Saturday, 31 March 2012

Pre-season prospects

Once again I would caution what follows with a health warning. Today was, of course, a pre-season friendly and you pay undue attention to them at your peril.

But having said that there was much to admire in Derbyshire's convincing win over Yorkshire today. The bowlers had another good workout and bowled with discipline, David Wainwright again highlighting what a fine acquisition he is going to be as a fine all-rounder. It was equally good - and surprising - to see Tony Palladino back so quickly from his fractured jaw, while amusing to see the Yorkshire website write off the loss as unimportant, having "bigged up" their win in Barbados....

Especially refreshing was the way that we continued to play the aggressive cricket promised when there were three down for 30-odd, and wonderful to see Dan Redfern hit his first exhilarating century in Derbyshire colours. There was another delightful innings from Ross Whiteley and important stabilising ballast from Wes Durston, but for me the Redfern knock is of massive importance for player and team.

Anyone who has watched the lad bat over the last four or five years can have had few doubts over his talent. I've several times compared him to a young Neil Fairbrother and there have been occasional comments around "fan" sites that he's not going to make it. The lad is still 21, for goodness sake and has so much time to play his shots that it is scary. Like Paul Borrington his average has suffered from premature elevation, brought into a side because of obvious talent before his physique allowed for any power. There have been plenty of cameos, but I sensed last season that Redfern was on the brink of the breakthrough, as I wrote on several occasions.

I think that part of his problem has perhaps been in not realising how good he actually is. It is ironic in the light of our winter signing that I once spoke to the lad when I was walking round the boundary at a Second XI game at Denby a few years back. He was fielding fine leg and I congratulated him on a couple of recent knocks in the senior side and asked if he fancied our chances that day.

"Maybe" he replied, "but you see who they have playing? Rana Naved!"

The awe of a fine player was tangible but I told him that he could handle Naved and the rest with no problem, which he thanked me for. He did too, but the exchange suggested a lad who wasn't blessed with the confidence that his talent merited. I think that he now realises he can get runs at this level and there was a realisation today, as I  followed the unfolding of the game, that I have not had for a long time with a Derbyshire side.

When we were three very good wickets down, I simply thought "no worries, Danny Red is in next". When Wes Durston went, the opposition must have watched Ross Whiteley approach the wicket with the commensurate level of apprehension that I felt in confidence. I said last night that I had few worries about our batting this summer and I genuinely mean that. How can you, with the talent of that top six and players like Wainwright, Clare and Poynton to follow? All of these players - perhaps even down to Tim Groenewald at ten - can score good runs and Derbyshire should take some bowling out this summer.

That was a good side out today and we've some bloke called Guptill flying in any day now...

Over on Cricinfo they must think Matt Lineker is so good that, like in the song "New York, New York" they've named him twice. Mind you, they also list Atif Sheikh in our squad. I must double check that they've removed Colin Tunnicliffe...

With Hamza Siddique batting for Cardiff UCCE today and Matt Higginbottom and Ben Slater in action for Leeds/Bradford, there was plenty of interest in minor cricket. Greg Smith scored 160 for Essex against a limited attack - it had to be, as good ones don't concede 500 runs in a day - while ex-Academy player Tom Hamilton scored a fine ton for the Cardiff UCCE 2nd XI.

There's lots of talent in Derbyshire cricket and most of it has only relatively recently stopped eating rusks. It promises to be an exciting summer for Derbyshire fans, but quite frankly I think that this will be just the tip of the iceberg, given the potential of the kids coming through from Howard Dytham's Academy programme.

Be still, my beating heart. The season proper starts this week...

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