Saturday, 29 September 2012

Three-year deal for Palladino

More good news for Derbyshire fans to wake up to this morning in that Tony Palladino has signed a new three-year deal at the club.

As one half of our key seam attack with Tim Groenewald, Palladino has had another superb season that saw him top the championship wicket-takers and be elected Supporters Player of the Season.

Following on from the news of a similar deal for Ross Whiteley yesterday, it is further proof of the increased professionalism at the County Ground, ensuring that key personnel are retained for a lengthy period in what appears set to be an exciting era for the club.

Happy days!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Something for the weekend

You have to give Yorkshire their due. They're wasting no time in their recruitment plans and have followed yesterday's signing of Jack Brooks with a planned swoop for Liam Plunkett of Durham in the next few days.

It changes my opinion on their prospects for next summer, although the caveat to that statement is the inevitable "if they stay fit". Plunkett was highly rated a few years back but injuries have taken their toll and perhaps a fresh start is what he needs. At 27 he can still improve, but one has the impression that his career has regressed, especially over the last two seasons. Maybe Jason Gillespie will get the best from him and  if he does the Yorkies will be a decent side next summer.

Derbyshire's outlay will be perforce more modest, but we're going about things differently. Today saw the announcement of a new three-year deal for Ross Whiteley, one that will doubtless be the first of many. Derbyshire presumably moved to sign up Whiteley quickly before he heads for a winter in Australia and the thought of this talented young player in Derbyshire colours for the next three summers at least is a reassuring one.

While this summer was a steep, second year learning curve for him, Whiteley came through it and showed both sides of his game in the closing weeks. The batting was always likely to return to normal service, as the player marries a sound technique with remarkable power when well set. Most reassuring, of course, was the re-emergence of his bowling. He developed a habit of taking important wickets at the start of spells, and while still bowling an occasional bad ball he looked to have increased rhythm and confidence by season-end. A mid-summer injury limited him for a while, but as the Sky pundits said during the Hampshire game, he looks a player who could yet add pace to his bowling.

Think how valuable such an all-rounder would be at number six! A powerful batsman and a genuine seamer, left handed for useful variety. Whiteley is likely to play a massive role in Derbyshire's future fortunes and, at his best, give us valuable balance.

The next few weeks will be exciting and I expect to see news of other signings, as well as information on the next intake to the county academy. For those who like to see such things, you can read details of the exploits of age group sides here. There seem to be some talented lads in the different age groups, with Callum Brodrick, a 14-year old playing for Dunstall's senior team, one who could come under consideration. I'm sure that Howard Dytham will have clear ideas of what he is looking for and that competition for places will be fierce. A place on the Academy will be cherished and if we can find another Redfern, Whiteley, Burgoyne or Hughes we will be pretty happy.

Finally tonight, I read earlier that Rory Hamilton-Brown has opted to return to Sussex next summer after a traumatic summer with Surrey in which his best friend and flat mate Tom Maynard tragically died.

I wish the lad the very best on his move and hope that in doing so he finds the inner peace that must have been difficult had he stayed in London. I am sure that all cricket-lovers will wish him the same.

Have a good weekend folks. Oh...and happy two-week anniversary!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The merry-go-round begins...

It's all been kicking off on the county circuit today.

Surrey have made an approach to South African skipper Graeme Smith to turn his back on Test cricket and become their new captain. It is a bold and laudable move, though I would be surprised if Smith will turn his back on a national side that looks set to be top dogs for some time. Having worked hard to get them to that position, I feel Smith would be silly to walk away from it now when they have a side of some considerable talent. He could, after all, go down in history as a man who created a dynasty. This might happen anyway, but if Surrey can tempt him from the riches he must earn as captain of his national side, the offer would have to be massive. So massive, in fact, that I hope no one suggests that we could or should have gone for him.

If I'm honest, I'd say it's a fairly impressive publicity stunt, one that puts a club shorn of its major batting talent (Maynard, Ramprakash and Hamilton-Brown) back in the public eye. We'll be seeing "Kallis heads for Leicestershire" next...

Speaking of our East Midlands rivals, they've signed Robbie Williams (not that one...) from Middlesex, which could be a decent signing for them. He's had a few injuries and they have set him back a bit, but the lad is a fair bowler and could do well in division two. That's the one below Derbyshire, by the way...

Heading north and Jack Brooks has signed a likely lucrative three-year deal with Yorkshire. He is a good bowler and will go some way towards improving their bowling strength, undoubtedly their weaker suit. Both he and his new employers will hope for better fitness than was shown this summer though.

The most interesting news was George Dobell's story on Cricinfo that Derbyshire are interested in Essex opening batsman Billy Godleman. I'd heard murmurings to that effect in the championship decider against Hampshire, but there may be credence to the tale with it out in the public domain.

There is no doubt that Godleman can play and the likelihood is that he would improve his game in working with David Houghton in particular. A tall left-hander, Godleman currently averages a fifty or more in every five innings, a good ratio at the age of 23. He can really only improve and would be a more than useful addition to the Derbyshire batting line-up.

The big question, I suppose, is if he fancies moving up north and batting on different types of wickets to those he has been accustomed to. Having thought about it, my suggestion is that for Godleman to progress and realise his obvious talent, he really has to.

Think about it a moment. He's already played for Middlesex (where they had a lot of opening batsmen) and Essex, where team spirit was reportedly not especially good this summer. With Key, Bell-Drummond and Northeast, Kent are unlikely to be in the market, while Hampshire have Carberry and Adams, a solid pairing. Sussex have the prolific Joyce and Nash, which only leaves Surrey.  I'd see them as the likeliest rivals for his services, given how many players they have lost, but have a few young openers of their own who might now deserve a chance to stake a claim.

Godleman and the right overseas player would be a potentially good opening pair.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Thoughts on the Johnson signing

I think that one has to make a few assumptions when considering the merits of signing Richard Johnson from Warwickshire.

Let me be clear from the outset that I rate Johnson very highly. He is a very good wicket-keeper and, when I saw him in Derbyshire colours in the CB40 against Sussex this summer, he pulled off one of the more remarkable stumpings I have seen. The ball, jammed down by the advancing batsman, bounced high above his head, which he grabbed and was still quick enough to remove the bails before the batsman got back to his crease. It was a brilliant piece of work which backs up general consensus that he is one of the better young wicket-keepers in the game.

However, Tom Poynton did little wrong in 2012, solid, at times spectacular with the gloves and improving remarkably with the bat. So much so that he was perhaps our most consistent performer in the last four games and certainly not worthy of being demoted to second choice.

By the same token, it is unlikely that Johnson would swap being reserve at division one champions Warwickshire for being the same with division two champions Derbyshire. The former are a side who pay well and I would assume that Derbyshire had to match his Edgbaston salary to lure him to the County Ground.

So my suggestion to you would be that Johnson is coming in because David Houghton and Karl Krikken have seen in him a batting technique that will see him play as a specialist batsman and as backup to Poynton with the gloves. I totally accept that Johnson's career batting average may not lend credence to this view, but for me it is the way that the deal makes best sense. He has good footwork and a strong technique and my feeling is that he is seen as a potential opening bat. Maybe opportunity is what he needs to flower. After all, James Pipe suggested little as a batsman at Worcestershire when batting at nine or ten, but came on in leaps and bounds when batted at seven in Derbyshire colours.

Yes, I accept that this is a leap of faith to some extent, but I'd suggest that we give Karl Krikken and David Houghton the benefit of any doubt here. There can be little doubt, after all, that they know cricket and cricketers and can judge potential and the requisite skillsets better than we laymen. The other inference in the signing, of course, is that Chris Durham is not, at this stage, seen as a potential first-class wicket-keeper. His time may yet come, but he appears likely to have to hone his skills in the Seconds and in the Derbyshire Premier League in the immediate future.

Finally tonight, I am increasingly of the opinion, donning a deerstalker once again, that we will hear sooner, rather than later, about next summer's overseas player. Again, my rationale is simple. Derbyshire need a top player, ideally one who is available for a full summer or most of it and who can become assimilated into the dressing room. Australia and New Zealand are touring here next year, Indians and Pakistanis don't want or need to come and the best South Africans don't need it with the IPL. While we could wait to see who doesn't make the South African ICC Trophy squad, I don't feel that is ideal preparation for an important summer.

My guess is that we will see an overseas announcement inside the next fortnight, another very important piece of the jigsaw.

Keep your eyes peeled, folks.

Three-year deal for Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson has signed a three-year contract with Derbyshire, making him the first of several likely
wRichard Matthew Johnsoninter signings.

More later, but this is a good bit of business by the club.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Unsung heroes...

In the excitement following Derbyshire's promotion, there have been a few people overlooked whose role in things was crucial with regard to the end product.

First of all, I think it is important to pay tribute to James Pipe as physio and Luke Storey, the Strength and Conditioning Coach. To the casual observer, such roles are noted yet not appreciated, but both played a major unsung part in the success this summer. To get opening bowlers Tony Palladino and Tim Groenewald through 15 and 14 of the sixteen county championship games was a remarkable effort and speaks volumes for the way that the players are got a level of fitness and then kept at that level. I'm not for a minute decrying the personal efforts of the players, but few could deny that had we lost either of them for any length of time the title success may well have eluded us. Madsen, Durston, Redfern and Wainwright were ever present, while Tom Poynton and Ross Whiteley missed only two games each. That's eight of your side playing a minimum of fourteen matches, quite an achievement.

If they can maintain such levels next summer, it would be a foolish man who wrote off Derbyshire from the outset, as few sides would fancy facing our opening pair with whatever backup takes your fancy at Derby.

Which brings me to my second point. The pitches at the County Ground this summer were excellent. OK, if your raison d'etre in life is to score shedloads of runs to the detriment of results, they may not have been perfect, but they were good cricket wickets on which it was possible to make runs but the bowlers always had something to interest them. There was early help for seamers, enough in it for spinners to keep them interested, yet the possibility with a little application and sound technique for batsmen to make runs. We saw great finishes - fourth day finishes - this summer and the groundstaff deserve full credit for their pitch preparation and square maintenance. Coming relatively soon after the square was turned, it was especially notable.

Nor should the efforts of Andrew "AJ" Harris be ignored. You don't need to be as old as me to remember Derbyshire sides that were as profligate with extras as the guests outside of a church with confetti, waiting on the bride and groom emerging on their big day. With no disrespects to those concerned, Messrs Hacker, Base and Ali were not renowned for their accuracy, nor for keeping part of their front foot behind the line on a regular basis. There were dark days when we would concede upwards of forty extras through no fault of the wicket-keeper. This year, single figures was the norm, especially as the season reached its climax. The bowler discipline was excellent and Harris has to be congratulated on his role in helping to make it so.

One also needs to recognise the role played over several summers by Howard Dytham, who has worked with many of our young players since they were at school. Reports suggest that more players of real talent are still to emerge, with Peter Burgoyne and Ben Slater heading off to Zimbabwe and Tom Knight already in Australia. The next level down also contains good players and the likes of Matt Fletcher, Greg Cork, Harry White and Johnny Marsden have considerable potential. If only two or three of these players become genuine county cricketers then the Academy will have done its job, just as Howard Dytham is doing his so very well.

Unsung heroes? For sure. Karl Krikken and the boys have earned their plaudits but these guys have played a key role. So too has Chris Grant - but I'll leave that one for another day, another article.

See you soon.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Monday musings

The end of the cricket season is usually a melancholic affair. The realisation that it will be six full months before we see our favourites once again treading the green sward suddenly hits hard.

Yet this year is different as most of us are still euphoric - mildly or otherwise - after an end to a season that was beyond our wildest dreams. Although I suggested a promotion challenge back in March, my expectation was for third place, maybe fourth. A season petering out after initial promise, but encouraging nonetheless.

Instead we go up as champions, having won more matches than any other team. Matches we won by bowling out the opposition twice, not winning contrived finishes like our northerly neighbours and nearest rivals.

So we start to think about next summer and who/what we need. A few fans will have thought about a player such as James Harris, who moved to Middlesex today. Such a move would have been way beyond our compass, I'm afraid, as we simply cannot compete on a level financial playing field. I understand that Chris Rogers added a considerable percentage to his salary when he moved to Lords, despite being on a good deal at Derbyshire.

It amuses me to still read comments on the Forum, which I looked at for the first time in a while today, with regard to our needing that "landmark signing" for next season. Live with it guys and gals, as it will simply not happen. Players of that stature don't need the county game. Instead they will play Test cricket and their pick of T20s around the globe for figures that dwarf those available in the county game.

There will still be good professionals available, but the likelihood of seeing Kallis, Ponting, de Villiers, Amla or Gayle on the county circuit is akin to that of seeing me win Miss World next year. Derbyshire and other counties will face the challenge of finding one or more players to give them the edge on their rivals, players who can ideally do the full summer, or at least share responsibilities well, as Martin Guptill and Usman Khawaja did this year. I don't envy them the job and there's fewer players to choose from, with the ICC Trophy to contend with. You might see some keep their powder dry for one of several gifted South Africans who won't make their party, but with that comes a risk that you might be left with serious competition for those who are keen, as well as missing out on players whose availability is intimated earlier.

Similarly, logic suggests that you're unlikely to see big name, big salary domestic players at Derbyshire too. Think about it for a minute. From this year we have lost only Gary Park and Matt Lineker from what was presumably a fully utilised playing budget. There may be additional money from increased sponsorship activity, but you can't spend what you don't have. Basic, but undeniable economics...

Protestations that "we need experience" don't work on that basis. We will stand or fall next summer on a young side, a strong work ethic, an outstanding team spirit and the improvements in the games of individual players. I have no doubt there will be new young players with reputations to make.

And no doubt that we won't lie over and wave the white flag for anyone.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Friday talking points

Happy anniversary everyone...

It is now a week since Derbyshire became division two champions and a good one it has most assuredly been. From walking in to work on Monday to have my work mates singing "Championees..." (not had that happen before, given I wasn't around in '36...) to reading the media comments about our club.

There's also been lots of e mails to reply to, for which I am very grateful. Thanks to all of you for your kind words, with extra special mention for those who got in touch from overseas. Your comments brought home to me how far flung Derbyshire support is and it is patently obvious that your enjoyment of our success is in no way reduced by the miles between your homes and the County Ground. Bit like me, really...

We've had good support from the local media, with front page on the Derby Telegraph and good coverage on Radio Derby. Again, that is a sign of progress, as cricket has been a long time second behind Derby County, sometimes third behind Burton Albion. It is also encouraging to see that the boys will be parading the trophy at Pride Park tomorrow, something that may, perhaps, encourage a few others to come along to see the boys next summer.

This week's edition of the Cricket Paper carried an article on Richard Johnson, suggesting that he would be having talks with Derbyshire with a view "to playing for them as a specialist batsman" next summer.

There are two ways of looking at this story of course. On the face of it, a player with minimal first-class experience and an average in the mid-twenties may not sound like the answer to Derbyshire's batting needs for their first summer back in division one - always assuming that it is accurate journalism, of course. There is logic to it, given the player's stay with us this summer, and it was hardly a secret that he enjoyed his time with Derbyshire.

There will be those, of course, who will say that it is a mistake and Derbyshire fans have never been slow in expressing their concerns or disapproval. It is a free world and everyone is entitled to their politely expressed opinions, but my thoughts are clear.

If Dave Houghton and Karl Krikken reckon that the lad can make a contribution to Derbyshire, and more importantly can do so as a specialist batsman, it is good enough for me - and should be for other people too. On the occasions that I have seen him bat, it is patently obvious he can handle the old willow and his innings at Chesterfield against Yorkshire in the CB40 evidenced that in spades.

There is, of course, a difference between being a wicket-keeper batsman and a batsman only. Johnson is a very good keeper and would mount a good challenge to Tom Poynton for the gloves, one that the latter will fight hard for. There would be increased pressure on Johnson to perform as a batsman only, but who's to say that he might not thrive on it? There are plenty of examples of such players who have been more prolific in such a role, from Les Ames through Alec Stewart on to Tim Ambrose.

Richard Johnson has a long way to go before he can be considered in the same breath as those players and may have a long way to go before he becomes a Derbyshire player - if he ever does. But fans should be wary of decrying the lad's undoubted talents.

A lot did that about the team this year and ended up looking a little silly, eh?

Anyway, enjoy your weekend. Maybe next week will bring some news...

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Smells like team spirit...

Derbyshire's award night rightly honoured the sterling efforts of a young team in the 2012 season, one in which they surpassed the expectations of most fans and saw an acceleration in the club's blueprint that was surely never anticipated.

Yet perhaps the most important component of the side missed out on an award because there was nothing tangible or physical about it.

Team spirit.

There will be teams next summer that are man for man stronger than Derbyshire, that have players with international expeience-aplenty and are the result of a lot of money. It is unlikely, however, that any of them will have the spirit shown by the Derbyshire side, because it is never an easy thing to forge between a squad of disparate individuals. There can often be loners in a side, or team members who don't see eye to eye with the coach, or those who have issues affecting their performance and integration outside of the game of cricket.

Astonishingly, Derbyshire managed it. From a dressing room that was reputedly unhappy last summer when Karl Krikken took over from John Morris, this summer's side was perhaps the closest that the club has ever seen. There are numerous examples that highlight this. How many overseas players, for example, would relinquish a nice place of their own in Derby in favour of taking the spare room chez Poynton and Whiteley, as both Ross Whiteley and Usman Khawaja did? Both players opted for the company of friends rather than their own space and their enjoyment was patently obvious. Guptill's regular texts from wherever he was in the world as the season progressed  illustrated clearly how much the club and his team mates meant to him and his pride in their achievements was touching.

So too was the friendship of the players, who regularly socialised, went out on the town or for a meal together. Again, there are plenty of teams where the players are away as soon as they can justify it, but that has not been the Derbyshire way. Those who drink and play together, win together, as the old adage says.

It could be seen quite clearly in the last match. Paul Borrington held a blinding catch to help us to break through then missed what, at first appeared a sitter (though they seldom are, especially with the wind swirling). There were no obvious recriminations, but when Ross Whiteley removed the dangerous Shafayat shortly afterwards, Borrington was engulfed by team mates. They knew it could happen to anyone and were glad to help Bozza through it. Mind you, it didn't stop one wag shout "Catch it, Boz!" when the re-runs were shown on Sky in the bar afterwards...

Perhaps the greatest example was that shown by Tom Poynton when Richard Johnson came to the club. Poynton was injured, but there was a strong possibility that the Warwickshire man, deemed a better batsman at the time, would take his place for the remainder of the campaign. It would have been easy for Poynton to give the new man a wide berth, but to his eternal credit he went to the player's hotel, sought him out and took him for a meal to help him settle in. Could a player be more selfless?

Next summer will be tough for Derbyshire, beyond doubt, but the collective spirit of a young group of players will be a major factor in their success. That would surely be measured as remaining in division one at season end.

Maybe I'm alone, but with the right recruits I think we can do it.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Wayne Madsen - Man of Substance

It was, for me, quite gratifying to wake up this morning and find that Wayne Madsen had been voted Player of the Year at the annual awards night.

Madsen has been a great asset to Derbyshire since he first came out of the Lancashire Leagues in 2009 with a run of scores that highlighted a very fine player. An average of 58 that summer owed a lot to being the unknown quantity and also to some decent tracks, but there was little doubt that John Morris had unearthed a gem in the South African-born player.

He had scored thousands of runs as professional and guest professional in the leagues and, cricket anorak that I am, his name stuck in my mind when he made scores of 38 not, 83, 29 and 57 in second eleven championship games, as well as 135 against Durham in a one-day game. To his credit, John Morris signed him on soon after I suggested Madsen as a worthwhile talent on this blog - though I am not, of course, claiming responsibility for the deal...

When he came into the senior XI he was an instant success and Madsen quickly became established as a very good county cricketer. There were 940 championship runs in 2010 before a dip last year. This summer, far from being affected by the cares of captaincy, he appears to have thrived on it, his 928 runs at an average of nearly 38 being an excellent return. His one-day form was a little patchy, but I feel that the player will benefit from a stable berth in the side, rather than filling in where there is the greatest need in moves of genuine altruism,

His captaincy has been steady and reliable, rather than from the Eddie Barlow Book of Daring Deeds and Inspirational Feats, but there are signs that with greater experience he could become truly excellent in the role. Increasingly as the summer wore on there were bowling changes that bore immediate fruit, with Wainwright, Durston and Whiteley the regular protagonists. A greater awareness of his charges was obvious and I liked the way that Madsen skippered from mid-off or mid-on, able to communicate with his bowlers and make any changes required, some of them subtle and unnoticed.

He is a thinking, intelligent man and that was obvious from his work as the summer progressed, yet it was his triumph over adversity that marked Madsen down as someone quite special. Lesser men would have stayed off the pitch with the painful rib injury that made his monumental innings at Northampton quite astonishing. Yet mere words cannot reflect the admiration of Derbyshire fans for his century against Gloucestershire, shortly after the death of the unborn baby daughter of Wayne and his wife Kyla. It was a quite extraordinary effort and, being set such an example by their skipper, one sensed a Derbyshire side that was close throughout growing even closer as the summer progressed.

There were quiet words of reassurance for fielders who missed chances from an undemonstrative leader who has the total respect of his side. Tom Poynton acknowledged Madsen's crucial help in his maiden ton at Northampton and the skipper remained in control throughout, always with a ready smile and a friendly persona that makes him ideal for the role of county captain.

He's set himself quite a task in following this summer's exploits and now deserves a breather for a few weeks, although his hockey coaching commitments with Belper Ladies will doubtless fill his winter months before the players report back for pre-season training.

He's quite a man, Wayne Madsen and fully deserves his award.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Random thoughts

Congratulations tonight go to Ross Whiteley on his selection for the England side for the Hong Kong Sixes.

It is just reward for a cricketer who rediscovered his mojo towards the end of the season and it could have done him no harm to play two such innings as he did against Hampshire in front of the Sky cameras. His bowling and fielding were impressive too, in a fine all-round display and watching cricket fans could not fail to be impressed by him.

It is the development of Whiteley, Dan Redfern and Tom Poynton that Derbyshire fans will need to keep in mind when suggesting new players for next summer. Players of such talent need to be on deals commensurate to their talent and contribution to the side. It is all well and good for young players to be on a standard rate as they emerge into the senior side, but improved performance needs to be rewarded to keep away our predatory neighbours. Nottinghamshire reputedly offered James Taylor a six figure salary to lure him from Leicestershire and Derbyshire could not match that outlay, while Somerset are supposedly putting together a hefty bid to acquire the services of Rory Hamilton-Brown.

The bottom line is that we cannot compete on that level, with a small membership and playing budget. In contrast to most winning teams, Derbyshire have assembled a winning side without spending massively. It is ironic that, after years of spending heavily on big names, that Hampshire's success came about after making a conscious decision to bring on their own young players instead of numerous Kolpaks. By the same token, one cannot underestimate the value of senior players like Katich, McKenzie and Ervine.

Derbyshire will, largely through necessity, look for young players from elsewhere who they feel they can develop and improve and anyone expecting a move for big names will, in my humble opinion, be disappointed. For me the most refreshing thing about our trophy win was that we have a young side. Team spirit was a major factor, but we should not decry the talent in the side either. Given a decent batting wicket, a middle order of Madsen, Durston, Redfern and Whiteley will score runs and we all know we bat long. A couple of opening batsmen, or further improvement from Paul Borrington, will see Derbyshire compete, but having released Gary Park and Matt Lineker we have only youngsters and two seamers in reserve at present outside the first eleven.

I've not yet commented on the CB40 draw, apart from on my joy at games against Scotland. Group B consists of Lancashire, Derbyshire, Durham, Essex, Hampshire, Scotland and Surrey.There are some good sides in there, but we are now mixing it with the big boys and will inevitably have our ups and downs. I won't make wild predictions at this stage until I've seen the winter improvements in the various sides, but on their day Derbyshire are capable of beating anyone, as they have shown in four-day cricket this summer and to a lesser extent in the one-day game.

Finally tonight I hope that all fans remember the euphoria of recent days when Derbyshire have bad days with their young side next summer, as they will. Maybe we punched above our weight, maybe we have gone up early - but I wouldn't have swapped the feeling we've all had over the past few days.

It is 76 years since a Derbyshire cricket side won a league title and a lot of people never lived to see it.

We did, my friends and should be eternally glad.

Monday, 17 September 2012

End of season ratings

As has become the tradition on the blog, here are my end of season ratings on the Derbyshire players. Before I do so, I will explain how they work.

First, I am only rating players who have appeared regularly. It is patently unfair to rate the likes of Tom Knight, Peter Burgoyne, Alex Hughes, Ali Evans and Chesney Hughes as they had few opportunities to play this summer. When they did, by and large they did well, but performing on an occasional basis is difficult.

Second, and in the interest of fairness, I am rating players as fair, good and very good. That rating is as much judged on expectation as performance, but I am not judging on a wider spectrum than that as I do not feel it is appropriate. Such marks may be the preserve of other people on other sites, but not me on this one. Let's not forget that we are champions. CHAMPIONS!!!

Having clarified that, here's Peakfan's ratings for 2012...

Wayne Madsen - Very Good

Madsen played some fine innings and although at times he found his best form elusive, he led from the front, most notably when opening in the later season in the absence of other candidates. His captaincy was solid, his attitude first-class and his example beyond criticism. One of the nicest men in cricket who has made Derbyshire his home and led us to our first league trophy since 1936. What more can you say?

Paul Borrington  -Fair

There were innings of promise by Boz, knocks of determination sprinkled with shots of genuine quality, but he will be aware that next summer is important for him. He may not be the most flamboyant of Derbyshire players, but a good side needs a sheet anchor and Borrington sold his wicket dearly, while his brilliant last day catch, akin to that of Alan Hill at Lords in 1981, started the Hampshire collapse.

Matt Lineker - Fair

A prolific batsman at local level, Lineker suggested he could make it to county standard given time, but at his age it was something Derbyshire didn't have, especially when next summer sees us in division one. Made a few starts without going on to a fifty, but held some excellent catches and was a fine team man. Will doubtless score lots of runs in local cricket and we'll wonder what might have been...

Martin Guptill - Very Good

A player of the very highest class and a thoroughly nice man, as exemplified by his regular texts from New Zealand, West Indies and India in the second half of the season. His footwork was exemplary, his driving one of the joys of cricket. If we could have Guptill for the whole summer we could handle division one. If we had him for the T20 we would make a better fist of it. THAT's how good he is.

Usman Khawaja - Good

Khawaja had a poor T20, but that hardly came as a surprise to your correspondent, as it's not his game. CB40 also saw mixed fortunes, but without his application at Headingley and his crucial knocks in the last match, we wouldn't have won the title. For those innings alone he gets his rating - when the going gets tough, the tough get going - and Khawaja did just that when it mattered.

Wes Durston - Very Good

Though not as prolific as the previous summer, it would be churlish to fault a fine team man and senior professional. When he scored runs it was generally quickly, and he contributed with the ball with key wickets when they were most wanted. A brilliant fielder anywhere, it is hard to believe that Durston was almost lost to the county game and Somerset's loss is definitely our gain.

Dan Redfern - Good

A breakthrough season for the mercurial left-hander, who responded well to Dave Houghton's coaching and guidance. His strokeplay at times bordered on genius, though shot selection can still get him into trouble at times. Lost a little form in later season when a thousand runs seemed possible, but seems set to be a major part of the Derbyshire batting line up for years to come.

Ross Whiteley -Fair

After a stunning 2011, Whiteley struggled for some time, then picked up an injury that saw him lose his place in the side. On his return he showed a grafting side to his game that was vital in a couple of matches, before unveiling the full range of his shots against Hampshire. A superb fielder and increasingly useful bowler, Whiteley will come again and I see him as a key player for Derbyshire in years to come.

David Wainwright - Very Good

The missing piece of the jigsaw, Wainwright offered control when the seamers needed a rest and penetration with any encouragement in the pitch. A genuine match-winner and solid fielder, Wainwright cannot be too far away from international recognition. His batting was less prolific than I expected, but he can be proud of his first season at Derbyshire and his contract extension was some of the best news of the summer.

Tom Poynton - Very Good

By the end of the season, Poynton looked a very competent and confident batsman in the county game, feeding from the confidence he got from his Northampton hundred. His glovework throughout was excellent and he was the focal point of an outstanding fielding side with no passengers. Looks set to be first choice keeper for years, if he can keep up his level of form and fitness.

Jonathan Clare - Good

In early season Clare was on fire and ran through Glamorgan on a helpful wicket. Thereafter he took more of a back-up role, before succumbing to an injury that ruled him out of the last few matches. A good fielder, he has the potential to be an all-rounder of genuine quality, but is a little fallible early in his innings. Has a big role to play next summer and should be up to the task.

Mark Turner - Good

The Mark Turner of 2011 was fast but erratic. This year's model was still quick, but had added a little sophistication and control to his game. Always gives 100%, which makes him a firm favourite. No mug with the bat and a good fielder, Turner played an important role and came into his own in one-day games, where his mixture of bouncers and yorkers proved a handful.

Tony Palladino - Very Good

Had Palladino played T20, his theme tune should been "Leader of the Pack", as he became the main man in a strong seam trio. Always accurate, probing and a threat, he made a mockery of his release by Essex for the second summer in a row. Another good fielder and a batsman improving so quickly that he hammered the Australian A team for a maiden century. A massive asset to the side.

Tim Groenewald - Very Good

I get the impression that we wind him up at the start of April, stick Duracell batteries in him and let him loose. Always bowls well, rarely misses matches and often takes wickets. A hard man to fault, he is another good fielder and probably the best number ten in the county game, capable of solid defence or powerful shots. Another key member of a strong bowling side.

Mark Footitt - Fair

At his best seriously quick, Footitt started well in Barbados and translated that to home form, then picked up a niggling injury and was rarely seen thereafter. Signed a one-year contract that will need to be justified, but on form and confident he is as quick as anyone in the country. If he could only stay fit for next summer, Derbyshire will have five very good seamers to choose from, but it will be a big year for him.

It is hard to fault a side that played cricket of an intensity and level of commitment shown by Derbyshire this summer - oh, were it always so. Next summer will be a challenge, but the opposition will write off this side at their own risk and I don't see many sides taking us to the cleaners in 2013.

Perhaps 2012 is the start of a new golden age of Derbyshire cricket. If so, we have made a very impressive start...

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The season ends...

That's it. The season's officially over as the last club match is done. I took a long look back at our picturesque little ground as I went through the gates for the last time. It was bathed in evening sunshine and a couple of rabbits were already sitting on the outfield in readiness for a square meal (get it?)

Sadly, work and family commitments, the inability of the opposition to raise teams and the Scottish weather limited me to only three games this summer. Still, eight wickets for 22 runs and three not out innings wasn't too bad, 3-14 today and an unbeaten 17 sends me into the close season with confidence that I've still got a bit more cricket in me. Martin, our wicket-keeper is 63, so that encourages me, nine years his junior, to keep going for a few more summers.

We lost a wicket in the first over today, which mirrored what has happened in the county game. Did you know that not one single player in division two made a thousand championship runs this summer? Only Hampshire's Jimmy Adams, Kent's Brendan Nash and Ramnaresh Sarwan of Leicestershire got over 900 and there is little doubt that it has been one of the most difficult summers in living memory for batsmen.

In their wisdom, the ECB banned the use of the heavy roller, which evens out the pitch and irregular bounce, to get more results in the county game. It worked pretty well, but large scores were few and far between and an unfortunate consequence is the current dearth of candidates to replace Andrew Strauss as England opener.

Michael Carberry is one option but he looked somewhat at sea in last week's game, albeit on a County Ground track that has done a bit for seamers (especially in the first session) all summer. Unless the regulations on the use of rollers are changed, I foresee opening batsmen having continuing issues in the county game and averages below those that they were accustomed to in days of yore.

Ironic really. Bat on moving tracks all summer and we'll treat you to a rolled, better prepared wicket when you get into the Test side.

The problem being, of course, that few batsmen have convinced enough to actually get there....

One to be revisited, I think. Come to think of it, maybe our opening batsmen didn't do all that badly.

And now the work begins

Over the four days I was at Derby last week, I lost count of the names of players who were being suggested as required to strengthen Derbyshire's side in readiness for division one. Ian Blackwell, Rory Hamilton-Brown, Jack Brooks, Niall O'Brien - they were all in there, alongside many more.

I'm not privy to the signing process and certainly don't expect to be consulted on who we will be signing, but I do have my own opinions, which is, of course, why I write this blog about Derbyshire County Cricket Club. Have I mentioned that we're champions...? Don't think I'll ever tire of writing that, nor you of reading it, I'll wager.

For one thing, there have been several references in the media of Karl Krikken's intention to seek players under the age of 26. Now you may agree or disagree with that, but it is his prerogative as the man in charge. While I can see the merit in an older player, and have previously espoused the benefit to their teams of such players as Darren Stevens, Sean Ervine, Jim Allenby, Andrew Hall and many more, the big question is where you would fit such a player into the side.

If one assumes that Wayne Madsen would be better away from the opening role, one that he essentially took on in the absence of viable and willing candidates, you are likely to have a middle order of Madsen, Durston, Redfern and Whiteley. Assuming also that you're going to play three seamers and a spinner and have to play a wicket-keeper, you have your team, sans openers. At the very small risk of being in a minority of one, I don't think that any of those players named above should be out of our first eleven, which is what you would have to do to bring in experience.

Add in the reality that a player of such experience would cost serious money, which would jeopardise the club's salary structure and as a consequence team spirit, I am not sure of the merit of the idea. Derbyshire are lucky that we have one over-thirty in Wes Durston who fits in beautifully with his younger colleagues, but that is not necessarily always the case. One has only to read about the county game and listen to people to understand that there are many dressing rooms where factions prevail to the detriment of the team ethic that has served Derbyshire so well. Indeed, you only need one person who doesn't fit in, either through insularity or ego, and the team mentality can come crashing down.

Then there's the other side. Yes, we could bring in an experienced player or two to take the places of the younger ones, but it is a short-sighted move that will logically deprive those young players valuable time in gaining that experience themselves. How do we know they won't cope if we don't let them? In assessing our prospects in division one, few seem to factor in the mental, physical and technical development that another year will bring. Much as this young side will be mentally better prepared next summer after a year together, their techniques will also be better honed to cope with division one.

So I don't expect to see a move for Brooks, who at 28 is a good bowler but not necessarily better than what we have, as 23 wickets at 36 this summer suggests. Nor for O'Brien, a fair player but one who misses too many matches through Irish call-ups and at 31 is unlikely to improve. Blackwell? There are fitness issues for one thing and, as an "eye" player, I feel his best days are behind him. Nor is he an especially good fielder, something that would set him apart in the best collective fielding side I have seen in Derbyshire colours.

Rory Hamilton-Brown is a good player, but I have seen reports suggesting that he may struggle to return to the first-class game after the loss of his best friend Tom Maynard. At 25 he is a very good cricketer, but as captain at one of cricket's more affluent counties will be on a salary way beyond our compass. Again, I have to say I don't see it. Likewise Sam Northeast at Kent, a very good player but one to who they will offer serious money to retain.

Nor do I see us moving for Scott Elstone and Karl Turner, both released by Nottinghamshire. The latter has had three counties and not made it, while Elstone for me is not an improvement on what we have, nor is what we need - an opening batsman. A Burton lad, I could see Elstone trial at Derby next summer, or end up playing at Leicester, but not being taken on the staff at this stage.

Scott Newman? Too old, not a great fielder and with an average that is artificially massaged by a couple of good seasons on Oval batting tracks where it was hard to fail. That average is now falling by the summer and I see that as a non-starter.

Indeed, of the players I have seen released - and of course I'm no more aware than the rest of you who is out of contract - there are two that I would see as possibilities, both fitting the under-26 criteria and being available.

The first is Billy Godleman, recently released by Essex. At 23 the tall left-hander has suffered from strong competition at Middlesex and latterly has played for a county where dressing room unity must have been hard to find after the travails of last winter. He still averaged 37 in limited opportunities this summer and a career average of just over 30 owes much to making a senior debut at the age of 17, much the same as Paul Borrington. I've read various reports suggesting him a future England player in recent years and have a feeling that working with Dave Houghton could be very much to his benefit. I'd suggest he would be affordable and as long as he fitted into the team ethic may be worthy of an enquiry. While I am generally wary of batsmen brought up on southern wickets moving up north, Godleman could be one to cope. Indeed, his average is only just below that of the talented Sam Northeast, so read into that as you will. Essex releasing him seems a strange move, but then again so did their decision to sign Greg Smith...

The second is Chris Jordan of Surrey, who is nearly 24 and an obvious talent with bat and ball. Again, early promise has faded, but a new start could be the making of him. The question mark would be against his fitness, but if he could sort this he is a hard-hitting batsman and a bowler capable of spells of genuine pace.He has the potential to be seen as an all-rounder and my main reservation about the Derbyshire side, assuming we're sorting the opening berths, is that we could do with a number seven who can average around thirty with the bat.

Maybe Tom Poynton will become that player in the not too distant future, while David Wainwright is capable of more runs than he scored this summer. So too is Jonathan Clare and if one of these players can emerge as a regular run scorer at seven it would make our task next summer considerably easier.

Having said that, I am not fazed at the thought of division one. I look at teams such as Durham, Middlesex, Somerset, Surrey, Sussex and Yorkshire and feel they are beatable. Nottinghamshire will be harder and, judging by their performances this summer and our displays against them, Warwickshire will be the team to fear.

But I will happily put it on record now. We need not fear any of these sides, because we have a team ethic that will be the envy of most and individual talent to match most of them too. With two or three prudent recruits, especially in the crucial overseas role,  there is no reason for Derbyshire to fail to compete. I don't expect a title challenge, but I think we will surprise a few people next summer.

We did this year, didn't we?

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Home again

So, how was it for you?

Today I drove back up north and pondered how many Derbyshire fans would be dosing up on aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen. Quite a few I would guess, but I'd also suggest that few regretted their excess this morning, as yesterday was quite special.

More on that tomorrow, as I'm a little tired tonight after a much longer than usual drive home. Various accidents and breakdowns caused tailbacks and I was over six hours getting back to my family. To be honest, I didn't worry unduly as, like most Derbyshire fans, I'm still buzzing from yesterday.

Indeed, this cricket break of mine just keeps on giving. On the way home I got a tweet from the club with details of next year's CB40 groups.

We've got Scotland. Peakfan's got a home match!!!

It may well be in Edinburgh, but I somewhat selfishly will now hope for Uddingston, which is all of ten minutes from our house. They used the nice ground there for a few games this summer, so there's a chance, but quite honestly they could play it anywhere and I'll be there. I doubt it will be Aberdeen, so its unlikely to be too far and I am seriously thrilled at the news. More on that in due course, but can this weekend get better?

Derbyshire promoted as champions, I was there for all four days and we've got Scotland next summer. Lancashire are coming down, and I'm playing cricket tomorrow, captaining my old work team against my club in an annual challenge. At this rate I'll be going into work on Monday to be told I've been promoted in my absence. I only need to hear that Nottinghamshire have been relegated for maladministration and that we're playing Yorkshire at Scarborough and my week will be complete...

Thanks to all of you who mailed me in recent days and apologies if I've not yet replied, as I've simply not had time. I will do so when things return to normality this week and as always I appreciate you getting in touch.

I'm pleased that Hampshire beat Warwickshire today, as I will always support the underdog in a match between neutrals. They have some good players and we did very well to defeat them in that epic game last week. If anyone recorded the highlights of the last day and is able to put it on DVD I'd love to hear from you.

Finally tonight I have been asked to talk about Derbyshire's season and last week's game on BBC Radio Derby on Monday morning. It should be around 7.10am, though you can always pick it up on i-player if you are interested.

Until tomorrow...

Friday, 14 September 2012


                                Thanks to Peakview for the picture!

At the end of four of the most memorable days of my sporting life, Derbyshire emerged as champions of division two in some style, with a convincing win over Hampshire by six wickets.

The win, in the end, came after a run chase that was accomplished with nonchalance, led by the cultured strokes of Usman Khawaja, who played a second crucial knock of the match and saw us home, taking the man of the match award for his two fine innings.

The win came after we chased 197,  "or nineteen and a bit incremental tens" according to Alan, whose company I thoroughly enjoyed throughout the game. Together with Peakview we watched, got nervous and laughed as the innings ebbed and flowed. After canny bowling and fine fielding (great catch Bozza!) ended the Hampshire innings, skipper Wayne Madsen and Paul Borrington led us off well, before both perished in the two overs before lunch.

At 45-2 it was evens, but Wes Durston hit the first ball after lunch for four and batted steadily before being adjudged leg before, then Dan Redfern got one that turned and nicked it to leg slip. By that stage it looked somewhat academic and Ross Whiteley came in to finish a game in which he had a claim for man of the match with five huge sixes.

It was a great day to be a Derbyshire fan and a crowd of between one and two thousand flocked to the front of the pavilion to see their team presented with the trophy that their season's work so richly deserved. It was emotional and there were a few people in tears, understandably so. This young side had defied the odds and come out on top of the division in which many had predicted them to be strugglers. The success was just reward for Karl Krikken and his coaching staff, as well as for Wayne Madsen and his team.

Afterwards I spent some considerable time in the pavilion, meeting and chatting with a number of people who helped to make the day so special. Chatting cricket, hockey and life with Wayne Madsen and his delightful wife Kyla was thoroughly enjoyable, while Steve Durston, father of Wes was engaging company. So too was Tony Palladino, whose passion for Derbyshire cricket shone through in everything he said. "I'd run through a brick wall for him" he told me, nodding towards Chris Grant, adding "and you can put that on your blog."

 Tom Poynton's hands seemed to have stood up to the season pretty well (he showed me...I asked) and the Derbyshire side seemed more like a gang than a team. The team spirit that served them so well was evident and good to see.

Twenty minutes in the company of CEO Simon Storey convinced me that Derbyshire have a bright, intelligent man with plenty of ideas and the desire to see them through, while Chris Grant showed once more why he is so highly thought of by having a word with everyone, from media to fans, players and families. Without doubt Mr Grant is a massive asset to Derbyshire cricket and I lost count of the number of people who told me that they "thought the world of him."

It brought home to me that Derbyshire is a family club, a friendly club, with outstanding personnel behind the scenes who complement their counterparts on the pitch. There was even an opportunity to congratulate Tom and Nathan in the marketing department on another summer of excellent work, especially in the Twitter feed, which has been first class this summer.

All of which, I hope, explains why this blog is late tonight! Next summer will be a challenge and some will have us relegated already. This includes the most boring man in cricket, Mr RGD Willis, who apparently suggested on TV that we were fortunate to get promotion. Not that anyone cares what he thinks, given he was rarely fit to play the county game...

Me? No. It will be a struggle, but with keen recruitment this side could survive, stabilise, then move on from there. I am heartened by displays against division one sides in one-day cricket, hardly our stronger suit and feel we could do OK with a little luck. I'll talk more about my ideas for improvement in the next week or so, but this is not the time.

Now is for celebration. Wayne Madsen has led his young side to silverware, only the fifth Derbyshire captain to do so. That is quite special, but to do it in his first season is extraordinary.

Warm congratulations to all concerned. You've done us proud. And thanks to everyone who I spoke with over four days and your nice comments, which are more appreciated than you will ever know.


Maybe I should gamble...

Last night, basking in the euphoria of Derbyshire's promotion, like many of you I surfed the web to see what the media were saying about us. Remarkably, the media WERE talking about us. Success does that for a team...

I came across the BBC site and my eye caught a heading reading "pre-season prospects" by their local sports correspondents. I'd seen it before, but I wanted to remind myself of what Charles Collins of Radio Derby had written, which was as follows:

"Season prospects: The club will be hoping for an improvement on another disappointing season in 2011 when they changed head coaches and lost experienced skipper Luke Sutton. They will hope to challenge for promotion in the County Championship or do well in the CB40. They've also only once reached the T20 quarter-finals, so a big step forward there is a target. Realistically, however, there hasn't been a lot of squad strengthening, so expect Derbyshire to be pretty much 'as you were'.
One to watch: All-rounder Chesney Hughes continues to improve as he matures, and is now 21 years old. This could be a breakout season for big Chesney (cue a line of bigger clubs looking to take him off Derbyshire's hands)"

More than anything, it set me wondering what exactly I had written back in March when I did my pre-season championship preview. For your convenience you can find it here . Maybe I didn't get enough right to warrant taking a booth on Blackpool sea front and calling myself Gypsy Peakulengro, but I think I did OK, certainly enough to have warranted heading down the bookies for a flutter.

Mind you, the chances of that are marginally less than of my crossing the line in next year's Grand National as the winning horse...

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Derbyshire v Kent day 3 - promotion achieved!

When it was finally confirmed, as Glamorgan struck the winning runs in Cardiff, there were only a relative few diehards left at the ground, together with assorted members of the media, club officials and the players themselves. The game at Derby had ended for the day and the fans went home, safe in the knowledge that their side had done them proud. That's OUR side, Derbyshire. WE are Derbyshire and WE are promoted.

Tomorrow we may be champions.

Looking at the body language and demeanour of this fine young side, I wouldn't bet against them taking a trophy that is rightfully theirs. They have, after all, led the table for most of the season. While the lead has dwindled ahead of this final match, Derbyshire once again rose to a challenge and secured the 250 run target they needed for bonus points with relative ease, thanks to a fine partnership between young Academy products Ross Whiteley and Tom Poynton. Both batted beautifully and their stand was total vindication of the club's new policy and the way ahead. It was run scoring with the minimum of fuss and total professionalism and was a pleasure to witness.

In the field the side were again tigerish, aggressive and alert to possibilities, with Tom Poynton setting a live wire example behind the stumps and Whiteley proving impossible to keep out of the game with late wickets. After a more difficult season, Whiteley confirmed his rich talent today and came up with the goods when Derbyshire needed them most. All the bowlers did well - Palladino and Groenewald lively and probing, Turner downright fast and awkward, Wainwright canny, Durston testing and Whiteley looking every inch an international all-rounder in the making.

They were superbly marshalled by Wayne Madsen, who switched his bowlers around intelligently and was backed up by professional work, tight lines and lengths and precious few extras, once again. Someone said to me during the course of the day that they made you proud to be a Derbyshire fan, and he was right. It is a long time since we could say that.

During the day Tony Palladino was presented with his award for Player of the Year and it was richly deserved, much as I suggested the other day. He is a great asset to the club and quite obviously enjoys his cricket at Derbyshire, something that it is apparent in all of a side that crucially can only get better.

Tomorrow they have a chance to cement their place in history by clinching the title. Tonight I was privileged - a word I choose wisely - to  spend some time with this young team and their professionalism shone through. There was no drinking, no real celebration - that is for another night. There was simply an understanding and acceptance of a job well done, the seeds for which were sown thousands of miles away back in Barbados in March.

In the words of one of my heroes, Bruce Springsteen, it's been a long time coming. But today was worth the wait and I hope that tomorrow they complete the work with the win that their cricket and professionalism thoroughly deserve. If they don't, then the season has still been a triumph. If they do, then in my considered opinion it is perhaps our greatest post-war feat. In the other years we had sides of far greater experience and bigger names. This side is young and in the eyes of the bookies and media, even those at local level, was set for a season of struggle in 2012. They have exceeded expectations - even mine - and we can enjoy the moment together.

Get down to the County Ground tomorrow morning and get on your feet at 10.30am to applaud them on to the pitch. There will be trials ahead and no one at the club is under any misapprehension as to the size of the job in hand. The first division will be tough and the planning for that will start next week, I'm sure. It will be as thorough as we have seen all summer long, though and you can be certain that they will not be found wanting in terms of effort and application.

Tomorrow should be special. Make sure you are there to see it...

Well done lads. You've made a lot of people very proud tonight.

Especially old Peakfan...

HUGE day

I am sure that you all know that a Glamorgan win over Kent today will take us up.

Kent might score 500 second innings (though I doubt it) but Yorkshire could equally easily be rolled over by Essex this morning. Then again, Derbyshire could do the same against Hampshire.


Assuming Kent lose and Yorkshire win, we need to score 250 runs in the first innings to cement the batting points that will mean a Derbyshire win tomorrow, irrespective of what Yorkshire do, would seal the title.

This roller coaster finish confirms why I love this game so much!

Off to the game now. Come on lads!

Especially important - GO GLAMORGAN!!!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Nearly there...

Kent have slipped from 137-2 to 154-9...surely Derbyshire are going to be promoted now?

We'll save the champers for now, but get it on ice...

Postscript - 170 all out, no bonus points. Robert Croft, arch-nemesis of Derbyshire over so many summers, you are a star!Now 7-2 in the second innings, following on...

Derbyshire v Hampshire day 2

I left the County Ground at 2pm today. One of the things about living in Scotland is that it gives you a regular sighting of rain clouds and an awareness of how likely they are to kick around. The ones at Derby today looked to be set in for the day and so it transpired.

It was a shame, because the game is fascinatingly poised. with Derbyshire 105 behind and five wickets left with two days to play. Today's loss of two sessions doesn't affect the likelihood of a result after the thirteen wickets that fell yesterday. We will doubtless hope for dry weather tomorrow and a closing of the gap between the two sides totals, ideally with Derbyshire sneaking (or forging) ahead.

Tony Palladino batted beautifully this morning, unafraid to put bat to ball but playing "proper" cricket shots, not tail-end slogging. His pull/hooks for six were very well played and he looked composed and controlled at the crease. Indeed, had he gone through with his shot instead of checking it when he was dismissed, he could have gone close to a second ton of the season.

At the other end Usman Khawaja played sensibly and calmly. After a couple of early plays and misses he looked a player of class, driving straight and unafraid to loft the ball for a straight four and mid wicket six, a  sure sign of a player in confident mood. Conversely Dan Redfern never looked at ease and couldn't get his feet moving. It was no surprise when he edged to slip and departed just before lunch.

So how does it leave things? Well, as I write, pretty much as I suggested last night. Yorkshire have rolled over Essex and look to be the form team on the verge of promotion, while Kent have some work to do to stay involved at Cardiff, where the home side's 390 was not part of the script. Yorkshire should win from here, which means that Derbyshire will need to score 250 runs and do the same to take the title through having won more matches, or score 300 to win it outright.

Things can change, of course, but after two days we are in the frame and fighting hard. After being 50-3 overnight, I'd have happily taken 167-5 today. Full marks to Palladino and Khawaja, for a terrific effort. More of the same tomorrow sets Friday up for a real nail-biter...

Player of the season

Antonio Paul PalladinoI was asked by two or three people yesterday who I would pick as player of the season.

There are a number of worthy claimants for the prestigious award. Daniel Redfern has made huge strides this summer and produced some telling innings (oh for another one today...) while Wes Durston has been a very good all-round player for the club, taking wickets, bowling tight one-day spells and scoring runs (though less prolifically than last year). Tom Poynton has also done well and had his batting "Road to Damascus" happened a few weeks earlier would have been a very strong shout - much like he has in the field...

Then there's Tim Groenewald, who turns up and bowls well in nearly every game, while the efforts of Wayne Madsen as skipper, as well as with some fine innings, cannot be overestimated. I would also see David Wainwright as a strong contender, his bowling giving us a weapon we have lacked for a number of years. With perhaps a few more runs, Wainwright could have pulled clear in the voting, though this is one area that he needs to work on over the winter, especially to retain a berth at seven in the batting order.

For me, the award should go to Tony Palladino. I've watched him a few times this summer and he has bowled with rhythm and control in every match he played. Above all he bowled with telling hostility and there is an air of threat, potency and awareness that something is going to happen whenever he walks in from the deep to remove his sweater and bowl a new over.

He perhaps could have bowled in a few one-day games in the eyes of some, but I understand an injury niggle led to a need to keep him fresh and firing for the all-important promotion run-in. It was a shrewd move and Palladino's bowling has been superb. Nor should we discount his batting, with a stunning maiden century against Australia A, along with some crucial knocks at the end of the innings and stints as night-watchman ( it again today, Tony)

Last year, a few people who should know better wrote off his bowling success as being largely due to the use of the Tiflex ball, suggesting he would do nothing when the switch was made. Yes, he's really struggled, only 55 championship wickets at 23. Now what you hear is that he wouldn't make a transition to division one.

We don't know yet if we'll be playing it for one thing. Let's just say that if we do, I don't expect Palladino to be found wanting. He's a class act and class acts will always take wickets.

A few runs today from him is first on the agenda though, and would be be priceless in the context of the summer.

Postscript: one should not forget the crucial role played in this season by  that most important of twelfth men, team spirit. In match after match it has been the defining attribute of a young side of some talent. Whatever happens over the remaining days of the season, whoever comes in over the winter, it has been a joy to see and simply has to be maintained.

This may or may not be our year - we'll know more by the end of today, I think. Keeping that spirit going is the key to this being the first of many such summers.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Derbyshire v Hampshire day 1

A funny sort of day at the County Ground, at the end of which I would say, considering positions in other games, that we look to be in a position to be promoted, though not as champions. Kent would have hoped for better against Glamorgan (you're a saint, Jimmy Allenby) while Yorkshire have fought hard against Essex (how the heck does Sidebottom score those runs?)

Derbyshire? Well, we need runs tomorrow, pure and simple. The top order failed (a copy and paste job, that one...) but in their defence, the first 20 overs with a new ball at Derby is tough. If we can get through the first half hour or so tomorrow unscathed, there is still a good chance of runs in this track. Bounce was variable, with Ross Whiteley's broad shoulders getting some to lift from a length, but the bowlers did a good, disciplined job, conceding few extras.

Tony Palladino's opening spell was excellent, and I was glad I made the early start to see it. Tim Groenewald wasn't quite his usual parsimonious self, but Mark Turner bowled with real pace and had James Vince in early trouble before the Hampshire batsman completed an excellent century. He had time to play his shots and looked a class act, before giving it away. Prior to that Sean Ervine also batted well, though had a strong candidate for worst/most unnecessary shot of the season with an attempted reverse sweep that went hideously wrong. He and Vince had us on the rack and full credit to Derbyshire for fighting back well, with David Wainwright bowling a lovely spell.

Credit to Usman Khawaja too for two very good low catches at slip, but the Australian, who looked pretty good as the evening shadows lengthened, needs a big score tomorrow to take us to parity and preferably ahead.

Time to cross those fingers again...

Monday, 10 September 2012

Derbyshire v Hampshire preview

Are you ready? Almost certainly a roller-coaster of a game awaits us over the next four days.

The forecast looks pretty good - a few showers tomorrow then dry for the next three, so a positive result should be perfectly possible. Will it go Derbyshire's way? I hope so, I really do.

Hampshire have named a squad that rests former Derbyshire player Simon Katich and their thirteen is:

Jimmy Adams
Michael Carberry
Bilal Shafayat
James Vince
Liam Dawson
Chris Wood
Sean Ervine
David Griffith
Michael Bates
James Tomlinson
Kabir Ali
Hamza Riazuddin
David Balcombe

Derbyshire's eleven has yet to be announced, but is unlikely to change from the match at Kent, with Jon Clare deemed not yet fit enough to last the four days. So the likely line up is:

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

The toss will be crucial, but how nice it would be to see Derbyshire take the initiative in this game and some of the worry from the fans. They are good enough to win it, without doubt, and only need to look back on sterling displays in the format this summer for confirmation of that. There's also the curse of the Sky cameras, but last time they were at Derby we were dominant  against a very good Sussex side and ran out easy winners.

I'll not predict anything quite so straight forward this time out, but I think Derbyshire have enough in the side (and left in the tank) to win this one. Then it comes down to results and bonus points elsewhere, unless we rack up full points in this one when it doesn't matter one iota. The battle for bonus points at the three grounds will be important and we will all be keeping our eyes on Cardiff and Chelmsford, with both Glamorgan and Essex having many surrogate fans in Derbyshire for the rest of the week.

No Cook, Bopara, nor Masters for Essex, but they will give Yorkshire a tough game.

Good luck to the Derbyshire lads - I am sure that they will do us proud.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Full marks (again) to the marketing department

It is only fair and appropriate to once again commend an excellent initiative by the county's marketing team ahead of the game against Hampshire.

£5 for a ticket for two people that covers you for four days? What an inspired bit of work! The club need as many fans along as possible to support, make every day special and hopefully witness promotion - or at best the club's first trophy of the 21st century.

I hope that it gets the support that it deserves. Great work, guys.

Radio show tomorrow night

In recognition of Derbyshire's biggest match in years, let's have a half hour radio show tomorrow.

9pm, be there or, as they say, be square. The link is on the left when you scroll down the page. Log in, or register, then search for "Peakfan's Derbyshire Cricket Chat". It's pretty self-explanatory from there. I will log in at 8.55pm, so you can find it, then start at 9pm

Any questions? Mail them to me at the usual address, or be prepared to contribute tomorrow. The software allows you to mail questions or comments in too, if you don't feel like chatting or you don't have a headset. A standard laptop microphone might work, though be aware of your "significant other" shouting "Your supper's ready" or "I've put two fizzy bath bombs in for you when you've finished"...

My headset cost a fiver from Tesco, so you don't need anything sophisticated, or you can just listen in, if you prefer. Then on Tuesday I will, in the words of Willie Nelson, be on the road again, nice and early, so I can reach the County Ground by lunchtime and see the rest of the match.

It's perhaps as well that we don't just need a bowling point for the title, otherwise I'd have needed to leave at 5am to get there for the start.

At which point Mrs P may well have set the wheels in motion to have me committed...

Weekend warmer

Chewing the nails yet? Thinking over the next few days and what it will bring for Derbyshire's young team?

Me too. I've checked the weather forecasts (not bad for Derby and Chelmsford, wet in Wales) and scoured the web for news of the respective teams (not much at this stage).

I'm still pretty optimistic, but then you probably guessed that. Whether we have enough in the tank to take the silverware is a moot point, but there's still a healthy lead over Kent and a more slender one over Yorkshire. On the face of it, Kent have the easier final fixture, but with weather set to play a part you can never legislate against someone producing a special performance. With players like Walters, Wagg, Allenby and Wallace in the side you can never write Glamorgan off and if the ball swings then they will not lie down and die. They won't want to finish bottom, so have a big incentive to produce a performance in the last game of the season, something that was often a feature of Derbyshire's darker campaigns.

Yorkshire have hit form at the right time and have a fine batting side. Anthony McGrath has been a key man for them in recent games and shows the value of an older head in the later middle order. Kent have it in Darren Stevens (with Nash, Powell and Jones) and they have it in McGrath. Such players have been in tight corners during run chases and when batting for draws and they are worth their weight in gold in such circumstances. Yet I'm still not convinced by their bowling. Sidebottom's return has given them a little more, but as we're concerned about our batting, the Yorkshire fans must have concerns about that attack bowling teams out if they go up. Our attack and their batting would be a terrific side....

Their chances of a win will depend on the Essex side. David Masters makes a huge difference to the attack, as we saw at Derby and if he plays Yorkshire will have their work cut out, especially if he is partnered by the precocious talent of Reece Topley. We might also see Ravi Bopara and Alistair Cook play for them, who alongside Shah and ten Doeschate would give our northern neighbours a few nightmares. If the ECB are serious about getting England players into county cricket when they can, as they said during Tredwellgate, then Bopara and Cook should be, though doubtless the ECB will now want them to rest before next summer's Ashes...

Derbyshire? Well, we don't know what strength side Hampshire will field in the light of their cup final next weekend. Somewhat selfishly, I would probably settle for their under-13s. They are likely to rest anyone with a niggle, as only a bizarre combination of circumstances could see them promoted and they will face a Derbyshire side who will be up for one last fight, still smarting from Canterbury.

It's interesting, as promotion would see Derbyshire face some very difficult cricket next summer, perhaps, as I wrote the other night, before this young side is fully ready to cope with it. We are committed, and rightly so, to an Academy bringing through talent and we would remain very competitive in division two. The top tier would bring a different level, however and one simply cannot accelerate experience. Nor is there necessarily the money to go and sign players who have it - which may be counter-productive anyway, as the young players would then not get it themselves. Should we get there, fans should accept there will be challenges and be tolerant of learning curves. If we don't, there will be disappointment, but we carry on in the established manner. I read the other day that several counties had approached Derbyshire to discuss the club's blueprint, so we must be doing something right.

I don't expect many changes in our side. If Jon Clare was fit I would like to see him replace Mark Turner, but I can't see any other changes. The only realistic batting switch would see Chesney Hughes come in, but I think that unlikely at this late stage, unless Paul Borrington has any reaction to his nasal surgery.Alex Hughes is another pushing for a place, but his time will come another year.

Irrespective of concerns over our batting, if you asked Kent or Yorkshire if they'd like to swap with us right now they'd say yes, without doubt. A maximum bonus point draw would mean one of those sides would have to win to pip us for the title. Both would need to do so to prevent promotion in such an eventuality.

Can we score 400?That, I don't know. We'd need a big innings from someone and contributions around it, but three bowling points and a win would get promotion, if not necessarily requiring the purchase of a new trophy cabinet and "polishing the silverware" being added to someone's job description. No doubt there will be pitch inspectors descending from helicopters should five wickets go down before lunch on the first day...

Despite my reservations about the batting, I'm going to predict a win and if we do that, what happens elsewhere is irrelevant. Yorkshire may nick the silverware, but I'd comment more on that when I see the Essex squad. If a full Essex side plays - and they should field one, given the importance of the match  - I cannot see Yorkshire beating them unless set a very generous chase on the last afternoon. Indeed, bowling first would give the white rose county their best chance, so that powerful line-up can take them close on Friday.

So, slipping effortlessly into parochial mode, let's hope that Yorkshire bat first....

More tomorrow.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Kent v Derbyshire day 4

Years ago, when I was a kid, my Dad introduced me to all sorts of music. Not just the popular stuff of the day which we heard on the radio - I grew up in the Sixties, which was pretty cool - but the older stuff too. So I heard Hank Williams, Bing Crosby, The Mills Brothers, Glenn Miller and many, many more. Some I liked more than others, but it gave me a thorough grounding in music and ensured that my taste remains very eclectic to this day.

One of my favourites was an influential American vocal group called The Ink Spots, who broke ground later trod by the likes of The Platters, The Drifters and more. One of my favourite songs of theirs was the somewhat apposite "Maybe".

Where am I going with this? Well, maybe Derbyshire have now blown it. Maybe we're not good enough to go up. Maybe Yorkshire will beat Essex next week. Maybe Kent will beat Glamorgan. Maybe we will play in division two again next summer. Maybe our batting will fail again next week and we will finish third.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Then again, maybe the batting will fire against Hampshire. Maybe one more big effort will take us across the line. Maybe Glamorgan will fight hard to avoid the wooden spoon. Maybe Yorkshire's average attack will struggle to bowl out Essex.

You don't know. I don't know. None of us know.

Now for a fact.

With one game to go, Derbyshire are STILL top of the league. You'd be forgiven for not knowing that, with the comments doing the rounds at present. Without a shadow of a doubt, our batting remains poor at present, flimsy, unreliable and a definite weakness. It will undoubtedly be an area addressed in the winter. It will be a major concern should the unthinkable (for some) happen and we go up.

For what it is worth, I think we have punched above our weight this summer and, given the youth of this side, are way ahead of any schedule anticipated by Karl Krikken, Chris Grant and Wayne Madsen. If we were to go up there's a danger that we could get some serious hammerings next summer. Maybe not on the Derby County/Billy Davies/Premiership scale, but hammerings nonetheless. Perhaps it would be better to be among the favourites for promotion next year, rather than being a bookies certainty to come down. But should that REALLY stop us trying for it? As I've said all along, this is a work in progress, after all. Again, just as Poynton and Redfern have emerged this summer, maybe others will do so in 2013 and we would again surprise a few people. Who, pre-season, expected us to be top with one game to go?

I won't sit here with my laptop on my knee and pretend our batting is good, because it isn't. Generally speaking, we have won matches this summer despite our batting, rather than because of it. Fans are rightly stating that it hasn't been the same since Martin Guptill left, but we need to get used to it as Guptill won't be back next summer, unless we can persuade him to play T20. This is in many ways a typically Derbyshire side, one that wins when the batting gives the bowlers just enough runs to play with. I'm of an era that can remember when Venkat taking 6-115  saw him concede more runs than we had scored, after all...

We all know their faults - they've been debated all summer, of course, but for this next few days, get behind a bunch of young players who have given their all. Perhaps, at the end of it all, it may not be enough, but that should not detract from a summer in which our interest is likely to run to the very last day. Today that young side tried their best but against one of greater experience it was not enough. There were some stirring efforts, with Usman Khawaja, Tom Poynton and Paul Borrington resisting longer than most, but Kent's bowlers proved their betters on the day and fair play to them for doing so. After all yesterday's fuss, Tredwell didn't take a wicket...

We may see that result replicated next week, but if there's one thing I've learned over 45 summers of watching Derbyshire it's that cricket is a funny game. Our batting is a concern, but for now we play with the hand we're dealt and hope that a couple of them come up with the goods. Whatever happens, I know the team will battle to the end and I am proud to support a team that does that.

Maybe next week will be a disappointment, an anti-climax. Then again, maybe we will get more points from our game than Yorkshire and Kent do in theirs. Promotion is just one game away.



Quite sad to see "Anon" jumping on here within minutes of tonight's defeat with a sarcastic comment about division one. I still despair of a minority of our "support" who would far sooner lose, so they can have a good moan, than win and celebrate success.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Kent v Derbyshire day 3

I gave a little thought to the opening of tonight's blog and have decided to focus on the cricket to start with.

No, I'm not going to suggest that Derbyshire can win this game. Given that we have only twice in over 140 years made 350 in the fourth innings of a match, we are unlikely to set a precedent by making 400 tomorrow. By the same token, if we reach the close at 108-7, I will be a very happy man.

Runs don't matter at all and the only thing that does is that we have at least one wicket in hand at the end of the day. The team - no, the club - are hurting tonight as you can read in Karl Krikken's comments on Cricinfo.

The best way to get back at the incompetents that make decisions pertaining to this great game of cricket is to get a draw - one that will almost guarantee promotion. It won't be easy, but look at this way. By general consensus Derbyshire have a good attack, yet today they were rendered impotent by the Kent batsmen and the wicket, which seemed to play pretty well. Unless it takes a turn for the worse overnight, which is unlikely, the batsmen need to play straight, leave anything wide alone and just stay in there. They have shown on a number of occasions this summer that the team is perhaps greater than the sum of the parts and tomorrow would be the time to illustrate that once more.

If Kent win tomorrow, I would suggest them best placed of the likely top three, with an away game to Glamorgan to come. I still think Yorkshire will struggle to bowl out Essex twice and it will then come down to what we do against Hampshire, whose promotion hopes are gone unless they produce an extraordinary display at Chelmsford tomorrow. If we hold out for a draw, we will need just two points from the Hampshire game to go up, as we have won more matches than our rivals.

That's what it all comes down to. Months of hard graft becomes one day of playing down the line and boring the pants off everyone.

Maybe we could make our cause easier with an early morning call to the ECB.

"Hello, ECB, Karl Krikken here. I just wanted to make a tweak to our side under the 'exceptional circumstances' ruling. These are pretty exceptional, I'll admit..."

"What's that then Karl?"

"When Usman Khawaja is out tomorrow - sorry, IF Usman Khawaja is out - we'd like to swap Turner, M for Guptill, M. "

"You can't do that Karl. Khawaja is your overseas player and you're only allowed one...I think"

"Ah, but if/when Khawaja is out, he's no longer in the match, therefore we technically don't have an overseas player. I take it that's OK? Martin's travelled all night to get here and he's ready to go..."

They might say yes. Heck, they'll probably say yes and no. They might even say yes if we introduce H. Amla from our club academy for the Hampshire game... formerly known as Hamza Siddique. Yes, of course he went to Repton and is only 21...this summer has aged all of our lads...

The most telling words on today's situation were those of David Lloyd earlier on Cricinfo, when he wrote:

"The regulations make it clear that a player made available by England can participate in a championship match provided there are two full days remaining, but the paragraph starts with the proviso “in exceptional circumstances”.
So does the fact that Kent are challenging to go up, and playing against promotion rivals, on a pitch taking some turn and they would rather have a 30-year-old spinner in their side than a 20-year-old rookie constitute exceptional circumstances?

I don't blame Kent for asking the question and if we were talking Derbyshire and Wainwright here my feelings would be the same. But when Krikken says that Derbyshire have an e mail stating that Tredwell was precluded from playing if he played at Trent Bridge, that should have been the end of it. What happens if we had won the toss and made a decision to bat or bowl based on his assumed absence? The regulation is, and has been for some time, a joke. If a player is released from England duty and his county replacement has either batted or bowled in the game that should be the end of it. Tredwell's replacement, Riley, had done both and the switch should not have been allowed. End of story. Exceptional circumstances should be when half your squad is down with dysentery and three of the fit ones are stuck in traffic. Nothing less.

A county could then go in either a batsman or bowler short with a twelfth man, but take that risk, if they were prepared to do so. You might see Bopara not bat till number eight, or Bresnan have to bowl with the old ball, but them's the breaks. You shouldn't see eleven players take on twelve and when the ruling body of the game give you two different answers to one question it is a sad indictment on them.

Months of hard work could stand or fall on that decision but I would make two points here. One is that we should not build Tredwell up into a mystery spinner. He's a decent bowler, but not, for me, a world-beater. Second is that I would reiterate - block it out, take the draw points  and then extend your first two digits in the approximate direction of Lords, lads...

I will admit that Kent have outplayed us in this game and in Sam Northeast have a batsman of genuine talent. I will concede that on the balance of play so far they probably deserve to win the match. I also hope that if we lose tomorrow we don't have a succession of moaners on here decrying the efforts of a side that has only lost one game all season.

But most of all, like the majority of you, I hope that we can get a draw.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Kent v Derbyshire day 2

First up tonight, in answer to the "Anon"  comment of earlier - today's earlier article was not an assumption of Derbyshire going up, just an assessment of what we need, irrespective of where we are playing our cricket in 2013. I'd have hoped that the number of "ifs" in there might have illustrated that for all concerned, but could anyone who can't be bothered logging in put their name to a comment please. In response to the curt manner of the comment, I've been equally curt in deleting it.

I am not assuming and have not assumed Derbyshire will get promotion this summer, but when you are as far ahead as we were going into the Kent game, it is, I think, permissible to start thinking it could happen with two games to go. By the same token, over the years Derbyshire have made an awful habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of success and you cannot legislate for the same thing happening again.


I still maintain there's something about this squad. Do I think this game is lost, given the first innings deficit?
Nope. We will have to bat much better the second time around, we will need luck and we will need Kent's bowlers to perhaps not be at their best. Yet if we can keep the target to under 225, it could be gettable. The ball is now turning and in Wainwright and Durston we have the best two spinners in the match. I'll not underestimate young Riley, nor the occasional left-arm wrist spin of Nash, but the greater threat to Derbyshire's winning this game appears to come from the Kent seamers and our own fallibility within sight of the winning post. Both sides will be wary of the game at Derby last month, of course...

We cannot get away from the fact that for what seems like the seventh game running our batsmen failed. At 112-7 we were in serious trouble, yet once again we were bailed out by nine, ten, jack, with Tom Poynton again batting with remarkable composure. In the last few weeks, county batting seems to have clicked for Poynton and I'm intrigued as to how and why that is. At this stage I can only say I am remarkably impressed by the young man, as I am by the positive attitude of the last three in the batting order. You could not, in all fairness, call it a tail.

Special mention needs to be made of a captain's effort from Wayne Madsen, who deserved better support than he got, while Paul Borrington showed guts in coming in at four and shaping up well, despite a broken nose, before falling to a bat/pad catch. It is also appropriate to mention the efforts of James Pipe in getting the swelling in Borrington's nose down overnight so that he could come in at an early stage. I once had mine broken playing five-a-sides and the next day looked like a cross between Jimmy Durante, a proboscis monkey and a panda...

If the worst happens and we lose it is a blow, but it is far from terminal. By my calculation, if Yorkshire win (which appears likely) they would be a point behind us ahead of the last game. If Kent win they will be six points behind us and might then fancy a win against Glamorgan and be back in the frame. Hampshire are currently struggling against Essex, who are 168 ahead with eight wickets left. Their powerful batting will be a tough nut for Yorkshire's bowling to crack at Chelmsford, so it will still come down to four days at Derby. If we win, we go up. If we don't, then you have to say that we blew it.

Yet as I've already said, that assumes we don't produce the most remarkable performance of a season piled high with them. Early wickets tomorrow, alarm bells ring and the game takes on a different complexion.

I'm prepared to be shot at by the harbingers of doom. If we were 350 behind at this stage I'd be joining you in proclaiming the game as lost.

But not yet, my friends. Not by a long chalk. Tomorrow is huge and it is time for the batsmen to answer their critics. First we need quick and regular wickets, then it's game on.