Monday, 29 September 2008

Waggy for England!

Graham Wagg has been picked for England in the international sixes held in Hong Kong in November.

It's a well deserved honour for the Derbyshire all-rounder, who takes his place in a side that has plenty of hard hitters and useful bowlers, but should it have been more?

The "Performance Squad" is going to India this winter and features Mark Davies, Sajid Mahmood, Amjad Khan, Robbie Joseph and Liam Plunkett as seam bowlers, Adil Rashid and Ollie Rayner as spinners.

I'd have thought Wagg's versatility with the ball would make him an asset on the sub-continent and the selectors seem to have opted for the additional pace of the others. There may yet be an opening for the all-rounder, however as all of those named have had serious question marks over their fitness in the past couple of seasons, especially Amjad Khan and Mark Davies. Joseph has had a good season, but only one and even then he didn't "fire" until the second half of the year. Plunkett and Mahmood are both fair bowlers, but what more do the selectors need to know about them?

On a different tack, Mark Lawson's disappointment at his injury against Leicestershire has been eased by being offered a week-to-week contract for next season, which effectively lets us look at him in a more competitive environment. Whether England in April is a place for leggies to impress is debatable, but he at least has a chance and the rest is up to him.

Elsewhere, Steve Stubbings, Ian Hunter, Dan Birch and Wayne White are all awaiting news on new contracts, while John Morris considers his options after the departure of Rikki Clarke, Nayan Doshi and Kevin Dean. Who else goes is to some extent down to who may be available elsewhere, but there's money for squad improvements and while one of the seamers may go, I'd be surprised at the departure of Stubbings or Birch - not to mention a little disappointed.

Finally, the club site notes the death of Alwyn Eato, a quick bowler who took 50 wickets in his career that spanned the early 1950's. One of a number of bowlers who struggled to get a game with the brilliance and resilience of Gladwin and Jackson, Brian Furniss and Derek Hall were others and the former county skipper Donald Carr once described Eato as one of the quickest and most hostile bowlers he had ever seen. With that speed came a little erratic direction, unacceptable to a team so used to the parsimony of the great duo. He once took 5-14 against Leicestershire and took his career wickets at 28 each before a successful league career with Worksop in the late 1950's.

See you all again soon!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

The close season blog

Well folks, its been an interesting season and I'm looking forward to a relaxing winter in which I intend to continue the blog, but not on a nightly basis.

The problem is that there's often little to talk about in the depths of winter. If players become available in whom we may be interested, or if we sign someone, then hightail it over to the blog for my thoughts. I hope to post at least a couple of times a week, but it depends on what there is to say. I don't intend to spout for the sake of it!

Thanks to everyone who has helped me completely exceed my expectations in this blog. I thought maybe 2,000 hits might have been possible this season, but the growth has been exponential with each 1,000 hits quicker than the one that preceded it. Amazing stuff and I'm grateful to everyone for their interest.

Please tell your friends, team mates and fellow fans about the blog. The more the merrier, and while you're at it, tell them about the excellent fans forum In Morris We Trust which gives a far truer flavour of the way that fans are thinking than the heavily sanitised 606 site.

See you soon - here's hoping for some quick winter signings to get us dreaming of global domination, starting next April...

Saturday, 27 September 2008

End of season reports

Another year gone and there was the usual mixture of highs and lows to excite and frustrate us all. While we touched brilliance on occasion, all too often there was a quick slide back to mediocrity, often in the same match.

Yet it was not really a season of gloom and doom. The 50-over tournament could have been very different if the weather had been kinder to us and we produced some good performances. The Championship sustained interest until the penultimate match and we've been unable to say that many times in recent seasons and there were encouraging performances and an unbeaten home record to take heart from.

Only in the Pro 40 and the 20/20 were we disappointing. Indeed, the 20/20 was the low point of the season and aside from the fact that I don't like the format, the brutal truth was that we were rubbish at it. Aside from the first match at Headingley, we too often approached every over as if it was the last, with the result that we were usually too many batsmen down by half way. Until we realise that 60-70 for one after ten is a launch pad, we'll never compete in that game. Many a side panics chasing 150 and we should be aiming for that with anything else a bonus, rather than trying to reach 220. That only happens with small boundaries and poor bowling allied to good batting. For next year we MUST have an overseas batsman or all-rounder in that competition. This year we were left like a gunslinger in a quick draw who realises too late that he's no bullets in his gun. When you come up against Durham and face Di Venuto and Mustard, followed by Collingwood and then Pollock and Morkel you're on a road to nowhere without hired help. I know we had Hinds (who did well) and Langeveldt (who always does) but the batting was otherwise poor.

So, here's my marks and asessments of the players this season. Two marks - one for four day, one for their one day efforts. The guide to marks is

4- Poor
5- Below average
6- Average
7- Good
8 - Very good
9 - Excellent
10 - Bradman and Warne standard

Chris Rogers - 9/7

Can't fault the Aussie who ended up skipper in the four day game when he matched anyone in the country for weight of runs. This after a start where he failed to turn fifties into hundreds and we were all concerned... The only criticism of his one day game is that there were no centuries, but Buck was a fine import and a lot of teams would like him. Thankfully, he's signed for next season, which is great news.

Paul Borrington 7/-

The youngster could hardly be faulted after a fine mini season where he dug in and sold his wicket dearly. An average of 27 is not too spectacular, but three fifties in 13 innings suggests there's something to build on. Just needs to increase his range of strokes, but plenty of time to do that.

Steve Stubbings 6/-

Averaged 33 in the Champonship but had a highest of 62 in 17 knocks so not a vintage season. A shoulder injury troubled him and his benefit commitments distracted him but there were signs at the end that the old Stubbo was back. Under-utilised in the one day game where he would have been a better option than some that were used.

Dan Birch 6/6

Curiously did better in his second season than his first and showed signs of coming to terms with the County game when traditionally players are "found out second time around. Still has a tendency to lose concentration when well set which also affects him in the field, where he dropped some sitters. Still, an average of 36 suggests a man on the way up, and if he can work on his mobility and speed between the wickets could yet be a force in the county game.

Wavell Hinds 7/7

No big scores from Wavell either, but enough cameos to suggest he could be an asset next year, now he has come to terms with the county game. Played some good 20/20 innings and also contributed with the ball. Another who will do better next season, especially if the wickets are drier and harder.

Dominic Telo 4/4

A nightmare first season for the diminutive South African, who broke all the records a school but had a bad start that got worse as the season progressed. He has a two year deal and may return refreshed next year, but he made James Bryant look prolific and Andrew Gait Bradmanesque in comparison. Fine fielder, but that's not enough.

John Sadler 5/5

A few early grafting knocks suggested he was just what we needed, but Sads never got going and lost his place. A few more decent knocks later in the season suggested he may come again, but it was a poor return from a man who had averaged over 50 in successive seasons for Leicestershire in four then one day cricket. We need an in form Sadler in the middle order, but he never delivered.

Greg Smith 6/6

An early season muscle tear in his arm hampered Smith, who could never bowl seam this year. His off spin is useful, but not yet up to his seam bowling. His batting showed signs of maturity and there was a first Championship century and some punishing innings, while his 20/20 century was a season highlight. Next season is important for Smith, however and will dictate whether he is another Bruce Roberts, destined to be limited by poor starts, or a genuine quality all-rounder.

Dan Redfern 7/6

Came off a prolific year with England Under 19s and his A Levels to average 32 in six innings and look a cut above his contemporaries - and indeed many of his team mates. While we should not expect too much from an 18 year old, his two year contract should see the flowering of a major new batting talent. He also bowls tidy off spin so has a very, very big future. Lovely timer of a ball.

Rikki Clarke 4/4

A six-figure salary and big reputation came to naught as Clarke was a HUGE disappointment. Caught flies at slip, but I'd do that for a lot less than he commanded. His batting was a succession of big shots that looked like he didn't care, while every good ball was followed by dross. We were entitled to more from an "England all-rounder" (his words) and if he regarded it as a "wasted season" - well, at least he got the money. What did we get?

Graham Wagg 9/7

He bowls left arm seam and spin, fields brilliantly and on occasion times the ball beautifully and hits it a long way. Another to sign on for an extra year (two more in total), Wagg is an outstanding player in the long game. Only a tendency to bowl a hittable length rather than mixing it up a little in the one day game holds him back, but Waggy has had two successive good seasons now and the future is his for the taking if he carries on in this vein.

Jon Clare 8/6

An outstanding first full season for the youngster who looked a new man after all his gym work in the winter. Over 500 runs at 42 and over 30 wickets at 28 in a first year was an outstanding effort. Not had many chances to bat in the short game, but bowled steadily on a number of occasions and fielded well. Showed a rare resilience in a physically demanding role and can reflect on a job very well done.

James Pipe 8/7

More of the same from the keeper. Excellent wicket-keeping that compares to anyone in the country and batting that can turn a game in a few overs. Unfortunately there was another nasty injury that robbed us of his services for much of the second half of the season, but Pipe is a key member of this side and should be back to his best next year. Less of an influence in one day cricket than might be expected, but a fine player.

Jake Needham 7/6

It is easy to forget that Jake Needham is still a young man as he has been around the team for a few seasons now. A useful batsman who can battle it with the best of them, a good fielder and a bowler with a developing loop that might take him to the next level as an off spinner. Took a little flak in one day games but came back for more and was the best spinner this year by a distance

Tom New 7/7

New let no one down in his time with Derbyshire, batting solidly and with no little skill in both forms of the game. His wicket-keeping was solid, although he put down a few straight forward chances. Few would be worried if he were to be a regular in the side, but the excellence of James Pipe makes that unlikely, along with the potential of Tom Poynton.

Fred Klokker 6/5

Fred is a nice bloke and a good cricketer who everyone was pleased to see make a century against Warwickshire. He doesn't have a wide enough range of shots for the top level, nor is he quite a good enough keeper. Unlikely to appear next season with the competition in that position, but a sound year for a professional man.

Nayan Doshi 5/7

Doshi left shortly after Rikki Clarke. Who knows if the two were connected, but he wanted a regular place and didn't merit one. While he bowled with control in one day matches, he rarely looked like bowling sides out in any form of the game and was only an average batsman and fielder. His arrival was anticipated, but he sadly failed to deliver.

Tom Lungley 5/5

Back to the bad days for Tom. Last year he proved he could get good players out and did so regularly, but this year he was rarely fit and a succession of injuries wrecked his season. He is another top bloke and a good cricketer, but really needs to be fit and firing next year or his place on the staff, as he approaches 30, could be in jeopardy.

Wayne White 6/5

I'm not sure about Wayne. He bowls with good pace but bowls a lot of four balls and at times took some fearful stick in the occasional one day outing. If he is retained for next year he needs to take a leaf from the Clare book of pre-season training and come back with a stronger physique. A few sessions with Mike Hendrick on line and length might be useful too.

Ian Hunter 6/7

Ian is perhaps one of the unluckiest bowlers I've seen playing for us in recent years and suffers from a lot of dropped catches and near misses. He's also had his problems with injury but to be fair to him he bowled well, especially in one day matches, in the second half of the season and perhaps deserves another year, especially with Kevin Dean's retiral.

Kevin Dean 6/6

A modern legend, Kevin Dean called it a day this year after sterling service to the county. He could still swing the ball and get those lbw decisions, but the nip had gone from his bowling and he didn't look like running through teams like previous years. He will be missed and we will be looking for a new Kevin Dean in coming years. Thanks Kev!

Ross Whiteley 6/6

Ross could be the new Kevin Dean and has a lithe run up to the wicket, but his bowling looks like it has a way to go at first class level. His batting looked to have potential and he appears to be a clean hitter of a ball, so I think we may see more of him in the future as another successful product of the Academy.

Charl Langeveldt 9/9

What can be said about the South African I've not said already this season? He has a huge heart and bowled with pace and skill in all matches. When conditions were in his favour he took wickets, when they weren't he kept things tight - and still took wickets. A 100% fielder and a batsman who sends the ball a long way when he connects. A diamond of a cricketer and a man, thanks for the hard work Charl!

Let me know what you think guys - any major disagreements?

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 3

Well, that's it.

Day three was the final day of the season and although the game was ours last night, the last two days pretty much encapsulated the season.

On our day we are a match for anyone, but the inconsistency is the problem. Don't get me wrong, I know this was a very young side and the wonder was that we were still in the game after two innings against a more experienced outfit. The fact is that we slipped from 87-0 overnight to 128-5 and although Ross Whiteley supported Tom New in a useful stand of 47 for the seventh wicket, 190 was always a little tight on a wicket that had got easier.

I still think we could challenge for promotion in the Championship next season if we sign another good bowler and a middle order batsman. A full strength side would have won this game but we should not go into the winter too despondent.

There have been pluses and minuses through the year and over the weekend I'll give you my player ratings for the season. We still can't play one day cricket for toffee but I don't think there's a magic wand that can be waved to make us into one. Experience and more particularly experience of winning these games is needed. Maybe we should bring in Dean Jones to give a master class in approaching one day batting and let them all watch videos of Charl bowling. Again, though Langeveldt is the finished article and we need another experienced seamer to bowl with him next year.

Waggy has been superb and Jon Clare has done more than could have been dreamed of pre-season, but the winter recruits will dictate where we go from here.

Ah well, my 300th blog of the year records a loss, not the expected win. Never mind, to bed and perhaps sometime this winter I'll dream about our winning something next season.

Who knows? It might just come true...

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 2

Amazing as it may seem, this is the 299th article that I've written in 2008, on the third last day of the season.

I'd suggest that today was as encouraging a day as we have had all year too, which makes it a pleasure to write.

Notwithstanding the fact that the opposition aren't the best team in the country, you have to be impressed by the way we bowled them out today and then batted ourselves into a strong position by the close of play. All that with a side whose average age is 22...

A key factor was Graham Wagg's removal of Dippenaar and Ackerman in three balls. Last night I was concerned what they might do to a young and inexperienced attack. Well, Dippenaar did what he has done all season - nothing - and Ackerman was bowled second ball.

Nevertheless, Leicestershire were in a strong position at one stage with Smith and Nixon going well, but Jake Needham (pictured) ran through them after lunch with a wonderful spell of off spin bowling that actually earned him 5-24 in 11.2 overs. On the way to new career best figures of 6-49 Needham moved to second place in the Derbyshire bowling averages this season, his 16 wickets coming at just 23 runs each. Added to the fact that he averages the same with the bat and we have a good cricketer in young Needham, who has staked a claim for the spinning berth next year. Given his ability with the bat and in the field, he will be a good asset in 2009.

The irony was, of course, that the man who may be his biggest rival next year, Mark Lawson, was unable to bowl on a track that would have given him a lot of assistance. Had Lawson been able to bowl in tandem with Jake, Leicestershire may have struggled to make 150. The pitch has offered help throughout, with lateral movement and erratic bounce causing all the batsmen problems.

Which makes the efforts of Paul Borrington and Steve Stubbings all the more laudable. To get to stumps at 85-0 after 43 overs was a superb effort by both of them, despite the hosts using all their bowlers in an attempt to break through. It can't have made for exciting viewing, but who cares? After a season in which we have seen players giving their wicket away with careless strokes, it was nice to see two players selling their wickets dearly and having the technique to stay in when conditions were in favour of the bowlers.

Borrington looks set for a long career with the county and is a real find, while Stubbo did what he always does, playing straight and treating the bowling on its merits. In the absence of Chris Rogers, Bozza couldn't have wished for a better partner than Stubbings and it has been a pleasure to see the amiable opener back into the groove in the past two games. I suggest that he still has a lot to offer us next season and should be retained. Borrington's final year at University will occupy him until June and a Rogers/Stubbings opening pair would be a good option to have. He has not had a vintage year, but the distraction of his benefit, allied to struggles with a shoulder injury have been mitigating factors. Had he not waited for it to settle down over the winter, as advised by specialists, rather than having an operation straight away, we may well have seen a different Stubbo this year. I still feel he has much to offer in one day cricket, where I have seen him play a number of crucial knocks.

So, 71 runs ahead and nine wickets in hand. Remember Mark Lawson is unlikely to bat with his broken finger, so the others must bat with the same resolution shown by the openers. I would love to see Stubbo make a big score and also to see Dom Telo make some runs, but we could do with a lead of 250. I would reckon that the hosts will not fancy chasing much more than 200 on this wicket, so every run tomorrow is crucial.

Still, that's another day. Tonight we can enjoy the fact that our youngsters have put on a worthy show and staked a place for regular cricket next season. For what its worth, I have a feeling we could do very well in the Championship next year. While our one day form is in need of a serious overhaul, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful in Derbyshire cricket at the end of 2008.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


Well, there we have it.

Most of you, like me, see our greatest need as being a middle order batsman for next year. The question is - who?

While an Ed Joyce or Ed Smith would do nicely, there is little likelihood of them venturing north. A certain Mr Ramprakash appears keen to leave Surrey (rats and sinking ships come to mind with that place) but has also said in his column that he wants to finish his career in division one. Now that would be a coup and he'd only have to wait one year...

Rumours persist that HD Ackerman is off to pastures new, despite claims on the 606 board that he's signed a new one year deal at Leicester. There's talk of - surprise, surprise - Warwickshire courting him. They increasingly remind me of an aging lothario who won't take no for an answer with the bright young "society" things. Their aggressive courting of the talents of other counties is either immoral or unethical, maybe both. I'm glad Waggy told them where to go and heartbroken that a former captain of a northern county got a duck for them today.

No names, no packdrill...

So - penultimate poll of the season. Should we offer a contract for next year to Mark Lawson, erstwhile of a more northern parish? I'm looking forward to seeing your opinions and thanks once again for your interest.

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day one

It is all uphill here after being bowled out for under 200 on the first day.

To be fair, the eventual total of 194 was more than expected when both Steve Stubbings and Dom Telo were back in the pavilion before we'd reached double figures. It summed up young Telo's season and we'll know a lot about him by his response to these misfortunes.

Speaking of which, your heart goes out to Mark Lawson. Having impressed in the nets, he earned a Derbyshire debut as part of a four man spin attack, which was probably the reason for the decision to bat first on winning the toss. I would also assume that the omission of Ian Hunter was to give Wayne White another chance to impress as it has left us with a very inexperienced attack.

Anyway, Lawson sustained a broken finger while batting and will be unable to bowl in the match. This makes any decision on his future more problematic, so I'll make this week's poll on your thoughts on his future.

Dan Redfern showed his usual class when batting and Greg Smith and Tom New showed their ability. So too did Ross Whiteley on first class debut but no one stayed long enough to enable a big first innings score. With Graham Wagg, Wayne White and Whiteley as the seam attack and Greg Smith, Redfern and Jake Needham to bowl spin, a certain Mr Ackerman must tonight be thinking of boosting his season average. meanwhile Botha Dippenaar must surely score runs here or be out on his ear, having had a shocking season at Leicester.

So tonight the thinking money is on a defeat for the Derbyshire Academy, but the game could have important repercussions for several players, all of whom are staking a claim for next season on the staff.

Stubbo, White and Whiteley are all effectively playing for a contract, while Telo must be desperate for some runs to take into the winter. Tom New will be out to impress his own county and a potential suitor, but tonight Mark Lawson must be desolate after a bad piece of luck that has ended his season prematurely.

It would be a shame if it did the same to his career at Derby. Time will tell.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Leicestershire v Derbyshire preview

And now, the end is near and so we face the final curtain.

Four days to go until we sigh with the realisation that there will be no more cricket for six months or so. Or at least, cricket that counts. England will be on tour, but if, like me, you look on them as a side attraction, it's going to be a long cold winter.

Tomorrow's game should be sponsored by Farley's, as Derbyshire can rarely have put younger team into the field for a match. While rusks and milk may not be on the lunch menu, the Derbyshire team will have a youthful look. With no Kolpaks and no overseas player and with Tom Lungley and Jon Clare injured, the team pretty much picks itself as there's only a handful of players left.

John Sadler will be disapppointed to miss out on playing against his erstwhile colleages but can have few complaints after a poor year. Graham Wagg celebrates a year's extension to his contract by taking the captaincy in this side:

Paul Borrington
Steve Stubbings
Dan Redfern
Greg Smith
Dominic Telo
Tom New
Graham Wagg (captain)
Jake Needham
Ross Whiteley
Ian Hunter
Wayne White
Mark Lawson

Some interesting names in there. The biggie is former Yorkshire leggie Mark Lawson "probably" playing to see if he's worth a contract for next year. "Probably" is the official line, but it ould be a big surprise if he didn't play. What would they learn if he carries drinks for four days? I'd like to see him do well and earn a contract. There's something about leg-spinners that sends batsmen into panic on occasion and he has produced enough at Yorkshire to be worth a gamble. There's little option on the spin front and as a season progresses I'd see value in such a bowler, with harder tracks (if it ever stops raining...)

Ross Whiteley gets his first senior Championship call up after good performances for the second string and is another who could earn a contract. The other week he reminded me of a coltish young Kevin Dean against Glamorgan and although he was overtaken by nerves on that occasion, he showed enough at the crease to suggest talent as an all rounder in time.

Dom Telo has one last chance to put a nightmare first season to rest but I think we'll see more of the diminutive South African, who looks poised and organised at the crease. He needs a good winter in the indoor school and some sun on his back and we should see the strokeplay that earned him such a reputation back home.

It was so gratifying to see Graham Wagg show loyalty in the face of interest from other counties, including - surprise, surprise - Warwickshire. I'm sure that Waggy must have wondered where these offers were when he was looking for a club after his drugs ban, as Derbyshire were not involved in a bidding frenzy for his services at that time.

Now, however, he is a fine all rounder and one who would be welcomed into any side. I'm delighted that he will be in ours for the next two years and hope that we can secure some silverware with his assistance.

While a defeat with a young side would be no disgrace, a win would be a good way to go into the winter.

Go boys!

Tom Sears - an appreciation

When Tom Sears arrived at Derbyshire early in 2005 theclub was on the road to financial meltdown. Losses of over £200,000 had been recorded and the club was as vulnerable as it had probably been for years. While there were dark days after the First World War, in the 1950's and in the 1970's, no organisation could sustain that level of loss over a protracted period.

Sears took a little time to take stock of the situation then presented a radical plan for overhaul to the Committee. He had a good reputation from his days at Worcestershire and he had been appointed for his ability to make the tough decisions and get the club on an even footing.

Three years later he is off to pastures new with an important role within New Zealand cricket having ensured the club returned three successive positive balances in his tenure, a feat pretty much unique in these economic times. He streamlined the administrative side of the club and with the assistance of Keith Loring's team in commercial operations has made the club financially secure for the first time in living memory.

While one should not underestimate the guiding hand of Don Amott in this, the pair presented an off the field dream ticket that has seldom been ours, especially after the bitter years of in-fighting at Committee level that overshadowed so much of the 1980's and 1990's. A visit to the County Ground today is a contrast even from such a visit three years ago. The developments are there for everyone to see and the club has even had envious glances from supposedly bigger counties not all that far away.

Tom Sears has not always made himself popular within the corridors of power but has done his job to perfection. He has ensured that the County stood its ground and that our (and his) voice were heard when the tricky decisions wereup for debate. The future of one day cricket, Kolpak players, the County game and the structure were all subjects that Sears was happy to be quoted on.

One can only hope that Keith Loring, his successor, is as voluble and dogmatic when the tough decisions have to be made. For all the success off the pitch, until we can reinforce it with some more on it, the critics and cynics will be lying in wait. The only shame is that Sears will not be at Derbyshire to enjoy the fruits of his labours, but the additional revenue streams that he was able to create and direct into squad improvement will see results in the net few years.

Hopefully, Tom Sears will raise a glass to such achievements from his New Zealand home and realise the contribution that he made.

He goes with all of our good wishes. Hopefully we will see him back at the County Ground one day, but New Zealand's Cricket Board have got themselves a real good 'un.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Encouraging news

The announcement in the week that Derbyshire had introducedthe Donald Carr Scholarship, whereby a talented cricketer can both work at the club and on a University degree in Derby is another step in the right direction off the field, where the club are so well run by Messrs Amott and Sears.

Such a deal was the main reason that we lost Gary Ballance, David Houghton's nephew.
The offer made by Yorkshire to put him through University was too good to turn down and he moved north, although the departure of his uncle was obviously a factor.

I don't know much about the young quickie Ed Jones who is the first to benefit from the scholarship, but he is a strapping lad and it is good to see that the conveyor belt is continuing to produce young players.

The rejection rate in cricket is also quite high and this ensures that youngsters of talent have a little time in which to develop. To have to decide on a cricket or academic career at 18 will see players of genuine potential lost to the game. This gives an opportunity for the better ones to test themselves at a higher level before making a more informed decision further down the line.

Full credit to all concerned with this excellent initiative and here's hoping that it produces some diamonds in the years ahead.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 4

Although it took a fair amount of work, Derbyshire took the final eight wickets of the visitors today to win by mid-afternoon.

Massive credit for the win has to go to "Sobers" Wagg, who in taking ten wickets in the match, as well as scoring a hundred runs, became only the third man in Derbyshire history to achieve the feat and the first since Les Townsend in 1934. The only previous occurrence had been in 1927 when Garnett Lee scored an unbeaten century then took 12 wickets against Northamptonshire.

Wagg is earning himself a deserved reputation and there are few players in the game can bowl seam and spin with equal skill. I still think his batting can develop further and he could become a top-notch all rounder. He's a very fine player as things stand and has totally vindicated the opportunity he was given after the problems of a few years back.

Langeveldt again produced the goods when they were required, dismissing the two danger men in Marshall and Gidman, as well as the stubborn night watchman, Kirby.
He and Wagg now have the same number of wickets this season and it will be interesting to see who ends the year as leading wicket-taker.

We should not, however, forget the efforts of Steve Stubbings in this game. His unbeaten 62 in the first innings was crucial in getting us to a first innings total that was semi-respectable. Meanwhile his second effort was hampered by injury but he hung in there while Wagg put the bowling to the sword and the game out of Gloucestershire's reach. While big innings have been few and far between for Stubbo this year, he has been distracted by benefit commitments and still looks set to finish with a mid-30's average. While the likeliest victim if a batsman has to be sacrificed, we would need to get a good player in to replace him.

And so on to Leicester for the final acts of the season and there's a battle royal for third place in the table. Northants currently head us by one point with Essex five points behind. The latter visit Gloucester, while Northants entertain Middlesex. We should be quite happy to visit Leicester, who have some talented players but are in a transitional period. They are heavily reliant on HD Ackerman for runs and Dillon du Preez as a bowler, while Paul Nixon was back in the runs after a lean period today. The skipper would love a good knock, as eighty runs would see him end the season as the top scorer in the country, Worcestershire and Stephen Moore having finished their season. If he managed 128 in the match he would reach 1500 first class runs for the season, a magnificent effort.

Equally important would be a win sending the supporters into the close season in good heart. It is six months until we start all over again and there will be heightened optimism if this season concludes with two wins and third place.

Bring it on!

Supporters Player of the Season - Charl Langeveldt

The term "Kolpak" has evolved from one that describes a sportsman on a passport of convenience to one that is even more disparaging. Many players have used the loophole, which is essentially what it is, as a means of making a quick buck and have offered little in return. No names, no packdrill, but look around the county circuit and they will be obvious.

There have, of course been exceptions. Dale Benkenstein has led Durham with skill and has showed a tactical nous beyond many of his peers. HD Ackerman has bolstered a poor Leicestershire side over several seasons with his consistent batting displays and others like Ryan McLaren at Kent and Lance Klusener at Northants have given excellent value.

When Charl Langeveldt's name was linked with a move to Derby earlier in the year there were eyebrows raised. Surely he was in the frame to tour England with the South Africans? There were also several other - bigger, according to the press - counties in for him, so why would he choose Derbyshire?

When he did eventually sign after a delay that matched the "phony war" of 1939, we were all pleased. He'd done well in a brief spell at Leicester, less well in a shorter one at Somerset, but he came from a sensational season back home where he produced extraordinary figures, especially in 20/20 matches. We knew he was a man of principle, as he had by that stage retired from international cricket in protest at the quota system in the South African game. He was quite happy to be picked on merit, but not merely because of the colour of his skin.

South Africa's loss has definitely been our gain. It was a loss for them, as despite winning the Test series in this country, they appeared to have some fine fast bowlers but no one who could really put it on the spot consistently, especially when the focus switched to one day cricket.

From the start, Langeveldt has been an outstanding player for Derbyshire, nothing more, nohing less. Only Michael Holding in my memory has so consistently carried the burden of being both shock and stock bowler. Charl is a burly man, solidly built, probably as close to the ideal for a fast bowler as it is possible to be. From start to finish of the season he has walked back to the start of his runup and come in flat out every day, an economic action being the precursor to a baffling array of deliveries.

Quick one. Slow one. The one that swings away late. The one that cuts back. The toe crushing yorker (available in two varieties). The occasional bouncer just to keep batsmen on their toes. Langeveldt has them all and bowls them with such skill that we are surprised when he goes for - horror of horrors - three an over. In the 20/20 competition, no one really got hold of him and it has been especially noticeable, even on great batting tracks (Essex in the Pro 40) that when the ball has been flying everywhere, Langeveldt still has commanded respect. It is a pleasure to once again have an opening bowler who you EXPECT to take wickets. You don't hope with Charl, he's too good for that.

Times many this season he has been given the ball when batting was easy and has broken through, or tied things down at one end to the benefit of the man at the other. It's the old trick and many's the bowler who has profited from the accuracy of a Hendrick, Cartwright, Shackleton, Gladwin and Jackson. We've not had one for some time and it has been a pleasure to watch a craftsman in action.

The statistics don't lie. 413 overs in 12 matches. Only Graham Wagg, perhaps his closest rival for the award with Chris Rogers, has exceeded that and only by two overs. He's also played three more matches, so Langeveldt's workload has been considerable. He has had a niggle from his knee and a slight back problem but you'd not know that from the way he has run in. As the one day season has fallen apart from the side he has had an opportunity to rest for these matches, but his 54 wickets at 22 are testimony to the skill of his bowling. A further 16 wickets in one day matches at just 18 each, plus eight 20/20 victims at just under 15 tell their own story. So too does his run rate in the short slog game - a shade over five and a half an over. Amazing really.

I've not mentioned his batting and fielding. We didn't expect much from his batting but he has entertained when he has made it to the middle. An average of 17 from a man who has mainly batted at eleven is prefectly acceptable and the fact that 2/3 of these have come in boundaries show his attitude. The agricultural heave is a favorite shot, sometimes with more textbook strokes, but Charl really should be accompanied to the crease in matches to the music of "One man went to mow". It is often short, but never less than exhilarating.

His fielding meanwhile is like his bowling. Total commitment and if not the most lithe of movers he does what is required and has a good pair of hands when the need arises.

It has been a genuine pleasure to have Charl in the Derbyshire side this season and with the reassurance of his being back next year we can enjoy the winter. I hope that he continues in the colours for years to come, by which stage he will have cemented his place in Derbyshire cricket folklore.

Well done Charl - and thanks from all of us!

Friday, 19 September 2008

Sorry Mike, but...

Anyone read Mike Atherton's latest on the county game?

You can read it here

I just don't follow it. One minute he's saying that England are an improving side. The next that we can't capitalise on this until our Test ground counties are strong again.

It is an article of contradictions that has a Scooby Doo ending. Why Mike? Good players are good players, irrespective of the county that produces them. Just because they cannot all be signed by the moneybags counties, our supposed elite, changes nothing.

Warwickshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Surrey are only average sides, despite a multi-million pound turnover. Middlesex are only a little better and inconsistent, while Nottinghamshire are the best of the bunch but far from unbeatable.

When cricket goes the way of football, my interest goes with it. There have been periods of dominance for several sides over the years, but this has been when a batch of fine players came together. Beating the Yorkshire of Hirst, Rhodes, Sutcliffe, Leyland and Bowes was difficult. Doing the same to the Surrey of Laker, Lock, Loader and Bedser the same. These were players who came together by dint of fate, not poached from less affluent neighbours by a fat cheque book. There, in a nutshell, you have the reason why people rejoice in Lancashire's current problems and smirk when Warwickshire poach the "creme de la creme" of other counties.

OK. Ant Botha. Boyd Rankin. Rikki Clarke. Make that skimmed milk...

Say hello to Captain Buck Rogers...

Steadily and quietly, with the minimum of fuss, John Morris has gone about the business of getting a team together over recent weeks.

Dan Redfern was signed for two years and more recently Paul Borrington too. These lads are fine talents and we can now work to improve them further and highlight the good deeds going on in the Academy setup (take a bow Krikk!)

Then Wavell Hinds was signed for next season with an option for 2010. Added to the fact that Charl Langeveldt was on board for two years, this gives Morris a nucleus of experienced, talented players who should both benefit from a full English season and the range of conditions they have faced.

Now comes the news we have all been hoping for. Chris Rogers is signed for next year as captain and I applaud that decision 100%. While there was a school of thought that we should use the captaincy to attract an established pro from elsewhere, there is a two word answer to that one.

Rikki Clarke.

I firmly subscribe to the Australian model of picking your captain as the best player available. Few would argue that this is Rogers, and the amiable Aussie has grown from a slow start to become the second most prolific run scorer in the country. At 31 he also has his best years ahead of him and realistically is unlikely to trouble the Aussie selectors given the depth of batting talent in that country. Yet with 1372 first class runs he has emulated the feats of Michael di Venuto - and in my opinion surpassed them.

There have been comments - some of them from me - that he is not really a one day player. The bare facts are that he averages 37 in one day cricket and 57 in the longer game. However, he has managed six fifties in 13 one day innings and has only failed in not converting these to centuries.

He is a very solid professional, well respected and has the potential to be our skipper for the next five years. What's not to like?

I'm delighted with this appointment and now John Morris has to answer some serious questions.

Is Steve Stubbings worth another year?
Is Wayne White?
Is Ian Hunter?
Can Dom Telo come back next year as the player who made such an impact in South Africa?
Can Tom Lungley re-emerge from an injury-hit year to bolster the seam bowling ranks next season?
Can John Sadler challenge for a middle order spot?
Is Tom New worth an offer?
Who can he bring into the middle order to strengthen next year's side?
Do we need a new slow left armer, or do we accept that Graham Wagg may be as good as any of them that may be available and make a move for Yorkshire leggie Mark Lawson?
Can he find another seamer?

I've said before and will again that I'd like to see Dominic Cork back next year. Rumours of Steve Kirby's availability abound, but Cork would be my choice. Erstwhile personality aside, if Stuart Law and Andrew Flintoff reckon Lancashire have made a mistake I'm happy to trust their judgement.

There may be some merit in a move for Andrew Harris, now that he has left Nottinghamshire, but given his track record it might best be as a "pay as you play" deal. On his day he's a good bowler, but whether the body is still up to it is debatable. There would be a degree of irony if he were to rejoin Derbyshire, as I seem to recall John Morris, acting as an agent, being instrumental in his leaving a few years back and his decision to go down the road will still rankle with some fans.

For me, the side for next April is taking shape nicely. I'd see it as being something along the lines of:


We should remember that we will not see Borrington until June with University commitments and may not see Hinds at the start, depending on the ICL schedule. It has been an encouraging season in many ways, but this winter's recruitment will dictate the rate of progress from here.

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 3

Back to a semblance of normality tonight after a Festival week at work that saw me doing 61 hours...

Anyway, apologies for the later, sporadic and non-appearing posts, but normal service will now be resumed.

Tonight's late two wickets for the wonderful Wagg probably gave us a slight edge going into the final day at Derby, though nothing can and should be taken for granted. Marshall, Gidman and Taylor are all dangerous players and there appears to be no real deterioration in the wicket. There will be a lot of work required to take those remaining eight wickets tomorrow before we can win this one.

There were again positive signs from our batting today, with Greg Smith again highlighting increased maturity. What an asset he should be next season, when he should again be able to add to the seam bowling ranks after his early season muscle tear in his bowling arm. He is a fair off spinner but much better, at this stage, as a seamer.

That's a hard one to answer for Graham Wagg. It was pleasing to see Charl Langeveldt win the Player of the Season award and no one could argue with the impact he has made. Yet Wagg must have run him close. He needs 13 runs from the last match to complete the mini-double of 500 runs and 50 wickets and that is an outstanding achievement. Add in his electric fielding and the fact that he can bowl both left arm seam or slow left arm with increasing skill and we have some player! The greatest tribute I could pay him is that he has taken over the mantle of Graeme Welch and loses nothing in comparison to the modern legend. Derbyshire 2nds over in Birmingham must have had a few thoughtful moments over the decision to let him go. Their loss has been very much our gain.

Tom New also came up with runs when they were needed and the youngster has done little wrong in his spell with us. While he has made a few mistakes behind the stumps, his batting in all forms of the game has been resourceful and solid. He has made no secret of the fact that he would prefer to play as a wicket-keeper batsman than as a batsman only, but he may be worthy of consideration this winter. While Tom Poynton is a player with a future, he has a way to go and New appears to be worthy of an extended opportunity. Realistically he is not as good as James Pipe, but there aren't many around the country that I would swap with the Yorkshireman.

So, tomorrow should be a good day of cricket if the weather stays out of it. May the best team win.

As long as it's us of course..

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 2

This is a fascinating game that is very much in the balance at the end of a second day that saw batting a much easier proposition than on the first day.

It was good to see Steve Stubbings efforts lauded in the press although less good to see our bowlers having to work hard for wickets this morning. Snell and Lewis proved very stubborn and once again it was Waggy who rose to the occasion and finished with an excellent six wickets. That's two seasons in a row now that he has passed the 50 wicket mark. While his batting is a little more "iffy", he remains a player good enough to be considered a genuine allrounder rather than a bowler who bats. His fielding is excellent too and he is a key member of this side. When one considers he is bowling through an injury we see how big a contribution he makes to the side.

Paul Borrington has had a tough game here, but Dan Birch batted well and Chris Rogers completed a double hand (40 and 74) in match that is worth more than many a century. When he was eventually dismissed the game was tilting Gloucestershire's way, but Tom New joined Greg Smith and they steered us to calmer waters of 193-4 at the close, 158 ahead.

Quite how many are required to force a win is debatable. I'd have thought we'd need at least 250, while 300 wouldn't be sniffed at. The wicket seems to have flattened out and the danger for both sides would be the reappearance of cloud cover. I'd be quite happy with a sunny Friday and an overcast, muggy (but dry) Saturday for Wagg and Langeveldt to work their magic.

One final point. To me, the under-utilisation of Wayne White suggests that the captain doesn't have too much faith in him. White bowled only eight overs while Ian Hunter bowled 15 and the others more. He also went for four an over, which while not expensive as such is probably more than one would expect in bowler-friendly conditions, especially yesterday.

Warwickshire's fine batting today suggests that they will perhaps press for a win over Essex in the next two days, leaving us fighting only for placing in Division 2. No disgrace in that, and another year in this division should enable some of these young players to develop further in 2009

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 1

First of all apologies for the lateness of this blog but yesterday was a long one work-wise and I didn't get in until midnight...

The first good news of the day was that John Morris has secured the services of Paul Borrington on a two-year professional contract and he will be "ours" full time after his University studies end next year. I'm pleased for the lad, who makes the most of his talent and has strong adhesive qualities. While not as obviously a "star" in the making as Dan Redfern, he should do well and time will be the judge of just how well.

The second good news was that we fought back well after at one stage being 88-6 and totalled 188, with both Graham Wagg and Charl Langeveldt supporting the returning Steve Stubbings, who anchored the innings with an excellent unbeaten 61. The thinking money may be on Stubbo leaving at season-end after a poor year, but he has made the decision a tough one with this knock, which appears to have been typical of the man. Throughout his career he has made runs when they have been most needed and has been a fine player. Contractual situations apart, could anyone see Sadler, Telo or indeed Hinds battling through to a score like that yesterday? No, me neither.

The third good news was that the pitch inspectors are happy with the pitch and reckon it was just poor batting and swing that caused the problems. I was sure mid-morning that we'd be docked points for this one, but that appears not to be the case.
Ou current healthy position is due to "golden arm" Wagg running through the Gloucester batting after a steady start and although Charl was not quite himself (he's not bowled for a while), I hope that we can finish them off early today for a good lead.

The bad news is that irrespective of what we do it is unlikely to bring promotion. Having dropped the batting points we'd need maximum from here and attaining them would give us a season total of 183. With Warwickshire starting this on 171, they would only need bonus points and one draw to be above us. Given their reputation this season, they should manage that easily enough as it is the starting point in their game and they will stick with it.

One more point - two wickets for tricky Rikki on debut for the Bears. Pettini and Bopara, so no bad victims. However, he also went for 5 an over, so some things never change...

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

You have to laugh..

Have a look at the Nottinghamshire 606 site.

Two eejits suggesting that they might swap Andrew Harris for Graham Wagg....

Take it that they're now doing brain share operations on the NHS down Nottingham way? A fit Harris is a good bowler, but his track record doesn't inspire confidence. Anyone who thinks we'd swap a fine all rounder who plays through the pain for a seamer who misses more than he plays has to be several slices short of the loaf.

Do feel free to have a laugh at them...

The vote

Well, half of you reckon we should get rid of both Wayne White and Ian Hunter for next season, while a third reckon that Hunter should go. Having said that he's bowled better of late, few would claim that Hunter was a penetrative seamer. He has bowled with accuracy in the one dayers, but it has only been in comparison to a mainly second-string attack of late.

White bowled well against Glamorgan but I'm not that impressed by him and feel he has a lot of work to do to become an established player. He needs to come back next season like Jon Clare did this year, filled out and stronger.

One or both could be saved depending on Morris' targets this winter. The loss of Kevin Dean and the continued injuries of Tom Lungley leave our seam attack very thin after the usual suspects of Wagg, Langeveldt and Clare, with only Ross Whiteley as a reserve.

This week's poll is the area we most need to strengthen for next year. I look forward to seeing your ideas.

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire preview

Sorry about the late blog tonight but its festival week at work and I've four late nights on the trot!

Tomorrow we play the first of two games that we need to win. Looking at the opposition, we really should fancy our chances. The visitors are missing Marcus North, who is on international training with the Aussies, as well as Craig Spearman who is injured. Hamish Marshall is playing and often does well against us, while Alex Gidman, a target for John Morris before he re-signed for Gloucestershire, will be the rock in the middle order. Jon Lewis is still a good seamer and Steve Kirby is nothing if not whole-hearted. The visitors line up is:

Kadeer Ali
Will Porterfield
Hamish Marshall
Alex Gidman
Chris Taylor
David Brown
Steven Snell (wkt)
Jon Lewis (cpt)
Steve Kirby
Anthony Ireland
Richard Dawson
Vikram Banerjee

Banerjee is likely to miss out in that side, which is at the start of a major rebuild.

As for Derbyshire, we're pretty much at full strength, except for the injured Tom Lungley. Tom is a nice guy and a talented bowler, but last season apart has lost a lot of his career to injury. This has been another one to write off and next year is a big one for him.

Our line up is:

Chris Rogers (cpt)
Paul Borrington
Dan Birch
Wavell Hinds
Greg Smith
Dan Redfern
Tom New
Jonathan Clare
Graham Wagg
Jake Needham
Ian Hunter
Charl Langeveldt

James Pipe is deemed not quite ready for four day cricket after his broken finger, so Tom New again deputises. The final place would appear to be between Jake Needham and Ian Hunter and I would guess the spinner will miss out, mainly on the basis that Hunter is in better form. That would leave Dan Redfern and Greg Smith to share spinning duties and Derbyshire to hope that it doesn't spin ...

So, with four days of decent weather I fancy a win. Having said that, I'll be more confident once we've dismissed Messrs Marshall and Gidman in both innings.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Not much happening

There's not a lot I can write tonight. The penultimate game of the season is 48 hours away and there's no sign of any team news.

For us to gain promotion we need to win both of our remaining games and realistically take maximum points. Boring, boring Warwickshire need 16 from their last two games for guaranteed promotion, so bonus points alone should do it.

Given that it is unlikely for the weather to stay out of the games, draws are likely to start all games as the favourite result. Realistically a game will only be won in around three days by a "sporting" wicket and given our luck we'll be penalised for such a transgression anyway, despite several teams getting away with it this year, Lancashire and Durham being prime examples.

Yesterday saw Lanky-sheer relegated in the Pro 40. Shame... For a big club they're not really very good and it is about time that they accepted the big days of Lloyd, Fairbrother, Wasim Akram et al are behind them. They're actually in a similar situation to us in having to rebuild, although they have Anderson and Flintoff on central contracts.

Their fans always moan about the weather and their bad luck, but who hasn't suffered this year? It has favoured us and gone against us, but over the piece I'd reckon we've had more bad luck than good.

Also yesterday Nottinghamshire lost a game they had sewn up thanks to a Herculean effort from Murray Goodwin and a brave and at times fortuitous one from Mohammad Sami. The last over was sensational and few Notts fans could believe they'd lost from there. I recall Dave Houghton telling me that he'd once nearly signed Goodwin from Sussex when he was in dispute over a contract. What a signing that would have been, as he has been a huge success for the southern county.

As indeed has Chris Adams, one who got away from Derbyshire and who has been an outstanding skipper, perhaps the best in the country, at Sussex. Griz should have had international recognition for at his best he was a delightful batsman to watch, pugnacious, dogged, elegant - whatever was required. Whether he plays on is open to doubt, but he is probably the biggest loss of the entire exodus of talent in the
1980s and 90s

Anyway, I'll be back tomorrow with a preview of the Gloucestershire game.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Derbyshire v Warwickshire Pro 40

I didn't do a preview for this game as there was little, if anything resting on it. A little pride would have done nicely and at least we didn't go down without a fight, but the failings that have dogged our one day cricket this season were evident once again.

The bowlers often make a good start but we then seem incapable of forcing home the advantage. Even allowing for a couple of good players (Maddy and Ambrose) getting going yesterday, we let them away from 42-3 to 229-5.

Kevin Dean showed what we are going to miss, even on an occasional basis, with an exemplary new ball spell. This is what Wayne White needs to learn. I was surprised to see White play at the expense of Hunter yesterday, unless the latter was injured. Maybe White was being given another chance to show what he can do and a decision has already been made, one way or another, on Hunter. The latter is unlikely to get any better, but has bowled well in the last few weeks, while White has time on his side but can only get away with that "excuse" for so long. He has bowled some very expensive spells this season and needs to find consistency in his game to maintain hopes of a first class career.

Dan Redfern also bowled steadily and followed it with a breezy innings. We must not expect too much from the talented young left hander, but he is a fine talent and could be an all round asset. While his bowling could be useful, I hope that it is not to the detriment of his batting.

Speaking of which, we did the same old things yesterday. The loss of early wickets put us on the backfoot and when faced with a not unduly challenging 7 an over for the last ten we fell apart. I don't know how you teach players not to panic in these situations, but it seems that our batsmen go for the big shots and don't appreciate the merit in running hard and whittling away at the total. Maybe we need a master class from Dean Jones and Michael Bevan in one day batting. Faced with seven an over, they would pick off the odd bad ball and place and time the ball so well that ones became twos and twos became threes. It is an acquired skill and experience helps, but we need to work on that.

Wavell produced a beauty of an innings yesterday that looked like it could have taken us home, with a little more support. He was very harsh on Ant Botha, clumping him for five sixes in the arc between mid wicket and long on, but in these situations a batsman needs something at the other end an it was not forthcoming. It was good to see James Pipe back behind the stumps, but unfair to expect one of his vintage innings after a sizeable layoff.

So that's one day cricket for this year and to be honest, thank goodness for that. With the odd exception we've played it badly this year (again) and I hope that we can work on the techniques of the one day game over the winter. The fielding is by and large OK, but the bowlers need to learn from Langeveldt on where to bowl and the merits of mixing up the pace.

While I feel that overall we have, as a side, made progress this season, I can't say this for the one day game. The Championship will be the more likely route to success for this side until we show greater maturity in key aspects of the game.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Derbyshire Legends 9 - Les Townsend (1903-93)

Les was one of those players who would earn a fortune in the modern game and a key member of that outstanding side that played prior to the Second World War.

As a batsman he was a powerful hitter, especially straight. Tommy Mitchell recalled bowling to him in the nets at Derby and as soon as he'd let the ball go, running away. Many a fine bowler of that period came on the receiving end of the Townsend treatment and he played the same way in most situations.

He could perhaps have finished with a higher batting average than he did, and 27 over a career of almost 500 matches is nothing spectacular. Again, though we should remember that the wickets were uncovered at this time and that Les was a fixture in a middle order who normally played under instruction to get their runs quickly so that the bowlers could get at them again.

Denis Smith, Harry Storer, Albert Alderman and Stan Worthington were th "serious" batters of the side, while Townsend and the Popes were normally expected to get runs but to ensure that no time was wasted. Les' innings were usually fast scoring affairs and he boasted a highest score of 233. With 22 centuries and over a hundred half centuries he could handle the willow and life was seldom dull when he was at the crease.

He suffered as a bowler too, with Bill Copson, Alf and George Pope and Tommy Mitchell regularly bowling sides out without the need for his medium paced off breaks. When they were required, he rarely let the side down and finished his career with the highly impressive statistics of 1088 wickets at 21 each. He took five in an innings on 51 occasions and ten in the match 16 times.

In 1933 he excelled in scoring over 2,000 runs and taking 100 wickets and was voted one of Wisden's cricketers of the year. He also was the antithesis of the suggestion that all Derbyshire cricketers were hard drinking men, as a lifelong non-smoker and teetotaller. Six Test appearances came his way, but he never did himself justice in appearances agsinst India and the West Indies, taking just siz wickets and averaging only 16.

On retirement he emigrated to New Zealand where he coached and was held in high regard - just as he is by all Derbyshire fans. Definitely someone we'd like to sign this winter...

PS The photograph shows Les Townsend hooking Indian seamer Nazir Ali for four at Bombay in 1933

More thoughts on players

One of the fascinating things about conjecture is that it opens your eyes and gets you reading things that might ordinarily not cross the radar.

I've been looking at the Northamptonshire board on 606 and they're pretty much in shock over the loss of their star batsman, while the odd dissenter claims that he only scored runs when they were "easy" and rarely influenced a game, especially in one day cricket.

Of course, that old line of "lies, damn lies and statistics" can be trotted out for that one. You don't average over 70 and score them all in dead matches. All players have got easy runs from time to time and you can only do your best. One of the criticisms of Michael di Venuto was that he scored most of his centuries in the second innings of games when it had already been shaped - i.e. we were normally 200 behind. However, that does not and should not tarnish the repuatation of a very fine servant.

Are runs on an easy track to be discounted? I suspect that Derbyshire's club record innings against Somerset will stand for years, but it masks what was a singularly dull contest where a result was never going to happen. We should also discount, on the same basis, wickets picked up in heavy atmospheres or on green tracks.

IF (its a big if) we signed Klusener, it would be as a batsman who could turn his arm occasionally. Some of the Northants dissenters are annoyed as he was signed as an allrounder who rarely bowled. A little churlish perhaps. I remember years when Clive Rice hardly bowled for Nottinghamshire with injury yet scored, like Klusener, loads of runs. His coming would also mean we played four non-qualified players in most matches. I can live with it, especially if we win, but I'd prefer not to do that.

For balance I'd prefer overtures be made to Ian Blackwell. Partly because he's English, certainly because he's a Derbyshire lad and mainly because he would sort, with one signing our biggest requirements - a middle order batsman as well as a slow left arm spinner. I don't think for a minute he is a great spinner, but he is accurate and even as someone to give the seamers a breather he would be worthwhile.

If we don't go up this season, and we'll need a combination of brilliant cricket and luck with the weather to do so, I think we can win the Championship Division 2 next year. Surrey are almost certain to come down and they are not world-beaters (especially the attack) and one of the Roses sides looks likely to join them. Again, I think both sides positions reflect their players and that they would be beatable.

Mind you, there'd be a delicious irony in "We're a big county and Test Ground" Lancashire being in division two...

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Very interesting...

Well, as the vegetable shop owner said when he went in to pay his library fines - there's a turnip for the books...

Lance Klusener released by Northamptonshire.

On the face of it, this is a strange move. The chap is currently top of the national averages with 73 per innings. OK, his bowling is pretty much gone now, but that's one big average, for the third year running.

The county say that they want to play more England-qualified cricketers. I can understand that, but only if they now release a few of the others. Van der Wath has had a decent season for them, but Andrew Hall, Rikki Wessels, Nick Boje and Jo Louw have all performed only moderately. If I was a fan of theirs tonight I'd be a little cheesed off and a quick read of their 606 board suggests most of them are.

Interestingly one suggests Derbyshire as his next stop...

Would we want Lance Klusener? The answer is probably yes, I'd have thought, with the only concern being that the usual snipers would moan about our being Kolpak central, which we're not in comparison to other sides. We obviously have both Charl Langeveldt and Wavell Hinds for next year and I'd love to see us confirm the re-signing of Chris Rogers in the near future. John Morris has said that he wants another top batsman and lets be honest, Klusener is that and then some.

The Englishman in me says I'd sooner see us sign an English player, but the Derbyshire fan in there (which more frequently surfaces and is rarely, if ever away) would be quite happy as long as it made us a winning side.

Make no bones about it, with English qualified younger players like Paul Borrington, Dan Redfern, Greg Smith, Graham Wagg, Jake Needham and Jon Clare in the side, I've no qualms about our "doing our bit" for the cause. The Glamorgan game on Monday highlighted a need for experience in there. Players like Akhil Patel and Ross Whiteley have bags of talent but are a long way from being county regulars.

John Morris' comments to the Derby Telegraph the other day suggested that he doesn't see too many batting options out there other than players released for poor performance. That being the case, there's a strong argument for making overtures to "Zulu" Klusener. Be honest, you'd like to see him in our colours next year, wouldn't you?

At 37 he's the same as Dominic Cork, but where his batting has improved with the years at the expense of his bowling, Corky seems to have gone the other way. Signing the pair of them would be massive, but we shouldn't kid ourselves at this stage that either will happen. exciting as the prospect may be.

The real tough call would be if Klusener and Ian Blackwell were both available and desperate (you never know) to come to Derby. Maybe the younger and similar style Blackwell would then be my choice, but imagine for a minute. You turn up at the County Ground next season and buy your scorecard. It reads Rogers, Borrington, Hinds, Redfern, Klusener, Smith, Pipe, Clare, Wagg, Cork, Langeveldt...

Settle back in your seats, it's going to be a good day!

Jason Brown has also been released and the off spinner has a good first class record. However, Staffordshire lad he may be, but over the last two years he has definitely lost his mojo and he has been a pale shadow of the player who was on the verge of England recognition a few years back. Maybe he has been flattered by the tracks at Northampton, which usually turned from day one. With not having to try to turn it too much he maybe has lost the art. I don't know, but while he is probably the most experienced spinner to come on the market this winter, I'm not sure if there's a need for him at Derby. I'd far sooner gamble on Lawson at Yorkshire and bring him on as a younger model. Brown is only an average fielder and a poor bat, so Lawson gets my vote.

Anyway, more food for thought. I'll be back tomorrow - please leave your comments if you wish, I look forward to hearing from you.

PS Got the England game a bit wrong last night... they were nearly as good as Derbyshire at our best!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008


I like it...

I thought that sort of stuff only permeated my workplace and I'm not sure if I'm happy or sad to see it more widespread.

So cricket coaches network too. Do they also indulge in "blue sky thinking" (another I hate)?

Anyway, John Morris is apparently chatting to his network of contacts about players but as I wrote a couple of weeks back, the notifications of approach to counties is pointless. Morris says that players simply use it as a bargaining tool which is absolutely correct. Only the poor players won't get anywhere and we wouldn't want them.

Interestingly Morris is keeping tabs on Mark Lawson of Yorkshire. He is a similar age and has similar experience to Jake Needham, but if nothing else, if we were to sign him it would keep both on their toes. There are hardly any decent spinners around and one who has time to improve is definitely worthy of consideration. Lawson has taken a couple of five wicket hauls and although expensive at times, leggies can also be dangerous in the right conditions. Most who have played the game would agree that the ball leaving you is harder to hit than the one coming in, and Lawson has a reputation as a big spinner of the ball.

Morris says in the Derby Telegraph today that he wants a spinner, a batsman and a seam bowler. He also said he had money in his budget BEFORE Clarke and Doshi left, so we shouldn't be short of bargaining power. It all depends on players being available and signing for the sake of it would be silly.

I find it hard to see where players may come from if we assume that he'd be happy with the two Kolpaks we have in Hinds and Langeveldt. I'd hope that Telo and Sadler might kick on next season and would hope for Tom Lungley to be fitter than he has been this time. If this were the case, we'd be looking at just small tweaks as Morris suggests.

I'd be surprised if Steve Stubbings was retained. I think he's a top bloke and, like Kevin Dean has been a great servant. He has had a wretched year though and has made little impact even in the seconds. I know he's had Benefit Year distractions, but he seems to me the most vulnerable if we were letting another batsman go. We would need to replace him though and should remember that Paul Borrington won't be available until June next year with University commitments.

I thought that we might let two from Hunter, Dean and White go, but Kevin Dean's retiral may mean a reprieve for both. Hunter has bowled well in recent weeks, while White has time on his side. Again, we can't afford to go light on seam bowling with Lungley's track record. Both Graham Wagg and Charl Langeveldt have played through injuries this season and it would be unrealistic to expect Jon Clare to get through a season unscathed next year (OK, apart from Wavell's spikes at Chesterfield).

I still say we should go for Cork. Personalities apart, I'll take talent any time and Dominic is still a dangerous bowler. I'm mystified as to why Lancashire have kept playing him, having said he would be released. Surely this was the time to give a youngster a chance? Whatever the reason, Cork has continued to bowl with accuracy and skill which will no doubt impress a lengthy list of potential suitors.

There were rumours that Steve Kirby may be on the move, but the Gloucestershire bowler, while a 100% trier, isn't in the Cork class.

For what its worth, and based solely on who I have heard is up for a move, I'd sign Dominic Cork, Ian Blackwell, Mark Lawson and Mark Hardinges. Another three all rounders and in Lawson a lad who can handle a bat and has potential. Hardinges is a Paul Aldred-type player. Never the headline act but those with decent memory will recall the year Aldo basically bowled one end for us as everyone else got injured. I rate Hardinges as a solid county player, especially in one day cricket.

Like one or two others, I also like Jim Allenby of Leicestershire, but think there's plenty of others would do too and I'd sooner spend money on a proven match-winner like Blackwell.

So there's some food for thought this evening. I'm now off to get dinner and then watch England lose (probably) to Croatia.

See you soon.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Kevin Dean goes

I never thought I would say this but I am glad that Kevin Dean has announced his retirement.

I thought his place was in jeopardy for next season and would have hated to see John Morris release a man who has been a great servant to the club. I am convinced that but for a run of injuries he could have gained England honours. At his peak there were few better seamers around, and he had a talent for moving the ball around and causing problems if there was a heavy atmosphere.

The last year or so has seen the nip disappear from his bowling and although he could still get men out, he no longer ran through sides. Over 400 wickets at a good average of 26 is testimony to his ability and he remained one of the most affable men in the club. At 32 he has had a good career and will be remembered as one of the best left arm seamers we have had.

Having recently become a father his priorities have no doubt changed and I wish him well for his future career. He will be remembered as a fine player and a top bloke.

His fielding was steady if not spectacular and his batting was functional, with Kevin having the ability to keep an end going, as he did on numerous occasions, especially as night watchman. Few among us will forget his winning runs against the Aussies a few years back or his winning smile, even in adversity.

I'll remember him for that smooth, lithe run up to the wicket and the good line he so often bowled. His ability to take quick wickets was highlighted by two hat tricks and even this year he ran through Bangladesh at Derby in the first innings.

It is good and right that fans will have a chance to say goodbye at this weekend's match against Warwickshire. Curiously, as I watched Ross Whiteley last night I wondered if he might be a new Kevin Dean. He has a long way to go to reach that standard, but if he does, he'll be a good 'un.

Next year's skipper

In a healthy sized vote, it would appear that a third of you like the idea of Chris Rogers as skipper next year.

There are two schools of thought. Either we recruit someone who has shown a flair for the role and will galvanise the side, or we adopt the Aussie model and choose the best player. Undoubtedly that would be Rogers and I can't see anyone in the county game just now who I'd rate higher than him.

I don't think Michael Vaughan will leave Yorkshire and now he has retained his central contract he'd not be much help to us anyway. Waggy's time will come but not just yet, so that leaves Buck in a strong position.

Today' announcement of the retiral of Kevin Dean perhaps makes the position of seam bowling for next year an easier choice. Wagg, Langeveldt, Clare and Lungley are pretty much certainties, with Smith as back up. Make your feelings known in this week's poll.

Glamorgan v Derbyshire - final thoughts

I don't know about you all, but I didn't read a lot into last night's game. A lot less than the commentators did in fact.

I couldn't believe the stuff they were coming out with. These are supposedly informed people and they couldn't grasp that Derbyshire didn't have a full team out. There were numerous references to our having to rebuild with youngsters as we'd only a couple of senior players. There were no references to the absentees and the difference they'd have made.

I'm still not sure about Wayne White, despite a good spell last night. He bowls some very good balls and some rubbish and until he can bowl more of the former his place in the team and on the staff will be in doubt. I thought Ian Hunter bowled well, but Hunts is another who can be great one day and average the next. Ross Whiteley was overtaken by nerves in his brief spell and bowled too wide, but we really missed the seamers. Needham did OK, but Smith and Redfern looked occasional bowlers and Wavell, while a useful bowler, shouldn't have to bowl a full spell too often.

As for the batting, Chris Rogers was the only one who suggested permanence but was going TOO well and when he got out it looked a different game. Glamorgan's experienced attack was muchtoo clever for our batsmen and it was a foregone conclusion from a long way out though Whiteley and Sadler batted quite well at the end.

I'll be glad when the Warwickshire game is done. This has been a poor one day season, and the sooner it is consigned to the dump bin of history the better.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Glamorgan v Derbyshire

Not a lot to say about this one really.

An inexperienced Derbyshire side had Glamorgan on the ropes then somehow allowed them to make over 200. Fair play to the Welsh boys, they played some good shots, but the wicket looked tricky early on and the ball appears to be a ticking bomb when it leaves the hand of Robert Croft.

On a horses for courses basis I'd play Crofty next year against the Aussies at the SWALEC and prepare an absolute bunsen burner to suit him and Panesar. Let's be honest, the Aussies haven't got any spinners now and Croft has made our spinners look exactly what they are - novices.

We'd too many players missing to read anything into this one, although Rogers batted well briefly. Wave never looked at home and Danny Redfern played acouple of good shots but never suggested permanence.

As I type this we're 82-6 needing 10 an over off the last 12 with Sadler and Whiteley at the crease.

It really isn't going to happen. Not on this track and with these bowlers and who we have left.

Never mind, Rikki will be back in town on Saturday. Be still my beating heart...


Listening to Sky's experts today and they do come out with some utter cobblers.

"Batting Dan Redfern at 3 is a desperate act by John Morris" (Nick Knight)
Really? For the best Under 19 bat in the country?

"Why's Chris Rogers moving from Western Australia to Victoria? (Mike Atherton to Ian Harvey)
"He just wanted a change probably". Er... he wanted to play more one day cricket, actually.

"Some of these young players have been introduced by Dave Houghton and given a chance today" (Bob Willis)
Eh? Dave Houghton?

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Glamorgan v Derbyshire Pro 40

Will Derbyshire reverse a poor Pro 40 season away to Glamorgan or will the one day season peter out? Not that it ever really petered in...

We have this game and then the home fixture against the Second Eleven - sorry, Warwickshire on Saturday and the one day year is over.

There are really only two things wrong with our game in one day cricket. We don't bat especially well and we bowl worse. There have been exceptions to that, but not many. Langeveldt has always been accurate, but the other bowlers have been accurate on occasion and horribly expensive on others. Sometimes they've been that way in the two spells of an innings. Frustrating.

As for the batting, I long to see a Derbyshire one day team totally dominate the opposition and win in a canter. The nearest this year was the Pro 40 at Northampton, when Birch and Hinds batted beautifully and in the 20/20 at Headingley when Hinds and Smith did the same. There is usually the loss of more than one quick wicket, that puts us from a position of ascendancy to the back foot in a couple of overs.

There is promise. Hinds will be even better next year, Birch has bucked the norm and done better in his second season than his first and Redfern looks composed, organised and busy at the crease. We should not forget that this is essentially a young and inexperienced side. With Smith fully fit and able to bowl seam again next year, Wagg fit (which he hasn't been for weeks), Clare a year older and a couple of good signings, we could be a better equipped side for one day cricket.

However, the sections in which we find ourselves in the one dayers are tough. Durham are a fine side, although I think we could and should beat the Roses pairing. I was amused (and astonished) to read a Lancashire fan on 606 saying that "we are big and can get who we want" for next season. Excuse me, hahahahahahahahahahahaha....

Another suggests they sign Ackerman or Bopara, Samit Patel and Rikki Clarke...

A third suggests they look at Zimbabweans for the side. Nurse, my medication!

Few seem happy with Luke Sutton as a keeper or batsman and the ex-Derbyshire captain/keeper hasn't hit the heights at Old Trafford. I quite liked him, but I wouldn't swap him for James Pipe.

Anyway, here's to tomorrow, dry weather and a win. We've not won a one day match in Wales since Gandhi was a lad. OK, it was 1990, but seems like longer. I'll not bother suggesting a team as at this stage of proceedings anyone may play. Graham Wagg may get a deserved break, Langers may also miss out, so your guess is as good as mine.

Meanwhile, relations between Justin Langer and Ian Blackwell seem to have broken down. I know that Blackwell isn't the most lithe or slimline of players and that Somerset have some good batsmen, but surely Blackwell would be in their best one day side?

I wonder...

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Wave on - it's a crazy feeling!

Apologies to Buddy Holly - and how many got that little musical reference in the title - but I'm very pleased that the amiable Jamaican Wavell Hinds has signed for next year with an option for 2010.

He hasn't really fired as a batsman this year, although there have been enough in his cameos to suggest a man with a lot to offer next time. His batting in the 20/20, when we had no overseas player, was excellent and he's played good innings in all competitions without going onto a real biggie.

Of course, its hardly been a year for vintage Caribbean strokeplay and few batsman have taken bowling apart on wickets that have primarily been slow and with plenty of help for the bowlers.

That does, of course make Chris Rogers' prolific form all the more laudable but he has more experience of English wickets than Wavell. If next summer is drier and wickets a little faster, we could see a full flowering of Hinds batting and it should be well worth watching.

We now know that his bowling lends a lot to the side too. There must have been a few counties looking at what our Kolpaks have done this season and wishing that their OVERSEAS player could have matched it. Langeveldt has been a diamond and is already on board for a second year, while Hinds has a batting average in excess of his bowling one and must therefore be considered as an all rounder who has contributed well. Those dibbly dobbly seamers must look so inviting but they've lured a few to their downfall now.

Not being privy to dressing room secrets, I can only accept what John Morris says about his positive attitude there and the likes of Paul Borrington, Dan Redfern and Jon Clare, all feeling their way into the first class game, can only learn from playing and training alongside Hinds, Rogers and Langeveldt.

The next thing is to sign up Rogers for 2009. After concerns about his ability to go on to big scores earlier in the season, Rogers is now second highest scorer in the country and has also scored well in one day cricket, supposedly his weaker suit. Confirming him for next season would be another thing to assure fans we are on the right track and Rogers has lost little in comparison with Michael di Venuto, so rightly revered among the fans. He may or may not want the captaincy, but I think we could do a lot worse and he certainly seems to thrive on it.

Regular readers will know how I dislike 20/20 but it is here to stay and I hope we keep some of the budget for players next season to sign an overseas player for the competition. We suffered this year for the lack of an explosive short innings player and must address that for next year. A Loots Bosman, Shaun Marsh, James Hopes or Andrew Symonds would possibly be the difference between the knockout stages and nowhere. With a couple of other recruits, good ones, over the winter months we can look forward to 2009 with a good deal of relish.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Close season fun and frolics

I've spent a little time message board surfing tonight and there's a few interesting names who are potentially available this close season.

One is Mark Hardinges of Gloucestershire, who has been a solid county pro for a few years now as a medium pace bowler and a batsman good enough to have scored a few centuries. He's no world-beater but I would have thought that he could do a job for someone, especially in the one-day game.

Another that really interested me was that Ian Blackwell is apparently unsettled at Somerset. Now I've always rated Blackwell since I saw him by chance in a second team game at Queens Park. He scored a brilliant century batting at number nine and looked a fine talent. He was much slimmer then and looked to have the world at his feet. He has remained a batsman of destructive brilliance on his day, but the widening girth has prevented him from the highest honours. He is a steady, rather than dangerous slow left armer, while his fielding is adequate, rather than spectacular.

Importantly he is a Derbyshire lad and I would have thought that a few of you might share my interest in him returning to the county of his birth. In this era of covered wickets, spinners rarely get conditions in which they can go through sides and so need a second string to their bow. Robert Croft has been a fine example of this over the years, taking wickets but also contributing with valuable runs. Blackwell would be a batsman who could easily hold a place in the middle order and offer a useful change of pace, if not running through sides.

I'm also interested in Andrew Flintoff now saying that Lancashire should have kept Dominic Cork. It all adds to my previously expressed feeling that he is changed since his days here. While he is linked to Durham and Nottinghamshire, a move back to us may appeal.

Be honest, concerns about Cork's personality aside, surely a middle order of Hinds, Smith, Redfern, Clare, Wagg. Blackwell and Cork (not in batting order) would be an asset? Seven all-rounders!
Add Pipe. Langeveldt, Borrington and Birch and our side for next season looks fairly impressive.

Of course, its all conjecture at this stage, but if you're looking for something to warm the cockles of your heart in those early Autumn/Winter nights ahead, maybe that is it.

Note to Bob Willis/Mike Atherton - Six of those players have, at different stages, come through our youth ranks. Good huh?

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 4

Not much to say about this. More rain, game over. What horrible weather we've had this year. Mind you, however bad its been down there, you should see what we've been getting. I never played a game from the start of August with eight successive matches rained off.

As for Derbyshire, its time to regroup and head off to the next game, a meaningless Pro 40 against Glamorgan in Wales. These things seem utterly silly to me, when two teams play at one ground then head off to the away side's patch for a game in another competition.

So we now have two games to go and are 20 points behind Warwickshire in second place and eleven behnd Northants. We now need to win both our remaining fixtures and realistically pick up maximum bonus points to gain promotion. It could all be rendered meaningless with much more of this rain, of course.

I can't think the Derbyshire side will change much from what took the field here, barring injuries. Langeveldt will almost certainly come in for Hunter but there's no one else unless Needham forces his way in to replace a seamer. The chances are that Smith, Wagg and Redfern will do what spin is required while we pray for seamers wickets.

One assumes that James Pipe wil be back to replace the admirable Tom New. The youngster batted well but dropped a couple of chances that Pipe would probably have taken in his spell here, although that should not detract from a laudable spell with us.

The remaining games offer opportunities for several players to reach landmarks. Chris Rogers is 75 runs behind Stephen Moore as the second highest scorer in the country (he's had three innings less) while Graham Wagg needs three wickets and 74 runs to complete the mini double of 500 runs and 50 wickets, which would be an excellent achievement. Dan Birch, Jon Clare and Greg Smith are all battling to be our second highest scorer and there will be a few who are keeping fingers crossed when the retained list is announced.

I think it will now take something extraordinary for Derbyshire to gain promotion, though third place would still underline what has essentially been a season of progress, certainly in the case of individual players and as a Championship team. We still cannot play one day cricket and run chases essentially falter as soon as Rogers and Hinds are dismissed, but I'm hopeful that this part of our game could improve with the addition of a couple of good players over the winter.

Let's not forget, for a lot of the summer we were only playing ten men.... if you know what I mean.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 3

Or is it day 2, or maybe day 4?

This game has been seriously overshadowed by the off-field activities and the players have done well to keep their eye sufficiently on the ball to stay in the game. If the weather is kinder tomorrow I'd like to think we would declare overnight, they'd thrash a quick 130 and leave us 250 against the clock. They could use the win as much as us and it may be a good finish, but it has been an odd game.

Wavell again batted well without making that elusive "big" score, while young Master Redfern continues to look a wonderful young talent. While I have no doubt that harder times will affect him in the future - they always do, especially when experienced bowlers find weaker areas - I think Daniel will be an England regular in years to come. He is the one out of the current Under 19s who has taken to the first class game immediately and I look forward to his being a regular in the side next summer.

Who else may join him? Its all up in the air just now, but I can't see many southern based players being in there. Southern players rarely want to head "oop north" and the different tracks and way of life are rarely to their liking.

I've racked my brains today to think of southern players who have played for us with distinction. I pretty much ran out of names after Colin Wells, who was a fair player but not the force he was at Sussex. James Graham-Brown came from Kent but not for nothing did they call him Straight up and down...

So I would be surprised if the likes of Ed Joyce and Ed Smith, rumoured to be falling out with Middlesex, were to head up the M1. They are both good players, Joyce especially, but are likely to stay in or around the M25. Anyone we sign will be from the Midlands up, especially apres Rikki.

For me, the nucleus of next year's side would be:


Given that there won't be a better bowler on the market this winter, I'd go for Cork. Say what you like about him, he always tries his best and I think has matured a lot since he was last at Derby. Take a look at that batting - with Cork, a man who has scored centuries, at ten.

In reserve you have Lungley and Needham, Sadler and Telo. Tom New may be worth a punt as reserve keeper and very able batsman, Kevin Dean may get another year.

I think we need another top batsman from somewhere. I know no more than the rest of you who may be available, but assuming that the existing Kolpaks are allowed to stay, I'd spend the Clarke money on HD Ackerman, assuming he is available. Paul Borrington will not be available until he finishes his University studies for the year so another batsman is a must.

A spinner would be useful, but in the absence of any decent options, I'd set the stall out to give Jake Needham opportunities and back him up with Greg Smith, Dan Redfern and Graham Wagg.

You may not agree (especially with Corky) but I think such signings would see further improvement in 2009. As always, I appreciate your comments!

Now Doshi follows...

Nayan Doshi has also now been released from the remainder of his contract.

The genial slow left armer has presumably been unimpressed by the departure of his good friend Rikki Clarke and decided that there is greener grass to be had on the other side of the fence. Who knows, destination Edgbaston anyone?

I'm unsure about this one. No one could say that he had been a roaring success this season, although there was his hat trick in the 20/20. He generally bowled with good control but rarely looked like running through sides. Indeed, most of his wickets came when the opposition were "having a go" and eight wickets at 80 runs each in the Championship wasn't the most persuasive argument for retention. He was a nice bloke though and I enjoyed conversations with him this season when he said that he was "loving it" here. Hmmm...

Only in the 20/20 did he perform close to the extended standard but I look around the circuit and wonder who we might sign to replace him. There are precious few slow left armers of any quality around and spinners as a whole are in short supply. The best in the country are Panesar, Croft, Keedy, Udal, Swann, Batty and Rashid and I'm stretching the word "quality" there.

Given that we have Greg Smith and Dan Redfern who can bowl reasonable off spin, plus Jake Needham who has improved this season and has looked penetrative at times, maybe we stick with what we have. Now Graham Wagg is bowling some spin (and took three wickets in the current game with it) perhaps we don't need to look elsewhere. I don't see Danny Vettori becoming a naturalised Englishman and living in derby sometime soon, so maybe we look to pump up that seam attack this winter.

The only possibility would be released Yorkshire leggie Mark Lawson, who has looked a talent on occasion but has been overshadowed by the better all round ability of Adil Rashid. He is at a similar stage of development to Jake Needham, however, so would be far from the finished article.

Life is never dull round these parts, is it?