Saturday, 16 August 2008

Can we do it?

I don't think there were many who fancied our chances yesterday and most of the press had effectively abandoned the game as a draw. Especially those of a southern bias (most of them?) who no doubt hoped that would be the case.

I had my doubts but did suggest that splitting the overnight pairing might expose an inexperienced lower order. That first wicket came quickly, but Malan and Housego batted solidly until "Golden" Hinds did for the middle order with his wobbling medium pace.

The rest is history and what it means is that Derbyshire now enter the most exciting final month of a Championship season since the Dean Jones/Les Stillman season of 1996. As many will remember, we eventually ended that season in second place and we'd be happy with that - and promotion - this time.

As I said earlier, Gloucestershire, Glamorgan and Leicestershire are all beatable in the last three games and make up the current bottom three. The first two we play at home with the final fixture at Leicester. We could well have lost to both Gloucestershire and Glamorgan earlier in the season but for the weather, but all are different sides now.

For one thing I sense that Derbyshire have got a side with good balance and long batting. We have started to produce the early innings runs that were sadly missing at the start of the season and have not yet seen the very best of either Chris Rogers or Wavell Hinds. Both have scored well without yet posting the really big scores of which they are capable. How sweet it would be if one or both could do that at Edgbaston! Paul Borrington has come into the side and shown a maturity beyond his years as well as a penchant for batting all day, while Dan Birch has proved the doubters (including me) wrong with a series of mature innings. All he needs now is a Championship hundred, just as Greg Smith will benefit from his against Middlesex. The South African has looked a player of talent over the past two seasons but now looks like a genuinely exciting talent.

With the all round abilities of Rikki Clarke, Graham Wagg, Jon Clare and Tom New in the middle order, John Morris' dilemma is who takes the 11th place in the side. Ian Hunter rarely seems to take a clutch of wickets and one suspects the final place is between him, Kevin Dean and the two spinners, Nayan Doshi and Jake Needham. My personal preference is for a spinner and Morris will know who is looking the better bet at present.

Warwickshire could and perhaps should have been beaten at Derby and the delayed declaration that allowed Fred Klokker to post a century cost a chance to put the visitors under more serious pressure. They have some exciting batsmen, but the key to this game for me will be how easily we can removed their influential and talented skipper Darren Maddy. Westwood, Poonia, Trott and Troughton are all good players but the captain is the key, even though his Championship average is lower than Trott and Troughton, both of whom have had good seasons.

A draw would not be the end of the world, but if the weather stays out of it I think we could win in Birmingham. It is at this point where players stand up to be counted and I am confident that Rogers, Hinds and Langeveldt will do so. If their younger and less experienced team mates do so, we could be in for an exciting last few weeks.

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