Friday, 31 August 2012

Derbyshire v Essex day 4

Once again it was a nervy finish to the game from Derbyshire, but their resolute team spirit saw them across the line and within eight days cricket of promotion, or the title.

It would be hard to say that we played well today, although when Wes Durston and Dan Redfern were together there was a brief period when a late charge for victory looked on. Yet our old fallibility in chasing a total came to the fore as three wickets fell quickly, leaving the final overs a tense battle for survival. Again we were indebted to the resolute concentration of Ross Whiteley, while Tony Palladino will have been pleased to have been in at the end against his old county, after earlier taking his fiftieth championship wicket of the summer, a notable feat.

Meanwhile at Grace Road, Leicestershire were lying down to die against Kent, thus enabling next week's opponents to rekindle their own promotion ambitions, moving up to third above Hampshire. Further north, in Scarborough, Gloucestershire were committing cricket hara-kiri with a most generous declaration that set Yorkshire, the best batting side in the division, 316 in 83 overs, a target they managed for the loss of eight wickets.

I will make several points about this. First, I am not buying into a conspiracy theory, or paranoia that they're all against us, but it gave Yorkshire, a side that had to win to stay in contention, every opportunity to do so. I wrote this morning that  they would chase anything and that 340 in 65 overs might have been realistic, giving the visitors every chance of a rare win with an attack that is on the average side of poor.

I wasn't too far wide of the mark, but then the ground there is small and quick scoring is the norm for a decent batting side. I wouldn't have backed Derbyshire to score those runs, as we're not an especially good batting side right now, but Yorkshire always looked on target and in doing so have resurrected their promotion dreams.

At the end of it all there are two games to go and we are still 19 points clear of second-placed Yorkshire, 23 clear of Kent. Both of those sides have still to play Glamorgan as one of their remaining games, with Yorkshire also due to go to Essex, where I have a feeling they will struggle to pick up 24 points against a good side who should have been higher in the promotion mix themselves.

In short? A long way from perfect, but we're still in there, ahead of the pack. Two games to go and perhaps next week we can talk about "promoted Derbyshire".

Let's hope so...

Just as an aside...

I see Yorkshire have, as expected, declared on their overnight score to force a result.

I just hope Gloucestershire set them a challenge at Scarborough, a fast-scoring ground where 5.5 an over is gettable with a batting side like our northern neighbours have.

If it is less than 340 in 65 overs, my money would be on Yorkshire. Let's face it, they have to go for it, whatever they are left...

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Derbyshire v Essex day 3

Paul Borrington, Dan Redfern, Ross Whiteley, Tom Poynton. What's the link?

The answer is, of course, is that they are all Academy graduates and their efforts steered Derbyshire from a tricky lunchtime position to one of comparative tranquility today. Messrs Krikken and Dytham will have enjoyed a satisfied moment or two after their display, which took Derbyshire to a position where a draw should be within their compass. A win would be dependent on the generosity of the Essex declaration, as I don't see any need for Derbyshire to do something daft tomorrow.

Once again the lower order bailed Derbyshire out and at 30-4 and 120-7 we were looking down a barrel. Yet the response was at it has been all season, skilful, brave and dogged. It would be nice for them not to have to do this so often, for the blood pressure of the fans as much as anything, but the way that this side battles to the last man makes you proud to be a Derbyshire fan. It's been some time since we could say that.

Tom Poynton's century at Northampton has obviously done wonders for his confidence and the way that he steered us to bonus points belied his inexperience. Ross Whiteley has endured a difficult second summer but has returned to form in the past few weeks, while Dan Redfern got his head down and added a crucial 60 runs with Paul Borrington when the pressure was really on and the follow-on a distinct possibility.

As for Borrington, he will play few more valuable innings than that 42 against David Masters. The latter is one of the best seamers in the county game and a handful with a new ball and helpful track. Bozza will make bigger scores, but few will have the significance of today's effort.

A win tomorrow would be amazing and would seal promotion. It would leave the title a maximum of ten points from two games away, always assuming that Hampshire took maximum points from their last two matches, one of which is against us. Yet three points for a draw is a decent consolation prize given the current placings, with a wary eye being kept on Scarborough and Leicester tomorrow on what appears a decent day weather-wise.

We will know much more tomorrow night.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Derbyshire v Essex day 2 rained. That's all I can say, really. Like all the other games, this one fell foul of the weather so all of the teams at the top will now probably need to take risks in order to force positive results.

With a buffer between them and us, Derbyshire do not need to do that and in the first instance can concentrate on the acquisition of bonus points, then see where things go from there. A win would be nice and with improved batting tomorrow is a possibility, but first and foremost we need to ensure we don't lose.

As an aside, having given a reasonable amount of thought to it today, I think the "Jonathan Clare to Nottinghamshire" story I referred to earlier is most likely to be someone up to a little mischief.

For one thing, they are not exactly short of decent bowlers. For another they have thrown their hat in the ring for James Harris, who will not come cheap should they be successful. Unless they are intent on signing all good under-26 bowlers in the country, I fail to see how they could fit Harris and Clare into the same side with the other guys they have.

Then there's the fact that Clare seems very settled at Derby and can presumably satisfy his ambitions to play at a higher level with his mates at Derbyshire next summer, all being well.

I may be wrong, but for me this has come about by someone talking about Paul Franks leaving Nottinghamshire and getting a reply along the lines that "they'll be after Clare next". From such misinterpretation do daft stories come and from the above you're only a syntax-swap away from "they are after Clare".

You pays your money and takes your choice guv'nor. As for me, I'll happily abide with the fact that JC will be a valued and valuable member of Derbyshire's squad, until the club tell us otherwise.

See you tomorrow.

Turner stays, Lineker goes...

News this morning from the club that Mark Turner has signed a two-year deal that will keep him at the County Ground until the end of the 2014 season.

Mark Leif TurnerIt represents excellent news  for Derbyshire CCC and its supporters as the player has improved immeasurably since his arrival from Somerset. John Morris to some extent took a gamble on a player who had shown himself a bowler of pace at Taunton, yet one who sometimes struggled to maintain a line and length. Such issues can be a problem for all those who exceed regulation pace, of course, but Turner is now a far better bowler. He still has genuine pace, but can now lock on an excellent yorker, as well as a very fast bouncer that will keep batsmen on their toes.

As much as anything, fans appreciate that Turner always gives 100%. He is not a bowler who on occasion seems to go through the motions, but runs up for every ball as if it will be his last. He has, in short, become a favourite and can expect to play a growing role in our side over the next two summers.

It is also nice to see the player showing his gratitude for a club that resurrected a career that was going nowhere fast at Somerset. I understand the player had interest from elsewhere, yet has shown a loyalty to the club that is good to see, the buoyant team spirit almost certainly being a major factor.

Matthew Steven LinekerAt the other end of the scale, the departure of Matt Lineker is tinged with sadness and he is a victim of an improved club and the ECB regulations. There are no financial contributions from the ECB for players of Lineker's age, although there have been a number of earlier eras in the club's history where he may have secured another deal. Yet Derbyshire are now a club with aspirations and, unless things go horribly pear-shaped in the last three matches, should find themselves in division one next summer.

For all that Lineker made some encouraging starts in the senior side and scored heavily at Second XI level, he was unable to translate his obvious talent to the first-class stage. The gulf between being an outstanding club cricketer and even a decent county cricketer is large and Lineker is not the first, nor will be the last to find it a little too large.

Perhaps he might have bridged that gap given time, but time is something the club didn't have and his late start was a factor. One of the key areas that we need to strengthen in the winter is the opening batting, where we only have one player, Paul Borrington, who is a specialist in the role. The latter is under contract until he is 26, but will be equally aware that he will need to evidence having made the grade by that stage or face a career outside the game, such is the harsh reality of modern county cricket.

I am sure that all Derbyshire fans will wish Matt Lineker, a lovely man, the very best of luck for the future. He will undoubtedly continue to score thousands of runs in local cricket, where he has been the best batsman for the last five years and is likely to continue to be for many more to come.

As for Derbyshire, the hunt for opening batsmen for next summer will gather pace. One of these slots may well be filled by an overseas batsman, but the out of contract lists will be getting scoured and I am confident that we will bring in someone of the requisite ability by the time next summer comes around.

One more point before closing for now. I had several e mails last night saying that Jonathan Clare was being chased by Nottinghamshire, something that I cannot verify at this stage. It is inevitable that the players of a successful county will be pursued and especially when one's neighbours have a scouting network that seems to extend the full distance between Derby and Leicester. You also have to factor in that the agents of some players are less concerned about the best deal from a long-term professional perspective than lining the pockets of the player and themselves in the short term. I don't know if there is any truth in the story, or if the latter statement is more relevant here, but there are plenty of players who saw greener grass outside Derby who found that it became parched very quickly when they got there. Ask Matt Cassar, Adrian Rollins, Robin Weston and Greg Smith for starters...

With Paul Franks free to talk to other counties, logically Nottinghamshire will be seeking a replacement, though time will tell if it is our enigmatic all-rounder. I hope not, but players will always come and go and one can only enjoy them while you can. It is another reason to bring through your own, of course, in that they may well show greater loyalty than others of a more nomadic bent. No one can blame a sportsman who looks for greater reward, but there is often a bigger picture - will there be the regular opportunities elsewhere?

No doubt we will hear more in the coming days and weeks.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Derbyshire v Essex day one

Until 15 overs from the close, today had gone swimmingly for Derbyshire.

We'd gained maximum bowling points fairly soon after tea on the first day, with the wickets shared out and a rich haul for David Wainwright, then suddenly the carpet is pulled from under our feet with David Masters showing why he is day in, day out perhaps the most underrated bowler in the country.

Three down at the close, although one was the night watchman, Tony Palladino. I seem to have written this a lot of late, but the first session tomorrow is massive. The first task, all joking apart, is to avoid the follow-on at 96. Then we need to mount a total and get some bonus points bagged. Theoretically Masters shouldn't have long spells in him after a period out with injury, so we need to see him off and then pick up runs from the lesser members of the attack with the softer ball. There's no Harbhajan Singh and Derbyshire will be happier facing Tom Craddock, talented as he is, than the Indian maestro in the fourth innings.

First we need to get close to the Essex total though and there's enough depth in the batting to get up to 200-250. Seeing off the shine is vital and the morning session, traditionally one for bowlers at Derby, is going to be a biggie. Full marks to Paul Borrington for seeing it through to stumps, but he and the rest of the batsmen have a lot of work to do tomorrow.

There had been suggestions from some fans that David Wainwright could or should be omitted from the team in favour of another batsman or seamer, but I am a firm subscriber to having a balanced attack. There may be arguments to omit a spinner in early season, when you would generally expect less turn than in the later months, but that argument carries less weight when the spinner is also a useful batsman, as Wainwright is. You might have omitted a Phil Tufnell at some stage this summer, but Wainwright gives balance to the Derbyshire side and his dogged batting could be especially valuable tomorrow.

Indeed, in future seasons I can see more spin options coming into play for Derbyshire. Given their current rate of progress, it might be perfectly realistic for a one-day side to feature Tom Knight and Peter Burgoyne, as well as David Wainwright, as all three have the priceless ability to bowl with control. That is unlikely to happen in championship cricket, but if Burgoyne continues to develop as an all-rounder (great century for the Seconds last week) he will force his way into the side, as will Alex Hughes, who has come on in leaps and bounds this summer.

Our match is similarly poised to Yorkshire's at Scarborough, where I suggested a result pitch would either make or break their promotion ambitions. Kent, meanwhile, are well placed against Leicestershire, but as I've said before, you can never judge a game after one innings.

We needs Bozza and Wes to start the recovery tomorrow, then Dan Redfern and Ross Whiteley to show us why they are so highly rated as cricketers. Plenty of batting still to come and no reason for us to be downhearted at this stage.

There is, however, a very special prize up for grabs if they do their stuff...

Monday, 27 August 2012


To all of you who tuned in to the radio broadcast this evening.

I've already had some feedback (thanks guys!) and would welcome more to the e mail address that you will find on the left hand side of the page further down.

I'm especially interested in if the sound was clear or not, if it was loud enough etc. Also keen to know if any of you had microphones or not as they will probably make a difference to the sound quality if I decide to take it further.

There were the expected teething issues with technology, but that was hardly surprising and I might try it again another week, though that will depend on whether you think it would work as a format. I can listen to myself any time, but only through your involvement can I see it develop to what I would want it to be.

Bit of thinking to be done on that one, but your comments will be valued and appreciated.

Derbyshire v Essex preview

Over 45 summers as a Derbyshire fan I have got used to matches from the beginning of August being largely meaningless. Sure, we have had honour, minor placings and pride to play for, but little else. The Lords finals made a welcome exception, though effectively meant only five days worthwhile cricket en route, while the Sunday League win was also memorable but gave you but one day a week to look forward to.

This summer's championship campaign has so far seen 52 days of action, with a further twelve to go and Derbyshire have won more than they have lost, which is why we are top of the table. Arguments that we are not the best side in the division from fans of other counties are superfluous and pointless. We're top because when the weather has allowed it we have won more matches then the other teams. FACT.

Irrespective of the occasional batting faux pas, we have played some excellent cricket and done exactly what was promised at the start of it. We have been aggressive, combative and fearless. Such cricket has seen us win against the odds and save matches similarly. If we can do so one more time in the remaining three games  it will carry us across the line as champions.

It would be nice to do so against Essex and take the pressure off, but it won't be easy against a side with plenty of talented cricketers who should have been in the mix themselves. Alistair Cook and Ravi Bopara are on England duty, but Owais Shah will hope to add to a fine record against us, as will Ryan ten Doeschate and to win this match we will need to be on top of our game. David Masters may return from injury and will be a threat if there's the usual first session movement, while their side is packed with high quality players who will make this a tough match. Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh will also be a threat and Derbyshire might not fancy facing the "Turbanator" in the last innings.

Yet a further sign of progress is that I don't think "uh-oh" as we approach the match. We have a good side, one that has pleased and surprised us in equal measure this summer. Even positive Peakfan, who predicted a promotion challenge, didn't expect us to lead the table for the vast majority of the campaign.

The Derbyshire side? I would suggest largely unchanged from the Northamptonshire match with only two decisions for Karl Krikken. Is Jon Clare fit enough for third seamer, or do we bring in Turner or Footitt? My guess would be that Mark Turner may come in, based largely on the premise that he has generally bowled well when given the opportunity, but also on the fact that Footitt may create a rough for Harbhajan that would mean he troubled the right as well as left-handers more than might otherwise be the case.

The other question is  - surprise, surprise - the opening berths. I get the feeling that Khawaja prefers three, Durston four. I still think Madsen is better in the middle order, but that means omitting either Redfern or Whiteley, which I suspect is unlikely. For me, the skipper has to move back up top and partner....who?

I still can't consider Chesney, as he's nothing to back up his claims other than runs in previous seasons when he was in better nick. Matt Lineker has had an extended run but with an average of 18 hasn't claimed the role. Paul Borrington's 22 average isn't spectacular either, but in the absence of more prolific alternatives shades it for me.

Why? Because it is higher, despite largely being made on early season tracks that were worse. Because he is in better form: granted at Second XI level but runs are runs and build confidence. And because whatever else Bozza may or may not do he grits it out, plays each delivery on merit and crucially takes the shine from the new ball, To some extent it doesn't matter if he is 18 not out at lunch, as long as he has taken the shine and bounce from the ball that enables later batsmen to capitalise from positions where they feel more comfortable.

Yes, we could move Durston up but you lose his middle order nous. You could ask Khawaja to do so, though he prefers batting first down, or you could get Redfern to do it and waste a very good and emerging number five.

If you could offer me an in form, experienced and guaranteed heavy scorer for the role on loan I would snatch your hand off. You can't, so for me you go for the gut feeling and who has shaped up best in the nets.

So we're back with Bozza. Back the lad please, he's playing for OUR side. Maybe I'm wrong, but his presence in the team today, ahead of Matt Lineker, suggests to me that he is in the frame for a recall. I also think that winning the toss tomorrow may well see us bat and give Wainwright and Durston a last afternoon opportunity. But I don't think this Derbyshire side will fear anyone, Harbhajan included.

We'll see, soon enough

Good luck lads. Do us proud.

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire CB40

I didn't preview today's game as it was pretty much a dead tie and the weather forecast suggested that there wouldn't be too much play anyway.

As it was the visitors innings was completed and a second string Derbyshire attack will be pleased to have limited a strong batting line up to 232-8, with only Matt Higginbottom taking a bit of stick in his spell.

Ali Evans did well with the new ball and can be proud of figures of 2-34, while Hughes' Chesney and Alex did little wrong on the evidence of their final analysis.

However, star turn was again Peter Burgoyne (left), who appears to be a young player with a very big future. He bowled well at Kent and today had the remarkable analysis of 3-31 in 7 overs, taking the wicket of David Sales, which he would be very proud of.

At 18 he appears a very special talent and as long as he keeps his feet on the ground should be set for a long and glittering career.

I look forward to watching it unfold in the years ahead.

Essex preview later...

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Book Review: Daffy - the Autobiography of Phil DeFreitas

Phil DeFreitas was a very good cricketer. Perhaps not quite at the very highest level, but 44 Test appearances and 103 one-day internationals suggest that he had something going for him, as do 1200 first-class dismissals, together with ten centuries and 54 half-centuries.

Off the field a quietly spoken man, on it he was aggressive and combative, often with something to say to batsmen who dared to confront him. This book is one of the better cricket autobiographies I have read of late and the player is honest throughout, especially in reference to the difficult relationship that he endured with his father.

He broke into an England side that contained more than its fair share of strong-willed characters - Edmonds, Gower, Lamb and Botham feature in plenty of anecdotes, a number of them suggesting that the off-field times were every bit as interesting as those on it. What comes through is that the young player was fairly insecure, especially in his younger days and had his eyes opened wide by the time he spent in their company on his first tour to Australia.

His international career naturally gets the lions share of the coverage, but for me the non-international sections of the book are the most interesting. His experience of racism, especially in South Africa, is shocking, though not altogether surprising, while he is remarkably honest about his personal life and his fathering of a child outside of his relationship with his wife.

That he left Leicestershire for Lancashire to effectively double his salary comes as no real surprise, but it is the section about his time at Derbyshire that will interest most fans of the county. That he moved for family reasons is well documented, but his enjoyment of the summer under Dean Jones is clear, while the background to the fragmentation and eventual break up of a very talented side is very interesting. It would have been nice to get a greater insight as to the reasons why a dressing room that pulled together in 1996 fell apart a few short months later, but this is a picky and parochial note.

What is clear is that the chairman of the time, Mike Horton, failed to handle a group of disparate, strong personalities and that things were allowed to happen that really shouldn't have. None of the main protagonists come out of it especially well and it is still disappointing that arguably the strongest group of players that the club have had since the Second World War was allowed to fester and fragment through a lack of strong management. The signing of Jones should have heralded a golden era for Derbyshire cricket, but rather signalled the start of a period of in-fighting that took years from which to recover.

I would recommend this book for its honesty in many areas, especially when recounting the player's battle with depression. There are errors - a South African barbecue is a braii, not a brie (a cheesy mistake to make?) but there is enough within the pages to make it a worthwhile purchase without question.

Like many other who followed him, Phil DeFreitas suffered from unfair comparison to Ian Botham, but he was a very, very good cricketer and at the end of this book you come to appreciate him as a decent, honest man.

Daffy - the Autobiography of Phil DeFreitas is published by Apex Publishing and is available through all good book shops (online through Amazon at £11.19)

Two for openers...

Last night I mentioned that there would be players available at the end of the season when the promotion and relegation places have been sorted and the niceties of individual contracts have been sorted out. Some players will, of course, wish to ply their trade at the top and whatever you might think of the idea it is their prerogative to do so.

Such players will include very good opening batsmen of the calibre of Steven Moore of Lancashire and Moeen Ali of Worcestershire. Both are fine players and their names have at some point in their careers been mentioned in England terms. Moore had a very good time at Worcestershire, where he scored 1400 runs with six centuries in 2008, before moving to Lancashire, where he has also done well, scoring runs in decent quantities and, in one day games, with considerable speed.

Then there's the uber-talented Moeen Ali at Worcestershire, a batsman with a full range of shots and a great technique, one who comes with the added string to his bow of very useful off spin, something at which he is good enough to recently take ten wickets in a match.

Admit it, you'd love to see Derbyshire's batting opened by these two, wouldn't you? Sign them up, put them in at the top of the order, acknowledged as our problem positions, and watch the runs flow.

The problem is that I haven't a clue about the contractual situation of these players and their statistics for 2012 make sobering reading.

In 22 first-class innings this summer, Moore has 363 runs at 17, with a highest score of 47
Ali, a player coveted by a number of counties, has 531 runs at 25, with just three fifties in 24 innings.

It again ties into what has been a very difficult summer for batsmen, especially those at the top of the order. Wet weather, slower outfields, humid conditions, the building of stands to change wind flow, the type of balls - excuses are many and varied, but it has been tough at the top this summer.

Gareth Rees is another, a very good batsman for Glamorgan yet with only one fifty and an average of 19. Greg Smith, a young player of considerable talent, averages just 15 from 21 starts at Leicestershire. Daryl Mitchell, another good batsman at Worcestershire, averages 23 from 24 innings. Neil Edwards is out of contract at Nottinghamshire and is a decent player, yet his 2012 summer has seen 230 runs at 20.

On the face of it, most of these players would strengthen Derbyshire's batting, yet their most recent statistics don't necessarily lend credence to the suggestion. All of them will undoubtedly hope for better conditions next summer.

One player who might be worthy of consideration is "oop north". I always rated Joe Sayers of Yorkshire and he earned an England Lions call up as a compact opening batsman. Sadly he contracted a virus which then saw him miss the 2010 season through Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome and he has struggled to regain his place in a powerful batting lineup. With an average in the mid-thirties and a career going nowhere fast at Yorkshire, I could see merit in an enquiry with regard to his availability, always assuming that he is now fully recovered from the condition.

Just shows you though, eh? Difficult game, this cricket.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Thoughts on T20 finals day

As the shadows lengthened in the T20 final tonight, Yorkshire came from nowhere to the brink of victory, then had it dashed from their hands by a good last couple of overs from Hampshire.

Their much vaunted batting lineup had served them well and David Miller showed his value by almost muscling them to the trophy. Miller is one of a number of South Africans who would in all likelihood be an asset to county cricket, not quite good enough yet to make their national side (how do you break into that batting side?) and perhaps resigned, like such fine players as Colin Ingram, Dean Elgar, Rilee Rossouw and Faf du Plessis to being bit-part members of the squad.

He did a good job for Yorkshire tonight, but they paid the penalty for struggles between overs five and ten which left them needing ten an over over the second half of the innings, a target that proved just beyond them.

Earlier they had disposed of Sussex with relative ease, while Hampshire defied the odds and disposed of perennial bridesmaids Somerset. The latter have a clutch of talented players, but somehow there's not enough of them turn up on the big occasions, when they so often fall short. When one considers the players they have signed or been linked with over the past nine months the summer seems set to become another of under achievement. The risks of importing players specifically for the competition were also highlighted when Richard Levi fell cheaply. For me this is an argument against a season-long T20, as I cannot see many successful overseas imports when they fly in to play once a week then fly out again. Similarly, I can't see many big names keen to spend months in England for a weekly twenty overs match.

The final meant, of course, that two second division championship sides had disposed of their supposedly better rivals, though what the final will do for the morale of Hampshire and Yorkshire, our biggest rivals, is debatable. The former have no game this week, having played one more than others in the promotion shake-up, while Yorkshire face Gloucestershire at scenic Scarborough, where there will probably be a result if it stays dry.

Derbyshire's game against Essex is crucial and how we could do with winning this one to ease the pressure in the last two fixtures. It would be nice to get to the Hampshire game perhaps needing two bonus points to seal the title; nicer still to do so earlier.

I'll preview that one over the next couple of days.

In closing tonight, there's a lot of interest in players being released around the country, each seemingly arousing the interest of some Derbyshire fans. There's none of them have yet made me sit up and think "maybe" and what is most likely is that Chris Grant and Karl Krikken will play a waiting game at this stage.

There will be a number of players whose contracts allow them a get out clause if their team is not in the top flight. That will apply in both divisions, with a few signing deals for this summer on the basis of a promotion push. There will also be a few whose end of season appraisals may see them seeking pastures new and Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire can only sign a few of them. They are currently being linked with everyone and his kid brother and have the resources to be at the front of the queue for the bigger names.

Derbyshire will compete though and I am confident that if we seal promotion we will be better equipped for the top flight than some perhaps give credit for.

Let's get there before we start worrying about such things though.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Time to start the radio chat

After this week's memorable game and ahead of next week's match against Essex, it would appear to be a good time to pilot the internet radio chat among Derbyshire fans.

Before I explain how to listen in and/or contribute, a few words about what I'm aiming for, which is effectively like-minded Derbyshire fans sat around a few tables in a village pub, chatting about the county fortunes, what we have done and what we are likely to do. I hope it will be fun and that people accept it as that and tune in to enjoy themselves.

The software gives me control over the microphones of those contributing (assuming there is anyone!) and it will be a swearing-free, club-slagging free zone. While it is fair to say that player X and player Y aren't in their best form, or not playing as well as they might,  it isn't acceptable to say that they are "rubbish", as by definition you have to be a heck of a good player to reach county standard. Likewise personal comments on anyone associated with the club are not allowed under any circumstances. Fair, constructive criticism is fine, but be prepared for a counter-argument if I disagree...

Anyone contravening the "house" rules will simply have their microphone muted for the remainder of the show. It won't be a free for all  - aside from mine, only one microphone at a time will be live and I aim to give an opportunity to as many as want it within the running time, as far as is realistic.

Anyone who thinks it an opportunity to have a go at old Peakfan should probably not bother. I'm happy for anyone to disagree with me, but if you do, tell me why and we can debate it. I'm trying to do this as a service for fans of the club. It's not the BBC, but the standards have to be the same or it will remain a pilot. I'd like to think that this blog has standards and the show must replicate them, or it won't work and I won't take it forward.

So, how do you get involved in the first show, which will be this coming Monday evening at 9pm for around 30 minutes or so?

First click on the "Peakfan Radio" link on the left of this page (scroll down)

It will take you to the BeeVocal home page, where, in the top right hand corner, you will on your first visit need to sign up and subsequently need to log in.

From there, navigation is a breeze. Search for the show under "Peakfan" or "cricket" and you will soon find it. To contribute, you will probably need headphones with a microphone, depending on the effectiveness of the one built into your PC or laptop. You can, of course, simply listen into the chat without if you prefer. Click on the link to the show and you will be connected.

Past shows will be visible on the site, so if you can't make a particular episode, listen at your leisure.

What to talk about? Well, it should hopefully flow and I have a few ideas, which is useful. If the conversation switches to a topic when you want to have a say, simply click the hand symbol, I will see it and will come to you as soon as I am able to do so.

Expect teething issues in the first show, but I hope a few of you will tune in and get involved. If there is no interest, I can just as easily drop it as create it.

We will see what develops. Just don't expect me to call you my dear old thing...

Friday, 24 August 2012

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 4

Well, in the end the result was a fairly predictable draw on a pitch that didn't offer enough for Derbyshire to force the issue, but even the most cynical of Derbyshire fans would have to be impressed by the fighting spirit shown by our lads.

There wasn't a world record partnership either, but nor should that detract from a magnificent effort by Wayne Madsen and Tom Poynton. We can count ourselves lucky that such a partnership happened in our lifetimes, as you won't see the like of it too often, that's for sure.

With Hampshire eventually going down to Leicestershire after lunch, Derbyshire pulled away at the top of the table as I said last night. While the last wicket stand for Hampshire made the scores respectable, the lunch break was always going to be the partnership breaker and so it transpired. It was the same as at Northampton. Had Madsen and Poynton had an extra half hour last night I am sure that the record would have gone and they may have taken it past 300, but starting again is always a tough task. You need to get your eyes, hands and feet in synch again and hope that you don't get the "jaffa" while you are doing so. While Hampshire's last wicket stand raised my eyebrows I never thought for a minute that they would save, nor win the game.

There have been a few comments about a lack of edge to our bowling in the last couple of matches, but I don't subscribe to the view at all. Neither wicket has been what I would deem especially bowler-friendly and I maintain that in Palladino, Groenewald and Clare we have the best seam attack in the division. Wainwright is the best spinner in the league too, so it is not unduly surprising that we are in poll position at the top of the table.

With two of our last three matches at home, I expect pitches that should allow for a result, just as long as the weather stays out of things. David Masters and Graham Napier may be a threat next week, but a powerful Essex order will have to work hard against our attack and it then comes down to the batting firing.

There have again been calls to restore Chesney Hughes to the side at the top of the order, but again I am less convinced. Borrington and Lineker have yet to cement a place at the top of the order, yet are coming into the side on the back of good runs in Second XI and league cricket. To my knowledge, Chesney has no such form to draw on, so his task would be doubly difficult. We all know he has produced several innings of brilliance over the past couple of summers, but it hasn't, for some reason, happened for him this year. Hopefully a winter of work in the nets will see him rediscover his footwork and confidence as we could use a prime form Chesney.

At the end of it all, no one will be better aware of the readiness of each player to score runs at first class level than Dave Houghton, who will see them in the nets, watch how they are moving and make recommendations from there. By the same token, he can't get the runs for them in the middle. More's the pity, because Houghton could bat, that's for sure...

Next up is Northamptonshire at Derby in the final CB40 of the season at the weekend, then that pretty important game against Essex.

More on that over the weekend. Enjoy!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 3

Captain Fantastic and the Poynton cowboy...

At the risk of waxing overly lyrical about Wayne Madsen and Tom Poynton tonight, that was quite, quite brilliant. Heartfelt congratulations go to the two of them for one of the more extraordinary partnerships in the history of Derbyshire County Cricket Club.

Indeed, tomorrow, Messrs Madsen and Poynton can move from the realms of the extraordinary to the immortal. Twenty-five runs more would see them overtake the longest-lived partnership in cricket history, that of our own John Chapman and Arnold Warren against Warwickshire at Blackwell in 1910. Indeed, I would hazard a guess that should they break the record it may well stand for an equally long period. It is quite frankly impossible to comprehend many number tens batting with the composure that young Tom Poynton showed this afternoon, nor having the opportunity and ability to bat with someone like Wayne Madsen (left) at the other end for seventy-one overs.

At the start of this season I wrote that it was far more important for Poynton to show he had what it takes to be a first-class cricketer behind the stumps. He has done that, maintaining a very high standard yet getting relatively few opportunities to bat - today was only his twelfth championship innings of the summer. A brisk 50 at Chelmsford helped to turn that game, but Poynton showed last year in the Seconds that he could play pugnacious innings and I know he has worked hard on his batting with Dave Houghton this summer, the pay-off coming today. A challenge from Richard Johnson has seen him respond in the very best manner and I am sure that his parents, often at the ground, will be even more proud of him than ever tonight and rightly so. Extraordinary is just about the right word.

As for the skipper, it is hard to do justice to an innings played with either cracked or badly bruised ribs. Whichever it is, moving and breathing, let alone batting all day, cannot have been easy for Wayne Madsen, however many injections and pain-killers he took and there are few words to sum up his efforts today. Like Poynton (left) he left a personal best way behind and, as he has done for much of the summer, he led from the front. It would have been easy to see most Derbyshire teams of recent vintage capitulate from their overnight score, yet Madsen took guard this morning and set his stall out to bat and bat. It was an innings of bravery and skill and one can have nothing but admiration for an excellent cricketer and outstanding man.

Of course, irrespective of any runs he scores, Madsen has made a huge contribution to Derbyshire's success this season with his leadership of a team that really is a team. Many's the time when getting down to nine, ten, jack at Derbyshire saw the roller getting started up. With someone of the ability of Tim Groenewald at number eleven, it is fair to say that Derbyshire don't really have a tail. That ability and a fighting spirit coming from the strongest team ethic I have ever seen in a Derbyshire eleven is overcoming some top order fallibilities and taking us to the brink of promotion.

While I hate to say "I told you so", I did just that last night. There are a few contrite comments below last night's piece but I had little doubt that we would avoid the follow on and make 300. I have to admit, however, that if you'd told me we would go from 253-8 to 512-8 I might not have believed you...

Where does that leave the game? Well, we ain't going to lose it, that's for sure. Madsen and Poynton have to bat on tomorrow and I guess the aim is to get 150 ahead then put Northamptonshire under pressure. I find it hard to believe we can win this one, but even three points for the draw look like being more than our nearest rivals Hampshire will get. With six wickets left, they still need 364 to beat Leicestershire. Sounds like they need a Madsen and Poynton job to me...

Those likely three points will take Derbyshire 17 points clear of Hampshire with a game in hand and thirty clear of Yorkshire in third. While Kent could still throw a spanner in the works when we play down there and Essex will not be pushovers at the County Ground, you'd have to say that it is increasingly looking like our year.

If you're not excited by today and by the Championship table tonight, I'd suggest a trip to the doctor.

Wow. Just, wow...

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 2

What a weird, unexpected day that was.

Derbyshire's talented, valuable lower order will never have a better incentive than they have tomorrow, with the side in a tricky position of 163-5, chasing their opponents 400 at Northampton. 88 more to avoid the follow on and then more runs to gain parity  is the target, with plenty of good batting to come. Batting bonus points, irrespective of the eventual result will be massive.

Why? Because Hampshire imploded spectacularly against Leicestershire, with Derbyshire old boy Wayne White doing us a huge favour with a fine all-round display. 175 ahead on first innings, our local rivals chose not to enforce the follow on, partly because the bowlers will have been tired and partly because they would then have Hampshire on a wearing last day pitch. At 68-2 second time around, a lead of 243 after two days is a position of great strength and Hampshire will need an extraordinary effort to pull something out of the match.

Derbyshire did pretty well to bowl out Northamptonshire for 400, yet the top order fragilities (how often have I written that this summer?) were again in evidence as we slipped to 79-3. A good stand between the skipper and Dan Redfern saw the score to 155 without further loss before the latter, then nightwatchman Tony Palladino went in quick time before the close.

At 155-3 we would have been especially happy tonight, but with Madsen and Whiteley together in the morning we still have the batting in hand to post 300-plus, stay in the game and move a little further away from Hampshire.

In closing tonight a mention for Tony Palladino, whose 5-wicket haul today took him to 46 championship wickets for the summer. It is an outstanding effort by a very good bowler and only Balcombe and Shreck have taken more wickets (48 each) in the division. He has become a real asset to Derbyshire cricket and I hope that we see him pit his talents against the batsmen in the top division next summer.

In the immediate future, that is very much down to the batsmen. Big day tomorrow, time to get the heads down lads!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 1

It probably wasn't the day that Derbyshire hoped for when they turned up at Northampton this morning, but, judge as you never judge a book by its cover, you never judge a cricket match at the end of the first day.

311-6 is a fair effort by a good batting side, with James Middlebrook extending his remarkable batting record against us before the close, when he was unbeaten on 50. The Yorkshireman has always made runs against Derbyshire, both for the county of his birth and for Essex, so his contribution was not unexpected. Rob Newton made a fine century and there were contributions down the order to make it a frustrating day for Derbyshire.

Nonetheless it would appear we stuck to the task on another day of great discipline where we only conceded six leg byes as extras. Such professionalism deserves reward at season-end and we can only hope that it is met by similar work when the batsmen's turn comes. There appears nothing untoward with the wicket and we now need to see our boys bat for a day and a half in reply.

Meanwhile at Leicester, our local rivals did us a good turn with a stoic batting effort against Hampshire, scoring 334-8 by the close. Wayne White got a timely fifty for them, while 18-year old Shiv Thakor looks a cricketer of extraordinary talent, an unbeaten 71 being the latest in a string of fine displays.

Guess Nottinghamshire will sign him at the end of next season then...

In closing tonight, I was amused to see that Ravi Bopara is "guesting" for Gloucestershire against the South African tourists. Presumably, in the light of their capping Australian Ed Cowan on his debut last month, they'll be doing the same for the Essex man?

I wonder if the Saffers might consider a similar deal? Wouldn't say no to Jacques Kallis....

Until tomorrow.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire preview

Sixteen days, forty-eight sessions, four matches to go...

As things stand, if Hampshire in second place got maximum points from their last three matches, Derbyshire would need 62 points to become champions. Of course, for Hampshire to do that  they would need to take maximum points from us at Derby and you would get decent odds on their scoring a first innings 400 in each of their next three games, then take nine wickets and go on to win. It could be done, but...

Conversely, we need another 52 points for guaranteed promotion, which is effectively one win, a couple of good bonus point draws and hold fire, here comes the champers...again, that tally supposes our northerly neighbours got maximum points from their remaining games, which would seem unlikely.

A win at Northampton, starting tomorrow, would do us the world of good. The team are on a roll, following the euphoric win over Kent and the gutsy draw at Headingley and must feel that this is going to be their year. I've been stressing the importance of maintaining focus over recent weeks and that is especially true at this stage of the season, but they are getting close to the finish line now. Very, very close.

Northamptonshire have announced their squad for tomorrow and welcome back their talented seamer Jack Brooks from injury. They have some fine batsmen, with Stephen Peters and David Sales in decent form and Alex Wakely a batsman of genuine potential. Andrew Hall and James Middlebrook usually get runs from our bowling too, so there is a lot of batting to work through. Their squad:

  1. Stephen Peters
  2. Niall O’Brien
  3. David Sales
  4. Alex Wakely
  5. Rob Newton
  6. Andrew Hall ©
  7. James Middlebrook
  8. David Murphy wk
  9. David Willey
  10. Jack Brooks
  11. Luke Evans
  12. Lee Daggett
No news yet of Derbyshire's side or squad, but there are key decisions to be made, assuming that everyone is now fit. Johnson or Poynton for wicket-keeper? Does Clare come back for Turner? Does Lineker stay in ahead of Borrington, after the latter's second team century last week? Assuming they are fit, this would be my side for tomorrow's game:

Wayne Madsen
Matt Lineker
Usman Khawaja
Wes Durston
Dan Redfern
Ross Whiteley
David Wainwright
Richard Johnson
Jonathan Clare
Tony Palladino
Tim Groenewald

I have a feeling that a big innings is around the corner for Matt Lineker, so would retain him on that basis, while Johnson at this stage offers greater potential for runs between two keepers of similar ability with the gloves. Clare has had good experiences at Northampton in the past, so for me would come back in to bolster the batting still further, assuming he is fully fit.

We'll find out how it goes soon enough. The weather forecast looks pretty good, so we should get close to a full playing time. I'm backing the spirit in the Derbyshire camp to give them the edge in this one and think that a crucial win could be ours by Friday evening - if we bat better than of late.

Let's do it boys...

As an added attraction to the end of season...

I've been approached by a company with some new software to do a live, online radio show. This will be partly to promote the blog, but also to get to know a few people, exchange thoughts and comments on the club and generally have a bit of fun.

I plan to do it once a week for the remainder of the season and, if it takes off, it could become a regular event. My plan would be to host it at 9pm one night a week and I'd be keen to find out what evening would suit you best for tuning in to listen or to contribute - or, indeed, if there is no interest!

If the season bubbles up as it looks like doing, I might even do a nightly broadcast over the last few games of the season. We'll see... full details of accessing it will be published when I've got your votes.

Please state your preference on the poll to the left and I will go with the majority. Just so you know, the time has been chosen to allow me time to get home and fed on the week I do my late shift!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Sunday musings

You know one thing I would love to see before the end of the season? Apart from Wayne Madsen's hand's around a trophy, of course...

I would love to see a really strong Derbyshire batting performance. The sort that Hampshire produced today to demolish Northamptonshire. The sort that Derbyshire sides of my experience have produced only rarely, most notably at the time when our batting contained Wright, Hill, Kirsten, Hampshire, Steele and Wood in the top six, with Kim Barnett emerging to break into it.

It's not really the Derbyshire way, of course. Guy Willatt wrote in the 1970 club yearbook  that when he swapped Trent Bridge for Derbyshire he gave up tea scores of 235-1 in favour of 147-8, irrespective of which side was batting. Traditionally, Derbyshire sides have, when successful, scored just enough, quickly enough, to win matches. At less successful times it has been a struggle to see where runs would come from.

This summer has been too wet to be a vintage summer for batting and in the circumstances we have done pretty well to have four batsmen (Guptill, Khawaja, Durston and Redfern) average over 40, but conversely we have the least batting points in the top half of the table. There have been good stands, but too often these have been followed by the loss of two or three quick wickets that have changed a healthy score into something quite different in no time.

Hard as I try, I cannot at this stage picture Derbyshire chasing down 300-plus as Hampshire did yesterday, with wickets in hand. It is something that for another summer, hopefully in another division, we will address. If either Matt Lineker or Paul Borrington could make the transition from heavy scorers in the Seconds to the First XI it would help immensely, as it would if Wayne Madsen could cement his return to the top of the order with a big score or two. New faces have to come in over the winter; not an admission of the failure of the Academy but an understanding that the youngsters emerging need time and good people to play around, While accepting that in Durston, Redfern and Whiteley we have positions 4-6 nicely sorted, the position of the skipper in the top three and the other places have to be sorted.

There have been suggestions of a move for Scott Newman, but at 33 I feel the Middlesex man has probably finished with the first-class game. He has been a decent county opener, but in recent summers has enjoyed less feast than famine and I don't see him as a top first division opener next summer. A good overseas player to partner Madsen and a good domestic player for three would be crucial to our prospects next year and would top my shopping list.

That's for later though, but how nice it would be if our opening pair could put on another century stand in between times, whatever the pairing. This summer we have seen:

18 and 224 (Borrington and Guptill)
4 and 0 (ditto)
0 and 91 unbroken (ditto)
6 (ditto)
9 (ditto)
43 and 51 (ditto)
3 and 96 unbroken (ditto)
19 and 15 (Guptill and Lineker)
43 (Lineker and Hughes)
43 (Lineker and Madsen)
1 and 83 (Lineker and Madsen)
28 and 9 (Lineker and Madsen)

Only one century opening stand this summer (in the opening match) and only one exceeding fifty in the last eight innings. If we could address that and have Usman Khawaja coming in when the shine is off the ball it would go a long way towards cementing that promotion slot.

Borrington or Lineker? The former averages 22 to the latter's 20, with the only other possibility, Chesney Hughes, having seemingly slipped down the pecking order, albeit with few runs at Second XI or club level to bring him back up it. Borrington's big hundred for the Seconds last week may bring him back into consideration for Northampton, but that is this week's big call for Karl Krikken.

Speaking of big calls, England Under-19s slipped out of the World Cup last night, heavily beaten by South Africa. There was poor team selection to be honest, the Saffers winning with four wickets from a young spinner, while England didn't play one worthy of the name. I understood this level of cricket was attempting to mirror the senior game, one in which spinners play a crucial role. Instead the laughingly entitled "selection committee" omit Tom Knight for the whole tournament and he watches twice from the pavilion as a member of the opposition does what he may well have done himself, given the opportunity.

I wouldn't blame the lad, having worked unbelievably hard on his fitness levels over the past twelve months or so, if the thought of "why bother" didn't cross his mind. His long term career will doubtless benefit, but if such muddied team selection is at the helm of our junior creme de la creme it is hardly encouraging.

I'll be back tomorrow with a Northamptonshire preview. Between times, enjoy your weekend.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Yorkshire v Derbyshire day 4

The other day on this blog I wrote that Usman Khawaja owed Derbyshire some runs. By general admission, probably his own, they haven't flowed from his bat in the quantities that might have been expected from a man on the verge of the Australian side. His T20 campaign wasn't great, there's only been a century against the Unicorns in the CB40 and he's only just started to play in the format that is really his forte, the four-day game.

The first innings against Yorkshire saw him depart to a very good catch by the Yorkshire keeper, so there was a lot of pressure on his shoulders when he walked out to bat at Headingley today.

Yet Khawaja responded in the grand style, the best style. His century, made under intense scrutiny and probably with plenty of chat from the opposition, showed what a phlegmatic player he can be once he gets in and gets his head down. I've written before that in his judgement of the ball to leave he reminds me of John Wright and there would have been plenty of opportunities for that today. While it was a day for occupation of the crease, Khawaja also played shots when the opportunities arose, reaching his century with a straight six and in doing so ensuring that Derbyshire's promotion ambitions stayed firmly on track.

At the start of the day, Tim Groenewald, David Wainwright and Mark Turner came so close to avoiding the follow on, though when both openers went quickly, like most Derbyshire fans I feared the worst. Yet overseas star Khawaja and senior pro Wes Durston rebuilt the innings and we looked set for calmer waters when Wes and Dan Redfern went in quick succession.

Full credit should also go to Ross Whiteley, a young player who has had his challenges this summer  and is undeniably a better player when he plays his shots. Yet here, and not for the first time, he showed a wilingness to subjugate his natural game to the needs of the side and played an admirable foil to Khawaja as the two steered us towards safety.

Ross eventually departed, but by then we had edged ahead and it was perhaps fitting that David Wainwright was at the crease when time was called, someone who has played a big part in Derbyshire's resurgence this summer after a somewhat inexplicable release by Yorkshire.

So what does it all mean? Well, we're now 21 points clear of third placed Yorkshire with a game in hand, which considering they only have 72 to play for is massive. Hampshire are now in second place, having closed the gap to eight points with our game in hand still more than useful. They took advantage of a generous declaration by Northamptonshire (whose attack is not the most demanding) to win in some style. Which must have been a little galling for Messrs Wakely and Willey, who grafted well to set a target that always looked gettable. I only hope that they are as generous when we travel there on Tuesday for the start of the next match, one that is played while Hampshire travel to Leicestershire.

At this stage it looks very much like the title will be decided in the season closer against Hampshire at Derby, before which Hampshire also play a home match against Essex, as do Derbyshire. There's also a tricky away trip to Kent for our boys, but they can be proud of their efforts today. I'd go as far as to say that last season we would not have seen that resilience from a Derbyshire side, nor in several summers before it.

It is only fair that, in closing tonight, a final word should go to Usman Khawaja. Whatever struggles he may have had for form, that innings today may just have been the most important of the season. That it earned us three points is of some value. That it denied Yorkshire 16 is priceless.

Well done Usman. A couple more like that in our last four games and we'll be within touching distance of the prize.

Postscript:  as befits the county stereotype, there's considerable gnashing of teeth and moaning on the White Rose Forum tonight.

One correspondent states that  " Derbyshire are not the best side in this Division and the table does lie. There are at least 3 better sides than them, but they will get promoted. They have Northants, Essex, Kent and Hampshire to play. I'm not sure they'll pick up a lot more points."

All of which appears accompanied by the sourest of grapes and somewhat ignores the fact that we have beaten three of them already this summer...

Friday, 17 August 2012

Yorkshire v Derbyshire day 3

Hands up everyone who expects to be nibbling their nails tomorrow afternoon at some point?

Yes, me too and the fact that I'm working won't stop me loading a desktop scorecard from time to time to check on our progress. Much like the last day of the Kent game, this is season-defining stuff. Another 38 runs tomorrow and we avoid the follow on and surely, surely save the game. If we don't quite manage that, reaching 250 would get us another bonus point and then the last pair occupying the crease for a while would take some of the pain from the second innings.

Has a Derbyshire side had such a reason to battle in the middle in recent years? I doubt it. I would like to think that it is unlikely we could lose twelve wickets in a day, but the recent track record of our top order leaves me wary of feeling too relaxed tonight. The first session, with a new ball imminent and England bowlers past and present to share it, will be crucial, but I am sure that our players will go into the final day's play ready and willing to graft.

Like most of you, having seen the weather forecasts last night and this morning I was astonished that there was so much play today and tomorrow seems set for better weather. We can expect a lot of overs, especially with Rafiq and Rashid in the side and a draw would be a massive result for Derbyshire, especially from a game in which we have largely been outplayed.

Full credit to Wes Durston, who turned around a horrid first hour with some fluent strokes, as well as to Ross Whiteley, who showed a willingness to graft that belied his relative inexperience. Of course, the end of the day belonged to David Wainwright and how nice it would be if he could see his way to 70 or 80 tomorrow, a score that would stymie his old county and be of massive importance to the one that will be his home for the next four years. If Tim Groenewald can replicate his Kent heroics at the other end, 38 more runs is feasible...

Should we get a draw, the likelihood is that we would remain 22 points clear of Yorkshire with a game in hand. Hampshire, 256 runs behind Northamptonshire with the very talented Alex Wakely unbeaten on 61, will have a lot to do to close the gap too, though would seem to have a better chance than Kent. They would require the most contrived of finishes to get anything from their game at Bristol, where there has been eleven overs cricket in three days.

That Derbyshire will need to up their game, especially their batting, from what has been shown in this game is undeniable. So too is the fact that the team spirit that has served them so well this summer is alive and well.

Tomorrow it will need to be. Don't let us down now, lads.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Top marks to Bozza

A fine century from Paul Borrington, captaining the side, led the Second XI to a terrific win on the final day against Essex at the County Ground today.

With good assistance from the precocious talent that is Peter Burgoyne, Borrington led his side to a win that seemed unlikely when Essex had posted 400 in the first innings of the match.

Great work Paul!

Yorkshire v Derbyshire day 2

Given the state of the game, the season, the pitch and the weather I would be very surprised and bitterly disappointed if Derbyshire lost this game in the next two days.

There appears little wrong with the wicket, considering how Yorkshire progressed serenely to 400-5 before losing five wickets in 3 madcap overs. I did wonder, considering their need to win the match, just why they batted on after making the maximum batting points, but I guess they expected to slog along to 450 quickly and then hope to bowl out Derbyshire twice in the time remaining. We could have done without losing the skipper to the last ball of the day, but one would hope that will not count for too much in the grand scheme of things.

Derbyshire stuck to their task well on what appears a fairly blameless pitch at this stage and one of the innings curios was that there were no byes nor no balls in the innings, highlighting a bowling effort of some considerable discipline and good work by the returning Tom Poynton.

Another was that in an innings lasting two balls shy of 114 overs, seven of the wickets were taken by two men, Wes Durston and Ross Whiteley, who bowled only eighteen between them. I can understand Wayne Madsen not overbowling Whiteley as he returns from injury, but feel that on occasions he could use Durston more than he does. As I have written before, he has an impressive habit of taking wickets quickly in a new spell, as he did twice today. With David Wainwright not 100% with a shoulder injury, Durston could and perhaps should have bowled more than 8.4 overs for remarkable, career-best figures of 5-34. The end of the innings may have suggested to some that the wicket had started to turn, but given Yorkshire didn't bowl a spinner before the close it is more likely that it was a series of poor shots

The weather forecast for Leeds tomorrow suggests little cricket will be played and while Yorkshire will probably end the game having harvested more bonus points than us, by the end of it they will have only three games remaining while we will still have four and a sizeable lead.

Things are also looking favourable elsewhere from a results perspective, with Kent barely on the field in the first two days and Hampshire not too far on in their game against Northamptonshire.

Derbyshire? When we next get on the pitch we need to bat and bat, that's all. No daft shots, just more of the self-discipline that was shown in the second innings against Kent and we'll be fine.

Just as long as we're not down to Redfern and Groenewald in the second innings when time is called...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Yorkshire v Derbyshire day 1

At the end of a severely truncated day, honours were pretty much even in my book.

Derbyshire may have hoped to get more early wickets, but removing their top overseas batsman plus their skipper counts as a result, for me. If we can separate this pair quickly tomorrow, with Hodd at six and Rashid at seven our opponents have a long tail that may not fancy facing the pace of Turner, as we saw at Chesterfield.

The wicket would not appear to hold undue problems and, having won the toss and opted to bowl, we can only assume that Karl Krikken and Wayne Madsen don't expect a turner by day four. More rain is expected tomorrow, though not as prolonged as that experienced after lunch. Derbyshire can now control this game, perhaps more so than if Yorkshire had gone for (and successfully chased) a stiff target on the last day. We now just need to avoid defeat...or win it, of course.

Elsewhere, former Derbyshire player Ian Blackwell has moved to Warwickshire on loan from Durham, opening up the possibilities of a permanent move and fourth county for the 34 year old. For all that he has had a good career, has scored his runs and taken wickets, I don't feel that the lad ever fully realised the potential that was patently obvious when he was playing for our Second XI. I've written before about a century I watched him score at Queens Park, many years ago, when he would have been about 17 and made the game look ridiculously easy. Wherever the ball was pitched it was despatched with the minimum of fuss and I asked Alan Hill, then in charge of the side, who he was.

Hill's enthusiasm for the youngster's talent was almost tangible, yet he didn't spend too long at the County Ground, opting for a move to Somerset, where the short boundaries meshed well with his ability to hit a long ball. England selection followed, but his 29 one-day innings for an average of just under 15 did scant justice to his talent.

Part of the problem has been his fitness levels and Blackwell has, in an era of whippet-slim cricketers, stood out more than perhaps should have been the case. There are those who will argue, like Samit Patel, that its what he does with a bat and ball in hand that should matter, but the reality is that if a player with such a build is run out, makes a fielding error, or picks up injuries he becomes an easy target. At county level, even now, there is an option for girth (David Sales, Robert Croft and Mark Cosgrove come to mind) but they are an endangered species.

I hope Blackwell has a few more seasons in him, as in full flight (sadly, too often against Derbyshire) he is a fine sight, but his age and fitness record combine to suggest that Warwickshire, or whoever signs him, will be a final destination.

Until tomorrow, when we'll all hope for better weather at Heandingley.

Or not...if we're content with the draw.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Yorkshire v Derbyshire preview

By any standards, this is a massive match. While Derbyshire failed to acquit themselves well in the corresponding fixture at Chesterfield, it is hard to believe that a competitive young side that has played aggressive championship cricket all summer will roll over at Headingley over the next four days.

There will also be weather interruptions, with Wednesday likely to lose a fair portion of the afternoon/evening sessions. There may well be enough time for a positive result though, as I find it hard to believe that Yorkshire will prepare anything other than a result pitch. Whether that means leaving grass on for the seamers, or shaving it off to aid spin as the match goes on is the question. In previous summers the latter was more likely, but our hosts will be wary of the abilities of Wainwright and Durston if the ball turns. Mind you, for all the fact that they have talented seamers of their own, they will be wary of the talents of Palladino and Groenewald with the new ball, along with whoever gets the nod from Clare, Turner and Footitt alongside them.

The table tells no lies and Derbyshire are top by virtue of having won more matches than anyone. It also tells that this success is down to the ability of the attack to take wickets, as no side has more bowling bonus points. Conversely, no side in the top half has less batting bonus points and the side needs to show a collective responsibility to run-scoring, led of course by the top order.

Indeed, if you combined Yorkshire's batting and our bowling it would be a side of serious talent, yet Yorkshire miss out on two of their best with Bairstow and Root on England duty. It still leaves a decent outfit in the following announced squad of twelve:

Andrew Gale (capt), Adam Lyth, Phil Jaques, Gary Ballance, Anthony McGrath, Adil Rashid, Andrew Hodd (wk), Azeem Rafiq, Richard Pyrah, Ryan Sidebottom, Steve Patterson and Moin Ashraf.

Hodd has arrived from Sussex as wicket-keeper till the season end, though the released Gerard Brophy would perhaps have lengthened the batting line-up more than the admittedly talented Hodd. IF we can make early inroads and get the ever-dangerous Ballance in against the new ball, winning the match will become a strong possibility. I'd see their final place between Pyrah, who would lengthen the batting and Ashraf, a talented seamer.

As for Derbyshire, the squad has still to be announced but there are concerns over the fitness of both Jonathan Clare and Richard Johnson. In a match of this importance, it is unlikely that Karl Krikken will take any risks, especially when he has more than adequate alternatives at his disposal. I would see Derbyshire lining up as follows - David Wainwright's sore shoulder notwithstanding:

Wayne Madsen, Matt Lineker, Usman Khawaja, Wes Durston, Dan Redfern, Ross Whiteley, David Wainwright, Tom Poynton, Tony Palladino, Tim Groenewald, Mark Turner

It will be a battle royal, but the weather may well have the final say. Derbyshire will be far from unhappy with a draw and are unlikely to give our northern rivals a sniff of a win if they can help it.

My money lies on points shared on Saturday night, but we need to ensure we are totally focussed and don't underestimate dangerous and worthy opponents.

By the same token we should be confident. Such an attitude has got us top of the pile and in five games time this young team can become club legends, way ahead of any schedule that most fans predicted.

Over to you, now boys...

Ever so slightly amused and bemused...

Today's star prize in the "Diplomatic web entry" award category goes to the guys behind Derbyshire County Cricket Club's site.

As was written in their report of day one of the Second XI fixture against Essex, writing about Greg Smith:

"Smith departed the County Ground last term, however he has found difficulties in securing a regular middle order berth in a side packed with quality all-rounders. He will have been pleased to show his old employers just what has made him such a success at First-Class level, and he resumes his innings on day two 118 not out."

Well, he did progress to 150 today, but it was in stark contrast to a season in which he has averaged 17 with the bat and 58 with the ball (for six wickets) in their first team.

With such stats he'd have a struggle taking a middle order berth from me at my club. I don't think Ryan ten Doeschate will be losing a lot of sleep right now...

Monday, 13 August 2012

Monday musings

A few years back, Elvis Costello had a decent-sized hit with the old George Jones country music classic "A Good Year for the Roses". That may well have been the case (and ours have been pretty good this summer, despite the rain) but its been a distinctly average one for overseas players.

I have always been firm about overseas players. For a batsman to justify the expense of bringing them over, an average of 45-50 HAS to be achieved. Forty is OK, but a decent county player can make 30-40 and I've never seen the point of bringing over someone who is little better than you already have. We had our share of under-achievers at Derbyshire, with Jon Moss being only average, Shahid Afridi poor and Michael Slater a major disappointment. Similarly, for bowlers wickets should be taken under 25 each, though a little give and take has to be allowed for unfavourable conditions.

Looking at the championship statistics, Martin Guptill is a standout among batsmen, averaging 50 from 600 runs. Chris Rogers has scored 770 runs at Middlesex, albeit at a lower average (40) than usual, Ashwell Prince has 877 runs at 46, while Ramnaresh Sarwan has 845 runs at 42 for Leicestershire. Most overseas batsmen have found this summer a challenge, with Simon Katich (40) Michael Klinger (29) and Alviro Petersen (21) much lower than might have been expected.

Mind you, Moises Henriques average of 5, batting at five in the early season, was a salutory lesson in taking a gamble at Glamorgan, while Jacques Rudolph's surprisingly low 22 was a disappointment at Surrey and highlights the difficulties of early season wickets, making Guptill's statistics all the more laudable.

Having cited the above, I'd have to say that Usman Khawaja owes us runs in our last championship matches, as he's been low on runs thus far on steadily improving tracks. A century against the Unicorns doesn't really count in my book and there have been few innings of note other than against his fellow countrymen. Usman came over to press his claims for the national side and at this stage hasn't done that. I hope he turns it around in the crucial matches to come as he is a popular and good cricketer, but the reality is that it hasn't gone for him so far.

The two standouts on the bowling front this summer have been Jeetan Patel (46 wickets at 22)  for Warwickshire, a major factor in their fine season and Steve Magoffin at Sussex. The latter has 300 championship runs at 27 and 46 wickets at 18 and has proved a superb signing, one who may well get a contract for another summer.

Yet there are no guarantees in the game. Last summer Chaminda Vaas was a standout for Northamptonshire, a major factor in their promotion push with 70 wickets at 21 and 400 runs at 27. Yet this summer has been one too many for the 38 year old. I saw him in the early season at Derby, where he moved with the alacrity of an arthritic hippo, bowled gentle dobbers and looked fairly disinterested. Fast forward to August and he has averaged 6 with the bat and has six wickets at 47. "Vaas won't play again this season" said the headline the other day. I don't see him being missed, with those statistics...

Elsewhere, Gerard Brophy of Yorkshire has become the latest senior cricketer to be released. A solid county professional with a good record, he had several more summers in him, but the younger Andrew Bairstow will take the gloves there from now on - always assuming he doesn't become an England regular, of course.

Finally tonight, Leicestershire's dogged tailend resistance saw them prevent Northamptonshire from closely joining the pack chasing Derbyshire in division two. We're 41 points ahead of them and 26 clear of our nearest challengers, Hampshire and Yorkshire, with a game in hand on all of them.

We will never have a better chance of promotion than this summer, with 120 points to play for, while our opponents have only 96. A win at Headingley would go a long way to making this young squad only the fifth in our long history to win a trophy.

Now THAT'S something to shout about...

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Kent v Derbyshire CB40

In the words of that legend of cricket writing, Elvis Presley, lawdy, lawdy. lawdy Miss Clawdy - we made a pig's ear of today.

Youngster Peter Burgoyne had a fine all-round match and can hold his head high, while Alex Hughes also bowled a tidy spell to confirm the good impression that he has made, but the rest...oh dear. One to forget - and quickly. While the skipper battled hard for nearly an hour, there was little support until Burgoyne's late cameo.

Full marks to Sam Billings, a batsman of genuine potential, for a remarkable century on a pitch where no one else really got going, but Derbyshire's batting again failed in a display as far removed from that against Sussex as is possible.

More tomorrow in Monday musings

Kent v Derbyshire CB40

I don't feel there's a lot of importance attached to this game today, as Derbyshire would need a strange combination of circumstances in which to qualify from the group, despite sitting in a more healthy third place.

Yet a win would be useful to keep momentum going and to keep Kent's heads down after a couple of poor results. It's a different competition, of course, but if we can help to mentally dissipate the championship aspirations of one of our rivals then it is no bad thing.

I would expect to see much the same side that played so well against Sussex at Derby, namely

Hughes, Khawaja, Durston, Madsen, Redfern, Whiteley, Hughes, Johnson, Wainwright, Groenewald, Turner.

More later

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Selection oddities

Team selection is a funny thing, dependent on the level of the game.

At decent club level, there are selection meetings to discuss the relative merits of players and assess their form from the previous weekend (and in the nets) ahead of the weekend to come. Getting a blend of youth and experience can be important, as can making sure you have enough people who are happy to drive to that away fixture, which will take an hour or more to get to. So too can Bill's ability to stand his ground against the opposition's quick bowler from the sub-continent.

At the village level that I now play, other factors come into play. You have to pick Fred, as he prepares the ground, Charlie because he's fixtures secretary and Dave - well, you pick Dave because his wife always sends him away with the best array of comestibles in the club, bar none. Then you pick enough decent players to give you the chance of a competitive game and pray that none of them call in on the day of the game to say that their tortoise has died and a burial at sea is the only proper way to give the little critter a send-off...

All of which is a precursor to the top level of the game, where you assume that even-handedness would be de rigeur. But in some cases, it isn't.

Here in Scotland, for years there was a known east/west divide. The selectors of the national team were primarily based in Edinburgh and therefore saw more of cricket in the capital than elsewhere. Lo and behold, at team selections there were usually far more players from that neck of the woods, stretching parochial tendencies to the limit. Far too many good cricketers in and around Glasgow didn't get a national call, because they were rarely seen.

In the era before the First World War, England team selections often saw a local favourite brought in to boost the crowd. In between the wars, sides were increasingly selected by committees who were primarily based down south, so northern players were often perceived to require to be twice as good as their southern counterparts to gain selection. This attitude, of course, persisted into the 1950's, which is why Les Jackson was only selected twice for England, in 1947 and 1961, despite being widely regarded by players as the best seam bowler in the country. There were denials of bias, of course, but the feeling remains that Jackson was treated appallingly by the cricketing establishment. These were, presumably, the descendants of those who reputedly declined to pick the fine turn of the century Nottinghamshire bowler "Topsy" Wass for national duty on account of his appalling table manners...

Fast forward to the present day and thankfully such parochialism, snobbery and bias is a thing of the past, but selection curios still abound. Steve Kirby was still gaining selection for England Lions when past his 30th birthday, while James Tredwell emulated him last week by playing against Australia A when six months short of his 31st. What more do we hope to learn of them, or of Samit Patel? It seems strange, to me at least, that when we are incentivising counties to play under 23s and under 26s that we aren't looking at more of these age groups in such matches, instead bringing in Nick Compton, albeit in the form of his life, at 29. One could, of course, argue that a thousand runs at Taunton was worth 650 elsewhere, but that might be deemed churlish...

Which brings me neatly to my last selection curiosity and its time to take a bow for those at the helm of England Under-19s. Logic suggests that when you are playing in a World Cup you select your strongest side, unless having already qualified and needing to rest players. That being the case, logic suggested that Tom Knight of Derbyshire would be in the side for the first match. Sure, he'd had some long handle from Pakistan in one warm up match, but that sort of things happens to any bowler from time to time. That Knight followed it with collective figures of 4-7 in the two ensuing matches suggested that normal service had been resumed. The sort of service that saw him as a standout in the side's pre-tour matches against county Second XIs and a bowler who has shown that he can dismiss very good batsmen for Derbyshire's senior team.

But no. The selectors decided that Knight was surplus to requirements for a game in which the Australian off spinner took three wickets and England were beaten with a piffling 89 balls remaining. As one of the more experienced members of the side, Knight should have been one of the first names on the team sheet, especially when his all-round efforts had got them out of a jam in a previous match.

I'm not going to suggest that the southern-based selection committee omitted the lad "because he is from Derbyshire", though it would be tempting and easy to do so. What I am going to say is that as a selection it is odd that preference was given to a lad with no first-class experience and a far inferior track record, albeit from a county with who the head coach has a thirty-year association...

Sorry, did I say odd?

I meant stupid.

Derbyshire v South Africa day 2

In the end, as it was always likely to be, the game ended in a draw, but a young Derbyshire side were far from disgraced.

Indeed, two telling performances came today from players who have had their struggles this season, but may yet have a major contribution to make to the campaign.

Ross Whiteley hadn't hit a fifty since the opening game, but doing so today from a good South African attack, will do him the world of good after his return from injury. He appeared to be hitting the ball well and, with a potential ten innings left this summer in the four-day game, that can only be good news.

As for Mark Footitt, he showed - albeit against the Saffer tail - that he is a quick and awkward bowler. Very few lower order batsmen like quick bowling and when it is coming from the left hander's angle it is especially difficult to face when the line is right. On the quicker, end of season pitches, I have a feeling that a major contribution from Footitt isn't far away. Following on from a five wicket haul against Scotland A, Footitt's return to form and fitness is exactly at the right time for Karl Krikken, who has a full hand of seamers to choose from ahead of the visit next week to Headingley.

As things stand, I might be inclined to go for either Mark Turner or Mark Footitt ahead of Jonathan Clare at this stage. Their extra pace may be handy, as Turner showed at Chesterfield when he ripped the Yorkshire middle/lower order apart. With Ross Whiteley able to bowl a few overs too (how big a confidence boost is bowling Amla?) there are plenty of options for Krikk ahead of the big one.


I've never been one for counting chickens before they are hatched, to use the old and time-honoured phrase, but there will be more than a few Derbyshire fans out there right now wondering if this is really to be our year.

As always, I will be perfectly honest and say that for us not to go up this summer, as champions, would now be a major disappointment. We control our own destiny, it is as simple as that. Twenty-six points clear and a game in hand on all of our rivals is a position that most sides would love and the truth is that such a position is deserved and the result of some high quality performances.

Winning is a nice habit to have and I got the impression, watching Derbyshire's body language against previously unbeaten Sussex in the week, that they believe in themselves. They have proved their ability against weaker and stronger sides in the division and need only to retain that belief and keep doing the right things over the next twenty days of championship cricket and we will be crossing that finishing line in first place.

Next week's game at Headingley is massive for me. A win there and even the sceptics will be convinced. A draw would do us nicely. Defeat? No, let's not think about that at this stage...

Should Derbyshire go up to the top division, of course, there would be a sea change in public opinion. Fans would be ecstatic, a few cynics would shut up (temporarily, at least) and the astonishing work that has gone on at the club would come to wider notice.

Yet the work would really start there. What we do not want at Derbyshire is a replication of Derby County when they went into the Premiership, becoming the laughing stock of the country. I don't think that would happen, because we have some very good players who can pit their talents against supposed betters, as we showed against Sussex. We will need an injection of new blood though, people who can provide us with a genuine top-class squad, as opposed to a good first eleven with seven players in reserve.

How we go about that from a financial perspective is a matter I will leave to Messrs Grant and Storey, better qualified than I (or anyone else reading this, I'd wager) to work out what we can afford, but the reality is that Derbyshire need new personnel in key areas to make a serious impact on the top division.

First, for all the talent in our seam attack, I think we need another proven performer, a wicket-taking bowler who can ideally contribute with the bat. Groenewald and Palladino are the real deal, quality performers who will either take wickets or keep it quiet, but can we expect them to stay fit, season after season though? Jon Clare is capable of good spells too, though his bowling seems less penetrative of late and his batting hasn't really progressed. Mark Turner has and while still prone to erratic spells, is a much better bowler than the one that arrived at the county, while Mark Footitt is seriously quick but still with question marks over his ability to stay fit over the season. For me, another, proven performer would be required for us to make a sustained impact, a player who has shown that he can take regular wickets at county level to put pressure on the regulars and ideally become just that himself.

The spin bowling is in good hands with David Wainwright, and Tom Knight will come increasingly into the mix. Wes Durston is a useful backup, as is Chesney Hughes, though I'd sooner the latter rediscover his batting mojo than become a bit-part player. Peter Burgoyne may also come through and I have few qualms about that facet of our game.

Another wicket-keeper would be an asset too, as competition for places is a factor in success. Tom Poynton has had a pretty good first season, but we need a second man of confirmed county standard to keep him on his toes. I am a big fan of Richard Johnson, who has done little wrong in his stint at the County Ground, but time will tell if we are able to move for the player on a permanent basis.

Which brings us to the batting. I think we need a couple of players, one of who will be our overseas, and I would personally like to see Wayne Madsen open again next summer. I think he is the best opener on the staff and as such should, captaincy pressures notwithstanding, be opening the batting. With Durston, Redfern and Whiteley in the middle order, along with Hughes, we have a solid look, but an established first wicket down player and an opener, alongside Madsen, would for me head the winter shopping list.

I covered this in detail back at the start of June and haven't changed my mind since then. Next summer will prove extraordinarily difficult for the recruitment of overseas stars and, with only Zimbabwe clear of overseas tours to the four corners of the earth (aside from the ICC Trophy) Brendan Taylor is a standout cricketer. A dynamic batsman, fine fielder, useful spinner and solid wicket-keeper, as well as his country's skipper, he is exactly the sort of player that a county should be looking at. Taylor can either open or go in at three, something that holds considerable appeal, and his dynamic batting would be an asset in all forms of the game.

A county that aims to make a mark next summer, like Derbyshire, has to get in early for a top overseas player, rather than rooting around for scraps once the ICC Trophy squads have been announced. Throw in another overseas batsman for the T20  - the bowlers aren't the problem - and we would be in good shape for 2013. With two good T20 batsmen we could make an impact in that form of the game. The reality is that this summer we effectively played without one.

Time for a few car boot sales to raise the cash, methinks...

Derbyshire v South Africa day 1

As I wrote last night, a good work out for both sides, with South Africa not unduly worried by Derbyshire's secnd string attack and Derbyshire replying well through Wayne Madsen and Usman Khawaja. Both have a lot to prove in this game and we can expect more of the same tomorrow, assuming batting conditions remain favourable.

The best news of the day came from Essex's game against Kent, where the latter went down to a second successive defeat. Derbyshire are now 26 points clear of the three nearest chasing counties with a match in hand, a wonderful position to be in as we approach the business end of the season.

I fully expect Yorkshire to prepare a result pitch at Headingley, as they cannot afford to not win the game. A draw would suit us just fine, but a win would, for me, come close to sealing a promotion place if not, at that stage, the title.

Yorkshire will be missing Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow (both playing form England Lions v Australia A in the second unofficial Test) and Derbyshire need have no fears going into this massive match  - which I will preview in due course.

For now - sleep well. Sorry about the late blog tonight, but we drove back late from Blackpool this evening so it's time for bed chez Peakfan right now.

Until the next time - tomorrow!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Derbyshire v South Africa preview

A proud day for Wayne Madsen tomorrow, as he captains a Derbyshire side against his fellow countrymen for the first time.

The first choice Derbyshire batting will play, while the attack will be led by Mark Footitt, Ally Evans and Alex Hughes. With Robin Peterson returning to Derbyshire for the first time, there will be plenty to enjoy in a two-day match that will be a good run out for both sides. The result, however, is largely irrelevant.

Elsewhere in cricket, Hampshire could only draw against Gloucestershire, while Kent are in grave danger of going down to Essex. This could see us in the very strong position of 26 points clear WITH A GAME IN HAND...

Sleep well on that my friends. I'm in Blackpool right now, so its off with the "Kiss Me Quick" hat and goodnight from me...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Derbyshire v Sussex

"Are you sure they're not a good one-day side Dad? They look pretty good to me."

Thus spoke Peakfan junior at the County Ground this evening, as he watched, seriously impressed, as Derbyshire easily beat the previously undefeated Sussex in a 40-over game.

You will have seen it on Sky, no doubt (and so avoided the sunburn I got...) and hopefully were as impressed as we were by a brilliant Derbyshire fielding display in which Ross Whiteley and Wes Durston were excellent. So too, apart from one early fumble, was wicket-keeper Richard Johnson, who showed a good pair of hands and an alert mind, especially with the unusual but brilliant stumping of Machan. Durston again showed his value with the ball, while David Wainwright showed why his new four-year contract represents another highly encouraging move by the county with a lovely spell of slow left arm. The lad is a class act and for me there are few better spinners in the country. James Tredwell, for some reason currently playing for England Lions, isn't in the same league, quite frankly.

Usman Khawaja was also in good fielding form on the boundary with some agile work and it was such a shame when he was needlessly run out from the first ball of Derbyshire's reply. Chesney Hughes played a couple of firm strokes without suggesting permanence against the hostile pace of Amjad Khan and the game was in the balance when Wayne Madsen joined Wes Durston. The latter played beautifully once more before being strangled down the leg side, having looked in little trouble, but his dismissal brought in the sumptuously talented Dan Redfern, like Wainwright justifiably awarded his county cap today.

Redfern was in great touch and hits the ball so cleanly that Derbyshire were always up with the asking rate. Meanwhile, Wayne Madsen at the other end played a captain's innings, watchful at first but then opening out with some delightful strokes. Redfern went for 49 just before the end, but Derbyshire were clear and worthy winners in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd.

The positive atmosphere around the club was almost tangible tonight, with the team buzzing after the championship win against Kent. Mark Turner and Tim Groenewald both bowled well with the new ball, Turner being especially quick while Groenewald did what he always does - bowling accurately and with decent pace. They are fine bowlers and I was also impressed by young Alex Hughes, who is a busy bowler, nipping it around off the seam and causing problems for all the batsmen. For me, he is one to watch and I wouldn't be surprised to see him progress from a summer contract to a full time deal next year. After his batting at Chesterfield, Hughes looks a cricketer with a future.

It was, in short, a fine team performance and the only pity is that we didn't produce such excellent all-round cricket earlier in the one-day campaign. When you're good enough to beat - with ease - a top of the table, unbeaten side like Sussex, fans have a right to wonder "if only".

This team can, on the basis of tonight's performance, play one-day cricket. Next summer we need to show that we can do so on a regular basis, especially in front of TV cameras.

Next, the South Africans. Then back to the championship and Yorkshire at Headingley. The climax to the season is bubbling up nicely...