Thursday, 31 May 2012

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 2

Logic suggests that sometime tomorrow Derbyshire will go down to a first Championship defeat of the summer, but there's maybe still another twist in what has been an absorbing game of cricket.

If Derbyshire could somehow scramble another 150 runs from those last five wickets, Gloucestershire will remember all too clearly their collapse in the momentous game of 2010. You never can tell at cricket and this team doesn't seem to have the propensity of others of recent vintage to collapse like a pack of cards.

Tomorrow would be an excellent day for David Wainwright to rediscover his best batting form and with Daniel Redfern established and batsmen of ability to come, 150 more is not beyond our compass.

The Derbyshire seamers again bowled well but were effectively held up by another fine knock by Alex Gidman, who with his brother Will has dominated this game. Alex Gidman is a fine player and has been for a number of years - were it not for his efforts this would be a very even game.

There were worthy efforts from Guptill and Madsen, but if Derbyshire are to salvage anything from this game Daniel Redfern needs to match the innings of Gidman and some of the lower order need to come to the party. It was a shame to see Matt Lineker fail for the second time in the game, but we cannot be too harsh on a player with little senior experience who is making his way in the county game.

So an improved effort from Derbyshire today, but we will need a stirring effort tomorrow to prevent us losing this one. There is little substantially wrong with the wicket and we will need a major effort to pull this one from the fire.

I hope I'm proved wrong, but I think the unbeaten record is gone here.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Good news from the Twos...

Good to see Derbyshire's second string under Garry Park winning two games in a day against Durham. There were runs from Chesney Hughes and Ben McGuire (a new name on me), as well as good spells from Matt Higginbottom and the skipper.

More good news came from the Second XI T20 in Yorkshire, where England Under-19s beat their hosts twice, aided and abetted by fine bowling from Tom Knight. Opening the bowling in the first match, Tom returned the remarkable figures of 4-1-12-2, a remarkable effort by any standards and one that could see him in the frame for the T20 proper when it starts.

In the second game he bowled his 4 overs for 32, by no means a bad spell and it is good to see the youngster bowling so well after a winter where he picked up a nasty injury.

Well done Tom - look forward to seeing you back in the senior side soon!

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 1

There is an old adage that says that you learn more about people - and by extension teams - in adversity than you often do when things are going swimmingly. That being the case I think we will get a better picture of the genuine merits of this Derbyshire side by the end of this game than we perhaps have done so far.

One thing that I have learned about the greatest of games over many years is that just when you think you have it sussed it has a habit of coming back to bite you. That's what happened today - all of us, myself included - were perhaps getting carried away that we were brilliant, unbeatable perhaps. We're not, as I've said before, we're a young side and a work in progress. After today, one with a lot to do...

Today's pitch was by no means difficult, or so I've heard from people who were there and from reports. It could be said with a degree of confidence that Derbyshire batted worse than they have all season, several players contributing to their own downfall. While some have moaned about the decision to bat, Derbyshire should not have been bowled out just after lunch on such a wicket, with two run outs contributing to their premature demise in an uncharacteristically poor and shoddy display.

Yet they fought back pretty well, with Gloucestershire five wickets down by the close and a lead of 87. They have realistically only four wickets left, with Chris Dent unlikely to bat with a fractured finger, so early wickets tomorrow and keeping them to around 220-230 still leaves this game wide open. Yesterday I said that Alex Gidman was sure to return to form soon, and having been a thorn in our side for years, he returned to be just that today.

I stand by my assertion that this isn't a good Gloucestershire attack, although the returning David Payne improves it, but anyone who saw them at Derby and thinks this an attack that should bowl the opposition out for under a hundred is delusional. Will Gidman is a good cricketer, but their record thus far suggests a side of only average ability and one that hasn't hit its straps this summer. By the same token, a team that goes out to bat carelessly, as we did today, asks for trouble. We need much more application in the second innings, that is for sure, but if we can leave the hosts 200-plus in the final innings they will not fancy it especially.

So we will learn more about Derbyshire over the next couple of days and unless it hoses down for most of them there should be a positive result in this match. If we bat badly again we will go down to heavy defeat, but I'd like to think more of the current line-up than that they could do that twice running. I also think that a certain Mr Guptill might want to sign off in style, so don't write off the boys yet - there's a lot of cricket still to play.

By the same token, I think we found out a bit about some fans today too. The comments and e mails were flying thick and fast after our innings, in far greater quantities than is ever the case when we do well. What is it about Derbyshire fans that make them so? Maybe it is human nature - we are all perhaps more ready to criticise than to praise, when we really should turn that around more often.

Someone had a ridiculous dig at Matt Lineker, in his first appearance of the season, but the biggest surprise was that no one thought to blame Paul Borrington.

It must have been his fault for being rested, after all...

From today's Bristol Evening Post...

"GLOUCESTERSHIRE owe it to the rest of the LV County Championship Second Division to beat Derbyshire at Bristol this week.

So says Alex Gidman, who fears the north Midlands county are on the verge of building an unassailable advantage in the race for promotion to Division One.

Unbeaten in seven games in the four-day arena this season and seeking to extend their unbeaten run at Nevil Road today, Derbyshire currently lead second-placed Kent by 24 points and are a further 10 ahead of Hampshire, who currently lie third.

A fifth victory in eight games for Wayne Madsen's much-improved team would put them virtually out of sight at the halfway stage of the campaign, leaving their nearest rivals to battle it out for second place.
But Gloucestershire will give the chasing pack renewed hope if they become the first side to beat Derbyshire in the Championship this season.

Gidman said: "It is crucial that someone pegs Derbyshire back and that is what we must try to do.
"We need to do it for the sake of the rest of the division – if they win in Bristol, they will be a long way clear and the rest of us will all be playing for second place..."

 Crikey...we have them worried eh?

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire preview

If Derbyshire manage another win against Gloucestershire tomorrow, they will almost certainly go into the T20 competition in the giddy heights of first place in the County Championship...

I had to pause and read that sentence again. I have, after all, waited four years to write it...

Derbyshire have, as I suggested last night might happen, made one change to their successful side thus far, with Matt Lineker thoroughly deserving a call up after recent Second XI centuries. I remain convinced that Paul Borrington will become a first team cornerstone, but we need to know if Lineker, the stand-out batsman in the Derbyshire Premier League over the past few years, has what it takes to make the first-class game a natural consequence.

As a left-hander he will give a good balance to the opening pairing and make it hard for the bowlers to settle to a line. With three left and three right hand batsmen in the top six, there's a lot of settling required for the opposition attack. Lineker's contract expires at the end of the season and I would like to see Karl Krikken give him an extended run now, the opportunity to establish himself and justify another deal. If he did so it would give a massive incentive to league players and no one would deserve it more. As an over-age player he needs to justify a place with weight of runs, but Lineker is a good cricketer and could well do it.

The Derbyshire squad, with Mark Turner my likely 12th man

Wayne Madsen (c), Martin Guptill, Matt Lineker, Wes Durston, Dan Redfern, Ross Whitley, David Wainwright, Jonathan Clare, Tom Poynton (wk), Tim Groenewald, Tony Palladino, Mark Turner

As for Gloucestershire, they have a talented batting side, with Kiwis Williamson and Marshall having good seasons. Alex Gidman has started slowly, but is too good a player to be out of sorts for long. I'm less convinced by their bowling though and think Derbyshire have every chance to make it five wins from eight in this game.

There is a confident edge to the team just now and as long as we keep doing the simple things, win the sessions and continue to work, an already healthy lead in the Championship might even be extended in four days time..

Unleash the Falcons...

Monday, 28 May 2012

Monday musings: adieu to Jake.

It is always sad when a player leaves Derbyshire. For some, the opportunities never came or the talent simply wasn't there. As Jake Needham leaves the county game for a role within the club's marketing department, neither accusation can be levelled at him.

Spinners at Derbyshire have often been the afterthought, although the likes of Tommy Mitchell, "Dusty" Rhodes, Edwin Smith, Fred Swarbrook and Geoff Miller have all established themselves over the years. Jake Needham rose through the ranks at a time when a vacancy was there and England Under 19 selection confirmed him as a player of some talent. He could be a dogged tail ender and a valued night watchman, yet Jake's prime role was as an off-spinner and he never quite got to the requisite standard.

There were some lovely spells in one-day games, when his off-spin had a nice loop and the opposition struggled to get him away. A nice, easy action suggested someone who could bowl all day and Jake was also a very good fielder, which added value.

Yet the feeling persisted that containment was his forte and opportunities on spinning wickets were rarely taken. It is hard to do that, of course, if you're not getting enough overs to find rhythm and being tossed into the side and expected to bowl sides out in such circumstances must have been difficult for a young bowler. Jake struggled to turn the ball, toss it up and make batsmen work in the four-day game, perhaps loathe to give runs away, conscious that such profligacy might cost him a place in the side again.

35 wickets at 36 were far from bad figures, but the emergence of Tom Knight and Peter Burgoyne as young spinners of talent put a little more pressure on Needham, as did the signing of David Wainwright. The county sought coaching input from various sources in recent seasons - perhaps there were too many at the time, all with their own ideas, all perhaps filling the young bowler's head with too many theories.

I'm sure Jake will have a successful career outside the county game and will be a fine cricketer for Ockbrook and Borrowash, where he is captain, for many years. Establishing himself in the county game was beyond him, but Jake can leave it with his head held high, having given his best in the county colours.

Thanks Jake.

Elsewhere Dimi Mascarenhas is telling anyone who will listen that we need an IPL style competition in England. Presumably we'll be starting in February to fit it in... I watched and enjoyed the IPL and loved the enthusiasm of the Indian crowds, the excitement of an audience of all ages and both sexes, the brilliant way it was presented and the sense of occasion.

Yet Mascarenhas' assertion is stunningly oblivious to the parochial nature of the county game, as I've said before on this blog. At the risk of stating the obvious, India and England are completely dissimilar countries in their cricketing make up and creating regional sides simply wouldn't work. Try as I might, I couldn't get eight - or even six - regional sides that would work or that, more crucially, supporters would want to watch.

Yeah, let's make a composite Yorkshire/Durham side. And a Middlesex/Surrey one. We could easily combine Derbyshire/Leicestershire/Nottinghamshire side that we'd all forsake local rivalries to support, folding arms and singing jolly songs with our erstwhile rivals. I am more likely to change sex this evening than to support such a side. The only merit it would have would be to save Nottinghamshire clerical time in signing the better players of their local rivals...

After the debacle of the Eurovision Song Contest, I have no hesitation in awarding Mr Mascarenhas' idea one less than Engelbert Humperdinck got on Saturday.

Nil points...

Tomorrow I'll preview this week's game against Gloucestershire, the latest in a long line of important games for Derbyshire. For what its worth, bearing in mind his centuries for the Second XI last week, I expect Matt Lineker to make his season bow in this one. Paul Borrington has had a decent run, has not been a failure by any means and has shared in good stands with Martin Guptill. Yet Krikk, for me, needs to let the peripheral players know that they will get  an opportunity if they do the business in the Seconds and this is it for Lineker.

We'll see when the squad is announced tomorrow. And I'll see you then too.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

A look at the rest

When you are looking for reasons for Derbyshire's success this summer, one has to look at shortcomings in other teams as well as at the positives from our own cricket. I have written ad infinitum about the merits of Derbyshire's cricket, but one also has to look further afield for reasons too, allowing a full picture to be viewed.

Essex? They are a side of quality, hence the reason for our euphoria in beating them so convincingly on Friday. Yet the loss of Cook and Bopara to England and ten Doeschate to the IPL leaves their side with a more vulnerable underbelly. Derbyshire's bowlers exposed that admirably and you can only beat who is in front of you. Nor have big signings performed for them - Alviro Petersen has 235 runs in 11 innings, 145 of which came in one; Greg Smith averages 14 with the bat and has six wickets at 49 each...

Glamorgan cannot bat an eyelid, that's the short answer to their form. Marcus North has three fifties in his four innings so far, but previously Moises Henriques, a strange choice as overseas player, averaged just 5 from eight innings. No other batsman averages more than 23, with the previously reliable Jim Allenby currently making just 11 each time he goes to the crease. It is hard to see them turning the corner this year, to be honest.

Gloucestershire have a fine New Zealand batsman in Kane Williamson and a pretty good one in Hamish Marshall,  yet apart from that their batting is functional rather than flashy. Alex Gidman averages just 18, having been the cornerstone of their batting for years, while only his brother Will, with 23 wickets, appears to offer a real threat with the ball. They have missed Jon Lewis, without a doubt and other bowlers need time to develop.

Simon Katich has done his usual job for Hampshire and Sean Ervine is a good cricketer, but again the batting has been patchy and the bowling is heavily reliant on Balcombe, who has 33 wickets. The rest are taking their wickets at 29-35, too high with the wickets they have had at their disposal. Their highly rated young batsman James Vince, often spoken of as an England possible, averages 22, the same as Paul Borrington...

Kent have done well under Jimmy Adams, a shrewd coach who has recruited well and been rewarded. Brendon Nash has proved, as I wrote might well be the case pre-season, a shrewd overseas signing, while Michael Powell, Rob Key and Darren Stevens make up a powerful batting side. Coles and Shreck have made a good opening attack and they will be in the mix at season-end, our games with them likely to be pivotal to eventual success or failure.

Leicestershire have a very good overseas player in Ramnaresh Sarwan and it is laughable that he can't make the West Indies Test side. Yet support has been sporadic and talented young batsmen have proved less reliable than ours. The bowling suffered the loss of Hoggard for a few games and it is hard to see them bowling teams out twice, especially when Henderson appears to be not the bowler he once was.

Northamptonshire are a strange side, with batsmen doing OK without being spectacular and bowlers likewise. Their overseas player Vaas has only four wickets in four matches and at Derby bowled at roughly the pace that I do - and I'm nearly twenty years older. They will be mid-table, but someone needs to kick on with bat or ball to enable them to make a push in the second half of the season.

Yorkshire? Rumours persist it is not the happiest of camps and while they will not lack runs, it is hard to see who will bowl teams out. Sidebottom has 13 wickets at 35 and, after the departure of Shahzad, Rashid has only nine wickets at 49. They must be kicking themselves at letting David Wainwright go and the county still has the unfortunate "talent" of under-achievement. Unless Mitchell Starc cuts a swathe through teams, I can't see Yorkshire with enough in the tank to win the games for a promotion challenge.

At the end of it all? Derbyshire have a great chance of promotion. I think the games against Kent and Yorkshire will be massive (a no-brainer that one) but I see nothing in either side to make me fear for our prospects.

Taking all the squads side by side, for all the batting talent at Essex (when they're available) and Yorkshire (when they fire) I wouldn't swap one of them for what Karl Krikken has at his disposal. As I said yesterday, if we can keep the bowlers fit and the batsmen scoring as they have thus far, we could well be celebrating promotion in September.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Post-match thoughts on the championship leaders

Even the most cynical and negative Derbyshire fan must now, after the sensational - no other word will do - win over Essex yesterday. The team that were the favourites of most pre-season for promotion were hammered - let's be honest about it - by a Derbyshire side so aggressive, "up" and so impressive that it comes as a bit of a shock to most.

Not me though. You'll recall that I fancied a win pre-game and that I thought we would seal it on the third day, as we did with time to spare. I'm also enthused by the fact that my pre-season forecast of a promotion challenge is well and truly alive, even though we've yet to reach the season mid-point.

You only need to look at the statistics to get a feel for things. Notwithstanding the dodgy tracks at the start of the season, Guptill and Durston average over 50, Redfern just under it. The skipper weighs in with a very acceptable 40, while the less experienced players, Whiteley and Borrington, are at 30 and 22 respectively.The top six batsmen in the top six positions. The rest all average between 17 and 22, testimony to a side treating batting as a collective effort, which of course it should be.

Aggression and no fear were the by-words pre-season and that has been carried onto the pitch. Karl Krikken in a year has engendered a team spirit that has been noticed by every opponent and it has been a major factor in our success. Again, notwithstanding bad early pitches we've a collective eight centuries and 31 Championship sixes. I remember the days we didn't hit that many in a season.

At the forefront has been the man called the best overseas player on the circuit, Martin Guptill. He has learned from last year and while possessing a stronger defensive technique, has lost none of his aggression and willingness to hit over the top from early in his innings. Derbyshire sides of yore might have got that target yesterday for five wickets in 40 overs. Guptill's controlled aggression made it a walk in the park, well supported by Paul Borrington.

As for the bowling, we have Groenewald, Palladino, Clare and Wainwright taking 89 wickets between them, none costing more than 22 runs per wicket. Footitt, Durston and Whiteley have lent good support and taken wickets at valuable times, but that first four, again as I wrote pre-season, is the best in the division. Sides can no longer nullify Derbyshire by producing spinning tracks, because Wainwright, with support from Wes Durston, can outbowl any of them. If it seams, our boys are a match for anyone else too. We're not unbeatable, but no one has managed it yet...

Nor should we ignore the efforts of Tom Poynton behind the stumps.  Poynton can be rightly proud of his season so far as no one talks about him. There's just an assumption that he will go out and do a very good job, which is good to see. Two things at Chelmsford impressed me - one was his clean hitting, which will have done him a power of good, while you should take a look at the catch he took to remove Shah in the first innings.

David Wainwright got the ball to turn and lift alarmingly, Shah was good enough to get an edge and Poynton did even better to read the first, react to the second and take a very, very good catch. Derbyshire's fielding this year has been of a very high standard and the focal point of that has been a young tyro wicket-keeper in who the coach had confidence, something that has been repaid handsomely so far.

The acid test will come, of course after the T20. If we can get to that stage with a lead at the top of the table we will be set fair, but a few teams come unstuck and lose momentum when the disciplines of the "proper" game are replaced by the smack and giggle version.

The other factor is how well Usman Khawaja replaces Martin Guptill in the overseas role. I think Khawaja will be a man on a mission and he has a real incentive to score heavily from June onwards. If he does and we avoid too many injuries, I think Derbyshire will be promoted.

Team spirit and talent does that for a side.

Essex v Derbyshire day 3

Late night for me tonight, but what a win today!

I'll write more about it over the weekend, but for now you'll have to go a long way to better this report on Cricinfo

The Falcons are flying...and there'll be some worried teams around at the thought of playing us - mark my words..

Wonderful display from a team that we should all be proud of.

Well done lads - more over the weekend.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Essex v Derbyshire day 2

While Derbyshire's lead in this game isn't in all likelihood an outright match-winning one and they may well have to bat again, 141 runs of an advantage is always going to make you favourites in a cricket match.

Tomorrow we will need to get Owais Shah early and probably James Foster too, but there is enough talent in this Derbyshire side to take wickets at regular intervals and complete a memorable win sometime tomorrow. The weather isn't likely to be an issue, so we don't need to panic. With the wicket offering increasing turn we'll not want to chase too many, but I  would be surprised if it is much more than a hundred, if that.

A few players gave it away today, but Wes Durston confirmed his talent and role as senior professional with another dazzling century at close to a run a ball. Wayne Madsen was, by all accounts, seen off by a poor decision, but the innings floundered, perhaps unnecessarily, until Tom Poynton gave us a first glimpse this season of his ability with the bat.

Those who saw him at Chesterfield last summer will know Poynton can bat, and centuries for the Second XI have confirmed that. Today his dazzling fifty gave us a bigger lead than looked likely and a position from which we should - note, should - go on and win the match.

I'm sure we'll see a repeat of the Wes 'n' Wainers show tomorrow as the spin option appears the best route to success here. It was so nice to listen to Radio 5 at 4.30 today and hear them refer to "table-topping Derbyshire again doing well." To quote Bruce Springsteen, its been a long time comin' - but mighty enjoyable all the same.

It has been another impressive performance by the county so far - if we can finish it off tomorrow, we will have opened an impressive gap at the top of the table.

I think we will, so watch this space...

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Essex v Derbyshire day 1

If I had sat down and scripted the day for Derbyshire today I couldn't have done it any better.

Losing the toss and seeing the hosts choose to bat, Derbyshire's boys will hardly have expetced to bowl them out for under 200 and then make steady inroads into the total by the close, with Martin Guptill and Wayne Madsen making steady starts after the early dismissal of Paul Borrington.

Two things struck me today. One was the the fact that three times Wainwright took a wicket with the first ball of a new spell - tribute to him for his accuracy from the start, as well as to his skipper for bringing him on at the right time. I wrote when we signed the Yorkshireman that he would become a key figure for us and so it has transpired. He has been a fantastic - no other word will do - signing by Karl Krikken and Yorkshire must be kicking themselves for not giving him greater opportunity. It is staggering that already this season he has bowled more overs than in any other season of his career thus far..

The other thing that I spotted was discipline. Only TWO extras in an innings of 80 overs. One bye, one leg bye. That sort of control speaks volumes for the players and for the work they are doing with the coaches. Tim Groenewald bowling 16 overs for 26, Wainwright 22 for 51. Again. lets not forget Ross Whiteley, who again nicked in with a useful wicket, as did Tony Palladino.

This season, for the first time in years, we're finishing sides off. It helps that we have that quality spinner now, but the attack is well balanced. Three gooad seamers, plus a left armer for variation, a slow left armer and an off spinner. It is a classic attack and on the way to being a very, very good one.

It was a pity to see Boz go before the end and he realistically has one more innings, I would guess, to protect his role in the side. Matt Lineker has reeled off successive centuries for the Seconds and deserves an opportunity now he is restored to fitness - another one from the local scene making it good.

We're on a roll - a good day batting tomorrow, maybe reaching 350, and we could be on the way to another priceless win.

Feeling good tonight? If I was feeling any better I'd hate myself for it. What's not to like as a Derbyshire fan at the moment?

More tomorrow.

PS Sorry about the late blog, but my club side have also gone top of the league with a 54 run win tonight in a T20 match. Sadly after my 3-6 in three overs at the death last week I took some stick this week.

I only got 1-7 in three overs this time...

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Essex v Derbyshire preview

In saying that this is a big game I'm paying Derbyshire a great compliment, as realistically they are all going to be big games from here onwards.

It is a sign of progress. With a completely united committee behind the chairman after last night's meeting, we can now return full attention to the events on the field. Its a good job too, as Essex will present us with the sternest challenge yet to our unbeaten record.

It is a game that sees Tony Palladino return to Essex and Greg Smith , assuming he is selected, facing his old team mates for the first time. The hosts are without Ryan ten Doeschate and Ravi Bopara, but still have some good players in this squad:

James Foster (c/wk), Alviro Petersen, Tom Westley, Owais Shah, Mark Pettini, Ben Foakes, Greg Smith, Graham Napier, David Masters, Charl Willoughby, Tymal Mills, Tom Craddock.

Owais Shah has been a regular thorn in Derbyshire sides over the years and batted well in the IPL, but for me the game is likely to be a battle between two very good seam attacks. Masters, Willoughby and Napier are all good cricketers and our batsmen will be tested, make no bones about it. There are interesting reports about the pace of Mills, but Derbyshire's attack will not be found wanting in comparison.

Groenewald, Palladino and Clare stand comparison to any out there and if there is any help in the wicket I would expect them to find it. We also have a quality spinner in David Wainwright and a team spirit that will see us through tight situations this summer. The team effectively picks itself, although Paul Borrington will hope for the good score that will cement his place in the side. Bozza is well respected for what he brings to the side, a willingness to graft and take the shine from the new ball. This makes life a lot easier for later batsmen and all he lacks is another big score that will confirm his talent.

He will be aware that Matt Lineker and Chesney Hughes will be in second team action in the coming days and that big runs for one of them may see him lose a place. Such competition is good for the players and good for the team, but Borrington will keep his place tomorrow in what I see as this side;

Guptill, Borrington, Madsen, Durston, Redfern, Whiteley, Wainwright, Clare, Poynton, Groenewald, Palladino.

The weather looks set fair for the next few days, so there should be time for a positive result. If our batting continues to fire, I can see us shading this one. Why? Because if we bowl first in helpful conditions we have an attack that can do the job. If bowl last, we now have two spinners who can do the same.

Call me Mr Optimistic if you like - and we'd not be unhappy with a draw - but we can get another win here.

Come on Derbyshire!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Monday musings

It was hardly surprising that Karl Krikken's comments about yesterday's defeats pretty much echoed mine of last night. We didn't score enough runs to put Yorkshire under pressure, end of story.

In some ways it is easier to chase a total than to set one. OK, if the opposition post 300 in 40 overs you're up against it, but you at least have an idea of the total you need and don't need to over-stretch and perhaps lose wickets in the process. I look forward to seeing Derbyshire chase in the coming weeks and hopefully prove my theory, but we've not done especially well in the past two CB40 games.

What would help would be a little experience in the middle order, someone who has the nous to knock it around a bit. We will benefit from Rana Naved's experience in the T20, although the Pakistan ace is more a blaster than one who knocks it around. Garry Park could play that role for us, though he is short of cricket this summer and, having hardly bowled last summer through injury, found himself as a required bowler yesterday, when he took a little stick. I would keep Park in the frame though, as with more cricket under his belt he could play a valuable role for us as the season progresses.

It happens at all levels. Every year my village club of essentially old lags plays the local county under 19s and we win more often than not, simply because we know what to do in certain situations and if the flesh is not quite so willing the brain is still pretty acute in most of us. By extension, Derbyshire's Academy did extremely well last year to win the cup trophy, their inexperience covered by a keen coach in Howard Dytham and more than average individual ability and common sense.

We are a good - not great - four day side and we're on a roll. In one day cricket we need to be a little more savvy to get to a similar standard, but we need to remember that this is a young team and a work very much in progress. Whatever this side does this year, I expect it to be merely the start of an excellent period in our club's history.

Tonight at the County Ground a committee meeting will hopefully resolve the Supporter's Club issue which unfortunately blew up from nowhere. I expect the committee to give Chris Grant the support that he fully deserves for an outstanding job so far and to back plans to create a new Supporters Club. There are lot of good models out there for us to mirror in that respect and, while ours did a fine job over a number of years, the time is right to see it evolve into something more in keeping with the fast moving twenty-first century game.

We have top professionals within the club to help make that happen and it is crucial that they are given mandate to do so.

I'll be back tomorrow with a preview of the Essex game.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Yorkshire v Derbyshire CB40

There's a bit of a gulf between Derbyshire as a four-day and as a one-day side at the moment, as was amply illustrated in today's game at Headingley, where our batting failed for the second time in successive games.

Failed? Well, we did score 219 in 40 overs, but when par in a T20 these days is 150-160, that was probably at least 40 short of par. When the admirable Martin Guptill and revitalised Chesney Hughes had led off with 137 by the 25th over, the platform had been set for 250, without doubt. Seven an over  in the last fifteen is not really that tough a task, yet somehow the wheels came off and those last overs saw only 82 runs for seven wickets.

Hughes did pretty well, despite not being at his punishing best. He has precious few runs in the bank this summer and got a duck in the Premier League yesterday, while Paul Borrington scored 94 and Matt Lineker 69. This should at least have given him a little confidence and, as all cricketers know, form can only be one innings away. Meanwhile, Guptill deserves the highest praise for going out time after time and leading from the front. He is an admirable cricketer and man.

You have to give credit to the Yorkshire bowlers for their comeback, but one of the issues with a young batting side is that sometimes the need to score runs quickly leads to the playing of too many big shots too soon. As the top one day batsmen show time and again, rotating the strike, timing the ball into gaps for two and hitting the odd bad ball for four is more likely to pay dividends than big shots every time.

Its also easier in many ways to chase than to set a target. OK, if we'd posted 280, Yorkshire would have been in trouble and pressured into expansive shots themselves, but 220 in 40 overs shouldn't worry many sides on a wicket that is very much in favour of the batting side. With Gary Ballance, a player I would love to see back at Derbyshire sometime, in prime form, it never looked like being enough.

Derbyshire didn't bowl badly, but simply didn't have enough runs to play with. Only 32 runs came in the nine overs after Wes Durston's dismissal in the 27th over and it is something for us to look at in the many one day matches ahead. At the time an innings should be accelerating, ours simply ran out of gas.

We've not turned into a bad side because of these last two defeats. We're a young, competitive side with lots to learn and a willingness to do so. But a little work needs to go into the one-day gameplan before the next match.

More important is the Essex game on Wednesday. I'll write about that tomorrow.

Yorkshire v Derbyshire CB40 preview

I said before the season that I was more optimistic about our four day challenge than the one day campaign. The four day has been a revelation thus far, exceeding even my expectations, but this afternoon's game at Headingley will be a benchmark of where we are in the limited overs stuff.

Last week was a wake up call against a good Warwickshire side, but we didn't really turn up and any resemblance to the Derbyshire side that has excited us this year was coincidence. Today we play a Yorkshire side that has come onto its game in the last week or so, with a long an talented batting side headed by Phil Jaques and a bowling side strengthened by Aussie Mitchell Starc. He will spearhead their attack in this squad:

Andrew Gale (capt), Adam Lyth, Phil Jaques, Gary Ballance, Joe Root, Adil Rashid, Anthony McGrath, Gerard Brophy, Azeem Rafiq, Mitchell Starc, Iain Wardlaw and Moin Ashraf

We will have to play well and work hard for a win, but we beat this side twice last year and are good enough to do so again.

No news on our squad yet, though I don't see too many changes from last week. Tony Palladino may come in for Mark Turner, but I'd see our team as follows:

Guptill, Hughes, Madsen, Durston, Redfern, Whiteley, Wainwright, Clare, Poynton, Groenewald, Palladino.

Garry Park is in the squad and there could be merit in moving Durston up to open and playing Park instead of an out of sorts Hughes, but the latter's bowling option could see him retain a place in the side.

It should be a good game - and Derbyshire have the ability to win, without doubt.

If we do, it will restart our 40-over campaign for sure.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 3

Whisper it quietly folks - no, shout it from the rooftops. The Falcons are flying again...

Derbyshire moved clear of Yorkshire at the top of Division Two with a conclusive win inside three days, once again with the help of fine performances from most of the side.

Star turn of the last day was David Wainwright, who has quickly emerged as the crucial piece of the jigsaw in so far as team building plans are concerned. While Robin Peterson flitted across our skies for one brief season, Wainwright has now won two matches for Derbyshire with his skilful and intelligent use of helpful conditions. Unafraid to toss the ball up, able to extract turn but equally adept at keeping things tight when required, the former Yorkshire player has become a big fan's favourite very quickly. In comparison, the man he replaced in the middle order, Greg Smith, has lost his place at Essex after some poor displays. Its a funny old game..

He was well supported today by another man who is a crucial component of the side, Wes Durston. After a slow start to the campaign, Wes is batting beautifully again, catches swallows at slip and is a very handy bowler to work with Wainwright when the ball is turning. He may not run through sides on his own, but his three wickets today made sure that we were largely unaffected by the loss of Mark Footitt. Once again Tim Groenewald set us on the way with early wickets, fine reward for a very good bowler.

Guptill and Madsen set us on the way with yesterday's centuries, of course and the skipper led the side well, holding a blinding catch at cover to end the Glamorgan innings. That's two centuries this year for Madsen, clearly illustrating that he is not at all fazed by the travails of captaincy, while Guptill is closing fast on 500 runs for the season and proving one of the best overseas men on the circuit.

Indeed, his selfless batting after tea set Derbyshire on the way to a win, saving them the concerns of tomorrow's weather forecast as he gave early impetus to an albeit trifling chase. There was a time when even that target might have caused a few concerns in our ranks, but this is a different side, in personnel, talent and attitude.

I was delighted to see Paul Borrington there at the end, hitting the winning boundary after striking Cosker for a six. There is a school of thought that a few one day games might do Bozza good, allowing him freedom to go for the shots that he obviously has. Mind you, Hughes is the obvious choice for the one day game, although Karl Krikken has been given food for thought today with a big century from Matt Lineker for the Seconds, following on from one last weekend in the Derbyshire Premier League. Competition for places is never a bad thing, and as I wrote the other night, can only make a fast improving side even better.

Word also for Tom Poynton, who again kept beautifully throughout and allowed no byes in the game. There was much discussion before the season as to whether Poynton could take to the pressures of first-class game. the fact that people aren't saying things anymore suggests that he most certainly has. A few more runs would do no harm, but as I have written before, more important was that Poynton's glove work was up to standard. It is.

It would be no bad thing if it rained tomorrow, leaving clear daylight between us and Yorkshire, who we meet in the CB40 on Sunday. That game will see a flexing of muscles, ahead of the more important games between the two sides in the Championship later on in the season. This was no strong Glamorgan side and they seem to lurch from crisis to crisis. Derbyshire will play better sides, but you can only ever beat the one in front of you.

We hammered them today. And once again there have been a few eyes opened in the process.

Come on the 'shire!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 2

Fine centuries by Martin Guptill and Wayne Madsen today put Derbyshire in complete control of their game against Glamorgan at the County Ground. Guptill eventually perished for 132 but the skipper stayed to the close, ending on an unbeaten 122.

A lead of 99 with two days left is useful and with good batting to come Derbyshire will hope to push that lead to around 200 tomorrow and allow plenty of time to bowl out the visitors a second time.

Although Dan Redfern and Ross Whiteley went cheaply later in the day, David Wainwright kept Madsen company to the close and offered promise of more to come in the morning.

With Yorkshire currently struggling against Hampshire, this has been an excellent two days for us, though eventual success will depend on decent fortune from the weather.

A good first session tomorrow, followed by getting the visitors back in during the afternoon, will be the tactics I'm sure, though Derbyshire will have to work for their second innings wickets without the injured Mark Footitt.

Still, its all very encouraging and long may it continue...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 1

Once again you cannot argue with the professionalism in Derbyshire's cricket today at the County Ground.

Having lost their fastest bowler in Mark Footitt early in the day, Tim Groenewald bowled a brilliant spell in taking 3-34 in 22 overs, while fine support came once again from Jonathan Clare. Meanwhile Ross Whiteley bowled a long and rewarded spell, claiming the big wickets of Rees and Allenby. Those who prematurely write off the talented Whiteley as a bowler should bear in mind that even now he has only bowled 160 first class overs...

You could have put money on Marcus North getting a few today, but after David Wainwright got him out the Welsh side capitulated to an all out total of 236 with which Derbyshire will be well satisfied.

The final session saw a potentially awkward spell for Martin Guptill and Paul Borrington to face, but they saw it through to the close at 22-0.

A good solid day of batting tomorrow, with a lead sometime in the late afternoon or evening session, will be exactly what we're looking for. Here's hoping that the weather holds fair and our batsmen are in fine fettle.

In short, a very good start to the match. So lets push on from here lads.

Chairman's statement

I've already said what I needed to say about the Book Shop issue.

Suffice to say that if anyone still had any doubts about the episode, the chairman's excellent, well-written and well-presented statement to members and fans should have convinced them.

With Chris Grant at the helm and a lot of very good people in key positions in the club, Derbyshire County Cricket Club are on the cusp of a period of success. This may be relative, in comparison to what has gone before it, or could be genuine, with trophies in the medium to long term not by any means beyond us.

It just needs people to be less protective of long standing interests, less parochial and more willing to move with the times.

If they do, the sky's the limit. If they don't, I wouldn't like to dwell too long on future prospects.

You can see it, if you haven't already, here

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Derbyshire v Glamorgan preview

It is too early in the season to be talking about "must win" games, but after the intervention of the weather prevented anything but draws in the last three games, Derbyshire will hope to return to winning ways against Glamorgan, starting tomorrow at the County Ground (weather permitting...)

Glamorgan are missing both Graham Wagg and James Harris, although they will be boosted by the return of ex-England man Simon Jones, recalled because of the injury crisis among the seam bowling ranks. Marcus North returns to the County Ground and will strengthen the batting considerably. Moises Henriques, the New South Wales all-rounder, was only a qualified success at the county, but was undoubtedly batted too high at number five.

Their squad in full:

G Rees, N James, W Bragg, M North, B Wright, J Allenby, M O’Shea, M Wallace (capt), D Cosker, H Waters, W Owen, S Jones, M Reed.

Karl Krikken has opted to give Tony Palladino a breather, a wise move with a long season ahead, and Paul Borrington, as I expected, retains his place at the top of the order in the following squad:

Guptill, Borrington, Madsen, Durston, Redfern, Whiteley, Wainwright, Clare, Poynton, Groenewald, Footitt or Turner.

Again, I'd expect Mark Footitt to return and add variety to the attack. I hope the weather stays fair and if it does I expect a Derbyshire win in this game. At some point Messrs North, Allenby and Wallace will fire for the Welsh side and add good runs in the middle order, but I hope it isn't in this game.

A Derbyshire win for me - so don't let me down lads...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Monday musings

The unbeaten record may be gone but nothing should detract from the excellent start to the season enjoyed by Derbyshire.

Pre-season there were promises of aggressive, fearless cricket and that has largely transpired. Two Championship wins have been followed by three largely rain-induced draws. While the batting has not been especially prolific - how could it be, on the wickets so far?  - it has succeeded in scoring more runs than the opposition, surely a good starting point for any side.

The engine room of the batting has done especially well. Dan Redfern has moved up a level and is reaping the dividends of his work with David Houghton, a coach who he respects. Ross Whiteley and Wes Durston too have enjoyed success, and all three have the added benefit of scoring runs quickly when they get in, an asset to any side.

Likewise Martin Guptill has made good contributions and carried on the excellent impression that he made last season, although the skipper has not yet returned to his old prolific self. However, no criticism can be levelled at him, given his recent personal circumstances and through it all he has maintained a dignity and control under pressure that bodes well for his long-term captaincy.

The big talking point - and there's always one - is the second opening berth. Derbyshire started the season with three logical opening partners for Martin Guptill - Paul Borrington, Chesney Hughes and Matt Lineker. Thus far we have seen Bozza in the four-dayers and Chesney in the one-day games. Lineker has not batted a great deal, even in nets, after a pre-season operation, so can hardly be considered at this stage, especially when there has been little Second XI cricket to hone his game.

That has left Boz and Ches. Both are young players and as such lack experience and it is telling that Redfern is now coming to terms with the first-class game with over 80 first-class innings to his name. Borrington has just over 50 and Hughes just under that number, yet they have a fifty or hundred ratio in their first-class knocks of one in five or six, by no means bad.

The choice between the two is a matter of debate among fans but Karl Krikken and Wayne Madsen, presumably with some input from batting coach David Houghton, have adopted a "horses for courses" approach to selection. Bozza, the sticker, the gutsy cricketer, has played the Championship games, while the aggressive Hughes has been the obvious one-day pick.

Yet neither has thus far cemented their role. Hughes' slow left arm makes him a handy weapon in one day games if he scores no runs, yet we need him to do so, ideally sometime soon. Borrington has scored 1, 98, 2, 9, 0, 18 not out.0, 4 thus far. I won't sit here and say that these are inspiring statistics, but I would still maintain that he is the better bet  for Wednesday as there is no viable alternative.

Compare it to 24, 9, 17, 1, 1, 10, 0 and 0 - Mark Ramprakash
4, 0, 3, 16, 8 - Murray Goodwin
17, 50, 20, 4, 9, 36, 9, 2, 6 - Chris Rogers
4, 5, 15, 1, 8, 1, 44, 22, 22 - Stephen Peters

Yes, Borrington will doubtless be under pressure for the Glamorgan game, but I would be confident in whatever choice is made by the men at the top. We are all fans, but anyone who suggests they know better than the three people making the decision is silly. They see the players in the nets, the way they are moving their feet and their attitude, then base selection on all of these factors. Sometimes you just need a break in cricket, as those who play the game will know. When luck is out, catches are always held, your good shots are stopped and there appears no way through the infield. Then it changes and you're suddenly back among the runs again.

Bozza needs runs against Glamorgan, but so does Chesney when he next plays. We can't go out and sign someone else, as I've said before, because anyone worth signing is already contracted and the early signs are that there's nothing expecially exciting in, for example, the Unicorns ranks this year.

Get behind them both though guys, because this is the time when players NEED the support of fans. They don't need anyone to tell them they're out of nick and they don't need people jumping onto forums saying "I see he's failed again" within 15 minutes of a dismissal, as if taking perverse pleasure from it. Both will emerge from their current trots and we will be a better side still when they do so.

Onto other, in some ways related news and there was a good article in this morning's Derby Telegraph from Mark Eklid about the Book Shop issue. 

After reading it I am even more of the opinion that I expressed last week that a hasty and wrong decision was made by the Supporters Club committee. The club was well within its right to request the funding for much needed physiotherapy equipment from an organisation that was set up to support it. What I am less sure of is why that organisation felt the need to only offer just over half of the money and then impose conditions on its use, when the reserves were there to pay the full amount. Who else were they going to give it to? I would hope that it wasn't going to be akin to the well meaning auntie who buys you socks and vests for Christmas, when what you really wanted was a CD...

If it had been an umbrella organisation with responsibility to fund various initiatives and organisations, I could have understood the reluctance, but not otherwise. It smacks, unfortunately, of well-meaning amateurs trying to tell professionals how to do their job. I wouldn't accept that in my job and I'm sure few of you would in yours. The Supporters Club has done a terrific job in raising money for the club over many years, but the use of that money should be a decision for the senior club officials alone, from needs identified within the cricket club.

A new organisation will be formed, I'm sure and it will be modernised to reflect the needs of the 21st century game and supporter. That's not decrying in any way the sterling efforts of many fine people over a number of years, it is the way of the world. Bringing it officially under the wings of the club was a natural consequence of such modernisation and it is just a shame that this wasn't accepted by those concerned.

 More tomorrow, with a preview of Derbyshire v Glamorgan

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Warwickshire v Derbyshire

At some point we were, like all other sides, going to get a defeat and today was most definitely our turn, with Warwickshire running out easy winners.

Yet there was no disgrace in losing to a very good side, one in form and with strength and experience in depth. We were outclassed and overwhelmed, but there is no reason for massive post mortems on this one. The batting didn't fire and we only looked like getting a total together when Wes Durston and Ross Whiteley were together. It ddn't last long enough though and Warwickshire's impressive batting made short work of the run chase.

More important is for Derbyshire to regroup and be ready for the visit of Glamorgan this week. Marcus North will be back at the County Ground and I will be previewing the game over the next  couple of nights. It is a game that Derbyshire will hope to win and they have the ability to do so.

Today was just one of those days.

Warwickshire v Derbyshire CB40 Preview

Tomorrow will, undoubtedly, be our toughest test of the season so far. Warwickshire second in division one of the Championship and second in our group, play Derbyshire, top of division two and top of the CB40. If this was a film, they would call it Clash of the Titans, featuring still, my beating heart.

There's no Ian Bell in Warwickshire's team tomorrow, which is good news, though the Bears have been in such good form this year that they have plenty of options. There's no news on their side yet, but with players of the quality of Darren Maddy, Chris Woakes and, on this year's form, Rikki Clarke available, we will need to be at our very best to maintain our unbeaten record.

Our side? The batting is likely to  be the same that did very well last week against the Unicorns, with Chesney Hughes replacing Paul Borrington. The bowling may also stay as was last week, but Mark Footitt and Tony Palladino will be pressing to replace Mark Turner.

Finally tonight, I still find it disappointing that there are calls for a player to be dropped - you all know who I mean. There is a comment on the Forum tonight that the person concerned  will "never be a player" which is a silly thing to say. He might be a lot better off if people got off his back, while calls for others to replace him would be the more valid if the players concerned were themselves in form with the bat.

There may well be a powerful argument for Chesney Hughes to come in sometime soon, but first he needs to get some runs under his belt.

Tomorrow would be a very good time to start.

Come on boys - let's take the game to them!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Hampshire v Derbyshire day 4

The last day turned, not into a run chase but into an accumulation of maximum batting points by Derbyshire, a job they accomplished thanks to perhaps the best numbers ten and eleven in the Second Division. Who knows how valuable that 44-run partnership between Tim Groenewald and Tony Palladino might be come the end of the season?

Five batting points presumably came around because the captains could not agree on a suitable total for a run chase. That being the case, they did all that they needed to do, primarily thanks to beautiful centuries from Wes Durston and Daniel Redfern. Both are in prime form right now and there is real depth to our batting.

Hearty congratulations tonight to Yorkshire, who pulled off an amazing run chase to beat Gloucestershire, scoring 400 in the final innings to do so. I'm not happy to eat my words, but will admit to being wrong, having overlooked what is, after all, a pretty mediocre Gloucestershire attack.

Still top of the league, though the Yorkies have now drawn level on points. There will be extra spice to those fixtures this year, that's for sure!

Tomorrow is a CB40 against Warwickshire - more later, or tomorrow morning

Supporter's Club wind up a shame, but...

I'd heard that the Derbyshire County Cricket Supporters Club was likely to be wound up a few days ago and the letter and comments on the Falcons Forum were on that level not altogether surprising, nor the club's response on the web site.

The disappointment of Colin Gardner, who has done a lot of good work on behalf of the club, is tangible in that letter, but I don't think that its publishing is doing anyone involved any favours. Committee business should, unless decided by a vote to the contrary, be kept as a private matter and Colin should, after a long involvement with the club, have been well aware of that. Rightly or wrongly, there is an air of toys being thrown out of a pram, which is unfortunate.

I don't pretend to be privy to the innermost details of what has happened but I am old enough in the tooth to know that there are always two sides to every story. While knee-jerk reactions are always likely - especially in Derbyshire cricket - one has to be in full possession of the facts, from both sides, before making a judgement on the rights and wrongs of anything.

The facts are that the Supporters Club has done a terrific job over the years for Derbyshire, but maybe it needs revamped and restructured to bring it into the modern era. The book shop was a nice place to stop by, but its a long time since I bought anything there as the stock really needed pruning and organising. The chartered librarian in me ached to sort out the shelves and make searching a little easier, but there was always the value of serendipity to be considered, I suppose.

I have a feeling that a decision was made in haste and if I have learned one thing in life it is that there is much value to be had in sleeping on things and weighing them over in your mind before doing anything that you later have cause to regret.

I hope that the shop isn't fully lost to the club and I hope that the Supporters Club is revamped to appeal to perhaps a wider membership than was the case. There is always opposition to change, but it is as inevitable in life as the sun going down each evening. A restructured club, ideally with the involvement of people with experience and interest, would continue to be of value and I know that the purchases made by them for the players, their equipment and their well-being have always been appreciated.

For now, it is important that the resources revert to the club, for which they raised the cash and that the club works with interested parties to introduce a new, modernised one in time.

What has happened is sad, but we don't need to blow it out of proportion. It is what happens on the pitch that counts.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Hampshire v Derbyshire day 3

You probably noticed that I didn't blog last night as there was little point in simply posting "it rained again".

Today we had cricket - hooray for that - and Hampshire made a pretty creditable total of 352-8 in their day of batting. It was a total that should have protected them from defeat in this game.

But did they bat too long? I would be surprised if Derbyshire chased 350 in 96 overs on the last day of a game and can see a potential struggle if they do so. More likely, for me, would be that Hampshire declare, we knock 50-60 runs quickly, then chase a more feasible 290-300. Such a total gives both sides an opportunity of winning. As it stands, in my humble opinion, chasing 350 leaves only one side a realistic chance and I don't think that would be us.

You all know I'm very supportive of the boys and confident that they can make a challenge in most matches, but that, as they say, would be a "big ask". Over at Bristol, Yorkshire have forfeited an innings and are chasing 400 on the last day. There are words that come to mind with such a decision but one stays in my head after the others have gone.


I reckon they'll be beaten by tea time. Let's just hope that Derbyshire aren't so silly. There's aggressive cricket and there's the same with a little more common sense applied.

I hope we choose that path tomorrow.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Hampshire v Derbyshire day one

Or not...

As I expected last night, today never happened.

Ironic really, on the day that old Peakie played his first game of the summer and, after an unbeaten cameo at the end of our innings, took 3-6 in three overs with my cunningly flighted filth to help to win the game against a local county XI. As our keeper, and my old friend Martin put it, after I clean bowled  their top scorer with my first ball of the season "it was so flighted he'd lost interest by the time it got down here..."

Quite. I know I'll be sore tomorrow, but tonight was fun.

Here's hoping for more of the same from Derbyshire...

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Hampshire v Derbyshire preview

A quarter of the way through the Championship season and we are sitting at played four, won two, drawn two.

The next four days will provide our sternest test yet, as some good judges saw Hampshire among the front-runners for the promotion places this summer. Perhaps some of that was based on performances and players of an earlier vintage, when the likes of Cork, Razzaq and Afridi made them one of the best twenty over sides around.

Having said that, they are still a good side and although their new overseas star Simon Katich has yet to fire, there must be good odds to be had that he will be concentrating hard in his two innings here against his old side.

They have announced the following squad for the match:

Simon Katich, Jimmy Adams (Captain), Shaun Ervine, Liam Dawson, Sean Terry, James Vince, Michael Bates (Wicketkeeper), Danny Briggs, James Tomlinson, Chris Wood, Kabir Ali and David Balcombe.

Derbyshire followers will remember David Balcombe from his fine display at the County Ground for Kent while on loan last season. That loan period seems to have been the making of him, as he's been taking regular wickets this year. With the experienced yet injury-ravaged Kabir Ali  at the other end and support from young talent Tomlinson and Briggs, their attack will ask questions of Derbyshire's batting.

Again though, Derbyshire's attack will ask the same of theirs. I don't see any better seam attacks in this division than Palladino, Groenewald, Clare and Footitt, whichever three take the field. The battle between David Wainwright and Danny Briggs as slow left armers of talent will be fascinating and it is just a shame that tomorrow looks very much like a washout from the forecasts that I have seen.

The Derbyshire squad is much as we've seen in previous matches:

Wayne Madsen (Captain), Paul Borrington, Martin Guptill, Wes Durston, Dan Redfern, Ross Whiteley, David Wainwright, Jonathan Clare, Tom Poynton (Wicketkeeper), Tim Groenewald, Tony Palladino and Mark Footitt.

I think this is too close to call, another sign of the progress of our side, as you wouldn't have said that a year or two back. As in the two previous matches the weather may well have the final word, but I'm thoroughly enjoying following the fortunes of our side, one that is doing exactly what was promised pre-season - playing aggressive, fearless cricket.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Monday Musings

Well, its the first time in the four years of doing this blog that I have been able to do a Monday Musings with Derbyshire top of the Championship table and sitting one from one in the CB40. Good times!

It has been a remarkable start and few among the Derbyshire faithful, when the season started in March, would have expected us to be still unbeaten as we enter the second week of May. A strong team ethic in which all have played a part has been a major contributory factor, while the spirit engendered by Karl Krikken has been evident for all to see. They are in it as a team and will win and lose as one.

Top marks also have to go to Wayne Madsen, who has done little wrong so far. His batting wasn't at its best in the early games, with the pitches more akin to minefields, but he showed his mettle after inordinately trying personal circumstances against Gloucestershire with a century that must already be a contender for David Griffin's "Eddie Barlow moment" award for the season. Yesterday he played a selfless, brisk cameo at the end of the innings, the type of knock to which we have become accustomed in recent seasons.

Most of all, Madsen has shown himself a leader of considerable potential. His field settings have been good, his bowling changes sensible and his leadership of the team excellent. They are behind him to a man and the results, as they say, have been evident.

Of course, there will be stronger tests to come and that is when we will be better placed to assess the extent of the progress of this side. Hampshire, starting on Wednesday, will be our sternest Championship test yet, with Simon Katich doubtless wanting runs against his old county and the side wanting revenge for the extraordinary defeat in Barbados.

Then next weekend we play Warwickshire, another side in prime form that has taken Division One by storm this summer. We will have our work cut out for sure, but there is enough talent in this team to ensure that no one will take beating us for granted. The days when we rolled over and died have gone, my friends. We will suffer defeats this season, just like any other side (just like Nottinghamshire today, hehehe....) but it will be through others outplaying us, not like of talent or application.

Progress, progress, progress.

Preview of Hampshire tomorrow....

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Unicorns v Derbyshire

Two words describe Derbyshire's performance today in their opening CB40 fixture of the season.

Thoroughly professional.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Unicorns are perhaps the weakest of the non-first class sides (though they have some decent players) this is exactly the sort of game, as I mentioned this morning, in which Derbyshire have often come a cropper. We lost and tied with the Netherlands last season and have rarely beaten Scotland convincingly. Fans could have been forgiven for thinking that today might have been the same old, same old...

Especially when Chesney went early in his first senior knock of the season. As it turned out, he was just saving his energy for later and Martin Guptill and Wes Durston proceeded to add 222 for the second wicket, a partnership enjoyed by a good crowd of visiting Derbyshire fans. Watching those two in full flight can't have been the worst way to spend an afternoon and by the time a late burst from the skipper had taken us to 287-3, one sensed that this one wasn't likely to go against us.

The benefits to Tim Groenewald of a long bowl at Derby on the last day became evident in a superb opening spell that removed the dangerous Michael Thornely. Groenewald ended with the superb figures of 2-19 in eight overs and is getting back to his best, while there were useful spells from Ross Whiteley and Jonathan Clare. Mark Turner was a little more expensive, but like Groenewald needed some time in the middle and will benefit from today's game.

The main damage, however was done by the spinners, with Chesney Hughes returning the remarkable figures of 5-29. He and David Wainwright did very well after the seamers had put the Unicorns way behind the clock and Derbyshire ran out easy winners by 129 runs.

It was good, convincing and professional, with special mention to another very good performance behind the stumps by Tom Poynton, which capped a solid fielding performance.

 So five games gone and still unbeaten. There are harder matches ahead for sure, but Wayne Madsen must be very proud of the way his young team have started the season positively and unbeaten.

For that matter, so are we. Well done lads!

Top of two leagues? Can we fast forward to September now?

Unicorns v Derbyshire preview

Just in case we get ahead of ourselves, the Unicorns have a - wait for it - 27 man squad for today's game, with some well known names in there.

Ex-Somerset man Keith Parsons is skipper, with two former Leicestershire wicket keepers, Tom New and Joel Pope - in their "to choose from" squad alongside former Worcestershire glovesman Josh Knappett. They also have two bowlers in ex-Lancashire man Steven Cheetham and Northamptonshire bowler Gavin Baker who will be keen to get another crack at the first class game.

Former Sussex man Michael Thorneley will doubtless open their batting, while Luis Reece, who took ten wickets against Sussex for Leeds/Bradford MCCU in the week is also in the squad. They are all decent players and it will not be a pushover by any means.

Yet if we retain focus and intensity we should and will win. While I don't see 40-over cricket as our forte, we have the ability to make it so and should get off to a winning start today, weather permitting.

Over to you now lads...

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 4

Two days ago, Derbyshire looked shoo-ins to win their third game of the Championship season, but their hopes came to naught on a County Ground track that ended up flatter than the worst notes of an X Factor contestant.

It is something that the very talented Neil Godrich and his grounds team will somehow need to address if Derbyshire are to genuinely maintain a promotion challenge this season. We have to have sporting pitches that offer something for batsmen and bowlers alike - in short, we need result pitches. Short of their losing concentration, there was little that the bowlers could do to get batsmen out, given regulations do not currently allow the use of flame throwers and howitzers in favourable batting conditions...

Still, full marks to Gloucestershire for showing the batting ability that I referred to in my match preview. I was mildly amused by a comment on the Forum tonight, when someone complained that Gloucestershire had not set Derbyshire a target. Why should they have done? When you force a team to follow on, you're effectively telling them that you have them down and intend to keep them there. When that team then digs themselves out of a hole by a resolute batting display, it would be silly to expect them to then give you another chance to win with a sporting declaration, especially at the stage of the season when sides are still jockeying for position.

No complaints from me on this one and I'm pleased that no one has come out  with the old "can't finish teams off" line. Michael Holding and Ian Bishop in their fiery pomp might have given us a chance, but little else would have produced a positive result today.

Still, four games in we sit clear at the top of the table and few would have expected that pre-season. Challenges will continue to come along as the season progresses, but if the team works as they have so far they need fear no one in this division.

Tomorrow we play our first one day game of  the season at Worrmsley against the Unicorns. The opposition line up is not yet known, but Derbyshire take the following squad:

Martin Guptill, Chesney Hughes, Wayne Madsen, Wes Durston, Dan Redfern, Ross Whiteley, David Wainwright, Jonathan Clare, Tom Poynton (Wicketkeeper), Tim Groenewald, Tony Palladino, Mark Turner and Mark Footitt.

I'd expect Tony Palladino to have a well deserved breather and both Mark Turner and Mark Footitt to play, leaving the final place between Jonathan Clare and Tim Groenewald. Chesney Hughes comes in for his season debut and should open with Martin Guptill in an exciting pairing.

In previous seasons games against the so-called minnows have been a problem for Derbyshire. How many times have Scotland and the Netherlands either given us a scare or beaten us? In its own, early season way tomorrow's match will be another benchmark of progress. It doesn't matter about the opposition  - if we play at our best, we will win.

Simple as that.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 3

After the euphoria of yesterday, Derbyshire were back down to earth today as they had to work hard for wickets on the third day against Gloucestershire.

The visitors ended the day 37 ahead with just two wickets down and with Kiwi overseas ace Kane Williamson having completed an excellent century. The wicket appears to have eased considerably, at least according to reports and the likelihood is that this game is heading for a draw.

Of course, some heavy cloud tomorrow morning might change things, but having been forced to follow on it is unlikely that the visitors will be disposed to setting us a feasible target in the last innings. I said before the game that their batting was stronger than their bowling and so it has transpired, but Derbyshire again stuck to their task well and can still be satisfied with their efforts as the game enters its final day.

If the visitors set anything remotely possible I could see us having a go, as that is the style of this Derbyshire side. Yet I have a feeling that they will declare at tea, 260 ahead and around 40 overs to go.

Tomorrow will tell.

In closing tonight, warm congratulations to Martin Guptill, Wes Durston, Jonathan Clare and Tony Palladino on their county caps. All four players have made a large contribution to our improved fortunes over the past couple of seasons and fully deserve their awards.

Here's hoping that we see them in Derbyshire colours for many years to come!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Wayne Madsen

My sincere condolences to Wayne Madsen and his wife, Kyla, on the loss of their unborn baby daughter this week. Until reading Mark Eklid's excellent piece in this morning's Derby Telegraph I had no idea of the tragedy and my heart goes out to the two of them and their extended families at this time.

It speaks volumes for the man he is that he opted to play in the circumstances. There were plenty of reasons not to and no one would have thought the less of him had he done so. Yet Madsen showed himself a man of outstanding character and integrity in adversity, things he has shown before but never better exemplified than yesterday.

Following on from the special courage shown by Tony Palladino in the Westfield case, it highlights what a special bunch of guys we have at Derbyshire right now. Likewise, many would have turned a blind eye to what went on at Essex. Palladino was man enough to do something about it.

With such people involved, Derbyshire cricket can only go from strength to strength. I wish Wayne and Kyla the best for the weeks and months ahead and thank the skipper for an especially outstanding effort yesterday.

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 2

Derbyshire returned to the top of the table with an emphatic bowling performance against Gloucestershire that saw them end the second day in total control of the game.

216 runs ahead with two days to go would normally suggest a win in the offing, though another "iffy" weather forecast suggests there may not be close to a full day tomorrow. That being the case, I can't see Derbyshire do anything than enforce the follow on, if, as logic suggests, they get to that stage tomorrow. They may not necessarily want to chase a big total in the final innings, but the mood in the camp is such at the moment that they would fancy their chances chasing pretty much anything.

What really impresses me about the team is that they battle, all the time. 327-8 became 388 all out as Tony Palladino (pictured) and Tim Groenewald, very competent batsmen for the end of the innings, helped Jon Clare to make a competitive total a very good one. Clare is enjoying a stunning start to the season, with aggressive batting contributions and an average of 31 adding value to sixteen wickets at just 12 each. He is a considerable talent and by the end of this season a wider audience than Derbyshire may well come to realise that.

His destroyer-in-chief today was the admirable Tony Palladino, a big favourite with the fans and a player increasingly respected by opponents. If you cast your mind back to when we signed Tony the winter before last - or care to check back through old posts - you'll know that I was excited, because he has always been a wicket-taker. That was despite rarely getting the new ball at Essex, nor the regular place that would help him relax and feel an established member of the side.

Last year, his first at Derbyshire, he took fifty wickets despite missing matches through injury. This season, despite a pre-season where he had an operation on his groin and another on a fractured jaw, he has already taken 18 wickets at 15 each. Sure, he has enjoyed some helpful wickets, but Palladino bowls such good lines and lengths that he gives himself the best possible chance of getting people out. He's also increasingly a bowler in the genuine Derbyshire tradition too, conceding just two an over so far.

Tim Groenewald wasn't at his best today, but will benefit from the overs under his belt, having gained rhythm in the process. Meanwhile David Wainwright did exactly what you want your spinner to do on a wicket offering him little help - he kept the batsmen tied down and offered little in the way of run scoring opportunity.

It was, in short, a thoroughly professional day's work. We also did what our opponents singularly failed to do in our innings and held our catches.

You really can't ask for any more. Derbyshire once again delivered today and if the weather plays its part we could be three wins out of four in the next couple of days.

Smiling? You bet...

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 1

At the end of an absorbing first day at Derby, our boys will be pretty satisfied with their day's work.

There was a hard earned century for skipper Wayne Madsen and attractive fifties for both Wes Durston and Daniel Redfern. Meanwhile Ross Whiteley, Martin Guptill and Jonathan Clare all made valuable contributions and 362-9 represents a good day, even if at one point, at 250-3, it looked like being even better.

I was delighted for the skipper, but anyone who didn't see this coming needs a trip to a well known high street optical store. He's a class act and once he got through to lunch I had a feeling that he would cash in during the afternoon. Durston too appeared in good nick and might be a little annoyed that he didn't go on to the century mark himself.

The visitors will not be unhappy at clawing things back, but Derbyshire now have runs on the board and importantly, with bad weather likely to interrupt the next two days, have scored their runs quick enough to enable a positive result to be possible unless it is especially bad. Four an over on a track that offered something for bowlers was a very good effort.

Paul Borrington failed today and I had no doubt that there would be comment on that before the evening had passed, but anyone can get out early, before feet, hands and eyes are in full coordination. To suggest that we now need to sign someone to partner Guptill at the top of the order is bizarre in my humble opinion - sorry mate. Even if Karl Krikken shared the views of a small minority that Bozza needs to be dropped, we still have two other openers, Matt Lineker and Chesney Hughes on the staff! More to the point, given that players are now contracted for the season, who would we sign?

Also keep in mind that when Martin Guptill finishes next month that we may need to change the order a little anyway to accommodate Usman Khawaja, unless the plan is for the Australian to go in first this year. I do get the feeling that there are purported fans out there waiting for Borrington to fail, just so they can have a moan. and it is patently unfair on a local boy who never gives it away, whether it is good or bad conditions for batting.

Speaking of signings, I'd an early e mail today suggesting we should sign Ajmal Shahzad after his release by Yorkshire. I'm not sure what's gone on there, although if the lad retains England ambitions he must surely be vexed that his club have signed an overseas quick in Mitchell Starc who will presumably take the new ball with Ryan Sidebottom, leaving him as first change. It is an odd move, a short sighted one and in its swift and abrupt method a typically Yorkshire one.

I don't see it happening. For one, he will want top division cricket and for another, as a player of England experience, he will cost big money. Equally, do we really need another seamer at this stage? With Footitt, Turner and Evans (not to mention Higginbottom) outside the team, who are we going to leave out in Palladino, Groenewald and Clare?

No, the lad will likely end up at Somerset, who have money to spend and an injury list so bad that the physio has installed a revolving door.

Finally tonight, Greg Smith's torrid start at Essex continued today with another cheap dismissal. That's just forty season runs for Smudge so far and he has a long way to go to convince the locals of his talents.

Unlike our lads, who have done well again today. May tomorrow bring a few more runs and plenty of wickets...

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire preview

There are no surprises in the Derbyshire squad for tomorrow's game against Gloucestershire and nor should there be.

Without doubt the Leicestershire game was a slight reality check for our lads, though I totally subscribe to Karl Krikken's comment that we could have won it on the last afternoon had the weather stayed fair. We'll never know, of course, but the signs are that we're getting a nice opening partnership together in Messrs Guptill and Borrington, always important for any side. How much nicer is it for number three to come in with 70-odd on the board than in the second over with the seam still prominent on the new ball. Considering the somewhat parlous state of batting conditions in the country thus far, for our lads to have shared in a double century and near-century stand in two out of three matches is a good effort.

We'd all like to see Wayne Madsen and Wes Durston resume normal service in the run scoring, but I've no worries on that score and they will both come good sometime soon. Dan Redfern and Ross Whiteley pick themselves at five and six so the batting is looking a good unit, one that should score heavily when conditions are more favourable.

The only real decision is whether Mark Footitt gets a well-earned breather and Tim Groenewald comes in. I think he will and Footitt can put his feet up ahead of a lot of bowling when the pitches get harder and faster as the summer comes along (it will, won't it?)

The Derbyshire squad in full:

Wayne Madsen (c), Paul Borrington, Martin Guptill, Wes Durston, Dan Redfern, Ross Whiteley, David Wainwright, Jon Clare, Tom Poynton (wk), Tony Palladino, Mark Footitt, Tim Groenewald, Mark Turner.

Mark Turner has yet to feature this season, but the word is that he is bowling quick and accurately in the nets. His time will surely come, perhaps in our first one-day game of the season against the Unicorns.

As for Gloucestershire, they welcome back Kiwi overseas star Kane Williamson, who will slip into the middle order alongside his compatriot Hamish Marshall. Former Hampshire man Benny Howell looks set to open the batting alongside Chris Dent in this named squad:

C.Dent, B.Howell, K.Williamson, A.Gidman (capt), H.Marshall, I.Cockbain, W.Gidman, R. Coughtrie (wkt), E.Young, J.Fuller, I.Saxelby, D.Wade, P.Muchall.

It is a decent side and they are sure to be competitive under John Bracewell. They look a better batting than bowling side, but Will Gidman has been a revelation for them and with his brother Alex makes up a formidable pairing.

Again though, I don't look at them and think we're in for a drubbing. The winning of the toss could well play a part and there will be some highly competitive sessions of play. Yet I remain convinced that Derbyshire, if they come out as focused and fighting as they have so far, have what it takes to beat them.

Mind you, that pesky weather looks set to play a part, with rain forecast for Thursday and Friday. It may end up having the final word, but I have a feeling that this Derbyshire side will have plenty to say for themselves in between times.

I'm inclined to forecast a draw, with the weather looking as it does, but if it keeps its ugly nose out of it, Derbyshire are eminently capable of another win.