One of the great things (and there's many) about having some time on holiday from work is that you've time to do things, like this blog for instance.
With my son starting University, I'm off to ferry him around to places and so can do the blog more easily than normal. I'd hoped to get down south this week, but it was not to be.
So, to paraphrase and pluralise the great Cliff Gladwin, cometh the hour, cometh the men.
Can we beat Essex over the next four days? Can the results of the other games go our way? The situation is pretty complex but neatly summed up in this morning's Derby Telegraph by Mark Eklid, who I quote:
"What Derbyshire ideally need is a victory with full bonus points.
That will put them ahead of Essex as long as they don't take four fewer bonus points than their opponents. If the clubs finish level on points, Essex will take the higher league standing because they have won more matches this season.
However, if Northants beat Leicestershire and take one or more bonus points, which they surely would, Derbyshire cannot finish above them.
If Northants draw, Derbyshire can finish above them with a win as long as they don't take three fewer bonus points.
They also need to take more points than Glamorgan, who are away at Surrey, to finish above them because if those two clubs are level, the Welsh will have the higher position having taken more points from their two clashes this season.
Even Gloucestershire can sneak up on the rails for second place if they beat Kent taking two more points than Derbyshire and Glamorgan. They would also, of course, need Essex to lose and Northants to draw."
Have you got that? Don't forget to pack your calculators as you head to the County Ground tomorrow!
Essex are a strong side and have the following 13 travelling:
Ryan ten Doeschate
I would expect the top eleven to play and for me their strength is in the engine room, with Foster ten Doeschate and Napier often bailing out a batting line up tha blows hot and cold. Masters is a canny bowler while Kaneria has been the Division's stand out bowler this year. Mark Pettini has done a good job as skipper and with Alastair Cook in the side he has some ballast at the top of the order.
As for Derbyshire, there's no news on the squad as yet, although Tim Groenewald is out after picking up swine flu. It's a sad end to the season for a man who has made a very good impression in his first season. Most of the side picks itself, as it has for a good part of the season, but John Morris has to decide who replaces Groenewald and if he goes with a spinner. My guess is that Greg Smith and Graham Wagg can handle the spin as well, if not better than Jake Needham or Mark Lawson, both of whom have had difficult seasons. Here's my side for this make or break match:
Jon Clare could also be pressing for a place, but I'd see the more experienced men in the side for this one. It'll be an emotional occasion for James Pipe, in his last game before retirement, while Smith, Park and Madsen all have good or outside chances of reaching their thousand runs.
It would be fantastic if we won this game, but I feel that the game is more likely to end a draw. I hope there's more help for bowlers than of late at Derby, but knowing our luck the ECB would dock us points for a sub-standard track if two balls running moved off the straight and narrow. There are a lot of things need to fall into place for us to gain promotion at the end of this game and I'd be astonished if it happens.
Whatever the result, I've thoroughly enjoyed this season, with the Twenty/20 (bowling) the only downside. The boys deserve a little luck in this game and I'll be watching as often as my taxi commitments allow!