Friday, 30 September 2011

Something for the weekend

As far as I can see, Derbyshire are not too far away from where we need to be next season with regard to the squad.

At the risk of sounding like a detective or lawyer, consider the evidence and this notional team if you will:

Overseas batsman

Reserve batsmen - Borrington, Lineker, Park (if required)
Reserve seamers - Footitt, Turner
Reserve spinners - Knight, Needham
Reserve wicket-keeper - Poynton

Summer contracts - Burgoyne, Siddique, Slater, Higginbottom, Wilson, Hughes (Alex).

That doesn't leave a lot of scope for new arrivals. Remember, we have a finite budget which is limited at best and have awarded new and presumably improved contracts to a number of players. Having a number of senior contracted players in the Seconds is not really an option, so for me it comes down to one simple question.

Do we bring in an overseas batsman or an overseas seamer?

I've been saying for weeks that the likeliest scenario is a reversal of the Guptill/Khawaja pairing (13th August if you don't believe me) and I still think this is our best bet. Both will know conditions better next season and should show improved averages as a result. By the same token, both are excellent and popular team men, fitting in well to an excellent dressing room. Their respective commitments won't allow for a full season role, but Guptill from April to June and Khawaja to the end of the season is a good combination.

Which, looking at the names above, leaves us light in the seam department. You can't do much about injuries and they happen to the fittest of men, but if any of our top three seamers had a bad one, we're left with two guys who, while pacy, are inclined to be erratic. We really need a back up seamer, one who can give them a break and be relied on to put the ball in the right areas.

That comes, of course, with experience and there may not be the money in the budget for an experienced man, nor anyone available. I've mentioned Ben Harmison before, but he hardly bowled at Durham last season. Naqaash Tahir from Warwickshire might be an option and is rated by Graeme Welch (despite their releasing him...) but has had his own injury problems. I'm unaware of anyone else, although Ben Sanderson of Yorkshire, at least on the evidence of his bowling at the County Ground last year, might be worth a punt as an albeit inexperienced option, as could Ally Evans. The latter took a lot of wickets for the Seconds but is also raw and prone to inaccuracy, as well as potentially being at University again next year.

As always, I'd appreciate your ideas and comments, but remember - they have to be out of contract for us to sign them, so the likes of David Balcombe from Kent (OK, Hampshire really) isn't an option!

Climbing down the ladder..

Sorry about the sporadic nature of bloggery in recent days but I've been busy decorating the staircase, living room and dining room, all of which has left me with time to do only basic stuff while keeping a wary eye on events around the country. It has left me feeling right now like I've just bowled a twenty over spell uphill into the wind in the first game of the season...

Anyway, that was great news about David Wainwright and I totally agree that it now makes any potential signing of Danish Kaneria a non-starter. Looking at the balance of the squad, as several of you have been doing (thanks!) I would agree that our need for the overseas role now appears to either a batsman or a seamer. I might have been paying less attention than usual when listening to Chris Grant on Radio Derby yesterday but I think he said that he and Karl Krikken were trying to get the overseas role sorted "next week". I might be reading too much into this, but could they have identified a season-long player for the overseas role? If they have, top marks to both as there doesn't appear to be much out there with the current international schedule. You wouldn't say no to Shivnarine Chanderpaul, but the thinking money would be on him returning to Warwickshire where he made such a positive impression. Otherwise, I see the return of the Guptill/Khawaja pairing.

I have no concerns over the signing of Wainwright "blocking" the path of Tom Knight. Indeed, as things stand Knight looks set to miss around three months of next season after a hectic winter. He heads off to South Africa for a training camp with England Under-19s in December, then is potentially in Bangladesh in February and Australia in April. If he impresses he is then likely to be selected for the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa in July and August. Peter Burgoyne could also be away and we simply cannot be without a first rate spinner for the business part of the summer.

It was good to see the Academy intake announcement and testimony to the power of work going on there under Howard Dytham that we now have four young men in there with international recognition under their belts. You can see the full list and who they are at: announce Academy intake

Elsewhere, Martin Van Jaarsveld has gone to Leicestershire and Joe Denly to Middlesex. I wouldn't fancy being a Kent fan next summer....

Van Jaarsveld coming to us was a live subject on the Forum, but I can't help from thinking he is past his peak. I am confident enough in our batting to suggest that we have to being in someone now that we are fully confident about. Any new recruit really has to nigh-guarantee a thousand runs as we have plenty who can offer 750-plus at this stage.

Conversely we could look to an overseas seamer and notoveryet below my most recent post suggested someone like Praveen Kumar, were he to be available. India's schedule means he's not, but that sort of player, who could also score useful runs. might be worth his weight in gold.

It is interesting stuff and will doubtless occupy many minds until the announcement comes, maybe in the not too distant future...

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Wainwright signs for Derbyshire

The news, announced by Chris Grant this evening on Radio Derby, that David Wainwright has signed for Derbyshire is a huge boost for fans as we go into the close season.

There were plenty of other teams chasing the player, some of them in the first division. That he chose Derbyshire may have been from a convenience angle, but it also suggests that players are increasingly aware of what is happening at the club and that they will be given an opportunity to shine. I am of an age where I recall too well when we picked up only the cast-offs of other clubs, the ones who had no other offers on the table and/or were looking for one last pay day before retirement.

As I  have written before, Wainwright is a fine player who has toured with England Lions and, at 26, is coming to the point in his career where he knows his game and can be relied on to contribute when the need arises. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that he could get back into the international reckoning and is thus especially heartening that such a player has opted for a move in our direction. As a batsman he is far better than the number nine he has usually found himself at Yorkshire. I fully expect the left-hander to make a strong case for batting at seven and he could eventually get up to six. He has a solid technique and can play his shots, but is equally able to dig in when the need arises. He is one hundred per cent the type of player we need in the middle order and I expect to see him do well.

As a bowler he has an easy action that enables him to bowl long spells, while his record contains enough four and five wicket hauls to suggest he will take advantage of favourable conditions. Equally important, he has a a good economy rate and should be a valuable member of the attack in T20 when batsmen are attemtping to "get after" him.

Given his all-round ability, both Tom Knight and Peter Burgoyne will still have an opportunity to get into the side, especially for one-day games. As I've written before, however, time is on their side and they have plenty of international commitments that meant that the club needed a viable alternative. Wainwright is above viable - he is a cricketer of considerable talent who is well rated in Yorkshire and elsewhere. 

In short? Big thumbs up from me. Another genuine all-rounder at the club and undoubtedly a player who strengthens the side.

Congratulations to Messrs Krikken and Grant for convincing the player to move to Derbyshire in the face of  weighty opposition and coming up with an appropriate contract. For those who have queried whether this might happen post-Morris, this signing is a massive reassurance.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Houghton back as batting coach

David Houghton's return to Derbyshire as batting coach is to be applauded on a couple of levels.

First of all, he comes with the highest of credentials for the role, having worked with various international sides and individuals with great success, most recently England. Without doubt he 'knows' batting and I once read Graeme Hick talking about how he strips down a player's technique and spots flaws better than anyone he had worked with. With Derbyshire having a number of young batsmen coming through it will be fascinating to see how Houghton is able to help the mto progress their games.

At the same time, this lays down a marker and is confirmation of the merits of the blueprint. The specialist coaching fund that Chris Grant identified has been put to excellent use with the introduction (re-introduction if you will) of one of the best in the game.

Cynics will, of course say that Houghton has been here before and did little in his time at Derbyshire. I didn't think that his time in charge of the side was one of the better periods in our recent history and have written so, but there is a world of difference between being a coach and being in charge of everything. One has only to look at the recent travails of Steve McClaren, an acclaimed coach, in the football world to see that. This job will suit Houghton's skills perfectly and I am delighted to see a throughly decent, talented and engaging man return to the County Ground in a role that will suit him perfectly.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Kingfisher Cricket Awards

Paul Borrington's remarkable performances for Ticknall made him the third Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the Kingfisher Cricket Awards end of season batting ratings. To be honest, after his 1800-plus runs it is astonishing that there are two players rated above him, but the Derbyshire batsman has done a remarkable job in 2011. Borrington did, however, come top of the Midlands section.

It is easy to denigrate his performance as being "just against club players" but the standard of club cricket in Derbyshire is very high. One has only to look at the others in the ratings to see how high it can be elsewhere too. Mark Wallace of Glamorgan, David Brown of Gloucestershire, Joe Root of Yorkshire and Moeen Ali were also in the mix, with most first-class players involved in club cricket when not in first eleven action at the weekend.

Simon Kerrigan of Lancashire and Pakistan legend Saqlain Mushtaq are among the names in the bowling stars, but especially interesting is that the all-rounder category was won by David Wainwright for his performances at Castleford. He averaged 77 with the bat and took 22 wickets at 16 for the club, which by any standards is very impressive.

I have written earlier today that Wainwright will be a fine capture for the county that obtains his signature and these statistics confirm his talent. The leagues in that area are always strong and Wainwright will have faced exactly the same challenges as Paul Borrington. Everyone wants to prove something against a county professional, whether getting them out or hitting them around the park. That Wainwright still managed to turn in such a level of performance speaks volumes for his talent.

Master Villain made a good comment below this morning's piece regarding team selection if we signed Kaneria and Wainwright, in that it would likely leave a batsman out of the side. If you took the following as a notional XI:


I don't think you could go with that side unless it was a raging turner or unless Ross Whiteley develops on the bowling front over this winter as he did on the batting side this year. So who do you sacrifice? Some might say Lineker/Borrington as they have perhaps the most to prove, but there is no natural opener among the rest of them.

By the same token, bringing in another overseas batsman potentially omits two players, so the selection of that overseas role and the balance of the side for next year is going to occupy Karl Krikken in the coming months.

Mind you, I really hope we can convince Wainwright that a move to Derbyshire is his best career move. For me, it would be a terrific piece of work by the club, but there is fierce competition for his signature and we shouldn't get too far ahead of ourselves at this stage.

Something for the weekend

It is inevitable, given that Derbyshire are likely to have to bring in a few players this close-season, that fans will link them with everyone released and assess the relative merits of those who are on the market. Indeed, given the club Chairman's reference to a "marquee" or "landmark" signing, that conjecture is spread far and wide as fans suggest X or Y would be a good signing. Radio Derby allegedly referred to ongoing talks with a big name the other day.

I have mentioned a few names that people have contacted me about, but I don't think we will see a revolving door at the County Ground this winter. For one thing, it isn't needed. After a season of genuine encouragement with an essentially young squad, it is fair to assume that this can be sustained, as the players come to terms with the demands of first-class cricket. Tweaks are required, but I think that the squad we have, with a handful of sensible recruits and winter improvement, is capable of a challenge next year.

The serious work has already been done. Extended contracts for key personnel has ensured that the players who make the leading contributions and will continue to do so are tied to the club for the next two/three seasons. With the possible addition of one more batsman to bolster a young line-up, an all-rounder to replace Greg Smith, a spinner and perhaps a seamer, we should be OK.

One of those roles will go to the overseas player. My gut feeling is that we will target Danish Kaneria but the plan B will see what I suggested over a month ago, a reversal of the Guptill/Khawaja pairing with the New Zealander here as long as possible, but probably, looking at his country's commitments, no longer than mid-June. Khawaja will then have a chance to bat on later season tracks which should be more to his taste than April ones were this year. I simply cannot see anyone else for a season-long role than those options. Maybe we will see a major international name for the T20, but there are eighteen counties looking for that player.

Kaneria would be a massive signing, but much will depend on the outcome of a legal hearing this week in Pakistan - see:

What happens in this will effectively decide whether the player can play county cricket for us or anyone else this season and I. like the rest of you await the result with great interest. Whether he then gets the requisite No Objection Certificate from the Pakistan Board and clearance from the ECB will determine what happens next.

A contributor to the Forum the other day suggested that we are set to sign both Kaneria and David Wainwright. I could see the merit of this to some extent, though whether Tom Knight would get the immediate cricket he needs if that happened is a moot point. For me, whoever lands Wainwright will get a cricketer who has not yet revealed the depths of his talent and in the right environment he could thrive. A batting average of mid-seventies and a bowling one in the teens for his club this year suggests a player of potential, though so too do first class averages of 35 for batting and 36 for bowling.

I don't necessarily see Wainwright as blocking Knight in the long term and there would be room for both in a side in the long-term. History is full of sides with two or three spinners and I could easily see Wainwright developing into a genuine number six/seven and replacement for Greg Smith. Indeed, his averages are already better. Kaneria might be a short-term obstacle for Knight, but at eighteen the lad has time on his side and plenty of other commitments. IF Kaneria signed, I would only see it long-term as a benefit for the lad.

Further conjecture about who we will sign is largely pointless, but won't stop fans doing it and enjoying it. The reality is that none of us outside the club know which players are currently available and/or out of contract. We know the ones picked up in the media, but don't be at all surprised if a name arrives at the County Ground from out of nowhere. Chris Grant and Karl Krikken have done a mountain of work in preparation for the close season, restructuring the club, the staff and the finances. They will have their targets in place and even now are probably involved in talks with players at home and abroad.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Big news day

I was delighted to read about the three-year deal signed by Dan Redfern today.

Redfern is a player of talent who has looked exactly that since he first made it into the Derbyshire first eleven. His composure at the crease has always set him apart from many of his contemporaries but until last season he has not translated that talent into weight of runs.

Last season was not spectacular, but 700-plus runs were made in the characteristic style. He has plenty of time to play his shots but seemed more still at the crease last year, maybe better balanced, and the result was a season of steady accumulation. Having said that, Redfern has shots all round the wicket and normally scores quickly. I've written before that he reminds me of Lancashire star Neil Fairbrother and I think that he will go on to score heavily for Derbyshire.

The surprise is that he hasn't played too much one-day cricket, but at 21 he has years ahead of him. That first elusive century is all it will take and he came close this year. Had he not had the hamstring injury in August it could well have arrived, but I have no worries about the future for Mr Redfern. The lad is a class act and I look forward to seeing him develop in the years ahead.

Elsewhere a living county legend retired today, after considerable discussion over a possible return to the County Ground on the Forum. Dominic Cork was an outstanding player for Derbyshire and a good one for England. His best days were at the County Ground and no one will forget the brilliant innings he played in that Lords final against Lancashire. The partnership he shared with Karl Krikken as our innings came to a close that day was as good as it has been for a Derbyshire fan.

There were "show pony" labels and there was no doubt that Cork thrived on attention in his early years, but he had the talent to back it up. His late innings partnerships with Krikken and Phil de Freitas changed the course of many games, while his aggressive bowling, especially when he was in the mood, ran through many sides. Even in his later years he retained the ability to bowl a "magic" ball, as he showed last season for Hampshire.

Of course, time waits for no man and I am glad that the Cork name at Derbyshire will be carried only by his son. Rumours of a return were out there, but why come back and risk tarnishing a reputation? Greg has a long way to go to live up to his old man, but if he has the same competitive edge he can do it and it already seems evident that the talent is there.

As for Dominic, he leaves the game with his reputation intact and as a star.

No man could ask for more.

New deal for Redfern

Good to see Daniel Redfern the latest to be signed up to a three-year deal today.

 As the best established of the county's young players it is ensouraging to see that he shares their opinion on the positivity emanating from the club at the moment.

 Excellent news. More later.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

In closing tonight...

Congratulations to Stuart Wilson, winner of the IMWT and Peakfan Blog Fantasy Cricket League for Derbyshire fans. Now there's a title that rolls off the tongue...

Stuart not only won the league by 1800 points but also came 71st nationally, a terrific achievement.

My own side came eighth, although at least I came out on top in the private battle with someone I am far too generous to name.

Fair enough Chris...?

Maybe next year I might improve my chances by doing something with my team between the end of the T20 and mid-August.

Whither Wainright?

Yorkshire today announced that David Wainwright has taken up a clause in his contract that allows him to leave if he is not getting first team cricket. By this evening, the player was set to join pretty much every other county, according to fans on their forum.

Essex are supposedly one of them, but having declared they are seeking an overseas batsman and an experienced bowler, I'm not sure how Wainwright fits in. Having also signed the all-rounder they sought in Greg Smith, I'd be surprised if the player ended up in the south.

Kent have also been mentioned, but they have no money and I can't see Wainwright necessarily displacing James Tredwell in their first team. For what it is worth, I think Derbyshire will be in for the player if we are unable to sign Danish Kaneria. He almost came here on loan mid-season, which suggests that the people that matter rate the lad, and a move to us would mean he doesn't need to start a new home elsewhere.

He's a fair player, capable of runs as a solid batsman if given the opportunity, while his spin should get more wickets with regular use. His record this season, albeit in division one, was not overly impressive - twelve wickets at 37 and a batting average of 29 - but in only four matches was not too bad either. I've always thought he had an easy bowling style and would agree with someone on the Forum tonight, that he could eventually become a genuine all-rounder, perhaps a decent replacement for Greg Smith in the side.

Put it this way. If I woke up one morning this winter to see that we had signed him, I would be pleased, though tonight's Bradford newspaper suggests that Northamptonshire, Middlesex and Warwickshire may be interested.

Yorkshire also released two young players today, seamer Ben Sanderson and all-rounder Lee Hodgson. Some of you may recall a good spell by Sanderson in this year's T20 at Derby, when he took 4-21 in a good spell of accurate bowling.

It is natural to see everyone released as a potential player for Derbyshire, but we need to remember that our budget is finite and recruits are likely to be more established, in my opinion. Suggestions of signing Middlesex's Dan Housego, for example, neglect the fact that his record thus far is inferior to our own youngsters like Borrington, Redfern and Hughes. While his second team record suggests he can bat, I don't see him as someone to strengthen our side ahead of next year. If we're bringing in a batsman, bearing in mind we have a lot of them coming through the Academy, for me it has to be someone close to an automatic choice.

Finally tonight, good discussion over on the Forum about cricket's financial future. I'll give you my thoughts on that another night!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Book Review - Keeping My Head by Justin Langer

I'll start by saying that Justin Langer was my kind of cricketer. He was not the most naturally or obviously talented of the great Australian side of the past fifteen years, but he was the one who you knew you would need to dig out. While Matt Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist were the more obvious "flair" players, Langer was a class act, a player who made the most of his talent and was prepared to graft when the going got tough. I can relate to that sort of bloke, far more than someone who only scores runs when conditions favour batting.

He nearly became a Derbyshire player too. Tom Sears approached him back in 2005 to lead us, but he decided to opt out of a return to county cricket until he had retired from the international scene. It was a shame, as he later made a good fist of leading Somerset and would have been a talismanic skipper at the County Ground, the sort of man that Chris Grant is now seeking.

Sadly there is no mention of this in Langer's book, but it is nevertheless one of the best cricket autobiographies I have read. It is true to the name too, as Langer does the writing and shows himself as adept at the written word as he was at the top of Australia's innings for so long. His section about his Test debut against the mighty West Indians is enthralling stuff and you feel you are at the other end as he confronts the "huge monster from Trinidad", Ian Bishop. "Kill him Bishy" shouts Keith Arthurton and I felt myself gulp, remembering the sight of Bishop running in prior to unleashing a thunderbolt in Derbyshire colours. There must have been many easier Test baptisms and Bishop hit him on the back of the helmet second ball, splitting it open...

Surviving Bishop and Ambrose was a feat in itself, but after a few hiccups Langer became a fixture in the Australian side. There are a number of lovely stories, especially those of tour experiences and the celebration of successes. Many are laugh out loud funny, such as the eating challenge with Mike Gatting (I know where my money would have been...) while the benefits of touring India with Matt Hayden, a talented chef with an extra cricket case, are made patently clear. His perspective on the great fast bowlers of the era is especially interesting, with the dubious pleasure of facing up to Shoaib Akhtar at full throttle a highlight.

What shines through is Langer's honesty, both in his assessment of himself at various points of his career and of other people. So too does his love for his family and one of the nice things about the book is that his wife gives a different perspective on events, highlighting the many challenges of being married to an international sports star.

This book is a long way removed from a standard, formulaic cricket autobiography, the type that is effectively written from reports in Wisden with "My World Eleven to take on Mars" at the back. By the end of the book I felt I knew more about the player and the man. I liked Justin Langer beforehand, but had even greater respect for someone who Michael Vaughan called "a tough little bugger, mentally very strong and very Australian" by the time I sadly came to the last page.

Tough without question and a very fine player. An excellent writer too and I hope there's plenty more material inside him.

Keeping My Head  by Justin Langer is published by Allen and Unwin and is available from all good book stores in paperback, priced £8.99

The blog in winter

This is the worst time of year for county cricket fans, as the understanding gradually sinks in that there will be nothing to entertain us for the next six months or so. There will be news emanating from the club, as well as from the county circuit and I'll naturally bring it to you here as I become aware of it.

Realistically I expect to blog two to three times a week over the next few months. I'll also be reviewing some of the best cricket books of recent months in the lead up to Christmas and it might give you a few ideas if your dearly beloveds are wanting to know what you'd like. That's definitely one of the perks of doing the blog - I don't have to pay for any books these days, which is a real bonus!

In the next couple of days I will review one of the best cricket autobiographies I have ever read, so look out for that one.

On the circuit today, Michael Powell left Glamorgan, while Dan Housego left Middlesex. Both are good batsmen at opposite ends of their careers. Powell has been a thorn in Derbyshire sides over the years and has been a fine player. You don't get to 34/35 and average around 40 by being anything else. Whether he finds another county is a good question, as the last couple of season have suggested a slight decline to 25/35 average, but Powell has as good a chance of any player of his age.

Housego at 23 probably has a better chance of being picked up elsewhere. He has done quite well with limited opportunities over the last two seasons and could perhaps be deemed unfortunate. I suspect another opportunity could well come his way, as he is a prolific scorer in Second XI cricket. Having said that, Michael Thorneley is too, yet cannot get a crack at another county as yet. More and more clubs are dependent on the ECB appearance payments and don't want to necessarily lose money to a player raised in another county unless there is real potential . Housego will continue to earn cash for Middlesex wherever he ends up, which I expect to be down south.

Staying down there, the news 'broke' today that Greg Smith was joining Essex, something that I revealed back on September 8 in an article on the player. Given that no one else was in for him, it hardly needed a crystal ball and a shawl to work out that one out. I wish him well, but suspect that he will need to up his performances from their Derbyshire level to merit the rumoured salary.

I bet he wishes that the BBC could have found a more flattering picture for the news release though...

Nothing else today. More (hopefully) tomorrow.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Monday musings

An inauspicious beginning to the CLT20 for Martin Guptill today, run out without facing a ball as his team, Auckland, went down by two runs to the Kolkata Knightriders. Without that they would probably have won, as they did well to restrict a side with plenty of talent to just 121. He will have another opportunity tomorrow, as his side face Somerset.

Elsewhere, Akhil Patel has been released by Nottinghamshire. Patel looked a player of talent when I saw him for Derbyshire Seconds, but is not the first and won't be the last to be in the shadow of a father or sibling. He is still young enough to get another deal, but needs to cement undoubted talent to a weight of runs when opportunity presents itself.

There's still not too much in the way of news of released players, but of the ones I have seen, someone who perhaps has a case for a chance elsewhere is Naqaash Tahir at Warwickshire. At 28 next season his age is perhaps against him, but the player's record suggests ability, even if injuries have affected him over the years. He bowls with decent pace and Graene Welch said that there was "nothing he can't do with a ball in his hand". Apart from paint, perhaps....

139 wickets at 29 is no bad record, ten times having taken four in an innings, but whether the lad gets another chance elsewhere is debatable. Time will tell, once again. There may yet be a cull from Yorkshire but most counties retain players on contracts until October, so some retained lists may take a while yet. Our northern neighbours may release players to finance more coming in, but seem to need some of their 'names' to perform with greater frequency than was the case in 2011.

I came across an interesting piece from Chris Adams, who has done a fine job in turning Surrey around. He said that, given the requisite level of ability to be on a county staff, the most important factors for individual success were, in order:

Character - determination and a willingness to be a part of and contribute to the team
Strength of mind - powerful and able to focus on their game
Natural talent

I find that interesting, although once again the history of the game is littered with examples of gifted individuals who didn't make it, while journeymen professionals carved out successful careers. No names, of course...

In closing, thanks to all of you for your continued e-mails and comments. I got a good one earlier today which referred again to my ratings of players for the season. The writer suggested that my score for Matt Lineker was unfair, as the player had the additional pressure of only three matches in which to prove himself yet managed to do so.

It is a fair comment and I'm inclined to think that another year it is unfair to rate any player who plays less than five matches. I would also agree that Lineker had a tough task. He scored a thousand runs in the Second XI and another thousand for Ockbrook and Borrowash. He could have been forgiven for easing up there, but it is to his great credit that he retained both his intensity and appetite for runs.

In his last three seasons for the club he has amassed 3,900 runs. Throw in those second team runs and that is 5,000 runs in three summers. Not bad, huh?

None of the wickets he played on when he made the senior side could be called straightforward. Certainly Chelmsford and The Oval were tricky, while the County Ground offered lift and movement for the bowlers, despite two good first innings totals. Yet those who saw his first innings against Kent were impressed by his composure.

In the circumstances Matt Lineker did a very good job, though in the light of the above we probably shouldn't be too surprised. I would genuinely like to see him given an extended opportunity next year to make a place his own, ideally accompanied by the "Derbyshire Bradman", Paul Borrington. Bozza has scored 3,200 runs in the last two summers at Ticknall. Fourteen fifties and fourteen hundreds in 53 innings. Sooner, rather than later, two players who are capable of that must be able to make the next step. They just need the extended opportunity that has gone the way of others.

I accept that there is a chance that two players of relative inexperience may face challenges, that there is a possibility that one, or both, may not make it. Yet based on their respective records in high standard cricket, there is a better chance that they might. We need to know how good they can be at the earliest opportunity and not spend the next few years wondering "what if?"

In the 140 years of their history, Derbyshire have never had two young players with such impressive records in local and Second XI cricket. If they come through, we have an opening partnership for the next ten years.

If they don't, at least we've given them a try. That has surely got to be worth a shot.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Forty over league offers possibilities

I've not yet reported on the draw, but think we could do fairly well in the following group:

Unicorns, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Kent, Warwickshire, Sussex, Northants.

Sussex and Warwickshire will probably start favourites, but we have done well against Yorkshire and Kent this season and I don't expect Northamptonshire to be such a force next year. Their key players are aging and cannot go on forever.

The Unicorns have to be beatable and at least we have avoided the Netherlands. Sad to relate on a personal note, no Scotland, so no home game for me.

Still, there's always Yorkshire at Scarborough.


Congratulations to Borrington

Despite marking him down as a five in the end of season marks, I feel this is an opportune moment to pay tribute to an outstanding season by Paul Borrington.

Perhaps, of all the marks, Bozza's is the one most worthy of revision. He only had the two end of season matches, as I pointed out, but he was the only player to make runs - good runs against a promoted side in an important match - on a pitch that became far from easy to bat on.

Today he made his NINTH century of the season for Ticknall and finished with 1668 runs and an average close to 100. By any standards that is a remarkable effort and I suspect that the new aggregate he has set will stand for many years.

It is easy, as Master Villain suggests tonight, to decry the performance that it was 'only' against league bowling, but that is a long way from the truth. No other Derbyshire player, with the exception of Matt Lineker, has come to terms with the bowling in the Premier League. Even Wes Durston, our player of the year, had his struggles, while others had only sporadic success.

Chesney Hughes? He scored just 87 runs in nine innings for Sandiacre, which works out at less than ten runs per innings...

Borrington's feat is extraordinary and he has won an award for being the top scoring league batsman in the country. That has never gone to a Derbyshire batsman before and is a reflection on a season of excellent personal achievement. His success has been the result of an excellent technique married to increasing power of stroke.

I have every confidence that he will continue to work at his game and next season I hope to be able to report on a season of senior success for him.

Don't bet against it.

A point of clarification

I received an e mail last night that queried how I could only rank Matt Lineker and Paul Borrington as 5 in my review yesterday. After all, both had enjoyed excellent club and Second XI seasons.

 Yes, I totally agree, but neither had many first team opportunities and in the few they had both managed one notable score each. I did say at the top of the piece that my marks reflected first team performances...

Based on their seasons as a whole, both would merit an eight, but they need to replicate such form in the senior side next year. I think they are capable of doing so and I look forward to marking them accordingly!

Season Review

 2011 will go down as one in which Derbyshire started to look a team again. It started horribly, with Don Amott resigning a chairman with the players on pre-season tour, then looked set to burst into flame when Head of Cricket John Morris and his assistant Andrew Brown were relieved of their duties mid-match. At that point the season could have imploded in spectacular fashion.

It is to the great credit of Karl Krikken and Luke Sutton that it did not. Indeed, while fully appreciative of the better quality of player that John Morris brought to the club, the advent of Krikken saw them start to realise potential, while the different environment in the dressing room saw young players given greater opportunity.

Ross Whiteley was perhaps the most spectacular improvement, transformed from a bowler who could swing it and handle a bat in the seconds into a batsman who could hit the ball a long way while possessing the technique to graft when the need arose. Tom Knight emerged at 17 from the Academy to become a key member of the T20 attack, while Dan Redfern enjoyed his best sustained spell since breaking into the senior side.

Krikken was unafraid to offer chances to youngsters he thought had the ability, so we saw Peter Burgoyne and Alex Hughes get their opportunities alongside Tom Poynton. There were varying degrees of success, but with the nucleus of the current squad being both under-26 and developed in-house, Derbyshire ended the season with a squad that should only get better with greater experience. The success of the Colts in the Derbyshire Cup highlighted the next generation and the club now has an opportunity to progress with its best set of young players in several generations. This was no accident, but the result of tireless and impressive work by Krikken himself, AJ Harris and Howard Dytham.

Of course, to go to the next level the side needs greater experience alongside them. Wes Durston led the way in batting, and while Wayne Madsen had his least productive season, the feeling remained that with perhaps the addition of another experienced batsman, a promotion push could be a possibility in 2012.

The two overseas players arrived with little experience of English conditions but left established as excellent team men who may return in the future. Both were sensible signings by John Morris and although the hoped for weight of runs didn't materialise, there were enough good moments for both to be judged a success.

There was greater knowhow in the bowling, with stalwart Tim Groenewald working well with his new opening partner Tony Palladino. The pair took almost a hundred championship wickets, with good support from all-rounder Jonathan Clare, the latter showing once more the abilities that set him apart as something special when he first burst onto the scene. There was useful, if at times erratic support from Mark Turner and Mark Footitt and if these two can harness their pace to greater control next year the slub has a seam attack to tank alongside any in the division.

The greatest concern lies in the spin department. Robin Peterson's wickets from the previous year were missed and in his absence spin was largely in the hands of part-timers. They did a good job but cannot be relied on to bowl out sides in favourable conditions. The advent of Tom Knight and Peter Burgoyne promises better times ahead, but it would be unfair to place too great a burden on the shoulders of two boys of 18 and 17 respectively. Jake Needham's technical issues were a blow and, with the youngsters likely to be set for England Under-19s duty again next summer, a spinner is needed for 2012.

Third place in the forty over competition and fifth in the Championship were rewards for better cricket played. Inconsistency was still the biggest problem, but was much improved and similar progress again next year would be confirmation that the club is on the right track. In the T20 the absence of a second overseas player was a factor, though it was not for the want of trying. The side have yet to make a really good fist of this format, which polarises opinion but is a major revenue source. Greater success, as shown by neighbours Leicestershire, could make a world of difference and does not require substantial change of personnel.

In short? Reasons to be cheerful, a pleasant change to many close seasons in the past decade. The new blueprint from an enthusiastic and committed chairman points the way to success and the future promises to be much brighter than the recent past.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Echoes of the past...

The cricket season may be finished for Derbyshire, but it is good to see that over at Pride Park the Rams are doing their bit to keep cricket and our club in the headlines...

Fielding sent off, with Ward and Hendrick the scorers as I write? Could be a cricket report....

Peakfan's end of season ratings 2011

Before you start reading this, a brief explanation to the ratings.

5 - Below Average
6 - Average
7 - Good
8 - Very Good
9 - Excellent
10 - Out of this world (don't worry, there's none of them...)

Players are also judged on their FIRST ELEVEN displays, important to bear in mind in some cases.

Martin Guptill - 7

The amiable Kiwi had a good campaign and won a lot of admirers. His one-day form was very good, but his early championship struggles and eventual sub-40 average lose him a point for me. I have always felt that a decent county batsman should average 30-35, a good one 40. With the additional pressure and expectation of the role, an overseas batsman should be averaging 45-50. Having said that, I'd be happy to see Martin Guptill back next season, as he is a fine player to watch and will only improve.

Wayne Madsen - 6

Madsen had a good one-day campaign but endured a nightmare spell in the four-day game that saw him dropped for the first time. I see him as a potential future skipper but we need him to rediscover his mojo in the winter and return refreshed in 2012. At his best a beautiful player to watch, Madsen's renewed confidence will be key to our fortunes next season as he is eminently capable of scoring more than a thousand runs.

Chesney Hughes - 5

Second season was always going to be hard for Chesney, despite what he said about it not worrying him. He remains a bright talent and showed on a few occasions that he is a punishing driver of the ball, as well as being increasingly useful with it in his hand. Spin bowlers showed up a lack of 'nous' in his batting though, as well as laboured footwork that will need some winter attention.

Paul Borrington - 5

Bozza should have been in the eleven to start the season, but an ankle injury ruled him out for some time. When he returned it still gave him some problems, though you wouldn't have known that from the way he slaughtered league bowling. Less prolific in the Second XI, but a gritty display at The Oval  showed his value to the side. I expect him to get a run next season and it is down to him where it goes from there.

Matt Lineker - 5

Like Borrington, most of Lineker's season was in the Seconds and he did a fine and prolific job. Only one innings of substance in his three matches at the season end suggested that he has to adjust to the senior game, but he could have done little more to earn another contract and will stand or fall on his efforts over the winter and next summer. Will not lack support from team mates and fans alike.

Wes Durston - 9

Wes had an outstanding season and was deservedly player of the year. His batting was thrilling and watching his free and easy stroke play it was clear to see that he grew up on good batting tracks at Taunton. An outstanding fielder, his bowling became increasingly important towards the end of the season, though not, I hope, to the detriment of his batting. Outstanding.

Dan Redfern - 6

Looked a much improved player this year and had a purple patch in July/August before being hit by injury. Not quite the same when he returned, but Redfern is a genuine talent. I would like to see more of him in one day games and feel he could offer with the ball with greater opportunity. Once the psychological barrier of that first century has passed he will score a lot of runs for us too.

Usman Khawaja - 6

Australia's new batting hope struggled with injury and played only two innings of substance - one at Worcester and the other at Canterbury. It was easy to see his class, his judgement of the balls to leave reminiscent of John Wright, but like Guptill he has to be judged on a different scale and thus fell slightly short. Like Guptill, I'd be happy to see him return and I feel he would benefit from this year's experience.

Ross Whiteley - 8

A real rags to riches story, Whiteley started the season a second team player and ended it a key member of the first eleven. Showed the ability to dig in but hit the bad ball with brutal power, as well as being a fielder of brilliance. If he could eleminate the bad ball an over that tends to drop onto leg stump he could yet be a potent all-rounder, as he has many years ahead. A major plus for the season.

Greg Smith - 6

Smith left Derbyshire a talent unfulfilled for many. No one doubted his ability to play all the shots, but rarely did it long enough to make a difference to games. He was a steady bowler of both seam and spin, but again didn't threaten to go through sides. Another excellent fielder, but Smith leaves with question marks over his temperament that will be proved or disproved elsewhere. His Kolpak status didn't help his cause, coupled with only average returns.

Garry Park - 5

Park the fielder gets 10, but he couldn't bowl due to injury and had only one-day opportunities. There were some good cameos at the end of innings when he showed his speed between the wickets and good improvisation, but the aggregate, partly through limited opportunity, was not enough. A new role should see him remain available, but probably only in one-day games.

Luke Sutton - 7

As a captain Sutton did a steady job and as a wicket-keeper he made few mistakes. His batting lacked the big innings that would have appeased some critics, but for me his major contribution was creating and leading a happy dressing room where the eleven played as a team. This was a season of improvement and that was largely due to Sutton's leadership. Maybe on the way out with Poynton pressing, but still has a crucial role to play.

Tom Poynton - 6

Poynton was a peripheral figure as was always going to be the case, but his wicket-keeping was improved and his vocal style was reminiscent of Karl Krikken at his best. Had few opportunities with the bat, but a pugnacious knock at Chesterfield suggested that the heir-apparent to the gloves is on the staff. Should get and benefit from greater opportunity next season.

Jonathan Clare - 8

700 runs and 40-odd wickets amounts to a good campaign for any all-rounder. Clare was bowling around 85-90mph and hits the ball very hard when he gets in. If he could overcome problems in starting an innings and remains fit he will be a crucial member of the developing side. A very good cricketer.

Tim Groenewald  - 7

Timmy G is the side's Mr Reliable and just keeps turning up and running in to bowl. His fitness record is remarkable, though a displaced kneecap caused a few games to be missed mid-season. No mug with the bat either and Groenewald's signing of a new deal was greeted with considerable pleasure by fans. Rightly so, as he is a good and popular cricketer. Just missed his fifty wickets due to that injury.

Tony Palladino - 7

A very solid season after his move from Essex. The biggest mystery was his regular omission from one-day sides for a long time, but TP proved an excellent acquisition and became a popular player among fans. More next season will do nicely and the bowler's new deal will see him another key part of a young side as it moves forward.

Mark Turner - 6

Capable of searing pace at times but could also be wildly inaccurate. At his best he ran through lower orders as they couldn't handle his yorkers and short balls, but needs to somehow retain that raw hostility while getting more consistent lines and lengths. If he can do that, as well as enjoying more luck with injury, we will have a potent weapon for next season and beyond.

Mark Footitt - 5

Next year will be crucial for Footitt. He again missed too much cricket this year and we cannot afford to carry a bowler, even one of undoubted talent, who is rarely available. Some decent performances towards the end of the season saw him finish top of the averages, but at 26 he needs to play more than 25% of matches. Like Turner, capable of genuine pace but could be desperately erratic, a major frustration.

Steffan Jones - 6

Limited four-day cricket for the old warhorse in his last season, but Jones was a valued and committed member of the one-day attack before he accepted a school post in late-season. He will be remembered with great fondness for his regular availability, one hundred percent commitment and considerable skill, especially in the closing stages of one-day games. Someone who needs replaced, without doubt.

Azeem Rafiq - 6

Rafiq spent a brief time on loan from Yorkshire and did pretty well, proving a dogged batsman as well as a spinner of some talent. A broken finger ended his spell, but he did enough to show that he has a bright future, most likely at our northern neighbours.

Tom Knight - 7

Knight burst onto the scene in the T20 and let no one down. Time will tell if he is the real deal as a spinner and can bowl sides out on helpful tracks, but his ability to be unfazed by big names and large crowds was remarkable in a lad of 17. Dismissed some big names with clever flight and tight lines in the one day game. In the years ahead, the key will be if he can do the same with men around the bat and batsmen trying to stay in. Remarkable start.

Karl Krikken - 7

Took over in far from ideal circumstances but all things considered did a good job. I disagreed with some selections, but the development of the dressing room atmosphere and of young players is down to him as much as Luke Sutton. His next big job is prudent recruitment over the winter to take us to the next level after a campaign of much encouragement. Lovely bloke who we all wish well.

And that's it. My final thoughts on the season will come tomorrow. I've not rated lads like Peter Burgoyne and Alex Hughes as they had too little opportunity. You may or may not agree with my ratings, but that's your prerogative!

Another interesting story...

One of the best things about writing this blog over the past three years is the number of people who get in touch with information that they hope might be of interest. It always is, although there are times when stories can be ruled out pretty much straight away for reasons of logic. There are others when you think "yeah, maybe..."

Don't get me wrong, I'm always grateful that people take the time to contact me, but there are occasions when you can see it won't happen. Someone recently mailed me to say that he'd "heard" we were signing Chris Gayle as overseas player next season. Now the merits of Gayle are patently obvious for a big occasion, but I don't see how he could be bothered with six months in England when he'll make enough money next Spring in India to keep him in the manner accustomed for a long time. A non-starter for me, I'm afraid.

Then there was the one that suggested that Jacques Kallis was to be announced "very soon". While I accept that I'd have to eat serious humble pie if it comes to pass, it neglects the fact that South Africa tour England next summer and Kallis will want one last battle with the best team in the world.

There is, however, one from time to time that I could feasibly see happen, like the e mail I received from the south coast the other day. It suggested that Derbyshire hoped to bring South African Neil McKenzie to the County Ground as skipper.

I could buy into this one, whether it turns out to be true or not. I know he is out of contract this year and at 35 has shown himself to be a very good batsman yet again this summer, with averages of 43/67/37 in championship/forty over/twenty over cricket. A player of vast experience, he can open or bat in the middle order, while he has captained the Highveld Lions in South Africa.

He would fit the bill as a big name without doubt, while he will not be sacrificing standard by a move with Hampshire dropping into division two this summer. As they have just announced the replacement to Dominic Cork as Jimmy Adams, the player may have a remaining ambition that could be fulfilled elsewhere.

Yes, there's a rationale to it and the signing would not compromise the club's blueprint either, given that we are committed to fielding nine English-qualified players in every team from 2013. The release of Greg Smith frees up the non-overseas berth, though McKenzie could also be considered for the latter role if we didn't want to go back down the Kolpak route.

I present it to you as it was to me, as an as yet unsubstantiated story. It may well turn out to be no more than that, yet the thought of McKenzie as a Derbyshire player holds considerable appeal. I have to say, however, that the thinking money is on a return to South Africa for the player.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

The White man for the job?

In recent days I have written about the possibilities of Derbyshire making a move for Durham all-rounder Ben Harmison this winter. Harmison, as most people know, has been released by the county and should attract interest from elsewhere.

Yet the answer to one of Derbyshire's problems may lie closer to home.

I was reading through the Cricketer's Who's Who last night before going to bed and came across a name I knew very well and across a fact that I didn't. The entry said that the player had signed a two-year deal in October 2009, meaning that he would be out of contract next month.

The player is Wayne White.

In my opinion, White should never have been released by Derbyshire. Instead we have seen a lad who was a useful bowler and knew how to handle a bat blossom into a genuine all-rounder at our neighbours. He has only one century so far (against us...) but has a number of fifties. This year he had nearly 700 runs at 32 and 28 wickets at 35. Not spectacular, but improving, as he has done every season. He also did well in one-day matches and proved an important player for his county as they won the T20.

That being the case, why would he leave Leicestershire? Well, they have yet to finalise deals for White, Nadeem Malik and Matt Boyce, while conjecture suggests that James Taylor may yet be lured to Warwickshire. Such key players would take some replacing and Leicestershire will struggle to do so. Aside from the T20 silverware and some talented young players, the Foxes are an aging side in key areas and this might be a good time to lure White back to the ancestral home. They were, after all, bottom of division two by a country mile.

His brother is on the county Academy and he has plenty of friends at the club, many of them from Swarkestone, the club where he made his name. He would be an important addition too, offering us balance in the middle order at six or seven. White, Whiteley and Clare would be a good engine room. In addition, White is one of our own and therefore any appearance money for him, even at 26, will be ours.

It all adds up to a signing that makes a lot of sense on every level.

As always, I look forward to seeing your opinions...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Surrey v Derbyshire day 3

It is somewhat ironic that a season that carried more good things than many of recent vintage was bookended by two performances that in the world of damp squibs were damper than a barnacle's boxers...

Gloucestershire at Bristol was poor, but from start to finish the display at The Oval was mediocre at best. I'll accept that the toss was important and that they have some good players, but as someone wrote earlier today, with the eyes of the cricket world on Derbyshire and how we fared in this last match, we fell apart like a soggy tissue.

It was a shame, because we know we're better than that and so do the players. It was turning a bit too, but we made a poor fist of batting and bowling in this game and it's a pity we couldn't end on the Kent match at Derby.

It was a shame that Paul Borrington couldn't reach three figures but the lad did well at The Oval and can go into the winter with renewed confidence. All the batsmen need work over the winter, but they'll do it and come back improved players next term.

Unless it hoses down tomorrow, Surrey and Middlesex will go up with Yorkshire and Hampshire coming down to battle for promotion with us next season. Joking apart, we're not that far away and just need to sort some important roles over the winter to go perhaps one step closer in 2012.

We need a steady batsman from somewhere and we need a decent spinner. One of them will probably be the overseas player, but which one is likely to take some time to resolve. I still think there will be interest in Danish Kaneria, but whether he will be granted carte blanche to return to the international and county fold is as yet an unknown. If not, my guess is that David Wainwright will be a worthwhile signing, almost certainly set to leave Yorkshire this winter.

I am a huge fan of Tom Knight and think that he, Peter Burgoyne and others from the Academy will be a fixture in the side in years to come. Yet it is asking a lot for a teenager to hold down a regular spot in the side from April to September as the physical and mental demands are massive. Both are also likely to have England Under 19 calls next year too, so we need to have someone who could offer decent spin option when required. Wainwright seems to be the best available and is a decent bat too. If Kaneria is unable to come, or takes a big offer from division one, he would be a good fallback.

Another seamer is essential as far as I'm concerned too and I look forward to seeing retained lists and the names of those released in coming weeks. Meantime, I'll be doing my review of the season at the weekend and giving my marks for the players. There will also be my 'how was it for you' poll.

More tomorrow.

PS Sorry for misleading you re promotion last night. I thought Northants were further clear of Surrey. Edged out two years running eh?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Surrey v Derbyshire day 2

After a disappointing first day that saw Luke Sutton give the team an ear-bashing at the end of it, day two was not especially brilliant either. Surrey's last two wickets added a further 68 before our first four managed 28 between them.

I can accept that Surrey SHOULD be a division one side with their players and resources, but the reality is that they are likely to remain in division two after today's play at Northampton saw them move into a winning position against Gloucestershire. Chris Adams' budget must be close to three/four times that of Karl Krikken, so one would expect them to win their share of matches. By the same token, Derbyshire have batted much better than that this year against attacks of equal ability, so the early capitulation was a disappointment.

Yet in adversity came an innings that may just be of greater long-term benefit to the club than the result of this game. Paul Borrington batted through the 74 overs for an unbeaten 76 that hinted of his future value to the side. Anyone can go early in an innings, before they get used to the pace and bounce of the wicket and the speed and movement of the bowlers. What annoys me is when I see players get out when they should be set. Twenties, thirties and forties are neither here nor there at county level and it is important to dig in and keep working at things when you get a start. "Drink at the well" as an old professional once said...

Borrington will bat on better surfaces than this one and against worse attacks. When he does, the psychological benefit of this innings will be substantial. He now knows that he can bat for a long time when all around him team mates are coming and going like patients in a doctor's waiting room, using the things that have served him well this season at league level. I have said before that Borrington has a good technique and against pace and spin alike it served him well today. It was, at least, reassuring to see Sutton, Whiteley and Clare offer support to Borrington later on, in an innings that his dad would have been proud of.

I would love to see him get another 24 runs tomorrow and hope to see Derbyshire make a much better fist of their second innings than they have of the first.

There's a long winter ahead. We don't want to go into it on the back of a capitulation.

The only up side from the match is that I have Messrs Linley, Davies and de Bruyn in my fantasy cricket side and all have served me well. I just need Wes Durston to do better in the second innings....

In closing, here's a link to an article which made me smile. I'd like to think that Chris Grant had a little more decorum and dignity in adversity than his counterpart at Yorkshire shows in this piece. I can understand him being annoyed, but putting it in the public domain like this does no one any favours. It smacks of old-school Yorkshire and is more than a little embarrassing.

Forming an orderly queue on the way out perhaps?

Have a nice evening!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Interesting Second XI stats

There are some good bowling figures for Derbyshire bowlers in the Second XI this summer.

Star turn is seamer Ally Evans, with 31 championship wickets at 20. Peter Burgoyne (21 at 25) and Jake Sherriff (19 at 19) can also be proud of their efforts. The batting is less impressive but easily headed by Matt Lineker, with honourable mention for Messrs Slater, Needham and Poynton.

Of people I've mentioned on this blog with signing potential, Ben Harmison averaged just over 40 for Durham from 523 runs, but only bowled 18 overs, presumably due to injury. David Balcombe, mentioned by a few people on the Forum, only managed eight wickets in 60 overs for Hampshire Seconds...

Michael Thorneley, formerly of Sussex, averaged 45 for Somerset, and 57 in the one day competition. He scored over a thousand runs, including appearances for Kent and Northamptonshire, as well as averaging 95 for the Unicorns A side. It remains to be seen if anyone will offer another opportunity to a lad of obvious talent, but he could become a victim of the ECB regulations. Will counties take a chance on him and hope his runs outweigh the money they would get for one of their own?

Bilal Shafayat averaged 139 in performances for Hampshire and Sussex but still got nowhere near a county deal. In (almost) the words of the old song, it's that old devil called age again. Shafayat also played for Northamptonshire in the T20 but must now see his county career as a thing of the past. It's a shame, as he looked a potential world-beater for Young England a few years back.

What is apparent from the averages, however, is that counties are throwing the net far and wide in the search for new talent. I can remember looking at similar averages, even ten years ago, and seeing perhaps eight or nine players involved in most matches. With clubs carrying smaller staffs today, there are more opportunities for matches but more pressure on players to perform immediately at some counties.

Interesting stuff - and you can see the figures on Cricket Archive. Go to:

Talking technology

I've added a new link on the left hand side of the blog tonight. It takes you to the club's new Youtube site, which is a worthy addition to services available to fans.

There's plenty to look at on there and I hope that the club are able to add to it over the winter months. It will be good to see what is happening at the County Ground until the summer comes round once more.

Meanwhile another favourable mention for the club's Twitter feed. The last couple of weeks has been superb. I don't know if someone new is doing it or they've just sorted things out, but it is much improved from earlier in the season.

Thumbs up from me!

Surrey v Derbyshire day 1

I suppose that in having eight wickets down by the end of the day Derbyshire did OK today with an attack offering limited options.

 That Ross Whiteley only bowled three overs suggests he pcked up an injury, while the bowlers largely stuck to their task pretty well. The major disappointment, for me at least, is the tally of 45 extras, which more than hints at a lack of discipline.

 Indeed, Mark Footitt took three wickets but clean bowled another and had a second caught from no balls. Some might call that unlucky, but for me it shouldn't happen at this level of the game and is pretty poor.

 I'm a fan of Footitt and know he can bowl at genuine pace, but pace without control is of a lesser value and the player is getting to an age where he should know where his feet go and the ball follows more than too often seems the case. It is an area of his game that he will need to improve over the winter, without doubt.

Tim Groenewald moved closer to the fifty wicket landmark and now sits on 48. Hopefully he manages it tomorrow.

It doesn't appear a bad batting track though, so hopefully our lads can capitalise tomorrow. I don't look at the Surrey attack and worry unduly.

Hopefully that comment doesn't come back to bite me...

Guptill goes with reputation enhanced

There is always a gamble when choosing an overseas player with minimal experience of English conditions. When Derbyshire ended up with Usman Khawaja and Martin Guptill for 2011, there was a combination of pleasure coupled with uncertainty as to how they would fare.

I've previously covered Khawaja's stint but Martin Guptill, despite early struggles in the County Championship, heads back to New Zealand with his reputation firmly enhanced. Not just as a player, which I'll come to in a minute, but as a man and most importantly a team man. One has only to look at the various Twitter messages from his Derbyshire colleagues to know how much they valued having him around, as well as how much he enjoyed himself. I can think of few other overseas players who would have willingly carried the drinks and been happy to be one of the boys as Guptill was at Chelmsford last week. Certainly Essex' players, who experienced something nearly diametrically opposed in "Lotsie" Tsotsobe this season, must have been surprised...

Guptill had his problems in the Championship at the start, but it is fair to say that he had his share of unplayable balls too, in common with a lot of batsmen in division two. Many put it down to the Tiflex ball, which had a habit of offering early help then doing nothing, as evidenced by the number of tailenders this year with somewhat inflated averages.

An average of 39 in the Championship was not overly impressive, but 70 in the 40-over league and 34 in the T20 certainly was. I suggested a few months ago, before the twenty over stuff started, that Guptill would score more heavily than Loots Bosman the year before and that was the case. Guptill is a batsman, Bosman a slogger and there's a crucial difference.

It was the way he scored his runs that was special. Quick footwork got him down the track and he was unafraid to loft the ball over the infield, as those who saw him at Leek will testify. He favoured the area between mid-off and extra cover but could score easily all around the wicket. Yet for me his trademark shot was the on drive, played with the straightest of blades and with the pose held as the ball heads for the boundary ropes. It is a shot that only players of high quality can play with regularity and Guptill is a high quality player.

I suspect that the stint may prove of even greater value to him in the long term and he will go back to New Zealand with a tighter technique as a result of his stay. I fully expect to see his averages rise in the years ahead and will watch his progress with great interest.

We never saw his occasional off spin at Derbyshire, but as a fielder Guptill is up there with the best. His athleticism was remarkable, while his ability to pull off catches that some might not actually consider chances was extraordinary. With Guptill, Ross Whiteley and Garry Park in the same team, Derbyshire were largely a superb fielding side in the one day game.

I hope that we see him back at Derbyshire. Next year may be problematic with his country's international commitments and Derbyshire's preference (I think) for a quality spinner from overseas, but if he had the time Guptill would be a fine signing for the early stages of the T20.

I doubt few people would disagree. Thanks Martin - your efforts were appreciated and we enjoyed watching you.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Surrey v Derbyshire preview

I'm sure Chris Adams might enjoy the prospect of earning promotion this season through defeating his old county and that will be Surrey's goal over the next four days.

They have announced a strong squad for the game too, which is:

Rory Hamilton-Brown (Captain)

Steven Davies (Wicket Keeper)
Mark Ramprakash
Zander de Bruyn
Tom Maynard
Jason Roy
Zafar Ansari
Gareth Batty
Chris Jordan
Stuart Meaker
Pragyan Ojha
Tim Linley
George Edwards

As for Derbyshire, Tony Palladino is injured and there is a doubt over Luke Sutton, so Tom Poynton may play. Tom Knight replaces Palladino in this side:


The game is important for both sides. Surrey need a win and for Gloucestershire to beat Northamptonshire to gain promotion. Derbyshire's target is fourth place and a positive conclusion to a campaign of rich promise.

More tomorrow. Have a good one.

Astonishing Academy

Most good judges of the non-professional game will tell you that the standard in the Derbyshire Premier League and those immediately below it is as good as you will find in the country. The number of former professional players among the ranks is testimony to that.

Look at today's opposition for the Derbyshire CCC Academy, Ockbrook and Borrowash. In their side they fielded Matt Cassar, Lian Wharton, Jake Needham and Kevin Dean, all of them players with varying degrees of first-class experience for Derbyshire, all of them good players.

Now over the last thirty years I have played in a few "old 'uns v young 'uns" games and more often than not the older heads won the day. It was their experience of certain match situations that saw them through, together with the naivety of youth in wanting to put one over on them. Why work the ball around when you can hit the old guy for six? Thus another one bit the dust as the old guy bowled it a little slower and with a little more air and the ball found its way unerringly into the boundary fielders hands. Another one bites the dust...

Yet today, the fledglings of Derbyshire CCC won the day with a run chase that I marvelled at as I got the regular updates. Chasing four and a half runs per over, these lads knocked it around, hitting boundaries when the ball allowed it or the rate threatened to drop, then won in some style against a side of genuine and obvious talent.

There were no real stars, although the two best known names in the batting line up, Ben Slater and Hamza Siddique, were relative failures. Instead it was two lesser known names - at least for now - who came up with the goods. Off-spinning all-rounder Matt Sanderson took four wickets and hit a couple of boundaries when they were needed at the death, while Eddie Ikin hit a composed fifty that helped the Colts recover from a shaky start.

There were runs too for wicket-keeper/batsman Chris Durham too, an unbeaten 35 that suggested we have a future challenge to Tom Poynton behind the stumps, while Peter Burgoyne contributed a tidy spell and a crucial 30 as the game neared its climax.

It was, however, a team performance, with steady bowling backed up by brilliant ground fielding. Maybe that should be expected from young players, but it was tribute to the way that they have worked and have been coached that they barely made a mistake in the field. There was steady bowling too, with everyone bowling good lines and making their opponents work for runs.

The trophy was rich reward for a terrific team effort through the season and for the club's decision to play them in the competition, building team spirit and a more competitive edge by playing against more experienced players on a regular basis. It can only stand a group of players well, especially when their age range is from 16 to 20.

It was also richly deserved reward for Academy coach Howard Dytham. He will be a happy man tonight. In future years his work with this squad could well see many more fans delighted by his efforts with an exciting crop of young players.

Bright future? You bet.


The Academy win by 4 wickets, with Chris Durham unbeaten on 35 and Matt Sanderson on 8

Fantastic display. More later


199-5 in 45. 19 to win in 30 balls, Burgoyne 30 and Durham 24.

Looking good for the tyros!


170-5 in 37.1 overs, with Peter Burgoyne going well on 17 and wicket-keeper Chris Durham unbeaten on 8.

48 to win in 13 overs. To be honest, from here they can only throw it away.

What a great game!

Cup Final update

Cracking finish in the final brewing, with the Academy on 133-3 in 29 overs, chasing 218 to win. Eddie Ikin (18)  unbeaten on 46 and Matt Fletcher (17)  on 32.

85 to win from 21 overs...

Premier Cup Final

Ockbrook and Borrowash are 169-6 off 43 overs at Chesterfield against the Derbyshire CCC Academy, with four wickets for Matt Sanderson of Lullington Park with his off breaks.

 With Johnny Owen, Matt Cassar and Jake Needham all back in the pavilion, the Academy boys have done a good job so far and will be fancying their chances at this stage.

Winter recruitment query

I had an a mail last night asking what I thought Derbyshire's plans would be for winter recruitment.

Well, I'm not expecting a massive overhaul as we don't have the money to carry a large staff - especially of senior professionals - and I don't think that a major overhaul is required.

First of all, look at who has left - Stef Jones and Greg Smith, together with the overseas role. Garry Park has become 2nd XI skipper and AJ Harris' role has changed, but essentially we're looking to replace three positions on the playing staff as things currently stand.

My thoughts are that the county may well target Danish Kaneria as the overseas player and it will then depend on what happens. If we get him, subsequent recruitment will turn to an experienced batsman on the county circuit and to a seam bowler. If we don't, I could see David Wainwright of Yorkshire come into the mix with our overseas target switching to a batsman, or batsmen to share the role like this season.

I know no more than the rest of you who is available this winter, namely only those players whose availability has made the media. There were a few calls for Balcombe, who took wickets against us for Kent over recent days, but he has another year to go at Hampshire. I'd have quite liked to see Chris Wright of Essex join us, but don't see that likely after his successful loan spell at Warwickshire that will almost certainly see him join them for 2012.

Dominic Cork has now been released by Hampshire, but has not yet made a decision on his future. News reports suggest that a second division side has already approached him for his services and it would be easy to see how that could be us, with his son in the Academy. He has been an outstanding cricketer, but next year he will be nearly 41. I could see him as a handy one-day player and filling in when required, but much would depend on his financial demands and availability elsewhere. It could not be seen as anything other than very short-term and I'm not sure whether Cork would want to end a glittering career as a squad player, rather than automatic choice.

I've previously suggested Ben Harmison as a possible bowling all-rounder and still thinks that has possibilities. The reality is that you have to consider our weaknesses in the squad. We have plenty of young batsmen and two very young spinners. Even if we were lucky enough to land Kaneria for perhaps a couple of years, Tom Knight would only be 20 and Peter Burgoyne 19 at that stage, with two years working with an interntional star behind them. They can only benefit long-term and could pick the brains of a master of the craft in that time.

We don't have much backup for Messrs Groenewald, Palladino and Clare apart from Footitt and Turner. There have been more sightings of Bigfoot this year than Atif Sheikh and Matt Higginbottom in Derbyshire colours, something that has to be a concern, so I think we need another seamer. Ally Evans, the trialist from Loughborough University has done very well, but may still have studies next year and may not yet be ready for senior cricket.

In short? An experienced batsman, seamer and spinner are my thoughts on winter recruitment, with one or more of them ideally having additional skills to bring to the mix.

Should be some interesting thoughts on this one!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Derbyshire v Kent day 4

After my prediction on last night's blog that Derbyshire would win this one by mid-afternoon, it happened exactly like that. I am now expecting a swathe of e mails from eastern gambling syndicates looking to sponsor the site in return for similar saying of sooths next year...

Honestly, it was a no brainer for me, even from this distance. When so many wickets went down yesterday, a Derbyshire win with nearly 300 runs to play with was always on. It is tempting to think of a 'typical Derbyshire performance' but these lads are better than we've had for some time. Put it another way - if Kent's attack could do what they did yesterday, I had every confidence that ours would do the same today, because it is better.

You might not have predicted the successful duo to be Clare and Durston and sometimes a skipper needs to try things to get the best combination. Luke Sutton did that and came up with the right pair for the wicket, something that captains who know their stuff are able to do. Its not always your best bowlers who get the dismissals (though I'm not decrying anyone in saying that) - it is the ones whose line, length and pace on a given day get the most out of a surface.

This is a decent Derbyshire side, which with the right strengthening in the winter could easily take the next step to promotion in 2012. An experienced batsman, a seamer and a spinner would be my shopping list and if any of them have all-round skills so much the better. John Morris put together some good players and Karl Krikken has done remarkably in bringing through young players who have largely thrived on the opportunity.

I was delighted to see Wes Durston follow his Player of the Year award with career best bowling figures and he has been a revelation this season. It is ironic, of course, that in this era where those under 26 are preferred and encouraged, Durston at 31 is a veteran. The onus is on senior players to lead by example and set standards and he has done a wonderful job this year. It could be argued that the ECB scheme motivates players to perform to preserve contracts and there appears to be few older players around the circuit who are simply going through the motions. mainly because their future careers depends on achieving a level of consistency that hasn't always been the case in the past.

I must correct one omission last night and mention Wayne Madsen's innings yesterday. His partnership with Ross Whiteley probably made the game safe and it was good to see him getting runs under his belt again. Madsen is a fine cricketer and a top bloke, one who will come back refreshed next summer. I would also see him as one-day skipper, a role in which he has done pretty well.

In closing, a special mention for Jonathan Clare. His four wickets today took him to 42 for the season at a cost of 26 runs each. He is also closing on 700 runs at 35 and is starting to look like the young talent that burst on to the scene a couple of years ago. There were silly comments on the Forum earlier in the season that he'd 'had it' and should be dropped, when the lad just needed cricket to be fully reassured that his shoulder was fully healed. Like any other player, he will have days when things don't go his way, but Clare can bowl close on 90mph and hit a ball a long way. These are not talents given to everyone and we are fortunate to have the lad secured for the next few years.

Now to the Oval for the season-closer. A good performance there would close things nicely, but this has been a season of progress, no arguments on that one.

One-year deal for Lineker

I'm delighted with this morning's news of a one year contract for Matt Lineker.

Regular readers will know I have advocated this for some time and the tall left-hander thoroughly deserves te opportunity after a string of fine displays for the Seconds.

His first innings against Kent will have done him no harm either and I am sure that he will work very hard over the winter to improve his game still further. The likelihood is that he and Paul Borrington, another who has had a prolific campaign, may be competing for one position next year and such healthy competition can only be good for the side.

Well done Matt!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Derbyshire v Kent day 3

One thing that cannot be denied about cricket at the County Ground this season is that it has produced some great last day finishes. Full tribute to the groundstaff for producing tracks that, in only the second year after turning the square, have lasted four days and offered something for batsmen and bowlers alike.

After the batting feasts of the first two days and to a lesser extent the third morning, the remainder of the day offered help to seam bowlers as fifteen wickets fell. Although ten of those were our wickets, my guess is that at the end of the day Luke Sutton is the happier of the two skippers. The target of 298 is a long way away and if we can remove Joe Denly early tomorrow I fully expect a win by mid-afternoon, if the weather stays out of it. While Geraint Jones and Darren Stevens are dangerous customers and Azhar Mahmood is a fine player, Derbyshire are well-placed at this stage.

Congratulations go to Tony Palladino today, on reaching the landmark of fifty wickets for the first time. He never had the opportunities at Essex but has thrived in a new environment.

Maybe Tim Groenewald, needing four wickets, can emulate him tomorrow.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Yorkies target experience..

I see Yorkshire are targeting experience for next year, with Martyn Moxon chasing three men who will make a difference to their squad. That'll be recalls for Boycott, Close and Hampshire then....

At the same time, younger players will be released to accommodate them, which is interesting news, if going against the grain of the method of most other clubs.

Maybe we can have Gary Ballance back...

Derbyshire v Kent day 2

Good cricket today at the County Ground, with an impressive century for Ross Whiteley being followed by another from Joe Denly of Kent. If stories are true Denly could be lining up for Essex alongside Greg Smith next season, though this is conjecture season and rumour is rife.

Whatever the truth in that, Ross Whiteley has taken to county cricket like the proverbial duck to water, playing a succession of punishing innings while displaying a good technique and a willingness to graft when conditions don't favour flashing shots. At 22 he looks a terrific prospect and is only going to get better. I look forward to watching that improvement in the years ahead.

He had good support from the tail today, but after removing the top order, Denly and the ever-dangerous Azhar Mahmood brought Kent back into the game with a partnership of 92, after Darren Stevens had helped the opener add a century stand. Mahmood has been an exemplary county overseas player for years, first at Surrey and latterly for Kent.

As indeed was fellow countryman Danish Kaneria at Essex, who I mentioned last night must be high on Derbyshire's list for next year. In the last few weeks I have suggested two other potential candidates in Simon Katich and Marcus North. It now appears that Katich is likely to return to Hampshire, while North is going to Glamorgan next year and has been interviewed as a prospective captain. After them, I genuinely cannot think of anyone else of real, established class who may be available for the full season, apart from Kaneria.

We could have done with him wheeling away today, as the Derbyshire attack was a little 'samey'. Sometimes just a change of pace can get wickets, but a bowler who can turn it both ways and extract bounce like Kaneria is worth his weight in gold as games go into a third and fourth day. He will not, I'm  sure, lack for suitors when his clearance from the Pakistan Board comes through (note I said when, not if...) but I am convinced that Derbyshire and Chris Grant will be at the front of the pack.

Mr Grant went on record with regard to a landmark signing and Kaneria is, without doubt, a world-class cricketer in all forms of the game. With the signing of a batsman or all-rounder for the T20, Derbyshire would doubtless be strengthened next season. All conjecture at the moment of course, but we're otherwise looking at young up and comings, rather than the real deal. Comments I've received with regard to signing a world-class all-rounder are fair enough, but tell me one who's free and interested next summer and I'll agree with you.

Irrespective of who else comes in over the winter, Kaneria would be a massive signing and would take Derbyshire to another level. Mind you, knowing our luck, if we picked him up he'll be signed to the IPL for the first time then Pakistan will recall him for summer tours to Mozambique and Equatorial Guinea...

Farewell to Smith

After weeks of conjecture and as I wrote the other day, Greg Smith is set to join Essex on a two-year deal.

Good luck to the bloke. Only the churlish wouldn't wish him well and, at the end of the day, all of us are out to get the best deal for ourselves. Yet I maintain that Derbyshire have made the correct decision in withdrawing their contract offer in the light of the player's demands, asserting that their value of the player's worth and his own did not meet.

I read the other day that Essex have offered him £25K a year more than was on the table at Derbyshire and if that is the case, you can't blame the player for going. Yet factor in the approximate £20K a year that an essentially Kolpak Smith will cost when he plays and that is a lot of money. We could probably offer a new deal to Matt Lineker and take on a young player for not much more than that.

Speaking of Matt, yesterday's innings must have done him a lot of good and I feel he should be offered a new deal now. Only one innings, perhaps, but it was the way he batted that impressed and his form this summer has fully justified a contract. Put another way, if we don't offer him a deal, I could see our neighbours Leicestershire doing so and the player coming back to haunt us as Wayne White does every time we play them.

Onto other matters and skipper Luke Sutton has taken flak from some fans for his batting form this season, presumably from people more used to the pyrotechnics we got from James Pipe on occasion. Pipe was a fine player and he played some aggressive knocks for us, but he never captained the side at the same time. Anyone who has ever done that at any level will know how demanding it is, much more in T20 than in any other form of the game.

Sutton will probably acknowledge that he hoped for more runs, yet had few opportunities in T20 to bat for anything other than the last two or three overs. Likewise in the 40-over league, where he has only batted five times at the tail end of an innings.

Yet his wicket-keeping has remained at a very high standard throughout, something even the brilliant Bob Taylor struggled to do when he briefly skippered the side. Interestingly, in the Championship Sutton has scored 531 runs at 24. "Rubbish" cry some, yet Pipe exceeded that total only once in his time at the club. Yes, he had a higher average in his last four years, but that can come down to opportunities and not outs.

I expect Sutton, an intelligent and articulate man with business interests outside the game, to gradually move back and allow Tom Poynton greater opportunity next season. Such a move would mean another captain will need to be identified and he will need to continue the excellent team ethic that Sutton has encouraged. As for Poynton, he will have a tough act to follow, not least as a gloveman, though I am confident that he is eminently capable of doing so.

Irrespective of comments elsewhere, I maintain that Sutton has done a fine job for the club this season. As a leader he was man enough to take some of the flak from the Morris and Brown episode, something a lot of people may have been unwilling to do. His captaincy has been largely sound - all skippers get some things wrong - while his wicket-keeping has been remarkably consistent and of a high standard.

The batting? Based on the above statistics, not that bad really.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Sunday's final

As you may have seen on the club site, Howard Dytham has announced his side for the Derbyshire Cup Final on Sunday. Dytham has done an outstanding job with the colts this summer and this is a last big hurrah for some of the side. The side in full:

Ben Slater (c), Edward Ikin, Hamza Siddique, Tom Hamilton, Matt Fletcher, Peter Burgoyne, Chris Durham, Matt Sanderson, Greg Cork, Johny Marsden, Will Davis and 12th man Greg Massingham.

That is a strong side, though missing Tom Knight who will be travelling to the Oval with the first eleven. So too will Matt Lineker, so Ockbrook and Borrowash will miss their talismanic opening batsman and useful slow left arm bowler, as evidenced by his 3-1 last weekend.

 The weather still looks dodgy, but it will be a great contest between the experience of O and B and the youth of a talented Academy setup. My heart hopes for an Academy win, though my head says that the experience of the likes of Kevin Dean, Jake Needham, Trevor Smith et al could be crucial. Whatever the result, the success of the Academy side is vindication of the work going on at that level and could just be the start of something special.

Derbyshire v Kent day 1

All things considered, that was a bit of a Carlsberg day for Derbyshire today. Granted, the Kent attack wasn't the strongest on the circuit, but you can only play against the team in fromt of you.

Matt Lineker got a score that will do him the world of good, Wes Durston got a century of apparent brilliance, while two young cricketers of massive ability gave it serious humpty at the end of the day, scoring at seven an over as they put tiring bowlers to the sword.

 It's funny, I wrote about them last night and firmly believe these lads could be the real deal. Both average around 40 this season and its not so much the runs they score as the way they make them. Confident strokes, booming drives, towering sixes. It is a pleasure to think of them as Derbyshire players for the next three years at least.

 405 in 86 overs is some going and set me thinking. How are we going to fit another overseas batsman into the side? Paul Borrington failed today, as did Dan Redfern, but we have Chesney Hughes and Garry Park outside this side, with Ben Slater and Hamza Siddique in the vanguard of the next generation. Eight batsmen have exceeded 500 runs this summer, as well as the outstanding Wes Durston, deservedly player of the year. Such a team approach to run scoring is tribute to a fine team spirit engendered by captain Luke Sutton and Karl Krikken.

Sutton has had his critics this summer, but 500 runs is a decent return from the skipper, who will probably drop down a place next summer, allowing Clare greater opportunity. If Tom Poynton continues to improve the skipper could well ease back on his playing commitments too, but we'll see about that.

Talking of next season, if I'm honest, the best overseas player that I can think of would be Danish Kaneria. His hearing in Pakistan is now at the end of this month and if, as seems likely, he is cleared of any irregularities, he will be free to return to their Test side and to county cricket. The former may be problematic, but Kaneria is a world-class performer who would strengthen any county side.

Mike Newell of Nottinghamshire has today said that they may go without one next year as the shrinking, IPL-skewed market makes signing someone decent increasingly problematic. Kaneria won't play IPL as Pakistani players simply don't get picked, but I would be very surprised if he was not near the top of Derbyshire's shortlist.

 I know we have a young Tom Knight and Peter Burgoyne on the staff, but at 18 and 17 they could be key members of a vibrant, locally-reared side for 15 years or more. As young spinners they could learn a massive amount from a world-class cricketer who has well over a thousand wickets in the first-class game, working with him in the nets and bowling alongside him in one day games, a strategy proven to work. In the Championship, the dry tracks that we have seen at times this season could see him bowl at one end when the shine is off the new ball.

 World class? Without a doubt. Derbyshire's next overseas star? I hope so. Right now I can't think of a single player in his league who would be available for the summer.