Saturday, 30 April 2011

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 4

I was amused this afternoon to find a correspondent on IMWT reckoned my excuse for today's defeat would be that the wicket changed. What defeat...?

It didn't change, but they managed to bowl straight and had two class bowlers in Claude Henderson and Matthew Hoggard, as well as a rapidly improving one in Jigar Naik (26). Conversely our off spinner is 20 and had no such bowler of quality to bowl with and learn from. As I wrote the other day, Henderson is a class act, a far better bowler than he was five years ago and proving the merits of experience to that art. Anyone who can't see that substantial difference between the two sides is having a laugh.

Full credit to Azeem Rafiq though, who used up 122 balls this afternoon in a fantastic effort to follow a tidy one with the ball, while one has also to pay credit to Tim Groenewald (again!) for lasting 87 balls and Mark Turner for his unbeaten knock that ensured we took unexpected points from the game. If nothing else, their efforts highlighted an excellent spirit in the camp and it is good to see us to do Leicestershire what they have done to us in the past.

By the same token, I'd regard today's play as disappointing. We should have been capable of batting out the day with ease after they made 500-5 yesterday. All the batsmen got starts and then got out when they should have been on the verge of an innings that would have made a difference. Much as in the first game at Bristol, we let ourselves down and the only thing you can say is that it was poor batting. All reports acknowledged it was spinning but it was slow and shouldn't have been that big an issue. Goodness knows how we'd do on an old sticky after some rain...

16, 45, 35 and 25 are Usman Khawaja's scores so far and anyone who has seen the genial Aussie will vouch for his obvious talent. For all that, as the hired import he will need to start going on to the big scores sometime soon, as such scores are the preserve of a player of only modest talent, something that he isn't. For all the fact that he has had an injury, a fragile batting line up like ours needs a steady, regular contributor, as we've had in recent seasons from Chris Rogers and Simon Katich before him. I'm well aware of his relative inexperience, but as Australia's brightest batting hope he will need to turn those starts into bigger contributions in the near future.

English conditions are completely different to those in Australia and you probably need to work harder for longer. Perhaps Khawaja needs to remember that, but I'm still confident that this talented young man will come good soon. So confident that he's in my Telegraph Fantasy team. Rating him a 2 is a bit of a joke...

The team? They have some work to do, but I'd have expected Groenewald and Turner to have walked into a dressing room tonight where at least one player was bouncing a ball off a wall and catching it in a baseball mitt.

The Great Escape? You better believe it. We have to do better, but you can't fault the commitment. That at least is cause for optimism.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 3

As I suggested last night, today was largely one of leather-chasing for Derbyshire and Leicestershire declared with a lead of 200. I should have picked my lottery numbers while I was in such a vein of form...

Apart from two quick wickets in the afternoon for Mark Turner, both to catches by Usman Khawaja, the cricket suggested that the perils of the first two days were a thing of the past.

That being the case, there should be no reason why we cannot bat out tomorrow and get a draw from this game. I accept that in Matthew Hoggard and Claude Henderson Leicestershire have the two best bowlers in the match, but I can't believe that our bowlers are as innocuous as they have appeared over the past two days. To be fair they stuck to their task well and only went for three an over, but a few averages went downhill in that innings. Good game for Tony Palladino to miss, methinks...

Can we bat all day tomorrow? I hope so and think so. We can bat down to number ten and all they need to do is stay in. Runs don't matter - leave anything wide and just play the ones you need to and hit the bad ones. The field will be close set but the hosts will realise that once we get past their lead the game is dying on its feet and each run effectively counts double.

If we don't manage to bat out the day I may need to reassess our chances for the season, but I'm confident that our batting is capable of holding out against their bowling, unless the game recommences with heavy cloud cover.

Don't let me down now lads.

Book review - Cricket Wonderful Cricket by John Duncan

Thanks to everyone for your continued support which has apparently made this blog number seventeen in the Google world rankings. I still struggle to get my head around the success of something that I started as a bit of fun, but I'm nonetheless very grateful.

Last week I received an e mail from John Blake Publishing asking if I would be interested in doing a review of a new cricket book and as someone who has read a few thousand over the years I was delighted to say yes.

I am pleased to say that the book did not disappoint. The premise - getting well-known cricket fans from culture, business and politics to talk about the game - is a sound one and the list of those involved is impressive. From the Duke of Edinburgh, Sir Michael Parkinson, Rory Bremner and Tim Rice through Chris Tarrant, Ainsley Harriott, Bill Wyman, Alan Davies and many more, those involved share their anecdotes and memories of the game in a book which is a joy from start to finish.

Part of the success is that the author, John Duncan, is a former broadcaster and cricket commentator and manages to put the interviews across in a way that makes you feel you are sitting across a coffee table listening to them. We all have our cricket stories but the author has managed to extract some pertinent and amusing stuff from his 'cast list.'

So we hear of the celebrity who was responsible for ex-Derbyshire player Fred Rumsey losing four teeth in a charity match ("you haven't lost them Fred, I've got some of them here...") and the former England legend who thought John Alderton was Graham Gooch. There are tales of Shane Warne showing kids how to bowl leg breaks in the nets when he could have mingled with the rich and famous and of the Duke of Edinburgh agreeing to play a charity match and being given out lbw first ball! How many of us would like to have been Ainsley Harriott, playing cricket with Lance Gibbs and Clive Lloyd in his back garden as a child, or Nicholas Parsons, with a claim to fame of having clean bowled Denis Lillee?

There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, from Allan Lamb's tendency to malapropisms "be careful with him, he doesn't take any pensioners" to David Lloyd's encounter with Jeff Thomson's fastest delivery in the nether regions "everything that was supposed to be inside the box had come outside - through the air holes." Ouch!

It was fascinating to hear how Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber once wrote a thirty minute mini operetta called Cricket, which was staged before a small private audience including the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. There were plans to record it but several tunes were used in The Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love. The hero's big song in Cricket was All I Ask of Life,sung as the batsman is being battered by a West Indian fast bowler. It later became All I Ask of You in Phantom of the Opera and did rather well...

In short, this book is 267 pages of pleasure. A word too for the publishers who have done the author proud. I have lost count in recent years of the number of books ruined by poor proof reading and people not doing their homework. John Wright's amusing autobiography disappointingly contained several references to his Derbyshire team mate "Fred Swarbrick" and such carelessness must irk others as it does me. Another I read recently had so many mis-spelt names that I was compelled to write to the publishers in frustration.

This book is a perfect union between an author who knows his subject and can write, coupled with a publisher who does all the rest to the highest possible standard. Given that you can pick this up on Amazon for £6.59 (£9.99 in book shops) there's a big incentive to buy, especially with all profits going to the Lords Taverners charity.

Excellent job Mr Duncan. The best cricket book I've read this year.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 2

Last night I said that I couldn't comment on a game until I saw how the second innings had gone, but once I'd seen Leicestershire's reply to our innings I'd tell you how it was looking.

The answer is, sadly, down a barrel.

Unless we take quick wickets tomorrow we could be facing a first innings deficit of  200 and a battle on the last day against Claude Henderson, who I currently rate the best slow left armer on the county circuit. Will Jefferson made a fine century, something that none of our batsmen managed and we need to show all of our battling qualities tomorrow to keep in the match.

I'm not sure what's happened. By most accounts the wicket was playing a lot of tricks and batting would continue to be tricky. Yet at 201-2 and counting, Leicestershire are currently ahead of the game and must fancy their position tonight. There was a steady spell by Azeem Rafiq and an unsuccesful shout for a caught and bowled from Jefferson, but apart from that the home side seemed largely untroubled through the afternoon.

Earlier Dan Redfern and Luke Sutton did well, but the tail fell away and we were short of what seemed possible in a somewhat lacklustre day.

Here's hoping for better tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 1

While a number of batsmen got a start but didn't go on to something really worthwhile, the real significance of our efforts today won't be known until our innings is finished and the opposition bat.

238-5 must have been a heavy going day for all concerned, but that score is only ten short of the best from four innings in Leicestershire's first home match. If we could push on over 300 towards 350 tomorrow we could be nicely in the box seat, assuming we bowl well.

Three wickets for Claude Henderson suggests spin will play a part as the game progresses and Azeem Rafiq may enjoy his first Championship bowl for us in due course. Pride of place today goes to Dan Redfern, whose unbeaten 58 in 2 and three-quarter hours was just reward for a lot of hard work over the winter months. I hope he keeps his head down and goes on to the big one tomorrow, something that would give me great pleasure.

It was a good team effort though. I've never judged any innings until we see how the opponents handle conditions and won't break that habit now. One can only admire the determination showed today and hope that the players continue in similar vein tomorrow.

In closing, special mention for the skipper, whose partnership with young Mr Redfern could be very important in the context of the match. At 174-5 we were rocking. 238-5 seems much more solid and gives us something to build on.

Thumbs up (cautiously) from me after day one.

Random thoughts

In reply to a couple of comments received recently, I understand that Jake Needham currently needs a little time to work on his technique after a winter in South Africa. It’s nothing serious and nothing new – plenty of young players, faced with modifications in their game, need time to assimilate the changes. There’s no point in Needham being exposed to doing that in the first team and it makes much more sense for him to try things out at a lower level. I’m sure he’ll come back the better for it, as Phil Russell, who worked with him in the winter, is an especially good coach of bowlers.

As for Azeem Rafiq replacing him, the lad was good enough to be England under-19 skipper, which suggests he has talent. We needed a spinner, Rafiq was the best available and we’ve got him. If it doesn’t come off, at least we’ve tried something, rather than sighing and bemoaning our fate. As I’ve written before, top class spinners aren’t exactly lying by roadsides awaiting pickup at the moment…

As for Tony Palladino’s absence, thanks for the tip that he now has a Twitter account and told the world it was a hamstring tweak. Nothing serious, but better to rest it now with all the cricket ahead. Shame about the timing though, the lad’s been on fire.

Changing tack, for the first time in a while I deleted a couple of comments this morning, which from the look of them were written by someone in the grip of alcohol around midnight last night and not by any standards a fan...

As you will realise from comments attached to previous articles, I have no problem with people whose opinion differs from mine. Nor do I have issues with anyone who wants to criticise events on or off the pitch, as long as they draw short of personal comment. Such nonsense has long been the preserve of 606 and is why there are few tears shed round these parts at its imminent passing.

As I’ve said before, I write this blog as a Derbyshire fan and as such take the rough with the smooth, albeit not so easily. However badly the team do, I try to remember that they are still OUR team, are trying their best and that whatever I write may be read by them or someone close to them. Reading that young player X and Y and committee member Z are ‘whatever’ is not nice, not constructive and not clever. If it was your son, husband or brother would you like it? What about if it was you?

I put my picture on the blog because I have no issue with people knowing who I am when I am making comments. If I make critical ones I feel they are justified and sometimes will subsequently qualify them if I feel I acted in haste, although I try not to do that. Anonymous bile serves no purpose and I won’t have my name or this blog associated with it.

Given that I can delete it far more quickly than it took to write, I wouldn’t waste your time in future. Thanks to all the rest of you though for your excellent, thought provoking and worthwhile comments. For last night’s correspondent, as we approach the Eurovision Song Contest, null points from the Peakfan jury.

Finally, closing on a positive note, I’d echo the comments regarding the club site’s match reports from the Second XI and Academy. I hope that they feature throughout the season as the signs are there is real talent emerging. Their development can only be accelerated by playing against experienced club (and former county) players and they will bond so much better as a unit.

Nice work guys!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Leicestershire v Derbyshire preview

Disappointing as it was, yesterday’s defeat to Netherlands was just one match, just one defeat. Contrary to the belief of some, it doesn’t end our season but highlights the fact – as if we needed it - that our young squad has a long way to go.

There were grumblings on IMWT last night about the absence of Groenewald, Palladino, Clare and Khawaja but that is patently unfair. The first two had a lot of bowling against Middlesex and the signs are that they will be the focal point of our attack this season. We need to treat them well and give them breaks when the coaching and fitness staff – the professionals – think they are needed.

Jon Clare and Usman Khawaja are both carrying injuries. Clare missed the crucial second innings and it was obvious against Middlesex that Khawaja is currently unable to sprint. That is less of a problem in four-day cricket where he can stand at slip and jog between the wickets, but more of an issue in the one-day game, where there is no hiding place. For me, resting him in a game that we should have won made sense – it was the batsmen that played, Durston and Madsen apart, who let us down. Eight, maybe nine times out of ten, a team chasing seven an over from the last ten with seven wickets in hand would stroll to victory. It just needs a bit of common sense.

There were also comments about the injudicious use of the reverse sweep yesterday. When it goes wrong, a batsman can scarcely look more ungainly, but at the end of the day, it is down to personal judgement as to the right time to play it. Wayne Madsen’s hockey background usually helps him look one of the more adept at the shot, but if it costs a wicket too frequently, a batsman has to make a decision on a stroke. The great England opener Herbert Sutcliffe cut out the hook shot after a few too many dismissals playing it, despite scoring a lot of runs in between times with the stroke. Together with the ramp, the reverse sweep is one of the new shots that batsmen have at their disposal and, like all the others, there are times they work and times they don’t.

Anyway, that was yesterday and, slipping seamlessly into my best Scarlett O’Hara impression, tomorrow is another day. We can make amends with a good performance against Leicestershire.

The following squad has been announced:


So Clare was injured, but is fit, while Palladino was supposedly rested but isn’t in the squad. One assumes a niggle, sustained in training, keeps him out, while Mark Footitt probably needs some bowling in the Seconds. Presumably there will be a late test on Jon Clare and if he is fit, logic suggests Tom Knight will miss out, with Jones and Turner then vying for one place.

Azeem Rafiq should certainly play. If Grace Road sticks to tradition, there will be early movement and then the wicket will increasingly aid spin as the match progresses. ‘Rafiq the Tweak’ will have to match the bowling of 'the lion tamer' Henderson (Claude). It is big challenge for the youngster, but he gives the ball a rip, has the doosra in his armoury and bats well enough to have a first class century to his name.

Should Knight also play I’d venture that it is the youngest spin pairing we have ever fielded and the ECB age payment will need to be transported guarded by armoured cars…

It is hard to see Leicestershire being as poor as they seemed at times in Derby and we will need to play much better collectively than we did on Monday to get anything but a good hiding.

We must keep it in perspective. Somerset have had a nightmare start but they are from being a poor team. We’re not in their class but I’m prepared to see yesterday as an unfortunate blip on an otherwise competitive start to the season. I still think we’ll have our good and bad days in equal measure.

The players will prove or disprove that one in the near future.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Derbyshire v Netherlands

After the encouraging performance against Middlesex, a depleted Derbyshire slipped back into old ways with a disappointing defeat to the Netherlands this afternoon.

While Khawaja, Clare, Palladino and Groenewald would probably have made a big difference to the final result, we should still have been capable of beating a team who are regarded as minnows in the world game. Having said that, they would appear to have been toughened up by their recent World Cup  exploits, even in defeat, as their bowlers have now shown twice that they are a match for county sides.

Indeed, much of the side is made up of nationals from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and in Peter Borren, the skipper, they have a good all round cricketer, capable of scoring quick runs and bowling tight overs. No side can ask for more - we could have done with such a player ourselves when it mattered today.

Similarly Shane Mott and Mudassar Bukhari showed themselves to be bowlers capable of keeping a tight line and length and both returned exemplary figures against a side supposedly their superiors.

Having made a dreadful start to our innings it appeared that Wes Durston and Wayne Madsen had steered us to calm waters and a push to victory, but when Durston was dismissed after a stand of 117 in 22 overs the wheels came off, four wickets going down for just twenty runs in five overs at a time when we were meant to be accelerating. Make no bones about it, 69 from the last ten overs with seven wickets in hand should have been a walk in the park.

That only two batsmen made it to double figures in the innings before Steffan Jones late onslaught brought respectability to the score tells its own sorry story. But the fact that we cling tonight to 'respectability' rather than a win says it all really.

This result doesn't end our CB 40 season (despite what some gloom and doom merchants are bound to be saying tonight) but we simply have to do better than this.

Poor. Sorry, there's no other word for it. I hope that this proves to be the low point of the season

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Derbyshire v Netherlands preview

With no disrespect intended, Derbyshire have an ideal start to get their CB40 campaign up and running tomorrow at the County Ground against the Netherlands.

While the visitors acquitted themselves well in the recent World Cup, Alex Kervezee is back with Worcestershire and Essex all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate doesn't play for them in this competition. Fast bowler Mark Jonkman, who bowled well last year, has been undergoing remedial work on a suspect action and is also out. Nor is there any sign of former Sussex veteran Baz Zuiderent in their travelling squad, which is:

Peter Borren (c), Wesley Barresi (wk), Eric Szwarczynski , Tom Cooper , Tom Whol ,Bradley Kruger , Mudassar Bukhari , Pieter Seelaar , Wilfred Diepeveen , Tom Heggelman , Berend Westdijk , Michael Swart, Shane Mott (overseas, Australia).

So no Michael Dighton either, after his heroics that resulted in last year's embarrassing defeat at the County Ground. The visitors have Australian grade cricketer Shane Mott, a left arm seamer and hard hitting batsman as their overseas player for the first four games of the campaign. He played his cricket in Huddersfield last year for Scholes, taking 52 wickets at 22 and scoring 602 runs at 33. Decent figures, but there's a big difference between Aussie first grade and county cricket.

As for Derbyshire, John Morris is likely to be missing Jon Clare and Usman Khawaja, while Tony Palladino may be rested after his efforts against Middlesex. Garry Park will surely come in after his outstanding knock in the Seconds last week, while there is a debut for Yorkshire loanee Azeem Rafiq (pictured). I'm not sure if Ross Whiteley's injury is serious or not, but I'd expect tomorrow's side to line up along these lines, with Luke Sutton suggesting on Twitter that he'll be fit:

Wes Durston
Chesney Hughes
Garry Park
Wayne Madsen
Greg Smith
Dan Redfern
Luke Sutton
Ross Whiteley/Tim Groenewald
Azeem Rafiq
Steffan Jones
Mark Turner

I don't think that will be too far away. We start a Championship game at Leicester on Wednesday and John Morris will want his first choice seamers fit and rested if at all possible. I'd guess that Groenewald would also be putting his feet up in an ideal situation.

My forecast? Surely a win. I'll be very disappointed otherwise.

Postscript: Mind you, as Yorkshire are finding today, you take these teams lightly at your peril. I can't decide whether the Netherlands are improving or Yorkshire are going through a nightmare since their collapse against Nottinghamshire.

I'll stand by my assertion though - if we are to be taken seriously by people in the press and media, we need to beat these sides.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 4

So, at the end of it all there was a second defeat of the season for Derbyshire, but anyone expecting gloom and doom chez Peak will be disappointed.

This game was a magnificent advert for county cricket. It ebbed and flowed like the tide and Derbyshire were very unlucky not to win. Had Jon Clare not missed the entire second innings, Luke Sutton most of the match and Ross Whiteley the final session we could easily have ended up victors.

Of course, to do so more often there is something we need to learn fast - how to bat well in two innings. Scoring under 200 in the first innings of a four day game will always put you on the back foot and there were a few players who contributed to their own downfall with poor shot selection.

Yet there were positives. A lovely knock from Wes Durston, an encouraging one from Dan Redfern and some interesting cameos from Ross Whiteley with bat and ball. I was also encouraged by the performance of Tom Poynton behind the stumps, who seemed tidy and alert, always geeing up the side. The Derbyshire XI were more 'chirpy' in a nice sense of the word than I have seen, while the fielding was of a very high standard, some fine catches being held.

One concern is the fitness of Usman Khawaja, whose leg injury seems to be a major hindrance. At one point today he chased a ball to the boundary at a pace I'm used to seeing my club team mates do, though a pulled muscle that you don't want to aggravate will do that to you.

Conversely, I was very impressed by Tony Palladino. With a lithe, lively action that gathers pace from a smooth run up, Dino looks an outstanding signing by John Morris. That he can bat is an added bonus, but how Essex could afford to let him go is beyond me. We've won the lottery with this lad, mark my words.

Speaking of which, we've now picked up Yorkshire all rounder Azeem Rafiq for a month, which I would again suggest a very shrewd piece of business. Aside from his Twitter issue, which earned the boy unfortunate press, he is a player of talent who suffers in playing in a side that also has Rashid and Wainwright to choose from. As a former England Under-19 skipper and still only 20, Rafiq offers talent with bat and ball, already having a first class century to his name.

The signing suggests that all is not well with Jake Needham's technique after his South African winter, but John Morris may even think of a double-pronged spin attack. While we have Tom Knight in the Academy, it would be asking a lot of a 17-year old to step into first class cricket on a regular basis. Rafiq would offer balance to the side and is better than what we have. While Wes Durston bowled tidily today, neither he nor Chesney Hughes look like they might run through sides on a helpful track.

Anyway, that's it for now. I got back this evening after a four-and-a-half hour drive and Mrs P thought I'd been in the Caribbean. "No" I replied, "I've been in Derbados." That line would have been even better had I thought of it myself, but full credit goes to Luke Sutton for coining the phrase on his Twitter account.

It was a lovely few days. The weather was spectacular, the cricket excellent and the company convivial - thanks to all who made it so. If you've not had the pleasure, Derbyshire have some very affable players and a Chairman who is passionate about the place. In answer to a reply from the other night, I'll not blog what Chris Grant told me as it was between us and I don't break confidences. Suffice to say that if his plans for the club come to fruition the future is so bright we'll all need to wear shades.

Now, where's that after sun? That's not the northern lights you see, its the glow from my sun burned left ear...

Friday, 22 April 2011

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 3

A day to go in an absorbing match. Who's your money on?

I suppose Middlesex are slight favourites with eight wickets in hand, but the thing about this game has been the movement in the first session, generally when the most wickets have gone down. Cloudy conditions forecast tomorrow, so we can still win this.

Of course, we need to bowl the right line and length as we did first innings but apparently did less well today. We're also a bowler light, which could be a deciding factor. The final morning promises to be absorbing though and Mrs Peakfan was her usual understanding self when I phoned home this evening.

"You'll be staying on tomorrow given the state of the game?" she said, impressing me with her knowledge of things once more. Apparently she's taking my mother in law for a new washing machine. Sounds like a good swap...boom, boom!

Yes, I'll be there tomorrow to see the denouement and whatever the result this has been an enthralling game of cricket. We could win tomorrow and I'll float back to Scotland, or we could lose and it will be a somewhat longer drive. Irrespective, I've seen enough from the side in this game to encourage me for the rest of the season.

The second innings batting was again excellent, down the order. If we can sort out the first dig we could do well in the Championship - certainly better than last year. Good to see Dan Redfern in the runs and the form of both he and Wes Durston has been a plus from this match.

Will we win? Not sure just now. Can we win? Most definitely.

Seconds success

A great win for the Seconds at Belper. Chasing Yorkshire's target of 275, we won by one wicket with Garry Park batting through for a superb unbeaten 166.

By any standards that is an impressive knock and, as usual, people have been too quick to write off the talented all-rounder. As Wes Durston amply showed yesterday, talent will always out and Park should have plenty of opportunities this season to showcase his skills.

Indeed, I'd be surprised if he wasn't recalled for Monday's game against the Netherlands, certainly watching Usman Khawaja's running yesterday. I don't think John Morris will risk aggravating a problem in a game that realistically we should win anyway. There's plenty of talent in that Derbyshire side and while the visitors beat us last year, thanks to Michael Dighton's century, having seen their capabilities yesterday I would be very surprised if that was repeated.

Yesterday's display, hopefully replicated over the next two, was a clear indication of a united dressing room with eleven players - young ones mind - all pulling together. It was a pleasure to watch and I would urge anyone to go and see them as the season progresses. Positive and purposeful, in the field we looked on a different level and although we were a bowler down, our lads hit better lines than a side which, on paper at least, has one of the better attacks in the division.

Keep in mind the youth. There was promising bowling from Ross Whiteley to follow his batting of the previous day, while Tom Poynton kept wicket very tidily. Later in the day Chesney Hughes and Dan Redfern showed composure in seeing us through to the end of the day with fielders close around them. It crossed my mind as Chesney unleashed a trademark booming drive that silly point was perhaps the most appositely named position on a cricket field, especially when the affable West Indian is letting go...

With Paul Borrington and Mark Footitt fit in the next couple of weeks, Matt Higginbottom taking three wickets yesterday, Ben Slater and Hamza Siddique doing well for university sides and Jake Needham and Tom Knight there for spin options, John Morris is getting close to having good options for the side.

If they can replicate yesterday on a regular basis and enjoy the rub of the green with injuries there'll be some mighty fine cricket down Derby way this season.

Get yourself down there - and get behind them!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 2

Well, I think a few gloom and doom merchants on IMWT might be feeling a little silly tonight...

Honestly, it is quite sad how some 'fans' - never has a term been used more loosely - are quick to criticise after a bad session but never seem to summon the moral fibre to come back and say 'I was wrong.'

This morning the County Ground resembled a scene from casualty. Luke Sutton was unable to take the field after severe bruising to his little finger (thankfully not broken), Jon Clare had tweaked a hamstring and Usman Khawaja didn't look fully over his injury. Mark Footitt thankfully told me that he should be fit for next week, which was good news and not the last of the day.

Derbyshire were, quite simply, superb. In the morning session Tony Palladino (pictured) showed everyone what a fine bowler he is with a devastating pre-lunch spell. Regular readers will know I labelled this an astute signing when John Morris pulled it off back in December (16th if you wish to check) when I wrote:

"Critics say he can be expensive and loses his radar from time to time, but I tend to take a more pragmatic view. Five-an-over in List A and seven-an-over in T20 is hardly cafeteria bowling. In addition, Palladino, like Footitt and Mark Turner, takes wickets with impressive regularity. Eight four-wicket and two five-wicket hauls in 52 matches is impressive, as is a career record of 117 wickets at 34 with limited opportunity. Comparisons may be odious, but Lungley took three five-wicket hauls in ten years, as did Hunter and neither took four in a Championship innings.

Palladino is thus more penetrative and crucially four years younger. With opportunity he can get better, which realistically wasn’t going to happen with the other two. All things considered, John Morris has again strengthened the squad. Two aging bowlers of questionable fitness have been replaced by two who are not yet at their peak."

On today's showing Palladino is a class act who will only improve. He was aided by some sharp catching from a team who were obviously up for a fight and credit goes to Tom Poynton who stepped in for Luke Sutton and kept well at short notice. Tim Groenewald bowled well with little luck, while Chesney Hughes bowled some impressive spin to end the innings quickly, bowling Finn behind his legs and having Collymore sharply taken by Poynton. Mention should also be made of Ross Whiteley, who occasionally dropped onto leg stump but bowled some good balls in an improved spell.

A deficit of 76 was less than most expected, but fully deserved for a very aggressive display in the field. In the context of the game it was still substantial though and we needed a good start. Sadly Wayne Madsen fell to a brilliant piece of fielding and at 10-1 we were struggling.

Then came some marvellous batting on a difficult pitch by Durston and Khawaja. The odd ball was lifting sharply and some kept low, but by punishing the bad ball and leaving anything they didn't have to play, the two eroded the lead and we crept ahead. Durston played some delightful drives and sashayed down the track a time or two against the spinners for impressive boundaries. Khawaja still didn't look fully fit and it was noticeable that there were no sharp singles and they weren't pushing between the wickets. Yet the commitment and self restraint of the young Australian augurs well. He made the bowlers pitch it on the stumps where he picked off anything short or overpitched. One pull from Collymore went through mid on, testimony to how quickly he picked it up, while he played a delightful drive past the bowler that oozed class.

Wes looked set for a deserved century when he missed a leg glance and was lbw to sounds of disappointment from the crowd, while Khawaja was eventually to fall to an attempted cut. Yet even at that stage Derbyshire did well, with young tyros Hughes and Redfern batting sensibly and with great skill to the close. I've seen people label this a 'crucial' season for Redfern, which is nonsense. He's 21 for goodness sake! Bear this in mind -his record at that age is better than a player named John Morris at the same stage. If he turns out as good as that feller we'll have few complaints...

The match? 117 ahead with seven wickets in hand. Anything over 200 will be tough to get if we bowl right. If we get 250 lead they'll be really worried.

As for the rest, I was really impressed by today. The ground looked magnificent, the team were up for it and I met some lovely people - you all know who you are! I enjoyed the company of everyone and had the pleasure of a chat with Chris Grant, who I can assure you is passionate about his cricket and has great plans for our club. Having spoken to him I have no doubts that the future is bright and that the club is in very safe hands.

More of the same tomorrow gentlemen and we'll be some way towards back to back wins, just reward for some very impressive cricket today.

PS You will notice a picture of Tony Palladino at the top of this article. That's different to the Derby Telegraph, who currently seem unable to match the fine writing of Mark Eklid with a sub-editor who can add the right photo to the prose. Bet they'd not make that mistake with Derby County...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 1

Not exactly what we were looking for today, being bowled out for 154. As I write Chris Rogers has made his expected 50 against us and Middlesex, at 77-1 are halfway to our total with nine wickets in hand.

The County Ground this year could be that sort of track and there'll be days when it will go our way and days when it won't. If the day had adhered to the script we'd all written mentally Usman Khawaja would be 120 not out right now and we'd be closing in on the final batting points.

It didn't happen but hey - them's the breaks. Rogers will be a key wicket and we'll see what happens when (if?) he goes.

More tomorrow, when I'll be there to watch events unfold.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Derbyshire v Middlesex preview

Having previously said that the division is wide open, I would suggest that if any side were equipped to challenge for the title it would be Middlesex.

They have recruited extensively and one assumes expensively over the winter and have added some ballast to a failing side. Having nicked our erstwhile skipper by offering riches beyond our compass, they picked up the talented Corey Collymore from Sussex to replace the mercurial Pedro Collins. They then added Anthony Ireland from Gloucestershire, to partner the talents of England man Steve Finn and the underrated Tim Murtagh in an impressive seam line up. More recently Jamie Dalrymple has re-signed for them after leaving Glamorgan and he will add more durability to the middle order, as well as a useful spin bowling option. Presumably he’s not yet fit after his winter travails and isn’t in their squad for Derby.

While Owais Shah has gone to India…sorry… Essex, Scott Newman and Neil Dexter also line up in a side that should be in division one. Except they’re not and they’ll have to do it where it matters to get to that level, always harder than it appears.

Their squad of 12 is as follows:

Scott Newman, Chris Rogers, Dan Housego, Dawid Malan, Neil Dexter, John Simpson, Gareth Berg, Ollie Rayner, Tim Murtagh, Steven Finn, Corey Collymore and Toby Roland-Jones.

So there’s a decent line up, but I genuinely feel that we can compete against them and others in that division. Our own side has plenty of talent and if we can get runs on the board there will be few sides enjoy batting against disciplined bowling and some fine fielders.

As for us, its 'G'day' to Usman Khawaja, who lines up for his county debut after missing the opening fixtures. There's also a recall for Steffan Jones and Jake Needham is in the 12, which reads:

Wayne Madsen, Usman Khawaja, Wes Durston, Chesney Hughes, Dan Redfern, Greg Smith, Luke Sutton, Jonathan Clare, Tim Groenewald, Steffan Jones, Tony Palladino and Jake Needham
The latter is interesting. If we assume that Clare, Groenewald and Palladino will be the main seamers, Smith as back up gives us four of good quality. Do we need a fifth, or could we more productively play a spinner or an extra batsman on occasion? At this time of year I think the extra seamer gives John Morris a chance to keep them all fresh and bowl them in short spells. The fact that three of the four seamers named above can bat makes a big difference to the balance of the side. We've not had many better number tens than Steffan Jones in our history...

John Morris has nice decisions to make at the moment, with his bowlers staking a claim for a place in the side. If he can get Park and Redfern in the runs, or Lineker if he gets a chance, there will be tough calls to make.

Promotion battle? No. Way too early to talk about any teams as promotion contenders. When they’ve all had a chance to do something significant, good or bad, we’ll start to sort the wheat from the chaff, but both of these sides have the ability to be in the mix.

From a purely selfish point of view I hope we win the toss and bowl tomorrow. That way I've a good chance of seeing Mr Khawaja on a subsequent day. Maybe see you down the County Ground over the next day or two!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Monday musings

There’s something about a good win for your favourite sports team that puts a spring in your step for a day or two afterwards. If you’re lucky, there’s a few days before the next game so you can enjoy the feeling a little longer and if you’re very lucky, like me, you’ll be able to see some of the next game. I’ll be down south from Wednesday onwards so should get to see some of our game against Middlesex, probably on either Thursday or Friday, depending on the best weather forecast.

That was a terrific win against Leicestershire, one that produced precious few comments from the usual suspects. Why can’t people acknowledge a good display as quickly as they castigate a poor one? There’d be far greater credibility for negative comments if they were counter balanced on occasion. We all know that we’ll have our disappointments this year with a young squad, especially if injuries hit, but that display amply illustrates what the team is capable of.

An increasingly key component was recognised in the award of a county cap on Saturday to Tim Groenewald. He arrived at Derby from that reliable source of Edgbaston, the latest in a conveyor belt that has brought us Graeme Welch and Graham Wagg over the years. He’d had few opportunities in Birmingham, yet has become increasingly important to Derbyshire.

Timmy G bowls good lines at a healthy pace and seems more robust in physique than many of his kind. Certainly he carried the attack last season with Steffan Jones, showing great stamina and no little skill. At times he didn’t get the wickets his bowling deserved, but he made himself an indispensable member of the attack.

This year he has again started well, with eight wickets against Leicestershire, while the runs he made and the manner in which he made them suggests he could become an integral part of a lower order batting line up of considerable potential. Sutton, Clare and Groenewald at seven, eight, nine lengthens the batting and offers insurance against early difficulties. I’m delighted to see Groenewald’s contribution to the side recognised with his county cap and hope he continues to go from strength to strength.

The first rounds of fixtures in Division Two have highlighted how wide open the division is, with seven of the nine teams winning one of their opening matches. We currently sit second (stop the season NOW!) and are as likely to do well as any other side. One has only to look at the success of Worcestershire last year with a fairly ordinary squad to see what is possible with a strong team ethic, the odd inspirational performance and a sprinkling of luck.

Moving on and its Fantasy cricket time again in the Telegraph. I’ll have my team selected once more and I’m sure there’ll be a league organised through IMWT for Derbyshire fans. I did OK last year but suffered from making my bold move for the top too early, using my last star substitutes a month before the season ended and then seeing them all get injured…

Every season there are surprise ‘valuations’ in the game and this year is no different. Usman Khawaja only a 2? Surely that has to be a mistake for perhaps the best young batsman in Australia? I can see him being an early season pick for a few people at that price, especially when people know he’s fit. According to his Twitter account he was ‘stuck with needles like Wolverine from the X Men’ which suggests acupuncture is seen as part of the road to recovery. I hope he’s fit for Middlesex – purely selfishly, I’d quite like to see his county debut.

Speaking of injuries, I’m sorry to see Graham Wagg was injured, playing for Glamorgan. Apparently his hamstring has gone, although the severity has yet to be clarified. I hope he recovers soon – he’s a good lad and was a good servant to Derbyshire. While he’s no longer our player I will watch his future career with considerable interest.

Finally today and harking back to our win on Saturday, it is worth acknowledging the diving, one handed catch at gully that started the procession of wickets through the morning and afternoon. Garry Park was the fielder and while you can’t, in first class cricket, pick someone just for their fielding Park is perhaps as good as it gets in this area.

As a bowler he is useful and as a batsman I suppose the jury is still out on his talents. As a fielder, I can’t recall seeing anyone better in the county colours over forty-four summers and that is quite an accolade.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 3

Where I come from, we call that a whuppin'...

Having beaten Glamorgan in their first game, Derbyshire disposed of their neighbours in clinical style to stop them in their tracks and kick start our own season.

It was a highly efficient bowling performance today that won the game inside two sessions with all the seam attack contributing. Special mention again goes to Tim Groenewald, who seems to get better and better and who, with Wayne Madsen, was presented with his county cap at the lunch interval.

It was good to see further wickets for Tony Palladino too. Earlier this year I wrote of my pleasure at his signing as he takes wickets and always has. At times his attacking length sees him a little expensive, but to win matches in the Championship you need to trade off at times. Palladino and Groenewald are perhaps two of the least local-sounding opening bowlers we have had, but the signs from the first two games are very encouraging. So too is the re-emergence of Jon Clare with bat and ball after injury problems, while Mark Turner, another who attacks and can be costly from edges, nipped in neatly at the end.

It was close to being a perfect performance, the only thing missing being runs for Garry Park, Wes Durston and Dan Redfern. Their time will come though and Derbyshire can reflect on a job well done with plenty of time to spare.

Surely no complaints after that one?

Wayne Madsen

In yesterday's piece on the day's play I inadvertently missed out reference to Wayne Madsen, who is now the club's most dependable batsman.

A first class average of 38 doesn't tell the full story as Madsen had a few early struggles in first class cricket back home in South Africa. 809 runs in 16 innings at an average of 58 in 2009 with 3 centuries and three fifties was followed by 940 at 34 with four centuries and 2 fifties last year. I think he will score heavily this year and looks set to become one of our best batsmen in a long time.

What I like about him is that conversion rate. Generally when he gets past fifty he goes on to three figures, which is a sign of a good player. I also like the fact that he is as adept against spin as pace and I would rate him the best player of spin bowling in the side. Certainly, I have seen few play the reverse sweep, not what Wilfred Rhodes would have called a 'business shot', better than Madsen, tribute to his talents in hockey and to a keen eye.

His record in the Lancashire Leagues was phenomenal but Madsen looks like translating that into senior cricket for years to come. While credit has to be paid to the player, a word too for John Morris, who took a man who had usually batted in the middle order and gave him the responsibility of opening, presumably seeing a technique that could cope with a moving ball.

Yet that ability against spin will probably be why Madsen will bat at four or five in one day matches, giving us the best chance of working runs from containing spin. A sound fielder, Madsen is no mug as a bowler either, but looks unlikely to do much bowling in a side where almost everyone can turn their arm over to decent standard.

Class act, Wayne Madsen. Long may he be the rock of our batting.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 2

Here’s a few observations from today’s play:

I can’t think there will have been many better mornings for Derbyshire fans to watch than that one. 150 runs in two hours without losing a wicket? Even in Kim Barnett and John Morris’ pomp that would have taken some doing.

Greg Smith – man with a point to make? Keep on making it Greg. If you’re intent on a better deal, with Derbyshire or elsewhere for next season the way to do it is with runs and wickets. Given he has started prolifically with both we can only benefit, even if for one last season.

The reality is that Smith is a player of unquestionable talent who hasn’t yet produced the returns that those talents justify. Maybe this will be the season he breaks the 1,000 run barrier. It was a shame that he missed his century today, which was fully deserved and I hope that he realises he can enjoy an exciting future with Derbyshire.

Maybe I was a little hard on the side for the extras conceded yesterday. Leicestershire matched it today, with way too many byes for my liking if I was a fan of theirs. That is definitely one area where we have improved this year, with a top notch wicket-keeper (who is also an impressive batsman and skipper...)
Perhaps the ball is doing weird things with the change of direction and the new stand.

After Smith and Madsen went, Jon Clare and the skipper added useful runs as the lead mounted and Tim Groenewald also stuck in there, ending with some lusty blows as the total eventually ended at an impressive 439-9. Groenewald is becoming a real vital cog in this side and gets better with every game. Five wickets and an unbeaten 60...great stuff!

The match? Still everything to play for and I'd be amazed if they rolled over and died, but at 200 ahead and two days to go you'd hope we can get something in this one.

Postscript. Somerset spent who knows how much on Gemaal Hussain (28 overs 1-154) Steve Kirby (20 overs 1-81) and Ajantha Mendis (43 overs, 4-183) in the winter and went for 642 today. If money can’t buy me love, according to the Beatles, it must be doubtful if it can buy you wickets at Taunton either…

Something for the weekend

By the time you read this we’ll have a decent idea of the direction that our second Championship game of the campaign is going after a key day’s cricket today. I’m writing this on my morning commute, without the great benefit of hindsight.

Judging from reports we have a few batsmen currently suffering from early season-itis, with their feet not moving properly yet and their techniques not properly grooved. Wes Durston seems to have gone for occupation at the expense of strokes at Bristol, followed by one-day batting yesterday. Neither worked especially well and the feeling remains that he will do better at his natural place at five when Usman Khawaja returns. Logic suggests that he, Dan Redfern and Garry Park will battle it out for one position in the middle order when Paul Borrington is fit. Wayne Madsen is for me the ‘rock’ of the batting and I’m always disappointed when he’s back in the pavilion, while Chesney Hughes and Greg Smith have got some runs under their belts so far and are becoming key players.

Sometime soon I remain confident that we’ll see a partnership between what sounds like a music hall act, Ches ‘n’ Wes, while the prospect of the Derbyshire version of the three Ws all firing is a mouth watering one (Wayne, Wes and ‘waj)…

The bowlers have done pretty well, apart from a tendency to lose it against the opposition last pair. Again, reports suggest that we’ve gone from bowling a probing, full length to the opposition to digging it in short and bowling too wide against the last pair. That’s OK if you’ve got serious pace and an innate ability to lock onto the Adam’s apple of the opposition batsmen, but most young bowlers are taught quickly, as I was, that pitching it up increases the chance of a nick or lbw and reduces the hitting area if someone is trying to get ‘after’ you.

These are skills we need to rediscover quickly, as to lose 70 and 90-plus runs in two matches to the last pairs suggests either common sense is going out the window on occasion or some batsmen are having serious good fortune. It doesn’t detract from impressive performances by the bowlers thus far, but how much better would they be if they finish the job?

Speaking of bowlers, I’d an e-mail today from a Gloucestershire fan asking if I knew that young seamer Mitch Wilson had joined Derbyshire. I’d heard the story, but there’s nothing on the club site at this stage. Wilson would, I guess, at 18 be one for the future, but he has done well for Gloucestershire and his native Dorset and looks to be a talent. It is an indication of last week’s opponents parlous financial state that they apparently couldn’t afford to offer him a summer contract, prsumably having spent the contents of their swear boxes and foreign currency drawers on Muttiah Muralitharan for the T20.

Whether Wilson has signed or not will no doubt be confirmed in due course, but it indicates that the net is being cast far and wide in the quest for new players. Looking at his Facebook page, I'd guess he has signed, unless he has a strange sense of loyalty:

Which brings me neatly and finally to the comment below from ‘Anon’ regarding John Morris. Yes, I agree that at some point the buck has to stop with the Head of Cricket, but I don’t think this is the time. At the end of the day, Morris can talk to players, work with them in the nets (with his other coaches) and tell them what is required. Yet he can’t go out there and bat for them and select the stroke for the circumstances and conditions. No more than Steffan Jones can go out there and stop them bowling short and wide to tail enders. As in every sport, players have to take responsibility for their own actions.

The fact remains that we have players from other counties who are the best that we can afford and youngsters coming through who are progressing at different rates. If coaches work as hard as possible, some will improve when they assimilate what they are being told and some will fall by the wayside. One only needs to look at the number of brilliant schoolboy cricketers who never make the top to realise that some players peak below the required standard for an established first-class cricketer. This isn’t through poor coaching, but down to the fact that their hand/eye co-ordination, their mental resilience, or their powers of concentration simply aren’t up to the job, through no fault of their own. Ask yourself this – is everyone in your office or place of work the same standard?

I rest my case. Have a good one.


If Morris is going to take the brickbats for the way players do badly, does he now get the bouquets for today?

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 1

There was a good pre-lunch session for Derbyshire today as they took five Leicestershire wickets for 99 runs. Paul Nixon was still there, unbeaten on 30, but our bowlers had done a good job, all five seamers used bowling fairly tightly.

In the afternoon Derbyshire were keen to break through further, having allowed Gloucestershire off the hook from a similar position at Bristol. It appeared as if the sixth wicket was again going to be key to the game as Naik and Nixon reeled off a string of boundaries. Then Greg Smith, in inspired bowling form so far this season, removed Naik to bring together the two most experienced batsmen for the visitors. Claude Henderson got his head down and played a few shots, but at the other end Tim Groenewald produced an inspired spell to rip out three wickets, starting with the dangerous Nixon.

The end finally came, after an assault by Henderson from bowling that was often too short. 96 for the last wicket when the other nine cost only 134 was hard to stomach, but Derbyshire would have taken 230 all out at the start of the day.

It is perhaps unfair to be too critical after what was otherwise a steady bowling performance, but that was a big let-off for Leicestershire and we will need to learn how to finish off an innings. Similarly, there were too many extras given away in what is likely to be a low scoring game.

That last wicket stand could be priceless and fans were doubtless wondering how our brittle batting would fare against Hoggard and Buck, both quality bowlers. Maybe we were trying to tire Hoggard out…

The answer was OK-ish. Wayne Madsen batted well and to the close, but Garry Park went early and Wes Durston was looking good till he got out. Chesney also got out but 101-3 would have been a good position .
101-4, with Dan Redfern going to the last ball, doesn't seem so good.
The first session tomorrow is massive. We could be close to parity by lunchtime or facing a sizeable first innings deficit on a wicket that looks set to produce a result.
All eyes on the County Ground, that's for sure.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

1936 and all that...

Just in case a few of you are looking out for the start of the series celebrating 1936, we didn’t play our first match that year, against Hampshire, until May 6.

We nearly lost that one, then were hammered by Kent in the second game by ten wickets. We were bowled out twice in that game for 99 and 119 and supporters were no doubt crying ‘rubbish’ when the news came through.

That season, to quote George Formby, ‘turned out nice again.’

Must be a moral in that…

Poll result

Well, there was a fair old division on the most recent poll, which suggested that 39% of you think we’ll have a terrible season. I think some of that may be down to the first game, where our second day batting cost us badly.

There’s still enough people out there think we’ll win and lose in equal measure, while a bigger than expected proportion think we’ll have a good year.

For what its worth I sat in the middle. I think we’ll do better than last year in the Championship (which wouldn’t be hard) and should win a few T20 games with Messrs Guptill and Khawaja in the side. Pro 40 I’m not so sure, but I’d certainly settle for competitive at this stage.

The side is inexperienced and that’s hard to sort. If we’d had the money, John Morris could have perhaps signed Jamie Dalrymple and Usman Afzaal in the winter and they would undoubtedly have added ballast and know how to the line up. Their age and their likely salary demands wouldn’t allow it though, so we need to make do with what we have.

I still think that this is a potentially exciting squad, especially when one considers the younger age group. Whether it develops into something more than that will depend on how many turn potential into achieving talent. We don’t know that and we won’t for a few weeks.

Get behind them. I certainly expect to be there next week for the Middlesex game and look forward to a summer’s entertainment from the ‘shire.

Derbyshire v Leicestershire preview

So, Leicestershire next for Derbyshire and the first home game of the season. Last year they brought us down to earth with a bump after the Oval success and they have again started well. Considering that they only have a squad of sixteen they are a side who generally punch above their weight, although that is always easier in the early season before injury niggles set in.

There’s no news yet on their side, other than that Wayne White looks set to miss out against his old county, while Paul Nixon may be fit to add experience to a youthful and talented batting line up.

My first interest tomorrow will be seeing how the wicket plays, as the progress of the square in its second season after turning will be a big factor in our fortunes. Last year understandably saw some slow tracks that offered a little early help to bowlers but made strokeplay hard work. That certainly impacted on batsmen in the one day games and we would hope for a little more pace this year. Certainly our quick bowlers will hope for encouragement for bending their backs and it would be good to see Marks Footitt and Turner, fit and firing, getting batsmen to hurry their strokes.

The big talking point from comments on here in recent days appears to be the opening berth alongside Wayne Madsen. Paul Borrington looked a certainty to have a run before his ankle injury and the absence of Usman Khawaja in the last game gave our top three an unfamiliar look. The Australian  looked likely to miss out from my reading between the lines of the Derby Telegraph this morning and the twelve is:

Madsen, Park, Durston, Hughes, Redfern, Smith, Sutton, Clare, Groenewald, Turner, Palladino, Lineker.
For what its worth, I might have moved Chesney to open at Bristol and had Garry Park at three, where he scored his runs two years ago. Then again, Chesney may be enjoying his middle order slot and he scored runs there. Wes Durston opens in T20 games, but is he opening batsman material in the longer format? Is there an argument for giving a home debut to Matt Lineker? If we don't try him, we'll never know if he can cut it at this level.

Although he’s done it before, I don’t see Luke Sutton as an opener as its asking too much of the man, which brings us back to Garry Park. There have been a few unkind and unfair comments about him in the past few days. Yes, he had a difficult second season, as many before him have done, but he was man enough to go in first, an unfamiliar role, after such a run for the good of the side. It was a selfless thing to do and a gamble. If it had come off we’d be acclaiming John Morris for a shrewd idea and the player for his bravery. It didn’t, but it was one game and shouldn’t necessarily spell the end of the experiment.

Opening the batting is much different to going in lower down, even at three. You have to contend with completely fresh bowlers, a hard ball, early movement and the pressure of needing a good start. Even at club level, as skipper for nine years, I lost count of the number of times people told me “I don’t want to open.” Above all, their fear was being the first man out, which I guess is another pressure.

Len Hutton, still my Dad’s favourite batsman after all these years, failed on both his Yorkshire and England debut, yet returned to become the best batsman of his generation. I recall Graeme Gooch experiencing problems too when he first moved up the order and he was a fair player…

Garry Park may never open for Derbyshire again or he may be in that role tomorrow. Whatever, we need to offer him encouragement and wish him the best for it. He will never be Len Hutton, but we’d settle for a Paul or Tony Borrington or an Alan Hill. As John Morris said this week, the batsmen need to be patient and see the shine off the ball, then wait until the bowlers tire and the bad balls come, as they always do. If he does that and only makes thirty, life for the later batsmen should be considerably easier and he’ll have done his bit for the team.

Gloucestershire was last week. We’ve got a game to win, starting tomorrow.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 4

Well, at 34-3 this morning we dared to dream, but the unquestionable talents and experience of Alex Gidman eventually saw Gloucestershire home by 7 wickets in the early afternoon.

No need to belabour this one as I’ve covered it elsewhere tonight.

We can and will do better than this and can start against Leicestershire later this week.

Monday musings

I am writing this piece before the result of today’s game is known, but to some extent the result is immaterial to the message.

There has been too great a knee-jerk reaction from some fans already this season and it is only three days old. We are used to this to some extent and the feeling remains that there is a faction of Derbyshire ‘support’ who thrive on the bad times and seem almost to will a poor display so the next chorus of sack the coach/committee/club (delete as appropriate) can commence. To be fair it is not so much a chorus as akin to the ones who sit in church moving their mouths and singing under their breath. I don’t think such comments are representative of the larger fanbase at all.

The reality is that we may well lose to a very average Gloucestershire outfit who I would suggest could be wooden spoon candidates this year. A few people have raised their game for the home side, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that they are an ordinary outfit who will get some pastings this year.

But what of Derbyshire? You can’t make snap judgements on one game and four innings. Truth be told, the batting has looked a little lop-sided because it is. Garry Park is not an opening batsman but manfully stepped into the breach, presumably because we wanted to keep Chesney Hughes away from the new ball in the early season. Likewise I don’t see Wes Durston as a number three, but the withdrawal of Usman Khawaja on the first morning left that position open and Wes was elevated as a result.

It could have worked, but didn’t. It shouldn’t detract from the positivity emanating from the camp and there have been a few in this game. The seamers all did well, although the home side were let off the hook, especially on the second morning. Greg Smith played the innings of a man with a point to make, so let’s hope he makes points all season, while Chesney continued to show his penchant for Gloucestershire bowling in the second innings.

As I wrote the other night, the season will not be defined by one performance, good or bad. Perhaps this will serve as a wake up call, as we mixed it with good sides pre-season and showed up well. Maybe there was a feeling that we were just going to turn up and win, but the truth is, as Luke Sutton said pre-season, players need to roll up their sleeves and graft – every single day.

Two bad sessions will probably cost us this game, in the course of which our first innings fell apart. For the rest of it we competed well.

Hopefully Usman Khawaja will be fit to take his place at three for this week’s game at home to Leicestershire, which will leave John Morris a couple of issues – the opening partner for Wayne Madsen and the seam bowling line up. He could stick with Park – after all, one game is hardly something to make a judgement on – or move Hughes up. Luke Sutton could move up too, though whether he wants that additional responsibility on top of the rest is doubtful. Alternatively, he could offer Matt Lineker an early opportunity, which would be a bold but intriguing move.

As for the seamers, we could perhaps have done with Mark Footitt’s extra pace on that second morning, but the slow pitch and his early season niggle led to his exclusion, while Mark Turner’s time will doubtless come.

I am encouraged by the early season form of youngsters playing for University sides though. I’d be fairly confident in suggesting that John Morris’ five-year plan included the future involvement of the likes of Slater, Siddique, Redfern, Hughes and Borrington in the batting, Whiteley, Clare and Needham as potential all-rounders, Poynton as wicket-keeper and Sheikh, Knight and Higginbottom as bowlers. With a good crop below that little lot (including a young chap by the name of Cork who will attract interest) the future is bright and is largely academy-generated.

Keep that in mind on the bad days this season. There’ll be enough good ones in due course.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 3

So Gloucestershire enter the final day needing 120-odd  runs with nine wickets in hand.

Logic suggests the hosts should do it easily, but a couple of early wickets tomorrow might put the squeeze on, as happened last year. Overcast conditions encouraging swing would do nicely...

Today was a mixed bag. Early wickets went down, Chesney Hughes started a revival, then Greg Smith played the sort of innings that he can when the mood is on him. He had his share of luck, but on such a wicket where the bowlers have had enough to keep them interested, a batsman needs that kind of thing.

The skipper dug in well and there was a cameo from Jon Clare, but there were a few failures along the way, with Wes Durston and Garry Park not enjoying the best of starts to the season.

My gut feeling is a defeat tomorrow, but I'm encouraged by the fighting spirit and the fact that we've taken the game into a fifth day. That, at least, is something to build on.

Ending on a high note, there was a maiden century today for Derbyshire youngster Hamza Siddique  for Cardiff UCCE against Somerset. Having broken all the school batting records at Repton, Siddique has looked a talent for a year or two, but this breakthrough will stand him in good stead when he returns to the club after the University term.

The encouraging early season performances by the likes of Ben Slater, Matt Higginbottom, Ross Whiteley and Paul Borrington suggest that the next generation of Derbyshire players is making good progress.

They may put pressure on the ones in possession before the season is out.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

One late thought...

For what its worth, Gloucestershire's decision to enforce the follow on could just be the route back into the game for Derbyshire.

I can understand the psychological advantage of forcing a team to do so early in the season with a young attack, but if - and based on our first innings its a big if - we can leave them chasing 200-plus in the last innings it would be a challenge.

Tomorrow we need to see all the batsmen get their heads down and graft. The Gloucestershire tail showed that you can bat on this wicket and the openers have at least done the first job in seeing off the new ball.

Hopefully they can bat for much longer tomorrow.

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 2

This is way too early for knee jerk reactions, wailing and gnashing of teeth, but if we bat like we did today on a regular basis it will be a long summer.

I'd agree with a couple of comments on yesterday's post that we shouldn't be getting rolled over for that total against that attack. While there was a mystery element to some of the bowlers, our batsmen need to realise - and quickly - that twenties and thirties are little use.

As I say, no getting carried away. This time last year we hammered Surrey and thought we were the best thing since sliced bread. We weren't, and nor are we as bad as that performance today suggests.

At least I don't think so.

In closing tonight, as we're socialising, there is no chance of Robin Peterson coming back. He would never get another Kolpak deal having gone back to international cricket having remounced it, and he's not good enough to get an overseas role in my opinion.

Usman Khawaja - get fit soon...

Friday, 8 April 2011

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 1

So, the debut that wasn't from Usman Khawaja, who apparently has tweaked a thigh muscle and wasn't risked - a fairly sensible approach to be honest. He hurt his thigh towards the end of the Aussie season and the long flight from Sydney probably caused it to seize up a little. I'm sure he'll be back soon.

On the pitch Derbyshire did well to take the five wickets early, as the wicket offered movement, and the hosts rallied well thanks to Gidman junior and Batty fairly experienced....

Good bowling  from all the seamers and a steady spell from Chesney Hughes in the afternoon, with Jon Clare, pleasingly restored to full fitness, taking a crucial wicket before the close to break the big partnership.

As the club site says, honours even at the day end. I'm encouraged by a disciplined bowling display that saw only two runs an over all day, while a good first hour tomorrow could still wrap it all up before lunch.

Then its down to our batsmen. Whether we're Khawaja-light or not, there's enough talent in that line up to get some runs on the board when  its our turn.

Until tomorrow. Enjoy your evening.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire preview

Sloppy journalism in the Guardian today from David Hopps, a man with a decent reputation who should really know better.

Apparently Don ‘Arnott’ (used several times) has left the committee and the departure of such a major sponsor is a source for concern. One would have hoped that the author might have checked his facts before putting such nonsense in the national press. The fact that Don is still on the committee and is on record as saying that he will remain a sponsor seems to have passed Mr Hopps by…

On to tomorrow’s game and Gloucestershire’s overseas import Kane Williamson will not make it in time from New Zealand and will miss the season opener, along with Hamish Marshall. Must be one plane a fortnight from New Zealand…

It is not going to harm Derbyshire’s prospects and the Gloucestershire press are suggesting skipper Alex Gidman will fill that berth. Getting him in against the new ball will be key to our fortunes as he has an even younger side than ours at his disposal after the winter exodus. Their squad in full is:

 C.Dent, I.Cockbain, R.Coughtrie, C.Taylor, A.Gidman (capt), J.Batty (wkt), W.Gidman, I.Saxelby, J.Lewis, D.Payne, L.Norwell, V.Banerjee

There is no news yet on the Derbyshire side, with the big decisions for John Morris being the opening partner to Wayne Madsen after Paul Borrington’s accident and the seam bowlers for the game. My best guess would be:

Madsen, Hughes, Khawaja, Park, Smith, Durston, Sutton, Clare, Groenewald, Footitt, Turner/Palladino

I know some are suggesting Steff for one of the seamers, but it would be a surprise if younger bowlers don't get the call at this stage - at least for me.

Logic suggests that the seamers should enjoy the game and the wicket more than the batsmen and Alex Gidman has already said that he expects to see plenty of movement.

Winning the toss would be the best start for the new skipper and he can then hope to dictate terms. While one would expect the wicket to offer help to the bowlers on the first morning, at the back of their minds will be that it could also deteriorate further as the game progresses. After all, who would have expected a Derbyshire win at lunch on the first day at Bristol last year?

Given Gloucestershire’s loss of so many players in the winter and the absence of Marshall and Williamson, I’m predicting a Derbyshire win for this one. I’d like to think that our line-up is stronger and that we will have too much for them and get off to a flyer.

Now its up to the lads to prove me right.

Go get ‘em…

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Stattos delight

Here's one for the statisticians among you. Consider this team:


Now I don't know if that is our likely side for Bristol on Friday, but I'd have thought it would be close in the light of the cruel injury that has robbed Paul Borrington of a likely opening berth  for the first month of the season. Bozza's ankle ligament injury offers opportunity to one of the other batsmen, and of course it is quite possible that Dan Redfern could squeeze into the line up somewhere.

Have you figured out what I'm referring to? Any of that side could feasibly and realistically bowl.

Usman Khawaja may be the least known of the bowlers but is quite highly rated in Grade cricket as an off spinner. All the rest have bowled quite often or regularly, so Luke Sutton has plenty of options!

Match preview tomorrow.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

As I said last week...

Much in the same way as I blogged last week, John Morris has now said that Derbyshire need to move on after Don Amott’s resignation as chairman.

As he points out, Don is still on the committee, but now is the time for the focus to be totally on the cricket. No one is a bigger fan of Don Amott than John Morris and that should be enough for everyone. From what a correspondent has posted below, Mr Grant looks set to be an admirable replacement and I’m sure that his job will be made much easier if everyone – including fans – pulls in the same direction.

I don't mind constructive (mind that word) criticism of the team, but this blog was created to celebrate Derbyshire cricket in all its glory. While I was as disappointed at recent events as many of you were, the end result is far from a disaster and it is time to move on.

Any issues with regard to specific members of the committee should be dealt with at next year's AGM and not before - certainly not now. I'll delete any comments that persistently snipe at the club and officials, if for no other reason than it gets boring.

Onwards and upwards my friends. It’s the only way.

Celebrating the 75th anniversary this summer

This year has seen the blog mark the 35th anniversary of the arrival at the county of the late, great Eddie Barlow, while the club will soon have its 140th anniversary DVD on sale.

What’s next? Well, I don’t know about the club but this summer I will be commemorating the 75th anniversary of our Championship win in 1936 with a monthly feature that looks back at the same month in that year.

Each month I will pick a key game that went on to take added significance as the year progressed and a first Championship win became increasingly likely.

It was somewhat ironic that we won the title in that year, as most of the players felt we had played far better, consistent cricket in 1934 and 1935. The remarkably strong Yorkshire side of the period proved a thorn in the side, but 1936 had something going for it that the other two years did not.

Bill Copson stayed fit all summer.

One man doesn’t make a team, according to the old saying, but when that one man makes the ball lift and move from the wicket at lively pace it doesn’t do any harm either. Copson’s 140-plus wickets that summer usually saw him make early inroads to the opposition batting, which was all Tommy Mitchell needed to enable him to go to work on the middle order and tail with his leg spin and googlies.

Mitchell could be expensive, like most of his kind, but in an era when most tail enders gave it ‘the long handle’ his flighted spin was often too much for them. They might get away with one or two, but eventually there would be a catch to the man in the deep, or a top edge as they mis-read the spin. With Harry Elliott behind the stumps to whip off the bails when necessary, Derbyshire, like the Australia of McGrath and Warne, had a bowler for any surface.

They were not alone though. Alf Pope was an excellent opening bowler and made up a hostile opening pair. They were so good that the side could withstand the loss of his even better brother George for most of the season with a cartilage injury.

On the rare occasions that additional firepower was needed, Les Townsend’s off spin was a reliable weapon, while Stan Worthington, primarily a batsman by that time, could still send down a ball to dismiss the best.

Follow their fortunes on the blog this summer. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the class of 2011 can emulate them in some form!

Thoughts on yesterday

If you took the time to look at the footage of our game against Surrey yesterday (posted below) you will, like me have been especially impressed by a couple of things.

One was the bowling of Steffan Jones, who must surely adopt the old Barbra Streisand song ‘Evergreen’ as his theme tune. He was running in hard (which is always easier in April then August) and getting good lift and movement. I especially liked the delicious yorker to remove the last man, as good a conclusion to an innings as I can think of. Derbyshire’s bowlers could not wish for a better role model in terms of fitness and attitude and he will continue to set an example, as he has throughout his time at the County Ground.

Second was the wicket keeping of Luke Sutton, who held several catches of varying difficulty but looks so assured behind the timbers. With no disrespect to those concerned, we missed CLASS behind the stumps last season, as James Pipe was a tough act to follow. No such worries this year, as Sutts exudes confidence that should hopefully spread through the team. If we’re struggling with the bat I could think of no one better to mount a rearguard action, either.

The wicket to wicket camera is a useful addition to the coverage of the county game, the only limitation being its static nature. Days like yesterday, when the catches go to the keeper or most are either bowled or lbw are fine, but it is when the ball goes out of shot there are issues.

Take Dan Redfern’s boundary catch from Tony Palladino. For all we know, Dan could have sprinted thirty yards, dived full length, flicked it into the air before it touched the ground then caught it between his buttocks before retrieving it and claiming the catch. For that matter, he could probably dine out on that, as there would have been few there to dispute it…

I also thought I saw a change in Chesney Hughes bowling, with less of a run up than I have seen previously. The difference was not as obvious as Michael Holding coming off a short run, but what was shown of Hughes (one delivery!) suggested that his new action owed something to the approach to the wicket of Robin Peterson. Certainly it appears that there’s more body in the delivery, which can be no bad thing when you’re as powerfully built as the Ches-meister.

For me, Chesney looks like a player on the verge of the big time, although this is sure to be a challenging season for him. He has all the powerful shots that one associates with top Caribbean batsmen over the years, yet more patience than some of a more recent vintage have shown. If he can contribute useful spin it will be of inordinate value to his skipper, who also has Messrs Durston, Redfern and Smith to do the same. While his heavyweight boxer-like build legislates against him being the most lithe of movers in the field, he has an excellent pair of hands and should be a fixture in the slip cordon this summer.

I’m not sure if you can read too much into yesterday’s team selection, but does the absence of Groenewald, Clare, Turner and Footitt mean they are the likely pace quartet for Bristol? If so, then I would suggest that it is our quickest attack since the halcyon days of Mortensen, Holding and Malcolm. Television speed guns last year showed Footitt bowling at over 90mph, while Groenewald was in the mid-80s with a nowhere near fit Jon Clare. Indeed, Michael Holding suggested Clare was capable of bowling a really fast ball once he was mentally right. Meanwhile Mark Turner turned in spells of real hostility for Somerset and will not look at all slow in comparison.

If this quartet are fully fit and firing and the pitches at Derby offer help as yesterday’s did, very few sides will fancy turning up and having a bat against them if their radars are locked on and their rhythm is right.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Surrey footage and Usman arrives

Thanks to Chris for a link to footage of today's friendly on Youtube. You can see it at:

In other news, Usman Khawaja will arrive tomorrow. See his Twitter account

At least he's not expecting warmth...

Played one, won one...

Old ‘Nelson’ would have been pleased with Surrey’s all out total of 111 in the pre-season friendly at the County Ground today in a 40-over match.

With four wickets for Greg Smith and three for the Jones boy, there were tidy performances from all the Derbyshire attack, including Chesney Hughes, whose left arm spin was neglected last year when we had Robin Peterson.

Tony Palladino turned in a tight spell, as did Jake Needham, while Garry Park came on briefly and took a quick wicket, as he does regularly.

Then, as the old Steve Earle song goes, the rain came down, giving our ‘Buxton Water’ branded pitch covers an early airing. I’m assuming that this isn’t the most cunning of ploys by the marketing team.

“We’re that good, when the rain falls in Derby it comes down as mineral water.”

I’ve got this mental image of Nathan Fearn and Tom Holdcroft sitting at the end of the hoses running from the covers, crates of empty bottles by their side being filled up and sold in the bar at a hefty price, with another, longer hose going to the back of the new marquee. Buxton water on tap? We've got it covered...

Evian we wouldn’t do that….


Coming soon – County Ground mulch for your borders. The highest quality grass cuttings as trodden on by the players of the God’s own County XI. If we flog the water and mulch in good quantities we’ll be signing Ponting and Tendulkar for next year’s T20….

Anyway, we won today's game by six wickets with Chesney top scoring. I'll happily take that against any side and the team can go into the real stuff in good heart.

Finally tonight, Luke Sutton’s Twitter feed looks like it could be worth a look from time to time this summer. Check out his comment on Tom Groenewald’s ‘radical new haircut’ ahead of tomorrow’s media day at the ground. See:

Back soon!

Monday musings - the one-day prospects

Here we are at last, the time in the year when we can say, without fear of contradiction, that the cricket season starts this week. Well, as long as the weather stays fair…

The seasonal rituals are all being observed of course which heightens the sense of anticipation. The grass at home has had its first cut and is looking not too bad after the rigours of winter. A bit of feed and it should soon perk up,though I doubt it would ever be compared with the outfield at the County Ground. I was even up in the loft to see if either of my bats could do with a new grip and to make sure that my cricket jumpers still fit me. Thankfully they do, though I’d no such worries with my cricket shirt. Being someone who doesn’t like to feel restricted when I bowl, my shirt could probably accommodate Demis Roussos and still have room for me. Not that I’m suggesting I’d share a shirt with the Greek singer, of course…

My daughter was looking at the club yearbook this weekend. She’s not a fan but she’s a voracious reader and it was the nearest thing to hand after she’d finished the back of the cereal packet. She came to the page with the team pictures on it and spent some time perusing it, before coming out with the kind of telling comment that should not be the preserve of thirteen year olds.

“They look awful young, Dad.”

I think that’s a pretty shrewd summation of things, as with the exception of Luke Sutton and Steffan Jones there’s no one with extensive experience in there. That could be an Achilles heel as the season progresses, but the side could equally play without fear as a result. John Morris has said that the squad has the best work ethic and spirit he has known and that’s good enough for me.

Last week I wrote about our four day prospects and now it is the turn of the one day side to get the ‘treatment.’ While I am less confident in our abilities over the shorter form at this stage, I still feel that we have enough in the locker to surprise some teams and play good cricket.

As evidence I’d give you a potential top order of Durston, Hughes, Khawaja, Smith, Madsen and Park. That’s my suggestion, though Dan Redfern and Ross Whiteley could both force their way into that line up which offers promises of good runs. Add in Martin Guptill for the T20 and there’s some impressive firepower, as well as a group of outstanding fielders.

It is quite strange, as in the Championship my reservations are over which ones, Madsen aside, can get their heads down and play a long innings. I see the one day side packed with potentially explosive batting, but again, big totals only come about by someone playing a long innings and the rest batting around them.

Look at India and how they won the World Cup. Tendulkar usually anchored the innings, but on the occasions that he went Gambhir was happy to bat through. If he went, then Dhoni came to the fore and that is how we need to approach it. If the top six all make flashy twenties and thirties we won’t put a target out of reach, but if one or more go on to something more substantial, we’ll have a chance.

Then it will come down to the bowlers. Mark Turner made a name in the limited overs game for Somerset last year and could do well again, although he moved for greater opportunity in the longer format too. Mark Footitt showed against Middlesex in the Pro 40 last year that he can blow away a middle order when his rhythm is right, while the old warhorse Steffan Jones could play a key role in the shorter games, especially the T20.

Jake Needham should also get regular cricket in the short game, where he has regularly bowled well in recent seasons. He has a tough act to follow in Robin Peterson and how he handles the switch from trying to get people out to keeping them quiet and back again will be a big factor for both him and the team.

I’ve few qualms about Tim Groenewald, who I think is one of the underrated bowlers on the county circuit, but John Morris will be rotating his seamers as long as he has enough fit to enable him to do so. By July last year the only rotation for Groenewald and Jones was a few overs at third man or mid on, followed by a change of ends…

None of the above allows for a youngsters forcing his way through, which of course could happen. If Ross Whiteley continues to emerge as a hard hitting batsman and can cut out the bad ball an over that costs his bowling figures, he could lengthen the batting and further improve the balance of the side. Paul Borrington has worked hard over the winter to increase his range of strokes and could break into the Pro 40 side too, while Jon Clare has much to offer, though Morris will be wary of overworking him.

What I would like to see in the one-day game is greater use made of Wes Durston and Garry Park. I felt last year that both Chris Rogers and Greg Smith missed a trick with the two of them at times, bowling both less than they should. Their presence offers more options for the skipper as they take the pace off the ball, while if any team in the land has two better fielders I’d be very surprised.

So what does it all mean? Quite possibly a season of ups and downs, with the perennial frustrations of batting collapses here and there and bowlers going to all parts. Yet I look at the talent in the squad and am left with the impression that the potential is considerable and a few early wins might give them the confidence to go on to a good season.

As I wrote before, key to much of the campaign will be Luke Sutton’s contribution. The demands on the new skipper will be considerable, but if anyone can carry off the triple burden of scoring runs at seven, holding most of what comes his way behind the stumps and leading the side it will be him.

I’m looking forward to it. Roll on Friday.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Chris Grant interview

Thanks to regular reader Alan for bringing to my attention an interview that Chris Grant did with Phil Trow on Radio Derby's breakfast show this morning.

In it he discusses his role and puts to bed the story that John Morris wil be taking a cut in salary in any new contract.

You can listen to it yourself on BBC iplayer at:

The interview lasts around 5 minutes and starts at 41'14.

Good stuff  - and thanks again Alan!

Tyros do well

A good day today for two young Derbyshire cricketers playing for Leeds/Bradford Universities against Worcestershire.

First, Matt Higginbottom took three good wickets for 62 runs, including Solanki and Kervezee as he opened the bowling. Worcestershire were bowled out for 248.

Then Ben Slater made a solid 50 as the students replied with 125-3 as I type.

Encouraging stuff from two talented young players

Friday, 1 April 2011

Something for the weekend

Looking out of the window over the past couple of days it has been hard to believe that the domestic cricket season is just a week away. After a couple of weeks of mild, pleasant weather, there have been strong winds and heavy rain – a groundsman’s nightmare.

I’m not sure how the weather has been down in Bristol but I would think few people are expecting a batting paradise for the opening Championship match, certainly not after last year’s fun and frolics there. Conditions are likely to be as far removed from Sydney as possible and it should be a culture shock for Usman Khawaja, who is set to make his county debut.

I’m sure that John Morris has his line-up for the opening game in his head, pending a late change through injury or illness.While a lot of the side effectively picks itself, the big decisions are likely to be over the seamers involved and the opening batsmen. Maybe the 40-over friendly against Surrey on Monday might offer people a late chance to stake a claim, though I think the one-day and Championship sides could be quite different this season.

To be honest, I think there are seven of the team for Bristol that you could pick right now. Luke Sutton as skipper and wicket-keeper, Madsen and Hughes as batsmen, Smith and Clare as all-rounders, Tim Groenewald as the most reliable of seamers and Khawaja as overseas player. Then the fun starts…

Borrington to open with Madsen or do you go with Hughes? If you go with the former and have Khawaja at three, Hughes at four and Smith at six, is it Durston, Redfern, Park or Lineker for number five?

Then there would be Sutton at seven, Clare at eight and Groenewald at nine, so the remaining places would be up for grabs between Palladino, Turner, Footitt, Sheikh and Needham. I don’t think Bristol in April will warrant a specialist spinner and Sheikh isn’t yet an automatic pick, so that rules out the last two. I also think Palladino’s lesser pace and greater movement of the ball would be well suited to a typical Bristol track where Jon Lewis usually does well, so that leaves the final place (logically) between Footitt and Turner. I can’t call that one, as I’ve not seen them bowl pre-season.

As for Gloucestershire, they have lost a lot of players over the winter. Their first choice attack from last year – Franklin, Kirby and Hussain - has gone, as well as Kadeer Ali and William Porterfield. They should have Kiwi batsman Kane Williamson making his debut and it will be interesting to see who makes the best of English early-season conditions between him and Khawaja.

Gloucestershire have now heard that Hamish Marshall, the former New Zealand international batsman, will not be back in time to play due to the marriages of his brothers.

Shame, that…just need to get Alex Gidman an invitation and we’re sorted!

More next week – have a good one.