Over achievers or genuine promotion contenders? It is probably safe to say that one game will not change anything substantially, but we'll get a better idea of Derbyshire's credentials by the end of this weekend's top of the table clash at Canterbury against Kent.
Top of the table clash. That's right, Derbyshire in a top of the table clash. Who'd have "thunk" it? The disappointments of the Twenty/20 are consigned to the dustbin of history as Derbyshire have shown themselves a decent side at "proper" cricket. We're still unbeaten and now in the second half of the Championship season.
The signing of Wayne Madsen appears to have given us that rarity of Derbyshire cricket, a good opening pair. I'd probably go back to the Barnett/Bowler combo to find a good, as opposed to decent, opening pair. Wayne currently sits with a Bradmanesque average of 97, while the skipper is averaging mid-40's without having produced the really big score that we know he is capable of.
The middle order too have all done well. Garry Park has scored steadily in his first full season, as has Dan Redfern. A lot of people will not understand the mental demands of first class cricket and these two young players have done well. Wavell has been a great success this year, while Greg Smith has emerged from being a "nearly" player to a fine cricketer after several years of knocking at the door.
To that established top six can tomorrow be added Freddie Klokker, who is preferred to Tom Poynton. Poynton is one for the future, but we know Klokker is steady behind the stumps and a fair batsman too, eminently capable of a score at number seven. With Graham Wagg at eight, John Morris then has a decision to make on the bowling front.
It is any three from five with Tim Groenewald, Jake Needham, Steffan Jones, Ian Hunter and Nantie Hayward in the 13-man squad. Much will depend on the pitch, but with James Tredwell taking regular wickets for Kent, one assumes the ball may turn so Jake Needham could get an outing here. Steffan Jones has bowled well since his return, so the final place may well be between Ian Hunter, Tim Groenewald and Nantie Hayward.
Hunter has done well this season but has dropped back in the pecking order lately. Groenewald has got steadily better and bowled very well at Cheltenham, while his batting improves with every game. Hayward hasn't yet really fired, but how do you leave out a Test bowler of some reputation? This could be the big occasion that will spark him into life. Morris may ease the dilemma by playing Groenewald AND Hayward while leaving the spin to Wagg, Smith and Redfern. We should also remember that Madsen is an off spinner of some ability with first class wickets in South Africa to his name.
The key to success will be making inroads into a much vaunted top order, where Joe Denly and Rob Key score heavily, paving the way for prolific South African Martin Van Jaarsveld and Geraint Jones. Indeed, the game could become a fair old battle of the Saffers, with Smith, Park, Groenewald, Madsen and Hayward on our side and Van Jaarsveld, Justin Kemp, Ryan McLaren and Wayne Parnell on theirs.
There's no news of Kent's side at this stage, although with veteran Pakistani all rounder Azhar Mahmood in the side they bat long and bowl well. It promises to be a battle royal, so here's hoping that the weather keeps out of it and the best team wins.
And its us...