Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Moving musings

It can’t be a lot of fun to be a Gloucestershire fan at the moment. John Bracewell was today denying that Anthony Ireland and William Porterfield were joining Middlesex and Surrey respectively, while out of contract Vikram Banerjee and Gemaal Hussain have been the subject of approaches from other counties. The latter’s refusal to sign a tabled contract from the one county to give him a chance after years of rejection speaks volumes to me for loyalty, or the lack of it. If there is any truth in the stories then I’m surprised by the Porterfield move. He’s a fair player, but Surrey have a lot of talented young batsmen who will presumably be shunted back down the queue should it go through.

Banerjee is a decent bowler though and with the dearth of decent spin options around the country will perhaps not lack for suitors. His average is not especially impressive, but he seems to be an improving bowler and at 26 should be at the stage where he knows his game pretty well.
John Bracewell has today berated his Gloucestershire batsmen for their batting in 2010, saying that they averaged only 66 balls per innings. While neglecting the fact that Bristol was marginally easier for batting than a cabbage patch, it is a startling statistic more appropriate for a club side. It was also announced that the county will have a £200K cut in its playing budget for next year, as the difficult financial climate around the country takes yet another victim.

Meanwhile Ryan Sidebottom is set to return to Yorkshire, a move that should see them with the best pace attack in the country. Now that he has retired from the international scene he will be a huge asset and should command a suitably inflated salary to match. Given their well-documented financial issues I’m not clear how they can afford him, but they’re presumably banking on future international revenues.

Another seamer who has been released is Danny Evans at Middlesex, a young bowler who has looked a player of talent for some time. Were we not so well off for seamers I would have been happy to see him at Derbyshire, but I’d not be surprised to see him return to his roots at Durham following the retirement of Neil Killeen.

It’s all very quiet on the county news front, though don’t think that means things aren’t going on behind the scenes. I’m sure John Morris has made contact with several players to test the water over potential moves but these things go at their own pace.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Sorry, but...

Might be a bit quiet on the blogging front this week my friends, as I’m currently nursing a nasty finger injury sustained in our narrow seven-run defeat on Saturday.

While I rejoiced in a season–closing three wickets and a tight spell, I wasn’t doing so later when I didn’t get my hands in the right position for a hard hit catch at mid wicket. I also dropped the chance (grrrrr…) so it was a Dick Dastardly-style drat and double drat from me…

So I’ll take a couple of evenings to allow the forementioned digit some recovery time after its labours at work and will be back in touch later in the week.

Or sooner if anything major happens, of course.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Talent spotting

An excellent idea for Derbyshire to field a side in the Premier Cup next season!

This will give the young players an opportunity to play good, competitive cricket and build up team spirit and a competitive edge in so doing. It has worked well for Yorkshire over recent years, so that one gets a big thumbs up from me.

Staying with the Premier League, a correspondent on 606 queries why Gemaal Hussain of Gloucestershire was missed by Derbyshire when he played in the league last season. Aside from the fact that the contributor sullied the comment with an unnecessary and rude reference to John Morris, the answer is fairly obvious.

27 wickets at 28 in the league was hardly a strong argument for bringing him in on trial, especially when he had already been rejected by Essex, Nottinghamshire, Sussex and Worcestershire. The contributor does a grave disservice to John Morris, Andrew Brown and Karl Krikken if he thinks they were unaware of him, as the three see as much league cricket as possible. For all we know they did trial him, but such games can see good players have a bad day and average ones play a blinder. The history of the game is littered with players who were rejected and then went on to big things. Essex rejected Jack Hobbs and Warwickshire turned down Hedley Verity - they don’t get much bigger than those names.

I would argue that you wouldn’t necessarily expect a league cricketer who had been rejected four times and was hardly setting the heather on fire to be a leading county bowler, but to the player’s credit he managed it, at least this season. By the same token, the game has seen many one season wonders, some on our own doorstep. I’d also suggest that any semi-respectable seamer would have taken wickets at Bristol this year…

Hussain may go on to be the lynchpin of the Gloucestershire attack or he may never again recapture the glories of 2010. Time will tell on that one, but if we turn out to have missed out on a rough diamond, we’re not the first and most assuredly will not be the last.

Adieu to the cricket

No blog yesterday as there was little to report. I’m slightly baffled as to why Shahzad of Yorkshire didn’t get the call to Australia and think Rashid can also be deemed unlucky in missing out. Maybe they need to move to a fashionable county, a little further south. Derbyshire would do fine…

Anyway, tomorrow marks the end of another cricket season with the final fixture at my club. I’ve never played on the last Saturday of September before and though the weather is set fair and the ground looks surprisingly good, the weather has turned a little colder, as if mocking our attempt to play at such a late stage. On my way to work this morning I’m sure I saw a polar bear in a body warmer. I’ve made a mental note to look out a vest, extra T-shirt, long johns and additional long-sleeved sweater. When its my turn to bowl it’ll take me five minutes to disrobe…

I hope it’s a good day, because last games of the season need and deserve one. Around five years ago I played in the last game of the year at our ground and was one of the last to leave with a long-time team-mate. As we closed the gate, which swung to with a creak and closed with a clatter, we looked back across the ground. The trees were multi-coloured, their Autumn foliage in full display, while on the square, which would see little other activity for several months, a couple of rabbits were already moseying around on a good length. The sun was weak, but there nonetheless and the two of us admitted we felt quite wistful at another summer’s end. My pal is 61 and has played for the club since it began, 26 years ago. He said this year would be his last, but has enjoyed it so much that there’s at least one more, maybe ten. With well over 150 catches and over 100 stumpings in that time he is a club legend and deservedly so.

It’s strange really. As I’ve got older I tend to mark each passing year by the cricket season, rather than the calendar. Every December 31 I will normally join my family in our annual celebration of the New Year, while watching Jools Holland, playing a few games, eating more nuts and sweets than are probably wise and partaking of a couple of light beverages. Yet it is more tradition than anything, especially in Scotland.

For me another year goes by each September. Partly because my birthday comes on the very last day of the month, ensuring I am another year down the line, but also because its another cricket season gone. I’ve always said that I’d play till I’m 60, so I’ve hopefully got another eight ahead of me. My playing ambitions have all been fulfilled though, so I’ve only got the supporting ones left.

I want to see a good, competitive Derbyshire side playing bright, purposeful cricket. I’d ideally see them winning more than they lose and I’d like the wider cricket world to see us as a good, solid outfit. I’d also like to see us play at Scarborough again and would have my B and B booked for that one faster than a Mark Footitt throat ball.

For now such fancies will have to wait. I have a batting order to sort out and tomorrow will need to decide at what stage in the scheduled two twenty-over games my ‘flighted filth’ gets an airing. The the whites can get their final wash of the year before going up into the loft once more.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Sounds familiar

There’s been a few mentions of Yorkshire left arm spinner David Wainwright around the boards in recent weeks, so it was interesting reading comments from the York Evening Press about the player, in a piece where they gave him 4 out of ten for his contribution to the season.

Nightmare season for the left-arm spinner. Played very little cricket in all forms. Blighted by a knee injury, triggered by a change of action when on tour with England Performance Programme last winter

Hmmm. So they’re still trying to change things when players are away with England? Reminds me of when Devon Malcolm found the selectors trying to remodel his action on tour in South Africa, neglecting the fact that his action had got him that far, so couldn’t be all bad. Let’s just hope that they’ve not done irreparable harm to the player, who I think has decent ability.

There’s a good article in the Derby Telegraph today on Matt Lineker, which sounds encouraging. You can see it at:

It will be interesting to see if the player can make the step up from outstanding weekend cricketer to a good county player. I daresay that the mindset will be different when you’re earning a living from the game and that may be an adjustment, but Lineker sounds like a player who has his game worked out and only perhaps needs it fine tuned. Some may cite the example of Dan Birch, who failed to translate his club form to first class level, but Lineker’s record is far in excess of Birch’s and he appears to be more of an athlete, something that conspired against the latter. I’m not sure if his bowling is likely to be used at first class level, but with the option open to extend the deal if it works out, the club have nothing to lose and everything to gain in giving Lineker an extended trial.

I doubt anyone would say that he hadn’t earned it.

On a different tack, it may be that there’s a few Pakistan cricketers available as overseas players next summer, to add to the New Zealand and South African ones already discussed. Surely they will not be invited back to play neutral soil Tests in England after the farce of this summer?

Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Aamer are very fine bowlers, irrespective of anything else in the background and would enhance most county sides. Gul is more of a one day force, but Ajmal and Aamer are exciting talents and it will be interesting to see if anyone will take a chance on them should there be no invitation to the national side to play here.

Finally in answer to queries following last night's post, Robin Peterson would need to play a few games before he would qualify. I think he needs to have played 15 one day games in the past five years, but I'll attempt to clarify that, as I'm not sure if T20 matches carry the same weight as one day internationals. Then again, there's the possibility that he may not want to come back...

I bet John Morris keeps an eye on that one though.

As for the England line up suggested by Dave, its hard to argue. The only questionable one might be Tremlett, but I can't think of one outside the top four that I would take to be honest. As Dave says, at least Tremlett, if he stays fit, gets steepling bounce, but there are apparently question marks about his temperament, so that place will be interesting to see tomorrow.

Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Lineker signs

Interesting news broke this morning as Derbyshire announced the signing of Matt Lineker on a summer contract for 2011.

Lineker, a left-handed batsman, has been a standout performer in the Derbyshire Premier League for several seasons, scoring heavily for both Alfreton and Ockbrook and Borrowash as well as taking his share of wickets. I believe he has been offered terms before but declined for business reasons, but if it is possible to make the jump from league to county cricket, Lineker is perhaps the man most likely to do it. Over a thousand runs again last summer highlights his ability, but it would be unfair to expect him to make the jump in level with ease, nor to be automatically in the first choice side.

It is an interesting signing and one that sends out the right message to players in the strong Derbyshire Premier League - perform and there is a chance for you. While Lineker will not be the biggest name to join Derbyshire this winter, this is still encouraging and reaffirms the club’s links with the leagues that have produced so many outstanding players over the years.

Who knows, maybe Lineker is the next?

Elsewhere, the Somerset fan who highlighted the signing of Mark Turner has posted on IMWT that John Morris is in discussions with Usman Afzaal, formerly of Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Surrey. It doesn’t surprise me, as the player was seen at the County Ground before his move to London, when presumably Morris offered him terms. He was outgunned on the money front then and may be again, but perhaps the player wants to move back nearer to his family, something that would obviously work in our favour.

I’m a little baffled by some comments that we couldn’t afford him. That may be the case, but this would be the same as any transaction. The player and his agent will have an idea of what he wants, John Morris will know what he can afford and they’ll attempt to find middle ground. Morris has been involved in many of these discussions on both sides of the table and knows very well how it works, having been a successful sports agent himself before coming to Derbyshire. He also knows what he needs for next season and we should see what unfolds.

Comments about ‘attitude’ are of little concern, The player is considerably more mature than the callow youth who made his international debut and most dressing rooms are full of disparate personalities. I’ve read several accounts of how the successful Middlesex side under Mike Brearley had several spiky individuals who didn’t especially get on, but it didn’t stop them being a fine side. The bottom line is that for most of the last seven or eight years Afzaal has averaged between forty and sixty. Maybe I’m alone on this one, but give me a quirky character who does that over a nice bloke who averages twenty anytime, especially if it results in a successful side.

More on that one if anything happens...

Monday, 20 September 2010

Robin Peterson

When news broke of his signing, there was the usual mixture of comments among Derbyshire fans about the merits of our new Kolpak import, Robin Peterson from South Africa.

Most were enthusiastic, but some said he wasn’t good enough, bizarre in that he had extensive international experience for a country full of good cricketers, while another said he didn’t spin the ball enough. That one made me smile, thinking back to the maxims of the late, great Wilfred Rhodes. “You only have to spin it half a bat width to miss the middle” was one, while “If batter thinks it’s spinnin’ it’s spinnin’” was another. Strange how some people only ever see the negatives in life…

There was also a comment that Brian Lara had taken him apart, which was true but hardly set him aside from many other bowlers. Lara did it to most in his time and to use him as a benchmark is unfair in the extreme.

Anyway, Peterson came, saw and largely conquered the doubts of the non-believers. While he didn’t cut a swathe through the county circuit as Mushtaq Ahmed did at Sussex, he gave us our first spinner of genuine quality in a long time. Especially in the early season, he became an adept finisher of the opposition innings and was generally a man the captain could turn to when a degree of control was required.

He did a good job in the T20 too and was very economical in the one-day game as a whole. In later season there was a marked dropping off in his wicket-taking abilities, though whether that was due to having pushed it through quicker in the T20, to injury or to tiredness I couldn’t say. Nonetheless, he reached the fifty wicket milestone in the last match and can be pleased with his achievements.

As a batsman he played some important knocks and usually batted fluently, but never went on to the big scores that seemed likely for someone of obvious ability. He was left sixteen runs short of the 500 runs/50 wickets double, but will perhaps be disappointed with a highest score of 58 from 24 innings. This was felt even more keenly when few runs came from the wicket-keeper this year, so the engine room of the later order batting was not as productive as it has been in recent years.

Nonetheless he will be sorely missed as a very good team man prepared to spend time with younger colleagues. How we replace him will be a question at the front of John Morris’ mind this winter. While Jake Needham looks a decent bowler in one-day cricket when bowling to defensive fields, we don’t know how he would bowl to an attacking field with four men around the bat. Some can be affected by the close proximity of teammates, pushing the ball through and giving insufficient flight and revs for spin.

I once played with a very good bowler who was extremely parsimonious and played at inter-district level, but completely lost it when fielders came in close as we were hunting wickets. He once, as a bowler, hit me a glancing blow on the back of the head when I was fielding short leg, funnily enough the last time I fielded there for him, or anyone else for that matter…

I’m not saying that Needham has a similar problem, but the two forms of the game require different skills and exert different pressures on batsmen and bowlers alike. Only John Morris and his staff know the answers and we’ll have to wait to see their verdict.

As it is, Robin Peterson returns to South Africa having done a solid, professional and impressive stint in the county colours. The term ‘Kolpak’ has become a disparaging one, reserved for players out to make a quick financial killing with the minimum return by way of statistics or commitment. That wasn’t the case with Peterson.

We can all be grateful for that.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Thoughts on signings

There are increasing numbers of players being released around the country, some of them presumably the result of the difficult financial situation.

I was surprised to see Sussex release Mark Thornely, a player who looked to be a decent prospect. Indeed, he scored 89 last week in what was probably his final match for them and also took two wickets with his medium pace. He scored a stack of runs for their Second XI, including a century when their side beat ours in the final of the Second XI Knockout Trophy. I would be surprised if he didn't get a contract elsewhere, although the prospects of Ragheb Aga, a Kenyan-born but English qualified all-rounder, and Chad Keegan, a South African-born seamer, may be less clear.

There is a tendency to look at these lists and automatically think "he'd do us nicely," but I'm not sure that John Morris will move for anyone who is not already on his hit list at this stage.Several counties are still to announce who they are releasing and Morris, in contrast to several around the country, has some money to spend.

I've been fascinated to read some of the opinions on the boards (and in your mails and comments) in recent weeks. David Wainwright of Yorkshire is a favourite of Master Villain and I rate the lad too. Sadly, I'm not sure if he is available. That Yorkshire have a surfeit of talented young spinners behind Abdul Rashid is undeniable, but my guess is that they will be loathe to release Wainwright in case Rashid is away with England. He can bat and bowl though, so would probably be in demand should he ever become available.

Will John Morris go down the Kolpak route again? If so, I can only think that it would be a South African. If he could sort the spin option, or was satisfied with what we have, a move for Alviro Petersen would sort an opening berth with the batsman currently without a central contract back home. Nor do recent international players Makhaya Ntini, Friedel de Wet, Ryan McLaren or Roelof van der Merwe.

On the domestic front, few of us would complain, surely, if we picked up Usman Afzaal, who would give the middle order a touch of experience and class, as well as being a useful slow left arm bowler. Again though, he is unlikely to lack for suitors. Bilal Shafayat? Yes, I think he could do a job with bat and ball, although his career has stagnated of late and it is whether John Morris judges that decline to be terminal.

Several names have been mentioned for the overseas berth, most of them people we'd do well to get. Daniel Vettori? Surely no chance? I like the idea of  Adam Voges, who is likely to be a free agent since David Hussey doesn't have a central contract in Australia. Voges does though, which could limit his availability. Again, given the international calendar, the likely source is South Africa or New Zealand, the only ones without commitments between April and September.

Surely the likelihood of  Smith, Kallis, de Villiers, Morkel, Steyn or Duminy signing up are next to nil, so I suspect we may be looking at the next tier down in quality, though still good players. It could be that the Saffers named above in relation to Kolpak deals could be in contention for overseas roles around the country next year.

My other favourite? If we could tempt Ross Taylor over from New Zealand it would be a terrific signing. He seemed to like Derby when he made a brutal  unbeaten 74 from 36 balls with eight sixes against Ireland in a World Cup T20 warmup in 2009. I have no doubt that county fans would warm to him and he would be a hit in all forms of the game averaging 40 for Durham in this year's T20.

It might not happen, but shouldn't stop us dreaming...

Friday, 17 September 2010

Season Review 2010

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. So begins Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities but it also sums up Derbyshire’s season.

We finished bottom of the County Championship after too many sessions of lack-lustre bowling and limp batting, but were probably a better side than that. We again failed to finish sides off when we had them on the ropes, though the absence of first choice seamers for most of the campaign was a major factor. Steffan Jones and Tim Groenewald seemed to play every game and must be looking forward to putting their feet up for a few weeks.

The batting was also hit and miss, with Chris Rogers and wunderkind Chesney Hughes to the fore. The skipper was not as prolific as in previous seasons, however and after scoring over 300 in the first match barely scraped another thousand thereafter. Wayne Madsen hit four centuries but had his low scores too and will be slightly disappointed with his final average. The struggles of the other batsmen meant we were increasingly dependent on late flourishes from Steffan Jones, who rarely let us down.

In the one-day game we showed signs of improvement, just missing out on the T20 quarter finals with an inept performance against Northamptonshire when it was there for the taking after some sparkling performances. In the Pro 40 we also played some good cricket and finished mid-table, but paid the penalty for a nightmare against the Netherlands and lost to brilliant individual performances against Gloucestershire and Essex. Considering the club’s resources, the season was far from a disaster but fans will naturally hope for better next time.

Here, for what its worth, are my marks for the players for the season:

9 - Excellent 8 - Very Good 7 - Good 6 - Average 5 - Below Average 4 - Poor Less than 4 - nuff said...

Chris Rogers 8
The skipper still made his thousand runs and averaged well over 50, though he never came to terms with one-day cricket. Maybe the weight of responsibility told on him, but he will be remembered as one of the very best batsmen in the club’s history.

Paul Borrington 5
Bozza needs a run as opener to show if he can make it at county level. Good concentration, but still has to play some shots and get runs on the board at this level and can't just block it out. Next year is important for him.

Wayne Madsen 7
His average dropped, but Madsen played some stylish innings and became a good middle-order anchor in the one-day game. Looks to be a very good player in full flow and should score many more runs

Garry Park 6
A difficult second year for perhaps the best fielder in the country. Some good cameos in one day cricket, especially in the T20, but he will be disappointed with his first class average and lack of runs. Good enough to come back though and one of those rare players who is worth playing for his fielding alone in one day games.

Chesney Hughes 8
The most prodigious talent I’ve seen in a young Derbyshire player and real quality. Not the most natural of movers in the field but has a great pair of hands. We rarely saw his bowling, which might become of the occasional variety. The world is at this lad’s feet if he continues to work at his game.

Loots Bosman 5
His Headingley assault on debut was by all accounts spectacular, but there was little afterwards. A knee injury, sustained at Chesterfield, did him no favours, but Bosman was quickly ‘sussed’ by opponents who gave him little width and the runs dried up. A gamble that didn't quite come off.

Greg Smith 6
Smith also struggled with the bat, though the amount of bowling he had to do was a factor. Not convinced he is long term captaincy material yet, and he might need to relax and not try to do it all himself to avoid burnout. Always in the game with bustling seam and really spins it too. Just needs to eliminate the odd wild ball.

Dan Redfern 5
Our great batting hope was usurped by Chesney Hughes and had a difficult time. He has plenty on his side though but will hope for better returns and greater opportunity next season. His spin could have been better utilised. Surely will come again.

John Sadler 5
Some bright knocks in one day cricket, but with a small staff we need someone to do much more than that and he was released. Not quite sure of his role in the Seconds, which needs a rethink over the winter.

Wes Durston 7
Wes plays in the ebullient way that John Morris once did and is always worth watching. A terrific T20 campaign and a spectacular fielder, but next season needs to score more Championship runs to cement a regular place in the middle order

Robin Peterson 7
The leading wicket-taker and usually bowled with control. Unusual and pleasant for us to have a top rank spinner, though his wickets dried up as the summer went on. Thought he’d score more runs than he did, though he played some important cameos. Will be missed, on and off the pitch.

Jon Clare 5
Good to see him back on the pitch, but needs to get fit over the winter to take the place of Wagg. Clean hitter of a ball, but his technique needs to tighten up against the moving ball to be more than a bowler who bats. Could be a handful when he realises his shoulder is now up to it again.

Lee Goddard 4
I had high hopes for him, but never scored the runs that we need from a wicket-keeper. As the season went on his glovework declined and it was difficult to see a talented player so obviously struggling. John Morris did the right thing in releasing him.

Steve Adshead 6
Looked a very solid wicket-keeper but, like Goddard, never scored enough runs to make John Morris consider a long-term deal. The availability of several good wicket-keeper batsmen this year ended his hopes.

Tom Poynton 6
Tidy behind the stumps but had his traumatic days early season when some of the bowling was decidedly erratic. A plucky batsman and may yet be our long term wicket keeper. Not ready yet though, which is why we signed Luke Sutton

Jake Needham 6
Jake bowled well when he had rare opportunities, but none of us know if he can do that all the time and be our front line spinner. Still an important part of our future and his development will be a major factor in that of the side.

Tim Groenewald 7
Tim ran in and bowled in April and only stopped last week. You couldn’t ask for more and he looks an increasingly good county cricketer. Bowls with common sense as well as accuracy and a reliable pro to build a side around. A far better batsman than his position in the order suggests.

Steffan Jones 8
Jones the bat was a revelation, averaging 30 and more than most of the regular batsmen. The bowler, like Groeners, just kept on going and he never, ever gives up. A colossus of a man and player. I’m just glad we’ve got him and I hope he can keep going for a few years yet.

Mark Footitt 7
Got though a season pretty much unscathed after the trials of Nottinghamshire and bowled with increasing accuracy and hostility. Could be a genuine threat next year, especially if his later spells of the day are as fast as his early ones. In late season looked seriously quick on occasion.

Graham Wagg 5
Missed most of the season but made some late appearances without reliving erstwhile glories. Remains a talismanic figure but will do so for another county now.

Ian Hunter 2
He was on the staff but only played one game. Can’t say any more really.

Tom Lungley 4
Played a few more games than of late but rarely looked like running through sides as he did in his golden season. An unfortunate accident was the last we saw of him in our colours and released.

Atif Sheikh 6
A mixed bag. Bowled with hostility and no little skill but needs to get much fitter to do so all day. Early no ball problems cleared up, but silly to get dropped by England Under 19s for off field indiscretion. Has a chance next year, but needs to work harder.

Charl Langeveldt 6
Langers is still an accurate bowler in T20, but has lost a yard or so of pace, which meant that he was less penetrative. An object lesson for younger bowlers, but looked like time was catching up on him.

Player of the Season
Though Rogers again topped the averages and Jones hardly put a foot wrong, Chesney Hughes gets my vote. It is rare for a young player to come into county cricket and make both four and one day games look so straightforward. He should be an England player by the time he's 23 and one of the most sought after players in the game. He just needs to listen to his coaches and keep learning.

As always, I appreciate your thoughts and comments!

End of the season

I’ve had some lovely e mails from people since this blog reached the 100,000 mark and I’m grateful to everyone who took the time to get in touch. It brought home to me how many people are passionate about Derbyshire cricket yet are not lucky enough to live close enough to see as much as they like. I thought I lived a distance away, but when you get e mails from people in Nigeria, Qatar, Australia and the USA you almost feel like a local!

I used the phrase ‘lucky enough’ in relation to watching Derbyshire and I’m convinced that wording is appropriate. There are many times over the years that I have gone away from games, shaking my head and wondering at the point of it all. I’ve seen Derbyshire hopelessly outclassed in matches and when the highlight, as it has been on occasions, has been a bit of fielding, or the wicket-keeper, you know the side has problems.

No matter how bad things might have seemed on occasion this year, there is light on the horizon. Irrespective of losing three bigger names, there are some fine players at Derbyshire. If you cannot enjoy the prospect of watching Chesney Hughes, Wayne Madsen or Wes Durston then there’s something wrong with you. Greg Smith is a good cricketer and with less bowling to do can be a punishing and exciting batsman. Dan Redfern is too good for this year to be anything other than a blip.

Next year offers an opportunity to see perhaps two of the fastest bowlers on the county circuit. If the two Marks, Footitt and Turner, hit their straps they will probably be the fastest opening bowlers in the country. I can’t wait to see those two bowling together…

There will be more to come in over the winter, but for now we are all going to have a hole in our lives. I used to enjoy the football season, but it now gets little more than passing attention from me. Like many others, the ridiculous wages, low morals and poor attitudes of too many of the players have seen my interest wane. I still follow Derby County’s results but not with anything close to the interest I have in the cricket club.

We all have our opinions on Derbyshire, but all of our lives would be much the poorer without it. I wonder how fans of Kent, with all their money worries, and Leicestershire, with all the internal fighting, must feel right now. Other, bigger counties have serious money problems, generally caused or aggravated by building plans that are too ambitious and recruitment policies that have risked long-term pain for short-term gain.

Derbyshire have been prudent. It would be great if we could afford every big name who became available. Kirby? Shah? Sidebottom? Yeah, we’ll have them all and be the cricketing equivalents of the Harlem Globetrotters, or perhaps a professional version of Lashings CC. I’m no more sure of the success of that approach than our current one to be honest. It is hypothetical anyway and I remain convinced that picking up rough diamonds from elsewhere and polishing them will, in time, produce the goods.

Look at Worcestershire. Were they the second best team in Division Two this year? Probably not, but through a good team spirit and all-round contributions they have gone up. The margin between top and bottom is minimal and could be addressed by a new strike bowler, a wicket-keeper who contributes with the bat, the right overseas player and a positive attitude. We have the latter and have just picked up the first two. The wait to see the third will be fascinating, as well as who else comes in.

One final word on the blog. I won’t promise a daily one over the winter as there’s often little to write about, but there will be at least one a week and when anything happens you’ll read about it on here.

Chris Rogers

If you asked a Derbyshire fan of longstanding who our best-ever batsman had been, the chances are that they would name half a dozen candidates and that Chris Rogers would be in there.

I have always maintained that an overseas batsman has to average 50 to justify his salary and Rogers did that without fail, every season. At times he seemed to carry the batting and that is perhaps why the runs dried up a little this year. Mind you, how many batsmen would take ‘drying up’ if they ‘only’ scored 1200 runs? A knee injury also affected him as the season went on, but he was still the prized wicket in the side, a sure sign of how others saw him.

Once established and in touch, Rogers rarely looked like getting out. Azharuddin may have played one extravagant shot too many, but Rogers, like Peter Kirsten, Michael di Venuto and Dean Jones would just keep going. He played with a straight bat and adjusted to our slow pitches remarkably well after being accustomed to the pace at Perth. Like most Australians he had a great pair of hands, though I would not class him as a top captain. As I’ve written before, he perhaps didn’t have the weaponry that a top skipper needs in the field, but Buck seemed more reactive than active as a skipper and didn’t often make things happen.

Nor was he an especially good one-day player. As a naturally free-scoring player, to me all he needed to do was play his normal game and let the rest bat around him, but he often fell to big shots when there was no need and it was an alien game for a cultured player.

Having said that, I’m not quite sure how we replace him and our loss is definitely Middlesex’s gain. They will be getting a man of integrity, dignity and class, all commodities in shorter supply in the modern game.

Thanks Buck. It has been a great pleasure to watch you.

Graham Wagg

The departure of Graham Wagg to Glamorgan has been one of the major talking points on message boards in recent weeks and there may well be some who will go to their grave insisting he should have been retained.

I’m not one of them.

Don’t get me wrong, I am as grateful for what Wagg brought to Derbyshire cricket as the next man and it was a lot. A hard hitting batsman who could change a game in half an hour, a demanding left-arm seamer who could be devastating in the right conditions, as well as a part-time spinner of some potential. All topped off by brilliance in the field and a willingness to play through all but the most serious injury, which cost him most of his final season. When Wagg was in the groove, we were a better team for it.

Yet figures suggest a man who is not yet the finished article. A batting/bowling average of 24/32 is the wrong way round for me. Had it been the other way round, John Morris may have thought harder about the decision, but his hands were tied by the club finances. I don’t know how Glamorgan are affording what they are paying him, but it is a different ball park to our budget and they must hope that he translates all that natural talent into consistent results to get value for money.

It may be that he never gets those averages turned around, but either way, as much as we can be grateful to Graham Wagg for his whole-hearted efforts over the past few seasons, the player can also be grateful to the club for their faith in him. After what happened at Warwickshire there were few sides prepared to give him another chance. It is to the player’s immense credit that he turned things around and to the club’s for helping him to do that.

No one can blame anyone for attempting to get the best deal for themselves. A professional sports career is short and players must capitalise while they can. While the heart says that loyalty should be shown, the head accepts that this phenomenon is increasingly rare. No one would turn down the deal that he was offered, in any walk of life and few could realistically expect their current employer to match it.

In my humble opinion, no one need have any regrets over Graham Wagg’s move to Wales. He gave good, loyal service in his time at the County Ground, but the fact is that economics took over and his demands outstripped our supply. I’m just pleased that we’re not daft enough to go down the Kent route and pay anything. It will at least ensure that the county should be around for the long haul.

Final words? Good luck Waggy and thanks – but the hunt for the replacement is on.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Glamorgan v Derbyshire

A meaningful first session became a veritable buffet of cafeteria bowling at Cardiff, where Tom Poynton led the Derbyshire wicket-takers in gifting Glamorgan runs that might let them win their game against all the odds.

160 in 37 overs was the target and I didn't really think it feasible on the last day with a turning track.

I’d hardly call the last day meaningful cricket though and it smacked of the sort of beer match played when the scheduled one finishes early at club level.

There was a brief spectre of defeat, but it was good to see Robin Peterson, in his last innings for us, get his head down with Dan Redfern, who will have enjoyed a match-saving knock after a difficult season.

So that's that. End of season reviews are imminent and should surface over the weekend.

Loads of nonsense on 606 tonight, with various counties fans crying 'fix', not entirely unsurprisingly, but star prize for stupidity goes to a perennial moaner named 'Phillip' who still moans about Essex beating us last year. Apparently, according to him, we're about to go bust.

Funny, since I'm about to become a millionaire.

That's not true either...

Tom Lungley

Well, that’s last night’s question answered. Tom Lungley has been released by Derbyshire after a career that could fairly be said to have been ravaged by injury, so Mark Turner looks like a direct replacement.

At his best, Lungley was a very good bowler and in 2007 looked as if he could be on the verge of something
special. There were 59 wickets that summer and at times he looked unplayable. There was a rhythm to his bowling and he could look as good as anyone in the country. I saw him a few times that summer and was confident that, after a few years of problems with injury, this could be the locally produced seam bowler we had been looking for.

He could handle a bat too. Rarely with the aplomb that he showed when smashing a double century in the Derbyshire Leagues, but he could keep an end going and was a regular and competent night watchman.

It never worked out for Tom because his body was ultimately too fragile for the rigours of seam bowling in first-class cricket. Despite 59 wickets that summer, the rest of Lungley’s time at Derbyshire since 2000 has seen only a further 90 first-class victims. There have been occasions since then when he has looked dangerous, but he has rarely managed to hold down a regular place because of recurring problems.

It can sometimes be overlooked by supporters how demanding seam bowling is. Given that the bowling action is not a natural thing for a body to do, replicating it time and again, over after over, puts considerable strain on joints and muscles. Only those with strong physique and a less demanding and well-grooved action can escape serious setbacks and the current game is littered with those who have had their share of problems. There’s not that many Jones’ and Groenewald’s around.

At the end of it all, a club with Derbyshire’s resources cannot carry players who are consistently unfit but it is ironic that Tom’s final setback at Derbyshire was not of his own making. The fierce Steffan Jones drive that broke his arm meant he would not have one last chance to prove himself, though some would say there had been plenty such opportunities.

Whatever else, Tom Lungley gave his best when he had the opportunity at Derbyshire and I am sure that fans will wish him well. At his age and with his fitness record another county chance is unlikely, but the departure of a local lad is always sad and there are a lot of what-might-have-beens with Tom Lungley.

As for the club, I assume that this is the last departure of the season. As has been pointed out on IMWT, the loss of Rogers, Peterson, Wagg, Goddard, Sadler and Lungley frees up some money for John Morris that will help him to reshape the side. We have swapped a relatively inexperienced keeper and time-served seamer with opposites in Luke Sutton and Mark Turner, but no one would dispute that in doing so we haven’t improved things.

What John Morris does with the rest of his ‘pot’ will make for fascinating winter watching and I am as excited at the prospect as the rest of you.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Quick point

I read today that Kent have been paying Martin van Jaarsveld more than an England player gets from a central contract.

I find it astonishing, even though he has been the backbone of their batting for the last few seasons.

No wonder they are in such a parlous state.

Yet still people moan that we didn't pay Graham Wagg what he wanted. Van Jaarsveld has won Kent very little in his time there, and he is a better player than Wagg (check the averages if you don't believe me.)

For all he was a top bloke and a good cricketer, we have to move on and bring in affordable replacements with the money. There are a few out there.

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 3

I’ve a little more time today, which affords an opportunity to reflect on Derbyshire’s two signings so far. Both, in my opinion, are another step in the right direction.They also fit neatly into our ‘recruitment area,’ as players struggling through lack of opportunity elsewhere. They are both good players, with Luke Sutton a victim of circumstance at Lancashire, in being one of two very good wicket-keeper batsmen. That he was the older perhaps worked to his detriment at Old Trafford, as Lancashire understandably opted for the younger man.

Having said that it worked in our favour, as a relatively inexperienced batting lineup that will lose Robin Peterson from the middle order next year has gained a solid county professional. Luke Sutton will also pouch most things that go his way and will set a high standard in the field, an area where Derbyshire can match any side with several outstanding athletes.

One such athlete signed yesterday in Mark Turner, a player who signed for us despite an offer from his existing county. Turner is a good, aggressive bowler, formerly of England under-19s. He has a Steffan Jones-like reputation as someone who will run in hard all day and crucially now has a winter to work with Jones to ensure that he is fit enough to do so on a regular basis. He also appears to have ambition, which is good to see and John Morris could have signed a real gem in this lad. He works hard in the field and likes to give the ball a slap when he bats, so what’s not to like?

We still don’t know the final retained list so it is not clear whether Turner comes in as a supplement to the existing pace attack or a direct, but younger replacement for one of them. The next week or so should clarify that one.

Interestingly, this signing gives us three quick bowlers (with Footitt and Sheikh), all of who have the capacity to get even quicker with increased work. The Sky commentators a few weeks back also felt that Jon Clare had the ability to hit top-eighties as a bowler, so there is potential for perhaps the quickest Derbyshire attack since the halcyon days of Holding, Malcolm and Mortensen. Speed isn’t everything, but if these lads can work on their accuracy they could be a handful in Division 2, backed up by Tim ‘Mr Reliable’ Groenewald and Steffan ‘Living Legend’ Jones, not to mention Ian Hunter and Tom Lungley. We can now put those remaining "Will Wagg Stay?" headlines to bed and get on with the rebuilding of the club.

It is good to see John Morris making an early start to the winter recruitment and it promises well if the standard can be maintained.

Speaking of recruitment, I made a mistake the other day when I suggested that Luke Sutton was a prime mover in Wayne Madsen coming to Derbyshire. That is a story I’ve seen recounted in several press articles, but it turns out to be incorrect. It was actually former Nottinghamshire and South Africa all-rounder Clive Rice who alerted John Morris to Madsen’s talents when he was playing in the Lancashire Leagues.

The rest, as they say, is history and I’m delighted to put the record straight. And if you’ve spotted any more like him, you will let us know, won’t you Clive?

As for today’s play, wickets continued to fall at the SWALEC (I much preferred Sophia Gardens as a name...) Despite the loss of yesterday’s play, a result is very much on in this game, especially if we can squeeze another 20-30 runs from the last two wickets. It appears to be one of those tracks where you are never ‘in’ and Wes Durston played the innings of the day after taking the aggressive approach. There were good contributions throughout, with Steffan Jones once again batting well at the end with Tom Poynton. Robin Peterson was expensive though...

The result should be academic, as it is hard to see how Worcestershire can win against Sussex without a contrived finish and thus rob Glamorgan of a promotion slot. It would still be good to finish with a win and especially to do the double over a side that ended up promoted.

That one fact pretty much encapsulates the season. On our day we can match anyone. If we can just get a few players to find that form on a consistent basis, we could be up there ourselves

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Mark Turner

There are several things that make Derbyshire's signing of Mark Turner a shrewd one.

First, he is young enough to get better and from his comments on the club site intends to work hard and get a place in the side.

Second, all reports suggest that when he gets it right he can be a slippery bowler. With Mark Footitt likely to be even quicker after a winter with the fitness coach and Steffan Jones, we could have two lively quicks next year. Atif Sheikh should be quicker too, and with the ever reliable Tim Groenewald and Steffan Jones, not to mention Jonathan Clare, we have the makings of a good seam attack.

Then there's the fact that John Morris has reduced the age of his seam attack and brought in a player who has a whole-hearted approach to the game. Nor is he a reject, as Somerset wanted to keep him and offered him another deal.

Yes, there's a lot I like about this signing and it is now down to the player to show that he can really make a go of it at first class level. His performances thus far have suggested a player of considerable talent and I look forward to seeing how he does in our colours.

Where this leaves Ian Hunter and Tom Lungley I'm not sure. I'm assuming that Hunter will stay to see out the final year of his contract, but Lungley may not be so lucky. Time will tell.

PS Apologies to the chap on IMWT who broke the news this morning. You can never be too sure though, so I erred on the side of caution in my earlier posts. You were spot on though, so well done!

Mark Turner

I guess that's true then!,,11333~2154063,00.html sign Turner

Good signing. More tomorrow.

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 2 (supposedly)

No play in Wales today, and the exciting finish to the cricket season looks like falling victim to the tried and trusted enemy of the cricket enthusiast – rain.

Elsewhere, the big ‘news’ is that a contributor on IMWT suggests a young county bowler of considerable talent may be heading our way, thanks to a tip-off he has had from a reliable media source.

I’m going to say nothing on this one at this stage, for no other reason than the fact that nothing official has been announced. For all I know the deal is being done on a clandestine basis. Putting the information ‘out there’ could alert other counties to his availability and mean we lose out. There may also be nothing in it.

Having said that, I’ll have plenty to say if it transpires…

Meanwhile the close season merry go round continues as Amjad Khan goes to Sussex who yesterday lost Corey Collymore to Middlesex. Steve Kirby has joined Somerset from Gloucestershire and the whole thing looks increasingly like the old playground game of swaps. Maybe we get to trade one Graham Wagg for two others players, while a Rogers is worth three…

Actually, the above business does lend credence to the IMWT story, as it pushes the player concerned further down the pecking order at his current county.

Finally, tonight’s the night for the 100,000 hits figure to be reached, with the last 40,000 having happened since the start of the season in just five months. I’m thrilled to bits and grateful to everyone who checks in on a regular basis for the latest in Derbyshire cricket news.

My son, who is far better than me at all things computing (and does an excellent blog of his own on the greatest of all rock bands Rush) at has shown me the usage statistics for this site.

It turns out that the greatest use after the UK is in the USA and Australia, closely followed by Germany, |Denmark and Sweden. There's even been recorded usage from West Africa, which REALLY surprised me, as well as India. Even I didn't think interest in Derbyshire cricket went to all these places!

Thanks to all of you – and here’s to the next 100,000.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Glamorgan v Derbyshire

There was no real surprise at the SWALEC when Glamorgan won the toss and opted to bat in a game they need to win to ensure promotion to Division One. Draw points will probably do them, unless Worcestershire do something special in their game against Sussex, which would seem unlikely.

By lunch their supporters will have been far from amused as they had collapsed to 71-6 with only Mark Cosgrove suggesting permanence against a hostile Derbyshire attack. There was no Jake Needham, although the rationale was probably that Smith and Peterson could handle spinning duties between them and the wicket was more conducive to seam. As I suggested last night, there was a recall for Tom Poynton, no doubt relishing a return to senior duties.

There was little play after lunch, though sufficient for the home side to rally to 120-6, with the dangerous Jim Allenby at the crease. Derbyshire can be pleased with their days efforts though and will hope to bowl out their hosts for under 200 tomorrow morning – weather permitting.

Elsewhere today, Worcestershire released Pakistan-born fast medium bowler Imran Arif who now has a British passport. Arif’s first-class record suggests a bowler of talent, but something hasn’t worked out for him at New Road after an excellent start there. He could well get another chance elsewhere as on his day he is a good bowler. Whether someone can harness that ability into a seven-day-a-week cricketer is another thing.

Meanwhile Middlesex picked up erstwhile West Indies and Sussex seamer Corey Collymore to bolster their seam options for next year, having lost Pedro Collins to the new visa regulations and looking like they’ll do the same with Iain O’Brien. It is a mystery why the southern county have been lingering in the doldrums, especially when their resources (see T20 income last week) outstrip most of their rivals.

What Derbyshire could do with such money! If we could bring in Usman Afzaal to bolster the batting, Makhaya Ntini or Ross Taylor as overseas player and Roelof van der Merwe as a Kolpak we would do well next season, but such players will probably be way outside our budget.

For that matter, they may not be in John Morris’ plans…

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Glamorgan v Derbyshire

There are two landmarks up for grabs among Derbyshire players tomorrow when we commence our final game of the season against Glamorgan.

Wayne Madsen needs 60 runs to reach his 1,000 for the season, while Robin Peterson requires one wicket to reach fifty in the Championship in what will almost certainly be his last match for the county. The latter has done very well, although his wicket-taking prowess has diminished since the T20, whether through tiredness, niggling injury or bowling too quickly.

One thing that is almost guaranteed is a result. Like Gloucestershire at Bristol, the Welsh side need a result so will hope to win the toss, pile up a score and then bowl us out on a likely turning track.

No news on the Derbyshire side yet, but I'd expect to see both Peterson and Jake Needham in the attack and would assume Glamorgan will go with Cosker, Croft and Dalrymple. I'd also assume that Tom Poynton will keep wicket, having opted for Luke Sutton long term ahead of Steve Adshead.

More from me tomorrow, but for now I'm off to a 60th birthday party.

No, not my own...

I just hope that we put up a good fight and give the supporters a nice glow to take into the winter

Friday, 10 September 2010

Fiscal issues

A piece in today’s Guardian suggests that Derbyshire made only just over £70,000 from their T20 home matches this season, a figure that was substantially lower than every other county but Leicestershire. The figures were, with the first being the total attendance and the second income:

Middlesex 68,378, £684,698

Surrey 67,323, £681,115

Essex 36,421, £549,000

Somerset 49,282, £327,000

Sussex 42,056, £280,100

Lancashire 34,771, £268,863

Hampshire 33,637, £230,594

Kent 24,730, £226,172

Yorkshire 33,955, £206,134

Nottinghamshire 49,638, £196,267

Warwickshire 31,196, £185,913

Worcestershire 18,259, £182,489

Glamorgan 31,641, £170,212

Durham 31,253, £145,726

Gloucestershire 19,871, £127,847

Northamptonshire 21,924, £124,358

Derbyshire 14,059, £70,159

Leicestershire 17,263, £67,454

The article closed by asking how Derbyshire and Leicestershire manage to survive. The answer being, at least in our case, that we live within our means. As I reported last week, Leicestershire are currently reporting a deficit of around £300,000 this season, primarily because of the big budget signings of Matthew Hoggard, Brad Hodge and Andrew MacDonald. We have been more prudent, but one look at the figures above is enough to show why we have lost Graham Wagg and Chris Rogers to other counties.Check out those Glamorgan and especially Middlesex figures and you will see what I mean.

I find it extraordinary that a city with a football club enjoying sizeable and loyal support through thick and thin – 25,000 is an average at Pride Park – cannot average 2,000 gates for the supposed showpiece matches of the season. Cricket is better value for money, so one assumes that there are two reasons for the problem. One is that people only have a finite amount of cash and they spend their summers saving up for football. The other is that we need the added stimulus of a successful side to attract more than just the cognoscenti. It is a Catch-22 situation of course. To be a successful side you need money but only a successful side will normally generate it.

John Clement, a long-time Derbyshire fan who comments fairly and sensibly on IMWT, hit the nail on the head today, when he said it is very difficult to maintain a competitive team on that level of revenue.

All John Morris can do is shop sensibly and prudently at the end of season 'sales', much akin to the sensible shoppers hitting the shops in January. The bigger names of domestic and international cricket will continue to elude him as money generally talks, but he has had sufficient success thus far to suggest that a few gems might surface over the winter. With Madsen, Hughes, Groenewald, Park, Jones, Durston etc he has done well. A few haven't worked out so well, but that's the way it goes at that end of the market. Buying established players is easy, but finding untapped talent and bringing them on takes time and no little skill.

Finally tonight I was amused at a contributor to IMWT suggesting that the signings of Wayne Madsen and Chesney Hughes were not the result of Morris’ scouting network but of personal contacts. Madsen came to the club from a recommendation by Luke Sutton, while Hughes was the result of his friendship with Cardigan Connor.

Isn’t that what it is all about? Scouting isn’t watching every player yourself, it is having a few people whose judgement you trust doing so on your behalf. As long as a few good ones percolate through to Derbyshire ahead of the pack (as they have) I’m quite happy, thanks very much.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Back in contact

Thanks to those night time magicians at BT our neighbourhood was back in contact with the outside world this morning after being out of commission yesterday.

To be fair, I missed very little from a blog-worthy perspective. Northamptonshire released three players who were at best peripheral figures in their squad, but the most telling comment came from Kent’s cricket supremo Paul Farbrace, who said that he did not expect to sign any players this winter as he didn’t have the money. At the same time he doesn’t expect to have an overseas player next summer either…

That potentially affects Derbyshire in two ways. Firstly, I would have thought it knocks on the head once and for all any suggestion that Greg Smith will be moving down there. Secondly it may mean that the likeliest destination for Makhaya Ntini for next year (assuming he remains interested in a county stint) has gone. I haven’t any more idea of John Morris’ intentions than the rest of you, but if he is looking for a fast bowling spearhead, there is not likely to be a better one available than Ntini. Currently without a South African central contract and unlikely to be involved in the IPL, he could potentially be available. I don’t think that will be the case with Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, so my guess is that Ntini will be potentially of interest to a few counties.

Today Nottinghamshire announced that opening batsman Matt Wood and all- rounder Bilal Shafayat have been released. Wood has never made the runs at Trent Bridge that once flowed from his bat at Somerset and has struggled to hold down a place, even when the county have been in dire need of an opening batsman. Nonetheless, a bloke who a few years back was good enough to score 297 in an innings must entertain hopes of another deal somewhere.

As for Shafayat, it is one of the mysteries of the game why he hasn’t gone on to greater things, having starred at Under-19 level. He can bat beautifully, bowl useful seam and keep wicket. He left Nottinghamshire for Northamptonshire, then decided to go back, the latter a decision he must now regret as his career has stalled, especially in the last two years. In the right environment he may yet flourish and at his best he would be an asset to any side, yet it has still not happened. At 26 he may not yet have reached last chance saloon but now needs to make the right move. A batting average of 30 perhaps doesn’t do justice to his ability, while a bowling one of a similar rate for less than thirty wickets suggests he has been under-bowled.

Perhaps, like a good many before him, he will be a late developer. I would be surprised if no one took him on as the talent is there, but he now needs regular first team cricket and to show that he can do more than play attractive cameos. One in five of his first class innings has resulted in a score over 50, but only 25% have been converted to three figures.

If someone can harness that ability, there is a good cricketer in there.

Elsewhere, the Seconds look to have had the beating of Nottinghamshire. After bowling them out for 242 on day one (three wickets for Knight, two each for Clare, Whiteley and Sheikh), we made 370 with Durston scoring an unbeaten 140 and Whiteley adding 81.  Ian Hunter then bowled beautifully to reduce Nottinghamshire to 74-8 at the end of the second day (last night). Hunter took 5-23, illustrating what we have missed this season.

More tomorrow, but for now - good night!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Sorry, but...

Just to let you know that there’ll be no blog tonight as there’s been, according to BT, a ‘burn-out’ at the junction box, which means that we’ve neither internet nor phone at home just now, like most people around us.

We’re told it should be fixed ‘by the weekend’ (though they didn’t specify which one) but I’ll hopefully be back in action before then.

See you soon

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

News and a chance for memorabilia

Sometime today someone will perhaps suggest that we move for Gloucestershire seamer Steve Kirby, who has been released from the final two years of his contract to seek pastures new.

There are, I think, two sides to this. One is that the contract Kirby signed at the county put him on a very high salary – I’ve heard in excess of six figures mentioned from different sources. In the current climate, that salary to one player is a massive drain on resources that few counties could afford and I’m not convinced that he is THAT good a player. I would have thought that Gloucestershire will be glad to get him off the wage bill.

The other is that he wants to play in Division One, where I’d guess there might be a few takers. Hampshire will doubtless want to add him to their collection of former England bowlers. It might give them a second one, after Dominic Cork, who gets onto the pitch…

Elsewhere, Middlesex may have to cancel the last two years of Iain O’Brien’s contract after discovering that he may not qualify as English through his marriage to a girl he met while professional at Matlock. Having signed Chris Rogers as their overseas player, O’Brien would thus have no route into the side. It is a shame for a good bowler who interested John Morris a couple of years back. This season was plagued with injury but he will be a loss to the southern county should he be unable to return.

Still in that neck of the woods, Usman Afzaal has left Surrey after three years and an average of 46. Yes, I would have him at Derby as, irrespective of his supposed foibles, he is a very good player. Life is full of idiosyncratic people and it takes all sorts in a dressing room. There may be other, more lucrative offers on the table, but if some are deterred by stories (some of them apocryphal) then Derbyshire could be a good home for him.

Finally tonight, at the current level of usage this site will reach the landmark of 100,000 hits sometime next week, something that I will be very proud of. To celebrate this, I am running a one-off e-mail auction for a piece of Derbyshire cricket memorabilia.

It is a signed club shirt from a few seasons back, never worn, size extra large, with the autographs of most of the squad of that time on it. Graeme Welch, Tom Lungley, Travis Birt, Greg Smith, Chris Taylor, Jake Needham, Wayne White, Michael di Venuto, Andy Gray and Ian Hunter are all there, together with a few less legible ones, as seen in the picture. It dates from the 2006 season, when I won it in a club website competition.

Anyway, if you are interested in this item, simply e-mail me at with your maximum bid. The winner, unsurprisingly, will be the person who submits the highest bid and the item will be despatched to you, post free, on receipt of your processed cheque or Paypal payment. The reserve price on the item is £10. Bidding will close when the 100,000 hit is recorded on the site, probably some time next week.

I could, of course, just put this on ebay, which I’ll do if there are no takers, but this way the shirt will go to a reader of the blog and I’ll clear a bit of space in my wardrobe, so there will be a result all round!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Luke Sutton

So Luke Sutton is back. As far as I’m concerned, that is very good business by John Morris and I would like to think that the majority of Derbyshire fans will agree with me. Sutton is an excellent gloveman but is also a stabilising influence in the middle order in whatever position John Morris deems appropriate.

In his first time with us he batted in most positions in the order, making a good fist of the openers job on occasion. That is not where I would see him now, as it is asking a lot of a wicket-keeper to concentrate for hours in the field then do the same when batting, with no opportunity to relax.

For me, Sutton is the number seven I alluded to last week, a man who can help an innings to recover from a wobble and nurse the tail towards a competitive total. I liked what he had to say in the Derby Telegraph this morning and I am sure that his competitive attitude will rub off on his colleagues. Similarly, his experience will be invaluable in a team that is fairly short of it. As the first step in what will be a winter of team rebuilding, this one gets a thumbs up from me.

That Telegraph article can be seen at:

There were other candidates in the frame, of course. Steve Adshead has proved himself a good man behind the stumps during his extended trial, without scoring the runs that were required to become the front runner. As I wrote last week, a wicket-keeper today really has to supply a minimum of 500 Championship runs, as James Pipe did, to cement a place in the side, as well as contributing in one-day games. For all the fact that he has been latterly overlooked in favour of Gareth Cross at Lancashire, Sutton averages over 30 in the T20, suggesting he is no mug at the shorter game. While he is not known as a hitter, his running between the wickets is up there with Dean Jones and Garry Park as the best I’ve seen from a Derbyshire player. We have lacked someone with a bit of nous in the latter stages of an innings and Sutton should help in that regard.

I never thought Tim Ambrose a likely candidate for us, as his salary demands would have been an issue. Cricketers of international experience don’t come cheap and Ambrose’s batting over the past year or two has shown signs of decline. His first-class average is only three runs higher than Sutton and is five runs less in T20. Nor is his glovework as good as it might be, which was, of course, why he lost his England place. Put it another way, if we could not match Graham Wagg’s demands, how could we match those of a man with reasonable international experience?

Joel Pope from Leicestershire is as inexperienced as Tom Poynton and, promising as he is, the role is too important for us to take a gamble. We saw with Lee Goddard that prolific scores in Second XI cricket don’t necessarily translate to success in the first-class game.

Niall O’Brien? He and Sutton were my favourites, but it is still not confirmed that he is leaving Northamptonshire. His Irish commitments mean he misses more than a few matches, which would legislate against him. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that someone might engage him as a punishing top order batsman who offered cover behind the stumps, but that would depend on the availability of other targets. The early signs are that a number of players may be looking for deals this winter, so I doubt John Morris would make any hasty moves, unless he has a specific player in mind.

Which he obviously did with Luke Sutton, and is where I came in. I don’t subscribe to one view, expressed below, that we have signed a man who will now ‘coast to retirement.’ He’s not that sort of player and I like the fact that on the club site he talks about helping young players to come to terms with the demands of the first-class game. He will challenge them and will continue to push himself to maintain the high standard that he has met in his career.

While the player has signed a two-year contract, he talks about having ‘at least three’ good years left. That timescale would enable Tom Poynton to work with him and perhaps ultimately replace him as first choice.

A good, solid signing. A few more like that and there will be no complaints from me. The bottom line, as Brian Clough used to say, is whether he is better than the guy he replaces.

He is, so that's one problem sorted.

Luke Sutton signs for Derbyshire

Terrific news for all Derbyshire fans this morning!

Luke Sutton has re-signed for the county, saying that we are "the last club he will play for."

A few people have said that over the years and meant something else entirely, but I'm sure that there will be a lot of people, like me, very pleased to hear that this morning.

More later, but for now - enjoy your day!

Sunday, 5 September 2010


Just a short note about the continued 'uncertainty' over Graham Wagg.

He's gone. As I explained a week or so back, I heard from a very good and trustworthy source close to the player the difference between our offer and Glamorgan's and there is a huge difference. No one - not you, not me and certainly not Graham Wagg  - would turn down such a deal. Nor could Derbyshire have got remotely close to the figure on their current budget.

As for someone paying part of his salary, where would that leave the rest of the players? Wouldn't Madsen and Smith feel a little peeved, possibly others? Do you keep one player and possibly lose a few?

No, Waggy's gone guys and we have to accept that and move on.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The case for Jake

There was an air of end of season around today's Pro 40 matches, with James Benning making a good 62 in what will presumably be his last game for Leicestershire, then taking the key wicket of Sean Ervine.

At Lords there was no Robin Peterson and no Chris Rogers. Derbyshire's batting had an air of finality about it too, with only Chesney Hughes and Wayne Madsen (comme toujours) scoring anything of consequence before Graham Wagg and Ian Hunter's late rally took us to a reasonable score.

Middlesex always looked like getting them, although it was good to see Hunter get through his first overs of the season at the death. The most telling bowling again was from Jake Needham, who got two good wickets in an eight over spell that only cost 25 runs.

I rate Jake Needham and always have since I first saw him. On each occasion he has bowled this year he has done well and has made a strong case for being the lead spinner next year. 'Anon' in response to the last article I wrote asked why he has not bowled more this year, while Jon Clare has without the same degree of success.

The answer is, to me, simple. We had Robin Peterson as a first choice spinner of international experience, plus Greg Smith able to bowl spin as back up. The balance of the side would have been wrong with Needham also included. As for Clare, he has played primarily because our seam bowlers have been less fit than him. He needs to work hard over the winter to build up strength in his back and shoulders again and be ready to resume, firing on all cylinders with bat and ball, next summer.

Having said that, I expect Needham to play in our last game against Glamorgan where his pairing with Peterson should match that of the home side. They will probably field any two from Dalymple, Croft and Cosker and the toss may well be a factor.

At 23, Jake Needham isn't remotely close to his peak. He has shown himself capable of taking good wickets and has a List A economy rate of only five runs per over. He fields well and is a useful batsman who should get better. He has opened in an emergency and a first class batting average of 20 is pretty good for a relative novice in the first class game.

For what its worth, if we had a young seamer of Needham's age and talent we would be looking for him to be a fixture in next season's side. Assuming he works hard over the winter, maintains that impressive loop and keeps giving the ball a good rip, I expect Needham to be given the opportunity he deserves next year. If John Morris has an international spinner lined up, I'd suggest we should get some spinning tracks prepared and play both, as Needham is the best YOUNG bowler we have after Mark Footitt.

Anyway, that's it for tonight. I'll be back soon.

Weekend thoughts

After Kent announcing yesterday that they have lost £1.5 million over the last two seasons, comes news that Leicestershire are budgeting for a loss of £300,000 this year. I would be very surprised if they were alone.

Several other counties, including Yorkshire, are expected to follow suit. Warwickshire have spent heavily to little avail and Lancashire are another county who at last seem to have realised that flashing the cheque book doesn't guarantee success. Surrey are perhaps the biggest spenders, but what have they done this season?

If rumours are to be believed, Kent may be set to wave farewell to Rob Key, Martin Van Jaarsveld and Joe Denly, as well as Azhar Mahmood, simply because they cannot afford to pay them what they are worth - or think they are. Key is a likely target for Surrey, who seem set to release Usman Afzaal, while I would be surprised if the overseas batsman who can play in all games for Warwickshire, according to Ashley Giles, isn't Van Jaarsveld. The latter has been an outstanding player for Kent, but no organisation can sustain the level of losses that they are. It makes it all the more strange that they have borrowed from the local Council to make £4 million of ground improvements. One would expect crowds to be lower in the absence of their better players.

As for Leicestershire, they spent heavily on Matthew Hoggard, Brad Hodge and Andrew MacDonald and didn't have a sensational season either. They have yet to announce their full retained list, mainly because of the fall out from the behind the scenes machinations there. Several players at the end of their contracts are believed to be considering their futures and the issues don't look like ending sometime soon.

In its own, perhaps perverse way, it makes you pleased that at least we are run as a cost effective business. Despite moans and groans from the odd fan about spending more, Derbyshire have learned to live within their means and have two good men in charge of financial affairs in Keith Loring and Don Amott. We also have a lot of playing talent and the one thing to come out of the losses of Wagg, Rogers, Peterson, Sadler and Goddard is that it gives John Morris a chance to reshape the club. I know no better than any of you how he plans to do that and I'd be silly to say that I think that we'll be an even better team next season.

Yet the more I read of things happening elsewhere, the more I think that we're not as badly off as a number of other counties. With Worcestershire likely to lose Vikram Solanki and Gloucestershire having their issues to deal with, we can at this stage be reassured that financially we're not doing too badly.

I hate to end on a negative, but I think we've missed a trick with the 140 years DVD at the club. Laudable as the idea is and was, it should have been out to celebrate the start of the 140th season in April. I understand that it may now be previewed at the annual dinner, but I'm not so sure that  doing this at the end of the season is such a good idea, especially one where in the eyes of some fans we have under-achieved.

If it were me (after twenty-plus years of marketing and PR experience) I'd hold the launch back till next April. While they may get a few Christmas sales, there are far more likely when people are passing through the club shop on a regular basis. That won't happen now. Call it the club history, rather than the 140th anniversary DVD and it should sell steadily next year, as we are all filled with the optimism that a new season always brings.

Just a thought...

Friday, 3 September 2010

This morning's Telegraph

Sorry reading from this morning's Telegraph (thanks for the tip David!) about Kent's financial plight, which looks like leading to several established players leaving.

You can see it at:

Whatever you might think about Derbyshire, we're not in that bad a situation.

Good points in e mails

I got a couple of very interesting and well thought out e mails last night, both in support of John Morris and both making good suggestions about Derbyshire’s future.

Paul suggested that all counties would benefit from experienced overseas players who are not likely to play for their countries again. ‘They will have a beneficial impact upon the younger players at a county and perhaps even help more experienced players to find new dimensions to their game as well. Counties are not just buying playing ability but also a presence in the dressing room, training and coaching.’

I can’t argue. The influence of Langeveldt, Peterson and Rogers will continue long after they have left the club, as did the work done by Eddie Barlow. Each has helped young players with the mindset, as well as the technique of the game.

Paul also suggested that Marcus North would be a good option as overseas player and that is likewise an excellent call. North did well for us a few seasons back in a brief spell and could potentially be a victim of the precocious skills of Steven Smith in the Australian setup. The latter is well thought of in Australia and North’s role would perhaps be the one that he is aiming for. Much will depend on the Ashes, but should he fall from favour, Marcus North would be an excellent choice for the middle order berth I highlighted last night.

As would Garry’s suggestion of Adam Voges. I’m unaware of Nottinghamshire’s plans for next season, but if they plump for David Hussey as overseas player, Voges would be an excellent option. He has also done well for Nottinghamshire and also has useful slow left arm as an option. As always though, any knowledge of their availability would lead to a bidding war that I wouldn’t expect us to win.

I also had a look at top South Africans who have played international cricket recently but do not currently have a central contract. I came up with three names – Alviro Petersen, Ryan McLaren and Makhaya Ntini. A batsman, all-rounder and fast bowler.

I don’t think many would quibble at them. Ntini looks to be finished at international level, but at 33 did a great job for Kent in the early season, as too did McLaren in his stint for them as a Kolpak. Petersen is a solid batsman who can either open or play in the middle order, while interestingly Roelof van der Merwe, who I mentioned last night, doesn’t currently have a central contract. Paul Harris does, while Johan Botha will be a staple in the one-day side as captain. Could van der Merwe be tempted with a county deal?

Looking at his first class batting average, I perhaps did him a disservice in not according him all round status. It sits a shade under thirty, which suggests he can handle a bat. He might just see it as an opportunity to further his experience.

It may, of course be that John Morris chooses to go down a non-Kolpak route this winter, but such players as those above may well be in his mind should he decide to do so. Much will depend on availability and his success in this country.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

2011 conjecture

No doubt occupying the minds of Derbyshire fans at the moment are the issues of the retained list and who will be coming to Derbyshire over the winter.

I don’t expect many more to be released as there’s not many who are out of contract. We might lose a seamer, possibly two, but the nucleus of the squad is in place. I’m not sure if I can say that when we’re losing Rogers, Peterson and Wagg though…

So what about next season? I’ll tell you what I’d like to see. First, I’d like to see Derbyshire take any pressure off John Morris and give him a contract extension, so he can do the other things I suggest without fear. As you’ll see, there’s an element of risk, but I’m looking at long term, gain here. John Morris is more likely to be encouraged to experiment if his future is secured, so for me, that would be a smart move. No doubt there’s new tabs being opened onto 606 right now…

I’d then like to see us give an extended trial to Borrington and Redfern as openers, with Hughes having cemented the number three berth. At this stage the jury is out on both players, but they need to be given an opportunity to show if they can cut it at this level, as we'll never know unless they play. Borrington has rarely been given a chance to open, but should be in what is a specialist role, while Redfern needs to realise that attractive twenties and thirties need to be turned to worthwhile scores. It was interesting to listen to Mark Butcher on Sky recently, talking about how he was told to bat exactly the same between 25 and 50, 50 and 75 and so on as he did between nought and 25. It helped him to realise the need to stay at the crease and maintain concentration.

Redfern was tried as an opener pre-season this year to reasonable success. Maybe two boys who have come through the club together and are good friends may ‘feed’ off one another and spur each other on. I think it is worth looking at, unless John Morris has a cunning plan for a world-class opening batsman coming in…

Hughes would be at three, a position he has played with astonishing success, but more will be known about him next year and three youngsters “up top” could be too much of a gamble. After watching Derbyshire for forty years, I can safely say that Hughes is the best young batsman I’ve seen in the club colours, but he will also, like others of his age, experience difficult times.

I’d then have Madsen at four, where I think he would score even more heavily than he has at the top of the innings. He is probably our best player of spin, so would be an asset in that area. Greg Smith would be at six, a reflection of the fact that it is asking a lot of him to bat, bowl spin and seam and possibly captain the side, as well as taking a prime place in the order.

In between them I’d love to see an overseas batsman at five, maybe one who could bowl a few overs. We could really do with someone like Neil McKenzie or Dale Benkenstein, a player who would rally the troops and dig in, or counter-attack when things were tough.

Durston and Park? They'll need to battle for a place and would replace the two openers in one day games. I would love to see competition for places and these two are excellent one day cricketers. Their performances would show if they could play the longer game with success.

I’d then like to see a wicket-keeper who can contribute 500 runs as a minimum in the Championship. With Luke Sutton, Niall O’Brien and Tim Ambrose seeming to be available, there are options out there. Or could Steve Adshead score the necessary runs in a key position? It is another big decision for the Head of Cricket.

The bowlers? Jonathan Clare will benefit from a winter’s strengthening and practice, Atif Sheikh will be a year older, wiser and stronger, while Mark Footitt, if he works hard with Steffan Jones over the winter, could be seriously quick. Throw in the warrior that is Jones and the reliable Tim Groenewald and there’s a decent seam attack in the making.

Which leaves the big question. Is Jake Needham ready to be first choice spinner? I think he’s bowled well this season when given opportunities, but the question is if he can do it every day for five months. This is another reason why Morris should be given the security of a contract extension. It is a risk that may be worth taking, but in Morris’ situation I may be disinclined to take that risk with my future on the line. If Needham is not deemed to be ready, then another spinner needs to be on the list. In the absence of British spinners of talent, the only options then might be another Kolpak, which effectively narrows the choice down to South Africans or West Indians.

Taking that down further, to spinners who have played international cricket in the past two years, it leaves three options now that Botha has the South African one day captaincy. All are slow left armers, with the options Roelof Van der Merwe or Paul Harris of South Africa and Nikita Miller of the West Indies.

None would really offer the all-round option of Robin Peterson, although Van der Merwe is a one-day pinch hitter on occasion. All are good players who could do a job, though they may not be prepared to put their own international ambitions on hold.

Whether John Morris goes down this route for 2011 I couldn’t say, but these are sure to be some of the considerations in the months ahead.

Thoughts, my friends?

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Talent as yet unfulfilled

One of the biggest surprises of the past few seasons for me has been the inability of former Surrey and now Leicestershire all rounder James Benning to kick on and become a good, exciting county cricketer.

I've seen him a few times and he has talent. He can hit a ball a long way, is good in the field and bowls decent medium pace. You cannot discount a player with a highest List A score of 189 and a score in excess of 50 in every fourth one day innings. Yet he has not been retained at Leicestershire, suggesting that there is a weakness somewhere. Whether that is attitude, discipline or technique I can't say, but Benning still has an average in excess of 30 after a couple of poor years.

At 27 he may be coming up for a last chance, but may seize the opportunity, if given one, in the same way that Wes Durston has. He may not be of any interest to Derbyshire, but it would be a shame if a player of genuine ability failed to make the most of it

Bristol turnaround fully deserved

While it is hard to defend a side that is bowled out in sixteen overs of a four-day game, I have to agree with the comments of Mark Eklid and John Morris in this morning’s Derby Telegraph.

When a first day wicket is as heavily weighted in favour of the bowling side as this one was, the game is no longer an even battle between bat and ball. No one wants to see docile tracks where batsmen post huge scores, but there is a happy medium (as Doris Stokes used to say…) Given that this is the third occasion that a first day there this season has seen twenty wickets go down, I think it is time that someone had a word in their ear. Such a deluge of batsmen on the first day effectively ensures a result and Gloucestershire give themselves a 50/50 chance of win points with their actions. Hands up if you think we’d have got away with this?

The fact is that none of us, including myself and those who slaughtered the team yesterday, were there. Without seeing conditions it is difficult, maybe even impossible to be even-handed in the comments and criticism. Eklid says the Derbyshire players made no rash strokes but were trying not to get out. That being the case, the wicket was a joke.

The vitriol pouring forth from 606 was not unexpected, but there will be a few sheepish looks tonight after the astonishing second day win. No praise is high enough for the innings played by Chesney Hughes, who looks a player of extraordinary potential, while the partnerships he shared with Graham Wagg and Steffan Jones for the last two wickets were crucial to the success.
Coming so soon after the defeat at Horsham, yesterday’s performance put a little pressure on John Morris. While not the sort of bloke who will bother about petty comments on message boards, who is to say that others within the club might not take note? Last week’s poll on this site suggested that most of those voting felt Morris should stay, although to clarify things for a correspondent on 606, I never claimed the poll was of a statistically significant size. 105 votes is, however, more significant than the one on the site where….ooohh…three people, at last viewing, want Morris out. Which is, of course, probably a cue for some more false and duplicate IDs to proliferate on there.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I support John Morris because he’s in charge of Derbyshire cricket and I’m a fan of the club. If Graeme Welch, Dougie Brown or Steffan Jones were, sometime in the future in the role, all names I’ve heard mentioned as alternatives, they too would have my support as a fan. I just don’t think it does anyone any good whatsoever to consistently snipe behind the scenes. I felt last night and still do that a first class side should not be bowled out so quickly, but unlike some who air their views in the public domain, I am even handed and will also praise when we do well. By any standards, even the most negative of followers (note I didn't say fans) must acknowledge that today was a fantastic win.

Some have suggested that if performances like Horsham and Bristol, irrespective of conditions, occur on a regular basis next season that Morris’ contract may not be renewed. By the same token, there are no guarantees that he would want to stay. With his job increasingly like that of an accountant in picking teams that will not incur financial penalty, less money to work with than anyone else in the country and constant grief from a section of the ‘support’, no one could blame him if he opted for a return to the job he was doing with great success before he came to Derbyshire.

Those shouting for his head now, like modern day Madame Guillotines, might even get their wish. Where would that leave us? In something unsavoury up to the neck, in my opinion. Let’s notionally pay off John and his staff and bring in, to great acclaim – maybe even a street party – the genial Graeme Welch, ignoring his lack of success thus far as coach (I say that as a huge fan of the man, by the way.)

After he is installed, let’s remind him that his best batsman has left, along with his leading wicket-taker and best all-rounder. Then break it to him that in paying off several contracts he now has no money for an overseas player or Kolpak, but that the budget could stretch to a couple of lads other sides have let go. Would he make a success of the job? Of course not, and no one would expect him to. People would allow him time though, because he’s Pop Welch, living legend of the club and a genuinely nice guy.

Nice guy or not, I’d give Pop a year and a half before the sniping started, unless we can find a Rod Bransgrove-style benefactor to allow us to keep the better players and attract those from elsewhere.

Anybody know one? It would be a huge help to the present incumbent of the post who has had a pretty good day today and who deserves better for a lot of hard work.

Speaking of which, in closing, the Second XI forced Durham to follow on at Derby. After making 360, with Poynton getting 70, Borrington 55, Park 46 and Slater and Whiteley 30s, Durham were bowled out for 185 by an attack featuring Needham, Sheikh and Hunter.

You've just got to smile eh?