Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Rogers, Morris' challenge and the farce of Bristol

The size of the task facing John Morris in his rebuilding job at Derbyshire became clear this morning when the rumoured loss of Chris Rogers became a reality. Rogers will play his cricket next season at Lords, still in Division Two, but at the home of the game.

Only the most churlish would fail to wish him well. He has given his all for Derbyshire and over 4,000 first class runs at an average of 63 tells its own story. In an era when overseas players willing and able to commit to even one season are rare, Rogers showed loyalty to Derbyshire and will go down as one of the very finest batsmen to represent the county, certainly in the four-day game. While he never quite came to terms with the demands of one-day cricket (compare his stats for the various forms if you will) he was a neat, compact player who at his best seldom looked like getting out.

Perhaps the various options available told on him this season, as his record since the opening match at the Oval has been more modest, with an average of just under 40 before the Middlesex match. Yet the fact remains that he will be a very difficult man to replace. How many eligible and available players in the world game can you think of who will average over 60, or perhaps over 40 and take 30 wickets? They’re like gold dust.

I’m not convinced that Rogers was an outstanding captain though. Competent, yes, but not inspirational. I don’t recall him changing many games as skipper, or forcing an error from batsmen who were going well. Such actions are the hallmark of greatness, but it helps if you have players to carry out your masterplan, like Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor had, or you can do it yourself, like Eddie Barlow. Donald Carr is still regarded as one of our finest captains at Derbyshire, but with Jackson, Gladwin, Morgan and Smith in the attack he had some potent weapons at his disposal. Rogers hasn’t had that luxury, with respect to all concerned and it makes a huge difference.

So what happens now? Graham Wagg was saying farewell last night and we’re also likely to lose Robin Peterson, as he won’t qualify for a visa. So we’re losing our best batsman, leading wicket-taker and talismanic all-rounder. Anyone who expects next season to be anything but transitional is kidding themselves, unless John Morris gets Harry Potter and his magical wand involved somewhere along the line…

As I see it, Morris’ major areas to address at present are:

· The captaincy

· The overseas role

· The wicket-keeper

· The lead spinner

· The coaching staff

· The need for younger seam bowling options

· Another batsman

· Another Kolpak (possibly)

That’s a lot of work…

Conjecture has already started, with one correspondent on IMWT having heard that Luke Sutton is coming back and Shane Watson will be overseas player. I would be delighted – no, make that ecstatic – if this were true. I could believe Sutton’s return, which would enable him to stay in the north and would be delighted if it was established as fact. At this stage it is far from that.

Watson? He’s a world-class player, so who wouldn’t want him? Realistically though he is part of the Australian setup and they are heavily committed during the 2011 English domestic season. A trip to Bangladesh in April and May is followed by one to Sri Lanka in August and September, South Africa in October and November then India at home in December. With that in prospect, my guess would be that he will be unavailable.

As I have written before, the ONLY countries without international commitments from April to September next year are South Africa and New Zealand – at least for the time being. If one assumes that the leading lights from each nation will not fancy six months in England, it doesn’t leave many options to go around the first class counties. It may be some time before we know the identity of our hired hand from overseas.

As for today, irrespective of conditions I cannot defend any first class side that is bowled out in sixteen overs. Just when you think we’ve reached the depths (aka Horsham) we plumb new ones. It might well have been a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness to Keats, but to Derbyshire fans it is a lengthy prelude to a long, dark winter.

Which will actually be a bit of a relief, if I’m honest. Today's play may or may not have been on a wicket that offered undue help, but to be bowled out in that time is unprofessional. Logic suggests that this game will finish sometime between lunch and tea tomorrow and that is simply not good enough.

Chris Rogers to join Middlesex

So it's official. Chris Rogers will leave Derbyshire at the end of the season to become overseas player for Middlesex.

Besides upsetting a lot of fans at Edgbaston, who were convinced he was joining them next year, it is a move that will understandably excite Middlesex fans, as well as the player. He will undoubtedly have received a lucrative offer and the chance of playing at Lords on a regular basis must have been a huge factor.

More later, but the conjecture as to his replacement will probably start now...

Monday, 30 August 2010

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire

A disappointing end to our home Pro 40 campaign, as we failed to post a big enough total to make the game safe.

Despite another 50 from Chesney Hughes and a breezy knock from Dan Redfern, Stephen Peters and James Middlebrook made the game safe with a fine partnership  when Northamptonshire looked in trouble.

Guess that's the frustrating inconsistency back in town...

More tomorrow.

Monday musings

Today marks the last of Derbyshire’s one day fixtures at home this season and there have been some improved displays.

Few would argue that the first class programme needs looking at for next year, however. While the Championship is fine the way that it is, there has to be a compromise between the respective merits of T20 and Pro 40. The former worked pretty well for Derbyshire, with our involvement in the next stage possible down to the very last match. In contrast, the Pro 40 has seen us playing only for pride since the half way stage and that has been the case for several sides.

The major difficulty is that the clubs need the revenue that T20 brings but the players are being overworked. With only two teams progressing from each group there have been growing murmurs of discontent across the shires. I love the format, having grown up with the John Player League, but the game has changed and spectator preferences with it.

Perhaps the answer is for the Pro 40 to become a group-based competition with the eighteen first-class counties, Scotland, Ireland and Holland forming three groups of seven. That would give each side six games, with the top two in each group and the two best third placed sides playing off in quarter-finals. It would be good to include the Unicorns, but I’m not sure how sustainable or competitive a side can be when those concerned are playing for free. While fully aware that the competition gave Wes Durston a platform back to first class cricket, I would be surprised if their involvement continued in even the medium term.

Ideally I would love to see a straight knock out competition along the lines of the Gillette Cup and Nat West Trophy. Such a tournament would give the better Minor Counties a big game, but I’m less sure how feasible that might be. Changes in health and safety legislation mean that fixtures at ‘quaint’ venues may no longer be feasible and would fall foul of requisite risk assessments.

Many of my generation and older will have seen the county play at a range of outgrounds. I saw Derbyshire at Heanor, Burton and Ilkeston, but I don’t expect to see them back there in my lifetime. The County Ground is light years away from what it once was, while watching at Chesterfield is still a great thrill and still brings good gates.

They’ll do us nicely, thanks.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Thumbs up for Morris

That's the end of the poll on John Morris and I think we can say that it has proved the vast majority are still very much on his side.

79% of those voting felt that Morris should either be given an extended contract or at least be able to see out his existing one. Interestingly, more people voted for a contract extension than felt he should go now, a statistic that speaks for itself.

No one would say that this season has lived up to expectations and there have been more questions posed than have been answered, yet only the most churlish would fail to see that the county have become more competitive on the whole. Our one day cricket has been pretty good, spoiled only by some below par performances that have sullied the memory of an increasing number of good ones.

This year's problem has been in the four day game. Perhaps the change in points awarded has been a factor, giving less incentive for a draw and the points received, while the prevention of heavy roller use once the game has started has offered more help to bowlers. We have had too many injuries in our bowling ranks to remain competitive and our batting, without the reassurance of blameless tracks, has proved to be too flimsy.

It is, as Morris has said, a work in progress. There will have to be changes - perhaps major ones - over the close season but as fans we have to accept that such changes may not be at the speed we would like nor necessarily being in the personnel that Morris really wants.

As an example, take the wicket-keeper situation. With Joel Pope, Steve Adshead, Tim Ambrose and Luke Sutton likely to be available and Niall O'Brien possibly so there are options out there. What Morris has to do is keep one eye on the merits of the player while considering the age restrictions placed on team selection by the Memorandum of Understanding. The problem is that he needs also to balance the books and consider the likely cost of other replacements he needs. Might a competent, cheaper player be a better option than the best man out there, especially if he also needs a Kolpak, an overseas player, a batsman and a seamer or two?

One thing is for sure. John Morris will not be looking for things to fill his time this winter. Even as I write I am sure he has irons in the fire, though few are likely to get hot until the season ends once more.

Desperately sad

A few years ago, when my daughter was at primary school, I watched her skip happily into the school building at the same time that another girl ran across the playground, in fear that she would be late. The girl caught her feet, tripped and fell her full length. Within seconds of the realisation hitting her, she was sobbing her eyes out, with her knees skinned and bleeding and her jacket torn.

Everything inside me wanted to help the poor mite, but the realisation dawned that a man going to help a young girl in this day and age might not look good. All I could do was to run to the school door and find someone - a female someone - who could help. For a few days afterwards the event played on my mind, as I had allowed a concern of the modern era to override my concern for the wellbeing of the girl. Perhaps I should have gone straight to her to comfort her, but there are so many people who might have read something into it that wasn't there. I couldn't - wouldn't - take the chance.

A few weeks ago at Mum and Dad's we were watching athletics on TV as an athlete stormed away from the field to win at a canter. 'I bet he's on drugs,' said Dad, oblivious to the possibility that it may just have been a great performance and subscribing to the generalisation that now tarnishes the sport.

Which brings me, I'm sure you have realised, to the furore over the current Test match and the alleged betting scandal. To be fair, the newspaper's headline that calls it a 'match-fixing' scandal is over the top, as few matches have ever been won or lost on a no ball, but it doesn't look good. If substantiated, the penalties should be severe as the game cannot tolerate such actions.

It is such a shame that these activities, together with the investigation at Essex earlier in the season, have meant that supporters will now look at bowling in a different light. I have seen a number of erratic bowlers over the years who have struggled to bowl a consistent line, some of them in Derbyshire colours. Not once did it ever cross my (or anyone else's) mind that it was anything other than poor bowling, which it was, of course. Now, however, any bowler who loses his run up or line, or who bowls a succession of long hops and half volleys may get similar suspicion come their way. It is desparately unfair, will be incorrect in 99.9% of cases and tarnishes the game in the eyes of millions.

I bet I'm not the only one who is deeply saddened by the whole affair.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Derbyshire v Middlesex day four

I suppose that at this time of year when teams are jostling for finishing places that we see little that passes for adventurous cricket. Middlesex's declaration today, leaving Derbyshire 303 in 53 overs, hardly offered a glimmer to us and the game petered out into a draw.

Ironically, had they set us a lower total they would probably have won, but we'll never know. Despite Madsen and Rogers giving us a good start, the middle order capitulated in the chase for quick runs and Middlesex got what in league circles might be called a winning draw.

More tomorrow.

Random conversation...

I had one of those least expected conversations at work the other day.

Several of my colleagues had expressed interest in hearing the clip of the radio interview and duly listened in. I've not yet been beaten up for the jibe about Scottish cricket, so all is well thus far...

Anyway, one of them, the delightful Angie, subequently sent me an e mail, which said that "they have some lovely looking lads playing for them. I’m almost tempted to plan a trip." I had to confess that I had never thought of that or indeed looked at them that way. Can they bat? Can they bowl? Are they consistent? These are some of the many thoughts that had crossed my mind about the boys, yet never once had I considered whether or not they were "hunks" (not my word, you understand.)

I mailed Angie back to that effect but curious, asked her the names of the cricketing Adoni (is that the plural of Adonis?)

So for the record,  Dan Redfern, Greg Smith, Jonathan Clare, Steffan Jones, Tom Poynton and Wayne Madsen all have a fan in Edinburgh who would, I'm sure, be delighted to meet them. In the interest of workplace harmony, I'm more than happy to broker an introduction should it be required, though I did point out that most of them are spoken for...

Friday, 27 August 2010

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 3

152 runs ahead going into the last day, on a wicket where 21 fell today, Middlesex will fancy their chances tonight.

For Derbyshire to win this, we need to take the last six tomorrow and leave a target as little over 200 as possible. That part looks possible, but we'll need to bat well on a wicket that seems to offer something for all bowlers.

The weather may yet intervene, but otherwise it should be a fascinating day tomorrow.

Fingers crossed.

Comings and goings

Nice to be back again after last night’s cricket, played on a wicket that was slow enough to make the County Ground seem like Perth, Western Australia. My miserly bowling spell was followed by top score in a 4 wicket triumph, which showed that the old “magic” was still there, though some may say it never was. More importantly, I can still walk this morning…

News in the Birmingham press that Tim Ambrose is leaving Warwickshire at the end of the season is sure to be of interest to Derbyshire fans, and potentially, I suppose, to John Morris. After all, it is rarely that an England player of recent vintage comes on the market in an area where you have a vacancy and few other counties do. With wicket-keeping being such a specialist area, opportunities elsewhere may be hard for Ambrose to find.

Then this afternoon came the news that Luke Sutton is leaving Lancashire. At 33 Sutton is an established professional and a very good cricketer who, according to the Lancashire website, intends to seek playing opportunities elsewhere. That's a lot of wicket-keepers on the market and one would assume that John Morris will plump for one of Pope, Adshead, Ambrose and Sutton to take over at Derbyshire. Logic suggests we should get one of them. My guess would be that it will be between Adshead and Sutton, with my preference probably slightly with the latter as a better batsman.

Scots seamer Calum MacLeod has also been released by Warwickshire, though I’m not sure how things might go for him. He had some issues over his action and undertook remedial work, but he’s not yet made the grade at county level. Maybe the right coach could bring something out, but his future is likely to be far from clear. I hope he makes a go of it elsewhere, if only because we both played for the same hockey club, albeit a few years apart. Yours truly was in the Veterans XI when Calum was in the mini hockey, which makes me feel really old.

Someone I think will get another county is Somerset spinner Michael Munday. At 26 the Nottingham-born leg-spinner is a decent bowler with 86 wickets at under 30. The question I suppose is whether he is a good enough bowler, as a non-batsman, to hold his own in a county side when wickets are not always conducive to leg-spin. A couple of years ago we took a punt on Mark Lawson, which didn’t work out, though Munday is, I think, a better bowler. Needham and Munday as a spinning option for next year? I’d imagine him within our range budget-wise and we should know enough about him with Steffan Jones and Wes Durston on the staff. Of course, John might have Daniel Vettori in his sights…

One who won’t be coming our way is Ryan Sidebottom, whose estimated £150,000 a season salary demands will limit his options to a select handful of counties. In the current climate I think he and his advisors may have to negotiate hard to get that. I would have thought it unlikely he will feature in the England setup much more, but at 32 will want his last big contract to be a good one. Having publicly stated he wants the security of a three-year deal, he may be heading to either Lancashire or Surrey.

Elsewhere, rumours suggest that Leicestershire will soon be dispensing with the services of Paul Nixon, Andrew Harris, Daniel Masters and Joel Pope. The latter is a highly regarded young wicket keeper and I find it hard to believe that the county would release both him and Nixon at the same time. Maybe the plan is to do what we have and bring in a stop gap – as we have with Steve Adshead – if required, or maybe the rumours are without foundation.

Northamptonshire are parting company with Nick Boje after several years of excellent service, although at 37 I think he could still do a good job somewhere. Meanwhile Gloucestershire have signed another New Zealander for next season. I find it strange that it appears to be open season on our South African connection (which is almost matched by that of Middlesex) but little is said about the Kiwi invasion at Bristol. Just a bit of double standards going on, methinks.

Until the next time, adios.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Steffan Jones capped

The club has today announced that Steffan Jones has been capped.

Few can have more richly deserved the award as Jones has become a fans favourite in his two stints with the county. His whole-hearted approach to bowling has seen him effectively keep an end going for the club for most of the season, while on the club site John Morris acknowledges his contribution to the dressing room.

Steffan has also developed as a batsman and has laid genuine claims to all-rounder status with a succession of punishing innings this year. As the award also confers Life Member status on him, it is to be hoped that he is around the club for many years to come.

If he can continue the work that seemed evident last night with Jon Clare and Mark Footitt, his greatest contribution could yet be to come.

No blog tomorrow

Just to let you know that there will be no blog tomorrow as I'm making my season debut for the club in the local challenge final - in August...

The new job hasn't been conducive to much cricket, but I'll hopefully get another couple in before the gear goes away for the winter.

It amused me last night to hear the commentators talking about the dark green damp area on the wicket where the covers had leaked. There was considerable consternation in the box and it made me smile. It was still drier looking than our square and we play on it most of the time unless it is underwater.

As long as I remember which way to hold the bat and how many paces my run up is we'll be fine tomorrow.

Probably better than my body will be on Friday. See you soon and thanks for your continued interest and comments.

Derbyshire v Middlesex day one

Not much to say about today, except that Scott Newman lasted a lot longer than last night and defied Derbyshire for two sessions in making a good century.

The early finish will probably leave the final day a run chase, but there's a lot of cricket to be played in between times.

After last night there must have been some element of let down, but such has been our Championship form this year. The bowling attack looked stronger, at least in depth, than it has for some time but with Surrey choosing to bat one would expect the wicket to be pretty decent.

Here's hoping that it gets easier as the game goes on. A win in this one would cement the recent improvement.

Thoughts on last night

Derbyshire’s last appearance on Sky this season produced arguably one of their best performances, as Middlesex, fancing their chances when we were four down for less than 50 runs, were blown away by penetrative bowling backed up by fielding of the highest calibre.

It is quite some time since even I was so euphoric over a Derbyshire display. Led by an excellent performance in the field by Greg Smith, who showed some innovative touches with his field placings, Derbyshire looked a really good outfit. As Dave Houghton said at one point, they looked a much better side than their Championship placing suggests.

To begin with the skipper, Smith again led from the front. Batting three, opening the bowling, directing operations and then coming on to bowl off spin may not be sustainable over a prolonged period but was an impressive display of commitment. The way that he dismissed Simpson was excellent captaincy. Placing two fielders at short extra cover, the batsman failed to keep the ball down and fell to a fine catch by Clare, the first of several on the night.

Wagg was at his ebullient best and looked charged up when he batted and bowled. In this mood he is an irresistible character and will be a big loss should he go to Glamorgan. Over on 606 someone has suggested that we break the bank to keep him, which on the face of last night would be a good idea. It sadly neglects the fact, however, that to do so would mean that there was massive disparity between his salary and that of Smith. The figures that I have heard from someone close to the player are not remotely possible for Derbyshire’s budget, unless a rich benefactor came on board. What that would mean to dressing room harmony I could only guess. Is Wagg more important to Derbyshire than Smith, or Madsen? Surely the skipper would be on the highest rate, while overseas players don’t come cheap. You could sacrifice a Kolpak to retain Graham, but the other issues above would remain.

Wayne Madsen yet again confirmed his talent as a batsman, with an innings of poise and class, not to mention common sense. The wicket was no minefield but scoring runs was not easy. Madsen accumulated, bringing out the big shots only when he felt safe in doing so. It was a crucial innings and, supported well by Wagg and Clare, took us to a total that was way in excess of our expectations.

After Wagg’s early demolition job on the visitors, the pivotal period of the game was the spell of Mark Footitt, in which the middle order was blown away in a spell of real hostility. When your first ball travels through at 86mph, it suggests there’s plenty to come and the speed gun got up to 93mph as Footitt was way too quick for the visitors. He was aided, as fast bowlers need to be, by breathtaking fielding. Wes Durston’s catch at second slip was stunning, as was Adshead’s diving take to dismiss Shaun Udal.

The wicket keeper impressed me again last night. He fell early when we batted but constantly encouraged the fielders. His glovework was tidy, the only black mark the spilling of a difficult chance wide to his left from Smith. The batsman was dismissed the following ball and thus the drop did not prove costly. One could even argue that some might not have got near it.

Everywhere you looked there were impressive performances. Redfern batted well before giving it away, but he, together with Park, Durston and Needham, shone on the boundary edge. The ground fielding was excellent and the display was that of a very good team. Importantly, after recent travails there seemed a good spirit afoot, which was good to see.

I said yesterday on the radio that the major frustration of fans was the side’s inconsistency. Had we played like that against Northamptonshire in the T20, or at Worcestershire, we would have breezed both games. It may be that late in the season we have found a strategy that could work next year, with a fast bowler tearing in against the middle order and wily off spin at the other end. Jake Needham again looked good with this and I’m beginning to think that 2011 is the one where he gets the lead role and hopefully fulfils the talent we have known he has for several years.

At the end of the game, Wayne Madsen alluded to the fact that he will be playing in a middle order next year of Smith, Durston and himself at five, which looks a good lineup. With the right additions, that could make for an entertaining and competitive season.

In closing tonight, one comment about someone on 606 who suggested late last night that the current poll on John Morris is rigged, stating that the level of support was what Mugabe or Stalin received.

It is absolute garbage and a shame in an otherwise well constructed article. I resent and totally refute any suggestion that I could be even bothered to fix a poll on the issue and to link this blog and the name of John Morris with two such despots is pretty poor. You all know my thoughts on the issue, but like you I am curious to see the thoughts of other fans. I have locked the poll down, as usual, so that only one vote is possible from an IP address (including mine.) The final result will be a legitimate reflection of the opinion of fans but might not go the way that some would wish.

As for me, I was impressed last night. I just hope, in closing as my train pulls into the station, that the same intensity of performance is replicated in the Championship game that starts today.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Tonight's game

That was seriously impressive.

I'd be hard put to find fault in the performance of an essentially young team. They battled with the bat and Wayne Madsen looks better every time I see him.

In the field they were superb, with Wes Durston holding a blinder at slip, Steve Adshead leading the field with encouraging handling and shouting (as well as holding an excellent catch himself) and everyone contributing.

Waggy did what he has regularly done, but the talking point has to be Mark Footitt.

That was seriously quick and I loved to hear Michael Holding chuckle at his express pace.

More tomorrow, but that was brilliant.

Random thoughts

Well, that was a lot of fun…

It turned out that the BBC studio that I’d to speak from this morning was just around the corner from my work, which was nice and handy. Thanks to the staff there who were very professional and friendly, as well as to those at Radio Derby who were a pleasure to work with.

To quote Miriam, so beautifully played by Brenda Blethyn in the cricket comedy Outside Edge a few years ago, it’s not compulsory…

It was nice to get an opportunity to put over a point of view and the early signs from the poll are that most readers of this blog are firmly in the John Morris camp. Not even I would say that this season had gone to plan, but there are mitigating circumstances that the more discerning fans appreciate. If you have to get a project off the ground at your work and rely on several key personnel to do it, the chances are you would struggle if they went off sick or left. Such has been John Morris’ lot this season.

I got an e mail last night from someone who said that irrespective of the vote, Morris had brought in poor replacements for some ‘gifted’ batsmen. It’s a free world and everyone is entitled to an opinion, but anyone who doesn’t see Madsen, Durston and Hughes as a step forward perhaps needs to borrow my glasses, while I’m still puzzled as to the identity of the gifted ones…

Speaking of gifted ones, it appears that Ashley Giles has jumped in to sign Laurie Evans of Surrey for the rest of the season, thus stealing a march on other counties. Considering the Bears’ batsmen this season have made those elsewhere look Bradmanesque it is hardly a surprise. Meanwhile they have released Scottish seamer Callum McLeod, who hasn’t kicked on as they hoped he might since he left Uddingston.

Finally tonight, what a shame to see the shenanigans at Leicestershire, where internal fighting is at an astonishing level, with players threatening strike action and others talking about leaving. It is all reminiscent of the annual bloodletting that was a feature of Derbyshire’s winters, usually ending with committee men resigning and players disappearing. For their fans sake I hope that they can sort it out at Grace Road, but if not, there’s only one thing for it.

They can send us James Taylor and Nathan Buck…

Monday, 23 August 2010

Radio Derby tomorrow morning

If you're driving to work tomorrow morning, or lying in your bed wondering whether to get up, tune into BBC Radio Derby where I'll be getting interviewed about the success of the blog and my views on Derbyshire's fortunes.

It is all happening around 8.15am. I just hope they don't put a voice changer on me so I sound like Joe Pasquale...

Haven't a clue about the questions at this stage, but it should be fun!

Monday musings

In the words of the old song, what a difference a day makes. After Horsham, when we were all wailing and gnashing our teeth (nice biblical reference eh?) Colchester was light years apart and the sort of cricket that this Derbyshire side is capable of.

For me, that is the biggest frustration with the team - you don’t know which one will turn up. If you take the T20 as a microcosm of the season, we were good enough to beat Lancashire home and away and Yorkshire at Headingley. We took Warwickshire to the last over twice and would have beaten Durham at Derby but for rain. They are all big clubs with big budget players, yet ours rose to the occasion and did the business. Essex are another very good one day side, but we whupped 'em...

The converse is that we lost badly to a poor Worcestershire side at New Road and blew it under pressure against Northamptonshire when the quarter-finals were there for the taking.

If I was asked the reason for our failings this year, the bottom line is that it comes down to inexperience and injury. Redfern, Borrington, Madsen and Park are all effectively in only their second seasons and have had their struggles, though Madsen has managed four centuries in the Championship and has looked good in the one-day game. All are good enough to come back strong next year, though it would be asking a lot of Chesney Hughes to replicate this season’s heroics in what may be a more difficult second year.

The main issue, however, has been injuries to bowlers. John Morris’ big plan this season was bowler rotation, ensuring in doing so that he had fit and firing seam bowlers in August and September. Sadly, Jonathan Clare, Graham Wagg and Ian Hunter have only rotated on the physios table for the most part. Tom Lungley had his moments in early season before becoming the broken arm victim of a Jones straight drive and Mark Footitt has also had a couple of injuries.

Fortunately Tim Groenewald has been able to soldier on, while Steffan Jones, lacking any bowlers to coach, has done what he has always done for Derbyshire. It was evident at Chesterfield a couple of weeks back that both are now running on empty and reasons for our failure to bowl sides out in the Championship are not hard to find.

Tomorrow is our final TV appearance of the season when we entertain Middlesex. A good result could see us leapfrog them in the table and would see the luuurve spread still further around the County Ground. It would be nice to see us put on a show for the cameras but I’m wary of saying with confidence that we will at this stage.

What is becoming increasingly evident, however, is that we may have found our wicket-keeper. Today’s reports suggest that Steve Adshead took a good catch standing up to Greg Smith and a blinder standing back off Markl Footitt. He also added a stumping and must be in John Morris’ thoughts for next year, especially given a first-class batting average over thirty.

We’ve missed that this year. The Pipe/Wagg/Clare contribution at 7-9 in the order has been a big loss, though Jones and Groenewald have battled hard with the willow to compensate in some way.

Speaking of signings, I hope that John Morris has the number of Surrey outcast Laurie Evans, surprisingly released at the club. He can play and in the right environment could prosper. Sadly, I suspect he may wish to stay down south, but he's the right age to improve and would be a very useful asset.

Until the next time...

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Essex v Derbyshire

I'd to take my socks off this afternoon.

I ran out of fingers in working out the Derbyshire players who stood up to be counted against a strong Essex side and basically hammered them. It confirmed my belief that this is a talented group of players who just need to find a level of consistency to be a useful side. Indeed, it was hard to think that this was the team that suffered the debacle of Horsham. As I have said previously, on a given day we have players good enough to beat anyone, as we showed in the T20. Hopefully greater experience will make them stronger and then able to produce this sort of form more often.

There were strong performances all round, but it was perhaps the fact that we won handsomely without a contribution from Chris Rogers that was most encouraging. Chesney showed more of the form that has made him this year's success story, while Greg Smith again led by example when Rogers was out early and helped in a solid second wicket stand. Wes Durston then played another fine hand and importantly batted through to the end of the innings. He was well supported by Wayne Madsen initially and I'm still of the opinion that the latter would make even more runs in the middle order than he does as opener.

Then came Wagg and the all rounder showed what we will miss with a swashbuckling 36 from just 15 balls. A respectable score of 200 suddenly became a very good 250-plus, although even that was within the range of a strong batting side.

It didn't happen though. Mark Footitt has made a habit this season of dismissing good batsmen and the door was open when he bowled Ravi Bopara. When the ubiquitous Wagg ran out Matt Walker the game was on, with Ryan ten Doeschate at the crease against a team he has made hay against in recent seasons.

But not today. Perhaps THE most telling contribution was that of Jake Needham, who in tandem with Robin Peterson worked through the rest of the order, both men ending up with three wickets. Most importantly, Jake removed ten Doeschate and top scorer Grant Flower in an outstanding spell. When I saw Jake recently on Sky he seemed to have rediscovered the loop that made him look a bowler of talent and his wickets today, following six in the week for the Second Eleven, will have given him confidence.

We won in the end by 85 runs, but most importantly we restored pride and confidence. Some will say that the game wasn't important, but they all are. Any winning habit, at any stage of the season, is a good one to cultivate. The new skipper can reflect on a job well done, while the players can return to Derby with a spring in their step and their heads held high.

If they can follow that up on Tuesday in front of the Sky cameras, there's a few players who will start to believe in themselves. And if Jake Needham can build on this performance, we may not need to look too far for a first choice spinner in 2011.

Special mention too for Steve Adshead, with two catches and a stumping, besides allowing no byes. After being one of the few successes at Horsham, Adshead is making a very good fist of his extended trial and must be in John Morris' thoughts for next year and beyond.

Nice one lads, professional and promising. We can't ask for more than that.

New poll

In response to the many e mails and comments I have received, I've decided to run a poll on what the fans really think about John Morris.

I don't think it is unfair to see if the groundswell of support is in one direction or another and just might put an end to the nonsense on 606 that suggests the fans are against the man in charge of our fortunes.

One thing that I will say is that I will be watching IP addresses very closely and will be curious to see if there's any attempt to 'fix' the poll - something that I will be more than happy to let you know about in due course...

Meanwhile from last week, two out of three fans feel that we cannot go with youngsters alone next season. I agree with them. While we need to bring in the young players from the Academy, it has to be on merit and when they are in form, not just done as a matter of course. County cricket, as anyone who has played it will tell you, is a very tough school. Some take longer than others to acclimatise to it, but I hope that some of our youngsters choose next season as their time to burst into full flower.

Ebay watch

There's a remarkable amount of Derbyshire cricket stuff on ebay at present.

You can pick up scorecards from matches, old benefit brochures and signed autographs. You can pick up (separately) the autographs of father and son Tony and Paul Borrington for 99p each, which suggests that both are worth far more than getting those of the entire 1993 team for the same amount...

There are any number of reprinted cigarette cards for £3/£4, somewhat strange as I bought the entire set some time back for less than that, while the old club yearbooks are going for £4 to £5 each. There seems little market for them though, and one assumes that everyone who wants them now has them.

The most bizarre item is someone hoping to sell a copy of John Shawcroft's excellent club history for £152. Now call my a sceptic, but given that there are other copies of the book on there for much less than a tenner, there is more chance of our winning division one of the Championship next year than that one selling...

Takes all sorts I suppose, but if you decide it's the one for you, don't say I didn't warn you.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

What's in a name?

Being a proud and dutiful husband and father, I like to be involved in family affairs and involve my family in mine.

So it was, after a lovely dinner last night, that I asked my family what name they felt the most apposite for Derbyshire in 2011. After all, we have been the Scorpions, though sadly lacking any sting, then became the Phantoms, when we seldom had a ghost of a chance. This season we have been the Falcons and, to be fair, we took off, albeit briefly, before plummeting to the earth. Maybe it was the name. Could my dearly beloved come up with something that might ensure a change of fortunes?

My son, bless him, has been to a good few games with me and said that he thought Falcons pretty good. 'Mind you,' he said, 'the commercial guys will change it just so they can squeeze a few more baseball caps out of the fanbase.' It was hard to argue. I have three caps now, with the oldest hanging up in our garden shed for wearing while pottering. A bit like the team, as my wife likes to joke...

My wife, a quick-thinking soul, quickly fired back 'The Derbyshire Elephants,' so named 'because you'll at least remember your last win.' Thanks, dear. I think.

My daughter promised she would give it some thought and let me know before bedtime. Sometime around ten she came up to me in the kitchen where I was getting everyone a cuppa before bedtime.

'You see that team name Dad? Sorry, I can't come up with anything better than 'The Derbyshire Lemmings.'

You know, she might just have got the right one after three hours of careful thought. I'm sure the caps would sell well through 606...

Jeepers keepers...

In my post earlier today I omitted to mention the key position that John Morris has to fill behind the stumps for Derbyshire next year.

I was as disappointed as most when Lee Goddard failed to translate talent into consistency, although the highly rated Tom Poynton had some harrowing days in the first eleven too. Poynton suffered from the erratic nature of Atif Sheikh and Mark Footitt in the early season and has failed to regain a place. Most recently he has suffered a chipped bone in his little finger, causing John Morris to bring in Steve Adshead, formerly of Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. Adshead has let no one down and was one of the few to come back from Horsham with his reputation intact. Innings of 49 and 31 not out left his game average almost Bradmanesque...

He will not be the only option this winter though. Some correspondents have mentioned young Leicestershire keeper Joel Pope as a possibility, while ex-Worcestershire gloveman Josh Knappett may also be considered after good displays for the Unicorns.

Whoever John Morris opts for has to offer us reliability behind the stumps and runs with the bat. We're not expecting Adam Gilchrist, or even James Pipe with the bat, but a reliable 25-30 average would do nicely at number eight, with anything else a bonus.

While an established player like Luke Sutton may be unhappy at Lancashire, the need to play young players might legislate against him. The salary for an established player could be too, though any wicket-keeper knows there's only space for one in every team, something that could convince a player to make more modest wage demands.

My preference as an established wicket keeper would be Northamptonshire's Niall O'Brien, a competent player behind the stumps and a hard-hitting batsman at the top of the order. He could be affordable and allow John Morris leeway in his budget to overhaul his team for 2011. As things stand, the only players that I would see guaranteed a place in a first choice side next year are Wayne Madsen, Greg Smith, Garry Park and Chesney Hughes.

Seven places up for grabs. Looks like a lot to write about this winter...

Friday, 20 August 2010

Farewell Sads

So John Sadler has become the latest to leave Derbyshire as John Morris reshapes his staff for 2011. I suggested that this should happen earlier in the week but claim neither credit nor pleasure in his departure. Sadler is a nice bloke who, for a variety of reasons, never translated his talent into weight of runs. There were cameos in the T20, but when finances are tight a player needs more than brisk thirties to earn a reputation. Unless you’re Keiron Pollard of course…

That Sadler has followed Lee Goddard out of the door suggests a couple of things to me. One is that John Morris has the backing of the committee to carry on with his reshaping of the club, something that I hope will mean the ‘cyber bullies’ shut up and let him get on with it. The other is that he is looking to reshape the coaching staff, as well as the playing side. Again, I suggested that this might/should happen as we have a missing link between the Academy and First Eleven that requires, at the very least, a coach and preferably a player/coach. I still think this might be a role for Steffan Jones, leaving him available for one-day matches.

I never understood the concept of Sadler opening for the seconds or going in at number three. I know he was on call for first team duty, but a captain at that level, unless it is a young talent being given experience in the role, should be batting down the order, as Alan Hill used to do. While runs they score could make a game competitive, surely the focus of such games is greater experience for youngsters? I’d sooner see a triallist, an Academy player or someone like Siddique or Slater batting at the top of the innings, even if they fail. Sooner or later they’ll either get better or you’ll realise, perhaps more quickly, that they’re not up to the required standard.

Over the coming weeks there will be a number of players released around the country and I fully expect the message boards to be awash with comments suggesting that player X is just the man we need. We need to keep in mind the fact that for any big name, Derbyshire has neither the resources nor the immediate prospects of success to be attractive. Everyone is aware that we could do with a couple of seam bowlers, a batsman, an all-rounder, a spinner and a wicket-keeper. We’re not, however, going to sort that by signing Plunkett, Onions, Shah, Allenby, Croft and Sutton, gratifying as it would be.

Players of that calibre cost serious money and signing them would mean we carried a staff of thirteen next season, all we could afford. At this stage we don’t know who else will be released and until we do can only guess at areas John Morris wants, and more crucially is able to strengthen.

It appears that Graham Wagg is going and that Chris Rogers may be. Robin Peterson is unlikely to qualify as a Kolpak as it will be over two years since his last international appearance, while Greg Smith is supposedly a target for another county. We may see a seamer, maybe two leave, but that depends on different factors, not the least if there are people out there who are better, younger and fitter, available and prepared to come for what we have to offer.

It’s a far from easy job, but I’ll give you a suggestion and – who knows – maybe boost book sales at the same time. Have a look at the ‘Cricketers’ Who’s Who’ for this year. A number of entries have detail of players and when they signed contracts, highlighting that they’re up this year. There’s a few in there would be an improvement and would, I’d guess, be affordable. No names, no setting hares across a park, but interesting.

Twelve quid from Amazon, if you’re interested…

As for today’s game, it followed pretty much the same pattern as the rest of it, with a little resistance but nothing to get excited about. There was an air of inevitability about the end of it and the only thing I can find to say that is at all positive is that it must be easier to bat against our bowling than theirs. I wish we had anything approaching four international bowlers in our attack...

In closing, the only other thing I would say is that we will retain memory, or more accurately nightmares about this game for some time to come. It has probably engraved two words as a nadir of our fortunes on the minds of all Derbyshire fans.

Remember Horsham.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Sussex v Derbyshire, dreams and parity

I had a really weird dream last night…

They say that everyone does but I rarely remember mine. Yet this one was singularly odd.

I was bowling for my club cricket side against another team and the batsman at the crease was John Morris, who was batting while standing at the far end of a 22-yard long dining table (I kid you not) and hitting it all over the place.

The problem was that I was on the floor at the bowler’s end, trying to pitch the ball onto a length and failing miserably. There was no follow through possible, so I was bowling as if lobbing hand grenades. I eventually (still in my dream) had the idea of putting a chair at my end of the table and one off to the side of it. So I ran in, hopped onto the chair, then onto the table, bowled then jumped down onto the second chair to complete my follow through. It worked a treat and after a couple of nasty falls I got an outside edge and he was on his way back to the pavilion…

Even more bizarrely, in one of the falls I hurt my right ankle and when I woke up this morning the ankle was a bit sore. If anyone can interpret that one I’ll be impressed, not to mention slightly worried…

Anyway, that’s a precursor to today’s piece and an idea to restore parity to the unofficial transfer market in the game. If a big club comes hunting the prime talent of smaller counties, armed with their wads of cash from ECB handouts, why not make them pay the same amount to the club that they’re intending to pay to the player if he is under contract?

So if someone came to Derbyshire in two years time, chasing Dan Redfern and offering him £50K a year over three years when we want to retain him, they would then have to pay the same amount to the club. That would be compensation for the loss, after all the development work that has gone into the player. It would also enable Derbyshire to either afford a decent replacement or put money into the Academy and further developments. It might need to be tweaked, but it would stop a lot of the nonsense that goes on, as well as ensuring a more even distribution of the money in the game.

Today's play? What can I say but desperate. On the basis of this game we can neither bowl a hoop down a hill or bat an eyelid. All the bowlers, with the exception of Steffan Jones, got hammered, with Jon Clare getting a real doing. Then we lost Borrington and Hughes before the close in what has been a poor game for young players thus far. While I'm always saddened by the end of a cricket season, this one cannot end soon enough right now. Even Robin Peterson has lost his mojo and there's a massive job to be done in the winter. On current form we need ten players to go alongside Steffan Jones...

Lastly today, I’m vexed (but not really) that another contributor to 606 has deemed this blog a ‘John Morris criticism-free zone.’ To be fair he did the same with IMWT, and it is absolute nonsense and just came over as a rant. As I’ve said before, I write this as a fan of Derbyshire. I’ve no hidden agendas to get onto the committee and certainly not to get Morris out. Whoever is in charge of team affairs will have my support, though I’ll criticise any aspect of the club, including players and coaching staff, when I think it is deserved and justified. In my opinion, John Morris will be accountable for things next season at the end of his contract, when the committee, quite rightly, will decide how well he’s done. Naturally, I’ll tell you towards the end of next season, based on performances and prospects, if I think he should remain in charge, but there’s one inescapable fact in Derbyshire’s finances right now.

We could pay off John Morris and his staff, but would then probably have to write off several signings over the winter, as we couldn’t afford them. We would also be risking the loss of some good, but currently under-performing players that HE brought to the club. If there was a stunningly qualified guy out there offering a near-guarantee of success, I’d be shouting ‘bring him in’ with the rest of them.

But there isn’t, so if you think that there’s any logic or sense in doing it now I am quite frankly staggered.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Sussex v Derbyshire day one

Ho and indeed hum...

242 all out plays 170-0 at the end of the first day of the match. Who's your money on?

It wasn't a bad recovery by Derbyshire from another poor pre-lunch session, with Wes Durston, Steve Adshead and Steffan Jones pulling us back from the brink with belligerent knocks. It was a poor day for the advocates of youth, however, with Redfern, Clare and Borrington getting two runs between them. Borrington at least had the excuse of an arduous trek down the motorway to replace the sick Chris Rogers, but this was far from vintage stuff by a Derbyshire side who must yearn for the end of season. As do a few fans, no doubt...

Our bowling was poor after tea, with only Jones and Robin Peterson showing any degree of control as the hosts openers pretty much did as they wished. Horsham is usually a good batting track and I fear we could be chasing 600 in the second innings, especially if the bowlers don't tighten up overnight.

Nine runs and then four overs for 29 was not the way that Greg Smith expected his first day as skipper to go. He's got some work to do to pull us out of this one.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

What next?

So, as I suggested might be the case last week, other counties are making moves on Chris Rogers with a view to taking him from Derbyshire.

As I also said about Graham Wagg, you can't blame the guy. It's a short career and he's entitled to go where the money is. If he does go (and he's not yet decided to, from what it seems) he will go down as one of our finest overseas players, without a doubt.

Though not a great captain, at least in my book. Great skippers are active, rather than reactive and make things happen on the field. Rogers didn't seem to, or maybe he just never had the resources to do so.

So now it is Greg Smith's turn. The next month will let John Morris see if he has a genuine prospect for next season who will thrive in the role, or someone whose natural ability is buried under the responsibility. I wasn't fully convinced by Smith in the T20, to be honest, but that is a high octane environment where you have to think quickly, not easy for a novice. I liked his willingness to take responsibility and bowl at the death, but he'll need to accept there are times for that and times to give others the gig.

My own feelings at this point are that the captaincy could be a sweetener to bring someone to Derbyshire, whether an overseas player or an English one. Of course, Morris may be using it as such to keep Smith at Derby, as he'd be unlikely to get such a role elsewhere.

Over on 606 the names are already being touted for who might replace Rogers if he does leave. One suggested Morne Morkel, but I would be astonished if the South Africans allowed him to play a full season in England. He and Steyn, as pointed out by another contributor, ARE the Saffer attack. To be fair, they are on the right track, as only New Zealand and South Africa are clear of international cricket next summer... at the moment.

Much as I'd love to see Kallis, de Villiers or Smith at Derby, I cannot see it. All make serious money in the IPL and from their national contracts. Maybe JP Duminy needs to cement his place, but again he makes ten times what we could pay him for a month in India. Again, I'm afraid I don't see it.

New Zealand? Yes, I'd be happy with Ross Taylor who is a class act and a crowd-pleaser too. Martin Guptill is a batsman of Martin Crowe-like poise but not yet the consistency, while a wild card could be Mathew Sinclair. While an under-achiever in Tests (averaging mid-30s,) Sinclair has a first-class one of just under 50. He has also fancied a crack at county cricket for several years and could be an inspired choice. We'd also take Daniel Vettori, but there's more chance of me playing county cricket next year than the Kiwi skipper.

Of course, we could also get lucky. Maybe James Hopes would be out of the Aussie reckoning, Mohammad Yousuf (again) out of Pakistan's, VVS Laxman out of India's. You never know, but I'm happy to trust John Morris to come up with a good name if Chris Rogers decided his future lay elsewhere.

Let's just hope it doesn't come to that.

Rogers stands down

The club site reports today that Chris Rogers has stood down as Derbyshire captain, with Greg Smith taking over to the end of the season.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I'd guess that Rogers will leave at the end of the season and this lets John Morris see how Greg Smith gets on with the full-time captaincy between times.

Of course, if there is any truth in stories of other counties chasing the Derbyshire all-rounder, the lure of the captaincy for 2011 might be something that persuades him to stay. Naturally, we'd want him to be up to the job, but he is a talented cricketer that the club can scarce afford to lose at the same time as others.

Interesting. More later.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Monday musings

Thanks to my friend David for alerting me to a piece I missed last week, which suggested that Worcestershire’s departing CEO Mark Newton expects a lot of established county players to be released this Autumn. Newton said that young players are cheaper than established professionals and that several counties will go down this route in an attempt to balance the books.

It is a nice introduction to tonight’s musings, following on from yesterday’s comments about the Academy. I’d interesting e-mails last night from Derbyshire fans who suggested that we should put our faith in John Morris. One also suggested we adopt the Leicestershire model in giving him the mandate to play youngsters as much as possible, with the security of an extended contract behind him.

We all know that Morris’ current deal expires next season and few would blame him for sticking with tried and tested players in such circumstances. Experienced players have been in pressure situations before and one would assume could then handle them better as they arise. This season Derbyshire’s players largely haven’t, which might then suggest we throw caution to the winds next season. ‘They can’t do any worse’ is the stock answer, though of course they could. We might get hammered out of sight, rather than being narrowly beaten, until they got to grips with the county game. Or maybe they won't...

It would be a cruel irony and for me a retrograde step if John Morris was to lose his post due to the failure of young players that his regime has brought through. Whatever some people may think, Paul Borrington, Dan Redfern, Jake Needham, Atif Sheikh and Tom Poynton have all represented their country at age group cricket (four at under-19 level) in recent years. In itself, that suggests they are highly rated within the game and that the Academy is doing its job pretty well. To be one of the best eleven cricketers in your age group at a given time is a not inconsiderable achievement.

When you add in the likes of promising batsmen, such as Ben Slater and Hamza Siddique, there’s talent coming through, albeit not as quickly as some may wish. Perhaps that is the real issue that needs addressed in the close season, a coach who can take the youngsters from the Academy under Karl Krikken and help them to progress in the Second XI. If they are better prepared for first team action it is obviously of benefit to all concerned.

One recent correspondent cited Ross Whiteley’s spectacular double century for Chesterfield as proof that he is ready for the first team, but I’m not so sure. He has made few runs in the Second XI this season and his bowling seems to have gone back a bit too. Tom Lungley has a Derbyshire league double century under his belt, but no one thinks him anything more than a steady tail-ender. I rate Whiteley, but somehow he needs to step up his game to be a county player. There is a huge gap between top league and first-class cricket, although the best, after an acclimatisation period, usually rise to the top.

The right coach can help in that process. No disrespect to John Sadler, but we perhaps need a good coach more than a senior professional in the Seconds next year. Another correspondent last night asked how we were once able to attract big names to the county, in naming the best players he’d seen here. Barnett, Adams, Morris, Cork, Dean and Blackwell all came through the ranks under a very good coach, primarily Phil Russell.

John Morris, Andrew Brown and Steffan Jones have work to do with the senior players and now need someone between them and Karl Krikken to get the best from a promising set of young players at a key stage of their development. Alternatively, we might need to restructure the existing staff, bringing in another senior coach with either Brown or Jones taking the young tyros.

As to the names we recruited, Phil de Freitas wanted to stay in the north and we were a decent side at that time, while ‘Pop’ Welch wasn’t wanted at Edgbaston. Devon Malcolm was picked up from the leagues, as of course was Wayne Madsen and Karl Krikken. There are two things that will bring players to your club – the right salary and the prospect of being part of a successful side. We can’t confidently offer the latter at this stage, so producing our own becomes even more important.

Getting the right person in charge of Second XI development next season might just be the best signing made this winter by John Morris. At the end of a difficult season, the best way forward would be for the Committee to give him a contract extension, encourage him to play youth and to make a sound appointment as Second XI coach.

If such a decision brought through a similar crop to those named above, we might well have a Derbyshire side to be proud of in a few years time.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Just a thought

Good to see a Derbyshire presence in the final.

Dominic Cork inspired Hampshire to victory, while Richard Illingworth and Rob Bailey were umpires.

You can't keep us out of it...

So how is the academy?

Interesting question on 606 for once, asking how fans would rate our academy.

For what its worth, I think it is doing a good job, but players are not developing as quickly as we might wish. Of course, some burst on the scene then get found out, while others take their time to burst into full flower.

Next season could see a much different Derbyshire side that could feature Borrington, Redfern, Hughes, Sheikh and Poynton on a regular basis, all products of the system (OK, I know Hughes was picked up from Anguilla...)

With Clare likely to be in the mix alongside Madsen, Park, Footitt and Groenewald, the Derbyshire eleven looks to be a transitional one. We don't know about Rogers, Peterson, Smith or Wagg, nor who may come in to replace any players who might leave. Let's take this notional side:


Here's a new poll for you. Would you be happy with and more understanding of a young Derbyshire side, even if they did little next season?

I look forward to your answers...

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Hello hello hello...

It's good to be back again after a nice break down south. Dad came through his operation with flying colours and is now back in the pink, while we'd some grand days out in God's own county.

I managed to see two sessions of play with my son at Chesterfield on Wednesday, leaving when Northamptonshire's ninth wicket pair were firmly entrenched at tea on a wicket that seemed to be easing. An occasional ball misbehaved, as evidenced by a bouncer from Groenewald that cleared the batsman AND wicket keeper. Yet the way Derbyshire approached the chase suggested that a good finish was in prospect and I actually fancied our chances on Thursday before the rain ruined the contest.

It was fairly evident that Groenewald and Jones are very tired, the result of being the only fit seamers all season. Jones continues to soldier on, which makes him a crowd favourite, but they need some support. Again, Mark Footitt's turning his ankle on the morning of the match was unfortunate and few could deny that Derbyshire have had cruel luck this season.

I spoke to a few people at the game (no, I didn't introduce myself as Peakfan...) and most seemed to think that we've just had one of those years. There were a few comments about wicket-keepers, with most thinking that Steve Adshead was a solid keeper. He took a very good catch and handled the ball well. I've not seen him bat, but his career record suggests he can do the business. Thanks for all your comments and mails on the subject, which are appreciated, though the correspondent who cites the byes conceded by respective keepers misses the point a little. It is more down to runs scored and chances missed. Byes (as conceded by Adshead above) you can sometimes do little about, but the other things are crucial and Goddard fell short of expectations.

As for his replacement, much will again be decided by money and the availability of other players. Like a contributor on the post below, I also heard rumours of Greg Smith being approached by other counties, though they are just rumours at this stage. IF (note, IF) Smith left as well as Wagg, John Morris may opt for a more experienced keeper than, say, Joel Pope. The question is whether we want two young keepers vying for a place, or one older head who we know can do a job. The concern about Pope is that second team runs don't always translate into first team ones, as we saw with Lee Goddard.

At this stage of the year many players are sounded out about their plans and many end up staying put. Smith is, to my knowledge, under contract, but we saw with Kabir Ali last year at Worcester that this can count for little. As I said a few weeks back with Graeme Wagg, money talks for most of us and you cannot blame anyone wishing to better themselves financially.

Someone at Chesterfield suggested we should have broken the bank to keep Wagg, but we can't. If we'd matched Glamorgan's offer (we're still assuming he's going there) then other players would have wanted parity in due course. If a player is substantially ahead of others in his returns that is one argument, but Wagg's figures were not exceptional and Smith, Hughes and Madsen would all have a similar contribution to offer in their performances, as of course do Peterson and Rogers. However important a player, you cannot spend more money than you have, a basic piece of economics that some would do well to remember.

Speaking of Rogers, I read a piece while I was away that suggested that overseas players who have been here EVERY year since 2006 will be able to stay. That may open the door for Rogers, but I would not be surprised if other counties covet the Derbyshire captain. With the ever-diminishing availability of overseas players of talent, Buck's feats at Derbyshire will have been noticed and others may make more lucrative overtures in due course.

Several contributors this season and a couple of people at Chesterfield suggested that Tom Lungley may go this year, but looking around the country at possible options there aren't many better ones. That perhaps highlights the paucity of English seam bowling depth, but there are few affordable ones out there who would be markedly better.

I have to say that I don't see Derbyshire winning anything in the next five years. If there was a knock-out trophy it may be different, but there is such a gulf between the smaller and the affluent sides now that we will always lose our better players to clubs who can offer bigger contracts. The days of loyalty are largely gone and Derbyshire's goal is likely to be remaining competitive and picking up untried and underperforming players elsewhere and turning them into good players, while finding and developing their own. That's not negativity, but realism. Whether John Morris or anyone else is at the helm, Derbyshire are not likely to threaten the likes of the sides we saw in last night's T20 finals, as we simply don't have the resources to do so.
If we can mount a challenge, as we did in the Championship last year and the T20 this year it will be an excellent performance. For us to win a tournament as things stand would need something quite extraordinary.

It won't stop us dreaming though...

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Thoughts from down south

Thanks to the nation's public library service I'm able to take half an hour out from my break down south to pen a few thoughts on Lee Goddard's release.

First, I'll admit that I was delighted when he signed as I thought that he would be an excellent replacment for James Pipe. His record for Durham 2nds suggested that he could do a good job, but it hasn't worked out for him, or the club. There have been suggestions around the boards that John Morris was unfair in letting him go, but I think that he's done the right thing in releasing a player who has not met expectations.

A wicket-keeper is the key man of any side in the field. If he is performing well, the fielding will often be doing the same and he will act as a catalyst. I've seen Goddard on several occasions this season and I've never thought he looked good behind the sticks, his glovework sloppy at best. I like my wicket-keepers ideally to be undemonstrative and efficient, as exemplified by someone like Bob Taylor. A 'character' in the field, a noisy, chirpy player like Karl Krikken is fine, but needs to keep up a level of performance as people are naturally drawn to them. To Krikk's credit, he kept up that high standard as Derbyshire keeper, but Lee Goddard, for some reason, didn't. Whether it was concentration or motivation I don't know, but it didn't work out and Morris moved quickly to give himself time to try other options, especially with Tom Poynton nursing an injured finger.

Steve Adshead has an early opportunity to stake a claim with a few games, but there may be other options. Adshead did well at Worcestershire, albeit with limited opportunities, while at Gloucestershire he showed himself a competent keeper and batsman, without perhaps doing well enough in either role to cement a long-term place.

Others who may come under the microsope have been mentioned on the boards, but a couple of situations may develop in the coming months. Niall O'Brien is rumoured likely to be released at Northamptonshire and the Irishman is both a punishing, early order batsman and solid behind the stumps. Meanwhile, at Lancashire both Luke Sutton and Gareth Cross are reportedly unhappy at being pigeonholed as four-day and one-day wicket-keepers only. Both would prefer a full-time role and I'd be delighted to see either of them at Derby. Such a move would be a return for Sutton, of course, and he is still young and fit enough to be a good option while Tom Poynton matures and gains further experience.

Another mentioned in various quarters is Joel Pope at Leicestershire, who Clive Radley said had the best pair of hands he'd seen in a long time. Pope also scores heavily for their seconds, and it is another name to keep in mind.

We certainly need a wicket-keeper to contribute with the bat, something that Goddard did all too rarely. The days of specialists are long gone and whoever gets the nod for next season must be able to add runs as well as take most edges that come his way.

Elsewhere it was nice to read of Ross Whiteley's double century for Chesterfield in the Premier League, an innings containing 18 fours and 18 sixes. I rate the lad, but feel he may develop into a batting all rounder rather than the genuine article. His left arm swing is too erratic at present to be a genuine threat, but he remains a young player of talent who could have a role to play in future.

Finally, a superb century by Chesney Hughes has put us very much in the ascendancy during the Northamptonshire match at Chesterfield. The 19-year old is a special talent and I'm only sorry that I had to defer my time at the match until tomorrow. Now, of course, I'm just hoping that the game lasts until then. If I go along tomorrow morning with Derbyshire chasing around 85 to win I'll be more than happy. It was also good to see Jon Clare back at his best with the ball and we have missed the young all-rounder this season.

Until the next time...

Friday, 6 August 2010

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 4

Maybe Anon has it right in his comment to yesterday's piece. Once again Derbyshire weren't at the races today and that has become depressingly familiar for fans this year.

Now I'll accept that the wicket every day was awkward for the first hour or so. We collapsed on day one, they found it a struggle when play started on day two and hardly scored a run on day three. The same happened today, but Derbyshire's linp capitulation after the hard graft of yesterday made pitiful watching, even from a desktop scoreboard 300 miles away.

At the start of the season I wrote that our success would be down to winning sessions and the more we won, the better season we'd have. A simple fact, but the reality is that we're winning precious few of them right now.

I don't doubt, like some do, that the players are trying their hardest, but the way things are going at the moment I don't see much other than a very hard grind over the last few weeks. Leicestershire are an average side who'd not won at home since April. We made them look like Bradman's Invincibles of 1948.

Looking at the individuals in the side, you can't really dispute the quality is there, yet the sm of the parts isn't right and there's much work to do for John Morris over the winter to turn this around.

In the words of an old song, the darkest hour is just before the dawn. That being the case, I'll be looking for a few chinks of light sometime soon, as its more than a little gloomy right now.

Anyway, that's my last blog for a week, unless I find a wifi signal somewhere. I hope to see an hour or two of the Northamptonshire game at Chesterfield, but that will depend on other factors while I'm away.

For now, keep mailing me and I'll answer your mails and comments on my return.


Thursday, 5 August 2010

Leicestershire v Derbyshire

The fightback is on...

If we can get anything over 200 of a lead tomorrow, there's a chance of a win that hardly seemed likely at lunch on the first day. Full credit to all concerned and a report will follow tomorrow evening.

Sorry, bit hectic chez Peakfan tonight...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 2

We fought back reasonably well on day two, but the hosts are in control of this game and I can't see how we can win it from here.

Maybe, just maybe if we bowled them out for under 300 then posted a similar total ourselves, there might be some nerves jangling in the final innings if they had to chase 200. More realistically, we have to bat a heck of a lot better than we did first time around. First things first, we have some lost pride to regain. The Leicestershire attack isn't world class, though Hoggard and Buck are an impressive opening pair. After that there's not too much to worry about, which makes the current state of the match very frustrating.

Mark Footitt continues to bowl well and if Steffan Jones can get him seriously fit over the winter he will be a genuine asset next year. With Sheikh a year older and presumably Clare back in harness we have the basis of a decent seam unit, with Groenewald and Jones making a solid five. Two more, perhaps, over the winter would do very nicely...

Sorry, but...

Various press stories have circulated in recent days with regard to the ECB’s disappointment over Hampshire’s unwillingness to play Kevin Pietersen prior to the Test series against Pakistan. Given that the player has made it clear that his future lies away from the Rose Bowl, I fully agree with the club’s decision.

In a similar but lower profile way, Graham Wagg suggested in the Derby Telegraph recently that he would like to play for Derbyshire again before the end of the season, assuming that he was fit by that stage. While in no way comparing the value that we have had from the player with what Hampshire haven’t had from Pietersen, I wouldn’t play him unless there was no one else available.

Wagg has made it fairly clear his future lies elsewhere, therefore an available place should go to a player who is part of the future of this club. Regular readers might say that this is at odds with my stance on replacing Robin Peterson with Jake Needham, but these are different scenarios. Peterson is only likely to be leaving because of the visa regulations as they stand – he has not chosen to do so.

On that basis, as far as I’m concerned, Graham Wagg has played his last game for the club. It shouldn’t detract from the excellent service he has given since his arrival, but Derbyshire took a chance on him when no one else wanted to and on that basis need feel no further obligation.

Jones to get them fit

There was the good and the indifferent in the Derby Telegraph this morning, with an excellent piece by Mark Eklid on Steffan Jones theories as a bowling coach. As I wrote a couple of weeks back, his biggest problem has been the lack of fit people to coach, but his comments on the need for Mark Foottitt and Atif Sheikh to get much fitter are extremely pertinent. Those who bemoan our ability to bowl sides out consistently now perhaps have part of the answer, when the bowling coach admits that two of our only fit seamers – the youngest - are unable to come back at full pace after their first spell.

It is by no means a new phenomenon and I remember Graham Dilley going on tour to Australia with England when he’d never previously fielded for a full day. Nor is it meant as criticism of the players concerned, but it does highlight that they have much work to do over the winter if they are to step up to the next level. Footitt’s increased availability from recent seasons has been pleasing, but there’s obviously a world of difference between being ‘fit’ and ‘fit to bowl all day.’ International recognition should not be discounted for either, but both need to show the necessary commitment in the years ahead. Jones mentions that he put on ten miles an hour in his bowling over a winter’s work and on that basis both young bowlers would be seriously quick…

You can read the excellent article in full at:


On the disappointing side, it was odd that the match report of yesterday’s play at Leicester contained no reference to Derbyshire’s decision to bat after winning the toss. That the ball moved around considerably, causing all the top order batsmen problems, is undeniable. Having won the toss, we could probably have inflicted similar damage on the home side, so either John Morris, Chris Rogers or both misread the track. They could have thought that, no matter how bad it was, the wicket was going to deteriorate further, but if that is the case the end of day scores don’t give the theory a great deal of credence.

Once again some ‘fans’ were in their element on 606 and I have this image of some of them rubbing their hands with glee as Derbyshire collapsed in the morning session. I really don’t know why they bother. If you’re not happy, don’t go, stop being a fan and take up cross stitch or some other pursuit. Whether they or I like or dislike, rate or don’t rate John Morris doesn’t count for much at all in the grand scheme of things. I don’t kid myself that my view has any impact on goings on at the County Ground, any more than Charles Collins’ or Mark Eklid’s views don’t. John Morris’ future will be decided at an appropriate time by the Committee that appointed him. Until then, anyone who purports to be a fan should get behind him, the team and the club.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Leicestershire v Derbyshire

I don't know whether we misjudged the wicket this morning or just batted badly. Credit has to be given to the bowlers of course, but that was a shocker by Derbyshire today.

There's nothing more you can say really. While it was good to see Dan Redfern return to form with a plucky and skilful 85, there's nothing positive to say about the rest of the batting, bar for the solid, professional support given to Redfern by Tim Groenewald.

When the bowling highlight is then Greg Smith bowling Greg Smith, you know you have problems. Unless something extraordinary happens tomorrow and Thursday, we're going to be beaten by a very average side with some time to spare.

Disappointing doesn't even come close.

Pitches to play a part

I was in total agreement with Simon Barnes in yesterday’s Times when he said that were he in charge of cricket he would ban Colombo from hosting a Test match for five years. The snore draw between Sri Lanka and India did the cause of Test cricket no good whatsoever, with only seventeen wickets falling in five days.

Cricket should be a battle between bat and ball, as shown at Trent Bridge. While the bean-counters will be unhappy at the loss of revenue, the ground developments at Nottingham have created an environment where the ball swings, but a good batsman can still score runs. Thankfully the county game has improved after banning the heavy roller, with more results than in recent years. Whenever I’ve talked about cricket to non-fans, the thing that they usually have struggled to get their head around is the fact that you can have a draw after three, four or five days of playing. I can empathise, though some draws can be pulsating affairs with the last pair staving off defeat and fielders around the bat.

This was always going to be a difficult year for the Derbyshire groundstaff, having turned the square around over the winter. The four-day wickets have generally produced results, though not going in our direction often enough for pleasure. Only the track for the last game against Worcestershire reverted to type and got slower as the game went on. Once a batsman gets in on such a wicket, only a mistake can get him out and we have lacked that something extra that can make a difference, like a really quick bowler or mystery spinner. Of course, everyone else is in the same boat, as such players are in short supply in the world game. That means that the tracks for 2011 need to offer bowlers encouragement as others have done around the country.

Since its return to the fold, Chesterfield has consistently produced good wickets, with enough movement to keep bowlers interested and a consistent bounce to enable a batsman to play his shots. Any wicket that produces 200-300 scores will get no complaint from me and should, by extension, produce a result in a four-day game that is uninterrupted.

The type of wickets will be a factor in attracting new players to the club, of course. If a bowler thinks he has a sporting chance of turning in good figures he is more likely to throw in his lot with us, but batsmen might think twice if their record could suffer. I have been amused this season in watching the struggles of Warwickshire’s batsmen. Last year they all returned nigh-Bradmanesque averages on a featherbed track, yet this year have struggled when faced with more demanding conditions and better bowlers.

In comparison to some counties, Derbyshire’s batsmen have fared OK. The ever-reliable Rogers averages above sixty, while Madsen had his struggles early on but is over forty in his second season, with four centuries in that tally. Hughes has exceeded all expectations for a novice and Smith, for all his variation in form, still averages top thirties. Peterson too has chipped in, albeit without big, match-changing innings.

What we’ve missed this year has been a consistent number three and runs from the wicket- keeper. Over the last couple of seasons we’ve enjoyed regular counter-attacks from Messrs Pipe, Wagg and Clare, none of who have featured for differing reasons this year. Steffan Jones has done really well , but a greater contribution at seven and eight would be welcome. Meanwhile, Garry Park has had a difficult Championship season, but has showed in limited overs matches that he has the talent to return to last year’s aggregate in 2011.

With six weeks to go, there are opportunities for players to boost their records and in some cases their chances for another deal. There is pressure on some, but that is the name of the game.

When we have eleven players at Derbyshire who thrive on pressure we’ll be watching a very good side.

Monday, 2 August 2010


90,000 hits.

I can't believe this. The first year brought 20,000 hits. The second year brought 40,000 and the last 30,000 have come in five months...

If you'd have told me that back at the beginning I'd have laughed, but I'm very grateful to all of you for your ongoing support. I'm sure you don't agree all the time, but hopefully there's enough content on here to satisfy your interest.

We may not have the biggest budget in the country, but if nothing else it proves that interest in Derbyshire cricket and alive and well and living in.... well, six or seven countries, as well as the UK, according to the e mails I receive.

Thanks to every one of you. Here's to a celebratory win over Leicestershire, starting tomorrow!

Monday musings

Another week begins and first up, apologies for the lack of blogging over the weekend. Things have been a little busy on the domestic front…

It seems like Charles Collins piece on 606 has, as I suggested last week, fanned a few flames among the ‘Morris Out’ brigade, with over thirty responses so far. Some have been in support of Morris, Collins and the piece, but the more persistent have been the handful who demand change. There have been one or two voices of sanity, but I’d have to say that there’s little logic in some suggestions.

Why would we rest Peterson, an international spinner brought from South Africa at considerable expense and our leading wicket-taker, to give Needham a bowl? I can see merit in the two playing together where conditions allow it, but to leave Peterson out defies logic. Similarly leaving out Park, one of our best players, has little going for it. He was arguably our best T20 player this year and usually contributes with bat or ball, besides being the best fielder in the club. He is in only his second full season, so a dip in form was surely to be expected.

I could understand the push to bring in youngsters if they were in prime form, but neither Borrington nor Redfern have made a lot of runs in the Seconds (though the former has been in good form for Ticknall.) As I wrote last week, Borrington should get a chance to show what he can do next season, assuming Rogers is unable to return, but it would appear unlikely at this stage. Or maybe we could ‘rest’ the skipper too…

I think that some of these ‘suggestions’ are made in the full knowledge that the ensuing results would further weaken Morris’ position. While the youngsters did quite well against Australia, it was their ’cup final’ and I don’t see the bowlers sustaining that over a protracted period at this stage in their development. Members and fans have the right to expect the best possible team to represent the county after parting with their hard earned cash, except in special circumstances.

I just wonder if the people making these comments have any thought for their impact on individuals and team spirit. I’d be fairly confident that it wouldn’t affect Morris, but one would expect some effect on players if they stumbled across some of the stuff. Call me na├»ve, but I thought we were all supposed to be supporters…

For what it is worth, I hope that Graeme Welch does not return to Derbyshire. In his turn he would be subjected to exactly the same as Morris, something that, like Morris, he neither needs nor deserves. He may gain some breathing space as he was immensely popular at the club, but comebacks rarely work. Look what happened to Roy McFarland and Peter Taylor at Derby County, to John Emburey at Middlesex, to Steve Rhodes at Worcestershire and to Welch, Giles and Brown at Warwickshire.

Our problem is the unrealistic perception of a minority of fans that we are a big club, when we’re not and never have been. Occasionally we have punched above our weight, but the days when you found good players and then retained them until they retired are long gone. Whoever is at the helm of Derbyshire has to accept that our better players will eventually be courted by counties offering salaries that we cannot match. This means that the club continually has to source unfulfilled talent from elsewhere and develop their game. While I fully expect us to compete, unless a knock-out one-day tournament is introduced again I think it will be some time before we see silverware heading our way.

On to other news and rumours from the north-west suggest that Kyle Hogg and Stephen Croft may be leaving Lancashire this Autumn in pursuit of greater opportunities elsewhere. I’d be keen on either of them, as they’re good cricketers. Hogg is a good seam bowler and more than useful batsman, while Croft is an aggressive batsman who could justifiably call himself an all-rounder with nippy seam bowling. A move to pastures new could do the same for him as it did for Ronnie Irani, who in his recent autobiography says that Derbyshire was an option for him when he left Lancashire. Sadly that did not work out, but Croft or Hogg for Wagg, assuming the all rounder does leave, would be a pretty good call in my book.

Thanks to the anonymous contributor who suggested a move for Sussex spinner Will Beer might be worthwhile in the close season. I’m not so sure, with Beer’s record inferior to Jake Needham’s. The word is that he’ll stay in the south anyway, but if Needham is not to be first choice spinner next year it should only be because we have signed an established player from somewhere, not another prospect.

Finally tonight, early warning that there will be no blog next week as I’m heading down to the hallowed county for a few days. I hoped to catch some cricket while we’re down but Dad’s needing a heart procedure that will need more attention than the cricket.

Mind you, if I’ve a spare couple of hours, they might just find me at Queens Park…