Tuesday, 29 November 2011

So that's the fixtures out...

No doubt a few of you, like me, were disappointed to see Scarborough once more overlooked for the Yorkshire v Derbyshire matches. I suppose it makes sense from a logistical viewpoint - the players are only an hour from home in Leeds - but the thought of the seaside, sea air and a couple of nights away held great appeal. 'tis not to be next season, so we live in hope.

At least we see the return of the fixture to Chesterfield, where a bumper crowd will no doubt be in attendance if the weather is kind. I'm a traditionalist and for me there's nothing to match that fixture in the traditional setting of Queens Park. Shame that Scarborough wasn't there to make my cup run over with joy, but them's the breaks, as they say.

There are a few references over on the Forum to the strength of Derbyshire's squad and a suggestion that we could do with a decent Kolpak to bring it up to genuine promotion-chasing standard. It is hard to disagree, as the inclusion of a Wayne Parnell, Rusty Theron or Ryan McLaren would improve most sides. Yet I see the likelihood as being slim to nil. I don't see how such a move would go hand in hand with Derbyshire's new blueprint, although Chris Grant's assertion that we would field nine English-qualified players from 2013 technically leaves an opening alongside an overseas player. The reality is, however, that the club has to be run on cost-effective grounds and cannot afford to have a player who costs them money every time he appears.

Mind you, if they found someone who could take 50 wickets or score a thousand runs, that would be a fair old trade-off. Such a player is unlikely to be available though, and any hypothetical signing would have to be judged on the highest of criteria - would it bring a trophy? No, nice as the concept is, I simply don't see it happening.

Off now to see how Derby County are faring. 1-0 down already... looks like another long winter. Good job there's one decent team in Derby!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Sunday special

There's a round of applause this morning for the mercurial talent of New Zealand cricket, Jesse Ryder, who equalled the record for sixes in an innings by tonking Australia A for SIXTEEN on his way to an innings of 175. That some came off the part-time bowling of Ed Cowan detracts only slightly from a remarkable effort by a good cricketer. It's just a shame that some of his off-field antics have detracted at times from Ryder's explosive ability with a bat in his hands.

Indeed, with Guptill, McCullum, Taylor and Ryder in their top five, New Zealand have as exciting an array of batting talent as there is in the world. All have played exciting knocks in recent months and the forthcoming series against Australia will be worth keeping an eye on - if for no other reason than to see who does best between Martin Guptill and Usman Khawaja. It will be the first time that two current Derbyshire players have played in the same Test since the halcyon days of Taylor, Miller and Hendrick, though I'm sure that John Wright and Michael Holding may have faced up at some point. I know that Khawaja isn't technically a current Derbyshire player, but I reckon he could well be before too long...

Khawaja did well against South Africa, producing a gritty innings that laid the foundations for their subsequent win. Australia's biggest issue right now is finding a fast bowler who can stay fit. Siddle, Tait, Lee, Johnson and now new boy Patrick Cummins have all had issues and that will always affect their team performance, especially when those left aren't quite up to the standard of the heroes of yesteryear. I still don't see Khawaja making the Aussie one-day setup sometime soon, so think he is still the most likely overseas player for the second half of next summer.

The IPL auction, which comes up soon, will perhaps determine availability of players but I don't see many English stars appearing, as the tournament runs until May 27, by which time the Tests against the West Indies will have taken place.

Meanwhile, Derbyshire's players are back in training ahead of what could be a fascinating and enjoyable 2012 season. We should see the fixtures this week, always an event to shorten the winter a little. Anything that takes the edge off the howling winds and rain that is currently lashing our house is welcome...

See you soon.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Midweek news

Sorry about the lack of blogging this week but one thing I've learned about retail since I changed the course of my career is that the Christmas period is massive. This week, in common with most of my colleagues, I've worked from 9am to 8pm every day, trying to keep up with the massive demands of the great British public as we approach the festivities. There's also been a family bereavement, as well as the death of my wife's car, so one way or another it's been a bit demanding on my time in recent days.

Anyway, I'm back now and catching up on the week's news. Somerset have announced a record profit of £408,000, which should ensure that they keep signing big name players beyond the reach of other counties, while Michael Powell, having left Glamorgan, has washed up at Kent, where he could prove a shrewd acquisition.

Meanwhile David Morgan announced his revolutionary blueprint for the future of the county game, one achieved, to be fair to him, after consultation with over 300 relevant parties throughout the game. The result is not that much of a change, to be honest, with two less Championship matches being replaced by four more T20 games. The latter, condensed into a few mid-season weeks, may make attracting overseas players a little easier, but I still don't think they will head for our shores in droves. Meanwhile, forty-over matches are replaced by fifty overs, so those hoping to ease the workload on players may well be disappointed. There's sense in the latter, bringing the county game into line with the international one, but the 40-over game offers a pleasant afternoon out for the uninitiated, a game you could go to after a good Sunday lunch in the old days.

There's some common sense in aiming to start Championship matches on Fridays at the start of the season, but none whatsoever in their commencing on a Monday by season-end. Of course, no one would want to see the cricket at the business end of the season, would they?

Anyway, closer to home, Derbyshire are once more swapping Derbados for Barbados pre-season, which is a sensible move. Cricket in the middle is crucial in allowing them to hit the ground running and the odds on getting that here in late March and early April are somewhat slim. Full credit to all involved in a sensible idea.

Back at the weekend, have a good one

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Weekly roundup

I've seen a few critical comments around the web about the decision made by Martin van Jaarsveld to pull out of his contract with Leicestershire. Most of them centre around the premise that he "let them down".

I disagree. For me, van Jaarsveld has shown himself a man of some integrity. It would have been easy for him to turn up, take the money and run, but he knew in his heart that he was no longer up to it. He struggled, like a lot of batsmen, against the Tiflex ball last year for Kent, but those struggles have continued since his return to South Africa, where he has barely made a run.

The South African, who has been one of the best imports of the last ten years, was brought to Grace Road by the Foxes as a direct replacement for James Taylor, who always appeared likely to leave this winter once Leicestershire had accepted the inevitable. The prime form van Jaarsveld would have been a more than adequate replacement, but like all players he has had to bow to the inevitability of time. Maybe he is younger than some, but I remember Craig Spearman at Gloucestershire a season or two back, who after a bad blow on the head lost his footwork and was not the same player.

For me, Martin van Jaarsveld can leave the county game with his head held high and has at least given Leicestershire a lot of time in which to seek a replacement. I wonder whether this might open a door for Usman Afzaal to return to the county game? He is, after all, pretty much on the doorstep.

The sad news this week was the death of Basil D'Oliveira at the age of 80. He was one of the giants of the game in the period when I first started watching cricket and I saw him on a number of occasions. Having struggled when he first arrived in the country, D'Oliveira became a fine batsman who bowled gentle medium pace cutters that often broke partnerships for club and country. He will be sorely missed.

There is little on the county front at present, but as I have written previously, I don't see many more signings this winter outwith the overseas berths. I hope we sign another seamer from somewhere, because unless we have one ready to burst, like Tom Knight, from the Academy I feel we are light in this area. Groenewald, Palladino and Clare are a strong trio and with support from Messrs Turner and Footitt look pretty good. Yet two injuries puts us in trouble, with no obvious back up from within the side, as we had with Greg Smith, nor outside it as far as I can see.

By the same token, our spin resources look distinctly rosy, with plenty of part timers to back up David Wainwright and with Tom Knight and Peter Burgoyne coming through.

I'm sure such thoughts will occupy the minds of Karl Krikken and Chris Grant over the coming months.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Follow up

There's perhaps a partial answer to yesterday's piece in the Derby Evening Telegraph this morning, when Mark Eklid suggests that Usman Khawaja may be back when Martin Guptill finishes and that the club are seeking "a high-class T20 specialist fast bowler". You can see the article at:


I have no problems with Usman Khawaja as the overseas player. He made a decent fist of a first overseas season last year and would, I would think, be anxious to build on that, to cement his growing reputation and extablish himself in the Australian side. My only concern is that he has only played six T20 matches in his career thus far, so could not be deemed an expert at the format. With one fifty in those innings and an average of 19, he would have to establish a reputation, that's for sure. He has the ability, without doubt, but I see him as a more classical batsman, perhaps in the John Wright or Chris Rogers mode, than as someone who will find T20 a natural game.

As regular readers will know, I have espoused the idea of a return to Guptill/Khawaja for weeks now, so am pleased that the first half has come through. If the second does too, I will be delighted. I think Khawaja will score heavily after the T20 - I'm just less sure of his credentials in the smack and giggle format at this stage of his career. By the same token, I wouldn't say no to Phil Hughes...

As for a fast bowler, there are a few obvious names we would all be pleased to see. Morne Morkel, Lasith Malinga, Brett Lee and Umar Gul are obvious names of the highest quality, but I have doubts over all of them. Morkel, like Dale Steyn, may be urged to rest before the England Test series post-IPL, while Malinga should earn a million in the IPL and may not need it, much the same as Brett Lee. Gul and his foot-crunching yorkers has appeal, but may well have his own international commitments.

I think it could be in the next tier down where our target lies. Perhaps "Rusty" Theron of South Africa would be worthwhile, a player who has established a reputation for accuracy and parsimony in the T20. He bowls tight lines, mixes it up and is difficult to hit in the closing stages of innings. He might also be tempted at the thought of a bowl in English conditions prior to the South African tour, as may Vernon Philander. Both can also hit hard lower down the order, so have appeal. Again, though, their cricket masters in the Cape may want them fit and firing for the England tour.

The other "name" player, I suppose is Australian Shaun Tait, who has his fans and whose career is built around T20 around the globe. I have to say I'm not really one of them. I've seen him bowl very quickly and dangerously, but have also seen him produce some shockingly inaccurate spells that have tested his side's wicket-keeper and the patience of his skipper.

For me, Tait is a higher profile Mark Turner or Mark Footitt. We all know the pace is there and at times it can be devastatingly productive. Yet it can be frustrating in equal measure and the player has suffered many injuries in his quest for lightning pace.

Peakfan's preference? Because I think the first four I named will not be available, I'd opt for Theron, but have the feeling that Chris Grant's phone bill will increase due to the increasing difficulty of convincing a top fast bowler that England in June is the place to be after you've had a nice little earner on the sub-continent.

I suspect we'll know more after the IPL auction next month.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Guptill class to be seen once more

On any level, the announcement of Martin Guptill's return to Derbyshire next season is excellent news.

Without doubt, the player is a class act and, in my humble opinion, will be seen as one of the game's premier batsmen in the next couple of years, if he isn't already. There are not many international sides that he wouldn't get into at present, certainly not on his form of the past few months.

The runs flowed from his bat over the last few weeks of the English season, he toyed with Zimbabwe's attack and, since his return home to New Zealand, he has maintained his sparkling form. They are clear signs of a player who has come to terms with the demands of the international game and has worked out his own. Encouragingly, he is only going to get better.

His averages don't yet fully reflect his ability, but that will come. Guptill is like a few others who find themselves elevated through their precocious raw talent to a senior level before their mental and physical development fully justifies it. In such cases, as we have seen on a more local basis with Dan Redfern and Paul Borrington, there are more early troughs than peaks, as players struggle to adjust. Yet class will always see through.

What is impressive is that Guptill has forsaken the obvious greater rewards of IPL in favour of playing with his mates at Derbyshire, something that sets him apart from many of his contemporaries. I'm not privy to the niceties of his contract, but would guess that he could have earned more from a few weeks in India than he will do in England. The reality is that his game will improve more from the additional responsibility of a county stint, while the lure of playing in a positive, enjoyable environment was presumably a major factor in his return to the County Ground.

For that, of course, tribute needs to be paid to Karl Krikken and Luke Sutton. As the men at the helm, they have set the standard and have dictated the way the game is played and the environment that enables it to flourish. Such an environment, reported back by Azeem Rafiq, was a factor in David Wainwright choosing Derbyshire over other suitors and will doubtless help with the recruitment of others for overseas positions during the winter.

What we now know, rather than suspect, of course,  is that there will be a second overseas player from June onwards. My guess would still be Usman Khawaja, currently involved in the second Test against South Africa, but there may be others in the frame. There is also the question of the T20 to resolve. Guptill's June 12th departure will almost certainly be before the commencement of that competition. Whether that means one, or two players we'll have to wait and see.

A batsman and bowler, or two players who can do a bit of both, would do very nicely and would make Derbyshire a side to be reckoned with.

Guptill returns

Martin Guptill has opted to return to Derbyshire for a second stint as overseas player, rather than go for an IPL berth.

The hugely talented opener will return to the County Ground from the start of the season through to June 12, a signing that will surely be welcomed by everyone connected to the club.

More later, but on a cold day that ranks as a winter warmer!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

You may not have noticed...

a brilliant innings by Martin Guptill in New Zealand for Auckland.

Replying to  the Canterbury innings of 491, Auckland quickly slipped to 42-4, then 72-5 before Guptill and Zimbabwean Colin de Grandhomme (now THAT's a name...) added 211 for the sixth wicket. After Grandhomme's dismissal for 117, Guptill steered the tail to an all out total of 381, ending up on a magnificent career-best unbeaten 195, with 22 fours and 2 sixes after seven and a quarter hours of batting.

The next highest score, astonishingly, was 15....

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Killing the fattened calf.

Maybe it's just me, but there's an element of the above in the way international cricket is going  at present.

"Oooh, there's a four week window with no cricket, let's fly England to India for a series of utterly pointless one-day games." That was bad enough, for me. The two sides met on an even footing -  in cricket that mattered -  in the English summer and the result was patently clear. Then we whip a weakened English side out for a quick slogfest in India and India win a series that I can't remember a thing about a few short weeks later.

Now we have Australia touring South Africa in - wait for it - a TWO Test series. Two of the strongest sides in the world game and we can't even afford to cram three matches in, let alone the five that such a series deserves. In all honesty I'm not that fussed at seeing Bangladesh or Zimbabwe at this stage in their development. Both have two or three decent players but little else, so a mini series makes sense for them. Surely two strong sides deserve more than two matches though?

I hope the county game watches and learns from such mistakes. We don't need wall to wall matches with less intensity and nothing worth writing about. There needs to be enough to make a membership worthwhile, but for me the current level in the county game is about right. Dropping some of the T20 games is the right way forward and we simply need to guard against going too far.

On to county news, and Nottinghamshire look like signing James Taylor from Leicestershire. There's a surprise eh? Not like our near-neighbours to step in after other clubs have done the hard work in bringing the players on....

Meanwhile Charl Willoughby isn't retiring and heading back to South Africa, but heading to what is becoming the new Saffer enclave at Essex. Meanwhile, Yorkshire have signed Phil Jaques for next season, a solid signing who, despite his travails in his last stint at Worcestershire remains a decent batsman and solid bet for a thousand runs.

In closing tonight, I got a lovely story last night from a regular reader about Alf Pope, one of the stars of Derbyshire's championship side. He was part of a post-first class career tour in Germany, when he was in his sixties but still able to make the ball "talk".

One evening the team visited what could be best called a "seedy night club" in downtown Hamburg. The place was heaving and all sorts of...er...action was going on. Loud music, strippers, beer being thrown, people dancing on tables - the works. There was a sudden, unexpected and momentary silence and all that could be heard was one solitary voice, emanating from a seat by the nigh-deserted bar.

"And this is the grip that I use for the leg-cutter" came the voice of Alf Pope, disinterested in the shenanigans elsewhere but passionate about his cricket!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Sad news about Roebuck

Like most of you I was saddened to hear of the death of cricket writer Peter Roebuck this morning.

Roebuck was a very good batsman who almost made the England reckoning after ten times making a thousand runs in a twelve-year period. He skippered Somerset at a difficult time, when the club was falling apart post-Garner, Botham and Richards and conducted himself well.

Tales of eccentricities and personal problems were well documented, but no one could have expected the man to take his own life as he appears to have done, in doing so joining a long list of cricket suicides.

Whatever his skills as a player, they were dwarfed by his writing, which at times touched greatness.

He will be sadly missed.

Champions 1936

With apologies for missing this at the time...

 Derbyshire began August 1936 with one of the most remarkable wins in their history, one which sent shockwaves through the opposition in the leading pack. On the first morning, a Saturday, we were bowled out in just two hours and with the hosts, Essex, taking the lead with only two men out a heavy defeat looked likely. They eventually led by 139 and when Derbyshire managed only 240 in their second innings, leading only by 101, there appeared no way back.

At 51-3 they were coasting to victory when Arthur Richardson tossed the ball to Tommy Mitchell. In an extraordinary five over spell, the leg-spinner took 6-25, four of his victims lbw, as Derbyshire won an extraordinary match by 20 runs.

A draw at the Oval saw things remain tight at the top, but Derbyshire then returned to winning ways at Derby against Leicestershire, in front of a crowd of around seven thousand. Mitchell and Bill Copson took five wickets each as the visitors were bowled out for 117, before we had our own struggles on the way to 159, the thirties of Alderman and skipper Richardson being crucial. Mitchell then took five more and Copson four as Leicestershire subsided to 94 all out, the target being knocked off easily for a nine-wicket win.

The win left us needing 51 points from five matches to be guaranteed the title, but a draw at Worksop against Nottinghamshire did neither side any real good, though Copson and Mitchell ensured that we took the important first innings lead points. Worse was to come at Eastbourne, where Charlie Elliot and Arthur Richardson had to bat out time to ensure three more precious points and a draw in a match that could easily have been lost with a side of less character.

The action moved to Chesterfield and a game that should have been an easy win. The visitors, Northamptonshire, didn't win a match between 1935 and 1939 and, after bowling them out for 144 and taking a 65-run lead Derbyshire will have fancied their chances. Mitchell sustained a broken thumb that prevented him from playing again at the end of the Derbyshire innings, however and the visitors racked up 411-6 in their second innings, "Freddie" Bakewell making an unbeaten 241 in what turned out to be his last first-class innings. On the way home after the game he suffered a broken arm in a car accident that saw his team mate R.P. Northway killed, a tragic end to two careers.

Derbyshire batted out time with some difficulty for five more precious points and at the end of the game found that the other results had gone their way despite recent stumbles. With two games to go they were assured of at least a share in the title and needed just three points from their last two matches to win it outright, something that will have occupied their minds as they moved down to Wells and the penultimate match against Somerset.

Even without Mitchell they will have fancied their chances, though only Denis Smith's 93 saw us to a decent 216. Pope and Copson shared eight wickets and Derbyshire took a seventy run lead, before late important hitting from Richardson and Pope set Somerset an unlikely 271 on the final day. At 140-5 the win looked likely, but big-hitting Arthur Wellard hammered 86, with seven sixes. Copson took two quick wickets with six needed and one wicket left, but Somerset edged home to deprive Derbyshire of a crucial victory.

It was a disappointment, at least until the news came through that Yorkshire had failed to beat Sussex and Derbyshire could not be overtaken. We were champions!!

Though nerves had played a part in the failure to win four successive matches, the shackles were off for the final game against Leicestershire at Oakham School. There were four more wickets for Copson as the home side were bowled out for 151 on the first day, before Smith (169) and Worthington (102) added 209 for the second wicket. Then came a collapse to 338 all out, before the wickets were shared out between the bowlers as we ran out victors by an innings and 66 runs, the final wicket of the season going to Alf Pope when he clean bowled the Leicestershire keeper Paddy Corrall.

It was a triumph made possible by an attack at the height of its powers. Copson's 140 wickets cost just 12 each, while Mitchell had 121 at 21 and Pope 99 at 18. Les Townsend's off spin brought 63 wickets at 20 and one can only guess at how well they would have done had George Pope stayed fit for the campaign.

The batting was sketchy, though led by Townsend and Worthington. The key was in scoring enough runs at a pace to enable the attack to go to work. There were contributions down the order and the win was well deserved, even if the players themselves felt they had played better in the two previous seasons.

Seventy-five years on it remains Derbyshire's only championship triumph and with a side effectively home-reared from a structure put in place in the middle of the previous decade. Can history repeat itself with the current exciting crop of young talent at the County Ground? Who knows, but with a couple of seamers coming through to add to a number of young batsmen and spinners, you never can tell.

Watch this space...

Friday, 11 November 2011

Something for the weekend

You'd have to say that if Usman Khawaja can't get into that Australian line up after yesterday's debacle, there is something more horribly wrong with Australian cricket than it appeared.

It is hard to conceive of this great nation's once-great cricket team making such an appalling fist of a day's cricket as they did yesterday. Their first innings lead should have been a springboard to victory, yet it went wrong with a couple of hours of madcap batting that owed less to technique than it did to Fred Karno. While I can accept the Saffer attack is a good one, they were helped by some very ordinary batting, worse than was ever seen in the bad old days at Derbyshire.

I mentioned Vernon Philander as a good bowler in helpful conditions the other day and he came up with the goods for the home side. Mind you, I'd fancy a few wickets bowling at the other end to Morkel and Steyn. At the same time, the depth of their cricket was emphasised by some impressive scores in the fifty-over Franchise Cup. Loots Bosman, erstwhile of this parish, scored a century as the Dolphins chased 317 to beat the Titans, for who the immensely talented Faf du Plessis scored a dazzling 120. He is one of a number of South Africans who will be interesting counties for 2012, though any recruitment will depend on the final squad selected to tour England. Put it another way - if my country was touring England and the chance arose to play county cricket, be on the spot and hopefully in form if an injury occurred, I'd be asking where to sign rather quickly. Breaking into that batting line-up is a thankless task and there might be a few interested parties once the final selection is known.

Another of our old players, Shahid Afridi, was man of the match as Pakistan easily beat Sri Lanka. Afridi, who makes more comebacks than Frank Sinatra ever did, is an enigmatic cricketer but a hughely influential bowler in one-day cricket.  Any resemblance to the erratic young tyro we saw at Derbyshire is coincidental, but I still wouldn't want him to bat for my life...

Finally tonight, and returning to the Aussies, their young fast bowling hope Pat Cummins is tipped to make his Test debut in the next match. Hopefully his selection is less contentious than that which saw his namesake, the former West Indian quickie Anderson, overlooked in favour of Kenny Benjamin in 1992. The local crowd were unimpressed and boycotted the match, two of them carrying the now legendary banner "No Cummins, No Going"...

Priceless stuff. Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Midweek bloggery

I understand that Chris Grant was on Radio Derby this evening talking about a landmark signing for the T20 in 2012. There were no names mentioned and I heard that we are still "actively looking" but it is good to hear, as well as being a more realistic option than such a player for the full campaign.

As I suggested in my previous county post, that is essential for the club to move forward, on and off the pitch . While there are many who see T20 as being the Pot Noodle at the gourmet feast of cricket (myself included) there are a lot of people who enjoy their dessicated snack and their laugh and giggle matches. The reality is that it is still the game's cash cow and to maximise income streams you need to do well. That will bring in crowds and generate money that can be ploughed back into the club in whatever way is decided. By extension, to do well you need a good class of player and, as Leicestershire found last season, two decent all-rounders can make a huge difference.

I don't know who Derbyshire will end up with, but my guess is that there will be more potential takers for a short T20 stint than there would be for a season-long grind. I wouldn't be surprised if a few South Africans entered the fray for a bat or bowl ahead of the massive Test series next summer and such players will be sure to be in demand.

They had a good first day against Australia today and the seam attack of Morkel, Steyn and Philander offers something for all conditions. Vernon Philander bowls good swing and can also hit a ball cleanly, his only county stint for Middlesex being truncated by a bad injury. He is a regular wicket-taker in a good class of cricket and could well become a fixture in their side.

More soon, but a week of 8pm finishes at work aren't leaving me much time this week...

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Book Review - Bill Copson: More Than Miner Interest by Kit Bartlett

The latest book I have been sent for review is not new. Kit Bartlett's book on Derbyshire fast-bowling legend Bill Copson was first published in 2008, but it perhaps slipped under the radar of many Derbyshire fans.

The Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians do great work within the game, especially with their publications programme, which often sees books produced on players who would never capture the imagination of the big players in world publishing. Nonetheless, their tales are worth the telling, more so than the ten-a-penny big name autobiographies which often are too formulaic for my taste.

Bill Copson was a very fine bowler, albeit one too often troubled by injury for some. He got three Test caps, two in 1939 and the other in 1947, when he was 39 years old. That those Tests produced 15 wickets was no mean feat, but the feeling remains that Copson's sketchy fitness record was a factor in him getting limited recognition. Only in 1936 and 1939 did he remain injury-free, but those two years saw him take 160 and 146 wickets at 15 and 13 respectively. He was not quite fast, but hostile and awkward, like Les Jackson later, obtaining extravagant movement from a whippy action. Of his 1094 first-class victims, the major percentage were bowled, an unusual state of affairs, while his season average never exceeded 19.81 per wicket prior to the Second World War.

That injury-free season in 1936 was a major factor in the only Championship win, together with the similarly impressive form of Tommy Mitchell. Their "brimstone and treacle" saw Derbyshire to eventual triumph and the latter would be another worthy subject of an ACS publication. Indeed, it is in that area where the book has its only failing. There are a number of stories about Mitchell as a "character" non-pareil, something that enlivens any read. While this book has been well researched and is as well annotated as all of the ACS series, by the end of it I felt I knew little more of Copson the man than when it started. He was lugubrious and by all accounts a private individual, yet even the input of his son reveals little of his personality.

Perhaps the most enlightening section is that covering the war years. Copson spent those in the leagues with considerable success, though not enough for the secretary of Shipley CC, who referred to him as either "very brilliant or very poor" at the same time that he slated other players at the club, including Les Ames, Denis Smith, Alf Pope and Learie Constantine. Nothing about Copson the bowler was poor and even when the 'nip' had gone post-war, he retained an ability to make scoring difficult and, like all Derbyshire's best seamers, "gave nowt away".

At 92 pages it is not a weighty tome, but for those who, like me, enjoy reading about the greats of the past it is well worth buying. There are some interesting photographs and statistics and - let's be honest - books on Derbyshire cricketers are not overly abundant. Cliff Gladwin, George Pope and Tommy Mitchell would be worthy future subjects for the series.

Hopefully there's someone out there of similar opinion...

Bill Copson: More Than Miner Interest is written by Kit Bartlett and published by the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians. It can be purchased for £10 from the ACSH at


Something for the weekend

Full marks to Derbyshire County Cricket Club for their excellent membership promotion for 2012. They have pretty much covered the angles on it, whether you are primarily a fan of one-day or four-day cricket, or whether you live near to the County Ground or further away.

Those involved are to be applauded for the considerable research that has gone into the work, which richly deserves to succeed and result in a higher membership level than has been the case over the club's history. With car parking included at various rates, membership of the cricket club represents extraordinary value in a time of recession, certainly compared to football. When one also considers that your heroes are more accessible than their footballing counterparts it is, for me, a no-brainer as to which one represents the better deal.

The only angle that was missed, for me, was the one that was available a few years back for distant fans like me who could only get to two or three days of cricket a season. It used to give access to a one-day game and a couple of other days cricket of your choice and enabled you to make a contribution to the club, as well as boosting membership figures. It may have been worthy of consideration, but perhaps was and deemed uneconomic. I know from my mailbag that there are a lot of such people out there who might have been willing to pay £20/25 for a distant membership.

The reality is that fans will be convinced to part with their money by signs of improvement, like we saw last season. The telling factor will be who arrives in the overseas role or roles in 2012. I still feel we will see Martin Guptill, but the IPL auction and his potential involvement may well dictate we hear nothing for some time yet.

I have no doubt that many phone calls have been made to agents and player representatives in recent weeks and that they will continue to be made until signatures have been obtained. We may or may not get big names in 2012, but I hope that people realise just how much work goes into getting those all-important autographs.

We booked next year's holidays yesterday, which is almost certainly tempting providence ahead of the announcement of fixtures for 2012. I can now see all too clearly that Yorkshire v Derbyshire at Scarborough will coincide with my being away with the family in late June and early July to coincide with our son's 21st birthday. At the same time, a memorable birthday for him was even more important than a last remaining cricket ambition. The limited availability and competitive price of flights meant that we had to book early, a phrase that always reminds me of the late Fred Pontin's old TV campaigns...

A couple of weeks back I suggested that Zimbabwe skipper Brendan Taylor would be worth a look for a county needing an overseas player for 2012 and his brilliant century against New Zealand took his country close to what would have been a remarkable win. At 25 he is only going to get better and for my money a county will get a good reward for giving him an opportunity when his international commitments allow.

See you soon!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Midweek musings

Thought I'd do a short blog tonight to celebrate the attainment of 200,000 hits. I have to say that I never expected to get to that stage, certainly not in three and a half years and thanks to all of you for helping to make it a success.

Since I last wrote Martin Guptill has scored another century against Zimbabwe, an attack he must wish he could carry around in a bucket. Genuine Test quality or not, runs are runs and they all look the same on the career record. At the end of the day, there'll be days when batting against Morkel and Steyn isn't quite so easy, so Guptill is wise to cash in when opportunities arise. By the same token, he is a batsman of increasing presence and I genuinely expect him to become one of the world's best over the next three years.

On the county scene, I was pleased to see ex-Glamorgan man Michael Powell linked with a move to Kent, at the same time as an array of players are supposedly leaving as there's no money to pay them. I haven't a clue what sort of side they will field next season, but there's a fair chance that the word 'transitional' will be used fairly often.

In South Africa, seam bowling hope Marchant de Lange took five wickets against Australia and I know from a couple of Saffer mates that there are high hopes that he will become their next genuine quick bowler. He and Vernon Philander did pretty well and a good finish is in prospect if the Saffer A tail, marshalled by Robin Peterson, can add another 50 or so runs tomorrow.

Somerset have lost and will miss Charl Willoughby, but there's little other news on the county circuit as we enter November.

 In closing tonight, it is impossible to not comment on the completion of the spot-fixing trial. A guilty verdict, even from this distance, looked a certainty and I feel especially sorry for Mohammad Amir, a bowler of particular talent. What happens to his career from here is anyone's guess, but I'm left thinking he exchanged considerable long-term success and wealth for a fast buck. At 19 he was the best young fast bowler in the world with it at his feet. Time alone will tell if he ever realises enormous potential.

More soon, have a good one.