I think that I am more disappointed tonight than at any time this season.
I can handle being beaten by Durham, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire. I don't like it, but I accept that they're bigger counties, at least at the moment, than we are.
We came close to losing to Leicestershire, however and that is pretty poor stuff. Especially when, in doing so, we concede the second highest score of a low scoring game, allowing a decent tail-ender (Smith) to get two forties. This on top of confirming what we knew from the 20/20, that Jimmy Allenby is the best all-rounder in the world. Well, at least against our attack and bowling at our batsmen...
I don't like singling out individuals, but the time has come to ask what Rikki is doing to justify a place in the team? As a captain, he is OK, but no Brearley. If in doubt, give it to Langeveldt appears to be the policy. Not a bad one, but sooner or later even this willing work horse will buckle under the strain and where are we then?
At one point today, Leicester needed 80 to win from 23 overs and we apparently had one close fielder when Jake Needham bowled. I might be wrong, but only in poor club cricket would you not fancy getting less than four an over, leaving the fielding side needing wickets. Am I being harsh? We got a draw after all, but surely could have done better than that against a team like today's opponents?
I'll grant you that Clarke is a superb slip fielder, one of the very best in the game, but the fact is that he averages 22 in the Championship with the bat and 37 with the ball, this after a poor one day campaign. Part of our batting problem (a major part?) has been that we have often lost his wicket quickly and in a way that suggests carelessness.
Now Rikki Clarke is a fair player. I've seen him bat for Surrey in brilliant fashion with power and a glorious array of shots, especially in his driving. Apart from a good knock against Warwickshire and a promising one against Essex, cut short by a good delivery, we have seen precious little evidence of it this season. He said that he'd had problems adjusting to the wickets "oop north", but surely should have managed it by now? I have more patience for a young player like Dom Telo, who is another world from what he knows, but Rikki really needs to produce the goods.
Is the captaincy affecting his form, as it did Botham and England ? There comparisons with Botham end. I'm sure the captaincy was a major factor in his coming to Derbyshire, but perhaps a break, maybe temporary might be an idea? With his life turned upside down - hey, new babies do that to you - a sabbatical could be worthwhile and no disgrace.
Finally to the game. To very loosely paraphrase Maurice Chevalier, thank heavens for Mr Charl.
Once more our batting dissolved like a rich tea in a very hot brew and we'd to kill some time in a late morning session that must have been torture to watch. After Waggy and Charl ripped out the top four for 43, we looked to be winning it, then Allenby and Smith nearly turned the game around. There you have it, two sessions in a sentence.
At the end of it all, a good if attritional game. For there to be only 18 runs and 2 wickets between teams is better than a 500 a-side runfest. Mind you, Neil Hallam reported this morning that we were close to being docked points for the wicket on Saturday. I'm staggered that they let us off, but given that we only got four from the game, maybe there was pity involved. I far prefer "result" pitches to boring draws where batsman artificially inflate their averages on a featherbed while bowlers age ten years.
Conclusion? I hope Rikki proves me wrong at Northampton and scores 150, but the jury is still out and has booked in for another week's B and B at the hotel...