Friday, 31 July 2009

Kent v Derbyshire Day One

There were a number of things worthy of note about day one of the Clash of the Titans today. OK, that's maybe overdoing it, but you get my gist...

First up, Derbyshire ended their innings having posted a competitive score and once again one that didn't look likely in the early afternoon. At 127-5 we were looking down a barrel of a score less than 200 and no batting points. To close with three in an all out score of 303 was a considerable achievement.

Once again Chris Rogers got us off to a flyer, but again got out just after reaching a fine 50. Wayne Madsen failed for once, but everyone does from time to time. Nor did the middle order make much impression, although Dan Redfern promised much in his 29 that contained seven boundaries.

It was again Wavell who held us together. He had four sixes by the time he had reached 40 and played a fine hand with his 74. 233-9 still looked vulnerable, however and we were again indebted to the late order and Jones the bat in particular. Steffan must be the best number 11 we've ever had and with successive fifties now must be looking for all rounder status...

It was again indicative of the fighting spirit instilled in the side by John Morris and Derbyshire would be quite satisfied with their final tally, especially when four wickets went to off spinner James Tredwell and Kent should have to bat last on this track. Jake Needham also did well at the other end, but his may well turn out to be a starring role as the game progresses.

It was interesting to see that Nantie Hayward was left out of the starting line up today. He's not yet hit his straps since his arrival, while Wagg, Jones and Groenewald have bowled consistently in recent matches. I'm sure his time will come, but it was a tough decision and full credit to the coach for making it.

Groenewald struck a telling blow with the last ball of the day after three expensive overs, when he tempted Denly into fishing outside his off stump and edging to the safe hands of Chris Rogers at slip. Kent closed at 49-1 and tomorrow is set to be a fascinating day's cricket. Early wickets are crucial for Derbyshire as the hosts will resume with in-form skipper Rob Key accompanied by overseas star Martin Van Jaarsveld. Get through that pair quickly and we're ahead in a very even game. If we don't. there's a lot of leather chasing in prospect.

Jim Allenby

Well, we've won the toss and elected to bat at Canterbury, so its all up to the batsmen now to set a solid base for this game.

Speaking of batsmen, it was interesting to read last night that Jim Allenby has probably played his last game for Leicestershire after rejecting a new contract. Especially interesting as the Leicester Mercury last night said that "Kent, Northamptonshire and Derbyshire were all supposed to be interested in Allenby".

If that was all, I'd fancy our chances. I think we're a better side than Northamptonshire, especially when one removes the South African contingent next season, while Kent have a strong side. Whether he fancies a move down south is anyone's guess (though its a lovely part of the country) and despite his protestations to the contrary, money talks. I would be amazed if Warwickshire, Durham and Lancashire weren't in the chase too, as well as Nottinghamshire. Lancashire may well see him as a replacement for Francois du Plessis, while Nottinghamshire want someone to replace Mark Ealham.

I've said on this blog before that I really like him and would love to see him at Derby, but it is a sign of how we are improving as a side that one asks the question - who would he replace?

For me, he is like for like with Greg Smith, but the South African-born player is much improved and gives good balance to the side. Wavell has done really well this season and Dan Redfern is one of the country's brightest talents, while Garry Park has also had a solid first full season. There are many periods in our recent history where Allenby would have walked into any of the batting positions, so that in itself is a sign of our improvement. His career record is not spectacular, but mid-30's for an aggressive batsman is still acceptable and in one day cricket he has found his forte as a punishing hitter at the top of the order, while bowling tight medium pace at the end of the innings

He is, apparently, available for the remainder of this season and would give a great boost to our promotion hopes, but I would be truly astonished, not to mention seriously impressed, if he ended up at Derby.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Kent v Derbyshire preview

Over achievers or genuine promotion contenders? It is probably safe to say that one game will not change anything substantially, but we'll get a better idea of Derbyshire's credentials by the end of this weekend's top of the table clash at Canterbury against Kent.

Top of the table clash. That's right, Derbyshire in a top of the table clash. Who'd have "thunk" it? The disappointments of the Twenty/20 are consigned to the dustbin of history as Derbyshire have shown themselves a decent side at "proper" cricket. We're still unbeaten and now in the second half of the Championship season.

The signing of Wayne Madsen appears to have given us that rarity of Derbyshire cricket, a good opening pair. I'd probably go back to the Barnett/Bowler combo to find a good, as opposed to decent, opening pair. Wayne currently sits with a Bradmanesque average of 97, while the skipper is averaging mid-40's without having produced the really big score that we know he is capable of.

The middle order too have all done well. Garry Park has scored steadily in his first full season, as has Dan Redfern. A lot of people will not understand the mental demands of first class cricket and these two young players have done well. Wavell has been a great success this year, while Greg Smith has emerged from being a "nearly" player to a fine cricketer after several years of knocking at the door.

To that established top six can tomorrow be added Freddie Klokker, who is preferred to Tom Poynton. Poynton is one for the future, but we know Klokker is steady behind the stumps and a fair batsman too, eminently capable of a score at number seven. With Graham Wagg at eight, John Morris then has a decision to make on the bowling front.

It is any three from five with Tim Groenewald, Jake Needham, Steffan Jones, Ian Hunter and Nantie Hayward in the 13-man squad. Much will depend on the pitch, but with James Tredwell taking regular wickets for Kent, one assumes the ball may turn so Jake Needham could get an outing here. Steffan Jones has bowled well since his return, so the final place may well be between Ian Hunter, Tim Groenewald and Nantie Hayward.

Hunter has done well this season but has dropped back in the pecking order lately. Groenewald has got steadily better and bowled very well at Cheltenham, while his batting improves with every game. Hayward hasn't yet really fired, but how do you leave out a Test bowler of some reputation? This could be the big occasion that will spark him into life. Morris may ease the dilemma by playing Groenewald AND Hayward while leaving the spin to Wagg, Smith and Redfern. We should also remember that Madsen is an off spinner of some ability with first class wickets in South Africa to his name.

The key to success will be making inroads into a much vaunted top order, where Joe Denly and Rob Key score heavily, paving the way for prolific South African Martin Van Jaarsveld and Geraint Jones. Indeed, the game could become a fair old battle of the Saffers, with Smith, Park, Groenewald, Madsen and Hayward on our side and Van Jaarsveld, Justin Kemp, Ryan McLaren and Wayne Parnell on theirs.

There's no news of Kent's side at this stage, although with veteran Pakistani all rounder Azhar Mahmood in the side they bat long and bowl well. It promises to be a battle royal, so here's hoping that the weather keeps out of it and the best team wins.

And its us...

Well, well, well

So the ECB have decided to leave the Championship alone and with the same number of games as at present. Good news!

Firstly because we're a decent side at that game, but also because it is still (and in my eyes will always be) THE form of cricket. A match will ebb and flow but you get a good idea of who can play the game from 4-day cricket, rather than who can hit the ball hard and occasionally get lucky. I'm doing some good one-day players a disservice here, but I'll take 4-day cricket over hit and giggle any day.

Mind you, the news on the extension of the Twenty/20 to two north/south divisions was also a step in the right direction. Apart from the fact that there are more beatable sides in the south right now. The north group will presumably be Derbyshire, Durham, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Yorkshire. No escape from the strong sides we've played thus far, but at least some different opposition which has to be a good thing. The matches will be played Thursday - Sunday evenings to maximise crowd potential, while there will be no restriction on the number of overseas players who can be registered, but there will be on how many can play. Methinks that there'll be little difference. I can't think Derbyshire will register players who they can't afford to simply watch matches.

The really good news is that we'll be getting Sunday cricket back. Yay! Slightly tempered by the fact that a 40-over competition may be made up of two 20-over innings per side. Why this fixation with 20 overs? There's nothing wrong with a 40 over game and if we're to lose 50 over cricket, its not that far removed as to make a major difference. I just hope that the ECB see sense and at least allow a one-day tournament that is not manic from ball one.

John Morris said recently that players were shattered after a 20-over game. Imagine how they'll feel after a weekly double 20-over bash! By all means retain 40-over cricket. If you read this blog regularly you'll know how I've always enjoyed it and regular Sunday afternoon cricket will attract fans. It is, after all, the one day of the week when most people can actually go. Let's just keep it to sensible proportions.

If the ECB are "dropping" plans for a second 20-over competition (also known as "the players don't want it and we can't get sponsors"), surely we don't need double twenty over games on a Sunday? Administrators eh? Don't you just love 'em? One option is apparently to have no limitation on bowlers. So we're sorted - just re-sign Langeveldt and let him bowl at one end all season...

Mind you, when I first read last night about a double innings 40-over competition I wondered what time they'd be starting and finishing. 160 overs in a day... now THAT'S value for money!

Onto other things - I'd love to have been a fly on the wall at Edgbaston after groundsman Steve Rouse's comments about the wickets there.

He said that he'd like to leave more grass on them to help the bowlers more but "they are scared of losing". "They" being Ashley Giles and his merry band, who effectively gained promotion last year by boring draws with batsmen feasting on featherbed tracks. Surely you have to back your players? If Derbyshire left more grass on the tracks (like we did in the Barnett era) I think we'd do well with our current seam attack, but we'd also be first to incur penalty points. Cynical? Moi?

Finally, I see Glamorgan have given Robert Croft a new 2-year contract, which is flexible "to allow him to coach and do promotional work". I think they're absolutely right as he is still a fine bowler. Just as long as they schedule promotional work for him for the duration of our games against them next year. Assuming we're not promoted, of course, when we'll be well out of his way.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Quiet week..

Not much to report just now. As they say in the old westerns, just before the first injun arrow hits someone - its too quiet...

Still, it will all kick off on Friday with a game and a half against Kent. If we can get a result of any kind against them I'll start to think we could get a promotion berth this year as for me they have a very fine side. "Too good for division 2" is a silly thing to say, as they played badly in division 1 last year, but they're a team in form and with some very good players.

More on that tomorrow in a preview of the game.

As for the Seconds, they're playing Yorkshire at present and would have been disappointed with a total of 288 at York. Adil Rashid bowled 35 overs for the hosts, with the main contributors for us being Steve Stubbings (47) Dominic Telo (52) and Ross Whiteley (71 not out). Whiteley impresses me and could make a push for a place next season, but neither Stubbo nor Telo got the big score they need to earn a first team recall. The second day of the game today was a total washout, so it will all be down to a declaration and run chase if things improve tomorrow.

Thanks to my good friend David for a little piece from the Daily Telegraph, where David English was talking of the top youngsters who have emerged through the Bunbury Cricket Festival and mentioned Dan Redfern as one of them. Dan has done OK for a first full season and will emerge a better player for his experiences. It cannot have done him any harm having batted with Stuart Law, Chris Rogers and Wavell Hinds and being able to pick their brains. I have very high hopes for the talented Mr Redfern and hope that he stays with Derbyshire for a long time.

Elsewhere Graeme Welch played his first game for three years for Saffron Walden Cricket Club and took 4-38. We will all remember Pop as a fine servant at Derbyshire and it is good to see he is back on the pitch after his career was ended by injury.

It was also interesting to see the photos on the club site from the "match" against Quarndon that rain changed to a six hitting contest. There's a good photo of John Morris with a trademark shot over mid wicket, as well as a remarkable one of Chris Rogers, who was apparently hitting sixes batting RIGHT HANDED! Now that is impressive - just as long as he's saved some for this weekend...

Monday, 27 July 2009

Further thoughts...

It is interesting to see how the voting is going on next year's professional need at this stage, with slightly more feeling that we need a batsman than a bowler.

Someone who came into my mind yesterday when I was doing a little random surfing was Aussie James Hopes, a good all rounder. A player who has not yet made the Australian Test side but is a regular in the one-day set up, bowls good brisk fast medium and is a regular "death" bowler. He also opens the batting in one day cricket, especially Twenty/20.

The Queenslander hasn't the most spectacular statistics, averaging around 30 with both bat and ball, but at 31 he is coming to his peak. Crucially, he may be affordable. He is not quite so high profile as Andrew Symonds and Shane Watson, but carries less baggage than the former and is less injury prone than the latter.

Many of you may recall he was lined up to play for us in 2007 but required a shoulder operation. At the time he said that he had always wanted to play County cricket and was bitterly disappointed at missing out.

Hopes would at that time have been a Dave Houghton signing so I don't know how John Morris rates him, but he could be another option for the county for 2010.

So too might fellow all rounder Andrew McDonald, four years Hopes' junior but pushing for a place in the Australian side. He had a good game against Northamptonshire in the recently completed fixture, scoring a quick 75 and taking 4-15 in 11 overs. I've heard stories that Leicestershire were lining him up for 2010 but have no idea of the accuracy of those stories.

Who knows? If Chris Rogers earned a recall this winter we may yet see Buck at the County Ground next season, but there'll be a few ideas floating around in the coming months...

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Changes afoot

Those who are frustrated by the proliferation of overseas players in the English County game will have their prayers answered for next season, when the new legislation comes into force on visas for overseas players.

Essentially, this will mean that any cricketer wishing to play County cricket in the UK must have played either one Test in the past 2 years, 5 Tests in the past 5 years or 15 one day internationals in the past 5 years.

It will have huge implications for Counties. Northamptonshire, for example, will be unable to sign Nick Boje and Andrew Hall, Lancashire Francois du Plessis. Derbyshire will not be able to sign Nantie Hayward, nor Chris Rogers. The latter may get a Test match over the winter if Phil Hughes doesn't return to form (or before the end of the summer), but as things stand he cannot return for next season.

On the other hand, Wavell Hinds WILL be able to re-sign and, judging by the fact that he has just (deservedly) been awarded his County cap, he probably will do. Hinds has been a great success in all formats of the game this season and has been a huge contributor to a happy dressing room.

This will mean that the search for overseas players next season will be even more competitive and should mean that they are of a higher standard. Given that the new regulations require recent international participation and that many centrally contracted players will not wish to add to their playing commitments (nor be allowed to in some cases), the pot of available players will be much smaller.

Therein lies Derbyshire's problem. We have the smallest playing budget (for salaries) of any of the first class counties. Fact. This is the stumbling block with any of the "name" players who come on the market, as we would struggle to compete with the bigger counties, especially those on the Test Grounds. The likelihood is that if we sought a player on the radar of Lancashire, Surrey or Nottinghamshire, to use a few examples, we would be unsuccessful if money was the sole motivator of the player concerned. This is where sweeteners such as the captaincy, or "a challenge" come into play. Realistically, however, money talks...

One would assume that the appeal of Chaminda Vaas, who has recently quit Test cricket, will be considerable, but the crazily congested international calendar today suggests that few of the stars from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka would have time for a full English season, even if they had the inclination. Lucrative tournaments in such places as Dubai proliferate and with IPL commitments too, there will be fewer players prepared to commit to a 6-month county slog.

This, of course, makes the role of the Academy so crucial at Derbyshire. Whether we like it or not, at some point the wealthier counties will come sniffing after our prize assets and we have plenty. In coming years, the likes of Wagg, Redfern, Borrington, Smith and Madsen (the latter unaffected by the new regulations with his Italian passport) will not lack for suitors and John Morris acted sensibly in tying up the cream of our talent on long term deals. We will need to continue to source under performing players elsewhere and bring them on, as well as identifying talented youngsters from various sources around the country. One would hope that loyalty will still have a place in the game, but could anyone reading this tell me honestly that if the chance to earn 50% more for their job came up elsewhere that they wouldn't be tempted?

For next season, various names were bandied around at Derby last week among people I spoke to. Cameron White, the Aussie who did so well for Somerset in 2006 was one, Vaas was another. Shahid Afridi is another whose name has been mentioned in despatches, but all of these players are likely to cost serious money and to have a number of suitors for their services should they opt for a county stint.

Andrew Symonds, unlikely to play more international cricket after his various transgressions, is another but a number will be scared off by his reputation.

Perhaps the best option for Derbyshire (and one which would get my vote) would be engaging Charl Langeveldt as overseas professional for 2010 IF he plays for South Africa again in coming months and therefore becomes eligible again. He played a key role with our bowlers last year, in the same vein that Michael Holding did for Kim Barnett some years ago. Someone who would take the ball when it was going wrong and either keep it tight or get a breakthrough. In this year's Twenty/20, the thing we lacked was the bowler who could give 4 tight overs. This in turn puts pressure on scoring at the other end where the bowler often benefits. Derek Morgan attributed a lot of his wickets to the batsmen relaxing after Gladwin and Jackson came off, while Colin Tunnicliffe got wickets with the pressure exerted by Mike Hendrick.

Langers was a jewel last season and if fully fit would give us a terrific seam attack for 2010 that Morris could rotate to keep fresh. Langeveldt, Wagg, Hunter, Clare, Smith, Groenewald and Jones (who I would sign) could be supplemented by Sheikh and Whiteley in a talented line up.

Some may argue that our greater need is for a batsman, but I'm not so sure. Much will depend on other moves in the coming months, but with Borrington and Madsen as potential openers and Park, Redfern, Hinds and Smith to follow, John Sadler and perhaps one other batsman would help make up a good line up. For me, Sadler deserves another year. He's scored heavily and consistently in league and Second XI this year but has been kept out by the good form of those in the side. I'm less sure about the claims of Steve Stubbings, Dominic Telo and Dan Birch. Like Tom Lungley, I see them all as vulnerable this season. I'd be sad to see Stubbings go as he's been a fine servant, but we need to move forward. Telo has not scored the runs we would have hoped for, while Birch's immobility in the field and inconsistency with the bat suggest he will be released, especially after the recent suspension.

Tom Lungley presents a dilemma. On his day he is a fine bowler, but he's had one good season in five and a lot of injuries. I'd prefer to see Steffan Jones engaged as a 100% tryer in all conditions who has a better than most fitness record. Maybe Lungley will get and benefit from an opportunity elsewhere. Time will tell.

On the subject of Steffan, over 90% of those voting in the last poll would like to see him at Derby next year. I'm one of them. Now for this week's - at this stage, do you think our greater need for next season is a batsman or a bowler as overseas player?

Derbyshire v Middlesex

I had the very great pleasure in attending part of the match against Middlesex last week.

It was a pleasure for several reasons. First off, I saw a competitive Derbyshire side play some good cricket on a track that always offered help to the bowlers. We could have lost in the end after John Morris gambled on a declaration, but the points left the county in a good position in second place in the table with this week's titanic battle against Kent ahead.

Secondly, I met some great fans while I was there. It was especially good to catch up with Chris, the man behind the excellent "In Morris We Trust" site. We've corresponded for some time but met for the first time last week and he's a top bloke and a 100% Derbyshire fan. We need fans like that, who will travel the country lending their support and Chris should be applauded for his efforts on behalf of the club.

I also had a long chat with Graham Wagg's Dad, John, who is one of the greatest characters I've met in a long time. He's a very, very funny guy and extremely easy to get on with. Both John and Chris will be pleased to know that my brand new Derbyshire baseball cap was worn around Blackpool on the way home this afternoon and improved the place a gazillion percent...

Finally it was great to spend a good bit of time talking with Derbyshire coach John Morris. Again, we'd never met, but one only needs to spend a short time in his company to appreciate how much he cares about Derbyshire cricket and how committed he is to turning the side around. He's doing it too, no doubt about it. The Derbyshire of two years ago would have folded from the first day 138-7 to 160 all out. The partnership between Steffan Jones and Tim Groenewald was both heartening and exhilarating, both men showing genuine talent with the bat.

Tomorrow, when I have a little more time, I'll give you my thoughts on the overseas situation for next year. What I'll say at this stage is that they are my thoughts. John Morris gave nothing away and nor did I expect him to do. Yet when I left the County Ground some time after the play had finished on Wednesday, I did so with a firm conviction that the County are in extremely good hands. Fourteen points clear of third place in Division Two of the Championship, with seven games to go we effectively control our own destiny and that with a young side. A draw against Kent next week would be no bad result as long as we can pick up perhaps two more wins somewhere. If the batsmen continue to show grit and application while the bowlers continue to bowl good lines and show discipline and patience, we could yet be celebrating by the end of September.

More tomorrow. Nice to be back!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Spectre on the horizon...

Following discussion on the 606 boards, I'd like to clarify the situation with regard to Chris Rogers and Derbyshire in 2010

Essentially, as things stand, Rogers would NOT be able to play for Derbyshire next season.

The regulations as they stand are that players must have either one Test in 2 years, 5 Tests in 5 years or 15 one day internationals in 5 years.

Rogers only Test appearance came in January 2008, which would mean that by April 2010he would no longer satisfy the visa requirements as his appearance would have been more than two years ago.

Of course, if he plays for the Aussies this winter it changes things a little, but as things stand, we will be back in the hunt for a new overseas player for 2010.

There's a few future articles in that one, I'm sure. If you've any ideas, why not let me know?

Played two and unbeaten...

Yes, at this rate the prize money for the Pro 40 will be headed for the County Ground as both of our weekend games were rained off, leaving the sides with one point each.

The action now switches to the County Ground and the Championship with the weather forecast being key to this one. It would suggest that if we are to beat Middlesex we will need to do so in the equivalent of three days play, as the forecast showers have to hit us at some point.

I'll be away for a few days this week so possibly not in a position to blog every day. I will report on the game when I can though and will be following it closely.
I might even get a chanc to see some of it, so will keep the fingers crossed on that one!

Come on Derbyshire!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Farewell to Forty Overs

Mention 40-over cricket to me and my eyes are likely to mist over with a rush of nostalgia.

I saw my first game of cricket in 1967 (Derbyshire v Yorkshire at Chesterfield, final day) and saw a couple of games in 1968, then fell in love with cricket when we went to a few Player's County League matches, as it was then called, in 1969.

My appetite was really whetted by a game between Derbyshire and the International Cavaliers at Chesterfield in 1968, when Geoff Boycott (a Cavalier?)opened with South African Fred Goldstein with Barry Richards at number 3. Rain ruined the game, but not before the young Richards had hit 49 from 112-3 in 23 overs, with Derbyshire unable to bat. Les Jackson came out of retirement for that one and bowled 9-1-19-2 at the age of 47.

Even for a novice it was obvious that Derbyshire weren't very good at this game. Anything around 150 in 40 overs was usually too much for us. The "highlight" was watching us play an albeit strong Kent side at Chesterfield, when we batted through the 40 overs for 109 all out... David Smith carried his bat for 36 not out. My Dad reckoned he wanted it wrapped around his head batting all that time for so few and Kent won in a canter with Denness, Woolmer, Luckhurst, Knott and Underwood in their ranks.

The following year we actually turned things around and became good at it. We came third that year, thanks to some good captaincy by Ian Buxton and the addition of South African Chris Wilkins to the ranks. I loved to watch that man bat! My Dad worked down the pit and often took the chance of a snooze at the game, but I'd instructions to wake him when "Wilko" came in. He was that rarity, a player who would go for it from ball one. It was sometimes his undoing but he was a very good player who gave huge entertainment. Bowlers were unprepared for someone to walk down the pitch and hit them back over their heads as soon as he came in.

The thing is, the 40-over game worked because of its length. No run up past 15 yards at that time, eight overs per bowler, none of this power play stuff and pinch hitters were unheard of. Yet the game ebbed and flowed. You'd get a steady start, then the middle order would crank it up a bit (or get out quickly, if you supported Derbyshire) then the tail would either flail wildly or play some sensibly placed and timed shots to take the innings to a conclusion.

150-160 was a good score when it started, then as batsmen looked for new areas to score, 180, then 200 became attainable. Barry Richards was probably the first batsman I saw go inside out and hit over extra cover, while anyone who tried a reverse sweep would probably have been locked up, or at least dropped from the team.

The "sweeper" on the point boundary became a necessity, while even then the merits of slow bowlers against batsmen who failed to improvise was obvious. People like Brian Langford of Somerset (who once bowled his eight overs for no runs) became useful cricketers, while erstwhile journeymen like Brian "Tonker" Taylor of Essex, Tony Cordle of Glamorgan and Graham Burgess of Somerset became good at the game. Keith Boyce, John Shepherd, John Sullivan and others became names with their ability at the 40-over game, more so than perhaps other formats.

The timing was right. I loved getting up on a Sunday and going to a match (after Sunday dinner, mind) yet it was just as good settling down in front of the TV. Sunday cricket all afternoon from 1.55pm. The credits would roll and you'd get your first glimpse of the game, hoping it might be Derbyshire in an away game, but happy if it turned out to be Gloucestershire v Hampshire, Procter against Richards. With a full stomach, a glass of pop by your side and chocolate to hand, John Arlott's distinctive burr came out of the TV as he welcomed you to the day's game.

Arlott and Laker, broadcasting heaven! Both so knowledgeable, yet minimalistic by today's standards, only saying something when it was worthwhile. You'd sit enthralled listening to their comments and tales of cricketers past. It was even great when it rained and they simply talked to camera with Peter West or Peter Walker. They'd bring players in to chat and I still recall Peter Walker talking to Viv Richards about bowling.

"How do you hold it to spin it then Viv"

"I don't"

"How do you mean?" said the slightly puzzled Walker

"I don't spin it, I just bowl it" grinned Richards.

There was no teletext, certainly no Internet for the score updates at this time and you'd wait for the rickety score updates from the other games throughout the afternoon. They looked like someone had done them with a set of stencils (and had never done it before).

Sussex v Derbyshire. Derbyshire are 21-1 in 8 overs. Quite good, we think. Good basis for a score. Mike Page will be in, then Wilkins.

Next time its 57-4 in 19. No news of who is out, but the lack of runs suggest one is Wilkins.

Then it's 113-8 in 36 overs. Ever the optimists, Dad and I convince ourselves that a late slog could take us to 140 which is defendable.

Later we find that we made 120 and Sussex are 95-1 in 26 overs. Even we can't convince ourselves at that point....

Halcyon days. The Refuge Assurance win in 1990 after John Player pulled out, with the batting line-up of the Gods. Barnett, Bowler, Morris, Kuiper, Adams. The amazing win over Kent at Chestefield that year, when the visitors hammered 276-4 in 40 overs and we got them with nearly 2 overs to spare, Barnett scoring an imperious century and Bowler and Morris lending superb support. Alan Ward taking 4 wickets in 4 balls at Derby, Hendo taking 6 for 7 against Nottinghamshire.

Great memories, days and players. The 40 over game will return, when the current fascination for 20 over cricket ends and people are looking for a form of the game that sits neatly between the sedate and the manic. I don't think 160 will trouble many sides, but if they get it back to Sunday at 2pm and stick it back on the TV, they'll make a lot of people very happy.

Especially me.

Weather eh?

So last night was the expected washout and the action moves tomorrow to Old Trafford, where there are marginally better prospects.

After losing to Lancashire more easily than they would have liked in one day games this season, Derbyshire will hope for a better performance. There'll be no Andrew Flintoff this time, who took us apart at the County Ground, but Lancashire will doubtless field a strong side.

Derbyshire will rest Steffan Jones and Graham Wagg tomorrow for Tuesday's Championship game against Middlesex, which will give opportunities to Tom Lungley and the fit again Nantie Hayward. The forecast for much of next week is showery weather, but we'll be hoping for enough time for the game against the country's bottom club to unfold.

John Morris has also said that if we drop out of the hunt for prize money he will give opportunities to squad players to stake a claim for a place. There's a few young players - Ross Whiteley, John Sadler, Dominic Telo among them - who will want a chance to impress and improve their chances of a contract for next year.

Logic suggests the game will be another win for Lancashire, but Derbyshire CAN beat them if they bowl the right line and length. By all accounts they did so superbly at Cheltenham. I suspect that the game may end up being a 20-over bash anyway so we could be right back where it all went wrong.

News on Sky Sports this morning that plans for an additional 20-over competition for next season, the so-called P20, are close to being scuppered due to County opposition. Good. To accommodate it they would need to prune the Championship still further and quite frankly they are going to burn out players with this form of the game. Yesterday I wrote of my sadness at the demise of the 40-over game and in this morning's Derby Telegraph John Morris says that it is his favourite form of the game and that players were "worn out" at the end of a game. No wonder, with all the diving around they have to do. The days when Yorkshire's skipper told off Bill Bowes for diving to stop a ball are long gone, but the demands on seamers today in the field are substantial. I saw Stuart Broad hold a great catch at Lords yesterday and wondered whether Fred Rumsey, Ole Mortensen, Harold Rhodes and others would have got near it. They all need to be athletes today, for better or worse.

We need to preserve the Championship as the Holy Grail of the game, the one that makes us Test players and is the true form of the game. I suspect we'll end up with another extension to the 20-over competition where they play maybe 16 games, but I still think we will see more of the 40-over game. It isn't dead, it's simply recharging its batteries.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Contacting me

A couple of people have mailed me to say that they have problems commenting on articles with the Google identities etc.

If you want to get in touch and can't get around the software, please mail me at

I'll happily paste any comments into an article and reply to them when I can



Well, over 80% of you agree that the punishment of Dan Birch and Tom Lungley was justified in this week's poll.

While accepting that they're both playing for their professional futures and so there's an element of pressure, the club have an obligation to the younger Academy players and to trialists that the game is played in the right spirit.

Above all, there's the spirit of the game to uphold, so no defence admissible for me, I'm afraid.

Here's this week's poll to the left. Steffan Jones - worth signing for next season, or too old? I look forward to your comments.

Good win for Seconds

Nice to see news on the club site of the Seconds beating Scotland B at Glossop. It's especially good for me as there's good mirth potential at my club, but it is nice to see that John Sadler keeps knocking on the door with regular runs.

It is also interesting to see that Luke Radford took three wickets. He is a 21 year old all rounder whose Dad is Neal, of Worcestershire and England fame. Young Radford was at Loughborough UCCE with Paul Borrington and was on Warwickshire's Academy for a couple of years, where he was highly rated.

A back injury led to him re-modelling his action, but he's obviously now looking for a county chance. One to watch, perhaps.

Meanwhile, Northants have announced their squad for this evening's game, which is:

Rob White
Stephen Peters
Alex Wakely
Nicky Boje
Riki Wessels
Andrew Hall
David Willey
Johan van der Wath
Graham White
Lee Daggett
David Lucas
Mark Nelson

Stuey Law goes...

I called it right last night when I suggested that we may not need to use Stuart Law in the Pro 40.

With Wayne Madsen on board for the remainder of the season and the likes of John Sadler and Dominic Telo hoping for a chance to impress, there would have been little point in playing Law in the final year of 40-over cricket (for now).

He was not, in my opinion, an unqualified success but his greater contribution may have been in the dressing room, where Derbyshire did make a better fist of 20/20 batting this year and his experience would have helped. The high point was his innings of 95 at Northampton in the FP Trophy, but there was not a deluge of runs to follow.

Whether he returns for an optional second year will depend on recruitment over the winter. I am sure that Wayne Madsen will be with us next season and Paul Borrington will be with us full time too. IF we gained promotion in the Championship there may be a few players who see Derbyshire as an attractive proposition, but I cannot see wholesale changes over the winter as, quite honestly, there's a good squad coming together.

Still no definite team news for this evening, though the greatest concern may be the weather. John Sadler is in the squad after a century in the Seconds this week and Sads is making a strong case for retention through his weight of runs in the Second XI. His problem is that all of the first team are scoring regularly too, so there's no way in at present.

At the halfway stage of the season, Wavell Hinds, Chris Rogers, Garry Park and Greg Smith are all in with a good shout of making their 1,000 runs. Rogers has some ground to make up having missed three matches, but few would bet against the skipper on the usually drier tracks of August and September. Dan Redfern has also performed solidly in his first full season, with an average over 30, while Madsen would appear to have sewn up the opener's berth with his debut performance. It is hard luck on Sadler and also on Paul Borrington, who batted well in the early season at Loughborough. His time will come, however and I would see him as an integral part of the batting line up in coming seasons.

Whether the solid, professional beast that is the Derbyshire four-day side can translate to the Pro-40 remains to be seen. I'm sorry to see this competition go as I grew up on the John Player League and its various incarnations thereafter. For me it is still a great form of the game as a PROPER game of cricket can ebb and flow. I'm old enough to recall the disaster recoveries that Bob Taylor and Fred Swarbrook performed in the 1970's, as 85-7 became 165-8. You could still win matches with those scores at that time, before pinch hitters, power plays, reverse sweeps and heavy bats made 165 a standard 20-over tally. I feel a piece in homage to 40-over cricket coming on, but that's for another day.

Fingers crossed for tonight.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire preview

I had a look at the Newsnow feed that I use on a regular basis this morning.

"James Franklin ton in vain for Derbyshire as Gloucestershire succeed" read the headline from this morning's Mirror.

Well done guys, hard to get that one wrong really. Wrong winner, wrong player in wrong team in ten words...

Anyway, top of the league we are (I checked!) and this weekend we have a little relief from the excitement of the Championship with the start of this season's Pro 40competition. I still like the 40 over game and have been a fan since its origins in the old John Player League. You could have your Sunday dinner then and head off for the game for the 2pm start and see a good game, yet still be home for around 8pm.

All different now, of course and we start at 4.40pm with the floodlights coming on after the ritualistic break for the blinding sun. I would like to see Derbyshire continue their recent good form in the weekend games against Northamptonshire tomorrow and then Lancashire at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The Steelbacks have Niall O'Brien out injured at present and have concerns over Stephen Peters, who injured his back against us in the Championship (batting far too long!) There's no news on the Derbyshire side at this stage, but with a number of men in good form it is unlikely there will be many changes from the side that beat Gloucestershire so convincingly. That would mean a one day debut for Wayne Madsen, who the home fans will be looking forward to seeing, while Steffan Jones will doubtless get a fine reception on his return to the County Ground. I would have thought it unlikely that Nantie Hayward would be risked, even if his ankle has responded to treatment. I'm sure John Morris has plans for him in the second half of the Championship campaign and will want him firing on all cylinders.

It has again been interesting reading the various reports on the Morris contacts book. With Hayward, he sought the opinion of ex County player and coach Phil Russell, while he was tipped off on Wayne Madsen by Clive Rice and Luke Sutton. The former knew him from South Africa while the ex-County keeper had played against him in the Central Lancashire League. It is good to hear that Morris has his contacts around the world and that he can bring players to the County.

So my side for tomorrow would in all likelihood be:

Chris Rogers
Wayne Madsen
Garry Park
Dan Redfern
Wavell Hinds
Greg Smith
James Pipe
Graham Wagg
Tim Groenewald
Jake Needham
Steffan Jones

I suppose it is possible that Stuart Law could play, with Morris having kept him as an option for this competition, but the advent of Madsen may well render that option unnecessary. He could also rest Dan Redfern, who is doing well in his first full season, but I can't see too many changes from the above. When there's nothing broken, don't try to fix it.

More tomorrow. Have a good one

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

News update..

The Times website reports that Wayne Madsen has been taken on for the remainder of the season by Derbyshire.

That's excellent news and gives the South African an opportunity to further stake his claim for a longer contract thereafter.

What a GREAT day this is!

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 4

Top of the league - and no, we're not having a laugh!

WG Grace, Wally Hammond, Gilbert Jessop, Tom Goddard, Tom Graveney - your boys took a hell of a beating...

Ah yes, a glimpse at the old Championship table gladdens the soul tonight, with Derbyshire TOP on 99 points and unbeaten at the halfway stage of the season.

It was on the cards of course with the overnight score as it was, but when I saw the dreaded "start delayed by rain" on teletext this morning I was ever so slightly concerned. Then Alex Gidman and James Franklin built a good stand until Tim Groenewald dismissed the dangerous Gidman.

Keeper Steve Snell kept the Kiwi company for some time, but when Jake Needham removed both Snell and the potentially stubborn Jon Lewis in successive balls it was only a matter of time.

Needham ended up with three wickets, all caught by skipper Chris Rogers and must now have cemented his place in the side as the first choice spinner. I've always rated Needham as a bowler with nice loop and flight and I think he's one of the better young spinners on the circuit. His batting also has potential, but if he emerged as a top bowler it would be far better than him being a bits and pieces man. His fielding is excellent and at 22 he has a lot of potential.

It was nice to see Graham Wagg getting a couple of wickets too. His radar seemed to be a little off in this game but no one would doubt his talent and he remains a player who can have a golden spell. He has a fair bit to do in the second half of the season to make it to another 500 run/50 wickets double, but I wouldn't bet against him.

Just like Steffan Jones in fact. Six wickets on his return as the strike bowler and willing work horse of the side is just what Dr Morris ordered. Derbyshire have failed to finish teams off this season but did do in this match and the coach's dilemma now is who to leave out if Nantie Hayward is fit for the match against Middlesex next week. All three seamers did well in this match and it is a tough, but nice decision for Morris to have to make.

Likewise we have found a new batsman and one who seems to be pretty good. I don't expect Wayne Madsen to average 177 at the end of the season as he does now, but I would expect him to be another 40-50 average player who will make a huge difference. How much he plays is down to the club reaching an agreement with his league club where he is captain, coach and professional, but I'd be stunned if he wasn't signed for next season at the earliest opportunity.

Finally a word for the skipper Chris Rogers, who handled his attack well and held three catches, the second of which was apparently a "blinder". Just need a double ton next week against Middlesex and you have my nomination for Mayor, Buck!

More on the Middlesex game in coming days, but for now let's just enjoy it. There is a long way to go this season, but Derbyshire are top of the Championship tonight.

Now, who's going to tell Atherton and Willis?

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 3

I've never been the sort of bloke who takes anything for granted, but logic suggests that if the promised weather materialises tomorrow, Derbyshire should wrap up a seriously impressive victory over Gloucestershire sometime before tea.

It could, of course, be considerably sooner, but while the formidable Alex Gidman is still at the crease, Derbyshire will know they have work to do. James Franklin will also sell his wicket dearly, but with the hosts still requiring 337 to win and only six wickets left, most punters would fancy a flutter on Derbyshire, if they could get odds to make it worthwhile.

That we have done so well in this game owes a lot to a fine team effort, but honourable mention today has to go to Wayne Madsen, who set a new benchmark for Derbyshire debutants by hitting a magnificent unbeaten 170. He was dropped on two or three occasions, but that should not detract from a wonderful effort from the South African.If he hasn't earned himself a contract after that knock I would quite frankly be astonished. He may be unable to play in all of our matches for the remainder of this year due to his contract at Unsworth in the Central Lancashire League, but perhaps the club could supply a replacement professional to them to allow Madsen to get more experience of English conditions.

We should not get carried away of course. He would appear to be a player of great potential, but he's not Bradman. There will be days ahead when he fails, just the same as any other player, but he has shown himself to be someone who can bat for a long time while keeping the scoreboard moving. Gold dust, quite frankly.

Today he was well supported by Wavell Hinds and Greg Smith, who both played cameos at a pace that enabled Derbyshire to declare in mid afternoon. With the weather as it is, Chris Rogers had to allow stoppage time in his calculation for bowling them out, as well as the fact that a good batting side couldn't do as badly a second time.

When Spearman and Ali posted 70 for the first wicket there might even have been a thought that Gloucestershire could make a go of it, but once again the Jones boy came up with the goods by removing both. Jones of Derbyshire seems a different beast than Jones of Somerset and the thought of Hayward and Jones opening the bowling is quite exciting. Having said that, Tim Groenewald produced an excellent spell of his own, which included the big wicket of Marshall, clean bowled for a duck to complete a miserable match in which he was run out in the first innings and dropped several catches. When Groenwald also dismissed the dangerous Taylor cheaply, Gloucestershire were facing a second successive defeat.

John Morris in the Derby Telegraph this morning mentioned the great impact that Steffan Jones has had on the dressing room. I wrote last night that I would be keen to sign him for next season and I can't think many would disagree. He's a player that fans love - Mr 100%, usually fit, extremely approachable and with a lot of talent. There'll be few better seamers on the market this winter and I don't think he'd need a lot of convincing.

This has so far been a highly impressive performance by Derbyshire. They have batted sensibly, bowled well and held their catches. If you do that in most matches you will win a lot of them. If tomorrow sees the expected Derbyshire win, we will have reached the halfway point of the season unbeaten in the Championship and top of the table.

The moans and complaints of the 20/20 campaign are a long way away just now. Morris' signings - Rogers, Park, Madsen, Hinds, Jones, Groenewald - are all producing the goods, while Hayward took wickets on one good leg in the last match. It augurs well. There's a lot of cricket still to be played this season, and two matches against Kent will be crucial in determining the end of season placings, but with a number of players in good form - add Smith, Redfern and Pipe to the above - there's no reason why Derbyshire should not have a major role to play in the final shake up.

Great, isn't it?

Party on, Wayne!

Yup, the lines from one of my favourite comedies Wayne's World are coming thick and fast as Wayne Madsen joined an elite group and became only the tenth Derbyshire player to score a century on his debut.

At lunch Madsen is unbeaten on 126 and currently sits fourth on the list of highest innings on debut for the county. Marcus North's 132 in 2006 is in his sights, as is Daryl Cullinan's 134 against Sussex in 1995.

Top of the tree is Peter Bowler's unbeaten 155 against the slightly less demanding attack of Cambridge University at Fenners in 1988.

Having lost the early wicket of Jake Needham this morning, Derbyshire pushed on well to be 233-4 at lunch, with Wavell Hinds also going well on 46. With the side now 395 ahead and showers forecast, I'd expect a declaration sometime before tea to allow time to bowl Gloucestershire out again. I cannot see it being so easy to bowl out a strong batting side a second time, so we'll need to allow as much time as possible and look to set something close to 500.

Fingers crossed it all goes our way from here.

Monday, 13 July 2009

From tomorrow's Times

"I'll do anything to keep playing first-class cricket,” the 35-year-old (Steffan Jones) said. “I think I've got a couple of years still in me. Somerset have told me that they're very unlikely to extend my contract as they want tall, fast bowlers at Taunton. I loved my year at Derby in 2006 and never wanted to leave.” Derbyshire wanted to keep him but his wife wanted to return home to Somerset owing to family bereavements and the fact she was expecting their first child.

Go on John. Let's get him back. We love the guy and he loves us!

The end for Langeveldt?

News that Charl Langeveldt is in the South African provisional squad for the ICC Champions Trophy came as something of a surprise, but rumours have abounded that this was on the cards in recent months.

If he plays it will mean the end of his Derbyshire career after one season and I'm sure I was not alone in thinking that when Charl didn't return this year we were unlikely to see him again.

Given the depth of South African seam bowling resources, it would appear unlikely that such a recall would come the way of Nantie Hayward. Langeveldt is a fine bowler, but especially in the one day game. Hayward's forte is probably in "proper" cricket, when he can have the slip fielders that a bowler of his pace needs to succeed. That's not to decry his ability in the one day game, where he has played with a great deal of success, but Hayward is a good bowler. Importantly he is currently a Derbyshire bowler. No one knows how the Kolpak regulations will be tightened later in the year and how it will impact on Wavell Hinds and Hayward, but I would hope that should the opportunity to return present itself, Hayward would show a little loyalty to the side that have given him an opportunity this year.

These changes should not, however, affect the likes of Garry Park, Greg Smith, Tim Groenewald and Wayne Madsen (should he be signed). The first three have, I believe, a British passport while Madsen could play on his EU (Italian) passport on mobility of labour regulations (as does Michael di Venuto).

Should Langeveldt remain in South Africa he will be remembered as a very fine bowler, possessing stamina, guile and an abundance of skill. Not quite a legend - you need more than a good season to earn that in my book - but a very, very good cricketer.

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire Day 2

If you happen to be down Cheltenham way this evening and happen to see a bloke with a very wide grin on his face, there's a fair chance that it will be the Derbyshire coach John Morris, after a day in which his side have put themselves in a commanding position against the side currently top of Division 2 of the County Championship.

More than that, Morris has seen his two new signings, Steffan Jones and Wayne Madsen perform superbly on the second day as the county closed 288 runs ahead with two days to go. It was total vindication for Morris as Jones turned back the clock to 2006 and ended with the splendid figures of 4-44 in 18 overs. He was well supported by the other seamers, with Tim Groenewald and Greg Smith each taking two wickets and Graham Wagg one. Jones' dismissal of danger man Alex Gidman was the start of a middle order collapse from which the hosts never recovered, although Derbyshire were helped when Kiwi danger man Hamish Marshall, a century maker at Chesterfield a few weeks back, decided to take on Garry Park - arguably the best cover point in the country - and lost.

With a first innings lead of 162 Derbyshire could have enforced the follow on but with Graham Wagg off the field with cramp and the bowlers having had a long stint Chris Rogers opted to bat again. He may have had a few regrets when he went early, caught behind off the bowling of New Zealander James Franklin and when Garry Park followed with the score 28-2 the game could have gone either way.

At that point came what must have been a lovely passage of play as debutant Madsen and Dan Redfern put together a fine partnership of 89 to take the game away from Gloucestershire. Madsen started slowly against the testing attack of Lewis, Franklin and Kirby, but opened up as he became acclimatised and reached his fifty with three fours in an over from slow left armer Vikram Banerjee. A feature of the passage of play seemed to be the regular rotation of strike - left hand, right hand - by two young players who have a great deal to offer Derbyshire cricket.

In this morning's Derby Telegraph, Mark Eklid said that Madsen was "surprisingly" preferred to Steve Stubbings. I would disagree and suggest that the South African's stunning form in League and Second XI cricket was thoroughly deserving of an opportunity. No one likes Steve Stubbings better than I do, but for Derbyshire to progress as a side we need to gradually phase out the "decent" county pros and bring in highly talented, better quality and younger players.

While one swallow does not make a summer, Madsen has done enough in this innings to suggest a player of genuine talent. He'll face easier attacks on better tracks than this one and I wouldn't be surprised if John Morris isn't looking out his fountain pen for Madsen to put pen to paper on a two-year deal at this stage - if he hasn't already.

Likewise with Jones. He is in the final year of a three-year deal at Somerset and although 35, is an extremely fit bowler who could go on for another 3-4 years. It may well be that Morris considers him as a bowling option for next season, especially in the light of Tom Lungley's ongoing fitness battles and recent transgressions.

All in all, this is a great evening to be a Derbyshire fan. I'm not taking anything for granted, but if we can get 400-450 of a lead by mid afternoon tomorrow then get them in again, by the end of the week we could feasibly be top of the league. Only a slightly dodgy weather forecast (sunshine and heavy thundery showers for the next two days) prevents unbridled optimism.

Well done Derbyshire - especially Steffan Jones and Wayne Madsen - and well done John Morris!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Gripping stuff...

I watched most of the Test match this afternoon and would have to say that for sheer excitement it beat any 20/20 match you care to mention.

That England bowled poorly and that their top order played some injudicious strokes is undeniable, but the efforts of the tail, especially Panesar and Anderson, to keep out the Australians were magnificent. Paul Collingwood also played a fine hand and showed his colleagues how it should be done.

It was all very similar to the approach that John Morris is trying to instil at Derbyshire that we saw today. Everyone in the side has a role to play in the batting and even when the top order are blown away on occasion, it is still possible to make things difficult for the opposition.

It was a big contrast to the morning when some of the batsmen played as if it were a twenty over bash. Those who saw todays play will discuss it for a long time. Those who played in it will never forget it.

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 1

From the rough waters of 119-5 soon after the lunch interval, Derbyshire were steered to a fairly satisfactory total of 326 all out by a superb innings from Greg Smith (pictured), a new career-best from the South African born all-rounder.

Newcomer Wayne Madsen failed to make an impression on his debut, but in fairness to the new boy he generally bats at three or four and as I warned last night, scoring heavily in Second XI is a world apart from facing two Test bowlers in Franklin and Lewis with a new ball. Nonetheless, Park and Chris Rogers saw us to a comfortable 98-1 at lunch.

Then things changed as Lewis and Steve Kirby reduced us to 119-5 before Smith, batting with increasing assurance and partnered well by James Pipe, Graham Wagg and Tim Groenewald, took Derbyshire to their closing total. Successive partnerships of
64, 48 and 90 took us to a total that we can only have dreamed of when the mid-afternoon collapse was in full swing.

It reinforced John Morris' assertion that Derbyshire are a hard side to beat and although the hosts survived until the close at 10-0, we are very much in this match at the end of the first day.

For Smith it was an important innings. He is a far better cricketer than an average in the mid-20's suggests. As a bowler capable of bowling good off spin and seam he affords balance to the side, while his fielding will always be an asset. He has shown that he can build an innings and if we can make early inroads into the Gloucestershire batting tomorrow this could prove to be a very good game of cricket.

Professional watch

Round about this time last season I had a look at the records of the respective overseas professionals around the counties, to see who is getting best value from their star import. The results made for interesting reading, with some counties getting little return on their investment.

Let's have a look at this year's overseas stars in Division 2

Derbyshire - Chris Rogers - 64 batting (as I type)
Essex - Danish Kaneria - 20 wickets at 28
Glamorgan - Mark Cosgrove - 73 batting, 3 wickets at 30
Gloucestershire - James Franklin - 26 batting, 8 wickets at 36
Kent - Wayne Parnell - 45 batting, 11 wickets at 29
Leicester - Ian O'Brien - 18 wickets at 19
Middlesex - Phil Hughes 144 batting
- Murali Kartik 9 wickets at 15
Northants - Johann Van der Wath - 30 batting, 10 wickets at 35
Surrey - Ryan Harris - 49 batting, 3 wickets at 45

To be honest, they're better stats than some posted last year, with most counties probably happy at this stage. Cosgrove has done very well at Glamorgan before a hand injury and the switch to Herschelle Gibbs, while Ian O'Brien, erstwhile scourge of Matlock opponents in Derbyshire league cricket, has exceeded expectations at Leicester with some good spells, albeit with the hand of helpful tracks at Grace Road.

Middlesex have probably done best, with Phil Hughes almost Bradmanesque in his stint with them at the start of the season, while Murali Kartik has shown himself one of the clever bowlers on the circuit in recent seasons since he took over. Surrey are perhaps the only ones dissatisfied, with Grant Elliott doing little when he came over, before being replaced by Ryan Harris, whose reasonable batting average is the result of only two innings.

The skill that is perhaps most in demand on the circuit is spin bowling, but the options are few. If one assumes that Sri Lankan pair Muralitharan and Mendis will rarely be available due to international commitments, and that Daniel Vettori is unlikely to want to add another county stint to the demands of the New Zealand captaincy, there is little out there. Pakistan have a couple of useful spinners in Malik and Afridi, but most other countries have containing spinners (South Africa) rather than ones who will destroy a batting line-up.

Warwickshire have found that out with their signing of Jeetan Patel. Six wickets at 67 is not the return they'd have hoped for, but to be fair, Patel's career record did not suggest a bowler of undiscovered talent, but any bowler who signs for Warwickshire and expects to maintain a reputation is clearly mad. The Edgbaston tracks will inflate the average of a batsman beyond their talent, while highlighting any bowling frailty.

The Bears currently have six players averaging over 40 with the bat, with ex-Derbyshire player Ant Botha scoring 58 per innings... Rikki Clarke has managed an average of 39, way in excess of what he did for us last season. Meanwhile, no regular bowler has an average of less than FIFTY! Chris Woakes, a fine young bowler with England aspirations has 11 wickets at 54 and is the pick of their attack, while Boyd Rankin has 6 wickets at 60 and Ant Botha 5 wickets at 83.

I might be alone in this, but something will need to be done soon about the increasing imbalance between bat and ball. Whether that is reducing the number of overs before a new ball, or leaving wickets uncovered after the start of a match, the game is getting imbalanced in favour of batsmen who are not, by any stretch of the imagination, world beaters.

Anyway, as I finish Derbyshire have slipped from a position of promise at lunch of 98-1 to the troubled waters of 119-4. After what appears a fine knock, Chris Rogers has again failed to turn it into a really big score. Of course, we won't know its true value until they have to bat on it, but at this stage we look set to make 200-250, which is a far from adequate first innings dig. We'll see how it goes later on.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Derbyshire set for Wayne's World

If you read this week's earlier posts, you'll see that I have been suggesting a move for South African batsman/all rounder Wayne Madsen (pictured), who has been starring for the Second Eleven this season and performing with distinction as captain and professional for Unsworth Cricket Club in the Central Lancashire League.

So I am delighted to be able to say this morning that Madsen will make his debut for the county tomorrow at Cheltenham, replacing Steve Stubbings in the batting line up.

In his appearances for the Second Eleven this season, the South African, who plays for Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Dolphins in South Africa, has registered scores of 69 not out, 0 not out, 135, 83, 29, 60 and 2 not out. In addition, he averages 87 as captain and professional at Unsworth, as well as taking 38 wickets at an average of ten each with his off spin. At 25 he looks a great prospect and is able to play County cricket on the same terms as Michael di Venuto, holding an Italian passport.

I applaud John Morris' speed in signing the talented South African in the face of interest from other counties but would urge a word of caution in anyone expecting him to translate the above figures into an immediate return at County level. Madsen averages 35 in South Africa and we should see his signing as a medium to long term one. It is unrealistic to expect him to drop straight into the County game and produce statistics like those above as the jump in level is substantial. Nonetheless, the South African is obviously a player of talent and one would hope that if he impresses a contract for 2010 will follow.

As for tomorrow's side, Nantie Hayward is injured, Tom Lungley suspended and Ian Hunter rested, although Steffan Jones is likely to make his debut for the second time (can you make two debuts?) I would expect the side to line up along these lines:

Chris Rogers (captain)
Garry Park
Wayne Madsen
Dan Redfern
Wavell Hinds
Greg Smith
James Pipe
Graham Wagg
Jon Clare
Jake Needham
Steffan Jones

There's a youthful look to that side, with only four of the side older than mid-twenties. Long gone are the days when we signed old lags from other counties and showed all the alacrity of an arthritic greyhound in the field.

As for Gloucestershire, they bring ex-Yorkshire spinner Richard Dawson into their squad, which suggests they expect the track to turn as the game goes on. With Needham, Smith, Redfern, Wagg and now Madsen all spinners or capable of bowling spin in the Derbyshire side, we shouldn't be found wanting if that happens. The hosts 12 is:

Kadeer Ali
A.Gidman (capt)
S.Snell (wkt)

It will be a good match and I just hope that the weather allows it to unfold properly. Gloucestershire have a strong batting line up with ex-Kiwis Spearman and Marshall fine players and Gidman a regular thorn in Derbyshire sides over the years. Meanwhile their opening attack of Lewis and Kirby is as good as any in the country, with James Franklin, the New Zealand all-rounder giving good support.

The game will be a good test for Derbyshire and we should not forget, in the face of the usual grumblers, that the side have almost reached the halfway point of the season (this match marks the halfway mark) as the ONLY unbeaten side in the County Championship Second Division. It would be a good game for Chris Rogers to produce the really big score we have been waiting for and for Wavell to continue his excellent form. If the others can continue to work and make us a hard side to beat, we have no reason to be frightened of anyone.

And if Steffan Jones makes a prodigal return and Wayne Madsen an encouraging debut, I hope that there's a few people prepared to eat a little humble pie. It would have been very easy for John Morris to sit back and say "this is what we have". Instead, he has gone out and strengthened the side for what should be a very interesting second half of the season.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Dull day but here comes the Jones boy...

Today's play at Northampton on the face of it was of the somewhat pointless variety that would have had the advocates of more 20/20 saying "I told you so".

Last night I suggested that there might have been a morning of declaration bowling followed by a run chase, but a closer look at the Division Two table reveals the reason for the somewhat turgid final day.

Only twelve points separate Derbyshire in second from Northamptonshire in seventh place. The game against Gloucestershire that starts on Sunday is huge, with the home side currently eight points clear of us at the top. Why should Derbyshire risk defeat in a close league, especially after most of the first day was lost to rain?

As it was, James Pipe had a good knock and the County managed to make 500 before a token declaration. The biggest problem now is getting people fit and with question marks over the fitness of Graham Wagg and Nantie Hayward, John Morris has moved quickly to sign old boy Steffan Jones (pictured)on what is initially a month's loan.

A few weeks back I suggested that Jones must have regretted his move to Somerset as he has never really settled or won a regular place on a batsman's wicket. The 80-plus wickets that he took for us in 2006 must seem a distant memory after pounding up and down the Taunton tracks with little return, but what we will all remember Jones for is a man of unquenchable enthusiasm and effort. Whether bowling at 11 o'clock or 5.30pm, Jones ran in at great pace and with no little skill. His addition to the bowling ranks is more than useful as we enter a key part of the season and I'm sure that most people will applaud the move.

Once again it speaks volumes for John Morris' contacts book. With Tom Lungley suspended and Jon Clare feeling his way back from a shoulder injury, the seam bowling ranks were, if not exactly like Mother Hubbard's on a bad day, starting to look like she'd not done a big shop for some time...

Anyway, tomorrow I'll do a preview of the Gloucestershire game at the picturesque Cheltenham College Ground, but for now, adios amigos.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Hi y'all...

Hi everyone. Peakfan is back in circulation after a fortnight in Tennessee and feeling refreshed and ready to go.

At the risk of making this a travel blog, I'd heartily recommend the place. With fabulous weather, great food, superb music and the friendliest people I have ever met ANYWHERE, its pretty much idyllic. The only thing missing was cricket...

It was a funny fortnight. Michael Jackson died, one of the star players of the Tennessee Titans football team was murdered in his condominium (his lover apparently did it, then killed herself) and Sarah Palin resigned. That was pretty much American TV, or what we saw of it.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, Derbyshire have emerged from a tricky spell where some natives have been getting restless to post a good response today to a higher-than-it-should-have-been Northants score. More of that later.

I understand that there were boos and shouts for John Morris' head after the defeat to Nottinghamshire in the 20/20. This will always happen when a team is on a bad run and quite honestly we're as close to being a decent 20/20 side as I am a National Hunt jockey. We've managed to post far better totals this year which have given us half a chance and suggest that the players have come to terms with how to approach an innings. We managed to do so without making the sort of start that others do, however, and if we could find a semi-decent hitter - an Ali Brown type of player - then we would probably be OK. At 5 overs we're more often than not 30-35 for one, and with the fields in that's just not enough.

Similarly, our bowlers seem incapable of doing what was so noticeable in the World Cup and bowling a full length outside off stump. That only leaves the batsman the arc between third man and point to hit and it is hard, if not impossible to get under the bal to hit it for six. 150 is a decent score, but not when the opposition then take 70 from their first six overs in reply.

It hurts to say it but we're not in the same league as Nottinghamshire at present. Wed might beat them on a given day with a decent performance, but the two teams are worlds apart in terms of experience. I've said before and I'll say it again, we need to bring in better players, or bring them on ourselves and both take time. In my humble opinion there is absolutely no merit in changing coach again in the hope that Coach Tinkerbell will come in with a magic wand and sprinkle fairy dust on the ball before we use it. John Morris should have five years, I've said it before, but we need to see improvement year on year. On balance, I think we have improved this season but I'll reserve judgment until season-end.

I was sorry to see that Dan Birch and Tom Lungley got themselves into bother in a Second Team fixture. I have a degree of sympathy as both are playing for a contract for next year and if there are poor decisions being made they are entitled to feel aggrieved. That is as far as it goes, however. However poor an umpire may be on occasion, they are usually doing the best they can and abusive language and behaviour simply cannot be tolerated. I remember travelling 50 miles to an away game a few seasons back and being given out caught down the legside off the second ball I faced when it hit the buckle of my pad and my bat was a mile from it. Yes, I was annoyed, but I didn't rant and rave at the poor bloke at the other end, who to be fair looked like he could only see eleven yards...

Both players will now be sweating on next season and the incident has done them no favours. Together with Steve Stubbings, John Sadler and Dominic Telo they have a lot to do in the closing months. Now Paul Borrington has finished University we have a younger model that threatens the genial Stubbings role in the side and he's not had the weight of runs that he may have hoped for. In the last Championship game he scored ridiculously slowly. That's OK if it leads to a big score, but getting out at that point simply heaps pressure on others. Telo got a recent century for the Seconds but hasn't had a great time, while the affable Sadler threatens runs but doesn't produce as we (and he) must hope.

For what it's worth, I would like to see us make a move for the prolific Wayne Madsen from South Africa, who plays on a European passport. He's scored a stack of runs for the Seconds and for his Lancashire League side and is interesting other Counties. Swapping him for any of the above must surely improve the side? You may well enjoy the article below from the Accrington Observer which suggests a player of some talent...

If you have a look at the First Eleven section of the Unsworth Cricket Club web site you will see what an astonishing season Madsen is having. While we've had mixed success with our South African imports (James Bryant anyone?) I feel Madsen would be a step forward and would be surprised if John Morris hasn't got him in his mind for next year. In any class of cricket, an average of 87 with the bat and ten with the ball is pretty good going.

Brickbats and bouquets time now. Chris Rogers owes us some runs and I'm probably not the only one who is frustrated by his 40-60 and out on a regular basis. I can accept that from a Park or Redfern, players making their way in the game, but top players need to push on from there and I'm now getting scarily good at predicting when the skipper will be out. Maybe we should be grateful for the consistent scoring and I've seen plenty of Derbyshire sides where we would have been, but Rogers needs to up his game and make the big scores.

As for the bouquets, take a bow Messrs Redfern and Hinds, for making my return to these shores an enjoyable one. It was a shame that Dan the Man missed his century today, but it will come and the experience of such a partnership with Hinds must have been invaluable. Wavell has done really well this season and is by a distance the best of our overseas/Kolpak imports at this stage. It was good to see Nantie Hayward in the wickets too and doing so with a painful ankle injury. Perhaps he's not as good as Charl Langeveldt but he's a good player and I'm glad we have him to the season end.

As for the current game, it could go to the wire and I just hope that the two sides are prepared to go for a result and that the weather this time enables a fascinating last day to unfold. If Northants set a reasonable target (and I smell declaration bowling before lunch tomorrow) we will almost certainly go for it as a win is needed to pick up momentum in our promotion challenge.

Thanks for tuning in again. While you're here, why not let me know your thoughts on the Lungley/Birch incident in this week's poll? It is interesting to see that most of you, like me, are a little disappointed by this year but don't deem it an unmitigated disaster. Who knows, a few wins under our belt and I may need to run it again...