Sunday, 30 August 2009

Not a bad round of games...

All in all, that round of Championship games just finished was far from being a death knell to our lingering promotion hopes.

The current table reads:

Kent 11 6 2 0 3 0 152
Essex 13 4 3 0 6 0 146
Derbyshire 13 2 2 0 9 0 140
Northamptonshire 12 4 3 0 5 0 137
Glamorgan 12 2 2 0 8 0 134
Gloucestershire 12 4 5 0 3 0 128

(Played, Won, Lost, Tied, Drawn, Abandoned, Points)

With a couple of wins from their remaining games, any of these teams could go up. If one assumes that Kent have only to avoid an outbreak of bubonic plague to go up as champions, it's then any 5 going for one place.

Three weeks ago I suggested that Essex were our biggest rivals as they have the best bowler in Danish Kaneria. He's got through a lot of wickets on responsive tracks recently, yet despite that couldn't force a win against Leicestershire, for whom James Taylor once again batted superbly. 87 overs for 12 wickets was Kaneria's return, yet Taylor added to his recent run which has seen him score 45 and 94 against us, then 83 not out and 24, 112 not out and 62.

Nothamptonshire never looked like beating Glamorgan and they have much the same problem (both sides) as us - they cannot finish sides off with their attacks. I don't really see the Welsh side in the mix, while Northamptonshire have matches left against Middlesex, Surrey, Essex and Leicestershire. Glamorgan's best chance is if they come up against spinner's tracks, where Croft and Dalrymple might nick them more wins. Crucially, their game in hand over us could prove very useful.

Gloucestershire's erratic batting has cost them dearly this year. Kirby, Lewis and Franklin make up a good attack, but their batting, despite players of real talent, has failed far too often.

So to Derbyshire. We'll have had a week to regroup before we play Kent. What we need now is tracks like Chesterfield for our remaining games, where there will at least be a positive result. I don't think we can beat Kent - sorry, but I think we will have to settle for a draw at best against them - yet could beat Middlesex at Uxbridge.

That would mean the final match against Essex became a massive one for both sides. My honest opinion is that we have blown it, but there is still a possibility if we can get 20 wickets per game.

Given the batting order is pretty well established and the only question mark is whether John Sadler may come in for Dan Redfern after a long season for the youngster, John Morris has to decide his bowling line up.

Steffan Jones and Tim Groenewald have to be in the side and of course so does Graham Wagg, though I'd be amazed if we saw more of him this campaign. It's then a decision between Hunter, Clare and Hayward for the final seam place. For me, Hunter has been unlucky to be pushed out recently after good early season performances, while Clare has had a difficult second season, with injuries and loss of form. Hayward has been a major disappointment and I'd be loathe to select him ahead of the other two on his performances so far.

I'd go with Hunter, although I've not seen Clare's recent bowling and don't know if the rhythm has returned. Do we go with a spinner? Sorry to be blunt, but not if the spinner is Mark Lawson. I'm just not convinced the lad is a county bowler. Jake Needham hasn't had a great season, but can and has taken wickets at this level. Lawson has too, for Yorkshire, but too long ago to really count for anything.

If we're talking about decent spinners, maybe Rangana Herath of Sri Lanka could be a left-field option, although maybe short of the very top rank. At 31 he's an experienced bowler, is probably not a regular in Sri Lanka's side with Mendis and Muralitharan in it, yet has 600 career wickets at 23. A good, flighting slow left armer, he offers variety and would get wickets in this country. Could you, hand on heart however, say our batting and seam bowling is strong enough to take on board a specialist spinner? I'm not so sure. Unless we were to prepare tracks to suit, I think we'd need something more.

Still, nothing like conjecture eh? You'd have to say we're a better batting side than when we signed Venkat, so I'll cite precedence on that one!

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Overseas nightmare

One big job facing John Morris this winter is sorting out the overseas player and while there's a great deal of conjecture, much will come down to availability, rather than necessarily choice.

For example, in late April and the first half of May next year, the World Twenty/20 will be played in the Caribbean, so that takes out a lot of top players for three weeks.

Then England will play two npower Test matches against Bangladesh and three One day Internationals in the period from May 27 to June 17, 2010, followed by a further five One day Internationals against Australia from June 22 to July 3 .

Australia will play Pakistan in two T20 Internationals and two Test matches here from July 5 to July 25, then England will then play a four match npower Test Series with Pakistan from July 29 to Agust 30 and five ODIs and two International Twenty20s from September 5 to 21.

So we can pretty much write off anyone who plays in Australian or Pakistani one day sides for most of the summer. So there's little chance of Cameron White, James Hopes, Shane Watson or Shahid Afridi.

The rest of the international calendar has still to be confirmed, but you can bet your bottom dollar there'll be Dubai competitions for Sri Lanka and/or India. Which leaves South Africa and New Zealand as sides who at present are clear of commitments (Twenty/20 apart) - but for how long? There's the West Indies, but how many players of real county class do they have? Chris Gayle is a brilliant talent, but I wouldn't back him to be a huge county success as he wasn't at Worcestershire in a brief spell. Mind you, I'd like to be there when he came off! Sarwan? Maybe, but would he come? The South Africans are not keen on their best players taking up County stints, so it is going to be a problem. New Zealand's best are on the go all year round and so it continues.

Unless Chris Rogers gets a Test recall, I can see John Morris spending a lot of time on the phone this winter.

I've heard there's some good young players in Tibet...

Friday, 28 August 2009

Where's the cricket?

Sorry there was no blog last night but I spent a little time on 606 in debate with another Derbyshire fan about John Morris' extended contract. I, like most other fans, am in favour, but he wasn't. Hey, it's a free world and we all have our opinions - good job too...

What I will say, having defended Morris, is that yes, we need to see signs of improvement year on year. I think there has been this year - when did we last get to August with anything to play for? There must be further improvement next year and discernible signs that the club continues to progress.

We have good players coming through the Academy, while Morris remains in credit on his signings. Certainly, Park, Groenewald, Madsen and Jones have had their share of good days, while Hayward has been a disappointment. Even there, Morris moved quickly to sign an international bowler of recent vintage, although admitting he hadn't seen him recently. It could have gone the other way and Morris is then hailed a hero, but at least he tried.

I spent a bit of time today watching Scotland play Australia and hoped to see three potential players for next year. Sadly, James Hopes didn't play and Cameron White had an inauspicious day. He made only 19 with the bat, dropped a catch, held three and took the last wicket with the help of a poor tail end shot. I rate White - he's a decent leggie, far better bat than he showed today and is an excellent skipper for Victoria. I suspect he could be tempted to a county stint, though whether we have the resources is open to doubt.

The third I've heard mentioned as a county player is Shane Watson. He scored a classy 68 from just 43 balls today and is a fine batsman. He was once rated an all rounder of genuine talent and was referred to as the new Keith Miller. Hmmm....
To be honest, he took three wickets today with what I'd describe as medium pace filth and he's more a batsman who bowls for me. Numerous injuries have limited his bowling and he's really just a medium pacer now. He's a fine player, but my concern is his injury record and I'm not sure his body would stand up to a full season of county cricket. As a second man for Twenty/20 I'd take him, but I'd have doubts otherwise.

There's also discussion about the merits of retaining 40-over cricket at the expense of 50 overs, but the international boards are to discuss this. There's not much difference (yes, I know - 10 overs) between the two and the skill sets are much the same. Regular Sunday cricket has to be good for crowds, surely? How many other days do working supporters get to see cricket?

The problem with the 20-over league is that it will again be regionalised and so we'll be again in with the strong northern teams. We need a huge improvement to get into the top four and the quarter finals, with Lancashire, Durham, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Northants, Warwickshire and Worcestershire likely to be in our group.

One other point in closing. We've all talked - self included - about overseas players for next year and included Aussies and Pakistanis, yet both are here for Tests and/or one dayers next year. Finding an overseas player in the congested calendar who satisfies the visa requirements is going to be a nightmare for next year. The thinking money is now on a split for me.

See you tomorrow

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Fifty no longer nifty..

Adieu 50 over cricket, its been a blast...

Actually, I'm pleased to see the retention of the 40-over game as it is my favourite (how often have I written that?) It's like the Chunky Kit Kat of cricket - big enough to be satisfying, enough like the real thing and not overly intrusive on time.

Best of all, there'll be three pools of seven teams, playing home and away ON SUNDAYS! Then a semi final and final. Sounds good to me.

I just hope (slips into selfish mode) that Scotland are in our group and we play them up here. A home game that meant a journey of less than 300 miles would be quite nice, but knowing my luck we'll be linked with Holland for geographical reasons...

The County Championship stays as it is until 2013 (hooray) and we'll continue to improve I'm sure. Meanwhile the Twenty/20 will be extended and we'll probably still be in the group of death since its a north/south divide. Never mind, from next year we can play two non-qualified players. So we sign Dilshan and Afridi and are well sorted. On the other hand, we may just give more opportunities to Fred Klokker...

You'll gather I'm in jovial mood tonight and it's because the weekend approaches and its been a long week. No cricket, you see. We moan when we lose (or just fail to win) but its rotten when there's no game to follow. England v Ireland really doesn't float my boat, I'm afraid.

In Division Two the games are fairly even at present with no one side seizing the initiative. Good news for us at this stage, but I still feel we're now outsiders for promotion. Having had it in our own hands that is frustrating, but we're realistically not ready yet. There's always next year. I think the departure of lots of Kolpaks will make a big difference in the strength of sides and with more good recruitment (especially in the choice of overseas player) we could be up there in the Championship again.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Morris dancing...

With delight no doubt.

The news that John Morris is set to be offered an extension to his Derbyshire contract has been met positively by the man himself and, by the looks of 606, by the majority of fans.

Me too.

What we need at Derbyshire is a period of stability, with players being brought in and brought through. Anyone who cannot see the potential at Derbyshire shouldn't be allowed out unaccompanied, in my humble opinion. Morris has appointed shrewdly both on and off the pitch and we are in a much better position now than we were when he took over as coach.

Karl Krikken has done a fine job with the Academy and Andy Brown done likewise with the batsmen. Our weakest suit this year has been the bowling, where perhaps the occasional help of Phil de Freitas needs to be more frequent. Having said that, appointing a full time bowling coach could lose us a player, unless of course that person doubled up.

The problem with changing coach is that the new man comes in and either doesn't rate or get on with people who might otherwise have played a role at the club for some time. Morris has brought a lot of good people to the club with his persuasive manner, perhaps better players than we've had for some time. IF he can add to the staff this winter with a spinner, another batsman, a seamer and Steffan Jones (plus sort out the overseas berth) we'll move forward again next year.

Last week's poll suggested that almost half of those voting would like to see us move for James Middlebrook of Essex, with just over a quarter wanting us to stick with Jake Needham and the rest wanting us to move for Gareth Batty. I think the latter will end up at Surrey, personally, where his brother played for some years and where his club mate Steve Davies is headed. As I said last week, I would be happy to see Middlebrook come to Derby and think he's much better than what we have. I still think Jake Needham has greater potential than Mark Lawson, but he's gone back a little this year - a bit like Jon Clare I suppose. I'm sure they'll come again with lots of hard winter work in the gym and the nets.

This week's poll looks at our bowling, an obvious area for improvement. What do you think is our greatest need for next year?

Monday, 24 August 2009

Monday thoughts

I can safely predict that we'll not be beaten in the next week...

OK, joking apart, I've taken the opportunity of a day off to follow the euphoric response to the Ashes win and it was interesting listening to the Aussie coach this lunchtime.

He said that they'd paid for a couple of bad sessions, which is all you need to lose at this level. He's absolutely right and I just hope the media don't go overboard by proclaiming this side the greatest thing since sliced bread (it isn't) and they don't do their usual and build up Stuart Broad up to knock him down (they will).

It is the same as Derbyshire really. With a little inspiration we'd have beaten Leicester having outplayed them, then we'd have done the same to Northamptonshire with a little luck in the last session. There'd then have been no comments about yesterday's loss as the euphoria of impending promotion would have left everyone with a rosy glow.

John Morris made similar comments after yesterday's loss, that we'd played 80% of the game well and need to do the other 20% better. Even allowing for Queens Park being a small ground, 259 in 40 overs should be defendable. When Kent had been pegged back to needing around 180 off the last 20 it should have been a breeze, but in the end they won in a canter.

There's talk around message boards of who we should get for next year and there's various things around t'internet about potential comings and goings around the country. I came across one piece that said that Worcestershire should never have let James Pipe go and it crossed my mind that they may move to get him back in the light of Stephen Davies' impending departure (probably to Surrey). We all know that Pipe is a fine player, but the reality is that Worcester have greater resources and could dangle money in front of him that we could not match. He is out of contract, so there's something to keep an eye on there.

Should he go, John Morris would have to decide whether Tom Poynton is ready for the first team on a regular basis or if he should move for another keeper himself. One option may be ex-Derbyshire keeper Lee Goddard at Durham, a good keeper and importantly a fine batsman who never got a chance first time round. He was upset to leave Derby and may fancy a return.

Stephen Moore is also rumoured to be leaving Worcester and he would be a fine signing as an opening batsman. Moore and Madsen as an opening pair would have a lot of potential, although Paul Borrington should come into the frame with one of them perhaps dropping to three. I'm sure Moore will not lack for suitors, however, especially as a lot of teams will have to replace Kolpaks who do not qualify from next year. T

As for overseas player, Chris Rogers may benefit from the Aussies defeat and get a Test place back, but if he doesn't and cannot return, here's my short list of replacements:

Charl Langeveldt
James Hopes
Shahid Afridi
Cameron White
Chaminda Vaas

I'd take Langers as the penetrative bowler we've lacked, assuming he returns to the Saffer side. Hopes would give you a good batsman and bowler - crucially he may be affordable. Afridi would be a fine draw and on his day a player of genius, but I suspect he'd be out of our league and less reliable for every day performance. White is another who may wish to show his international credentials and as a forcing batsman, leggie of talent and brilliant fielder has much to offer. Vaas has now retired from Test cricket but will still play one days, meaning his availability may be limited.

Any thoughts? Mail me at and I'll print the best of your responses and ideas, with my comments on them.

Have a good one!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Derbyshire v Kent Pro 40

Another disappointing day today as our attack were unable to defend a decent total of 259-8 in 40 overs as Kent ran out easy winners.

I remember many days at Chesterfield where that total would have won the match by a country mile, but the advent of 20 over cricket has brought new strokes and greater ability in working the ball, with the upshot that the result was a foregone conclusion long before the winning run was struck.

Derbyshire's total was built around a fine knock by skipper Chris Rogers, who got a bad lbw decision to end his knock on 88 (were the umpires two fat ladies?)He was well supported by cameos from John Sadler, Tim Groenewald and Jon Clare. It was especially good to see Clare back to something like his best after a difficult second season.

Yet the ease with which we scored at the end of the innings suggested that Kent could do something similar. The highly rated Sam Northeast went early on, but James Hockley and Alex Blake scored steadily in a second wicket partnership. Although Kent were behind the rate when Hockley was dismissed, and Jon Kemp never got going, Darren Stevens and Blake put on a stand before Azhar Mahmood with Stevens took our bowling apart.

There have been comments on message boards about being beaten by Kent Seconds, but for me the game summed up how far we have yet to go before we reach the standard of a club like Kent. Again though it comes down to resources and Kent have far more money to play with than John Morris does at Derbyshire.

There's a comment on 606 that Morris has had more money to spend than David Houghton. That may be true, but it is a marginal increase created by behind the scenes restructuring and the fact is that we have the smallest playing budget of the 18 first class counties. Before the prophets of doom moan too loudly, we should accept that we have punched above our weight for a fair part of the season, have been found wanting for one reason or another when it mattered and will hopefully emerge from the summer with a stronger side next year.

Again, however we were found lacking in the spin department, with Mark Lawson's leg spin going for nine an over. We simply have to find someone better than that for next year. Nothing at all personal against Lawson, but I don't think he's better than Needham and if he's the best spinner we can get we are going to struggle for some time to come.

I know Rogers scored the majority of runs today, but there's a desperate need for a bowler who can take wickets or keep it quiet. A Langeveldt, Hopes or Afridi today might have made a difference. There was a strong similarity to the Twenty/20 at the end of it all. Solid batting, a competent - even challenging - total and then indisciplined bowling when the going got tough.

A couple of puzzlers to end. Why did Wavell not come back on after three tight overs early on and why did Lawson come back on after getting hit out of the attack at the end of his first spell? It was telling that Dan Redfern outbowled Lawson today and his inclusion in the attack was an afterthought. No complaints with the rest of the attack and Greg Smith did especially well, but boy, do we need a spinner.

Maybe we could bring Venkat back....

Interesting e mails

I've had some interesting e mails from people in the last few days.

One was from Rob, who said that we were in a far better position with players than when we had the likes of Andrew Gait, James Bryant, Phil Weston, Jon Moss and Ben Spendlove playing for us.

Then Paul was in touch saying that Spendlove was a decent player who'd had some good innings for us.

I'd have to say that I'm with Rob on this one. All of the guys he named had their days, but you wouldn't put your hand on your heart and say they were either missed or better than what we have now.

Gait could play and four centuries and 19 fifties in 103 first class innings suggested a bloke who knew his way around a cricket bat, yet it seemed at times as if he got bogged down with technique and he never made the most of his talent. The bottom line is that in 118 first class innings he averaged just over 26, which is not enough for an opening batsman. For me, 30 is the benchmark of a decent county bat, 40 a very good player and 50 an outstanding talent. There are allowances to be made for young players finding their way (Park and Redfern anyone?) but also an expectation that they will progress, which Gait never did.

James Bryant had a fine record in South Africa for Eastern Province and was a disappointment. He was in some ways like Dominic Telo, in that he got good starts and then gave it away. Yet he'd played at a high level back home and was, like Telo, a brilliant fielder. Ironically he had just started to put it together as a player when he sustained a serious injury to his shoulder at Old Trafford and his contract was not renewed.

Weston had years of sterling service to Worcestershire and one hoped that his experience would be a real asset to Derbyshire, yet he could barely score a run in his time with us. He was a nice guy but failed to do the business on the pitch.

Jon Moss was another decent cricketer but not quite of the top drawer that an overseas player needs to be. There are counties who have signed overseas players who were at the time unknown and they have gone on to greater things - Viv Richards, Greg Chappell, Keith Boyce and John Wright among them - but Moss never contributed enough with bat or ball to warrant a protracted stay. He was a useful bowler and a decent bat, with a mid-30's average for both, but an overseas player should really deliver more than that to be in any way worthwhile.

Regular viewers of this page and 606 will look at that last comment and say "what about Wavell Hinds?" Fair point, but Hinds isn't the overseas professional and if we could get a non Kolpak who could do better, I'm sure that John Morris would sign him like a shot. However, Moss was never topping the run charts in competitions, which Hinds has, while Hinds has the top level international experience to pass on to younger players.

As for Ben Spendlove, in 66 first class innings in one and 3/4 day cricket he hit four fifties and had an average in the mid teens. For a specialist batsman that is nowhere near enough. Yes, he had days when he looked a decent player, but the reality was that this fine fielder never scored the weight of runs required.

Thanks for your comments - please keep them coming in!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Team update

Derbyshire 12:

Chris Rogers
Garry Park
Greg Smith
Wavell Hinds
Dan Redfern
John Sadler
Jonathan Clare
Tom Poynton
Tim Groenewald
Steffan Jones
Mark Lawson
Nantie Hayward

Kent squad:

Kemp (Captain)
Dixey (WK),

So we have a more experienced side out than I expected, they play a lot of youngsters but enough big guns to make a real game of it.

Should be a belter and with good weather forecast, I'm sure Chesterfield will look a picture.

Derbyshire v Kent preview

It was good to see the national press praising a good cricket wicket at Chesterfield and if there were more around the counties like it the four day game would be a far greater spectacle for many.

Of course the down side is that this game finished in three and clubs will not fancy losing additional days revenue on a regular basis. It is a far greater base from which to judge a player, however. David Willey and Dan Redfern, two young players of whom much is expected, both spent good time in the middle in this match and their runs were worth a far higher score on a better batting track. They'll both have learned from the experience though and will go on to better things I'm sure.

Tomorrow the focus switches to the Pro 40. There's been suggestions from various quarters that we should rest senior players and give youngsters a game. I'm less sure that we should make wholesale changes, especially as there's a week's rest after this one for the side.

It may be that Wayne Madsen returns to his club commitments tomorrow, which would leave a place for John Sadler, while we may see Ian Hunter and Jon Clare back in the side, allowing Steffan Jones and Tim Groenewald a rest. It could also be that Chesney Hughes gets his first team debut, having been in the squad for the Northamptonshire game after good displays for the Seconds. For what its worth, my team for the game would be:

Chris Rogers
Garry Park
Greg Smith
John Sadler
Wavell Hinds
Dan Redfern
James Pipe
Jon Clare
Chesney Hughes
Ian Hunter
Nantie Hayward

Maybe I was a little harsh on Hayward yesterday and I know that a lot of the runs from him came off the edge. Quick bowlers on small grounds and that can happen. Yet I've seen Alan Ward, Harold Rhodes, Ian Bishop, Devon Malcolm and Michael Holding on this ground - all as quick or quicker than Hayward - and rarely going for seven an over. Even Devon, who could be expensive on occasions, would have been unlikely to go for 62 off 9 and it is almost laughable to consider the others doing so. And no, I'm not turning into an old fogey...

Nor, in yesterday's blog did I pay tribute to "Deano" - Steffan Jones, nicknamed after his Australian batting namesake following his recent exploits. His whole hearted efforts yet again came close to bringing dividends. As I said the other day, I'd love to see him here next year and I'm pleased that his loan has again been extended, this time to the end of the season. He's also a top bloke, and we could rely on Steffan to bowl and bowl, usually with considerable accuracy and pace.

Back to tomorrow and Kent last week played most of their second string in the Pro 40 although the presence of the likes of Kemp, Mahmood, Tredwell and Khan made them more than a match for Leicestershire. They are likely to do the same tomorrow, though there is, as yet, no news on their side.

Whether this is the end of the Pro 40 or not, Derbyshire will want to keep a good, positive habits and a win would go some way to erasing the memories of the recent 4-day traumas. It will be a good game and I'll certainly be following it closely.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Further thoughts...

There have been the usual knee jerk reactions to todays defeat on the message boards, with even - astonishingly - calls for John Morris to go.

Why? I can see no sane reason for wanting a man who has done more to improve our competitive edge than anyone since Dean Jones and Les Stillman. His recruitment has been sound, especially this year, with Tim Groenewald proving an astute signing, Garry Park good and Wayne Madsen outstanding. I think it is fair to say that Nantie Hayward has been a disappointment, but Morris also brought Steffan Jones back to the club and is very much in credit in his signings.

There have been very few hammerings this year, even in one day cricket, traditionally a format where we have played badly. In the Twenty/20 we scored enough runs this year to give ourselves a chance, but bowled badly. In the Championship we have battled well and went through half the season unbeaten. In the Pro 40 we are still unbeaten (OK, we've had two out of three rained off, but...) and in the FP Trophy we played some decent cricket.

People need to remember that this is a young side and we have done quite well despite losing key players at different times. Losing a strike bowler like Charl Langeveldt was a huge blow, while the loss of Graham Wagg has arguably cost us the last two matches.

We have some fine young players coming through the Academy system and gaining experience in the Second XI and they will be pushing for the first team in the next year or two.

Next year a lot of counties will have to cope with the loss of some big players with the change in work permit regulations. Few sides will be affected less than Derbyshire. We will possibly lose Chris Rogers, but I'm sure Morris has a plan B for that eventuality, while Wavell Hinds will be unaffected (and hopefully bowling more than this year). Madsen, Park, Smith and Redfern will all have greater experience of first class cricket while I hope that Steffan Jones is added to the seam bowling ranks.

All this suggests I have written off this season, which is far from the case. While I doubt after the last two matches that we have the firepower to beat Kent at Derby, winning at Uxbridge against Middlesex is possible and then it is down to the last game against Essex at Derby. With the division still tight and sides continually beating each other, no one can say at this stage that the final game may not be a must win.

The last few matches have confirmed to me that we need a bowler for next year, someone who can produce something different, get a wicket or keep it tight. I think we have enough batsmen, down the length of the order, to make a reasonable score in matches and just need another man to bowl sides out. Who that is and who is available is anyone's guess.

Look at this last match. Chris Rogers made no score and yet, with another bowler we could (would?) have won it. I know he made a big century at Leicester, but I think there are good options for Derbyshire both inside the club (Sadler, Borrington) and out who could get good runs for us next year.

Today's Australian collapse at The Oval increases Chris Rogers chances of a return next year as there is no doubt that they have not yet sorted the opening partner for Simon Katich. I'd be surprised if Rogers got the nod as its not the Aussie way to blood older players, but we'll watch developments down under this winter with a great deal of interest.

Kent on Sunday. Preview tomorrow. See you then

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day 3

Oh dear...

That's the best I can think of to say tonight, as we lose a game by 2 wickets that was there for the taking.

I know that there were numerous outside edges passed, a couple of chances put down and a good shout for caught behind at a critical stage. Yet that doesn't mask the fact that we SHOULD have won this game.

In the last match at Leicester, we lost as the bowlers came up against a flat track. Here I'd have backed the attack to skittle them on a wicket with a lot of help and 240-plus runs to play with.

There were two things that disappointed me. One was that an ex-Test bowler goes for 7 an over on such a wicket, the other is that we played a leggie who never turned his arm over.

Now I know that Nantie Hayward suffered from the ball going off the edge, but with limited runs to play with, surely his field or his bowling need questioned? When the others go for three an over, that's 30-odd runs given away somehow, massive in the context of the game.

The other issue is a puzzler. Why did Lawson play? He's a good fielder, but they all are and he scored 20-odd this morning. Yet his non-appearance at the bowling crease suggests the skipper didn't trust him, so why did he play? Surely Hughes, Clare or Sadler would have offered more?

Like the rest of you I'm hurting tonight. I can take losing to decent sides, but this was definitely one that got away. Whether it is terminal to our promotion chances only time will tell, but it has been made a heck of a lot harder now.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day 2

A life membership of Derbyshire Cricket Club for the under 50's? £1950

A revamp of the County Ground introducing 2,000 seats and a marquee? £500,000

This afternoon's stand between Tim Groenewald (pictured) and Steffan Jones? Priceless.

With apologies to Mastercard, that's the sum of it in the context of this match and possibly Derbyshire's season. With Gloucestershire having a dreadful day at Leicester and having to pull something quite sensational out of the bag to get anything from the game, a win for us in this game would put real daylight between us and the chasing pack, even allowing for Northamptonshire having a game in hand.

I said last night that I thought the two late wickets had left the game evenly poised and although Northamptonshire got to lunch with 200 on the board and only five wickets down, Derbyshire and Tim Groenewald in particular came out after lunch like men inspired. 224-5 became 246 all out as Groenewald, with a little assistance from Wavell Hinds, ripped the lower order apart.

Of course, to do that a bowler has to have some help and it was always likely that we would struggle in turn. At 53-4 I'm sure you were as concerned as I was, with Lucas and Van der Wath getting movement from the pitch. Wavell Hinds counter attacked and played a fine cameo before hitting a steepler to mid off, while Dan Redfern dug in and battled for an hour and three-quarters for his 28. Even so, at 140-7 and all the main batsmen out we needed runs from somewhere.

Enter Messrs Groenewald and Jones. As the bowlers tired, the two bowlers added 63 in 11 overs with some sensible batting. Last week on 606, someone moaned about Groenewald and said they didn't know what his role in the team was supposed to be! The answer's simple - he's possibly the best signing of the season who takes wickets and has contributed useful tail end runs on several occasions. Same with Steffan - his attitude, runs and wickets have been spot on since he arrived from Somerset.

On the Northamptonshire boards they already think they've lost this one and didn't fancy their chances of making 175. Now that we're 221 ahead, my money is on Derbyshire. I exchanged texts this afternoon and said that 180 would be testing on a wearing track. A few more tomorrow will be handy and 250 a psychological barrier, but we will need to bowl badly or them bat especially well to lose this one. The wickets of Peters and White will be important, the former as he can dig in, the latter as he can take a game away from you quickly, but for me we are in the driving seat here.

On the subject of the wicket, I'm sure John Morris would have asked for a result track and has almost certainly got one. Whichever way the result goes, isn't it nice to see a game where there's a balance between bat and ball and the batsmen don't have it all their own way? Look at the farce at Taunton at present. Sussex 742-5 and Somerset 126-0. Boring, boring, boring. I know which game I'd sooner have watched, irrespective of Murray Goodwin's triple century.

So to tomorrow. Leicestershire nearly 300 ahead at Grace Road with five wickets left against our nearest rivals. Makes our "failings" last week ever so slightly more palatable doesn't it? If we can bag the win points tomorrow, we could be 26 points clear of third place after this round of matches.

Come on lads. Let's do it tomorrow!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day 1

All things considered, we made a bit of a pig's ear of it today.

After a good start from Rogers and Madsen, we recovered to pass the hundred with only two wickets down and then the middle order fell away. It was only through the clean hitting of James Pipe and Steffan Jones that we reached 250 and a second precious bonus point. In the light of that collapse, maybe we should be pleased with that 255. Not great, but not disastrous either.

Yet half an hour from the close, Northants were cruising at 131-1 with White and Peters finding things very much to their liking. We were, putting not too fine a point on it, looking down a barrel.

Then Wavell's dibbly dobbly seamers got White lbw and Tim Groenewald got his second wicket, the huge one of Stephen Peters, who went in the same way. A closing score of 137-3 means that all is fairly even, though I'd be happy as a Northants fan tonight.

Wavell's wicket reminded me of something that has puzzled me this year - his lack of bowling. Maybe he's had a niggling injury, but there's been times, especially in one day games, when Wavell's wobblers would have done something different and maybe slowed things down. He's an underrated bowler - no world beater but needing to be watched. I think he's been under utilised with the ball, no question of it.

As for the game, today's wickets have increased the likelihood of a positive result, even if rain takes a hand. A couple of early wickets and we could have Wessels and Hall in. Van der Wath can hit hard as we know, but we are still very much in this match.

What we really need is for Nantie Hayward to come out tomorrow and rekindle memories of the international bowler he was. It hasn't really worked for him so far, yet one hopes that the fire still flickers and could yet be fanned into flame. A fit and firing Hayward would get life out of this wicket and there's no doubt that Graham Wagg would have loved it today as he often does well at Queens Park.

In today's other big game at the top of the table, Leicestershire made 332-8 against Gloucestershire, with teenage prodigy James Taylor again top scoring with an unbeaten 76. A wonderful talent that lad and I only hope he's a lifelong Derbyshire fan whose ambition is to join us and play a major part in our rise to do,inance. I suspect he won't, but we can dream.

Finally tonight, news that we're developing the ground with 2,000 more seats and a permanent marquee is excellent. One assumes that this is to pull in more punters for the big Twenty/20 nights. In the light of our form in this format of the game, might I suggest that the big tent is called the Marquee de Sade?

I'll get me coat. See you tomorrow when I'll blog earlier - the painting has officially finished!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire preview

Sorry about the lateness of the blog tonight but I've been up a ladder painting all day, also known as acquiring brownie points to those in the know!

While I've been doing the Peakfan equivalent of the Sistine Chapel in our living room, I've thought a lot about tomorrow's game - essentially about how much I'd like to have been there.
Still, I hope to make the decisive game against Essex all being well, so I'll keep my fingers crossed that results in between times go our way and make that one something special.

Both sides have injury problems tomorrow. As pretty much everyone expected, Graham Wagg sits this one out and to be honest, I'd be surprised if we saw much more of him this year. A shoulder injury takes some recovery and if that is the case it is a massive blow.

Nonetheless, it also presents an opportunity to someone else and Derbyshire go into the game with the following 13:

Chris Rogers
Wayne Madsen
Garry Park
Greg Smith
Wavell Hinds
Dan Redfern
James Pipe
Chesney Hughes
Jonathan Clare
Tim Groenewald
Steffan Jones
Mark Lawson
Nantie Hayward

The top eleven could well be what takes the field, although Nantie Hayward could be preferred to Jon Clare. If that is so, it would mean a first class debut for Anguillan Chesney Hughes, who has being doing well with bat and ball in the Second XI. He is the latest to stake a claim to the spinning berth and can surely do no worse than Mark Lawson, who has struggled to take wickets this year. With Jake Needham out of favour at present (despite six wickets for Ockbrook at the weekend), Hughes has an opportunity to show what he can do. A stylish all-rounder, I think fans will like what they see and I'm sure it won't be his one and only appearance. D'ya get it? and only... I'm wasted me!

Northamptonshire have yet to announce their side, but look set to be without influential skipper Nick Boje with a back injury. With Monty Panesar in the Test squad, Andrew Hall is likely to be skipper. The key wicket is likely to be that of Stephen Peters, so often the thorn in Derbyshire sides. He has always scored heavily against us and removing him will be key to our chances.

Yet if the weather stays favourable I think we can win this one. There's light rain forecast for the last three days so we look like being truncated to some extent, but this is a pretty good Derbyshire side. To be fair, I think some of them don't realise how good they are, or could potentially be. A good spinner and a strike bowler would make a huge difference to the side, but where we get them is another question.

Elsewhere comes the news that from next year we will be known in one day circles as the Derbyshire Falcons. We were rubbish as Scorpions (no sting in the tail) and only slightly better as Phantoms (many said we didn't have a ghost of a chance). Perhaps now we'll prey (I'm in form tonight!) on unsuspecting opponents.

Here's to a good one tomorrow. The boys can do it!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Quiet day

Not much to write today, as it is a seriously quiet day that is bereft of cricket news.

The biggest is that Hampshire have signed Sri Lankan spin prodigy Ajantha Mendis for next season, which means that one of the four decent spinners in the world game is signed up. Muralitharan dicky knee and Vettori's schedule for New Zealand mean they'll be unlikely to opt for a county stint, while it will be interesting to see if anyone goes for the maverick talent that is Shahid Afridi. A number may wish to paraphrase Marshall Pierre Bosquet (speaking of the Charge of the Light Brigade) by suggesting c'est magnifique mais ce n'est pas le county cricket about the Pakistani all rounder...

Last week came news that a lesser quality spinner, but one with a decent reputation, James Middlebrook, had been released by Essex. He's a fair player with a decent county record. 319 wickets at mid-30's average, a decent, tight one day bowler and a batsman with four first class centuries under his belt, together with a number of fifties.

Given that John Morris likes his players to be able to offer things in the different disciplines (look how many all rounders, or batting bowlers we have), could Middlebrook be a player worth pursuing? At 32 he has plenty of cricket left in him and he's a Yorkshireman so familiar with tracks oop north. I'm not suggesting that he's a world beater, but given that decent (even semi-decent) spinners are in short supply, is Middlebrook worth a look for next year?

That's Middlebrook and Gareth Batty of Worcestershire looking for new counties this winter. Very similar career records but Batty's England call ups will probably mean he will be in higher demand. Are either of them worth John Morris pursuing this winter? Let's make that this week's poll.

As for last week's, over half of those voting thought that we could do better than Tom Lungley and Mark Lawson, while 19% thought we should offer Tom another year. Only 11% thought that Lawson was worth another year, while 10% thought we should retain both.

For me, I think we need to move on. Lungley has bowled some good spells for Derbyshire but has bowled some bad ones too. His fitness is an ongoing issue and I'm not convinced that another year would see that change. I'd sooner sign on Steffan Jones again, given the choice, as Steff will always contribute and has a better fitness record than most.

As for Lawson, he took his first wickets in the Championship for us at Leicester, but if anyone was going to get something out of that track it should have been a leggie and it didn't happen. I was amused to read Pat Gibson writing in The Times on the eve of the final day that Lawson was seeking his first wicket for Derbyshire. Guess he was in the pub when he took the two in the first innings then...

Sloppy journalism, and surprising from someone I rate as better than many others out there.

I'll be back tomorrow for a Northamptonshire preview and hopefully news of the respective squads. See you then.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Chesterfield again

I hope that the recent indifferent weather clears to allow four good days for the Championship match that starts at Chesterfield on Wednesday.

For one thing, the game is important for both Derbyshire and Northamptonshire. A win for the hosts will cement our position in the promotion pack, while a defeat for the visitors will probably end their interest in the race for Division One.

For another, it is no more than this most lovely of grounds deserves. On a recent visit down south we had our lunch there and it is still as pretty a ground as I have seen. There's less of a view of the crooked spire these days as the trees have grown and pretty much obscured much of it, but the ground and its setting are as good as you'll see anywhere.

Here's the table as things stand - see it in full at

Kent 152
Derbyshire 135
Gloucestershire 125
Essex 114
Surrey 113
Northamptonshire 108
Glamorgan 105
Middlesex 98
Leicestershire 89

Much has been written about our failure to beat Leicestershire, yet only two teams have. Without an in depth analysis of their matches I couldn't say if that is down to luck or skill, but the fact is that both will be required by the sides in contention between now and the end of September.

If one studies the points tallies it is patently clear that the biggest threat to us is Gloucestershire, yet we won at Cheltenham and were well matched at Chesterfield earlier in the season. Where Gloucestershire have "scored" is in winning four matches, or in the weather allowing them to do so. They have a good opening attack in Lewis and Kirby, with Kiwi James Franklin having been a solid signing, yet their batting, so strong on paper, has at times looked very brittle, which accounts for their four defeats.

We must discount Kent, who for me are one of the best six sides in the country. A bad last six weeks took them down last year, but an analysis of their squad against others in this division shows marked differences in experience.

Essex could yet come back into things with Danish Kaneria's threat on dry wickets over the next couple of months, while they will also be strengthened by Ravi Bopara who will be keen to put his England woes behind him. Alistair Cook may also come into the frame for the late season games as he will not be in England's one day plans, so they cannot yet be ruled out.

Surrey, I think have too much to do. Losing the fiery Andre Nel will be a big blow to them and I don't think that their bowling without him has enough penetration to back up a decent batting line up. Crucially, they, like Essex, are 20 points or more behind us at this stage so need wins.

As for the other two who are feasibly interested in promotion affairs, Northamptonshire have the game in hand over other sides but will really need to win at Chesterfield, while Glamorgan are inconsistent with bat and ball. On their day they can be very good, but...

So to be honest, Derbyshire are deservedly in the mix and if we use a footballing analogy, points on the board are important. Whether we like it or not, however, this one is going to go right down to the wire. I fully expect our final game against Essex to be one that will be of major significance and luck is going to play a big part in coming weeks. One team will have a promising position ruined by rain, while another clutches precious draw points from the jaws of defeat thanks to last day monsoons. It happens, it is what makes cricket such an absorbing game and it is why we all love it.

Let's be honest though, it's all the sweeter this year because we're in the mix. It is a very even division and there's less than 40 points between second and second bottom.

Squeaky bum time they call it in the football world. Quite apposite, I reckon.

Let's just hope that our guys hold their nerve.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

The name's Rao, Rajesh Rao

Thanks to "Anon" last night who posted that the young Sussex batsman I referred to was Rajesh Rao.

In 46 first class innings his highest score was 89 and this was a man who opened innings and was a top order batsman. He finished with an average of just over 20, which is a fairly poor return. In one day cricket his average was 24 from 43 innings but it would have been much the same as his first class record but for his knock against Derbyshire on July 29 1997 at Derby.

I was at the game with my Dad and it was glorious weather. Adrian Rollins and Dominic Cork opened the batting for us but it was Chris Adams who stole the show with a superb unbeaten 129 as we posted 327-8 in 60 overs. This was the Nat West Bank quarter final, so we were understandably buoyant at the interval as we ate our sandwiches. Our attack was strong - Malcolm, De Freitas, Cork, Aldred, Barnett, Harris and Clarke and we fancied our chances.

Even more so when, as I walked round to the ice cream van as Devon bowled his first over he bowled Keith Greenfield neck and crop. The biggest name in the Sussex ranks was Bill Athey and none of us were too fussed when this young chap Rao came in.

Yet he slaughtered us, making 158 out of 278 before he was dismissed and the game was won by then. It went to the last over, but this young batsman had his day and one wondered if it was a prelude to greater things.

It was not to be. He never made another first class century and, like the old Nottinghamshire batsman Ted Alletson, will probably relive his great innings long into his dotage. That July day, Rajesh Rao was simply brilliant and rendered a top international attack (four of them, anyway) impotent.

Anyway, as always happens the 606 moanzone is in full spate. We're bottlers now, which to some extent is true as we didn't win, but does a disservice to bowlers who did their damnedest and a skipper who rang more changes than the church bellringers. I can accept an accusation like that if we collapse limply chasing a tiny total, but when they're doing all they can and getting no reward, without their leading bowler, it's patently unfair.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 4

There's a tendency to knee jerk reactions after a reverse among fans of any sports side.

We're no different at Derbyshire and there's a few prophets of doom lining up on 606 tonight with a range of comments.

We don't deserve to go up. If we do manage it we'll come back down. Yadda, yadda, yadda...

C'mon guys, reality check.

At lunch time I was the same as everyone else and thought we were pretty much there, but an hour after lunch it was patently obvious that the track was dead. Bereft of life, it had ceased to be (etc). The galling thing from our perspective is that Jigar Naik had a previous best of 16 from eleven innings. This happens though and every dog has its day.

I remember a cup match a few years ago when a young Sussex batsman with little previous form (and not much subsequently) scored 150 against us to take the game after we'd scored 300. I can't remember the lad's name at this time, but it was a phenomenal innings and if he'd used a hockey stick that day he'd have creamed it to all corners of the ground. We'd Malcolm, Cork and other good bowlers but he was superb. It happens and when it does there's nowt you can do about it.

My mind went back this afternoon to when we were pushing for the title under Dean Jones and could not get the last wickets against Somerset with a much stronger attack than we have now. They all tried their best to no avail and it was heart breaking stuff.

Same today. They all did their level best but there were two things that stopped us winning this match. One was the loss of Graham Wagg, the other was the loss of one and a half sessions to the rain. Had either of those gone our way we'd have won it. I'd qualify it by saying that Leicestershire have a very special player in James Taylor, who I think will be one of the best batsmen of his generation. He's a super little player and I'd love to see him at Derby. Then again, every county would want such a compact player and he will go a long way.

Yet while we're crying in our beer tonight guys, let's remember two things. First of all, we're still very much in the promotion hunt and in second place as things stand. Secondly, when was the last time we were genuinely excited by our season? Second in the Championship, second in the Pro 40. Good times.

It's not over yet by a long chalk. Gloucester have still to play Leicestershire, Middlesex and Glamorgan away and both Surrey and Kent at home.

Essex play Surrey, Glamorgan, Leicestershire and us

Surrey play Essex, Kent, Gloucester, Northants and Glamorgan

We have Northants, Kent and Essex at home and Middlesex away.

If you look at those fixtures, there's massive potential for teams to knock each other out of the race. As someone points out on 606 tonight, we could yet finish sixth, which would be a poor return on a pretty good season. But we could yet finish second.

Disappointed tonight? Yes. Disgusted and downhearted? Not by a long chalk.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 3

It was another pretty good day for Derbyshire today at Leicester, but the best news came when I saw that the forecast for tomorrow has changed from the rain predicted earlier in the week to a pretty dry day. We SHOULD have a chance of enough play to get the wickets we need.

Which explains, of course, why we batted on today until we had a lead of 300. My comments last night were based on little play tomorrow and I was surprised when we kept batting after getting our fifth batting bonus point at 400 today. As things stand, Leicestershire have done well today to reach 150 with only two wickets down, but if we can make early inroads tomorrow (and especially if we shift Ackerman and Taylor early) there's every chance that we could force a win.

Unless the forecasters change their mind, of course...

Chris Rogers went on to his highest score of the season today, a fine effort that he had to work for. By the same token, Greg Smith will be kicking himself that a fine innings fell short of three figures and will go down on his record as a fifty, rather than the near century it was. The other batsmen perished going for quick runs, with Wavell hitting some lusty blows and James Pipe getting some in the scorebook on his return.

When Steffan Jones got a wicket with his second ball, removing the other Greg Smith, the boys will have scented a day off, but I just hope we don't live to regret James Pipe dropping Boyce when he was only 17. Logic still suggests a Derbyshire win, since Leicestershire have a long tail, but there seems little wrong with the wicket and I can see us having to do the equivalent of a twenty over thrash tomorrow afternoon, unless the bowling conditions change.

We'll have to do it without Graham Wagg, who won't bowl again in the match, although there is no news yet on the severity of the injury and its long term implications. There's comments on 606 that Wagg has been overbowled this season, but I don't buy into that. I know he's a bloke who likes to bowl and, as I posted on 606, if you have the ability to bowl fast medium then switch to spin, there's every chance you'll have some long spells. When you think back to the 1,000-plus overs that bowlers used to get through, I don't think Wagg has been overbowled personally.

After all, he's been taken off twice....

Joking apart, I remember a season not all that long ago when it seemed Paul Aldred bowled one end from April to September. I'm also casting my mind back years to when I was sports captain of my house at school and wanted to win the school athletics Sports Cup. I'd a mate who ran for the local Harriers and was well rated and I put him in for the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m - plus the relays. He/we won them all and it forced a rule change the next year. I thought it innovative, personally and he barely broke sweat all afternoon. I sweated more as I watched the teachers in earnest discussion as he won yet another race...

Anyway, maximum points here would take us 20 clear of Gloucestershire, who themselves visit Leicester next Wednesday, while we entertain Northamptonshire. The latter are on the back foot against Kent and will have to bat exceptionally well on the last day to win and very well to escape with a draw. It would also put 30 points between us and Surrey. Their attack doesn't look the most dangerous and they're unlikely to have Andre Nel for the remainder of the season.

So tomorrow is more than just another day, it could well be a pivotal one in our season. Who's going to provide the spark for us?

I hope someone does.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day two

What a day!

We only lose one wicket in the two sessions of play possible and stretch our lead to 100 after two days, then sign Wayne Madsen on a two-year contract. Then tonight our village team beat a county second XI, which was quite an event in our little cricketing life. Easy too, won with 7 wickets and two overs to spare. Maybe I should start a club blog...

Anyway, I'm really pleased that we have secured Madsen's services for the next two seasons. I jokingly referred to him as "Bradman" last week and while he's not quite in that class, I think we have signed a batsman of very high talent, as he has already proven. Like other players, he'll have days when he fails and that is always more likely at the head of the innings. Yet he has also shown that when he gets in he is prepared to bat for a long time. It is great to see and I'm delighted with John Morris' work.

As for today, we only lost the wicket of Garry Park, for 41, before Chris Rogers and Greg Smith doubled the score with a fine partnership. The skipper has batted with real restraint here, hitting only eight boundaries in posting his highest score of the season so far, while Greg Smith continued his best season with another punishing knock. I understand that Smith was wanting to bat higher and in recent games he has shown the results to justify the decision. Both of the not out batsmen are within range of their thousand this year and that would be an excellent return.

To be fair, Leicestershire are not a great side, but you can only beat what is put in front of you and at present we are on course to do that in this game.


The forecast for Friday is not too good, so Derbyshire will want to be bowling again, I would guess, sometime in the early/mid afternoon with a lead of 250-plus and maximum batting points from the match. Then it is a case of trying to bowl them out as quickly as possible. Easy peasy...

A win here would be terrific and would lay down a marker to the rest of the chasing pack. Northamptonshire are having a very even battle against Kent but a win here would again put daylight between us in second place and the other sides.

Here's to another good day for the boys tomorrow - and ultimate success!

Finally, I enjoyed reading Steve Stubbings comments in the Derby Telegraph today on his time with Derbyshire. They summed up the man that he is and the reason why we will miss him. There may well be better players fill the opener's berth for us in the years ahead, but they'll have to go a long way to be as nice a guy as Stubbo. A diamond of a man and we'll miss that cheery smile around the place.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 1

Happy days are here again...

A fantastic day for Derbyshire today as they bowled out their hosts for 177 before progressing steadily to 67-1 by the close. You'll not need me to tell you that this is a fantastic situation for the end of the first day in a four day game, but we now need to press on, get a good lead and then bowl them out again.

I find it hard to believe that Leicestershire will capitulate quite as easily again, but the biggest danger to Derbyshire may well be the weather. Tomorrow and Friday are not looking brilliant weather-wise, so it is imperative that we push along and allow maximum time to bowl them out again.

There was great news before the start with the return of James Pipe to the side. This gives a little more solidity to the batting and offers added impetus to the lower order. Nantie Hayward and Jon Clare were omitted, while Mark Lawson was preferred to Jake Needham, surprisingly in some eyes.

Or was it? This is the time of year for leg-spinners to come into their own, with harder, drier wickets tending to dust a little and offer more extravagant bounce - exactly what a leggie needs. It may be that we could see more of Lawson in the coming weeks and he could change people's opinions of him. Certainly his 5-wicket hauls at Yorkshire were obtained in the later season and it is a good weapon to have, especially on last day tracks.

That Lawson took two wickets today (his first ones in the Championship for us) was a first day bonus. Last night I suggested that Steffan Jones had been a little flat, results-wise in recent games and could make way for Nantie Hayward.

WRONG! Hands up to the Steff-meister who produced a two-in-three double to remove Boyce and Dippenaar. When Greg Smith ripped out the middle order we could see light at the end of the tunnel. Wayne White batting at seven doesn't suggest a line-up of great depth and Derbyshire will be very satisfied with bowling the hosts out for just 177, especially when they elected to bat. Jones ended with 4-43, Smith 3-31 and Lawson 2-20. It was a good performance by our boys, with only the 25 extras taking them any way to a total. The only concern was a shoulder injury to Graham Wagg which will be scanned tomorrow. I'm sure we all hope our influential and multi-talented all rounder will be OK.

In reply, I was encouraged to see the skipper getting his head down and Wayne Madsen doing likewise. Madsen was lbw to Claude Henderson before the close, but Garry Park played soundly having earlier held three fine catches.

As for the rest of the match, we could do with runs on the board as quickly as possible. Depending on progress (and let's not forget we need to score them and it is not a foregone conclusion) there could even be a declaration before the close tomorrow or certainly before lunch on Thursday. Maximum batting points would be superb, but it will need a team effort.

If the skipper can make a ton against his former employers tomorrow it will go a long way towards a good points haul in the match, which in turn will set next week's match against Northamptonshire up as a classic. As things stand, we've again leap-frogged Gloucestershire in the table after the first day, while Kent have not had a great time against Northamptonshire on the first day.

Realistically, all we can do is continue to win our games. That in turn will put pressure on the other sides and it is all still very open. Any of six sides could go up this year and much will depend on holding nerve at key moments.

Nice one lads. Keep it up

Monday, 10 August 2009

50/50 on the poll

While few of you expect us to win Division Two now, the rest are pretty much evenly split over getting promoted in second place (46%) and blowing it (50%).

I still think we can do it, but feel we need to beat Leicestershire, starting tomorrow, then Northamptonshire at Chesterfield to build up the necessary momentum again. With so much cricket still to be played, all it needs is one side to string results together and...

This week's poll revolves around two players around whom there is a degree of uncertainty at present, Tom Lungley and Mark Lawson. With both of them out of contract at the end of the summer, do you think they're worth another one?

Answer in the usual way. I look forward to the results of this one!

Leicestershire v Derbyshire preview

The Brian Lara post - also known as 501...

There's another big four days coming up for Derbyshire until the weekend with a Championship game against our local rivals Leicestershire.

Our cause has been slightly aided by the absence of Jim Allenby, who has today joined Glamorgan. I have to admit to surprise at that one, as I'd seen half the western world linked with signing the guy. I don't wish to do them a disservice, but there were few counties I thought him LESS likely to sign for. Presumably they have put considerable money in his direction as he's signed for three years. Good luck to him, I would have liked to see him at Derby, but I'm happy to leave it with the thought that either John Morris didn't rate him or he was asking a king's ransom. Given I'm quite happy with how we're shaping up and am not privy to who Morris may have lined up over the winter, I'm quite happy to leave it there for now.

On the face of it, the Foxes haven't the strongest squad in the division, but they have some fine players and we'll need to play well to beat them. Paul Nixon is also out of favour after recent comments and actions, so they will depend on Ackerman and Dippenaar boosting an inexperienced batting line up. Their 12 is:

Dippenaar (capt)
New (wk)
du Toit

"Sweet Baby" James Taylor is having a good season for the hosts, while Ackerman and Dippenaar (both possibly in their last year at Leicester) always take some getting past. With ex-Derbyshire players Tom New and Wayne White in the side, there will be a little extra spice in the encounter too. Recent wickets there have offered help to the bowlers, so our final selection will be of paramount importance.

We're taking 14 to the game, as follows:

Chris Rogers (capt)
Wayne Madsen
Garry Park
Dan Redfern
Wavell Hinds
Greg Smith
Freddie Klokker (wk)
Graham Wagg
Tim Groenewald
Jonathan Clare
Jake Needham
Steffan Jones
Mark Lawson
Nantie Hayward

I'd reckon our top nine picks itself with the final two places between the bottom five named. I suspect we'll play a specialist spinner, as Jake Needham did well here last season, which would mean that Hayward, Clare and Jones were going for one place. On current form I'd be inclined to go with Hayward. Steff has not been as penetrative in the last couple of games, while Jon Clare has had a frustrating time with injuries and form this year - typical second season blues in fact.

Staying with the seamers, it was interesting to see Tom Lungley go out on loan to Lancashire today for a month. I'm not sure where it leaves Tom for next year, but he'll do his cause no harm at all if he goes there and takes a few Division One wickets. He's not had the best of seasons and maybe needs a sustained spell of cricket to get fully match fit.

We really need to win this game. With respect to the Foxes, there are few weaker sides in the division and we have to beat the likes of them to stand any chance of promotion. They have good players, but put the two sides on paper and we look stronger. Just need to prove it on grass now then lads eh?

Finally, I see there's suggestions that Mark Ramprakash could make an England return for the final Test. Given we have to win and he's still by a mile the best English batsman in the country - as well as being familiar with the track on his County ground - he has to come in. While accepting that batsmen have it all going for them in the current game, Ramprakash's feats in recent seasons have been extraordinary and he has to come in for the selectors to retain any credibility. There's also talk of Trescothick coming in, but I'm less sure of that one because of the health issues. I'd give Trott a game for sure, as I'm still not convinced that Bell is a bona fide Test batsman at the very highest level.

Still, why should we care? We've got Wayne Madsen, the Derbyshire Bradman...

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Surrey v Derbyshire day 4

It would have been nice if this, my 500th post on the blog, could have been marked by a Derbyshire win.

However, we have to be content with the draw points and I'm pleased that we lasted out the afternoon fairly comfortably to keep very much in contention for promotion.

That we did so was pretty much due to another fine innings from South African Wayne Madsen, who reached a serene second century for the County in an innings that promised much for the future. I listened to the commentary from BBC London (good work guys, you know your stuff and were nicely impartial) and was impressed by the selfless way that Madsen played for the team rather than himself. Having reached 82 by the tea interval, he adopted a "they shall not pass" attitude afterwards and ensured that Derbyshire got through to the points. He now averages 70 after four first class matches and we're very lucky to have landed a young player with such obvious talent.

To be fair, Derbyshire were always unlikely to go for 349 once Chris Rogers had gone first ball, while the loss of Garry Park just before lunch meant someone would have to come up with something extraordinary for a win to be an option. Greg Smith did a good job in the afternoon, but Surrey produced some aggressive bowling and at tea I had reservations about our holding out.

Full marks to Madsen and to Freddie Klokker though. Freddie is a committed cricketer who is maybe just short of top class but is also someone who will battle for anything and everything. In some ways he was a better man for this situation than James Pipe, who might have found it hard to resist having a go at the bowlers as they were digging it in after tea.

At the end of the game, we sit in third place in Division Two, just behind Gloucestershire. Some will see this as an opportunity missed, but I'm quite happy with the result after the final day. Of course, we could really do with beating Leicestershire next and opening up some daylight in the division, but that's a topic for another day.

Well done lads. Good effort.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Surrey v Derbyshire day 3

So where's your money with a day to go?

Surrey are 223 on with 7 wickets in hand and are likely to look to set us around 320-350 tomorrow. With Gloucestershire winning today and Surrey now just behind us in the table, this is a massive day of cricket. They can't afford to bat us out of interest in the game as they need to dangle a carrot and risk losing to beat us and leapfrog us in the table.

Our batting today was disappointing. When you're 168-2 overnight a total of 323 is poor. That we got so far was almost entirely due to Graham Wagg and Dan Redfern who shared a crucial stand that kept us in the match. To be fair, it was the sort of collapse that would have been total two to three years back and again a feature was the fact that players were prepared to battle.

Wagg took two more wickets in the Surrey second innings, but we will need to bat better as a team tomorrow to have any chance of the points in this one. A draw would not be the end of the world as there is a lot of cricket left in the season, but I hope that we at least have a go for the win points and Surrey make a game of it.

Whatever happens tomorrow, it has to be better than England, who have been shocking in this Test match. Bopara looks a shadow of the man who scores so many for Essex and it shows the gulf between REAL Test cricket and the early season matches against the West Indies, where Bopara looked a player of real class. He's been found out (for now) and both he and Bell could be under threat for the final Test.

Still, this is a Derbyshire blog, so enough of the Test cricket. Let's go for it tomorrow lads and lay the gauntlet down to the others in doing so.

Surrey v Derbyshire day 3

Strange morning session today.

It followed a similar pattern to yesterday, when wickets fell at regular intervals. In the various permutations for the game today, losing the skipper and Wavell in the first 15 minutes was not one discussed. When Smith and Klokker also fell to leave us 209-6 we could have been facing a sizeable first innings deficit.

Enter Messrs Wagg and Redfern, who added 106 for the seventh wicket in a stand of vital importance. Wagg has been short of runs this year and we could do with the remaining batsmen pushing the total into a lead this afternoon.

Either way, the game is intriguingly poised and a positive result is very much on at this stage.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Who's interested in this?

Nice idea from the Brit Oval.

The Wicket Widget is quick to install and once you have done so it gives you news feeds, match footage (albeit Surrey only) and radio commentary.

Best of all, you can chat online to likeminded cricket enthusiasts! So just think, all Derbyshire fans could meet via this through an invitation (from me) to join.

I think it looks good and is worth a try and it would be interesting to hear what you think.

Go to and download if you are interested. It is very quick. Once you have done so, e mail me at and I'll send you an invitation to join the group.

It could be the start of something big. Or small...

Just remember, you can uninstall just as easily if you don't like it

I hope to hear from you soon and will send your invitation as soon as I can afterwards

Surrey v Derbyshire day 2

Sorry about the lateness of the blog tonight, but Mr and Mrs Peakfan have been married for 23 years today. We went for an intimate Chinese meal four (the kids came too) and had a nice time. Now, after a cracking feed and prawn crackers a-plenty it's time to reflect on the day's cricket.

As the old song goes, what a difference a day makes. Surrey 309-3 overnight, were all out for 362 with man of the moment Tim Groenewald returning his best figures for the County, a superb 6-50 in 24 overs that tell of his accuracy as well as penetration. Groenewald's recent emergence as a bowler of real quality highlights the effectiveness of John Morris' close season recruitment last year. He now has 21 first class wickets at 19 each, as well as averaging a very handy 24 with the bat. He was ably backed by that most willing of work horses, Graham Wagg, a little more expensive than normal but happy to bowl and bowl.

When we lost the early wicket of Wayne Madsen, then Garry Park went for 15, there were thoughts of a real battle, but Chris Rogers, aided by the promoted Greg Smith, took us serenely through to stumps with an unbroken partnership of 122. Rogers batted steadily at the start and I'm always happier to see him do that than go off like a train, when he can sometimes get out playing too loosely. Despite missing the first three Championship matches Rogers is now our top scorer for the season and averages just under 60. Having said that, Greg Smith is also having his best season and batted in the same vein as in the Pro 40 game earlier in the week. Smith could feasibly make his 1,000 runs this year and we really need both to kick on tomorrow, see off the opening bowlers and take us to a good lead.

There are, of course, two ways we could play this one. One is to declare at roughly the Surrey total and aim to win on a last day run chase, an option if the pitch is still good. The alternative is to aim to score maybe 550 tomorrow then get the hosts in again (and more importantly get Ramprakash out again). Whichever option is chosen will be dictated by the first seassion tomorrow, when a steady start could spark an afternoon run spree.

It is important that we do win this. Gloucestershire are well set in their game against Essex and should win tomorrow, while Kent lost to bottom side Middlesex, despite the last wicket heroics of Simon Cook and Amjad Khan. The division is wide open, but make no bones about it, Derbyshire are playing some REALLY good cricket at the moment, some of their best in a long time. When batsmen and bowlers both do their job, there's no limit to where it might take the side.

I don't know about you, but I'm enjoying every minute!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Surrey v Derbyshire, day 1

On the face of it, with Surrey 308-3 at the end of the first day, this has been a bad day for our boys.

Or was it? On what appears another fine batting track at Croydon's Whitgift School, our best chance of a win could well be in being set a total on the last afternoon that we can chase. It would be surprising if the wicket deteriorated markedly in the next few days and with short boundaries I think we did well to keep the score to manageable proportions.

We also got Ramprakash out for less than a hundred - congratulations to Tim Groenewald for that one - while Nantie Hayward bowled well and deserved his two wickets. We didn't help our cause by putting down three chances before lunch, but we're not needing snookers at this stage.

Graham Wagg had another erratic day, with his radar a little off and his bowling going for four an over, but we used eight bowlers today and that made the batsmen think. Even with ex Test bowlers Pedro Collins, Andre Nel and Chris Schofield in their attack, I wouldn't be unduly concerned at batting and we should, in turn, make a good fist of things.

Our cause was helped today by the news from Canterbury where Kent look like losing to Middlesex tomorrow. Chasing 335 to win, the hosts had slipped to 49-2 by the close and logic suggests that on a "sporting" track they should lose tomorrow. If we can win this one, we'll be right back on their tail with a lot to play for.

Surrey's day ended with the sad news that Mark Butcher has had to retire due to persistent knee problems. Butcher was a good servant to Surrey and England and few will forget his 173 against Australia at Headingley in 2001. He averaged 40 for Surrey through his career, the sign of a pretty good player.

I was pleased to see John Morris' comments after last night's win against Surrey in the Derby Telegraph this morning. He's absolutely right, we were strolling it at one point and there was no need for the big shots that got several players out. If they need further "encouragement", Morris should get Dean Jones along for a masterclass in one day batting. He's still the best worker of a cricket ball I've seen, a master of placing, timing and running. Six an over with Deano at the crease was a breeze - he'd have pushed three twos and taken no chances...

Finally tonight, a draw tonight for the Seconds against Leicestershire, with the precociously talented Chesney Hughes making 79. He's another young man that we will see much more of in coming years (at his height he's hard to miss!) and there is an encouraging array of young talent in the Second XI and the Academy.

Until tomorrow, and hopefully news of an encouraging Derbyshire reply to the Surrey total.

Highlights of last night's game

Go to:

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Surrey v Derbyshire

Pedro Collins and Andre Nel back. And some bloke called Ramprakash...

It will be a different side we face tomorrow, with Nel playing despite undergoing surgery next week for his elbow injury. I'd hoped that Ramps might have sciatica after his mammoth innings against Leicestershire, but it looks like we'll need to get him out twice to win this one, no mean feat.

The Surrey squad is:

Stewart Walters (captain)
Michael Brown
Jonathan Batty
Mark Ramprakash
Usman Afzaal
Chris Murtagh
Chris Jordan
Chris Schofield
Simon King
Andre Nel
Jade Dernbach
Tim Linley
Pedro Collins

With a short boundary and a good track this will be a high scoring game and we will need to be at our best to get a result.

No news about our side as yet, but I'd expect Messrs Wagg, Groenewald and Jones, all rested today, to return alongside Wayne Madsen. We may go with four seamers, with neither Jake Needham or Mark Lawson convincing as spinners of late. With Wagg, Smith, Redfern and Madsen all able to bowl spin, it is less of an issue. If they're all fit, I'd expect to see this side take the field tomorrow:

Chris Rogers
Wayne Madsen
Garry Park
Dan Redfern
Wavell Hinds
Greg Smith
Graham Wagg
Tom Poynton
Tim Groenewald
Steffan Jones
Nantie Hayward

On a different tack, did you see the Kent v Middlesex scores today? If that was Derby, we'd have been docked points already. Mind you, four of those dismissals were run outs, which suggests there was some poor running going on too. Guess there'll be a result now, just hope it goes to Middlesex which, as the man said who went to the library via the vegetable shop, would be a turnip for the books...

Surrey v Derbyshire Pro 40

Second in the Championship, now second in the Pro 40. We're flying so high we'll be getting nosebleeds next...

An amazing run chase today that set a new club record for a 40-over run chase. Irrespective of small boundaries and a weakened attack, seven an over for 40 overs takes some doing and great credit to all the players for a fine effort.

Cap'n Buck got us off to a flyer but got out before making a deserved 50, but Garry Park and Greg Smith batted so well that it didn't really matter. It was a great effort by two young players and Smith in particular was in sparkling form, making his 77 from just 52 balls.

Wavell Hinds appeared to go to a debatable catch that some thought was a bump ball and the wheels came off a little. I was concerned when I saw the team that we were light on batting and the sight of Tom Lungley coming in at seven did little to assuage my fears.

Yet it was young wicket keeper Tom Poynton who came in to play a very composed foil to John Sadler, the last of the recognised batsmen. Poynton scored two fours in the penultimate over to make the final over a three from six balls scenario, quickly settled by Sads sweeping a six from the first ball to seal the win. Anyone who has batted at the death in a close game will tell you that the temptation to simply slog is strong, but Poynton did very well for a young lad and can be proud of his contribution.

I'm really pleased for Sadler tonight. He's a good professional, has scored heavily in club and Second XI and done all he could have done to get into the side. When he got his chance today he paced it to perfection and sealed a run chase that was very impressive.

Earlier our bowlers took a pasting, with the honourable exception of Nantie Hayward who bowled a great 8 over spell for just 34. Dan Redfern bowled steadily at the death, as did Garry Park, but Tom Lungley and Ian Hunter took serious stick today.

So to the Championship tomorrow. More in the next article on that one, but for now - well done lads!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Surrey v Derbyshire - Pro 40

Let's not forget we're unbeaten in this one too...

OK, two rain-offs helped, but it would be good to get on the pitch and keep the record going tomorrow.

John Morris has named the following 12:

Chris Rogers
Garry Park
Greg Smith
Wavell Hinds
Dan Redfern
John Sadler
Tom Poynton
Tom Lungley
Jake Needham
Ian Hunter
Nantie Hayward
Tim Groenewald

I suspect the top 11 will play and Groenewald will be saved for the Championship game the next day after bowling well at Canterbury. He's now top of the averages with 15 wickets at 23, so has earned a rest. The tail looks long with Poynton at 7, but he needs experience and won't get it in the pavilion. I thought we might have had Park as keeper, a role he filled at Durham, but Poynton got the nod.

The Surrey squad is also a young one and reads:

Stewart Walters (captain)
Michael Brown
Chris Murtagh
Usman Afzaal
Chris Schofield
Matthew Spriegel
Chris Jordan
Gary Wilson
Jade Dernbach
Tim Linley
Stuart Meaker
Laurie Evans

With no Ramprakash in this competition and Nel injured in a freak accident, they don't look especially dangerous but opportunities are there for players to make a name for themselves. Walters has been scoring runs lately, while Afzaal is a fine player. We still have to beat them and although the competition is the poor relation at present, a return to winning ways is essential for Derbyshire to get back into the groove for the Championship game starting on Thursday.

Lawdy Miss Clawdy...

I read tonight that a number of counties are "clamouring" - not my word - for the signature of Worcestershire spinner Gareth Batty.

"When a player of Gareth's quality becomes available, you have to be interested," said Ashley Giles, Warwickshire's Director of Cricket.

Let's get this right. This year, Warwickshire have enjoyed the skills of New Zealand off spinner Jeetan Patel and his six wickets at 66. They're now hoping to replace him with a man who currently has eight first class wickets at 84...

He'll be in good company with some of our former players there. Boyd Rankin (17 wickets at 41), Ant Botha (10 at 61) and Rikki Clarke (7 at 71).

If Batty goes there and says it is for his England ambitions, someone take him his pills. He has more chance of becoming Miss World than an England player bowling at Edgbaston. It also makes the efforts of Jake Needham (7 wickets at 50) resemble the new Jim Laker.

Coming one day after I questioned the spin bowling talent in the country, it merely emphasises how bare the cupboard really is. Somone mailed me to say I'd omitted Monty Panesar from my list of good spinners, but the truth is that I think he's gone backwards over the last two seasons and his eight wickets at 74 supports that view somewhat.

So in answer to the question "would I like to see Batty at Derby"?

No thanks. He's a decent one day, tight bowler, but nothing more. A decent bat, but nothing more. A good fielder, but no better than we already have.

Says it all really.

Stubbings, Birch and Telo to leave

Steve Stubbings, Dominic Telo and Dan Birch have all been told by Derbyshire that their contracts will not be renewed, leaving them free to talk to other counties.

The writing was on the wall for all of them for some time, with the advent of Wayne Madsen and the availability from next season of Paul Borrington effectively spelling the end for Stubbings.

His departure is the one that will be most talked about by fans, as he is a past winner of the Supporters Club Player of the Year Award (on two occasions). He was always a model of courtesy and fans could equate with him as one always felt that he was giving 100% and would sell his wicket dearly. In recent seasons, however, he has not produced the weight of runs required at this level and, as I wrote a few weeks back, we need to aspire to better than Steve Stubbings if we are to move forward as a club.

Stubbo was written off by Dominic Cork at one time, who reckoned he was not a first class cricketer. A record of some 7,500 runs at 31 suggests that Stubbings was, but perhaps not of the very highest class. Time will tell if he will be missed. The early signs are that Wayne Madsen will be a replacement of the highest quality, yet many will miss the Stubbings chassis down the track and clip through the leg side, as well as the obduracy of his batting when the chips were down. Of those released, I would have thought him the most likely to get a deal elsewhere but I'm not sure exactly where.

Dan Birch came to the club on the back of some explosive performances in local league cricket and after fine performances for Kent Seconds. He made a stunning century on debut at Cambridge, but his good days became more sporadic as the County bowlers found him out with a moving ball and his immobility in the field did him few favours. Some felt that he deserved a go in the Twenty/20, but hiding him in the field was the problem and few could have expected him to be retained with his Second XI performances this year.

Dominic Telo came with the weight of expectation as one of the finest schoolboy cricketers of his generation. He looked balanced and composed at the crease and had a fine array of strokes, yet a series of cameo innings failed to produce something substantial. Fans became philosophical about him batting nicely for up to an hour and then getting out when set and an average of 18 in his two seasons tells its own story. Nor did he score the weight of runs in Second XI cricket to put pressure on the First XI. He was a brilliant fielder, but again Derbyshire need more from players than Telo was able to offer.

I understand that John Sadler, Tom Lungley and James Pipe are all out of contract at the end of this season, but this news suggests that all three will be or have been offered new deals. Sadler deserves it for a solid summer where he has done little wrong but could not force his way into the side, while Pipe is a forcing batsman and very good wicket keeper. Some feel he has slipped below his best with the gloves this year, but there are not many better glovemen out there and Pipe is a key player in the side.

Lungley's retention may be seen by some as fortunate. A poor injury record has ruined his career but on his day he is capable of bowling sides out. A couple of personal "blips" this year led to some seeing him vulnerable, but one assumes that with his name not included in this press release he will be getting another year. Having said that, Mark Lawson isn't mentioned here either and it would be a major surprise if he were to get another year. He didn't trouble batsmen earlier in the season and with Jake Needham now seen as the first choice spinner and various part time options available, Lawson's retention would be a major surprise.

So where does this leave us? If we're keeping Lungley, that would give us Wagg, Groenewald, Hunter, Lungley, Clare, Sheikh and Whiteley, with Greg Smith as back up. It may mean that we won't look to re-sign Steffan Jones, but only John Morris knows the answer to that one.

West Indian Chesney Hughes may well be groomed to add to the ranks of all rounders with his left arm spin and classy batting, while the current batting side has Paul Borrington and John Sadler in reserve. My guess (only that) is that John Morris will look to replace Chris Rogers, assuming he doesn't return to international cricket, with another batsman or an all rounder. The seam attack looks well provided for and I'd like to see us have a real go for Jim Allenby at Leicester.

If we got him, I'd be inclined to go for an all rounder or spinner. How's about this for the basis of next year's first choice side?


The two bottom names could be rotated with Lungley/Hunter etc, but that's a fine looking side on paper.

All conjecture of course and much could happen in the next few weeks. We're going in the right direction though, I'm quite sure of that.

Monday, 3 August 2009

In a spin

It is quite unfair that Jake Needham seems to be getting a lot of the blame for the defeat tonight.

While he was outbowled, it is unfair to burden Needham with the blame for defeat. Tredwell is 5 years older, with England A tour experience and has almost seventy games more first class cricket under his belt. That's a lot of learning.

A number of fans suggest we need a top class spinner, but where are they?

Before the Second World War and in the 1950's spin was king. Rhodes, Freeman, Verity, Laker, Lock and many more came into their own on tracks that became spiteful when left uncovered and open to the elements. Even if I go back to the 1960's and 1970's when I started watching the game it was different.

We had Venkat (what could we do with him now?) Essex had Acfield, East and Hobbs, Gloucestershire had John Mortimore, Kent had Derek Underwood. There was Flat Jack Simmons and David Hughes at Lancashire, Birkenshaw and Illingworth at Leicester. Emburey, Edmonds, Bedi, Langford, Pocock, Gifford, Wilson - every county had a decent spinner who came up with the goods on a regular basis.

Fred Swarbrook would be in contention for an England place today, no doubt about it. So would Edwin Smith. Both good bowlers but eclipsed by the many others on the circuit in their time.

Today it is different. There's Kaneria at Essex, Croft at Glamorgan, Tredwell at Kent and Swann at Nottinghamshire. After that it's pretty hard to come up with someone semi decent. Rashid is the big hope but his 160 first class wickets have cost 35 and this year he has just 15 wickets at 40. Big bats, short boundaries and moribund tracks don't help the cause, but it is hard to see light on the horizon.

As I mentioned earlier, there's nothing exciting overseas. There's Harbhajan Singh, the "Turbanator" from India, Mendis and Murali from Sri Lanka, Hauritz from Australia, Vettori from New Zealand, Afridi from Pakistan and Botha and Van der Merwe from South Africa. Yet few of these would fancy the slog of the County game, nor be allowed to play. The two South Africans are good, tight one day bowlers, but don't strike me as bowlers who could run through the opposition in favourable condtions. Vettori needs another county stint like a hole in the head, while the Sri Lankan workload rules out their two fine bowlers.

For me, IF we were to go for a spin bowler, there is only one candidate. I never thought I would say it, but the man to go for would be Shahid Afridi. I was disappointed in his stint with us a few years ago, but he was a young bowler then. learning his trade. At 29 he is the finished article now. 257 first class wickets at 27, a similar number in one day internationals and over 350 in one day matches around the globe. We all know he is an explosive batsman, with over 100 fifties and 18 centuries, but for me, his batting would be a bonus.

He could open in the Twenty/20, tie people down with his potent mix of leggies and googlies, and bowl them out on dryer tracks as the season progressed. Of course, he would command a hefty fee, but perhaps the County could work a similar deal to that which took Rahul Dravid to Scotland a few years back. Perhaps a local businessman, or consortium could be persuaded to sponsor some of his salary in exchange for a little PR work when appropriate? Afridi is a cricketing deity in Pakistan and local followers would love the chance to see him in action.

Importantly, Pakistan have little international cricket between April and September next year. Indeed, they and Australia have the least commitment, so it could work on various levels.

There are any number of good international cricketers who could do a sound job for Derbyshire next season and I have every confidence that John Morris will source someone to do the business. If it is decided that a spinner is the way that we should go, you know who would get my vote.

Next season's overseas star

Well, slightly more of you think that we need a batsman more than a bowler for next year - 57% to 43%.

You may be right, but as I said last week, much will depend on who else we can sign in between times. If we got Jim Allenby to bolster the batting, well...

I'd still like to see us sign a quality spinner, but outside of Murali, Mendis, Vettori and (maybe) Afridi where are they? For that matter, where would the money for those guys come from, even if we could get them interested?

For this week's poll a nice topical one. After the loss to Kent, do you think we can regroup and get promotion this year?

Kent v Derbyshire day 4

So, at the end of it all, we blew it this morning.

A fine partnership between Rob Key (who I still think is better than Ian Bell and should be in the England side) and Geraint Jones took the game away from us, but I said last night to friends that we needed to bat till lunch or set them 350, whichever was the quicker in coming.

The way that Kent collapsed after Key and Jones were dismissed suggested that a few more runs would have been very awkward and might have made that pairing have to take more chances.

We didn't seem to bowl too well, with Graham Wagg having an expensive day, though it happens to all bowlers on occasion. The fact is that Dan Redfern seemed to cause more problems than Jake Needham on a track that should have suited the latter. Maybe the extra pace of Nantie Hayward might have helped, but the ones selected did the business in the first innings, so...

For me the loss must be attributed to this morning's batting. We seemed to fall between the two stools, not knowing whether to go for quick runs or bat out some time, ending up doing neither especially well. It is especially galling after matching the "best team in the division" (TM) and perhaps besting them for much of the match.

What does it all mean? Well, that we need to regroup in time for the game against Surrey at Whitgift School on Wednesday. Kent are now 18 points clear with a game in hand and will be shoo-ins for the title, but we are still nine points clear of third place in the promotion stakes.

Crucially, Northamptonshire beat Middlesex today which means their game in hand could see them leapfrog us at some point, but we must now look to win matches, rather than picking up good draws.

Our promotion destiny is still in our own hands and a win at Surrey and Leicester will set up the game against Northamptonshire at Chesterfield very nicely. We'll learn a lot about our young side in the next couple of weeks.