Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Interesting comments

There are some good comments below my piece last night and thanks to those of you who took the time to make them. Good, constructive debate is no bad thing and the comments are all valid.

I find it hard to believe that there are many Derbyshire fans who do not fully back the chairman's blueprint, but along with that comes an understanding that progress will be gradual. As we saw in the T20, Derbyshire lack experience, just as much as they lacked a couple of batsmen with the ability to pierce and clear the field, expecially in the Powerplay.

By the same token, adhering to a youth policy does not and should not preclude Derbyshire from looking to augment the side with players of good quality from elsewhere. Such an approach will be particularly important in this early period, while we wait for the full flowering of the Academy product. We could not, for example, say that Tom Knight will be a top spinner in four years time (which he will) and miss out on an opportunity to sign David Wainwright. Other examples may well surface and while the club will bring through a steady stream of young players, there needs to be an acceptance that there will be some who don't quite make it.

They will be good players - you don't get to that level by not being - but they will fall short of the standard that Derbyshire must aspire to if we are to be seen as a top side.For what it is worth, I think that Tom Poynton has every chance of becoming an outstanding wicket-keeper over the next ten to fifteen years, but it would do him no harm at all to be pushed for the senior role, especially in this formative period of his career. If he came out on top in a battle with another wicket-keeper, he will emerge a better and stronger player for it. If he doesn't, then we will have moved forward as there will be an even better player in the role.

I don't know if Richard Johnson will leave Warwickshire. They may offer him an improved deal, or see in him a better long-term bet than Tim Ambrose. I'm reminded of when Leicester City had the great Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton on their books and a tough decision had to be made on who to retain. In the case of the two keepers (which sounds like an Agatha Christie novel...) 23 plays 30 age-wise, which has to be a consideration. Equally, Johnson may be heading elsewhere and just because he played well for us doesn't necessarily mean anything. We'll see, in the coming months.

As I close, Kent look well set to beat us in tonight's game, but matches in such conditions mean little and count for even less. The toss is all important and if a first-class county cannot chase that sort of tally they should hang their heads in shame. It was another patchy batting display, but as I wrote last night, it counts for little in the grand scheme of things.

More tomorrow, with a preview of the Championship match.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Monday musings

On a day on which we never set foot on the field, Derbyshire moved ever so slightly forward in their promotion ambitions today.

Thanks to heroic defiance from the last Hampshire batsmen,  Jimmy Adams and Danny Briggs, Kent were thwarted in their victory attempt at Southampton. Meanwhile at Leicester, a combination of heavy showers, Wayne White (thanks, to an old boy...) and Ned Eckersley kept our northern neighbours from much-coveted win points. All of which leaves us fourteen points clear of Yorkshire, 15 clear of Hampshire (both with a game in hand) and 17 clear of Kent, who we play in a massive match at Derby, starting on Thursday.

Sadly, the weather forecast for this week is pretty dire, so the likelihood of a positive result at Derby would appear to depend on one team playing a blinder and the other having a shocker. 

Before all of that there's a CB40 game tomorrow, of course. While there is still a slim possibility of our progressing in the CB40, for me it is marginally more likely than Derby County sealing The Championship title by Christmas. There are too many requisite permutations for it to happen, though a morale-boosting win ahead of the big one wouldn't do us any harm. Avoiding trench foot might be handy too...

It will be good to welcome back Tom Poynton, though the preview on the club site suggests there may yet be a question mark over his fitness. If that is the case, I'd expect Karl Krikken to be checking on the availability of the likes of Tom New or Steve Adshead before the four-day game. Chris Durham has done a steady job with the gloves and produced a gritty knock to save the game against Australia A. Yet at 20 he is three years of development behind Poynton and has yet to play a full season in the Seconds.

County cricket on a regular basis is a tough, unforgiving finishing school and Poynton has kept wicket well this summer. There have been occasional dropped catches, but all keepers do that and it is part of the learning curve. Poynton has been chirpy, upbeat and busy, though his batting has not yet contributed heavily at the end of the order, apart from an important innings at Chelmsford.

I wrote earlier in the season that batting form was less important than his wicket-keeping for Poynton this summer, but it will become an area in which he is expected to contribute. No matter how good their glovework, the men behind the sticks need to be all-rounders these days and the next long-term Derbyshire stumper needs to replicate the efforts of James Pipe, a player badly missed in recent seasons.

There has been considerable comment about the announcement by Richard Johnson that he wants to leave Warwickshire at season-end for first team opportunities. Johnson is further on again in his development to Poynton and from a competitive angle the move would make sense. Likewise, looking around the county circuit there are few counties where Johnson could feasibly move for a crack at the senior role, unless Gloucestershire were seen as an option (which I doubt).

By the same token, Derbyshire have acknowledged gaps to fill in their batting strength as things stand and how much that costs would dictate whether a move for Johnson is realistic. Ask most fans whether we need a batsman and keeper or two batsmen for next year and I would suggest most would go for the latter. Mind you, if we could afford all of them I doubt there would be few dissenters...

It will all be seen in time and I have every confidence that Messrs Krikken and Grant in their respective roles will throw our hat in the ring for players they think can improve the side. We should not forget that the current squad has done remarkably well this summer, but there are obvious areas for improvement and how well we fill them will dictate how we continue to move forward as a club.

Another player set to leave Warwickshire for greater opportunites is Boyd Rankin, another who got his county start at Derbyshire. An e mail today asked whether I could see us move to re-sign a player who can be a handful on his day and is, without doubt, an improved bowler.

However, Rankin still has too many injuries for comfort and misses his share of matches. Throw in the ones that he misses on Ireland duty and you are effectively paying full-time wages to a part-time player. I don't see Derbyshire having that sort of money to throw around, quite frankly, so for me the bowler's future is not going to be at the County Ground


Sunday, 29 July 2012

Derbyshire v Australia A day 3

All things considered, this game ended in an exciting draw but that was probably a fair result. Both sides had a good workout and while the Australians will be disappointed not to finish us off, Derbyshire can be pleased with the resolve that saw us hold out thanks to resolute defence from youngster Chris Durham and Mark Footitt over the last seven overs.

Ed Cowan's fair declaration gave every opportunity for a home win, but to do so we needed a century from one of the top order. Khawaja, Redfern and Durston all enjoyed good knocks, but none went on to the big score that is really essential when chasing over 300 to win.

It was a worthwhile workout, but the real test comes later in the week. If things go as I expect, Kent and Hampshire should draw tomorrow, while Yorkshire will in all likelihood take the win points from a fairly average Leicestershire side.

More on that tomorrow in Monday musings.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Derbyshire v Australia A

I have seen the future of Derbyshire batting and his name is Palladino...

Whatever way you look at it, that was a special innings today by Tony Palladino. While the wicket appears to have been on the benign side of moribund, you cannot take anything away from a man who scored a maiden first class century against a side featuring three bowlers with international experience. Number elevens aren't supposed to do that sort of thing - or rather, if they do it is supposed to be through bucolic heaves and with considerable good fortune.

By all accounts Palladino played shots more readily associated with batsmen of greater reputation, though I have no intention to speak disparagingly of his batting. It has been patently obvious over the current season that he has worked hard on his batting and there can be few sides who boast a player with a first-class century at number eleven. There was a century for the Seconds last summer that hinted at a batsman of some ability - or at least a good eye - but Tony Palladino has now managed something that many decent batsmen haven't managed in the club colours.

I wouldn't bet against it being his last, either...

The game is intriguingly poised ahead of the final day, with the Australian XI 233 runs ahead with four wickets in hand. As one of those wickets is the dangerous and very able Ed Cowan, we could still end up chasing 300-plus on the last afternoon in what promises, with help from the weather, to be a very good finish.

Irrespective of the result tomorrow, this has been an encouraging work out for Derbyshire ahead of the resumption of championship action against Kent this week. Bowlers and batsmen alike have had good time in the middle and at this stage Karl Krikken will only have two concerns.

One is whether Tom Poynton is going to be fit after Richard Johnson's return to Warwickshire. Chris Durham has let no one down in his senior appearances, but I don't think we can expect a lad of such tender years to be our first choice keeper if there is any doubt over Poynton. There will be wicket-keeping options out there, but no one is better placed to assess their respective merits than Krikk.

My other concern is the wicket itself. This has been a good game of cricket between two captains who have been willing to ensure a competitive fixture. Whether a similar rapport would be there for the Kent fixture, given its importance, is debatable. We could live without a 550 plays 500-type match, which would do us few favours with the chasing pack closing in.

I think we need a little more help for the bowlers, either by leaving grass on or taking more off. We now have an attack that could cope with anything sent their way and I would be confident they could outbowl any side in this division, whether the ball is seaming or spinning.

Importantly, we can now say with a degree of confidence that we bat all the way down to number eleven.

Take a bow, Tony Palladino. Tonight you thoroughly deserve it.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Derbyshire v Australia A day one

I guess I didn't go too far in my assessment of the strength of the Australian A side the other night.

A composed century by Ed Cowan and 81 from George Bailey amply  illustrated the talents of the two men I picked out as their star turns. It was hardly rocket science to be fair, with Bailey the national side's one-day captain, while Cowan is one of the pretenders to the various batting thrones within the side.

I could see merit in the investigation of his availability next summer to be honest, as a batsman in the Chris Rogers mould who has a sound technique and a good range of strokes. For all his talents, I don't see him breaking into the Australian one-day side for the ICC Trophy and he could more than adequately fill one of our problematic opening berths. Having said that, I have no doubt that several counties would be interested in such a player, especially after his debut century (and cap) for Gloucestershire a couple of weeks back.

Derbyshire didn't do too badly on what appears a good batting track, though there was predictable punishment of anything erratic from good batsmen. It was nice to see Mark Footitt back, although he was understandably rusty after several weeks out and was used sparingly.

When it was our turn to bat it was good to see Wayne Madsen back at the top of the order. I know he has his centuries at three this summer, but Madsen is, for me, our best chance of a stabilising influence at the top of the order, where he has previously scored heavily. I hope that he goes on to a big innings tomorrow and would be delighted to see more of the top order do the same.

More from me tomorrow.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

G'day to the Aussies

I'd like to start tonight's blog with a moment of contemplation, in the spirit of true East Midlands camaraderie, for Nottinghamshire, after losing to Hampshire at the death last night.

Right, that's long enough...

Joking apart - and I am sure you were all as devastated as I was at their defeat - it once again showed the benefit of experience in that competition. After Scott Styris put Worcestershire to the sword the night before it was once again the veterans, in the shape of Neil McKenzie and Dimi Mascarenhas, who won them the game in a tight finish.

I have written before about the benefit of old heads in T20 and it is proved time and again. Older players know their game, where they want to bowl the ball, where they want to hit it. They also read match situations better. The fact that I am close to that status myself (ahem...) has little to do with it...

I am pleased to see that I called Derbyshire's side for tomorrow's match against Australia A correctly last night, with Marks Footitt and Turner forming what will be a lively pace attack alongside Tony Palladino. The latter should benefit from a lengthy bowl ahead of next week's table-topper against Kent, while the batsmen will enjoy time in the middle. I think it will be a tight game and, while the result to some extent is irrelevant, a return to the standards set early in the season will serve Derbyshire well.

We will also be keeping a wary eye on events at the Rose Bowl, where Hampshire play Kent, and Grace Road, where Leicestershire entertain Yorkshire. The latter must fancy their chances against a side that depends far too heavily on Ramnaresh Sarwan for comfort and even with a somewhat limited attack it is hard to see the Yorkies not gaining ground after this game. Mind you, that won't stop me hoping for a draw down on the south coast, at the same time that the Foxes reveal a thus far well-concealed aptitude for a battle.

More from me tomorrow, when I hope to comment on a good first day for Derbyshire. Australia and South Africa in the one summer...things are looking up!

See you soon.

PS I've just had confirmation of my holidays, that will see me at the County Ground for the floodlit game against Sussex in around a fortnight's time. I just have the vibes at this stage that it is going to be raining...

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Aussie match holds much promise

While you wouldn't say that the Australian A side that visits Derby for a three-day game this weekend is the most star-laden outfit to leave those shores, there are some fine players among them. Indeed, part of the enjoyment will be seeing players who may be in the next generation of international stars, as well as perhaps even seeing some of next year's overseas players on the county circuit. Few of these players would be seen as likely selections for the Australian ICC Trophy squad at this stage, so might be worth a look by a few county coaches.

Given the congested international calendar, the likeliest sources of overseas players in 2013 are likely to be Australia and South Africa, primarily because those countries usually have more than their fair share of top quality players. Of course, to qualify to play over here in such a role, players will need to have played the requisite number of international games, but with countries increasingly selecting different squads for Test and one day games, that is leading to a larger pool being available to choose from.

So who might be in that category?

Of the batsmen, the two I have seen most of have been Ed Cowan and George Bailey, both of who I have seen a fair bit of as they played in Scotland for some time. Cowan is more a dogged player, a grafter, while Bailey is a dasher, albeit one with a reputation of making fancy forties too often for some tastes. I could see the former as a good Championship player, the latter more a good one day bat, although I wouldn't sit either in the very top drawer of Australian batting.

Steve Smith is another good cricketer, a handy, powerful hitter and useful leggie, but for me he hasn't yet got either of the disciplines to a standard where he would be an automatic pick for a county side. Michael Klinger has been a talent for some time and did OK in his short stay at Worcestershire without pulling up any trees. He would benefit from the experience, of course and might come under consideration, as would Mitchell Johnson. The latter is a highly talented yet enigmatic player, capable of spells of genius with the ball either side of wildly erratic bowling that can make Steve Harmison's spell at Chesterfield look like Les Jackson in his pomp. He is also a dangerous hitter and would be a brave, though potentially inspired selection if he wasn't back in the Aussie fold by that stage.

Perhaps the most interesting is a player well known in England, though for his exploits for the Netherlands. Tom Cooper is a fine batsman whose ever-increasing averages and decent experience of these shores might make him the batsman to watch. Tall and powerful, Cooper also bowls handy off spin, but his aggressive batting may well bring him to the attention of counties, not just because he could theoretically play under a Dutch passport, thereby leaving a space at a county for another overseas player.

Of course, a good tour here may see Cooper or any of these players rapidly elevated to an Australian side that is evolving slowly. Older heads like the Hussey brothers will surely be eased out in coming months, leaving vacancies for others to take up. Of course, our own Usman Khawaja will be especially keen to make an impression, both in this match and the remainder of the season. Just as Phil Hughes took up a Worcestershire contract to bring him to the attention of selectors, Khawaja needs a good stint in our colours to do the same.

His century at Chesterfield against the Unicorns apart, Khawaja has had his struggles, although coming from close-season did him few favours. He has potentially twelve important Championship innings to come and from every standpoint probably needs 500 runs from them as a minimum. If he does that, Derbyshire will remain in the promotion shakeup till the very end. That would be richly deserved as only the really churlish would argue that we've not played some very good four-day cricket this summer.

Maybe it needs to get cold again...

Karl Krikken has gone on record as saying he intends to field a strong team and we may see a return for Mark Footitt. For what its worth, this would be my team against the Antipodean visitors:

Wainwright/Hughes (A)

In the customary manner, I would welcome your thoughts.

Have a good one - see you soon!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Monday musings

Back in the day when he was the doyen of cricket writers, Sir Neville Cardus missed the last afternoon of a match featuring his beloved Lancashire, as he was having a painful tooth extracted. Some of the more critical - and less able - members of the press box mused on how he would be able to file his customary match report to the Manchester Guardian, when he had seen none of the action.

They need not have worried. "I know how Lancashire's bowlers take wickets on the last day of a match" said the great man, quizzed on how he had submitted such an accurate piece in the next day's editions, illustrating amply what he had acquired through long years of watching county cricket.

Not for a minute would I dare to compare myself with a man I still consider the greatest of all cricket writers, but I was minded of Cardus' comment when I had my first look for some time at the Falcons Forum today. One correspondent, presumably referring to me, pondered on how "a certain individual" got "match reports" when I don't attend the games.

Ah, yes, that old chestnut! You can only be a fan if you go to games. Never mind that your professional and personal circumstances dictate that you must live some distance from the club that you love, as many followers of this blog do. You have to live close and go to every day possible to pass comment. Wait till I stop laughing, then I will continue...

It is simple. I don't write match reports. I write comment pieces. For anyone who doesn't know the difference, presumably including the correpondent concerned, cast your eye over yesterday's report on a separate tab as I explain...

One only needs to know cricket and follow a ball by ball scorecard to see how batsmen are handling a situation. Johnson and Hughes rotated the strike well, with plenty of singles, while there were several twos. On a small ground like Queens Park, you have to run hard to manage that a few times, unlike on larger grounds like the Oval or Trent Bridge, where you can coast a little more between the wickets.

Similarly, Derbyshire's greater discipline with the ball that I referred to is evident from the scorebook - five extras versus 22 is a clue that wouldn't need Sherlock Holmes to work out. Likewise the innings of Hughes, who batted 14.2 overs for his supporting, unbeaten 37, was hardly the work of a greyhound out of the traps, but nor did it need to be with Johnson hitting well at the other end. It was an innings of some maturity, as young players can often try to join in, to their cost, when a senior player is going well.

As for the rest? Comment, pure and simple. I've seen Johnson bat a time or two and been impressed by what I've seen. Match reports are out there through news agencies for specific shots played, but I don't go down that route unless I've seen them myself. It's all rather simple, but as anyone who has ever sat at a cricket match will testify, there are some who are there regularly don't really understand what they are seeing, or at least give that impression with some of the stuff they come out with...

Derbyshire now have a break until Australia A over the weekend, a game that I hope is blessed with good weather. It will be interesting to see what sort of side is selected for the game, as there will be a need to field a competitive side, but also to ensure we don't have players injured and out of the run in.Of course, there's a better chance of a good crowd with a strong team, so I suspect we will field a decent eleven with a sprinkling of youngsters.

More on that later in the week. For now, we're fourth in the CB40 and top of the County Championship.

There'll be a few nerves in that Australian camp...

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Derbyshire v Yorkshire CB40

When the groundsman at Queens Park wakes up tomorrow morning, I would reckon there's a fair chance of crop circles on the outfield. There has to be aliens in the vicinity, disrupting telecommunications today on what was a somewhat weird afternoon, albeit one after which Derbyshire fans can celebrate a fine victory against our northern rivals.

The teletext score, like Cricinfo, didn't move for a long. long time. Then, when it did, it started adding runs that didn't tally, Richard Johnson at one point being 95 not out before being dismissed for 79. Even our normally excellent Twitter feed was affected, with various inaccuracies. At one point we had batted 23 overs when we'd actually faced 17, then were 238-6 with eight overs left. When Johnson was dismissed we were 221-7, still needing 28 to overhaul Yorkshire's 239... it took a little deciphering, but all turned out well in the end.

Technical glitches apart, it was a better performance by Derbyshire, though the result shouldn't mask another batting display of some frailty, set off by Usman Khawaja's first-baller. At 56-4 another heavy one day defeat beckoned, but Wayne Madsen and Richard Johnson started a recovery. When Jon Clare was out quickly, I doubt that many thought a win was still possible, but the partnership between loanee Johnson and Alex Hughes was a revelation - an excellent illustration of how to chase a total by two young players. Don't panic, work the ball around, run hard and hit the bad ball to the boundary.

There is little doubt that Johnson is a very good cricketer, a busy and organised player. His glovework is of a high standard and good judges said that he is a far better batsman than his average suggests. To be fair, given that he rarely gets in before number nine at Warwickshire, he has suffered from lack of opportunity as much as anything. At 24 he looks set for a fine career, but with Tim Ambrose ahead of him at Edgbaston he may well have to move for the opportunity he patently needs. Following this display there will be a few fans suggesting that we move for him, but that would depend on his contractual situation. I also feel we have other areas in greater need of strengthening than wicket-keeper and it should be remembered that Tom Poynton is two or three years behind Johnson in age and development. We are, however, fortunate to have him at a key time in the season and his performances suggest he should be first choice during the month that he is on the staff.

There were two factors, aside from the innings of Johnson, in today's win. One was the greater discipline of the bowlers - compare our five extras conceded with Yorkshire's more profligate 22. Then there was an innings of some maturity by Swarkestone's Alex Hughes, who, at 20, has shown enough in flashes this summer to suggest a bright future. He has bowled some good tight overs, fielded well and today played a supporting role of some maturity before stepping forward after the dismissal of Johnson to finish the job.

It augurs well. One innings doesn't make a career, but Hughes can be proud of his role in a high pressure game in front of a large crowd and can take great encouragement from his display.

It was a game that I would have loved to have seen. A close game, ending the right way, on a ground that is as pretty as you will find anywhere in the world, with the sun shining and two young cricketers taking a game away from old rivals.

Be still, my beating heart...

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Derbyshire v Yorkshire day 4

There has been a fair amount of comment around regarding why there was no play at Chesterfield over the past three days, especially when the weather hasn't been too bad for the last day and a half. There has also been unfair comment towards the groundstaff, very able and talented people who deserve much better.

What has happened, my friends, is simple. The ground could take no more water. So much had fallen that the water table was high and I assume that Queens Park is still a slow drying ground - it usually has been. I have good experience of such grounds, as our club plays on one that is heavy clay under the surface. Once the limit has been reached, the water simply pools on the surface and has nowhere to go.

You can get all the forks, "Whales", sponges and whatever you like on the surface, suck it all up or move it around. You could, if you had the money and inclination, get a helicopter in to help dry the surface. But it still going to do nothing for the state of the subsoil, which is going to take longer to dry as the water has to gradually go away in its own time.

I assume Queens Park is a world away from our club - it has to be as they are confident in play tomorrow. We were once unable to play for three weeks of lovely weather, as the water table at the nearby river was so high and the water just sat there, while we did the same, talking up the runs and wickets we were missing out on...

The groundstaff will have done all that was humanly possible, but you cannot expect professionals to risk serious injury by playing on an unfit surface, which this has been for the past three days. Neither side will have been especially happy, but what can you do?

I was amused to see that Yorkshire wanted to get out there for that extra bowling point "that could be all important at season end". They seem to have discounted the fact that it was perfectly feasible for Derbyshire to have scored the 60-odd runs we needed for a batting point. Facing bowlers running in gingerly for fear of their footing, I'd have thought that eminently do-able.

So we are still 25 points clear and six games left, two of them against Kent. They might still win tomorrow, but require Glamorgan to do - well, do a Glamorgan and collapse like a pack of cards. It could happen, but shouldn't, based on today's events.

Yesterday came news that Northamptonshire were releasing a player who I have always rated - Rob White - who would appear the latest victim of the regulations if he departs the county scene at the age of just 32. He has played some very good innings for them over recent years - usually quickly - and he is their highest scorer in T20. Yet a more detailed look at his career statistics show why the parting of ways has come.

In ten years on the staff he has only eight centuries to add to many delightful, but often inadequate cameos. That is two more centuries than Wes Durston, who has played around 70-80 innings less for an average that closes in on 40. As I wrote the other night, after they are 26 years old players have to average more than their age or the writing is on the wall. At nearly 33, White averages 32, while Surrey will expect more of Vikram Solanki, for all his talent, than an average of 28 from 16 innings. That's marginally more than Ross Whiteley has managed in a challenging second season, a telling comparator.

And so to tomorrow. I'm less convinced that we will acquit ourselves well in a game of limited overs and am not subscribing to the "we could still qualify" message coming from the club. I'd love to, but until we prove we can chase a total with greater composure than that shown so far, I am not convinced.

More tomorrow. Fingers crossed for sun and a good crowd!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Derbyshire v Yorkshire day 3

In the words of John Fogerty, I want to know, have you ever seen the rain...?

Well, yes and it should have guaranteed a draw in this game. If we give Yorkshire a sniff tomorrow then I will be surprised and disappointed. Twenty-seven points lead is massive with six games left and we'd be daft to risk losing it in any way, shape or form.

Mind you, if Yorkshire want to leave us 120 in 70 overs...

More tomorrow - busy day today and another one to follow

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Derbyshire v Yorkshire day 2

Well the rain came down at Chesterfield today and my guess would be that after our batting display last night there were not too many people on the Derbyshire side who were overly upset about it.

From the sound of things there must be doubts about much play tomorrow too. Showers are now forecast for the next two days and the thinking money must now be on a draw. That would leave things as they were in the table, both sides having picked up three bonus points so far in this game. The showers could miss Chesterfield, of course, but Derbyshire have been presented with a cricketing equivalent of Monopoly "Get Out of Jail Free" card. Let's just hope that we bat better at the second attempt than we did the first time around...

Finally tonight, it has been announced that Vikram Solanki is joining Surrey for next season. I'd like to profess mystic powers, having written that this was going to happen last Sunday, but having sadly lost the services of Tom Maynard and with Mark Ramprakash set for retirement (announced today) it was a bit of a no-brainer for me.

I think Derbyshire will need at least one batsman for next summer, ideally two. One of these may be in the overseas role but there is no doubt in my mind that we need at least one opening batsman. Unless Wayne Madsen decides to open again, we only have three relatively inexperienced players in Borrington, Hughes and Lineker, none of who have as yet cemented a place in the side.

A seam-bowling all-rounder wouldn't do any harm either, but such a player would need to be of a good standard, as I maintain that in Groenewald, Palladino, Clare, Turner and Footitt we have as good a line-up as anyone. With Wainwright and Durston to bowl spin and Knight and Burgoyne coming along nicely, I am pretty happy with our bowling.

Its now down to present incumbents to persuade me that our need for batting reinforcements isn't as great  as it is has appeared in recent weeks.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Meanwhile, at Leicester...

4.4- 0-6-2

Tom Knight's figures for England Under-19s today.

Impressive young man. Well done!

Derbyshire v Yorkshire day 1

At lunch, honours were even. At tea, Derbyshire were in control and at the close Yorkshire had a slight edge. Such were the basic statistics of a topsy turvy first day at Chesterfield today.

Derbyshire bowled with admirable control - no wides nor no balls and no byes in 56 overs. That is disciplined cricket and full credit goes to all of them for a good effort. Mark Turner can be expensive at times - and on a small ground any quick bowler can concede heavily - but he has an unerring ability to take wickets. When he does so it is generally in clusters, like today and despite the fact that I would have included the extra batsman, I am happy to concede that Karl Krikken got it right today.

Where it went wrong was in our batting, definitely an area for winter improvement, irrespective of where we play our cricket next year. At 70-1 we were cruising against far less disciplined bowling, then threw it away with a series of loose strokes to become 105-7 in jig time. Several players got themselves out by playing balls they should have left alone - we are playing four-day cricket now lads, not T20.

By general consensus, Steve Harmison got three wickets with pace but little direction  and that shouldn't happen at this level. Only by dint of a late rally from the impressive Richard Johnson  - very impressive with gloves and bat - and Tony Palladino did Derbyshire avoid the ignominy of a heavy first innings deficit on day one.

Of course, the harbingers of doom are out in force. "Even old Derbyshire wouldn't have done this" they cry. They would, you know, but old Derbyshire were never top of the table in the era that the critics refer to. We're fighting, and another 50 runs tomorrow morning would leave first innings pretty close. The forecast for the last two days suggests that batting might be easier and if Derbyshire can repeat their control with the ball, anything under 300 could be gettable as the wicket eases and flattens out.

Of course, to do that we need to bat much better. Only a couple of players can claim that Yorkshire got them out and that is a shame, with most doing for themselves with poor shot selection. Harmison only has three quick, if erratic overs in a spell these days and they simply needed to let him blow out, like a boxer covering up on the ropes and taking body shots ahead of an onslaught.

At 130-4 overnight we would have been quite happy with our day's work. Instead the Yorkies will be fancying their chances of catching us up at the top right now.

County go the four seamer route...

So Derbyshire coach Karl Krikken has gone for the four seamers in the game against Yorkshire, starting today at Chesterfield. Mark Turner takes the final place instead of Chesney Hughes and, as I said last night, this is a sign of setting out the stall to win the match.

It puts onus on David Wainwright and Jonathan Clare to contribute with the bat at six and seven, but Richard Johnson is a decent player at eight and Groenewald and Palladino have their moments with a bat in their hands. Full marks to Krikk for a bold move and here's hoping it pays off.

As I write, Yorkshire have won the toss and will bat.

There's an excellent piece in the Derby Telegraph today on Tom Knight and the youngster is to be applauded for his efforts and his attitude in this article. While some would sulk over a similar bowler being brought in, Knight has worked with and learned from a senior player, things that can only improve his and Derbyshire's prospects in the long term.

Finally, apologies for the later blogs this week, but I don't finish work till 8pm and by the time I get in and have had dinner it is considerably later.

I will be blogging on the play from Chesterfield each day - just don't expect it to be early!

Park departure sad but inevitable

The departure of Garry Park from Derbyshire cricket had an air of inevitability about it. After all, Park was a senior player on (presumably) a senior wage, spending most of the summer in the Second XI.

Few counties and certainly not Derbyshire can afford such a luxury but for me Park is another casualty of the ECB regulations. At 29 and with a first-class average of 34, his first-class career has been far from a disgrace and many worse players have enjoyed longer careers at the county.

Yet players of that age (and older) must now make major contributions to their sides, to justify the loss of income that playing a younger player would bring. There have been occasions in the past couple of seasons that a prime form Park would have been useful to Derbyshire, but last year he had a niggling and debilitating injury and this year has found his best form elusive.

If  Derbyshire are to progress as a club, we need to ensure that every penny on the playing side goes on players who are making a major contribution. There will be patience and understanding shown towards young players, but once they hit 26 the pressure will be on to perform regularly - as Wes Durston continues to do, to use but one example.

It is also why Vikram Solanki looks set to leave Worcestershire and David Sales is set for a departure from Northamptonshire at 34. Both are fine players, but Solanki has found form elusive on a major contract and Sales has ongoing issues with his knees, a problem that seems unlikely to improve. Ten years ago, such players would be on the circuit until they were 40, but as James Dalrymple and Usman Afzaal found, counties will not pay top dollar for anything less than top level performance.

Whether Park is the only departure this summer only time will tell, but most of the players signed long-term deals over the winter and there are only a few other possibles. Yet we need to strengthen, especially if we move up to the top division. I have clear ideas about who we could bring in, both in the overseas role and as staff players of quality, but that's for another day.

For now it is about Garry Park. I never met him but understand him to be a charming man, committed to his cricket. He would have enjoyed the fact that his last competitive match for Derbyshire was against a team featuring his brother and would be disappointed that injuries limited his effectiveness over his last two seasons at the county.

When he first joined us from Durham, his gritty batting was a feature of a debut season that saw him pass a thousand runs. In one day games he was more of a utility player, using deft strokes, nurdles and ramps to score valuable runs, though often when the game was a lost cause in a poor one-day side. He bowled useful medium pace that could be very hard to get away, in much the same way that Alex Hughes has found a path into the side this summer as a younger model.

Had he never scored a run, nor taken a wicket, however, Park will be remembered for his fielding. Over 45 summers of Derbyshire watching I have seen some fine fielders, with people like Derek Morgan, Harry Cartwright, Peter Kirsten, Chris Adams and Martin Guptill to the fore. Yet Park was perhaps the best of them all.

A low centre of gravity saw him quickly to the ball and beautiful balance saw him ready to throw seemingly quicker than anyone else in the side. He was quick over the ground and usually held catches with an aplomb that can only be shown by the very best in their sphere. He was good anywhere, but excelled at point where he prowled on his toes, always ready for the ball coming his way. Clive Lloyd, Colin Bland and Jonty Rhodes would be your World XI v Mars picks for that position - but Park wasn't too far behind, with a wonderful pair of hands.

In a poll of first-class cricketers a year or so back, Park gained several nominations as the best fielder in the country, tribute to a great deal of work. He might have preferred a few more runs and might have enjoyed greater opportunity over his last couple of seasons, but such recognition by his peers will be something to look back on with fondness in future years.

What the future holds for Garry Park I don't know. His departure is still to be confirmed by the club, but since it is on his Twitter feed that will only be a matter of time. What we now have to do is ensure that whoever comes in makes a better all-round contribution than the man going out.

I will tell you something though. He won't be a better fielder. I can tell you that now.

Many thanks for your efforts Garry - and sincere best wishes for the future, wherever it takes you.

Derbyshire v Yorkshire preview

The weather forecast suggests that a positive result in this match might rely on one of the two sides playing extraordinary cricket while the other one doesn't. Logic suggests that Derbyshire won't give Yorkshire much of a chance if the game is tight. At the end of it all, why should we?

Yorkshire could do with a win here. A draw would do us nicely and we'd still be well clear if we got one on Saturday. A win would be special and would set a few minds into overdrive, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here...

Derbyshire announced the 12 that I pretty much expected and the final place appears to lie between Chesney Hughes and Mark Turner and for me that selection will dictate our approach to the game. Picking Turner would be a bold move - a quick bowler who might get lift and pace and allow Derbyshire to revisit the halcyon days of the Barnett era, with four seamers bowling in rotation. I suppose Hughes could play instead of Wainwright at six, leaving us with Chesney and Durston as spinners, but I would be loathe to omit a player who has done a lot to get us to this stage against his former county.

Playing the extra batsman tells Yorkshire that they have to bowl us out twice and would make it a more difficult task for them to do so. My own thoughts, based on the fact that weather will take time out of the game, is to go with three seamers and the extra batsman. If we were faced with four full days of sunshine I would have gone with the extra seam bowler, but I would hope that Palladino, Groenewald and Clare could shoulder the burden in a game that might only see 2-3 days cricket.

I would assume that Matt Lineker will open, but think we missed a trick in not playing him on Sunday against the Unicorns. I don't think he batted in the Premier League and a knock at Chesterfield would have done him good ahead of this game. Of course, Hughes did well but Lineker would have enjoyed a bat against that attack in a match that effectively didn't matter.

As for Yorkshire, they miss skipper Andrew Gayle with a hip injury, but with the likes of Jaques, Ballance, McGrath, Root and Lyth in their side they will not lack for runs. They also have Andrew Bairstow back from England duty with a point to prove, while Steve Harmison will want to show that there is still life in the old dog after his loan move from Durham.

It will be a big match, a battle royal and a game that deserves to be well supported. Get behind our lads, those of you who are fortunate enough to live nearby and get along.

Whatever happens - in four days time we will still be top of the table.

In closing tonight, warm congratulations to Tom Knight, who will play for England Under 19s tomorrow at Leicester against Ireland in a World Cup warm up. The lad has done really well to get into such an elite squad and his changed appearance from last summer is indicative of how much work he has put in to get himself fit.

I'd like to extend the best wishes of all Derbyshire fans to him as he prepares for the World Cup proper, which will be a great experience.

Knock 'em dead Tom!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Big week beckons...

Seven championship matches to go. Twenty-eight days cricket. Derbyshire are top of the table.

Irrespective of what happens in the game against Yorkshire, starting on Wednesday, at the end of it Derbyshire will still be top of the table. A draw wouldn't be the worst result in the world for us, just as a loss wouldn't be the end of it. A win? That would send Derbyshire forging ahead in the title race.

I'm going to write that again - a win would send Derbyshire forging ahead in the title race. Sounds good, doesn't it? I can't say I expected to be writing those words this summer, even as the optimist I am...

I would suggest that this is the biggest game between our two sides since the 1950s and the heyday of Jackson and Gladwin. At least if you discount the 1969 Gillette Cup Final, when the Derbyshire side who had done so well to get there was mysteriously abducted by aliens en route to Lords and replaced by clones who looked as if they had never played cricket...

Karl Krikken has some big calls to make before Wednesday, of course. Who opens the batting with Usman Khawaja and what form does his attack take?

To some extent both decisions are affected by what I understand is an injury to Ross Whiteley. The left-hander hasn't yet rediscovered his best batting form, while his bowling is not yet of the standard that would see him labelled a genuine all-rounder. Yet he gives the side balance that it otherwise lacks. Without him, Krikk has either to play an extra batsman or an extra bowler. For me, there is a choice of two teams on Wednesday:

Khawaja                           Khawaja
Lineker/Hughes                 Lineker
Madsen                            Madsen
Durston                            Durston
Redfern                            Redfern
Wainwright                       Hughes
Clare                                Wainwright
Johnson                            Clare
Groenewald                      Johnson
Palladino                           Groenewald
Turner                               Palladino

Both sides have their shortcomings. David Wainwright and Jonathan Clare are good batsmen, but I am not sure that they are six and seven at this stage. They may have to take those roles, however, if Krikken wants four seamers at Chesterfield. An option might be for Alex Hughes to take on the all-round mantle, but it is asking a lot of a young, inexperienced player to do that in a match of this importance. His day will come, but I'm less sure that it is now. Garry Park would be another option, though Park would be more of a batsman who bowls a few overs.

It would be asking a lot to go in with three seamers and Wainwright, with Durston as back up. It has done well so far as a plan, but a few overs (and wickets) from Whiteley have been an option to allow them a breather.

Similarly, who do you go with to partner Usman Khawaja? Chesney Hughes did well on Sunday, albeit against a limited attack, while Matt Lineker scored a century in the last Second XI fixture. Again, there are arguments for the inclusion and exclusion of both. Getting it right will go a long way to getting the right result.

I'll tell you my team tomorrow night. In between times, why not tell me what you would do?

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Derbyshire v Unicorns

While it was a little more difficult than we might have expected, Derbyshire ran out comfortable enough winners against the Unicorns today.

Last night I suggested that a good innings by Usman Khawaja would be a bonus and the Australian, who is now going to play his domestic cricket for Queensland after a move from New South Wales, scored his first one day century for Derbyshire at around a run a ball.

While I said that Khawaja isn't a good T20 player, his record in List A matches of 40 or 50 overs is excellent and he averages a shade under 45 with four centuries in just 19 starts. He is a player of real class and when he plays "proper" cricket shots and doesn't go for the big hits he gives an air of impregnability at times that is quite reassuring.

There were good runs too for Chesney Hughes, who may just have played himself into the team against Yorkshire, though the rest of the Derbyshire batting imploded in dramatic and all too familiar fashion. Indeed the final score looked gettable on a small ground like Queens Park and when the Unicorns got a fast start they looked very much in the match.

Lancashire staffer Luis Reece played a good innings and there was a decent score from Tom New, who might have thought himself in with a chance of a return to the County Ground after the injury to Tom Poynton. Still, Richard Johnson acquitted himself well behind the stumps and I think Karl Krikken has done well in picking up a good, professional young keeper.

A win's a win, though we will need to build on that this week against the Yorkies.

More on that tomorrow.

Johnson signs at the season crossroads

With Derbyshire's season at the crossroads and a few supporters showing signs of the blues, there was something quite satisfying about Johnson signing a deal with Derbyshire today. There's a musical joke there that I hope you got...

Richard Johnson may lack the guitar skills of his great namesake Robert, but he has an excellent pair of hands on him and will be a great asset to Derbyshire over the next few weeks. It was hardly a surprise that Karl Krikken had a plan B up his sleeve, of course, as it is very difficult for wicket-keepers to go through a season unscathed given the current workload. There are a good number of them out there unattached, so for Johnson to get the call ahead of the likes of Tom New and Steve Adshead suggests that he is very good at what he does.

Tom Poynton's stomach muscle injury will keep him out of at least the Yorkshire game and I'm sure that we all wish him a speedy recovery. The lad has made an excellent fist of his first season as senior keeper and has let no one down. While Chris Durham has kept competently in recent matches, it is asking a lot of a young lad to take the gloves in matches as crucial as we have coming up.

Johnson doesn't have a reputation as a top drawer batsman, but he is competent and will undoubtedly battle. He follows an illustrious line of recruits from Warwickshire to the County Ground, of course and if he acquits himself as well as Messrs Welch, Munton and Wagg in his short stay we will have few complaints.

Derbyshire should return to winning ways against the Unicorns tomorrow and I hope that a few of the batsmen get a decent workout, especially Usman Khawaja, who could do with a few runs under his belt, especially since I've picked him for my Fantasy Cricket side....

Elsewhere, news of players who will be leaving their counties at season-end is starting to trickle out and Leicestershire are not offering new terms to Jacques du Toit and Nadeem Malik, while Worcestershire are allowing the long-serving Vikram Solanki to speak to other clubs.

All are victims of the ECB regulations discussed last night, of course. The records of du Toit and Malik are far from poor, but at 32 and 30 respectively they don't bring in ECB money any more and their returns don't really justify playing them at the expense of a younger player who does. There is genuine pressure on players over 26 to justify their selection and perform regularly and the reality is that those two players simply haven't done that.

On the face of it, Solanki would be a terrific signing for a few counties, Derbyshire included. It is no secret that we need a top opening batsman and Solanki has been one of the best in the county game over the past ten years or so. By the same token, Worcestershire have decided that his average (around 29 this summer) does not represent good value against what they are presumably paying him, which must be substantial. There will be a few counties notionally interested in such a player, but the questions will be simple - is he past his prime and will his demands put him out of reach of all but the big clubs? My early gut feeling is that he could end up at Surrey, where Chris Adams has gone on record with a need to recruit and Solanki could nominally and financially replace Mark Ramprakash, who is likely to finish in September.

However, for Solanki read Usman Afzaal, another fine player who should still be in the county game but who priced himself out of the circuit.

The game has changed my friends. But tonight Derbyshire are 25 points clear of Yorkshire, who have played the same number of matches.

Good huh?

Friday, 13 July 2012

Rain to the rescue?

Ther rain may well have come at the right time for Derbyshire tonight, having made an unconvincing start to the pursuit of 221 against Northamptonshire.

With Chesney Hughes and Wes Durston back in the pavilion and just 19 runs on the board after six overs, there was a long way to go for Derbyshire when the rain called a halt to proceedings and the sides shared the points. Earlier there had been excellent bowling from the much improved Mark Turner, who could just become a potent weapon in the run in.

The best news today came from Southampton, where the game between Yorkshire and Hampshire, unless there is a contrived finish tomorrow, looks set to end in a draw. That will leave Derbyshire in a strong position in the County Championship, ahead of the game against the white rose county next week.

In the light of recent one-day performances I can understand there being a few moans and groans among the faithful. They do, after all, pay their money and are as entitled to an opinion as me or anyone else. Indeed Marc, below last night's post, raises a few concerns around the prospects for next summer and what might happen should we get promoted and play nine home-grown players per match.

The short answer is, of course, that we have no real option. The county game is dependent on ECB income and you get that by playing English-qualified players. All counties have gone down this path and, given that the ECB effectively runs and owns county cricket, it is the only feasible route.

Disagree? How many counties could survive without ECB money each season? You won't have to use too many fingers for that tally, trust me. Yes, we could reinforce the young squad for another summer with two or three senior players, but where will the money come from? Don't forget that we are a long way from being the most affluent county in the country and the limited money we have has to go a long way. Even with an outstanding marketing team behind the scenes, we are unlikely to be raising the money to sign a number of established players.

Marc says that the Academy has not yet produced established county players, but those of few counties have yet to do so and I would still argue that Derbyshire's is going firmly in the right direction. I can't argue with Marc that only Dan Redfern has so far cemented a place in the side, but Ross Whiteley will come again and there is enough talent among the likes of Knight, Hughes, Poynton, Higginbottom, Borrington and Burgoyne to be confident in the future. The next generation looks equally impressive, but we have to be prepared for periods of ups and downs, as that is what you get with youngsters. You also need patience. Redfern is enjoying a fine season at the age of 22, but this is his SIXTH summer in the side.

Derbyshire's Academy has produced several players of potential county standard in the past few summers and will continue to do so as sound structures have been established. There is no magic wand, however, that turns a young player into an experienced one overnight. All of them have to serve lengthy apprenticeships and will enjoy periods of success and failure within that time. There will be times to celebrate their success and times to tolerate their failures, because cricket is the greatest leveller of any sport you care to name.

Keep in mind though that this bunch of players has got us 28 points clear in Division Two. Keep in mind that next summer there could well be a player emulating the progress of Whiteley last summer and Poynton, along with Redfern this. They all develop at their own speed and we need to appreciate and accept that.

Irrespective of what happens in the remainder of the season, the players can be proud of their achievements this year, one in which we have started to change a few perceptions. More will be changed in the summers ahead, mark my words, but it will take time. There are areas we need to improve the side - at least one batsman is needed and a seam-bowling all-rounder would never go amiss, but no one is more aware of areas for improvement than the coaching staff.

There may well be departures too, but not many. For now let us enjoy an improved performance on Sunday ahead of one of our biggest games for years.

We have seven such games coming up in the next few weeks. Get behind our lads, because with that support they might just cross the finishing line in a very strong position.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Surely not?

Good to see most of Derbyshire's batsmen making the most of yesterday's opportunity in making runs from perhaps the not overly demanding Leicestershire Second XI. Since their first team attack is hardly formidable, one suspects it may have been less demanding than what they will face when the action proper resumes next week.

Still, runs is runs, as someone (quite possibly G. Boycott) once said. They're better in the scorebook than in your head...

On to county matters and was anyone else, like me, appalled to see Gloucestershire awarding a cap to Australian opener Ed Cowan on his debut yesterday? Over many years a county cap has been something to be earned and coveted, an aspirational goal if you will. Many very good (and subsequently great) players have taken some time to earn the thing that says, for all to see, that you have made it.

A cap should not be given to someone simply because they have flown from the other side of the world to play for you. I could perhaps understand it if Gloucestershire had signed someone like Ricky Ponting or Jacques Kallis, players who have made a reputation in the game and whose award is made in the light of this and in recognition of their stature within it.

With respect to Ed Cowan, despite his century today he has got nowhere near the requisite credentials to be given his cap with immediate effect. He is a decent player who will always battle hard (I have seen him and played against him up here in Scotland) but such an award is a smack in the mouth for others at the club who also do that yet have not yet been recognised for it.

It is mad and if Derbyshire did something similar I would have no hesitation in decrying it as such. It debases the system and is a pretty shoddy thought process from the people concerned.

Tomorrow Derbyshire take on Northamptonshire in the CB40 in a game of little importance to either side. For me there is a strong argument to reintroduce some form of knock out competition to cricket, as the leagues as they stand offer far too many dull and pointless games. Of course. I would love to see Derbyshire rack up 350-2 tomorrow and win handsomely, just as I want them to beat the Unicorns (my daughter's favourite cricket team - she loves the name) on Sunday.

Yet in the great scheme of things it doesn't matter all that much.

Now Yorkshire, next week - there is a match...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Midweek thoughts

It was reassuring to read in today's Derby Telegraph that Karl Krikken was big enough to admit to Derbyshire's T20 failings. It was pleasing to read also that his thoughts on the campaign were exactly the same as mine, espoused a few days earlier.

Lack of experience, poor batting and insufficient input from the overseas players were the major issues, though they were probably identified by most people. The first two are related, of course and will continue to be issues until players mature or additional experience can be injected into the side from the overseas role or another form.

As you may have read on the club site, the First XI effectively became the Seconds today as they started a game against Leicestershire. It was absolutely the right thing for Karl Krikken to do and will hopefully bring dividends when we resume Championship activity next week. The four-day Derbyshire this summer has been a different beast to the limited overs side and the return of Tony Palladino to the seam attack will give us a fresh and invigorated edge as we approach the critical stage of the season.

There have been a  couple of areas of critical comment in recent weeks while I was away. One was the omission of Palladino from the T20 side, but I am 100% behind Krikk in keeping him fresh for the run-in, when he may have a lot of bowling. It is very easy for seam bowlers to pick up niggles in T20, when they are adjusting their actions to bowl different paces and lengths, as well as diving around the outfield. Rana Naved was signed as a strike bowler anyway and most fans would rank Clare and Groenewald as better batsmen (without decrying the talents of the ever-improving Palladino). No quibbles there from me.

There were also comments around the captaincy and some decisions made by Wayne Madsen, but again, while accepting that mistakes were made, I'd put much down to relative inexperience and the pressure of the competition. Having captained a side for nine seasons in 20-over cricket, it requires a lot more thought and work ball-by-ball than longer games. There was one occasion when we had, I think, too many fielders outside the ring and a no ball ensued, but that, for me, should have been something the vice-captain was keeping an eye on as well. We have a massive learning curve in that cricket and Madsen, a player and man for who I have the utmost respect, will be a stronger and better captain for his experience this summer.

I have had a couple of e mails with suggestions for overseas players for next summer, but with respect to the senders, the players concerned, while undoubtedly being good for the side, will be 99% certain to be playing in the ICC Trophy next June when the T20 takes place.

Put it this way. If AB de Villiers isn't in the South African side he'll be injured, so either way he isn't going to be playing for Derbyshire or anyone else.


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Just like that...

 In the light of expected issues with regard to overseas stars in 2012 and having written about Michael Di Venuto below, it got me thinking if there might be similar options out there who counties might consider.

Tom Cooper

One such player could be Netherlands and South Australia batsman Tom Cooper. At 25, the batsman is improving all the time and last year scored a maiden double century for his state. Healthy and increaing averages in all forms of the game might make him a worthwhile gamble, a player with a point to prove. At this stage he is some way from the Australian squad and I just wonder what his response might be if asked to play the county game on his mother's Dutch passport. Andrew Symonds did similarly at Gloucestershire a few years back and it turned out well for him..

A good fielder and useful off-spinner, there are decent possibilities for counties in a shrinking market if they could prevail on a talented young cricketer to "do a Di Venuto", always assuming that they could withstand the financial "hit" in playing a non-qualified player.

Just a thought...