Saturday, 31 May 2008

Middlesex v Derbyshire day 2

Well, this one is wide open.

If ever the stage was set for a captain's innings, this is it. At 49-2, 31 runs ahead, this game is in the balance. Given the delicate state of our batting, you might say that the home side were slightly on top, especially as they have removed our two steadiest batsmen in Chris Rogers and Steve Stubbings.

I have been impressed by the way that Dan Birch has knuckled down over the last two games and I'm probably not alone in thinking he didn't have it in him. Admittedly, I'll be even more impressed if he's still batting mid-afternoon tomorrow, and a captain's innings from Rikki Clarke would go down a treat.

Considering that the press were calling this a belter of a batting wicket, the first innings scores have been only average, but credit should go to both sets of bowlers. It was good to see Kevin Dean back in the side and bowling what appears to have been an exemplary spell of 17 overs to take 4-28. We've got real competition in the seam bowling ranks and while Jon Clare was a little more expensive than usual, he got two wickets, as did Charl Langeveldt and Graham Wagg.

Speaking of Waggy, those of you who read today's earlier post will know about my "dispute" with a certain Worcestershire fan and the BBC 606 administrator over a comment made about his past. I'm pleased to say that I've now had an e mail from them to say that they agree the comment was potentially libellous and has been withdrawn. I'm quite happy with that, and fully agree with the Silver Fox who commented earlier. Free speech should be a right, but not when it
descends into insult and blatant inaccuracy.

Back to the game and what do we need to win? 400 would be great, but unlikely, but 250 might take some getting for them. I've not seen the wicket but it appears to offer help to the seamers and I think our attack could win it if we give them something to bowl at.

So come on boys - let's fill those batting boots and go for a win at the greatest of grounds.

Well, outside Derby and Chesterfield of course!

The problem with BBC 606...

Is that they have a strange perception of what is acceptable.

Like a good few others this week I took exception to some character on the Worcestershire board referring to Derbyshire as being "second rate".

After a fair few fans followed my reply (and thanks for the support guys), another user pitched in and referred to Graham Wagg as a "drug cheat" last night.

Now we all know the circumstances of Waggy's ban from cricket, how he got in with the wrong crowd in Birmingham and then decided to have a complete break and move to Derbyshire. We also know that he was caught having used - one time only - a recreational drug that was still in his bloodstream from the previous evening. Note that, a recreational drug, not a performance-enhancing one.

So for him to be labelled a drug "cheat" is unfair and inaccurate. I suggested to the chap concerned, via the forum, that he should withdraw the comment or I would lodge a complaint.
This morning I got up, checked the board and his comment is still there. Mine, citing my concern over the comment, has been withdrawn and I subsequently got an e mail from the administrator.

Why should this comment stay active? Waggy made a mistake and paid for it. We don't refer to people as "former school bully" or "erstwhile bed-wetter". Fair enough, "ex-serial killer" is probably justified, but I don't think that it is acceptable for a comment like this to be on a national website about a bloke who made a solitary mistake on a night out.

If you agree with me, why not pay a visit and lodge your own comment? I now know why Derbyshire La La La started his own (excellent) fans board. Comments, good natured banter and the like are part and parcel of being a fan (and a penalty of being a player I suppose). This sort of comment is, however, a step too far and the BBC should get their act in order.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Middlesex v Derbyshire day one

Round of applause please for this, the hundredth post on the Derbyshire blog..

Sadly, our batting was once again underwhelming in the first innings of a game as we wasted another good start. At 87-0, John Morris must have been thinking we were on course for maximum batting points for the first time this season, but a combination of a lively track, accurate bowling and loose strokes meant we were all out for 244.

Part of Morris' frustration must be that people get starts, sometimes good starts, then fail to go on to the big score. I remember once Geoff Boycott saying that being out for less than 20, and certainly for single figures, was more understandable and acceptable than giving it away on 40 onwards. Chris Rogers is a very fine player, but has had a number of 50-80 dismissals this year. That may sound a churlish comment, but we need a man of his calibre to go on to the REALLY big score. There is little doubt that our greatest need of strengthening is in our batting. Perhaps Wavell Hinds may make a difference, but you don't yet look at our batting line up and sit back in anticipation of carnage to come.

I've only felt that way once as a Derbyshire fan. That was back in the 1980's when a sample batting line-up read John Wright, Barry Wood, Peter Kirsten, John Hampshire, David Steele, Kim Barnett. Latterly, the Barnett, Bowler, Morris, Adams line-up was superb on its day, but there were plenty of occasions when it fired on only three cylinders.

Having said that, there seems to be enough in the wicket for our seamers to look forward to tomorrow. A little cloud cover tomorrow and Messrs Langeveldt and Dean will enjoy their game at the home of cricket. With Wagg and Clare in reserve, we're well placed unless the track rolls out easily tomorrow and Owais Shah hits top form.

Credit to Dan Birch, who I had effectively discounted as a first class player pre-season. He has battled well today, having done so against Glamorgan. Whoever gives way to accommodate Wavell Hinds next week is not clear, but Birch is making a strong argument to maintain his place in the side, while John Sadler is probably feeling a little pressure at this point. With Paul Borrington and Dan Redfern available soon, and Greg Smith getting closer to fitness, no one is guaranteed a place.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Cork vote

Wow, this one's created some interest.

In the early lead, 75% don't fancy it at all. Sorry, despite requests to the contrary, I can't divulge who voted in what way, mainly because I don't know!

I'm looking forward to seeing how this one develops in the next six days. I'll tell you what I think next week - I don't want to prejudice the vote...

Look out for next week's poll - here's advance warning for you. Who has been Derbyshire's best overseas player? I'd just like to clarify that Michael Slater, Shahid Afridi and Chris Harris will not be among the voting options...

The Moore the merrier?

The Birmingham Post report that Derbyshire have issued a 28-day approach for the Worcestershire opening batsman Stephen Moore (pictured).

Tom Sears says that he is one of "half a dozen" players that they have identified who will help the club to move forward. He is a player that I have always rated and part of the attraction of the move would be that he rarely gets to play one-day cricket with his current county. That Tom Sears knows him from his days at Worcester is also in our favour.

The South African born right-handed opener is 27 and currently has a first class career average in excess of 40. After three centuries in five matches this season he is averaging over 70, impressive by any standards. Just in case his birthplace gives the wrong idea, he's English qualified and not a Kolpak.

This proves once and for all to other counties that we are no longer a "little" club. If Moore is on the county radar, who else might be in the frame? Others may well be Owais Shah, Alex Gidman and David Sales, all of whom are out of contract at the end of the season. I am quite happy with our seam bowling, although two other supposed Warwickshire targets, Graham Onions and Steve Kirby would be worth keeping an eye on. The batting is still a cause for concern, however and a top five (hypothetical, I know) of Rogers, Moore, Sadler, Shah/Gidman/Sales and Clarke would be mouth-watering.

Cynics might say that these players wouldn't come to Derbyshire. Why not? Rikki Clarke did, and while Shah would probably stay down south, Gidman and Sales might welcome a new challenge without the need for drastic relocation.

Either way, it's much better than waiting for the end of season and picking up players from those released by other counties. Kevin Dean has been a great servant, but Graham Onions would be a fair replacement. Likewise, Steve Stubbings is a great professional, but Stephen Moore would take our batting up to another level.

Interesting stuff...

Latest poll

Most people feel that the days of the Pro-40 tournament are numbered. Who knows, we may find ourselves playing eight 5-over power play matches in an afternoon if the powers that be have their way....

I have to say that the 40 over John Player League as it was for years was perhaps my favourite one day competition. You didn't have to write off the whole day for it, started at 2pm and were done by 7-ish. The times left matches less dependent on the winning of the toss and bowling with the aid of early morning moisture. I am fairly convinced myself that it will go, and that we will have some other 20-over slogout competition take its place.

This week's poll is a controversial one! I read fairly recently that Dominic Cork would "love" to finish his career back at Derbyshire. With his stepson well rated and potentially in the Academy next year, he's got more than one reason to come back. At 37 he may have a couple of years in him (notwithstanding this year's injury problems) and could contribute with bat and ball.

But would you want him? Do you think he could do a job, or would all the old issues rise to the surface again? I look forward to seeing what you all think...

Middlesex v Derbyshire preview

After the rain-induced disappointments of the FP Trophy, Derbyshire return to Championship action tomorrow against Middlesex at Lords.

The county still ave injury problems and James Pipe is still troubled by his finger injury. Coach John Morris is less concerned than might have been the case as he is happy with the way that Fred Klokker has deputised behind the stumps. The focus must be to get Pipe fit for the rigours of 20/20.

With Greg Smith still out and Tom Lungley rested as he is still having blister trouble on his feet, there is a welcome return for Kevin Dean. The balance of the side is the main problem, as Rikki Clarke's thumb fracture still prevents him from bowling. It may be that Ian Hunter is also in the frame for a game, but I would expect Derbyshire to take the field with more of less this side:


Middlesex have some good players, with the mercurial Owais Shah the lynchpin of the batting, but they can usually expect runs from Ed Joyce, Eoin Morgan, Ed Smith and the talented young Billy Godleman.

The bowling is dependent on Tim Murtagh making an early breakthrough, though overseas duo Vernon Philander and Dirk Nannes will aim to impress. Shaun Udal has been playing well but may be doubtful after an injury in yesterday's FP Trophy.

It is a game that Derbyshire are very capable of winning, but much depends on the ability to raise a first innings score. The side could make a promotion push, but needs the valuable first innings points for batting to augment anything that our powerful seam attack acquires.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Derbyshire v Sussex 1969

The Gillette Cup Semi Final. Now THAT was one day cricket.

It was my first "big" cricket match. I'd seen Derbyshire on several occasions, but it was usually a first or third day of a game at Chesterfield, Ilkeston, Derby or Buxton where either a result wasn't going to take place or (in most cases) quickly became a foregone conclusion (usually when we batted).

When we reached the semi final after our first decent one-day cup run, Dad was keen that we got there and managed to get hold of tickets. I remember not sleeping much the previous night with excitement, but also worry because there was a lot of rain and the game could have been off. Dad's shift at the pit allowed us to get along OK and I was around the middle of the summer holidays.

On the day we got into Dad's old Ford Anglia and left our house to get to Chesterfield. We left early, but the crowd was huge even at 10 o'clock. I'd never seen so many people at a cricket match and we only got near the boundary edge because an elderly couple squeezed up to let us in (there's merit to being a very small kid, which I was at that time!).

Everyone wondered whether the game would start on time after all the rain, but thanks to the efforts of the groundstaff it did. We sat pretty much across from the scoreboard and when the news came that Derbyshire were to bat, those around us felt we were going to struggle. Rightly so when you looked at the Sussex attack. England bowler John Snow was the spearhead, with future England skipper and talented young all-rounder Tony Greig in support, together with the Buss brothers, Mike and Tony, source of a thousand jokes. "Get on your bike, Buss", "They always come along in twos" - oh how we laughed...

There was great applause as the Derbyshire openers made their way down the steps of the old pavilion. Apparently there were 10,582 at Chesterfield that day, but there as as much noise as the usually bigger Baseball Ground crowd produced. The ground was still wet, after all that rain, but Derbyshire began steadily. Peter Gibbs always looked like he had more time than most and was a classy-looking player, while David Smith was solid, more functional, a Yorshireman who usually had to be dug out. It was warm and sunny but someone reckoned that the water had got under the covers and that the wicket might play up a little.

34 runs were on the board before Smith was caught and bowled by first-change bowler Mike Buss. "If 'e'd have dropped it we could've called him Blunderbuss" said Dad. Mike Page came in, arguably our best, fastest scoring batsman. Some reckoned that he may have been in the England frame with a more fashionable county, but today was not his day. He and Gibbs made a mess of a run and Page ended up on his hands and knees, slipping on the damp turf and out by a distance. Ian Buxton stayed for a while but never looked comfortable and when Gibbs was caught in the deep at 68 and Buxton soon followed, we were in trouble.

John Harvey and Derek Morgan added 25 in 45 minutes but it was "nudge and fudge" cricket, this was not a day for expansive shots. When Harvey was ou, the rest came and went with monotonous regularity. Only Derek Morgan stayed for long and when he lost his last partner, Harold Rhodes, he had made a very slow unbeaten 26. He had also endured a lot of barracking from some who had taken time off work to see what they felt was yet another poor batting display. 136 all out in a 60 over match. No chance from here. Or was there?

After the sandwiches had all been eaten and the queue at the toilets safely navigated, Sussex came out to start their reply. Alan Ward (pictured) downhill from the pavilion end, the fastest bowler in the country. He bowled a no ball but with his fourth ball he took Les Lenham's leg stump (he apparently played on, not that we could tell). There were no more runs until the sixth over when the battling Kenny Suttle edged Harold Rhodes for four. It was extraordinary with 10,000 people being completely quiet as the bowlers ran in. Ward came in again and bowled the runless Graham Cooper, 5-2!

After fourteen overs, Derek Morgan made a double bowling change with the score a mere 10-2. Rhodes had only conceded the edged four in 42 balls of sustained accuracy. Fred Rumsey and Peter Eyre came on and the rotund Rumsey bowled Suttle almost immediately. 12-3. Jim Parks was having his own troubles and was joined by the aggressive Tony Greig, but after taking the score to 27 Eyre had the South African caught by David Smith and then Rumsey bowled the dangerous captain, Mike Griffith for a duck. At 28-5 we couldn't believe it, but when Derek Morgan took a sharp catch above his head to remove Parks it started to look like our day. Their top six were all back in the pavilion for just 29 runs. Peter Eyre swept through the tail with the assistance of two catches from Bob Taylor and the final wicket went down with just 49 runs on the board. It is worth noting the bowling figures that day:

Alan Ward - 8-5-11-2

Harold Rhodes 7-6-4-0

Fred Rumsey 9-3-13-2

Peter Eyre 10.2-4-18-6

Ian Buxton 1-0-1-0

Even at a time when there were far fewer cars on the road, getting away from Queens Park that evening was a nightmare, but it was worth every minute. For an eleven year old lad, it sealed his interest in the game and eternal optimism that there's no such thing as a lost cause...

Scotland v Derbyshire

Well, my report for today's game can be short and sweet.

Got up this morning, looked out of the window, saw it was overcast. Went through to the bathroom, glanced out of the window and it was raining.

Six hours later, still raining, goodnight Vienna.

As it happens, Lancashire have batted so appallingly against their greatest rivals Yorkshire that it would have been academic anyway. We have been very unlucky in these group stages, having the Yorkies on the rack the other day and having the other game against the Red Rose county rained off too. The "day off" against Durham cost us dearly, but we can hold our heads high after a solid, mainly professional campaign.

So attention turns to he Championship against Middlesex at Lords, then to the debut of a certain Mr Hinds at Chesterfield against Worcestershire before the onset of the 20/20. I'd like to think that we'll have pretty much a full squad to choose from in the latter - if so, we'll be able to give most teams a good game.


Its raining...

It has been since around 8am here and has been fairly steady. On the upside, there's only been a day of rain here in around 3-4 weeks which is a litle ironic. The ground should therefore dry quickly when (if?) the rain stops, but the way things look outside I don't see a prompt start today.

I'll be there and will report back later on. Hopefully with news of a stirring Derbyshire win, even if only in a 10-over thrash.

Now, where's that kagoul and those wellingtons...

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Regionalisation a problem

A big problem for the one day game in the country is the fact that the regionalisation of groups means your county plays the same teams all the time.

We're coming to the end of the FP Trophy group, where we've played Durham, Yorkshire and Lancashire home and away, and we're now looking at the 20/20 where we do the same thing all over again. It might be me, but this is pretty boring. While we get the novelty of playing Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, by the end of June we will have played the three northern sides four times each.

To some extent that is why I see the proposal for a 21 team 20/20 league as quite exciting. While I am not a huge fan of the format, as regular readers will know, at least we would then be playing different sides. Whether we like it or not, the Roses counties and Durham are strong sides and we will always face a difficult task in progressing from a group with them in it. Add Notts and Leicester, both with good 20/20 records and there's a similar uphill task to progress.

The problem is that to travel to, say, Sussex for a 20 over match is far from ideal. Countless similar journies would be required and it is a judgement call on whether it would be worthwhile. Another suggestion is that we introduce two innings 20/20. That would make more sense if teams are travelling a distance, but it would make the ebb and flow of a longer innings one day game a thing of the past.

If a side scores 180 in the first innings, then their opponents collapse to be 94 all out, a lead of 86 would be massive in the context. A score of 130-plus in the second knock would leave a highly impractical 200-plus target and a "dead" fourth innings.

For a two innings 20/20 to work, there would need to be a follow on introduced. Maybe 50/75 could be the notional figure. At least then there is less risk of a tame ending and we might - praise be - even see some conventional batting in the fourth knock with a total of 80 needed in 20 overs to win.

Who knows, maybe some of the new generation of cricket watchers might even like to see a defensive shot every now and again....

Scotland v Derbyshire preview

A home game! When I see the lads in action, it usually means a round trip of 600 miles or more to the County Ground or a trip to one of the northern grounds that we know and love.

Tomorrow sees me make the 12 mile trip from my semi-rural home north of Glasgow to Titwood, home of Clydesdale Cricket Club, for a game that we must win. Even if we do there is no guarantee of further progress after yesterday's defeat. As I said yesterday, we must all hope for a Lancashire win tomorrow to stand a chance of qualification and then do the business ourselves. If that game is rained off we are out, as the difference between respective Net Run Rates is too great to make up.

The problem over the last couple of games has been the lack of flexibility in the bowling. In each game bowlers took some stick but there simply was no one else. Once Rikki Clarke is fit to bowl again, Greg Smith is fit and Wavell Hinds arrives we'll have plenty of bowling options. If Dan Redfern makes the one day side he would give another, but having only five bowlers is far from ideal.

I hope that fans realise improvements ARE being made, but the side is a work in progress. Some players need greater experience, some need to be allowed to leave and more quality needs to come in. That is a job for the end of the season, but we have a lot of cricket to play and I still think we have the ability, if they all stay fit (and we have better luck with the weather) to make a good fist of this season.

There is no news yet of the Scotland squad for the game, although it is likely to be a similar side to that whch played against Yorkshire. Several players struggle to get time off for midweek games which may see a few changes, but I hope that Derbyshire show a professional streak that has been missed in most recent trips north of the border.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Durham v Derbyshire

As I start this blog today, I am faced with the prospect of supporting Lancashire for one match.

There, I've said it. It hurts, but with Derbyshire 71-3 chasing 299 to beat Durham and with Rogers, Birch and Clarke back in the pavilion, I cannot see a way for us to win this one. At the same time Yorkshire are on course to beat Scotland at Headingley, 90-2 in 17 chasing 245 to win. Today is doubly difficult because their innings was built around a fine knock by "our" Michael Di Venuto. I liked Dave Houghton as a bloke, but the decision to get rid of Diva at the expense of Travis Birt was at the best damn stupid. So he'd had a few injuries and a lesser season. Surely SOMEONE must have spoken to him about the prospect of playing on his Italian passport? The Derby Telegraph did, so one would hope the club might have done. It is water under the bridge now, but water that flowed very powerfully today and washed us well away from where we needed to be.

What it means is that we need to beat the Scots in the last match and then hope that Lancashire beat Yorkshire at Headingley on Wednesday. We cannot now top the group as the rain-enforced no results against Lancs and Yorkshire cost us the extra win that Durham have. If it is a no result (anyone know a good raindance for that area?) it would come down to Net Run Rate between the Yorkies and ourselves. We're currently ahead of them but they're obviously aware of that and keen to win the game today as quickly as possible. Lancashire can only go through if they beat Yorkshire convincingly and Scotland beat us, so how committed they'll be on Wednesday is anyone's guess.

I am fairly sure that a loss will bring the usual grumblers out in force but it should not detract from what has so far been a much improved campaign. At the start of the season, most of us in a poll said we'd be happy with progression and competitiveness. We've certainly had that and would have had much more - if we'd had better luck with injuries. I know all teams have had them in some form or another, but losing the bowling of the skipper today has been important, losing James Pipe's explosive batting has been and so has losing the all-round skills of Greg Smith.

I still think that we'll make a good fist of the Pro 40, with better luck with injuries and Wavell Hinds in the side for additional all round support. We may yet go through, but it is in the air with our having to depend on results elsewhere. At 91-3 in 21 overs and with Yorkshire now 126-2, I know where my money would lie.

OK, here goes... come on Lancashire!

The road to the cup final, 1969

Derbyshire's first cup run in one day cricket was a low scoring affair, but one that
I'd followed with interest.
We'd won in the first round at Taunton, bowling out the home side for 144 and then knocking off the runs with three wickets and three balls to spare.
In the second round we won on a seamer's track at Derby, keeping Worcestershire down to 156-6 in 60 overs then, with everyone contributing, knocking off the runs in the second last over. To the modern day viewer, that seems very slow and a score that is achievable in a 20 over thrash today. The visitors had some good batsmen - Glen Turner, Ron Headley (later to join us), Tom Graveney and Basil d'Oliveira - but our seam attack was good too.
Harold Rhodes (pictured) was a club legend, still capable of a quick ball and always very accurate. Alan Ward was around the peak (athough we didn't know it then) of his pace and powers, the quickest bowler in the country but having occasional injury problems that we didn't think too much of. Peter Eyre was a good journeyman pro at a steady fast medium and there was Fred Rumsey, formerly of Somerset. There was also the skipper, Derek Morgan, a solid all rounder who could bowl accurate seam or switch to off-cutters if required and Ian Buxton, who bowled big inswingers at medium pace.

Fred was a very good left arm seamer who usually bowled his overs right through in one day cricket (which is what he was signed for). He didn't look very athletic and wasn't. His batting was rudimentary and his fielding rustic, but Fred could bowl very accurately and usually did. If you were choosing an XI of Rotund Cricketers to play Mars, he would have been in there. Against his former county he took 3-19 in nine overs to help set up the win.

The quarter final saw us drawn away again, this time against Glamorgan in Cardiff. Dad reckoned that we'd be hammered and they were destined to win the Championship that season with a strong, predominantly Welsh side augmented by sound signings elsewhere. Star turn was Majid Khan, a mercurial and attractive to watch Pakistani. We knew that he could win the game for them, but he was out early, caught behind by Bob Taylor off Peter Eyre's bowling. Harold Rhodes took 4-17 in 12 overs and Glamorgan were all out for 117. Only Tony Lewis, later to be England captain and a successful broadcaster, lasted long with a gritty knock of 60. All of the bowlers were economical, with only Eyre going for three an over.

Even at that we were unconvinced that Derbyshire would win, as our batting was anything but reliable. Yet we strolled to victory by nine wickets in 43 overs, opener David Smith making an unbeaten 49 and defying Glamorgan's danger man Don Shepherd, who bowled his ten overs for just ten runs.

We were delighted to have won although this was tempered with the realisation that the next round would see us drawn either against Nottinghamshire (Sobers and all), Yorkshire (the best team in the country) or Sussex (the best one day team in the 60's). Dad reckoned that we could beat the former if we got Sobers early, could give the Tykes a game but would get slaughtered by the one day kings.

When the draw was made, we found that we'd got Sussex at home... but that's a tale for another day...

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Derbyshire v Yorkshire

What more can be said about today?

At 59-4 they were on the rack and once we got through the partnership of Rudolph and Brophy would have fancied our chances. Lanageveldt again appears to have bowled an impeccable spell with the new ball with good support from Wagg and Lungley. Those three are as good a set of seam bowlers as any county has, and Jon Clare has emerged as an excellent addition and foil.

The rain makes tomorrow all the more important and I just hope that the boys continue in the same vein at the Riverside. A defeat wouldn't be the death of our hopes, but it would mean it all came down to the game against Scotland, the net run rate and the ensuing lottery.

A win tomorrow would put us through, end of problem.

An abandonment would leave us on the same points as Durham, behind on NRR but with the game against the Scots in hand. If Yorkshire got on the pitch against the Scots, and presumably win, then they would be above us with Durham.

Lose to Durham, and we not only need to beat Scotland but make sure the NRR stays above theirs. At the same time, we need to keep an eye on the final Roses match between Lancashire and Yorkshire. Lancashire currently have the worst NRR and if they win we'd need it to not be by a large margin. If Yorkshire win, they'd take the group and it would again be down to the NRR.

Time to stop. My brain hurts - let's just win tomorrow and be done with it. Tomorrow's team looks set to be unchanged from today (see preview yesterday) while Durham's squad is:

Michael Di Venuto
Phil Mustard
Kyle Coezter
Neil McKenzie
Dale Benkenstein
Ben Harmison
Gareth Breese
Garry Park
Stephen Harmison
Callum Thorp
Mark Davies
Mitchell Claydon

Whatever the outcome, the boys have acquitted themselves remarkably well against supposedly better sides from division one. Just that final hurdle to cross now...

Saturday, 24 May 2008

From the news feeds..

If you don't use the links on the left of this page you might be missing something.

Derbyshire took a side to play a friendly against Huntingdonshire and included several first team players for match practice.

After the loss of Jonathan Guthrie (a new name to me) early on, John Sadler and Dan Birch then added 161 in 27 overs before the latter retired after reaching his century. Dom Telo then came in an took the stand to 198 before Sadler was dismissed for 93. Dan Redfern was lbw without scoring but Telo and Fred Klokker took the score to a final 262-3 in 50 overs.

The home side was then torn apart by fit again Kevin Dean and Ian Hunter as they slipped to 18-4, Dean returning figures of 7-2-11-3 (all of them lbw). Although the middle and late order rallied, the hosts were all out for 209. Jake Needham bowled a tidy spell, but Nayan Doshi went for eight an over and is not quite himself at present. Of course, we all know that anyone can be collared on a given day when a batsman takes a liking to them, but I hope the pleasant left-arm spinner is soon back to his best, especially with the 20/20 around the corner, a game at which he has excelled in the past.

Nice to see Kevin Dean fit again. While I hope our first choice seamers stay fit, he would be an excellent deputy.

Derbyshire v Yorkshire preview

Another big game and a win will see us with one foot in the quarter finals.

Yorkshire are the only side to beat us this season but we made a mess of our batting having bowled very well. They are also having a real problem with their overseas quickies, with Morne Morkel lasting one game before breaking down and now Rana Naved-ul-Hasan has damaged a hamstring on his debut and looks likely to miss several weeks. With Mattthew Hoggard and Ajmal Shahzad already on the crocks list, tomorrow's visitors have their problems.

They have a good strong batting line-up, however and are apparently set to field the side that beat Yorkshire at Edinburgh last week after a few early alarms. If so, they would take the field as:


Time was when I'd look at this sort of side and be worried, but while they are a fair side I am confident that we have enough to have them equally wary. We don't know the situation with James Pipe's injury but Fred Klokker is proving a very able deputy and I'd expect the following side to take the field tomorrow.


My only concern is that if a bowler has an off day we don't have a sixth, even seventh option at present. Once Greg Smith is fit, Wavell Hinds arrives and the skipper's thumb fracture is better we'll be fine, but we either shorten the batting for the extra bowler or go with what we have. Another option might be Dan Redfern in the middle order to give us an off-spin option, but he's not played much recently with A level commitments so it would be a gamble.

Here's hoping that the weather is fine and we get a good day at them. Come on boys!

Friday, 23 May 2008

Oh happy day...

Its been a good day today to be a Derbyshire fan hasn't it?

Yesterday's demolition suggested that, although there's a long way to go we could just be getting a real team together. Of course, getting such an opening stand helped, but Stubbo and Rogers are doing this sort of thing with encouraging regularity. John Sadler's end of innings cameo will have done him good, but the start enabled Rikki Clarke to promote Dan Birch then follow him. With Graham Wagg and Jon Claire good clean hitters, we have the batting to capitalise on such a start. Can you imagine how good it will feel if we make the quarters and lose a first wicket at 150? Down the steps from the pavilion comes Wavell Hinds...

Let's not forget that we have Greg Smith back to fitness in the near future, another clean hitter, fine fielder and versatile bowler, while the skipper should be back to bowling fitness IF we get to that stage. We should also remember that Clarke has not yet really fired as a batsman. Numerous lively cameos and a great knock against Warwickshire, but when this man gets it together he will really fly. His captaincy has impressed too - aggressive, thoughtful, intelligent.

As for the bowling, the seam attack is doing all that is asked of it at present. Charl Langeveldt is always likely to get wickets with the new ball, but is possibly even more dangerous with the older one when he gets the reverse swing going. Whether Waggy or the admirable Tom Lungley partner him, things usually happen. The strides made by Jon Claire in a short time are remarkable, and it is reassuring to think that we have Kevin Dean, Ian Hunter and Wayne White in reserve. For the first time in a long while we also have two spinners who are both worth a game, and Nayan Doshi and Jake Needham bring a lot to the team.

It would be silly to expect the entire season to go like this. There will be games when it all goes wrong, perhaps horrendously. We should remember that a lot of these players are young and that Messrs Telo, Smith, Redfern, Needham, Wagg, Claire, White, Patel and others are all young men with years ahead of them, and the captain is only in his mid-twenties.

But we should also remember that we have at the helm DERBYSHIRE men in Morris, Hendrick, Brown and Krikken, all of them excellent at the job that they do. I'll not get too excited yet, but I am more enthused by the current set up than I have been in a long time. Hopefully it is well placed optimism. Perhaps not this season, but I think good things are not too far around the corner for this team...

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Derbyshire v Lancashire

Wow! If the cricket authorities didn't take us seriously, this should have made them sit up a little.

Lancashire. Test Ground Lancashire. Money bags Lancashire, rest home for Derbyshire stars and one of the big clubs that will thrive when the little counties are forced out of the game. Allegedly...

Well, they were well and truly thumped today in an inspired Derbyshire performance that looked well set for victory from the time that Chris Rogers and Steve Stubbings added 150 for the first wicket. Rogers seemed to be in wonderful touch and while the churlish would say that he didn't make his well deserved century, his innings and the speed at which he scored (only 109 balls) set the tone. Cameos from Dan Birch, Rikki Clarke and especially John Sadler (an unbeaten 21 from 11 balls) ensured a score of 288-5.

After losing early wickets, especially that of the dangerous Mal Loye (who was supposedly unfit according to their website) Lancashire were up against it. With Yousuf and Law in early, they had a chance to build innings and perhaps rival the home total. Tom Lungley held on to a skyer to dismiss Yousuf, who is having a disappointing time for them, then had Law caught at slip and the game was slipping away.

Although du Plessis hit well and Hogg with Gary Keedy hit valiantly, Derbyshire were never in trouble, with ex-keeper Luke Sutton dismissed third ball for a duck as we ran out winners by 100 runs.

When one considers that skipper Clarke was unable to bowl, James Pipe was missing, Greg Smith is not yet fit and Wavell Hinds is still to arrive, this was a wonderfully encouraging performance from Derbyshire. It is crucial that one opener posts a score to set a target in one day cricket, but with Rogers and Stubbings both posting 90's, Derbyshire were always on the front foot. Stubbo is a fine pro and I hope that his benefit is successful. For a man deemed not good enough for County cricket by Dominic Cork he has done very well and with Rogers he forms the best opening partnership we have had for a long time. They run well, offer different problems for the bowlers and regularly provide the necessary early innings stability. The Australian made a mockery of the fact that he rarely plays one day cricket back home and is proving to be an outstanding overseas player.

We're not yet through to the quarter finals as this group is still very much any two from four. With a game in hand and the best net run rate we are very much in poll position, however. A win against old rivals Yorkshire on Sunday and I suspect that one win from the last two games against Durham and Scotland will see us through.

I'll be at Titwood next week to see that important last game. We can do this you know....

How will we do?

Well, 37% of readers reckon that our best chance of success this year is in the FP Trophy, which means they'll be extra keen to see a win today! The same percentage feel the Pro 40 is our best chance of success. Meanwhile 13% each reckoned the Championship and 20/20 was where glory lies. Roy from Littleover reckons that we'll finish last in everything... he didn't say as much on here, but you just know it from his posts on the Derby Evening Telegraph website.

Why not try this week's poll and we'll see what the fans think?

Derbyshire v Lancashire

Wow! Two and a half thousand hits already...

Thanks so much to regular (hey, and even sporadic) readers of this blog. It's really gratifying to see the hit count mount on a daily basis. If you like it, tell your friends, if there's something you'd like to see, let me know in a comment.

Well, today's the day when we can take a giant step for mankind... sorry, Derbyshire cricket if we can beat Lancashire at the Field of Dreams. The visitors have had an inconsistent campaign so far, with a home loss to Scotland the low point, but they have a lot of batting that we will need to work through to win this one. They also have injuries, and are missing Dominic Cork, Glen Chapple, Andrew Flintoff and Mal Loye for this game. Their squad is:

Gareth Cross
Stuart Law (cpt)
Paul Horton
Mohammad Yousuf
Francois du Plessis
Steven Croft
Luke Sutton (wkt)
Kyle Hogg
Simon Marshall
Sajid Mahmood
Stephen Cheetham
Oliver Newby
Tom Smith

Derbyshire also have injury concerns, with skipper Rikki Clarke, James Pipe and Tom Lungley all set for late fitness tests. Given the importance of the game, I would be surprised if they didn't play and would expect this side to take the field:

Steve Stubbings
Chris Rogers
John Sadler
Dominic Telo
Rikki Clarke
James Pipe
Graham Wagg
Jonathan Claire
Tom Lungley
Charl Langeveldt
Nayan Doshi

The main concern is the lack of an extra bowler if captain Clarke's thumb fracture prevents him from bowling, and we all hope that the top order fires. It may be that Dan Redfern could slot in to the middle order, depending on his exams which would give us another option, but Greg Smith's return is eagerly awaited, as is the arrival of Wavell Hinds. Let's not forget that the latter is available for the quarter-final - IF we get there.

Come on Derbyshire!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Wins means Hinds..

Great news today in the signing of West Indian Wavell Hinds on a Kolpak deal.

This is, of course, a saga that began in the depths of winter and has had more twists and turns than a slalom at the Winter Olympics. Nonetheless, we at last have a satisfactory conclusion and Hinds will play for us from the start of June. Indeed, he would be eligible for the FP Trophy Quarter-Finals should we get there.

John Morris also refers to his strengthening the middle order, which seems to leave Stubbo and Rogers safe at the top of the order, and rightly so. Hinds could go three or four, so both John Sadler and Dom Telo will have some pressure to perform.
His presence should make a difference to the batting and if he performs to his career standard the rest of the season should be well worth watching. Especially if the consequence is that Chris Rogers now stays and plays the 20/20 with Wavell

So perhaps we can say hello and Wavell goodbye to those middle order blues...

I'll get me coat...

Monday, 19 May 2008

Favourite cricketers 13 - Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan

There were two things you could guarantee with Venkat.

One was that no-one ever bought a shirt with his name on the back...

The other was that no-one ever started a chant of "Gimme an S.. gimme an r". Your ice cream would have been well and truly melted by the time you finished that one.

Truth be told, there were a lot of us unhappy when he signed. Derbyshire didn't sign off-spinners, not even world-class ones. We had a young Geoff Miller and Bob Swindell on the staff, both of whom were well rated, and a need for a batsman or fast bowler.

The unkind ones had their own names for him. Rentacaravan or Kitkat were two that were printable. His record for the county was tarnished by the fact that he had few runs to play with. He'd regularly return figures of 6-107 or somesuch, and Dad and I would look at each other and acknowledge the fact that we'd only made 125.

Venkat was, however, a very, very fine bowler. I was the only kid at school who could spell his name correctly, which earned a certain street cred for some reason. His christian name appeared in various forms, from the one at the top of this article, to Srinivasan or Srinivas. The fact was that he took wickets. Experts say that Eripalli Prasanna, his off-spinning rival in that great Indian side that also boasted Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Bishen Bedi, was a better bowler. Maybe so, but he can point to nearly 1400 wickets at around 24 to illustrate that he was pretty good himself. Maybe he bowled a little too flat and pushed the ball through, but he was hard to get after and took five in an innings on 85 occasions.

He was a useful tailend batsman, and would usually make 15-20 runs, while his close fielding was excellent. With Taylor, Swarbrook and Venkat in the tail, we usually had to be dug out, though our batsmen were so fallible that there was normally plenty of time to do so. Had he played for the Derbyshire side of the 1980's that had little problem in scoring runs he would have been a revelation. With runs to play with he could have had closer fields and been even more successful.

I still smile at the memory of a Sunday League game at Chesterfield against Yorkshire, when they needed around 10 from the last two overs. We were seated by the scoreboard on this occasion and a particularly vociferous fan was behind us. Venkat bowled the penultimate over to Chris Old..

Ball one - no run, played out quietly "Well bowled Venkat" says our neighbour, quietly.

Ball two - swing and miss - "Bowling Venkat", a little louder

Ball three - blocked again, perfect length - "BOWLED Venkat you beauty"

Ball four - swing and miss "Well bowled Venkat" (To everyone) "Great bowler this bloke"

Ball five - swing and miss "GREAT BOWLING VENKAT! Fabulous bowler this guy..."

Ball six - Old hits it a country mile over the scoreboard and the trees, effectively sealing the game

"You bluddy idiot Venkat. I don't know why we play that bloke" (sidles off)

Since his retirement he has been a highly respected administrator and was one of the best umpires in the professional game until his retirement a few years back.

While few Derbyshire fans, if any, would remember him as our greatest ever foreign import, those of a certain age will remember a man of dignity who always gave of his best. When wickets were turnin', Venkat was burnin' - when was the last time we could say that of our spin bowler?

Time for that reality check Mr Happy...

I thought I'd seen everything until today.

If you read the Derby Telegraph online you'll know what I mean. The club's resident grumbler bemoaning the "very poor start" made by the county.

Maybe I've been in a parallel universe since the middle of April, but all things considered I think we're doing pretty well. The only thing missing is a good first innings total in four-day games, then we'll be cooking with gas.

OK, we may have lost against Gloucestershire and we probably would have done so against Glamorgan, but who knows? Maybe we wouldn't, and we've won two of our FP Trophy games and lost from a strong position against Yorkshire.

Do people REALLY, REALLY think we've become world-beaters overnight? Maybe if we'd pick up Ponting and Tendulkar as Kolpaks I may have had a flutter on success this season, but we didn't. We did pick up players better, in the main, than those they replaced. Birt has been replaced by Rikki Clarke, Sadler has replaced Weston, Doshi is in for Botha and Langeveldt in Simon Cusden. Hmmm.. I think that's progress. I'd agree that Telo is still to show his talents, but we've Wavell Hinds coming in and we've discovered a potential star in Jon Claire. We have four (count 'em) good all-rounders in Clarke, Wagg, Smith and Claire, five when Wavell arrives. Tom Lungley has carried on where he left off last season and Langeveldt could be the bowler of the season if he stays fit.

But we're not Bradman's 1948 Invincibles. There'll be games when the batting goes horribly wrong - we're Derbyshire, that's what we do. There'll be matches when we blow a run chase, or when we bowl loosely, but we're not the only side that does, or will do that. At this stage of the season, there's no stand-out side to me, and we are no better, but certainly no worse, than most of the others.

I am confident in one thing - that we have a team at the top, Messrs Sears, Amott and Morris, who can make Derbyshire a force to be reckoned with. Let's be honest, we don't have a glorious and honour-laden past. We had a fine side in the 1930's because of an exceptional clutch of players and a fair side in the 1950's because of Gladwin and Jackson. In the 1970's we were competitive (no more) under Eddie Barlow and under Kim Barnett managed a Sunday League and a Lords Final win. That's it, in 138 years and for a lot of the rest of the time we were rubbing rags for all and sundry. I've watched it since the late '60's and at times it has been painful. There were days when watching Bob Taylor take throw-ins was as good as it got.

So competitive will do nicely lads. For now.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

No game today but...

Sunday and no cricket? What is the world coming to?

Anyway, it lets us get key players fit and keep a wary eye on the progress of others.

Lancashire v Durham is an important game and defeat would see the visitors and holders eliminated. I'm not sure which would be a better result for us, as a win would leave Lancashire close to qualifying and leave the group with our needing to finish above Yorkshire to qualify.

Scotland could do us an enormous favour by beating Yorkshire today, but I don't see it happening. The Scots are strengthened by the presence of Navdeep Poonia from Warwickshire, and a reprise of his innings against us would do nicely. The home side's bowling is competitive, but the batting folds too regularly for sustained success and unless they get to bowl first in seamer friendly conditions should not really trouble the Yorkies.

Incidentally, the game against Derbyshire is in Glasgow at the Titwood Ground of Clydesdale Cricket Club. Having played on both grounds, I can say with a degree of confidence that batting conditions are normally more favourable in Glasgow and the game may not come down to winning the toss and bowling.

So I'm off to get on with some work and will keep an eye on the weather and perhaps pop across to Grange later on to see if the Saltires can produce a display like they did at Old Trafford.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Favourite cricketers 14 - Dean Jones

Dean Jones was the best one-day batsman I have ever seen in Derbyshire colours. End of story, no argument.

He had all the shots but his secret was in using them when appropriate, in wonderful placement and the best running between the wickets I have seen - only Michael Bevan and former Middlesex batsman Clive Radley come close.

Deano effectively had just one season with Derbyshire but transformed our fortunes so much that we almost won the title. In the course of that season he scored the little matter of 2553 runs in all competitions, with nine centuries and eight fifties. He was the perfect player in that you just knew that if he got going the innings would be ideally paced. As a captain he demanded maximum effort from all of his team and didn't suffer fools gladly. We once saw him tear a strip off Dominic Cork in pre-match nets at Derby as he felt the latter was larking around. Deano liked a laugh, but cricket was serious and he wouldn't accept slackers. His brusque manner was always going to bring him into conflict with strong characters like Kim Barnett, Phil De Freitas and Cork himself. While Chris Adams idolised him and learned a lot from his style, there were rumours that all was not well in the dressing room.

That season of 1996 was the closest we have come to repeating the glory of 1936. With Jones, aided and abetted by his friend and Victorian coach Les Stillman, pulling the strings, Derbyshire mounted a Championship challenge that looked like being successful until it all came undone at Taunton, when we couldn't quite bowl out Somerset despite Devon Malcolm and De Freitas bowling superbly. We were 27 points behind Leicestershire in second place when it all ended, with a promise of even better to come. We finished only in mid-table in the Sunday League, but Jones contributed some superbly paced innings. I saw him against Gloucestershire that August and in response to the visitors score of 208, Jones opened with Kim Barnett. He was badly dropped at third man early in the innings, but from then on looked in no trouble as Derbyshire produced a very professional run chase to win by eight wickets with plenty of time to spare. Jones reached his century just before Colin Wells sealed the win, his timing as good as ever. Yet he never seemed to be cutting loose and placed the ball into gaps with ease, ran quickly and looked what he was - the best one day batsman in the world.

The following season it all went pear shaped after an imoressive start. He was left unbeaten on 99 when the rain interrupted a victory march against Kent (248-3 chasing 337 to win) but the batting collapsed in successive matches and when Hampshire chased well over 300 to win in 55 overs at Chesterfield Jones resigned, citing poor attitude from senior players. Mid-June and he was on the plane home...

He has remained a volatile character and has got into trouble in the commentary box since his retirement (referring to a bearded Asian cricketer as a "terrorist" was neither big nor clever), but to get a result in any given game to save your life, Dean Jones was a player you would have in your side every time.

Could this side win one day glory?

I'm enthused by this season and think that Messrs Morris and Clarke are doing an excellent job.

Having said that, I don't think we'll go all the way in the FP Trophy, but have a feeling something could happen in the 20/20 or the Pro 40 if we can field this side:


EIGHT bowlers! We don't know at this stage if Rogers will be around to play 20/20, or if Hinds will play as a Kolpak, but that side has flair in batting and variety in bowling. I'm banking on Telo coming good as the wickets dry out and get quicker but with Birch and Redfern in reserve by that stage we should be well placed.
Let us not forget that this is a young team either and has its best years ahead.
Hey, we're nearly at the end of May and we've not yet become disheartened. Things really are looking up!

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 4

Well, with a little bit of help from our friend - the weather - we saved the game today.

Not with a great deal of ease, it has to be said, and we were only 89 runs on with seven wickets down when the end came, but its another draw and keeps our unbeaten record in the competition intact for now.

Like most fans I am concerned about the batting and think that we may need to rest Dom Telo to let him recover confidence after a run of low scores. The youngster has a big future, but needs runs under his belt from either 2nd eleven or the local leagues. While Dan Birch didn't pull up any trees in this match, innings of 31 and 43 were a major factor in saving the match and the fact that he subjugated his natural attacking instincts to the team cause suggests he's worth a try.

We now have until Thursday to get key players fit for the four important FP Trophy fixtures. Being purely selfish, I hope that we get to the last of them, the away tie against Scotland, with something to play for as its my only home game of the season! I suspect that Rikki Clarke (thumb), James Pipe (chipped finger) and Tom Lungley (blistered toes) will all be fit but it will be too soon for Greg Smith. The latter is a fine one day player as he can bowl seam or spin and is a clean hitter on his day. Of course, if we were to qualify for the quarter finals we may have the services of Mr Hinds too.

I think that as fans we need to take a reality check at this stage. We're at the stage where we are disappointed in not winning when last year we were thrilled with draws. I would back our bowling against most sides, but the batting carries an air of fragility that is common in Derbyshire sides of most vintages. If Hinds signs, it will be interesting to see where he bats as the opening pair are not a problem.

So, five days before we embark on a very important week, I'd be inclined to go with this side for the one-dayers:


Jake Needham bowled well in Cardiff, but Doshi's greater experience and skilful bowling thus far would get my vote, while the seam bowling picks itself

Favourite cricketers 12 - Kim Barnett

It is strange that I have left "Sir" Kim Barnett to number 12 of my favourite cricketers as he is up there at the top.

Derbyshire fans are divided on the contribution of the wonderfully talented opening batsman to the club over the 1980's and '90's. On the one hand he gave the innings an attractive and brisk start on many occasions and there was always great value in any innings when Barnett stayed for long. On the other, he was reckoned to be a major factor in the high profile departures of many other fine players in that era.

It is not for me to comment on what may or may not have happened in a dressing room. We all have our foibles and some people do take some getting along with. I can only say that on the occasions that I met and enjoyed conversations with Kim Barnett he always struck me as an extremely personable man and someone who was fully committed to the cause.

He signed my copy of the Derbyshire Club History by John Shawcroft twice, the only player to have done so. Inside the front and the back, and he was fascinated to see the names in there and pointed out he'd already signed. I simply told him he was twice the player the others were, which he found quite amusing "I don't know about that" he laughed, but signed anyway.

On the face of it, someone seeing him for the first time would not have been impressed. Although he started with a fairly orthodox technique, over the years it mutated into a guard well outside leg stump, with a pronounced shuffle across the stumps as the bowler ran in. On occasions he would be lbw, and it offended the purists, but Barnett scored a lot of runs - latterly for Gloucestershire but mainly for us - and there is no denying that it worked for him.

Nearly 30,000 first class runs, 61 centuries and over 15o half centuries tell the tale. An average a shade over 40, but lets not forget that in Kim Barnett's era the wickets were prepared to suit a battery of quick bowlers as good as we have had since the Jackson/Gladwin era. Holding, Bishop, Malcolm, Mortensen, undersung heroes like "Jack" Warner and Paul Newman, they all reaped the benefits of wickets that were usually only marginally different in colour from the rest of the square, while captain Barnett's policy of resting and rotating them lengthened their contributions to the cause and their careers. Many was the time that Derbyshire's attack would rip out the visitors in no time, then the skipper would go in and carve the ball around to make batting look the easiest thing in the world.

His cover driving was superb. His stance meant he was usually going to have room to swing his arms and play through the covers, but his footwork enabled him to get the ball away even on pitches offering extravagant movement. The batting line-up that saw Barnett and Bowler followed by John Morris and Chris Adams was my favourite, three of them home grown. He was a fine fielder, and the only regret was that he was sometimes loathe to use his own leg spin or seam up as much as he should have, around 300 wickets in his career around 30 each testifying to ability.
"Kim Barnett, Kim Barnett, Kimmy-Kim Barnett
He's got no hair but we don't care
Kimmy-Kim Barnett"
That was the song that accompanied many Derbyshire wins in one day cricket in that era, including Sunday League and Lords success. Victories that were built on parsimonious bowling, tigerish fielding and batsmen encouraged to go for their shots. The skipper had been given the job at the tender age of 22 and thrived under the tutelage of coach Phil Russell and the behind scenes efforts of former skipper Guy Willatt, with whom he enjoyed an excellent relationship. When Russell moved to South Africa and a successful career out there, things were never quite the same and the problems, and departures started.

His ultimate departure was inevitable but any improvement in dressing room morale wasn't emphasised by performances. He moved to Gloucestershire and was a major part of their all-conquering one day side, giving them the sort of start he'd given us so many times. I remember a televised one day game saw him bat throughout the innings for just over a century to give them a score of around 200. Several of the "experts" suggested in the interval that he'd been playing for himself and they'd not scored enough. Only South African Barry Richards read things correctly. "I think" he said "that this was a superb innings and they will win the game easily".

Right in one Mr Richards, the opposition never got close and Barnett was a landslide man of the match.

On his retirement he moved back to the Staffordshire League and it was no surprise to see him continue to score heavily in Minor Counties cricket. We read of him hitting nine successive sixes in a Staffordshire League game (unusual, because he wasn't a prolific six-hitter) and then saw him play for the PCA side in last year's end of season competition involving Derbyshire.

He still looked as good a player as there was on show. At 47.

I just hope that someone, somewhere has approached him about an autobiography or biography. There are a lot of tales to tell and I'd be first in the queue to read that one.

And yes, I'd get his autograph again...

Friday, 16 May 2008

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 3

The weather looks like being the only winner in this game.

Unless, of course, Derbyshire produce an astonishing collapse that a late order revival cannot restore. You can never rule it out when you've been a fan as long as I have, but I'd hope that the fight that has been an encouraging part of the season so far is evident at the SWALEC tomorrow.

Having warned of gloom and doom in today's earlier blog, the third day was a return to form, with our South African diamond in prime form. In just short of seven overs, Champagne Charl took 5-22 to rip through the Glamorgan tail. There were also wickets for Jon Clare and Nayan Doshi as we ended only 95 behind on first innings that Rogers and Stubbings had reduced by four when lunch and the rains came.

The South African is proving an astute acquisition and his ability to find help in most tracks is a great asset to the side. If he stays fit all season who knows what may happen?

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 2

Houston, we have a problem...

After two days in Wales we're facing a bigger uphill climb than someone standing at the bottom of Everest. Having posted a semi-decent first innings only thanks to the lower order (again), our bowlers have had some serious tap and we are already behind with the home side still having seven wickets in hand.

As Charles Gibson says on the BBC 606 site, we need to start posting a first innings total and things will be easier for us. Geoff Boycott has often commented on looking at a batting total and then considering if it looks as healthy with two more wickets down. We're losing two, sometimes three quick wickets in most innings and at the moments there's nothing can be done about it. John Sadler, Dominic Telo and to a lesser extent Steve Stubbings are all out of touch at present, but there's really no alternative. With Greg Smith still out for a while, Wavell Hinds not arriving (if he signs the Kolpak deal) until June and Dan Redfern and Paul Borrington in the middle of exams, we have no other batsmen.

We've also chosen this innings for what appears to be our least disciplined bowling of the season, with only Jon Clare and Jake Needham bowling with anything like the required control. With Langeveldt, Wagg and Doshi all going for above four an over, Glamorgan have made hay and we're set for our first defeat of the season unless we bowl much better today and then bat considerably better.

It would be unfair to be too harsh, as I don't think we've become world-beaters overnight, but with the exception of Clare, Needham and captain for the game Chris Rogers, we've performed pretty poorly here. I just hope that this is a blip and that we've simply had a bad one, rather than having over-performed to date with this being what we can expect as the norm.

It was interesting seeing Robert Croft reach his 900 wicket milestone in this game. Were it not for the games against us each year, he'd be on about 750, as we always seem to make him look like a cross between Jim Laker and Muttiah Muralitharan. If Glamorgan get a lead of 150 or more he'll be keen to get out there and head for the thousand.

Hopefully later today I'm reporting on an improved day for us, we can only hope so.

Apologies for the less frequent articles this week, but having sustained a cracked rib in a 20/20 on Tuesday evening (I didn't pick up a full toss from a quick bowler), we've had a surprise visit from my best mate over from America for a couple of days. As they say in all the best circles, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible - i.e. over the weekend!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 1

Another mixed bag of a day for Derbyshire. If we can sort these day one blues, we could do well this year, but we're not putting a big score on the board.

Once again Stubbo and captain for the game Chris Rogers gave us a start, but once the former was dismissed, we were suddenly three down as John Sadler and Dom Telo continued their rough trot. A fifty stand between Rogers and Dan Birch, in for the injured Rikki Clarke, got us back to parity but when Rogers went for a solid 69 and Fred Klokker followed soon afterwards we were in trouble at 126-5.

Birch batted steadily on his return to the side but he was Robert Croft's first victim at 156. Graham Wagg marked his return from illness with the lions share in a fifty stand with Jon Clare, but he was dismissed at 206 and Jake Needham soon followed.

At 216-8 we were in big trouble, but Charl Langeveldt again showed an explosive eye for batting with an invigorating 40 from just 19 balls, while Clare made another career best with a crucial and skilful unbeaten 70 from a final total of 289.

Glamorgan were of at the gallop and Rees and Wood put runs on very quickly. Wagg removed Wood, but Hemp also appeared in good form and the home team finished very much on top on 87-1.

Much will depend on tomorrow's opening session. With Croft taking four wickets, it would suggest that the wicket will turn later on, but we cannot allow them to take a big lead. Hopefully Needham and Doshi can get their magic weaving and it will be game on.

Our top batsman?

Well, most of those who voted agreed that Chris Rogers will be Derbyshire's most prolific batsman this season in the Championship.
There was some interest in the others named, but maybe I missed the boat and his greatest potential rival in not leaving Jon Clare as an option.
The youngster is looking a real talent and is leaving Messrs Sadler and Telo in particular in his slipstream.
Why not vote in this week's poll?

Monday, 12 May 2008

Glamorgan v Derbyshire preview

I thought I'd get this one out of the way tonight as tomorrow sees my club side's quest for Wednesday glory start with a first 20/20 of the season!

Glamorgan have picked their side for the game, namely: Gareth Rees, Matthew Wood, David Hemp (captain), Michael Powell, Jamie Dalrymple, Mark Wallace (wicket-keeper), Alex Wharf, Robert Croft, Jason Gillespie, James Harris and David Harrison.

Interestingly only one spinner, so Jake Needham may not be required if the home side have read the pitch correctly. Despite last night's conjecture, I suspect we'll line up with:

Rogers, Stubbings, Sadler, Clarke, Telo, Klokker, Wagg, Claire, Lungley, Langeveldt, Doshi

James Pipe is out with a chipped finger, so Freddie takes the gloves

There may be some doubt over Tom Lungley's blistered feet and Rikki Clarke's thumb, but it should be a good game and one which we are eminently capable of winning.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Glamorgan v Derbyshire. Tough decisions ahead...

John Morris will have his work cut out over the next two days.

The wicket at Cardiff normally turns and I'd expect Jake Needham to be in the frame for his first start to partner Nayan Doshi in a spin attack. Things may be different this year of course, but fitting in the talented off spinner, another who could become a genuine all rounder in time, means someone misses out.

As I see it, there are the following certainties (fitness permitting):


Some might query John Sadler being sure of a place, but the Yorkshireman is the best bet, at least until Wavell Hinds arrives. I would be loathe to drop Jon Claire after his performances so far, so the spotlight falls on Dom Telo.

I've previously said that the talented young South African is burdened by expectation but I am convinced that he will come good later in the summer. At the same time, he is not scoring runs at present, while Claire has just scored 120 runs for once out against Warwickshire. Equally, Fred Klokker has just scored a century and is a solid player and competent keeper.

If Pipe still has hand trouble, Klokker should play and bat five. This would strengthen the batting and enable the ebullient Pipe to be fully fit for the important FP Trophy games when we need his aggressive style. I'm less convinced that Pipe as a number five is a good option as he rarely comes off when batting up the order. There is also uncertainty over the fitness of skipper Rikki Clarke with a thumb injury that may at least stop him bowling.

For what its worth, assuming Pipe and Clarke's injury problems continue, I'd go with the following side:


But hey, what do I know? Why not mail in your comments and side for the next game? Whatever happens, this is a good time to be a Derbyshire fan.

Time for a quick rant...

In the Sunday Telegraph today, the link to Neil Hallam's report on the last day of the Warwickshire game reads "Derby deny Warwickshire".

Eh? You would be forgiven for thinking that we'd fought a rearguard action to save the game with nine wickets down and fielders clustered around the bat. Make no bones about it, Derbyshire completely outplayed Warwickshire over the last five sessions of the game and any neutral watching will have thought the home side the better one.

Of course, we're not a "big club" though are we? Silly me, I forgot that we are "little Derbyshire".

Thoughts on the season

It's the last day of the Premiership football season today. Thank goodness for that, as it has been tough being a Derby fan this year.

My daughter, who is ten and not especially into sport hit the nail on the head last night. I was talking to a friend on the phone and overheard her saying to her Mum that "Dad's cricket team was a lot better than the football one".

She's absolutely right. For the last few years I've looked forward to the cricket season in the football one and vice versa with an expectation that the one to follow would be better than the one currently being experienced. I genuinely feel that we can all look forward to the rest of this cricket season with a genuine expectation of being competitive most of the time and winning a good share of games.

John Morris has done an outstanding job in his short time here. There, I've said it. When he was appointed I was far from convinced as I had no knowledge of his coaching credentials or motivational skills. His recruitment over the Winter and Spring was excellent and when you read Tom Lungley attributing his developing batting to changes Morris suggested have to accept that things are looking up. It is no bad thing that Messrs Hendrick, Krikken and Brown are involved too. All are excellent coaches and all are Derbyshire men through and through.

When was the last time we had genuine competition for places throughout our side? In the Barnett era we had some fine players, but the side effectively picked itself and injuries saw the likes of John Owen or Paul Aldred come in. No disrespect to either of these, both of whom I had a lot of time for and who I feel were badly treated, but it is much different now. With Hunter, Dean, White and Needham vying for bowling places but out of the side, four all rounders in Clarke, Wagg, Smith and Clare and batsman ready when able in Redfern, Hinds, Birch and Borrington we have not had this level of competition in years - if ever.

The trick will be for Morris to keep them all happy and to pick the right side each game. As the season progresses there will be injuries and we will need all of these players to contribute when their opportunity arises.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Derby v Warwick last day

What had been a fascinating struggle for ascendancy over three days finally ended in a draw with the wicket the winner.

Warwickshire are widely tipped to return to Division 1 and on this showing Derbyshire will push them hard. Although the visitors got one more point than us, courtesy of making 300 in the first innings, Derbyshire's excellent second innings augured well for the season ahead.

Although some may criticise him, Rikki Clarke was absolutely right in delaying his declaration until Freddie Klokker had his maiden century. The Dane could easily go on from this and we are very lucky to have two such able wicketkeeper/batsmen as James Pipe and Fred. With Tom Poynton an excellent talent in the Academy, we've no worries in this role for years to come.

It was an excellent game for Jon Clare, who continues to bowl with control and also take wickets, and looks a better batsman with every game. Two half-centuries in this game, one of them unbeaten, suggest a young player with a tremendous future.

Nayan Doshi also bowled with control and no little menace, and would appear a better spinner than the man he replaced, Ant Botha, on this showing. Charl Langeveldt also bowled with hostility and accuracy and will be a fine asset to the side.

We now have a few days to recharge batteries, treat various injuries and then make some tough decisions for the next Championship game at Glamorgan. The wickets in Wales are generally responsive to spin, and Glamorgan are almost certain to play both Cosker and Croft. This is a game where Jake Needham may come in with Greg Smith apparently out for a while yet. This would mean one of the seamers dropping out, unless Clarke's thumb injury means he plays as a batsman only. Clare would appear to be the most likely to be rested, but after such a fine match it would be a shame for the talented youngster.

We have more competition for places than we have had for some time, and John Morris will earn his money in picking the right eleven for the Welshmen.

For what its worth, I'll tell you what my team would be over the next couple of days.

Derbyshire Legends 6 - George Davidson (1866-1899)

Were it not for one thing, many Derbyshire fans would be unaware of the name of George Davidson.

That "thing" is his hold on what is still the club record innings of 274, made against Manchester at Old Trafford in 1896. It was one of three centuries made in a total of 577, the others being made by the "two Williams" - Chatterton and Storer.

It is interesting that these three men had such a sucessful match. They played a major role in what was a fairly good Derbyshire side that on its day was capable of beating anyone. It is fair to say that reports from the time suggest that they were not the easiest of men to get along with.

In his fascinating account of Derbyshire cricket at the time, Levi Wright recalls that "the three leading professionals were unfortunately not always the best of friends and their manner and treatment of other players, particularly young ones on trial, was far from helpful".

Indeed, things were so bad at one point that Chatterton and Davidson reputedly went through a season without speaking to one another after an argument at dinner one evening about a colleague.

A look at Davidson's record to the modern eye might not suggest a fine cricketer, but one has to take into account the fact that this was an era of at times under prepared wickets and of the fabled "sticky dogs" when the weather got to work on a track that had to remain uncovered after a game had started. Davidson only averaged a shade under 24 as a batsman from 260 innings, but he added to that with 621 wickets at 18. If one takes the claim of any cricketer as an all rounder seriously, their batting average should exceed their bowling one, and so Davidson must have been a good cricketer.

Like many who followed him, he had the ability to bowl for long spells and frequently did so. Wright recalled him disliking being taken off for any reason and praised him for his stamina throughout a long season. On one occasion at Leyton, he bowled from the start of the day at 12 noon until 1.35pm before a run was scored from him. He was taken off five minutes before lunch at 1.55pm and resumed after the interval. A man of average height, his curved run up started around mid-off and he bowled with great accuracy, as evidenced by a career record in which he conceded only two runs an over. A right arm bowler, he moved the ball a great deal off the pitch.

The Lancashire game in which he scored 274 saw him bat for seven and a quarter hours. He followed this by bowling 57-34-75-3 in Lancashire's first innings, in which they were forced to follow on. To the modern viewer, used to players complaining of burnout and tiredness after a Test series in which they've bowled little more, this makes astonishing reading.

Davidson also reached a century as part of another then record, the score of 645 against Hampshire at Derby in 1898. With declarations not possible at this time, his captain told him to get out so the bowlers could get to work, but Davidson batted on to score his century, following it with another 31 overs and 6-42.

His final game for the county saw another record to which he contributed, albeit inadvertently. He had missed several matches with a strain when Yorkshire visited Chesterfield in 1898 but declared himself fit to play in Walter Sugg's benefit match. Wright recalls that it was obvious from the first ball that he wasn't himself, and it was all he could do to finish the over. His absence from the rest of the innings left Yorkshire openers John Tunnicliffe and JT Brown a novice attack to face, and they responded with an opening stand of 554.

Davidson never played for the county again. During the winter that followed, a bout of 'flu worsened into pneumonia and he died at the tragically early age of 32, leaving a wife, six children under the age of seven and little money. It was a great loss to the county, but even Davidson would not have anticipated his greatest innings would still be a county-best 109 years on.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Derby v Warwick Day 3

If, as widely predicted by some good judges, Warwickshire are to run away with Division 2 this season, it is safe to say that Derbyshire are not going to be far behind them.

After an absorbing day of cricket, Derbyshire now control the game and dictate where it goes from here. Tomorrow may see a quick session of joke bowling and a target set, or Derbyshire could bat solidly and leave them around 340 in 70-75 overs. I suspect that Captain Clarke will not be as generous as Pettini of Essex was in the last home game, although there is a fine balance between a gettable target that convinces the batting side that a chase is worthwhile, and one where they simply bat out time.

We all know Warwickshire bat a long way down, and with Maddy, Bell and Ambrose have England players past and present. I don't know how the wicket is playing, but 323-5 doesn't sound like a deteriorating track to me.

Full credit to Derbyshire for a very good recovery and the sort of batting display that we've wanted to see. When we lost Chris Rogers to a facial injury (the grille on his helmet was dented in and cut his nose) and Steve Stubbings, John Sadler and Dom Telo had all gone with only 61 on the board, it was time to fear the worst. Enter the skipper, to play an innings of authority and take the game to the opposition. While he can bowl erratically and play casual shots to lose his wicket on occasion, I have to say that I am very impressed by Clarke. He is an excellent slip and all round fielder and as a captain is aggressive and expects his team to play the same way. He also makes inspired bowling changes and keeps the game alive. For a man who has only just started in this role it makes for impressive cricket. Cynics may say that he again gave it away when he went for 81, but he had taken the game away from Warwickshire and the lead was 150.
For Dom Telo, there was another disappointment but I feel he labours under a weight of expectation that is unfair for a young player who is learning the game and starting life in a new country. In his cameos he looks to have a full range of shots and be an exquisite timer of the ball. We need to persevere with him and I feel that we will see him at his best in July and August.

Fred Klokker (pictured) was batting solidly and playing exactly the innings needed. Rogers returned and blazed away for 64 at almost a run a ball and when he was dismissed our other injury victim, James Pipe, came in and batted in his own inimitable way for an unbeaten 24. Klokker was still there on a very patient and immensely valuable 76. It would be good to see him make three figures tomorrow, and I hope his sterling effort today isn't demeaned and devalued by facing joke bowling tomorrow. Should Pipe need a break at any point, it would appear that we have a very capable deputy in the Dane, who now boasts a first class average of over 50, despite his first innings duck.

Indeed, he staked a claim for staying in the side as a specialist batsman. Warwickshire had no one to cover for Tim Ambrose behind the stumps, as evidenced by over 20 byes. Klokker is a very solid, well organised batsman and a tidy keeper when required. When Wavell Hinds arrives, Greg Smith is fit and Dan Redfern finishes his exams, there will be real competition in the batting.

In addition, Paul Borrington today made his maiden first class century for Loughborough University, carrying his bat to save the game. If things get much brighter, we're going to need shades!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Derby v Warwick day 2

Well, when they were 240-4 with Trott going well and a long batting order I feared the worst and thought we'd be 150 or so behind on first innings.

For the deficit to be only 40 is a good recovery, although our top order will need to do much better in the second innings to get ahead in this game. The first priority, as I type is for Stubbo and Rogers to get us through to stumps and we could do with one of these two batting a long time tomorrow. Ideally, we'd like them all to, but we need to post 300 in the second dig to make a match of this.

I don't know if it was starting to turn a little, but it was good to see Nayan Doshi break through with two quick wickets. He would have enjoyed the dismissal of his predecessor in the spinner role, Ant Botha, especially getting him for a duck. Langeveldt again showed his class, and figures like that (3-42 in 22 overs) don't lie, while Tom Lungley rattled through the tail and finished with 4-70.

Elsewhere, Jon Clare followed his batting heroics with a steady spell and a wicket, while Rikki Clarke was a little expensive.

Anyway, close of play has just come with Derbyshire 3-0. All to play for tomorrow, here's hoping for a hot day, no cloud or humidity and a chance to post a good score.

All followed by muggy cloud on Saturday of course!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Derbyshire Legends 5 - Tommy Mitchell (1902-1996)

Tommy Mitchell was the oldest surviving England cricketer when he died, doubtless a record that he enjoyed.

He has been referred to as quirky, enigmatic, cantankerous and great fun by different people. He was well aware of his own worth, and walked away from Derbyshire when cricket resumed after the Second World War in a row over terms. In so doing he forfeited a benefit he was due, but Tom was a man of principles and he went on to earn decent money in League cricket.

He allegedly learned to spin a ball on a snooker table and was without a doubt the finest spinner that the county has ever produced. There were days, like most leg spinners, when he could be very expensive, days when his many variations didn't come out right. When it worked, however, he could run through sides, and it was always reckoned that if Bill Copson and the Pope brothers could get into the top order that Mitchell's extravagant spin would account for the rest.

In ten years with the county he took 1483 wickets at a shade over 20. Impressive figures, and when one considers that there were times he barely got a bowl because the seamers ran through sides it is especially good. Many thought him the most prodigious spinner of them all in the 30's, more so than Tich Freeman, but this worked against him at the highest level, where his tendency to bowl loose balls was more seriously punished than at County level. Indeed, his eight Test wickets cost him over 60 runs each, and his unwillingness to suffer fools gladly, especially those in positions of seniority, cost him dearly. He allegedly told his England captain Bob Wyatt that he "couldn't captain a team of lead soldiers" and had greater fans amongst the players than the so-called gentlemen.

For all that, he was well liked in the game and was an habitual joker. In his superb book on the Bodyline series, David Frith recounts how the England players hid his false teeth on a rail journey to get him back for countless pranks played on them, while a joke he played on a gnarled old miner there resulted in the man drawing a pistol on him!

Perhaps the best story about him was when he was engaged towards the end of the season as a professional by Blackpool Cricket Club (to great effect). Several weeks after the season ended, his wife met the club secretary and asked politely when he thought Tom would have finished his cricket for the year.... he'd stayed on in the northern town and enjoyed himself!

In his early career he was a poor fielder, but his glasses helped him to look studious and to become an excellent cover point. He was no great batsman, with a career average of under 8, but he enjoyed going down the pitch to bowlers and hitting over the top. He was also capable of holding an end up for a while when required.

We will almost certainly not see another Tom Mitchell, and the game will be all the poorer for that.

Our most important winter signing?

Well, looks like many of you see Champagne Charl Langeveldt as our most important signing in the close season.

Mind you, there was pretty even support for Rikki Clarke, Chris Rogers and Nayan Doshi too, and there may well be some soothsayers on this blog as the Indian left arm spinner should come into his own as the season progresses.

Thanks to all who voted. Why not try this week's poll?

Also thanks to the remarkable number who are visiting this blog on a regular basis. I've now changed it so you can post replies immediately without approval, so if you like something, please let me know, if there's something you'd like to see, do the same.

If you don't like something, or disagree with something I write, please let me know too - but keep it clean!

County upset at Aussie snub.

Do these jokers ever get anything right?

The England and Wales Cricket Board have declined to give us a game against the Aussies next year, saying we got one against a touring side this time around. This despite the fact that we've not had a game against them since 1997 (when we won) and every other County will have played them at least twice in that period.

It's things like this that create and maintain the "them and us" feeling that we've had for years and it is, quite frankly both unacceptable and a joke.

I fully understand and support the club's official complaint on the matter and hope it may result in a rethink. I'll believe it when I see it though, because my impression of the suits at Lords is that they're marginally less effective than those running Scottish football at present who insist Rangers play seven games in eighteen days. As my old man told me years ago - cricket is the best game in the world but its ruined by the ones who run it. Hang your heads in shame!

Derby v Warwick

Well, the top order failed again, but I'd have to say that I'm pretty satisfied with the first day.

Yes, the total was disappointing for the first day of a Championship game, but it was a lot better than looked likely in the early afternoon. Full credit to Tom Lungley and to Jon Clare, both of whom seem to have the ability to become reall all rounders. The former has always appeared to be a bloke who could keep an end up, but seems to have done much more, while the latter looks like one of the most exciting finds in a long while. OK, since Dan Redfern last year, but you take my point.

This time last year the side would have been out for 150, but they have at least posted something to bowl at and the hope is that tomorrow brings the same humid atmosphere that produced extravagant swing today. As the day cools towards evening swing will generally lessen but with the bowlers at our disposal I'm optimistic that we can make inroads into their batting.

The key, of course, is removing the talismanic Darren Maddy and then Ian Bell. They are the two best players by a distance, and we'll need an early breakthrough or could be set for some serious leather-chasing.

Fingers crossed for a humid morning everyone!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Derbyshire Legends 4 - Bill Copson (1908-71)

Only Bill Copson's health and injury problems kept him from greater recognition, as there is no doubt that he was a very fine bowler.

Another from the Derbyshire coalfields, Bill impressed at the nets with his accuracy and ability to swing the ball at pace. "We've found a gorilla-armed 'un" was the comment passed on the young bowler, who looked like he needed built up a little but was able to generate good pace from a whippy action.

With his first ball in first-class cricket he took the wicket of Surrey legend Andrew Sandham and he continued to make a good impression. His accuracy was notable, as was his shock of red hair, and from a short run up Bill could make the best batsmen in the country hurry their shots.

He had a fine seasom in 1935 and finished top of the averages, but he missed a lot of cricket and Derbyshire sent him to Skegness to recuperate from illness and he also trained with Chesterfield FC to get fitter for 1936.

Derbyshire's Championship success in 1936 owed much to what was called "Copson's brimstone at one end and Tommy Mitchell's treacle at the other". Indeed, in the absence of George Pope for much of the season with cartilage trouble, more work was thrust on the two. Bill took 140 wickets at less than 13 in the season and earned selection for the Ashes tour to Australia. He did well there too, topping the tour averages but playing no Tests.

In 1937 he produced his greatest performance in taking 8-11 against Warwickshire at Derby, including 5 in 6 balls. He finally got an England call in 1939 and took 12 wickets in two Tests. Due to bigger battles he had to wait until 1947 for a next cap when he took a further three wickets against South Africa to end his Test career with 15 wickets at just under 20.

For Derbyshire he took 1094 wickets at a shade under 19. He played on after the war and retired in 1949, becoming an umpire. Throughout his career he went for only 2.5 runs an over, a clear indication of that accuracy. He was no batsman, but like most tail-enders of the time gave the ball a hearty thump and his innings were usually brief and entertaining.