Are we seeing a bright new dawn at Derbyshire? Or is this just the same old, same old?
Before the 20/20, most fans would have probably said that we were improved. By no means the finished article, but going in the right direction. A disastrous campaign in the thrash and bash followed by a defeat at Essex have changed the water temperature a little, but are our expectations realistic?
Well, I still think we are going the right way but the next two months are crucial to John Morris. I will say from the start that he needs to be given the time to get his side together, at least three years. I saw the 2nds in the week and there are some good young players in there who could well develop into top first class cricketers. Dan Redfern, Akhil Patel and Ross Whitely all impressed me, while Paul Borrington emerged from a horrid first ten overs in which he made only four runs to make a good fifty, showing a strong character in the process.
What of the first team? It was good to see Dominic Telo make a score at Chelmsford, and I would like to see him build on that from here to the season end. I think that Telo has the technique to be very good player for us in the years ahead, and now needs to show he has the required concentration to make the big scores. If Borrington or Redfern made a few decent scores in the 20/20 then followed it with an innings such as that at Chelmsford, we would be happy. For a young man with minimal first class experience, who has travelled half way around the world, had to set up a new life and get used to different wickets he is doing OK. Once flair is tempered by greater experience young Master Telo will do very nicely.
I'm more concerned with the contributions of Steve Stubbings, John Sadler and Rikki Clarke. Stubbo has the distractions of a benefit year and seldom fails to give us a start, but regularly gets out in the 30's when he should be "in". We need more from the genial giant in the second half of the season.
Sadler has been a big disappointment and although a player who usually made runs against us for Leicestershire, looks a moderate player at best. In the 2nds game Redfern looked a far better, more fluent and "classy" player while Sadler looked like a man desperate for a score but a long way from getting one. We will see if Andrew Brown and John Morris can help him, but he didn't look a first team player to me.
Rikki Clarke is a fine talent but the biggest source of fans frustration at present. Like Stubbo, he has had distractions (a first baby is pretty high on the distraction-ometer!) but he has not impressed with bat or ball. Like Stubbings, he regularly makes a start then gives it away. A thirty from 20-odd balls is neither here nor there and not enough for a man with England ambitions. His bowling is useful, but again he can suffer for his willingness to experiment and become expensive. He laudably will bowl when the flak is flying at the end of an innings but sometimes that might not be the best option and as captain he needs to realise that. He has kept the team together and players and fans speak of an improved spirit from last year, but the captain's role will be much stronger if he is seen to contribute more. At present, the jury is not just out but calling for long-term accommodation before a decision is made.
Greg Smith also needs a good end of season. On his day he is a superb stroke player, but the next couple of months will show whether he is the real deal or another Matt Cassar, who produced brilliance all too sporadically for first class cricket. I liked Cassar, and still follow his scores in local cricket, but his figures seldom did justice to the talent within. Smith has been unable to bowl much so far and needs a good couple of months.
Chris Rogers has done well without setting the heather on fire. An average of a shade over 40 is OK, but only that. As I've said before, an overseas batsman should average 50 to justify bringing him in. Rogers has one century and four 50's in 11 starts and needs to turn the 50s into big scores. Few others have shown sign of doing so and the onus lies on the Australian to get us a big score. I would think that he, Clarke and Langeveldt are the biggest earners at the club, and while the South African has throughly justified his salary, Clarke has yet to do so and Rogers needs some big scores to cement his reputation.
We have until Friday before we see another game. Hopefully by then, Rogers back problem will be sorted and we can make a good fist of the rest of the season.