Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Greetings from Scarborough!

Well, here I am down by the seaside in my Derbyshire cap and keeping in touch with fellow fans via an internet cafe in a Games shop looking over the bay.

Its been a great holiday and the weather excellent. When I get back I'll tell you all about my chance encounter with someone who looms large in Derbyshire cricket folklore - spooky one this!
I'll also tell you how I came to see our defeat the other night via a well-placed table in a pub/restaurant and how I outnumbered Yorkshire fans at their own ground.

Anyway, that's all for the weekend. I'll be back on Saturday evening and normal service will be resumed soon afterwards.

Not looking too good at lunch in the game at Chesterfield. My heart says we'll run through them as Langers and Waggy get the older ball to swing after lunch, my head says there may be some fearful leather-chasing ahead.

As for me, I'm off to the beach with the family. I'm sure I can hear the distant sound of the ice cream van...

Friday, 25 July 2008

Stubbo - number 200


When you reach a landmark it should be of something or someone a little special and I feel that it is quite apt that the subject for the 200th post of this blog is Steve Stubbings, currently having his benefit year.

He's just turned 30 and has been with the county since 1997. In itself that is worthy of note as cricketers change county as often as many change socks these days. Stubbo has seen captains and overseas players come and go and has overcome being written off as a county cricketer by his then captain Dominic Cork.

Over those eleven years he has rarely been the star of the show, but has been the engine room of the side, quietly building his innings and playing straight through the V between mid on and mid off. Like most left handers he is strong off his pads and in 20 years time, if I'm still around to think of such things, my abiding memory of Steve Stubbings will be his chassis down the track in one day matches, ending in his whipping the ball over or through the area between mid on and mid wicket.

The term "journeyman pro" may well have been invented for Steve Stubbings. An average of 32 through his career doesn't leave him among the all time greats but think on. It leaves him ahead on that average of club legends such as Denis Smith, Les Townsend and Stan Worthington. Donald Carr, who many would say was one of our best ever bats, finished with an average of 29.
Of course, it is impossible to compare eras and those named above played in times when wickets were uncovered once the game had begun. Nonetheless, Stubbo has usually played in a Derbyshire side of questionable batting ability and has more often than not been the one man you could rely on to sell his wicket dearly. Over the past few years I have often switched on teletext to see that Derbyshire were 45-3 or somesuch.

The first thought that went through my head was usually "I wonder if Diva/Katich/Birt/ Moss is still in".

The second, on seeing the scorecard was often "oh no, they're out".

The third, after a quick double check, has regularly been "thank goodness - Stubbo is still there"

That is the measure of the man, reliability. Over that period, openers have come and gone and with each has come a challenge to the 6'4" left hander. Without exception, they have all been seen off, rarely spectacularly, but always with a great professionalism and a good measure of common sense.

I remember a game against Scotland up here 2-3 years ago. A typical, moving Grange wicket and batsmen all day struggled to middle it. No one looked comfortable, apart from Steve Stubbings, who ground out a match winning unbeaten 70-odd that saw us to a win. Many players will make hay when the sun shines, the track is flat and the TV cameras are following their every move. Those that are really worth their salt are the ones who will score runs when conditions favour the bowlers and the crowd is sparse.

Above all, I will remember Steve Stubbings as perhaps one of the most genial of Derbyshire players. Only Pop Welch has surpassed him in my book and he'd have a ready smile for anyone in Derbyshire colours and a word for those who wanted one.

I've just realised that the last few paragraphs sound like an appreciation of one who has retired or been released. I sincerely hope that this is not the case, although this hasn't been a vintage summer for him. A shoulder injury was expected to clear up over the winter and didn't, so needed a Spring operation. This affected his fielding as he couldn't throw, but had to affect his batting too. The distractions of the benefit must also have taken their toll and many before him have had similar problems during a benefit or testimonial year. Nonetheless, Steve Stubbings has kept the smile on his face and irrespective of form or fitness has always given 100%.

I'd have to say that if every Derbyshire player in the last ten years had done that, we may well have had more to show for them. For what its worth, I think Stubbings and Rogers would be a good opening pair next season and the greater need is for more stability in the middle order.

Good luck with the benefit Steve. If events are held near you, go along and support them if you can and acknowledge one of the gutsiest professionals the county has had in its history.







So how good was he?


Diva, I mean.

I ask that question as many on the 606 board refer to him in almost hushed tones. He was undoubtedly one of the best blokes to play for the county and showed great loyalty to stay when there were other and better offers tabled over his time with us.

Having mentioned Chris Rogers last night, and his average currently sitting at around 47 with three centuries and five fifties, it shows great similarities to the performances of Michael Di Venuto. What a lot of people forget is that his first two seasons were nothing really special and indeed his first year with us was a disaster.

Here's his record season by season:

Year/Innings/Runs/Average

2000/ 25/725 /33
2001/ 25 /1082/ 45
2002/ 28/ 1538/ 62
2003/ 31/ 1520/ 49
2004 Injured
2005/ 24 /1133/ 51
2006/ 22/ 1110/ 52

So really,one could argue that Diva was lucky to retain his role in the side after his first year in particular and even after his second. His third and fourth seasons werevery prolific and saw him at his peak, but there was a substantial tail off in form after the back injury that ruled him out of 2004.

I've said before that I was unlucky with and for him, as I never saw him make more than 20 in fifteen attempts. Many who saw him in full flight confirm his talent, which is undeniable from his averages with us and with Durham. Yet critics will assert that he made his big scores in the second innings of games that were effectively a lost cause after the first.
Was Dave Houghton right to release him after 2006? Subsequent events - his form for Durham and then taking up of his Italian passport to play as a European player - suggest he was wrong. Looking at the stats (and he also had a poor 2006 in one day cricket) one can at least appreciate why Houghton let him go.

I'd have loved to see Diva still in Derbyshire colours and it is fascinating to imagine what he and Rogers would have been like together. The one sure thing is that in the Victorian batsman we have a worthy successor who has already surpassed the deeds of Di Venuto in their respective debut seasons. It is debatable whether he will stay as long as the latter but we should all cherish his batting talent while we have the opportunity to do so.




Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Thanks again!

This is my 198th post since I began this blog back in April and today the hit counter went past the 8,000 mark.

I'm gobsmacked as I had no idea at the start of the season that there was such a level of interest in Derbyshire cricket. I started this on a hunch that, because the club 606 board was more animated than others that it might be of interest, but it has exceeded my expectations. I thought that that maybe I'd get 2,000 hits over the season and would have been quite pleased with that, but to quadruple the figure with two months to go is fantastic.

All this from fans of a "little" club. It has been great to do the blog this year because there is genuine cause for optimism. We've had our defeats but we are competitive for the most part. There have been a few bad days, but its never been totally black. We've bowled well in most matches, batted well in others. When we get them both together in the same game we'll be dynamite!

The low point so far? Having the game in Scotland rained off in the FP Trophy. Believe it or not, that was the only wet day up here in nearly four weeks and I was so looking forward to the game. Some of the 20/20 performances were poor, but we won more than last year.

Langeveldt has proved the best Kolpak signing in the country and Wavell Hinds is also proving value for money. Graham Wagg and Jon Clare have both emerged as genuine all-rounders and James Pipe has kept wicket well and added va-va voom down the order. Jake Needham has progressed well as an off spinner and useful bat and Chris Rogers has been a steady pro.

There are good youngsters emerging from the Academy and I fully expect Paul Borrington, Dan Redfern, Akhil Patel and Tom Poynton to be first team players in three years time. Others may well join them and with the club far more positive in its recruitment, the winter and coming seasons promise much for Derbyshire fans.

Hopefully I'll be able to keep this impetus going. Remember, let me know if there's anything, or anyone that you'd like to read about. I can't guarantee you'll always agree with my thoughts and sentiments, but I'll try to make it interesting!

Chris Rogers

I thought of the next poll on my way home tonight.

Chris Rogers - should we keep him or look elsewhere?

After this game he averages a shade under 47 in the four day game and just over 40 in one day matches. Not spectacular if one compares him to the averages attained by a Kirsten, Jones, Azharuddin, Katich or - dare I say it - Di Venuto.

Still, my gut instinct is that we could have done a lot worse and we could do a lot worse. There are many out there who have done far less this year and he has scored 300 more runs than anyone else in the side. Some might say that this was because the rest had batted so badly and others might also say that he should on an overseas salary.

I just cannot see where a better player might come from for next year. Between Test commitments and the IPL there are few, if any who will fancy a six-month slog around England in between. I'd be loathe to see us go for a rent-a-pro system where people fly in and out for a few weeks and then go home, pausing only long enough to pocket a cheque. I think Durham the best side in the country and they have a fine bunch of players, but Neil McKenzie, Albie Morkel, Sean Pollock and now Shiv Chanderpaul have played for them this season. Good players all, but real club men? I'm not so sure and none have pulled up trees with their performances.

We may delude ourselves that a big name might join us, but I genuinely don't see it. If we said thanks and goodbye to Rogers, we would probably end up, indirectly or otherwise, with another up and coming young Aussie. For every David Hussey there are a handful like Jon Moss, Travis Birt, Michael Slater, Shaun Tait - decent players all, but not really up to standard.

In 18 innings Buck now has 3 centuries and 5 fifties in his 788 runs. With the pitches now drier and harder, I could see him close to doubling that and taking his average over 50, which would be satisfactory by any standard. Sixty takes him close to legend standard but there are few who have sustained such a level.

He's a thoroughly decent bloke, a committed club man (he didn't need to play against Bangladesh) and a very good cricketer. The next few weeks will see if he can reach the fifty average, but if he does, surely there can be no further arguments?

Derbyshire v Bangladesh A - day 3

The game that few people cared about ended in a flurry of excitement as Chris Rogers produced a perfectly timed declaration that ended in a result off the penultimate ball.

That the result went the wrong way was to some extent inconsequential as the game was a good run out for what was essentially a Derbyshire second string.

The game produced a number of positives from our perspective. Rogers maintained his good form and must look forward to the rest of the season, while Greg Smith, Dan Birch and John Sadler all scored a few runs.

"Few" is an apt choice though, as none of them suggested going on to a big score, with the possible exception of Smith, whose well-played 50 was cut short with a run out. He unfortunately seems to be taking on the mantle of Hassan Adnan as the worst runner between the wickets in the club having been involved in several in recent games.

It was good to see him bowling again and taking two wickets and he is good for the balance of the side. Jake Needham and Nayan Doshi both did well enough to keep their rivalry going and will benefit from a long bowl. Wayne White also bowled well without getting reward.

Kevin Dean did well in conditions that favoured him in the first innings, but seemed less impressive second time around, while Ian Hunter sadly picked up another injury that limited his role in the Bangladesh second innings.

The jury remains out on several players with regard to retention at the end of the season and much will depend on what they produce between now and mid-September. By that stage it is still possible that we could be celebrating success, but much will depend on the batting being more solid than it showed in the first half of the campaign.

Even more important is the fitness of the bowlers who have carried us so far. With Langeveldt's knee, Wagg's shins, Clarke's achilles tendon and Lungley's side we have serious question marks over their long term fitness. Now Ian Hunter has joined them there is pressure on Jon Clare and with only Kevin Dean and Wayne White in reserve the bowling could be under pressure.

Having said that, Charl and Waggy are the type of guys who will bowl through most things and we can only hope that these two admirable bowlers can get through to the end when they will have thoroughly earned a rest.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

New poll

I'm off on holiday on Saturday!

No foreign climes for us this year (last year was the awesome Tennessee) but a trip down to our favourite seaside resort of Scarborough.

We're all looking forward to it and with the weather set fair I'm looking forward to a game or two of beach cricket and some leisurely strolls. Its also a chance to see the nicest cricket ground I've been to outside Derbyshire and get some sea air in the lungs.

So this week's poll is extended to a week on Saturday as I don't think I'll be near a PC next week. Even I'm not that keen guys, but if there's a wet morning or evening I might get near a computer in the local library, or the most excellent games shop that my kids enjoy so much...

So predict where we'll finish in Division 2 - remember, we've already hammered Worcester and outplayed Warwickshire and they're the top two as things stand. Or will it all go pear-shaped, as our bowlers limp through on their one remainin good leg each?

I look forward to seeing your votes and the level of optimism/pessimism

East Midlands Side anyone? Er... no

A resounding thumbs down from you all with regard to the formation of an East Midlands side for 20/20.

Thankfully the idea has been knocked on the head now, but the response of those voting on this blog suggest it would be as popular a concept as Corky's return to Derby.

94% voted against the concept which in anyone's book is a pretty resounding vote. The administrators and advocates for change cannot overlook decades of local rivalry. There was a telling piece in the media where a Lancashire fan reckoned that to have a "Manchester" team would alienate all fans of the county from outwith the city.

The new competition may have its merits and I hope that we give a better account of ourselves in what should be different leagues to the ones we've had in recent years.

Derbyshire v Bangladesh day 2

Meaningless though this game is, it has been graced by another fine bowling performance by Kevin Dean.

It is interesting that players who may come under the microscope at season end are all doing well at present. Dan Birch, Ian Hunter, Kevin Dean - all have produced the goods over the last few days.

As a correspondent points out on "In Morris We Trust", normally around this time of year there are several players who are fairly likely to go. This year may be no exception, but there is no one really standing out in that respect. The current squad have all done at least OK and casualties will be in the cause of further improvement, rather than getting rid of dead wood.

In conditions like today, Kevin Dean has always been a handful. One or two of the Bangladesh side got going and Nayan Doshi got a bit of stick from players who generally handle spin well.
It was a good performance to take a three figure lead and that had been stretched by the close to
230.

A quick thrash tomorrow for half and hour or so should hopefully give a lead of 275 which would leave an exciting last afternoon. Congratulations to Kevin Dean for passing 400 wickets for the County today. He has given great service and but for his injuries may well even have made representative level.

The big task now is to get all the walking wounded fit for the Pro 40 against Essex. With Graham Wagg, Charl Langeveldt and Rikki Clarke all limping around at present, the physio is going to be a key man this week. For us to follow an improved first half of season with something more concrete, he is going to be a very important chap in the coming weeks.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Derbyshire v Bangladesh A

Or should that be Derbyshire v Bangladesh - eh?

I'm not that sure why we're playing this game. Hands across the sea and all that, but I find it hard to get too excited about this one. Even if we were playing their full national team it wouldn't whet the appetite and this doesn't for sure.

Chris Rogers kept up his good form with a century batting at number five. I was surprised to see him playing and thought with his recent back problems that he may have been rested, but maybe he wants to keep it moving. A hundred is a hundred whatever the opposition and without it today we may have been embarrassed. Sadler got a 50 and Birch 40, but the others got in and got out again. It was good to see Jake Needham again confirming what a steady batsman he is. I genuinely feel that he has potential as an all rounder although our greatest need is his developing as an off spinner.

Two wickets for Kevin Dean before the close and I expect more tomorrow. Young Poynton is a talented wicket keeper and the reason why Fred Klokker is unlikely to get a place on the staff. Klokker is at this stage a better batsman, but Poynton is no mug (although he failed today) and is the likely successor in time to James Pipe.

Speaking of whom, there is a bizarre regularity of his name appearing in the press as David Pipe. It confirms Geoff Boycott's comment today on the radio that most of the press covering cricket "haven't a clue". They simply do it while there's no football and probably get the name from the latest Cricketer's Who's Who.

Boycs was in good form today. When told that Jeremy Snape was working with the batsmen on their concentration (without much success, obviously), Boycs asked how he did that.

" He never batted four hours in 'is career. 'ow does 'e know what its like?" A good point.

Not wanting to labour the point about the Test (England were rubbish), but how long will it be before Flintoff is crocked again? I know he bowled tight, but for the man around whom our destiny revolves (allegedly), a near forty over stint after months out with injury is pretty damn stupid. No quick bowler can survive on that work load. I confidently expect Pattinson to go back to Notts and fail completely to understand his selection in the first place. Hoggard, Harmison and Jones all were better options, as was Tremlett, picked as reserve then superceded. They don't know what they're doing, honestly.

Anyway, back to Derbyshire and a win here helps build momentum, poor opposition or not. As long as we're ready for Essex that'll do fine.

Division 2 is now headed by Warwick and Worcester. We thrashed the latter and should have beaten the former. With good luck with the weather and improved batting we can still get promoted in the Championship.

Enjoy that thought as you head for bed. Sorry about the late blog tonight, but my wife had an argument with very sharp secateurs this evening. She's OK, but won't be bowling off spinners for a while...

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Northants v Derbyshire - Pro 40


That's it then. Derbyshire are absolute rubbish, have no batting, no bowling and cannot field for toffee...

No, I don't believe it, but it should pretty much guarantee we win the Pro 40 and gain Championship promotion after writing that...

Having written off Dan Birch (pictured) and Ian Hunter in the last couple of days, they produce match-winning performances with bat and ball respectively to steer us to as emphatic a run chase win as I recall in recent years.

Quite honestly, once Hinds and Birch got together, the result never seemed in doubt. How many times over the years have we seen run chases start slowly and then wickets fall when we needed to accelerate? I remember years ago watching Derbyshire chase a similar total to this at Queens Park against Middlesex in a Cup semi final. Phil Sharpe and Ron Headley were adding to the total but the run rate kept climbing. Dad and I were convinced they were happy to leave the two batsmen in and we eventually lost by a distance.

Today, Birch was simply brilliant. 76 from 59 balls with 8 fours and 4 sixes is how he has batted against club attacks and it is the first time I've thought "yeah, he could do it". Maybe his knock yesterday gave him confidence but this must have been great to watch. It was good to see Wavell again batting well at the other end. The genial Jamaican has won plaudits for the way he talks players through innings and his batting today, coupled with a steady bowling display, was also important to the success.

It was a shame when Birch was run out as he looked set for a century. That has been the start of collapses in recent years but it was equally impressive the way that Smith and Telo built another partnership to see us to victory. Although Telo fell trying to win it in style, Smith saw us to a very comfortable win, accompanied by the skipper.

So we start with a win, achieved without Langeveldt. When one considers that Pipe, Wagg and Clare were not needed today the batting looked solid (and long) again. Much more of this and we'll start to impress even some of the hardened moaners...

So back home tonight and Bangladesh A tomorrow. I would have thought that Rogers and Hinds will sit this out alongside Langeveldt and Waggy may also miss out after his shin splints. The attack may well feature White, Hunter, Clare, Needham and Doshi, while Redfern, Borrington and Patel could feature in the batting line-up alongside Telo and Smith with Birch also in the frame.

In the great scheme of things, tomorrow is a nothing match, but after a good five days in Northampton, Derbyshire have definitely got their season back on track. On July 20th, they have everything to play for in the Pro 40 and are very much in the Championship race. We've not been able to say that for a while.

Progress? Yeah, I reckon so.

Northants v Derbyshire Pro 40

60-5 as I type and Northants have been ripped apart by a great spell of 8-0-18-3 by Ian Hunter. That's right, the same Ian Hunter I last night suggesed may be released at season end.

Of course, one performance doesn't make a season (please bear that in mind all those suggesting Jon Clare is ready for England) but he has put us in a good position here. Admittedly Nick Boje and Andrew Hall, Test players both, have still to bat but we're in the driving seat after 19 overs.
Hunter is capable of this, as he has shown before, but injury and erratic lines have often cost him (and us) dearly.

I'd love to see us get Sales - both in this game, as he's their best player and at season end. He'd be a real asset in our middle order and I hope we do well here to show him what he could be a part of.

No Langeveldt today (his knee problem is still there) but Waggy has recovered from his shin splints or is just playing through them. Tomorrow we play Bangladesh A in a 3-day game. If they're less good than the Bangladesh side, which one would expect, we could put Ockbrook out against them and do well. I'd expect to see some youngsters in the side and a decent performance.

70-5 as I close. Lets bring on Doshi to tie it down a little...

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Northants v Derbyshire final day

As anticipated, it all ended in a draw with the rain taking too much time out of the game.

Good to see Buck make a century, though I'd be even happier to see him reel off a few more in testing circumstances before the season end. Dan Birch also got a few, as did Wavell, and in the leagues this would definitely be called a winning draw.

One or two may question why there was no declaration, but Waggy is suffering from shin splints and Langeveldt still has a problem with his knee. With three fit bowlers, Rogers would have been silly to risk a loss after four good days of cricket and he's anything but that.

Warwickshire's annihilation of Middlesex leaves them well set in this division and when one remembers that we were well on top of them at the County Ground a few weeks back it is clear evidence that we can be a match for any side on our day.

On a disappointing note, some idiot on the 606 board today says that Jon Clare should move to a bigger county at the end of the season. Obviously written by someone who shares a brain and only gets it for half an hour a week as Clare, as pointed out by someone else, has signed a three year deal and would, I hope, show loyalty anyway to the county that gave him a chance.

To speak of him as an England player is premature, although there is no doubting the lad has talent in spades. He's only just reached double figures in first class matches and has bowled brilliantly in some and less so in others. He needs another season at least but should be in the frame for an A tour.

In similar vein, no matter how well he has done this season, I cannot understand how Pattinson got in to this Test match. Surely Hoggard should have been worth a recall on his own turf, or Harmison, who has bowled well in recent weeks. To me it smacked of either desperation (why, when the series is level?) or a "look how innovative we are" move. Every jump in level in cricket is a huge challenge and that from county to Test must be the greatest of all. I hope I'm wrong, but I could see him "doing a Mallender" and never playing again.

On that cheery note, time for bed...

Northants v Derbyshire - Pro 40 preview

I suspect we'll see a few changes to the Derbyshire side for tomorrow's game at Northampton.

Rikki will doubtless return after a few runs in the seconds to captain the side and I would assume will replace Paul Borrington.

If we assume that Waggy is fit, there may be a decision to make between playing two spinners or another seamer (either Wayne White or Kevin Dean). Tom Lungley has had an injury ravaged season again after last season's heroics and may no be fit again.

I'd see the side as being pretty close to:

Chris Rogers
Greg Smith
Wavell Hinds
Dan Redfern
Rikki Clarke
James Pipe
Graham Wagg
Jon Clare
Jake Needham
Charl Langeveldt
Wayne White/Nayan Doshi

I'd bring in Dan Redfern over Dan Birch as he is quite frankly a better player. As a batsman he has a full range of shots and as a fielder he is much more lithe. He also offers an extra bowling option, if required and I would like to see him get a run in the side for this competition in preparation for next year and his first professional contract.

I would have loved to see Dan Birch make a fist of County Cricket but he is another who has found the jump from outstanding club player to county too much. There have been odd flashes of brilliance, but generally against weaker attacks and they have been too sporadic for my liking.

As for Northants, they will probably be the same as we have just faced. Maybe Rikki Wessels could come in and Johan Louw may also be a contender, if for no other reason that they haven't quite got enough South Africans playing...

Tough game for us, but one we can win if the batting fires. How often have I written that this season?

Random thoughts

Last day of yet another rain ruined game and I'm increasingly of the opinion that whoever gets promoted from division 2 this season will be the side that gets the most breaks with the weather.

The game is, barring play of spectacular proportions from someone, as dead as a dodo. We've just bowled out Northants for 341 giving us a lead of 144. Theoretically, we could now go in and give it a thrash for an hour or so and set them 260 to win this afternoon, but I can only see one winner from that scenario, and it ain't us. Waggy has a slight niggle which I assume they'll protect, which leaves Charl and Clare, plus Wavell for seam as well as the two spinners. Northants have a long batting lineup and some spectacular hitters in there. While my heart would love to see Jon Clare's emergence as a cricketer of genuine potential end in a win, my head says that this one will be a draw. There's just not enough there for the bowlers and the thinking money would be on a draw or home win unless Rogers comes up with the finest weighted declaration of recent memory.

Away from the first eleven and it was interesting to see Kunal Jogia, a 23 year old right hand batsman from Cambridge University scoring some runs for the seconds in their win against Warwickshire. As reported on the In Morris We Trust Forum (the very useful In Krikken We Trust sub-section), we won on the last ball with Rikki Clarke getting the last man lbw - how's that for a pressurised umpiring decision?
Jogia made a fifty and is on an internship with Derbyshire, paid for by the MCC. You can read all about it at http://content-uk.cricinfo.com/england/content/story/359262.html

Jogia did well for Cambridge against the counties this year, averaging just under 40, although it would be premature to suggest that he will be another addition to the ranks. All counties trial players throughout the season and Jogia is in a similar position to Stephan Marillier, the Zimbabwean who played for us earlier in the season with some success. It is refreshing to see Derbyshire bringing young players through, however and far more pleasing from a fan's perspective than to see us sign an old lag from another county, which has happened far too often over the last ten years. There is far greater expectation from a supposedly established pro and enhanced disappointment when they turn out worse than anticipated.

If Derbyshire started next season with Paul Borrington and Dan Redfern in a first choice side, fans would, I think, be much more understanding of failures. I think both these lads have a lot to offer and would also see Akhil Patel as being a player worthy of a contract. They all have a lot of work to do, but have a good technique and have been well coached by Karl Krikken, who is doing such an admirable job with the seconds.

Although I am unaware of contract situations, there are several players who may be struggling for next season. Despite his wickets against Warwickshire, I can't see Ian Hunter getting another deal, and there must also be questions over Kevin Dean, Dan Birch and possibly Steve Stubbings. I would be sorry to see Dean and Stubbings go, as both have been great servants.

Kevin Dean has always been a very dangerous bowler but injuries have cost him dearly, sometimes freakish ones (falling off golf carts). When he first emerged he bowled with sufficient nip to trouble anyone, but recently he's needed favourable conditions to do so. Much would depend on who else was available as he can still do a job, but Wayne White is perhaps the man we should be looking to for a step-up.

Stubbo has overcome being told he wasn't good enough by Dominic Cork to be a good county pro. You always get 100% from him and knew that the opposition wouldn't be gifted his wicket. There have been occasions when I feel he has had a raw deal, but this season, perhaps because of the diversions of a benefit, his batting has not really got going. He has got the 30s and 40s, but is that the summit of our ambitions? Again, it depends on who else is available, but we only have a finite playing budget and these guys to me appear the most vulnerable.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 3

Another good day for the boys and especially Jon Clare, who is having the sort of game that is normally experienced in comics...

After his first century for the club yesterday, Clare took 5 wickets today to complete a memorable double and leave us on top in the game.

However, the amount of time lost to weather suggests that a result will be hard to force tomorrow, especially with further showers forecast tomorrow. If a result occurs, it almost certainly will be contrived. Perhaps the captains will agree tonight for the home side to declare and Derbyshire to set a target sometime after lunch tomorrow. It is hard to see how a result can come about otherwise as the wicket is simply too good for batting and a massive improvement on previous years here. Its funny what happens when you no longer have a decent spinner...

In other news today, after securing the services of Greg Smith, John Morris has now sealed a first professional contract for Danny Redfern. I've seen the youngster on several occasions now and never been less than thoroughly impressed. He is organised, compact, very fluent off his legs and a fantastic prospect. Personally I would like to see him given opportunities with Paul Borrington next season and to play alongside better players like Wavell Hinds, who appears to be a man keen to work with youngsters and pass on his experience. We have signed him for the next two years and I hope we see him for many years in Derbyshire colours.

Finally, news that a young 17 year old fast bowler, Atif Sheikh, has been called up for England Under 17s to play New Zealand. A new name on me, but full credit to the youngster and to the coaches at the club who have helped him to get to this standard. I don't know about everyone else, but all these talented youngsters have got me very enthusiastic about the medium term future of the club.

See you tomorrow!

PS Only a handful of players have previously taken five wickets as well as scoring a century in a match for Derbyshire.

George Davidson did it twice, Harry Bagshaw and Harry Storer once each, Sam Cadman three times. Those fine all rounders Garnett Lee, Les Townsend and George Pope also did it pre-WW2, but it has only been done on four occasions since then.

The first was by Kim Barnett in 1991, then Ant Botha in 2004 and "Pop" Welch in 2005.
Now Jon Clare. He should be a very proud lad tonight.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 2


The other day I jokingly suggested that Derbyshire might score 500 at Northampton, then bowl them out twice.

Today we scored 485-7 and Graham Wagg and Jon Clare (pictured) both scored their maiden centuries. Memo to self - must make fun of our batting more often...

Well done to both of these guys, both of whom have done really well this season. If one accepts that a true all-rounder has a batting average in excess of his bowling one, then both qualify in spades this year. Wagg is now averaging 30 with the bat and has 28 wickets at 23, while young Clare cannot have imagined, even in his wildest dreams, a debut season like this.

Currently sitting with a batting average a fraction under 49 per innings as well as being second top scorer, he also has 14 wickets at 32. Good figures for any player, but for a young man rejected by Lancashire it is a great achievement. If he doesn't get an A tour this winter, like Wagg, they should be asking questions in Parliament.

When one considers that Greg Smith has signed a 2-year deal and is only 25, that is a trio of young all-rounders that any county would envy. We should also remember that Rikki Clarke is a far better player than his current figures suggest and another all-rounder, while Jake Needham has the potential to be valuable with bat and ball and has progressed this year.

Hey - and Dan Redfern, the best young Derbyshire batsman I've seen since Kim Barnett emerged, is a more than useful off-spinner while Akhil Patel, an attractive and hard-hitting left hander too, also bowls that rarity of left arm chinamen. Whether these two young talents continue as all rounders is debatable. While Kim Barnett remained a useful leggie and occasional medium-pacer to the end of his career, his batting progressed to a far greater extent. I suspect that Dan Redfern will be seen as an elegant and fluent left hand batsman who can bowl spin on occasion like Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen, just the same as Patel.

We shouldn't discount the promise of Ross Whiteley either. He moves the ball either way at a reasonable pace and hits cleanly too.

Hmmm... eight all-round talents in one club that doesn't bring on young players. If only we spent more time with youngsters, who knows what we'd do eh, Mr Atherton?

Back to today's game and it was frustrating to lose so much time to the weather. Despite inadvertently getting close to our first innings score, I'd be surprised if my vision of bowling them out twice came true. Their innings has started steadily and there are good players to come. Unless the covered pitch sweats and helps our seamers tomorrow, or it starts to crumble and offer turn, forcing a win will take some doing. Given that ex-Test spinner Nick Boje did very little, it appears unlikely that Needham and Doshi will create havoc.

Still, it's a funny game as old Fred used to say. Tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we will (hopefully) get among them...

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Captaincy

A fair bit of debate on the 606 pages today on captaincy.

One poster said that Simon Katich was a good captain, citing his winning the Pura Cup last winter as evidence.

I disagree. Katich had a strong side and its a lot easier to captain a good side. He didn't impress me last season at Derby and I thought his captaincy too regimented and formulaic. The openers have four overs, the first change get five each, then another burst from the openers - you get the picture.
Similarly Ricky Ponting is not a great captain. In the Ashes summer when we won he showed tactical naivety and he doesn't hold a candle to Mark Taylor as a skipper, or to Steve Waugh. Again, if I had a team with all those batsmen and with Warne and McGrath to bowl I think I'd look good. For all his legendary status as a batsman, Bradman wasn't a good skipper.

Outstanding ones have been thin on the ground, others have looked good with fine players at their disposal. Frank Worrell was brilliant, Richie Benaud too, Ray Illingworth, Mike Brearley, Jeremy Coney - all were good international captains.

Domestically, Eddie Barlow was brilliant, Stuart Surridge and Percy Fender excellent, Brian Sellers very competent. All had the ability to get the best out of all players, the good ones and the lesser lights. They knew the weaknesses of opponents and exploited them and kept their players AS A TEAM.

I was amused by one post which said that we'd been blessed with good captains over the years, citing Eddie Barlow, David Steele, Barry Wood, Bob Taylor, Geoff Miller, Kim Barnett, John Morris, Dominic Cork, Simon Katich. Oh purleese! Good players all, but after Barlow it goes downhill fast.

Steele was very negative and set out to draw matches with a win a bonus. Wood was inspirational for a season but his personality, like Dean Jones later, didn't make for harmony. Bob Taylor was a brilliant cricketer but couldn't do captaincy as it affected his keeping. Geoff Miller was OK but no more, Katich we've discussed and Corky led by example but annoyed teammates (allegedly) as much as opponents.

John Morris is a lovely bloke but when he had the captaincy was nothing special. In fact I recall a Sunday game where he fielded at deep square leg and looked thoroughly disinterested. Barnett was a fair skipper, no doubt, but again there were factions in the dressing room that the best don't tolerate or allow to develop. He was the best after Eddie Barlow, with the exception of Dean Jones. He was very cute tactically and one step ahead of opponents, but again he had a divided dressing room that stopped him short of greatness.

Which leaves the great Bunter Barlow. On a scale of 1-100, most of these guys were 50-60, Barnett a 65, Jones a 75 and Barlow somewhere in the 90s. I've written about him elsewhere, so all I'll say here is that if I see a better skipper of Derbyshire in my time I'll be a very lucky guy. Just like the rest of you.

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day 1

352-6 a the close. Five half centuries. You beauty!

OK, there were the usual disappointments, with Chris Rogers failing and none of them (yet) having gone on to a hundred, but this was a solid days work.

First up - full credit to Rikki Clarke who apparently dropped himself after a pretty dismal run of form. To be fair to the guy, that took guts and I'm sure we all hope he scores well in the 2nds and returns refreshed for the Pro 40.

Back to the game and well played Paul Borrington. I don't think that he is as good a batsman as Danny Redfern but what he has in spades is guts - chip off the old block there as his Dad was a battler. It was refreshing and pleasant to see a Derbyshire opener still there at lunch and his innings today was total vindication for John Morris' faith in him.

After we lost Chris Rogers early I didn't think we'd make 200, and when we were six down for 211 we could still have gone for under 250. Wavell batted well and Greg Smith, celebrating a new two-year contract looked to be in sublime touch with pretty much a run-a-ball fifty.
Then Graham Wagg and Jon Clare turned the game on its head with a partnership of 141 that was unbroken at the close.

For me, Wagg is a future captain and at his current rate of progress he could yet make international cricket. If there is a winter A tour this year, both he and Jon Clare should be under serious consideration. Mind you, they're probably too young for an A tour based on those who went last year. Steve Kirby and Alastair Richardson, both over 30, for goodness sake...

I'd love to see Waggy make his first century tomorrow - and for that matter Jon Clare too, but for now lets just celebrate an improved batting performance, the first one of the season in the first innings of a game. I would love to see us go on to make 450 tomorrow and then let the spinners loose after Charl and Waggy have hopefully blitzed the top order. Greg Smith bowled a full allocation in the last second team game so we can assume that he may play a part in the attack, either with seam or more likely off spin on what is often a spin-friendly track at Northampton.

Three spinners eh? I don't know about Northants and Derbyshire, this is like South Africa v the India of the 1970's!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire

So Rikki has been dropped.

As I said earlier, it's not unexpected on form, but like a few others I didn't think Morris would do it. Full credit to him for doing so. No captain's place should be sacrosanct and while people like Mike Brearley and Stuart Surridge weren't world beaters, they led by example and often produced when it was most needed.

Sadly, Rikki has not yet done so.

I'm re-reading a really good biography of the pre-war Surrey skipper Percy Fender at present and was impressed by his views on captaincy. Essentially, if nothing is happening, try something unexpected, try different things and keep trying. His attitude was that no game should drift and sometimes you could cause problems as opponents struggled to work out why he had done something strange.

I know its a different game now, but the same values work. Even at club level, I've found that opening with spinners pays dividends as the guys generally don't play it too well. Bringing on a youngster causes problems as people are wary of getting out to a kid. Much different game to the county stuff, but trying things keeps everyone on their toes.

Tomorrow's skipper is unknown at present. Waggy had a shot in the 20/20 so could be a candidate again, Rogers did it against Glamorgan and Wavell has captained Jamaica. The brave call would be Waggy, who has had a fine season, the more logical one probably Rogers.

There's no news of the Northants side, but think of South Africa B and you're not far away. With Nick Boje in fine form, Andrew Hall and Lance Klusener in the side and Louw bowling well they're a decent side. Add in Van der Wath and maybe Rikki Wessels and you can almost smell the braii and taste the biltong...

On paper and current form they should beat us. I'd take our South African over all of theirs though, and if our genial Jamaican and amiable Aussie hit form it could be a good contest. I'd go as far as to say it is a season-defining game. Win or draw and we're still in the frame for promotion. Lose and its another year in division two.

I'm playing tomorrow night (local derby!) so may not be posting till late, or at all. Depends how the post-match celebrations go. How's that for confidence - hopefully not misplaced.

Come on lads - lets crank it up again!!

Well, well

Derbyshire have announced the 12 for the Northants game tomorrow and there's no Rikki Clarke...

Strangely, there's no mention of this omission on the club website tonight, which states that Paul Borrington and Wayne White were in line to play their first games of the season, but there is no mention of Clarke not playing.

I know he played for the 2nds today and made 64 (thanks for the updates Chris!) while Messrs Telo and Sadler made 0 and 5 respectively....

The following 12 have been named for tomorrow:

Chris Rogers
Dan Birch
Paul Borrington
Wavell Hinds
Greg Smith
James Pipe
Jonathan Clare
Graham Wagg
Jake Needham
Wayne White
Charl Langeveldt
Nayan Doshi.

The press this morning reported that Morris had blown a gasket at Clarke for the shot he played late on the third day. That the club site says nothing lends only to the theory that all is not well in the Kingdom of Denmark... sorry, Derbyshire.

I can't say I'm surprised and as I said in the post last night, patience was running out with the skipper after a series of poor shot selections and average bowling displays. I hope it is a voluntary step down too, but it also ponders the question as to who will be skipper?

Chris Rogers? Wavell? Waggy? Who knows, all have things going for them.

The final place would appear to be between Wayne White, who bowled well but without luck when I saw him play for the 2nds recently and Nayan Doshi who bowled even better. On a traditional Northants track the thinking money would be on Doshi, but that's a decision for Morris tomorrow when he sees it.

A lot relies on Buck and Wavell in this one, with the batting wearing its fragile look. It is good to see Paul Borrington in there as he sells his wicket dearly, something all fans will be grateful for after some recent displays. Dan Redfern must have been close too, after making 75 for the 2nds today. It is only a matter of time until both are given an extended run. Perhaps then Mr Grumpy, (ex- Lancashire and England), making a late run for the "All Time Misery of the World" award from an ex-Warwickshire and England quick bowler might shut up with his nonsense.

John Morris has gone on record as saying that he would like a Derbyshire team that has grown up through the Academy. With these two, Akhil Patel and Ross Whitely, we have a quartet of great potential. White, Clare and Needham also emerged from the 2nds and Wagg has thrived when no one else would touch him.

In three years time I'd see these lads as the nucleus of a team. In a plea to fans, whatever your misgivings about some performances this season, keep the faith with John Morris. With his staff he WILL turn this around. Bear in mind that we're one win away from promotion in the Championship, so keep smiling!

Mind you, like the rest of you, I'm intrigued tonight...

Monday, 14 July 2008

Its Wavell

So Wavell Hinds is to be our top scorer in the second half of the season, follwed by James Pipe and Dominic Telo.



He did little to disprove that theory in the game against Leicestershire, playing two steady innings.

So now, as promised, for the thorny question of the week - vote in this week's poll and let's see what everyone is thinking about a lovely regional franchise team.

Loved Mike Atherton's comment in the Times re Derbyshire and Leicestershire. We're both "satellite towns" of Nottingham. Hmm... I'm sure they're both cities Michael, for one thing.
Oh, and they don't produce any young players through their scouting and coaching. Ah yes, so Ian Blackwell, Chris Adams, Dan Redfern, Stuart Broad and many more just appeared on a space ship one day? Guff, utter guff. For a man of supposed intelligence, his comments are crass and not worthy of a major newspaper like the Times. If the so-called bigger counties stopped signing them, the smaller counties might be OK. The ECB might even give us a tour game against someone we wanted to watch if they were keen to help. After all, we have probably the best results against touring sides in the past 15 years. Look back over results yourself and see who we've beaten...

Northants v Derbyshire

Well, where do we go from here?

Consecutive games against South Africa is a rare bonus at this stage, but its what we have with Leicestershire then Northamptonshire.

The latter are a funny side who can bat brilliantly on their day, but it can all go horribly wrong.
More on the teams tomorrow, but what I'd like to see is a change or two.

For one, I'd play Stubbo instead of Dan Birch. I'm not sold on the latter and think that Stubbings offers more at the top of the order, even if he's not gone on to a big score this season. Maybe this is the game, against one of his former counties, where Chris Rogers goes on to a big score. Wavell is a shoo-in at four and I'd have thought Dom Telo would have to play at three. There really is no other option, with John Sadler out of nick. Clarke will go five and we'll keep our fingers crossed for his form of Surrey (earlier) days.

From there it gets tricky. Pipe, Wagg and Langeveldt are certainties but the rest is up in the air.

  • Is Smith fit to bowl? If so, he could play as all rounder, if not, do we bring in Doshi as second spinner and shorten the batting? Or do we rest Jon Clare and go with three seamers (plus Wavell) and two spinners and stay with Smith?
  • Do we bring back Kevin Dean for Clare? Again, it would shorten the batting, but the youngster isn't bowling as well as he did early season (nor batting well) and would benefit from a break

The main problem is that no one in the middle order is in prime form. Wavell is doing well enough, but we can easily go from 70-0 to 100-5. I don't think we can do much about that this year, but hopefully we might see an improvement on the harder, drier tracks of late summer.

Mind you, that wicket at Derby isn't going to attract players from other counties. Seamers yes, but no self-respecting batsman with international ambitions will move somewhere that has both lateral movement and variable bounce. I am in favour, as I said earlier, of this wort of wicket over the feather beds, but there should be a middle ground.

For what its worth, my team for Northampton would be:

Rogers

Stubbings

Telo

Hinds

Clarke

Smith

Pipe

Wagg

Needham

Dean

Doshi

Win the toss, bat first, score 500 then bowl 'em out with spinners. Easy. Of course, as that eminent "cricket " critic Buddy Holly once said, in reference to our batting - that'll be the day!

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 4

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...

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 3

We fought back well today and managed to earn a small first innings lead, but my bet would be on the draw tomorrow.

Irrespective of what the weather may be, I think that the wicket is too slow for either side to force a result. The scoring rate has been very slow throughout and while both sides will really want the win neither will risk losing. It appears to be easier to at least stay in today and my guess is a draw tomorrow.

Once again we are indebted to superb spells by Charl Langeveldt and Graham Wagg for our lead. Langeveldt does this all the time, while Wagg is one of those who have improved this season, bowling with both greater control and penetration. At one point it looked like the visitors would have a first innings lead, but the opening bowlers broke through and quickly ended the innings.

In reply Chris Rogers opened with, surprisingly, Jake Needham - Dan Birch having a bout of food poisoning for the second time this season. They gave us a steady start until the Australian was caught behind. Dom Telo battled well until he was lbw and it was gratifying to see young Needham battle for nearly 50 overs for a stubborn and potentially vital 36. Although he fell, as did Rikki Clarke before the end, crucially Wavell Hinds remains tomorrow, with Derbyshire 153 ahead and six wickets still to fall.

Another 80 runs tomorrow would leave the visitors chasing the highet score of the match to win. Unless the hitters in the tail come into their own, that will take us until around lunchtime at the rate of scoring so far, leaving us two sessions to bowl out Leicestershire.

Possible, yes. Likely? I'm not so sure. The time lost on the first two days is likely to be the deciding factor here, but if I'm wrong and we force a win I'll not be in the least disappointed!

Derbyshire Legends 7 - Arnold Warren (1875-1951)


For devotees of Derbyshire cricket, the late 1940's through to the later 1950's was the era of Gladwin and Jackson. For fans pre-World War One, the county's fortunes were pretty much dependent on Warren and Bestwick.

Bill Bestwick has been dealt wih earlier in this blog, but Arnold Warren was arguably the more highly rated of the pair, even going so far as to be recognised by England selectors. Like many others over the years, it was fleeting recognition.

Fast bowlers then were less molly-coddled than their modern day equivalents. It was like winding up a watch, for those who remember such things. The star bowlers were effectively wound up at the start of the game and then continued for much of the innings. Some bowlers have recalled in their memoirs that they would often bowl until lunch, then start again afterwards. One well-known bowler was pleased when his captain took him off after a handful of post-lunch overs to add to the morning stint, only to realise he was merely changing ends! Most were uncomplaining as the alternative was down the pit and however much hard work was involved, a life in cricket was far more appealing. The bonus of an occasional collection for a good performance augmented their appearance money (and if they didn't play, they didn't get paid).

Arnold Warren took 939 wickets in his career at an average of 24 and the long-time Derbyshire secretary Will Taylor reckoned him to be the fastest bowler he has seen play for the county over a fifty-year period. In his opinion, Bill Copson for a few overs was quick, and Harold Rhodes was faster than most, but Warren, until the advent of Alan Ward, was the quickest of them all. Remember, most Derbyshire bowlers - the Popes, Gladwin, Jackson, Hendrick - have been too fast to be trundlers and cannon-fodder but not quick enough to be erratic. With a batting side that has historically been unreliable, our sides have never been able to afford to "buy" wickets.

Warren had a long, bounding run and was a right arm fast bowler. A tall man, he managed to find bounce that wasn't sometimes there for others. His annus mirabilis was 1904, when he became the first Derbyshire bowler to take 100 wickets in a season, taking 124 in 22 matches. Had there been Test matches that year he may well have earned recognition.

That was to come in 1905, when the Australians were the visitors. He had earlier impressed the England captain, Yorkshire's Hon F.S. Jackson, with match figures of 12-126 against his county and he was brought in for the third Test at Headingley.

In 19.2 overs he took 5-57, including the prize wicket of Victor Trumper, as well as Monty Noble, Joe Darling (the Australian captain) and Warwick Armstrong. Good wickets all and when he followed this with the wicket of Trumper again in the second innings he would have been excused for thinking he had done well.

Not so, as he was never selected for his country again.

His second innings bowling was noticeably less menacing and the story ran that Warren, like Bill Bestwick partial to a beer, had "over-celebrated" with friends after his first innings heroics. Together with the presence of many fastish bowlers around the country, this counted against him. It was essentially the story of his career and like the little girl in the rhyme, when he was good, he was very, very good but when he was bad...

He played on for Derbyshire until 1913 (aside from a fleeting appearance in 1920) and his later life was beset by problems. A brawl got him into trouble with the police, there was a period of destitution and personal tragedy after the premature death of his wife.

He will be remembered, however, as one of the earliest members of the fine Derbyshire fast-medium bowling lineage. Ironically, his most memorable performance was to come with a bat in his hand - but that's a story for next week...

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 2


After another poor batting display, our bowlers have pulled us back into this game.

Once again, the wonderful Charl Langeveldt has changed our fortunes with an exemplary spell - how often have I written that this summer? The burly South African took three more wickets and now has 28 at just 19 runs each in the Championship this summer. Kolpak or not, he is without doubt one of the best bowlers to represent the county in many a year. On the rare occasions that he doesn't take wickets he commands respect. It crossed my mind, watching the scattergun Proteas attack at Lords yesterday, that they could have done with him to just keep an end quiet. Ntini and Steyn were especially erratic and I wouldn't swap Langeveldt for either of them.

Graeme Wagg also bowled with great discipline and while Jon Clare was more expensive he retains the ability to take wickets. If they can come out tomorrow and keep them down to around 170 (ideally less) we have a good hold on the game.

Of course, much depends on the batting next time around. A lead of 30-40 is important in a low-scoring game, but only if we reinforce it with a total or around 250. I can't imagine the visitors would fancy chasing over 250 in the last innings and it may be that a smaller total could be enough.

We could do without run outs, thanks Wavell, but Leicestershire have been soporific in their batting approach and I'd have to think that a more aggressive, but not reckless approach might bring dividends. On a track like this, wicket balls come regularly so let's make hay - if the sun shines...

Intrigue in the corridors of power

So the old franchises are back on the agenda for the 20/20 eh?

Despite Giles Clarke reckoning that it is something "not up for discussion", there are counties out there trying to feather their own nests and get some options together.

If it happens you can bet your bottom dollar that the Derby Destroyers or Chesterfield Champions won't be featuring in the equation. Given that we have a Test ground down the road at the place we dare not name, it doesn't need any involvement of expensive research company to work out where this particular regional franchise might find a home.

I've now got the subject of my next poll on the site. Would you support a regional side, the East Midlands Explorers or somesuch? Frankly, and here I lay my cards on the table, that side could recruit Ponting, Tendulkar and Symonds and I wouldn't be interested. Given my known antipathy for 20/20, why should I support a team that featured the "best" of Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and ourselves? Having spent 40 years hoping we hammer those sides because of that crazy little thing called local rivalry, I'd hardly be cheering them on at this stage.

The same elsewhere. I'm sure that northern fans would be thrilled to support the Rose Rumblers, a crazy amalgam of Yorkshire and Lancashire. Maybe Durham could link with Scotland and just play as... well, Durham!

It would be interesting to think who might play in such a side, but that is all. Would James Pipe, Paul Nixon or Chris Read be the best bet for keeper? Who would partner Langeveldt with the new ball? But that's it, and in the words of Rhett Butler, frankly my dear I don't give a damn.

They may frustrate me more than they thrill me, they may make me question why I bother on the really bad days, but Derbyshire are still MY county. When people ask me where I'm from I say "I'm a Derbyshire man" and I'm proud of that. In forty years of support there's probably been five seasons where I've thought "yeah, job well done", but it doesn't change anything. I'll be a Derbyshire fan to the last breath, but an East Midlands fan? Nah, the 12th of never for that one, I'm afraid.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Derbyshire v Leicestershire

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Such were the words of '80s rock gods Cinderella in one of their bigger hits and it was pretty much a summary of the season in today's brief spell of play.

We lost an early wicket, then another one. A good recovery came via the flowing bats of Chris Rogers and Wavell Hinds before Rogers, after another fine fifty, gave it away with a loose shot just before the rain drove them off for the last time.

At 111-2, with both of them able to resume tomorrow, it was our day. The morning (weather permitting) will see Rikki Clarke join Hinds. Another wicket early and we are back in that familiar territory of unfulfilled promise.

It may well be that 250 will be a good total on a seaming wicket. With our attack I would back us from there, unless it rolls out easier as the game progresses. Full marks to Wavell Hinds in conditions a world away from Sabina Park. Having said that, the Sabina Park of Lawrence Rowe's era and that today are chalk and cheese...

At least we have a foundation, but we will hope that Clarke, Smith, Pipe, Wagg and Clare can support Wavell and get us up to a challenging total. We'll see what Mr Langeveldt makes of conditions at that point.

Who do they think they are?

I'm totally in agreement with Charles Collins in his BBC 606 column today.

Who do Yorkshire think they are?

They broke the rules. End of argument. In playing an unregistered player, one not qualified to play as anything other than an overseas player, they did something they should not have done. Stewart Regan first of all tried to blame it on a temp in the office (a cowardly thing to do) then backtracked and said that the buck stopped with him. That is the only thing he has got right in this sorry saga.

He is paid a hefty salary to ensure that people Yorkshire wish to sign are eligible to do so and complete the necessary paperwork. At work I am paid a lot less than Mr Regan but double check the paperwork of everyone who is joining the organisation, even when it has been completed by an experienced colleague. Mistakes happen, it is human nature. No one does it on purpose, but it happens. You put steps in place to minimise the likelihood and can at least hold your head high if it did.

Well, it appears Mr Regan didn't do any of this, but then has the temerity to claim his county have been unfairly treated. Well, boo-hoo.

Durham have been unfairly treated. They will have to play the rearranged match without the considerable talents of Shaun Pollock and Albie Morkel, so have had their hopes penalised.

Nottinghamshire were unfairly treated by playing a side who fielded an unqualified player and may or may not have Chris Cairns and Andre Adams in the next stage.

Why have Yorkshire been unfairly treated? If Mr Regan can explain that one to people and convince them he should be the next Prime Minister. They issued a statement to say that "the punishment is disproportionate to the crime". What exactly did they expect? Whether his name is Rafiq or Ramprakash, if he's not registered, he should not play. Take the punishment and retain your dignity guys...

The arrogance and temerity to claim they have been hard done by should see Regan's post in jeopardy if there is any justice. This is not an anti-Yorkshire rant, simply a statement of accountability and fairness. Hang your head in shame Mr Regan and your Board, you have dragged your county down and made them a laughing stock.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Justice done

So the Yorkies have been kicked out of the 20/20. Hallelujah, they got one right!

I thought they may cop out and get them to replay the game against Nottinghamshire, but thankfully our rivals have now replaced them in the next stage.

A shame for Darren Gough in his last season, but rules are rules and they broke them. End of story.

Derbyshire v Leicestershire

Can we beat Leicestershire and get back on track? Yes. Will the weather let us? Er...no

The Foxes have had a good start to the season but latterly have made us look like Bradman's Invincibles. Yes, they beat us in the 20/20 at Grace Road, but the game had zero value and we were missing several players.

Tomorrow, John Morris' tricky task has been sorted for him, as Tom Lungley still has a side strain that rules him out. The final decision appears to be between Steve Stubbings and Dan Birch for the opening berth alongside the happily returning Chris Rogers. The team is set to be (pretty much as intimated here the other night)

Rogers
Stubbings/Birch
Telo
Hinds
Clarke
Smith
Pipe
Wagg
Clare
Needham
Langeveldt

Leicester may welcome back South African seamer Dillon du Preez and also look set to introduce on loan Lancashire seamer Tom Smith. Their line-up is set to read:

New
Boyce
Ackerman
Dippenaar
Allenby
Nixon
du Toit
du Preez
Henderson
T.Smith
Malik
Kruger

So Derbyshire v South Africa B... sorry, Leicestershire. Who to win? If the weather stays out of it, for me its a battle between two fragile batting sides, each bolstered by one top class batsman - Rogers for us, Ackerman for them. I am reassured by the length of our batting with Clare at nine, but would love to see him bat, if required at 460-7, rather than 175-7. Boyce and New are talented young players, but the key to this one is likely to be getting Ackerman early as the rest tend to panic when that happens. Nixon is not in the form of previous years, and I hope it stays that way at least until after this game!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Visual heaven

Over 40 years of cricket watching has enabled me to watch thousands of cricketers. These have ranged from the aggressive to the defensive, from the graceful to the downright ungainly. Watching Colin Dredge bowl to Jim Yardley wasn't the greatest experience, valuable players though they were for their counties.

There have been a number of players who, although not all from Derbyshire, have given me untold hours of enjoyment with their silky skills. This is my aesthetic eleven, players who were close to perfection in what they did.

1 Barry Richards
Has a batsman ever looked less hurried than him? His technique was extraordinary, his timing perfection and his only fault was his motivation. When offered dollar a run sponsorship for a winter in Australia he broke all the records. His cover driving was sublime, even his hoiks looked textbook. Incapable of an ugly stroke.

2 Sunil Gavaskar
The little master was another of infinite class. Probably the only man who scored heavily against the West Indian pace battery, a tribute to his extraordinary talent and ability to see the ball early. An immensely powerful cutter and puller, like most small men, but Gavaskar could play aggressively or defensively depending on the needs of the side. Wonderful player

3 Lawrence Rowe
I could get more enjoyment from watching him play out a maiden than see most players hit 22 off an over. A disappointing run tally from his season with Derbyshire, but Yagga oozed class. So cool he even whistled while he batted and never looked rushed even against Lillee and Thomson at their peak.

4 Greg Chappell
Tall, elegant and admirably correct, he looked only an ordinary player when he had a season with Somerset, yet used it to good effect and became an outstanding player for Australia. Where his brother Ian was a musketeer, Greg was D'Artagnan, with a bat like a rapier. I never saw Peter May, but still recall Chappell's elegant on drives with pleasure

5 Martin Crowe
Gavaskar, Chappell, Crowe - all three played for Somerset, though not at the same time. Crowe came in when Richards and Garner left and was a sublime player who was always perfectly balanced. Caressed the ball for four and had it not been for a series of knee injuries that shortened his career would have been an all-time great

6 Mohammad Azharuddin
On a dry wicket, with a warm day and a good crowd, Azharuddin was on another planet. Not the straightest of batsmen, so always gave a chance, but when he was in the mood the ball went from his bat with astonishing speed. His double century at Chesterfield off Durham was the best knock I have ever seen in person and he looked like Ranjitsinjhi and Bradman combined.

7 Ian Bishop
A beautiful run up and smooth action for the genial Trinidadian who played for all too short a time in Derbyshire colours. If he had bowled medium pace after that he would have been a player, but Bishop was blindingly fast for 3 years, until back injuries took their toll and the action was modified. Not only fast, but he swung the ball at pace - quite extraordinary.

8 Michael Holding
My eyes mist over at the thought of him in Derbyshire colours. He ran in like an Olympic athlete and bowled from a smooth rhythmic action that unleashed a thunderbolt. Batsmen were relieved to see him come off a short run, until they found he was only slightly slower from that than the full glory. I would pay to watch him run up and just bowl at unoccupied stumps if the wicket keeper was

9 Bob Taylor
My Dad and I used to go home after games and tell people that the highlight was Bob Taylor taking throw-ins. You never heard a sound. Rarely had injuries, he took the ball so cleanly, and at times made it look so easy. Other keepers dived to catch what Bob made routine, and would never have got near the ones he did dive for. Sublime.

10 Dennis Lillee
Shirt unbuttoned to the waist, moustache glinting, flicking sweat from his eyebrows with an index finger and full of brooding menace. Lillee was set for a season with us before a back injury ruled him out of the game for a while, but his action was as textbook as humanly possible. Could bowl pretty much any delivery, and the batsmen rarely knew which was which

11 Bishan Bedi
The greatest spinner I have seen with the exception of Shane Warne and undoubtedly the possessor of the smoothest action. A handful of steps, a gentle whirl of arms and another bag of mystery was on its way. Loved to beat batsmen in the flight and frequently did. Many hit him for six, enjoyed his applause, then walked back to the pavilion a few balls later having tried to do it again, finding the ball not quite there. Rubbish bat and fielder, but who cared?

12 David Gower
Made it look too easy at times and people thought he wasn't trying when he didn't come off, but Gower was elegant with a capital E. His fielding was equally lithe and unhurried and Gower was the classiest player of my time of watching England. On the bad days the slips could expect a catch at any time: on the good ones, the fans had a treat that can only have been matched by those that saw Frank Woolley.

There we have it. Would they win matches? I don't know, but I'd be happy to watch this side even in defeat!

What's going on?

What is going on at Yorkshire?

We all know the saga of the unregistered player, who I feel very sorry for. The lad just wants to play cricket and is hardly likely to point out that there's a bit of paperwork that he's not been asked to fill in.

Apparently Stewart Regan, their Chief Executive was talking to Rob Bonnett on the radio yesterday and laid the blame at the door of a temp covering for the normal secretary. If that is so, Mr Regan should be sharpening his sword ready to fall on it. He later changed the story and accepted responsibility which, let's be honest he should have done straight away. Would you allow a temp to do important paperwork without checking it yourself, or getting a senior colleague to do so? Poor show Mr Regan...

Hot on the heels of this saga, which I still have a sneaking feeling will see them come out better than they have a right to, is news of the game between their seconds and ours being abandoned after a handful of overs as the pitch was unfit. They're really playing a stormer those White Rose lads aren't they?

Incidentally, this came after Derbyshire had beaten Lancashire by 14 runs in a match, then lost to them by 41 runs in another. This effectively ends their interest in the Trophy competition this season, but should be balanced by the fact that they have often fielded very young teams. Such experience should stand the boys in good stead for next summer.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Coaching

is great fun with the right kids.

I was reminded of that last week at Denby, when the end of the game between Derbyshire and Yorkshire 2nds saw car after car drop off youngsters for nets at the ground.

It was very impressive and the club looked to be very well run. The facilities were excellent and it was a real joy to see so many youngsters participating in the game.

It made me think back to when I first moved to Scotland, and my first post at a secondary school near Glasgow. It was a state school, one with a good academic record, but no facilities whatsoever for cricket. With Martin, an English teacher who has become a long time friend and team-mate, we started cricket, played in the assembly hall, with what we called "air balls". You might know them, little plastic balls with holes in them for playing indoor hockey and the like. By taping up one side, these balls would swing prodigiously, and off two paces against kids holding a bat for the first time I was lethal. If I could have translated that to the real game I'd have had a Test call up...

Eventually we dispensed with the tape and just used the air ball prior to the season starting indoors, before using the orange "wind balls" which give a realistic bounce without the pain. You see, state schools in western Scotland rarely have grass as its too hard to maintain. Blaes, a red cinder ash pitch covering is everywhere and that had to do for cricket. For football it was murder. I remember in my first Staff v School game putting in a sliding tackle that got the ball but left me looking like I'd been hit by a bottle of tomato sauce with a nasty burn down my leg. For cricket the bounce was OK but, depending on how you set the wickets, you either had very short square or straight boundaries - it was a football pitch after all.

Wanting to encourage the boys to play straight, I aligned the wickets along the halfway line and it worked well. Practice was good, and we worked on a few fixtures. There were a couple of natural bowlers, two or three with a good eye and the rest were makeweights. We played our first match on grass at a local school where the head of PE was a good local cricketer.

The thing was, his school didn't have cricket on the curriculum, and while they had grass, there wasn't much of it. Our opening bowler was singularly unimpressed when he found that four strides from the crease he had to stradde a sandpit. Try that one Dale Steyn and keep your rhythm. Our boys had only done catching practice with a hard ball, and when the star batsman got hit in the stomach in the first over the team were unimpressed by the prospect of batting and we were out for less than 20.

At the start it was a mess. One kid turned up with a mohican hairdo and wearing eye-liner. Another forgot his trousers and played in boxer shorts. A third only played because you got a good cricket tea rather than the pie that followed a football match.

We improved though and were impeccably turned out, both in school uniform and whites. We improved so much so that four years later a Glasgow schools representative side had seven of our boys in it. We played, and beat, most of the private schools in a story that people said would have made a good film. We won six a side tournaments, eleven a side cups. It was rewarding and incredibly good fun. One night we were bowled out in the final of a six-a-side for 23 and the opposition coach was confident and said so.

They made four all out. We had some players.

Youngsters like John, who bowled very quickly but who was scared to dive as his mam told him she wasn't washing his whites twice in a week. Gary, who found the greatest fun of all was holding a protective box to his ear so he could "hear the sea". David, who batted with charm and threw a ball unbelievable distances, usually running out two or three per game. Ashley, who sometimes seemed more intent on playing the perfect looking shot than actually remembering to run. Darren, a little kid who bowled huge off spinners and Pete, who only had one shot but usually hit the ball for four or six with a huge grin. Neil, the quickest young bowler I've seen, who frightened most teams, even the good ones, but lost it when he went to a club who told him to bowl line and length. Alan, a lithe young keeper who had brilliant hands and was a very exciting bat. Best of all Garry - another one - the funniest kid I ever met with a fantastic sense of timing with the bat and with a one-liner. He it was who broke the silence after I had stopped a fierce pull, umpiring at square leg, with my nether regions, collapsing in a heap and wondering if everything was still there.

"He did that on purpose" said one of the batsmen

"C'mon guys" said Garry, as my boys gathered round, a couple concerned, the rest in hysterics "Even he's not that committed to cricket"

Great days. I still see some of them from time to time and three now coach themselves. I was reminded of it last week at Denby, and the future of the game seemed secure in that idyllic part of Derbyshire. Wheels turn full circle and the next generation appeared to be in very good hands.

If it was us, do you reckon...

We'd have been kicked out of the 20/20 by now?

Yorkshire, unwittingly or not, fielded an ineligible player against Nottinghamshire. End of story. Whether he bowled only two overs and didn't bat is irrelevant. He played.

That it took until fans were either there or en route last night was a joke. Fair play that the Yorkshire Chief Executive has held up his hand and accepted responsibility, because it was.

The only acceptable decision is for Durham to progress in the tournament. If money is the object of the exercise, then they may play Nottinghamshire, but having been well beaten by the Yorkies our East Midlands rivals really don't deserve to go through.

Call me paranoid, but if we'd transgressed in this way, they'd not have bothered with a special meeting, but banned us immediately.

Probably for five years...

Buck Rogers and a quest for centuries


It was nice to see Chris "Buck" Rogers hold his hands up on the club website today and accept the responsibility for our making runs for the rest of the season.

Nothing more than you would expect from a good cricketer and a nice guy, but in total agreement to what I expressed on this blog the other night. Any side recruiting a batsman to the overseas role has a right to expect that player to do more than contribute. The player should lead by example and be the top run scorer. If a county is blessed with a borderline England batsman - a Sales, Shah, Key perhaps - it might be understandable if they were perhaps second, but not in a team like Derbyshire are now and pretty much always have been.

Quite frankly, we could fetch Matt Cassar, John Owen or Matt Lineker from the Premier League and get someone who would average 30-35 over a season. Players such as Michael Slater, Travis Birt and Jon Moss all did their best but averaged only slightly more - and at much higher salaries than the local guys would have commanded.

Rogers has a deserved reputation for big scores. A triple century while playing for Northants, a double century against his countrymen for Leicestershire and a piffling 279 for Western Australia in a Pura Cup match. Even allowing for lapses of concentration and the odd good ball, we should now look to him to replicate that for us through July, August and September.

I'll go on record now, and risk looking silly later, by saying that Rogers COULD be the man to break George Davidson's long-standing highest individual score for the county, currently standing at 274. I actually thought Simon Katich might have put it in danger last season, but he tailed off badly after the 20/20 and frequently looked disinterested. Rogers is perhaps not as big a name as Katich, but will want to do his best to stay in contention for the national team. Shaun Marsh and Shane Watson are good players and currently in the Aussie one day opening slots. Are either much better than Rogers? I'm not so sure, so expect the left-hander to up his game in the second half of the season.

Who else will be in the top 5? Steve Stubbings should be, but needs to do more than a solid 30-odd in a steady start. He and Rogers have batted well together and have not been the source of our problems. That has been the middle order, and I'd now give Dom Telo a run at number 3. With the wickets drying out, a little more pace and bounce will remind him of home and I would like to think he would reward a run in the side with at least one century before season-end.

Wavell Hinds is an obvious number four and one assumes Rikki is the number five. Were he not the captain his place might more deservedly go to Dan Birch, but there seemed to be signs at Chelmsford that the Emperor had found a new groove. Greg Smith gives a little more ballast at six and James Pipe can then come in when the bowlers are (hopefully) tiring and put them around the park.

Waggy is an obvious eight so then it's a tough call between the promise and all round ability of Jon Clare and the greater experience of Tom Lungley, if fit. I'd go for Tom and give the youngster a well deserved breather, but that's one to justify John Morris' salary!

Langeveldt is the best seamer we've had in years so a certainty, leaving a straight fight between Jake Needham and Nayan Doshi for the spinner's berth. The former bowled very well against Essex and would be hard to omit, though Doshi looked very good against Yorkshire 2nds. I had a chat with him at that game and he said how happy he is at Derbyshire and how keen he is to get back in the side. Ant Botha never had a serious rival at Derby, but the maturing Needham and older Doshi have good competition going and it should be to our benefit.

A win against Leicestershire, the Tom Petty county (they're free falling - d'ya gettit?!) would get the season back on track. Quick wickets, especially HD Ackerman, expose a vulnerable middle order and surely Jim Allenby isn't the world class seamer we made him look in the 20/20?

If the weather stays out of it, I predict a win in the game that starts on Friday.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Rare opportunity

Just in case anyone is interested, there's a copy on ebay at present of the 1954 Derbyshire Yearbook, the first one produced.
Going for 24.99 opening bid (which is a bit steep to be fair) but they usually go for £30-40 and its only the third one I've seen come up.
Good chance for the serious collector to complete a set. Thankfully got my copy (after years of hunting) about five years ago and it was like getting the Holy Grail!
Not that I've ever got that, you understand...

Underrated XI

Ho hum.... it's Monday evening and no game for Derbyshire until Friday when we hopefully get our season back on track against Leicestershire.

So on the way home tonight, a twenty-five minute journey, my thoughts turned to a Derbyshire side of players that I quite liked but who, for various reasons, were never really accepted as quality cricketers. Some might jog the memory of a few of you out there maybe you might have your own ideas!

1 Tony Borrington
Now on the Derbyshire committee, Tony was a committed opening batsman who never aspired to greatness but who gave good service. A first class average of 23 and a one day average of 21 is nothing spectacular, but "Boris" always battled, a trait that seems to have transferred to his son, Paul. His best days came under Eddie Barlow.

2 Alan Hill
Bud was another transformed under Eddie Barlow, going from strokeless wonder (he made a boundary-free century in South Africa) to a solid opening batsman with a style of his own. What looked like a double backlift worked for him and a career average around 30 confirmed his progress. Eventually scored four one day centuries, astonishing for anyone who saw him early in his career

3 Bruce Roberts
A punishing right hand bat who could really hit the ball, Roberts eventually dropped from the team as he was a poor starter. If he could survive the opening half dozen overs he was a powerful driver, as well as being a steady and useful medium pace bowler. A Zimbabwean, he was also a fine fielder and had an average considerably less than his talent.

4 Rob Weston
Came to us from Durham and started to look like a really solid middle order batsman until he opted for a more lucrative offer from Middlesex where he flopped and left the first class scene. Another poor starter, but when he got going he sold his wicket dearly, as shown by 7 hundreds and 9 fifties in his career

5 Ashley Harvey-Walker
Averaged only 23 in his career and one of the worst starters of all, but he hit the ball with amazing power with a bat that was one of the heaviest on the circuit. In the pre-Barlow era, he and Chris Wilkins were just about the only two batsmen who were really good hitters of the ball.
Useful spinner who died tragically young.

6 Matt Cassar
Only 35 and should have been a fixture in the side for years. Still scores stacks of runs in the leagues and was a fine hitter and aggressive medium pacer. Another to leave for greener pastures elsewhere, only to find in a reverse Midas touch that everything he touched crocked him. Tragic waste of an exciting talent that should have done so much better, as he could turn games quickly with bat and ball.

7 Fred Swarbrook
6000 runs at 21 and 460 wickets at 30 suggest a player of ability, yet Fred was a talent unfulfilled who got the yips just as he was suggesting he could form a great spin pairing with Geoff Miller. A cross between a Toby Jug and Mr Pickwick, Fred gave hope to ungainly players everywhere that they could be a player. Later a good coach in South Africa, he was a real 100% player.

8 Ian Bishop
My overseas player. Bish could have been one of the greats, but a series of back injuries curtailed what would have been a great career. Alarmingly quick with a wonderful action, his entire first class career was only 159 matches in which he took nearly 550 wickets at 23. Good batsman who would have been an all rounder, given time. Lovely, unassuming bloke too.

9 Colin Tunnicliffe
300 wickets at 32 for the left arm seamer who was a fine and underrated foil for Mike Hendrick, a good safe fielder and a batsman who will be remembered as a good hitter and for his Lords heroics. Tunners was a solid pro who never hit the heights but who became a good county cricketer under Eddie Barlow

10 Paul Newman
Looked set for an England call-up when he first burst on the scene as a bowler who could be deceptively quick. Injuries forced him to curtail his pace, and 300 wickets at 30 left him similar to Tunnicliffe as a steady if not spectacular player. Useful batsman too, who just might have hit the heights had injury not hit.

11 Alan Ward
Seriously quick bowler, probably the fastest we ever had outwith imports. For 3-4 years he looked a world beater between injuries, but they eventually, real or imagined, destroyed his career. 460 wickets at 22 shows his talent, but he should have easily topped four figures given a decent back, groin, hamstrings, achilles tendons and more. When he got it right, batsmen didn't want to know, but it became all too rare an occurrence

12 Bob Swindell
Who? 50 wickets at 33 in 23 matches, including four 5-wicket hauls. Swindell was a prodigious off spinner who looked a great talent, so we signed Venkat to "mentor" him. Thing was Venkat got choice of ends when they both played and the one spinner place most of the time. Then Geoff Miller came along and he could bat, so...
Still rate him the best young spinner (after Miller) we have produced in my time watching the game and he was gone from cricket by the age of 27. Ridiculous really.

So there you have it, my squad. No world-beating side (the bowlers would never all be fit) but guys who could cut it on their day. If they all played, we'd scramble to 147 all out as an average, but on the games when Ward and Bishop played together would still win...

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Overseas - overpaid, over here?

Many will remember with misty eyes the halcyon days of the overseas stars. The 1960's and 70's, when everyone wanted to play County cricket (well, almost everyone, Graeme Pollock didn't fancy it at all but was on a very good salary in South Africa).

Most fans of the time could go through the counties in alphabetical order and rhyme off the stars - real stars - that each county had from abroad. Chris Wilkins at Derby, Keith Boyce at Essex, Majid Khan or Roy Fredericks at Glamorgan, Mike Procter at Gloucester, Barry Richards at Hampshire - it was a golden period that we thought would last for ever.

Sadly, it didn't. We all went to 2 overseas stars, which was great, but then the back door players - the ones with Irish Grannies, a father who'd once sung the national anthem - started to come in and now we're awash with them. The growth of international cricket and lucrative, if otherwise pointless, tournaments means that the very best overseas players will never be seen in County colours, unless it is in the short form of the game, the monster we call 20/20. It's a little like asking Al Pacino to do a walk on in Coronation Street, or get the Beatles to do an advertising jingle...

That then leaves teams with two options - a lesser light for a full season, or a big name for a part of it. With respect to Chris Rogers, a top bloke and a good cricketer, he is in the first category, whereas Ricky Ponting or Matt Hayden would have been in the first.

So who is doing well out of their player this year. Apologies if I've got an overseas player wrong here, as there are so many Kolpaks out there it is hard work to figure out who is who, but here's things as I see it

Championship

Derby - Chris Rogers 42 batting
Durham - Neil McKenzie - 19 batting
Essex - Danish Kaneria 19 wkts at 25
Glamorgan - Jason Gillespie 25 batting, 14 wkts at 29
Gloucester - Marcus North 35 batting, 9 wkts at 39
Hants - Shane Bond 19 wkts at 19
Kent- Martin Van Jaarsveld - 76 batting, 5 wkts at 6 each
Lancs - Brad Hodge 44, Yousuf 124
Leics - Botha Dipenaar 28 batting
Middlesex - Vernon Philander 15 batting, 10 wkts at 28
Northants - Nick Boje 62 batting, 20 wkts at 30
Notts - Adam Voges 38 battting
Somerset - Justin Langer - 48 batting
Surrey - Matt Nicholson - 80 batting, 86 bowling
Sussex - Mushtaq Ahmed 16 wkts at 38
Warwick - Zondeki 9 wkts at 42
Worcs - Magoffin 23 wkts at 33
Yorks - Naved 1 wkt at 98

Even allowing for the odd error (is Boje overseas at Northants? Is Dippenaar at Leics?) there are some spectacularly average figures there.

Neither Brad Hodge nor Mohammad Yousuf played long enough at Lancs to merit a true average, but there are some heads hanging in shame around the country. Matt Nicholson is doing well as a bat for Surrey, but his bowling is awful and supposedly his strong suit. Mushtaq appears on the wane and is increasingly injury prone at Sussex but he's at least played more than some.

To me, there's only two players genuinely earning their money on overseas star performances this season. Step forward Martin Van Jaarsveld at Kent and Shane Bond at Hampshire. Chris Rogers and Justin Langer have done OK for their counties, as of course has Nick Boje, but after that...

Maybe the time is coming when some of these players should be on performance-related pay. There might then be less money going out of the country on ordinary players delivering very ordinary performances.

I will accept that some 20/20 players did well, Herschelle Gibbs, Lou Vincent, Albie Morkel among them, and that there are also Kolpaks playing very well - take a bow Charl Langeveldt and HD Ackerman - but the overall standard is very poor and perhaps it is as well that the Kolpak loophole will be closed and young British players, as well as the England team, may benefit.