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.