It could be safely said that the earliest ever start for a domestic season has been a greater boon to bowlers than batsmen.
It was always likely to be so, of course, but there are some big names around whose reputations have taken an early season hammering. A few comments fired in the direction of Derbyshire batsmen have made me look at the statistics a little more closely to see if they are in any way justified.
Here's a few random big names and their season averages so far that make sobering reading:
Marcus Trescothick - 16
Paul Collingwood - 11
Mark Ramprakash - 10.3
Samit Patel - 8.25
Ian Blackwell - 7
Andrew Strauss - 3
Murray Goodwin - 2.3
Most fans pre-season, if offered any one of those players to bolster our batting, would probably have been very excited. Yet reputation and technique have been examined and found out by the early season wickets, where movement has been extravagant and bounce variable to non-existent.
That being the case, there are some pretty impressive statistics among Derbyshire batsmen. Martin Guptill averages 48, Dan Redfern 43, Ross Whiteley 38, David Wainwright 33, Jonathan Clare and Paul Borrington 25. OK, Wes Durston (16) and Wayne Madsen (12) haven't got going, but they are far from alone on wickets that are to batsmen what a crucifix is to Dracula.
Of course, all the tracks are different, but Derbyshire have yet to play on one that you would say was especially good for batting. The two tracks at Derby have been OK, but there has been plenty to keep the bowlers interested and batsmen wary. Cardiff was, in all fairness, rather unpleasant and I've chosen by term carefully there...
All the more suprising, then, that of all first class counties, taking the number of batsmen currently averaging over 25, Derbyshire are third behind Kent (with 9) and Yorkshire (with 7). That these two sides featured in a high scoring draw at the start of the season is the major factor, but there are plenty of teams worrying. The highest averaging batsman at Glamorgan does so with 20.5, his total including one century but five other innings for a total of 19 runs. Their captain Jim Allenby averages 11, their overseas number five, Moises Henriques, just 6...
Even Chris Rogers, well used to our conditions by this stage, averages "only" 22 - positively Bradmanesque by some standards, while top South African opener Alviro Petersen currently rejoices in one of eleven, one less than Worcestershire's usually prolific Vikram Solanki. Stephen Peters, a solid, reliable county opener over many seasons, currently averages 6 for Northamptonshire. Taking these statistics into account, does anyone still feel we're doing that badly?
When you look at the number of balls faced by batsmen, perhaps as sound a reflection of good technique as you could get, the figures are all the more telling. Here's the top seven batsmen in Division Two by balls faced:
Paul Borrington 471
Chris Dent 419
Alex Wakeley 389
Martin Guptill 381
Iain Cockbain 381
Joe Sayers 370
Ross Whiteley 341
Three of our top six in the top seven of the Division is a pretty impressive effort. I would argue that if you're good enough to stay there on the dirt tracks, when the outfield doesn't give full reward for your strokes and your technique gets the most thorough of examinations, you should do just dandy come high summer.
The frustration for batsmen, of course, is that early season failure could see you lose your place when the conditions are easing, just in time for someone else to come in, capitalise and make you look an under-achiever in the process. Of course, only a poor coach would make such a knee-jerk reaction and Karl Krikken is a long way from that.
Only two batsmen in the country - Chris Read and Nick Compton - have batted longer than Borrington this season, though it is safe to say that Compton has enjoyed better wickets than most. Ah yes, you might say, Borrington has stayed in but he's not scored many runs. My reply would be simple - there's plenty of supposedly good players who have scored a lot less and, as I've written before, you don't score any in the pavilion.
I do feel sorry for Chesney Hughes and Matt Lineker, good players both. Hughes will logically replace Borrington for one day games and must fight for a place with weight of runs. The same goes for Lineker, who has now recovered from a hernia operation and must argue his case with a bucket load of runs in the Premier League and Second XI. If they do that, they will put pressure on the present incumbents of the positions they covet and be ready for an opportunity when it comes.
Yet by the look of it, those lads won't be giving them up without a fight, which can only be good news for Derbyshire cricket.
My case is rested, m'lud and I find in favour of the defence.