Sunday, 30 May 2010

Monday musings

There are two classic rock songs that are apposite in reflecting on Derbyshire's defeat yesterday against Netherlands.

Can't Get Any Lower by Glaswegian rockers Gun seems appropriate, while a lyric from Meatloaf's Paradise By the Dashboard Light had a degree of relevance for me as I wrote this blog.

Let me sleep on it...I'll give you an answer in the morning.

The truth is that I was stunned we couldn't beat a team of nine part timers plus a couple of hired Aussie hands, one of them with a Dutch passport. If I had written this last night it would have been in haste and not in any way measured. It is a loss, like a number of others recently, but one that really shouldn't have happened. It's Hereford beating Leeds, Minor Counties Durham beating Yorkshire, David beating...OK, not Goliath, but a reasonably big bloke.

Realistically one of the Aussies had to do something special to force a win and it just had to be Dighton, who suggested talent but never fully revealed his hand in his time with us. Ex-Sussex man Baz Zuiderent also did well for them, while Mark Jonkmann is widely regarded as the fastest bowler outside Test cricket at the age of 24. I'd have thought him worth a trial, as he has to be better than what we have.

As I wrote briefly last night, I'm puzzled as to why Peterson wasn't bowled out and why Durston wasn't bowled at all. Maybe one picked up an injury and the other started with one, but unless that is the case their lessened involvement in the field was just odd. Durston was a staple of Somerset's one day attack in all forms of the game and may well have a lot to offer, but he is coming into a team that is very low on confidence.

I was, as ever, optimistic going into this season and felt that we had a team coming together. I still do, but there has to be some serious discussion after this loss. I'm no psychic, but for me the only surprise in the result, which I'm sorry to say I predicted at the halfway stage, was that it went to the last over.

We now need batsmen to get their heads down and battle through it. Too many seem to go for the big shots and work on the theory that someone else will get the runs. We need bowlers to bowl a line and length and make the opposition work for runs, rather than giving them away, a four ball an over almost obligatory of late. Essex looked like losing their game to Netherlands recently, but showed professionalism to drag themselves back into it. When our visitors needed 45 from the last 5 today, I couldn't see how we could stop them.

Where do we go from here? Simply do the best we can in the T20 and the Championship, try to remain competitive and get a few results. Talk of winning anything at the moment is pointless. They're not bad players, but someone needs to get into their heads and see why decent cricketers, better ones than we've had in some time, are not performing. It needs a brilliant innings from someone, an inspired spell of bowling from another, a terrific catch - something, anything to spark the side back to what they were in April.

Maybe this is the year we at last make a fist of T20. Maybe we will rediscover our mojo in the Championship and make a late surge. In the words of another old song, the darkest hour is just before the dawn.

They're still my Derbyshire and your Derbyshire, but John Morris has a lot to do. It has to be Morris too, as chopping him at this stage would be counter-productive. His contract is up at the end of next season and at that stage he will be judged on his achievements, as he rightly should be. His biggest problem now is that a weak attack is being highlighted by an under-performing batting side in which most players have hit a barren patch simultaneously.

Sorting one of those areas has to be a priority. Sorting both will need to wait at least another season after a winter of further recruitment.

Derbyshire v Netherlands update

We lost to Netherlands.

Dear oh dear...the only way is up from here.

Two quick questions. Why did we not bowl out Peterson, and why did we not bowl Durston when we couldn't get a wicket?

Can't figure that. There may be legitimate answers, but we'll get no lower than this.

Derbyshire v Netherlands

Six o'clock and as I type there's a strong possibility that Derbyshire could lose to their visitors from Netherlands.

After another distinctly average batting display in which only skipper Chris Rogers emerged with any credit, Derbyshire only totalled 206 thanks to a few late and lusty blows by Steffan Jones.

Netherlands are 78-2 from 20, with two Australians at the crease. In a text last night I suggested to a friend that you could put money on Michael Dighton playing well in this one and with a wicket, two catches and an unbeaten 33 thus far one could say that he has. He is accompanied by another young Australian, Tom Cooper, who has a decent first class record back home for South Australia and plays on a Dutch passport. As an ex-Aussie under 19 he must know what he's doing and with plenty of batting to come, if I'd a spare fiver I'd be tempted to go with a surprise victory.

128 from 18 overs is eminently gettable and either they need to make a mess of things or we need to bowl very well from here. As I close Cooper is out, the wicket of Dighton is likely to be the key to it all.

A lot to be said for experience

Irrespective of the age quota nonsense that dictates team selection in the Championship at the moment, there's a lot to be said for experience.

Take a look around the counties and you'll see a lot of good players who have rarely been close to being international cricketers on a regular or even occasional basis, but whose expertise is worth its weight in gold for their county.

I'm talking about players like Stephen Peters and David Sales at Northamptonshire, Alex Gidman and Jon Lewis at Gloucestershire, Glen Chapple and Mark Chilton at Lancashire and Anthony McGrath at Yorkshire. There's plenty around and most counties have got a few.

Except us.

As I wrote last week, we have a lot of players in either their first or second seasons and not too many of genuine, unchallengeable ability to know what to do when things are going wrong.

That is why, for example, the loss of James Pipe and Graham Wagg has been sorely felt this season. Their absence has placed the onus on young lads to do things that they have yet to encounter at this level. Some times they will manage it, but the pressure will be too much at other times.

Which is why, I think, that John Morris has accelerated the entry of Wes Durston into the Derbyshire side. At 29, Durston has played enough cricket to know his game pretty well and has the maturity to handle the pressures of run chases, as evidenced by his astonishing knock for the Unicorns last weekend. A first class record of 38 and a one day one over thirty suggests he can bat a bit, even if he's played a lot of cricket on a track at Taunton that is more conducive to free flowing stroke play than Derby is generally. Mind you, his career best 146 not out was made at Derby, so, in the words of some TV cop shows, the boy's got previous...

Durston is a hard hitting batsman, a tidy off spinner and a fielder of genuine brilliance. Exactly the sort of player we need in our middle order to tahe the weight off young players. The only ones you could say have had good seasons with the bat thus far have been Chris Rogers and Chesney Hughes. Park, Smith and Madsen have had their good scores but have not strung them together, Borrington, Sadler and Redfern have all failed to cement their place despite a few opportunities. Some fans on message boards have called for changes, neglecting the somewhat basic fact that there is no one else available. OK, there's Ben Slater and Hamza Siddique, but it would be a brave man who expectst them to make first class runs on a regular basis given their inexperience.

Chesney Hughes has done it, but Hughes looks like a player with maturity beyond his years, allied to the physique of a heavyweight boxer. I expect him to make a lot of runs in the future and hope that he continues to do so for Derbyshire, in the face of what is sure to be interest from more affluent counties.

So Durston comes in to show what he can do in the format in which he has been successful this season. It is only fair that John Morris has given him the chance, as a couple of twenty over slogs woudn't prove that much.

A few games in other competitions would enable a far better and accurate assessment to be made and we would then benefit in the seasons ahead.

I just hope he knows two or three decent seamers looking to get back into the county game...

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Derbyshire v Netherlands preview

A likely debut for Wes Durston tomorrow is a wise marketing and cricketing move by Derbyshire.

Given our poor start in the competition, there may not be too many people keen to see us playing the group minnows, but a chance to see a man who has made a few waves this season might prompt a few more to make the trip.

The Derbyshire 12 is:

Chris Rogers
Wayne Madsen
Garry Park
Greg Smith
Robin Peterson
Wes Durston
John Sadler
Lee Goddard
Steffan Jones
Tim Groenewald
Tom Lungley
Mark Footitt

My guess is that Footitt will drop out, leaving us with three seamers, Peterson and Durston for spin, plus Smith and Park as required.

I would like to think that would be enough to beat the Netherlands, a side with some decent cricketers, but surely not enough to beat us on our own patch?

I would like to think not. We'll see how it goes tomorrow.

Friday, 28 May 2010

That Friday feeling

Three wickets for Charl Langeveldt tonight as he opened the bowling for South Africa against the West Indies in Dominica. As I type the Saffers seem well in control and should complete a win in the next hour. Langers removed their two big guns, Gayle and Pollard, in pretty much the sort of job we've signed him to do at Derby. With a second wicket in his comeback over, the old magic would appear to still be there.

The presence of three top South African cricketers in our T20 ranks should help to swell the crowds at the games, certainly until people see how we are going to do. If it all goes pear-shaped it might be a struggle for people to find the money for all the games, but success on the pitch will breed success off it. The more money we get in, the more and better players we can sign. Langeveldt, Peterson and Bosman are all good players and we should benefit from their expertise in this format.

John Morris said in the interview on the BBC site that Derbyshire is a work in progress. He has brought in a lot of players and there may well be a few more. He can only sign those who are available and while they may not be the finished player he wants, as long as they are better than we have there can be few complaints.

I had a look at the players in our side back in 2007 when Morris came to Derby and there can be few people who would say we've not got better personnel now. Stubbings, Birch, Adnan, Botha - they did a job, but with respect I wouldn't swap them for the current incumbents.

The club site tells us that Freddie the Falcon, our new mascot, can dance. Whoopy doop. I'd do the tango with him if he could bowl lively fast medium on a line and length, but I suspect that might beyond him. You'd think he'd be able to bowl a decent outswinger, resulting in the batsman feathering one through to the keeper.... sorry, should've kept that one to myself.

I dare say tomorrow will reveal the squad for Sunday's game against Netherlands, which should see Michael Dighton return to the County Ground. I'm not thinking about them beating us, but I'm hoping they've no more budding Ryan ten Doeschate's waiting to take us apart. I will find Sunday a very difficult blog if we don't win that one.

Anyway, that's it for tonight. My daughter's birthday tomorrow and she hits 13. Yes, I'll wish her happy birthday from you all and I'm sure she'll love the Derbyshire club history I got her.

Just kidding. Honestly...

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 4

I wrote last night that we needed to get through the first hour or so without alarms today to have any chance of winning this game, Inside the first half hour those hopes were pretty much extinguished as our top three were all back in the pavilion, closely followed by Greg Smith as we were reduced to 15-4.

While the ongoing fragility of our top order batting in comparison to last season is a concern, the main reason for this loss was our bowling on the first and third days, when there were far too many loose deliveries. If we had bowled anything close to our ability, Gloucestershire would have struggled to top 150 on the first day, while yesterday we allowed them to get far too many runs, in conditions that were still favourable for bowlers who put the ball in the right areas.

There is an object lesson for all of us in the Derby Telegraph this morning, however. I didn't know (and I don't think many people did) that Steffan Jones and Mark Footitt were both ill and were unable to play in this game. Added to the loss of Wagg, Footitt, Clare and Hunter through injury, that left us down to the bare bones. Our opponents had three international bowlers - two with full caps - and there was the difference.

Like a few other people, I queried the premature selection of Atif Sheikh in the side when he had problems with no balls on the first day. To be fair, the youngster was much improved in the second innings, took five wickets on his debut and can be pleased with that. He is not yet ready for regular first team cricket, however, as his analyses showed. For suggesting Sheikh's was a strange selection without knowing the facts I apologise.

This is something to bear in mind for the T20, where a few of us (on IMWT) are announcing our first choice side for the tournament. That is fine and dandy, but to use mine as an example, we don't know if Graham Wagg will be fit and neither Loots Bosman nor Charl Langeveldt will be available for the first two games.

That changes the complexion a little and one could say without fear of contradiction that Derbyshire have not had the rub of the green with injuries so far this season. As things stand, I think we will do better in the T20, but what if something happens to Langeveldt or Peterson? They are perhaps our two key bowlers, the ones to be relied on under normal circumstances, but there's little we can do if the injury situation doesn't improve and we're perhaps forced to use Sheikh and Whiteley, with no disrespect intended.

Neither can be considered regular first team material at present and we don’t have a squad of sufficient depth to cope if the injuries continue. There's no doubt that James Pipe is earning his money at present and yesterday he was one of THREE wicket keepers used when Tom Poynton took ill. Pipe donned the gloves until Lee Goddard arrived from Wales, but such problems don't make for an easy life for John Morris.

What isn't clear at the moment is if Chris Rogers will play in those first two games. We know that Buck is taking a well-deserved break for the tournament, but does that mean for all of it or once Bosman and Langeveldt arrive? I'm sure we'll find that out in the next few days.

Anyway we slid to another heavy defeat today. Dan Redfern is having a difficult time but was scoring steadily today. He needs to find a way to turn nice 20s, 30s and 40s into something of more substance. He will come again, but there's a need for us to have patience with a player of genuine talent and perhaps for him to be more patient at the crease.

The one bright spot was the batting of Chesney Hughes once again. In the first innings he batted with astonishing maturity on a track that was far from straightforward for batting and in the second battled away with a greater resolve than some of his more experienced team mates. We scored 511 runs in two innings and Hughes scored 193 of them, statistics that speak for themselves.

The loss doesn't finish our hopes for promotion, but it does mean that we need to play out of our skins from here and string a run of results together. It can be done. We beat Glamorgan easily at the County Ground, yet since then they have won four sucessive games and gone to the top of the table.

While the euphoria of the Oval win seems a long time ago, it is not too late to rekindle it. We just need the County Ground to resemble The A Team once again, rather than an episode of Casualty or ER...

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 3

The reality is that Derbyshire have possibly produced some of their least disciplined bowling of the season against Gloucestershire, but start the final day needing 296 runs to win.

The weather forecast appears OK tomorrow and if it stays dry it is eminently do-able. History is against us, the county having chased 300-plus on only seven occasions in their history. With ten wickets in hand and only three an over required we should go for it, as a win would put recent troubles behind us. Sadly, the bowling today continued to be all over the place.

Even Robin Peterson came in for some stick and we would have given a lot for a Langeveldt at one end when the new ball was being wasted in this match. Of course, had we had him, we wouldn't have had the skipper's ton, so it's a swings and roundabouts affair.

The first session is important tomorrow, but they all are. A good start is imperative, as slipping to 40-3 will leave us a mountain to climb, but we need to do what all good chasers of targets do and pace it. 80-1 at lunch would be fine, 180-200 by tea and then acceleration, if required, into the last hour. Easy does it...

Of course, the Gloucestershire bowlers can hardly bowl worse than ours did, so they must probably start the final day as slight favourites on a wicket that apparently still offers help if the ball is in the right areas. At the same time, runs can be made, as several players have proved so far. We just need a couple of guys to step up to the plate and we can win this one.

I just hope my enthusiasm is justified this time tomorrow night.

One final point from me on a busy blogging day. Looking at that Derbyshire T20 lineup, I'm convinced that someone will really cop it from our batsmen this year. I hope it happens regularly, but I will be very surprised, no disappointed, if we don't set a new team record total with that line up. Beating 195 at Chesterfield would definitely be on.

We've now got a means of defending it too. Welcome back Langers!

Durston in and Langers back - PARTY TIME!!

That Derbyshire have signed Wes Durston, formerly of Somerset, for the T20 with the possibility of an extension is good news as far as I'm concerned.

He was one of the names discussed as potential targets for the county on this blog at the end of last season and is a player I have rated for some time. It appears that many Somerset fans do too, if you look at their page on 606, where several suggest they made a mistake in releasing him and should re-sign him. Too late chaps...

While some might argue that his first class average of mid 30s is nothing special for someone who has played his career on the batting paradise at Taunton, the counter argument is that he has never been able to establish a regular place and therefore relax. On that basis, he's done pretty well.

The great thing about this signing is that he gives us balance. He is a fine batsman, as his knock against Sussex last weekend showed, but Durston is good enough to be a front line bowler with his off spin and was regarded as the best fielder at Somerset. By anyone's standards, this is a cracker of a signing.

News that Charl Langeveldt is returning to Derbyshire for the T20 campaign is the icing on the cake.

Last night I wrote that I would be happy to see a Charl Langeveldt-type player in the side. Lo and behold, we've got the man himself! Interestingly Juan Theron, another I mentioned, has now been picked up by Northamptonshire, so I'm on a roll at present. I just hope that extends to when I pick my replacement for Robin Martin-Jenkins in Telegraph Fantasy Cricket...

Langeveldt's signing means that Chris Rogers can take a well-earned break and that the side will be skippered by Greg Smith. For what it is worth, my first choice side, depending on fitness, would now be:


There are seven bowlers there and another couple of options, long batting and an excellent fielding side. Without a doubt this is the strongest XI we have ever fielded in T20, but only time will tell if it is enough to win more matches than in previous seasons. What I will say is that we have some batsmen to do serious damage and two bowlers of genuine quality in Peterson and Langeveldt.

The latter addresses a critical area. We now have a bowler with the nous to stop the opposition getting away to a real flyer and who can come back at the end of the innings and give them the bare minimum to hit. He may have lost a little pace, but Langeveldt is a wily cricketer who should make a very good impact on this competition.

I'm sure there will be the usual snipers about the fact that seven of this side are of South African origin, but I really couldn't care less. I simply want to watch a Derbyshire side in T20 that isn't beaten before a ball is bowled and can compete against the big boys.

Full credit to John Morris and everyone else involved in the deals. A far better quality of personnel are in place - it is up to them now.

Final thought - Carlsberg don't do days for Derbyshire fans, but if they did….

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Well, well...

It looks like Mr Durston may soon be joining our ranks for the T20.

Aggressive batsman, off spin bowler and brilliant fielder - if this one comes through it should help our cause considerably.

More tomorrow.

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 2

At the start of the second day of the game, it was obvious that the key to its direction was going to be the wicket of Chris Rogers, the Derbyshire captain. How often have I written that in the past couple of years?

Rogers and Chesney Hughes (pictured) did the county proud in the first session, taking their overnight stand past three figures. Rogers went on to make yet another century before being dismissed by arguably the find of the season, Gemaal Hussain, which left Derbyshire's young middle order exposed. Seeing Redfern and Hughes together, the thought crossed my mind that if this team gets much younger, we could perhaps consider approaching Farley's as a major sponsor…

Reaching lunch at 195-4 was ahead of my expectations from the overnight score and an excellent response. It showed a good fighting spirit, but the question remained - could we reinforce this in the afternoon session and move ahead? Equally importantly, could the young tyros at the crease build another partnership and cement their places in the side?

Well, Redfern didn't last long after the break, nor did Robin Peterson, but the slow left armer will have been encouraged to see his counterpart for the visitors, Vikram Banerjee, take three wickets. It was he who broke an encouraging and valuable stand with Tom Poynton, the young wicket keeper adding 44 for the seventh wicket with Hughes.

At this stage, all eyes were on the burly West Indian as he reached the "nervous nineties." Any fears of the occasion getting the better of him were allayed with 2/4/4 from successive balls to reach a marvellous first century - almost certainly not his one and only… music buffs might see what I did there!

He was eventually run out after a truly outstanding effort on a track that remains helpful for bowlers. Although Groenewald and Sheikh were as expensive as Lungley and Sheikh were in the first innings, Greg Smith removed Snell before the end of the day. He and Robin Peterson can look forward to a long bowl tomorrow and if they do their stuff, our season could be back on track.
Mind you, after four catches then his maiden century, I'd reckon that Chesney is on for five wickets...

Morris still the man

I received an e mail last night that suggested I might be growing impatient with John Morris at the helm of Derbyshire cricket after recent displays.

To be honest, I'm not. I am frustrated at the inconsistency of the side, but that is one of the drawbacks in playing young and/or inexperienced cricketers. If you look at the side that took the field yesterday, besides the four lads aged 20 or under, we had players like Madsen, Park and Groenewald who are all in effectively their second first class season. Only Rogers, Peterson, Smith and Lungley could be deemed experienced players. That was part of my frustration with Lungley. In such times we need the old heads to stand up and be counted. While he did that latterly yesterday, his first spell was poor by any standards.

Charles Collins of Radio Derby has done a piece worth reading on 606, an oasis of common sense in the desert of drivel that is more often on that site. To be honest, I've not been on it for three or four weeks as it is usually full of wind up merchants trying to score points and is laughably moderated. Some of the stuff that is allowed on there is borderline libelous, which is a shame for the ones who would like to have constructive debate. In Morris We Trust is the place to go and is a regular stopping place for me.

Collins makes some very good points about Morris and the current situation. There is little doubt that our limited resources make wholesale improvements at the speed demanded by some supporters impossible. His planned rotation of seam bowlers has been blown out of the water by injuries to many of them, with only Groenewald, Footitt and Lungley currently fully fit. Jones, Hunter, Wagg and Clare are all injured and Sheikh was called up from the Seconds ahead of schedule.

As I said yesterday, Sheikh has great potential, but my understanding is that he has had persistent no ball problems all season, something that needs to be sorted before he plays regular first team cricket. I can only assume that Footitt has a niggle too when Sheikh, with such obvious problems, got the nod ahead of him.

Nonetheless, Morris still gets my vote in his current role. If we were to make a knee jerk reaction and bring in someone else, I cannot see that there would be an immediate improvement as there would be the same budgetary restrictions, the same inexperience and the same injuries. Having thought about it on my daily commutes, I can only come up with two people who would be affordable and might do a decent job for us. I'll not name them, as it wouldn't be fair and is a hypothetical issue anyway.

A few people have suggested to me that we bring in experienced players, but from where? Experienced players want appropriate remuneration and without a rich benefactor to pay for it all, a quick revolution is not going to happen.

Derby County, in my humble opinion, have gone the right way about things. Bring in a young manager, tell him that the job is a long-term plan and make sure that everyone knows this. Like the football club, we have a man who is Derbyshire through and through and is as passionate in his desire to do a good job as any of us are to see it.

What we need at Derbyshire are three things - time, better luck with injuries and increased confidence. Morris cannot do anything about the first two, but his motivational and man management skills will be tested by a paper thin squad. It goes without saying that a confident player will do better, but confidence comes from good performances, fitness and a winning mentality.

In players like Chris Rogers and Robin Peterson, Morris has recruited two admirable role models for the young players to work with and emulate. We can only hope that their influence rubs off on their young colleagues and Derbyshire can emerge from the current flat spell sooner, rather than later.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Novel day for the Seconds

Derbyshire 2nds played Nottinghamshire today in this new format competition, where they play a 40 over a side match, comprised of two twenty over innings a side, played with a pink ball.

Derbyshire made 118-2 in their first twenty, an innings opened by John Sadler and Jon Clare. Nottinghamshire replied with 105-1.

Then the fun started. We ended the second innings, which continued from the first, with 289! Lee Goddard made a century and Paul Borrington 72 in a very fine effort.

Nottinghamshire could not compete with such a clean hitting display and subsided to 220 all out, leaving Derbyshire victors by 69 runs.

I don't care that it was Second XI, I just enjoyed typing that...

Derbyshire beat Nottinghamshire by 69 runs. Love it!

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day one

If there is a grandstand up in the clouds where former cricketers sit to watch matches of interest, I would reckon that Cliff Gladwin and Les Jackson would have front row seats in deference to their feats on the cricket field for Derbyshire.

By the same token, they quite possibly decided to go for a few pints after the profligacy of Derbyshire's bowling in today's game. To some extent I can excuse Atif Sheikh, who was undoubtedly excited to make his debut and had his share of nerves, but Tom Lungley's opening spell was a shocker. It's just a good job that Craig Spearman has retired or goodness knows what they'd have been on after the first ten overs. No one, not even their own mothers, would call Batty and Snell dashers...

27 extras in the first eight overs, 39 by lunch on the first day and 76 in the innings. Irrespective of anything else, that was embarrasingly bad and may well be the difference between winning and losing the match.

I'm reminded of a story of Cliff Gladwin when, coming off one day, he was asked his figures.
"5-37," he replied. "It would have been 5-36 if that (blank) had kept his legs together." On such parsimony are legends made, but we gave too many cheap runs today.

Congratulations to Sheikh on his debut and wickets. He clearly has considerable raw talent and potential, but needs to work on his accuracy and undoubtedly on his run up before being considered even close to the finished article. To think there has been criticism of Footitt's radar…today's goings on made him seem like Mike Hendrick.

As for Lungley, he came back well in the afternoon, but however you look at it, we've given Gloucestershire 50-60 runs more than should normally be the case and I would not expect such generosity from Kirby, Franklin, Hussain and Lewis.

To be fair (and I always try to be) Derbyshire pulled back the horror start well, thanks to controlled spells by Tim Groenewald, Greg Smith and Robin Peterson. In the afternoon session Gidman, so often a thorn in our side, and Batty were both dismissed earlier than seemed likely, while Smith returned to the bowling form in which he started the season and Peterson - well, he was just Peterson. Admirably accurate and once again the man to mop up the tail end of the innings. If we had one more bowler in his class we would walk this division.

Once again the skipper held things together when we replied and we need a biggie from him and support from the three youngsters (Hughes, Redfern and Poynton) who will join him (hopefully) at the crease tomorrow.

One area of concern came to me from texts and e mails today. Apparently a number of the new seats in the stand could not be used because of the sightscreen. While fully appreciative of the new facilities, it seems strange that the siting of it was such as to make so many seats redundant. A view from behind the bowlers arm is one thing, but it seems strange that many of the seats will be unusable, depending on who is bowling. My rudimentary grasp of economics suggests that seats installed and paid for, minus seats you can't use = a loss. Could they have been installed in a different location? Just asking…

On the up side, there can have been few occasions when Derbyshire have fielded a younger side in a first class match. With Sheikh and Hughes just 19 and Redfern and Poynton 20, surely even the habitual moaners might concede we are doing our bit for English cricket? There were four slip catches for Chesney too, an impressive haul.

Let's just hope that any records we set in the remainder of this game are for the right reasons. I'll close with what could have been a headline and reflects a day's cricket where a young bowler made a decent impression. Fans around the country, however, will look at the extras tally with a degree of amusement.

Sheikh rattles, then LOL...

Monday musings...

That old idiom "You can't have your cake and eat it" is quite appropriate for Derbyshire cricket at the moment.

The good news is that we have signed one of the most explosive batsmen in this form of the game in world cricket for the forthcoming T20. One of the complaints of previous campaigns has been that we had no one at the top of the order who was a real powerhouse. A Dave Warner-type player who could get us off to a flyer in the first 5-6 overs of the innings and, on his day, put us out of reach.

Well, we've got one now, albeit a man who doesn't look in especially good nick at the moment from his performances in the World Cup and in the Caribbean. In fact, powerhouse openers must be like buses. You wait a while for one to come along and then two arrive at the same time. So not only have we got Loots "The Bazooka" Bosman but Chesney "Boom Boom" Hughes. The latter is my nickname for him, by the way, but feel free to use it. If it appears on T shirts I'll just take my percentage…

Strangely, the feeling remains that, much as we needed a boundary-clearing opening batsman, on this season's form we perhaps need a "go to" bowler, a man the skipper can rely on to put the ball in the right areas for most of the time. Charl Langeveldt did that for us a couple of years ago, while Michael Holding did the same thing for Kim Barnett in the 1980's. When someone gets into the groove you need somebody to put it up 'em - sorry if that sounds like I'm confusing Madonna with Corporal Jones in Dads Army…

There's two problems to that of course. One is that our skipper is an outstanding batsman in his own right, albeit one not entirely suited to this format. The other is that there aren't that many of those bowlers around, as they're mostly on the international cricket merry go round and are struggling to get off.

Realistically, even the best bowlers will get an occasional tanking in T20. Were he theoretically available and had we notionally the money to sign him, Dale Steyn is one of the best in the business, but even he can go in excess of ten an over when up against someone in prime form, on a good track and with short boundaries.

My big concern for the T20 is that we may be unable to defend totals of even 180-190. Maybe I am doing them a disservice, but outside of Robin Peterson and Tim Groenewald, there isn't a bowler who could be regularly relied on to keep things tight. Perhaps one route might have been to offer Buck a mid-season break, to recharge his batteries ahead of the important remaining Championship campaign. Such an approach would have had its merits, but could potentially have been a source of friction and would also incur additional costs for a third player. On the other hand, the skipper might have quite enjoyed a breather.

Given the international schedule, there would have been limited options available anyway, but most fans would have enjoyed seeing Charl Langeveldt back, while another possibility would have been South African seamer Juan Theron, rapidly building a reputation for himself in his homeland as a miserly death bowler. Theron also did well in limited IPL opportunities and at 24 looks likely to have an excellent future as a bowler who swings the ball at decent pace.

In fact, he must have been on the county's radar, having played as professional for Audley in Staffordshire. An international call up seems likely for a man with a first class bowling average of 22 and I'm surprised that no one has made a move for him in the T20, with its more open qualification requirements.

Anyway, it is all hypothetical as we have to go with what we have. I expect improved performances in the T20 this season, but the bowlers have to up the game for me to get any more excited than that.

I don't think we'll be ordering the Finals Day merchandise just yet...

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Fine article

Terrific article on county cricket on Cricinfo, by George Dobell. Well worth a read and you can see it at


Derbyshire v Gloucestershire

Tomorrow's game is massive for Derbyshire, coming as it does before we play Sussex in the last Championship match before the Fred Karno twenty over stuff begins with loud music, dancing girls and hot pies. Only in England, eh?

There's no news on the teams at this stage. We can't read anything much into that, as it could be that John Morris hasn't told the web designer, he might not have made up his mind or he might be waiting to see the weather and assorted fitness reports before he names his final eleven.

For what its worth, I think that Paul Borrington needs a break and assuming they're all fit I would field the following side tomorrow:

Chris Rogers
Wayne Madsen
Garry Park
Greg Smith
Chesney Hughes
Dan Redfern/John Sadler
Robin Peterson
Lee Goddard
Tim Groenewald
Steffan Jones
Mark Footitt

Gloucestershire are a funny side, capable of high scores and startling collapses in equal measure. Remind you of another team? I still don't know how good this Derbyshire side is, but in the medium to long term have greater confidence in the batting line up than the bowling. Peterson is a class act and Stef Jones will always give 100%. Groenewald is usually there or thereabouts, but after that I have more than a few concerns about our current incumbents which need to be disproved, hopefully sometime soon.

Before the Worcestershire game I suggested that Derbyshire would win. I'm making no gung ho suggestions before this one as I haven't a clue which of our Jekyll and Hyde outfits will turn up. On paper, this side is a match for any in the division, yet something goes awry when we step onto grass at present.

You know, we missed a trick there. The Derbyshire Jekyll and Hydes. Forget about Falcons, that nickname would have been perfect...

Here's to four good, dry days, a sporting track and please, please - let's have the win points by the end of the game lads.

T20 side

The always worth reading In Morris We Trust has a section on naming your T20 side for this season. While such calls are difficult with all the injuries, here's my suggestion.


It pretty much speaks for itself but the main points would be that we have to maximise the fielding restrictions in the first five overs. If one of the big guns fails, we have the skipper to come in. Though not a natural T20 player, he's no mug. Madsen and Park can work it around from seven if things go pear shaped.

I'm not confident about our bowling, but Tim and Stef give us the best chance of economy. Given that the hardest bowling to hit is spin, I'd play RP and Jake, while Chesney could also be used. The side is long on batting as I don't think we have enough tight bowlers at present, and Peterson apart, none you would regard as a real "go to" bowler.

I'd be inclined to open with a spinner, which often causes opening batsmen problems, while rotating them and not allowing anyone to "line up" a bowler is the key to success. There are six bowlers here and another couple of options.

I think it is the best option for us and will allow the seamers to be fresh for the rest of the Championship campaign. Whether it is enough for greater success only time will tell, but based on players I am aware of being available, this would be my first choice side.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Saturday comment

So we're launching "Freddie" the Falcon tomorrow in Market Square at Derby, alongside all kinds of promotional activities.

Anyone know if falcons qualify to play in the T20? Just a thought that we could sign Charl Langeveldt, stick him in the costume and... hey presto - a new top bowler!

Anyway, hope it goes well and you can't fault the club's commercial arm, which is more innovative than at any time in my experience. Years ago, promotional work was what they called getting miserable people to sell programmes and scorecards. The club have gradually come into the 21st century and it is good to see.

Still not sure how Essex got out of jail against Holland yesterday, when the Dutch needed just six off the last over yet contrived to lose by a run. Fair play to Wright for a tight over, but you'd have thought two established batsmen might have got them. That the two were still in at the end of the over suggests that there might have been an element of playing for the average. I know I'd be annoyed in such a situation.

Lovely day up here, so off out somewhere to soak up some sunshine. News of Monday's team sometime tomorrow, but for now, that weather is way too inviting to be indoors.

See you soon

Friday, 21 May 2010

Weekend thoughts.

I don't know who "Anon" is, but I agree with him/her with regard to Derbyshire's first choice side at present.

Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog (go back to 25 March, Championship Preview) will know that before the season started I suggested that we had a strong top four in Rogers,Madsen, Park and Smith. The only question was who batted five and six and in what order. At that time I suggested that it might be an idea to have someone like Paul Borrington come in at six to hopefully face the second new ball.

It has not worked out that way. Borrington has had his struggles this season (but no more than others) and some would argue that he is in at the best place and there's nothing much between opening and batting at three. It is nonsense. Three is a specialist position and the preserve of some very good players, but ask yourself - would Ponting open? Did Viv Richards? Or Ian Chappell? Peter Kirsten?

Nor, apart from in a few one day matches, did John Morris, yet we've got a young opener batting in a critical and foreign position. Borrington's path into first class cricket might have been easier had he walked to the wicket a few times at 240-3 against an old ball, especially on early season tracks and when Park did the job so well last year.

It is, of course, just my opinion. John Morris is good at his job and knows his players and their capabilities, but perhaps now is the time to go back to what worked last season. Logic suggests Hughes should be at five or six on current form, with the final batting place a straight fight between Redfern, Borrington and Sadler. None are in sparkling form, so that's not one that I would attempt to call and would leave to the man in charge.

There may be a question over whether Robin Peterson should move up in the order to six, splitting two young and inexperienced players. The South African has been an excellent signing and done well with bat and ball. He is well on course to do the 500 runs/50 wickets double that is the benchmark of a fine player these days. While a better bowler than batsman, his nous at the crease might be beneficially used right now.

We're also missing the late middle order input from James Pipe and Graham Wagg. How many times in recent seasons have they launched a counter-attack when things have gone wrong? With one retired and the other injured, our wicket-keeper/Tom Lungley pairing isn't in the same league. I still think Goddard a good batsman, but he needs to start showing it. There are a lot of good wicket-keeper batsmen around, and while Goddard is good behind the stumps, he needs to contribute with the bat. Poynton is a fine prospect, but needs more experience for me.

There's still a lot of cricket to be played in this Championship season, with two games against Sussex, at one time runaway leaders and possibly still the team to beat. I'd concur with Anon, my Championship team, assuming fitness of all concerned, being:


The big question is - how will John Morris call it - starting next week?

Thursday, 20 May 2010

C'mon Loots!

Like a few of you, I have watched Loots Bosman in the recent televised matches in which he has featured and been left feeling frustrated.

In the World 20/20, he was run out after facing just one delivery in the first game, then looked as baffled by the slowness of the pitch as everyone else in the second, after which he was dropped from the side.

Yesterday he returned to the fold against the West Indies and again frustrated those of us watching, being caught down the leg side from a delivery that the umpire then gave as a wide. Loots had, to his credit, already walked, the antithesis of most modern players who won't flinch before the umpire's finger goes up.

To be honest, I think the sensible thing is to wait for the umpire's decision, especially for people with livelihoods at stake. I've played cricket for 35-40 years and would reckon that I've been given out a few times when I shouldn't and given not out when I should. These things tend to even out, but Bosman, far from guaranteed a place in the Proteas side, showed good sportsmanship in setting off.

Given the importance of a flyer in twenty over games, logic may suggest Bosman and Chesney Hughes as openers, but Chris Rogers may opt to open. Firstly because he is a top quality opening batsman, but secondly because both Hughes and Bosman don't appear to have running between the wickets as their strongest suit. That may not be an issue if every ball is going to the boundary, but might just be something to think about as the loss of either in this way would be frustrating. I can see merit in both scenarios, with a Bosman-Hughes pairing eminently capable of 50-60 in the first five overs while the fielding restrictions are in place. Either way, a top six of Bosman, Rogers, Hughes, Smith, Peterson and Wagg should give us some entertainment, with Park and either Redfern or Sadler below them as insurance.

I just wonder if any consideration may be given to playing Park as wicket keeper, in a similar role to that undertaken by Peter Bowler when we won the Refuge Assurance in 1990. Neither Poynton or Goddard have scored heavily this season, so Park's taking the gloves would enable an extra batsman or bowler to play. The downside, of course, would be that we would lose him as a bowling option and as an electric fielder. If we opt to play a couple of spinners I would suggest we go with an experienced gloveman, but I'd be surprised if the idea hasn't been discussed when Park has done this for Durham in the past.

If we get two or three memorable knocks from Bosman we will do better than in recent seasons, but we should not expect him to average fifty in this sort of cricket. For the most part it could be a quick fifteen to twenty to build an impetus that the rest can hopefully maintain, but if anyone gives him width to open his shoulders, his track record suggests there could be a memorable game or two.

Worcestershire v Derbyshire day 4

So Derbyshire went down fighting, but went down nonetheless to Worcestershire this afternoon, after a game in which they barely turned up for the first two days then fought hard to save thereafter. Had the attitude from the last two days been there from the start, the result may well have been different, though whether we would have had enough to force a win is debatable.

Hats off tonight to Garry Park, who emerged from a tough spell with the bat to make a wonderful unbeaten century that really deserved better. It was an outstanding effort from several angles. For one thing he had been in poor form, for another, wickets were falling at the other end and for a third he batted for a LONG time and showed admirable powers of concentration.

With Greg Smith also in the runs, the engine room of Derbyshire's batting looks to have been restored to its normal self. Our problem now lies in filling the roles at numbers three and six. Do we retain Paul Borrington, or move Hughes to three with Redfern coming in at six? Or do we switch the two youngsters? Do we, alternatively, give John Sadler a crack at three, or let Garry Park go back to that position, one he filled so well last year. Decisions, decisions…

In an ideal world we would discover that Ricky Ponting came from Ilkeston and ideally qualified for an instant permit as he was thoroughly disenchanted with Test cricket and wanted to play out his career in the county of his birth. Sadly, that's marginally less likely than John Morris re-registering as a player - now that would sort the number three berth!

It would be easier if everyone was fit. Bring in the fit Graham Wagg and move everyone up the order. If Jon Clare was fit we would have additional batting and bowling, but John Morris has to work with what he has, unless a cunning plan for a loan player is currently being hatched…

So, c'est magnifique mais ce n'est pas le draw. That's the best I can say in my pidgin French, but we return to the fray against Gloucestershire next week. In the light of Sussex's second successive loss today, this division is suddenly wide open

Win that one and we'll have forgotten all about this.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Worcestershire v Derbyshire day 3

Credit where it's due, Derbyshire came out fighting today and restored pride, although reference to the "d" word is premature by about two sessions by my reckoning.

We may not have many "bests" in the current line up, but in Steffan Jones we must have a contender for the best number eleven in the county game. Today, he and Tim Groenewald put earlier struggles into perspective by adding 123 to take us from 172-9 to 295 all out. It was the second highest last wicket stand in the club history, beating Geoff Miller and Simon Base (107, Yorkshire, 1990) but narrowly failing to pass Alan Hill and Martin Jean-Jacques against the same opponents in 1986, when they added 132.

It was a fine effort by both of them and gave Derbyshire a glimmer of a chance of saving the game. That glimmer had got a little brighter by the end of the day, when we reached 183-3. There was disappointment for Rogers, Madsen and Borrington, who all got starts but then got out, but Park and Smith emerged from personal troughs to battle through to the close. It may be that Paul Borrington has a break now and rediscovers his mojo in the Seconds. One option may be to play Chesney Hughes at three and bring Dan Redfern in at six. Be honest, we're not awash with options right now and Bozza probably needs a break to recharge his batteries and return refreshed in due course.

I had an e mail last night that said that I had been too harsh on the batsmen and had let the bowlers off in my criticism. I'm prepared to accept that to a point. While the batting has been poor for the last three innings, I think it is fair to say that Worcestershire should not have got 550 on this track, given the help there was on the first day. If we'd kept them to under 400, this would have been an interesting game right now, instead of our fighting a rearguard action for some draw points.

To use the local vernacular from these parts, the seamers are cream-crackered just now, with John Morris' rotation plans torn asunder by an array of injuries. At least there's better news in this morning's Derby Telegraph, which suggests that we may see Graham Wagg back in a fortnight (cue loud applause) and Ian Hunter in roughly the same timescale (get clapping again). Sadly, it suggests that an imminent return for Jon Clare is unlikely, but if we can get through the Championship games against Gloucestershire and Sussex, we have three weeks before the next four-dayer.

First, however is tomorrow. It's only a day away, allegedly, and we need to bat for most of it to get anything from this game. The thinking money is still on a home win, but the lads have at least restored a little pride today.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Worcestershire v Derbyshire day 2

I was quite amused by Master Villain's perceptive comment on my positive personality last night. He's right, I am very much a "glass half full" sort of guy, which has helped immensely over the years in supporting Derbyshire. Throughout various innings collapses I have retained the hope that the next wicket would put on a score, sometimes rejoicing when they do, often consoling myself when they don't that the next game is only a couple of days away and things are sure to improve.

The reality (and I'm also a realist) is that for long periods they haven't, but it doesn't stop me from hoping and I've watched us for long enough now to realise that we have a better squad coming together than has been the case for some time.


There's a strong possibility that unless we are careful, the wheels are going to come off the season, an eventuality that I can only put down to second season syndrome. Both Garry Park and Dan Redfern are struggling in their second season (I know Park played a few for Durham but was far from a regular) and we're just not functioning as a batting side.

Park has 180 runs from ten innings, Redfern averages 12 and Sadler 11. Greg Smith is also having a bad trot and the only other option is a young colt named Hughes. Borrington averages 24, but 79 of his 218 came in one innings, leaving 139 from the other nine. I've had several e- mails suggesting - even demanding - changes, but who do you bring in?

The only other batsmen are young lads - Siddique and Slater - one not yet scoring enough in the seconds to get the call and the other still at University. All we can do, I'm afraid, is ride out the storm.

Maybe the imminent T20 will help. Hit yourself back into form lads, with the fielders deeper than they normally are. At the end of the day, they're not getting out on purpose and I know they're trying, but that is now three shocking batting displays on the trot.

I'll excuse the skipper and the admirable Peterson from criticism as they stand up to be counted and graft when the going is tough, but we need others to do so too. While Wayne Madsen has scored two centuries thus far, his average is understandably lower than last year in - guess what - his second season.

One thing I would say - it must be difficult to bat when you've spent 150 overs in the field. I know they're professional sportsmen and it should be no problem, but none of us have done it. I'd guess that gathering your concentration when you've spent five sessions chasing leather takes a little doing and such things separate the wheat from the chaff.

Master Villain's thoughts have turned to who may or may not be around come the end of season.It is natural but premature to do so, as players have a lot of cricket in which to make a positive impact in between times.

I'm not going to name players at this stage because it is not fair to do so in May when there are at least three months of cricket before any decision would be made. The players concerned are well aware of their situation and don't need the additional pressure that conjecture brings.

Decisions about who may or may not be released will depend on various factors, such as who will be our overseas player, if we can get (or afford) another Kolpak and what type of player they will be. Those factors are in turn affected by who might be available in the increasingly congested international calendar.

Then there's the perennial issue. If we let players X and Y go, is there anyone out there any better to come in? If there is, could we afford them? There is a finite amount of money available for strengthening the side and no guarantee that spending more brings an immediate return. Have Hampshire thus far got value from Kabir Ali, for example? When Steve Kirby left Yorkshire, there was a lot of competition for his services and I heard some serious money being mentioned regarding his salary. Yet what has he won them?

Wearing my hat of reason, we need to allow time for the very promising Atif Sheikh to develop, for Ross Whiteley to hopefully come through and for Mark Footitt to ally his impressive wicket taking ability and improved level of fitness to a more sensitive radar. If they all progress, we would have a young attack of considerable talent, all of them left armers! We need to keep identifying young players of potential and bringing them on - we need, in short, to adopt the successful model of teams like Yorkshire and Durham.

There are always players out there. Ian Hunter has given decent service after being rejected by Durham first time around. Graeme Welch never got a chance at Edgbaston yet was a huge hit at Derby. Allan Warner was another we rescued who blossomed in new pastures. Who is to say that there may not be a bowler of talent in the Dutch side we are due to meet, or one in the Unicorns side that surprised Glamorgan the other day? I know that John Morris, Andy Brown and Karl Krikken are tireless in watching cricket around the area and have good contacts. That's how they picked up Chesney Hughes of course, as well as Wayne Madsen.

There is probably greater merit and satisfaction in finding someone with raw ability that can be nurtured, someone who for one reason or another didn't make it on a first opportunity, than there is in signing a bigger name. Look at how well Gemaal Hussain has done at Gloucestershire this season, after being rejected at Essex, Sussex and Worcestershire. Such players cost far less, for one thing and we will never win a bidding war, unless Bill Gates dramatically reveals himself as a closet Falcons fan and funds our signing the cream of out of contract players.

Even I'm not THAT optimistic…

Monday, 17 May 2010

Worcestershire v Derbyshire day one

After the first day of the game at Worcester, you could safely say that Derbyshire are going to have to work hard to get a positive result from this game, as the hosts won a very good toss and proceeded to make 376-3 by the close of play.

I'm assuming that's a pretty good batting track and what is sauce for the goose should be for the gander. You could perhaps have put money on Phil Jaques emerging from his poor run of form against us, but at this stage I'll content myself with the thought that we might have to make a last afternoon run chase to take the win points from this match.

To be fair, unless you replaced one of the seamers with Graham Wagg, you would probably say that this was our strongest possible attack, which suggests that it is a belter of a batting track (as Worcester historically has been) or that our attack isn't the best. While I don't think the current line up is a vintage Derbyshire attack, it is also a long way from being the worst in my experience. I'm inclined to think that this will be a high scoring game and just hope that our batting responds in an appropriate manner tomorrow and Wednesday.

The Worcestershire attack was decimated in the winter, as players left New Road as if it had revolving doors. One would assume that there should be few terrors for our batsmen and a few people, like Jaques, could take the opportunity to play themselves into form.

We'll see.

Monday Musings

Not long now until the T20 starts and hearty congratulations to England for an excellent campaign that resulted in their bringing home the World Cup.

It really brought home to me how much the bowlers and fielders have caught up in this format, coming up with strategies to combat even the most ferocious of hitters. Varying the pace of the bowling is crucial for all bowlers, with most seamers now having a quicker and slower bouncer to keep batsmen on their toes. Similarly, the blockhole ball or the one pitched well up wide of off stump, thus restricting the area a batsman can hit, is a useful weapon. Bowlers are well aware that four good balls an over isn't enough when the other two can easily go for ten runs.

Similarly, a side needs everyone to contribute in the field, which is intensive work. Sprinting to every ball, sliding stops, throwing on the turn, picking up in a way that you're ready to throw as you stand - gosh, it's a world removed from players I've watched over the years. Some of them were chuffed if they got both hands on it and I've seen a few for whom bending was an achievement and a slide only happened when it was wet…

It is one area where I would expect Derbyshire to excel. We have a batting line up that should score good runs more often not and a bowling side that will have its moments, but with the personnel in the side we should be a match for anyone in the field. That should make a difference, unless the ball is disappearing over their heads for six.

Collingwood's captaincy was also smart and his field setting excellent. It is hardly rocket science, but if the skipper sets a field, in conjunction with his bowlers, and they then bowl to it, the opposition should struggle. Of course, there will always be a player who has his day and hits the ball between them and into the least expected areas from the inner and outer edges, but them's the breaks, as the saying goes.

I just hope we get plenty of them when the tournament kicks off in earnest a couple of weeks from now.

On other topics, it is such a shame to see two Essex players arrested for alleged match fixing irregularities. A few years ago, watching supporters saw someone bowling erratically and wrote it off as one of those things. Now, rightly or wrongly, one starts to wonder if there are any nefarious dealings going on and it is such a shame. It is much the same as in athletics, where previously you would acknowledge without a second thought a new world record or exceptional performance. Now, it is natural to wonder whether it was the result of performance enhancing drugs, such a shame for the many legitimate athletes who are out there.

At the end of the day, the players concerned are innocent until proven guilty and I hope for everyone's sakes that there is no substance to the accusations.

The thing to remember is that most people's professional pride and integrity would make them rise above temptation. Time will tell if anything untoward has gone on in Essex, but the reputation of the game would be the real loser.

"It's just not cricket" never seemed more appropriate.

Finally tonight, nice to see the picture of the new stand at the County Ground, which looks very impressive, with the inset lettering "The Falcons." It struck me that if everyone who sat there crowded into the "LCO" in the middle, they would then have their own personalised seating, reading "The Fans." How good would that be, eh?

Not very. I'll get me coat...

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Worcestershire v Derbyshire

There are likely returns for Steffan Jones and Robin Peterson tomorrow as Derbyshire travel to Worcestershire for the start of the four day Championship match.

Strangely, the club make no reference on the site to the recall of Tom Poynton behind the stumps, the youngster being preferred to Lee Goddard, who has struggled for runs thus far. John Sadler is also omitted and Chesney Hughes, somewhat unsurprisingly, retains his place in the side after being just about the sole batting bright light at Lords.

The Derbyshire 12 is:

Chris Rogers
Wayne Madsen
Paul Borrington
Garry Park
Greg Smith
Chesney Hughes
Robin Peterson
Tom Poynton
Tom Lungley
Tim Groenewald
Steffan Jones
Mark Footitt

It may be that Poynton's recall is as much to address the loss of money in playing Hughes as anything else, though the youngster is a talented wicket keeper batsman and is worth a place on merit. That one of the seamers will miss out is something of a no-brainer and we'll see who that is tomorrow morning.

No news yet on the home side, though they will be missing Moeen Ali, selected for England Lions, and have a few injury problems, as reported earlier in the week. They will lean heavily on Vikram Solanki and Phil Jaques for runs, but I'm sure we all hope that the Aussie's travails with the bat continue for a little while longer.

Weather permitting, I'll go for a Derbyshire win in this one to get our campaign back on track.

See you tomorrow!


The annual output of cricket books seems to increase every year and while there is an occasional gem, such as Matthew Hoggard's autobiography and Fatty Batter by Michael Simkins, there are others that would appear to have been a production line Friday afternoon special.

As you might expect, I have got many books on Derbyshire cricket and the autobiographies are generally quite good. Harold Rhodes' was a good read, as was Dominic Cork's, while John Wright's was excellent.

Yesterday I took Mrs Peakfan into Glasgow with her Mum, who wanted to get some gifts for our daughter's impending birthday at the end of the month. We're all sorted, so I left my wife and her mother to wander round Marks and Spencer's, Primark and other favourite haunts for a nice coffee and a sit down in Waterstones. No fool, me...

To my delight, they had copies of Michael Holding's new autobiography No Holding Back and I sat down with my drink in a comfortable chair to peruse my potential new purchase.

I was really disappointed. Yes, it covers his career in reasonable detail, but there is little of any real interest to Derbyshire fans, which was a major disappointment. In fact, to save you all the bother, here are his thoughts on his stint (of several years) for us.

He enjoyed it, was well treated by Kim Barnett and got on well with the team, especially the West Indian contingent. He found county cricket disappointing, especially when we weren't a very good side and were out of everything by July, and thought a lot of county players went through the motions. A number of players got out against the quicks like him then ensured they'd get their thousand (and a new contract) by scoring heavily against easier bowling in later matches.

One exception to this was John Morris, a batsman who had great talent but didn't always make the most of it, except for when he came up against good bowlers, something that really seemed to motivate him. he also rated Ole Mortensen and still sees him from time to time.

That's pretty much it. No anecdotes to savour, no mention of matches, nothing. If you want to read a cricket book, it looks OK, but for an insight into the Derbyshire scene of the period, you may as well not bother.

Maybe I'm being unfair as I've been revisiting one of my favourite books on Derbyshire cricket, the delightful Scraps from a Cricketer's Memory by Levi Wright. This book gives a wonderful insight into cricket in Victorian and Edwardian Derbyshire sides. While only seventy pages long, and written more like an oral history, it gives far greater satisfaction on every page than many books three times its size.

The comments on some legendary games of our past are masterful. The win over Essex at Chesterfield when Perrin scored 343 not out and ended up on the losing side only happened because the Essex side saw one ball misbehave and were "unnerved.". The record stand of 554 by Brown and Tunnicliffe for Yorkshire on the same ground would never have happened if George Davidson hadn't been determined to play in what was Walter Sugg's benefit match. He broke down in the first over but stayed on the pitch, being one of those who missed "many chances" in the slips.

His tales of dressing room discord among the professionals have their modern parallels, but the names of cricket legends trip through Wright's book in one of the most fascinating reads I have ever had. George Hirst balls "looked to be pitching well outside off stump but...when three yards away would duck and swing across into the batsman's feet." Sounds like the sort of stuff that Wasim Akram bowled to such good effect...

If only Michael Holding had someone who could do him justice.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Team thoughts

Derbyshire's game against Worcestershire at the picturesque New Road ground on Monday looks like turning into a "We've got more crocks than you" boasting battle.

While our side is missing Graham Wagg, Ian Hunter and Jonathan Clare, our hosts have problems of their own piling up. Solid seamer Matt Mason was expecting to make his first Championship appearance of the season, but has pulled up with a recurrence in the second team game currently taking place between the two sides. He is returning to the specialist to see what the next steps are.

Meanwhile former Derbyshire seamer Alan Richardson is nursing an ankle injury and is rated by some papers as 50/50 to play, while Chris Whelan is also set to miss several weeks with a hamstring strain. Opener Dave Wheldon will miss several matches with a broken thumb, while Australian import Phil Jacques has so far made five ducks in the Championship. I'd settle for two more in this match and then he can score as many as he likes…

Our resources are stretched, but there's a little unfair comment directed at Tom Lungley just now. I'll be the first to admit that Tom's injury record at Derbyshire would have tested a saint, but at least he is fit right now. Ian Hunter isn't and there may be question marks over both players in the remainder of the season. Lungley's being able to play and bowling well acts in his favour, while Hunter, if we could get him fit, usually bowls well in one day cricket. With the T20 coming up, we could do with some of these guys back, sooner, rather than later.

One thing to remember is that no one deliberately gets injured, but some players are more resilient than others. Graeme Welch was one, until the achilles tendon injury that shortened his career, while I recall one summer a few years back when Paul Aldred pretty much kept an end going all summer as seamers dropped like flies at the other end. Aldo was a decent bowler, someone I would bracket with Alan Warner and Phil Russell as decent county pros. They gave the impression of bowling within themselves, which probably helped and you saw them on the field more often than not.

Atif Sheikh's ten wicket haul for the seconds may put him in contention, but we'll know more when John Morris announces his squad for the game over the weekend.

Seconds set for win

There's good news from the Second XI tonight, where the side should have wrapped up victory over Worcestershire earlier today.

Yesterday, Derbyshire replied to the hosts 212 by making 331, with Dan Redfern returning to form with 82. Batting again, Worcestershire were bowled out for 206, with Atif Sheikh following his first innings 5-37 with 5-40, completing highly impressive match figures of 10-77.

In the process, he must have forced his way into John Morris' thoughts for the first team, as he has always challenged players to do their stuff to earn a place in the senior side. Khan also took 4-42 to follow his seven wickets against Yorkshire in the previous match.

Encouraging news.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Seconds on top at Worcester

There were five wickets each for Atif Sheikh and Jake Needham as Derbyshire bowled out Worcestershire Seconds for 212 on the first day of the Second XI fixture yesterday. Sheikh followed good bowling against Yorkshire with figures of 5-37 in an impressive display.

In reply, Derbyshire were 157-4 at the close. No news on the scorers, but I'll bring that to you when I can.

Injuries starting to hit

There's some interesting news in the Derby Telegraph this morning, where John Morris revealed that he may have to go into the loan market for a seamer if the current injury problems continue.

Ian Hunter is still out with an undisclosed problem, Jonathan Clare is recovering from shoulder surgery and Graham Wagg has an achilles injury. The latter can be notoriously slow to heal, especially for a bowler and it leaves Groenewald, Lungley and Footitt the only fit seamers. There's an element of irony in that, given the injury problems suffered by the two latter named players in recent years. The only in-house back up is Atif Sheikh, who is probably not yet ready for regular first team action, while Ross Whiteley is still at University.

These are problems that cannot be legislated for and there's also irony in the normally robust and super-fit Wagg being one of the injured. We miss his explosive ability with bat and ball, while Robin Peterson's accuracy and parsimony was a huge loss at Lords, as the figures of Smith and Hughes suggested.

John Morris also suggests that the batting will have to be looked at and few fans would argue with that assertion. Rogers, Madsen and Smith have started the season well and Paul Borrington has made starts, but Garry Park and John Sadler have struggled for runs. As Mark Eklid writes in the Telegraph, Chesney Hughes must have booked a run in the side after his two innings at Lords, but the club will incur a financial penalty in playing him until next season. For all their novitiate status, Hughes and Redfern may be in line to play at New Road, starting on Monday.

There is a danger, of course, that our batting line up would then be very young, with Hughes at 18, Redfern 20 and Borrington 21 (at least until next week!) At the end of the day, they may benefit from the experience, but such a move might lead to a move up the order for Peterson.

Another minor concern is the batting form of Lee Goddard, who I rate. He has managed a couple of cameos thus far, but in recent years we have become accustomed to the contributions of James Pipe at seven. While Goddard retains a high standard behind the stumps he should keep his place, but Tom Poynton will have extra incentive to do his stuff in the Seconds. To be fair, when we think back to Pipe's arrival he was not an instant success with the bat, having often batted nine and ten at Worcester.

Years ago, Bob Taylor was at best an average batsman in his formative years, but as time progressed he made increasingly worthwhile contributions. In fairness, his glovework was so good that he would have retained a place if he hardly made a run, but the loss of Wagg has put additional pressure on Goddard as a lower middle order bat.

I still expect him to make at least 500 runs this season, a decent return from a number eight, but he needed acclimatisation time.

Hopefully next week is where it all comes to fruition.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Reasons to be cheerful...

It has been interesting to see Yorkshire cricket rising like a phoenix from the ashes this season, playing good, aggressive, purposeful cricket that mirrors that of the great Yorkshire sides of the past. Before the Second World War, the county dominated cricket with an array of strong characters who also happened to be very good cricketers. Where they differed from a lot of sides was that they were also led by amateur captains who were worth a place in their own right, which went some way towards the establishing of mutual respect.

After the war Yorkshire by and large were in the shadow of their southern rivals Surrey, until the advent of another strong squad of players including Trueman, Illingworth, Close, Padgett, Sharpe and Wilson made them the team to beat in the 1960s.

Since then they have endured many years of struggle, both on the pitch and off, with power struggles for captaincy and financial issues, debate over whether to develop their ground or move and young players who never seemed to progress. They had a trophy under David Byas, then the wheels fell off once more when he decided to cross the Pennines, a crime more heinous than if he'd announced himself a serial killer in some eyes…

Over the last few years they have brought increasing numbers of players through the youth system and developed it at grass roots level, playing an Academy side in the tough Yorkshire League and drafting players into the side when they had shown themselves to be ready, not as an act of desperation.

They are now, of course, reaping the rewards in a model that a side like Derbyshire hope to emulate. While short to medium term signings have made us a competitive unit, in the long term the current crop of Academy youngsters and the increasingly competitive nature of the Derbyshire Leagues may well have the same impact.

In the late 1920's, Derbyshire made a conscious decision to bring on players under Sam Cadman and give them an opportunity. Virtually the whole 1936 sidecame through around that time, many of them escaping the pits in so doing. Since then there have been players coming through, but the drop out rate has been substantial. For every Geoff Miller and Mike Hendrick there was a Bob Swindell and Michael Glenn, while we even tried someone like Les Bradbury on the back of good league performances while not in the first flush of youth.

We now have the best collective crop of talent coming through under the guidance of Karl Krikken since the 1930's. Borrington, Redfern, Needham, Clare, Poynton, Hughes, Sheikh and Whiteley have all suggested they have a role to play in our future, while there are other youngsters in the next age bracket who are equally talented.

These include players such as Hamza Siddique, who broke the school batting record at Repton with an innings of 207 not out and has already scored over 30 centuries in his young career. He is only 18, yet spent the winter in Australia and scored two fifties in the recent match against Yorkshire Seconds. He is an exciting talent, just like Ben Slater of Chesterfield, another 18 year old opening the batting for his club in a tough league and looking like a player of rich potential in his second string appearances thus far. Today's century reinforced that and he is assuredly a player to watch.

Encouragingly, John Morris' network of contacts that brought in the exciting Chesney Hughes has also given a trial to young Australian all rounder Sam Baird, who has an Irish father and would thus be qualified to play here. He plays his club cricket at Staveley CC and back home deputises for Marcus North in first grade at the age of 18. A quick footed opening batsman of aggressive intent, he is also an off spinner of some potential and should get plenty of cricket this summer.

These lads may or may not develop to the right level, but it is seeing their potential and seeing our system pick them out that gives me genuine cause for optimism. Five to ten years ago I had genuine concerns over Derbyshire cricket, as we seemed to lurch through seasons with the occasional good performance in the midst of a lot of bad. Recruitment seemed to be based on picking up the cast offs of other counties if the player didn't get an offer elsewhere and there was little cohesion behind the scenes.

We now have that in place with the Academy and in the offices, where we are making constant progress. Over the past four years we have got things together at the club after our own annual ritual of in-fighting and blood-letting. People like Don Amott, Tom Sears and Keith Loring have made a huge and positive difference to the club and other people's perception of it.

Most crucially, John Morris and Karl Krikken, Derbyshire men both, have made substantial steps forward in the development of a club that the fans can be genuinely and justifiably proud of. Trophies may not come this summer, maybe not even next, but I still think we are on the right road - even after today...

Middlesex v Derbyshire day 3

Aside from two innings of rich potential from Chesney Hughes and some steady bowling from Tim Groenewald, there is little to write about Derbyshire's heavy innings defeat inside three days at Lords.

It was a very poor performance, albeit one on which we hardly hold a monopoly. To call it a "typical Derbyshire performance" is unfair, as we have been much better than that, especially in Championship cricket, over the past couple of years.

For me, the big thing now is how we bounce back for the game against Worcestershire next Monday. We have an opportunity to regroup, get Robin Peterson back to full health and play in the style to which we have become increasingly accustomed.

The biggest disappointment was in the abject failure of what looked like a lengthy batting line up. A few people are in need of runs and will hope for some beneficial time in the nets over the next few days.

One bright spot elsewhere was an unbeaten maiden first class century (100 not out) for Leeds/Bradford MCCU by Chesterfield's Ben Slater, a left hander on Derbyshire's staff, against Warwickshire at Leeds. He batted five and a half hours against an attack including Rankin, Piolet, Botha, Maddy, Barker and Tahir. Having opened the innings, he was still there when the declaration came, an outstanding effort.

A reason for optimism on a fairly dismal day.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Terrific article

If you've not already done so, have a read of Gideon Haigh's piece on Cricinfo at

Haigh is one of the best writers of his generation and this piece is well worth a read for anyone who, like me, bemoans the dumbing down of our great game.

Superb stuff!

Middlesex v Derbyshire day 2

At the end of day two, Derbyshire have an uphill task to salvage something from this game, with Middlesex 170 runs ahead and two days left to play.

At 126-5 there was every chance of parity between the sides on first innings, but Neil Dexter, who has often been a thorn in our side, in company with Gareth Berg took the game away from us. We could still get out of this one, but will need to bat much better in the second innings on a track that would appear to have eased - at least when we're bowling on it…

We really missed Robin Peterson today. The game is still winnable, but we somehow need to get around 200 runs ahead and hope that either the wicket deteriorates or that our hosts bat badly in the second innings. I know I am really clutching at straws with that one, but 400 in the next innings is a must.

What looks increasingly likely is that the second promotion slot this season, at least, is going to be wide open. Leicestershire have gone right off the boil while both Gloucestershire and Glamorgan have found form after a wretched start, as of course have Middlesex.

Sussex look to hold the aces after an explosive start, but most of the other sides are jockeying for position like athletes at the start of the last lap of a 1500m race. There is long while to go in this season and a lot of cricket to be played, but we haven't done well here over the first two days. We will need to up our game considerably over the next two to get out of this game with anything other than wounded pride and a hiding.

At the start of the season I wrote that we needed to concentrate on winning sessions and results would come. So far, by and large, we have done pretty well, but we have lost five out of six sessions in this one and that is simply not good enough.

To be fair, a couple of players got poor lbw shouts given against them yesterday, but from this distance I can't work out whether we got the toss wrong, batted poorly or bowled poorly. We have not suddenly become a poor side, but we've had a bad 'un here so far.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Middlesex v Derbyshire Day One

In an era of biff bang cricket, where an over's not an over without at least one boundary, there was something quite refreshing - for me anyway - about Derbyshire's batting before lunch at Lords today.

Not having seen the track, I can only assume that Chris Rogers feels that it will deteriorate as the match goes on, as it seemed to be hard work for the batsmen. Rogers left early, after a couple of boundaries, but from then on Wayne Madsen and Paul Borrington got their heads down to take us through to 63-1 at lunch.

To see two relatively inexperienced batsmen willing and able to do that was very pleasing. That Madsen only had a single to his name in the first hour spoke volumes, but a normally free-flowing batsman was able to subsume his normal game to the benefit of the team. Meanwhile Borrington, fresh from a century for Ticknall on Saturday, did what we all know he can do and grafted. If you were compiling a list of free-flowing Derbyshire batsmen, Bozza's name might not be up there in the top three. If, however, you did a similar list of players who sell their wicket dearly, there would not be too many ahead of him.

I've seen a few young players over the years whose greatest merit seemed to be a brisk twenty, followed by giving away their wicket and the rest of the day in the pavilion. For me, Borrington's style is reminiscent of the young Glenn Turner, who first came to Worcestershire from New Zealand and barely got the ball off the square in his first season. Paul has more shots than Turner had at that stage, but is selective of how and when to play them at this formative stage of his career when he is establishing himself in the county game.

While it is nice to have a cavalier number three, it is even better to have someone who you know will have to be prised out, especially when that person potentially has years of good service to offer the county. Over the coming seasons I am sure that Borrington will unveil an increasing array of strokes, but if he continues to bat as if his life depended on it he will do me.

As for the game, one of two things happened today.

Either it was a very good toss to win, as the conditions favoured the bowlers and will only deteriorate further, or Chris Rogers completely mis-read the wicket and should perhaps have decided to bowl first.

We will undoubtedly find out which of these is correct in the days ahead, but we are closing in on 200 which is around par for Lords this season. We have the bowlers to do exactly the same to them, even allowing for the presence of England men Strauss and Shah in their lineup.

There was another good effort from Chesney Hughes, brought in as a late replacement for the flu-hit Robin Peterson and this time tomorrow we will have a better idea as to where the points in this game might go.

Monday Musings

With three defeats from the first four matches, the CB 40 would appear to offer little prospect of success for Derbyshire this season, although the games have offered encouragement with generally improved performances.

Only yesterday, against Yorkshire, did we take a real hiding and the absence of Wayne Madsen and Robin Peterson through a groin strain and influenza respectively was a contributory factor. Nor should we forget that Graham Wagg is still missing and the loss of three such players would debilitate any side.

The one day games have given grounds for optimism. The arrival of Chesney Hughes as a player of rich potential is good news, although we will have to accept that a young player with a fresh approach to playing his shots will have his good days and bad. I was pleased to see him bowling yesterday and he let no one down, though whether he becomes a genuine all rounder or a batsman who bowls is something we will find out in due course. He is a useful option, something we seem to have in abundance.

Also encouraging this season has been the return to form of Jake Needham. Whether this is down to winter work or the arrival of Robin Peterson I don't know, but Needham has always looked a bowler of promise and has a number of good returns for a young player. The apprenticeship for a spin bowler is a long one and Needham is doing OK when one considers his peak is probably 4-5 years away. He is an asset in the field and could improve further as a batsman. Derbyshire need him to develop, as Robin Peterson can only be considered a short term (though excellent) signing. Unless the regulations change again, or he earns an international recall, it is unlikely that he would fulfil the playing permit requirements for next season.

This is something that fans will need to appreciate in our Championship campaign, where we are sitting pretty at the moment. If we sustained our challenge and gained promotion to Division One at the end of it, the likelihood is that Chris Rogers and Robin Peterson will have had a major impact. Yet neither, as things stand, would be around for 2011, which would be a huge hole for John Morris to fill. Players of their ability, availability and commitment are in short supply in the world game and that, for me, is the big question mark at the moment.

Of course, we need to get there first and this time tomorrow we'll know more about the immediate prospects in this game.

Elsewhere, it would appear that someone at the Daily Telegraph decided that Steve James' broadside at Derbyshire and Northamptonshire on Saturday was uncalled for, as I wrote later that day. The article was pulled from their web site, possibly the result of responses from understandably angry fans. There is considerable unease around the game at present, between crass suggestions to "improve" the game and counties making surreptitious contact with Lalit Modi. Add in those with international grounds to fund, who want to stage their own elite competition and one can understand the edginess. The representatives of the smaller counties who attend the ECB meetings may soon sit facing the door, a position favoured by gangsters who want to ensure no one sneaks up on them…

With such concerns around, journalists like Steve James should not use their privileged position in a national newspaper of wide distribution and reputation (some of it deserved...) to settle their private agendas. I will always express an opinion on this blog, but I try to be even-handed in doing so and aim to avoid rants wherever possible, something that he declined to do at the weekend.

Finally tonight, I was impressed by England against South Africa on Saturday, with a purposeful approach that brought a positive result. Once again a key role was played by the spinners, as it was throughout the recent IPL. I look forward to our T20 campaign and an attack of Needham, Hughes, Peterson, Smith and Wagg, the latter two bowling in their slow styles…

I was impressed by the death bowling of Charl Langeveldt, who got a little stick earlier but showed how a clever seam bowler can drop it into the blockhole and make life difficult for batsmen. He may have lost a little pace, but he is still a canny customer, as vouched for by his excellent figures today.

Yet South Africa still managed to lose and for a side with so many players of genuine world class ability, their failure to translate talent into trophies is hard to understand. Part of the issue is that they do not seem to know their best side and how they can play a twenty over competition without Loots Bosman, probably the most dangerous hitter in the side apart from Morkel, is beyond me.

Mind you, so is how Robin Peterson is overlooked and Van der Merwe gets in the side. Whether Peterson is world class is perhaps a matter for debate, but he is a very good cricketer, as we are seeing at Derbyshire, and far better in every discipline than his rival.

Very strange...

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Yorkshire v Derbyshire CB 40

I wrote last night that this fixture would be a better benchmark of our one day abilities and to be fair we got a doing today.

Admittedly the absence of Robin Peterson and Wayne Madsen made a difference, but Yorkshire have been playing very well this season and their score looked a little beyond our compass. Only when Chris Rogers and Garry Park were batting for the second wicket were we in the match, but as soon as the skipper and Greg Smith went in the same over it was an uphill task.

There was enouraging bowling from Jake Needham and Chesney Hughes, but our fifth bowler was a problem, with Mark Footitt again expensive in this format and Chris Rogers having to resort to an over from John Sadler to complete the allocation.

Now there's a trip down the M1 to London and the four day game that starts tomorrow against Middlesex. Hopefully Madsen and Peterson are fit enough to play, as there is no doubt we missed them both today.

Yorkshire v Derbyshire CB40

Dan Redfern comes in for Wayne Madsen in today's game at Headingley. Madsen rests a slight injury, presumably ahead of the County Championship match that starts tomorrow at Lords.

I would also expect Mark Footitt to sit out today's game so he is firing on all cylinders for the four day game that takes on additional importance in the light of Middlesex's unexpected win over runaway leaders Sussex yesterday.

Yorkshire's squad for today is:

Andrew Gale
Jacques Rudolph
Adam Lyth
Anthony McGrath
Gerard Brophy
Adil Rashid
Richard Pyrah
David Wainwright
Tino Best
Steve Patterson
Ben Sanderson
Azeem Rafiq
Joe Sayers
Moin Ashraf

This will be a tough game for Derbyshire and a far better benchmark of where we are as a side than Friday's game at Northampton.

Back to the Championship match and it is surprising that the southern county have started so badly, as they have a decent looking squad and have named the following thirteen for tomorrow's game:

Shaun Udal
Gareth Berg
Pedro Collins
Neil Dexter
Steven Finn
Dawid Malan
Tim Murtagh
Scott Newman
Iain O'Brien
Owais Shah
John Simpson
Tom Smith
Andrew Strauss

With England players Strauss, Shah and Finn in the side, we cannot afford to relax and assume that a win is there for the taking, but a victory in this one will keep the pressure on Sussex at the top of the table. If the side keep doing the things that have served them well so far, it should be a close and absorbing contest.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Life in the fast lane

I read an article recently that bemoaned the lack of genuine fast bowlers in the world game today.

It was obviously not written by a batsman.

While Dale Steyn and Shaun Tait are up there as perhaps the quickest on the circuit, the modern game is really not conducive to someone bowling at the speed of light. No matter how fit they are, no one can bowl 90 miles an hour for twelve months a year, which essentially is what they nearly all play now. Added to that, your fast bowler is expected to throw himself around in the field and contribute with the bat. It is a thankless task and an unenviable one. Long gone are the days when an England tourist could look forward to a few weeks of rest and relaxation on board a ship, en route to the Caribbean or Australia. The convenience of modern travel comes at cost for jaded quick bowlers.

It is interesting to read about pacemen through the ages. The Australian "Tibby" Cotter was apparently "frighteningly" quick, while Derbyshire's Arnold Warren was one of the fastest in the years between 1900 and 1914, when, according to Sir Neville Cardus, almost every county had at least one fast bowler.

It is all relative of course. In days when the best fast bowlers came up from the mines of the North and Midlands, when diets were not especially nutritious and when bowlers often refreshed themselves with a pint or two in the lunch interval, was it feasible for them to be faster than today? I'm not so sure and would use an athletics comparator. I recently read that the time recorded by the winner of the first Olympics 100metre final wouldn't have seen them qualify for the semi finals today. Is it possible that, at a time when people couldn't run especially fast, that they could bowl much quicker?

I am not saying that the quick bowlers of the different eras were medium pacers by any means, and all anyone can aspire to be is the quickest of the generation. Anyone who faced Harold Larwood in the late 1920's and early 1930's acknowledged that he was seriously fast, but equipment, certainly protective equipment, was very basic at that time. I remember years ago batting for my school (in the 1970's) wearing a pair of school kit batting gloves, with a wraparound thumb protector and the back of the hand protected by some not especially impressive looking rubber spikes. It struck me that a pair of sheepskin mittens might have afforded similar protection. Even at that level, a hit on the hand was sore, so I wouldn't like to imagine facing Larwood in something similar. Thigh pads were often improvised pre-war - a towel or sometimes even newspaper shoved down the leading thigh, with something similar as a chest guard for those who valued their rib cage against the quicks. The latter was OK if you could afford two towels; otherwise your torso was black from the newsprint if you opted for the newspaper. Better that than black and blue...

To compare pace from different eras is a spurious exercise. McDonald and Gregory were too fast for their opponents in the 1920's, Larwood similarly in the 1930's and Lindwall and Miller in the 1940's. I am now at an age where I look back and say that there is nothing around to compare to the 1970's and 1980's, an era when REAL fast bowlers stalked the earth. Except, perhaps, in England, where we had John Snow and Bob Willis, followed by a wide range of fast medium men. At the same time, Australia had Lillee and Thomson, Pakistan had Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and the West Indians had a never ending supply. Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts, Wayne Daniel, Sylvester Clarke - the list went on and on.

There was no respite from the West Indies fast bowling, apart from a handful of overs when Viv Richards turned his arm over before the second new ball. Anybody who scored runs in that era earned them, especially on the county circuit, when South Africans banned from international cricket added to the "fun". Mike Procter and Garth Le Roux were both very quick and opening batsmen must have endured sleepless nights before facing them. Most county sides had a quick bowler, with Mark Nicholas of Hampshire recording that opposition batsmen often offered to carry Malcolm Marshall's kit bag for him, in the hope that he would go easy on them.

In Derbyshire, of course, we have had few genuinely quick bowlers. Even allowing for Warren being lively for a few overs, most of the others have been somewhere between medium and fast medium. Bill Bestwick, Bill Copson and Les Jackson were all hostile and with whippy or slinging actions got extravagant bounce and movement from a helpful track. Harold Rhodes was awkward and fairly quick in his pomp, while Alan Ward, in 1968 and 1969 was perhaps the fastest bowler in the country and certainly in our history at that time. Sadly, it didn't last, but when Ward was fully fit and firing, there were a few recorded instances of batsmen "giving themselves room" against him.

Later, of course, came Michael Holding and Ian Bishop from the Caribbean, while Devon Malcolm appeared from the Yorkshire Leagues. With Ole Mortensen another awkward customer, Derbyshire at Derby was a fixture that few visiting teams looked forward to, especially when there was often little difference between the wicket and the rest of the square in colour.

Such a bowler would make a huge difference to any county's fortunes today, but any bowler who can tip the speed gun to 85-90mph will be cocooned in a central contract by his national selectors faster than any yorker homed in on a set of toes!