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 http://www.cricinfo.com/countycricket2009/engine/series/382415.html?view=pointstable

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.

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