Monday, 30 April 2012

Monday musings

Its a little while since I looked at the wider issues in the county game as there's been a lot going on in Derbyshire circles. Did I mention we'd made a great start to the season...?

The term "dropping like flies" might be applied liberally to overseas players as counties, one by one, discover that recruiting one for the county game is one thing and their turning up for duty is another. Chris Gayle looks increasingly unlikely to play for Somerset because of his falling back in love with the West Indies, while Peter Siddle is now injured and cancelled plans to play for Essex, also in the T20.

It is just another consequence of the mad world of international cricket, where series are so commonplace that the sense of "event" is lessening by the year. Look no further back than last year, when England roundly thrashed India in this country, causing considerable wailing and gnashing of teeth on the sub-continent. Then a month or so later, we were out there getting beaten and that was all right then.

There's too much. International cricket should be special, but there's been a dumbing down of it in recent years with too many series, some of them of only two matches duration (the point being?) and played by poor teams (Bangladesh and Zimbabwe anyone?). A lot of players have boosted their averages by feasting off sub-standard bowling and for me the relevance and importance of the international game has been badly diluted as a result. Why there is a need, to use just one example, for New Zealand to play the West Indies in July is beyond me, while teams jet off to Dubai for meaningless (apart from the money...) matches in temperatures that would make a camel head for shade.

Closer to home we see the England selectors continuing their penchant for odd Lions selection with the squad to play the West Indies. I may, perhaps, have misinterpreted the script, but isn't this squad supposed to reflect "up and coming" talent? After all, the ECB gives money to counties for producing and playing talented young players under the age of 26, the next generation of English talent. The Lions is surely a chance for these young guns to play at a higher level and show a logical progression in their game.

Right. So that's why we're including 29-year old Nick Compton and 31-year old Michael Carberry? What more do we need to know about Samit Patel, 28 this year? All are good players, with Compton in a rich vein of form, yet the selections are at odds with the apparent desire to weed out older cricketers and later developers with incentive payments. Compton is also South African-born, though I would see that as less of an issue than his age for selection in such a side.

I know that Carberry is still seen as a possibility for the England side if anything happened to Strauss or Cook, but there are younger options around the county circuit, surely? Why not offer an opportunity to players like Dan Redfern, Ross Whiteley or Jonathan Clare? Selection for such a side would let them see that they were under scrutiny and give them all-important encouragement in the formative stages of their career.

Compton, Carberry and Patel have been around for years. If we need someone for the England side and they are deemed to be the best available from a form and fitness perspective so be it. Yet picking them for a "Lions" side is silly. I thought we'd stopped doing that when we ceased picking Steve Kirby at 32...

There is a lot of exciting young talent in the English county game and the selectors should recognise that in their selections for a side that purportedly represents the best of it.

Time to go. I'm off to ring Howard Dytham and put my name forward for the Derbyshire Academy. I can cite precedence in this one...

Sunday, 29 April 2012

So much for that one...

I'm sure that Karl Krikken would have appreciated getting his batsmen and bowlers a little more time in the middle over recent days against Cardiff MCCU, but on the flip side it has been a good couple of days for us, mssing out on a round of county fixtures when the weather has been at its worst.

Derbyshire will go into the next game against Gloucestershire at the County Ground second in the table after that round of matches, with Kent four points ahead but having played a game more. There are currently twelve points between us and third place, which happens to be this week's opponents...

Good weather and a positive result in our favour would reinforce an impressive start and I am sure that Krikk is making sure the players remain focused and compete for every ball. If they do that I am convinced that this is another game we can win. Pre-season I saw Essex and Yorkshire as our biggest rivals and still do, though the white rose has had a challenging start and three straight draws. Essex meanwhile are missing batting guns Shah and ten Doeschate, both in India and will surely pick up speed when they return after the IPL concludes.

Putting a little distance between ourselves and the chasing pack is not something in which we are overly experienced, certainly not in my time of watching the club. Given that covers 40-plus summers it speaks volumes, but the priority is to treat every session as a microcosm. Win more sessions than the other team and you will generally, weather permitting, win the match (unless you make a pig's ear of your bad sessions of course...)

I'll preview the game in greater detail later in the week, but suffice to say that while Gloucestershire are a competitive team under John Bracewell - and certainly one that is stronger than its individual parts - I feel that we have enough talent of our own to win this one.

I don't see changes to the batting and the only decision, barring injury, is likely to be whether Mark Footitt can continue to keep Tim Groenewald out of the side if the latter is now fit. I was impressed by the way the former blew the Leicestershire tail away at Derbyshire with fast yorkers and his left arm pace is a potent weapon, generating wear in the follow through for David Wainwright to exploit as the game progresses.

Yet Groenewald has been our star turn in recent seasons and it is hard to see him as a long-term omission. I suspect we may see him given a match in the Seconds to prove his fitness and gain rhythm before a return, but it is further evidence of a developing squad. It is some time since Derbyshire had players of genuine quality outside the team (the cynical would say there have been too many times we had few of them in it...) and healthy competition is no bad thing.

If we can beat a competitive Gloucestershire outfit, you might even see some of the southern media starting to appear at the County Ground in force.

Or is that a porcine flying squadron I see scrambling over yonder?

Saturday, 28 April 2012

M is for Magnificent Morgan

Nathan Fearn and I haven't always agreed on the way through the alphabet of great Derbyshire cricketers, but on the letter M there is no argument from me on his choice of Derek Morgan (standing left in this 1950's team group).

He rightly mentions earlier luminaries such as William Mycroft, while Tommy Mitchell was an outstanding, if somewhat mercurial leg spin bowler before the Second World War. He could be expensive at times, but was equally capable of destroying any batting line up. The feeling remained that he was not quite an international bowler and his volatile personality was perhaps not one that the establishment of the time would appreciate, but Mitchell was undoubtedly the most dangerous spinner we have ever had.

Fast forward forty years or so and one that Nathan appears to have overlooked, bar for a passing reference, was Geoff Miller. Ole Mortensen, Devon Malcolm and John Morris were all outstanding servants in a side that was as individually talented as any in our history, with the two quicks both awkward and hostile, while Morris at times could make batting look the easiest thing in the world.

Miller was a very, very good cricketer. He perhaps should have scored more runs, as when he did so it was with considerable grace and charm, but he was an excellent off-spinner who made his mark on the international team in the Mike Brearley era. He was also a very good fielder, with a good arm and a fine pair of hands leaving him able to field anywhere that was required.

A good all-rounder, for sure, but Derek Morgan (standing rear left in this shot of the 1950s Derbyshire side) was perhaps the greatest British-born all-rounder to play for Derbyshire.

He had some good opposition for that role, with such luminaries as Les Townsend, George Pope, Stan Worthington, Miller himself and Graeme Welch all worthy and fine servants for the club.

Yet Morgan's statistics speak for themselves. In a career that lasted from 1950 to 1969, he scored over 18,000 runs at an average of just under 25, took 1248 at 25 runs each and held 573 catches. He also captained the county with a good deal of common sense in a period when, during the late 1960's, we were not overly blessed with players of obvious class.

He was a functional rather than flashy player and few would have watched him and waxed lyrical, especially those who watched him bat. I saw him on several occasions and one never felt about him as you felt when watching a Peter Gibbs, a Chris Wilkins or a John Morris.

Yet Morgan had shots and on occasions showed them. They were often subjugated to the greater need, that of the team grinding out the runs to force a win, or save a game. Fancy shots might get a few runs, but Morgan was astute enough to realise that a hard-fought 50 was more value than a flashy 20 and he often came up with the goods, especially against the quickest and most dangerous bowlers.

In the legendary game against Hampshire that started and finished in a day on a Burton "minefield", only one player made more than 19 in the match, Morgan's 46 in our second innings being an innings of unbelievable value and worth many a century in better conditions. You have to bear in mind that wickets in his era were mainly left open to the elements and batsmen were exposed to "sticky" tracks on which only those with good defensive techniques, considerable skill and a great deal of bravery could survive. He had all of these in abundance and on eight occasions passed a thousand runs in a season.

As a bowler he was both fortunate and unfortunate to play in the same side as Les Jackson and Cliff Gladwin. Fortunate because he learned from them the merits of line and length and keeping batsmen under pressure and also because, as he openly admitted, batsmen often took a chance against him when they'd barely had a loose ball from the opening pair. At the same time, there were occasions where he never got on because the legendary pairing ran through sides and had no need for back up. Early in his career he was a typically Derbyshire fast-medium, but as he got older he dropped his pace and moved it around. His mixture of late outswing, coupled with an ability to bowl off-cutters made for a potent mix and on 35 occasions he returned five wickets in an innings.

As a fielder, he was beyond compare in a generally sound fielding unit. Alan Revill and Donald Carr were brilliant close fielders, but Morgan, in the words of my Dad, "caught swallows". He could field anywhere with distinction, but as a backward short leg to Gladwin and Jackson he held half-chances and on occasions some that would not have been considered a chance to most, usually with the minimum of fuss.

His fielding was so good that he was England's 12th man on five occasions, yet he never gained selection for the national side. The presence of Trevor Bailey was the main problem, but Morgan, born in Middlesex, is another who may well have got the nod had he stayed down south with one of the more fashionable counties.

The other factor with Derek Morgan is his resilience. If one goes through the seasons that he played, he missed precious few matches and was as great an advert for the solid county professional as could have been wished for.

There have been bigger names in the club's history, ones who produced brilliance over a few seasons, but on a pound for pound basis, over a twenty-year career Derek Morgan can be compared with and can stand alongside anyone. They named a suite after him at the County Ground, which is a worthy tribute, but he is well deserving of that brief but all important three word accolade of the very best. He could play.

 If we could sign the young Derek Morgan tomorrow we would breeze Division Two this summer. I'll take no arguments on that one.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Derbyshire v Cardiff MCCU

Well I wasn't too far away with the team for the match that starts tomorrow.

 The Derbyshire 12 is:

Paul Borrington, Matt Lineker, Chesney Hughes, Wes Durston, Garry Park, Jake Needham, Chris Durham, Mark Turner, Tim Groenewald, Tom Knight, Ally Evans and Peter Burgoyne.

Durston captains the side and it is good to see Jake Needham getting a run out with the senior side. How much play there is in this one, against a side that features our own Hamza Siddique, is debatable, but it should be an opportunity for the fringe batsmen and bowlers to stake a claim for a regular place.

More tomorrow. I just hope that they get on the pitch, unlike many of our rivals in Division Two today.

Shame that...

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

If you're still in doubt...

Anyone still worried about Derbyshire's batting and my assertions regarding the state of wickets across the country should read Nick Hoult's fascinating interview with Mark Ramprakash in today's Telegraph.

Ramprakash says that the wickets are the worst he has ever known in his career.  After 25 years in the game that is quite something...

More here

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Time for a breather

After a very good start to the season, this week's match against Cardiff MCCU should see a number of players yet to feature in the team this campaign get an opportunity, ahead of next week's game against Gloucestershire at the County Ground. I still think it is crazy we will by then have played nearly half of our home County Championship matches by the first week in May, primarily in temperatures that would have made Scott of the Antarctic stay in his tent. I'm sure we'll all clap the T20 winners in the Champions League in India this October though - the frostbite should be just about sorted by then....

With the above in mind, I would expect to see the attack led by Mark Turner and possibly (if deemed fit) Tim Groenewald, while there could also be an opportunity for Ally Evans, who is on a summer contract. It would also be nice to see Tom Knight back in the side, again assuming his availability from England Under-19 commitments.

As for the batting, my guess would be that Matt Lineker will come in and the game would offer an ideal opportunity for Karl Krikken to see him alongside Paul Borrington and Chesney Hughes in a potential top three, while Second XI keeper Chris Durham could perhaps make a senior start, allowing Tom Poynton a rest after an impressive start to the season.

I dare say that we will see the team soon enough, but this game is not first-class and if Durham does make his debut it will not be regarded as such. Nevertheless, it would be an important career milestone for a talented young player who has talent in front of as well as behind the stumps.

Purely from personal preference I would also like to see Garry Park get a game, a player I have much time for. Park is a battling player - my sort of player - and still worth watching in the field irrespective of what he does with bat or ball. I could see him playing a role in one-day cricket this season and some time in the middle would undoubtedly be useful for him.

Having said all the above, this morning's weather forecast suggests more rain in the coming days.

Happy Spring, everybody...

Welcome Simon Storey

The appointment of Simon Storey to the role of Chief Executive of Derbyshire County Cricket Club, announced this morning, is further evidence of the increasing professionalism of the club.

The new CEO comes with an excellent track record, most recently as Country Manager for Johnson and Johnson, based in Switzerland and at 42 has the kind of world-class CV in which any major company would be interested. That Derbyshire has managed to attract a man of that calibre is further evidence that we are moving in the right direction. The people running Derbyshire cricket are of an age where they have plenty to prove and the energy with which to do it. The pairing of Chris Grant and Storey could be a highly effective and hopefully long-term one.

Equally important is that the new man will have access and a full handover period with Keith Loring, who will remain at the club in a consultancy role with a remit of  generating new commercial opportunities and increasing advertising and commercial revenue. It is the first time in my recollection that the club has had a seamless handover in this crucial role and extremely heartening that we will still have Mr Loring, who has made a massive contribution to the professionalisation of the club, involved in a major way.

Simon Storey will doubtless prove a worthy successor, but he has a hard act to follow. Under Keith, Derbyshire as a club has made massive strides commercially and the positive financial returns over most of recent seasons are evidence of his business acumen. "Little Derbyshire" has become a club with a sound business model, quite possibly the envy of many counterparts elsewhere in the game, one run within budget and yet still able to move forward.

As Chris Grant points out elsewhere, Keith Loring's legacy is the dramatic transformation in the look of the County Ground. The new stand affords an excellent view of the action, while the marquee has opened up revenue streams and a wider audience for the club that might otherwise never have happened. While the ground has improved immeasurably in the forty years plus that I have been attending, the major changes have occurred during the tenure of Mr Loring, something for which all fans should be grateful and he can be rightly proud.

On behalf of Derbyshire fans I would like to offer a warm welcome to Simon Storey, who will undoubtedly do a fine job for us. At the same time, I would like to thank Keith Loring for a job well done. It is reassuring that a man of his qualities will continue to have a major role to play, one that I hope he feels able to do for some time to come.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Record breaker

With a week still to go, the blog has enjoyed its busiest-ever month, with over 15,500 visits. There's already a 25% increase in traffic on the same time last year, undoubtedly helped by Derbyshire's excellent start.

Thanks for your continued support and please keep your comments and e mails coming!

Batters out of hell...

It could be safely said that the earliest ever start for a domestic season has been a greater boon to bowlers than batsmen.

It was always likely to be so, of course, but there are some big names around whose reputations have taken an early season hammering. A few comments fired in the direction of Derbyshire batsmen have made me look at the statistics a little more closely to see if they are in any way justified.

Here's a few random big names and their season averages so far that make sobering reading:

Marcus Trescothick - 16
Paul Collingwood - 11
Mark Ramprakash - 10.3
Samit Patel - 8.25
Ian Blackwell - 7
Andrew Strauss - 3
Murray Goodwin - 2.3

Most fans pre-season, if offered any one of those players to bolster our batting, would probably have been very excited. Yet reputation and technique have been examined and found out by the early season wickets, where movement has been extravagant and bounce variable to non-existent.

That being the case, there are some pretty impressive statistics among Derbyshire batsmen. Martin Guptill averages 48, Dan Redfern 43, Ross Whiteley 38, David Wainwright 33, Jonathan Clare and Paul Borrington 25. OK, Wes Durston (16) and Wayne Madsen (12) haven't got going, but they are far from alone on wickets that are to batsmen what a crucifix is to Dracula.

Of course, all the tracks are different, but Derbyshire have yet to play on one that you would say was especially good for batting. The two tracks at Derby have been OK, but there has been plenty to keep the bowlers interested and batsmen wary. Cardiff was, in all fairness, rather unpleasant and I've chosen by term carefully there...

All the more suprising, then, that of all first class counties, taking the number of batsmen currently averaging over 25, Derbyshire are third behind Kent (with 9) and Yorkshire (with 7). That these two sides featured in a high scoring draw at the start of the season is the major factor, but there are plenty of teams worrying. The highest averaging batsman at Glamorgan does so with 20.5, his total including one century but five other innings for a total of 19 runs. Their captain Jim Allenby averages 11, their overseas number five, Moises Henriques, just 6...

Even Chris Rogers, well used to our conditions by this stage, averages "only" 22 - positively Bradmanesque by some standards, while top South African opener Alviro Petersen currently rejoices in one of eleven, one less than Worcestershire's usually prolific Vikram Solanki. Stephen Peters, a solid, reliable county opener over many seasons, currently averages 6 for Northamptonshire. Taking these statistics into account, does anyone still feel we're doing that badly?

When you look at the number of balls faced by batsmen, perhaps as sound a reflection of good technique as you could get, the figures are all the more telling. Here's the top seven batsmen in Division Two by balls faced:

Paul Borrington 471
Chris Dent 419
Alex Wakeley 389
Martin Guptill 381
Iain Cockbain 381
Joe Sayers 370
Ross Whiteley 341

Three of our top six in the top seven of the Division is a pretty impressive effort. I would argue that if you're good enough to stay there on the dirt tracks, when the outfield doesn't give full reward for your strokes and your technique gets the most thorough of examinations, you should do just dandy come high summer.

The frustration for batsmen, of course, is that early season failure could see you lose your place when the conditions are easing, just in time for someone else to come in, capitalise and make you look an under-achiever in the process. Of course, only a poor coach would make such a knee-jerk reaction and Karl Krikken is a long way from that.

Only two batsmen in the country - Chris Read and Nick Compton - have batted longer than Borrington this season, though it is safe to say that Compton has enjoyed better wickets than most. Ah yes, you might say, Borrington has stayed in but he's not scored many runs. My reply would be simple -  there's plenty of supposedly good players who have scored a lot less and, as I've written before, you don't score any in the pavilion.

I do feel sorry for Chesney Hughes and Matt Lineker, good players both. Hughes will logically replace Borrington for one day games and must fight for a place with weight of runs. The same goes for Lineker, who has now recovered from a hernia operation and must argue his case with a bucket load of runs in the Premier League and Second XI. If they do that, they will put pressure on the present incumbents of the positions they covet and be ready for an opportunity when it comes.

Yet by the look of it, those lads won't be giving them up without a fight, which can only be good news for Derbyshire cricket.

My case is rested, m'lud and I find in favour of the defence.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 4

In the end, the threatened inclement weather had the final word in this game, but the most suprising thing, even from this distance, was the way that Leicestershire seemed more intent on not losing the game than on winning it.

Despite being very much ahead in a game in which they had outplayed us for the most part, only 40 runs came in the first hour, hardly the gung ho attitude of a side wanting to earn a much-needed win. In the two innings their batsmen did better and their bowlers found more life than ours managed to do. Yet they had boundary sweepers for Martin Guptill before lunch, which when we're chasing 314 and there are only six overs to bowl seems a tad negative.

I didn't for a minute think they would bowl us out twice and to be honest the weather probably ruined a very good finish. With Martin Guptill restored to his rightful place at the top of the order, he and  the phlegmatic Paul Borrington added to the favourable impression they have made this season by adding an unbroken stand of 91 to their double century stand in the last game. Borrington will always be the junior partner in that pairing - indeed most opening batsmen in the world game would play second fiddle to Guptill - but the lad has an adhesive quality that I admire and respect. As Geoff Boycott used to say, you can't score any runs back in the pavilion and Bozza is giving himself every chance to cement a place in the side with his gritty performances this campaign.

So, three games in, top of the league and unbeaten. This is a good Derbyshire side and, as I said pre-season, I expect them to be in the mix come season-end. We can both bat and bowl better than we did in this game, but we still came out of it with heads held high and with a fair possibility of taking the points had the weather stayed out of it.

Next up will be the less demanding fare of Cardiff MCCU later in the week, when a few legs will doubtless be rested and others get a run out. I'd expect to see Chesney Hughes, Matt Lineker, Tim Groenewald and Mark Turner in for that one (fitness willing) and a few batsmen who could do with the bat on ball getting an opportunity.

There's not much wrong though. There can't be with that league position.

Three games gone and top of the league. Come on, we'd have taken that before the season, wouldn't we?

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 3

There was one thing I forgot in my summation of yesterday and the prospects of today's cricket. That was that Wayne White has made a habit of coming back to Derbyshire and proving the decision to release him was premature and more than a little silly.

White is now a good county cricketer with bat and ball and often saves his best for Derbyshire. Today was no exception as our innings never got going and we avoided the follow on only because of Tony Palladino's heroics at the end. With Martin Guptill's injury forcing him to bat in the middle order, Derbyshire's order battled but never got on top of a keen but not especially dangerous attack. Full credit to them though, for persistence and working their way through a side that has thus far been on fire.

Not in this game though. Whether it is over-confidence or unconscious relaxation I don't know, but we will have to do much better tomorrow to get a draw from this game.

A win is not impossible, but occasional showers and today's batting leaves much to be done for that to be attained.

We'll see what happens tomorrow. Irrespective of the bowling or the conditions, we should still be a good enough side to get out of this one with a draw.

Don't prove me wrong lads...

More tomorrow.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 2

I've thought for a while that the cricket reports on Ceefax were written by people who know as much about cricket as I do about teaching ballroom dancing to aardvarks. Tonight's report on Derbyshire's second day against Leicestershire was the definitive piece of evidence.

"Derbyshire face an uphill struggle to save the game" went the report. Eh? After one innings? Maybe the writer has prophetic powers, but I don't see that at all.

After two days of a four day game we've not even finished one innings. At 318-7 you'd say that Leicestershire, with runs on the board are slightly ahead, yet Derbyshire fought back well towards the end of the day and if this was the first day you'd probably reckon it was pretty even.

Of course, Robbie Joseph may be the new Glenn McGrath and we could be bowled out twice in the next two days, but I don't see it, personally. As I suggested last night, the ongoing weather issues leave Derbyshire with a decision on the last day - do they bat out a draw, albeit against the wiles of Claude Henderson, or do they chase a target that will be dictated by the amount of time lost tomorrow?

The weather may yet have the final word in this game, which is frustrating after the start we have had, but you have to expect that in an English season. I still maintain that Derbyshire control their own destiny at this point. While the weather may wipe out too much of this game to make a result possible, Derbyshire can either bat out a draw on the last afternoon or go for a third straight win. The scores today for Sarwan and Cobb suggest few real terrors in the track and I have every confidence that Derbyshire's batting can first mount a good reply against what you'd have to say was only a moderate attack.

Perhaps, given a reasonable break from the elements, that last afternoon could be quite interesting. If we were bowled out twice by this attack I'd have to reconsider my opinion of this Derbyshire side.

I don't see it happening.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 1

Just one wicket today for Derbyshire in a severely truncated day's play with less than eleven overs bowled.

24-1 with three days to go leaves a lot of cricket in the match and it will be just like the good old days of three day cricket and contrived finishes. The good thing being, of course, that in batting last if the conditions allow it, Derbyshire can dictate the result of the game by chasing (or declining) a target.

Derbyshire announced an unchanged side and in all honesty, why wouldn't they? Change a team after two wins from two and there's little merit or common sense. I've covered this in previous posts this week so don't need to go over old ground...

Other than that, there's little to report tonight. Glamorgan's batting failed again today and if they carry on at this rate they'll be changing their one day name from the Welsh Dragons to the Binary Boys...

Until tomorrow. Hopefully there's more cricket to report. Surely there can't be less?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Derbyshire v Leicestershire preview

Coming off two tremendous wins and with a team full of confidence, Derbyshire will be looking forward to tomorrow's game against local rivals Leicestershire. Especially since the Foxes have been decimated by players defected, retired and injured.

James Taylor and Harry Gurney have gone to Nottinghamshire (memo to Gurney - why?), Paul Nixon has retired and Will Jefferson, Matthew Hoggard and Nathan Buck are all injured. Logically Derbyshire should have a strong opportunity to make it three from three against a dangerous side shorn of its major talent.

Its just a shame about the weather.

Today was apparently horrible and the next few days don't seem much better. If Derbyshire are to make it three from three they will need to score runs quickly and bowl with all the spirit and skill they have shown thus far. There are slight injury doubts over Mark Footitt, with either Tim Groenewald or Mark Turner set to deputise if he fails a fitness test. The Derbyshire squad is:

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

As for the visitors, their depleted side is captained by former West Indies ace Ramnaresh Sarwan, on who much will depend. Their squad is:

Greg Smith, Matthew Boyce, Jacque du Toit, Ramnaresh Sarwan (captain), Josh Cobb, Ned Eckersley, Wayne White, Jigar Naik, Claude Henderson, Robbie Joseph, Alex Wyatt and Nadeem Malik.

If the rain allows it, I expect a Derbyshire win. I'm more confident in the team than the climate though, so I'm sad to have this one down as a likely draw.

Footitt sign extension

Good news this morning in that Mark Footitt has signed a contract extension taking him to the end of next season.

He's looked in very good nick this year, running in hard and with good rhythm. Adding to the current feel good factor around the place, this further confirms that the club are very much on the right path.

More later - lets hope he celebrates against Leicestershire!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Monday musings

Week three of the Championship campaign and Derbyshire sit six points clear at the top of the table. You have no idea how much I just enjoyed typing those words...

Confidence must be extremely high in the Derbyshire camp right now after two wins in remarkable circumstances. The bowlers look penetrative, albeit with a good deal of assistance from the early season tracks and the fielding has been of a very high standard. Yes, Tom Poynton put a chance down off the bowling of Tony Palladino in  Cardiff, but I was delighted to see the young keeper standing up to the bowler, which showed a great deal of confidence. It is unrealistic to expect him to take a catch off a bowler of that pace at the stumps, but he deserves full marks for the initiative.

There have been a few comments about the batsmen being under pressure to perform, but I don't subscribe to that view. Very few players would have made runs at Cardiff on a wicket that was awkward throughout, while Derby is unlikely to be a batting paradise. Nor would we want it to be, surely? I'd sooner see us win games by scoring 250 than draw them with batsmen averaging 50 each. Such comments as "Kent have scored runs" are meaningless - Kent haven't played on the wickets that Derbyshire have and I'd bet anyone any money that they wouldn't have been prolific at Cardiff.

At Derby, Guptill, Borrington, Redfern and Whiteley all had good knocks, again in far from idyllic batting conditions. Durston and Madsen haven't yet got a big score, but you're not going to tell me that you would drop last year's top scorer and the captain? With no disrespect meant towards Chesney Hughes and Matt Lineker, I don't think they would have scored more runs than those in the side this far on the surfaces we have had. For me, that top six should now be settled  for several matches and they will, in return, score increasing numbers of runs. We all know how good a prospect Hughes is, but he will get an opportunity when the one-day games start and needs to work on his game and score the runs to force his way into the side, just the same as Matt Lineker. At most times in the last five/six years such players would have walked into the Derbyshire batting line-up and we should quietly celebrate the fact that players of such quality currently cannot get a game.

This week's match against Leicestershire will not be a walk in the park, as local derbies rarely are, but if Derbyshire approach it in the same manner as the last two games they can win - despite a pretty dodgy weather forecast. We have to expect setbacks from the weather through the summer and need to do what all winning sides do - score runs at a decent pace to allow the bowlers time to do their stuff.

As supporters we need to back the lads - OUR lads - and watch them grow. I said pre-season that Derbyshire could do well in the Championship this year and not a single thing I have seen so far has changed my mind on that.

Roll on Thursday...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Remarkable start

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time - even since pre-season - will know that I fancied a promotion challenge this year in the Championship and that one of the essentials is a good start. That being the case, Derbyshire's season could hardly have started off better.

I'm not going to get carried away. The season is as much about what we do in the next 14 games as what we did in the last two, but those two have created an impetus that is of inestimable value to any side. What we have shown in spades is that there are bucketfuls of character in the side, people who are prepared to graft when things aren't in their favour.

Examples? At Derby on day two, Northamptonshire's approach fell only short of digging trenches across the wicket and hanging a flag from the pavilion saying "We're only here for a draw". Derbyshire's response was to maintain focus and bowl with discipline and control. It would have been very easy to relax and think "this one's going nowhere". To their credit, that didn't happen.

In Cardiff, it was the batsmen's turn. Four of the top five longest innings in the match on an awkward track were by Derbyshire players. I was mildly amused by a comment on the Forum when someone suggested that our batting has been disappointing this year. I think that goes for most counties to be honest and that's what you get when you play cricket this early. If you've never done it. facing a new ball on wickets offering lateral movement and variable bounce is a total lottery and you need luck, as well as considerable technique and skill, to survive.

It augurs well. One has only to watch the celebrations in the footage from the games to see how close the team are too. As the season wears on and players form ebbs and flows a strong dressing room will be important as the players act as a mutual support unit. Minor contributions can play a part in the team success and the side will undoubtedly celebrate as one.

There are a few days to recharge the batteries now before the East Midlands derby against Leicestershire at the County Ground. I'm not sure when this match was last played with Derbyshire top of the table, but would wager it hasn't been recently. There don't appear to be any injuries sustained from Cardiff, unless Jon Clare pulled a facial muscle smiling so much after seeing his bowling figures...

If Tim Groenewald is fit again, it is decision time. Does Krikk bring him back, or does he keep in the variation of Footitt who bowled well but with no real reward in Wales. What Footitt does is offer variety, of course and the additional pace and different angle is a major benefit, for him and for David Wainwright, who is fully equipped to take advantage of the footmarks he creates outside the off stump of right hand batsmen.

Last night I looked down that Derbyshire team and we have a good top four who can make a lot of runs. From nine to eleven we have a talented young keeper and  options for two penetrative opening bowlers who will challenge any team, given the slightest encouragement.

From five through to eight we have four players who could feasibly all gain England Lions selection in the near future, no doubt about it. Redfern is a class act who at Derby looked a genuine international quality player. The time he has, coupled with the range of shots, makes him a real asset to the side and I could see him challenging the thousand run barrier this season.

Whiteley just looks better each time I see him, and whether playing sedately or clumping it brings so much to the side. A brilliant fielder and increasingly useful bowler, in a fair world a winter tour beckons if he continues in such form. Wainwright is a genuine all-rounder whose gritty batting adds value to his probing spin and ballast to any side, while Clare bowls at good pace and hits a ball as hard as anyone in the game.

It is some time since Derbyshire had such players in the side and is another marker in the progress of the team and the club.

They won't be the last either. You can be sure of that.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day three

Played two. Won Two. Stunning performances two. Verdict so far - too good, just too good...

Table-topping Derbyshire. The leaders of Division Two. Doesn't it sound amazing? More to the point, doesn't it feel great to be a Derbyshire County Cricket Club fan just now? We may be little, but by crikey, we're showing signs of becoming perfectly formed...

Here's a story for you. I was working today and when I went back after my lunch Glamorgan were 86-2 and very much in the match. When I went on my break an hour and a half later the game was well won, those last eight wickets going down for just sixteen runs. How the heck does that happen?

I was curious when I got in tonight and checked the statistics. Without a doubt that was a difficult track and Martin Guptill must have wondered what he'd travelled around the world for when he had to bat twice on that. Yet David Wainwright managed to bat unbeaten for SIXTY overs in the second innings for the only fifty in the match, only seven less than Glamorgan's team managed in both innings combined. That, my friends, was a monumental effort of technique, concentration and guts and he can be very proud of such an effort.

Indeed, Derbyshire fans can be very proud of a very special bunch of young cricketers just now. No other Derbyshire team in the last five/ten years would have won that match so convincingly and few would have actually won it at all. We were 44-5 and 34-5 in the two innings and many a side would have crumbled to 70 or 80 all out. There's some very good batsmen in that top five and their turn will come again on a surface more conducive to their talents and when they weren't exposed to the vagaries of a poor surface, a new ball and swing.

As for the bowling, Jon Clare will want to roll that pitch up and take it home. Match figures of 11-57 don't happen all that often to any bowler and for all the wicket offered him help, Clare did the most important thing for any bowler - he bowled it in the right areas. Tony Palladino, always a dangerous bowler irrespective of the conditions, was an admirable foil with six wickets in the match and they and Mark Footitt simply outbowled their counterparts. When you think that Groenewald, Turner, Evans and Higginbottom are outside that eleven, you realise how rosy things look just now.

In the field they were well supported and there was another very good performance behind the stumps from Tom Poynton.

Most people wrote us off as also-rans pre-season. Little Derbyshire, making up the numbers, cannon-fodder for the bigger guns of the county game. Not any more guys, not any more. We won't win every game because no team does, but with a continued level of commitment this group of players could do something very, very special this season. And nobody will be looking forward to playing us in this form.

Well done lads. A fantastic effort once again from each and every one of you.

Keep it going!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day two

If Wales Online is anything to go by, Glamorgan are as good as beaten in this game, after Derbyshire bowled them out before lunch then extended their lead to 187 with four wickets in hand. "Glamorgan facing defeat against Derbyshire" says their headline tonight.

I'm not so sure it is that clear cut, as the indications after tea were that the wicket, which for two days had been damp underneath the top surface, was starting to flatten out a little. That should not take anything away from an outstanding fight by our middle/lower order, however, but we will need to continue to work hard to come away with the win points in this one.

Jon Clare has had a day to remember, with 5-17 this morning being followed by a belligerent unbeaten 40 after Ross Whiteley was run out shortly after tea. If these two talented young players continue in the vein they have shown in this game they both have the potential to be called up for England Lions in the not too distant future.

So too does David Wainwright and the three make up a terrific engine room of all round talent for Derbyshire. At 37-5 we were in real trouble today, but to then get through to the close on 152-6 was a superb effort. The problem has largely been one of negligible bounce and lavish movement, hence the large number of batsmen being bowled or leg before. It has not been, in short, the sort of track you would expect to see on a Test match ground.

Speaking of Wainwright, the left-handed all-rounder batted 47 overs and nearly three hours for his unbeaten 30, most of it made when the wicket was at its worst. Few would deem it an attractive innings, but in its importance to his adopted county it was beyond value. With no disrespect intended, it was not the sort of diligent, responsible innings one could have expected Greg Smith to have played in such a situation. After taking the wicket of Robert Croft with his only ball of the day, Wainwright could hardly have done any more for the Derbyshire cause today and he has become an instant favourite with the fans.

So what of the match? After a day of sunshine, Derbyshire's bowlers will hope for a little cloud cover tomorrow as Glamorgan embark on a likely chase of around 230. Any more will see Derbyshire fancy their chances; less will leave the game wide open.

Derbyshire are on top at the end of day two and have once again displayed an admirable fighting spirit as well as no little technical skill. They will need more of both tomorrow to conclude another very encouraging display with the win points.

Now that would shut up a few people, wouldn't it?

PS In other news, there was another encouraging spell by Matt Higginbottom today for Leeds/Bradford MCCU against Yorkshire as he continues his recovery from injury. He took the wickets of Anthony McGrath and Andrew Gale for just 16 runs having earlier made a belligerent unbeaten 31.

Now where's my sunglasses? That future is getting a bit bright for me...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day one

Last night I suggested that Derbyshire might get an awakening in this match after the success of the Northamptonshire game. By tea time today it looked like I was pretty accurate in my forecast, as we slumped to 130 all out, but at 37-4 by the close Glamorgan are in big trouble.

Of course,  Jim Allenby and Mark Wallace, a perennial thorn  in Derbyshire's side, are still to come but at the end of another extraordinary day's cricket Derbyshire will be quietly pleased with today's performance. Batting was never easy and, with the batsmen having to go off a few times, there was the continual issue of restarting an innings against bowlers who were refreshed from a spell in the pavilion.

You could probably have written the script that Graham Wagg would be the star turn for the Welsh side, but the former Derbyshire star needs that sort of performance on a regular basis this year after a disappointing 2011. We all know that he can be dangerous with a bat in his hand too, but on this sort of track the next ball can always be the one with your wicket on it.

There was lavish movement for bowlers all day and perhaps the biggest achievement was the partnership between Ross Whiteley and David Wainwright that added 48 runs in the afternoon. I'm sure that Karl Krikken was hoping for 200-230 today, but in choosing to bat he must have seen a wicket that he expects to deterioriate as the game progresses. First innings lead is not beyond the realms of possibility if conditions are again overcast tomorrow and, of course, we put the ball in the right areas.

In that final session, Tony Palladino and Mark Footitt again bowled with hostility, while Jon Clare picked up his first wicket of the seasonwhen he got Ben Wright leg before. With none of their side yet having made double figures, Glamorgan were on the ropes when the end of the day came after seven this evening.

Yes, the first innings was disappointing and we'd have hoped for more. But Derbyshire have battled as I fully expected they would and are very much in this game at the end of day one.

On balance, I'd have them slightly ahead. Here's hoping I'm saying the same, or better, tomorrow.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Glamorgan v Derbyshire preview

Derbyshire won their opening Championship match in some style at the weekend, while Leicestershire roundly thrashed tomorrow's opponents, Glamorgan. That being the case, if the weather stays out of things Derbyshire should naturally vanquish tomorrow's Welsh opponents with ease.

Of course, you know as well as I do, if you have followed the game for any length of time, that cricket doesn't quite work like that. Just when you think you have it worked out and things are going swimmingly, it has a habit of creeping up on you, smacking you on the head, kneeing you in the groin and walking over your fallen body. Form can go just as quickly as it came, teams can raise their game and you can take things for granted.

This is what Karl Krikken and Wayne Madsen now need to guard against. We beat Northamptonshire - a team I would regard as better than Glamorgan - with a brilliant, focussed team performance that has rarely been bettered in recent years. Anything less than that could see us in trouble against opponents  who will be smarting after a hefty defeat in the season opener.

The hosts have named the following 12, which of course sees Graham Wagg face his former team mates:

Rees, Walters, Bragg, Wright, Henriques, Allenby, Wallace (capt), Wagg, Croft, Owen, Cosker, Reed.

It's not a bad side, but by the same token there aren't many that I would swap into ours. Allenby is a dangerous player and we all know what Wagg can do, but there is no James Harris and Moises Henriques is as yet unproven, certainly on our tracks. The early season replacement for Marcus North, Henriques has a decent, if not spectacular record for New South Wales, though I would be surprised if he batted higher than Jim Allenby, a player that Derbyshire chased when he left Leicestershire.

As for Derbyshire, the old maxim "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies quite nicely. The only thing "broke" is Tim Groenewald's groin, so I would expect Jon Clare to take his place in the side. Mark Turner and Ally Evans will also be along just in case, but the Derbyshire side is likely to take the field as follows:

Guptill, Borrington, Madsen (captain), Durston, Redfern, Whiteley, Clare, Wainwright, Poynton, Palladino, Footitt.

The weather forecast isn't great for the next few days and that might legislate against a positive result. The reassurance against some recent trips to Wales, however, is that in Wainwright and Durston we have our own spin bowlers to counter Croft and Cosker. By the same token, our seam attack is stronger, as is the batting.

All we need to do now is prove that on the pitch - starting tomorrow.

Fantasy Cricket Technical Issues - evening update

Just to let you know I have had a response from the Telegraph re the technical issues some of you are having with access to the league.

It reads:

"Thank you for your recent correspondence.

I have just tried adding my team to your league on the website using the league pin 8001216 and the league name 'Peakfan Blog FF League' and had no problems, these details are working correctly.

If anyone has a problem using the website to add their teams, they can email me and I can add them.

Kind regards


Please go to and click on 'Contact us' if you have any more queries."

Hope that helps you all! Get in quick before tomorrow's round of matches!!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Fantasy Cricket - a correction

Sorry - I gave you the wrong information when detailing the Fantasy Cricket League for Derbyshire fans.

Please quote PIN 8001216 and you want to join the Peakfan Blog/FF League. I put an apostrophe in the other day...

If we get 15 teams entered we can get 3 medals for overall winner, bowling and batting prize.

Get yourself over to

Let battle commence...

Monday musings - Krikk called it right...

Well, that was a humdinger of a game if there ever was one.

Full credit to a Derbyshire side that were patently up for it from 11am on the first day. There was a marked difference between the two sides in the field, where the visitors carried a few passengers and there was an intensity to the Derbyshire play throughout that was an absolute joy to witness.

Of course, Karl Krikken and Wayne Madsen's biggest job will be to ensure that the level of intensity shown is there in every match. If it is, few sides will relish playing Derbyshire in any form of the game. If it isn't, there will be occasions when we struggle, as inexperience is overrun by some sides.

Yet that game was a decent benchmark. Before it, I would have put Northamptonshire as a mid-table outfit this season. I think that their time to go up was last year, but they now have a sizeable nucleus of their side (Hall, Vaas, Middlebrook, Sales) at the veteran stage and their younger players are not as good as ours by some distance. They will need to turn things around , because their batsmen didn't seem to fancy a battle on that last day. They cried out for a Borrington, someone who sells his wicket dearly, that's for sure.

Derbyshire's batting was intelligent and showed signs that we have a batting coach of considerable nous in David Houghton. I had the pleasure of a chat with him at the County Ground and asked him the difference between his first stint at the club and this one. His response was immediate - last time, the players needed taught technique, this time, it is all about cricket and dealing with situations. I thought it an excellent reply.

It is also telling that on the first day, when we lost three early wickets, there was some reassurance in the sight of Redfern coming in. Similarly, when Durston left after a battling effort, the sight of the lean and fit-looking Whiteley coming in at six was satisfying. That, my friends, is progress. When one considers that Hughes and Lineker are outside this eleven, the potential is obvious.

The bowling was tight, accurate, probing and disciplined. A few months ago I smiled as I read someone suggest that Tony Palladino would struggle without the Tiflex ball to help him. Total nonsense, as Palladino has always been a wicket-taker and will continue to be. Tim Groenewald wasn't fully fit but bowled with not far short of his usual fire, while Mark Footitt had both rhythm and pace from whichever end he bowled. His angle offers something different too and if this is a big year for the bowler he has started it in exactly the right manner. Ross Whiteley also bowled well on day two and looked an improved bowler after his winter in Australia - not yet a genuine all-rounder, perhaps, but a very useful bowler to have as a stop gap. It should not be underestimated that these two and Vaas created some handy rough for the spinners on the last afternoon...

David Wainwright was a revelation and his easy action suggested someone who could bowl long spells with little detriment to his line and length. Indeed, the spells in this game will set him up nicely, as he was rarely afforded such a luxury at Yorkshire. I bet there's a few people to the north who saw his figures in this match and concluded that they'd let the wrong man go... not that we're complaining, of course.

The fielding was sharp and focussed, with excellent catches being taken. There were a few, especially on day two, that fell short or just went over heads, but the team backed each other up well and were more vocal than some recent sides. Key to this was Tom Poynton, who kept beautifully. I always reckon that the best keepers are people you don't notice unduly as they simply do the basics correctly. What impressed me most about Poynton was his footwork. There were a few balls down legside but I cannot recall many dives - he was normally across with fast feet and good hands. If he can keep up that standard and perhaps relax a little when he first goes in to bat - he has a tendency to fish, or chase the ball, perhaps with nervous energy - we will have uncovered an absolute gem

Finally a word about Karl Krikken. He had two massive calls on the first day. Should he play Chesney Hughes or Paul Borrington? He got it spot on. He worked out that Northamptonshire would bowl if they won the toss, whereas he planned to bat. Therefore the spinners would come into their own on the last afternoon and he chose a batsman with the best chance of batting a long time, occupying the crease and taking the game to that stage. He showed confidence in Wainwright and in Borrington to which both players responded brilliantly.

His other decision was in actually selecting Wainwright. Many coaches in April pack their attack with seam, as David Capel did. Jon Clare was not fully fit, enough to bowl perhaps twenty overs, but he was not far short and the choice was between him and Wainwright. Krikk had the courage of his convictions and made a call that many would not have done. That being the case, many would not have won the game. Top marks to Krikk for that one.

Our next three games are against Glamorgan, Leicestershire and Gloucestershire, none of them sides I would say were in our league on paper. What we need to do is go out and show that the last four days were no fluke. If Martin Guptill continues to lead from the front and the team approach to batting is continued, we could reach the quarter season mark in a very good position.

I tell you something. Irrespective of their petty and patronising comments, yesterday will have shut a few people up in the media. They will be looking for a return to old ways though, so our lads have an even greater incentive to remain focused and battle.

Don't be at all surprised if they do it.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day 4

Wayne and Wainer's World...

Northamptonshire may be known as the Steelbacks but for me they will always be known for the county town's footwear. Quite apposite really, as the weather forecasts I saw yesterday and today were obviously cobblers and Derbyshire earned a quite remarkable win this afternoon by 203 runs.

To be honest, I didn't see that one coming and when Derbyshire added to their overnight total in relative ease this morning there seemed little reason to expect an ultimate triumph, Paul Borrington came oh-so-close to a maiden century for the county, but Bozza's time will come for that and if nothing else he has totally earned the right to a run in the team. His partnership yesterday with Martin Guptill should be seen in a completely new light now by those who dismissed the slow scoring and they both deserve hearty plaudits for their role in an astonishing triumph.

With Tim Groenewald missing with his groin injury, Derbyshire could not afford to be overly generous with their declaration and more quick runs from the admirable Mr Redfern, who looked so good in this match, enabled Wayne Madsen to set a target of 337 in 72 overs.

Although Mark Footitt and Tony Palladino each took an early wicket, there appeared no undue issues when the visitors brought up their hundred in the 35th over. Even the club's Twitter feed suggested they were playing out the draw (which seemed the summit of their ambitions throughout the game), but then a player who has made an enormous early impact at Derbyshire stepped up to the mark.

As you will know if you have read this blog over the winter, I had absolutely no doubt that David Wainwright would prove an outstanding signing for our club. Everything about him suggested he was the type of player we needed, including a loyalty to his club side at Castleford which, in the light of lucrative offers from eslewhere, suggested him a man of integrity, aside from genuine merit as a cricketer.

Pre-season he proved himself a bowler who could both contain and also take wickets when conditions favoured him. He also showed himself a batsman of real talent, but today it was all about the bowler, as Wainwright slowly but surely whittled his way through the Northamptonshire middle order. There was a little luck along the way, especially when Middlebrook drove him onto Dan Redfern for Mark Footitt to take the catch, but every bowler needs that. At the end of a debut match that entered the realms of fantasy,  Wainwright can reflect on figures of 27-10-50-1 and 26-11-33-6. It is a long, long time since a Derbyshire spinner returned two such sets of figures in a game - and I include Robin Peterson in that statement. As the man who replaced Greg Smith in the middle order he can reflect on a job brilliantly done.

So too can Karl Krikken. It was perhaps tempting on the first day, especially when the visitors opted to leave out new South African spinner Con de Lange, for Krikk and Wayne Madsen to play Jon Clare instead of Wainwright. For me, you need that variety in the attack, even if the ball isn't turning and full marks to those concerned on an eminently sensible team selection.

Nor should we forget the efforts of Wes Durston, who took the crucial wicket of Newton soon after he reached a patient fifty, then the last one when his arm ball clean bowled Liam Daggett. Then again, you cannot discount the team, as there was not a single player who failed to make a contribution to this win. Tom Poynton kept beautifully throughout and the team worked brilliantly in the field.

As for the new skipper, he couldn't have done more. I noticed how his preferred position is now mid off, to enable him to talk to his bowlers and he timed the declaration to perfection. Then he changed his bowlers round and ensured that batsmen never got settled, placed fields intelligently and, at the end of it all, saw his young team (average age 23.8 by the way) win in some style.

One win doesn't make a season, but it might go some way to stopping some of the patronising garbage being spouted by cricket media people who really should know better. To them, Derbyshire might be "a team without any real talent" but today they won a memorable victory because they are just that - a team.

To be honest, from what I saw of this Derbyshire side over recent days, they're more a tribe or a gang. One for all and all for one might well have been the maxim of the Musketeers, but could easily be adopted by the Flying Falcons. Only time will tell if we can follow this with consistent, sustained performance and mount a serious promotion challenge (I think we can, for the record).

But by crikey, this one will do nicely for starters. Madsen's Marauders are up and running...

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day 3

For those who remain unaware that I am, in fact, a hip and happnin' dude, I'd just like to say Peakfan's in da house - his own, that is...

In the time it took me to drive up north today, Martin Guptill and Paul Borrington put on the small matter of 213 unbeaten runs against Northamptonshire, effectively making the game safe for the county in the light of tomorrow's weather forecast. It was a terrific effort, requiring considerable concentration and technique against a new ball that swung and asked plenty of questions.

It is, however, disappointing to see some of the comments on the Forum tonight regarding "slow scoring". Everything about yesterday suggested that while staying in was easier than it had been, scoring runs freely was more problematic. Alex Wakely is a talented and attractive  young batsman and his 60 in four hours anchored their innings, even if it wasn't the most exciting innings to watch.

Today, Paul Borrington scored at half the pace of Martin Guptill, yet lets not forget that the latter is an established batsman of international pedigree. Borrington is not yet an established batsman in the Derbyshire team, yet worked hard to ensure that he played a full and vital part in the first double century stand for the county in some time.

When I was walking round the ground the other day, I spoke to a pleasant chap who said that Borrington was too slow in his scoring, a comment that I patiently explained rather missed the point. EVERY team needs a solid opening batsman who will dig in and make the opposition work to dismiss him, making the most of it when they don't. From an excitement perspective it is undoubtedly better if every opening pair was like Greenidge and Haynes, but that doesn't happen too often. This is four-day cricket and a player with the technique, patience and ability to open the innings and bat for a day and a half is a priceless commodity to any side.

For Derbyshire to have a successful four-day campaign we need a solid opening pair and 213 is a strong argument for solid. In the first innings Borrington scored only one in three quarters of an hour, but again one has to look past those figures at a bigger picture. Yes, compared to Dan Redfern's precociously brilliant century it pales somewhat, yet had he not seen off the new ball Redfern may have been in earlier and had a more difficult task. Lets not forget that in his last match, on a difficult wicket on which his team mates struggled, Borrington made 87 and 19 at the Oval. His knock today emphasised that he is coming to terms with the first class game and, as an advocate of the lad's talent for some time, I look forward to a point in the near future where I can say "I told you so".

At the other end Guptill did exactly what we signed him for - led from the front, displayed a straight bat and fine technique and undoubtedly helped his young partner because he's just that sort of man. We are lucky to have this most genial (and talented) of men at the county and I expect him to score a barrowload of runs in all cricket before June.

In the morning, we did well to remove the Northamptonshire tail to secure a lead, especially with Tim Groenewald having a groin strain. Tony Palladino reaffirmed his merits as a new ball bowler and Mark Footitt deserved another wicket after a lengthy bowl at good pace.

The game will be a draw, because the weather will ensure it is so and the pitch is not conducive to forcing runs in the fourth innings. More importantly, with a bowler down we're not going to set any easy target if that forecast turned out wrong. As an aside, we'll need more life in future tracks if we are to challenge for promotion with a young and talented side, that's for sure.

At the end of it all, in short, it was another good day for the Derbyshire boys. Congratulations to Bozza and The Gup - the boys done well, as they say round these parts.

Fantasy Cricket

Apologies for the fact that I didn't get this up for the start of the campaign, but I've now set up the Fantasy Cricket League for Derbyshire fans (hey, and players/administrators if any read this).

You can select and register a team at

When asked if you would like to join an existing league, please quote PIN 8001216 and you will join the Peakfan's Blog/FF League - that's Falcon's Forum, in case you wondered...

Apologies to you Chris - no room to put your forum name in full!

If we can get 15 teams there are three medals up for grabs and at £6 a team it will be good fun once more this summer.

Of course, I mean business this summer. You have been warned...!

Now for that journey up north.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day 2

It was a much quieter day today at the County Ground. Northamptonshire's attritional style of batting, accompanied by Derbyshire's accurate bowling, made it a not especially attractive day for those fans getting in for free on the memberships of friends and those who were not cricketing converts. Nor was the promised hike in temperature evident and the handwarmers were in regular use among the Derbyshire fielders. Indeed, at one point a couple of polar bears sought sanctuary in the tea room...

Yet there was still plenty to admire. For me the highlight was another beautiful display of wicket-keeping by Tom Poynton. His glovework was unobtrusive and efficient, exactly what you want from that position and he maintained his concentration throughout in an excellent day.

There was also a very accurate spell of slow left arm from David Wainwright, who looks an especially sound winter signing. Wainwright blotted his copybook a little by dropping a skied catch that he would take 99 times in a hundred, but it was otherwise a good day's work by him and he will do very well this summer.

Messrs Palladino, Groenewald and Footitt all bowled accurately and well, but there was little help for them from the wicket after the first half hour and they had to be largely satisfied by a good long bowl at the start of a season. Best rewarded, however, was Ross Whiteley, who took two good wickets, the first with the aid of a superb slip catch by Dan Redfern. Whiteley can be well satisfied by his first match of the year and on the evidence of the past two days may yet emerge as a genuine all-rounder.

In the morning I had great pleasure in watching the young talent of the Academy in the nets and there seems to be some really good players among them. They were all working hard under the tutelage of Howard Dytham and Andrew Harris and, like elsewhere in the club, the spirits seemed to be high.

Indeed, that was the most telling thing of my two days in Derbados (I don't think so...) I took time to sit in different parts of the ground and overheard a number of conversations, all of which were positive in their support of what is happening at the County Ground. I also thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with a number of readers and appreciated your kind words and company throughout.

Tomorrow I head back up north to see how the family are doing and am looking forward to seeing them immensely. By the same token, I still wish I was able to get to the County Ground on a more regular basis and genuinely envy those of you whose locale enables you to do so.

There's a good summer ahead at the County Ground. Once the polar bears and arctic wolves have moved out and there's at least a one per cent chance of mild sunburn, get talking to your friends and relatives and get them down to support the team. A more pleasant and committed bunch of lads you couldn't wish to see and their approachability is an object lesson for some of the so-called stars of other sports.

Well done to everyone at the club for the obvious work over the winter and sincere best wishes for the long and exciting season ahead.

As for the game, looking at the weather forecast and the state of the wicket I find it hard to see how a result can happen, unless one of the sides collapses unexpectedly. I don't foresee that happening, so my prediction is a draw - but with plenty of optimistic pointers for the season ahead.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

A point before bedtime

Wow! I mean, WOW!

Derbyshire's new kit - how white is it? There's vibrant white and brilliant white then - whoah....ultra white.
Our guys looked very smart and fit in it, but my suggestion at this early juncture is Ted McMinn as Clubman of the Year, if he can keep that gear so pristine all season.

The last thing I saw so white had a halo...

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day one

I watched Sachin Tendulkar batting in the IPL yesterday and my Dad and I reminisced about how we saw the little batting genius make his first century in Indian colours, at Chesterfield some twenty summers ago.

Today I saw the first century in Derbyshire colours by Daniel Redfern and while the young Derbyshire batsmen is in no other way comparable to the Indian maestro, his strokeplay today was worthy of comparison with him or any other top player you care to mention. The way that Redfern and Ross Whiteley counter-attacked after lunch was quite breathtaking and total illustration of the aggressive style of play promised by Karl Krikken pre-season.

This, of course, is not all about hitting everything in sight but in marrying shrewd shot selection with sound defensive technique and both young players amply illustrated their talents at the County Ground. Whiteley was very circumspect before lunch but opened up afterwards in an innings that displayed his powerful strokeplay beautifully.

Most other batsmen struggled on a day where batting was never as easy as those two youngsters showed it to be in the early afternoon. Martin Guptill was playing straight and beautifully when he chipped one to midwicket, Wayne Madsen got one that jagged back and seemed to keep a little low and Paul Borrington seemed to be moving his feet well and middling the ball when Jack Brooks got him to edge to slip.

Brooks is a good player, albeit one with a lot to say for himself, with a few verbals in the direction of Redfern and an unnecessary/somewhat silly late bouncer at Mark Footitt. I wouldn't have chosen a bowler of the latter's pace to flex muscles personally and Brooks may be wary of batting tomorrow if Footitt has any kind of memory...

Wes Durston did well for a while but was pinned LBW, while David Wainwright also looked composed at the crease. Later in the innings there were useful runs from Tom Poynton, whose late runs may turn out to be precious in what looks likely to be a low-scoring game. Certainly Derbyshire would have taken an all out total of 286 after being 21-3 inside the first hour.

The value of Redfern and Whiteley's stand was seen as Northamptonshire quickly subsided to 28-3. Tim Groenewald and Tony Palladino both bowled with accuracy and hostility in their opening spells, with Martin Guptill taking a characteristically sharp chance at second slip to remove Newton. Had Redfern managed to cling on to a snick from David Sales, the visitors would have closed at 28-4. As it is, they will approach the morning session tomorrow with some trepidation. With the weather set to be a little warmer, the conditions may be more conducive to swing and the Derbyshire seamers are eminently capable of destroying their innings before lunch.

Mark Footitt bowled with real hostility in the last few overs and, if Sales is removed quickly in the morning, might be a handful for lesser batsmen in the early season conditions. Meanwhile Tom Poynton kept impeccably in that final session and can reflect on a very competent first day as the first choice wicket keeper.

Throughout the day there was a very positive "vibe" around the ground and such a commodity has often been in short supply at the County Ground. It looked a picture and the team seemed far more agile, lithe and "up" for the game than the visitors. I see a season of genuine potential ahead and look forward to reporting on it immensely.

In closing, two final comments. Thanks to everyone I met at the club today for your company and conversation. I enjoyed it immensely and look forward to tomorrow and another day of watching the Derbyshire young guns in full flow.

As the shadows lengthened at the end of the day and the cold returned with a vengeance after the afternoon sun, I watched a golden labrador gambol along the boundary edge without a care in the world. They're perceptive are labradors and I'm convinced that it must have been the guide dog of former Nottinghamshire batsman Mark Wagh, whose pre-season preview in a magazine barely worth mentioning suggested that Derbyshire had no players worthy of reference (I paraphrase, but you get the point).

If Wagh has a semblance of an idea about cricket then such crass comment barely adds credibility to his fledgling reputation as a commentator.

Maybe the dog should write it next time... the Falcons are flying.

Tomorrow, they might soar.

A little verse for you

After careful deliberation and numerous re-writes this morning (OK, it came into my head while I was cleaning my teeth...) a little poem to mark the start of the season...

The day has dawned, the sun has risen
I'll soon find out if there's cricket - or isn't
Yesterday's snow has sunk in the sod
Play before lunch? I hope so God,
Let's win the toss - its just a hunch
We'll have them seven down by lunch,
Is that the sound of a heavenly choir?
I'm off to Derby, to see the 'shire.

Apologies to proper poets but the season start does that to you and to quote that old song, I'm feeling good.

Good luck to Derbyshire this season and I look forward to seeing and following their fortunes.

As that well known cricket writer Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits once (almost) said, something tells me we're into something good.

And it starts today. Boy, oh boy!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire preview

The Derbyshire squad for tomorrow against Northamptonshire has been announced and is pretty much as I named late last week. Assuming that we're not building snowmen tomorrow instead, I fully expect this side to take the field tomorrow, with Chesney Hughes taking an opening berth and the seamers all fit


Tim Groenewald is perhaps the one with least bowling behind him pre-season, but logic suggests that he will play if Karl Krikken is happy he can bowl throughout the match. It is likely to be a slow track with movement for the bowlers and if the weather stays out of it should see a positive result.

Northamptonshire have been dealt a blow with the loss to inury of influential skipper Andrew Hall. There's no news yet on their team, but David Sales will lead in Hall's absence and Northamptonshire are dangerous opponents, batting long and with a good opening pair in Chaminda Vaas and Jack Brooks.

Then so are Derbyshire. An impressive pre-season has consolidated the positive vibe around the club and an early win can so often be a prelude to a fine season. By the same token, defeat would be a long way from the end of the world.

I'm looking forward to being there and just hope that the temperature picks up by a few degrees.

Might take that ice pick with me, just in case...

Monday, 2 April 2012

L is for Lee... Garnet Lee

Without fear of contradiction, I think I could say that Derbyshire haven't had an L of a lot of good players beginning with that letter. They could have though...

For those with memories stretching back as far as mine, you will recall the summer when Eddie Barlow brought over three young South Africans to gain experience with our Second XI. One was the man who featured in my previous article, Peter Kirsten. The others were Allan Lamb and Garth Le Roux.

As we all know, Lamb went on to become an England legend, yet typically of the Derbyshire administration of the time, no one thought to check his credentials when he appeared for our Seconds. What might have been accomplished by a Derbyshire batting line up of Wright, Kirsten and Lamb at 2,3, 4? Le Roux was strong and fast, eventually sealing his reputation in World Series Cricket as well as on the south coast for Sussex. Either of those players would have been a certainty for top spot in this category, but I think we were all happy with the choice of Monsieur Kirsten...

We shouldn't forget the example set by Charl Langeveldt, but he only had one full summer in our colours so I discount him accordingly. There's also Charlie Lee, a batsman who came to Derbyshire from Yorkshire and ended up with 12,000 runs at an average of 27. He had eight centuries in that tally but his self-deprecating sense of humour suggested that his style was not always to the fans liking. In one of the old year books he wrote that one newspaper suggested it would be nice if he batted against the clock, rather than the sundial! He could hit though and on one occasion clumped Jim McConnon of Glamorgan for five sixes on a turning pitch, winning a game in the final innings that the off-spinner must have fancied was his for the taking.

My choice for L supremo, however, is Garnet Lee, pictured above, second left on the front row in a photograph taken in front of the Ilkeston pavilion in 1925, his debut season. Astonishingly, the all-rounder didn't play for Derbyshire until he was 38, moving across the border from Nottinghamshire, where he struggled to keep a regular place in the side over seventeen seasons. He then played for eight seasons and was a key man in an ever-improving side. In those years he scored sixteen centuries and just short of ten thousand runs. They were attractively made too, in a side not always known for batting solidity. At Northampton in 1931 he hit eight sixes in an unbeaten 141 and there were plenty of knocks that suited the demands of the game.

In addition, he had a career tally of 397 wickets with leg breaks and googlies at a very respectable average of 28, with 313 of those coming in Derbyshire colours. Eighteen times he took five wickets in an innings and his greatest performance came in 1927 against Northamptonshire. Lee won the match single-handed, scoring an unbeaten 100, followed by bowling figures of 7-78 and 5-65.

Even in his final season, at the age of 46, he was good enough to score a thousand runs and take sixteen wickets, yet he realised that there was a lot of emerging talent at the club, much of it nurtured by Lee in his work with young players. The Pope brothers, Les Townsend and Stan Worthington were all-rounders of ability and Lee knew the time was right to step aside. He became a first-class umpire, staying on the list until 1949, while during the war he coached at Repton School, playing a major part in the development of Donald Carr.

While Nathan Fearn's choice on the club site of Albert Lawton was a fair player and a particularly fine driver of the ball, Garnet Lee gave Derbyshire an experienced player of quality at a time when their young players had only potential. He gave them breathing space to develop and made a substantial contribution to the club's history.

Patronising garbage

I like David Lloyd. Dear old Bumble, the persona that he has created in a successful post-playing career. He is an engaging commentator, funny and sometimes worth a listen.

But not today.

If you didn't see it, here is his "insightful" preview to Derbyshire's prospects this coming season, published today in the Daily Mail:

"My favourite team, apart from Lancashire, that is. I love the Peak District and I opened a new building at the County Ground with Princess Anne. I think it was a large sauna. Poor old Derbyshire, though - they're perennial strugglers. I did once own a cottage there, mind."

That's it. He likes us, which is nice, but not a single worthwhile word in five short sentences. Is he oblivious to what has been happening at the County Ground? Utter garbage, which he can surely not have been paid for. If I couldn't do better than that I wouldn't bother, to be honest.

Rant over, on with the show.

On the pitch, Derbyshire did well against Warwickshire today and Mark Footitt especially so. Three quick wickets ripped the heart from their innings and reports suggest that he is bowling both quickly and with rhythm pre-season. Whether he makes the side for the opening game is debatable, but on his form in Barbados and here I think Footitt would be very unlucky to miss out. All teams benefit from a "stick it up them" bowler and in Footitt and Turner Derbyshire have two lively customers, of particular benefit when you get down to the tail.

In closing, tomorrow I head south for five days in God's own shire. I hope to spend two of them at the County Ground, weather permitting and look forward to meeting up with a few of you along the way.

The season is nigh. Go get 'em boys!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Thank you!

Big thanks to everyone who looks in at the blog on a regular basis and is helping to continue its remarkable success.

Last month was the biggest ever out of season month for the blog, with almost 12,000 hits. The pre-season tour helped, of course, but this site continues to go from strength to strength. Wednesday marks its fourth anniversary, having started on April 4, 2008. Three years of 100% exponential growth have been followed by another which has seen over a 50% increase. Quite remarkable for a small county that has the smallest membership in the country; perhaps so for a blog on that county written by one person.

Small shouldn't equate with lack of interest though. I never cease to be amazed by the e mails I get from around the globe, all of which I am delighted to read and reply to. While some, especially in the early days, could be critical of the club, in the past twelve months  there has been almost universal backing for the club, the chairman and Karl Krikken.

Keith Loring today tweeted that he feels the club are about to commence on their best season for years and it is hard to disagree. We're going to lose matches along the way - all teams do - and sometimes the aggressive brand of cricket promised will go wrong. It will, however, be a country mile away from the attritional game that I grew up watching in the 1960s, where scoring rates rarely exceeded 2.5 runs an over and most people preferred to see us bowl than bat, mainly because we were better at it and we could watch Bob Taylor.

Whatever we do this season, wherever we finish, whoever we lose to or beat, I am convinced that Derbyshire are doing EXACTLY the right things and are very much on the right path. The season may or may not see us end up with progress, but we can look forward to the next five years with greater confidence than at any time since I have been watching the club.

Even my Dad, not known for effusive praise, said to me over the weekend that they had some "cracking lads" at Derbyshire, the best bunch he's known. Considering that his following of the county goes back to 1946, that's as good a testimony as you could wish for.

Battle commences in four days and I will see the first day of the season for the first time.

Excited doesn't even come close...

Pointers for the opener

For me, there were a few pointers for the opening game against Northamptonshire today in a somewhat surreal day's cricket where Chesney Hughes and Wayne Madsen both batted twice.

That for me suggests that Hughes is seen as the likely opening partner for Martin Guptill and there are around nine places guaranteed in the opening match, barring injury. I'd see the likely team at this stage as:

Clare (if fit)
Groenewald (if fit)
Palladino (if fit)

Footitt is likely to be the beneficiary if any of the seam attack above don't make it, while Borrington, who battled hard today, might be a little unlucky in missing out to Hughes.

Today's cricket was less encouraging than some of late, but the early collapse meant an opportunity for David Wainwright to show his batting skills in the sort of display that should make him a firm favourite fairly quickly.

It was also good to see Matt Higginbottom, who missed much of last year through injury, take two good wickets against Surrey for Leeds/Bradford MCCU today. He's a decent bowler and could prove very useful to Karl Krikken later in the summer.

Time, as always, will tell.

See you soon!

One day prospects

As the recent victory over a talented Hampshire side in a close pre-season finish showed, there is nothing wrong with Derbyshire as a one-day side. Over the last few seasons we have seen some performances of real brilliance, but the frustration has been how they have been hidden among a number that were sadly and familiarly mediocre.

The batting looks good for quick runs and a long order should ensure that collapses are less common than of recent vintage. There are some powerful hitters in the side and I could see Derbyshire doing steadily in the Pro 40, where a potential early lineup of Guptill, Hughes, Madsen, Durston, Redfern and Whiteley offers genuine promise and a useful mix of right and left handers to mess the bowlers' line. With Clare to follow and Wainwright and Poynton lower down, the batting should be both capable of setting and chasing targets.

The bowling? I'd expect spin to play a major role in our one-day sides, so Wainwright, Hughes and Durston will probably bowl around 50% of the overs. The other seamers will be rotated to allow for periods of rest and we must keep in mind that all of them will be a year older, wiser and, in some cases, hopefully more accurate than of yore.

Mark Footitt's recent performance in Barbados was indicative of a young player who has worked at his game and come up with a plan. If Footitt (and Mark Turner) can emerge this season as fitter, more grooved bowlers they will be a potent part of the game plan. Especially if Footitt, bowling fast round the wicket, can genuinely marry burning pace to greater accuracy. No one likes yorkers fired in at their feet at 90mph, but the margin for error is small and fans need to appreciate the high level of skill to do that, ball after ball.

I fully expect Martin Guptill and Usman Khawaja to lead by example in the Pro 40 and to score heavily as batsmen of the very highest class. If they do, Derbyshire will be at the business end of things Were Guptill able to play a role in the T20 I would fancy our chances in progression through the group stage there too, especially as he would have been paired with the all round talent of Rana Naved, an outstanding player in the format. A boundary-clearing opener and aggressive all-rounder would have been the envy of most other sides.

I mean no disrespect to Usman Khawaja, a fine batsman and lovely bloke, in saying that he is not proven in T20. One fifty in the format thus far and a batting average of just 18 highlights that he has much to do to convince critics he can play the short form of the game. A front line batsman averaging only just over a run a ball in T20 is low and, with no sixes in his thirteen innings thus far he's not a player likely to take maximum advantage of the Powerplay.

Where Derbyshire bat him will be crucial. It could still work, as long as Khawaja goes out intent on keeping the score moving, rotating the strike and leaving the big hits to the bigger guns in the side while he provides the all-important ballast. Where he got out repeatedly in the recent Big Bash was in trying to force the score, sometimes unnecessarily.

I hope I am wrong about Khawaja and will be delighted to say so in due course should it be the case. IF he plays the right kind of game and the team have an appropriate gameplan we could make the knockout stages for the first time in too long. If not, we will be mid-table, irrespective of the efforts of Rana Naved.

With good tight bowling from the spinners, athletic fielding and sparky contributions down the order, Derbyshire COULD progress in the T20. I'm just less convinced than in other forms of the game right now.
I do expect us to be competitive though and in pressure situations the team spirit shown over the last twelve months or so could be the thing making a difference.

Not long till we find out now....

The championship rivals

One of the reasons that I am confident in a promotion challenge by Derbyshire is that I feel we have a youthful, competitive squad together.

Of the other teams in the division, Yorkshire are likely to be up there and have a strong batting line up. Bairstow, Gale, Root , Jaques and Ballance should score a lot of runs in the division, but their bowling will be heavily dependent on Ryan Sidebottom and the question is whether he will stay fit for the summer. He and Shahzad make up the highest profile opening pair but Rashid needs to rediscover his mojo to make promotion the formality seen in some quarters.

Essex should also be up there, but the aftermath of the Westfield affair might weigh heavy on them. A batting line up with Shah, Bopara and ten Doeschate shouldn't lack for runs and Masters with Willoughby makes up a fine seam attack. Like Derbyshire though, much is conditional on their staying fit. If they do, they should go up. If they don't...

Glamorgan have some good players but didn't really seem a team last year. Allenby and Wagg are good cricketers and Marcus North a solid professional, but Harris is key to their bowling and they need to get the wickets provided by Croft on turners from somewhere. They will be competitive, but we don't need to fear them.

Gloucestershire did quite well with a young team last year, but can Gidman have the same level of success? For all the fine efforts of a young team, they have lost the valuable Chris Taylor and Jon Lewis and the batting and bowling looks equally thin. For me, they will struggle this term.

Hampshire have also lost a lot of big name players over the winter and are putting their trust in youth. Simon Katich should provide valuable runs and Sean Ervine retains England ambitions, but their young players are not especially better than ours and again I can see us eminently capable of beating them.

Kent? Their batting will miss Denly and van Jaarsveld and although they have a good man as coach in Jimmy Adams, as well as having signed Charlie Shreck, Mike Powell, Ben Harmison and Mark Davies, I don't see them as Championship high-flyers.

Northamptonshire always get runs from a lengthy batting line-up, but their bowling was heavily dependent on Chaminda Vaas and the big question is whether he can retain his fitness through another long campaign at the age of 38. If he doesn't, I find it hard to see how they will bowl out sides twice. An aging side, with Sales, Middlebrook and Hall at the veteran stage, they won't be the most mobile in the field and may struggle in the later season. Perhaps last year should have been their time...

Finally Leicestershire. They have some young talent, as we saw in Barbados, but have lost the massive talent (if not stature) of James Taylor, while Harry Gurney has joined him at Nottinghamshire. With the long-serving Paul Nixon retired, they need big contributions from veterans Hoggard and Henderson, as well as big runs from Ramnaresh Sarwan.  I expect them to struggle, to be honest.

That's my rationale behind Derbyshire being up there. No daring/silly promises from me, but I fully expect to be writing about a promotion push in the later stages of the season.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Next week - the one day prospects.