tomorrow and the quality is sacrificed to the quantity. Someone, somewhere needs to take stock of the situation and needs to do it fast.

Derbyshire Cricket Yearbooks

In the next few days I should be taking delivery of the 2008 Derbyshire Yearbook, an indispensable buy in the early season.

I got my first in 1970 and it was a special edition, the centenary issue. There were loads of extra articles in it from players and personalities from the club's history and I found it absolutely fascinating. They were only names to me at that point, but the stories of matches many years before left me completely enthralled, and I wanted to read more.

Every year from then on I would buy the new edition and read accounts of matches I'd seen and those that I wish I had, at the same time "enjoying" obituaries of club stalwarts and reading about their feats. I started to scour shops for older editions, but in those pre-ebay years struggled to get anything prior to 1965.

I struck gold with an auction in Nottingham when I picked up a collection of 1957-63 for a relative pittance, then managed to pick up 1955 and 56 from a cricket book dealer. Finally the Holy Grail was mine after several years of searching, and I got hold of the 1954 edition for the remarkable price of a fiver from a second hand book shop!

For many years the book was under the auspices of Messrs Peach and Dawn, and they were really entertaining, if slightly austere. When the late (and much missed) Stan Tacey took over, they perhaps reached a peak, with an increased number of articles (some penned by myself!) and a high level of statistical gold from David Baggett.

When David took over for a brief spell I felt the yearbook wasn't quite as good, with greater emphasis on league cricket and fewer articles. Last year saw something of a revolution, with the old style design of A5 abandoned for a new, all colour brochure in A4 format. A few traditionalists were appalled, I thought that it was great.

The only problem is that my run of yearbooks on the shelf in the loft now looks less standardised - it takes pride of place over my Wisden collection - but the plus side is that the yearbook took much longer to read and there were some really good articles from such excellent journalists as Gerald Mortimer and Mark Eklid. Full credit should go to Tom Holdcroft, who not only does a terrific job with the club web site and many other duties around the club, but managed, in his first year, to set a new benchmark in quality.

Nice job Crofty! Now, I must look out that credit card and get this year's edition to fill the space on the shelf.

Memo to self - must get a new shelf in time for next year...

Monday, 28 April 2008

Favourite cricketers 11 - Ole Mortensen

Ole Mortensen was a typical Derbyshire seamer. Big (6'4"), burly, oozing menace and aggression and the lynchpin of the attack for a decade from 1983.

Far from whistling down the nearest mine shaft for him, however, Derbyshire picked him up on the recommendation of former skipper Ian Buxton, from the non-too traditional setting of Denmark.

Ole represented his country at four ICC Trophy Tournaments and picked up 63 wickets at just over ten runs each. His time for Derbyshire was notable for his sustained hostility, even if he was struggling with injury, and an ability to curse fluently in a range of guttural sounds that sounded even more aggressive because the batsman, left groping by a fast leg-cutter, couldn't understand a word.

"Stan" became his nickname, in tribute to the former Blackpool and England striker. Eric Blood Axe, one of his team mates called him, and Ole looked for all the world like a reincarnation of a rampaging Viking. This was, of course, the era of, if not the most hostile of Derbyshire attacks, certainly the fastest. At different times we had a choice of Holding and Malcolm to open, with Mortensen first change, then Ole and Devon together. The great Dane wasn't THAT fast, but he was decidedly awkward. From his debut season, when he marked his introduction to Yorkshire matches by taking 6-27, he was a very, very good bowler. Over 430 wickets at 23 is a record to be proud of in first class matches, while he also took over 200 at around 25 in one-day matches. The latter format saw him perhaps at his best, with his opening spell usually being immaculate in both line and length and often produced the wickets of top order batsmen. In addition, his control brought dividends at the other end, as batsmen strove to break free from the Ole-induced shackles.

As a batsman he was only number ten because Devon Malcolm was eleven. He had a model forward defensive shot but not much more. As a fielder he was not the most lithe although he had a safe pair of hands if he got there, but in his final season of 1994, Viking helmets proliferated at games as the fans paid tribute to their adopted son. The bottom line was Ole was one of the best bowlers in the country.

He was an honest man too. In 1993 I bought a cap from him during his benefit year, a woollen maroon one with "Derbyshire's Dane" on the front. "It'll last you for years" said Ole as I handed over the cash in the marquee at Chesterfield, "just make sure you dry it whenever you've finished a game". Fifteen years on it is still immaculate and is on my head whenever I play.

It also has a new lease of life. Now Freddie Klokker, an Ole protege, is around, it's no longer clear who Derbyshire's Dane is. All of a sudden, my cap looks like new again...

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Yorkshire v Derbyshire...hmmmm!

I suppose it was too good to last. That "invincibility" feeling.

A day after one of the better run chases in recent years, we come crashing down to earth chasing 5 an over over 24 overs. No doubt the usual suspects will be in the Telegraph tomorrow bemoaning "typical" Derbyshire, but this defeat had a lot of positives, and there is little doubt that the apparently awful light in which we had to bat was a factor. OK, Clarke chose to bowl, and that was a good decision. With the exception of Waggy, the bowlers all did well. Langeveldt took a wicket in his first over, Jon Clare bowled a superb spell and continues to make a good impression, while the surprise was why Tom Lungley was overlooked for a fifth over. Maybe I'm being churlish, and maybe I'm missing something, but I'd have thought four overs and two for twelve was worth the fifth over.

The batting never got going, and if we'd have got to 20 in the fourth over, it would have been a breeze. After eight we were only just at two an over and the cream of the batting had gone.
The difference between the sides was young Rashid, who appears to be a genuine talent. I suspect he could be like Kim Barnett, in coming on the scene as a talented leggie who could bat and then finding the bowling less utilised than it would be abroad. Though Pipe, Wagg and Clare battled hard, it was not a wicket where you wanted to chase seven or eight an over, the target over the last five.

We now have a break until Friday. Hopefully Greg Smith will be fit for then. Although he's not yet got going with the bat, his all round ability is important to the balance of the team. James Pipe is a fine player, but I don't like seeing him at number six. Waggy is another fine player who's batting is looking pretty good but who doesn't seem to have found his radar with the ball yet.

For what it's worth, my team for the crucial Durham game would be:

Smith (if fit)

The dilemma is Jon Clare, who is bowling so well. You really can't leave out Langeveldt or Lungley, really need a spinner to change the pace if someone gets going and would have to put him (on bowling form) ahead of Graham Wagg. Doing so would lengthen the tail, and while I think he will be a good all rounder in the future, having him at eight looks less convincing than Waggy. Of course, if Smith is fit, he could bowl spin and enable Clare to replace Doshi.
Tough decisions ahead for Mr Morris, but if we don't win this one, then follow it with a win over the Scots (a bogey side of recent years) we can wave goodbye to the FP Trophy for this year.

Langeveldt video and thanks!

I've been really pleased with the number of people visiting this site since I started it as the season began.

If you enjoy it, please pass the details to your friends and fellow Derbyshire supporters.

I've now made live the visit counter and hopefully this will help to highlight the level of interest, not just in the site, but in Derbyshire cricket.

I came across some interesting footage of Langeveldt's hat trick against the West Indies in the last over. It's not the best footage ever, but gives a nice idea of the man who'll soon be steaming in for us!

There's also a fun one of that first win in what seemed like a generation, at Derby against Somerset, as the last wicket goes down on a run out.
That's what it's like to be a Derbyshire fan!

Did I say that we won yesterday?!

Saturday, 26 April 2008

County joy at Essex chase!

It's great to be a Derbyshire fan tonight.

OK, let's not get too carried away. It is only one match, only one win. But to get a home Championship win so early in the season, against a team we normally lose to, augurs really well.

The first session was a joke, but then declaration boowling always is. Full credit to both captains for contriving a potential result from a game that was marred by the weather. Few would have expected the excitement on their way to the ground this morning, but the sight of Stubbings and Telo opening the bowling told its own story. Dominic will have enjoyed dismissing Alastair Cook for his first wicket in top level cricket, but I was pleased Wheatley didn't get to make his ton. It was going to be a fast one, but hardly going to set a true benchmark for the season's quickest.

Stubbo set off like a man on fire, and the shots were by all accounts impressive. His dismissal triggered a mini collapse, with neither Sadler nor Telo lasting long. I hope people don't expect too much from the latter this year. It will be a huge transition for him, but I have high hopes for the stylish young player.

Rikki Clarke played a crucial innings, pushing the scoring along while Rogers kept it steady. When he went, caught behind point, Fred Klokker didn't last long either, but then the game entered its crucial stage.

James Pipe is a top man for these situations, and looked in touch immediately. When Chris Rogers went at 228, with 38 still required, the sceptics may have feared the worst. But Graham Wagg was also in great touch and with both hitting the boundary with regularity, Derbyshire cantered home with five overs to spare.

It was a thoroughly professional chase, with the scoring rate steady around the required rate throughout. The earlier bowling of Jon Clare, Wagg and Lungley augurs well for the season ahead.

And of course, we now have Mr Langeveldt to come to the party. While the weather forecast suggests he'll not have much to do tomorrow, he will be a prize asset in the months ahead.

It's funny that a few weeks ago we were mourning the loss of Wavell Hinds to the ICL. With the signings of Dom Telo and Charl Langeveldt we are much better off in my humble opinion, and I'd propose a vote of thanks to Messrs Morris, Amott and Sears for an inventive and exciting recruitment campaign.

Well done guys!

Favourite cricketers 10 - George Pope

I never saw George Pope play. In fact, he'd retired 11 years before I was born.

George is, however, one of my favourite players because of his deeds and the legion of stories about him. Another of that tough breed of ex-mining industry players, George was, by any standards - even Brian Close standards - a tough nut. He did, after all, counter the short bowling of Larwood and Voce by chesting them down - remember, this was in an era before chest pads, thigh pads and various protective accoutrements became de rigeur for the professional batsman.
Excellent judges maintain that the two best all-rounders in the world just after the Second World War were Keith Miller and George Pope. certainly George taught Miller how to bowl the outswinger when they played on opposing teams in the Victory Tests of 1945. Bear in mind that at this time George was 34, and had lost his peak years from 1939 to the global conflict.

He was a crucial cog in the wonderful Derbyshire side of the 1930's. A batsman who could either sell his wicket dearly or hit the ball to all corners, depending on the need, he averaged 28 with the bat. That's not so impressive, you say, but the success of that side was in scoring enough - just enough - to give the bowlers a chance to bowl out the opposition, and to do so quickly. Sometimes a quick 30 or 40 was needed, and George did the business before holing out. His highest score came in his final season, 1948, when he hammered Hampshire to all parts in an unbeaten 207. His retirement at just 37 was down to his wife's ill-health, and he was still a fine player, achieving the double.

His bowling was typical Derbyshire, movement both ways, grudging every run and bristling with aggression. 677 wickets at just under 20 speaks of a very fine bowler, and those who faced George (and his brother Alf) knew they were in for a torrid time.

Stories about him abound. Like the one where the all-conquering Yorkshire side of the 30's were scenting victory and the field crept ever closer. Skipper Brian Sellers at short leg had to duck to avoid two lusty blows by George.

"I say Pope, I believe you're trying to hit me" said the Yorkshireman
"Aye, and if you stay theer any longer you'll be in no bluddy doubt" said George.

The cut and thrust of the border battles against Yorkshire and Notts often brought out the best in him, and his bald head would glisten with sweat as he pounded down ball after ball of relentless fast medium torment for the batsman.

George had many great days, and his only reward from the Test snobs - sorry, selectors - of the time was one match against South Africa in 1947. Shades of the treatment of Les Jackson in there. They said he couldn't bowl overseas, but he was the leading wicket taker in a Commonwealth XI tour to India, and this supposition simply masked the fact that George didn't have the right credentials, i.e. public school background.

His greatest day? Quite easy really. Derbyshire v Somerset at Chesterfield in June 1947. Somerset 68 all out. Pope 21-11-34-6. We then thrashed a quick 231, then put them back in after tea.

They were all out for 38. George took 7-16 in nine overs and the game was done in a day.

Not bad for a man worth one Test. If he were around today, he'd be making his fortune in the IPL.

And would still be worth it...

Draw looms but CL signs!

After three rain interrupted days, the game against Essex needs something spectacular to get a definitgive result.With the visitors only 31 ahead with a day to go, and a wicket that makes stroke play difficult, it is hard to see how either side can win, and the weather looks the only winner.Off the pitch, Charl Langeveldt apparently passed his interview and has signed a 2-year deal with us. Excellent news! He goes straight into the side for Sunday's game against Yorkshire. He may well replace John Clare, but I'd be inclined to reward the youngster for an excellent all round game against Essex with a place in this side:


James Pipe is perhaps too high at number 6, but this side has six bowlers and until Greg Smith returns to fitness we either play a batsman or bowler short. I can't think Fred Klokker will do THAT much for the batting, so Clare's all round ability and promise should get the nod.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Charl Langeveldt

Reliable sources suggest that Charl Langeveldt has an interview at Lords today to complete his registration as a Derbyshire player.

If all goes well, he is then in line to make his eagerly awaited Derbyshire debut against Yorkshire in Sunday's FP Trophy game.

Logic suggests all should be fine. he has not played "outlaw" cricket in India, has not played for his country for over two years and has not contravened any known ICC/ECB legislation.

Cynics among county fans of longstanding suggest that there may be a little known regulation insisting that anyone with a surname that ends in three consonants cannot play county cricket for a county until they have done so for one in the London area...

There is no doubt that Langeveldt would enjoy current conditions at the County ground. The burly former prison warder will be an excellent asset to the County attack and create real competition for places. While John Clare will in all likelihood be the unlucky one to drop out in the first instance, working with a bowler of Langeveldt's ability and experience will be of great value to him in the long term. In such a long and arduous season, his time will come, and it is the presence in and around the side of the likes of Redfern, Clare, Patel, Needham, Telo and Smith that gives cause for great optimism in the club's future. All of these players are under 25 and with a modicum of luck could be a part of the club's future for a long time to come.

Watch for more news of the Langeveldt story on this blog, and on the linked websites to the left of this home page.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

How will we do this season?

Well, 2/3 of the encouraging number that entered felt we'd make steady progress this year. Time will tell.... There's still a cynic (or maybe realist) or two out there, but there's reasonable grounds for optimism.
Why not enter the new poll? Vote for who you think will be Derbyshire's best all rounder this season. The new poll lasts just one week, so don't take too long - there's loads more to follow!

Day 2 v Essex

A sadly truncated day that will make it hard to force a result in this game.
If we bat well tomorrow, we'll get to 300. That's pretty much parity in the first innings and leaves little room for manoeuvre on the last day for any kind of result - especially if the weather intervenes.
Of course, we could always collapse again! It was good, however, to see Messrs Sadler and Stubbings battle it through to the close. More of the same tomorrow will do nicely, as no doubt Masters and Nel will come in firing early on.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Derbyshire v Essex - Day 1

Overall a good day for Derbyshire, although the recovery of Essex from 76-5 to their closing 269-9 will be seen as a missed opportunity.
It was almost totally down to Ravi Bopara, who staked an early claim for an England place with a second successive century, finishing on 133 not out.
All the bowlers were in the wickets, with special mention for John Clare who produced another eye-catching spell to match those at the end of last season in taking 3-40 in 15 overs.
Derbyshire will hope to dismiss either Bopara or Andre Nel, the last man, tomorrow first thing and then build an innings that could force a victory. There is plenty of depth to the batting, with Clare at 9 and Lungley at 10, but it is vital that the top order see off the onslaught from Nel and David Masters, who often bowled well against us when with Leicestershire. If the wicket eases on day 2 (and Bopara has shown it is by no means a bad track), then we can look forward to the rest of this game.
One cautionary note - I just hope Rikki Clarke isn't going to try and do everything himself.
Good bowler though he is, I don't see him as a new ball bowler, and his batting is too important for him to tire himself out with bowling all the time.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Well done Morris!

Congratulations to John Morris for picking Freddie Klokker in the 12 for the Essex game.
He has forced his way in by sheer weight of runs, and an excellent century in the 2nds v Lancashire has seen him rewarded by playing as a batsman in the game that theoretically starts tomorrow (the weather looks a little dodgy).
John Clare is also rewarded for his wickets against his old county and an unbeaten 50 in the second innings that saved the game.
Assuming that Jake Needham again misses out, the team seems set to be


Good length to the batting in that side, and with a little more discipline to the bowling they could do well.
Alastair Cook plays for Essex, and with Pettini, Gallian and Bopara in form the Derbyshire bowlers need to keep it tight.
Should be a good game!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Favourite cricketers 9 - Bob Taylor

There was a time, before the arrival on the scene of overseas players, when the best aspect of Derbyshire cricket was watching Bob Taylor catch the ball.

Note I said "watch". There was no sound as the ball was taken by the most consummately professional wicket keeper I ever expect to see. We are now in an era when wicket -keepers are changed by the series, but in the 1960's and 70's there were two who were light years ahead of what was a very good pack.

John Murray, Jim Parks, Brian Taylor, Eifion Jones, Roger Tolchard, Ron Swetman - there were some fine keepers and several got England call ups for their batting ability as much as their glovework. Nothing changes huh?

Alan Knott was the daddy of them all. Puck-like, agile, fast on his feet and fastidious, Knott was an outstanding wicket-keeper, one of the best ever. He had to be to keep "brilliant Bob" out of the England side.

Bob could bat, no doubt about it, but a career average of around 17 didn't suggest a mercurial batting talent. He saved many a match with a dogged innings, however, and won a few one day games with a quick 20 or 30. One of only two men to pass 10,000 first class runs without scoring a century, he always battled. But with his gloves on, behind the stumps, he was an artiste. While he dropped an occasional catch, it was occasional, and his agility standing back was astonishing. To be fair, he used it rarely, as his footwork got him into the right position for all but the most wayward bowling. Up to the stumps he was sensational, and a batsman went down the track at his peril. He eventually won over 50 England caps and a reputation as one of the nicest men in the game.

The selection of a Derbyshire greats side is always fascinating, with choice of seam bowlers a real headache. Despite the option of fine players like Harry Elliott, George Dawkes and Karl Krikken, no one - absolutely no one - would go past Bob Taylor as wicket keeper. He was THAT good.

Derbyshire v Essex - next up

All things considered, Derbyshire did pretty well in their first game.
Certainly, the first day was a shambles, but the way that the team fought back with the bat in the second innings augured well.

Most would consider Gloucester to have one of the best batting line ups in the division. Ali is OK, but Spearman, Marshall, North and Gidman are all very fine players and we did a fair job of getting through them.

I'd be surprised if we saw either Kevin Dean or Greg Smith in this game (or indeed at the weekend against Yorkshire) so to some extent there's a little balance left the team. It was good to read that both John Clare and Wayne White took wickets for the seconds, and I'd be inclined to give Clare his first game of the season, especially after his solid innings secured a draw against Lancashire 2nds. He has a lot of potential, and is worth a run in the absence of the equally promising Smith.

For what its worth, my eleven for Essex would be:


Much will depend on the wicket, as always. Dan Redfern would be my number six if available as he is a supremely talented bat and a useful off-spinner, but he may well have school commitments. If the wicket is anything like it has been pre-season, I'd be inclined to play an extra batsman as five seamers would be unnecessary.
Essex have men in excellent form in Gallian, Pettini and Bopara, but the attack (Andre Nel apart) doesn't look overly dangerous. Having said that David Masters normally does well against us, and this will be another test of the competitive edge of Morris' side.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

A one day season starts

Can Derbyshire rise from last season's shocking mediocrity in one-day cricket to justify the comments of Mike Atherton and David Lloyd as their being worth a flutter to do well?

They can, but it needs certain things to fall into place.

Dan Birch needs to find the touch that has served him so well in league cricket to give impetus to the innings, allowing Chris Rogers to play as the innings anchor.

Dom Telo and Rikki Clarke need to be protected from the new ball, enabling them to come in when the field is spread to push the ball around. John Sadler is then important as the man to bat around if the openers fail.

The bowlers need to maintain accuracy above what they showed last year and in the Gloucester game. One bad ball an over equates to 200-plus totals in FP Trophy games.

I think we need to play both Jake Needham and Nayan Doshi to take the pace off the ball and slow the scoring.

Most of all we need to avoid injuries. Already we have lost Greg Smith and Kevin Dean from what would be our first choice one day side. We don't yet know how long this will be for, but Smith is an explosive batsman and very handy bowler, while Dean is still capable of running through sides with a new ball.

We'll know a little more after today, and watch with interest as events unfold at Old Trafford.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Favourite cricketers 8 - Michael Holding

Michael Holding is one of the greatest cricketers I have ever seen.

Added to that, he's probably one of the "coolest" men I've ever met. With an immaculate appearance, and a voice like molasses, he is imposing, striking and authoritative.

As a cricketer he was superb. Not just the fact that he was fast. He was UNBELIEVABLY fast. With Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner he shared a high intelligence that allowed him to bowl fast when conditions were in his favour, and cut down his pace and move it around when there was cloud cover.

I remember seeing footage of him as a professional in the Lancashire League, pushing off the sightscreen at a small ground when the full glory of the most graceful run up in the game was unfurled. Maybe he wouldn't have been at his fastest on what was a bitterly cold day, as he was bowling in several sweaters! One can only imagine how the opening batsmen were feeling, perhaps replaying the legendary over that he bowled to Geoff Boycott in advance of the red missile hurtling towards them. This after the smoothest, light-footed run up the game has seen, for all the world that of the 400m runner he was in his youth.

For all his success in the international game, Holding was in a class of his own as a county professional. Kim Barnett recalls him being happy to bowl whenever asked, and putting his hand up to do so when the batsmen were getting away and a few tight overs were required. That was the beauty of the man. He didn't only want to bowl when things were in his favour, he would do so whenever the captain needed it. How great an asset is a man who could bowl very quickly at the start of the innings and then come back as a stock bowler later on.

He was a great asset to Kim Barnett, but he could bat as well. Numerous innings were enlivened by a quick blast from the Holding willow. He holds the record for sixes hit by a batsman with fewer than 1,000 Test runs, but didn't need to bat much in that West Indian team. For Derbyshire he could bat with restraint if needed and he had a safe pair of hands. These skills paled alongside the glory of his bowling, however. I will never forget his one man demolition of Sussex at Hove in 1988, when he took 8-21 with the finest bowling you could ever wish to see. That day he seemed to have the ball on a string, ready to jerk away from the bat, just when the batsman thought he had it covered. While distance lends enchantment, I cannot remember anyone collaring him in one day cricket. With him at one end and "Eric Bloodaxe" - Ole Mortensen at the other, there were few runs off the opening attack

Whispering Death they called him. John Wright recalls with a mixture of amusement and annoyance the way that the opposition were delighted to see that he was playing - as it meant that Holding himself was not.

Before he left Derbyshire, Holding fixed us up with the immensely talented but ultimately unfulfilled Ian Bishop, almost as fast, close to aesthetically perfect but with a back problem that curtailed his career. It was symbolic of the man that he left us with the bases covered. It is now as great a pleasure to listen to his mellifluous tones in commentary.

The old timers write of the glory of such bowlers as Tom Richardson and George Lohmann. They may well have been great, but I saw Michael Holding.

Gloucester final day and Lancs tomorrow

Well, the final day has dawned and the old rain dance seems to have done the trick. Its not very good down Bristol and play appears unlikely today. Shame...
As for tomorrow, with Kevin Dean and Greg Smith injured, and Stubbo having problems throwing after winter surgery on his shoulder, the team appears to be:


Jake Needham is travelling and may play if there is a chance of spin. Ian Hunter is replaced by John Clare, who is a talented player and may become a genuine all rounder rather than a bowler who can bat.
The batting looks good enough, but if a bowler is injured, or gets carted around, the only back up is Dan Redfern. While a fine young batsman, and a bowler of promise, would you want him bowling at Messrs Hodge, Law and Flintoff at this stage?
Fingers crossed for a good result!

Friday, 18 April 2008

Day 3 v Gloucester

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm planning on a good old rain dance tomorrow.
For Gloucester not to win would be hard luck on them, especially Marcus North who has had an excellent all-round game. Having said that, losing would be unlucky for Derbyshire, who have fought back well after a dreadful first day.
There's encouragement to be found in the batting of Rogers and Telo in this game, and reassurance that James Pipe is back to his best again. Rogers and Telo are, with Rikki Clarke, our class batsmen and we need them to fire regularly this season. We also need Stubbings and Sadler to anchor things, and one of them has to come off regularly.
Greg Smith has had a nightmare game - 0 and 1 and a torn arm muscle. That could take some time to heal and I doubt we'll see him for a few weeks. Whether he is replaced by a batsman or bowler is the question, with Dan Redfern not around at present due to school commitments.
Fingers crossed for the morrow...

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Day 2 v Gloucester

Good day today. Still concerned with the rate at which they scored, 4.5 an over is too much on a helpful track.
I thought we were going to be bowled out again when two down fairly quickly, but Dom Telo did well on debut and Chris Rogers seems to have done what we expected.
Both were out before the close, which was a shame. Had Rogers survive till the morning, I think we could have set them 250 in the last innings. As it is, the skipper has to bat at his best and needs support from Pipe, the injured Greg Smith and Waggy for us to get up to 200 lead.
Maybe it will turn for Doshi in the last innings?
As things stand, he's Derbyshire's greatest-ever bowler, statistically.
The man's a living legend!

Favourite cricketers 7 - Peter Kirsten

If there were two better players to steer Derbyshire to on-day glory than John Wright and Peter Kirsten, I don't know who they were.

Peter Kirsten came to Derbyshire on the recommendation of Eddie Barlow, and played in what must have been the strongest-ever second eleven fielded by the County. That same summer he was joined by Allan Lamb and Garth Le Roux in the Derbyshire twos. Derbyshire had to choose one to replace Eddie Barlow and plumped for Kirsten.

And why not? He had averaged over 90 for them, and had scored a hatful for (I think) Worksop in the Bassetlaw League. Of course, had anyone at the club done their homework, we could have had Lamb and Kirsten - the former on his English background. Le Roux went on to form a hostile pace attack with Imran Khan for Sussex, but Kirsten was an excellent choice.

At his best, batting was made to look the easiest thing in the world. He played straight and in the arc when he first came in which helped, but you never had the impression he was doing anything spectacular, unlike his earlier compatriot Chris Wilkins. Then you'd look up at the scoreboard and see he was on 30-odd and wonder how he'd got there. Once established, he produced an astonishing range of strokes. I was fortunate to see his innings against Glamorgan at Chesterfield when he scored a double century so good it was euphoric. Few of us recalled a Derbyshire player in that league (I certainly didn't) and he would go down the pitch to play a shot then change his mind and play something outrageous instead. His footwork was superb, his timing a thing of wonder and his range of shots equal to anyone I've seen.

He was a fair bowler too, little off spinners that were good enough to produce two five-wicket hauls and take one day wickets regularly. As a fielder he was up with the very best, certainly until knee problems slowed him down.

Everyone was thrilled when he eventually got the chance to play Test cricket, although at 37 his best days were behind him. There were more cheers in Derbyshire for South Africa than England when he made his only Test century at Headingley in 1994.

Kirsten was one of a number of outstanding South Africans who lost their best years to apartheid. He, Jimmy Cook, Ken McEwan and the great Barry Richards would have graced the highest stage of all. It was a pleasure and privilege to watch him grace the square at Chesterfield and Derby.

Favourite cricketers 6 - Fred Swarbrook

Fred Swarbrook was for some time the youngest player to ever represent Derbyshire.

Like Ashley Harvey-Walker, he was not by any stretch of the imagination a world-beater, but a career record of 467 wickets at just under thirty counts for something. He was also a very dogged tailend batsman, and anyone who watched Derbyshire throughout the 1970's will remember many Bob Taylor/Freddie Swarbrook partnerships that saved or won matches. Freddie was an accumulator, pushing it around, and was a remarkably reassuring sight coming down the pavilion steps with the scoreboard showing 70-6 (which it did all too often, and sometimes much worse).

As a schoolboy, Fred offered me the encouragement that I could be a cricketer. He was not athletic, and while no Colin Milburn was not the most lithe player to wear Derbyshire colours. He was, however, a man who made the very most of his abilities. He would throw himself around (a pal once asked if the earth moved for me when Freddie had made a diving stop) and there was no one you'd want under a skier more than Fred, as long as his legs got him there.

His slow left arm today would see him ranked in the top three in the country, and for a couple of years he looked like he could make it to a higher standard. Who will forget his one man demolition of Sussex, when he took 9-20? In fact, given Derbyshire have not been blessed with too many slow-left arm bowlers, you'd be safe to say Fred was the best of his kind. Certainly a better bowler than Dallas Moir, who followed him, and far more dangerous when conditions were favourable than Ant Botha.

He was the first player I recall to suffer from the "yips" and Fred got that he couldn't pitch the ball at all. He was OK in the nets, but as soon as he got in the middle, it was gone. For a time he carried a lucky pebble, which he rubbed before bowling the ball. One of his teammates eventually suggested that he "bowl the bloody pebble and put the ball in your pocket".

Fred was let go by Derbyshire when his bowling was deemed past the point of no return. Admirable a tail ender as he was, there was not enough to his batting to be retained. Like Ashley Harvey Walker and Phil Russell, he built a new life in South Africa and did well as a groundsman and coach.

I've never met him, but in case he ever reads this, I should say that in schoolboy games of cricket, I always wanted to be Freddie Swarbrook. It says it all really.

Favourite cricketers 5 - Ashley Harvey-Walker

Why was he a favourite player? A career average of less than 24 is hardly indicative of a major talent.

But Ashley (nicknamed Hearty Whacker) by John Arlott was a front of the wicket player who was always prepared to hit the ball.

He had a notably heavy bat and sprang to prominence on debut when he became the first Derbyshire player to score a century in his first appearance. OK, the opposition was a less than scary Oxford University, but runs are runs. He never lived up to that performance, but often produced a hard and high hitting cameo of an innings, especially in one day cricket. At a time when Derbyshire were blessed with a number of what my Dad called "nudge and fudge" batsman, who deflected rather than hit the ball, Harvey-Walker was entertaining. You knew it would never last for long, and 3 centuries and 19 fifties in an eight season career wasn't brilliant.

But you knew if he could get through the first few overs, and if he got in against the slower bowlers, rather than quicks, that there would be some entertainment. He could hit long and hard, and once memorably hit England off-spinner Pat Pocock onto the top deck of the stand at the Oval.

He played in the legendary game at Buxton in 1975, where the wicket was affected by snow and Derbyshire were annihilated by Lancashire. Ashley removed his false teeth on the death trap of a wicket and gave them to umpire Dickie Bird for safe keeping. legend suggests that when he popped a catch to short leg in this game, he shouted "catch it" himself!

He was a useful occasional bowler of slow medium cutters, taking 34 wickets in his career. Most memorably, he took 7-35 on a dire wicket at Ilkeston when the wicket was turning square and he was given the new ball by Eddie Barlow. For the rest of his days, he enjoyed occasional banter about his bowling with Geoff Miller, which usually ended with Harvey-Walker asking Miller what his career best bowling was...

On his retirement, he went into the Leagues as a professional, then went out to South Africa, destination for so many Derbyshire players, where he became a highly regarded groundsman. It was very sad to hear of his shocking death in 1997, shot dead in a Johannesburg bar in which he had a business interest.

While not one of the all-time greats, Ashley was a character, and a man who enlivened and enriched the game. Can anyone ask for more?

Wednesday, 16 April 2008


First day of the season and a disaster.
At 62-1 we were looking good coming up to lunch.
In an hour we slipped to 79-7. No matter how bad the pitch, or useful the conditions for bowling, that is poor for professional cricketers.
Indeed, so was the bowling late on, as ex Derbyshire man Marcus North scored at will.
At 79-4, with Gidman gone early (and we know how he likes our bowling) it was game on.
Unless they play out of their skins from here, its game over.
I know its early days, but I'd have liked to think we'd have put up a better show than that.
2/10. MUST do better

Jayawardene no-no

So we're not going to see Mahela Jayawardena in Derbyshire colours this year.

I have to say that to some extent I'm pleased. His cultured style isn't really made for a 20/20 thrash and he's not going to do deeds that would enable him to go down in legend in the short game.

I was very excited when I first heard of his signing, but the Asian fixture calendar is now so congested that it effectively rules out all players from Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan. Similar problems were encountered when attempting to sign Mohammad Yousuf.

So where do we go from here? I'm sure John Morris has some names at this stage, but perhaps an all rounder might be the best bet. James Hopes of Australia is a fine player, who can open in 20/20 and bowl at the death, while someone like Loots Bosman of South Africa, who had some devastating displays in their domestic 20/20 this winter, or Luke Pomersbach of Western Australia could be good bets. The latter, a former team mate of Chris Rogers (who has now signed for Victoria) also produced some huge hitting in their version of the game and at 23 has a reputation to make. So too does fellow Western Australian Shaun Marsh, son of former Aussie opener Geoff, who in fact headed the Australian KFC 20/20 batting averages and is now firmly in the Australian selectors thoughts. Another well-known to Chris Rogers and I'm sure that John Morris will sound out the opinions of both him and Dom Telo with regard to possibilities in their homeland.

Its yet more for us to look forward to and 11am cannot come soon enough!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Team for Gloucester

We now now the 12 for the opening game.
Rogers (30)
Stubbings (30)
Sadler (26)
Telo (22)
Clarke (26)
Smith (25)
Pipe (30)
Wagg (25)
Needham/Hunter (21/28)
Lungley (28)
Doshi (29)

I would have thought the final place comes down to a choice between Jake Needham and Ian Hunter. I'd go with Needham, as we'd still have Lungley, Wagg, Clarke and Smith to bowl seam. It also lengthens the batting.

What is telling is the youth of this side. Nice to see, with lots of potential!
Good luck lads.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Tame draw but...

A good workout for the players.The bowlers all had good spells, and it was nice to see Greg Smith and Nayan Doshi bowling long spells on what appeared a slow and docile pitch. No bad thing to get into an early groove.Also good to see James Pipe and Graeme Wagg in the runs. If they could both make 500 this year it will make a huge difference and it is well within their capabilities. Both have a habit of going for their shots too early, but both can take a game away from opponents very quickly in doing so.I'd like to get Tom Lungley back in the side asap as he can also be a dogged tail end batsman. I know its a different level, but he did score a double hundred in local league cricket not that long ago, and is a fair bat.Mind you, if the top eight don't score, should you expect 9, 10, jack to do so?I would like to see us play two spinners in one day matches, as they'll often slow the scoring when the seamers are going all over the place. For what its worth, my ideal one day side for this year would be as played in this first match, except I'd substitute the eagerly hoped for Langeveldt for Hunter, and on occasion play Needham instead of Lungley. This is more to give a very good and talented seamer a break when the wicket allows it than becase I don't rate him. We would still have Dean, Wagg, Langeveldt, Smith and Clarke to bowl seam, plus the two spinners.Indeed, the presence of all rounders in Clarke, Wagg and Smith - all of them genuine, rather than batsman who bowl and vice versa, may be a big factor this season. I can't wait for things to start ...

Sunday, 13 April 2008

An encouraging start

Nice to see all the seamers in the wickets, especially Kevin Dean. He is a very good bowler on his day and a useful man to have in the frame for a place.
I'm not remotely worried about the failures of Chris Rogers, Stubbo and Telo. All three will come into their own as the season progresses. What is reassuring is the way that Clarke and Sadler have rebuilt the innings. As I type, the latter has just been dismissed, a fourth wicket for Middlesex 2nd XI player Williams, but Clarke carries great authority when he bats and it looks like he will be a great asset.
A good day's work so far.

Favourite cricketers 4 - Mohammad Azharuddin

Watching Mohammad Azharuddin often made me think of Ranjitsinjhi.
The wonderfully wristy Indian batsman graced Derbyshire with his presence for only a short time, and left in fairly acrimonious circumstances. What a player he was...
Anyone who has read the descriptive prose of Sir Neville Cardus will have an idea of the way that Ranjitsinjhi batted. Innovative flicks, dazzling footwork, effortless timing, and in the "words" of a county pro of the time "he never played a Christian stroke in his life".
A strange description the latter, but perhaps one that offers the best idea of the way that he played. A way that was perhaps beyond the compass of the average county player.
Azharuddin was like that. At times his batting took the game to a different level, with all around him struggling against a moving or turning ball, he would play his shots around the wicket with effortless grace and perfect placement.
The greatest innings I ever saw was played by Azharuddin at Chesterfield. Derbyshire were massively behind on first innings against Durham, with the wicket starting to turn and David Graveney looking like a combination of Bishan Bedi, Derek Underwood and Hedley Verity.
The county new boys made 625 and we were forced to follow on. All of the batsmen struggled, and we had a decent lineup at that time - Barnett, Bowler, Adams, Rollins, Wells, De Freitas - there were some good players.
Chris Adams made a good 94 but there was little else to shout about, Peter Bowler's 38 being the next highest score.
Azharuddin made 205. He scored a century before lunch with some breathtaking shots. I still recall a cut shot that was at the boundary before my eyes "found" the ball. After lunch, with partners running out, he decided to go for his shots to put the game beyond Durham. Time was running out and runs were important. Time and again he went down the pitch and hit the bowlers, especially Graveney, back over their heads. When the bowler dropped short, he changed his shot and played a deft late cut, or tucked it behind square on the leg side. Between the fall of the fourth and seventh wickets, Derbyshire scored 129 runs and the magical Indian scored 98 of them...
John Morris was playing for Durham at this time, and was amused by the bowler's asking him to go back at deep mid off.
"The only place I'll catch him here is in those trees" he said to the crowd. He was right, Azharuddin clearing the ropes time and again. Just when he looked set for another century, this time between lunch and tea, he was caught by Morris at mid on from the dibbly dobbly bowling of Phil Bainbridge. The rest folded like a pack of cards and Durham had just enough time to knock off the 160-odd they needed to win. Graveney later commented it was the finest innings that he had seen, and I have still not seen a better one, especially considering the state of the wicket.
His subsequent fall from grace in betting scandals has tarnished the image somewhat, but Azharuddin remains my only link with the Golden Age of cricket, prior to World War One. If it was anything like his batting - and I'm convinced that it was, the Edwardians were spoiled.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

The first day of the season

And it's a washout.
Typical. We're all more excited than we've been for years and there's no play on day one.
Admittedly, the best games to lose play are these friendlies, so here's hoping that the first Championship match dawns fair and we can get off to a flier at Gloucester.
It would appear that Morris' biggest dilemma is over choice of spinner and of third seamer. The first is a rare problem, as we've only had one of any worth for a number of years. There will be occasions where both are required, but my guess is that Jake Needham may get the nod for his excellent pre-season form. The third seamer is from either John Clare, Ian Hunter or Kevin Dean. I'd be tempted to go for the latter, though Clare is an improving talent who will also lengthen the batting. I'd also plump for Doshi as first choice spinner - we've got Greg Smith to bowl offies.
Of course, if our second South African arrives, all three seamers will find themselves pushed back in the order of things. Hopefully such competition augurs well for the season ahead!

Friday, 11 April 2008

Favourite Players 3 - Eddie Barlow

Summer of 1970. Eddie Barlow, the world's greatest all-rounder destroys England.

A typo surely? Shouldn't that have read Garfield Sobers? Actually no, because that summer Eddie Barlow was every bit as good as the legendary Barbadian.
Centuries in two "Tests". A hat trick and seven wickets at Headingley. A man who could open the batting and who looked likely to take wickets whenever he turned his arm over.
I remember watching the matches that summer with my Dad, and him telling me that Barlow was the man we wanted at Derbyshire. Yeah, fat chance. And I'm opening the batting next week...
Five years later, Eddie Barlow did come to Derbyshire. Maybe a year or two too late, as his batting had declined. An eye player, he often got out early, but in his three years he played enough innings of merit to show what he was like at his peak, from 1964-70.
The highlight was that innings of 217 against Surrey at Ilkeston, when he emerged from a spell of poor form by caning a very good attack. There were numerous fifties, especially in one day cricket, but Barlow did enough, as a batsman, to earn respect.
As a bowler - or boweller as we call them - he was different class. If we needed a wicket, he generally got one. If he got one, he often got two or three quickly. His short, bustling run produced great variety and he seemed to get wickets with balls that other bowlers would see head for the boundary. Don't get me wrong though, Bunter could bowl plenty of the unplayable variety.
As a slip, he was brilliant. Watching Bob Taylor, Phil Sharpe and Eddie Barlow as close fielders was an education. He missed little, though sadly dropped an easy one in our Lords final when little went right.
It was as captain that Barlow entered legend, however. He got the players fitter than ever before and inspired them to deeds that few thought possible. Harry Cartwright, Tony Borrington, Colin Tunnicliffe and Alan Hill all became good county players under Barlow's tutelage. No game was lost early under Barlow, as late order revivals by us and implausible batting collapses by opponents combined to revitalise our fortunes. Fielding errors were punished by the Barlow basilisk stare, but they were few and far between. Under Barlow, Derbyshire were a good fielding side, as good as they have been. As Mike Hendrick once put it, if someone hit the ball into the next county, we could fetch it back faster than anyone...
It was a sad day when he decided to leave, but understandable. Sadder still was news of his illness and subsequent death. People talk about influential cricketers and their respective merits. But I saw Eddie Barlow, and he is still the benchmark.
There are two sports headlines that will live with me to my dying day.
"Rams sign Dave Mackay" was one.
"South African legend Barlow joins Derbyshire" was the other.
I've just had goosebumps typing that last one.
Rest in Peace Eddie Barlow. You will always be a legend.

Telo - the latest in a long line?

It's no real surprise that South Africa has been the source of Derbyshire's newest batting discovery, Dominic Telo.
For one thing, of course, the quota system now means that there are fewer possibilities for players on merit. South Africa have a number of excellent batsmen and while Telo looks to have huge potential, the reality is that he would have had a lengthy wait to make their Test side, and he may well become an international cricketer for England more quickly.
Time will tell, but the small yet stocky South African, who broke all the records at school with his aggressive batting, is the latest in a long line of South Africans who have by and large graced the county's grounds.
Following on from Chris Wilkins, we have had Eddie Barlow, Peter Kirsten, Adrian Kuiper, Daryll Cullinan, as well as Andrew Gait and James Bryant. The latter two were the least successful, but both played decent innings and Bryant suffered a serious injury just as he was starting to get to grips with the county game.
While Cullinan started like a train but then fell victim to the disparate forces of a volatile dressing room, Barlow, Kirsten and Kuiper all played a major role in improving fortunes and winning trophies. All were capable of brilliance on a regular basis and entertained. The former was one of the greatest players ever produced by the country, while Kirsten may well have left his mark on Test cricket but for his career coinciding for the most part with their exile. Kuiper was not in the same league but was, with Chris Wilkins, the biggest hitter I have seen in Derbyshire colours.
It sets a challenge for young Mr Telo, but we look forward to seeing his talents flourish in the months and years ahead.

The first cricket of Spring...

Well, I'm safely back home after seeing my first cricket of the season, the pre-season game between Derbyshire and Notts.To be honest, I didn't expect more play after I left with the score 84-5 and the combined temperature of my Dad, son and I slightly less. There were a number of bobble hats on display in the field and my sympathy went out to slip fielders taking sharp catches in such conditions. Summer game?!We arrived late and Dan Birch was already out. John Sadler looked solid, then came a first sight of the small yet stocky frame of Dominic Telo. He made only a single, but can rarely have faced such conditions. A greater contrast to Cape Town would have been hard to find, but Telo will have learned from the experience, and a faster than run a ball 50 against Northants suggests he will be an asset.Rikki Clarke looked a fine player and was little troubled by the substantial deviation of the ball, vertically and horizontally. Greg Smith misjudged the line and looked lbw from where we sat at backward point, so the umpire had an easy decision. Stubbo ground it out as he always does and Pipe struck three fours from Graeme Swann in one over before the rain came.I'm not sure what John Morris will have got from the game, except the hope for better pitches as the season progresses. I'm confident that we will be more competitive this year. If we can get a run of results together, who knows where it may lead?

Sunday, 6 April 2008

New batsman?

After a couple of weeks of conjecture, Derbyshire's new batting recruit, whose EU passport will enable him to play while qualifying for England, will be announced on Wednesday.

There has been great secrecy around this deal, but rumour suggests that the new player is Dominic Telo, of Western Province and Cape Cobras.

Time will tell, and since I'm away for a few days I'll need to write about the new signing next weekend.

However, if it is Telo, the county will have acquired the services of one of the broghtest young (22) talents in South Africa.

He already boasts an average in the 40s and broke all school records at Wynburg Boys School. Where Jacques Kallis scored 3 centuries, Telo scored ELEVEN!
Were it not Telo, his fellow alumni Richard Levi would do nicely, but it appears that someone of this age is more likely than older players touted such as Stephen Cook and Justin Ontong.
More next weekend.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Hurray for Chesterfield!

Cricket is back at Chesterfield - and everyone should celebrate

There are few better places in the world to watch the game than Queens Park at Chesterfield.
You are close to the action, there's a good view from everywhere, it is set in the loveliest of parks, with a boating lake and miniature railway nearby and the wicket is normally good for batsmen.
That Derbyshire chose to move back there for fixtures after a number of years was perhaps THE highlight of 2007. Admittedly the local Council did a lot of improvement work on the ground, including the pavilion and the amenities. To be fair, the latter needed improved as they brought a whole new dimension to the term spartan. Two toilets in a ground of any size is not exactly generous, and to paraphrase the old Paul Young song, wherever you laid your butt, it wouldn't have been your home in the gents at Queens Park. More often than not there was no toilet seat anyway.
There's little better than standing on the mound there, looking across to the scoreboard and seeing the famous old crooked spire peeking over the trees. What sights it has seen over the years! Perrin's match in 1904 when Charles Olivierre scored a double hundred and Derbyshire still won on the last day. How many people have scored a triple century and been on the losing side?
Countless battles against Yorkshire, including the day when Yorkshire fans were delayed in their travel and derided the locals for Derbyshire's slow scoring at lunchtime, not realising that their heroes had already been skittled by George Pope. One of my Dad's favourite memories is watching Derbyshire play Sussex just after the war. The latter had an amateur batsman called PBS Blake who wore a number of sweaters. Despite struggling to lay a bat on George Pope he was removing one every over, until the umpire was buried beneath them.
Finally George got the right spot and bowled Blake neck and crop. Walking up to him, George apparently told him to "Bugger off and tek all yer sweaters with yer", laughing as he made his way back to the pavilion.
Jackson and Gladwin skittling Middlesex for 23, Derbyshire beating Sussex in the 1969 Gillette Cup semi-final, Ian Bishop having a 17-year old Sachin Tendulkar in all sorts of bother before the latter hit him for miles over the scoreboard to effectively seal a close game. The place is idyllic for cricket watching and holds countless memories for me.
Some of these I'll share in more detail in the fullness of time, but for now I'll close my eyes and imagine once more I'm sat at the side of the sightscreen at the Lake End. OUR spot, where a duck once flew from to accompany Charlie Lee after a golden duck on his way back to the pavilion.
I'll be there again this season, all being well, and hope that Rikki, Chris, Greg and co find the range that was once the preserve of Chris Wilkins and endanger the ducks as they meander around the lake.
Happy Days!

Favourite players 2 - Lawrence Rowe

"I'd sooner watch him for ten minutes than the rest of them for a day"

So spoke my old man on one of our frequent visits to see Derbyshire in 1974, the year of Rowe.
We'd listened enthralled as he butchered England's bowlers in the Caribbean the previous winter, the highlight being 302 in Barbados. This from a man they reckoned couldn't bat away from his home of Kingston, Jamaica.
That winter brought a feast of runs and the bowlers were powerless to do anything.
He just had so much time to play shots, and you never saw him rushed. We speculated on how many runs he might make in the coming English season. 2,000? Maybe even 3,000 in those days when Championship cricket was king and 20-over slogs but a surreal nightmare...
On his debut at Derby he came up against Sussex and renewed his acquaintance with England stars John Snow and Tony Greig. His first innings was insignificant, but in the second innings he made a delightful 94 that gave the bowlers time to bowl out Sussex for the win.
It was to remain his highest score for Derbyshire.
So what went wrong? Throughout the season he played sublimely for 40's, 50's and 60's. he made a couple of superb 80's, but he couldn't get that elusive ton.
He was unlucky with injuries, but stories circulated that he was a little "precious" about his fitness. John Wright in his autobiography recalls being told that Rowe had a fitness net at Derby on a green and hostile track against Mike Hendrick and Alan Ward, both revelling in the conditions. Batsmen were hit on the gloves, few were comfortable and the bowlers were ruling the roost. Rowe looked like he were batting against kids, and everything hit the middle of his bat. Then he walked out and said "Sorry, I'm not fit".
He had eye trouble too. An allergy to grass didn't help, but an eye exam that winter showed he could only see the top two lines of the opticians chart with his left eye. That explained a few things.
He didn't hit the ball, he caressed it. All his shots were done with balance, poise and elegance. Locals still talk about his 175 at the MCG in Australia, when they reckoned only Bradman and Sobers had ever batted better. That was how good Lawrence "Yagga" Rowe could be.
A Test average of 43 suggests an OK player. Rowe was much better than that. He was just unlucky.
Chesterfield 1974. Derbyshire v Yorkshire, ground full. Peter Gibbs goes early, Rowe looks set.
Chris Old bowls - four through the covers, elegant. Bowls again, elegant, four off his toes through midwicket. End of the over.
Next ball he's run out at the non-striker's end, backing up too far as the bowler touches a shot onto the stumps.
It sums up his Derbyshire career really. Unfulfilled talent. When he came back with the West Indies tourists in 1976, the sun shone and Rowe scored runs for fun, like most of his colleagues.
If only we'd seen it at Derbyshire. Still, what a player.

Favourite players 1 - Chris Wilkins

As I've said elsewhere, I started watching Derbyshire in 1967.
It wasn't much fun.

Batsmen didn't bat against the clock so much as the sundial. "He'll never die of a stroke" said my Dad about more than one regular. Attrition was the order of the day, an occasional shot being a relief from the ongoing tedium.
I'd make honourable exception for Peter Gibbs, who came from University to play shots we weren't used to seeing, especially through the covers. You wouldn't, however, go home saying you'd just seen an amazing innings by Ian Hall/Derek Morgan/David Smith et al. Worthy players all, Morgan especially valuable as an all rounder, but they didn't get you too excited.
Then came Chris Wilkins.
Derbyshire were late on the overseas market and didn't sign one until the 1970 season. Only they and Yorkshire held firm. The latter because they had a very good team, didn't need one and - well, were Yorkshire. Us because we were not very well off and perhaps a little insular.
Essex had Keith Boyce, Glamorgan had Majid Khan, Gloucestershire had Mike Procter, Hampshire had Barry Richards - the list went on. Nottinghamshire signed the big cheese himself , the great Sobers.
And we signed a South African no one had heard of called Chris Wilkins.
To be fair, "good judges" called him "better than Barry Richards". That was not a fair comment, as there have been few in the history of the game batted better than the imperious South African opener. And when Wilkins appeared over here and was swathed in sweaters at photo calls that made him look the size of Colin Milburn we wondered what we had let ourselves in for.
The first few weeks did little to dispel doubters. Wilkins opened and struggled against the moving ball, making few scores above 30. It was decided to move him down the order to number four. And then it happened.
Wilkins showed himself to be a brilliant striker of a ball. You would turn up for matches hoping that Gibbs and Smith might make a start but that Smith wouldn't stay too long as he wasn't (to me) very exciting. Then Mike Page might get going and get a few. But you hoped, really hoped, that they'd see enough shine off the new ball for Wilkins to come in and play his shots.
I considered myself his lucky mascot, as I never saw him make less than 35. There was an "ooh" when the second wicket went down, but then you would see people sitting up in their seats, people being woken up and putting down newspapers as we waited for Wilkins to make his way from the pavilion.
The great thing was, and it could be his downfall, Chris Wilkins was as likely to go for the bowling first ball as any other time. In his superb book on cricket captaincy, Mike Brearley recounted how Wilkins required mid off and mid on to go deeper. I remember several innings by him, one on a turning wicket at Chesterfield where Northants spinners (Breakwell, Swinburne and Steele) were causing problems. Wilkins twice went down the track and hit off spinner John Swinburne into the boating lake and made it look all too easy, finally perishing after a very brisk 68. he exceeded this in the second innings with the fastest century of the season, from 70-odd balls.
At Derby in the John Player League he made a flawless 50 with one six over mid-wicket that just missed Dad's Ford Anglia. At Buxton, we were slaughtered by Jack Bond's marauding Lancashire, with Frank Hayes, Faroukh Engineer and John Sullivan putting them way out of our reach.
Still, Wilkins went down fighting. That day he hit Clive Lloyd's medium pace for a straight six that is still the biggest I have ever seen. It was still rising as it left the arena, and another ball was required.
Wilkins was not the best overseas player we've had by a long way. His average was OK (30-40) but nothing spectacular. You couldn't play in that style and average 60 though. C'est magnifique mais ce n'est pas le cricket...
Don't get the idea he was like Shahid Afridi, all slog and no substance. He could play, but often chose to go with the flow and regularly chose the aerial route. He was a useful right arm medium pacer (he got Boycott once on 99 - how many have done that?!), a brilliant fielder in the covers, an excellent first slip and a stop gap keeper. He also once dismissed Zaheer Abbas while bowling slow left arm...
Two more memories to close. At Ilkeston we were chasing a Hampshire score of around 170 in the 40-over John Player League and weren't too confident. Hants had a fair side and their opening bowlers were "Butch" White, a lively handful for any side, and the legendary Derek Shackleton, one of the game's most economical bowlers.
This was the day that David Smith went berserk. After a slow start where we despaired of any sort of challenge, he took on Shackleton and hit him to all parts. Well, mainly over midwicket, with pulls, sweeps, hoiks and cow shots. He made 80 in the time he'd usually reserve for reaching double figures, then got out with only ten needed.
In came Wilkins. Bam! Bam! One four, one six, two balls, game won...
Finally the Sunday televised game against Hampshire. Barry Richards made a quite breathtaking 80.
So did Chris Wilkins. We won on the last ball. And that good judge was right. On that afternoon, there really was nothing between them...

Great Expectations?

Another new cricket season.

Every year brings heightened anticipation and I'm always hopeful at the start of the year. It has always been the case since we signed Lawrence Rowe, the brilliant West Indian, for 1974.
I still recall lying in bed listening to Rowe wreaking havoc on the England side as he scored runs for fun in the Caribbean.
A DERBYSHIRE player scoring 302 in a Test Match! Not many have done that, but it never happened in Derbyshire colours. In fact, he never made a hundred for us, 94 on debut proving his best effort. Eye problems, hayfever and the English weather conspired to confine Yagga Rowe to brilliant cameos. To this day I've never seen a more elegant player. One televised game against Gloucestershire saw him make the most sublime 84 which was a masterclass in batting.
A hook sir? Here's one. Cover drive? There you go. Late cut? Absolutely no problem.
Thing was, apart from him, there was no batting. As my old man put it "the sublime and ridiculous were 22 yards apart" at Derbyshire.
Maybe that's a little unfair, but Rowe was on a different planet, albeit an under-achieving one. That day he got himself out with ten overs to go and the wheels came off in the time-honoured Derbyshire fashion and we still only made around 160.
Still, the bowlers did well and it came down to the last ball and four to win for the opposition. So what did the skipper, Brian Bolus do?
He brought in the field.
And we lost.
The point of all this is that you have expectations for a player. Some meet them, some exceed them, some don't get even close. For this season to be in any way successful, the Derbyshire players all need to do their bit - or in some cases, "lot".
So what must we hope for?

Chris Rogers - 1300 runs. I have always maintained that a decent County professional batsman should average 30-40 each season. For an overseas star to have been worth the money, they need to average 50 at least, with the very best (your Lehmanns and Husseys etc) finding 60 a doddle. If Rogers does this, and avoids injury, we should have a fair season

Steve Stubbings - a regular berth in the side and 1,000 runs. I like Stubbo, as a player and a bloke. He's always friendly, happy to chat and makes the best of his ability. He fully deserves this year's benefit and I hope its lucrative.

John Sadler - regular scores in all forms of the game. If he gets it right, he is a very good player. Leicester didn't want to lose him and his organised style gives us three in the top order who could bat all day.

Rikki Clarke - big runs and a few wickets. The game is so demanding these days that to expect the double is ridiculous. Few players manage the mini double of 500 runs and 50 wickets (though one could well do so - see below). Clarke is most needed for his stylish batting, and if he can score 1,000 and take 20 wickets at reasonable cost it will be a very good season for him. More would be a bonus, but I'm looking forward to seeing him in Derbyshire colours.

Greg Smith - Batting at six, he'll do well to make 750 runs, but if he does, and can add 20-30 wickets, he will push for A tour recognition. Not yet a good enough bowler to make 50, but his medium pace and off spin variety adds a lot to the side, over and above his explosive batting. Last year he batted at three a lot, which I thought was too high for him at present.

Graeme Wagg - capable of the mini double without doubt. If he could cut out the bad ball in most overs, and maintain his ability to take wickets in clusters, he has to be in the frame for England call up at some level. His batting is explosive and he is as clean a hitter as I have seen. he just needs to temper the shots with a little discretion at times.

Tom Lungley - fine season last year, and if he can reach 50 wickets again a good season will be within reach. Another nice guy, who last year stayed fit and reaped the rewards.

Nayan Doshi - if he can keep it tight when the wicket favours the batsmen AND bowl sides out when it turns, he'll be a huge asset. Ant Botha often scored runs when most needed, which Doshi won't do, but rarely bowled sides out on turners. In Wales and at Northampton we'll need spinners to do their stuff and both Nayan and Jake Needham will have pivotal roles to play.

James Pipe - a lovely keeper with great hands and a batsman who improves with every season. If he can add 500 runs at 7-8 to his excellent glovework he will be a great asset to the side.

Charl Langeveldt - he's not yet been named but the South African press say he's joined us as a Kolpak. Very good fast medium bowler with the ability to swing and reverse swing the new and old ball. If he stays fit, 50-60 wickets are well within his compass and his death bowling in one day matches will be crucial. One assumes he'll get the new ball, which means Tom and Waggy will have to arm-wrestle for it at the other end!

Finally there's this unnamed EU passport-holding highly talented young batsman. No matter how good he is, the likelihood is that our conditions will be a challenge to him, especially in April and May. If he can get somewhere between 750 and 1000 runs, we should all consider it a good first season that can be built on.

I've concentrated on those I see as regulars and pivotal to success, but others must all play their part. For the first time in my experience, we have managed to sign players that other counties didn't want to lose (Sadler, Doshi) and those that were chased by others too (Clarke, Doshi). That Morris has been able to sell the club to players of this stature is impressive. If he can now get the side to perform, this season could just be the start of a Derbyshire renaissance.

Who am I?

I've been a Derbyshire fan since 1967.
Fred Trueman said "'ow do" to my Dad in that first game and its gone on from there.

I now live in Scotland, eight miles from Glasgow in a semi-rural village that is nice and peaceful.
I still play cricket, although within a quick single of a painstaking fifty that has been at times flamboyant and at others grafting.
I've been skipper of a small village cricket club near Stirling called Gargunnock for the past eight years. I just do Wednesdays, the 20/20. Not like THAT 20/20 though. A hundred will win you more than you lose, but I still share the club's record partnership in a 20 over game, an opening stand of 110 in 11 overs.
My share was 11... all in singles. I like to think I showed a lot of nous, pushing the singles and watching the carnage from the other end.
Its great fun, they're a great bunch of guys and this year we celebrate our 25th anniversary with a game against the Aussie Veterans Touring Side.
I'm married to the gorgeous Sylvia and have been for 22 years. With a big strapping 6'4" son (Stephen) at 16 and a lovely daughter (Rachel) of 10, my life is pretty much complete.
I've not yet played for Derbyshire, and I'd like to see us win another trophy.
Maybe this year!

Friday, 4 April 2008

2008 - the Peakites strike back

For years Derbyshire's loyal fans have had to put up with unfulfilled promise.
But 2008 could just be the year when things start to go right.

Many fans were unconvinced when John Morris became Head Coach towards the end of last season. He had been a fine batsman, good enough to play for his country. Many knew him as a regular at the County Ground, still passionate about his home county despite spells at Durham and (gulp) Nottinghamshire.
To be perfectly honest, we still don't know if he is a coach. He's done the first essential of any good one though, and recruited with flair and intelligence over the winter.
For years Derbyshire have got by on other people's cast-offs. Some offered valuable service (Pop Welch, James Pipe) but many others were merely adequate (Steve Titchard, Tim Munton).
Perhaps his best signing may turn out to be former opening batsman for the county Andrew Brown. With a good reputation in the leagues and Minor Counties, Brown joins Karl Krikken (Academy) and Mike Hendrick (bowling) in a good - and all-Derbyshire - coaching setup.
So who can we expect to see on the field this year?

Opening Batsmen

The admirable Steve Stubbings has a well earned Benefit this year, and will hopefully score the runs to ensure a worthy and well deserved return. Strangely omitted from many one day games last year, he should see more action this time as a sheet anchor who has the ability to unfurl the shots when required.
Chris Rogers may well be his partner, although the stylish Western Australia bat could just as easily drop down to four if the eagerly awaited EU passport player is also an opener. Rogers looked the real deal in his last short stay at the County Ground, sadly truncated by injury. If he hits form early, Derbyshire fans are in for a treat.
Dan Birch is the other regular opener, and after several years of annihilating league attacks, he found last season, his first class debut, a tough one. There is no doubt he has plenty of shots, but at times his footwork left a lot to be desired and he went after the bowling too early. When he came off - especially against Gloucestershire - it was magnificent. Time will tell if he has tempered his ability with a little more savvy.

Middle order

John Sadler could be a great asset after moving from Leicester in the close season. After a great 4-day season in 2006 and a great one-day season last year, we hope he can get it all together as the first choice number three. It would appear that Leicester's loss could be very much our gain after the pre-season tour, where he has impressed with some stylish innings.
Rikki Clarke has moved from Surrey as the new skipper and its a big year for him. He is both a brilliant batsman and a bowler capable of real pace. Logic suggests that if he gets it together he could yet be the answer to England's prayers, although he will in all likelihood have to do twice as well as his rivals. Derbyshire players do. We look forward to some of his glorious drives being unfurled and hope that his captaincy proves inspirational.
Mid-season he should get some assistance from the great Mahela Jayawardena. A word used advisedly, although his county stint may only be the duration of the 20/20. Nonetheless, the Sri Lankan is a lovely player to watch and should add to the crowds wherever he plays. His stint will enable Chris Rogers to get a well earned break and probably sees Derbyshire with as good an overseas representation as anyone in the country.
Greg Smith could also move forward this year. Last year he made several brilliant innings between 50 and 80 and he needs to turn some of these into hundreds now. The South African is now English-qualified and could easily force his way into the international set up if his batting adds concentration to its undoubted flair. Add in useful medium pace, improving off spin and brilliant fielding and there's a player to be reckoned with - and he's still only 24.
When the academic year ends, the county will also be able to call on two fine young players in Dan Redfern and Paul Borrington. The former, a lovely left-hander, is still only 17 and seems destined for the top. He has all the strokes and looks a very organised player. His handy offspin will also get use in years to come. Borrington, son of former county batsman Tony, is at University but has acquired an early reputation as a player who has to be dug out. For a county that has often seen players throw wickets away, this is a pleasant sight.


Last year we had two of the country's best opening bowlers in Graham Wagg and Tom Lungley. At 24 Wagg has years ahead of him and has done very well to come back from his problems at Warwickshire. A move up the order, perhaps to number seven, may see him emerge as a genuine all-rounder, as Wagg has all the shots. Lungley overcame years of injuries to become a very good bowler last year. He may have been worth a winter tour, certainly ahead of older, less able bowlers who ended up on one.
Rumours suggest that they will be joined as a Kolpak by Charl Langeveldt, and the South African is a very good swing bowler. With plenty of Test and one-day International experience behind him, confirmation of his signing could be the difference between a good, improved season and a trophy or promotion.
The county are well off for seamers. Kevin Dean is still providing classic left arm swing at a reduced pace, while John Clare emerged at the end of last year as a bustling fast medium bowler with the knack of taking wickets. He is another with good batting talent, and it would be good to see him force his way into the side as another talented youngster (21).
Ian Hunter and Wayne White make up the seam bowling strength and both have important years. The former needs a good year for another contract, while the latter needs to show his undoubted talent is matched by a professional attitude. He has the ability to take big wickets, but now needs to stay fit and bowl some good spells.

The two spinners are Jake Needham and Nayan Doshi. Needham at 21 is a very talented bowler who appears to have wintered well in Australia and is bowling very well pre-season. He has a nice loop to his off spin, is a fine fielder and another who could be a genuine all-rounder. many would like to see him bowl with Doshi, especially in one-day games.
Doshi is a fine bowler, a shrewd import from Surrey and a more than adequate replacement for Ant Botha. The bottom line is that Doshi takes wickets, with a strike rate around that of Danny Vettori. He can't really bat, but he's not there for that. A few wickets will do very nicely, and he is capable of 50 this year.

The Keeper

James Pipe is a terrific keeper and a batsman who is capable of great power and fast scoring. Up to the stumps he is as good as anyone. Strangely, he seems to score more runs batting lower down, and seldom produces the goods when moved up the order. Mind you, with the improved batting this year, it would be a surprise if he got higher up

The Kids

Karl Krikken's work at the Academy is bearing fruit. Akhil Patel, brother of Notts star Samit, is a good batsman and chinaman bowler who is only 17. Seamer Ollie Saffell, off spinner Chris Paget and keeper Tom Poynton all have the potential to make the county side in the years ahead.

The Team

Morris will no doubt know his first choice side for the opener against Gloucestershire. For what its worth, I'd see it as something like:

EU Qualified batsman

Lengthy batting, four seamers, two spinners - hey, that's a balanced side!


Better than for a long while. A trophy might be too ambitious, but we should be competitive. If the new batsman is a good one, there might be enough flair in this side to nick a promotion slot and possibly push for finals day in the 20/20. Certainly Langeveldt would give something we've not had in years, a good death bowler.
It all comes down to injuries. We avoid them, we'll do well. We get them - different story.
I am optimistic though, more than I've been in a long time.