Monday, 13 July 2009

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire Day 2

If you happen to be down Cheltenham way this evening and happen to see a bloke with a very wide grin on his face, there's a fair chance that it will be the Derbyshire coach John Morris, after a day in which his side have put themselves in a commanding position against the side currently top of Division 2 of the County Championship.

More than that, Morris has seen his two new signings, Steffan Jones and Wayne Madsen perform superbly on the second day as the county closed 288 runs ahead with two days to go. It was total vindication for Morris as Jones turned back the clock to 2006 and ended with the splendid figures of 4-44 in 18 overs. He was well supported by the other seamers, with Tim Groenewald and Greg Smith each taking two wickets and Graham Wagg one. Jones' dismissal of danger man Alex Gidman was the start of a middle order collapse from which the hosts never recovered, although Derbyshire were helped when Kiwi danger man Hamish Marshall, a century maker at Chesterfield a few weeks back, decided to take on Garry Park - arguably the best cover point in the country - and lost.

With a first innings lead of 162 Derbyshire could have enforced the follow on but with Graham Wagg off the field with cramp and the bowlers having had a long stint Chris Rogers opted to bat again. He may have had a few regrets when he went early, caught behind off the bowling of New Zealander James Franklin and when Garry Park followed with the score 28-2 the game could have gone either way.

At that point came what must have been a lovely passage of play as debutant Madsen and Dan Redfern put together a fine partnership of 89 to take the game away from Gloucestershire. Madsen started slowly against the testing attack of Lewis, Franklin and Kirby, but opened up as he became acclimatised and reached his fifty with three fours in an over from slow left armer Vikram Banerjee. A feature of the passage of play seemed to be the regular rotation of strike - left hand, right hand - by two young players who have a great deal to offer Derbyshire cricket.

In this morning's Derby Telegraph, Mark Eklid said that Madsen was "surprisingly" preferred to Steve Stubbings. I would disagree and suggest that the South African's stunning form in League and Second XI cricket was thoroughly deserving of an opportunity. No one likes Steve Stubbings better than I do, but for Derbyshire to progress as a side we need to gradually phase out the "decent" county pros and bring in highly talented, better quality and younger players.

While one swallow does not make a summer, Madsen has done enough in this innings to suggest a player of genuine talent. He'll face easier attacks on better tracks than this one and I wouldn't be surprised if John Morris isn't looking out his fountain pen for Madsen to put pen to paper on a two-year deal at this stage - if he hasn't already.

Likewise with Jones. He is in the final year of a three-year deal at Somerset and although 35, is an extremely fit bowler who could go on for another 3-4 years. It may well be that Morris considers him as a bowling option for next season, especially in the light of Tom Lungley's ongoing fitness battles and recent transgressions.

All in all, this is a great evening to be a Derbyshire fan. I'm not taking anything for granted, but if we can get 400-450 of a lead by mid afternoon tomorrow then get them in again, by the end of the week we could feasibly be top of the league. Only a slightly dodgy weather forecast (sunshine and heavy thundery showers for the next two days) prevents unbridled optimism.

Well done Derbyshire - especially Steffan Jones and Wayne Madsen - and well done John Morris!

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