Saturday, 31 October 2009

Rogers back in business

If Chris Rogers plans to get back in to the Australian selectors thoughts this winter, he did his chances no harm with an innings of 149 against South Australia in his first knock of the season.

Business as usual from the skipper then, as his Victoria side piled up 452-3

Top stuff!

What's it all about?

There's not even any sign of Alfie...

Late blog again tonight (this morning?) as I've been at a retiral do of a long time colleague, but I'm dashing down a few words before heading up to join the rest of the family in bed.

What is going on over at 606? There's so much nonsense on there today that it's scary. Everybody is signing players says one. Oh? Really? There's only a handful so far that I'd have liked to see at Derby. When will people realise that we cannot compete for some of these people financially? Surrey have made a few signings, as have Hampshire, and guess what? These are two affluent counties who can outbid most of their peers.

There is very unfair and unjustified criticism of In Morris We Trust, which is by a country mile better than 606. Anybody can open countless accounts on the BBC site and come up with "witty" names and print spurious comments on people who are unable to defend themselves. Derbyshire La La La refers to only two occasions when things have been removed from his site. I was one of them, as I asked him to remove my posts when I got embroiled in a heated discussion that I regretted. The other was when some brave soldier, basking in the anonymity of his PC, made libellous comments about a player. Shameful stuff from a supposed fan.

Apparently I "brown nose" the boss. Really? Maybe that is because I support the club, not use it as a means of venting my spleen because of things in my life I'm not happy about. Yes, I think John Morris is moving us forward. Maybe results haven't yet reached the level where that is patently obvious to the less discerning, but there were grounds for optimism last year. What we now need, to go with improved resilience is a little more class, especially in the spin bowling department and a little more luck. There were times when we enjoyed none of that last year. If we play badly, I say so. If I see signs of improvement, I'll also say that. For brown nose read "fan".

Fans expecting us to win most of our matches sometime soon may as well go and support Durham, because it might not happen. I've said before and will once again, we are a little fish in a big cricket pond that is gradually learning to punch its weight and above it.

Suggestions that other teams are signing class players is nonsense. Who have Worcester signed? Or Sussex? Or Leicestershire and Middlesex? Surrey have signed a few but I don't feel alarm bells ringing at the thought of Batty, Chawla and Davies playing against us. Leicestershire have confirmed the signings of Benning and Jefferson but have lost Dippenaar, Allenby and Ackerman. I don't see that as improvement. Middlesex have signed Scott Newman, a rookie left arm spinner and a youngster. Worcestershire have signed Alan Richardson. Northants have re-signed Mal Loye but are set to lose Van der Wath, Hall and Wessels. I'll accept argument if it is logical, but none of the above equates to stronger opposition for me.

We have an excellent top four, two youngsters of talent at five and six and a very good wicket keeper/batsman we've signed at seven. I'm convinced that John Morris has a plan for a top spinner because if he hadn't, we'd have picked up Middlebrook by now.

If I'm right I think we'll have another good championship season next year. If we are able to sign a quality second overseas player for the Twenty/20, we could do better in that too. Without the Kolpaks the playing field will be more level and the overall standard of our first choice side is far higher than it was two years ago. If you don't believe me, look back at your yearbooks, or Wisden.

Finally, there's much talk about the "error" in renewing the contracts of Hunter and Lungley. The reality is that the former took 21 wickets at 28, a decent average, while the latter had an option of another year on his previous deal that he took up. Wouldn't you? If he fails next year he'll be gone. If he plays a blinder, there'll be substantial helpings of humble pie being swallowed.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

So county cricket is difficult

I wrote last night that I'd given up the cricket club captaincy after a nine-year stint and during the course of a fair bit of driving today it crossed my mind that as an experience, captaining a village cricket club has as many trials and tribulations as anything higher up the cricketing food chain.

For example, I bet Chris Rogers and John Morris have never decided their batting order by dint of who got to the ground earliest to ensure that there was a track for the game. The difficulty of that being, of course, that sod's law ensured that the willing groundsmen were the two worst batsmen in the club, both of them good at staying in, but not scoring runs. So it was no surprise when we reached the tenth over of a twenty over game at 14-0, with the captain trying to get a message to our umpire to give one of them out, obstructing the interests of the club...

Then there's ensuring that everyone goes home having done something, even if that means that with two overs to go and 20 to win you give the club's "cafeteria" bowler an over to the upturning of eighteen eyes. Then, you bask in the pleasure of acknowledged genius when he takes three wickets as the opposition batsmen submit, one after another to the catching talents of your cunningly placed deep mid wicket.

There's times when I've opened the bowling with the bloke who's wife has supplied a very nice tea (have to keep them sweet, after all)and times when I've had to put a poor batsman in early as his eyesight is dodgy when the light fades. One time a team mate asked if he could bat at four "so I can get home before it gets dark". Another wanted to bat early so he could go and make up with his partner after a row. You can't say no, can you?

Captaincy is quite complicated at this level. Besides the above, your batting order can be dictated by the bottom five being your bowlers, but you also need to factor in a couple of them being better batsmen and the need to get runs on the board.

Then there's setting a field. It's fairly logical to hide a slow and immobile fielder down at third man, or fine leg, but what do you do when one of them is too slow to do it at both ends? It's a case of working out who is the least likely of the two bowlers to be hit straight and then hope. And what do you do when you have five slow and immobile fielders, as we did at one stage.

There's the balancing act between having your best catcher close where he'll swallow the chances, or deep because he's the only one can get it into the keeper from the distant boundary. That can work both ways though. I once recruited an Aussie to the club who was not especially mobile but had a fast, flat throw like the best of professionals. The opposition only twigged after he'd run out both opening batsmen!

Don't get the idea that we're all poor players though. This year, for the first time and in a limited campaign we had three batsmen pass 500 runs. I didn't, but then its hard to do so when you only bat thrice (sounds like a Bond film...) I did finish third in the bowling though, testimony to my undiminished wiles (or as my team mates might put it, coming on when the batsmen are out...)

We've a great bunch of lads, above all, which makes match days and evenings a joy. There's no stars, certainly no professional (though we did buy Scottish international Glenn Rogers a couple of pints when he guested for us in a few games) and there's no one especially precious that they must do this or that. I was amused last night to find that my three innings still got me a mid table position in the batting rankings, and even more so (like everyone else) to find that a team mate wanted to sponsor a new trophy for the "Best Six Hitter". There was considerable mirth around the room when the end of season stats revealed he would win his own trophy and he'll struggle to live that down.

I've enjoyed my stint immensely, but I'll look forward to next year when I can resume batting again, something I gave up when I realised we only had five bowlers, including me, who could justifiably expect to get people out or at least bowl inexpensively.

Returning to Derbyshire, my Dad and I had a "fantasy discussion" the other night about who, if money was no object, we'd recruit for the second overseas role at Derbyshire this year in the Twenty/20. Now I was impressed by this as my Dad really dislikes the format but at least acknowledges it as a cash cow for clubs. After we agreed that the only countries players likely to be available were West Indians, South Africans and New Zealanders, we came up with this short list, in no particular order:

Chris Gayle
Jacques Kallis
Albie Morkel
Dwayne Bravo
AB de Villiers

With four of them all rounders and the fifth (de Villiers) possibly the best fielder in the world, we agreed we'd be pleased if we got any of that line up. Having said that, so would most counties and it was interesting to read Steve Rhodes of Worcestershire bemoaning the fact that his recruitment plans were awry as players were getting paid so much at some counties. Logic suggests that if any of those players were available and John Morris got one, he should be mentioned in terms of New Year's honours. Of course, I wouldn't say no to Brendan McCullum and the likelihood is that our horizons will have to be adjusted, but Dad and I reckon that we've got it sussed and all we need to do now is win the lottery to fund it.

See you soon

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Quiet day

A quiet one today with little to report with regard to the club.

A couple of comments on last night's piece. Mastervillain produced figures to suggest that Tom Lungley has a worse appearance record over ten years than Simon Jones and you can't argue. Many will feel (I know, as they've mailed me!) that he is lucky to get another year and Mastervillain is right - next year really has to be payback time. The year when Lungley takes a ripe harvest of wickets to reward the club for their faith in him. Realistically, if he doesn't, it will surely be his last with the club. Can't really add to that.

Peter asks my opinion on the young Indian Ravinder Jadeja. I have to say I've not seen him either, though he took three good wickets today and, as you say, has bowled well in the IPL. To be honest, as I wrote the other night, Derbyshire must, if we have the money for another overseas player for the Twenty/20, get someone who will pull the crowds and with respect to Jadeja, I don't think he'll do that.

If the Under 22 money - henceforth known as the Borrington/Redfern Award (or BRA for short...) is available by that stage it could, with the right name filling those extra 2,000 seats, pretty much pay for someone. I hope so. Another night I'll tell you the outcome of the deliberations of Peakfan and his Dad on the "money no object" hunt for an overseas Twenty/20 professional. I tell you, that Dad of mine still knows his cricketers. Even if it sometimes takes the form of "you know, him that used to play for know who I mean... he were a right hander...played at the same time as that big hitter they once had". Just so you know, on that occasion he meant Roger Tolchard, who played in the same team as "big hitter" Brian Davison. Cryptic huh?

Sad news today about the death of David Shepherd, after a long battle with cancer. Many will know Shep as one of the greatest of umpires, but those of a certain vintage still recall the golden days of cricket on the telly and regular viewings of what, at that time, was a terrific Gloucestershire batting line up. Stovold and Sadiq to open, Zaheer Abbas at 3, Mike Procter at 4 and Shep at 5. The real mirth occurred when the pretty rotund Shepherd had to bat with either Jim Foat or Alastair Hignell, both of them whippets. There were occasions when they could have lapped him when the chase was on, but Shep was a decent batsman and a fine servant to the county and the game of cricket. Rest in peace Shep.

Finally, sorry about the lateness of the blog tonight but we've had our cricket club AGM and (talk about momentous!) I've handed over the captaincy after nine years at the helm. I'd thought of going for a round ten but, given that the previous record in the post was three years, I decided to quit while I was still ahead, also known as sane. I still intend to play, but I'll no longer have to organise fixtures and teams and it will be nice to just turn up and have a game, if selected of course... I'm sure there's a piece in there for the blog too, which is another reason to let someone else take over.

I'd no idea, when I started this a year and a half ago, that it would become so popular. At the current rate of viewing, tomorrow should see the 50,000th hit in that time, which quite honestly astounds me. I'm grateful to everyone who tunes in on a regular basis and especially those who take time to mail in comments and e mail me about different things. Thanks very much to all of you.

Now, if I could just find a way to make this lucrative, I can pack in the day job...

Until tomorrow. See you then.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Whatever way you look at it...

That's three experienced seamers we've signed.

That John Morris has persuaded Tim Groenewald, Ian Hunter and Tom Lungley that their future lies at Derby is a definite plus. As I wrote this morning, we need 6 seamers so that they can be rotated and kept fresh. With support from Greg Smith and Garry Park, we have good options now, especially if Jon Clare can recapture his form and confidence of 2008.

Groenewald was the big success of 2009. With over 50 wickets in all competitions, allied to useful runs, he fully justified John Morris' bringing him from Edgbaston and became a key member of the attack. He has signed a one-year extension to his existing deal so is now contracted until the end of 2011.

Ian Hunter started the season as our "in form" bowler and took a number of early wickets when the ball was swinging. He will never be more than an honest county pro, but when he gets it right he gets clusters of wickets, as well as offering handy runs from an uncomplicated batting style. With a new two-year deal he will remain a handy and potentially dangerous seamer when the conditions are in his favour.

The enigma is, without doubt, Tom Lungley. On his day he can bowl teams out, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Last year he zipped out five Leicestershire wickets in a 20-over game yet on other occasions was very erratic. He has the best strike rate of our seamers, yet in a career that started with us in 2000 he has only managed 48 first class matches and 130 wickets, 59 of which came in 2007. If he can get fit and with the assistance of Steffan Jones can stay fit, he may yet have a part to play in our future.

Those who moan about our attack's penetration perhaps forget that only Durham and Gloucestershire in either division took more bowling bonus points than us last year. Our problem came in finishing sides off and I'm sure I am not alone in hoping that John Morris has a spin bowling ace up his sleeve. When the seamers hit a wall, sometimes a spin bowler who can put it on a spot with plenty of variation can make a breakthrough to allow them a go at new batsmen. With respect to Jake Needham and Mark Lawson, neither afforded us that luxury last year.

I'm pleased that we have secured our seam attack for next year. Whether anyone else comes in is debatable, but I'm sure that most fans will now be watching to see when we will be signing the spinner who will be crucial to our chances of improvement - dare I say sucess? - next season.

One final point. Last night I wrote about Paul Borrington and suggested that he would probably bat at three next season. Of course, another option could be that he goes in at 6, giving us someone who can face the second new ball with no major concerns. It would also allow Garry Park to stay at three, where he did so well. Borrington will probably, in my opinion, score the Championship runs that Wavell Hinds did last season, while being more sprightly in the field. Whether he plays one day games is another matter, but I'm sure he'd be keen to do so.

Here's to a good season for the lad. I hope that he comes in to face many second new balls with the score 380-4...

Seamers sign

News this morning that Tim Groenewald, Ian Hunter and Tom Lungley have all re-signed for 2010, according to the BBC.

While not news of new players, fans must surely be pleased that we have secured three bowlers who, on their day, can bowl well. It will put an end to conjecture about their futures on the various message boards and is another step towards next season for the club.

The signing of Groenewald will be the most pleasing, after an excellent 2009 in which he took over 50 wickets after forcing his way into the side. He also showed ability with the bat and could become an increasing force as an all rounder if he continues to work on his game.

Hunter bowled well in the early season, though got few opportunities as the year progressed after the signing of Steffan Jones. The team needs experienced bowlers to get through an extensive fixture list and Hunter will rarely let the side down.

As for Lungley, he went to Lancashire for some cricket in mid/late season and did well, but he has an opportunity to cement a place in the side and must hope for better performances in 2010.

I'm sure that there will be different opinions on these signings, but at least we now have enough seamers - add Jones, Wagg and Clare to the names above - to be able to rotate the attack and keep them all fairly fresh.

Let me know your thoughts when you can. More from me later.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Comings and goings

The very title reminds me of one of my favourite cricket stories, from a few years back, when West Indian supporters threatened to boycott a Test match due to the fact that the Barbadian quick bowler Anderson Cummins had been omitted from the side at Bridgetown with Kenny Benjamin playing instead.

"No Cummins, no goings" said the banners. Priceless and inspired...

Anyway, there's been a few of them today, with Steve Adshead leaving Gloucestershire, as has been expected for some time. Destination Worcester, no doubt.
Elsewhere, Scott Newman has left Surrey, as was widely expected, to join Middlesex, as I reported a week or so back that he would. Meanwhile, what must be a revolving door at Lords got greater use as Nick Compton left to join Somerset.

I have to say the latter surprised me. Firstly as I didn't know Compton was on the move (he had a year left on his contract) but secondly because I thought he'd be a focal point of a planned Middlesex revival. I don't see Newman as the same sort of reliable batsman and having lost Billy Godleman to Essex, Middlesex must be hoping that their England trio of Strauss, Shah and Morgan are available a little more next year. At this stage they look very weak in batting and their bowling isn't especially strong, Murtagh apart.

Meanwhile, Warwickshire have signed Imran Tahir, who seems to be on a crusade to play for every county before 2020. The leggie has already played for Hampshire, Middlesex and Yorkshire and the Brummies see him as someone to help Ant Botha bowl sides out at Edgbaston. Good luck with that one, mate...

Warwickshire are also set to announce the signing of Varun Chopra, who was apparently unsettled at Essex. Chopra will cover the expected loss of Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott to England and must be looking forward to boosting his average at the Birmingham featherbed.

Just in case anyone queries why we've not signed these guys, the answer is, of course, money. As well as making the world go round, it buys in players from other counties, even if they don't know they're unsettled. Somerset will have money to spare having released several players and with Justin Langer retired, while Warwickshire always have an edge financially. They always seem to have had since the 1970's, when they attracted the likes of Rohan Kanhai, Alvin Kallicharran and Deryck Murray to the club, as well as Bob "the Moan" Willis.

Anyway, that's pretty much that for tonight. Still no signing news from the County Ground, but it just means that we can look forward to it a little longer!

G'day Bozza!

Nice to read on the club site that Paul Borrington is off to Perth this winter to play for Midland Guilford, the club where Alec Stewart played with success. With Simon Katich, Tom Moody and Brendan Julian as former players he is obviously off to a good standard of cricket which can only be of benefit to him as he prepares for an important season in 2010.

Bozza has had a stop/start career with the club so far due to his studies at Loughborough University. Having now finished there, he is able to play cricket full time and was rewarded with a contract to 2012 by John Morris for some encouraging performances.

In 29 first class innings for Derbyshire and Loughborough UCCE he has managed two centuries and four fifties for a very respectable average of just under 35. He appears well balanced at the crease and nothing seems to faze him unduly. He is slight of build but not, by any means small at 5'10". An early reputation as a "sticker" with limited strokes has seen him play little one day cricket, but the signs are there that he is starting to go for his shots a little more after encouragement from John Morris. Indeed, a century for Loughborough last season saw him score 80-odd before lunch, pretty good going by any standards.

He comes from good cricketing stock of course, with his Dad, Tony a fixture in the Derbyshire side in the 1970's. At times Tony could look a good player and played some fine innings for the club, but never with quite the frequency to set him apart as a very good county cricketer. He was a similar height to Paul, but my memory suggests he was of sturdier build. He and Harry Cartwright were the young players in Eddie Barlow's era, both of them capable of batting with aggression, but also digging in when required. Tony managed three first class centuries for the club with another one day ton, something that his son will hope to pass, if only for bragging rights!

At this stage Paul looks a genuine prospect but next year is a big one for him. Free from studies, he can devote his energies to becoming the real deal and with the new quotas on age group players he will start the season as a favourite for a regular place.

Although an opening batsman, it is more likely (for me) that he will bat three for Derbyshire in 2010 as we have what looks like a tremendous pairing of Madsen and Rogers "up top". That could mean that Garry Park drops to five and leaves Greg Smith at four with Redfern at six, but it's all hypothetical at this stage.

A good winter in Australia should set him up nicely and I look forward to reporting on his form as the winter progresses.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Sunday, Sunday

So good to me...

With apologies to the Mamas and the Papas (and I know it was Monday they sang about!) today was leisurely.

Mrs Peakfan and daughter went to a Craft Fair in Glasgow while my son and I stayed home and watched a couple of films and played a game or two. Nice chillin' time, with nothing much to write about on the blog on a quiet day.

Thanks to those who have replied to my previous blog. I always appreciate you taking the time to mail in, even if I don't always agree with comments. One of these was from "Anon" and suggested that we make a move for Somerset cast-off Omari Banks.

In his favour is the fact that he is an off spinner and batsman and, as an ex-West Indies international also has a British passport as he hails, like Chesney Hughes, from Anguilla, a British protectorate.

On the downside is that he's struggled to make an impression at Taunton in two seasons, taking only seven wickets and scoring just one half century. If he was 21 you might still think he could improve, but Banks will be 28 when next season comes around and for me would add nothing to the mix.

I'd have to say I struggle to think who could come in with the age restrictions. The only name that I can think of is Mark Footitt, who left Nottinghamshire this season but is still only 23. He would represent a challenge to Steffan Jones as bowling and conditioning coach if we were interested, as he has had a lot of injuries, but his 23 first class wickets have come at the very good strike rate of 40 balls per wicket, which will attract a few counties.

That sprang out at me as I'm currently reading "Fred Titmus - my life in cricket" by the ex England and Middlesex spinner and Stafford Hildred. My wife bought it for me from the local Pound Shop (can't beat a bargain, eh?) In it, Titmus says that as a bowler he looked for a wicket every ten overs as a target and was pleased when he beat that. Now, Graham Wagg averages 54 balls per wicket, Groenewald 61, Lungley 49, Jones 63 (Taunton does that to a man) and Hunter 65. I can't say that I know who Footitt's wickets have come against, but a wicket every seven overs is a good strike rate.

I've said before that this will be a conjecture-free zone, but on those statistics I'd be surprised if someone doesn't give the left armer another chance. John Morris will rightly decide who comes to Derby and may well have someone lined up, but Footitt should get another crack at the County game in 2010, especially in the light of the new age regulations.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Weekend thoughts

Morning (or afternoon/evening) everyone - depends when you're reading this I suppose...
I'm writing on Saturday morning. Sorry there was no blog last night but I was out and about with Mrs Peakfan and a very nice time was had by all.

Truth be told, there was little to write yesterday, but there's a few titbits around this morning.

First up, the Derby Telegraph reports that Justin Langer is tipping Chris Rogers for an Australian recall. On the back of a superb season for Derbyshire that is no great surprise. While Shane Watson does a decent job in one day cricket, he's not a Test opener as was evident in the Ashes series. Indeed, I'd go as far as to say that had Australia had Chris Rogers in the side and Brett Lee fit, the Ashes would be on the other side of the world at the moment. Lee has bowled well since his return, while his all round performance for New South Wales yesterday as they beat Trinidad and Tobago was that of a man inspired. The latter never recovered from the loss of two quick wickets, but can be proud of their performances in the competition.

The Telegraph also reports the names of the fresh intake to the cricket club Academy. It's good to see that the hard graft goes on. If this quota system takes a hold, maybe the natural extension is to reward clubs playing an under 14 in their County first team with £100K. Pick a female in the side and get £150K. The potential is extraordinary. What price an over 50? Form an orderly queue behind me...

Anyway, the same article reports that two youngsters "graduating" from the Academy, namely Ben Slater and Matt Higginbottom, are likely to be rewarded with summer contracts in 2010. Slater, an opening batsman, looks like one to be watched as he was voted Academy player of the year. He averaged 86 for the Derbyshire Cricket Board Under 17s and thirty when opening the batting for Chesterfield in the Derbyshire Premier League. He sounds like a lad with a lot of potential and I'm sure he is in very good hands at the County Ground, where Andy Brown will know him from his time as coach at the Queens Park club. Meanwhile Higginbottom looks to have potential too and has turned in some good league performances with bat and ball, though in Second XI cricket he bats in the lower order.

It is good to see these youngsters progressing and I'm sure we all hope that recent graduates such as Atif Sheikh, Tom Whiteley and Paul Borrington continue to develop and push to join Dan Redfern in the First Eleven.

On the subject of youngsters, I notice that there is discussion on the "eligibility" of Chesney Hughes to be one of our under 22s in the coming season, the comments centring around the use of a phrase on the club site about the talented all rounder. What it says is that he is "Anguillan born but able to play on these shores without restriction due his ownership of a British passport".

What this means is that he can indeed play for Derbyshire whenever we wish, but the reality is that, until he qualifies to play for England, which is a few years away, it will cost us money every time that he does so. Without his passport he couldn't play - period - as he wouldn't get a visa to enable him to do so. Chesney has a British passport as Anguilla is a British colony.

He will qualify for the national side when he is 22, which would leave him plenty of time to make a major contribution to the club, but not as one who would earn them money as one of the under 22s in the side.

Derbyshire are already going to take a "hit" financially as counties will be expected to field three additional players under the age of 26. By the time next season starts, the only ones we will have in that age bracket will be Jake Needham and Jon Clare, neither of them fixtures in the side this year. So if John Morris decides to field his strongest side, and in doing so decides to omit Clare, Needham and Borrington, there will be severe financial penalties.

I think Borrington will be good enough for the first team. Redfern obviously is, but with only two others under 26 at present, we will face a financial penalty every time we take the field as, at present, we are one short. As things stand, the obvious Under 22s for our side next season will be Redfern and Borrington, with Sheikh and Poynton the options if required.

It is worth noting that these regulations apply to the County Championship and the 40-over competition, but not the Twenty/20. The reality is, however, that a tight financial situation has been complicated all the more. Remember too that playing players from these age groups does not earn the clubs extra money, this will effectively dictate their payout. So if we, or any other county choose to ignore the regulations, we would not get the cash, end of story.

If nothing else, I hope that fans realise the pressures that John Morris will face in 2010. Not only does he have to try to field a side to win matches, he has to do so with a side that will not lead to the club losing out on a substantial part of their ECB money.

Not, by any stretch of the imagination, an easy job.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Comments from the boards

There's a few ideas and comments around the message boards today and I'm duty bound to give you my thoughts on them!

First up, there are suggestions that we should make a move for Jason Brown, just released from Nottinghamshire. Have to say that I don't go with that one myself. Brown has been a decent bowler and has taken a number of wickets over the years for Northamptonshire, but I would be surprised - no, make that astonished - if he was the answer to our search for a spinner. I could understand a move for James Middlebrook, as he would bring a few runs and decent fielding to the mix, but Brown is a bowler - period. I don't think he is what we need at present and - well, you know my feelings now.

Another comment suggested that we make a move for Chris Schofield now that Surrey have signed Piyush Chawla and Gareth Batty. I'd see that one as very unlikely. One is that he is not a good enough spinner. He was voted the Surrey Professional Cricketers Association Most Valuable Player (rolls off the tongue that one) and is a decent player as a batsman who takes a few wickets, but not as a specialist spinner. As such he will almost certainly be under contract and I would have thought would make their team as a third spinner even when the others were in the side. I can't think he'd rush to sign for a county who declined the chance to sign him when he trialled here either. No, just don't see this working guys.

Another comment suggested that while an outstanding batsman, Chris Rogers isn't a brilliant captain. I would agree, but would say that he was a solid skipper who may continue to improve with experience. Outstanding captains are, understandably, a rare breed. I can think back to Eddie Barlow, Mike Brearley and Ray Illingworth as captains of real brilliance. Others, like Steve Waugh, Mark Taylor, Clive Lloyd and Jeremy Coney were good - very good - skippers who had a strong set of players, which always helps. I reckon I could have captained the West Indies of the late 1970's and 1980's to success. Bowl two quicks, change them after six overs each for two more and repeat until the end of the day. I know that does Clive Lloyd a disservice as a fine player, but I hope you take my point.

Kim Barnett was a decent skipper, but had some good players under him for a lot of his tenure. Barlow took some very average players and turned them into cricketers. Harry Cartwright, Tony Borrington, Phil Russell, Ashley Harvey-Walker, Fred Swarbrook and Colin Tunnicliffe were moulded into good players who knew their role in the side and took inspiration from a skipper who produced moments of magic from nowhere.

Rogers is skipper of a young side who will benefit from his performances. His batting last season was an object lesson in quality and a skipper who sets good examples is better than one who doesn't. When things weren't going our way in the field, Barlow could take the ball and produce a golden spell, something beyond Rogers' expertise. Then again, Barlow also had Mike Hendrick and Geoff Miller in his side, bowlers of very good quality. Rogers doesn't have that luxury at this stage, but who knows what the future may bring?

No, Rogers is perhaps not YET an outstanding captain, but he needs a more experienced side to help him to get there. What he is, beyond doubt, is an outstanding batsman, a totally committed professional and a man who will grow with the role, beyond any doubt the best option that is available to us.

Elsewhere today, Trinidad and Tobago reached the final of the T20 with an impressive batting display against Cape Cobras. I was again impressed (fleetingly) with the 19 year old opener Barath, while Dwayne Bravo showed what a terrific cricketer he is, especially in the short games. I'd be astonished if he wasn't in our Twenty/20 this summer for one county or another, together with his colleague Keiron Pollard.

It was nice to see Charl Langeveldt back bowling for the Cobras, but he could do little to stem the tide as Bravo and his team mates batted beautifully. Nonetheless, Charl was by a distance the Cobras best bowler. He's still as good a one day bowler as there is, in my opinion, though I'd have to say that Justin Ontong had a bit of a nightmare game, batting, bowling and fielding.

For the record, when I bracketed him with AB de Villiers as a "Monopoly Money" signing for Twenty/20, I meant that he was a cheaper alternative, not remotely in the league of the Proteas star batsman.

After today I'm reckoning his price will have gone down a bit, while Dwayne's will almost certainly have increased.

You can only say Bravo to that....

Great news on the skipper

Although it has been on the cards for a few weeks, the confirmation that Chris Rogers will be returning to Derbyshire next season is probably the best news that fans will have this winter.

Whatever happens in the next few months, the return of our captain and opening batsman gives as close to a guarantee of a thousand runs next year as it is possible to get.

Rogers exceeded two thousand in all competitions this year by some margin and in the process showed that the suggestion he cannot play one-day cricket is nonsense. Though not a regular in that game back home, Rogers averaged over sixty in the 40 and 50 over competitions while his Championship average was over 70 and the second highest in the club’s history.

Only in the 20-over game did his average drop to that of mere mortals. Far be it from me to offer advice to a man of his abilities, but if Buck simply concentrated on batting the overs in that game, rather than going for big shots, he’d score a weight of runs in that too. He is, in short, a player of great class.

Let’s not forget that he arrived late and but for that may well have gone past 2,500 runs in 2009. A total professional, we are very fortunate to have him at Derby and I’m sure that most fans hope he gets another chance with the national side this winter. Should he do so, Rogers could then play for us beyond next season.

Given the difficulties in sourcing full-season overseas professionals these days (especially ones of the highest class), that can only be a good thing.

Who knows? At his rate of scoring in 2009, next season he could easily make his 21st century for us.

Buck Rogers. Twenty first century. Did you see what I did there?

Yeah, it was quite poor. See you later.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

More on Steffan...

There’s been a couple of comments on my lunchtime article earlier today on the return of Steffan Jones. See how dedicated I am? As Whitney Houston once sang - I'm saving all my lunch for youuuuuuuuuuuuu....

One asked what had happened to Derbyshire’s fitness coach and I have to say I don’t know. What I will say is that fitness and physical conditioning for bowling all day are probably two different things. I would have thought that Steffan and the fitness coach Julian Calefato could work closely together. I dare say that is something that will emerge when the news breaks from the club.

The other question is how Jones can combine being a full time cricketer, conditioning and bowling coach. Again, the club may have more to say on that one, but I wouldn’t have thought the tasks especially onerous.

My thoughts would be that the bulk of the conditioning work – establishing the principles for bowlers to follow and so forth – would be done pre-season anyway. Once the cricket starts is when the conditioning work is seen to best effect and from then on it is a case of individuals maintaining their exercise regime. The coaching would be straightforward to do during practice sessions and Jones knows his own game well enough to be able to combine the two.

There would be an element of irony if he broke down next year, but I’d be confident he can handle this, as John Morris undoubtedly is.

John grew up in a Derbyshire side where seamers were rotated to keep them fresh and I don’t see that changing next year. The key to that, of course, is having enough guys fit enough to rotate, but Jones will not play all of the matches, any more than the others will do. As Kim Barnett proved with Holding, Malcolm, Bishop, Mortensen, Warner and Newman, the way to have your quickies firing in September is to rest them when there is an opportunity throughout the season.

It is an excellent signing and a sensible move. Jones is a highly respected and popular cricketer and, like James Pipe, can move on to the next stage of his career in an environment where he will be comfortable.

Finally for now, Mastervillain asks if I have something else in mind over the spinner that we so obviously need. Not really, but with the new regulations I just cannot see us signing Jason Brown.

If we were going to sign Middlebrook we may well have done so by now and I think Monty Panesar is out of our price range. Like Baldrick in Blackadder, John Morris may well have a cunning plan and we'll all have to wait to see if that is the case.

Maybe Venkat's coming back...

The Jones boy is back - for good!

There will be few Derbyshire fans that are not pleased at the news, broken in the Bristol Evening Post today, that Steffan Jones is set to sign a two-year deal with us for 2010-11. No doubt the news will be on the club site in the near future, but as they say on the X Files – the truth is out there!

Furthermore, Jones is signing a contract that gives him additional responsibilities as the bowling and fitness/conditioning coach.

There has been considerable discussion on fans bulletin boards in recent months on whether the lack of a bowling coach was a factor in some erratic bowling, especially in one-day matches. I cannot believe that anyone would deny that our batting last year was substantially improved on recent years in all forms of the game. John Morris and Andy Brown deserve full credit for instilling sound principles into what is essentially a young and relatively inexperienced batting side.

It was interesting listening to Morris commenting on the recent Club Twenty/20 finals day on the art of twenty over batting. Aim for four every ball, if you can’t get four, get a two, if you can’t get two, get a single and rotate the strike. Common sense it may be, but an approach that was lacking in previous seasons. As I wrote the other night, 150 in a 20-over game should be challenging if you bowl properly, which is where Steffan will come in.

Far too often in one-day games our bowlers have been guilty of bowling a length, which is hittable. The successful bowlers in the World T20 showed that you either have to bowl very full or just back of a length to make the batsman’s job much harder. It is very difficult to get under a ball to lever it for six if it is right up in the block hole and Steffan Jones has shown, especially in the latter part of his career, that he is adept at putting the ball in the right places. If he can pass those skills on to younger players he will do a very good job.

Then there is the conditioning role. Our bowlers have suffered a number of injuries in recent seasons. Ton Lungley has had an assortment of niggles, Jon Clare missed a lot of the last campaign and even that most willing of workhorses Graham Wagg missed cricket last year. If they are all fit and firing, I think our seam attack is among the best in Division Two, with only Gloucestershire (Kirby/Lewis/Franklin) of the same quality. We missed Langeveldt last year, but Jones, Groenewald, Lungley, Wagg, Clare and Hunter, backed up by Greg Smith comprises a pretty good line up.

If we assume that Lungley and Groenewald will sign new deals for 2010 (and there’s been nothing to suggest otherwise) and with Atif Sheikh and Ross Whiteley coming through, Derbyshire don’t lack seam bowling options. If Jones can keep them fit and firing we will be more than competitive, especially if a quality spinner can be added to the mix.

Which leaves, of course, Jones the bowler. Nothing in his bowling last season suggested a spent force, as he bowled with heart, energy and considerable skill to revitalise an attack that was struggling with injuries.

If I was honest, from a career point of view Steffan should never have left Derbyshire. His success in 2006 suggested there was much more to come, but he never became a regular at Taunton, nor could he have enjoyed bowling on the most batsman-friendly tracks in the game. He left for family reasons and I would never criticise anyone for that, but at the end of his career, he will probably be 50-100 wickets short of what he would have achieved at Derby.

Still, that’s history. The Jones boy is back. A fine bowler and a fine man. I remember in his first stint with us sending a question into the club site about how he kept himself fit, as I was at that time struggling with a back injury of my own that stopped me doing so in matches.

He replied in considerable detail on how it was important to have a strong “core” and kindly offered to meet me the next time I was at the Ground to show me some exercises that would help me to strengthen the weakened area and return to bowling.

I never got the chance to take him up on that kind offer but did source local classes on core strengthening that helped immensely.

So thanks for that Steffan and a sincere welcome back to Derby. We’ve missed you, but it’s great to have you back!

News at last

Anyone wanting a little heartening news about Derbyshire could do much worse than follow this link to the Bristol Evening Post

This is excellent news, in my humble opinion! More later

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

More on that overseas berth...

Thanks to DCCC Forever for coming up with the name of JP Duminy as an overseas player that Derbyshire should go for in the Twenty/20 competition this year, which is to be sponsored by Friends Provident and has been cunningly called the Friends Provident T20.

I couldn’t argue. He’s a player I would love to see in Derbyshire colours. I think South Africans give good value for money and Duminy is a very fine cricketer.

I also agree that if we are going to fill, or part fill the additional 2,000 seats to be installed over the winter, we’ll need to get someone who will help towards that. Better results will do us no harm, but with an extended competition in 2010 we want to be making a better fist of it than in recent years.

Another problem, other than those I highlighted yesterday, is that it is not yet known if this second overseas role has to satisfy the criteria for overseas and Kolpak recruits. If there is no restriction the field opens up for a lot of good players, but otherwise the competition for those who satisfy the criteria and want to come is going to be huge. And guess what? Money will talk…

I’ve read that Somerset have approached Graeme Smith, while Herschelle Gibbs may well be back at Glamorgan. I don’t think Jacques Kallis is especially suited to this form of the game, but he is a fine player.

The Morkel brothers are both good cricketers, though the fast bowling Morne seems to have had a bad patch of late. His all rounder brother Albie would be an asset, but he too may well be set for a return to a previous stomping ground at Durham.

In an ideal world I could use some of my millions (we’re talking Monopoly money here guys, not reality!) to finance a player for the club from that neck of the woods. In that case I’d be tempted to sign AB de Villiers. I think he’s a superb batsman and a brilliant fielder. Another I might consider would be Justin Ontong, a hard-hitting batsman and useful off spinner, as well as being another superb fielder.

The thing is, it is generally accepted that, with a few exceptions, batsmen are the crowd-pullers, but based on the Twenty/20 season just finished, there would be a strong argument for Derbyshire to sign a bowler who could put the ball on a length. In most matches we posted decent scores yet gave it away by shocking bowling in the first half dozen overs of the reply. If you score 150 in 20 overs you have a good chance, but not if your bowlers then go for 70 in the first six.

That being the case and assuming that he was fit, available and satisfied the requirements, there would be a strong argument for re-engaging Charl Langeveldt. You know with Charl that you will get 24 balls to test the opposition. He would be two years older and have lost a little more pace, but Langers was our “go to” bowler. In (almost) the words of Billy Ocean, when the going got tough, Langers got going…

Many will remember a similar role being played by Michael Holding back in the 1980’s. Kim Barnett’s job was made much easier by the legendary West Indian coming back to make the batsmen work for their runs. Or just getting them out…

I’m not sure if Langeveldt would put “bums on seats” as a big-hitting batsman would do, but he would probably help us to win as many, if not more games, assuming our batsmen continued their 2009 improvement in the short form. A winning side at any sport will always attract bigger crowds and Derbyshire are due a decent run in the Twenty/20.

Yet fantasy is all it is and all it can be for now. Conjecture of any kind, without knowing what we have available financially, who is available and who wants to come is pointless. We may as well say we’ll take Keith Miller as our second player and we’re signing Eddie Barlow on a Kolpak deal.

Hmmm. If John Morris pulled THAT one off I’d be at every game!

Monday, 19 October 2009

2nd overseas slot a problem

Thanks to all those who responded via the blog and through e mails to my piece on "Being a Fan" the other day. It turns out that Derbyshire have at least one follower in Australia, one in New Zealand and another in the USA. All of a sudden I feel like a local...

Thanks also to DCCC Forever for his suggestion of starting a thread on who will be our second overseas player in the Twenty/20. However, at this time, I'm going to decline and leave that one for a little further down the line.

It would be very easy of me to suggest that we should sign Shahid Afridi or Cameron White or Kieron Pollard. Indeed any one of around a dozen names could easily come to my lips, I won't do it at this stage however, for two very good reasons.

One is that we don't know if Derbyshire will have the money for one, or if we do, how much money we have available. There's no point hypothesising about the names above, all of whom would cost serious money, when our horizons may need to be considerably lowered.

The other is that at this stage no one has a clue about who is available. We know, because their players will be in the UK for international commitments, that you can effectively rule out the top Australians and Pakistanis. The World Twenty/20 doesn't finish in the Caribbean until May 16th and then there's suggestions that Sri Lanka, India and possibly New Zealand may be involved in a tournament in Dubai or somesuch. That doesn't leave many options, does it?

With the proliferation of training camps added in, I genuinely don't think there's any point in starting conjecture that will probably come to naught. As I've said before, I'm confident that John Morris will, if the money is available, come up with a very good player for us. I've little doubt that he is perhaps putting out feelers at this stage, but we can all recall premature plans that were dashed by revised fixtures and injuries. Hands up those who remember Jacques Rudolph, Mahela Jayawardena, James Hopes and Mohammad Yousuf?

Having said that, feel free to drop me a line with YOUR choice, DCCC Forever, or anyone else for that matter. I'm always delighted to hear from fellow fans and who they'd like to see in the club colours.

But just remember, there's a lot of factors will have to come into play first.

So what do you think?

The new ECB40 competition draw has been favourable to us, in my humble opinion.

As I reported in my "12 minute lunchtime special", dashed off earlier while I ate my delicious sandwiches (thanks Mrs Peakfan) we've got a decent draw.

For those who don't know, this competition is to be played on a home and away basis, so that will be 12 games in total. The three group winners then qualify for the semi finals, together with the best of the three group runners-up.

So, having had my hopes of a trip to Edinburgh dashed, I now console myself with the thought that maybe, just maybe, the game against Yorkshire will be played at Scarborough. One of my few remaining cricket ambitions is to see Derbyshire play there. I gave up on one of them a long time ago, which was playing for the hallowed XI.

Even for a county who at one time specialised in recruiting old, almost retired players from elsewhere (Clive Inman, Fred Trueman, Fred Rumsey, Ron Headley) an opportunity for Peakfan to strut his stuff in Derbyshire colours is probably past at this stage. I've even stopped sticking my gear in the back of the car, just in case...

Seriously though, I'd love to see us play at Scarborough and will hope that the final dates, venues etc will show that one on the calendar. If it happens, I'll be checking the B and Bs there to get a nice early booking.

I still stand by what I said earlier, that there's nothing in the group as it stands that would worry me unduly. Obviously, there's a lot of recruitment to be done around the country at present, but we can hold our own against these guys. Aside from not getting Scotland, I'm just pleased we've avoided Nottinghamshire, Lancashire and Durham, mainly because we see them every year in the Twenty/20.

Thanks to all recent contributors. I'll have a few comments on what you've added to the blog later tonight.

Breaking news

Breaking news is that we’ve been drawn in Group B of the new ECB40 League that will commence in 2010

The group in full is


I’ve got three initial thoughts.

One is – darn it, we’ve not got Scotland. Call me selfish, but I’d quite have enjoyed a local match!

A second thought is hey – we’ve got the Netherlands. That should be a good trip for some of the loyal fans and something a little different.

The third is that this is a winnable group. There’s not a team in the group that I would look at and think were miles better than us. Essex will probably start favourites on recent form, but I wouldn’t lose sleep over any of these sides.

I’m sure Northamptonshire will look forward to playing us and no doubt their idiot minority may be alive and kicking on 606 tonight, but for me that’s a decent draw.

Take another look at it too.

We’re top already…

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Dark horses

I have to say I'm impressed by the young Trinidad and Tobago side.

Pollard is, as I said the other day, a very clean striker of a ball and I was impressed by young (and tiny) Adrian Barath today. I remember reading about the then 11 year old when Brian Lara had him in the nets to general amazement.

He has only had 38 first class innings before this game today but had scored 5 centuries and 7 fifties. This was his first Twenty/20 match and he looks a real talent.

Such promise suggests that the West Indies decline, at one time thought terminal, may not be as pronounced as we thought. If a young Derbyshire batsman was returning those stats he would be fast tracked into the England squad and rightly so.

Barath can't be far away from a call to their national side.

With Barath, Pollard and Bravo, Trinidad are certainly doing their bit for the Caribbean.

Being a fan...

I've watched snippets of the Champions League Twenty/20 over the past week or so. While regular readers will know I'm not a huge fan of the format, there have been some good performances and the results so far have confirmed my thoughts that the real cricketing powers (irrespective of the result of the Ashes) are Australia and South Africa, the sides from those countries having played good, purposeful cricket.

You could argue that their sides are the freshest too, with Sussex and Somerset coming off the back of long hard seasons. Alternately, you could say that the latter should have been in better nick, but it hasn't looked that way. Trinidad and Tobago have been the surprise package, with expansive strokes and steady bowling making them a decent side, at least in this format.

Thanks to those who have been in touch about the difference of opinion I had on In Morris We Trust earlier in the week with a Derbyshire "fan". I'm annoyed and sorry that I allowed myself to get dragged into it and asked for my comments to be removed. It won't happen again.

There were two things that annoyed me. One was the contributor suggesting I set myself up as an "oracle" of Derbyshire cricket, which I don't. I write on here, purely and simply as a fan of the club. I have been since 1967 and I will be until my coffin goes through the curtains on the crematorium conveyor belt, hopefully a long time from now. As a fan, or supporter if you will, I support the club, the Director of Cricket, the players and the administration. Don't get me wrong, there'll be times when I'll criticise when it is deserved, when our batting capitulates, or our bowlers lob assorted junk down on a bad length. Yet such occurrences are much rarer these days, with the exception of a couple of poor one day games in the past season.

If people think I know a bit about the club, that's nice, though I don't set myself as Derbyshire cricket's Mastermind. My "name" gives it away. Peakfan. I'm a fan. Be honest, "The Derbyshire Oracle" or "Moaning Git's Derbyshire Page" might not have the same ring, though the latter might fit better with aspects of the Derbyshire psyche.

You don't believe me? Look at the Derby Telegraph on the Monday after a Derby County game. If we lose, there'll be twice as many contributors than if we win. Same with message boards about the cricket club, there's always more contributors ready to vent their spleen on a loss than acknowledge a job well done. Crazy, but true. I try to remember that, whatever the result, these guys are doing their best and sometimes it just ain't enough. Sometimes the opposition play better, sometimes we don't get the rub of the green, occasionally we play badly. C'est la vie, as someone (probably French) once said...

The other thing that annoyed me was the suggestion that I'm not a real fan as I don't go to enough games. There's three reasons for that. One is the piffling 680-mile round trip between our house and the County Ground. Another is the fact that I've a wife and two kids who quite like their husband/Dad to be around and who I enjoy being with. The third is that I have a full time job that pays the bills and keeps me fairly busy from Monday to Friday (and occasionally on Saturdays too). Much as I'd love to devote my annual leave to cricket watching, holidays with the family have to take precedence.

Yet outside of my family and my job, Derbyshire cricket is my biggest interest by a country mile. I love books, love music of most kinds and I'm a huge film fan. I still support Derby County. Yet they pall next to Derbyshire Cricket Club. I would love to live closer so I could see more games, but I'm realistic enough to accept that unless we get a game against Scotland in Edinburgh, the nearest I'd get to a home game is a five-hour round trip to see us play Durham in the Twenty/20.

So I content myself with my lot. Reading as much about the club as I can find, watching them on Sky, keeping in touch with pals by e mail and text (thanks guys!) and minimising the desktop scoreboard on my computer at work so I can keep an eye on developments. Oh, and keeping half an eye on teletext and doing this blog.

I must have seen around 500 games in my time and can close my eyes and picture the scene at most of them. I can remember the laughs and the comments that my Dad and I have exchanged at these matches, all of them enjoyed. Apart from the only Twenty/20 I took Dad to, when he said he would sooner have his toenails removed with pliers than go through that again - unless they played Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey at the fall of wickets and the hitting of boundaries...

So, if you are in a position where you can go to a lot of cricket, make sure that you appreciate it. There's people out there, like me, would absolutely love to be there with you, but because of a variety of circumstances can't do so.

But we're no less a fan because of that.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Pollard catapults to prominence

I might be wrong but I'd reckon that there will be more than a few county coaches watching Kieron Pollard's assault on the New South Wales bowling tonight and thinking he could do a job in the Twenty/20 next summer.

It is the latest in a growing collection of impressive knocks by the 22 year old. With three centuries in his 33 first class knocks. He announced himself in grand manner, making a century in 71 balls on debut and getting off the mark with a six, one of six in the innings. He scored another ton in his third appearance, again with six "maximums" as the Aussies love to call them. Like all attacking players, his form has been up and down since but he's still a young lad.

His assault tonight, especially on Moises Henriques, who I have previously praised (I'll get me coat!) was spectacular. Any side needing 80 from the last seven overs would be preparing for the inevitable, but Trinidad and Tobago won with nine balls to spare! Pollard scored an unbeaten 54 from 18 balls with 5 fours and 5 sixes.

Mind you, I could just imagine some of the conversations at the County Ground if Pollard had done that for us, no doubt centred around him being lazy and not running enough in some quarters...

No, I'm not advocating we sign him, as I'm happy to leave such a decision to one better qualified than I, but I'd be very surprised if Mr Pollard isn't the recipient of a contract from one of the counties. His medium pace is useful and he's a good fielder too, perfect for the short game.

Place your bets now as to where he goes...

Find us keepers

Apologies for the marginally punworthy title of this one, but I only just realised that this is my 601st post on the blog. How time flies when you're having fun!

Anyway, I'll be back at work next week after a refreshing and rewarding time at home this week, painting, gardening, cleaning cars and generally chilling with my homies - bet you didn't realise I was such a hip guy huh? Though I've just blown it with using the word "hip", of course.
Unless there's breaking news, I'll then be doing a blog every two or three days.

Nothing to report at the County Ground, but the winds of change blowing through the Counties are getting stronger. Gloucestershire are reporting that they have little money for team improvements this winter, although they are looking for an opening batsman to replace Craig Spearman, while Grant Hodnett was also released in the light of next year's legislation (he's South African).

They hope to sign, according to the local papers, the Surrey wicket-keeper Jon Batty. That would perhaps see the final movement of a hectic wicket-keeping merry go round. It has seen Steve Davies leave Worcestershire, with James Pipe suggested as his replacement. Then Pipe retired to become our physio and we signed our former keeper Lee Goddard from Durham. Davies then goes to Surrey, which leaves no room for Batty. Worcestershire then approach Gloucestershire for Steve Adshead and he's likely to move, while Batty is likely to move to Gloucester as his replacement as his Mum and Dad stay near there. Have you followed that?

Kent, according to reports are likely to report a loss of up to half a million this year. That is serious money, especially in the current economic climate. It makes you all the more grateful that our club is run very efficiently. I know there are those who complain about different things, but we are a small club run on very sound business principles.

There are some out there who feel we should adopt a "boom or bust" policy and sign everyone in sight, but that's not feasible, as John Bracewell says at Gloucester. They're working to a five year plan, pretty much the same as us. I still maintain that is the time to judge John Morris, as he started a job that was difficult and it has been made harder still by the so-called Memorandum of Understanding, which is as near as dammit telling teams who they can and can't pick.

Morris also has to cope with unrealistic expectations. We'd all love to go to another big Lords final, or Twenty/20 finals day, or get promotion. Yet the reality is we aren't a sleeping giant as we've never been one. Maybe we're an embryonic giant, but Derbyshire have never been, outside of the 1930's and the early 1950's, a genuine force to be reckoned with. If I was honest (which I am) the 1936 Championship was fortunate as we'd the luck with the weather (although it made up for the ill fortune of 1935). If you think back to our one day trophies, we hobbled across the line to beat Northamptonshire thanks to Colin Tunnicliffe's late heroics and we beat Lancashire thanks to Frank Griffith's tight last over . Although on both occasions I had legs, arms, fingers - maybe eyes - crossed, I thought we were going to blow both of them.

Only the Refuge Assurance win was more composed, yet there were alarms along the way. Several times we'd big run chases that were a breeze thanks to Messrs Barnett, Morris, Kuiper and co.

The 1950's side played some great cricket. I didn't see them, but my Dad saw them regularly and has told me that 200 was generally enough for a good first innings lead and often a win. If we'd had another decent batsman at that time we'd perhaps have nicked a title or two. Then again, if I'd been another Don Bradman we'd have won everything in the 1970's and 1980's. Life is full of ifs and maybes.

I'll be quite happy if I can see Derbyshire play attractive, purposeful cricket and win on a more regular basis than has recently been the case. It's coming together, slowly, but all fans have to wait and understand that good things are worth waiting for.

They're all the more sweet when they happen too.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Ashes Cricket - Wii

I've meant to mention this for a few days, but my son and daughter got me this game for my birthday and he and I have had some fine matches in the past couple of weeks.

It is great fun and in some respects similar to the real thing in that the timing of your stroke means everything. Too quick and the ball goes straight up in the air, too slow and you'll squirt it out square of the wicket or, worse still, be bowled ignominiously.

You can "shine" the ball to make it swing, and can also spin it. I can die a happy man (but hopefully not for some time) in the knowledge that I took Muralitharan for 34 off an over...

There are only two frustrations. One is the fielding, which is somewhat bizarre. Easy catches, the ones you'd toss to a little kid to teach it how to, get dropped, yet you can play a full blooded sweep shot and the wicket-keeper will stretch out a Barbapapa-style hand and catch it. A ball will go straight to a fielder at point and he'll not move, but third man or extra cover will run to pick it up and throw in. Very strange...especially when almost all throws at the stumps hit!

The other is that there's only three levels. Once you've figured out how to play, "Village" is a breeze. I'd have to say, on the basis of "Village" in this game, my real club side must be county standard. The "County" standard is only slightly higher, while "Test" - the top level, naturally - leaves a player chasing around 100-120 in a 20 over game, fairly easily attainable when you get used to the timing (though not if you're batting as England...)

It would have benefited from more of a cricket input too. If you dispense with third man and fine leg and have everyone in front of square, the computer will hardly ever get a boundary. We all know that there's many a run scored with a nurdle and a deft glide.

Only English and Australian players are licensed, though the resemblances vary. Flintoff looks like an East End hardman, while Strauss looks permanently startled. Other countries players simply have their names changed a little - so "Smyth" "Kollis" and "Bertha" all play for South Africa...

Good fun, worth a pre-owned purchase and will get you through the long winter months. No comparison to the real thing though.

Not even tanking Muralitharan!

Things starting to move elsewhere

Leicestershire's fans will be pleased by the performance of their overseas star for next season (and possible captain) Andrew McDonald in the Champions League T20 today.

McDonald bowled with control to take four wickets and looks a good player. His career average of around 37 with the bat and 28 with the ball doesn't suggest a world class cricketer, but he could do a good job for them.

I'm more surprised by Yorkshire's choice of Ryan Harris as their overseas player for 2010 and the signing is, I think, more indicative of the difficulties counties are going to face in getting a player who wants to come and satisfies the visa regulations. Harris is a decent cricketer, but his record suggests little more than that. He is known as a bowler who bats a little, but five first class fifties and a batting average of 18 doesn't look great. Nor does his bowling record of look spectacular and if I were a Yorkshire fan I'd be a little concerned tonight. They've lost Kruis, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Hoggard from their seam attack for next year and Harris will have a lot thrust onto his shoulders. At least, injuries permitting, they'll have him for the season and sometimes these gambles come off, but his three wickets at 45 each in a brief spell at Surrey doesn't look promising.

Elsewhere, Middlesex have replaced Murali Kartik as left arm spinner with Sussex's Tom Smith, Rob Key has ended speculation about a move to the Oval by signing a long-term deal at Kent, and Glen Chapple has been appointed Lancashire skipper for 2010.

Still no news from the County Ground, but I'm sure John Morris is busy as ever behind the scenes. Sometimes signings and contract extensions take time to organise but I'm sure that all will be revealed in good time. We just need to be patient.

See you soon.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Overseas and over here

I came across an article last night while doing a little web surfing on South African cricket.

Now it's not the theme of this blog, as regular readers will know, but the author of the article was stating that the current South African side was the best they have ever had.

I'll not deny that they are a strong outfit and have some quality players. Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis are fine batsmen, while Dale Steyn is a handful with the new ball. They have a lot of good all round cricketers too, guys who can bat steadily, bowl accurately and field with an ability that seems to be lacking in some countries.

Yet "best ever"? I could only assume that the author was a young guy who had never seen the Saffers of the 1960's, Springboks as they were then known.

I remember when I first started watching Derbyshire and it wasn't a pretty sight at times. When the news came in 1969 that we were going to sign an overseas player for the first time and the target was South African, I remember asking my Dad who he thought we should sign. I was only ten, going on eleven and didn't know much about cricket other than the big names.

The two he suggested were Eddie Barlow and Graeme Pollock.

Now Barlow, as it turned out, did eventually come to Derbyshire, but Dad has always said it was five years too late.

"If he'd come in 1970 there'd have been no stopping us" he said, and few would argue. The Barlow of 1975 vintage was still a very fine player but his peak had passed as a batsman. As a bowler he was always dangerous, even when there was nothing in the track. As a skipper he missed little, just as he did at slip.

I cast my mind back to Eddie Barlow last year when we were struggling to break through on a few last days in the Championship. In those situations, Bunter would have taken a wicket with an ambitious and telegraphed off cutter, or a slower ball, or one that somehow moved off the track. He was a partnership breaker par excellence and a world class cricketer.

So was Pollock. He never fancied County cricket yet would have been a huge draw and success. One of the very greatest left handers ever, Pollock hit a ball with West Indian power yet never really seemed to be doing so.

When you consider that Barlow, Pollock, Mike Procter and Barry Richards were in that late 1960's side, I would argue that it was perhaps the best ever. Four great players in a side supported by some very good players.

Chris Wilkins, who arrived as our first overseas player, was a terrific batsman and wonderfully entertaining, yet was a long way from their national side. Hylton Ackerman, who passed away a few weeks ago, Lee Irvine and Trevor Goddard were also around, while Pollock's brother Peter was a very, very good and awkward quickie. When counties brought over a South African professional, you just knew they were going to be good.

They still are and the depth is coming back into South African cricket. They have good batsmen, some lively quicks, handy swing bowlers (many of whom have headed over here on Kolpaks) and some steady and talented spin bowlers.

South Africa has been a happy hunting ground for Derbyshire, which is why I have a soft spot for their national side. As well as Wilkins and Barlow we've had the graceful and talented Peter Kirsten, the dynamic Adrian Kuiper and the enigmatic Daryl Cullinan. OK, the likes of Andrew Gait, Dominic Telo and James Bryant didn't fare so well, but by and large we've had good service out of South Africans at Derby. For a short spell we also had Allan Lamb and Garth Le Roux in the Second XI (yet no one checked Lamb's English credentials.... grrrrr!) and but for injury would have had Jacques Rudolph too.

Our players have done well out there too. Fred Swarbrook, Phil Russell and the late Ashley Harvey-Walker all did well after they retired in coaching or groundsman roles, while Alan Hill was one of a number who went out there to play and became the first man to make a century without hitting a boundary!

Yes, I've a soft spot for South Africa and they've probably given us the best success rate in overseas player of any nation. Australia have given us terrific players like Dean Jones, Michael di Venuto and Chris Rogers, but they've also given us Michael Slater, Travis Birt and Jon Moss.

We did well out of Michael Holding for sure, while Ian Bishop would have done better but for injury, but Lawrence Rowe and Wavell Hinds were only qualified successes. Mohammad Azharuddin and Venkat also did well for us, but Mohammad Kaif showed only flashes of ability. John Wright was a fine servant from New Zealand for a number of years, Harris wasn't. Nor was Shahid Afridi in his brief spell with us.

It's a hard job identifying an overseas professional, or indeed a Kolpak. With the overcrowded international calendar it is becoming ever more complex and we should be thankful that we have such a fine player as Chris Rogers at Derby.

Mind you, I'd love to see an Eddie Barlow on a Kolpak.

Nice bit of film

One of my favourite web sites is that of British Pathe, which has loads of amazing footage of days gone by from the old Pathe news reels.

By entering a search term of "cricket" you can see all the greats, right back to WG Grace.

This afternoon I came across footage, albeit brief, of Derbyshire's George Pope bowling for England against South Africa in 1947. You can see it at

George's run up and action can be seen around 1 minute 8 seconds in.

Great for those who never saw a true County legend in action. Enjoy!

Fancy a good read?

I'm basking in the glow of post-decorating today. Having taken the week off I've painted the staircase and am enjoying the thought of the remainder of the week catching up on some reading and pottering about in the garden before the weather changes.

I'm reading a novel at present by Martin Edwards, who as well as being one of the country's very best crime writers is also an avid fan of Derbyshire and collector of club memorabilia. Every club has its "celebrity" fans though many don't like being called by that name. The late Ted Moult was one of ours, while TV personality Nick Owen obviously is. Anybody know any others?

Martin is also one of the top employment lawyers in the country and a regular reader of this blog (sincere thanks!) If you enjoy a good read and more to the point like a good crime novel, he's the man. The eagle-eyed among you will notice that many of his characters are named after former Derbyshire players.

You can find out more about him and his books on his excellent web site at

If you're reading this Martin, drop me an e mail to either the blog account or my other one as I've somehow lost yours!

I've just finished Duncan Hamilton's brilliant biography of Harold Larwood. It is a very well written account of a man who was effectively ostracised by English cricket and became the scapegoat of Bodyline. If you want a good read, this is one well worth buying, or borrowing from your local library. Mrs Peakfan got it me for my recent birthday and it's added to my signed copy of his autobiography a few years back. Yes, I know he was a Nottinghamshire man but he was also a great cricketer. My parents now live in the town where his statue is on display and it is a terrific piece of work.

I'm now slipping hints that I might get the "Derbyshire CCC 100 Greats" by Derek Carlaw for Christmas. I'll be interested to read it, if only to see how the author has come up with 100 players who are genuinely, if only in the context of Derbyshire cricket, "great". It is a much over used word these days, as is "legend". If I really push myself, I can come up with around 50 whose deeds for us warrant the term, but I'm really stretching things.

One that really disappointed me was Edward Giles "Derbyshire Chronicles", which I eagerly awaited but which I found quite frustrating. The narrative didn't flow as it might have and there were far too many diversions and quirky, but to me somewhat pointless asides. The layout of the book wasn't the best, either, and it isn't high on my list of books to recommend.

THE book on Derbyshire cricket is still John Shawcroft's club history. It could really do with an updated version being produced. I'm not sure if John is still around, but his book is superbly written and a thoroughly readable account of the club's history. Over the years I've managed to get my copy signed by around 70-80 players, so it is very much a family heirloom. Well, I think so...

Anyway, that's pretty much it for now. Not much in the way of news just now, but I'm sure there's a story just around the corner. As soon as it happens, you'll get my thoughts on here.

Back soon.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Hoggard conjecture rife

All sorts of stuff flying around the message boards at present as the fans of various counties state the case for their county being the natural home for Matthew Hoggard.

Some are laughable. Somerset? Warwickshire? He'll be shattered by next September if he opts for those counties and more specifically bowling on those tracks. Leicestershire are the first side to declare an interest, but that's a whole world apart from being able to sign him. A contributor on In Morris We Trust suggested that surely we could match a side like Leicestershire, but if we have the lowest playing budget in the country then they have more - bit of a no brainer, that one. Allied to the fact that they essentially have a young squad, on uncapped (in some cases) salaries and they'll have money in hand. They've signed a relatively unknown Aussie (Andrew McDonald) as professional for next year (and probable captain) and also have Will Jefferson lined up.

I could see Hoggard going there, maybe Lancashire, maybe Nottinghamshire (he's over 30 after all and the Trent Bridge Rest Home for the Elderly has a vacancy or two...) but I'd be surprised if he went further south. Money talks, of course. Maybe he'll trade the convenience of not moving house with reduced wage demands, but based on the 100K salary I've read about he's got a fair bit of coming down to do...

Of course, another factor, as pointed out by Derek Pringle in the Telegraph today, is that he only played Championship cricket last year. Such a salary for essentially a part time cricketer is pushing things a tad. Its the same with Monty Panesar, who you can't see being much more than a Championship player given his only average fielding and minimal batting ability.

I am very confident that John Morris will come up with a very good spinner for Derbyshire in 2010. He knows cricket and cricketers and has a lot of contacts in the game. The likelihood is that the man who will come in will be another in the preferred Morris mould - a guy who can contribute with the bat and at least hold his own in the field.

On comments from today, sorry DCCC Forever - I don't see Hoggy as a replacement for Langeveldt. Yes, he's an ex-international bowler but he's not, unlike Langeveldt, a bloke who I would expect to keep it tight in the one dayers. If it was moving, Langers would get wickets. If it wasn't, he'd keep an end tight. You can't ask for more yet I've seen Hoggard get some serious stick in one day cricket.

A name mentioned on In Morris We Trust today is Jason Krejza, an Australian off spinner of Polish descent. I would be very, very surprised if Krejza was in Morris' sights. With 74 wickets in first class cricket at 48, that would be a heck of a gamble and the stats suggest that he's not as good a spinner as James Middlebrook or even Jason Brown!

As I posted on IMWT, another who will attract interest from counties at some stage is Aussie with a Portuguese passport Moises Henriques. A couple of my Aussie pals reckon he's a class act with bat and ball. He is also firmly on the radar of the Australian national selectors and if he continues with his impressive World Twenty/20 performances will have them taking even greater interest.

Anyway, tomorrow is another day, as Scarlett O'Hara once said. Maybe this time tomorrow we'll have some news to get excited about.

If I say it enough I'm sure it will happen...

Monday, 12 October 2009

Hoggy for.... someone else.

Sorry about the late blog today but I've been painting the staircase. I've now earned enough brownie points from my recent decorating exploits to last me until at least next July, maybe even longer...

So Yorkshire have released Matthew Hoggard who is not at all happy at what has happened.

He's not the first to leave the White Rose county under a cloud, but there was a time when such blood-letting was an annual ritual, celebrated as the clocks changed every year.

There was Brian Close, Ray Illingworth, John Hampshire, Phil Sharpe - the exodus of talent from Yorkshire was extraordinary, many of them players who still had so much to offer.

Hoggard is still a good player and strikes me as the sort of bowler who would prefer to stay up north, which has led Sky Sports to name us as 9-1 favourites to sign him. Thanks to "Anon" for letting me know that, as I've not seen Sky Sports all day!

Such things are often based on a little inside knowledge, which may lend credence to the idea that he will sign, but, sorry to rain on the parade, but I just don't see it.

Maybe I'm doing the guy a disservice, but if Yorkshire reckon he turned down a "very generous" two year deal with an option for a third, I just cannot see how we could afford him in the light of the new regulations on the age make up of sides next year. The idea seems to be that there'll no longer be the "old lags" clogging up the County circuit, but that it will be chock full of lithe young things who will turn our national side into an eleven of super heroes.

Yeah, sure.

There's a lot of top players who have probably peaked once they've passed 30. Think Gooch, Gatting, Ramprakash. How many runs Hick scored after he was 30. Go back further and how many Jack Hobbs scored after he was 40. I know that the game was different then, but this Memorandum of Understanding is well, nuts. Who's the best spinner in England? Robert Croft is still up there for me, at what age? Who's the best batsman? Ramprakash at what age? Why should the cricketing public be deprived of watching top players just because legislation suggests they should be traded in for a younger model, almost certainly inferior.

Matthew Hoggard is a fine bowler. Always has been, in likelihood always will be. He's also an ex-England bowler and as such will be looking for big money, way outside our compass.

The same goes for Monty Panesar. He's a bowler of talent, but, despite some improvement, is still only a tail ender and a very average fielder. He's another who will command a big salary, or at least will ask for one. I think that he'll end up at Edgbaston, where Ashley Giles has made no secret of his interest. Where that leaves Ant Botha is anyone's guess.

So in short, I think that Matthew Hoggard is a fine bowler who would do a job for Derbyshire without doubt.

But unless Rupert Murdoch is going to sponsor him, or Keith Loring has come up on the pools, it ain't gonna happen.


Sunday, 11 October 2009

Good news on the skipper

I had a day off blogging yesterday as there was little to write about, to be honest. The only news, thankfully good, was that Chris Rogers will now be able to return to Derby next season due to an amendment to the regulations. Having had a visa for the past few years, Buck will qualify for 2010 and I'm sure that Derbyshire fans will rejoice at that news. Whatever else happens this winter, we'll not do a better piece of business.

I had a few e mails from people yesterday who said they'd no idea about the new regulations coming into force from next season, as I highlighted on Friday. All were the same as me - very sympathetic towards John Morris, who will effectively have to select his teams with both cricketing and fiscal matters in mind. A couple suggested that Chesney Hughes could be a batting option for us too in the Under 22 age group, but the reality is that he won't, as he is not yet English-qualified and would cost us more money when he plays until he does. Chesney may well have a big part to play in our future cricketing fortunes, but that won't be until his qualification period ends. Having said that, time is very much on his side at 18.

This week's poll ends in a few hours time and I have to say that the response has been great - thanks to all who voted. Having said that, I'm not going to have a poll for the forseeable future as I can't think of anything worth voting on at this stage. If you've any ideas, please let me know, but "is the water in the gents toilet at the County ground hot enough for you?" isn't one I'd be keen on running - so think on...

I'm astonished at how this blog has taken off over the past year and a half, with growth during the past season up by around 45-50%. Thanks to everyone for your support. It's something that I enjoy doing and I'm just grateful that there's plenty of people out there on a daily basis who keep tuning in. You will tell all your friends won't you? Though maybe not those who don't like cricket - and probably not those who are Nottinghamshire fans...

The findings of this week's poll suggest that the player most would like to see at Derby is Wes Durston, but to a great extent this poll has been overtaken by events. That Daily Telegraph article for me will dictate Derbyshire's signing strategy and if we're going for anyone it may be a young player who many might not have heard of.

For what it's worth, I think that Will Jefferson will end up at Leicester, with rumours suggesting he's been offered the captaincy. I've also read that Scott Newman prefers to stay down south and may well move across to Middlesex. Durston is a decent player but he's 28 and outside his "age of usefulness" if I could put it that way. Cynics could also suggest that what at first glance looks a respectable average of mid-30's is perhaps not THAT impressive when one considers most of his batting has been done at Taunton, where I reckon I might average 20 at my age...

He would have been my choice out of those names before I read that Telegraph piece. Spearman has been a terrific player but is a classic case of an "eye" player who's eye has gone. Shafayat too has been around for some time and has not kicked on, in either stay at Nottingham nor at Northamptonshire in between. A fair player, but would you bring him in to replace Madsen, Park or Smith? I know I wouldn't.

That just leaves Brown at Gloucestershire and I don't think that he's a good enough player for Derbyshire. Nothing he's done so far suggests a mercurial talent and a move for him would be a surprise.

I think we'll hear soon about things moving at Derby but John Morris will, quite rightly, keep his cards close to his chest. I hope that we sign Steffan Jones after his late-season heroics and we obviously, desperately need a quality spinner. We could probably use another seamer too, but the side for next season is likely to bear a more youthful look and be something along the lines of:


That side is much younger than this year, without the experience of Pipe or Hinds in the middle order. It will put more responsibility on Park and Smith to progress still further while the young guns will have a part to play. We'll see how they all fare when April comes around once more.

Whatever happens, I can't wait!

Friday, 9 October 2009

Favourite cricketers - John Wright

John Wright will not go down in history as one of the game’s greatestbatsmen, but he will be remembered as a batsman of strong technique, a decent range of strokes and immense courage.

For Derbyshire fans used to years of attritional batting, the Wright and Kirsten era is and will forever be recalled with a great deal of fondness. South African Peter Kirsten was the real run machine and an average of 60 at the end of each summer was par for the course. Wright was less prolific yet there were similarities between the two. Both liked to take their time in “getting in”, yet possessed an innate ability to keep the scoreboard moving while doing so. Once set, Kirsten could be a destroyer and simply take attacks apart. With his baggy cap and build he was likened to the great Donald Bradman, but the fans knew that once Wright was set he would bat and bat and bat.

In some ways he suffered in batting with his great friend as the solid technique of Wright could suffer in comparison to the more elegant, flamboyant Kirsten. Yet “Shake” as he was known (for the poor state of his cricket gear, which they reckoned he’d just shake out of his bag) was a very fine player. Not as good a left-hander as Chris Rogers, but thoroughly dependable. A record of 59 centuries and 126 fifties doesn’t lie. His average of 42 (37 in Tests) suggests a very good, rather than great player, but Wright was a fine servant to Derbyshire cricket.

His autobiography “Christmas in Rarotanga” was one of the more enjoyable cricket books in my experience and he wrote extensively on his time at Derby. Having trialled with Kent, he had a few games for our Second XI before being taken on by Eddie Barlow. For a while we had to perm one from Kirsten and Wright until Barlow retired when the two graced – no other word for it – our batting for some years of bliss. Later on he suffered from the changing regulations on overseas players and the choice became either Wright or Michael Holding. He wryly commented on the fact that many opponents seemed pleased to see him and it took a while for the penny to drop that it was because his presence meant Michael wasn’t in the side!

Added to his cricket ability, Wright was a singularly approachable man, who always had time for a word. He has since become a highly respected coach at international level, where again his humour came to the fore. Asked the most demanding part of coaching India, he replied “making sure all the practice balls are there at the end of the session”.

John Wright's greatest innings (and there was plenty of choice) was against the West Indies at Chesterfield on a real green top. Andy Roberts and co pinging them down at the speed of light and good players of fast bowling like Barry Wood and David Steele getting hit and hurt. Yet Wright batted stoically - maybe astonishingly - for 96 runs that was worth double that.
Yes, a good player was John Wright. It was my great pleasure to see him.

The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind of change...

I came across an interesting article earlier today from the Daily Telegraph. It's a few weeks old, but may have considerable bearing on our plans for next season. It is reproduced below, and I acknowledge the Telegraph as the author of the following:

"Plans by the England and Wales Cricket Board to introduce age-related payments to counties for next season have been opposed by 96 per cent of county players.
The ECB hopes to encourage counties to play more young English players and make them less dependent upon Kolpak or European-qualified imports by changing the system of central funding.

The new payment system, included in a Memorandum of Understanding that has been circulated to counties, would change the emphasis of Performance Related Fee Payments. Instead of penalising counties for playing non-England-qualified players, they would be rewarded for selecting up to two players under the age of 22, three under 26 and a maximum of four over 28 with a sliding scale of payments.

More money will also be invested by the ECB in county academies, second XI cricket and the development of level three and four-qualified coaches. But the ECB proposals are not popular with players, as 283 of the 296 county cricketers who responded to a survey conducted by the Professional Cricketers' Association said that team selection should be based on merit and not on age bands.

Only six players who responded to the survey, which was answered by all but 60 of the PCA's playing membership, supported the age-related system proposed by the ECB.

"While we believe that the intention of the MOU to encourage England-qualified cricketers is sound, there are very strong cricketing reasons why the age-related PRFP should not go ahead," said PCA chairman Vikram Solanki.

"This is nothing short of a quota system and quota systems have not worked in other parts of the world.

"We believe that if teams are not selected solely on merit it will lead to a lowering in the standards of county cricket."

Though counties are not obliged to comply with the memorandum of understanding, the PCA is concerned that financial pressures - counties who fully comply will receive more than £206,000 next season, those who do not will receive £82,000 less - will make it difficult for most counties not to.

"In the current economic climate you can see why clubs might adopt the policy of playing players of a certain age when there might be players more deserving of a place," Solanki said.

Despite PCA concerns, the age-related payment scheme looks set to go ahead. Some counties have already signed and returned the memorandum of understanding to Lord's and the issue was not even discussed at a recent ECB cricket committee meeting, despite attempts by the PCA to have it included as an agenda item.

"Ideally we would like the age-related payments to be scrapped totally, but at the very least we would like them to be put on hold while proper consultation takes place," Solanki said.

"The ECB feel that proper consultation has already taken place with the PCA and the cricketing world in general, but we do not agree with that."


Given that Derbyshire have by some distance the smallest playing budget of the first class counties, the comments in the middle of this article, which I have both italicised and put in bold, may have been written about us. We have done well, extraordinarily well, to make a small profit in recent seasons and those at the club who have worked to ensure this deserve our congratulations. It is clear, however, that we could not afford to take the financial "hit" suggested here by non-compliance.

Solanki is right. It is a quota system and players are rightly opposed to it. It is little different to when South African sides were expected to pick a given number of non-white players in their sides, irrespective of merit.

The likelihood is that the wealthy counties at the Test grounds will wave two fingers at the system and carry on regardless. They can afford to, but we can't. So what happens if we have to play two players under 22? Dan Redfern would get in OK, and Paul Borrington is close to the first team. Yet what happens if one of them is injured? Do we then pull in Tom Poynton and drop our new keeper? Or play Atif Sheikh and drop Steffan (if he signs) or Tim Groenewald? I can understand players concerns as this is tinkering with their careers and dictating that sides will not be selected on merit.

It is the same with the under-26 category. It might mean that Jon Clare HAD to play, even if out of form like this year.

It is, in short, ludicrous and given the track record of cricket administrators will almost certainly go through. That 283 of 296 players oppose it suggests a depth of feeling, but the "suits" at Lords know best, of course. We all know that the game is not about the players....

On a different tack, and taking into account the story above, I think that I, in common with a number of fans, may have been getting carried away in recent days or weeks. I've read a few stories about the salaries being demanded for players by agents in the light of the new legislation on visas and quite honestly think a lot of them are outside our compass.

Players that I would deem as ordinary are looking for substantial - maybe ridiculous - salaries, some of them in this week's poll. We can't afford them, in my humble opinion. What I forgot in my calculations last night on money available, was the improved contracts for the likes of Park and Smith, probably Rogers, maybe others, contracts that will keep them at Derby. I also hope that Steffan Jones signs, which will be more money.

John Morris went on record when Wavell Hinds was released to say we were going in a different direction. That could mean he's not going to go the Kolpak route, or he's going to sign a bowler. He also needs to find, ideally, another Twenty/20 player for the second overseas berth, someone who will put a few bums on the seats that Keith Loring is having installed this winter.

All things considered, we haven't got THAT much money available, so here's a pledge from Peakfan.

The blog will, from now on, be a conjecture-free zone. There's loads of it on 606 and In Morris We Trust and I'll happily contribute to both fora. I'll only write about new signings as and when we make them though. Yes, I think we need a spinner and perhaps another seamer. Yet the story at the top of this article suggests that Rogers, Madsen, Park and Smith will HAVE to be joined by Redfern and Borrington next year. That's no bad thing as they're good young players, but there's no point Morris signing a Durston, Shafayat et al if we can't play them and I don't rate any of the names in this week's poll as better than our top four.

Finally tonight, I queried yesterday why Charl Langeveldt didn't bowl his full allocation last night. The answer is that his shoulder has gone again, a real shame. I wrote at the start of the season that I didn't see Charl playing for us again and with a dodgy shoulder, approaching his 36th birthday, I am afraid that I was right. I hope he recovers, but I'd be very surprised if we see Langers at Derby again.

See you over the weekend!