Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A Peak from abroad

Greetings to all Derbyshire fans from Memphis, where the weather is currently consistently 95 degrees-plus every day and likely to top the hundred in the days ahead.

Self and family have been doing the music trail, with Graceland, the Rock n Soul Museum and Stax currently visited and Sun Studios scheduled for today. It is 8am here and tomorrow we head across to Nashville for ten days in the world's capital of country music.

Modesty (almost) forbids me saying that I am perhaps the first Derbyshire man to hit a six into the Mississippi at the end of an impromptu game of cricket at Mud Island yesterday. It is quite a claim to fame, though the "ball" was actually a pine cone - but boy, did it travel...

I note that we lost to Leicestershire in the T20, but given that we apparently needed miner's helmets, rather than batting ones, when we batted I wouldn't get too upset. At the risk of being repetitive, we've a long way to go before we're a good limited overs side and sadly neither of our overseas stars have fired in this competition.

A quick look this morning at the T20 averages told its own tale - only Naved, by dint of some not outs, averages above 20 among the batsmen and no one has yet made a forty. We'll win nothing with those sort of stats, no matter how steady the bowling.

I'll be back later in the holiday, but it appears that T20 quarter finals are still a somewhat distant pipedream, at least until we have two proven performers in the format on top of their game.

Now its time to go. The recording studios that gave a start to Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins, among many more, awaits...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Thoughts before heading off...

My annual holiday with the family always comes in the middle of the T20. That's not because I regard the chances of Derbyshire success as being marginally better than that of my winning the Miss World contest, but based on the price of flights.

We need more experience in this side before we can look forward to being a competitive outfit. Savvy bowlers of greater experience will work out all but the very best of young tyros and we need some of ours to get more matchplay experience in the pressure situations. Thinking back through my years of playing cricket, I found it fairly easy to stay in against even county standard and top club bowlers, but forcing runs was more difficult. It is much the same for our current crop of talent, the County Championship being a slightly easier source of accumulated runs than the limited overs stuff, where fields are set to stop them doing just that.

On what I have seen so far, our bowlers have got the T20 bowling worked out pretty well and we need only to give them a few more runs to play with. We have yet to see Tom Knight, who in another summer will surely play a greater part, while Turner and Groenewald have done well with the new ball. Jon Clare hasn't been seen, nor Tony Palladino, but I don't think our bowling is really an issue.

What we lack is a consistent fast scorer at the top of the innings. Perhaps "consistent" and "T20" aren't synonymous, as the format is not especially conducive to consistency, but for another summer we really need an established player at the top of the order. A Guptill, Hussey, Kallis, de Villiers, Sharma or Taylor would make a massive difference if any could be persuaded to play. They score their runs at good pace and in so doing take the pressure off younger players. Given that we came close to persuading Gayle to play this summer, perhaps it isn't unrealistic to lure someone of similar calibre to the County Ground for 2013, even though the calendar becomes ever more congested.

That isn't meant as criticism of Usman Khawaja, who is a very fine player, but he has little T20 experience and in my opinion should not have been expected, as overseas star, to carry the brunt of team batting expectation in the competition. He has, after all, only one half century in the format and an average of just 18, hardly the stats to suggest bringing someone from the other side of the world.

Khawaja comes with a point to prove to Australian selectors this summer, one I fully expect him to make in the County Championship, but I have said all along that he is not a T20 player. In that he is in good company, as the likes of Marcus North, Chris Rogers, Simon Katich and Phil Jaques aren't either. Experience has made some of these better than they once were, but none would be thought of as more than adequate players over the short form.

Conversely, I shared everyone's enthusiasm on the signing of Rana Naved, a proven performer in this type of cricket, but on what I have seen he has lost that crucial yard of pace that makes a difference. It happens to all bowlers, of course and most of you will recall the difference between the two years that Charl Langeveldt played at the county. In the first year he was probably the best bowler in the competition, with well-disguised variations and the ability to bowl that quicker ball when required. Next time around he couldn't do that and batsmen were able to milk him around more easily for runs.

Maybe Naved will prove me wrong in the remaining matches (though I won't flatter myself that he reads this blog...) but he doesn't appear to me to have the edge that he once had, even in this past winter's Big Bash. Mind you, time waits for none of us  - where I once came in off fifteen paces, I now make do quite happily with three...

I don't expect us to qualify from this group as it is one of the toughest, but I do expect to watch us from afar making teams work for wins. We did that last night and with another twenty runs could well have won. Maybe this winter's recruitment for the T20 will secure the services of the player, or players, who could do that.

For now, my friends, farewell. I'll be popping in from time to time, but please continue to post your comments.

I'll be resuming normal service around July 9, in all likelihood several pounds heavier...

Thanks for your continued support and I will see you soon!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Derbyshire v Durham T20

As I said last night, I missed this evening's game as we had arranged a family meal to celebrate our son's 21st birthday. Thanks go to the excellent purveyors of the club's Twitter feed for keeping me and other users abreast of developments in the match.

I look forward to your comments tonight with regard to what went right and wrong, but again there has to be questions regarding the batting. It appeared more solid tonight, but there never seemed to be a point at which we were breaking free of the shackles. Once more we lacked a big score, with Usman Khawaja's 36 top score but being neither substantial nor quick enough to make a difference. Again we lost the two established batsmen within six balls and more often than not 140 will not be enough to win. More than anything else this side has missed Martin Guptill at the top of the order, as we're only managing around six an over from the powerplay.

I've few complaints about the bowling, with David Wainwright again seeming to bowl well and Mark Turner continuing a largely positive impression he has made in the competition. I will be honest and say that I am not yet convinced that Rana Naved is the bowler he once was, though being thrown the ball at key times needs someone firing on all cylinders and he's perhaps not had enough cricket behind him to do that.

Two successive defeats hasn't ruled us out of qualification, but we need to find runs from somewhere - fast. Durham took a chance on the aggressive Myburgh from the Netherlands and his knock seems to have been the difference tonight.I don't see any point in us doing that now, but while our Championship form in 2012 has been a revelation our one-day cricket needs a bit of a re-think

We simply don't have anyone doing what Myburgh did. Naved has had unbeaten bit parts with the bat so far and maybe he needs given an earlier opportunity as a player who can score quickly  if given longer to do so. Wes hasn't really got going in this competition and nor has Ross Whiteley, so our two bankers for quick runs are back in the hutch and we're accumulating, rather than accelerating in the middle overs of the innings.

Maybe we will see a return to winning ways against Leicestershire at the weekend, but I see they scored 120 from their last ten overs tonight against Lancashire. OK, they still lost, but I don't see us scoring at that rate, do you?

Anyway, tomorrow will mark my last lengthy blog for a fortnight or so. I will pop in from time to time when I can, but for these two weeks my focus shifts to Memphis and Nashville, blues and country, the best barbecue ribs you will ever eat and the world epicentre of southern comfort food.

Now, where's those trousers with the elasticated waistband...?

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Derbyshire v Durham T20

If you had asked me before last night if Derbyshire can beat Durham in this game I would have said yes.

They have some fine players and the likes of Blackwell, Mustard, Benkenstein and Myburgh can quickly take a game away. Having said that, I'm less worried about their batting, as I feel our attack is good enough to cope against all but a batsman in prime form.

My concerns revolve around our batting, which has so far failed - there's no other way of putting it. Against Lancashire we lacked a top order player going onto a big score, even if enough made cameo contributions to keep us ahead of the required rate. Against Yorkshire we would have loved a cameo, to be perfectly honest.

For me, one of the top three, whoever is in those roles, needs to bat through most of the innings. Now I'm not sure that Ross Whiteley, good a player as he is, can hold down the number three slot right now, especially as this season has been more challenging than the last. He hasn't got the runs and confidence behind him and there would be greater merit in having him in there alongside Naved and Hughes at 5-6-7.

Perhaps more sensible would be Dan Redfern, a naturally free-scoring player, despite not being an especially big hitter. Wayne Madsen would be another option and I feel that such a move would give us a better chance of a top order player making a score.

Wes Durston again looked good last night, but got out before making a match-defining score, while Usman Khawaja really gave it away. At 43-0 in the sixth we were coasting and had seen off half the overs from their main men, Sidebottom and Starc. Then Khawaja, who had batted nicely to be fair, suddenly thought he was Chris Gayle and went for a shot he didn't need to play.

Usman should watch footage of Tendulkar, Hussey and Kallis in the IPL. Neither attempts the ambitious, they just work it around and accumulate runs, the game plan being for them to be there in the 16th over. They're canny too - watch how they keep off the pressure in run chases by getting an early boundary in each over. If you're chasing eight an over and take four from the first or second ball, it's a heck of a lot easier.

Likewise, the good T20 sides ensure that there's rarely two new men at the crease. Losing Khawaja last night was unncessary, but we then needed Wes to stick in there and he'd gone soon afterwards. There were two new men at the crease at that point and we never got close to recovering the momentum.

So can we beat Durham? If someone can make a score, yes. If not - if we're relying on twinkling twenties and terrible teens - then we haven't got a prayer. I'm out tomorrow night. so won't see the game I didn't expect to be on, but after last night, I'm not especially concerned either. I'll follow it on the club's Twitter feed - which, it has to be said, has been the best thing about our one-day cricket this summer.

Pre-season, as you will recall, I said that Derbyshire were a good four-day and very average one-day side. At this stage of the season, nothing I have seen has made me doubt either statement. While very much a work in progress, we need some of our talented young cricketers to grow up fast before we're anything more than also-rans in the laugh and giggle game.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Tom Maynard

While this is a blog about Derbyshire cricket and we're all down about tonight's display, it is only appropriate to note the untimely passing of one of the brightest talents in  the English game, Tom Maynard.

I grew up watching his Dad play many sterling innings for Glamorgan and the signs were that Maynard junior was very much a chip off the old block and was set to captivate crowds in the county  - and perhaps international - game for years to come.

He had a full range of shots, a good head on his shoulders and extraordinary talent. To see such an immensely promising career snuffed out in its prime is unbearably sad and my heart, like those of all Derbyshire supporters, goes out to the immediate and extended family, as well as to his friends and team mates at Surrey.

Cricket, at the end of it all, is just a game. Relatively speaking, at the end of it all, tonight's result really didn't matter all that much in comparison to this morning's tragic news.

Rest in peace Tom Maynard.

Derbyshire v Yorkshire T20

After a very impressive bowling performance  - at least until the last couple of overs of the innings - Derbyshire produced a batting display that sadly bordered on the dismal tonight.

It was same old, same old in front of the TV cameras as a decent start by Wes Durston and Usman Khawaja was squandered with an ineptitude that sadly smacked of the bad old days.

While you have to give some credit to the Yorkshire bowlers, Derbyshire didn't make them work unduly hard for their wickets and to lose five wickets for just 20 runs, as we managed to do, was frankly unprofessional.

As regular readers will know, I am very positive about the current state of Derbyshire cricket, but to go from 43-0 in the sixth over to 84-7 in the 15th was very disappointing and there's nothing that I can say to defend such an abject effort.

Full marks to David Wainwright, who bowled as good a spell of spin as you could wish to see, but after so many encouraging displays this summer, Derbyshire were very, very poor with the bat tonight.

Wainwright and Rana Naved, much better with the ball tonight, added a modicum of respectability to the total, but it was too little, too late.

They'll need to do much better on Wednesday, or the Sky commentators will have run out of disparaging comment by the midway point of our innings against Durham.

That's all I can say really. As it did to all Derbyshire fans, that one hurt tonight.

Interesting snippet

The Bromsgrove Advertiser yesterday reported that Derbyshire have made a 28-day approach to Worcestershire to speak to their talented seam bowler Richard Jones

You can see the article here

That is a long way from suggesting that the player is headed to Derby, as you will hopefully realise, but is indicative of a sea-change at the club. There was a time when we would be looking at the rejects from other clubs - now it is their better players.

Good to see - but let's get back to the matters in hand for now!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Derbyshire v Yorkshire T20

There's not much between the two teams who will contest tomorrow's live on Sky match at the County Ground.

Derbyshire have started well, while Yorkshire have won one and lost one so far. While the Yorkshire batting looks very strong, I'm still not convinced that after Starc and Sidebottom they have an especially demanding attack.

For me, our best chance of success will be to bat second and chase a target after the white rose county have perhaps over-reached themselves. Derbyshire's approach to a chase the other night was extremely professional and, had the rain stayed out of it, I think we would have won at a canter. Put it this way, my club side would have fancied 51 at a run a ball. Mind you, I don't think we'd have got it down to that stage...

I expect Derbyshire to be unchanged from their last fixture, while Yorkshire will in all likelihood keep the same side that beat a very poor Leicestershire side with some comfort, which is:

Gale, Jaques. Bairstow, Miller, Ballance, Root, Pyrah, Rafiq, Starc, Sidebottom, Ashraf

It should be a good game, weather permitting and I don't expect there to be much between the sides at the end of the game.

Will we win? If we play to potential, field a little better than the other night and get good input from our overseas stars we can do. Then again so can our visitors, so this one is tough to call.

If we do so, we will be in a very good position. That is beyond doubt.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire T20

Not much to write about on this one, which was why I didn't rush into print last night.

It is a shame that a tournament that accounts for a sizeable chunk of county income is thus far badly blighted by the weather. Despite the England football match last night, Nottinghamshire will have expected a healthy crowd last night for the local derby and will be disappointed that it didn't happen. Hopefully we will have better luck with the weather when they travel to play at Derby. I wouldn't be surprised if the county haven't got the game insured, just in case, as it makes a massive contribution to our coffers on an annual basis.

Given our recent track record against Nottinghamshire, it is hard to be unhappy with a point from last night, but confidence in the Derbyshire camp is high and they would have fancied their chances of both. For me, however, our East Midlands rivals are the best team in the group, so we cannot be disappointed at this stage.

The attention now switches to the County Ground on Monday and the visit of Yorkshire. I'll preview this in detail over the weekend but for now there are two things that I hope for from this fixture.

One is that the weather is kind, as a large crowd should again be in attendance. Second is that the real Derbyshire, the one that has played exciting, vibrant cricket so far this summer, turns up.Too often in front of the cameras we have been disappointing and this is a real opportunity to reinforce the message - the brand, if you will - that is coming from the County Ground in 2012.

Let's keep our fingers crossed for both.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Derbyshire v Lancashire T20

Played one, won one. You can't do better than that. And on a night when only one other game was completed, that is especially good news.

There were elements of tonight's cricket that could be improved on, for sure. There were a few chances went down,Usman Khawaja didn't get going and Rana Naved was very costly, but the bottom line is that Derbyshire won without a significant input from their overseas stars.

We were in danger of slipping behind on Duckworth Lewis until Naved and Chesney Hughes (pictured) came together to score 28 from the next nine balls. They were aided, to be fair, by some very wild bowling by Sajid Mahmood, who conceded 15 from only three legitimate deliveries in the 12th over. Mahmood was yesterday bemoaning the fact that he may have to leave the county, following the signing of Ajmal Shahzad, as he can't get a regular game. Based on 2.3-0-42-1 I am hardly surprised...

Naved  had a difficult debut and won't have bowled many more expensive spells in T20, but sometimes just getting used to the gradient of a new square takes a little time, even for an experienced bowler. He's not played much cricket of late either, but what I liked about him was how he came in to bat determined to make amends. An unbeaten 19 from 9 balls may not appear substantial in some people's eyes, but in the context of this game it was massive. It was the sort of experienced input we have lacked in recent seasons.

Crucial too was the effort of Chesney Hughes, who has not enjoyed the best of starts this summer. Having Hughes and Naved at six and seven is important, batsmen who are capable of finding or clearing the boundary when it is most needed. Wes Durston gave us the brisk start I anticipated and Ross Whiteley hit a couple of sixes, or maximums as they're called by people who like using big words... It was a solid batting effort and victory was made possible by keeping the score around target - crucial at most times, but especially with rain about.

The bowlers, Naved apart, did a very solid job. Mark Turner has done well in one day games this season and his extra pace did a fine job tonight. So too did Tim Groenewald, while David Wainwright gave his usual exemplary display.

My man of the match tonight though is Chesney Hughes. A brisk unbeaten 16 followed on from a terrific four over spell that cost just 21 runs, putting the brakes on Lancashire when they looked as if they were going to get away.

What we need now is a similar effort against Nottinghamshire tomorrow. Win that one and a few more eyes will be opened about what is going on at the County Ground. I didn't expect us to win tonight, so a hearty congratulations to all concerned.

A repeat against our dear rivals will do quite nicely, thanks lads...

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Derbyshire v Lancashire T20

Well, Karl Krikken has named his first T20 squad for the tournament and it is as follows:

Wayne Madsen (Captain), Usman Khawaja, Wes Durston, Ross Whiteley, Dan Redfern, Chesney Hughes, Garry Park, Rana Naved, Jonathan Clare, David Wainwright, Tom Poynton, Tim Groenewald, Mark Turner and Tom Knight.

Having thought long and hard about it, I'd be inclined to move Wes Durston up to open. He made a good fist of that position when he first joined us and, as a clean hitter, can take good advantage of field restrictions whether the opposition open with seam or spin. Chesney would be useful down the order a little and has the ability to clear the ropes, perhaps more so against seam than spin at this stage of his career.

Not having seen the wicket, I can't say whether we're likely to include Tom Knight as an extra spinner - if it is slow, there is a chance he may play. Otherwise I would see the side as follows:


It's a decent side, a good side. Good enough to beat Lancashire? I'm not sure, but good enough to give them a game, take it down to the wire and then - well, it comes down to who holds their nerve when it matters.

Go get 'em boys!

T20 preview

There is no doubt that Derbyshire will start as underdogs in their game against Lancashire Lightning tomorrow night, their first match of this season's T20.

The Lancashire captain and players are talking up winning the competition, though I'd have to say that I don't see them as being that good. They won the County Championship last summer, but have struggled this time around, batsmen scratching around for runs more than should be the case.

As a T20 side they seem to me to depend on a good start. If Stephen Moore gets them off to a flyer they could trouble any side and with key overseas men in Ashwell Prince and Yasir Arafat in the side they don't lack experience. Key to their cricket last year, especially in the T20, was the bowling of three spinners, Kerrigan, Gary Keedy and Stephen Parry, taking the pace off the ball and controlling the middle part of the opposition innings.

In some ways their side replicates Leicestershire's success last year, not overly blessed with household names but with a strong team ethic. The Foxes look unlikely to replicate last summer's success after an embarrassing performance against Nottinghamshire last night, a game in which they barely got out of the traps. Nottinghamshire will start favourites in the group,a disciplined bowling side and powerful batting line-up making them (sadly) a good pre-tournament bet.

Yorkshire could do better than of late if their bowlers can keep the opposition within range of a powerful batting side. I was surprised, however, to see them recruit South African David Miller as their second overseas player. He's a fair player with something to prove after a disappointing competition with Durham last year, but for me there is little wrong with their batting and a good player will therefore miss out. Mitchell Starc has made a good early impression, but I'm not convinced their support bowling is good enough to get through the group.

Durham? They have also recruited well in Herschelle Gibbs, a player somewhat revitalised after good showings in the Big Bash and the IPL. Having said that, he has seldom shown that form here and will need to do so. The county have good players, but again in recent summers the constituent parts haven't made a cohesive whole. There are plenty of big hitting batsmen in the line-up and, like Yorkshire, will depend on the bowlers keeping the opposition within range. They will miss Paul Collingwood, however, as much for his accurate bowling as his less reliable (these days) batting.

Which leaves us with Derbyshire, of course. I think we will do OK and I fully expect us to compete in every game, but I don't see us progressing through a pretty strong group. Of course I hope that I'm wrong and that the side pulls together as we know it can, but my sadly negative prediction is for a bottom three finish in this section.

How can they prove me wrong? By batting sensibly and not like, as we have often done in this competition, shoppers being told there's five minutes to closing time on Christmas Eve. A good start helps and if we are chasing, for example, 160 to win there is no need for slogs in the Powerplay, just proper cricket shots that take advantage of the fielding restrictions.

If we had Martin Guptill at the top of the order, you could reasonably expect, after 5 overs of him on a good day, to be around 50. Will Chesney Hughes, short on runs and confidence this summer and Usman Khawaja, unproven in this form of the game, give us that kind of impetus? I don't know the answer to that one. If they do, we will compete and win a few, but if we end up 28-3 by the end of the Powerplay we will have our struggles, much as our near neighbours did last night.

We have enough depth in batting to post a decent score most times, but emerging from this group will need more than that, scores that are usually given good foundations by a fast start. I think we have good enough bowlers to contain all but a good batsman in prime form and our fielding should stand up against anyone, but again, we need batsmen to show some nous when chasing targets. That will determine our fate as far as I'm concerned.

If Rana Naved can produce the form he has shown for other sides around the world in this form of cricket we will be in the mix, especially if we allow time for his explosive batting to have an impact. If the top order does its stuff, Naved, Whiteley and Redfern at 5,6,7 should see decent use made of the closing overs.

As for me, I will miss much of it. At the end of next week my family and I head out to Tennessee once more for our son's 21st birthday celebrations, a trip that will see us take in the delights of Memphis and Nashville, as well as several places round about in a 17-day trip. I can't say that my holiday will be ruined by poor performances, but I do hope to check in for scores and see us having battled throughout.

At the end of it all, as I've said before, with a young and embryonic squad you cannot ask for more than that.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Monday musings

If you read as much about cricket as I do, the chances are that you're going to come across pieces from time to time that will be annoying.

Here's exhibit A on the ECB website. A decent enough article, save for the fact that Derbyshire's captain is Wayne "Marsden" and David Wainwright has changed from slow left arm to off spin, at least according to the author. It is sloppy journalism that mars an otherwise positive piece. Rightly or wrongly, it suggests that the author hasn't got a clue about his subject and has just done the research required, albeit not especially well.

Then there's the comment from West Indies legend Lance Gibbs today. Gibbs, himself a very fine off-spinner (not slow left armer...) says that more players from the Caribbean should play the county game, to better prepare themselves for future England tours and enable them to play a moving ball more confidently. In itself it is fair comment, but it somewhat neglects the fact that counties have to want them.

Take a look at the West Indies side in England and tell me how many you would consider for Derbyshire next summer, assuming that Martin Guptill is with New Zealand (as well as playing IPL) and that Usman Khawaja will be in Australia's tour party if he has a good second half of season here. I think it unlikely that Cricket Australia would want Khawaja playing in England from April to June, while Guptill may well need a break after what promises to be a hectic twelve-month period.

So who would you consider? Maybe Marlon Samuels, a doughty batsman and useful off-spinner, but if one assumes that Shivnarine Chanderpaul is as likely to play a full season of county cricket as I am, there is no one else. Players like Narine, Bravo, Smith, Pollard and Gayle will always be in demand for the T20, but I don't see another player that any right-minded county chairman would approach for an overseas role.

Sammy is a decent cricketer and Darren Bravo the same. Barath always promises more than he delivers and for me an overseas player has to be considerably better than you already have to be worth bringing over here. The days when counties picked up players like Keith Boyce and Viv Richards from seeing their potential in the Caribbean and bringing them over would appear to be long gone.

In some ways it is a shame, as a number of overseas stars have picked up deals in the past on the back of a successful tour. I just don't see it happening with many of this Caribbean crop, even if their international commitments were to allow it.

Next summer will be really difficult for counties seeking overseas stars, as the ICC Champions trophy looks set to overlap with our T20 in June. That will make it extremely difficult for counties to pull in overseas players for that competition, as well as for the season as a whole.

That being the case, I will be the first to suggest that next summer we could well see Rana Naved return for the T20 and also as a part-season overseas player. There are so many international tours and commitments during our summer that, aside from New Zealand, only one country looks to be clear - Zimbabwe.

If I was Karl Krikken or Chris Grant I would be making polite early enquiries into the availability of Brendan Taylor, by some distance the best batsman in that country and very much in a similar mould to Martin Guptill as a batsman. Earlier in his career he had a habit of getting out when playing his shots too early, but at 26 his average is climbing steadily and he makes good runs in all forms of the game.

Perhaps Guptill has already indicated he would come back for one more summer - I sincerely hope so - but for me Taylor might be a very good and affordable alternative, one who would see a county stint exactly the same as Guptill has, a finishing school. I would have thought him a player that Dave Houghton will know pretty well too, warts and all.

Yes, it is premature, but if Derbyshire finish the season strongly, we have every possibility of being in the top division next summer and will need good input from the best overseas players available.

At this stage, based on likely availability and accepting that things can change, that would see me perm any two from the three players named above.

Remember, you read it here first...

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sussex v Derbyshire CB40

It is a shame that the weather closed in today when Derbyshire had played themselves into a strong position against Sussex at Horsham.

Despite the hosts getting off to a brisk start, Tim Groenewald and Mark Turner clawed things back well, Groenewald producing another fine spell that cemented a growing reputation as one of the best seamers in the country. The selection of Turner, ahead of Jonathan Clare, may indicate that he has played himself into the side for the first T20 match, his extra pace perhaps useful against batsmen aiming to hit in the powerplay and the closing overs.

There was another good spell too from Alex Hughes, the latest in a growing line of talented young players emerging from the club's Academy. Hughes is a batsman of some ability, as illustrated by a well-crafted 80 on a difficult wicket for the Seconds in the week. The fact that he also fields well and bowls medium pace around the speed of (for the benefit of older readers) Phil Russell makes him a cricketer of talent who is staking a genuine claim for a place in the side, at least for one day games at this stage.

Having said that, Hughes may well be the only change for the opening T20 match, his place likely to go to Usman Khawaja, who flew in today from Australia. There was a handy runout for Rana Naved today and Derbyshire have a decent looking side in place for the competition.

More from me tomorrow, but I'm thoroughly enjoying a season in which there are far more good days to report on than bad.

Long may it continue...

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Thoughts on the halfway mark

Go on then, hands up. Who thought that when we got to the T20 Derbyshire would be top of division two by 32 points? Even old Peakfan, never known for negativity, didn't think that we'd be top - in contention, yes, but not top by such a margin.

Of course, there's some serious cricket to be played after the slap and giggle of T20 has had its wicked mid-season way with us, but Derbyshire have done remarkably well. Four batsmen and four bowlers can all be said to have been convincing thus far, as has wicket-keeper Tom Poynton. Such a level of consistency has been rare in recent Derbyshire summers, when usually we have been reliant on two or three players to be competitive. This has been a genuine team effort so far and there have been contributions of some kind from everyone who has played in the side.

The team spirit has been critical and the fragile camp at the start of last year has been replaced by a side in which eleven players take the field with common purpose and commitment. There have been a number of comments around the circuit about the positive "vibe" around the County Ground, one that encompasses the committee and the playing staff. Much credit has to go to Messrs Grant and Krikken for fostering it and promoting an environment in which players can go out and express themselves.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

Tomorrow we play another CB40 game at Horsham and I'm again less than confident in a result. Partly because I think we will take an opportunity to rest players ahead of the T20, and partly because Sussex are a good side, especially at the one-day format.

I hope we give a good account of ourselves and I look forward to seeing what Rana Naved does on his debut, but the emphasis in the coming weeks will be on the T20 and we will undoubtedly put everything into that competition. It could after all, make a huge difference to our finances and the possibilities of close-season recruitment.

Because next summer, at this rate, we will be playing with the big boys...

T20 preview

One look at the group in which Derbyshire find themselves for the T20 tells a tale. Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Durham and Yorkshire will be difficult matches, while the games against Leicestershire, theoretically easier, see us pitched against the the reigning champions - though granted few would see them as a side likely to retain that crown.

Only a supreme optimist would expect us to win such a group, and qualifying would be a remarkable feat for a young and emerging side. Yet looking at the talent within our squad there is no reason why we should not be, at the very least, competitive.

Key to our fortunes will be the performance of our overseas stars, Usman Khawaja and Rana Naved. Khawaja is widely regarded as one of the most gifted young batsmen of his generation in Australia and will doubtless score a lot of runs in the second half of the Championship season, yet it is the challenge of establishing himself as a T20 player that will be watched as closely back home. He is a wristy, classy player, yet with little evidence so far of a short-game technique. Only one fifty in T20 games is something he will aim to improve on and he has been dismissed too often playing big shots that are far from his natural game.

For me, Khawaja would be best employed in the opening role played so well by Jacques Kallis - a man who knocks it around, scores a boundary here and there and rotates the strike, allowing bigger hitters to reach or clear the boundaries. If he can do that and bat through 20 overs for 60-70 runs we should usually get a decent score - as long as he scores in excess of a run a ball, a pre-requisite for this game.

Then there is Rana Naved, a cricketer I have long admired but never considered Derbyshire could lure to the County Ground. He is a big game, big occasion player, an entertainer - exactly what we needed. He is a go to bowler, someone who can come on at the start or end of an innings and give little away in the style of Charl Langeveldt. Yet he is more, because Naved is a personality and, as a batsman, someone who can easily change the direction of a game in a couple of overs.

For me, Naved has to bat high in the order, probably around five. If he gets out, that's the way it goes, yet if he got going, any target is attainable. In last winter's Big Bash semi-final against the Sydney Sixers, Naved was inexplicably kept back till number eight by his captain, only coming in at 109-6 with 21 balls to go and 45 needed. He scored an unbeaten 30 from 14 deliveries and may well have nicked the game had he not lost the strike in the last over.

My first choice side for the T20s? You may disagree, but here it is, in my preferred order:


Three good seamers in Naved, Clare and Groenewald. Three spinners in Wainwright, Durston and Hughes. Good depth to the batting and considerable potential. I considered Gary Park in the middle order, but find it impossible to omit Dan Redfern in his current rich vein of form, while Ross Whiteley's detructive ability could be a real asset. There is a school of thought that he should bat higher, but no one scores faster than Wes Durston and there are possibilities in that Derbyshire engine room.

I could see Tom Knight coming into the side with his slow left arm on slow wickets, but the side above for me is the strongest that we can put out for T20. Mark Footitt could have been a useful weapon and Mark Turner may get games through rotation, having bowled well last week against a strong Warwickshire side.

We just need to use some common sense. You can't hit every ball for four, but rotating the strike, timing and placing the ball and running hard can often be of equal benefit. The team will be good in the field and has enough talent to compete against the best - we just need a liberal dose of intelligence to go with it.

Let the games begin...

Friday, 8 June 2012

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 4

Had the weather stayed fair, there is no doubt in my mind that Derbyshire would have beaten Leicestershire by some distance and marched well clear at the top of the table. By the same token, ifs, maybes and supposition get you nowhere in life. In cricket, as in life, you have to take the rough with the smooth - there have, after all, been plenty of occasions when we have been saved by some judiciously timed rain showers.

Irrespective of that, tonight we sit over thirty points clear in the table and all fans of Derbyshire will be hoping there are no positive results for Yorkshire against Glamorgan tomorrow, or for Kent against Hampshire. Both games need more than a little cooperation to get even a contrived finish, with Kent's game a little further on.

Surely Hampshire, sitting just ten points behind Kent, won't offer them a gilt-edged opportunity to move further ahead of them? At 229-6 they don't yet have anything close to a target to set and I'd be surprised if they left them much less than 340, perhaps with the help of a couple of declarations, unless the game is again truncated.

As for the county of the white rose, they must have wilted a little under the incessant rain in Wales and, with the home side only 117-3 in their first innings even a contrived finish is some way distant. I would hope that Glamorgan, enduring an annus horribilis, might be wary of Yorkshire's batting strength and loathe to lose their sixth match in nine starts. Marcus North must be thinking he's playing some strange form of cricketing Monopoly, one in which he's swapped the Strand, Park Lane or Bond Street of Lancashire, Durham or Hampshire for the Old Kent Road....maybe he should have held on to the Mayfair of Derbyshire...

Anyway, three cheers for the news that The Mullet has landed! Rana Naved will make his debut for us on Sunday against his old county Sussex. I'm sure I'm not alone in being excited at the thought of seeing him in Derbyshire colours and this weekend I will preview our T20 campaign and tell you my first choice selection as the competition begins.

Halfway through the Championship and whatever happens tomorrow, Derbyshire will be clear at the top.

Enjoy it, people!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 3

There was little play around the country in county cricket today, but Derbyshire enjoyed just enough time in the middle to pick up two potentially crucial batting points against Leicestershire.

There was solid, professional batting from Dan Redfern and David Wainwright and it will be interesting to see the tactics tomorrow, assuming that we get into the middle for long enough for there to be any relevance to tactics...

We could opt to bat on steadily, aim for 400 and then attain the maximum batting points, which would be nicely augmented by the draw points for a decent haul, certainly in the context of those picked up elsewhere. Alternatively, we could have a slog for an hour and a half, declare around 170 runs on and then try to bowl out Leicestershire again. Much will depend on the wicket and whether Karl Krikken and Wayne Madsen feel it is feasible to bowl out our hosts on the last afternoon.

Today didn't suggest that there was particular devilment in the pitch, so my guess would be we go for option one, although there may not be enough time in the middle for us to make 300, let alone go for maximum batting points.

What a season Dan Redfern is having! There were a few people last year complaining that he was an unfulfilled talent, silly when the lad is still a novice at the county game. This year, enjoying his work with Dave Houghton, he looks a batsman of the highest class and the potential lynchpin of our batting for years to come.

Similarly, David Wainwright emerged from a lean trot with the bat to play a crucial supporting role, exactly the type of innings we expected from him when he moved from Yorkshire. The lad is a fine cricketer and it crossed my mind that we might not have seen such application from his predecessor in the Derbyshire middle order...

We'll see what tomorrow brings, but if it keeps raining in Wales and Hampshire I'll be far from upset...

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 2

Once again today, on a pitch that continued to offer some help to bowlers, Derbyshire did as well as could have been expected and, before the rains came. moved into the lead against Leicestershire.

There were contributions down the order, although the continued travails of Ross Whiteley mean our batting is less robust than looked the case at the start of the summer. Whiteley hasn't passed 50 since the opening game and probably needs the more relaxed fields of the T20 to go out and simply have a hit. His bowling was off yesterday too, but he is crucial to the balance of this side and we really need him to find form, particularly for the short game when he could be so destructive.

It appears to be a wicket where scoring runs isn't an issue but staying in can be, with successive batsmen getting in and then out again. How much play there is tomorrow is a moot point, but if we could squeeze another hundred runs from the last five wickets that would be a handy lead going into the last day.

The weather may well have the last laugh, but as long as it rains everywhere else that won't worry us too much. Again there is a lot resting on the shoulders of Dan Redfern, who has emerged this summer as the batsman we all expected when he first burst onto the scene as a young, slight teenager. Redfern looks every inch a batsman of class and is another who, with David Wainwright and Jon Clare, could force his way into England Lions squads before long. Wainwright kept him good company today in a welcome return to batting form and have played Derbyshire into the ascendancy in the match.

I still cannot see past a draw, but I didn't expect enough cricket today for us to move into the lead. We could do with a little more fortune from the rain gods over the next couple of days, but I'd be very surprised if we got it.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 1

Taking all things into consideration, Derbyshire did as much as they could have been reasonably expected to do at Leicester today.

After Tony Palladino's stunning early hat-trick, Jonathan Clare and David Wainwright bowled well but it was Tim Groenewald who earned the accolades with a superb 5-29 in nearly 18 overs. Derbyshire bowled with control and discipline and will have been delighted with their day's work, culminating in getting to the close unscathed.

Realistically, the awful forecast for the week suggests we will get little else from this game but it should not detract from a fine day's work. The reasons for Derbyshire's success thus far are patently obvious - we have three outstanding seamers, all of who have taken between 24 and 31 wickets at less than 22 runs each. I said before the season that there was no better seam attack in this division and they have proved it in every game thus far.

All are right-arm bowlers but they are quite different. Palladino strikes me as a more "skiddy", Dale Steyn-type bowler, one who always has it in the right areas, quick enough to keep batsmen on their toes and experienced enough to mix it up, varying his line and length to good effect. His hat-trick today was a classic - one leg-before, one caught behind from a lifter, the third yorked in fine style. Top stuff from a very good bowler who took his 200th career wicket in the process.

Jonathan Clare is now back to the player he was when first bursting on the scene. A bad shoulder injury set him back mentally as well as physically but Clare is an excellent cricketer, one who should gain England Lions selection before long. He is perhaps the quickest of the trio, hitting the pitch hard and capable of golden spells that can change the course of an innings.

Then there's Tim Groenewald, who is now close to being the complete bowler. He bowls quick enough to hurry the best batsmen, but also has tremendous control, as highlighted by his conceding only two runs an over in the Championship. If there is anything in the wicket I remain confident that this trio can outbowl any side in the division, assuming the batsmen give them a chance. Groenewald has 24 wickets at less than 18 this summer and a career bowling average that is coming down by the year.

They are a fine trio and we are very lucky to have them.

Which brings me neatly to my next point. There were grumbles from Derbyshire fans yesterday when Palladino and Groenewald were rested for the match against Warwickshire. "Its only eight overs" said some, while another suggested that "surely they could manage four overs" in the T20.

Well yes, they could. But that misses the point. With the physical demands of the one-day game, the need to dive around, hare around the field and go for everything places increasing strain on muscles and joints. I've seen plenty of dislocated shoulders and damaged limbs in the T20 especially and the same people criticising Karl Krikken for resting key men would be quick to castigate him if they were injured and ruled out of the matches that look set to be massive in the coming weeks.

Older fans will point out that Les Jackson, Cliff Gladwin and Harold Rhodes bowled a thousand overs a season and never missed matches. Great players as they were, however,  there was no expectation that they would do much in the field unless an occasional catch went their way or the ball needed thrown in from long leg or third man. Nor were runs expected from them. Nor did batsmen charge them or change stance, moves that require late adjustments in the action, causing further strain on the body of the bowler.

I don't suggest one generation is better than the other, but simply present the facts of the matter.

If Palladino, Groenewald and Clare remain fit I am confident that we will be in the promotion shake-up in September. I mean no disrespect in saying that I would be less confident if two of them needed to be replaced by Evans and Higginbottom for key matches. Those two are talented young bowlers, but you cannot replace experience. For me, Krikk did exactly the right thing, even if, in so doing, there was an inference that the competition didn't matter.

To be fair, it doesn't - at least not this year. The Derbyshire squad is not big enough or experienced enough to battle on different fronts and having got off to a flyer in the Championship it is logical to maximise your chances in that competition and rest players - much the same as football teams do in the Carling Cup, or whatever it is called these days.

Yes, it must be frustrating for fans who turn up to watch the first eleven and see major players omitted, but that has to be accepted in a small club with a very young squad. Fringe players need opportunities when the time is right and Karl Krikken and his coaching staff deemed the time right on Sunday. Already without Martin Guptill, we were unlikely to beat a side that  is currently the best in the country and others got the chance of a runout.

We didn't win yesterday - and by all accounts were pretty poor - but today, when it mattered, three fit bowlers did what they do best.

For me, that beats competing yesterday, but probably losing eventually, every time.

Any thoughts?

Monday, 4 June 2012

Leicestershire v Derbyshire preview

Were it not for the weather forecast and the fact that Leicestershire always seemingly play better against us than anyone else, I would have little hesitation in predicting a Derbyshire win in this game.

Realistically we need to do it in less than three days if the forecasts I have seen become reality and I don't see that happening, Wayne White turns into Jacques Kallis when he plays us, while Josh Cobb, a young player of talent but only modest record, generally becomes AB de Villiers when faced with our attack.

This is, it must be said, a Leicestershire side of modest means and they are currently being linked with every Scots player who knows the way to the M1 right now, first Berrington, then Mommsen and now Matt Parker being tipped for a switch to the Foxes. They have had injury problems but the Derbyshire side of the first six or seven Championship games would have no problems with them.

The question is whether we can regroup as a batting side after two poor displays at Bristol (or one and a half, my final offer...) and a limp one today against an albeit far superior Warwickshire side.

There is no team news at present, but given Martin Guptill missed today's game it is unlikely that he will make tomorrow's, so Derbyshire look set to go with an opening pairing that has struggled for runs thus far. I'm still far from convinced that Chesney Hughes has any real form behind him and his first ball duck today dictates my selection of Messrs Borrington and Lineker as openers.

The rest of the side pretty much picks itself, so I see this Derbyshire side taking the field between showers:

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

My prediction for the game is a draw - not the worst thing in the world, as long as the rain is as bad elsewhere. If we go into the T20 with a sizeable lead, we will have the bit between our teeth at the business stage of the season.

More tomorrow.

Derbyshire v Warwickshire CB40

It is rare that I am able to write a match report before the end of the game, but sadly this one could probably have been written before it started.

Warwickshire are simply too good a side for a fledgling Derbyshire outfit that rested several key players ahead of this week's Championship game at Leicester and was forced to omit Martin Guptill from his season swansong at the request of Cricket New Zealand.

When one considers that the likes of Bell, Trott and Carter aren't in this Warwickshire side and they are still able to field a side of that ability, you see the gulf between the two and what Derbyshire need to aspire to. There is no magic formula that will get Derbyshire's young players the requisite experience to compete at that level. For the second time this season we were well and truly hammered by Warwickshire.

Mark Turner bowled well, Alex Hughes didn't let himself down and Tom Knight had the onerous task of bowling at England players when they were going well, but 240 always seemed too many for Derbyshire, especially when Chesney Hughes and Wes Durston both went for ducks.

It is a shame that such displays always seem to happen to Derbyshire when they have done a lot of promotional work on bringing people in, or when TV cameras are present. The occasional fans will look at the score and think that it is the same old Derbyshire, nothing has changed and probably be on the boards having a moan about it tonight.

To be fair they are entitled tonight, as we didn't cover ourselves with glory, but there is a bigger picture.

Warwickshire are simply too good. Way too good for us at the moment. More important is an improved display against Leicestershire, who as I write look like going down to a much improved and very impressive Netherlands side. Sarwan is once again showing what a class player he is, but there is little support at the other end.

Here's hoping he used up his week's run allocation in this one...

Derbyshire v Warwickshire CB40 preview

Another day, another game for Derbyshire today and a chance to get our own back on Warwickshire, who inflicted our biggest defeat of the season so far on us.

The teams have yet to be announced, but there may be first starts for Ally Evans, Tom Knight and Peter Burgoyne as Derbyshire look to rest key personnel ahead of tomorrow's game at Leicester. Evans has done well for Scotland so far, while Knight also appears to be bowling well and looks considerably fitter than last summer.

A win would be a good tonic for us, but I don't see this match as crucial to our season, as our focus has to be the County Championship. We don't have a big enough or old enough squad to sustain a challenge across all tournaments and having got to poll position in the four-day game it would be silly to squander it by overworking key members of the side - hence the decision to rest Palladino, Groenewald and Wainwright.

We need all of those players fit for the long haul. There is a lot of cricket to play and owe it to all of them to make sure they are fit enough to last the campaign. I expect us to be beaten today by a good team with a far bigger squad and a lot more money - but the real match this week starts tomorrow...

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Congratulations to Wes

Warm congratulations to Wes Durston for winning the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for last month, the first Derbyshire player to do so.

He has been a great asset to Derbyshire cricket since plucked from the Unicorns setup by John Morris and has thrived in the positive atmosphere engendered by Karl Krikken. Wes has a role in the side that he is comfortable with and he has contributed runs, wickets and catches in a major contribution to Derbyshire's fine start.

When he scores runs it is quickly and his footwork is quick and positive. As the senior professional in a young side at 31, he sets an excellent example and can be rightly proud of his award, a reflection of a job well done.

Congratulations Wes!

Martin Guptill - an appreciation

Depending on the outcome of an x-ray on an injured finger, Martin Guptill may have played his final innings for Derbyshire this season. He may or may not be able to play against Warwickshire at the County Ground tomorrow, but this is an appropriate time to pay tribute to a player who has made a massive impact at the club in a relatively short space of time.

When John Morris signed him two winters ago, there were a few raised eyebrows. Guptill had been on the scene for a few years in New Zealand yet was still only a young man. Former Derbyshire stalwart John Wright was the intermediary and thought that Guptill could do a good job for Derbyshire, at the same time that Derbyshire could do a good job for Martin Guptill.

A reputation as a classical batsman with a wide range of strokes yet an impetuous nature in using them suggested that the player would entertain and it was Wright who moved Guptill up the order, seeing potential in him as an opening batsman. His first season at Derbyshire was sound, if not spectacular, some good Championship knocks following a difficult start and some brutish deliveries. His T20 campaign was perhaps the highlight, his clean, straight style of batting, willingness to hit through the "V" and work hard for the cause making him a stand out. A century against Yorkshire in the CB40 at Chesterfield was special and Guptill returned to New Zealand with his reputation enhanced, not just as a player. Few overseas players - injured ones to boot - would deign to carry the drinks, as Guptill did at Essex last summer, keen to remain part of the team to the very end.

Few overseas players have "mucked in" as Guptill has been willing to do either. I've seen plenty around the circuit over the years who turned it on for the TV cameras, for a big game or when conditions were in their favour, being less keen to do the hard yards at other times. Guptill is an example to all in that respect, throwing himself around in the field and displaying the perfect attitude and preparation at all times.

Which, of course, makes him the ideal man for a young side, keen to learn and watching the moves of the "stars" of the side. Guptill had a wonderful winter, scoring heavily for New Zealand and his native Auckland in all forms of the game and news of his return was greeted with considerable enthusiasm.

He has repaid the club with a fine aggregate and the recognition of being perhaps the best overseas player on the circuit right now. Nearly 600 runs at 50 in the Championship and over 200 in three CB40 games has again shown him as a classically correct player with the ability to take an attack apart. He now goes on to the big innings that for some time eluded him and his clean aggression at the top of the order has played a major part in Derbyshire's early season success, as has his brilliance in the field. He still has the ability to hit the ball a country mile, but his technique has tightened up and his all-round game has matured. Guptill is the business..

At 25 he has the world of cricket at his feet and will, I think, be seen as one of the best batsmen in the game over the next five years. This year he turned down the opportunity to play IPL to return to Derbyshire and further hone his game, a decision that was both appreciated and respected. It is unrealistic to expect him to do so in the future, as players can earn far more for six weeks in India than they could for a summer in England. If Martin Guptill throws his hat into the ring for next year's IPL there will be an orderly queue forming for his services.

Will we see him in Derbyshire colours again? I sincerely hope so, as he is a major talent, as well as a man of decency and humility. How many international stars would opt to stay with a couple of team mates in a spare room than take the expensive apartment on offer to them? Guptill did just that and there are a number of such stories about his level-headedness and all-round affability that could be told.

The bottom line is that Martin has been a gem for Derbyshire cricket, which has also been an excellent finishing school for him. I would love to see him back, though looking at next summer's schedule I feel that it is unlikely to be  in 2013. His New Zealand commitments to their tour of England will see him at the County Ground in early May, but the tour continues to the end of June, certainly ruling him out of the bulk of the T20 at least.

History will record Martin Guptill as a very, very good batsman, one with the potential to become great. Those who played or worked with him will testify to him being a diamond of a man and a pleasure to have around the place.

Such a combination sets him a very select company. On behalf of all Derbyshire fans, thanks Martin. It really has been our pleasure.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

At the risk of upsetting harbingers of doom...

Yorkshire's game against Northamptonshire has ended in a draw tonight.

The points have taken them one point clear of Kent into second place on 85 points, both of those counties with a game in hand over Derbyshire. Yet we are still 28 points clear in first place!

Even if both of those counties won their game in hand, taking maximum points, we would still be top. The four matches Derbyshire play, home and away, against those sides are going to be pivotal to our chances of promotion, but don't discount our chances at this stage, just because of one defeat.

The most important thing is those four wins. It looks to me as if the County Ground, if the weather keeps out of things, is generally going to produce a result and Derbyshire are as well equipped - perhaps more so - than any team in this division to take advantage of the conditions there.

As I wrote earlier, if Usman Khawaja hits his stride early and gets some good runs under his belt, one of the openers makes the other berth his own and Ross Whiteley comes back onto his game there will be few who fancy playing us. We're likely to bowl out most sides given helpful conditions - we did that at Bristol and were only denied by a fine knock by Alex Gidman - and I find it hard to believe we will bat that badly on a regular basis through the second half of the season.

It is likely to go down to the wire, but I still maintain that Derbyshire will be top three come September. With a little luck we can be in the places that matter and if we keep winning one here and there the silverware is not beyond us.

We have 32 days of championship cricket left, 96 sessions of play. Win most of the sessions and win the matches, that should be the aim. And keep playing aggressive, fearless, purposeful cricket.

It has done us no harm so far

Something for the weekend...

Sometime later today, or tomorrow if things are a little quiet, this blog will go past the quarter-million hits barrier, which is a figure I never expected to see in my wildest dreams. I wasn't sure that people would want to read my thoughts on Derbyshire cricket, let alone come back on a regular basis for more.

To all of you, wherever you are, a heartfelt thankyou. The last two months, aided and abetted by Derbyshire's performances, have seen new records for the number of hits and new members are coming along all the time - such is the interest in Derbyshire cricket.

The last few days have seen a little rain on Derbyshire's championship parade, but we shouldn't be overly disheartened at this stage. Did anyone else out there genuinely expect us to be table-toppers at the halfway stage? I didn't and there were probably a few of you thought I was crazy to predict a promotion challenge when I did so pre-season.

I still think we're a good four-day side and we have already proved that to be the case. The only concerns are if we have injuries to any of the main seam bowling attack and if one of the opening batsmen in contention for a regular role doesn't fire sometime soon. Realistically Usman Khawaja is going to have to take on one of those roles when he arrives, as positions three to six seem pretty much sown up at present. Wayne Madsen has made an excellent job of first wicket down and the position at least affords him a brief respite (too brief at times) between marshalling the troops in the field and going out to bat. The mental demands are considerable and should not be underestimated and the skipper gets an opportunity at three to unwind a little, however briefly.

There can be few complaints about the efforts of Wes Durston and Dan Redfern at four and five, while Ross Whiteley has continued to do a decent job at six, albeit without the weight of runs that signalled his introduction to the side last summer. Second season was always going to be harder for Whiteley on the unforgiving county circuit, but he will be back in his usual vein of form sometime soon.

Getting one from Borrington, Lineker and Hughes into form for the other opening berth must now be priority for Karl Krikken and David Houghton. All have the ability to score good runs, but for some reason its not quite fired as it should have done so far. I suspect that Matt Lineker has a big game at Leicester this week, as Chesney Hughes will then be in poll position with the advent of T20s to have a run for the start of the second half of the Championship campaign.

Suggestions that we should have gone for Michael Thornely are fair, but I'd prefer to judge his ability after he's scored solidly against better attacks than Glamorgan. Suggestions on the circuit were that he was less good against pace and bounce, so we'll see as the season progresses.

Derbyshire need to get someone into form from within and they will do so. The Falcons will be flying again, very soon.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 3

At the end of it all Derbyshire went down by seven wickets with a day to spare, but at least they battled in the remainder of the game after a horrid first day.

What it showed, of course, is that we're no different to most other teams - we need to play at our very best in every session of every game to get results. On day one we were simply not at the races and we got a bit of a doing.

The most important thing here is not to push the panic button. Good players have not become bad ones because of this game and we must now regroup for the game against Leicestershire next week.

There may well be no Martin Guptill for that game, as he picked up a finger injury against Gloucestershire that may rule him out. I'm not sure whether Usman Khawaja will be over in time either, so there may be a chance we go into an important game without an overseas player - unless, of course, we can bring in Rana Naved for the match.

We'll see and there'll be more from me over the weekend. For now, eat, drink and be merry - we're still top of the table...