Friday, 30 July 2010

Netherlands v Derbyshire

A good professional performance from Derbyshire today to overhaul the Netherlands decent, but not spectacular total and we ended up winning by seven wickets with overs in hand.

The star turns were Mark Footitt in a rare limited overs game, who took three wickets, while Chesney Hughes and Chris Rogers got the reply onto sound footing with a century opening stand. Hughes was unfortunately run out before the end, but again showed what a fine young talent he is.

The only slight hiccup was when Michael Dighton took a couple of wickets and the ex-Derbyshire player is still a player of some talent. Stories were circulating that Warwickshire were interested in his services and at 35, and with a British passport in his back pocket, someone may yet secure his services for 2011.

Of course, Derbyshire should beat these sort of teams, but there have been plenty of slip-ups over the years and it was nice to see the mission accomplished with a degree of panache.

You can't do more than that.

To be a coach

There was an interesting comment from Charles Collins, in his piece on 606 yesterday that defended John Morris, regarding the role of the coach in first class cricket.

He cited Chris Bassano's comment that at first-class level, players who have worked out their games don't really need all that much in the way of coaching. That follows on from the comments of John Wright, who was asked, when he was coach of the Indian national team, what his role comprised.

"Making sure that I get all the practice balls back," replied Wright in his normal wry style. Both have a point and I would guess, never having played the first-class game, that there's an element of truth in the comments. I wouldn't have thought Wright, good coach and admirable player that he was, could teach Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid how to bat. The role may well have been more of a watching brief, perhaps noting slight flaws that were creeping in, maybe putting an arm around their shoulders in the event of a poor trot.

A good coach can make a difference, as evidenced by Andy Flower with England, but luck comes into it a lot too. I reckon I could have captained or coached the West Indies of the 1970s and 1980s, while the Australians under Steve Waugh needed little work with the great talent that they had. John Buchanan's record with Australia might suggest that he was outstanding, though his time at Middlesex was less impressive. Les Stillman did well at Derbyshire, as he did at Victoria, but there were some good players around at the time, while Mark Robinson has a fine record at Sussex at a time when they've had the likes of Goodwin, Adams, Kirtley and Mushtaq. It helps, you know…

None of us know how the coaching is apportioned at Derbyshire. We have a batting coach in Andy Brown and a bowling coach in Steffan Jones. We also have an Academy coach in Karl Krikken, so I'm not sure what that leaves John Morris to do in terms of coaching, for which he is sometimes criticised. Maybe his role is ensuring that players know what is expected of them on match days. Earlier this season, the Derby Telegraph carried an article in which Morris confirmed that Chris Rogers would have the final call on the make up of the team that took the field, something I'm sure is still the case. I'm equally sure there have been plenty of times when the skipper hasn't had many decisions to make this season, especially in the seam bowling line up.

Denis Smith, Derbyshire's coach of many years from the 1950s to 1970s, was notoriously blunt and hard to please with his charges and explained this by saying it was a hard game and there was no one to hold their hand out in the middle. The bottom line is that you can show people how they should play, but the stroke selection in the middle comes down to the individual.

When I first moved to Scotland I played in the then Scottish Counties league and could barely make a run initially. The professional, a man who had played a handful of county games down south, was an excellent coach and suggested that I play more on the front foot than on the back and that I play straighter to counteract the movement. I worked on it with him and the runs started to come, yet my limitations meant that he didn't turn me into Bradman. The following year an Australian Sheffield Shield star came and scored a hundred almost every time he batted, yet couldn't explain to the rest of us what we needed to do to emulate him. Truth be told, he hadn't a clue what position your feet should be in for an on drive, he just did it instinctively. When he played the shot he got four or six, whereas the rest of us generally holed out at mid on. Any coach is only as good as his players and can only take them so far

Perhaps Morris' greater role is in persuading people to come to the club. While a 606 correspondent last night highlighted a few names (Telo, Clarke, Hayward and Hinds) that had been less successful than might have been hoped, there were mitigating circumstances for all of them. As another pointed out, Hinds was far from outstanding but did a job, while Clarke's failure was a disappointment to everyone. I still recall 606 nearly in meltdown with the positive comments on his signing, yet it didn't work as he couldn't settle in the north. Telo came with a big reputation yet couldn't settle in this country, while Hayward was a gamble after we'd lost Langeveldt. It didn't come off, yet his record suggested it should have done and Morris unfortunately got a player on the slide.

On the plus side, Morris has brought in Madsen. Rogers, Peterson, Park, Hughes, Groenewald, Durston and Langeveldt. They are far ahead, in ability, than those they replaced but we had a long way to go to catch up. Maybe, just maybe, they're in some cases not quite good enough. Perhaps some of them need more time to reach the required consistency, as irrespective of their age some of the above have little first class experience and need to adjust, mentally as much as physically, to the first class game.

As I've said before, Morris will generally be outbid when going for big name players, so we have to accept that ours will be from a lower level in some cases. I would totally support a move for a new coach if there was someone that we could afford who could come and make a difference. I've heard Graeme Welch named as an option, but Welch is under pressure at Edgbaston for the poor results with Ashley Giles. Dougie Brown is also there and another suggestion I have heard is that Welch and Brown come to Derby as a partnership. This carries two issues for me, one being that the track record is hardly inspiring. While Welch is much loved and rightly so, that would only buy him so much time. The other issue is how we afford two people…

No doubt about it, next year is massive for John Morris. His contract ends and he has to theoretically rebuild his team in the winter with limited resources and hope that the new players gel together in time to keep the perenially disenchanted off his back. If Keith Loring can find a sponsor who will put up £200K a year for team improvements he would have no problem. As it is, he has a very difficult job.

As would anyone else.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Dobell does it again

George Dobell is fast becoming one of my favourite cricket writers, with a succession of well-written and informed pieces on the web.

The latest appeared today and can be seen at

The article paints a sorry picture of cricket finances, with development projects outstripping the ability of individual counties to pay for them and make them work. His reference to the "Category C" funding is, to my knowledge, what Derbyshire used, along with their own resources, to fund their recent developments. That's a big difference to taking the money to be "bailed out", however, like some are doing.

For me, the most interesting comment is that "this winter, we'll see some decent players released by clubs that simply can't afford to keep them," while another county "is talking of utilising a clause that is inserted in all contracts but never previously actioned, that entitles them to release any player who has been injured and unavailable for selection for more than thirteen weeks."

Hmm. If things are that bad then we might see a county that balances the books, like Derbyshire, taking advantage of the misfortunes of Test ground counties. It is just ridiculous that such grounds are encouraged to develop with no guarantee of the required fixtures that would underpin them financially. John Morris said recently that the twentieth best player at a club like Surrey might be just what we need and he's right. Last week I read Ronnie Irani's autobiography, where he recounts his frustrations at life at Lancashire, where he got little opportunity. He then went on to a glittering career at Essex and subsequently for England. There might be a few like him on the periphery of the county game, needing just the right environment in which to flourish.

As for the second point, many fans out there would support such a move and could cite players at their club that they would offload accordingly. I suppose that if it is in a contract it could be deemed legitimate, but such action may well see a few lawyers rubbing their hands together. Could a player who turned his ankle and injured ligaments in a foothold then file a claim for negligence? Could one who played when not 100% fit and aggravated a complaint claim he was pressured into doing so? I'm not a lawyer so I don't know, but in this litigation-crazy world I would not be surprised.

In other areas, I was disappointed to read in the press today that Atif Sheikh had been dropped by England Under-19s for being out late with skipper Azeem Rafiq of Yorkshire. The latter then compounded his error by moaning about the coach on his Twitter account, not the brightest of things to do. If you put things in the public domain you can expect someone will read it at some point and Rafiq, a talented player, was naïve to say the least.

As for Sheikh, he needs to learn from the episode and realise that his talents have got him into a position thousands would envy. He still has a long way to go, however and can live without blemishes on his record that may come back to bite in the future.

Finally there's a lengthy and eminently sensible piece on 606 tonight by Charles Collins to which I subscribe 100%. Sadly, I suspect it will fan the flames of the "Morris Out" brigade's fires, with people seemingly looking for someone to lead us to a position of national dominance that quite frankly we have never had.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

T20 roundup

So how was it for you? The T20 quarter-finals, I mean…

Last night saw one serious mis-match, with Somerset thoroughly outclassing Northamptonshire who batted poorly, fielded even worse and with the exception of Jack Brooks, bowled fairly poorly too. Elton Chigumbura's 4-14 at Derby looked like the work of a twin brother as he was hammered last night, but Northamptonshire were very poor and contributed to their downfall with silly run outs. Beating Somerset was always going to be a tall order, but to do so you need to play to potential. Even their skipper, Andrew Hall, looked fairly chastened by it all. Surely we'd have played better than that?

Sadly the reality is that we blew our chance and we'll never know.

Northamptonshire's one consolation is that they seem to have a real find in Jack Brooks, who looks a good bowler on the occasions I've seen him this year. He's got enough pace to be a handful and is accurate enough to cause problems. Seeing him bowl after watching 19-year old James Vince steer Hampshire through the previous night suggests there's talent progressing through English cricket.

It was also evident in the other semi-final, where Chris Wright confirmed my suspicion that he's as good a limited overs bowler as there is at present. His death bowling stopped Lancashire closing in on 200 and Essex did a fine job in chasing the total down after the early loss of Bopara. Considering they were missing Cook, ten Doeschate, Napier and Kaneria from a first choice side they did very well.

The quarter-finals blew a hole in my theory that the north group was the stronger, with only Nottinghamshire progressing to finals day. I still think that they can win it, especially if they're allowed to play their England players. Their first change attack against Sussex was impressive, with Patel and Mullaney doing a fine job, yet they could add Swann and Broad to the mix. Their presence is unlikely though, given England's coming fixtures against Pakistan.

I'd a few e-mails last night agreeing with my suggestion that all counties should be allowed an overseas player and a Kolpak. Some suggested that we should return to two overseas players to address the loss from the county game of its star turns.

One of the great things about county cricket watching in my youth was that you could see the people you'd watched on TV in the flesh. You saw them at their cars, you could get their autographs - if you got lucky you could even have a chat. Sightings of England players at county grounds today are marginally more likely than seeing an aardvark on the outfield and it is little wonder that crowds are dwindling when the star turns aren't there. It's like going to an end of the pier show at the seaside and finding that the two headline turns from television have been replaced by a juggler and an acrobat. Entertaining in its own way, but not likely to result in a full house.

At least seeing a couple of foreign stars might address that imbalance, though the current international calendar might legislate against it being similar big names to my youth.

Speaking of my youth, it is also worth mentioning something that I've noticed in recent weeks, which is the return of the…er…"rounded" cricketer. In recent years the trend has been for cricketers to look like whippets and be trained to the peak of physical condition. Only yesterday, Angus Fraser was bemoaning the fact that Steve Finn had been taken away from Middlesex for six weeks when he was in prime form so that he could "pump iron" and build himself up for…bowling. Since he has returned he has naturally looked rusty, a somewhat logical consequence and vindication for the old-timers who claim that you get fit for bowling by doing just that. Nowadays a bowler's action is broken down by bio-mechanics shortly before the bowler breaks down himself.

It is a far cry to days of yore. From WG Grace onwards, the game has had its share of "big lads" who have been fine players. Colin Milburn, David Shepherd, Fred Swarbrook and Fred Rumsey in my youth looked a long way from athletes but gave excellent service to their counties. Swarbrook's deeds actually produced one of my favourite quips from a fan, after his rounded form landed with a thump as he dived for (and held) a catch for Derbyshire.

"Did the earth move for you?" quoth a man to our right amid the applause, which my Dad and I still think one of the better things we'd heard on the boundary edge.

There are a few big lads around this season, with three on duty in last night's matches. No names, as if you have been watching you have probably noticed yourself, but the people concerned are all very good players. It illustrates two things, the first being that you don't necessarily need to look like an athlete to be a good player. The other is that it allows those of us less svelte than we once were to think we look like first class players when we play.

For that, gentlemen, I salute you.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Random thoughts

Like many of you, I watched the T20 quarter finals last night and for a lot of the time felt that "this could have been us." Doubtless that feeling will be intensified tonight when watching Northamptonshire play Somerset in what should have been "our" tie and Lancashire, a team we defeated twice, play in the other game at Essex.

What has surprised me is the players who are unavailable for this stage, with Dwayne Smith of Sussex absent last night playing for Barbados and Keiron Pollard back in Trinidad and missing for Somerset. It seems somewhat strange that two players who had key roles in getting their counties so far are absent for the business end of the competition, but no more so than the number of counties who seem to be playing the cricket equivalent of tag wrestling with their overseas players, Lancashire being prime culprits in this area. So far this season they've had Ashwell Prince, Simon Katich, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Nathan McCullum and Kumar Sangakkara registered, while being thwarted in signing Shoaib Malik. How many of these guys got to the stage of knowing the names of their team mates is a moot point…

Equally strange was watching Imran Tahir of Warwickshire bowling against the team he played for last season (Hampshire) and will be playing for next year. It highlights the nomadic nature of the overseas star these days, with no real loyalty being offered in either direction. Ashley Giles has made no secret of wanting a top batsman at Edgbastonfor next year, which could be a blow for one or two young players if Jonathan Trott or Ian Bell drop out of the England reckoning and reclaim a county place. Their attack didn't look especially strong last night and neither Rikki Clarke nor Ant Botha turned their arms over. Neil Carter has had another good summer but they cannot expect him to keep producing the goods as he reaches the veteran stage.

The irony of the Memorandum of Understanding, in which counties are expected to play young players or face financial penalties, is that a number of players are being pitched in before they're ready. A former player was bemoaning the fact at the weekend that young bowlers don't really know what they're doing until their mid-twenties and haven't filled out enough to be bowling regularly, while batsmen haven't really worked out their game until that stage. Yet three are supposed to play for every county in every match...

For what it is worth, I think that the standard of county cricket has dropped a little this year and I am not alone in that thought. With sightings of English players a rarity and youngsters who are simply not ready taking places in some sides, the itinerant overseas players flit in and out, often doing little to justify the cost of bringing them in. If I was able to make one change to the regulations it would be that an overseas player with ANY international recognition in the previous five years should be able to come here as either the designated overseas player or as a Kolpak, the latter obviously if the requisite trade links with the country are in place. I would also limit counties to a maximum of one Kolpak.

Notionally, we would then be able to retain Rogers and Peterson for another three years, players who have enhanced the county game with their performances. Other teams could draw on the likes of Van der Wath, Louw and Theron as Kolpaks, good players who would improve the overall standard. Such a move would ensure that sub-standard, passport-of-convenience players who had not represented their country could not be brought in and clubs and fans alike would reap the benefit.

In the words of a very old advert, you know it makes sense


How poor were Northamptonshire tonight? It is hard to believe that they beat us, as they were as bad tonight as we were at the County Ground.

Very disappointing.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Monday musings

It's that time of year again, when players coming to the end of their contracts do one of two things, depending on their age and form.

One is to look at the options and see if there are teams out there who will pay a good - perhaps inflated - rate for your services. The other is to keep your fingers crossed that another offer is tabled at your existing county. Our most recent opponents, Worcestershire, are a case in point, where there are six cricketers at the end of their contracts in September.

Logic suggests that seamer Richard Jones and all-rounder Gareth Andrew would be wanted by the county but they may not lack for suitors elsewhere. Chris Russell and Imran Arif will perhaps be sweating on new offers, although the latter looked useful when he was first discovered in the Yorkshire leagues. Then there's two seasoned professionals in Ben Smith and Matt Mason.

Smith has been a fine servant to the county but at 38 has found form elusive this season. A first class average of just over 40 indicates that the former Leicestershire player can play, but Worcestershire and any potential employer have to work out whether he still has the ability, reactions and eyesight or whether his days in the first-class game are numbered. Back in my youth, Smith was the sort of player courted by Derbyshire, an experienced, solid professional who could score his runs though perhaps not as prolifically as in his prime. Players like Brian Bolus, Clive Inman, Phil Sharpe, John Hampshire and Ron Headley were picked up with varying degrees of success, with the unwritten understanding that the feats of their prime were unlikely.

I would have thought Smith unlikely to be retained, given Worcestershire's impressive young batsmen coming through, while, two years younger, Matt Mason's dual role as bowling coach may see him get another deal. Mason is a good bowler, but has had his share of injuries in recent seasons like many of his kind. That record may legislate against interest from other counties, but the paucity of young seam bowling talent around the circuit and that role in the club may make another year at Worcester a fair investment.

There are also bigger names who will be looking at options in the next few months. Owais Shah, Ryan Sidebottom, Graham Onions and Eoin Morgan will not lack interest in their services, but it was interesting to read Ashley Giles suggesting that Warwickshire may go down the Kolpak route to strengthen next season, citing the role that Dale Benkenstein and Michael di Venuto have played in Durham's success.

I am sure that John Morris will also be looking in this area too, as he faces the prospect of replacing his leading batsman and bowler as things stand. One of them will presumably be replaced by an overseas player, and although an English-qualified "name" would perhaps be Morris' preference, the greater likelihood is that the Kolpak route could be an option for the other.

Perhaps one from Rolof van der Merwe, Paul Harris or Johann Botha might fancy the idea of a county stint, deciding that their opportunities at international level are too sporadic? Maybe Morris might leave the spin options to Greg Smith and Jake Needham and look at bringing in a seamer, perhaps Charl Langeveldt? A great deal will depend on the success in luring players from elsewhere, or spotting somone, like Wes Durston, who is deserving of another opportunity. Gloucestershire came up trumps with Gemaal Hussain this season and he has rewarded them with nearly fifty first class wickets after being rejected at Essex, Nottinghamshire, Sussex and Worcestershire. At 26 he has justified his contract and looks set for a lengthy county career.

Who else is out there?

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 4

Well, in the end 'twas not to be as the pitch that I feared had eased into one of last season's vintage turned out the winner in this game.

A fine knock by Alex Kervezee held us up today, but Derbyshire can take encouragement from an improved performance in which they held the upper hand for most of it.

The players now enjoy a well-earned break before next weekend's trip to the Netherlands.

Back soon!

A Last English Summer - Duncan Hamilton

Here's a book recommendation for you. Duncan Hamilton won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year for his Provided You Don't Kiss Me, an account of his time working with Brian Clough of Nottingham Forest while he was a reporter on the Nottingham Evening Post. He followed that up with several awards for Larwood, a captivating biography of the former Nottinghamshire and England bowler Harold Larwood. I have the book and have read it three times, finding it quite absorbing in its tales of pre-war cricket.

Now Mr Hamilton is back with A Last English Summer, a succession of essays on various aspects of cricket last season from village green to Test matches that is by turn nostalgic and euphoric. He sees the season as a turning point in the history of the game. I pre-ordered the book through Amazon and it does not disappoint in any way.

He has a way with words that few of his contemporaries can match. While I am a fan of Stephen Chalke, David Foot and David Frith, for me Duncan Hamilton is the now the man that others must aspire to. He even namechecks Derbyshire, covering their match against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham in which Greg Smith got a century. One paragraph highlights the author's writing:

In mid-afternoon I saw Smith play one shot that alchemised into pure gold. It was a late cut off Anthony Ireland...he gently cocked his wrists and caressed the ball to the third man boundary. The shot was so late that Smith played it posthumously. When Smith late cuts so stylishly, the fact that he did it in Division Two is immaterial... As the result or the figures of individual performances hazily fade and cease to matter, I'll retain, freeze-framed, the image of Smith's stroke in my mind - a bright little fragment of beauty.

If you love cricket, or more importantly love to read some of the most glorious modern prose I've seen on the game, I would strongly urge you to buy this book. I have only one negative comment, in that the author deserves a far better proof reader. That Daniel "Vittori" and George "Hedley" feature in the first thirty pages or so is disappointing. Yet it does not detract from a book that I can see entering the list of my all-time favourites by the time I have finished it.

Mr Hamilton should start looking out his suits for those awards dinners...

Houghton v Morris

The recent post on 606 that suggested things were better under Dave Houghton set me thinking. Was I wrong? I didn't remember the Houghton era especially favourably, so I had a look back at the statistics of the Championship and T20 under the Zimbabwean and John Morris.


2004 W1 L6 D9

2005 W1 L8 D7

2006 W4 L4 D8

2007 W1 L3 D2

Houghton left on July 7 2007 with a record of W7 L21 D26


2004 W2 L2

2005 W4 L4

2006 W2 L5

2007 W0 L4

Houghton left with a record of W8 L15

John Morris came in on August 21 2007, since when his record in the Championship is

2007 W0 L2 D1

2008 W4 L9 D5

2009 W2 L3 D11

2010 W2 L5 D2

In the T20 his record is:

2008 W3 L7

2009 W3 L7

2010 W6 L8

In total the results are


Houghton P54 W7 L21 D26

Morris P44 W8 L18 D18


Houghton W8 L15

Morris W12 L22

I'll be the first to say that neither record is spectacular, but Morris has made Derbyshire a harder side to beat in the Championship and overall his record is better. There's room for improvement for sure, but you can't argue with the facts.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 3

That was a good day's cricket from Derbyshire today, taking their overnight total to 405 and a lead of 126 , before removing three good wickets for 70 before the close.

There was consistent batting down the order, with Greg Smith making a welcome return to form with 91 and good support from Redfern, Peterson, Goddard and Jones.

Four hundred is always a good score but Derbyshire will have to work hard to take the points on the last day. The way our later order batted suggested there was little wrong with the pitch, but Mark Footitt's removal of Vikram Solanki and Robin Peterson's last ball dismissal of Moeen Ali may be crucial. Much now rests on Shakib for the visitors and the first hour tomorrow will be vitally important.

In the first innings he went after Robin Peterson, but Peterson could be up for the challenge to maintain his position as Division Two's leading wicket-taker. Only Adil Rashid and Imran Tahir have more wickets this season, not bad for a player rated as only one point in Daily Telegraph Fantasy Cricket this year. I've had my money's worth from him, that's for sure. A batting average of 25 and bowling one of 26 for all those wickets confirms a fine player and no one can dispute Peterson's contribution to the side.

Will we win tomorrow? I don't know, quite honestly as we've been here a few times before. There's plenty of time left in the game, but we'll hope for early inroads as we will doubtless have some sort of run chase if we are to do so.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Final words on 606

I promise that this will be my last comment on 606 for the time being because it's getting boring, but when I'm name-checked by someone I guess I need to reply.

"Not over yet" on the site expresses disappointment in our lack of progress under John Morris and then says:

"Even the determinedly glass half full Peakfan (by the way, it was "Who can.." not "Who will...") was reduced to playing at picking next year's team, a sure sign that hope and optimism is draining even from the most persistent optimists, and particularly when there were 3 asterisks, revealing gaps that we know we can't fill."

Hmm…we're getting into pedantics here, over my calling his piece "Who will replace John Morris" instead of "Who can replace John Morris?" Since we are, I'd point out that there were two crosses…

I've said before that I am unashamedly positive about Derbyshire cricket and life, but still think there's reason to be, ground I've already covered. Looking at other posts, plenty of other people are too. I simply inserted an idea of next year's side to highlight a point that more rebuilding will be necessary, rather than as an indicator of withering optimism.

To say those "asterisks" revealed "gaps we know we can't fill" is incorrect too. They simply highlight places where we need to bring in players. They may be filled by Footitt, or Sheikh or one of a number of players who will be available in the close season. If one assumes that Rogers, Peterson and Wagg won't be back, presumably there would be money in the playing budget. Unless we pay off John Morris as some suggest of course, as you can't have it both ways.

On the face of the T20 fixtures between the two sides, there wasn't much between Derbyshire and Warwickshire, yet Ashley Giles is today talking about spending big to bring in some "names" this winter. The Birmingham side look certainties to be relegated in the Championship after a nightmare season, so it remains to be seen how many players can be persuaded to play at a lower level, even by an England selector. I'm sure John Morris would welcome such luxury though...

There was an excellent point made by King Sinbad on IMWT about Graham Wagg, in which he highlighted the player's statistics. A batting average of 25 and bowling one of 31 in four day cricket and respective ones of 15 and 32 in limited overs games isn't an argument for breaking the bank. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Wagg and would like him to stay at Derby, but those statistics don't back up a claim for a big pay rise. King Sinbad mentions a figure of £100K, but I don't know if that is accurate.

Either way, there's only so far that a relatively small cricket budget will go. As fans, we have to accept that players will move on at some point once those counties with the bigger budgets make overtures to them. Thus our side will always be in evolution, which is why I think calls to bring in someone else are pointless.

I can't think of anyone who could come in and sign big name players with money we haven't got, while retaining the better ones that we have on massive contracts we cannot afford. Nor could I see anyone who over one winter will turn Borrington, Redfern and Hughes into players who will score well over a thousand runs, or make Footitt and Sheikh the new Larwood and Voce.

A lot of people within cricket regard David Houghton as an excellent coach, especially of batsmen, yet few were happy with his tenure at Derbyshire. I've heard several names that notionally might come in and some would be popular with the fans. Yet none of them would make change or progress a cast-iron certainty.

If you can name someone who will, I'll join the campaign straight away.

But not until.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 2

Another frustrating day for Derbyshire today. Having lost the early wickets of Chris Rogers and Garry Park, the recovery was well underway thanks to Wayne Madsen and Chesney Hughes when the rains came on again and play was effectively over for a session.

Matt Mason and Alan Richardson are both wily old campaigners and were always going to prove difficult in these conditions, but Derbyshire need to get past Worcestershire's first innings score to give themselves a chance of a win. Moving up the table is the goal for the second half of the season and with more play like we've seen on the first two days it is a distinct possibility.

When play resumed after the loss of a session, Hughes and Madsen again did well before both were removed quite quickly. It was then down to Smith and Redfern to continue the recovery as we closed 96 runs behind on 183-4.

If the weather stays out of this the game is winnable, though the batting of Solanki and Shakib in their second innings will again determine the direction of the game. Solanki has been a regular thorn in our side over the years but we need to bat long tomorrow - ideally till tea time or afterwards - to put pressure on the visitors on the final day.

Fair play important

One of Derbyshire's old boys is in the news today, with Luke Sutton rounding on his critics at Lancashire after a century yesterday against Durham. A number of the Red Rose county's fans on 606 (there's a surprise) would prefer Gareth Cross behind the stumps and have made fairly pointed comments about Sutton. Peter Moores normally plays him in the four-day game and Cross in one-day cricket and he is lucky to have two such competent players. More to the point, he is lucky that one of them doesn't want to move, as either would be capable of a full-time slot elsewhere.

Sutton was a good player for Derbyshire and I always thought him one of the best I'd seen at running between the wickets, together with Dean Jones. I'd have to say that they have both been usurped by Garry Park, who is astonishingly quick. I would reckon that Park, with no disrespect intended to anyone, could outsprint most players on the staff wearing pads, even if they were free of protective gear. His running against Gloucestershire was extraordinary - maybe next year we should sign Usain Bolt for the T20 to partner him..

Jones combined superb placement with speed and so often turned ones into twos, but Sutton was no slouch in his prime. Both highlighted the fact that you didn't need to be hitting fours and sixes all the time to keep a scoreboard moving and Jones remains the single best pacer of an innings I have seen, just ahead of Michael Bevan at his best.

At 33 Luke Sutton has plenty of time on his side, but his irritation is indicative of a nasty side of "support" that all too often crosses the line between fair and abusive, often verging on litigation-worthy. On this blog I will say what I think, as there's no point doing it otherwise, but I always bear in mind that players and relatives of them will read it from time to time. I know they do as I've had e mails on occasion and I try to put myself in their shoes and think of how I would feel if I read something about me, or perhaps my son. Criticism, one player told me, goes with the territory and if it is justified then no one has any complaints.

I can't and won't write that Derbyshire did well if they didn't, or that so-and-so did well if they had a nightmare, but I will draw short of character assassination and insinuations of "not trying" or "don't care."

A lot of the stuff on 606 (thankfully to a lesser extent on IMWT) borders on libel, with a regular contributor on Northamptonshire's site sailing very close to the wind. How the moderators allow a comment on resigning county captains being linked to match fixing is beyond me, but presumably (and wrongly) the perpetrators assume they are anonymous at their PC. Similarly comments about a local footballer and the wife of an England player made it on to the boards. Last night saw "Who will replace John Morris?" which surprised me, as I didn't know he'd gone anywhere. Complete and utter nonsense, but change the page and replace John Morris with Nigel Clough and you get more of the same.

Contributors should realise that players are not failing on purpose, they do care and there are, will be and always have been times when their best simply isn't good enough. Some days they will come up against individuals in prime form, on others they will be in the ascendancy. I'm sure you'll recognise that from your own job, when there's days you think you can tackle anything thrown at you and others when you could just do with a quiet time. But just imagine how you'd feel to open your staff newsletter and read conjecture about who will be taking your place because you're not very good...

John Morris has got a good set of players together, but some days their collective best may not be good enough. Sometimes their inexperience will cost them, on others luck will go against them and there will be times when, no matter how hard they try, they will be outplayed.

Try and remember that the next time you post. Whatever else, they're still our lads.

Finally, credit to Mark Footitt, who I didn't mention last night, for a sustained spell of accurate bowling yesterday. Tim Groenewald credits him in today's Derby Telegraph and it is good to see him bowling better lines with sustained hostility. At 24 he has years of cricket in him and I think he's done fairly well this year, certainly maintaining fitness better than in the past. If he can lock that radar in place he will be a very good asset to us and perhaps form, with Atif Sheikh, a pretty lively new ball pairing for the future.

Footitt, Groenewald and Sheikh. Next year's attack, anyone?

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Derbyshire v Worcestershire

All things considered that was a pretty good day's work by Derbyshire, especially after being in danger of turning into pumpkins after the late finish last night...

Derby this year has averaged out at around 250-300, which for me is a decent cricket wicket. There were more wickets for Tim Groenewald and after early stick from Shakib, who put the visitors back in the game, Robin Peterson took another two wickets, giving him 42 so far this season.

It was good to see Greg Smith and Mark Footitt bowling with control too and that we got through the day without any obvious injuries in the current situation. Wes Durston missed out from last night's niggle, so there was a welcome return to the lineup for Dan Redfern. I'd love to see Redders get a score in this game, as he's had a difficult season, but I still have confidence he will be back to his normal self next summer.

At the end of the day there was a solid stand between Rogers and Madsen and Derbyshire closed on 43-0, 236 behind. The skipper needs just 44 more runs tomorrow to reach his thousand for the season yet again and has a lot of time remaining to take his aggregate to new heights. All this on a day when his country were skittled for 88 at Headingley by Pakistan.

C'mon Australia, you need Buck Rogers. You know it makes sense...

Tracks of my tears

There were a few comments on Sky last night with regard to the wicket at the County Ground. It looked a little patchy, although it seemed to play OK once a batsman got in.

With the square having been turned around, this was always going to be a difficult year for the groundstaff. Last season it was little short of a batting paradise and players from all sides enjoyed the fact that they could play their shots. Although there was a little early help for bowlers, the wickets got easier as games progressed and bowling out sides a second time became increasingly problematic when we got to the later summer months.

This year has been different and a few players have found their batting averages plummeting. The bounce has been variable at times and the wickets quite slow, making them difficult, though far from impossible to bat on. This has meant that results have always been likely in the Championship, while one day games have not seen the expansive stroke play that fans might have hoped for. Certainly they will have been a long way from what Loots Bosman had expected, while Wes Durston, brought up on the flat track at Taunton, wore a bemused look on occasion last night as the ball wasn't there for certain shots.

Such wickets have made our bowling injuries all the more keenly felt, as a full strength side might have taken better advantage. It also makes Chris Rogers current sub-70 average all the more remarkable, as he has needed to work for them this year. A greater difference from the WACA in Perth where he played a lot of his cricket would be hard to find…

No doubt they will bed down over the winter months, but the fact remains that a good track for successful four-day cricket generally produces results, while a good one for one day games allows for extravagant strokes to attract and entertain the crowds. The trick is to be able to offer both, but I'd be surprised if that was feasible. No doubt there will be post-season discussions about the way forward between Messrs Morris and Godrich

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire FP40

Despite the defeat at the end of it all, there was much to admire in Derbyshire's performance last night against Gloucestershire. Though quite why the umpires allowed a new batsman to walk out in pouring rain is beyond me, even more strange than how we end up finishing late in the evening before a game the following morning. Things could only have been worse had we to travel to Worcester to play it…

I could understand John Morris' frustration when he and his groundstaff are trying to protect a wicket to win one game while also protecting the one for today's fixture that must have got some rain on it. It was one of those evenings and a shame for those involved in the festival, who would have prayed for good weather.

I thought Derbyshire batted well last night, despite early difficulties. Rogers and Durston batted sensibly before the skipper got out to the worst shot I've ever seen him play, while Durston looked to have hurt himself in taking a sharp single and was out soon afterwards. Madsen looked a class apart on the day and his hockey background was obvious in the way that he plays the reverse sweep. I think he would actually score even more heavily in the middle order than as opener, but it depends on where our greater need lies. He is a fine player of spin, that much was obvious, and the only irksome part of his innings was how the commentators consistently referred to him as "Madsten" and the team as "Derby." Last time I looked we were a county, not city side, though maybe they're paving the way for a franchise…

I also thought Garry Park had a fine game. His impish improvisation with the bat was a delight, while his fielding is always a pleasure to see. His bowling looked good last night too and Park has much to offer the side. The biggest surprise was when he dropped a caught and bowled, seemingly thinking it was coming back at him faster than it did.

In the field we also acquitted ourselves well. Jones always gives good value, while Groenewald looks better every time I see him. I was also pleased to see that Jake Needham has his "loop" back and he looked a bowler of talent again. He extracted considerable turn at times and bowled good lines and length. He also fielded very well and we really need Jake to develop in the next few years. Again it was frustrating to listen to commentators bemoaning our "selection" of spinners for the game, oblivious to the fact that we only have three fit ones now Langeveldt has returned to South Africa and Atif Sheikh is with England Under-19s.

There were only two downsides for me, one being that Greg Smith looked low in confidence with bat and ball. He struggled to time it on a variable surface then bowled some poor stuff for once, leaking runs at crucial times. Meanwhile Lee Goddard gave one of the sloppiest wicket keeping performances I've seen in some time and struggled to take the ball at all cleanly. A missed stumping was a low point, but Goddard seemed to be standing up to quickly, with the ball often hitting his fingertips. Maybe the variable bounce was a factor, but he will need to improve on that performance in the coming weeks. I rate him as a player, as regular readers will know, but he was well below par last night.

Comedy high point? Steffan Jones' bat, which looked like someone had attached a handle to a door. I like the way that a smile is rarely far from Steffan's face, yet he plays the game with an intensity and commitment that few can match. Long may he continue to entertain us all and be a part of the Derbyshire scene. With another ten like him, we could take on anyone.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Morris has plenty to do

There's a well thought out reply to my Graeme Wagg post last night from Master Villain, a regular and appreciated contributor to this blog.

He makes a few comments on our bowling attack for next season (or potential lack of one) and also addresses the question of overseas player, should Chris Rogers be unable to return. There's little doubt that John Morris will have a lot of work to do this winter as he addresses the potential loss of Graham Wagg, Chris Rogers and Robin Peterson. If you take the best batsman and bowler out of any team, as well as the star all-rounder for the past few seasons, it leaves a lot of work to do in bringing that side back up to standard.

As I've written before, I think John Morris may wait as long as possible before looking to replace Rogers, as available players of his calibre are few and far between. He will hope, like we all do, for an Ashes recall for the skipper. I had entertained ideas, like Master Villain, that someone like Phil Hughes could be lured for a season in England that might attract the attention of the Australian selectors. Alternatively, an all-rounder like James Hopes would have been worthwhile, or perhaps even Marcus North for another stint, giving us a batsman of ability as well as a much-improved spinner.

The reality of the international cricket calendar is that next summer Australia host Zimbabwe in June and July, followed by a trip to Sri Lanka in August and September. That would, on the face of it, rule out most Australians of note and with the regulations as they stand, there would be no possibility of bringing over a young tyro keen to make a reputation, as he wouldn't get a work visa without international experience. So it is unlikely that you'd see the equivalent of a Greg Chappell, Andrew Symonds, Adam Voges or Michael/David Hussey, all of who made their name and honed their game over here on the county circuit.

As it stands at present, the only countries with no international commitments during the 2011 season after the World Cup in April are South Africa and New Zealand. It is unlikely that Cricket South Africa would want their big names burned out on the county circuit, while the bigger names in New Zealand would likewise be wrapped in cotton wool. I'm not sure where that leaves John Morris, to be perfectly honest, but I hope it highlights the fact that team building is a long way removed from a cricket simulation on the computer...

Given his recent stress fracture of the back, I would be surprised if Friedel de Wet was encouraged to undertake a county stint, though I'd agree with Master Villain that he would probably take wickets here. So too would Juan Theron, who has an excellent first class record but sadly wouldn't get a visa without international experience.

To be honest, if we can't have Buck I'd prefer an all-rounder who bats in the middle order, though don't ask me who. North or Hopes would have been my choice, but that appears unlikely if they remain in the international frame. For one thing, such a player would give us balance and for another I would like to see Paul Borrington given a chance to open. I'm sure the jury is out on Bozza at present, but he has seldom had an opportunity to take his preferred place in the order. As one of our brighter prospects, we need to see if he can cut it at county level and give him the best opportunity to do so. If he fails to take it that is one of those things, but there's a big difference in opening and batting at three, four or five.

Even at club level you see it. If I had a fiver for every time I've asked someone if they'd like to open and they've said no thanks, I'd be typing this at my Caribbean beach retreat right now. It is a specialist job and I think we should give an extended trial to a young player who could make a fist of it.

For what it is worth, my first choice Derbyshire side for next season at present would read something like:


Of course, much will depend on winter recruitment and the above is a very young and inexperienced side. With such an eleven would come inconsistency and periodic struggles, but some may step forward and take on additional responsibility. I would also hope that fans might see the bigger picture and be supportive of an important transitional phase in the county's development. Think of your own work if it helps. Take out the person who runs the IT service and the one who leads on development, together with your most experienced and reliable employee and it will give you an idea of the challenge facing Morris this winter. Anyone expecting a trophy next summer might as well stock up on the vitriol now, as there's only Smith in that side has more than fifty first-class matches under his belt...

If Morris loses the big names, one would assume he would have a reasonable amount of money for improvements. I suspect a busy winter ahead which might change a few things. Naturally I'll keep you updated here on the blog!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Monday musings

You know that old adage - "better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"?

It's fairly apposite, if tweaked, for Derbyshire fans as we reflect on the end of the T20 campaign. Would we all have felt better if we'd stumbled through the campaign and never threatened qualification? Or is it all the worse because we were so near and yet so far? There's been a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth going on around the boards, people threatening to tear up membership cards and to never go again, but if you're a fan you can't turn loyalty on and off like a light switch. Perhaps you can if you're a casual observer, but as a fan you take the beatings, get up and prepare for what happens next, good or bad.

It happens. There seems to be a feeling abroad that we should expect better of Derbyshire and of course we always strive to be as good as possible, but the reality is that in cricketing terms we are the same as lots of teams in sport. We get our occasional spells in the limelight, which are perhaps all the more enjoyable because they don't happen all that often. You don't get blasé with success if you follow Derbyshire cricket fortunes...

I can remember several periods in our history that were considerably darker than the present one, while my Dad has watched the county since 1946 and has seen some very poor teams in the colours. We've had our good players and decent sides, but the reality is that in our 140th year we can reflect on FOUR trophies, a fact that confirms we've never been among the giants of the game. For much of that time, until the 1960s, there was only one trophy to play for and that usually went to Yorkshire or Surrey. From the the 1930s to 1950s we were a decent team that threatened on a few occasions, but we never took the ultimate prize, apart from that one golden year in 1936.

The inescapable fact remains that since Dean Jones and Les Stillman left the county and before John Morris we were in decline on the field. Off it we have done wonders latterly, but without pots of money it is impossible to turn a team around quickly. This week has seen comments that we were a better team under Dave Houghton, but were Stubbings and Birch better than Rogers and Madsen? Was Hasan Adnan better than Garry Park? Was Ant Botha better than Robin Peterson? Some might argue that had Houghton remained his nephew, Garry Ballance might still be at Derbyshire, but I disagree. Yorkshire made him an offer he couldn't refuse (thankfully, there were no horse's heads involved) and he would have moved anyway. Houghton decided that Travis Birt was a better option than Michael di Venuto, a decision that John Morris could only match if he preferred Loots Bosman over Chris Rogers for a full season.

Yes, John Morris has changed personnel, but I'll bet in some cases it was because they were better than we had, which is fair enough, rather than perhaps a player he really wanted. Top players command top salaries and we simply cannot compete in that market. Those lacking opportunities elsewhere, or who have fallen under the radar of others are our target and Morris has done well with these on the whole, with few real failures.

Calls to sack him are silly. I'll be the first to admit that next season, the last on his current contract, is a big one for the Head of Cricket, but this is a long way from a nightmare season. We cannot afford to pay him off anyway and I cannot think of anyone off the top of my head who I would guarantee to do a better job. We need stability at Derbyshire and by the end of next season Morris will have had four years. Other people will then decide, based on results next season, whether he continues to be the man for the job or there is someone better out there. Presumably what we're looking for is a billionaire with top coaching credentials who wants to plough his fortune into a first class county...

Bear in mind that we finished mid-table in a very strong group, above Durham AND Yorkshire. We beat Lancashire TWICE for the first time and ran Warwickshire very close in both matches. They both qualified, as did Northamptonshire, who we beat at Northampton. We were a long way from disgraced, but need to improve our consistency, as we lost badly at Worcester to a poor side and collectively froze on the big occasion on Friday. Meanwhile Leicestershire beat us at Chesterfield thanks to one of those innings from Jefferson where it all went right. By any standards we were a long way from being disgraced, but a smattering of sub-standard performances cost us dearly.

Part of the problem was the shortage of players. You could effectively name eight or nine of the team every time, yet the intensity of such matches is that Groenewald and Jones, who both did a fine job, could have done with a breather. I'm staggered by the amount of cricket that Jones has played this season, but he's had to play because there was simply no one else. He is a fine, committed player but we need to find others for next season to allow him a rest and the chance to coach more. Mind you, with Wagg, Clare, Lungley and Hunter injured, there's not many around to coach…

For me, Jones would be a better bet taking John Sadler's role in the Second XI, as skipper, mentor and coach. Youngsters couldn't wish for a better role model and we could really do with some of these young bowlers coming through. He would still, like Sadler currently, be available for one-day games. Much will depend on how much life is left in those legs, but time marches on for all of us. Sads is a nice guy and chipped in well in the T20, but perhaps we need to revamp things a little and find someone who plays more than a cameo role given our meagre means.

Between now and the end of the season we must improve our standing in the Pro 40 and the Championship. For what it is worth, I think our T20 position was about right, as before it started I thought Lancashire, Yorkshire, Durham and Nottinghamshire would finish above us. It was a different four, but I wasn't too far away with the position. In the Championship, we're better than our current placing suggests and can move up the table, while in the Pro 40 we need to show we can play one-day cricket again.

If nothing else, I hope that the remainder of the season allows us to finish on a high, rather than be victims of the depression that overtook Derbyshire fans yesterday.

I'll settle for that right now, wouldn't you?

Graham Wagg

There is a lot of nonsense in the air with regard to Graham Wagg today, with BBC Wales staff hopefully about to be kicked up the backside for breaking a press embargo and essentially getting their facts wrong.

You can see the full story here County Cricket Club Statement

It does little credit to BBC Wales that they broke this embargo and even less that they managed, in so doing, to so skew the story that it read the opposite of what was intended.

For that matter, who actually believed that John Morris wouldn't be doing his utmost to keep him at the club? We're not so flush for cricketers of quality that we could turn away one of Wagg's ability. When I first read it, my conclusions were that he was either asking for silly money that we didn't have (in which case he turned down an offer) or that he was only not being offered one because his achilles tendon injury was career-threatening, like the one that ended Graeme Welch's playing days.

I have no issue with Graham Wagg doing the best for himself and his young family and if he decides that his future lies away from Derby then so be it. He has been a fine player for us, though I'd fall short of calling him a "legend" that is being written in some quarters. My "legends" need to do a little bit more than 180 wickets for the club. On that basis can I call Freddie Swarbrook (400 wickets-plus) a minor deity?

My guess is that Wagg will go, which is a shame, but life will go on. While I would love him to stay, no one man is bigger than the club, as Kim Barnett, Dominic Cork and a few others found out. Yes, we missed them as we'll probably miss Wagg, but someone else would then get an opportunity and who knows, may do even better. I am surprised that he looks set for Glamorgan though, hardly the first place national selectors look. I was surprised when Jim Allenby moved there, despite good offers from a couple of counties, so can only assume that someone is bankrolling them and offering daft money.

Looking at their record this season, which is little better than ours, it's not working, is it?

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Derbyshire v Yorkshire

So a T20 campaign that burst into life with a display of brilliance at Headingley fizzled out like a damp squib at Derby this afternoon against the same opposition.

Actually, it wasn't as the team we hammered at the start of the competition was much stronger than the one to which we lost today and that is the inherent frustration in supporting Derbyshire. When we least expect it we can be a match for anyone, then, having done all the hard work, end up little further forward.

Today we were missing Loots Bosman ("flown home" was what I heard, though I don't know why) and the batting, with the exception of Wes Durston never really got going. For what it is worth, we got what I expected with Bosman, a bloke who can hit a ball a long way given the width to do so, but who struggled to score regularly when he was cramped for room. Word soon got around about him and he never really threatened to match his Headingley brilliance afterwards. There were twenties and thirties, but insufficient innings of substance to make a real difference. Having said that, he still did better than the other big gun Dave Warner at Middlesex, who didn't make any score higher than 43 in 13 innings and must have been a major disappointment.

With five bowlers under eight an over we improved on that front, with Langeveldt again the most economical, just pipping Robin Peterson. There were consistent performances from Tim Groenewald too, though Wes Durston was, for me, under-utilised.

The main problem is still that we struggle to bat and bowl well in the same game. Several losses came after the batting had struggled and there's an element of irony in that last year we got the batting pretty much right and this year the bowling improved. Maybe next year we'll get them both right...

I don't understand why Jon Clare was selected ahead of Dan Redfern as a batsman though. Clare the all rounder is a fine player, but he's not in Redfern's league as a batter. We also missed John Sadler latterly in the middle order and Greg Smith struggled with the bat, a highest score of 38 telling its own tale.

For me though, the competition was way too long. Irrespective of the fact that it let us see Bosman and Langeveldt, it lasted longer than some people's marriage and there is little wonder that crowds stopped attending. The weather was rarely conducive to cricket watching and there were too many "nothing" games. Derbyshire's best chance of beating a big team is in a one off match and at present we're likely to be found out over a longer haul.

My verdict? We're improving and there were some good performances, but we still have a long way to go and fans will have to wait for some time before we're genuinely able to mix it with the better sides on a regular basis.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Derbyshire v Yorkshire


And again....

Right, after the widespread anger and disappointment over Derbyshire's "performance" last night, it is back to business tomorrow. We need to beat Yorkshire at Derby, while Durham do us a favour and beat Northamptonshire at the Riverside.

The best bet on last night's form is for a Durham win and then for us all to hope it buckets down at the County Ground so we get a point for the draw. Pessimistic maybe, but they'll have to up the performance considerably to beat even a Yorkshire side that are not especially good themselves. The collapse of our middle order last night was reminiscent of so many bad Derbyshire sides of the past, dropping like a pack of cards.

For me, there needs to be a little rethink before tomorrow as Greg Smith is not in the greatest of touch at three. He's a good player and I respect the way that he likes to lead from the front, but sometimes it is what is best for the team. I would prefer to see Chesney Hughes back in the side with Smith dropping to number four. We need to pick a side to win a game, so my side would be


I also think that Steffan Jones could be punted up the order if we need quick runs. Irrespective of what it says about batsmen, he is both top of the averages and has the best strike rate in the side. His cameo last night, which marginally improved both Derbyshire's total and net run rate, could yet prove crucial as at present ours is still ahead of Northamptonshire.

No news of the other sides playing tomorrow. I expect Yorkshire to bring a decent side, but I just hope that our campaign doesn't end on another downer.

We'll see.

One final point. Someone on IMWT today says that we had a stronger team under Dave Houghton. Eh? I know things are gloomy after last night, but they're nowhere near THAT bad.

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire

Regular readers will know that I am a fairly positive sort of guy and will generally see the good side of most things. I still see signs of progress at Derbyshire, even though they still lose games that frustratingly should be there for the taking.

Yet the only thing I can say about tonight is that it was shocking.

There is no defence for an abject performance in which we barely turned up. I can handle losing, but while the fielding was only average and the bowling steady, the batting tonight was abysmal. Northamptonshire have an OK attack (Brooks is a good prospect) but we batted like novices. No concept of the partnership building by which John Morris puts great store, no rotation of the strike to keep the scoreboard moving. At five overs in our innings I told my family we'd lost the game. They were slightly more interested than the Derbyshire batsmen appeared to be.

So we now need to beat Yorkshire on Sunday and hope that Northamptonshire lose at Durham. If we're going to play like that again, I suggest we phone Yorkshire tomorrow, award them the points and save them the journey.

When I think back to earlier games, such as Yorkshire at Headingley, the away game at Northampton and the two wins over Lancashire, it only heightens the feeling of disappointment felt by fans tonight. We looked good in these games and played professional, thoughtful and committed cricket.

That run chase tonight was like my club side on an especially bad day.

With that, I head for bed.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Tonight's the night

There was considerable comment around the boards last night about the poor performances by both Lancashire, against Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire against Leicestershire. I was as disappointed as anyone with the Red Rose county's display at Wantage Road and the team selection seemed a little odd. Lancashire fans seem bemused at the absence of Kyle Hogg, a good all round cricketer who has rarely featured this season. Fans seem to think that he's fit, but just not being selected, although a number of ours thought the same about Jon Clare. If Hogg is likely to be surplus to requirements at Old Trafford I'd love to see him at Derbyshire as he's a good all-round cricketer. Quite why Powell was playing instead of Kerrigan was another surprise, though maybe Peter Moores wanted him to have a rest before the quarter finals.

Andrew McDonald reaffirmed his all round credentials at Trent Bridge as a lack lustre home side went down to their local rivals, giving Leicestershire a lifeline for the time being. I said pre-season that McDonald would prove a good signing and he has done very well. Indeed, had he been available for the whole season they may well have been up there themselves.

All of which brings us to tonight. The bottom line is that if we're not good enough to beat an average Northamptonshire side and a Yorkshire one that, sans McGrath the other night looked very short on batting, we don't deserve to go through. There are some good players in this Derbyshire side and good players prove that on big occasions. In the context of Derbyshire cricket, tonight's game and perhaps the one on Sunday are massive, so we're looking for a few people to rise to the occasion and do their stuff.

If they do, we'll win.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Getting close now...

Last night, for an hour or so I was a Warwickshire fan, silently pleased at every dot ball and euphoric at every Yorkshire wicket. Tonight, for around three hours I will be a Lancashire fan, hoping that they beat Northamptonshire, thereby ensuring that one win from our remaining two games is enough for us to progress to the quarter finals.

It will be, as long as it comes against Northamptonshire of course, though if they beat Lancashire and then us they could leapfrog us by winning their final fixture against Durham. It will all be much simpler if we win on Friday, so I'll get my daughter to sit with her lucky gorilla (don't ask) on her knee and all will be well...

As I've written before, this has been a good T20 campaign by Derbyshire. There has been a little sub-standard cricket, but much less than in previous years and we've seen two years of sustained improvement. We beat Lancashire, who have finished above us, twice and should have beaten Warwickshire at Edgbaston having run them close at Derby. Nottinghamshire beat us, but we weren't embarrassed, which is why I have no fears about the next stage should we get there.

Reading IMWT, most fans fancy a game at Taunton against Somerset, where Messrs Durston and Jones would have points to prove. With Trescothick, Kieswetter and Pollard in the opposition it would test our bowlers, but assuming we were at full strength I would certainly not be as afraid of the fixture as I might have been in previous years. We would need to be at our best to win though, that's for sure.

Still, one thing at a time and first we need to win on Friday, or hope that another blanket of rain wipes out the programme this weekend, in which case we're home, if not dry. It is good to see the fans so upbeat after the disappointments of the Championship campaign. The reality is, of course, that we simply don't have a large enough staff to cope with the injuries we've had this year, so to fight battles on two or three fronts would be unrealistic. If you took two high quality cricketers like Graham Wagg and Jon Clare out of any side in the country they would struggle, but injuries to most of the seamers have made selecting a balanced side very difficult.

John Morris has said that the Derbyshire side is one in constant evolution and he will have a huge job this winter. If the regulations don't change, how does he replace Chris Rogers and Robin Peterson? If Graham Wagg is leaving, who can replace him? How can he reduce the age and improve the fitness of his seam bowling ranks? Are any of the youngsters, Chesney Hughes apart, ready for a regular berth in the side? Is there anything can be done to accelerate their development?

If we lose both matches at the weekend I will still consider this a season of progress, but the final proof of that will be missing. If we go through and lost at the next stage, so be it, but we've never been there before so I could handle that. Between now and the end of the season there is a lot of cricket to be played and there will be opportunities for players to stake a claim in next season's side. It is likely to show several changes to this year and time alone will tell if it is for the better.

It won't be for the want of trying though.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


I love that Rikki Clarke and Ant Botha...

Warwickshire's win over Yorkshire tonight means that Derbyshire can qualify for the quarter finals if they beat Northamptonshire at the County Ground on Friday. If they don't they'll have a second chance on Sunday when they entertain the White Rose county.

It is a scenario that we daren't have hoped for before play this evening, so it's now down to the boys to do the business when it matters.

Game on! C'mon lads...


Or maybe not...

Durham were set for a decent score tonight, at 110-2 in 13 when the rain came. They would perhaps have ended with a similar score to us at the County Ground, yet on winning the toss we'd done the obvious thing and bowled first. When there's rain about it is the only thing to do, especially in these games.

Had we got back out, the likelihood is that we'd have been chasing around 50 in six overs with ten wickets in hand, a score I am sure our boys would have fancied. Strangely, it was a reversal of the scenario at the County Ground, so I suppose at the end of it all we've ended up with honours even.

It is a good point for us though and one thateffectively ends Durham's hopes of progress. All eyes now switch to Edgbaston, where we could really do with Warwickshire beating Yorkshire. If they do, we can guarantee qualification with a win over Northamptonshire on Friday night.

I've never rooted for Rikki Clarke and Ant Botha more than I am right now...

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Don't stop believing - Durham v Derbyshire preview

The legendary Derby County manager Brian Clough used to place great emphasis on a strong "spine" to his teams. With a good goalkeeper, centre half, central midfield and centre forward, Clough reckoned you could develop a side that would prove effective. Thus the Derby County side that won the league had Boulton, McFarland, Gemmill and O'Hare, while his Nottingham Forest side that conquered Europe had Shilton, Burns, Gemmill and Birtles.

In a similar way, John Morris has changed Derbyshire's fortunes in twenty over cricket with some clever signings, arguably the best of the campaign. Those watching games last year could see an improvement in the batting, but there was no one in the batting order who could really take a score out of reach. Nor was there anyone who could apply a degree of control when the opposition were coming at us hard at either end of the innings, or a spinner with the necessary experience to mix it up and make the opposition work for their runs.

Which is why the signing of the three South Africans - Loots Bosman, Charl Langeveldt and Robin Peterson respectively - has had such an impact on the team. One cannot discount the additional firepower that Wes Durston has brought to the top of the order - he is, after all our top scorer in the competition - nor the all-round contribution of Greg Smith, any more than you could overlook the sensible innings played by Garry Park and the professional bowling of Steffan Jones and Tim Groenewald. Yet the three international players have all stamped their class on matches to ensure that Derbyshire are in the mix when it matters after some excellent performances.

Bosman has only really cut loose at Headingley (how we'd love a repeat on Sunday!) but his example at the top of the order has allowed those lower down a little more time to play themselves in. When he scores runs it is quickly and his average of just under thirty doesn't fully do justice to his contribution. With Durston he has formed a fine pairing, sometimes a little shaky in the running, but both with the ability to pierce and clear the field and boundaries. Durston is averaging just under 40 and having two players of that calibre at the top of the order is a massive step forward. Bosman is also fleet of foot in the field and has proved effective in sweeping the boundaries.

Peterson has been a huge asset in all forms of the game and if he cannot return next season will be missed as much as Chris Rogers. To have a spinner who can both take wickets and keep the scoring rate down is a godsend for a captain (Peterson is our most economical bowler thus far) but to have one who also fields brilliantly and scores quick and valuable runs puts him on a different level. I'm still puzzled how his country can overlook such a multi-faceted player in favour of one-dimensional cricketers, such as van der Merwe, Botha and Harris. Maybe he falls just short of genuine international class, but I'd still rank him first in that company.

Then of course there's Langeveldt. We really missed him last year, but he has done very well to recover from major shoulder surgery. A yard of pace might have gone, but Charl puts the ball in the right areas more than most bowlers, which is why he is perhaps the best death bowler in the world. Dirk Nannes and Usman Gul may have claims in that area, but a tribute to his effectiveness is in the genuine surprise when Warwickshire got the required runs from his last over at Edgbaston. A wide full toss down leg side from Langeveldt, as bowled in that match, is as common as a juicy half volley from Les Jackson once was. He is, in short, a master of his craft and it is great to see him back at Derby.

The big test now is whether they can inspire us to even greater deeds and a place in the T20 quarter finals. I've been here way too many times before to start counting chickens and we have a big game at the Riverside tomorrow. Durham have been the best team in the country over the past three seasons but this season have experienced problems, in much the same way as us, due to injuries to senior bowlers. They can still qualify, however, so will come out with all guns blazing tomorrow, when losing would end their hopes for this season. When those guns include Ian Blackwell, Phil Mustard, Ross Taylor and Albie Morkel, we will have to be at our very best with the ball and in the field to come out on top. They are at their best on their own turf, and while we had the better of the rain-ruined game at Derby, tomorrow will be hard going. They may also welcome back Paul Collingwood, in much the same way that the ECB have allowed Yorkshire to field Shahzad and Rashid against us on Sunday, while Liam Plunkett is expected to return from injury. If we're going to qualify, it looks like being the hard way…

I've watched a few of the T20 games on Sky and still think that the northern section is the strongest. While few will want to play Somerset at Taunton, that is more due to the current form of Trescothick and Pollard than their being an exceptional side and I don't think they are unbeatable. Conversely Sussex are doing well with a team ethic, rather than individual brilliance, but I don't see them as being stronger than Nottinghamshire.

If we lose tomorrow night there will be much to play for in the remaining two games at Derby, though a win would see one foot gingerly placed into the next stage.There is no news on the teams at this stage, though Derbyshire are unlikely to change a winning line up. Wayne Madsen did well at Old Trafford so should retain his place in this side:


Three seamers, three spinners and a bustling medium pacer. Can they subdue the Durham hitters? For me, that will be the deciding factor in what promises to be a very good game.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Monday musings

OK, hands up all those who thought that we'd beat Lancashire home and away in the T20?

No, not those who HOPED we would, those who thought it would happen?

Me neither and I'm quite happy to use those wins as further evidence of progress on the pitch at the County Ground. I had no real expectation of a win yesterday, even though at halfway we had posted a decent score. Lancashire's fast start meant that at ten overs in their innings the game looked gone as far as I was concerned, though I was using last season's bowling as a benchmark. Some tight bowling by Robin Peterson brought us back into the game, while the closing overs from Jones and Langeveldt were arguably the best by Derbyshire bowlers in this competition. Let's face it, the score yesterday was around those we made for most of last season, when we lost more often than not. It shows the benefit of having experienced bowlers putting the ball in the right areas, backed up by some fine fielding.

It means that we've still only played badly in one game in this competition, against Worcestershire away when we batted and bowled poorly in a game we should have won. We lost twice to Nottinghamshire but were far from disgraced, while the two defeats against Warwickshire went down to the wire.

We're showing increased ability and confidence in the tight situations. Look at how we beat Northamptonshire away from home, perhaps the biggest shock so far after posting such a modest total. The fielders have backed up the bowlers, with yesterday's highlight being the brilliant one-handed catch taken by Steffan Jones off the bowling of Tim Groenewald. With Durston, Park and Smith in the side we have real livewires who can turn a game with a diving save, a catch or a run out.

Credit is due to Smith for his captaincy too, which has also remained calm under pressure. He has undoubtedly been helped by the able lieutenants in Peterson and Langeveldt, cricketers of great experience who are happy to take on responsibility at key moments in matches. Once again yesterday they came up with the goods, Peterson's all-round contribution was crucial, while Langeveldt's role as "go to" bowler seems to give the team a confidence it has often lacked in the past.

What it all means, of course, is that we now control our destiny. Winning all three of our remaining matches would be nice and would build momentum, but two out of three may just take us through to the quarter finals. Durham away on Wednesday, Northamptonshire at home on Friday and then Yorkshire at home on Sunday are matches that are winnable, without question, though we cannot underestimate any of them. Durham have disappointed, but any team with Ian Blackwell, Phil Mustard, Dale Benkenstein, Ross Taylor and Albie Morkel in it has to be respected. We should - probably would - have beaten them at Derby but for the weather, so I doubt that we'll go in to the game feeling in any way inferior.

Derbyshire being Derbyshire, it is unlikely that we will do this the easy way, of course. I wrote a couple of weeks back that the Yorkshire game would be crucial and it will be, even if only to decide the positions, if not the make up, of the top four. We will need everyone to be on top of their game and if that happens anything is possible, something we've already shown.

Irrespective of the outcome of this week's games, this T20 campaign is a huge improvement on previous ones. We've played good, competitive cricket throughout and mention should be made of John Morris' signings for the competition. A top order blaster in Loots Bosman and a world-class bowler in Langeveldt must be the envy of most sides and they have made an excellent contribution.

Our biggest problem now is the size of the playing staff, something that is hard to rectify given that our playing budget is smaller than any other county. Last season we challenged well in the Championship, this year in the T20. Realistically it is difficult to imagine a challenge on different fronts with the level of injuries we have had and both the Pro 40 and Championship campaigns are effectively over as our backup is very inexperienced. Being able to play Bosman AND Langeveldt in the T20 is a huge bonus, as somehow I suspect results may have been different had we needed to play Mark Footitt or Atif Sheikh, with no disrespect intended.

In closing, as mentioned by a contributor to IMWT yesterday, I just hope that the local media get behind the county this week as the club deserves sporting prominence for once. Surely yesterday's win ranks ahead of Derby County's centre-half declaring himself fit and raring to go to for the season? No doubt the latest pre-season injury will be more newsworthy than Derbyshire hopefully qualifying for the quarter-finals...

More tomorrow, with a Durham preview. C'mon boys, we know you can do it!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Lancashire v Derbyshire T20

Derbyshire batted professionally, if not spectacularly today against Lancashire and at the halfway stage had posted a competitive, but not out of sight total of 163-6. All the batsmen contributed, without one of them going on to the big score that made have made the total 180-190.

You always have a chance with such a score, achieved by sensible rotation of the strike and fairly few dot balls, but it is then important to bowl tight at the start of the innings and the hosts got off to the flyer we really didn't want, reaching 32 in the third over before the first wicket fell and then getting to 93 in the 10th before we took another. Lancashire needed only common sense from there to take the points.

Yet we won! Amazingly (and thanks to fine death bowling from Langeveldt, Smith and Jones) Lancashire's innings withered and died, ending with them seven runs short at 156-6. While the defeat would not have ended our T20 interest, the win puts us in a good position for qualification, clear in fourth place in the group by two points from Yorkshire, who have played the same number of matches and who, of course, visit the County Ground for a potential decider next weekend. Assuming we're not through by then...

The fielding was also brilliant again, while Robin Peterson applied pressure in the mid innings after a crucial late onslaught with the bat (26 from eleven balls) that probably swung the match. There were also three vital wickets once again for Tim Groenewald who seems to improve with every match and is a key member of the Derbyshire attack.

Worcestershire are on the same points as Yorkshire but have only two games left, while Northamptonshire are also on that total after their remarkable tie with Nottinghamshire. They have a much inferior net run rate, however. Oh, and they also visit the County Ground next weekend...

Crikey, I need to go and lie down after that one. More tomorrow.

Well done lads! The double over Lancashire - who'd have believed it?

Friday, 9 July 2010

Lancashire v Derbyshire T20

I watched the Roses match last night on Sky and was left with the impression that both sides are beatable.

We play Yorkshire in the final game at Derby, but tomorrow's game at Old Trafford is massive. If we can steal a win there and complete the double over the Red Rose county we will be clear in fourth place, with games against Northamptonshire and Durham to come before we entertain Yorkshire.

Key to the game is going to be the spinners. Lancashire played three last night and they contained well, suggesting that Peterson, Smith and Durston will be crucial for us. Mind you, if Tim Groenewald or Charl Langeveldt can remove Moore and Horton at the top of the order, it would make our lives considerably easier.

For John Morris there is a decision over whether to play Wayne Madsen, who is in good form, or Chesney Hughes instead of the injured John Sadler, who has a broken finger sustained in the Second XI. Hughes' dynamism may swing it for him, although he has been a little out of form recently. There was plenty of turn in the track last night and we could really do with one of those Bosman/Durston special starts that lit up the start of the campaign.

I'd see Derbyshire's side as follows:


Defeat wouldn't be the end of our world, but winning would make the quarter finals a good possibility. It's been a much better campaign than in previous years and I just hope the lads hold their nerve in these next few games when it matters.

No news of the Lancashire side at this stage, but it will be similar to last night and we have already shown that they can be beaten.

Let's do it boys!

Another good piece on Cricinfo

Nice piece from a tour diary.

Derbyshire v Australia day 2

A betting man might well have had a few quid on Chris Rogers making a score today against his fellow countrymen. It was a shame that he fell short of his century, but he illustrated once again that he is a player of the very highest class. If he is to end his career with only a solitary cap to show for his efforts it would be a travesty, as his batting is good enough to grace any ground in the world.

Maybe there is still hope for Rogers in the restoration of Simon Katich to the Test side. Two years older than the Derbyshire skipper, Katich and his partner Shane Watson both failed in this game and will know that Rogers is breathing down their neck. He also has a major incentive to enjoy a golden run in with Derbyshire, and it would be natural for him to follow the fortunes of the present incumbents and perhaps hope for a failure or two against the Pakistan attack this summer.

Getting an overseas player for the entire summer is increasingly problematic for the first class counties and getting a good one is even more so. In Rogers we have one of the very best and it would be a shame, not just for Derbyshire but for the game as a whole if he were unable to return next summer. The irony is, of course, that we could go and sign a very average Zimbabwe, Bangladesh or West Indies star who might average 30 with the bat or 40 with the ball and have no problems in doing so, but we cannot, as things stand, sign a man who is a credit to the game but doesn't qualify because his country is blessed with such a wealth of talent. Rogers in some ways mirrors the fine West Indian batsman, Roy Marshall, who came here to play because he couldn't break into the national side. Marshall served a qualifying period but then entertained in county cricket for nearly twenty years.

I would be surprised if John Morris made any hasty decisions on the position for next year, however. It is an Ashes winter, when Watson and Katich should be tested more severely than they have been of late. Phil Hughes will fancy his chances of a recall too, but England sorted him out last summer and the selectors may be tempted to go for experience, especially if things aren't going their way. Rogers only needs another Test appearance and as things stand he would then be available for two more county summers. Fingers crossed…

Derbyshire did well today and highlighted the limitations in a close to full strength attack. Wayne Madsen continued his recent good form and was dismissed for the first time this season between fifty and a hundred. Garry Park has also enjoyed good form and kept the score ticking over, while it was good to see Dan Redfern taking on the Australians for the first time. It has been a difficult season for him, but he is simply too good a player for this to be anything other than a minor blip in what I am sure will be a fine career.

I'm sure there will be a few out there who will express disappointment that we "didn't go for it," but anyone who thought that we could chase down 430 in a day against one of the best sides in the world was deluding themselves. I'm happy that we batted solidly, put on nearly 150 before a wicket fell and ensured that the Australians left Derby knowing that they had been given a work out. After tea the game became a little more attritional, but I don't mind that, as there are times it is necessary. Sometimes you simply cannot play the expansive strokes and it was good to see relatively inexperienced players like Park and Goddard battling it out against players who were very keen to make a positive impression themselves. It augurs well for the future, as if they can handle that standard of attack, county bowlers should give them nothing to fear.

Now the focus switches to Old Trafford on Sunday, where we really do need to go for it and most importantly secure a win. With four games to go I suspect that the quarter final places will not be finalised until the last round of games. If we can continue our batting form and welcome back a rested regular attack, there's no reason why we cannot make life very awkward for Lancashire.

I'm sure that Greg Smith, Tim Groenewald, Loots Bosman, Robin Peterson, Charl Langeveldt and Steffan Jones will have enjoyed a few days rest and will be recharged for that one. Here's hoping that they do us proud.

Being a fan

There's a nice piece in the Guardian today by David Hopps on our game against the Aussies, where he makes some favourable comments on the work going on at the County Ground. I hope that it is read by a few of those who suggest we are surplus to requirements in the County game, especially a Mr M Nicholas...

You can read it at:

Particularly pleasing, at least for me, is his comment on the attendance and the fact that over 3,000 people chose to watch Derbyshire play Australia in a meaningless warm-up match rather than go down the road to see England play Bangladesh.

There's two things about that. First of all, with the exception of Tamim Iqbal, the Bangladesh side are not especially good and by extension are not really crowd pullers. Whether at this stage they should be playing top level international cricket has been debated far and wide all summer, but we should perhaps remember that the West Indies in their formative years were a very poor side, while India, New Zealand and Pakistan had only one or two players of genuine ability when they first played international cricket. Only by playing the best can they improve, but the administrators must remember that there will be a number of mismatches along the way, especially on foreign soil.

Secondly, as I have said on numerous occasions on this blog, a lot of cricket fans, like me, are very parochial. If there's a Test match on at the same time as Derbyshire are playing, I will always follow our score first. If you give me a choice between a strong England side and a strong Derbyshire, I'll take our boys every time, thanks very much, even if we're playing a friendly against Australia or one against a senior citizens select…

Does that make me unpatriotic? No, but it makes me a fan, or a supporter. I still get irritated by those, such as someone on IMWT yesterday, who suggested that only if you go to all the matches do you have a right to pass comment on things.

Really? That rules me out then, as six hours there and the same back for every home game might just become too much, even if I didn't have a full time job to occupy a lot of my time. I've touched on this before, around a year ago, and would suggest (again) that you can be a fan, even if your personal circumstances dictate you see few, if any matches. In fact, I could argue that by not going and moaning all the time, you're perhaps doing the club an even greater service…

When I was younger, my Dad and I would give each other "the look" when we heard people moaning about X being "hopeless" and Y being "bloody useless." On one occasion a Derbyshire batsman was labelled thus after scoring 80 that subsequently won us the game on an obviously awkward wicket. On another, a bowler's wayward opening spell saw him labelled "a waste of space,", then heralded, by the same person, as a real talent when he ended up with five wickets.

I would love to be in a position to go to every game that Derbyshire play. The only problem is that to do so I'd have to win the lottery, or be retired, or jack in my job or actively dislike my family as things stand. None of those apply or are likely, so for now I'll make do with seeing them on Sky and on occasional trips down to see my parents.

But by crikey, don't question my passionate interest in the club, or that of many others in similar situations. Over the two years or so I've been doing this blog I've had e mails from people in seven or eight countries, all of them big fans of the club who have moved away from Derby for business and family reasons. They all say the same thing - that they still look for all or any news about the county side and follow their fortunes with great interest.

Maybe that's the real test. When you're starved of something, does the interest remain, or does it wane? I played club hockey for ten years or so and enjoyed it immensely, but when I retired I never once thought about it on a Saturday afternoon, even when I was going round Marks and Spencer instead of sweeping behind the defence.

Yet Derbyshire cricket is in my blood and will be till the day I die. I know that, and there's nowt that I can do about it. Hopefully at some point I'll be able to see more of them than I do at present, but I'm realistic enough to realise that it might need to wait until I'm retired, till my kids have finished their education and my personal circumstances dictate a move back down to Gods own county.

It might never happen, but I can't see a time coming when I no longer care about Derbyshire cricket.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Bowling prospects

I am sure that John Morris would have preferred to have had a more experienced attack against the Australians today, but the upside of the injury list (which must have kept James Pipe a very busy man this year) is that it has given an opportunity to three young left-arm seamers of talent to show what they can do.

Kevin Dean was the last Derbyshire-reared seamer to progress through the ranks and if any from Mark Footitt, Atif Sheikh and Ross Whiteley can emulate him we will have few complaints. Footitt of course came from Nottinghamshire, where his talent was obvious but was outweighed by too many periods of absence through injury. A recent one has kept him out at Derbyshire, but fans shouldn't jump to the easy inference that he has returned to old ways. The bowler has worked hard on his fitness under the guidance of Steffan Jones and has bowled well at times in the County Championship. In some ways he is similar to another player we recruited from Trent Bridge, Peter Hacker. Both bowlers capable of good, wicket-taking balls, but both prone to bowl too many loose ones that dilute the impact.

A physiotherapist once told me that bowling was not a natural thing for a body to do and that stresses and strains were to be expected if the action was not good and similar for every ball. Alan Ward was a classic example of a bowler whose action put undue strain on his body, his arched back prior to release putting undue strain on his back and pelvis. Trying to bowl too quickly does the same and your experienced quick learns that mixing it up, rather than trying to bowl at the speed of light every ball, prolongs a career as well as keeping a batsman guessing.

Part of the problem at Derbyshire is that we're used to our seamers giving nowt away. Three an over? That's scandalous, or was when Cliff Gladwin, Les Jackson, Mike Hendrick, George and Alf Pope, Harold Rhodes and Bill Copson were plying their trade. Yet we're talking masters of their craft with those fellas and you can't compare young tyros to the finished articles that they became. Footitt is comfortably young enough to improve further if he has the right attitude and the ability to learn from others. If his fitness is genuinely more robust and he can work on eliminating the wildness that must make Lee Goddard and Tom Poynton blanch, he could have a role to play in our future.

That certainly goes for Atif Sheikh, a bowler good enough to gain national selection at under-19 level. Sheikh has good pace but has had his struggles with no-balls this year. When a bowler is worrying about where his feet are, concerns over direction become secondary, but such problems are relatively easily sorted. When we talk about revamping the seam attack, it is important to remember that Sheikh next season should be a better bowler than this, when he has shown himself capable of taking wickets. Yes, he is raw and like Footitt can be erratic, but time is very much on his side and I have very high hopes for the lad. Taking Shane Watson's wicket in his first over today and Simon Katich in his fourth will have done his confidence no harm whatsoever. If you can do that at 19, the world could be your oyster at 25...

Left-arm seamers must be like buses - you wait a while for one and three come at once, but Ross Whiteley is a little different from the other two. He's not especially quick, but perhaps more in the Kevin Dean mould, above medium and capable of swinging it both ways. I have been impressed with him when I've seen him in second eleven matches. A couple of years ago I saw him run through a very good Yorkshire side at Denby, taking five wickets in an excellent spell of bowling when players like Simon Guy, Garry Ballance and Chris Taylor struggled to get a bat on him. He looked less impressive in a subsequent first team appearance, but nerves came into it and when you're trying too hard, sometimes it won't swing. Whiteley's university commitments will restrict his Derbyshire cricket in the immediate future, but he has a lot of talent. Again, he needs to eliminate the bad balls and time will tell if he can do that. He also has ability with the bat and can hit the ball a long way, suggesting he could develop into a genuine all-rounder in time. He may become a batsman who bowls a bit - at his age it can sometimes be hard to call.

The newest name today was Matt Higginbottom, a right arm seamer from the High Peak who bowled a tight first spell after experience for Bradford/Leeds UCCE this year alongside Whiteley and Ben Slater. His returns in the Second XI have not been sensational, but he will benefit from this experience and is another who could develop - at 19 he has time on his side and he will face few batsmen much better than Ponting and Hussey, both settled at the crease when he came on to bowl.

The potential in these youngsters is obvious, just as it is with young batsmen like Redfern, Borrington, Hughes and Slater. Yet there's no magic wand that can turn them into experienced cricketers overnight. For the next two, maybe three years they will make their mistakes and endure bad spells, but the key for Derbyshire fans is to remain patient. I'm old enough to remember the young Kim Barnett, batting at six, and the mistakes in shot selection made by him, the young John Morris and Chris Adams. I also saw the raw Alan Ward, Mike Hendrick, Dominic Cork and Devon Malcolm.

None of them turned out too badly, did they?