Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Better days

Bruce Springsteen fans will recognise that title above, and it is quite an opposite title for tonight's piece, with improved news from Emergency Ward Ten - or, as its better known, the Derbyshire dressing room.

Tony Palladino will not miss "weeks" as suggested by a specialist in Barbados, but will in fact be fit for the season opener, according to the one that he has subsequently seen in London. This suggests that the first specialist perhaps had the words "gas fitter" after the name of course, or perhaps he was a professional prankster intent on giving Derbyshire fans an attack of the glums...

Anyway, good news. With Mark Turner nearing fitness, Krikk seems happy with the form of Messrs Whiteley and Footitt, as well as Jon Clare, so maybe we won't yet be opening against Northamptonshire with an attack of Chris Grant and myself. I'm quite disappointed that Krikk let it slip he'd been offered bowlers on loan already - I thought he'd keep that between the two of us....

Back to the tour and tomorrow we play an emerging players side in another match. I just hope that we see opening opportunities for Paul Borrington and Matt Lineker. Before the tour began one of the questions on the lips of fans was the likely opening partner for Martin Guptill when the business starts. Chesney Hughes has done well so far - he knows the wickets better than anyone in this part of the world, of course - but there has been no opportunity for Lineker thus far and he deserves one, without doubt.

So too does Borrington. An unbeaten 23 against Leicestershire was followed by a breezy unbeaten 25 from 18 balls last night, both batting down the order. While fully appreciative that these are friendlies, I see no merit in Borrington batting so low. As an opening batsman he could have anchored a chase in both games and from a technical perspective would have been better equipped to do so than Jon Clare. I've written recently that there is a case for Clare, a hard-hitting batsman, to bat higher in one-day cricket, but I don't see that being in the nose-bleed territory of opening batsman.

For one thing batting against a world-class bowler holding a hard new ball is a world away from facing the same guy with a ball that is much older and softer. For another, I think Clare's work load needs to be carefully managed. He is on record as wanting to move on to the next level this year and could well do that as a lively fast medium bowler who hits the deck and a batsman capable of hitting tiring bowlers to all parts. The likes of Botham, Imran and Flintoff rarely moved up the order with success, but found their niche in the side from where they could make an impact.

Such things always smack of desperation to me. I recall the 1969 Gillette Cup Final when Alan Ward was sent in early to address a declining run rate. "Why are they doing that"? I asked my Dad.

"Because they're panicking" was his prompt reply. I don't know if anyone's done any research on it, but I don't think the success rate of hitters going up the order can be greater than 10%. Maybe I've over-elaborated on this point, but for me, opening batsmen should open. If they don't, you're effectively suggesting that you made a mistake in picking them in the first instance. When, more often than not, the hitters fail you are usually down to 15-2 or somesuch, no base at all for a run chase. What a side needs is a canny player to knock it around and let the others play the big shots.

Just my opinion, of course.

In closing, it is gratifying to hear good reports of Tom Poynton's glovework so far. For me, any runs the lad makes this season are a bonus and the greater need is for a sound wicket-keeper who sets a standard in the field. I think he will do that and, once established, will relax at the crease and start to contribute valuable runs. He's a good player, young Poynton and will be a fine asset to Derbyshire cricket.

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