Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Oh dear...

Not doing too well are we?

After a close defeat at Edgbaston, we lost horribly at Worcester (though not as badly as England) and are not doing especially well at Chesterfield in the current game.

I´ll write a few thoughts on these games in due course, but for now its back to my holiday. ten minutes grabbed on an internet computer in the hotel foyer when the rest of the country is watching Spain play Portugal is as good as it gets for now, but has to be better than being back home when things are going poorly.

Anyway, three minutes left, so I´ll need to dash on this Spanish keyboard, which took me a while to log in as I couldn´t figure where the @ was at.

Be back soon, hopefully when we´re playing better. Still, as I mailed a mate the other day, the only way is up when you watch England play Germany aso ne of three Brits in a pub full of Germans. Thankfully they were in good spirits.

Adios amigos...

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Ill-thought and unwanted

Sad to close my last blog piece for around ten days on a downer, but those of you who read the article in the Derby Telegraph today on Mark Nicholas will know where this is going. If you didn't, then you can do so at:

http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/sport/Loring-slams-Nicholas-axe-smaller-class-counties/article-2342275-detail/article.html

Regular readers will know my thoughts on this, and Mr Nicholas' comments are as ill-judged as they are ill-informed. For him to suggest that Derbyshire merge with Nottinghamshire is nothing but stupid, certainly not the comments of a supposedly intelligent man. So both sets of fans would put aside decades of rivalries and support a composite team, would we? To use a fairly apposite quote from Wayne's World, "Yeah, and monkeys might fly out my butt." There's a greater chance of Mr Nicholas being the winning horse in next year's Derby.

His comment about "the balance sheet should determine who lives on" is also somewhat strange, given that his ex-county are in a somewhat parlous state and only kept afloat by a wealthy benefactor. If we were to get rid of those that were a financial burden to the game, the chances are that the ones with Test grounds might be the least viable. Hey, we could get rid of them, sell their grounds for development and split the proceeds between the counties that make a go it financially, like Derbyshire. Just a (similarly crass) thought.

I'm also irked by comments such as "That's what we're... about, developing players for England." Doesn't entertainment come into it then? Doesn't local interest? We've produced the likes of Malcolm, Cork, Morris, Barnett and Blackwell in the last twenty years who have reached national selection. How many have Hampshire produced? As Keith Loring says, how do we determine who goes from the current structure, as if it is on trophies gained there will be less successful teams out there than us.

What I would really like to see is people like Mark Nicholas and Steve James, who wrote a similar piece on Derbyshire recently without any reference to facts, to visit, see what is happening and then write an apologetic reply. They won't, in all likelihood, because it's probably too much hassle to drive "oop north." Ill-informed people annoy me, like an idiot on 606 last night who claimed that Derbyshire were full of Kolpaks, when we only have one, in Robin Peterson. I've no issue with an opinion, as long as it can be backed up by fact.

Which is where Mark Nicholas went wrong really.

Anyway, this is my last blog piece for a week and a half, unless I find a computer in the hotel in Spain, when it will just be a quick piece. Thanks for your continued interest, or should I just say what the cricketer said after he slid on the wet outfield.

Gracias...

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Thoughts at the halfway stage

Derbyshire's form in recent matches has been highly encouraging and at the halfway stage in the competition this is undoubtedly the best we have done in the T20.

There are a number of reasons for this. The first is the shrewd signings made by John Morris over recent months, all of who highlighted their skills in the game the other night. Robin Peterson has been a diamond in all forms of the game, bowling with control and considerable penetration, fielding tigerishly and batting with great common sense. While not a big hitter, Peterson is a naturally quick scorer and improvises well in the short form of the game.

At the top of the order, Loots Bosman has given us something we have lacked - an explosive batsman who can take advantage of fielding restrictions in the first six overs. While his running between the wickets isn't the best I have seen, Bosman promises entertainment whenever he walks in to bat and any bowler who gives him a little width can expect to be punished. He is also a lithe fielder and has contributed well for a player experiencing our wickets for the first time.

Then of course there's the return of The Master, Charl Langeveldt. There seems a far greater confidence in the bowling line up when Langers is in it. I don't think we'd have won at Northampton without his influence and the TV cameras the other night picked him up having words with bowlers and encouraging them in the way you would hope a senior player would do.

The influence of these three fine players has been vital, but others have stood up to be counted too. Garry Park is having a fine all round tournament, while Wes Durston has come into the side and made a mockery of Somerset's decision to release him last season. Chesney Hughes and John Sadler have made runs from limited opportunities, while the skipper has led the side intelligently and contributed with bat and ball. There are, in short, no passengers in the side and that is crucial in such an intense form of the game.

Garry Park suggests in the Derby Telegraph that Derbyshire can win it. I'll not go that far, but there are teams in the other section that I feel we can beat if we get through this very strong group. One match at a time will do very nicely for me at this stage. One correspondent on IMWT suggests that Friday's game at Edgbaston is crucial, but they all are. If we could get the points against Warwickshire then win the return against Worcestershire on Sunday, I would start to fancy our chances. That would give us the six wins that Greg Smith thought would take us through, with six games to go to improve our position for the quarter-finals.

I still think the tournament is too long now, but one plus has been that we play different teams than in previous seasons, which has helped. There is greater potential for success in games against Worcestershire and Northamptonshire than against Nottinghamshire and Durham. I'd agree with Mark Eklid that the standard of cricket has improved and bowlers have learned to counteract the batsmen, but the decline in attendances suggest that the cricket authorities are in danger of killing the golden goose. No matter how good the product, a surfeit dampens the appetite. I like pizza but don't want to eat it every night and there are just too many matches. While this allows a team's fortunes to ebb and flow, fans have only a finite amount of money to spare.

Part of the problem is that watching cricket on a grey evening like the Warwickshire game at Derby hardly makes it seem like carnival time, while slow wickets where the ball isn't disappearing into and over the crowd with monotonous regularity is anathema to those who only like their cricket akin to baseball. There have been a lot of the latter and the casual fan, attracted by the razzamatazz, isn't likely to enjoy a worthy innings where a batsman nudges, deflects and nurdles his team to a narrow victory. I enjoyed Garry Park's knock the other night as much as any I've seen this season. Though not a natural hitter, Park's working of the ball into gaps, his scoop over short fine leg and his reverse sweeps were a joy to see. Only one six though, tut-tut, as some might say...

One surprise in the competition has been that we have done so well without any real contribution from two very talented all-rounders. Graham Wagg has missed most of the season with an achilles injury and would have been a certainty for the first choice side, while Jon Clare has so far played only one match with the odd appearance as a substitute fielder. Today's Derby Telegraph carried an article on Clare and the serious shoulder injury he suffered when running his bat in during a match. One had only to see Clare last season to realise that he was a long way from the bowler who burst onto the scene in 2008, but the surgery and recuperation seem to be going well. By the sound of it we may see him back bowling at close to full pace this season, a huge boost for the side.

A fit Wagg and Clare will be a huge boost to Derbyshire, both of them all-rounders of genuine talent. Add Park, Smith, Durston and Peterson to the mix and we have real cause for optimism.

It's amazing the difference a few wins makes, eh?

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Derbyshire v Worcestershire T20

Happy days are here again!

Two successive wins in the T20 have taken Derbyshire to third place in the league table at the halfway stage, something that few fans will have anticipated when the competition began.

While the win was not straightforward, when we needed 25 from the last three with Park and Peterson going well and Hughes and Sadler to come, I was more reassured than in similar situations over the years. The first named did their job well, with Garry Park looking a very solid, competent cricketer in the process. His array of scoops, dabs and reverse sweeps were well utilised and he is having a very good competition with bat and ball. Peterson continues to be totally professional in whatever he does and sets a good example.

To be fair, we looked in control for most of the match, especially when Charl Langeveldt clean bowled Phil Jaques with the first ball. He and Sanath Jayasuriya looked to be the danger men, though the latter is a far cry from the player who terrorised bowling attacks in his pomp. He diced with death once, just clearing Steffan Jones at mid off, before hitting Tim Groenewald straight to Greg Smith at mid on.

All of the bowlers did their job well, though one has to admire the consummate professionalism of Charl Langeveldt. It was fascinating listening to him before the game and his four tight overs were an object lesson for the others. I only recall one bad ball that was hit through the covers for four, but otherwise he mixed it up and kept the batsmen on their toes.

To be fair they all did, with spinners Robin Peterson and Wes Durston both doing a good job with tight line and length. They were backed up by an excellent fielding display in a solid team performance.

When we batted, Durston and Bosman looked like they could win it on their own, with Bosman playing some trademark strokes before perishing on the boundary edge to a good catch. When Smith and Durston quickly followed to the spinners we had some work to do, but Park and Peterson kept their heads, rebuilt the innings and then finished it off. Although the latter was bowled by one that kept a little low just before the end, the work was done by that stage and we gained a valuable win, one that keeps us very much in the frame for the quarter final places.

There was some fairly erratic running between the wickets at times, that on another night would have been punished, but a win is a win. There were a few comments about Hughes being held back, but I thought it was common sense. The situation called for experience, while if things went pear shaped and we needed a six in the final over, Hughes was a fairly decent candidate to provide one.

I was very impressed by Moeen Ali for the visitors, who looked a class apart from some of his team mates with both bat and ball. He looks to have a bright future, but one wonders how long they can hang on to him, considering how the club was ripped apart last winter. They must only hope that he shows greater loyalty than some of his erstwhile colleagues

Great news on Wes

It's great to hear that Wes Durston has been rewarded for his form with a permanent deal that takes him to the end of 2012.

Last night's televised game didn't show Durston in a starring role, but showed enough to illustrate why John Morris has moved quickly to sign him. His bowling was tidy, with two wickets, while his fielding was superb. His caught and bowled was a stunning effort, from a ball shelled back at him (albeit a full toss.) His outfielding was brilliant, with one save on the boundary edge deserving of several replays, but he was the pick of several fine fielders for the county.

When he batted he showed his skills with some classy strokes, one clip through mid wicket while advancing down the track the shot of a player full of confidence. He can play the ball all round the wicket and it was disappointing when he departed to a caught and bowled himself from a leading edge.

I've every confidence that Wes will be a star turn in the coming years at Derby and look forward to reporting on his exploits. That he will be available for all cricket this year is a bonus and he will offer additional stability to a batting line up that has creaked at times this season.

Second XI lose out

Sussex beat Derbyshire by 139 runs in the final of the 2nd XI competition at Horsham yesterday, despite 97 from Wayne Madsen

Credit is due to the Derbyshire players for getting so far, but I'd have to say that I'm disappointed that Sussex played former England men Ed Joyce and Monty Panesar in the game.
Both sides had a sprinkling of players with first team experience. Madsen, Redfern and Borrington played for us and Aga, Rayner and Thornely for them. I don’t have an issue with that, but I do feel that if the regulations permit international players to play in these games it is a joke.

I'll accept that neither are in the club's first choice side at the moment and if it is within the regulations that Sussex did nothing wrong. It does, however, smack of teams bringing in "ringers" and must have taken some of the edge from the Sussex victory. Ironically, neither of them starred in the game, but that's not really the point.

Anyway, well done to the Derbyshire players for getting so far. If the first eleven can replicate their success we'll have few complaints.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Derbyshire v Worcestershire T20

Despite making a bit of a meal of it on a track that didn't encourage strokeplay, Derbyshire beat Worcestershire tonight to move to third in the table at the half way stage.

It's a very satisfying position. More tomorrow on the game, but for now it is back to my son's birthday celebrations.

See you tomorrow!

Second XI final update

Sussex have fielded a strong side that includes regular first teamers such as Ed Joyce, James Anyon and Monty Panesar. The Derbyshire side is

Madsen, Slater, Borrington, Redfern, Clare, Whiteley, Poynton, Siddique, Sheirn, Smith, Khan
The hosts made 141-2 in their first innings of 20 overs

Derbyshire replied with 111-4 in their 20, with Wayne Madsen unbeaten on 61, currently partnered by Ross Whiteley.

More later. At the risk of it sounding like sour grapes, playing two players of international experience in Joyce and Panesar for a Second XI final is a bit much.

I assume Murray Goodwin is injured...

There's a surprise...

Just when you think that nothing in life can surprise you any more, along comes something that does just that.

Yesterday I went out with my son to the Paul McCartney concert with Derbyshire seemingly in disarray at 100-9 against Northamptonshire. My excitement at the prospect of the gig (which was superb, by the way) was tempered somewhat by a seemingly inept batting performance in a game that had appeared winnable. Granted, we were without Greg Smith, but the concept of Derbyshire defending such a low total appeared to be an unlikely one.

Less than a couple of hours later, I got a text to say that Northamptonshire needed 20 off the last over, an unexpected situation if there ever was one, then got another to say that we had won by nine runs. The smile on my face could probably have lit up Hampden on its own.

So how did this happen? Well, first of all, credit has to go to stand-in skipper Robin Peterson, who seems to have handled his bowlers and set his fields with the intelligence one might expect from a canny cricketer. He had the common sense to not hold back Charl Langeveldt until the very end, but brought him back on and created additional pressure. The South African's four overs for thirteen were crucial, but so too was Peterson's spell for just three runs more.

We must also pay credit to Garry Park, who is having an impressive tournament. He made a crucial 20 and then took three wickets in a very tight spell. It was interesting afterwards to hear him paying tribute to Charl Langeveldt's influence and advice already, which augurs well for the weeks ahead. Park is a good cricketer who has come through an awkward start to the season to deliver some telling performances of late. There are days when he can be hit, but on slow pitches such as yesterday he can fulfil a similar role to that played by Barry Wood for Lancashire and Derbyshire a few years back.

All the bowlers played their part, which they had to do in defending such a total, but those three bowled with remarkable control that created a panic among the home side's batsmen. It was interesting reading 606 this morning, where Northamptonshire's fans were more than a little churlish. No one commented on our bowling (except one who referred to it as "undemanding" or somesuch.) It was a little unfair, though I suppose had the roles been reversed there would have been plenty of comment on our inability to score at 5 an over, irrespective of the state of the pitch.

Several commented on the pitch being inappropriate for this style of the game. If one assumes that the fan attending T20 is different to the one attending Championship cricket that would be fair, as big hits were few and far between. By the same token, I found our game against Warwickshire, which we lost, one of the best T20 games I've seen at this level. For me, there's much more to the game than the ball disappearing to all parts, fun - maybe essential - though that is for some people.

The runs scored by Lee Goddard at the end of the innings yesterday were invaluable and were followed by an excellent display behind the stumps. Goddard has not had the easiest of times since his move from Durham, but this display should give him confidence to push on from here and cement a regular place in the side.

I'm not too concerned about our batting big guns falling for the second successive game, as a pitch like Wantage Road is never going to be conducive to powerful front of the wicket strokeplay. Given the right conditions, Bosman, Durston and Hughes will play their part again in the near future.

The group remains wide open, with only Nottinghamshire looking certainties to progress. If Greg Smith's assertion that six wins would probably put us into the quarter-finals was correct, we now need three wins from nine games, something well within our compass. If we can win tonight's televised encounter against Worcestershire, winning two from eight is very much on. What we could really do with is a high scoring innings to boost our net run rate, which may turn out to be crucial in the end reckoning.

For me, the other three places behind Nottinghamshire will be between ourselves, Lancashire, Durham and Warwickshire. While one cannot discount Yorkshire and Leicestershire, I can't help thinking that the two games against Lancashire could well be the ones that decide our fate. Last year they beat us thanks to big guns like du Plessis and Flintoff, though this year they don't seem to have quite the same "oomph" in the side. If we can make early inroads, they are far from unbeatable.

In closing, I'd just say how nice it was to see Jon Clare back in the first team yesterday, replacing the injured Greg Smith. Clare has had his share of injuries in the last couple of seasons but remains a cricketer of talent. Although playing only as a batsman, he has a great deal to offer Derbyshire cricket and I'm sure that next season will see the return of the all-rounder who burst onto the scene so well in 2008.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Holidays beckon

Early warning for you - I'm going off on holiday at the end of this week for 11 nights. This year we're off to the delights of Estartit in Spain, where Mr and Mrs P spent their honeymoon 24 years ago. With the kids in tow it may be slightly less romantic this time, but I'll guarantee that we'll have a good holiday in a place that has things to do without being at the epicentre of club land. I'm also guessing that nearly four miles of beach has to have a stretch to put some stumps down…

I hope to keep in touch with scores back home thanks to the kids Nintendo Dsi consoles, but that will depend on how well advanced the wi-fi network is in that area. Hopefully the hotel might have a PC that I can use from time to time to keep track of our T20 campaign.

So the message is keep in touch with the blog. I can't promise there'll be anything during that period, but you never know…

Free speech

I know this is a cricket blog, but Wayne Rooney was totally out of order in moaning about the England fans booing them off the pitch last night.

It can't be a lot of fun for the players to hear that, but Rooney and players of all sports need to remember a couple of things.

Firstly, that freedom of speech is an important tenet of life in this country, as it is in any democracy. I'm all for it, though we all have different opinions. I don't expect everyone to agree with mine all the time (or even some of the time) and I try to remember at all times that I am a supporter, first and foremost. However, if Derbyshire are poor, I will say so.

England were rank rotten last night and if Rooney or anyone else expected to be applauded off after that display then they are as delusional as they are overpaid and, on recent showings, overrated. When someone has paid a lot of money to travel around the world to follow a team, they expect to be entertained or at least see their team put up some sort of display, which England totally failed to do.

This is equally applicable to a county cricket side, whose members and supporters spend reasonable money to see them play. While it is unrealistic to expect them to win every game, most fans will be happy if they see their team competing and doing their best. Derbyshire are doing that in the T20 and I have no complaints.

England? In the accepted parlance, you're 'avin' a larf, mate...

Let it Be

It's Father's Day tomorrow. I only remembered that a week or so back, but thankfully Mrs P was on the case as always and had made a beautiful card for my Dad. She's probably done the same for me, too, so that the kids have got something nice for me - hopefully….

My son and I will actually be spending a good part of the day at Hampden Park, the home of Scottish football (or what passes for it) and will be enjoying Paul McCartney in concert, with Sharleen Spiteri (of Texas fame) as support act. It should be a great gig that prefaces my son's birthday on Monday and I'll be back quite late if rumours of a near-three hour show are correct.

It means I'll miss most of the Sunday game at Northampton, where Derbyshire come up against, not Macca, but Elton. Must be that kind of day, but Elton Chigumbura is the Steelbacks second overseas player for the competition, playing alongside Chaminda Vaas. It is an intriguing combination, with Vaas a fine bowler who still looked a class act in the IPL. I'm not so sure of their tactic of opening the batting with him, to be honest, but with Rob White and David Sales in the middle order we cannot afford to underestimate the opposition, both of them capable of scoring very quickly. Add Andrew Hall and Nick Boje to the side and there are some solid performers, but Chigumbura's novelty value could be the secret weapon.

How much our lads know about him I'm not sure, but he is a hard-hitting all rounder with a decent, if not spectacular record. I would like to think we will win this one, but it is hard to call Derbyshire in any form of the game.

On Monday the focus switches back to the County Ground and a game against the Worcestershire Royals. Having lost almost all of their big name players in the winter, the visitors have now lost Australian all rounder Steve Smith to the national side and Vikram Solanki to injury. Their hopes will lie with opener Phil Jaques and the fresh-off-the-plane Sanath Jayasuriya, who must now be in the status that is slightly older than "veteran". He has been an outstanding cricketer, but the recent World Cup suggested that time had caught up with him.

Let's just hope that he doesn't get his second wind on Monday. Given the various celebrations over the next couple of days, I may be playing catch up on Tuesday, but will do what I can, when I can.

See you soon.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Lighten up guys

I had a quick look at In Morris We Trust today, where the discerning Derbyshire fans go to comment on games. If you've not already done so, I'd urge you to visit and contribute whenever you can as it is a great forum.

Anyway, a contributor suggested that our losing on Sunday, away to Northamptonshire, will end our interest in the T20. I disagree, though we really should be beating sides like Northamptonshire and Worcestershire, who we play on Monday in front of the TV cameras. After last night we have ten games to play in the T20 and, as Greg Smith suggests in the Derby Telegraph today, if we win half a dozen matches in total we will be in the mix for the quarter-finals. That would require four wins from those ten games, not at all unrealistic with most teams taking it in turn to beat someone else.

I was hopeful that we could win last night, especially when I saw that Nottinghamshire were without Chris Read as well as their England bowlers. Yet a start of three wickets down for just two runs was a nightmare, especially when the three wickets were all those of our blasters in the top order. Bosman and Durston were due a failure, while there was an ironic inevitability over the fact that Chesney Hughes might get a blob shortly after signing a new contract. The impressive thing was that we still made a potentially challenging 150 from 2-3, something we'd never have done a year or two back. Yes, we lost, but it was far from a disaster - or as far from a disaster as losing to your East Midlands rivals can be...

I have written before that I don't yet expect us to beat teams of that strength. If we played out of our skins and they had a bad night it is possible, but the Nottinghamshire squad is large, talented and experienced. I think the gap between the two sides is narrowing, but we've still got a way to go before we play them on equal terms.

We have yet to play Worcestershire, Northamptonshire and Lancashire, sides with talented players but who have lost their fair share of games already. We have returns to play against Leicestershire and Yorkshire, who we have already beaten. Warwickshire only just edged us out and we've no more games against Nottinghamshire. We gave a good display against Durham and would probably have beaten them at Derby had the weather not intervened. If the players reckon that four or five wins will do it, there are enough winnable matches among that lot to do so. For what it's worth, I think we'll need five as a minimum to progress, so need to return to winning ways sooner, rather than later. If we won the next two, suddenly winning three from eight is a much more realistic concept.

What impressed me in looking at the post-match scorecard was the runs down the order. Lee Goddard and Steffan Jones haven't batted in this competition yet scored quick and valuable runs last night. Such contributions will be crucial if we are to continue in the positive manner displayed so far.

To get through to the quarter-finals would be a major achievement, considering our track record in this form of the game is akin to that of Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards in his sport. At that stage it is a straight knock out that would require one of our big names to play a blinder, something they are eminently capable of doing. It was good to see Langers back in the wickets quickly last night and he will benefit from a bowl on English soil again, working out the lengths required. Bosman and Durston will be back in the runs over the weekend and I'm a long way from downhearted at this stage.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire T20

I can't write much tonight, mainly because I wasn't around for any of Derbyshire's game as our lovely daughter was picking up loads of awards at her school prize giving. Well done Rachel, but less well done to Derbyshire, who appear to have been outclassed tonight.

It looks like we came back well from losing our three big guns for just two runs and Garry Park played a good hand, but 150 against the Nottinghamshire side is rarely enough. Despite three wickets on his return for Charl Langeveldt, the visitors coasted to a win.

That'll teach me to be optimistic...more tomorrow.

All is set...

It might be me, but the T20 campaign at some counties seems to be developing into a game of "Tag Overseas Player," where the outgoing player, in the style of a tag wrestler, touches the incoming one scheduled to replace him.

Leicestershire have now lost Andrew McDonald and Yorkshire likewise with Clint McKay, while Worcestershire have replaced the injured Vikram Solanki and the Aussie-selected Steve Smith with Sanath Jayasuriya, who had the T20 World Cup from hell and must surely be past his best. Some of the signings around the country this time have smacked of desperation, an overseas player of convenience.

I'm still puzzled why Lancashire, a team of considerable talents, decided to augment it for the T20 with Simon Katich and Nathan McCullum. That Katich is an outstanding batsman is beyond doubt, as we know all too well at Derbyshire, but we are also well aware that he is not a T20 player, in much the same way that Chris Rogers isn't. Both have made stacks of runs for their respective counties over the years (and between them they've covered around half of those possible) but have rarely scored runs at the rate required in this form of the game.

The same goes for their signing of Nathan McCullum, a decent but far from deadly off spinner who can bat a bit, not remotely close to his brother Brendan as a player at this stage. Neither were the sort of signing that would have made the fans sit up, yet they have been replicated around the country as counties have signed two overseas players because they could, with little apparent regard to whether the players concerned were any better than they already had.
Last night I watched Somerset throw away a game they had in the bag against Essex, after Trescothick and Compton added 99 for the first wicket in ten overs in pursuit of 170-odd. When Trescothick holed out at mid-off, Kieron Pollard came in and smashed three sixes in four balls before being flummoxed by a quicker ball from Danish Kaneria and the innings subsided. Granted, the Essex bowling at the death was exemplary, but Somerset's players perished in trying to emulate Pollard, rather than using their heads.

Tonight's game at Derby features two sides who have recruited very cleverly for this competition. The visitors have the admirable David Hussey in their batting line-up and Dirk Nannes to open their bowling. We, of course, have the impressive Loots Bosman, one of the game's most dangerous hitters, to open the batting and Charl Langeveldt to do the same in the bowling. The two bowlers were the most economical in the recent World Cup, while the two batsmen can make a mockery of any total when they get in. The only other county to have recruited so shrewdly is Durham, who have the dangerous Albie Morkel and Ross Taylor in their line-up, players whose game is perfect for this format.

It should be a fine game and seems set to be blessed by good weather. I hope the crowds come out accordingly and we enjoy a fine game - and the right result, of course!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Langers in for Notts clash

Terrific article in the Derby Telegraph today on Charl Langeveldt, in which he discusses his approach to bowling in T20 cricket. You can see it at:

http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/sport/Staying-calm-helps-Charl-avoid-fall-guy-Twenty20/article-2311368-detail/article.html

Langeveldt is a classic case of a bowler improving with age. In my opinion he has been a far better opinion over the past five years than he was in the previous five, even allowing for the loss of a yard or two of pace. He still has the ability to bowl a quicker ball, though far from an express bowler, but now knows how and when to mix it up with all the other tricks at his disposal. Steffan Jones is another who has been a far better bowler after reaching thirty than he was beforehand, as evidenced by the number of teams he played for.

To a great extent it is common sense that greater experience leads to the honing of skills. Michael Holding is another who became the complete craftsman in the county game as he approached veteran status. Previously he relied on his blinding pace, a not inconsiderable weapon, but then mixed that with greater guile for a potent mix. Most bowlers are like this, especially spinners and Robert Croft has been one of the best two spinners in the country for the past five years despite the advancing years and waistline. Look at Jon Lewis at Gloucestershire and Glen Chapple at Lancashire for other examples.

Finding a couple of bowlers in that line might be the focus of John Morris' winter work this year, players who are perhaps not rookies but might benefit from another opportunity in their mid-late twenties after finding the game too much for them earlier in their careers for one reason or another. Whether they are out there I don't know, but one looks at the examples of Gemaal Hussain at Gloucestershire and Wes Durston here at Derby to see that players can sometimes be later starters. On the basis of his T20 batting so far, Durston could be about to embark on a new career as a one-day opening batsman of some talent and has plenty of years ahead of him in which to do so. He suffered from a lack of opportunities at Taunton and I only hope that their loss is our gain.

Tomorrow's game against Nottinghamshire is likely to see us unchanged, while the visitors have lost both Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad to injury and England respectively. The game could be decided on the respective talents of Langeveldt and Dirk Nannes, the two most economical bowlers in the World T20.

Nannes has done brilliantly for them so far, but he can be hit, as was shown on a couple of occasions in the IPL by a batsman prepared to chance his arm on a good day. As we all know, it is a team game, and both players will need their team mates to back them up with bat, ball and in the field to decide this one. I'm not convinced that Nottinghamshire's back up bowling is anything special and if we can get off to a good start we have some players who can score quickly.

Similarly our rivals have thus far profited from the lightning starts given by Hales and Brown, which has in turn allowed Patel and Hussey the chance to come in and do what they wanted. If we can make early inroads, it may put pressure on players who have not had a great deal of batting so far.

While a defeat would not be the end of the world for Derbyshire against the only unbeaten side in the section, a win would be a huge confidence boost and would stand them in good stead as the T20 programme commences its most intensive phase. I'm still hopeful that we can make the quarter-finals this time around and from there it is anybody's game.

Postscript - I wrote this on the train today before Nottinghamshire fell to defeat against Warwickshire. That defeat pretty much backs up the above comments!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Hughes signs three-year deal


Chesney Hughes has signed a new contract at Derbyshire, keeping him at the County Ground until the end of the 2013 season.


That has to be excellent news for any fan of the county, as I've seen no better young batsman in my time watching the club, which goes back over 40 years. Kim Barnett, John Morris and Chris Adams were precocious talents, but this lad dwarfs them all.

At his current rate of progress I could see him an international player by the time he's 25 and at 19 he has the world at his feet. His attitude will determine how far he goes, but Hughes has the physical attributes and the skills that play a major part.

Now all I want to make my week complete is the news that Wes Durston has also been signed, as I think he has as much to offer the club's future as Hughes. It is good to see the club with players in the line up who are prepared to hit the ball and go through with their shots, very much in the mould of John Morris himself.

Excellent news to end the day.

Central contracts are...

"They're a great bunch of lads. It's good fun."

Thus spake the bard of Chelsea, Kevin Pietersen when asked about his future plans. His contract with Hampshire runs out at the end of the season, but the likelihood of Hampshirer fans being distraught at his departure is minimal.

In the past four seasons he has played just eleven matches for the county, while in his six years at Hampshire, one of the best batsmen in the world has played just two T20 fixtures. It is an appearance rate that suggests Bob Willis was an ever-present at Warwickshire, so we can look forward to Pietersen moaning about county cricket in fifteen years time…

It's something that saddens me about modern cricket, that the fans of counties who spend a lot of time and money in developing young players hardly ever see them when they reach the pinnacle of their careers. Take Nottinghamshire - how much do they now get out of Stuart Broad and Ryan Sidebottom? I know they didn't develop the players concerned, but they are their players and sightings are as frequent as those of the Loch Ness monster. I'd love to see some of our talented youngsters eventually get national recognition, but the prospect of waving them farewell until they lose form or fall from grace doesn’t appeal at all.

I'm not sure where Pietersen goes from here. His comments regarding his domicile in Chelsea would suggest that Surrey or Middlesex might be his favoured county, but I'm not sure what any side would get out of the deal, apart from a token appearance or two each summer. It is like owning a precious book that you have to keep in an acid-free box, or a painting that cannot be allowed into the light in case of deterioration. In short, it is pointless. Maybe bragging rights comes into it ("Kevin Pietersen plays for us") but is that enough? It might give you a little more interest in the affairs of the national side, but for the parochial-minded among us, that's not worth all that much.

Meanwhile the Chief Executive of the Professional Cricketers Association has said that players are "not sure of the point" of the experimental 2nd XI competition in which we've reached the final. This comes at a time when Cricket Australia plan to play their Ford Ranger Cup competition in a split-innings format. While loath to knock anything in which we've done well, it does seem to be adding further unnecessary complication to the game and is little more than a gimmick. A case in point was yesterday, when Chesney Hughes was unbeaten on 70 and presumably seeing it like a football when the innings closed. Twenty overs later he had to start again on the same score, but needing to play himself in. I don’t see the logic in it.

Finally, the realisation dawned last night that I'm going to miss most of our game against Nottinghamshire on Thursday as our lovely, clever daughter is picking up five subject awards at her High School prize-giving, followed by drinks and nibbles with the staff. I don't suppose it would be deemed acceptable for them to post Cricinfo score updates via a data projector during the ceremony?

In which case I'll see the score at the end of the game, while keeping my fingers crossed that we bowled them out for 135 and knocked off the runs inside 12 overs to win by ten wickets, thus boosting our net run rate.

I don't ask for much, do I?

Monday, 14 June 2010

You can't beat a good book

One of the things that impressed me about our new house when we bought it twelve years ago was the loft.

OK, I was as impressed as Mrs P with the kitchen, living room and dining room, and the bedrooms were nicer and bigger than those we were leaving behind. But when I stuck my head through the loft hatch (not literally) for the first time, and shone a torch around, I was really pleased. I had two big walls to work with and quickly set about putting shelves up there, after I had floored the loft and got a fluorescent light. I'd then got loads of space for my cricket books, although the prized full run of Derbyshire CCC yearbooks is kept in a box in my wardrobe to ensure they stay in the best possible condition.

Over the years I have accumulated almost every book on, or related to, Derbyshire cricket, including biographies and autobiographies. There's only two books that I would like to complete the set. The first is the 1937 Wisden, which naturally gives all the details of the 1936 Championship season. I once borrowed a copy from my local library and was able to photocopy the results pages of our matches that year. I've also picked up a book by the Association of Cricket Statisticans that gives all the details from that year, and have John Shawcroft's wonderful club history permanently at the side of the bed.

The only other one I need is the autobiography of Eddie Barlow, which somehow I missed when it first came out and is now out of print. I've scoured the net for it and drawn a blank, unless I'm prepared to pay silly money or have it sent from South Africa or Australia. Neither appeals particularly, so if you hear or see anyone selling Bunter's book at a reasonable price, I'd be really grateful if you could let me know.

We're in the final!

Well done to our Second XI, who beat Somerset at the County Ground in the semi final of the two innings of twenty overs 40 over competition, a title that rolls so easily off the tongue...

The full match report can be seen on the club site. You can tell that we meant business by the fact that our batting order was Madsen, Hughes, Park, Sadler, Clare and Borrington...A fine century by Chesney Hughes saw Derbyshire home in a good day's cricket.

To be fair, there was a sprinkling of first team experience in the opposition, including Nick Compton, who must be wondering why he left Lords at present after a wretched season. You could also argue that the Derbyshire players all needed a knock anyway after mixed form this season. The bottom line is that we're in a final, where we play Sussex.

If the first XI can replicate that one we will have few complaints!

Monday musings

Five games played, two wins, one draw, two defeats. There's an element of symmetry to that sequence but it fails to convey the fact that Derbyshire have so far played some excellent cricket in their T20 campaign.

As Mark Eklid points out in today's Telegraph, had the players got back on yesterday, Durham would have had an easy run chase under Duckworth-Lewis regulations. I loved his comment on the forenamed gents getting their "MBE for services to confusion." Perhaps they should get it on condition they revise the calculation for this form of the game, which is nonsense as it stands and only favours the side batting second.

Derbyshire again batted superbly and, whisper it quietly, seem to have the hang of batting in these games. Admittedly the new recruits have helped considerably, with Loots Bosman giving us the firepower we never expected at the top of the innings. I've been impressed by his attitude and batting so far, which has exceeded my expectations having seen him in the Caribbean. If he can carry on in that vein, Derbyshire can still make the quarter finals, despite being in what I would see as the stronger group. Each round of matches brings a surprise and only Nottinghamshire at this stage could be said to look a likely side for the top four.

Indeed, they were the only side to beat us convincingly, yet even there our batsmen - specifically Wes Durston - did well and set a challenging target. We needed Langeveldt to open that night and give us the control that we lacked, as Nottinghamshire's tactic is to blitz the first six overs and pace it thereafter. Meanwhile the Warwickshire game could have gone either way and saw us far from disgraced in a last over finish.

Wes Durston has been a revelation and those who suggested a move for him in the close season (including me) have been vindicated. He plays his shots in front of the wicket and is a player approaching his prime. While well aware that finances are tight, I hope we sign him up for the remainder of this season and then the next two, assuming his current coaching commitments can be put on hold. John Morris, to his credit, at least moved more quickly than the rest when Durston reinforced his credentials and we need to ensure that he's a Derbyshire man for the short and medium-term future.

Morris also shrewdly saw something in Durston that no one else has seen and promoted him to open the innings, something he had never done before. He has been totally vindicated by the form of the all rounder, who has made a big contribution to our T20 form.

That Derbyshire T20 side, with Langeveldt's arrival, now looks well-balanced. Plenty of attractive stroke players, three seamers, three spinners and a medium pace wobbler. The only way it could be strengthened further would be if Graham Wagg returned to fitness, but whether someone recovering from an achilles tendon injury wants to be throwing himself about in the field for twenty overs is debatable.

With eleven matches to go in the competition, we are in the mix. The Nottinghamshire game on Thursday will be tough, but after that I would see all the teams we play as being beatable if we play as we have been doing. Don't get me wrong - I don't think Nottinghamshire are unbeatable, but they are, for me, the best side in the country on present form and have a very strong batting line up. Yet early inroads into that side may bring dividends and if Greg Smith could win the toss I'd be inclined to let them bat and see how they do at setting a total. Who knows, they may just overreach themselves having chased successfully thus far. We've not yet had to chase and haven't traditionally made much of a fist of it, yet this is a much different Derbyshire T20 side to seasons past.

The Bosman-Peterson-Langeveldt axis gives us a good solid core to the side, while the all round skills of Durston, Smith and Park ensure balance. John Sadler and Chesney Hughes have done what was required when they batted, while Tim Groenewald and Steffan Jones have by and large done well with the new ball. While we have not yet seen Lee Goddard with the bat (and I hope it stays that way) he has been steady behind the stumps.

We may not qualify at the end of it all, but anyone who cannot see an improvement in this squad needs an optical appointment. As fans of a smaller club, one that some might refer to as perennial underdogs, we look at constant improvement as a benchmark, both in the quality of players and of performances.

So far as the T20 is concerned, this is light years ahead of previous efforts. Well done lads, just keep it going for the next eleven games.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Derbyshire v Durham

What a shame that the weather intervened when Derbyshire had played themselves into a good position today against Durham.

After 19 overs we had reached a challenging 172-3, with Loots Bosman and Wes Durston once again leading from the front with a fine opening stand of 90 in just nine overs. Although Bosman was run out in a mix up with his partner, the stand gave Derbyshire a good base, despite being slowed down a little by England skipper Paul Collingwood.

Durston again showed himself a player of very high quality and I hope John Morris has got his pen to paper on a longer term contract. He appears to be as high a quality batsman as we've had at Derby for some time and he had just taken 18 from the penultimate over when the players came off.

John Sadler played another fine cameo with two sixes in five balls faced and Derbyshire would have been looking at 185 in their 20 overs. They may well have fancied their chances too, with Charl Langeveldt restored to the side.

More tomorrow in my Monday musings, but this group is wide open. While Nottinghamshire, visitors on Thursday, look the team to beat, everything else is very much to play for.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Derbyshire v Durham preview

Played four, won two lost two. I'd have settled for that pre-tournament, but Derbyshire will need to be on their mettle tomorrow to get anything from the game against Durham.

The northernmost county have had an awkward start to the season with a number of injuries, primarily to bowlers, but they have a strong squad assembled for the T20 and I would see them as one of the favourites.

With Blackwell, Mustard, Benkenstein, Taylor and Morkel, besides England skipper Paul Collingwood, they have a long and powerful batting line up and we will need to bowl much better, especially in the early innings, if we're to get anything tomorrow.

Of course, we should (pretty please) have Charl Langeveldt back tomorrow, which should make a difference. Whether we drop a batsman to accommodate him I couldn't say, but I'd leave out Wayne Madsen as the only change from Friday night. I know Steffan Jones got serious stick at Trent Bridge, but he's been our best seamer in the T20 and had bowled beautifully in the previous matches.

His figures in Nottingham will have disappointed him. It must be doubly difficult to be the coach, showing the others what to do, when you're getting carted yourself. It doesn't happen often to Steff, so I'm hoping he'll bounce back in fine style.

My money is on a pitch less conducive to stroke play, so the Derby crowd may again be starved of Bosman hitting. As long as it stops their big guns doing the same I'll not complain too much.

Elsewhere it is good to read in this morning's Telegraph that Wes Durston is keen on a Derbyshire deal. trust me Wes, not half as much as we are to see you put pen to paper for the next couple of seasons. By any standardsm that was an astonishing knock on Friday and Durston must be causing a few red faces down Taunton way.

I hope he repeats it tomorrow, but expect a lower scoring game. My forecast - sadly - is a defeat, but I hope that I'm wrong. I just feel they have too many big guns for us at this stage.

Moment of "glory"

I've not yet had the chance to play any cricket this season due to a combination of work and domestic commitments. As things stand, I will be unable to play until July, after my daughter's prize-giving and our family holiday, though I look forward to my first game with a great relish. As it is, I feel like one of the amateurs of old, only able to play in summer holidays due to "business commitments."

I've now, sadly, given up on my dream of playing - even if only once - for Derbyshire, having accepted that I'm now too old. That has sadly overtaken the previous reason, which was that I wasn't good enough. I still hope to play for another eight years, all being well, which would take me to my sixtieth birthday. At that point I will do the right thing and become an umpire, using my failing eyesight and hearing to upset anyone and everyone at the far end of the track. That was a joke, just in case you wondered...

Someone asked me recently about my greatest moment in playing cricket and I cast my mind back over forty years of runs here and there, useful wickets and the occasional catch of stunning brilliance (at least to me…)

Then I realised that there were two "feats" of which, for some reason, I was inordinately proud. The first was when I added 110 in ten overs of a twenty over bash for the first wicket, registering only singles as my partner scored a century at the other end. Showing brains, I called it. Nine balls faced, nine singles - doing it for the team.

The other was the night that I ran a three to the wicket keeper.

I should perhaps explain. It was another twenty over game (you'd think I'd love it, the amount I've played) and we were playing a match against the local Islamic community. It was an annual match, always hard fought and competitive, but this time we had excelled ourselves. We'd over 160 in 20 overs and on our track that was like Derbyshire scoring 400 at Headingley. There was one ball to go and tempers in the opposition were frayed. On a hot evening we'd hit the ball all over the place and we knew we already had too many for them.

The opening bowler ran in, bowled to my partner and it went down the leg side. Maybe the umpire would have called a wide, but in the ensuing melee he forgot. As the ball reached the wicket keeper he fumbled it and the ball ran several yards away. I was off, like Usain Bolt on a can of Red Bull. My partner, Vernon, was an affable West Indian from the local University and we had a good understanding. I just nodded and he started to run as well.

The wicket keeper, oblivious to this with our silence, sauntered to the ball and turned with it in his hands as the bowler started to shout something - presumably unpleasant, in his direction. He wasn't at all pleased, whipped off a glove and hurled the ball back at the bowler, hitting him on the knee, the ball rebounding several yards away as the bowler sank to the floor.

Vernon and I looked at one another and decided to go again, the rest of the field having scattered in the face of our earlier lusty blows. As we crossed, the bowler forgot his pain, got to his feet and hobbled to the ball, muttering under his breath. We made our ground just as he picked the ball up. At that point, the logical thing to do would have been to berate the wicket keeper, or walk up to him and smack him on the head with it - but no...

The bowler shouted something that seemed not at all polite and hurled it, as hard a he could, back at the wicket keeper but to his right hand, which was ungloved from the throw. Sensing the potential for injury, the keeper withdrew his hand and the ball whistled past him to deep fine leg. Another run, by which point Vernon and I were almost hysterical with laughter.

As defining moments go, it is perhaps not the same as a match-winning six or a hat-trick, but I don't think we've anyone in the current Derbyshire set up who has managed this feat. It could be useful if things get tight in the last over of the T20.

So maybe I shouldn’t give up on that dream JUST yet!

County Ground looking good

The photograph of the new marquee on the club website is a further sign that Derbyshire are moving in the right direction, on and off the field. It is sure to prove a popular venue for weddings and functions, as much for the curiosity value in the first instance. The location is excellent and it almost makes me think of asking Mrs Peakfan to renew our vows so we can have a bit of a "do" there…

I thought the new stand also looked very good on TV the other night and look forward to seeing it in due course. With all the recent developments, the ground is a long way from the vast, open, downright chilly space that it was when I first attended the County Ground in 1970.

I'd been to a few games before then, but they were at the outgrounds. I'd seen half a dozen matches at Chesterfield, a couple at Ilkeston and another at Buxton before I saw the headquarters. I was unimpressed to be honest, as it was so much bigger than the others and we seemed a long way from the action. When I subsequently went to a match at Trent Bridge, I felt we were watching a match through binoculars, held the wrong way round!

I had mixed experiences of the County Ground at that time. At the Surrey match in the John Player League in 1970 it was a baking hot day and my memories of the game include eating ice cream and layering on sun cream in equal measure. On the pitch we won the game easily, thanks to some fine batting by Chris Wilkins and some good bowling by Alan Ward. Our car was parked on the mound, which was then square of the wicket, and at the end of the game the car was like an oven. The folly of wearing shorts was quickly highlighted when my thighs made contact with the plastic on the seats, the temperature of which was something akin to molten metal…

At the opposite end of the scale, there were a few games where we watched from the car, as it was so cold, and a few when we ventured out onto deck chairs, dressed as if ready for a Polar expedition. Any good work was applauded, if only to ensure that we kept warm. A brisk walk around the boundary edge served little purpose, as there was nothing much to see. The club shop of the time had little in it, unless you wanted to buy the year book, pens, pencils or rubbers. The only other thing of note was a fairly expensive plate produced to commemorate the club's centenary. It was nice enough (I've seen a few on ebay in recent years) but didn't look the sort of thing to use for Mum's stew, shin beef or pies, so we didn't bother.

To a young boy, as I was at the time, it didn't matter of course. This place was the theatre of dreams, long before Manchester United adopted the idea. It really didn't matter that the toilets were spartan, barely functional and smelly, or that the gatemen were presumably hired for their surliness. It didn't matter that we didn't seem to win too many games, as there were always positives to find in defeat.

It might have been a handful of clubbing blows from Ashley Harvey-Walker, or a great catch by Bob Taylor. Maybe someone excelled in the field, or maybe, as often happened, we got lucky and Chris Wilkins stayed in for an hour. Sometimes we did win and the journey home was filled with excited chatter about this one and that one and how well we were doing. Other times, the only things that kept us going was Mum's picnic that she'd packed us up, the one bright spot of another hammering…

Through it all I stayed a fan. As Dad did and as anyone reading this presumably did. Forty years on we've got a ground that looks like one and a team that's coming together, even if it's more slowly than some people might want. The road may indeed be long, as The Hollies once said, with many a winding turn, but at least we've got a marquee now...

Friday, 11 June 2010

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire T20

Well, the defeat I expected came to pass and Nottinghamshire won in the end by some distance, but Derbyshire were far from disgraced tonight.

That this was the case was thanks to a superb century from Wes Durston, an inspired choice as opening batsman, who matched Loots Bosman run for run and then forged ahead in a magnificent display of hitting. 111 for Durston before being run out off just 59 balls, setting a new club record in the process for an individual T20 innings.

Sadly, that was as good as it got, and I think we messed up at the end of the innings, only 13 coming from the last fifteen balls. Nannes is a very good bowler, to be fair, but we should have reached 200 if only for the psychological value. There were unnecessary big shots when working it around may have been more productive.

Nottinghamshire got off to the flyer we feared in reply, taking 20 from the first over as Steff Jones had the game from hell. His three overs went for 53 runs tonight and we never recovered. For my money, Greg Smith missed a trick in the field by leaving the seamers on for too long. Only when seven overs had gone for a hundred did he and Peterson come on, while Durston strangely didn't bowl at all. Whether he was tired or injured after his hundred I can't say, but when the seamers are disappearing to all parts there was a strong argument for him to at least turn his arm over, having done well in other matches.

While Peterson and Smith shared five wickets, the damage had been done and Samit Patel steered Nottinghamshire to a win that Durston's earlier heroics didn't deserve.

The good news is that Charl Langeveldt should now be in Derby in time for the game on Sunday against Durham, who won tonight and will welcome back Paul Collingwood for one of his two allowed T20 games. Langers arrives at just the right time and I suspect that we might not see the run fest that there was tonight.

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire preview

After two games in the T20, Derbyshire had exceeded all expectations and were 2-0. Following a fascinating game against Warwickshire, that unbeaten record went in a close finish, but we will have to play at our best to stop the record going to 2-2 at Trent Bridge tonight.

Whether we like the fact or not, Nottinghamshire are a good side, albeit one that perhaps underperforms on occasion. Any squad that includes Ryan Sidebottom, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann has to be respected, although the former is likely to bet he only one playing tonight. He will be partnered by fellow left-armer, Australian Dirk Nannes, in an awkward opening attack. Their duel with Derbyshire's openers may well decide this match, although Loots Bosman and Chesney Hughes will hope for a pitch more conducive to stroke play than at Derby the other night.

Nottinghamshire's side also includes the excellent Australian David Hussey, while Samit Patel is always a threat, especially in one day cricket. With new recruit Steven Mullaney and veteran Paul Franks both enjoying fine seasons, the Trent Bridge side seem well-equipped for this competition and should surely make the quarter finals as a bare minimum.

There's still no news on Charl Langeveldt's availability or whether he is yet on a plane, boat or tandem. He must be the only person heading OUT of South Africa right now and his appearance is crucial as far as our prospects in this one are concerned. The batting has done well thus far. Even in the difficult conditions of Wednesday we didn't fall apart, but John Morris will have stressed to them all the need to keep the scoreboard ticking over when the bowlers are making things difficult. The extra seam bowling option afforded by Langers will make a big difference. I don't see many changes unless he arrives, when he'll be a straight swap for Chris Rogers and give us greater bowling options.

At the risk of endangering my positive image, I would be surprised if we could win this one, though stranger things have happened. We need to continue to do the good things that have been a feature of the campaign thus far and hope that it is enough. If I'm back on here later today with a positive result, you can fully expect an overdose of euphoria!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Down but a long way from out

John Morris was exactly right last night when he said that Derbyshire were 10-15 runs short of what would have won the game.

Even to the armchair spectator - perhaps that should be especially, given the excellent view afforded of everything - last night never looked a game where a batsman would really get going. The TV experts showed that there were green patches where the unevenness of the surface had left areas more grassed than might have been preferred. It was the first time that one of the new wickets had been used and inevitable that they will take time to settle.

Such wickets, if they are to be the norm for our campaign, will be a dream for Charl Langeveldt, but we are unlikely to see the best of Loots Bosman because playing extravagant shots is unlikely to prove productive. On a true surface where he can go through with his shots, Bosman could get us off to a flyer, but we were guilty of too many "boom or bust" strokes in the early innings last night. As the TV experts picked up, Chesney Hughes' tactic of throwing the bat at everything enabled the fielders in the ring to go back to the edge and cut off the frequently mistimed strokes. A far better tactic would have been to work it around a little, nudge and nurdle a few here and there. It is constructive criticism of a young man who is undoubtedly a fine talent and part of the learning curve.

It was a murky night for cricket and the crowd was disappointing. The "floating" fans will want a better night's weather and those who want to see the ball disappearing over their heads would have been, on the whole, disappointed. I was more than a little bemused by the frequent, Seven Dwarfs-style "Hiiii- hooooo" that came over the PA on a regular basis. If there's a reason for this I'd appreciate someone telling me, but if the idea was for the crowd to reply it failed - miserably. Maybe it's a localised attempt at the "mad trumpeter" of the IPL, but met with a reception that was so luke-warm as to have ice forming on it...

As John Morris also pointed out, we failed to keep the board ticking over. Even when the conditions are not ripe for extravagant shots, nudging one a ball gets you 120 before you do anything else. That made Warwickshire's reply all the more surprising, as the toss in such games is a big factor. Playing all the big shots with only six an over required struck me as a little odd and they soon found themselves in trouble against the excellent Jones and Groenewald. While Ian Bell looked the best batsman on display, he rode his luck and survived a difficult bottom edge chance to Lee Goddard in the early 40's. There were also a couple that dropped between fielders and on another night - who knows? Yet Bell played some superb shots and on such a surface a batsman needs luck.

Having praised Bell, credit is also due to Greg Smith, Wes Durston and Robin Peterson for the way they got us up to a passable total. Smith played some of the best cricket shots of the night and looks a player of class when he gets going, while Peterson, despite frustrating with several failed reverse sweeps, unveiled a couple of astonishing strokes in the last over. Durston must have found conditions a long way removed from Taunton, but applied himself well and again looks a player worth signing on a permanent basis.

Smith as skipper? I thought he did a good job, again backing himself at the death and bowling steadily. He changed his attack around and his only mistake was in "losing" one over of the excellent Tim Groenewald on a seamers track. For what it's worth, I thought Park might have caused more problems than he did last night with the ball, but c'est la vie.

At the start of the T20, if you'd told me we'd have won two from the first three I'd have laughed. With Langeveldt hopefully here before tomorrow's game against Slytherin…sorry, Nottinghamshire, a similar attitude could see us kick on from here. Whether we can make the quarter finals it is way too premature to say, but we're undoubtedly playing this game better.

One final point - very impressed by the control in these matches - we're conceding very few extras and bowling wicket to wicket. It is good to see and long may it last.

Adams Family not especially happy

Like many of you, I keep an eye on the successes and failures of former Derbyshire players. To be fair, there have not been too many over the years who have gone elsewhere to match or surpass their achievements at the County Ground. Kim Barnett did at Gloucestershire, proving a major factor in their successful one-day period and Peter Bowler played with distinction for Somerset over several seasons. Ian Blackwell has also done well at Somerset and now Durham, but there have been plenty for who the grass was of a more insipid hue on the other side of the fence.

Players like Rob Weston, Matt Cassar, Adrian Rollins, Devon Malcolm, Ant Botha, Harold Rhodes, Mike Hendrick and Geoff Miller all had less success on leaving the club, though granted one or two of the above were in the twilight of their careers when they did so. Mind you, we have signed a few in our time with varying degrees of success. There's probably a book "Old Lags of Derbyshire Cricket" in there, with names such as Fred Trueman, Clive Inman, Ron Headley, Steve Titchard, Colin Wells, Rob Bailey, Phil Weston and Tim Munton all coming to us after their best days were behind them.

Perhaps the greatest feats of those who left the county were achieved by Chris Adams, who moved to Sussex and the captaincy in the fall out over Dean Jones departure from the club. Adams was a fine, aggressive batsman and a brilliant fielder, yet no one at Derbyshire saw him as captaincy material. Maybe Sussex didn't either, but struck it lucky when they dangled the carrot in front of him to aid a move to the South coast.

Adams turned a side of perennial under-achievers into champions, then did it again. He was aided by some good players, including, in Mushtaq Ahmed, the best overseas county bowler of the past twenty years. If Kirtley and Lewry got a couple of early wickets, Adams could pretty much bring on Mushtaq to bowl at one end for the rest of the innings, something he did with control and considerable guile.

Such a statement is unfair, as Adams backed his bowlers with clever field settings and an aggressive style of play, often prepared to sacrifice his own average for the team cause when quick runs were required. He moved up and down the order to suit the circumstances and always looked in control of affairs on the pitch. For me, he and Kent's Rob Key have been the two best county skippers I've seen in recent years, both setting intelligent fields and knowing how to get the best out of their bowlers.

He was set to leave Sussex in 2006 to take up a Director of Cricket role on a four-year deal at Yorkshire, then quickly realised he had made a mistake and resigned the post, saying that he did not feel able to deal with such a role at that stage. He had two further years at Sussex before bowing out to become the supremo of Surrey cricket.

There he has had more than his fair share of problems, ridding the club of a number of under-performing senior professionals and investing in youth. It was a bold policy, but the appointment of Rory Hamilton-Brown as skipper was always going to be contentious. Rumours persist of dressing room unrest and the club's struggles on the pitch have continued for a second successive season. With their feisty opening bowler Andre Nel suspended for throwing the ball at an opponent, the team find themselves unable to score enough runs or take enough wickets, hardly a recipe for success.

Adams is not the first to experience the difficulties in the switch from on to off-field leader. Eddie Barlow never had success at Gloucestershire when he was unable to change playing fortunes himself, while fine players like Graham Gooch, John Emburey and Clive Rice had only limited success once their own inspirational deeds were no longer part of the magical formula.

Adams may yet turn Surrey around but needs to be given time. This summer may mark the last of Mark Ramprakash's career and replacing him will be a huge task. With young players it has to be a long term plan, but the question remains as to whether Adams bosses will allow that time or demand more immediate results.

The parallel at Derbyshire, of course, would be in John Morris releasing Wayne Madsen, Garry Park and Tim Groenewald and playing Paul Borrington, Dan Redfern and Atif Sheikh in every game. It might be deemed a laudable, brave move in some quarters but carries an element of risk in the short to medium term. Whether Adams has the security he needs for such a bold gesture is something we'll find out in the next few months. The fact that the crowd booed them off the other night does not bode well and Adams will need all of his skills to ride out a gathering storm at the Oval.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Back to the 60s...

When you get to a certain age (I'm told…!) there is a tendency to look at the past "through rose-tinted spectacles," where everything was always better than it is today. Take the weather - it seemed so much better years ago and when I think of my childhood, I only recall days out at the cricket, or going around Derbyshire's many sights in my Dad's old Ford Anglia. In my mind's eye the sun is beating down and the radio is playing "I Can't Let Maggie Go" or "California Dreaming" as we head out on the open road, as most of them were.

They were great days, but I'm sure there were many more when I was cooped up in the house as it was raining. A look through the old Wisdens and county yearbooks highlights that there were some pretty poor summers at that time, but of course, we never headed to the ground when the rain was forecast and our memory blots out all but the most miserable days.

What about cricket in the late 1960's? Was it better than today?

In short, no. Something that crossed my mind after our assault on Yorkshire in the T20 was that it took Derbyshire several seasons in the old John Player League before they reached 200 in 40 overs. Now it is pretty much taken for granted as a par score and is gettable for the team batting second, as the Netherlands proved last week (sorry if you'd nearly forgotten that…)

There were a lot of great players around in the late 1960's, but for the greater part they played shots from the coaching manual and were not used to hurrying unduly, certainly in the first few years of the Gillette Cup and John Player League. Bowlers put it on a line and length and few batsmen made any attempt to knock them off it by using their feet. Some of the shots that we now take for granted, such as the reverse sweep and the scoop were many years away and someone attempting it may well have been dropped for careless play. Some of the better players - Barry Richards was one - might play the "inside out" shot over extra cover or go down the track to the bowlers, but few others did.

Of course, I saw many of the giants of the game in that era. No one will convince me that players like Garfield Sobers, Mike Procter, Keith Boyce, Majid Khan, Faroukh Engineer, Clive Lloyd, Greg Chappell, Rohan Kanhai and Glenn Turner are bettered today, but the overall package and style of play was more….attritional, certainly as played by those around the big names. When they came to Derby or Chesterfield, I hoped to see them score a hundred while we bowled out their side for 180. Had it happened, the likelihood was that the other eighty would have taken much longer than the individual century...

Younger fans used to scoring rates of 3-4 an over in the Championship will have found the earlier version much harder going. If Derbyshire lost Mike Page and Peter Gibbs early, you knew that it was going to be a day of graft. David Smith, Ian Hall, Derek Morgan et al were worthy cricketers, but were a long way from being labelled entertainers.

Sussex were the first team to "master" the one day game, with hard hitting batsmen like Ted Dexter, Jim Parks and Tony Greig, together with good bowlers like the Buss brothers, John Snow and Don Bates. It made our beating them at Queens Park in 1969's Gillette Cup semi-final at Chesterfield all the more remarkable and the fact that they were bowled out for less than 50 extraordinary.

160 was a good score in 40 over matches and you would win more than you lost with such a total. In sixty over cricket, more often than not you would be safe with 200. We won very few if the opposition got so many in either competition. While Page and Gibbs could bat attractively, they played the right shot for the ball and rarely improvised. John Harvey and Ian Buxton could occasionally hit hard, but neither were batsmen of the highest rank. Derek Morgan was a fine cricketer but an accumulator of runs. If we needed to boost the run rate, the solution was often to send in Alan Ward…

Ward was, on his day, a very fast bowler, the fastest domestically-reared I have seen for the county. He could bat reasonably well, but his usual range was something in the mid-teens, perhaps twenty-odd if it was his day. Put another way, he wasn't in the same league as Steffan Jones as a batsman, yet how many times have you seen him promoted in the order to boost the scoring rate?

What we had, thankfully, was a terrific seam attack on wickets that were left uncovered once the game had started. Harold Rhodes was in his final seasons and a veteran, but rarely bowled a loose ball and could still make batsmen hurry their strokes. Alan Ward and he made up an oustanding opening attack and then, in one day cricket, we had the Pickwickian figure of Fred Rumsey, a left arm seamer who couldn't bat and wasn't much of a fielder, but kept the pressure up by bowling tight lines. There were few occasions when these three went for even three an over. There was also Peter Eyre, whose golden day was against Sussex in that semi final and who should have had many more with his late swing and useful tail end batting. Illness and injury hit him badly and he departed from the scene much earlier than he should have done. Derek Morgan could bowl niggardly seam or off cutters, while Ian Buxton bowled the biggest in-swingers I have still ever seen, "big banana benders" we called them. "Bucket's" deliveries seemed to swing from the hand and would have been a potent weapon in the modern era, when I'm convinced he would have been a handy T20 player.

That attack was backed up by some excellent catchers, with Mike Page brilliant at slip. Peter Gibbs was also a fine fielder and Morgan dropped very little. At the centre was "Brilliant Bob" as we called him. Neat, unobtrusive, efficient and reliable, Bob Taylor was of a completely different class behind the stumps. He was so good that we were shocked if he occasionally dropped a ball, while dropped catches in the course of a summer perhaps required only one hand to count.

Having said all that, it is generally reckoned to be a batter's game and while our attack was respected and our fielding impressive, the team was a long way from feared.

Unless, of course, you'd to open the batting against Ward and Rhodes...

Derbyshire v Warwickshire T20

No complaints from me tonight.

I thought Derbyshire did very well in tonight's match on a very tricky pitch and were essentially beaten by one batsman of the highest class. Had Ian Bell been unavailable, I have no doubts that we would have won that game. If Charl Langeveldt had been able to make it from South Africa in time I think it would also have made a difference.

That we took it to the last over while defending 120 showed character and guts, things not always associated with Derbyshire over the years. I thought Chesney looked a player of rich potential but also showed his naivety by trying to carve everything, rather than nudge a few here and there.

I was impressed by Smith, Durston and Peterson with the bat, the latter's switch hit six over mid wicket (or was it extra cover?) one of the most extraordinary shots I've seen from a Derbyshire player. Smith's captaincy and bowling also impressed, though I thought he bowled Park an over too many and left Groenewald one short.

All in all though, one of the more satisfying losses. I could see, perhaps for the first time in a televised T20 match, how we had been working at the game. Bosman was unlucky to get a ball like that first ball, as it was low and on the stumps, a fatal combination, but again we fought hard to address the early loss of Bosman and Rogers to eventually run them very close.

Similar spirit, hopefully with Langeveldt on board, will do very nicely against Nottinghamshire at the weekend.

Hopefully at the end of it they'll know they have been in a game. Anything more will be in the lap of the gods...

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Derbyshire v Warwickshire preview

Assuming that the current weather relents and allows it to actually take place, tomorrow's game between Derbyshire and Warwickshire in the T20 could be an excellent match for TV viewers, as well as those at the ground.

The visitors will have England men Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott available for selection, as well as limited overs pinch-hitting danger man Neil Carter. There is also the additional spice of three ex-Derbyshire players potentially being in their line up, with Rikki Clarke and Ant Botha likely starters. Boyd Rankin is less likely to play, but Derbyshire fans will have mixed feelings about the trio.

Rankin was given an opportunity by Derbyshire but chose to continue his development at Edgbaston, where he has been a qualified success. Clarke has done better than he did at Derby, but to be fair would have struggled to do worse. Botha was a player we would have preferred to retain, even though he seldom ran through sides in helpful conditions as Robin Peterson did yesterday. Limited overs cricket was usually his forte and there will be few easy runs from him tomorrow.

As for Derbyshire, we go into the game unbeaten at the head of the table. A triumvirate of quality South Africans in Bosman, Peterson and Langeveldt (visa permitting) underpins the side, but look a much stronger side than in previous T20 campaigns. There is good depth in batting, a range of bowlers who can take the pace off the ball and a captain who, in his outings thus far, has impressed with his field placing and bowling changes.

No news on the sides yet, but I would expect the following Derbyshire XI to take to the field:

Bosman
Hughes
Smith
Durston
Peterson
Sadler
Redfern
Park
Goddard
Jones
Langeveldt

Wes Durston made a useful unbeaten 32 on Monday as Derbyshire 2nds beat Lancashire on Duckworth/Lewis at Glossop.

The game was a Quarter-Final tie in the ECB's new 2-innings 40-over one-day competition.

Lancashire had posted 91 for 4 in their first batch of 20 overs, with Paul Horton making 43 and Gareth Cross 25. We were going well at 72 for 2 when rain ended proceedings after 12 overs, and the teams never got back out on the pitch.

Lancashire 91-4 (20 overs) Paul Horton 43, Gareth Cross 25
Derbyshire 72-2 (12 overs) Wes Durston 32*

We now play Somerset, a side with some exciting young batsmen, at the County Ground in the semi final. I'd have thought that Wes will be keen to play in that one!

Odd things appearing in the press - number one

From today's Independent:

"Robin Peterson, a slow left armer from Port Elizabeth, took 4-10 in eleven overs.."

Anybody else think the writer has never heard of RP? Surely otherwise he'd have written "South African spinner etc…"

Odd.

Derbyshire v Sussex - the day that never was...

Today's torrential rain ruined what would have been a gripping final day at the County Ground. Both sides will have fancied their chances overnight, with Sussex having the all-important runs on the board. Yet Derbyshire bowled superbly in the last session of play yesterday to come back into the game and in Robin Peterson had the best spinner of those on display.

Monty Panesar seems to have gone backwards at an alarming rate since his golden days with England and it is hard to see whether this is down to his confidence or technique. As I wrote last night, a spell on South Africa in the winter was only moderately successful and he was comfortably outbowled by Peterson in a crucial game towards the end of their season.

Peterson is, in comparison, the business and his success here must be beyond even the wildest dreams of John Morris. 36 wickets by the start of June is impressive for any bowler, especially a spinner. Peterson has also contributed solid batting, spectacular fielding and a vibrant personality to the mix, working well with the younger players.

We should enjoy him while we can, because as things stand it is unlikely that he would be able to return in 2011. Quite how we replace his all-round talents and the run machine that is Chris Rogers is something that must keep John Morris awake at night, as we have two of the best performing imports in the county game at present. If you throw in the excellent start made by Loots Bosman and the signing of Charl Langeveldt, Morris has done very well with his overseas signings.

There's no news yet as to whether Langeveldt will arrive in time for tomorrow's televised game against Warwickshire, but at this stage there must be question marks against the game going ahead anyway. After today's deluge, there is more forecast for Wednesday, albeit in the form of showers, rather than the nationwide black cloud that covered pretty much everything from Land's End to John O'Groats today. That will be a major disappointment for us while we are on a roll, and especially for the marketing team who will be hoping for a bumper crowd to swell the coffers.

Maybe we'll get a ten over thrash in. Just enough time for a Bosman century if he hits his straps...

Full marks to the groundstaff

Something that I've not seen mentioned or acknowledged in the media this season is the way in which Derbyshire's groundstaff have managed to turn the moribund tracks of last season at the County Ground into good cricket wickets this year.

They are to be commended for their work in doing so. Last season's wickets at the County Ground started out in favour of the batsman and just got better and better. By the end of some matches, nothing short of dynamite would have dislodged a batsman who had "got in," an unsatisfactory state of affairs. Some of our batsmen are struggling compared to last year, but the fact that wickets are less heavily weighted in their favour has got to be a factor.

The wicket for the Sussex game is perfect for cricket, Decent bounce for seamers and for batsmen who want to play their strokes, enough movement to keep the bowlers interested and then taking spin increasingly as the game goes on. Four hundred plays three hundred is a good balance in the first innings of a four day game, but several counties have failed to get that right this year.

Lancashire's pitches at Old Trafford have been a problem, as have those at Edgbaston, while Bristol's early season wickets made batting a hazardous occupation. Matches at these grounds have barely made the third day, making suggestions of five day county cricket somewhat laughable. At least the new groundsman at Taunton has made games there a more even battle between bat and ball.

Our only problem this year has been the injuries to major players in the seam attack and some inconsistency in the bowling and batting. If we can get that right, the pitches at least give them every chance of positive results.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Monday musings

Every so often I head up to the loft and dig out one of my favourite old cricket books to read. This weekend it was a small paperback that was nestled between bigger tomes that caught my eye on the shelves and went downstairs with me. It was John Arlott's wonderful biography of Sir Jack Hobbs and I have enjoyed rediscovering the wonderful words that persuaded me to buy it. Truth be told, it needed little persuasion, as I picked it up at a car boot sale for 20p…

Anyway, Arlott paints a vivid and affectionate picture of one of the greatest of all batsmen in its remarkably short 144 pages, a classic case of saying what needs said and nothing more. It was a section on Hobbs 1905 season, his second, that caught my eye, however, for its pertinence to Derbyshire.

In that season, Hobbs endured a spell when he made only 150 runs in sixteen innings, with 75 coming in one of them. He thus made 75 runs in the other FIFTEEN knocks. He later told Arlott, who became a close friend, that he was physically and emotionally exhausted after his impressive debut season in 1904 and just could not seem to shake it off. A similar experience was later the lot of Sir Leonard Hutton in his second season, when he was pulled from the Yorkshire side for a spell to recharge his batteries.

Such was the lot of two of the greatest-ever England batsmen, so we should not be at all surprised at the struggles of some of our own this season. On such occasions, wrote Arlott, you become increasingly aware that the distance between the middle and edge of the bat is around two inches and wonder, on occasions, if you will ever find the former again.

Wayne Madsen, Garry Park and Dan Redfern have all experienced such problems this season. Each has made his runs - more than Hobbs did in his spell, at any rate - but none have found the fluency and aggregate that made 2009 so rewarding for them. Paul Borrington has also struggled in regular first class cricket and a batting line up that looked good on paper has not translated to deeds on the pitch. The problem is that the Derbyshire squad is so small that it is difficult to remove them from the "firing line" and they simply have to try and battle through. They will, but similar problems have been the lot of most batsmen over the years.

I'm old enough to remember when Alan Hill, Tony Borrington and Harry Cartwright all came through around the same time at Derbyshire and all of them endured their difficult periods. The first two emerged from them to become solid county professionals, while the latter, despite several hard hitting innings and some spectacular fielding, never realised his potential. He was far from alone in that of course, the history of the county littered with those who never quite made it, Ben Spendlove, Wayne Dessaur, Gul Khan and John Owen to name just four. Bruce Roberts left us at 29 with the memory of some innings of brilliance and some useful spells of bowling, yet never managed to counteract his early vulnerability against a moving ball.

It is another frustration with the ECB Memorandum of Understanding. Some players are simply not ready, physically or emotionally, for a protracted stint in county cricket when they are in their teens, yet counties are expected to play two or three of them in most matches or incur financial penalty. Those who don't make it before they are 23 could be prematurely discarded to make way for the next wave and late developers may never get another chance.

Who remembers the way that David Steele took on the Australians in 1975, when he was 33? He had played county cricket for a number of years without setting the heather on fire and was a much better player between 30 and 40 than he was between 20 and 30.

Wes Durston is another case in point, a better player now at 29 than he was in his early 20s by some distance. Most players are and you only need to look at the local leagues for proof of that. How many club sides best players are teenagers, or those under 22? Very few, I'll bet.

The most prolific batsmen of this summer are experienced players who have their games worked out, the most successful bowlers the ones who know where the ball will land most of the time. It is no surprise that our two most likely opening bowlers in the T20 are Steffan Jones and Charl Langeveldt, bowlers who have perhaps not got that edge of pace that they once had, but can drop the ball on the proverbial (ideally blockhole) handkerchief and have plenty of options in their repertoire that have been honed over a number of years of graft.

There's a lot to be said for giving youth its head, but even more to be said for experience. I just hope that the ECB remember that

Derbyshire v Sussex day 3

Care to call this one, anybody?

Sussex 163 runs ahead going into the last day, with a turning wicket to bowl on in the last innings. Despite the parlous state of their second innings, the visitors must fancy their chances of a win tomorrow, especially with two England spinners in their side.

Having said that, Michael Yardy didn't bowl in the first innings, while psychologically, Monty Panesar will remember last winter when he was completely outbowled by Robin Peterson in a South African domestic match. There will be real pressure on Panesar to do well in the final innings and we'll only know tomorrow how he will react to that pressure.

Derbyshire did well today, first of all to pass the follow on mark with relative ease and then to get within 92 of Sussex, despite having to bat in the hardest conditions of the match yesterday. There were useful runs from both Robin Peterson and Tom Poynton, before Steffan "Dean" Jones added to his growing reputation as a batsman with an unbeaten and sensible 38.

No one could have predicted what happened in the last hour. When I left work tonight, Sussex were 40-1; when I got home they were 71-7. While Robin Peterson has produced some admirable spells this season, 4-10 in eleven overs, even on a track offering help, is superb work. That is 36 wickets in seven matches for the South African, an excellent return. His 230 runs at 25 have been equally valuable and that might be something we will need tomorrow.

I've not yet seen the forecast for tomorrow, but if the weather stays out of it there should be a great finish. We won't want to chase more than 200 and will want to dismiss danger man Arafat early tomorrow. We would then need a good start and everyone to chip in, but this game is winnable. For all Yardy is a fine T20 bowler, he's not a huge spinner of the ball and greater damage may come from Chris Nash, in support of Panesar.

Game on. A win resurrects our Championship campaign. A defeat... let's not think about that tonight. This one is there for the winning.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Derbyshire v Sussex day 2

This has been a funny old game, with the top orders of both sides doing poorly before a late middle order resurrection.

Sussex will have been delighted to reach 429 from 126-6, especially when Yasir Arafat quickly removed Wayne Madsen, who is haveing his struggles at present. Chris Rogers and Garry Park then added 96 before both of them and Greg Smith were dismissed by the time Derbyshire had reached 127.

At that point we could have collapsed and been facing the follow on, but young tyros Chesney Hughes and Dan Redfern came together in a satisfying stand of 98 before both were dismissed before the close. Hughes just continued the golden form he has shown since his elevation to the first team, but Redfern had a welcome return to form and it was refreshing to see these two young players doing well.

The first task tomorrow is to get to 280 and avoid the follow on, then push on to a total close to that made by the visitors. I'll be counting no chickens at this stage and we have a lot of work to do before we reach parity in this one.

In closing tonight, thanks to Alan (comments, yesterday) for pointing out that the large number of byes was primarily down to some wild bowling from Mark Footitt. The left armer has good wicket taking ability, but will need to work hard on his direction so that the batsmen have to play more of the time. While his erratic line keeps batsmen guessing, it also gives away runs we can ill afford and I look forward to him retaining his ability to take wickets while maintaining a more Derbyshire frugality in doing so.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Derbyshire v Sussex day one

By early afternoon this looked like a good toss to have lost, as we had Sussex in serious trouble at 126-6.

Yet last night's identified danger men, Robin Martin Jenkins and Murray Goodwin took them into a position of some strength at the close, adding 225 for the seventh wicket in a magnificent stand.

They were aided by some average fielding, with several catches going down and a couple of stumping chances being missed. I'm again concerned by 48 extras, 22 of them byes, though whether that is more of a comment on erratic bowling or an off day by Tom Poynton I couldn't say.

One would assume that we will be batting some time before lunch tomorrow, and will need to show the same fighting spirit that two excellent servants of Sussex cricket did today. Martin-Jankins retires next month and has been an outstanding servant to the club, while Goodwin, once a target of David Houghton when he was at the club, has been one of the best imports of the last ten years.

Work to do tomorrow lads.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Derbyshire v Sussex preview

A few short weeks ago, the game against Sussex that starts at the County Ground tomorrow would have been looked on as a clash of the titans. OK, that's maybe over-egging it a little, but Sussex flew from the traps at the start of the season and we looked highly impressive ourselves. Since then, both sides have struggled in the Championship and this game, while still important, will settle little in the division's higher echelons.

Sussex's squad is:
RG Aga
JE Anyon
BC Brown (wkt)
MW Goodwin
EC Joyce
RSC Martin-Jenkins
CD Nash
MS Panesar
MA Thornely
LJ Wright
MH Yardy (c)
Yasir Arafat

Robin Martin-Jenkins will be embarking on his final month as a first-class cricketer, having recently announced his retirement from mid-July. Murray Goodwin remains the key batsman for them and we will hope to get him to the wicket early if at all possible, while Luke Wright has international aspirations and will aim to do well.

As for Derbyshire, we've named the following 12, with a few people thankfully restored to full health since the Gloucestershire game. One of the seamers will miss out, with the final choice possibly being between Steffan Jones and Mark Footitt. Jones may benefit from a rest before the T20 games next week, but has such a positive attitude that he may play through an injury niggle. The 12 is:

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

No predictions from me, but I just hope that we can carry the new found confidence from the T20 into this match and rekindle our Championship aspirations. A challenge on two fronts over the second half of the season would be good to see!

Tonkers galore...

Loots Bosman's assault on the Yorkshire bowling at Headingley on Thursday evening has been rightly lauded by eye witnesses on the club site. If that standard continues, fans are in for a rich summer of entertainment.

To be fair, the county haven't an especially long history of big hitters. Counties like Somerset can cite such luminaries as Arthur Wellard and Harold Gimblett in their past, whereas Derbyshire's batsmen, perhaps because of the nature of the wickets in the county, have tended to be more functional than flashy.

Before the Second World War, Les Townsend and George Pope were probably the two best hitters in the side, the former being especially fond of hitting the bowlers back over their head, whereas George favoured the mid wicket area. After the war, Pat Vaulkhard, who played all too infrequently, could hit the ball cleanly, as did Arnold Hamer, though Hamer was not a prolific hitter of sixes.

On occasion every batsman has his day, of course. I remember watching David Smith, a dour and dogged left hander for most of his career, taking Derek Shackleton apart at Ilkeston in 1970, clumping him over mid wicket time after time, a feat all the more noteworthy because:

A) It was Shackleton, who very rarely got hit by anyone and
B) Because Smith rarely played an attacking stroke if a defensive one would do.

Most of the Derbyshire batsmen of my early experience were what my Dad calls "nudge and fudgers," at least until Chris Wilkins arrived in 1970. Their runs were normally acquired with glances, glides and dabs, rather than with full-blooded strokeplay - we could call them accumulators.

I've written about Wilkins before and at length, but the South African, though not a classic batsman, gave the ball a real hit. In 1970 he was close to the season's six-hitting prize, run by a Sunday newspaper and offered great entertainment in his three years at the club. I saw him hit one out of the ground at Buxton, and into the boating lake at Chesterfield on the full. Although he became more restrained as the years passed, books and newspapers were put down and trips to the toilet were postponed when he walked to the wicket. If the first ball was in his arc it would go back over the bowler's head and while he could be undone by movement, there were enough good days to make him memorable. Like Bosman, he arrived as an opening batsman but struggled until moved down to number four, where he played a number of punishing innings, punctuated with what are now called "maximums."

Since then we have had far more attacking batsmen, many of them from overseas, though few were especially known for their six-hitting prowess. Mohammad Azharuddin hit quite a few in Sunday League matches, though my abiding memory of Azha was his wristy strength off his legs and with the cut. Peter Kirsten also hit a few, but was again more a conventional stroke player than a hitter. Shahid Afridi could also hit, but his good days for Derbyshire had the frequency of June snow at Buxton...

For me, the only genuine contender to Wilkins and Bosman as a hitter was, as David Griffin mentions on the club site, Adrian Kuiper. Kuiper was a far from classic batsman and was not in the same league as people like Dean Jones, John Wright or even Lawrence Rowe, but he could really hit a cricket ball.

Sadly, Wilkins and Kuiper never played twenty over cricket, a format for which they would have been well-suited. Both were good fielders, both bowled useful, if not outstanding medium pace, but both gave anything that was in their half of the wicket a fearful whack. I would have them in my fantasy Derbyshire T20 side without a second thought.

However, I am prepared to concede that, for a destructive hitter, Bosman has to take some beating. His first class record is modest - Bosman is one of only a handful of players who have a better T20 record than first class - but his style is eminently well suited to the format and John Morris has done very well to bring such a crowd-puller to the County Ground.

Enjoy him, while it lasts.