Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Great article on Lineker

Excellent piece by Mark Eklid on Matt Lineker in the DET today.

You can read it at:

Yeah, I know I said there'd be no blog today, but couldn't help it....

Excellent comment

I picked this up this morning when I was up early and wanted to make sure that everyone saw it, as it is one of the best posts I've seen. It came below one of my recent articles and goes as follows, from pekim88

"Peakfan - you can shorten this if you like.

I've been following Derbyshire cricket for some time now, following the various blogs, watching the odd game and....

1. There are many, many plusses..

2. Plenty of talented players...

3. A great spirit amongst the team...considering the flack they get when they don't perform.

But, I cannot say as much for a lot of the supporters who contribute on the various blogs,

(excluding you whom I consider to be very objective on most club issues )

... who feel it necessary to continually stick the knife in without knowing the full story.

The majority of County players are walking a career tight rope and are fully aware that their future is dependent on performance and therefore every opportunity they get to represent a team means giving 100%... pretty obvious, or is it...

How many supporters out there know what a player might be going through to give of his best,very few it would seem ...

Statisics are there to provide a record of performance, but can also be very missleading. Like any scorecard, only the result goes in, no explanations or accolades..

Only one Player gets M.O.M., but the Team were all part of it... A batsman makes a big score, but needs a partner... A bowler gets wickets...but how often was it because the other bowlers were keeping the batsmen pinned down...and so on and so on...

This year, Derbyshire were a good " TEAM "... and a lot of that came from "fringe" players that may not have scored the big runs, or got all the wickets, but put in match winning or match saving performances without getting much more than a "mention in dispatches",....and may also, just be going through a "patch".

A team made up of a bunch of stars, can often be taken apart by a team of commited players with a strong leader....

All so very obvious....

Not really when reading the blogs..

It is a pity that Derbyshire haven't got a fat purse.... but, considering what they have got, I think every supporter should be 100% behind the " Team " and proud of what they have achieved... and that means over the entire season..

Because money alone doesn't bring success...."

I agree whole-heartedly. Most visitors to this blog are pretty sensible and understanding and I appreciate the comment about my own stance on things. There have been a number over the years though, on 606 and IMWT in its time, then subsequently on the Falcons Forum, who have taken things too far. Players ARE exactly like us, they have lives, issues and problems. We all have bad days and times. Earlier this year my performance wasn't up to its usual at work as my mind was working overtime on a major operation our son faced. He had five hours under the surgeon's knife and has recovered well. I told my line manager, who was very understanding, but kept it pretty much to the family apart from that.

That can happen to players too. Similarly, as pointed out, every star turn needs support and the player who works it around while the man in form at the other end blazes away is worth his weight in gold. I said last night that our winter recruitment needed the right men with the right attitude, prepared to come in and work hard with the rest of the squad and aware that the team ethic is paramount.

They are OUR team. We might have a moan when their performance slips at times, but we all need to remember that and keep behind them all. From Chris Grant downwards, they are all doing their best and should be applauded and thanked for that.

Excellent post pekim88 - thanks for posting and please keep doing so!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

No blog tomorrow

Just to let you know that I will be unable to blog tomorrow as, weather permitting, the match that everyone has been waiting for takes place north of the border - my cricket club versus my old employers at the Scottish Parliament.

It is hard to explain the frenzied, IPL-style bidding that took place in order to win my services for the game. A succession of sealed votes were exchanged which saw the Parliament side trump my club's offer of a biscuit and cup of tea with an unbelievable counter offer of a cappucino AND a muffin next time I'm through. Chris Gayle eat your heart out...

To be fair, the club have 20-odd guys (different from twenty odd guys...) to choose from, whereas my team tomorrow has eleven. Well, ten actually, since two of the original twelve now have work commitments.

I bet Karl Krikken has never had anyone phone him and say they can't play as they have a briefing paper to write. Even more unlikely that match preparation at Derbyshire consisted of two lunchtimes hitting a rubber ball around the local park.

If anyone from the club can make it up to Scotland in time for six o'clock tomorrow evening there's a place in the side waiting for them. I live in hope...

A new record!

15,000 hits for the blog this month, tribute to the massive interest in Derbyshire cricket. That's a new record, in case you're interested in such things.

This time last year the blog was running at 7-9 thousand hits per month. This season it has ranged from 13-15 thousand.

The club must be doing something right to generate that level of interest...

Sincere thanks to all of you for your continued interest and support.

Tuesday thoughts

I'm not quite sure why we have a week's break at the start of September before our next match. If such a break were to be a staple of cricket seasons I would reckon the players might fancy one to get their breath and reassemble limbs just after the T20. Still, what do I know?

First tonight, congratulations to Usman Khawaja for making the Australian side for the first Test in Sri Lanka, where he will bat number six. I'm sure that, like me, you will watch his performance with interest and keep your fingers crossed that he does well.

The poll is nearing its end and at this stage looks like most people would like a star batsman. As things stand, that would probably be my preference, though it depends on other factors. To take two recent rumours as an example, if we picked up Martin Van Jaarsveld or Chris Taylor as a batsman, I'd be quite happy with Danish Kaneria as an overseas. Hey, we can all dream...

Good comments from Mastervillain and notoveryet below the last two posts and I'd be inclined to agree with them to some extent, though financial considerations will dictate what we do with regard to improvements in the winter. I'd agree that Chesney Hughes needs a bit of work on his footwork (and his running between the wickets at times...) while Ross Whiteley will be better known next season. By the same token, we can't really afford to leave either of them or Dan Redfern in the second eleven and bring in others. I would agree that Michael Thornely is a good player, but only if Karl Krikken and Luke Sutton feel that he is substantially better than those named above is there any point in recruiting the guy.

The reality is that next season each appearance by Redfern, Hughes, Whiteley, Knight, Burgoyne, Borrington and Poynton, not to mention Clare (whoops, I did...) brings us £2K PER MAN. Apologies for the capitals but it is important to remember this. We would get a small percentage of that for Thornely, with Sussex, who developed him, getting the lion's share. If the feeling was that Thornely might average 40 and/or more than Paul Borrington as opener that might be one thing, but over a season the latter would earn us £20-30K more money. If they were both likely to average in the thirties, I know which one makes sense as a regular.

I'd also look at the stats - Thornely averages 19 from 30 first class innings; Borrington 30 from 42. The former does, granted, average 38 in one day games, but given Borrington has only played one (and made 25) that's a comparison that can't be made.

I'd agree another experienced batsman would be good, but he has to be someone with the nous and the stats to make it worthwhile. I don't think we can pay 40K-plus for a player who isn't going to be in the first choice team making a lot of runs or taking wickets.

Here's a cautionary tale. An all-rounder changed counties last winter for a reported salary of £90K and extras. This year his 19 innings have produced an average of 18 with the bat (19 in one day games) and he has 24 wickets at 45 each (just 7 at 60 in one day games.)

That was Graham Wagg, as you probably guessed. It can work in both directions though, so we need to make sure we get it right - we all remember Rikki Clarke. Chris Grant won't pay over the odds for anyone and anyone coming in will have to fit into the masterplan, as a player and as a man. The side have shown a tremendous spirit this season, itself a major selling point.

I look forward to news on winter recruitment. Like all of you, I have my ideas, but I am content in leaving it to the professionals, who know their stuff better than any of us.

They'll do a good job.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Tom Knight

In recent posts I have suggested that a move for David Wainwright of Yorkshire could be worthwhile for Derbyshire, covering any potential absence of Tom Knight at university.

 I understand that Knight has decided to defer his further education and make the most of the three-year deal that Derbyshire have given him.

 As far as I am concerned, on that basis Knight should be first choice next season. While Wainwright is a good cricketer who would improve the squad, I wouldn't see him ahead of a young local lad in the senior side. Without doubt Wainwright would be an asset in the T20, but there will be times next season when conditions dictate Derbyshire go without a specialist spinner. With resources limited, unless we could get him at a very reasonable price I don't see obvious merit in bringing in another player for a squad role.

 It is good news about Knight, who looks like being the best spinner we have had since Geoff Miller. He has a lot to learn, but an encouraging work ethic and willingness to listen and learn will serve him well.

I look forward to watching him develop in the years ahead.

Kent v Derbyshire CB40

As last games go, that one was pretty encouraging, beating a side sprinkled with international experience in a very good team display.

There was no Martin Guptill, but almost everyone contributed down the order, with Wayne Madsen again leading from the front with a fine knock that took him past 450 runs for an average of 44 in the process. Madsen's return to form will be a vital part of next season's plans and the runs will have done him a power of good.

At the end of the innings a partnership between Ross Whiteley and Jonthan Clare was quite apposite in bookending the season. Their batting on the pre-season tour marked them out as ones to watch this year and so it has proved. It would have been good to see them take it to the end, but their departures simply meant that two more young players of potential, Tom Poynton and Peter Burgoyne, saw us across the line, the latter winning the match with a confident four through the covers.

Earlier there was an excellent spell by Tony Palladino and another of remarkable promise by Tom Knight, who dismissed the dangerous Darren Stevens in a spell of eight overs for just 27 runs, better than those achieved by former England man James Tredwell when we batted.

It was good stuff and saw us take third place in the league, a respectable effort from a young side.

In closing tonight, a word of praise for whoever ran the Twitter feed today. I have been critical of it at times this season, but it has improved and today was excellent, ball by ball for the exciting finale. It was high quality work and befits a team that has shown signs of encouraging improvement as the season has progressed.

With prudent recruitment and continued improvement by current personnel over the winter, next season could be another big step forward.

Bring it on!

Monday musings

According to a contributor on the Forum, we're now being linked with Kent's Martin Van Jaarsveld. As a concept it is sound and as a player he would improve our side, even though he's had a poor season by his lofty standards. A player with international experience, Van Jaarsveld has been a run machine for Kent and would doubtless contribute for anyone else. Married to a northern girl, I could buy into the rumour and the idea that she wanted a move north.

Would he come to Derbyshire? I don't know, it would depend on various factors. If he was available, I doubt we alone would be interested (always assuming we are, of course...) I am unaware of his qualification status, but suspect he is qualified by either residency or marriage by now. Picking him up would also be a major signing and with Chesney Hughes and Wayne Madsen qualified next summer, fielding VJ and an overseas player would still leave us within the terms of the blueprint, playing nine English-qualified players per game - and many of them under 26. Mind you, that assumes that Greg Smith doesn't stay, in which case he would be the non-qualified. Given the choice, who would you rather have?

Still, its all supposition and rumour, nowt more than that. Today's game is farewell to the CB40 for this year and I was interested to see Paul Farbrace of Kent say that they were not beaten by a better team at Derby and that they had been their own worst enemy this season with some performances. He could have been talking about us, to be fair and it shows how a handful of performances can tarnish a season when you consider that we could easily finish third bottom in the CB40 and Championship with a poor finish.

Derbyshire have produced a lot of solid, competitive, aggressive and entertaining displays this season, but a handful of games where the intensity or skill level dropped have cost us. Worcestershire in the CB40 and T20 at home, Netherlands home and away in today's competition, Northamptonshire - these are the games that have spoilt an otherwise good season, when we have mixed it with the big boys  and given as good as we've got against all but Nottinghamshire.

With no overseas player, today will be a tough one to end positively, but I'm sure the players will give 100% as always. Win and third place is ours. Lose and third bottom will be.

More later.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Random weekend thoughts

There's a few interesting names being thrown up over on the Falcons Forum by fans looking towards next season.

To be fair they range from the wildly optimistic to the more feasible. Chris Gayle is less likely to sign up for a season around the counties than Viv Richards and who can blame the guy? Mark my words, after his exploits in the IPL last year he will make a million in next Spring's auction, a figure that makes a county offer of, say, 150K for the summer almost derisory.

Likewise Steve Harmison couldn't be lured from Durham and for what its worth I wouldn't bother. He's been a decent bowler, but his best days are behind him and, like fine wine, he doesn't travel well. More interestingly his brother Ben has been released by the northernmost county amid scenes of reasonable acrimony. He is a fair player, but I'm not sure that he is THAT good. He can bat, but two of his three first class centuries have been against minor opposition and he can bowl, but maybe not quite well enough to get another deal.

Harmison will be 26 next summer, that non-too magical age at which cricketers cease to earn appearance payments and the cold reality is that players at that age will need to be producing better stats than Harmison junior has managed. Maybe Harmison might, like Will Gidman, benefit from a change of scenery, but I would think his options may be limited. From a Derbyshire perspective, for example, I don't see him breaking into our side at the expense of Ross Whiteley and I don't see us paying decent money for a player who will be at best a member of the squad.

For me that is the crux of any winter recruitment. A player coming in has to have something we don't have and be good enough to command a regular place. On the Forum last night I mentioned two players who I think would improve our side, could well be available and potentially affordable.

The first is Yorkshire's David Wainwright. A slow left arm bowler of talent, a dogged batsman with two centuries to his name and a good fielder, Wainwright is out of contract and looking at options with Rafiq and Rashid ahead of him in the pecking order. I know we have Tom Knight, but I am unsure about his intentions for next year and if he heads to university we will need a spinner for the early part of the season at least and the two could bowl well in tandem in the T20. I've always rated the lad and think he might be worth an offer.

The other is Chris Taylor at Gloucestershire. At 34 he is perhaps an unusual name to suggest in the light of what I've said above, but he is a very good, solid batsman who gets better by the year. This year he has passed his thousand, averages over 45 and been a rock for the side, yet he could become a victim of Gloucestershire's financial problems.

If Greg Smith leaves Derbyshire and we cannot find a top international player, someone like Taylor would be a solid signing, giving us crucial experience in the middle order - especially if the overseas player turned out to be a bowler. Taylor would earn us no money, but would be a reasonable bet to score a thousand runs in the engine room of the side. As trade offs go, that's not the worst I could think of.

I don't expect it to happen though. I doubt he would lack offers and I think we will go with youth next year, Madsen and Durston the experienced hands around the youngsters like Hughes, Redfern, Whiteley and Borrington. Experience does count though and if Luke Sutton gradually makes way for Tom Poynton we will be pretty short of it in the batting, especially if Wes Durston doesn't replicate this year's form and Wayne Madsen does.

We saw what experience among kids did tonight with Leicestershire, deserved winners of the T20. Nixon, McDonald, Razzaq, Henderson and Hoggard all played their part and the youngsters did a sterling job around them. I'm pleased for them, despite the local rivalry. Somerset spent a shedload of money on big name signings and came second to a club that often struggles to get by financially. The right mix of youth and experience did, however, earn them an unexpected trophy.

It was David v Goliath and David won again. Well done the Foxes!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Seconds lose despite dominating

After dominating the game for 8 sessions, Derbyshire lost yesterday to Warwickshire Seconds by two wickets.

Thanks to Mark for updates on the scores. Apparently "overly aggressive" field placings in the last session enabled Warwickshire to get into a winning position that they didn't deserve. What would have been a draw became a gamble on the win which went the wrong way.

It doesn't alter the fact that the side have played excellent cricket this season. Several young players have done extremely well and it augurs well for the senior side's long term future.

Essex v Derbyshire day 4

As I suggested last night, there was no play at Chelmsford today, a state of affairs that is always depressing but especially as the end of the season approaches and realisation dawns that there will soon only be overpaid prima donnas in football stadia to watch for the next six months or so. Not a pleasant thought, though I'll continue to follow the Rams' fortunes to a far lesser degree than those of the cricket club.

Indeed, there was no play anywhere in the UK today, a big cloud pretty much enveloping the country, although elsewhere there was a century for Usman Khawaja for Australia in Sri Lanka, a very encouraging start for a throughly nice bloke and good cricketer.

In other news, Ant Botha finally accepted the inevitable today and announced his retirement due to a chronic elbow condition that makes batting a problem.

Botha was a decent cricketer, nothing more, nothing less. Batting and bowling averages of 24 and 34 respectively were the wrong way round for any greater praise and I would say that, like a good many more before him, that his best days were at Derbyshire.

He was a dogged tail-ender who could hit well on occasion and rescued a few one-day innings from total collapse. As a bowler he was steady without spinning it a lot and the frustration was that he rarely took advantage of conditions that favoured him. He would take his wickets and keep it tight on decent tracks, but at Northampton and Cardiff would be found wanting. Conversely, he was pretty successful in T20 and maintained a creditable career run rate of less than seven an over.

He was also a solid fielder and a decent bloke, so Botha's premature retirement is sad, though a contract elsewhere was unlikely, given the game's focus on youth today.

I wish him well with his planned new life in Australia.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Essex v Derbyshire day 3

There was a good fightback by Derbyshire again today, not for the first time this season.

The last three wickets were polished off by the admirable Palladino and Groenewald, then the batsmen, led by Martin Guptill and Wes Durston, made their way to 187-4 by the close. In the course of his innings, Wes passed a thousand runs for the first time, a feat he can be pleased with. An average of 43 in the Championship, coupled with success with bat and ball in the one day game, has meant a fine summer for the former Somerset man, who passed 1750 runs in all forms of the game this year before the close.

He looks like being the only one to reach that landmark too, as Dan Redfern, Chesney Hughes and Greg Smith all need 250-plus runs from the last two matches - not impossible, but needing a major innings to get there. Meanwhile Martin Guptill has moved through the batting averages like Kelly Holmes on the last bend of an 800m race and now sits in third place behind Durston and Usman Khawaja. I'm sure he will want to pass both of them, but especially the Australian, in the last two games.

Meanwhile, both Palladino and Groenewald sit on 46 wickets, so both have a fine chance of hitting the fifty target and a fine effort. Both average 27 runs per wicket and they have led our attack well this season. If the weather forecast is anything to go by they will have to wait until our final home game to get there though, as little play looks likely at Chelmsford tomorrow.

Still, we shouldn't be too despondent. The side again showed their battling qualities today in a situation where we would previously have capitulated.

It was good to see.

More on Kaneria

Some interesting comments on the rumoured interest in Pakistan spinner Danish Kaneria on last night's post. I'll stand by last night's comments that he would be a good signing, but I'm somewhat sceptical that it would happen - at least, anytime soon.

As notoveryet rightly points out, the spot fixing allegations of last year have still to be found proven or innocent and until that happens it would be unlikely that the Pakistan Cricket Board would allow Kaneria back into county cricket. I understand there was interest in the player from Surrey this season and his signing was blocked. I am very much a believer in someone being innocent until proven guilty and will make no comment on his situation in this regard. What I would say is that a player of his calibre who became available would not want for suitors.

I wouldn't see his signing as similar to that of Venkat back in the 1970s. Although the Indian was a class act, we had two off spin bowlers ready for county cricket at that time in Geoff Miller and Bob Swindell. Now we have Tom Knight, who may be off to university and Peter Burgoyne who might benefit from the tuition he got from a world class spin bowler but isn't yet close to being a first team regular.

I also feel that, although we have more young batsmen of talent than bowlers, we may find a batsman a greater need. Theoretically next season we could otherwise have a top six of Borrington, Madsen, Hughes, Durston, Redfern and Whiteley - high on potential, but not especially rich in experience.

If Kaneria was in our sights and we could also pick up an experienced batsman from these shores it would be a different matter, but the budget may not allow for both.

Bit of a poser, eh?

I don't know who we will end up with, though I doubt it will be Kaneria. And while my preference would be for a batsman, I would take a world class performer with the ball over an average willow-wielder anytime - and vice-versa.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Overseas conjecture

A couple of names are being bandied about on the Forum for next season. How much truth there is in them I don't know, but they're worthy of comment.

 One is Hamish "Oi'm Oirish" Marshall, the other Danish Kaneria.

 Marshall for me would be a no. Yes, he was a decent player for New Zealand, but 346 runs at 25 this season is hardly something to write home about. At 33 next summer I doubt he will get better and I don't see many takers for him at what would probably be a high salary.

 Kaneria? I've mixed views on that one. If Derbyshire's wickets remain the same next summer, dry and dusty,  he would take a barrow load, enjoying conditions as other spinners have this year. His experience would also be invaluable for Tom Knight and Peter Burgoyne, young lads who could do with a role model to work with as they learn their craft. He could also be the missing link in the side, one with plenty of talented seam options but no experienced spinner.

On the flip side, he and Knight would be unlikely to play in the same team, unless in one day games although Knight could be at University for the first half of the summer anyway. Burgoyne, a fine fielder and potential all-rounder, could get in the side anyway and I'm unsure as to whether he will be first team material for a couple of seasons.

 If we did sign Kaneria - and I stress this is only conjecture - you may as well say goodbye to Jake Needham. I can't see Jake displacing the mercurial Pakistani, although his skills might help Jake with his season-long travails.

 To be fair though, given he is essentially persona non grata with the Pakistan selectors (at least for this week...) you really couldn't say no. Nearly a thousand first class wickets, 65 times taking five in an innings. 261 Test wickets, with fifteen five-fors. The man is a class act and unless the Pakistan selectors change their minds about him, is likely to be available for the whole season, a precious commodity.

Is our greatest need for a bowler or a batsman in 2012 though? I'd be keen to see your thoughts on that, so I've brought back a poll. Three choices - do we need a batsman, a seamer or a spinner? More to the point, can we find one and afford one with the IPL attracting the top players like flies to a cowpat.

Look forward to your votes on that one...

Essex v Derbyshire day 2

Irrespective of having lost the first day's play, if the weather stays fair a green wicket looks like producing a result at Chelmsford in the next couple of days.

 Poor Matt Lineker. Having spent some considerable time no doubt dreaming about a county debut, he ends up making it on a sporting track against David Masters, one of the most underrated bowlers in the country, as well as one of the most prolific. At least Karl Krikken is giving him the rest of the season to state his case for a contract, with his age the biggest thing against him. Nearer 27 than 26, he has to show he can be a prolific county player while taking the biggest step of all - from Second XI to county regular. A lot of fine players haven't quite bridged that gap. I hope that Lineker does and will be rooting for him from here on.

That Derbyshire had the worst of conditions is undeniable and we can only hope to wrap up their innings tomorrow before Ryan "I love Derbyshire bowling" ten Doeschate runs amok. At present we are in touch, but can ill afford to leak another 50 or so runs tomorrow in what is likely to be a low-scoring game.

 On to other news, and the Seconds continue to dominate against Ashley Giles England wannabe's - sorry, Warwickshire Seconds. After Derbyshire made 393 yesterday, largely thanks to Ben Slater's magnificent unbeaten 156, the visitors were bowled out for 287, with young pace bowler Johnny Marsden taking three wickets. Marsden, who I wrote about recently and Ally Evans have produced good performances this summer and could have a decent future at the county. Similarly, Slater is still only 19 (at least for two more days...) and seems to have a very bright future once he finishes University.

In the second innings Derbyshire made 86-3, with Paul Borrington unbeaten on 35. Slater's knock saw him elevated to twelfth man duties at Chelmsford, no doubt a welcome taste of senior action - though I bet he was glad not to be batting!

Elsewhere, Gloucestershire have said that they may not be able to afford to engage Chris Taylor or Hamish Marshall next season, indicative of the way the game is going. Maximise your ECB revenue or die is essentially the message, although there will still be room for older players of genuine ability. Indeed, Gary Keedy at Lancashire, "36 years young" as Hughie Green used to say, is attracting the attentions of...ahem... Warwickshire. Given that every out of contract or one with a year or so to go attracts their attention, you can believe it if you like, but you have to laugh. Do they have a youth policy, or are they just intent on signing the best of everyone else's?

In closing tonight and on a similar theme, I am increasingly of the opinion that Greg Smith has no county lined up and, having seen Derbyshire cancel their contract offer, could find himself in limbo next season. Without having to don my deerstalker, consider the evidence. No one has gone public with an offer, we know Smith is not English qualified and we know he is too old to attract ECB money even if he was. In this day and age I can't think of a county - no, not even Warwickshire - who would take the financial hit for a player whose good days are way too sporadic.

I may be wrong - maybe my crystal ball has lost some of its lustre. As Quasimodo once said, just call it a hunch...I guess we'll know the answer in the next few weeks.

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Essex v Derbyshire day 1

Easiest review of a day this summer.

It rained and kept raining.

On a more positive front, I understand that the Seconds made over 300 today against Warwickshire, who struggled to around 30-2 by the close. Ben Slater made a big hundred, highlighting for everyone that batsmen at Derbyshire are a little like buses. You wait ages for one to come along and half a dozen turn up at once!

More tomorrow.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Essex v Derbyshire preview

Essex have named a strong looking squad for tomorrow's game at Chelmsford, which is:

James Foster

Billy Godleman
Tom Westley
Owais Shah
Jaik Mickleburgh
Adam Wheater
Ryan ten Doeschate
Graham Napier
David Masters
Maurice Chambers
Reece Topley
Tom Craddock

There is no definitive news on Derbyshire's side, but Matt Lineker will surely make his debut in the team that I suggested last night.

Elsewhere, there are several comments over recent days regarding the club playing more cricket at Chesterfield. I can totally understand the sentiments, as I can think of nowhere better to watch the game. Scarborough is lovely, but I never expect to enjoy watching cricket anywhere more than I do at Chesterfield. The wicket is sporting in the best sense of the word and the setting simply stunning.

Yet, having said all that, I don't see how it is feasible for Derbyshire to play more matches there than they currently do. Thousands of pounds have been spent on developing Derby and the County Ground is massively improved as a result. The net facilities, indoor and outdoor, are excellent and the facilities for supporters are a world away from when I first went to the ground in 1970.

Such facilities are limited at Chesterfield, despite improvements there in recent years. Temporary accommodation is required for press and corporate hospitality and parking facilities are understandably restricted. While attendances for the week were impressive, that was understandable with Yorkshire one of the visitors, as well as two top of the table clashes to entertain the crowds. If you can't turn up to see that, you never will...

Changes in health and safety legislation has been the death knell for cricket at outgrounds around the country. Derbyshire and Don Amott, as a contributor pointed out last night, have done very well to keep it going at both Chesterfield and Leek. Doing more than at present is unlikely though. Advertisers pay good money for boundary hoardings which, were they to be moved around, would cost the club a small fortune. The club secured ECB money to develop the County Ground to a standard where international matches could take place, something that would not have been possible had our resources been divided between two bases.

No, Chesterfield has a regular, strong and essential presence in Derbyshire cricket's past, present and future, but seven days - at the most ten - is as much as the club can realistically expect to play there. I accept that potential members from the area may be discouraged by this, but how many from the Derby area might have second thoughts if things changed?

I'm sure there will be plenty of opinions on this one, quite possibly dependent on where you live, but I'm looking at this purely on economic grounds and that is the only thing you can do in the current era.

As always, I look forward to your comments!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Derbyshire v Middlesex CB40

The more cynical among our support might well have expected Derbyshire to lose today. After all, most important matches in the last couple of seasons have gone the way of the opposition as Derbyshire have either frozen, played below par or been pretty dreadful. Quite often the latter.

We lost today, but there was encouragement in the performance. Peter Burgoyne bowled a good spell at the death, while Tom Poynton played a lovely innings that hinted at things to come. With respect to a range of incumbents over the past couple of years, Derbyshire have struggled to replace James Pipe's pugnacious batting. Poynton, following on from a series of aggressive innings for the second string, may just be the man to do it.

While the bowlers did well to pull Middlesex back to "just" 253, the feeling remained that any challenge was going to require a Guptill special. Once that failed to materialise, there was to some extent an air of inevitability about proceedings. Having said that, it was good to once again see the side battle, with both Chesney Hughes and Wayne Madsen making runs and playing themselves back into the reckoning for Chelmsford this week in the process.

By the same token, Greg Smith departed for  a second ball duck and must now be marginally behind me in the list of those likely to play Essex. Whatever is going on behind the scenes with Smith's contract and future career, he is simply not performing for Derbyshire just now and would not be in my first choice side.

I've had a change of mind about the composition of that side and would probably bring in some more experience. Given that Matt Lineker has outperformed Paul Borrington at Second Eleven level, he would get my nod in this team:


There may be a need for a specialist spinner, presumably Knight, which would be another big decision for Karl Krikken. Peter Burgoyne did well with the ball on debut today, but his time will come and he is not yet ready for senior action on a regular basis at 17. Conversely, Mark Footitt bowled two dreadful overs today and the jury is still out on the left armer. That he has talent and pace is undeniable, but producing it once or twice a season is neither here nor there.

After the disappointments of Chesterfield week, I just hope that the team can pull together for one last effort at Chelmsford and ensure that our Championship finish befits a season in which we have played some pretty good cricket.

We'll see.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

E mail response

I got an e mail this evening asking if I would change my team for Essex in the light of Middlesex's loss to Kent today.

The one word answer is no. We gambled with greater experience against Northamptonshire and got nowhere. For me the next three games are part of a bigger, long term picture. An in form Wayne Madsen would make a huge difference to the batting, but he was outscored by Lineker, Borrington and Siddique against Nottinghamshire and perhaps shouldn't be back at this stage. Mind you, I'd still be happier with him at three than Smith.

Smith played one atrocious shot and one careless one against Northants and gave the impression, rightly or wrongly, that he didn't care. I'm sure that's not the case but you know what I mean.

Finishing third would be an impressive achievement, even if promotion is technically not impossible. I just feel that Krikk needs to have faith in Borrington and Lineker and give them a run while they are in form. If it fails - we've at least seen what they can do. People will be more understanding of defeat having tried something than leaving things alone. I also think that you need to send out the right message to players - score runs and take wickets and I'll play you.

At the end of the day, we all have opinions and the only one that matters is Karl Krikken's. Whichever path he chooses I'm sure we all wish him and the team luck.

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day four

If ever I'm looking to find someone of a similarly positive persuasion to cover the blog while I'm away I think I'll get Karl Krikken to do it.

The DET this morning reported Krikk as saying that "We're still fighting, Jon Clare has got first-class hundreds to his name and Tony Palladino has got a first-class 50 - you never know. We'll give it our best."

I thought I was optimistic! Fair play to the Derbyshire cricket supremo, the team did battle to the end, but the shortage of top order runs cost us dearly in this match and changes really have to be made for Chelmsford.

As the club site reports this morning, the run chase against Nottinghamshire that I reported last night was down to excellent efforts down the order, with Paul Borrington top scoring with 88. I make it that Borrington and Lineker have each scored well over 2,000 runs in Second XI and high quality club cricket this season. That may not be enough to get them into a batting order like England's, but should surely get them a run in a batting line-up that has stuttered on three cylinders in recent weeks.

Whether they make a fist of it, to some extent, is neither here nor there. They may not do substantially better than recent incumbents, but they could scarcely do much worse given the same level of opportunity. Likewise with Poynton, who has batted aggressively and kept well for the Seconds. He has two centuries to his name and deserves a chance while Sutton rests an injured hand. A few people have been hard on the lad after a missed stumping at Chesterfield last week. He took another and held an apparently good catch. He's young and is going to miss a few, like others of his kind, but needs encouragement, the same as the others.

My team for Chelmsford?


Guptill to captain, or otherwise Tim Groenewald. Madsen and Hughes will be back to their best, but other lads deserve a run now while they go away and work on their games and confidence.

Mind you, if both scored a century at Chesterfield tomorrow...

Friday, 19 August 2011

Couple of quick points...

Earlier on I mentioned that we were three players short of being a team to challenge next year. Of course, a firing Wayne Madsen would take care of one of those requirements, while it may be that in time Tom Knight and Peter Burgoyne may take over the spin bowling and all round roles.

The right overseas player will also be crucial for next year and if we can address these areas we will be in contention at the end of the season once more. The feeling remains that an all rounder like Darren Stevens from Kent would be a huge asset to us, but such a player would strengthen any side and would be outside our bracket financially.

No, for the most part patience is needed. Although if there was an opportunity to reclaim one of our own from Leicestershire, Wayne White, I'd be pretty pleased. A batting average of 35 and bowling one of 29 this season from 30 wickets and 600-plus runs highlights once again that we made a mistake in letting the lad go. While his bowling can be costly at times, he takes wickets and scores runs when they are most needed. We could do a lot worse.

On a slightly different tack, I came across an article on Cricket World earlier today that makes interesting reading, with Paul Borrington rated the most valuable club cricketer in the country at present, which is quite an accolade. You can read the piece at:

That is quite an achievement and here's hoping that he can retain first place for the last few weeks of the season.

Finally tonight, and closing on an optimistic note as I try to do, I hear that the Seconds today chased down 337 to beat Nottinghamshire Seconds, a very strong side, by two wickets. On a track that was turning yesterday, when Peter Burgoyne and Jake Needham took four and three wickets respectively, that was nothing short of a magnificent effort.

I don't yet know the innings details, but I understand that Derbyshire were at one point 130-0, so there must have been runs for both Paul Borrington and Matt Lineker. We could have done with some of that at Chesterfield...

I'll be honest, after their exploits this season its yet more reason for them to play against Essex at Chelmsford next week. There is no logical reason to omit them and both fully deserve an opportunity to show what they can do.

C'mon Krikk, you know it makes sense.

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day 3

Well, we've been well and truly hammered in this game. After an encouraging first day, most of the rest has belonged to the visitors, who have shown themselves worthy leaders of the division and champions-elect.

What they have are things that we aspire to and to be fair are not too far away from. They have a long batting order in which everyone contributes and a captain who leads by example in Andrew Hall, a man who has given excellent service to the county. In addition, they have a world class bowler in Chaminda Vaas, who ultimately has proved the difference between the sides, bowling a probing line and length and maintaining them over long spells. Such a player is the ambition of all counties and Northamptonshire are to be applauded for finding him, nursing him through a long season and supporting him to a man.

As I write this, Derbyshire may or may not see this through to the close and may or may not, with the assistance of the weather, escape with a draw, but it is ill-deserved. While it is more difficult to fault the bowlers, the batsmen, Martin Guptill and Dan Redfern apart, have made a poor fist of things in this match. Too many made 20s and 30s, which is neither here nor there as a score. Once you get in, you should be capitalising on that. While I accept that it was a wicket that always gave bowlers a chance, when a decent county pro, no more than that, like James Middlebrook makes a century there is a right to expect more from your own batsmen.

There are several things learned from this game. One is that we have really missed an in form Wayne Madsen at the top of the order.  Karl Krikken was right to rest him after his recent poor form, but Madsen has been the glue that has held our batting together in recent seasons and is a massive loss in recent weeks. Another is that Greg Smith is not, never has been and never will be a number three. Worthy player as he is, Smith is a number six at best. With the skittish Chesney Hughes opening and Smith at three, the likelihood was always that we would once again be two down for very few, something that has been the case too frequently of late.

With promotion now out of reach I hope to see Matt Lineker and Paul Borrington given a chance in the remaining championship games instead of Hughes and Smith. Both are fully deserving of an opportunity and it will give an opportunity to both ahead of almost certain involvement next year. We should also let Luke Sutton have a deserved rest and bring in Tom Poynton. Sutton hurt his hand in this game and Poynton is again deserving of greater opportunity after a fine season in the Seconds.

However, we should see a full side out for the game on Sunday against Middlesex, where victory would see us move to second place in the table, a fine effort. While we haven't challenged the pacemakers with victory in this match, the feeling remains that promotion would have been at least a year too soon for this side, very much one in transition. Realistically, the side is too young and not strong enough in either batting or bowling at this stage for consistent performance in the top flight.

While resources will in all likelihood restrict options, a good spinner, reliable batsman and consistent all-rounder are what would make a difference. These may well develop inhouse over the next few seasons, but for now we may need to be patient.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day 2

The one sure thing in this game now is that we're not going to win it.

 A disappointing batting performance this morning, albeit due to some excellent bowling from Chaminda Vaas, meant that our innings petered out for less than 200, a disappointing tally. Enough players got a start, but Martin Guptill's fifty yesterday remained top score by some distance and now, 362 behind with 2 days to go, the best we can hope for is a draw.

 The Saturday forecast I have seen suggests that if we're not bowled out a second time tomorrow we may escape with a draw as heavy rain looks likely. Realistically, however, we don't deserve that and the gap between ourselves and Northamptonshire will remain at least the same, but will in all probability widen.

 No complaints from me about a team that always gives a hundred percent, but we've fallen short in s big game once more which is disappointing, but not the end of the world.

 Hopefully we can go down fighting tomorrow.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day 1

Had it not been for the loss of Martin Guptill just before stumps, Derbyshire would have been delighted with their first day's work against Northamptonshire.

As it is, they must be pleased to have bowled out the table-topping side for 267 in a season when tails have wagged more frequently than that of a dog who finds a bone with a healthy slab of meat still attached. If we can emulate that tomorrow - and there's plenty of batting left to do so - we can yet establish ascendancy in this match. Whatever else, if the weather stays out of it there is plenty of time for a positive result and we need that, one way or another. If we lose, so be it, but a chance of a win is worth going for.

 I was delighted to see Mark Footitt back and firing with a fine mid-innings spell that tore open the visitors middle order. Without any risk of argument, if we had been able to field Footitt and Mark Turner this season we would have had the quickest attack in the County Championship, including the top division. Jon Clare is close to 90mph at times and Groenewald bowls a quick ball and on bouncy tracks batsmen don't like real pace - especially when it is accurate. If Turner and Footitt can work on their accuracy and fitness (in Footitt's case) over the winter our pace attack will be serious stuff in 2012.

There were a disturbing number of leg byes in the Northamptonshire innings, but four quick bowlers slightly off line, coupled with a short boundary, will do that. While the visitors will be happy with their recovery, Derbyshire are still in this game.

Martin Guptill hit a remarkable 13 fours in his 55 and had he remained for tomorrow we could have looked forward to a sizeable lead. As it is we need good contributions from young guns Redfern, Whiteley and Clare, together with a captain's knock from Luke Sutton. 350 is a long way off at present but not impossible and such a lead could be crucial in what is likely to be a low-scoring contest.

Incidentally, Middlesex's loss last night to Kent in the CB40 means Derbyshire could yet finish second in the CB40, which would be a remarkable effort. If it hadn't been for those Netherlands games...

Please let us get Scotland next year.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire preview

Tomorrow is the big game at Chesterfield, as if any of you needed reminding of that...

Wayne Madsen has, as expected, been rested for this one after a poor run and Dan Redfern is the logical replacement. I expect Chesney Hughes to open the batting as he did on Sunday, although Karl Krikken must have thought about bringing in Matt Lineker.

For me, the last place is likely to be between Mark Footitt and Tom Knight, depending on how the wicket is expected to go. Clare, Palladino and Groenewald are a fine seam trio, while Greg Smith offers spin and seam options. The Derbyshire 12 in full is:

Martin Guptill, Chesney Hughes, Wes Durston, Greg Smith, Dan Redfern, Ross Whiteley, Luke Sutton, Jonathan Clare, Tim Groenewald, Tony Palladino, Tom Knight and Mark Footitt.

Our visitors are missing opening bowler Jack Brooks, but welcome Durham batsman Kyle Coetzer for a debut on loan, with a view to a permanent move at the end of the season. He goes straight into a side that bats a long way down, Andrew Hall and Niall O'Brien at 7 and 8 averaging over and just under 50 respectively this season.  Their bowling relies heavily on Sri Lankan veteran Chaminda Vaas and there will be an added burden on him in the absence of the talented Brooks.

As I wrote last night, I expect a result track, as wickets can always go at Chesterfield. I find predicting a result very difficult as the two teams are fairly well matched, but Derbyshire are a focused side at present. They will give it 100% without doubt and we will need to wait and see if that is enough. The visitors will, of course, be happy with a draw and almost certainly will offer us little. The onus is on our lads to be aggressive with bat and ball, hold their catches and enjoy their fair share of luck, both on the pitch and with the weather.

If that happens, this season of great promise could yet have a late, astonishing twist...

Guptill interview

This is a worthwhile read, if you've not already come across it:


Monday, 15 August 2011

Monday musings

After a weekend that could scarcely have been improved on if written by a top script-writer, Derbyshire face a massive game at Queens Park on Wednesday in which winning is essential to maintain a chance of promotion in the County Championship.

I'd accordingly expect a result track at Chesterfield, although they usually are. Batsmen get a reward for strokes on a quickish track with a short boundary, while bowlers get more bounce than the norm and sufficient movement to maintain interest, even with the Tiflex balls that are being used to general concern this season.

Irrespective of the result and the rest of the season, surely no one will argue when I say that this has been a season of major progress. We could easily go up, with Northamptonshire and Middlesex set to meet again before the end of the season, but could also finish in the bottom three, scant consolation for a very encouraging and competitive campaign.

I have always said on this blog that John Morris set the ball rolling with the recruitment of a better quality of player than we have seen for some time. Players like Wes Durston, Wayne Madsen, Tim Groenewald, Tony Palladino, Chesney Hughes, Luke Sutton and others were always likely to do a good job once Morris persuaded them to join the county, but it is no coincidence that for most their best form has come since Karl Krikken took over.

I'd a lot of time for John Morris but perhaps man management wasn't his strong point. Never having played for him I don't know, but Karl Krikken seems to get the best out of players and the improvement in the younger ones, in particular, has to be one of his major contributions to the campaign. None of us know whether Krikk can bring a similar class of player to the club, but after 25 years-plus in the game I expect him to know plenty of people, just the same as Luke Sutton. If these two identify the players they want, Chris Grant will then handle contract negotiations and we will continue to progress.

The third place positions in the CB40 and Championship are very much the result of a team effort. Only Northamptonshire have more batting bonus points, while only they and Gloucestershire exceed our bowling points. NINE players average between 29 and 41 with the bat, while five have taken their wickets under thirty. The spirit at the club is obvious, especially in the commitment of the overseas players. Guptill's joy at reaching three figures is tangible, his commitment in the field an object lesson. Usman Khawaja played most of the time at Derbyshire on one good leg. Overseas players and professionals are looked up to in any club and we have been lucky in two positive role models.

Of course, with the Academy being the focal point of the future side, the role of Krikken, AJ Harris and Howard Dytham will continue to be critical to our future and the signs are good. Today we read of two bright young players, Harvey Hosein and Will Davis, being selected for the England Development Programme at Under-16 level. Davis, a quick bowler from Staffordshire and Hosein, a wicket-keeper from Matlock appear to have all the credentials for success, including coaching from men who really know what they are doing.

They are, of course, the latest in what is becoming an exciting long line. From those in or around the first eleven, through to the likes of Slater, Siddique and Higginbottom and younger ones like Burgoyne, Cork and White, the hard work of the Academy is starting to bear fruit.

Former England man Keith Fletcher once said that if one in every three of your young players comes through it is well worth the investment. All the signs point to players like Redfern, Whiteley, Knight, Poynton and Borrington becoming fixtures in the next few years and Derbyshire will reap the rewards for the hard work both in their performances and in ECB funding. While the senior players from elsewhere will still have a role to play for the forseeable future, in the medium to long term I can see Derbyshire teams made up of Academy graduates as seniors, hopefully thanking the club for their time and investment with a level of loyalty that has not always been the case in the past.

When players enjoy the dressing room environment and the company of people they have grown up with, there is a far greater likelihood of their staying. Chris Grant's new structure, offering appropriate remuneration to young players in direct correlation to their performances, is a sound first step towards a bright long-term future at the club.

As for the short-term future? We need to beat Northamptonshire. If we do, promotion is very much a possibility.

If we don't, I'm still more optimistic about the future than I've ever been. There's always next year.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Derbyshire v Yorkshire

As days go, that must have been close to a 'Carlsberg' one. Cricket against Yorkshire at Chesterfield and beating them with over six overs in hand having chased 235, the pro scoring a hundred and contributions down the order. Oh, and our young spinner bowls a canny spell, removing their overseas player in the process and we did all that while resting three of our main bowlers.

Yup, that was a goodie. Having grown up on Derbyshire usually failing to chase 160 against Yorkshire in one day games, I would have loved to have seen that one, the latest in a long line of impressive displays this season. It just makes you wonder what could have been had we not played poorly twice against the Netherlands. One point from two games against them and the losses against Worcestershire shows what we need to address - keeping that level of intensity going against everyone.

There was no Dan Redfern today - hopefully being kept back for Wednesday - and while Hughes and Madsen scored a few, neither got quite the score they might have wished for. Nor did Greg Smith, although his bowling did a good job today, alongside Knight, while it was good to see Garry Park turning his arm over again after a shoulder injury for much of the campaign. Good discipline from Derbyshire too, with only ten extras, something that will please Karl Krikken and also Tom Poynton, who apparently kept well.

Of course, I have to close with mention of Martin Guptill, who seems to have gone from winter to high summer in form. I've been critical of Guptill's Championship form and while I accept he's had his share of awkward deliveries that have seen him go early, he will have been disappointed with his four-day campaign as an established Test player.

Now, however, he seems to have sussed the tracks. Having averaged around 40 in the T20 (no mean achievement) he now averages 93 in the CB40 with two centuries and a fifty in four knocks. Such is the way he goes for his shots that a lengthy Guptill knock should usually result in a win if others bat around him. Ross Whiteley gave the final impetus today with five fours and a six in his unbeaten 31 on a ground he knows well and has enjoyed considerable success. In full flight he is a player of obvious class and for me his on drive, the pose held as the ball speeds to the boundary, is his trademark shot. Not an easy one to play well either, but Guptill does it beautifully.

As I wrote earlier in the week, Martin Guptill for the first half of next season and Usman Khawaja for the second half could yet be the answer to Derbyshire's overseas needs for 2012. A few more innings like today and I might not be alone in that assertion either.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Well done to England

Number one in the world eh?

It is a fine effort by a lot of people, but I hope that the work of Geoff Miller as Chairman of Selectors isn't overlooked. He has done a very sound job and the merits of a consistent selection policy are there for all to see.

He's from Derbyshire you say? Well, I never...

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 4

Last night I hoped for a professional end to this game from Derbyshire and that is exactly what we got. Martin Guptill batted in confident manner, well supported by Wes Durston and Greg Smith, to take us to a thoroughly deserved victory and, more importantly, third place in the table.

With four games to go, promotion is still a distinct possibility, something few would have anticipated pre-season and no one mid season when John Morris and Andrew Brown left. Yet the players have risen to the challenge and, aided by an excellent team spirit, are still in there fighting at the business end of the season.

There has to be credit given to all the players but especially to Karl Krikken and Luke Sutton. Krikk has brought the best out of young players who he developed from an early age and they have thrived on their opportunities, while Sutton rode the storm of comments from some quarters over the Morris affair and has led the side pretty well. While the weight of runs hasn't been that of his youth, he is on 491 for the season in the Championship and averages 28, while his wicket-keeping has been outstanding. I thought he showed himself both a leader and a man in his support of Chris Grant and the players have given him their backing.

Credit also to Martin Guptill, who has had his travails in the Championship but has shown his class when it was most needed and now has an average of 35 - not exceptional, but improving. He has shown commitment to the cause too, like Usman Khawaja before him and been an affable member of the dressing room and brilliant fielder. One of the best things I have seen lately was the congratulatory text sent by Khawaja to Ross Whiteley after his maiden century, something that he didn't need to do but showed his interest in the players and the club. In an era of jet set players and revolving door overseas stars, their commitment has been one of the pleasures of the season.

And so to Chesterfield, where Krikken has the chance to firstly cement third place in the CB40 then push for the top in the Championship. Could there be a better start to the cricket week there? For what its worth, I think that Matt Lineker and Dan Redfern should come in for Wayne Madsen and Chesney Hughes. On the bowling front, we need Clare, Palladino and Groenewald fit for this run in, but Mark Turner is rapidly becoming a man we've lacked in the past, someone with hostility to remove tail enders. I'll accept that sometimes his radar goes, but bowlers with his pace and aggression are not all that common. Devon Malcolm could be wild at times, but when it was right, he could be a handful. Turner is not yet in Devon's class, but is an asset as a fourth seamer and could enjoy the pace and bounce at Chesterfield, as long as he doesn't get carried away.

Finally, I've written plenty about Greg Smith of late but this is where we need him to show his mettle. I'm increasingly of the opinion that all is not yet lost with Smith and that there are perhaps no other takers for his services. While I have been critical of his 'cameos' in the past, Madsen and Hughes would currently be grateful for that and on that basis he should retain his place. With things now tight at the top, there is no better time for him to illustrate his worthiness of a deal, here or elsewhere.

My team for Northamptonshire:


For Yorkshire, maybe Footitt to give one of the seamers a breather,while Madsen's one day skills in the middle order may be worthy of perseverance,  but I'll not lose much sleep either way. There may also be a recall from international duty for Tom Knight, a tester on a small ground.

As a postscript, I notice that Mark Turner currently averages 38 with the bat and 30 with the ball. Genuine all-rounders at number eleven eh....?

Excellent win by the Second XI

AJ Harris has done a fine job with Derbyshire's second string this summer and yesterday's win at Bristol was the latest in a fine season.

 Dan Redfern's second big contribution of the match and a good knock by Garry Park took us most of the way to a target of 324 in 59 overs and a last wicket stand by Jakes Needham and Sherriff saw the side to a memorable victory.

 In the process, Matt Lineker passed 1,000 runs for the season, a remarkable effort that surely has to see him earn an elevation to the senior side?

More on the overseas role

News that Hampshire are chasing Simon Katich as their overseas player for 2012 is going to focus the attention of a few people around the county game.

As I've previously written, Katich, together with Marcus North, is one of only a handful of players who would appear to be available for most, if not all of the season. With the congested calendar next summer there are very few options available and I can see a few counties going for unexpected signings.

There is always the possibility that someone who drops out of international recognition will hold appeal. With many talented batsmen to choose from, there could be, for example, a high profile casualty among South Africa's batting strength for next summer's tour. Ashwell Prince, at 34, is a fine player but would appear the most vulnerable in a strong batting lineup, most of who play IPL and would not be too keen on a county stint. Colin Ingram, known on the local scene after a couple of seasons  in Derbyshire, could be another worth keeping an eye on.

Maybe New Zealand could be an option? John Wright helped us out with Martin Guptill and could do so again if there was a suitable player. Of course, Guptill himself may fancy another spell in the county game and we could do much worse, especially for the T20. As things stand though, any Kiwi would be unavailable from mid-June as they tour West Indies then India. That would rule out potential moves for the likes of James Franklin or Jesse Ryder.

Australia? Again, not too many options apart from North but there's one thing I have noticed - most of their cricket next summer is likely to be one-day. In the absence of many viable alternatives, perhaps one answer for Derbyshire is to switch the two players from this year, with Martin Guptill playing for as long as he can from April and Usman Khawaja returning for the remainder of the season. Both may well benefit from this year's experience and at this stage, unless we can pick up Marcus North, Prince or Katich, I cannot think of anyone better, or more likely to do well.


Friday, 12 August 2011

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 3

All things being equal and barring a collapse that would be shocking by even our 'off day' standards, Derbyshire should wrap up victory over Gloucestershire sometime before lunch tomorrow. The weather may yet play a part, but the forecast doesn't look too bad.

The attack did a professional job today, well backed up in the field. Mark Turner again played a leading role and while opinions are divided on the paceman there is no doubt that he has the pace to worry batsmen and especially tail-enders. As Corporal Jones used to say in Dad's Army, they don't like it up 'em you know...

He reminds me of a right handed Peter Hacker, who some of you will remember. Hacker spent most of his career at Nottinghamshire before moving to Derbyshire and was capable of bowling consecutive balls of garbage and genius. He always got wickets though, but ultimately at too great a cost. With hard work over the winter, Turner could be a genuinely potent weapon next year.

A win would set up a battle royal against Northamptonshire at Chesterfield next week and in the intervening period Karl Krikken has some decisions to make. The failure of both Wayne Madsen and Chesney Hughes again has put additional pressure on the two of them with Matt Lineker and Dan Redfern both chasing elevation to the senior side.

Both are fine players and will come again, but now is the time to pull them from the firing line. While Greg Smith is not in prime batting form, his all round ability and greater experience may see Krikken choose him over Hughes. Conversely, Hughes likes Chesterfield's pace and bounce and may do well there again. It is big decision time and I'll tell you what I think in the next few days...

Madsen now needs a break and there are two opening batsmen in the Seconds deserving an opportunity. For me, Matt Lineker is now in poll position and should surely make a senior debut on a ground he will know well from the Premier League.

I hope so, but it is all irrelevant if we fail to win tomorrow.

Let's wrap it up professionally lads. Third place beckons.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 2

As second days go, this one was up there with the best of them, as Derbyshire bowled out Glouceestershire, enforced the follow on and took a quick wicket in their second innings which closed with them still 186 short of making us bat again.

Much can happen in the next two days, possibly rain, but we are in a strong position that rekindles hopes of promotion. Outside ones they may be, but maximum points here will keep the teams above us with a wary eye on our progress.

There was fine bowling today by the seam quartet, who shared the wickets. There was an excellent tight and penetrative spell by Jon Clare and an inspired move by Luke Sutton in giving him the new ball in the second innings, one that saw him remove the dangerous Hamish Marshall. Although the Derbyshire innings petered out after yesterday's frolics, maximum batting points always gives you a chance and so it proved today in an excellent effort.

Although Greg Smith took a wicket, his short spell of five overs for me raised questions as to why he was preferred to the in-form Dan Redfern in this game. With four seamers (five if you count Ross Whiteley) plus Durston and Hughes to bowl spin, the selection was clear cut - pick the batsman in form.

Redfern's last 12 innings for Derbyshire have seen scores of 82, 41 not, 34, 29, 30, 53, 55, 15, 88, 7, 99 and 63. In some seasons I've seen over the years we'd have given him the freedom of the city for a run of scores like that. Instead, he is sent to Bristol, presumably to prove his fitness by fielding all day, which he did while Gloucestershire Seconds racked up 400 yesterday.

Thanks to Mike, who was at the game, I understand that Redfern today made an unbeaten 80-odd for the Seconds and looked the class act he is - a class act that should have been on display at Derby. There is merit in a player proving fitness in a one day game, but none whatsoever in having a player who has torn a hamstring running around in the field for nearly a hundred overs. He could have done that at home...

Paul Borrington got 60-odd for Derbyshire and Matt Lineker 30-odd as we closed a shortened day on 205-3. Bear in mind the runs that Marc highlighted under last night's post have been scored by Madsen, Hughes and Smith of late, there is no rational reason why Redfern should not have played at Derby, especially when his appearance in the side brings us in around £2K while Greg Smith's costs us that sort of sum. Sorry to bring the subject round to money again, but a county that lost £180K last year needs to consider such things.

I think Karl Krikken needs to consider not just the impact of what keeping out of touch players in the Firsts is doing to them, but also what it is saying to players scoring heavily in the Seconds. We've rarely had this luxury at Derbyshire over the years, but players need to know that hard work in the Seconds will be rewarded. Equally, players sometimes need to drop down, rediscover form and fight for/justify a place.

I firmly believe that Dan Redfern HAS to return at Chesterfield next week and that Matt Lineker should come in for Wayne Madsen. You will then have a firing batting line up and optimise the chances of a win.

Nowt but always, I look forward to your comments.

PS Sorry about the late blog, but tonight Peakfan and family went to see Harry Potter. Not in person, you understand, but it was truly...ahem...spell-binding...

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 1

They say you can't win them all and that was the case today, but Derbyshire will be rightly satisfied with their first day's work against Gloucestershire, one that flew in the face of most opening days at the County Ground this year.

When I saw that Gloucestershire had won the toss and understandably elected to field I was concerned that we would struggle against an attack that has done consistently well this season. Especially when Wayne Madsen again went early and Chesney Hughes was soon following him. Given that Greg Smith later only lasted four balls it was a poor day for those I highlighted last night had a point to prove.

In between, Martin Guptill  and Wes Durston put on a superb 266 in just 53 overs, a partnership that must have been a joy to see. Durston has had a fine season and now tops the batting averages, while Guptill at last showed the talent that we knew he had in the Championship. Wes now has a fighting chance of making a thousand for the season and is currently 156 runs short.

Ross Whiteley came in and helped Durston see it through to the close, but Karl Krikken will doubtless look at today with satisfaction, tempered with the knowledge that he probably got his team wrong. Last night I suggested that Madsen should drop down the order to allow a debut for Matt Lineker and I am not convinced that Smith is mentally where he needs to be at present with the contractual issues surrounding him. Certainly the statistics suggest that and with Dan Redfern close to full fitness Smith will be lucky to retain his place for the next match. Madsen's recent decline is also a matter for concern and one hopes that he soon returns to his normal form.

At the end of it all, this was an excellent day for the county. If we can push on to 450-plus tomorrow it will be an excellent effort and the foundation of a potential win. Today was a celebration of a new contract for Wes Durston and it is heartening to think he will be with us for the next two summers.

Just need to push on tomorrow now - weather permitting.

PS Thought I'd beat 'Anon' to the draw tonight and point out that Wes Durston was signed by John Morris. Having said that, I first mentioned him as a worthwhile pursuit for the county on September 29, 2009 after his release by Somerset (check if you wish) and it took us several months to do so. Surely I get brownie points for the signing too...?

Congratulations to Borrington

Warm congratulations to Paul Borrington for breaking the Derbyshire Premier League runs record.

His tally now stands at 1490 with plenty of cricket left to play. Eight centuries and five fifties, together with a not-altogether-poor average of 106 suggests a player with plenty of ability who will surely translate a good technique and increasing stroke playing ability into county runs before too long.

Bozza has time on his side but a strong start to next season will do him no harm in his quest for a regular first team place.

A recent comment suggested that the current setup is reminiscent of 1974 when such players as (to quote) Michael Glenn, John Ward and Alan Morris were in the mix, alongside players like Geoff Miller and Alan Hill. Its a fair point, although that's pretty much all there was. Ward came to us from Oxford University, and although a Staffordshire lad I don't recall him being a product of the youth set up at that time. Morris was a useful player, as was Glenn, but again I don't recall them being in the same class as Borrington, Redfern, Whiteley, Knight, Poynton et al, although they didn't get the same coaching.

I think this crop of players, given the all important time, will go on to be a fixture in Derbyshire sides for years and the current and upcoming set could go on to be a part of another golden era for the club.

You can judge me on that comment in five years time...

Palladino's turn for contract extension

News today that Tony Palladino has signed a contract extension, one that will keep him at the County Ground until at least the end of the 2013 season.

It is excellent news for fans and will keep a bowler who has proved both successful and populat at the club to forge a fine opening pairing with Tim Groenewald.

It is equally good to see that the club have been forward planning and not allowing players to get to final years when they could be subject to approaches from elsewhere.

I'm sure that there will be more to come. Thumbs up from me for this one!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire preview

I have to say that I never expected Gloucestershire to do as well as they have this season. A young and inexperienced squad had risen to the occasion in the Championship and done well, despite a few drubbings in the T20.

It shows what is possible with a team effort and a few judicious signings after a winter of upheaval and Derbyshire will need to be at their best to beat them over the next four days. Surrey-bound Jon Lewis will hope to leave them on a high and as a team they can already be proud of what they have achieved this summer.

For that matter so can Derbyshire. For most of the campaign we have competed and until some of our younger players mature we can ask for no more than that. Leicestershire are another side we must hope to emulate, again fighting above their weight, at least in the T20. Few teams have the playing strength to sustain a challenge in all forms of the game and Derbyshire must aim to finish the season strongly to fill supporters with optimism ahead of the next campaign.

The DET suggested today that the team will be unchanged from Lords, which means no return for Dan Redfern after injury. It also means that neither Paul Borrington or Matt Lineker play. I can understand that after both Wayne Madsen and Martin Guptill scored runs in the last CB40 game, but it doesn't stop me feeling sorry for Matt Lineker who can do no more than he has to get into the side. I hope that both players repay Karl Krikken with runs, but I might have been tempted to drop Madsen down the order to accommodate Lineker.

Another player who needs to repay the head of cricket is Greg Smith, whose current situation puzzles me. I would have thought that a county would by this stage have held up their hand and expressed interest in the all rounder. None, to my knowledge, have done so. Essex were mentioned as a possible home, but I have seen no confirmation of interest from there, or indeed anywhere else. I just hope that the player or his agent haven't shot themselves in the foot by turning down a Derbyshire offer in the light of one from elsewhere that hasn't materialised. With Derbyshire having retracted their offer, might Smith not find himself in limbo, with no county prepared to take a financial hit in the form of ECB penalties for a non-qualified player? We'll see...

Anyway, the season's big finish starts here. With several players within range of a thousand runs for the season, there are plenty of incentives to do well.

Here's hoping.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Somerset spectacular

I don't know if you caught the Somerset v Nottinghamshire game yesterday. If you did, you were doubtless as sad as I was to see our near neighbours beaten...

The batting of Keiron Pollard and Joss Buttler at the end was sensational. I'm not convinced that Pollard is a great player, but he hits a ball further than anyone other than Chris Gayle and with his medium pace and tigerish fielding he is a 21st century cricketer, a T20 specialist who can tour the globe picking up hefty cheques in return for a few such performances.

Like the concept or not, it won the game for Somerset yesterday but I was equally impressed by Buttler's improvisation. I would dearly love to see Derbyshire tackle a run chase in such a sparkling manner, but with respect to all concerned think that is a little way off just now.

Today at work we had an ice-breaker prior to a training day. Who would we most like to be and why? We could pick anyone from history and I toyed with the idea of being Andrew Carnegie, who taking into account the various exchange rates and monetary values was the richest man ever. I could help out Chris Grant and bring top names to the County Ground.

In the end though I settled for Garfield Sobers. I could bat brilliantly, bowl left arm fast medium, orthodox slow left arm and chinamen and catch anything that came near me. More to the point, I could make a mint in the IPL with such talents then play every season for Derbyshire (without injury, of course) and turn us into worldbeaters.

Now THAT would be a landmark signing!

Calling Cork?

Regular contributor notoveryet suggested in a comment to a recent article that Dominic Cork could be a worthwhile signing for Derbyshire - if not as a landmark signing, then one to set the T20 DJ scrambling for a copy of the old Peters and Lee hit "Welcome Home".

On the face of it there is some merit. The 'show pony' of Geoff Boycott's description has been replaced by a media-savvy, articulate and smart cricketer and man who has done a good job at Hampshire, captaining them with no little skill and contributing here and there when wickets or runs are required.

It would be unrealistic to expect much more of course. Cork is now 40 and his 22 championship wickets at 35 (albeit in the top division) are decent enough, if not spectacular. He averages over 20 with the bat too, so has obviously got something left in the tank. In the T20 he has captained the team especially well, aided by a wicket that turns more than most and the presence of three gifted spinners in the side. Indeed, seeing him skipper the more mature Shahid Afridi yesterday brought back memories of when he did the same at Derbyshire. I saw Cork very frustrated in Glasgow, when the Pakistani leg spinner bowled absolute tosh on the side of the wicket where Cork had no fielders, irrespective of how that field was set. Cork has only gone for seven an over in the T20 too, leading from the front with the new ball.

I could see him as a positive influence on young players, of which we have many, and with his son in the Academy setup there is additional merit in his potential return. Critics will recall the acrimonious times before he left and the departure for Lancashire, but, like most people, Cork has matured considerably since then. If he stayed fit, a move could be mutually beneficial.

For me there are two, maybe three major stumbling blocks. For one, Hampshire may offer him a new deal and will be able to offer more than us if they do. For another, Cork may decide to quit while he is ahead and in the top flight, then head off for what will surely be a successful media career.

Thirdly, and perhaps most important, time waits for no man. Cork at 40 is a fit bloke with plenty to offer. Yet the history of the game offers plenty of examples of players who went on for a season too long, becoming shadows of their former selves in so doing. Whether 41 year old Cork can still do it on the pitch is a moot point and he doesn't strike me as the sort of bloke who would want to simply go through the motions.

Yet the romance of a return would be interesting. The return of the prodigal son? I'm keen to see your thoughts on that one...

Sunday, 7 August 2011

July 1936

In their first game of July 1936, Derbyshire travelled to Worcester and the rain meant that their innings lasted until the afternoon of the second day, when Arthur Richardson declared on 234-8. The odds would have been on a draw at that stage, but Worcestershire slipped to 6-5 before being all out on the third morning for 64. In the second innings they fared even worse, all out 47 as Bill |Copson followed figures of 5-38 with     7-16.

It boded well for the first Chesterfield cricket week, with Warwickshire the first visitors. Mitchell, Copson and Pope bowled out the visitors in two hours for 117, Derbyshire racing to 235-4 by the close thanks to Stan Worthington's century. That total reached 381 and a lead of 264 on the second day, truncated by more rain. On the third, Copson, Alf Pope and Les Townsend bowled them out for 105 and a massive victory. More to the point, this ninth victory of the season saw us move to the top of the table for the first time.

Hampshire were the next visitors after a long journey from Portsmouth, but they were disposed of in 75 minutes for just 88 runs, Pope taking 4-15. Derbyshire responded in style, Townsend making 153 not out by the close with four sixes in a total of 336-8. Little play was possible on day 2, when we declared and Hampshire slipped to 10-2 in reply. The rain washed out the final day and almost certain victory was snatched from our grasp.

The next game at Old Trafford was also drawn, rain washing out the first two days. and this game marked the last time that Derbyshire fielded an entirely locally born side. What followed was a key match, a top of the table match against Kent at Burton.

Rain again restricted the first day, but Derbyshire reached 268 on the second, to which Kent responded with 184. Brisk innings by Townsend and Worthington on the third morning set Kent 289, but they were bowled out for 147 with fine bowling and excellent catching. The final wicket came just before a storm hit the ground and with their nearest rivals drawing, Derbyshire opened up a lead at the top of the table.

A game against the visiting Indians followed, the prelude to a massive game against Yorkshire at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Batting was difficult and we were indebted to a superb innings by Worthington, who opened the innings and made 135 from a total of 216 all out against an attack featuring both Hedley Verity and Bill Bowes. The next highest score was 17...

In reply, Yorkshire also struggled, Copson and Pope taking all ten wickets between them as Yorkshire took the important first innings lead points by just two runs. Derbyshire than batted out time and maintained a lead in the title race.

The final game of the month saw the action return to Ilkeston, our 187 just edging first innings lead as Tom Mitchell took six wickets. Then came a batting collapse against Larwood and Voce, with a first wicket stand of 83 being followed by a dire collapse to 125 all out. A target of 131 was reached for the loss of four wickets, although three dropped catches made their task easier.

As the month ended, Derbyshire were top with Nottinghamshire in second place, Kent third and Yorkshire fourth. The next match was an away game in Essex, one that turned out to be a quite remarkable affair...

Lineker continues to impress

The comments I have heard against Matt Lineker breaking into the first eleven at Derbyshire are generally of the "he's just a league player" nature.

How do they know?

Turning it around, yesterday Derbyshire's players all appeared in the local leagues, with the exception of Wayne Madsen, who headed north to his old haunts in Lancashire. While there were several decent contributions, the standout was once again Lineker, making 118 for Ockbrook and Borrowash. The player averages a shade under 53 for them this season and since 2008 has 3600 in a very strong league at an average of 48. That's 26 fifties and 7 centuries in 83 innings...

By any standards that is impressive, but especially so when this year, like all county players at league level, he has been a marked man. Players will raise their game against them, especially those who were formerly county players themselves (plenty of them about in the Derbyshire Premier League).

Yesterday saw solid performances by several players - Wes Durston scoring 40 and taking three wickets for Chesterfield, Jake Needham 35 and four wickets, Tony Palladino 3-72 for Alvaston and Boulton - but Lineker was the standout.

Contrast it, if you will, with Chesney Hughes. He has had half a dozen knocks in the DPL this season and only has 30-odd runs to his credit. No one would deny that Hughes is a player of rich potential and considerable talent, but the league players give little away and he has found the going tough as a 'target'.

The Derbyshire Premier League is acknowledged as one of the best in the country and looking at those involved highlights that. For Matt Lineker to have maintained that standard over four seasons is remarkable and for me he should get an opportunity at first team level this year and another contract so we can see if he can translate that to scores at the highest level.

He has already shown that he can make runs against county second teams. I certainly wouldn't bet against him going up another level when the chance comes.

Good comments!

I'm always pleased to see your comments and yesterday brought a rich crop. To clarify what I said earlier in the week, and what most people are now doing, please put your name on posts if you don't have a Google ID. I'll not delete those that are making a positive comment, but I'll only allow negative ones if the person is big enough to to add their name and it isn't personal. Blogger allows me to block all comments that aren't from people signed up to the blog or Google members, but that seems a tad draconian at this stage. Hopefully I don't need to go down that path...

John made an excellent point yesterday that we need to replace Steffan Jones and really need two T20 players from overseas next season, as well as replacing Greg Smith. What we do in these areas comes down to budget, of course, and how Karl Krikken sees the development of young players. On the face of it, Smith would need replaced, but I would still like to see Dan Redfern given greater bowling opportunities and we don't know how well Peter Burgoyne will kick on next year. We cannot say, for example, that Jon Clare might not continue to improve and perhaps become the all-rounder at number six. Maybe greater responsibility could be the making of him.

I agree we may well need to replace Jones as we have only Palladino, Groenewald, Clare, Footitt and Turner. Foottitt has rarely played this summer with injury, Turner has been erratic and young hopes Atif Sheikh and Matt Higginbottom have also, somewhat worryingly, missed most of the campaign. Where we go for that replacement is anyone's guess, though Chris Wright at Essex is out of contract this summer and is sure to attract interest from a few places.

If Burgoyne is going to need a year or couple of years, Jake Needham doesn't recover his lost form and Tom Knight goes to university, a spin option might also be required, but again, we have to realise that players can and will develop over the winter and only the coaching staff have the answers. Again, an all-rounder like David Wainwright might be an option, but we don't want to block the paths of Burgoyne and Knight as Venkat did years ago the career of Bob Swindell. Not that I'm suggesting that the able Wainwright is a spinner in the same bracket as the Indian, you understand...

I don't expect a winter of frenzied activity as the club will primarily go down the youth route, but if there are opportunities for the right players at the right price, our finances are in good hands and the structure is as strong as it has ever been.

The overseas role and the T20 player(s) will take a lot of time though. With the IPL having skewed the market, finding the right player at an affordable price post-IPL must be a nightmare. After six weeks in India at 750K-plus, few of the big names will commit to another month in England for 100K or less, even if their international commitments allowed it.

I am a big fan of Chris Grant and he has shown himself a real leader by accepting the chairman's role post-Amott and in not shying away from awkward issues. His only mistake so far, for me, was in referring to a landmark signing, something I think even this genial and astute businessman will struggle to attract due to circumstances beyond his control.

It won't stop a lot of work in the winter though and I look forward to seeing what he eventually comes up with.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Early thoughts on next season

I had a look at the ICC list of future tours last night, which made fascinating - or scary, if you're in charge of cricket clubs - reading. You can see it  at:

If you scroll down the list you will see the various countries involved in international cricket during the next cricket season and it highlights how difficult it will be for counties to find an overseas player for the summer.

This year Derbyshire have had mixed fortunes with their selections. Usman Khawaja got a good few starts but played only two real innings of substance, while Martin Guptill had a good T20 and CB40 campaign but has not yet translated that into four day cricket. Both, of course, were new to these shores and it cannot have been totally unexpected, but neither have made a concrete-strong case for retention.

On the basis of his short form campaign, there might be a reason for retaining Guptill for the T20 next year, but New Zealand's tour to the West Indies in July may dictate he is required for a pre-tour training camp at that time. Similarly Khawaja didn't make Australia's recent tour squad, but that could change over the winter and the club may wish to go in a different direction. Certainly neither would be a landmark signing.

Of course, I highlighted the problems with that signing earlier in the week. Looking at the schedule it may be that a county could persuade an Australian to come over for the T20 ahead of the ODIs in June/July, but you'd then miss them for the business end of the tournament. South Africans are also free until mid-July, but then are touring here until September.

Derbyshire will go with the youth policy and as fans we need to accept that there will be a mixture of performances given the youth of the side. I don't see many (any?) signings from elsewhere this winter unless a real gem is to be had at the right price. Assuming that Greg Smith is going - and another county emerges to express interest - our basic side next year looks like being along these lines:


Others like Burgoyne, Footitt, Turner and Slater may challenge and Jake Needham may re-emerge, but this will be a team in transition. Yes, it would benefit from another experienced head in the middle order, a Darren Stevens-type player perhaps, but such players are going to fade out as county cricket becomes a young man's game.

Why? Because county cricket essentially now exists purely and simply as a means of generating players for the England team. The level of ECB subsidy to the counties is set to increase next season for those playing age-group players and with most counties up to their eyes in debt, the ECB effectively own all of them. Without the subsidy, counties will go bust and Kolpak or non-qualified players, through the stringent penalties, become a very expensive luxury that few can afford.

Whoever signs Greg Smith will have to accept that he will cost them £20,000 next year before they pay him, given his non-qualified status and assuming he plays for them as often as he has for us. Wherever he ends up, his status will see him as one of the last of his kind, as counties have, through the benefits and penalties system, been forced into a corner.

Play young English players or go bust. That is the ultimatum and the straight choice. That Derbyshire side above might look light on experience, but I'd sooner watch it compete next year and in the future than simply remember the days when we had a county side.

With the right overseas player added to it we should play good cricket, but that is a task that could take Chris Grant, Karl Krikken and Luke Sutton a fair amount of time this winter.

Have a good weekend.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Collingwood stays with Durham

No surprise that eh? As I said the other night, I don't think he ever intended to come and simply used our interest as a stepping stone to a better contract.