Sunday, 30 June 2013

T20 thoughts and Lancashire preview

There was a good-sized crowd at Leicester yesterday, which hopefully helped the cash-strapped county come to terms with their loss against Derbyshire (yes, I did enjoy writing that...)

Yet it was far-removed from the IPL and all the better for it. While suited business types will sporadically suggest we need to change things around to make it 'work', we will never recreate the IPL in this country, nor should we wish to. The cultural differences and local rivalries would render any attempt to create a regionalised competition redundant. The thought of watching an East Midlands select made up of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and ourselves take on a Trans-Pennine XI has no appeal whatsoever. I'd sooner take up card making.

In a week's time we will have a better idea of how much improved this Derbyshire side is, though the presence of all-rounders through the order allows us to bat long and offer plenty of options for Wayne Madsen. That was how, with seven down at Headingley on Friday evening we still had batsmen who could take us home. Similarly, three spinners yesterday enabled the skipper to bowl half of the allotted overs with bowlers best suited to the slow track, even though he still had three seamers in the side.

Billy Godleman won't be a regular in this format and, when they're fit, conditions will dictate who replaces him from Ross Whiteley, Alex Hughes and Jon Clare, all-rounders all. There's also Peter Burgoyne and Tom Knight to come in if we end up on a beach somewhere, so we shouldn't find too many wickets that leave us at a disadvantage.

One of those young lads would give us the one thing we appear to lack in the field - a real 'greyhound' with a safe pair of hands for long on. This position has become the new cover point, traditionally the preserve of such luminaries as Bland, Lloyd, Rhodes et al over the years. Now most sides have their fastest player with the best pair of hands out at long on, where the best can save 15-20 runs per innings. They have a lot of ground to cover from the hit back over the bowler's head to the sightscreen, round to cow corner and the work of the best is extraordinary. Australian Steve Smith is one of the world's best, while Kieron Pollard is often seen there. They hold their share of breathtaking catches, but their speed across the turf turns fours (and sometimes sixes) into twos. Such work adds to a player's value in the side, but the best have to be really quick and unafraid to throw themselves around. You don't want your star quick bowler there and wrecking his shoulder, that's for sure.

Canny batsmen going inside out and playing over cover also ensures that a fleet-footed fielder is needed at mid-off too and we're not, at least in yesterday's side, blessed with genuine speed. Good fielders yes, as Chesney Hughes illustrated with a chase around the boundary and full length dive in the Leicestershire innings, (mind that shoulder, Ches). Yet we have few blessed with real pace, perhaps apart from Dan Redfern and the skipper, who needs to be in the ring for obvious reasons. That's why Hughes or Whiteley would be additionally important to the side, over and above any runs they score or wickets they take.

Tuesday sees us host Lancashire and aside from one of the above for Godleman, I don't see any changes in the side. The visitors won at Durham, though like Derbyshire teams of recent vintage have overseas stars in Ashwell Prince and Simon Katich for who T20 isn't a major suit. Prince is playing as a Kolpak, which allows the red rose county to engage Kiwi left-armer Mitchell McClenaghan to spearhead their attack. He's a good bowler and will need watched, while Glen Chapple and Kabir Ali have plenty of experience. There's a few players of age there though, so you wouldn't expect them to be as agile in the field as Leicestershire were yesterday. Stephen Moore often gives them an explosive start and Steven Croft is a quick scorer at three.

They're a dangerous side, but beatable. Yesterday I mentioned the statistics that Albie Morkel has given to the side from his time in the IPL and here's one from Peakfan, based not on extensive research but on forty-odd years of cricket watching.

In any limited overs match, the side that bats, bowls and fields best wins around 99% of matches. Get any one of those disciplines wrong and it can go pear-shaped, while players on the opposition will sometimes be so good that nothing you can do will stop them. But if eleven players produce on a given day and common sense batting is backed by similar bowling and tigerish fielding, you will not go too far wrong.

If Derbyshire maintain yesterday's standards in all three disciplines they will have a decent chance of progressing from the group. If they don't, they won't.

Simple really.

Postscript - No blog from me tomorrow, at least not until late, as it is our son's graduation ceremony. Reckon we will be an even prouder Mr and Mrs P tomorrow. Well done, son!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Leicestershire v Derbyshire T20

Very impressive.

That's my verdict on Derbyshire today, after what in the end was a comfortable win over Leicestershire Foxes. We've now won two away games on the bounce and are top of the group. Be honest, we'll take that...

It was telling to hear how Albie Morkel's experience is being used and Derbyshire's batting today showed a nous that hasn't always been a feature of our one-day game. That 85% of teams who have someone batting through the innings go on to win may be common sense, but when a man who has well over 200 such games under his belt tells you these things, as recounted by David Wainwright, you have to listen. There wasn't much chance for individual success by Albie today and the home side's bowlers did especially well in the last three overs to give him no room to open his arms, but Chesney Hughes and Wes Durston batted beautifully. Hughes looks quicker on his feet than I have seen him and got us off to a flyer with some bruising blows, while Wes took up the mantle once he had been dismissed and continued to accelerate throughout his innings.

Shiv Chanderpaul also batted well and I can recall few players who time the ball as well as the West Indian. Even hitting sixes he seems to put little into it and he really is a joy to watch, whatever the idiosyncracies of his stance.It seemed somewhat incongruous to see a man renowned for his powers of concentration reverse-sweeping Shakib, but was all the more impressive for that.

It seemed a decent score, one that gave us a chance at least, but the way that Josh Cobb led off the home side's reply was breathtaking, even though we all hoped it might not last too long. He took Mark Footitt's first over apart and it was a brave move by Wayne Madsen to give him a second. Few among the club support might have done, yet Footitt took a key wicket with the aid of a very good catch by Billy Godleman. They're never easy when you have to backpedal as he did.

When Joe Burns took up his mantle it seemed scarcely possible that Derbyshire could win, yet the advent of spin stymied the innings. David Wainwright held a blinder to dismiss Shakib, then ran through the middle order with a spell of spin that suggested he is back to his best. He got fine support from Dan Redfern and it was hard to believe that he had only bowled six balls in the competition before today. If this was genuinely indicative of his bowling talent it gives us good competition for places, especially when Alex Hughes and Ross Whiteley return to fitness.

The fielding held up well throughout and it would be hard to fault how Derbyshire fought their way back into the game, then won it in some style. Perhaps the bowling wasn't as on the spot as it might have been at the start, but there's such a fine line between a ball that can be hit and one that is on the spot. It is also hard to bowl at a batsman who is coming hard at you as Cobb did and credit goes to our boys for holding their nerve.

Durston was a good man of the match, though Wainwright ran him close and his catch and wickets turned the game. Nor should a very tidy display by Tom Poynton behind the stumps be overlooked, a focal point of a sharp effort in the field.

Top of the section, though we'll have a better idea of the side's potential after this week's games against Lancashire and Nottinghamshire. You can't argue just now though.

More of the same this week boys. We all enjoyed that one.

PS This was my 2000th post on the blog. Nice to mark it with a win, eh?

Friday, 28 June 2013

Yorkshire v Derbyshire T20

For half of this game, Derbyshire played good T20 cricket as they restricted Yorkshire to 'just' 119 runs in 20 overs.

Then, easing to victory at 56-1 in the ninth over, we managed to slip to 70-7 in the thirteenth in a pretty shambolic effort. Irrespective of the difficulties presented by the wicket, how could we go from coasting it to nearly lost in four overs?

The bowlers did well earlier, with Albie Morkel bowling a particularly good spell, though I'm perhaps as baffled as the rest of you as to why he didn't bowl the last over after three for just nine runs, unless he had a slight niggle. I assume that was it, with Dan Redfern being bowled for the first time at the end of the innings.

It was an all-round professional bowling display, with spinners and seamers alike keeping control on a wicket that seemed far from ideal for T20 cricket - or at least the sort that the marketing men espouse to the potential fan base.

It's a funny game though. Brooks bowled well, but I cannot defend losing six wickets in eighteen balls at any level of the game. I'll confess to preparing this piece for a defeat when we reached 70-7, Morkel's departure seeming to signal the end.

Yet in our time of need, salvation came from an unlikely  - at least in T20 - source. Jon Clare's top T20 score in twenty previous innings was a mere 18, while Tim Groenewald's batting appeared to have gone back a bit this year, his willow less obdurate than in previous summers.

After David Wainwright departed at 92 at the end of the seventeenth, the two combined to add 28 from the next fifteen balls, so diametrically opposed to what had gone before as to be quite extraordinary. Clare extended his personal tournament best to an unbeaten 35, while Groenewald lent valuable support at the other end. It was an impressive knock from Clare, who kept the strike beautifully in the penultimate over and took responsibility in a manner that was good to see.

It was a winning start, but they will need to improve dramatically tomorrow for the TV cameras at Leicester. Tougher challenges await, but at the end of a dramatic match, we took the points.

Be honest, against a county where two of their most famous alumni 'got 'em in singles' in a tight finish, we'll gladly take a barnstorming conclusion after a mid-innings plummet worthy of St Moritz.

All of a sudden, Eddie 'the Eagle' Edwards turned into Adam Malysz...

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Brief blog...

I shall be brief tonight as I have a very early start tomorrow.

Andrew Bairstow is now available to Yorkshire tomorrow in the following squad:

Gale (c), Bairstow, Ballance, Brooks, Hodd, Hodgson, Lees, Lyth, Plunkett, Pyrah, Rafiq, Rashid, Sayers, Sidebottom, Wardlaw.

It is a decent squad, but no more than that. If we are serious of making an impression on the competition this year we should be beating a Yorkshire side shorn of several big stars.

The Derbyshire side looks likely to be as I suggested last night, though Peter Burgoyne could miss out on a Headingley track that rarely favours spin. There will also be a decision over the wicket-keeping role, with both Poynton and Johnson in the squad.

Finally tonight, you may have read that the club has appointed a chaplain, Revd Tim Wright of Boulton St Mary's Church, Alvaston, It is a forward-thinking move and recognises that cricket is a sport where independent support, advice and guidance, even just a friendly ear, can come in useful.

The club should be applauded for this which will doubtless be well utilised. Mind you, when I told my old Dad tonight he cast his mind back to earlier days.

"Time was when we looked like we'd signed Charlie Chaplin" he said, with a trademark chuckle.

You can't beat the old ones. We used to sign them...

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Useful workout at Chesterfield

There was a handy run out for Derbyshire's players at Chesterfield tonight as the county side, as expected, eased to victory over the league select put together by Kevin Dean.

There was an unbeaten 74 before retiral from Shivnarine Chanderpaul, a breezy 24 from Albie Morkel and runs from most others in a total of 184, before the bowlers kept their opponents well short at 136 by the end of the twenty overs. I may be wrong but I doubt that Morkel has played in much darker conditions in T20, certainly not for Chennai.

The side was largely as I expected it to be and had suggested in a first choice side last week. With the Yorkshire game at Headingley fast approaching, I think we will go in with close to this side:


It gives us three seamers and four spinners, as well as lengthy batting. I'd like to see Alex Hughes in there but am unsure if he will be risked in this first game.

Mind you, Yorkshire have their own injury worries. Besides losing Root, Bairstow and Bresnan to England duty, Phil Jaques and Steve Patterson are injured and Jack Brooks is unlikely to be risked, while Iain Wardlaw is with Scotland. With no overseas player, barring a late signing that Jason Gillespie says is 'a remote chance' they look beatable to me.

Of course, both Andrew Gale and Garry Ballance tend to score for fun against us and spinners Rafiq and Rashid will feature, as will veteran Ryan Sidebottom.

It will be a good game, but I am optimistic that Derbyshire can make Morkel think he's back with Chennai Super Kings on Friday night.

Just need Dan Redfern to bat like MS Dhoni and we're laughing...

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Midweek musings

There were plenty of mails after last night's blog. Several hadn't realised that Kim Barnett's formative years in Derbyshire colours were so unproductive, but a glance at your Wisdens or the Cricket Archive website will confirm last night's statistics.

The difference being, of course, that Barnett was a callow youth in a good batting side, where Hill, Wright, Wood, Kirsten and Steele gave a sound foundation to most innings and the odd ill-judged flirtation outside off stump could be forgiven. I don't think anyone who watched Barnett in those early seasons would have seen in him perhaps the greatest Derbyshire batsman of his generation and arguably the best ever.

It all happened - although of course his natural talent was a factor - because he was given opportunity by Phil Russell. He promoted him to open the innings, gave him the responsibility of the captaincy and the rest, as they say, is history. He might have made it had he remained in the middle order, but Russell's actions were a stroke of genius, confirming what a very good coach and judge of players he was.

Which is the point I was making about Ben Slater. It would be silly to make a judgement on the lad's worth as a county cricketer without giving him opportunity to bat where he has made his runs at lower levels of the game. We may as well give him a chance in the second half of the season and see how it goes. You just don't know with young players, but you have to give them a go.

The problem for our young players is that they're all trying to come through at the same time and there's only three experienced batsmen alongside them. In any one side we will have three batsmen making their way in the game and it is hard for them, especially on wickets like the one for the latest match. When a world-ranked batsman like Chanderpaul struggles, when high-class openers such as Trescothick and Compton  do so, we cannot realistically expect young lads to come in and smack it around.

Their development will be hindered to some extent by such wickets, though we might win a match or two along the way. The problem may come though, that the seamers will become used to easier pickings at Derby and find themselves exposed when they have to work harder for wickets further afield. Then you will see how good bowlers they are. It was an accusation against Les Jackson that he took most of his wickets on helpful home tracks, one laid to rest when statistics showed he was even more successful away. I'd wager that with him in the attack yesterday, Somerset would not have made three figures...

By the same token, the wicket made at least for a good game of cricket, unlike the track at Trent Bridge for their game that finished today. When you have 500 plays 478 in four, albeit rain-ruined days, it makes for scant entertainment. While batsmen will prefer such tracks for obvious reasons, they're as likely to lure people down to the county game as lunchtime cross-stitch demonstrations.

Tomorrow Derbyshire head to the scenic splendour of Chesterfield to play Kevin Dean's All Star Select From the Finest Players in the Derbyshire Premier League XI, or whatever it is called. It will be a good test and sees a debut for Albie Morkel. I think the Queens Park boundaries are well within his range and hope that he hits his best form early.

Supporters go to T20 to see sixes and fours - as WG Grace once said, "to see me bat, not you bowl". With the greatest respect to the bowlers, T20 without the boundaries is like operatic arias without the high C at the end - somewhat less appealing. We need to ensure that strokes can be played with a degree of confidence to pull in the crowds, but the tracks are slow enough to allow our array of spinners a chance to shine and cramp the opposition style.

Mind you, we look like being without a couple of them for the T20. Chesney Hughes is unlikely to bowl, having not done so all season, while the sight of Tom Knight limping around the County Ground with a protective boot around his lower leg doesn't suggest he will be playing anytime soon. Such protection is usually indicative of minor ligament damage and may see the young left-armer out for a week or two.

If we get many more injuries to our bowlers, we may yet see Mike Hendrick and Bob Swindell return to the side. I'd reckon they're ahead of me in the pecking order...

More tomorrow, with news from Chesterfield.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Derbyshire v Somerset day 4

It is hard to get away from the feeling  that today was when Derbyshire's relegation to division two of the championship became patently obvious to all but the most blinkered.

I'd like to think that I'm one of the more positive among the club's fan base, but I can see no way back at the halfway stage of the championship. We are 25 points adrift of the nearest side, who were county champions last summer, highlighting that this is a tough old league. It's not impossible, but realistically it is unlikely that we will survive in the top tier this time around.

Today was an opportunity. I said last night that Somerset wouldn't have fancied chasing 200 and, having latterly limped to 145-6 and a win, I wasn't too far wide of the mark with that assertion. It is a long time since Derbyshire had three bowlers who each took five in an innings in the same match, but they all finished on the losing side today.

It is easy, as the usual suspects do elsewhere, to cry 'rubbish' and seek - nay, demand - change. But why? How? It wasn't the best of batting displays today, but we must give some credit to a Somerset attack that used the conditions well and fought their side back into a game that seemed to be moving away from them this morning.

For Derbyshire to lose eight wickets for 58 was poor, very poor, but to some extent we were hoist by our own petard. We prepared a result wicket where runs would need to be fought for and earned; wickets by putting the ball in the right areas on a regular basis. Our visitors did both better than we did. We bowled well, but not well enough to win. We batted solidly first time around, but were overwhelmed today.

Should we be surprised? There are four international players in the opposition ranks and some very talented ones besides. Thomas and Kirby are experienced bowlers of talent, Overton one on the way up. We have Chanderpaul of similar stature, whereas the rest are very good, good and ordinary county players. I'll let you decide who fits in which category.

Where do we go from here? We keep battling, of course and hope that miracles do sometimes happen. It is ironic that we collapsed today after suggesting that we were getting to grips with batting at this level. After struggling to take wickets all summer, three players suddenly take five. The wickets will continue to be result tracks, as they need to be and we have to hope that we can come out top on some of them. I'm not hopeful though.

There are three things I will say. Karl Krikken must now give Ben Slater a run at the top of the order, if only to assess if he can potentially forge a career in the first-class ranks. Next year Slater might just be one of our opening batsmen, but he needs matches in this division to benchmark himself against the best. He also needs to open. I'm sure that Krikk hasn't signed Albie Morkel and told him today to bowl slow off-spin and be the team sheet anchor. By the same token he should let Slater do what he does, where he does it best. Some batsmen get nervous waiting to get to the middle and if you're at number six you have a lot of time to wait (though not that much, the way we batted today...) Slats needs to go in as opener and should be afforded a similar run to Billy Godleman, who has to be given a break now.

Similarly, we need to look at some way of allowing the second team County Ground exposure. It's all very well them playing on nice grounds around the county, but it would be a heck of a lot more use to the players if they batted and bowled on the square they would be on if they make the senior team. It would then be less of an ordeal and there would be greater familiarity with the surroundings, all of which would help them settle. Little things, but little things, as we know, mean a lot.

Finally, consider this. A few years ago, a county had a young and talented batsman on its staff. He played age group cricket for his country and made the first team at a rate commensurate with his perceived ability.

His first season saw an encouraging 750 runs scored, with four fifties in 36 knocks. An average of 25 was OK; nothing special, but reasonable for a young player. In his second summer 21 innings saw him average only 17, with a highest score of 69, with just 362 runs. There were a few concerned eyebrows being raised, as the lad continually got out the same way, often nicking to the slip cordon as he played away from his body. "Too flash" said the critics, far too soon for either comfort or decency.

Season three? Not much better. 443 runs in 23 innings, an average of 23, a highest of 67. Three seasons of first-class cricket saw an average of 21 from eighty knocks and while the next produced a maiden century and the average crept just north of 30, another 24 innings saw little else of consequence.

The player had a career record at that point of 2100 runs from 105 innings and an average of 24. That's less than Billy Godleman (3693 runs from 132 innings at 29) Chesney Hughes (2060 runs at 35 from 61 innings) Dan Redfern (3193 runs from 112 innings at 30) and Ross Whiteley (1225 runs at 28 from 50 innings)

Yet his county persisted with him, as we must do with our young players now and from there his career took off. He became one of their greatest-ever players.

His name?

Kim Barnett.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Derbyshire v Somerset day 3

Given the speed at which wickets went down at Derby in the one session of play that was possible today, it may not yet be beyond the realms of possibility that a positive result could come from this truncated, yet thoroughly absorbing match.

86 runs on with eight wickets in hand, tomorrow will be an opportunity for someone to make a name for themselves, after Tony Palladino and Tim Groenewald did just that today. Reading the chairman's tweet this afternoon, they both appear to have earned a bottle of champagne for their efforts, a nice touch from a man who is renowned for such things.

We could do with a Chanderpaul fifty-plus tomorrow and support down the order on a day where Somerset will not fancy anything over 220. With a better forecast, the likelihood is of a full day's play, though whether less cloud makes for easier batting conditions, or it will be equally challenging due to the condition of the wicket is a moot point.

The big decision that will be mulled over by Messrs Krikken and Madsen overnight is the runs v time equation. If they are genuine in their push for a win - and they really have to be - they need to allow time to take ten wickets, but in doing so can leave the door open for a Somerset batting line-up that is highly unpredictable. Several members of that side have either England or Lions experience and in some eyes Derbyshire will still be the underdogs in this game.

By the same token, they haven't played at Derby for a few years and didn't make an especially good fist of their first innings. We will hope to bat until the early afternoon but will base a declaration - if they do well enough to get to that stage - on how the wicket plays. It may soon become evident in the morning that 220 would be more than enough; conversely without cloud cover 250 may be gettable for a visiting side that can bat better than they showed first time around.

It promises to be an excellent day of county cricket on the type of wicket that generally produces such a match. Any day of the week I would take a game where 200 plays 250 or thereabouts, ahead of one where 450 plays 375. It is still possible to get runs, as Kim Barnett used to show a few years back when our wickets were tailored for a strong seam attack, but you have to work at it.

Spare a thought though, as I suggested last night, for opening batsmen. When Barnett used to lead off on such tracks with near to a hundred before lunch, he was an experienced player with plenty of confidence who was used to the bounce and movement. Whichever combination we choose from Godleman, Hughes, Slater and Borrington we have no one with such experience, nor the confidence to play in such a manner. If they can stick around, see the shine off the new ball, take away some of the hardness and make it easier for those down the order they will be doing a job though.

Let's just hope that Somerset's openers don't do that tomorrow. This game is definitely winnable and the men who took the wickets yesterday and today are the ones who can do it, rather than the greater pace of Mark Footitt.

Fingers crossed...

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Derbyshire v Somerset day 2

Four wickets for Palladino, two for Groenewald - why, it was just like high summer, 2012 at the County Ground today...

Tony Palladino had a slow start to the season, but has been sorely missed in the past few weeks, especially at Derby, where he has come to know the track so well and has taken plenty of wickets. Four wickets today hopefully made up for those weeks out in some small way and, following on from his crucial innings yesterday, underlined his importance to this Derbyshire side.

He could have had five, of course and I just hope that the dropped slip catch that reprieved Peter Trego doesn't come back to bite us. Trego is a dangerous player and had Somerset closed on 170-7 tonight we could have had a handy first innings lead. We still could, but we will need to get him quickly tomorrow in order to do so, or we could equally easily be looking at a deficit, which in a low scoring game is not part of the plan, unless it is more cunning than anything ever thought up by Baldrick from Blackadder.

It was good to see Tim Groenewald back to his parsimonious best too on a track that seems to have suited him as much as his oft-time sparring partner. He has not had the success of previous summers this year, but has not been alone in that, yet he remains a one hundred per cent cricketer who is fit more often than most and continues to be an asset to the team and also to Wayne Madsen as a senior professional.

It isn't an easy track for batting and when you see England openers having to work at their game, it puts into perspective the challenges faced by the likes of Godleman, Hughes and Slater, openers all and having to work their way into the first-class scene. By the same token, Billy really needs runs tomorrow, or whenever we begin our second innings.

I suspect that the weather may yet take too much from this game for a positive result and it will take something spectacular - in a good and bad way - for that to happen, with more rain forecast for tomorrow ahead of a nice day on Monday.

Yet Derbyshire continue to battle and have fought their way back into the game against a team of reasonable international pedigree. Perhaps we're only now starting to realise that we can handle this level of the game and are capable of competing. Perhaps there was too much cap-doffing at the big boys at the start, too much deference being shown.

In the right conditions, with all personnel present, we can give it one hundred per cent and a good go.

No one can argue with that.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Derbyshire v Somerset day 1

After losing the toss for the umpty-first time this summer, Wayne Madsen probably got to the end of the first day of this game a reasonably happy man.

266 all out on the first day of an important championship match isn't a great score, but perhaps more than we expected after losing the toss and being asked to bat. There appears to have been help for the bowlers today and we must hope that it continues tomorrow, ideally with some cloud cover and humidity. With two England men of differing vintage at the crease, we need early inroads tomorrow to keep in this game and hopefully be in a position to push for the win at the end of it all.

The skipper once again batted well, while his batting partner of late, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, had a rare failure. The lower order once again propped us up, as they have so many times in the past couple of summers and the return of Tony Palladino saw the shots of a man who has to be one of the best lower order batsmen on the county circuit. Indeed, 'Dino' scores runs so often now that it becomes more of a surprise when he fails than when he gets a few, a sure sign of progress in his game.

Likewise, Richard Johnson continues to show that he intends to hang on to the wicket-keeper's gloves with another valuable innings and the continued fighting qualities of the side are good to see as a supporter. No one likes to see their team getting beaten, but you can handle it better if you see them going down with a struggle, something we have largely done all summer.

Tomorrow is a big, big day. We could do with an early wicket or two and it was unfortunate that Ben Slater couldn't hang on to a chance when Compton mis-hooked Mark Footitt late on.

We will need to catch anything and everything tomorrow. If ever there was a day to hit the heights once more in the field, this is it.

I'll be back tomorrow night. Normal service should then be resumed over the weekend and next week!

PS Anyone else think that the Old Trafford track that was cleared by Jack Birkenshaw might have got a different reception at a non-Test ground? Northamptonshire were unamused and rightly so, suggesting that it was like a wicket on an outground.

Four day games shouldn't end on the second day . If they do, pitch preparation has to be questioned. Considering that the participants in this match were perhaps the two best sides in the division, it is a poor advert for the county game if the batting was THAT bad.

If that had happened at Derby today and tomorrow, I'd be fearing the worst, for sure...

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Cricinfo piece on Morkel signing

Not much to report on with regard to the Scotland game tonight, bar for Neil Carter showing the benefit of experience in the limited overs game.

The former Warwickshire player, at 38, showed that you never really lose it with an admirable spell for Scotland tonight. It was the sort of display that makes me wonder if there is a discerning county out there who would consider him for a short term T20 contract.

He'd be much cheaper than an overseas player and with a scoring rate around that of Albie Morkel and good strike and economy rates with the ball, I think Carter could do a job for a county, especially going in, as he has done many times over the years, as a pinch-hitter at the top of the order. He won't be a whippet in the field, but I could see him as a good short term signing somewhere.

Speaking of Albie Morkel and I am pleased to see the favourable comments about his signing around the game and the sites. Why not? He is a proven talent who, in the right environment, could make massive contributions to any side. He may not blast hundreds, but plays the sort of game that can take you from 100-3 in 14 to 180 at the end of twenty. Playing the way that he does, he could just as easily go quickly, but if he fires two or three times in his time at the club it will be memorable.

Likewise his presence up the order allows us to play either an extra batsman or bowler, perhaps an extra spinner. A first-choice side could thus line up something like:

Hughes (C)
Hughes (A)

Alternatively, Redfern could come in, especially if he bowled as he did against Hampshire earlier this week.

Finally tonight, Cricinfo has my latest piece up on the Morkel signing. You can see it here

See you tomorrow. Hopefully the rain relents for the Somerset game...oh, and the skipper calls right at the toss!

Albie Morkel signs for Derbyshire!

Albie Morkel eh? Impressive...

While he has perhaps never quite lived up to the 'new Lance Klusener' billing that he was landed with on his arrival in the first-class game (was Klusener THAT good?) there is no doubt that Chris Grant and Karl Krikken have picked up one of the modern game's best T20 players. At a time when the availability of the biggest names in the game is a major issue, luring Morkel to the County Ground for the first nine games of the T20 may well prove a very solid piece of business.

I'm not going to suggest he will get us to the quarter finals, as that will need eleven players on top of their game, not just one, but Morkel is a genuine T20 all-rounder of proven ability, who can win games with both bat and ball. That's why he now tours the world as a cricketer for hire and he has the statistics to back his undoubted talent.

Some sourpusses will doubtless suggest that it smacks of last year's signing of Rana Naved, looking good on paper but less so when the player gets out on the pitch, yet there is a major difference. Naved was a good player on the way down, certainly in terms of fitness. Morkel, at 32, is still a man very much at the height of his powers.His batting has been stifled a little of late by a lack of opportunity that I hope we can provide, but his bowling, as he showed in the recent IPL, is in very good shape.

As a batsman he specialises in the short, sharp and brutal innings that can win a game in five or six overs or less. He only has six T20 fifties, but his batting average of 26 confirms that he can handle a bat and hit a ball as far as anyone in the game. With a first-class average of 45 with eight centuries, there is little doubt about that and I just hope that we bat him high enough so he can play himself in, before needing to launch the big shots. Four or five would be perfect for Morkel, giving him the chance to replicate the batting of his IPL Chennai skipper MS Dhoni in the later stages of innings. His scoring rate of 140 per hundred balls is serious stuff and puts him up there with the fastest scorers in the format. As the clip below shows, when he turned near-certain defeat into victory in one brutal over, give him any width to free those arms and he will send the ball a long way.

As a bowler he is fast enough to make good batsmen hurry, uses the short ball well and moves it around enough to get wickets in the conventional manner. 186 T20 wickets around the globe have come at 26 each, with a very respectable economy rate under eight an over, added to over 200 first-class ones at under 30.

He's no stranger to the area, having been professional at Leek in 2002 and 2003 and has since played 58 one-day internationals and 42 T20 internationals for his country. There was just a solitary Test match - I use the past tense as the player himself admits that his international career is over - in which his solitary innings saw him score 58 runs while taking one wicket.

Morkel's signing will offer important balance to the side and enable Karl Krikken to play an extra bowler or batsman, depending on his preference. Most of all, he will bring crucial experience to a young side and his contribution, alongside Shivnarine Chanderpaul, will be vital to any chance of Derbyshire success in a format that has long been a disappointment for followers.

In short? It is hard to be anything other than pleased and impressed. When cricketers of pedigree are in short supply, we have managed to get hold of a very good one.

I hope that supporters acknowledge that and support the club in the weeks ahead.

Derbyshire v Scotland YB40

Derbyshire have an unchanged squad for this evening's game against Scotland, which isn't that much of a surprise as we don't have many options outside of it.

We didn't bat that badly against Hampshire, but Adam Wheater's innings took the game away from us and a player who makes a decent score at a rate of 1.4 per ball upwards will generally give his side a better than evens chance of a win. Our batsmen made good starts but we had no one who went on to the match-defining knock that was required.

It was unfortunate that both Mark Turner and Mark Footitt chose Tuesday to return to their more profligate bowling days and - for me, at least - confirm that it is unlikely that both will feature in the same T20 side. Both are capable of very good, fast spells, but if or when it goes wrong it is spectacular, something we can ill-afford with a batting line up that has talent but, outside the openers, not really anyone of an explosive nature. I could not, for example, see anyone scoring a 44-ball century as Darren Stevens did for Kent last night.

That's not a criticism of good players, merely an observation but they should be more than good enough for Scotland today. The Scots have some players of talent, as they show every season, but the parts don't always add up to a robust and cohesive whole.

I hope that's the case tonight, if for no other reason than the fact that it will keep me armed with good ammunition for a number of months to come...

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Hampshire v Derbyshire YB40

My following of last night's game was down to very occasional glances at the club's Twitter feed, thanks to the extraordinary nature of Bruce Springsteen's gig at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

A short summation? The two spinners (one of them part-time)  did well; the seamers didn't. Only very good batting sides can chase nearly 280 and we're not near that, at this stage in the team's development.

It appears to have been a fair effort at a run chase, but the run out of Chanderpaul was costly and, as at Durham in the same competition, we gave away too many runs and made life hard for ourselves in doing so.

Next up, the Scotland game, which logic suggests will be easier.

Hopefully that's the case.

PS Springsteen?  Simply on  a different level. Three hours and forty minutes of the most rousing (and at times moving) rock you could imagine, with perhaps the best band on the planet.


Monday, 17 June 2013

Chanderpaul and the Caribbean T20

Good to see Derbyshire moving quickly tonight to quash stories of Shivnarine Chanderpaul's potential involvement in the Caribbean Premier League.

Chris Grant tweeted to confirm that Chanderpaul will be available for the full season, which is great news for our fans but less good for St Lucia, who, according to Cricinfo, he was due to represent.

Mr Grant also announced that the announcement of our second T20 player, a "quality T20 specialist" will be made in the next day or so.

Exciting times, excellent news!

Book Review: The Promise of Endless Summer - Cricket Lives from the Daily Telegraph edited by Martin Smith

I've always thought of obituaries in much the same way as funerals. When the person writing or speaking knew the subject, they tend to be more sincere, worthwhile and pertinent than when they are basing their words on second or third hand information.

As the editor, Martin Smith, points out in his foreword to this book, obituary notices until the mid-1980s were largely staid and dry, in the fashion of the times. You got a brief resume of the major career milestones and facts about the subject, but little that put flesh onto the bones as a good writer can do so well.

This collection of obituary notices from the pages of the Daily Telegraph is of cricketers who died from the start of that more descriptive period to the modern day and it is as fine a collection of writers and styles as you could wish for, Michael Henderson, Scyld Berry, E.W.Swanton, Tony Lewis, Simon Hughes and Michael Parkinson are all here, the writing almost - and that's quite a feat - as good as the cricket of their subjects.

All but one is effusive in its praise of the talents of the players concerned, the exception being Simon Hughes' piece on Sylvester Clarke, who he describes as the 'fastest, nastiest fast bowler who ever lived' and goes on to explain why. I suppose anyone who leaves you 'two millimetres of man-made fibre from death' has that kind of effect on you.

It is fine writing though, as is John Major's appreciation of Denis Compton, 'an Olympian of cricket'. There are numerous fine stories and the subjects are some of the greatest players and characters to set foot on a cricket ground, together with some of its finest characters. Perhaps the latter have the greater charm, such as reading how Bryan 'Bomber' Wells once bowled an over in the time it took the Worcester Cathedral clock to strike 12. When told by his captain that he was making the game look ridiculous and ordered to start his run from eight paces, rather than two, he did - but bowled the ball - on a length, mind - from well behind the stumps after taking only two...

Mark Nicholas' piece on Malcolm Marshall is a joy, the former Hampshire captain recounting how wicket-keeper Bobby Parks stood 31 paces back to him one day at Portsmouth, while Derbyshire fans will especially enjoy the piece on Eddie Barlow, who Charles Fortune once described as 'running up to bowl, looking like an unmade bed'. Those who saw 'Bunter' in action will enjoy that description as much as I did.

There is also an obituary for Derbyshire legend Les Jackson, who Donald Bradman felt one of the best bowlers he had faced in 1948, yet scandalously played only two Test matches in the next 13 years. His thirteen-pace run may have ended in a round-arm sling, but it took hundreds of wickets and saw him considered, in the words of Tom Graveney, 'the best bloody bowler in the country'.

In a book of such memorable writing, it could have been hard to have a favourite, but the inclusion of Michael Parkinson's outstanding piece on the former Derbyshire all-rounder George Pope makes this an easy decision for me. For years I had the press-cutting in a folder and now it serves as the concluding piece in a remarkable collection of writing.

Emphasising  my opening comments about the best writing coming from those who knew the subject, the Yorkshire broadcaster produced three pages of golden text about 'a man who a generation of cricketers will testify was the best bowler they ever faced'.

'I could bowl out England on this track' he would tell his league team, before going out with them to to take another six, seven or eight wickets with a bamboozling array of inswing, outswing, off-cutters and leg-cutters. A 'master of his craft' indeed.

Quite a character and bowler, George Pope, and quite a remarkable book. Aurum Press deserve every success with it and it should be a fixture on the bedside or coffee table of every cricket fan. Thanks to Jessica for the special offer for blog readers, which I would heartily recommend you take up.

The Promise of Endless Summer: Cricket Lives from the Daily Telegraph is published by Aurum Press.
To order a copy (9781781310489) for £11.99 including p&p, telephone 01903 828503 or email, and quote offer code AUR349. Alternatively, send a cheque made payable to: Littlehampton Book Services Mail Order Department, Littlehampton Book Services, PO Box 4264, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 3RB. Please quote the offer code AUR349 and include your name and address details. 
*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas

Hampshire v Derbyshire YB40

We have a fourteen-man squad for tomorrow's game against Hampshire, one that sees a return for Dan Redfern. It reads:

Chesney Hughes
Wes Durston
Paul Borrington
Shivnarine Chanderpaul
Wayne Madsen
Dan Redfern
Richard Johnson
Jonathan Clare
Peter Burgoyne
David Wainwright
Tom Knight
Tim Groenewald
Mark Turner
Mark Footitt

The final eleven will, as always, be decided by the wicket, but my initial thoughts would see the omission of Redfern, a spinner and a seamer. Chesney Hughes' shoulder injury has cost us a very useful one-day bowler and without him we only have one bowler, Wes Durston, in the top six. As we wouldn't want to go with a straight five bowlers, the likelihood is that Johnson will bat six and the bowlers/all-rounders will be from 7 to 11.

One place is likely to be between Tom Knight and Peter Burgoyne, while I suspect that Tim Groenewald may be rested ahead of the Somerset game on Friday. It will be a decent side, but they will be up against strong opposition, with Carberry, Vince and Adams all good players. Neil McKenzie adds international class, as does Sohail Tanvir and on their own turf Hampshire will take some beating. A repetition of last week's effort against Essex will do nicely though.

They're good enough. Self-belief is the key.

Postscript - Chris Adams' sacking by Surrey is sad but inevitable. The amount of money earned by some of those players demanded greater returns than they have produced. Adams is a worthy man, but paid the price for failure, far less palatable when a county has the resources enjoyed at The Oval.

More on that in the days ahead, time permitting.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The week ahead

Normal service for the blog tomorrow, but then the week ahead is likely to be more sporadic in the timing of posts as the week chez Peakfan is on the busy side of hectic.

On Tuesday my son and I head off to Hampden to see Bruce Springsteen, then Wednesday evening sees me playing cricket. Thursday is prize-giving at our daughter's school, while Friday is our son's birthday. I do hope to blog between times, but it will be when I have time and I wouldn't have it any other way, to be quite honest.

It is somewhat ironic that it comes during a busy week for Derbyshire. YB40 games against Hampshire on Tuesday and Scotland on Thursday are important and winning the two of them would leave us very much in contention to progress from group B.

They also know they can beat these teams. Scotland have been hammered by Durham today and we won easily enough in Edinburgh, while the players need only to cast their minds back to the pre-season Barbados tour last year and the final championship game of 2012 to realise that Hampshire can be beaten. Whether we can do so just now is another question, but there is enough talent in the side to do so and, lest we forget, we are a division one side while they are in the second tier. Time to assert yourselves gentlemen and put in a big one.

Then of course on Friday we see the crucial championship game against Somerset at Derby begin. How nice it would be to get win points on the board for the halfway stage of the season. I gave you my thoughts on that side last night and Somerset, while a side of talented players, haven't impressed especially this year. They are, in short, beatable if the weather stays out of it.

Also this week I expect news to break of a second overseas signing for the T20. Yes, I think there will be one, as we'd have otherwise broken the news to the contrary by this stage. I also stand by my comments of June 6 and expect that player to be from South Africa. Who it will be I don't know, but if he can hit a good long ball and ideally bowl a few overs he will do me.

More during the week, quite possibly at very strange times!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire day 4

We're closing in on the halfway stage of the county championship season and, as seemed likely last night, the game against Nottinghamshire ended in a somewhat predictable draw.

The rain took too much out of it, although Derbyshire competed well throughout. For all that there were extra bonus points in the game for both sides, however, the greatest thing to come out of the game is additional knowledge about the side.

The batting is actually shaping up quite well. Hughes has done well as opener, Madsen has been a rock at three, Chanderpaul has been Chanderpaul at four. While Wes Durston hasn't contributed as he and we might have expected at five, he remains too good a player to not come good in the second half of the summer and remains a dangerous batsman in the one-day game.

The issues remain in the other positions and it is time, when the Somerset game comes, for Ben Slater to be given a chance at the top of the order, in the interest of fairness, if nothing else. Billy Godleman has had half the championship season to come good, but averages 17 from 12 innings. It isn't good enough at this level. That's not criticism of Godleman, who has tried his best, but it hasn't worked out for him and he now needs to be pulled from the line up.

Slater needs to be given the same opportunity now and should be in the championship side to the end of the summer. He deserves the chance, after scoring prolifically at every other level this year. At present he is only on a summer contract and we need to see if there is genuine talent there that warrants a full-time deal for another summer. He also needs to be given that opportunity at the top of the order.

I have written before about the difference in mindset and technique that is required between opening and batting at six. That's after you have taken into account the issue of waiting for a few hours to do so when you're not used to it. Slater may or may not have what it takes at top level, but we will never know unless he is given the opportunity. It's like asking a talented striker to play back in the holding role in midfield, or drop to left back. I'm a big believer in having the right pegs in the right holes and, that being the case, Slater needs to open against Somerset.

If he's fit, Alex Hughes needs to bat six in that game too. He's in better form than Dan Redfern and Ross Whiteley, while putting Godleman in there is the same issue as explained above for Slater. Hughes also offers balance and a few overs of medium pace and is another who deserves opportunity to assess his medium to long-term worth. I rate the lad and, in the absence of viable alternatives he now needs to come in for a run in the side.

Richard Johnson is doing little wrong as wicket-keeper/batsman, but it is the bowling where we have the biggest problem at present. In contrast to last year when our attack carried all before them, Jon Clare is top of the averages with ten wickets at 40, Turner next with 6 at 47, then Groenewald with 13 at 48. Then Mark Footitt has seven wickets at 49, Durston 7 at 52, Wainwright 6 at 79 and Palladino 3 at 83.

It makes worrying reading. When we realistically need a minimum of three wins in the second half of the summer, it is hard to see where the twenty wickets to enable that will come from, especially when the bowlers have had the best conditions they will get all summer in April and May.

I hope that Clare is fit for the Somerset game, while I understand that Tony Palladino looked good in this week's second XI fixture. He has always done well at Derby and, on what should be a bowler-friendly wicket, we need him back to his best. Groenewald may also enjoy the next track, so that leaves only one place.

Mark Turner? Mark Footitt? David Wainwright? Peter Burgoyne? Tom Knight? For all that Wainers is a good cricketer, he's not producing this summer and if a spinner is deemed necessary then Tom Knight may earn consideration after a good spell of bowling against Nottinghamshire in the week. Yet for me, four seamers will win or lose the Somerset game and, based on some good performances this summer and the fact that his line offers variation, I'd go for Footitt.

Between times we have two big YB40 games to play, against Hampshire on Tuesday and Scotland on Thursday. Qualification is very much on, at this stage and there will be more on the first of those games in between times.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire day 3

Place your bets folks...a tame old draw tomorrow, or a bold attempt at an albeit contrived result by virtue of an overnight declaration, a portion of cafeteria bowling and then a declaration setting Nottinghamshire somewhere between 300 and 350 to win?

My call would be that the weather forecast tomorrow will make any contrived finish a near impossibility. It suggests that time will be taken from the game again tomorrow, so it is hard to see how an appropriate calculation of runs v time can be reached. While both sides could really use the win, neither can afford the loss and it is hard to see how you can get a result, unless the skippers are both prepared to gamble. As we've learned from the toss this year, gambling isn't one of Wayne Madsen's strengths, but the win points are a tempting prize for a side that really needs more than draws.

Derbyshire did well to to get close to 400 today, thanks largely to a last wicket stand between Marks Footitt and Turner, further illustration of the battling qualities of this side. Afterwards Nottinghamshire batted steadily and Michael Lumb made a fine century, but from a Derbyshire perspective the main event was Tim Groenewald's 200th first-class wicket, a fine achievement. While less penetrative this year - and less obdurate with the bat, compared to last year - Groenewald is a good cricketer who always gives a hundred per cent and is fit to play more than most of his kind.

187 runs ahead then with a day to go and two innings left in the match after the current one. Should there be a positive result in this game, both skippers deserve the utmost credit for innovation and courage.

I don't see it though. Much as I would love to report on a Derbyshire win tomorrow, my head overrules my heart and says that a draw is the likely result. It shouldn't detract from a largely good performance though, from a side that is slowly but surely finding its feet at this level. yet still with much to do.

Postscript - Essex all out 20? How is a side with that many players struggling so badly. I suspect that Mr Grayson's tenure as coach may end this year and I shudder to think what the Forum would be like were Derbyshire to produce a display of that ilk.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire day 2

Not too much to write about today, as Derbyshire limped to 306-6 on a severely shortened day where the Trent Bridge climatic microcosm behaved as it sometimes does and offered greater swing.

The stand developments at Trent Bridge cause the ball to move around when the temperature and breeze is right and Andre Adams and Harry Gurney took out the remainder of our top six to leave us on 306-6 at the close.

I can't see how a positive result can be achieved in this game, looking at the forecast and with only half an innings completed. Derbyshire might bat on tomorrow to get to 350 and another batting point, but it is hard to see how a result can come unless it effectively becomes a one innings match. That might be worth a gamble, especially if there was a chance of similar swing, but as with any gamble there's an element of risk - and loss.

Off the field the club are asking fans to vote for their favourite T20 eleven, which I find very difficult as, without being cruel, I find it hard to come up with eleven players who were actually good at the format. That is why we've been a very average side in the competition over the years.

I can come up with Martin Guptill, Steffan Jones and James Pipe, then I am struggling. You may stick in the qualified success that was Loots Bosman as second overseas, Wayne Madsen as someone who improvises well and Wes Durston who has produced some good displays, but then...Ant Botha maybe, Greg Smith on occasion (but not often) then I'm stuck.

Perhaps I am missing someone - feel free to let me know - but we have not covered ourselves in glory in this competition and I really hope that this year we do, for the first time in a long while.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire day 1

If this game had gone to the expected script, Derbyshire, after losing the toss today (where have we heard that before?) would have been rolled over for 150 by mid-afternoon and Nottinghamshire would have been close to parity by the close of play.

It didn't work out like that though. 245-2 was a Hitchcock-style twist in the tale and Derbyshire will be thrilled to have both Wayne Madsen (first Derbyshire player to 500 runs this season) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul both there to fight another day.

They are in sparkling form as their sterling efforts against Surrey will testify and few Derbyshire fans would have dared to expect such a score at the end of the first day. Nor, we should assume, would Mick Newell have expected a track quite like this when he picked the expected array of seamers in order to blast us out and we must assume the groundsman has kept a low profile today. It is an odd track for a game that the home side could do with winning too. At least Karl Krikken had the nous to include a specialist spinner in David Wainwright and we can only hope that he and Wes Durston have an opportunity to twirl their magic as the game progresses.

It is funny that after our early season travails with the bat that we now have four batsmen averaging over 50, albeit with Richard Johnson doing so after just three knocks. Chesney Hughes is seventeen short of his 500, albeit aided by his Headingley marathon, while Madsen took his tally to 551 by the end of the day with the promise of more to come. He is a splendid, worthy cricketer and has found his niche at number three. When he gets in there is a reassurance about Madsen at the crease and he seems to enjoy batting with Chanderpaul.

Then again, who wouldn't. The West Indian maestro is 23 short of his own 500 championship runs and seems to have adopted a more relaxed approach at the crease. 'Run a ball Chanderpaul' would be a decent moniker for him as, without appearing to take risks, he works the ball into gaps and keeps the score ticking over. His timing is so exquisite that he rarely seems to hit the ball, leaning on it and caressing it to the boundary with the minimum of fuss. Many a casual cricketer (myself included) would love to know the secret of such timing, which is more aesthetically pleasing to my eyes than someone bludgeoning sixes with a bat the size of a fence post.

450 or 500 would be fantastic tomorrow. Dare we hope for that, or will Nottinghamshire's bowlers get more assistance? Will our batting fall away or will we power on to a score beyond our expectations? Spare a thought tonight for Billy Godleman, who played a supporting role to Chesney Hughes in a fine opening stand, yet again was dismissed without going on to the score that would ease the pressure on him.

Still, for now let's dream of a continued strong performance from our side, that looks to be getting to grips with this level and isn't out of things in the division. We need to press on tomorrow and then put Nottinghamshire under pressure.

How good does that sound?

Postscript - in the Second XI game, Derbyshire replied to Nottinghamshire's 145 with 165. Our rivals were 130-5 in their second innings, just 110 ahead. Alex Hales' struggles continued with only 8 and Derbyshire have a chance of winning the game with a good effort tomorrow.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire preview

Karl Krikken has announced a 12-man squad to take on Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge tomorrow. It reads:

Chesney Hughes,
Billy Godleman,
Wes Durston,
Shivnarine Chanderpaul,
Wayne Madsen,
Ben Slater,
Alex Hughes,
Richard Johnson,
David Wainwright,
Tim Groenewald,
Mark Turner,
Mark Footitt

I understand that Alex Hughes has a slight niggle and may not be risked, though otherwise may have been in line for a championship debut after his sparkling display on Sunday against Essex. With Dan Redfern and Ross Whiteley out of sorts, the rest of the side effectively picks itself. David Wainwright's durability in the bat is as of value as his slow left arm and there's a nice balance to the attack with Wes Durston back to fitness after injury. The two Marks deserve their places after recent fine and tireless displays, while Tim Groenewald, while a little short of wickets, is likely to enjoy Trent Bridge conditions that often favour the seamers.

I just wonder whether a look at the wicket tomorrow might see a late call up for Jonathan Clare. The track is unlikely to be a turner when Nottinghamshire have barely a spinner of any name, so Clare for Wainwright may yet be a late substitution as the two East Midlands rivals trade seam bowling blows.

It is good to look at a batting line up that at last boasts five batsmen in good form, though if ever there was a time for Billy Godleman to find his there could be few better occasions. Yet form is a fickle beast. A few months back, Alex Hales was slamming bowling to all parts for England. Today he was nicking one through to the keeper off Matt Higginbottom to be out for nought in Nottinghamshire's second eleven. Hales has had a wretched campaign but will doubtless emerge from it a stronger player on the other side. The lad can play, just as Redfern and Whiteley can, but there are periods in every player's life when your feet, hands, head and most of all mind just aren't right. Practice sorts it for some, while others just need a break to charge their batteries.

Our hosts are thus likely to open with Rikki Wessels and Ed Cowan, followed by Lumb, Taylor, Patel, Read and Mullaney. Their seam attack of the returning Andre Adams, Shahzad and Fletcher will be a handful on home turf and the final place may well be between Harry Gurney and veteran all-rounder Paul Franks. 

To look at that opposition and predict a win would be foolish, but Derbyshire must go into this and every game believing that they can do so. Confidence will be high after Sunday, although batting conditions are likely to be much less favourable. A win would be astonishing, but you cannot write off a Derbyshire side that will battle to the end.

Much will depend on the weather, but a draw would be a good result here. Logic suggests a home win and we will need eleven players at their best to prevent that. 

Let's see what happens tomorrow. Bring it on! 

Seconds update - Nottinghamshire were 144 all out in today's fixture. Wickets were shared around and Tony Palladino was back from injury, which is encouraging news. In reply, Derbyshire were 130-7 at the close, with thirties for Borrington and Redfern.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Monday musings

The feel-good factor is back in Derbyshire cricket.

After yesterday's fine win at Leek, supporters seem quite chilled and mellow. The championship campaign may have had its challenges thus far, but we have only lost one from five one-day games. That two were rained off is neither here nor there - accentuate the positive, my friends.

There was a good look to that side yesterday, albeit aided by three batsmen hitting the ball like they were in the vintage form of high summer. If we could add that X factor overseas player to the top of the order for the T20, there's runs a-plenty in that top six.

Alex Hughes has fully earned the right to a place in that six, based on yesterday and a similar effort at Chesterfield last year. He currently averages 55 in List A cricket and, as well as timing the ball well, shows the benefit of intelligence to a cricketer with the way he works the ball around and into gaps. You don't need to be built like Chesney (could be a follow up to Moves Like Jagger...) to score quickly and mini-me Hughes has his runs at a respectable 114 per hundred balls.

On another day the attack could be hit, but I think the continued form and fitness shown by Mark Footitt is worthy of mention and credit. A fast left arm bowler is awkward for anyone, but bowling round the wicket and firing it at your feet, a la Akram, he becomes an even more potent beast. As the likes of Malinga, Lee and Nannes have shown, fast bowlers take wickets in T20 and while I won't suggest Mark Turner and Footitt are in that company (yet?) their pace will be an asset at the top and tail of innings.

We will miss Chesney Hughes' bowling, but I would like to see us field at least two, maybe three spinners in the T20, with either David Wainwright or Tom Knight replacing one of the seamers. Alex Hughes gives you an option that, on certain tracks could be miserly, and I could see us being a decent T20 side.

There's an old saying that you're only as good as your last display. On that basis, Derbyshire are a pretty good side. There will be darker days ahead, but the way that they professionally and skilfully dismantled an Essex side that, on paper at least was their superior should give them confidence for the one-day part of the season.

So we await news of our T20 specialist, but I remain confident that news will break in the not too distant future and that we will have another exciting overseas talent to watch at the County Ground.

Watch this space my friends. And see you tomorrow for the Nottinghamshire preview.

PS Whenever I write or say that name, I always feel like thespians do when they refer to "The Scottish Play" instead of Macbeth.

Memo to self...must come up with an alternate name for them...

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Derbyshire v Essex YB40 - Hughes a clever boy!

With apologies to Mr Punch...that's the way to do it!

It was a superb performance by Derbyshire today on a belting track on a lovely ground on a beautiful summer's day. It was what Wallace and Gromit might call a grand day out and contained some fine individual performances on the way to our highest-ever List A score, all this against a team that are currently top of the group with only one defeat before today.

Why James Foster chose to bowl on such a day is a question that will puzzle some, but I can only assume that they entertained hopes of Derbyshire over-reaching themselves and ending up a few short of a challenging total. At one point that did look a possibility, as Wes Durston's 71 from 46 balls gave us the required fast start before he was dismissed in the fourteenth over and Paul Borrington went five runs later. The skipper, Wayne Madsen took over with Shivnarine Chanderpaul and they added 78 in eleven overs before Madsen fell. Richard Johnson's cameo ended in the thirtieth over and at 219-5 we could have subsided to 250-260 all out.

Not today though, as university graduate Alex Hughes confirmed his talent with a sparkling, unbeaten 59 from just 36 balls, as he and our West Indian legend added 102 in the last ten overs. I think Hughes will have a long county career, but if he never does another thing he will be able to regale his grand children with tales of the day that he played the major part in a century stand in just ten overs with one of the game's greats. As stories go, that one will take some trumping.

To be fair, it didn't surprise me, as my impression of Hughes from several viewings is that he is a precocious talent with the attitude to go far in the game. He doesn't seem fazed by occasions and whether batting or bowling comes out and gives it his all. No team or supporter could wish for more and I see him becoming a regular in the side before too long.

As anyone who has played the game will tell you, going in to bat chasing eight an over from 40 is a tough call. On a smallish ground with a fast outfield it was a possibility for Essex, but they needed a fast start and to keep wickets in hand. They managed the first - indeed, kept up the pace well throughout their innings - but Derbyshire took wickets at key times to prevent them getting up a real head of steam. The extra speed of Mark Turner and Mark Footitt was an asset, as pace always is, while Tim Groenewald nipped in with two wickets himself.

Yet the final word went to Alex Hughes, with three wickets to add to his runs. He went for 56 runs, which on this sort of track is always a possibility at his pace, but he kept at them and had the final word.

Peter Burgoyne got a little stick today, but Derbyshire fans have to be encouraged at the sight of Burgoyne, Hughes and Slater emerging from the Academy to regular first team cricket. Indeed, if you needed vindication of the club's policy, today provided it, with Chanderpaul showing, not for the first time, exactly why he was engaged to work with young players. It confirmed my belief that this team is eminently capable of playing very good one day cricket. If they can just replicate this on a more frequent basis and pick up a dasher at the top of the order for the T20, the one-day game could redeem our season.

It was a sensible move to keep Chanderpaul away from the new ball, as it allowed him to improvise in late innings as he can do so well. That also allowed Durston to open, where I think he is best suited for the one day game. He is a naturally quick scorer and today gave us the early impetus to go on and win the game. The switch illustrates that they are thinking about the game and I'm happy with that.

Last night I said that it would need something special by one of our top order to win this one. Well, we had something special from three of them, in a display that warms the heart as much as the sun warmed and probably toasted the skin of those who managed along today. Sincere congratulations to all at Leek for another excellent day that fully deserves to become a annual fixture for many years to come.

Especially if they can sort the weather, display and result as they did today.

Great stuff lads. Well done to all concerned...especially Alex Hughes.

PS In mentioning university graduate Alex Hughes, big congratulations to my son, big Steve, aka Man Mountain. He has graduated with honours in Computer Science at 2:1 from Strathclyde University. I know this is a cricket blog, but I am very proud of the big fella, as is Mrs P. Well done son!

If anyone out there is looking for a computer wizard whose forte is digital forensics, just give me a shout...

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Derbyshire v Essex YB40 preview

There's an unwittingly funny typo on the club site as I write this blog.

"Former England intentionals Owais Shah and James Foster, New Zealand Test opener Hamish Rutherford, Ryan ten Doeschate and Graham Napier are all expected to feature for the Eagles at Derbyshire’s Staffordshire Moorlands out-ground."

Yes, I am sure they did intend to be England internationals, but inconsistency counted against both. Yet they and the others mentioned will be a fierce test for our weakened and youthful squad for tomorrow's game at Leek.

There's no news on the visitor's squad but we will have to be at the very top of our game to beat one with that amount of talent. Anything less than 100% from them and we will be hammered. Then again, we all know that cricket doesn't work like that. Sometimes the sum of the parts doesn't make a very good whole and Derbyshire's battling manner, even in adversity and with a much-weakened squad, will ensure that the expected large crowd will see an excellent game on an expected lovely day.

Our 15-man squad lines up as: Chesney Hughes, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Wes Durston, Wayne Madsen, Paul Borrington, Billy Godleman, Jonathan Clare, Alex Hughes, Richard Johnson, Peter Burgoyne, David Wainwright, Tim Groenewald, Mark Footitt, Mark Turner and Tom Knight.

You can't call that side and certainly not without prior knowledge of the wicket. In fairness, I don't feel Billy Godleman's recent form justifies inclusion, the first five as listed would be my top five, with Johnson at six, Clare seven and Burgoyne eight. The rest would be down to the track. Tom Knight would be worth a bowl ahead of the T20s if the wicket is favourable, but a slow one would help Alex Hughes medium pace and lengthen the batting. We could equally go with all three seamers plus Clare.

A tough call for a tough game. I think we will do extraordinarily well to get a win in this game and will need something special from one of the top four to do so.

An Essex win for me, but I would love to be proved wrong. Much will depend on the mentality of the Essex side that turns up, because you can guarantee that our boys will give it a go.

You can't ask for more than that.

Book Review: The Bodyline Hypocrisy - conversations with Harold Larwood by Michael Arnold

Over many years of reading cricket books, I must be well into double figures on those relating to the infamous 'Bodyline' tour of Australia by England in 1932-33.

A recurring theme of such books is the vilification of England captain Douglas Jardine and his weapon of choice Harold Larwood, the latter aided and abetted by his Nottinghamshire team mate Bill Voce. The two of them became anti-heroes, abused by the supporters at games for their use of intimidatory tactics in order to beat Australia on their own turf. Focal point of the attack was Australian wunderkind Donald Bradman, whose total dominance over England in previous series led to the use of a new style of attack.

Yet, as this excellent book points out, it was nowhere near as concentrated as the frenzied Australian media of the time made it appear. Far more wickets were taken with orthodox bowling than the new form of attack, which was generally only used when the shine had gone from the ball and a batsman was set. Indeed, the two most notorious episodes of the series, when first Australian skipper Bill Woodfull was hit over the heart and then wicket-keeper Bill Oldfield on the head, were caused by ordinary balls that either lifted on an erratic surface or were ducked into. Michael Arnold's analysis suggests that a maximum of eleven wickets fell to a leg theory or bodyline delivery, the reality being that there were far fewer than that.

Unlike any other book on the subject, this one looks at the series in the light of the various social, international and cultural pressures of the time. Thus we see how the Australian media whipped supporters into anger at a time when they struggled to interpret their national heroes being second best. No one away from the games saw any of it in an era before television, so sports journalists made the main English protagonists into near-pantomime villains; supporters yelled the most appalling abuse and sent death threats

The author shows us that Jardine was the only amateur captain available to England who could see this through. He was a good enough player to be worth a place among strong professionals and had shown his own bravery against fast bowling. He had also finished near the top of the averages over the previous summers and had the total respect of his men. In Larwood he had a bowler at the height of his powers who was frighteningly quick. In the cricketing feudal system of the time he had no option but to follow the instructions of his captain and did so without question. While Bill Voce and Bill Bowes bowled in the same style, Larwood became the bete noir because he was so much faster, as well as relentlessly accurate.

The author examines the stance of Gubby Allen and Bob Wyatt, amateurs both and keen to remain on the right side of the cricketing establishment with a view to future involvement. The former's letters, published after his death, called the Nottinghamshire men "swollen-headed, gutless, uneducated miners" while the considerable correspondence of the period mysteriously disappeared from Lords files during the Second World War, assumed to be the work of Sir Pelham Warner, then Deputy Secretary of the MCC. His role as tour manager in 1932-33 was far from impressive.

This is a remarkable, incisive book. From examination of the leaden-footed techniques of the Australian batsmen of the series, to that of their own bowlers of more modest pace and looking at the Australian way of life in the period, it is a captivating read. Were Australian team selections at fault? Could the MCC have done more? What political pressures were brought to bear? All this and more can be seen in a book as page-turningly good as a best-selling novel.

Faults? It would have benefited from an index and the 'conversations' with Larwood are less evident in the text than I expected when I started it. Yet these are minor quibbles. I had hoped to review this book before now, but found it so fascinating that I decided to read it again to ensure I was right in my original opinion.

I was right first time as it happens. Michael Arnold has produced the most thorough, unbiased account of the series of my experience and I would regard this as one of the best cricket books I have had the pleasure of reading. For once, Harold Larwood and Douglas Jardine can both be seen as unwitting pawns in a much bigger game, rather than Machiavellian sportsmen whose actions came close to damaging relations within the Empire in the approach to the Second World War.

The Bodyline Hypocrisy: conversations with Harold Larwood by Michael Arnold is published by Pitch Publishing and is available from all good book stores. It is currently on Amazon at £10.99

Friday, 7 June 2013

Derbyshire v Durham MCCU day 3

I had an afternoon off today and spent it relaxing with Mrs P on our patio. Our chilled idyll was interrupted by the ringing of the telephone which she went to answer.

She came back out with a smile on her face.

"It's David Moyes for you" she said. "He wants to know if you will be his big summer signing..."

David Moyes is a perceptive man and presumably remembers my skilled left foot from the days when I was a cultured left back in the style of David Nish at Manchester Polytechnic. Mind you, after my bon mot of last night a defeat looked a possibility at one time, as the Durham MCCU side made a remarkably good fist of a second innings that was diametrically opposed to what had gone before.

Full credit to them and it ended up a good work out for the Derbyshire boys, though the end result was still what I expected by a fairly comfortable margin. There were players who did their quest for a first team place no harm whatsoever and Ben Slater simply has to play in the next championship match.

On Sunday the action moves to Leek and a game against an Essex side that packs all the big guns but misfires too often for their supporters comfort. Any side with Bopara, Shah and ten Doeschate in the regular line up, plus Napier and Masters in the attack should win far more than they lose. But they don't.

Derbyshire will need to play well and need to get around the fact that of their two biggest hitters Hughes is carrying a shoulder injury that prevents him bowling and Whiteley is in wretched form. It is especially a concern ahead of the T20, where the feeling remains that if we get an overseas player it really needs to be one who can clear the ropes.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul will be an ideal sheet anchor in that format, but Messrs Grant and Krikken will know that we could do with a man who comes with a strike rate around 130 per hundred balls and can take advantage of power plays when the majority of the field is in.

With little time left before the tournament begins, I would expect to hear news towards the end of next week and if we land a player with the above credentials we should be both grateful and impressed.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Derbyshire v Durham MCCU Day 2

Sometime tomorrow afternoon, Derbyshire should win this game by a considerable margin. Indeed, to further extend my mystic reputation, I will wager there's more chance of my being this summer's big signing for Manchester United than Derbyshire losing this one.

There were good wickets today for Ali Evans, who has a habit of taking them, and three for Peter Burgoyne, who emphasised his talent with 3-43 while all around him were taking some serious 'tap' from Surrey man Freddie Van Den Bergh. He made an aggressive century while all around him was sinking fast, but Derbyshire had a lead of 207 that they extended by a further 224 in 44 overs.

Dan Redfern showed a welcome return to form with a sparkling 91, while Tom Poynton smashed a run-a-ball 77 as Derbyshire pushed for the declaration. Evans struck early in the second innings but Durham need 404 to win, which isn't going to happen.

In the Champions Trophy opener, India and South Africa shared over 600 runs with the Indian side coming out on top. Their talented batsmen make it all the more frustrating that they cannot play T20 outside the IPL and one can quickly work out where the remaining players will come from for that competition.

I can't see any Pakistan players being signed, the West Indians will be in the Caribbean version, Bangladesh only have one player and he's signed for Leicestershire, but that's one more than Zimbabwe, where Brendan Taylor has gone off the boil. Sri Lanka are in transition and the best Aussies are over here for the Ashes with their back up players at home in case required.

That only leaves New Zealand and South Africa. While I am a big fan of Kane Williamson he is not a T20 player (as his average of 18 suggests) while Ross Taylor will be ready for home after the IPL and the tour here. I genuinely cannot think of any others who you would get excited about, decent players as they are.

South Africa? They have astonishing depth and I think the player will be from there. Albie Morkel is usually good value in this competition if you bat him high enough, while Colin Ingram is a pugnacious bat. I also like Farhaan Behardien who can bat and bowl well, but I can't see Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy coming, much as the idea has appeal.

Outsider? Maybe a man somewhat off the radar but a very good player. Jacques Rudolph, who has scored a lot of runs across all formats in England. He wouldn't come cheap, if he was available and much would depend on the money available.

There's always the chance, of course, that we go with what we have, given the lack of options, but that effectively says that we have no expectations for the tournament and for me would send out the wrong message to fans ahead of a tournament that is a money-spinner.

It's about time we made a fist of T20, so I hope I am right and someone with a name is at the County Ground in the near future.

Finally tonight, the concept of the County Championship beginning overseas, as floated by those wunnerful men at the ECB is a non-starter for me. As Simon Storey points out, you can't blame them for the 'blue sky thinking' and brainstorming that at least shows they are trying, but the biggest stumbling block, besides cost, is the loss of matches to members.

It might be nicer to dig out your knitting or sup a old one in Barbados or Dubai, but how many people will actually go? I can't think that Derbyshire v Leicestershire in Bridgetown will get the locals excited and you then need to review the membership costs as Bill and Sonia have just lost four days worth of cricket and some value from the package.

Newsworthy? Yes. Likely to make it past the planning stage? Nope.

My turn next. Three-a side in the local community hall. Take the game to the people and watch them flock in for a two-over a side match. Ideal for those tea breaks when you can't think what else to do and for the ones for who T20 is way too long.

You know it makes sense...

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Derbyshire v Durham MCCU

It was no real surprise to see Ben Slater make his first century for Derbyshire's first team today, as it is patently obvious that the lad can play.

As Chris says below the previous post, he looks to score at every opportunity, plays the ball on its merits and doesn't over-complicate things. It probably helped him to have Wes Durston in there at the start of his innings, but both he and Alex Hughes did their prospects no harm whatsoever. They will face tougher opposition in the years ahead, but at any one time you can only face the opposition in front of you.

Hughes is another busy cricketer who has a lot to offer. He is a bustling bowler who in the right conditions will cause problems and is a batsman with a good range of strokes. I suspect in time his batting will be his stronger suit and the bowling will be a useful asset, especially in one-day games, but he is a bubbly character with a very good attitude. I think he will go a long way when he gets greater opportunities.

Slater's next goal will be a full contract with the county, but after good runs for Chesterfield and the Seconds this summer, one would hope that this is a formality. With Peter Burgoyne they make up an impressive triumvirate of local talent.

There was less good news for others needing a score. Billy Godleman batted pretty well, but got out before reaching fifty, while Paul Borrington will be disappointed with his early dismissal. So too will Dan Redfern, who is out of sorts right now and some way from the player who made giant strides forward last summer. He is more than capable of coming back, but needs to be prepared to work at his game and reduce the loose shots that are costing him dearly at present. His way of playing, like David Gower a few years back, looks glorious when he is in full flight, but careless when he's not and perhaps a little restraint is needed.

More tomorrow, when we should have had a pretty good day if today was anything to go by.

So, no Guptill...

No Martin Guptill for the T20, much as I suggested the other night.

So, since I will be struggling to get online later today, let me know who we should turn to now.

Keep in mind that West Indians will play in the Caribbean equivalent in most cases and also that we don't have a massive budget.

Looking forward to your suggestions and I will tell you mine tomorrow night!

Derbyshire v Durham MCCU

Sorry there was no blog last night but our internet was down locally and is only just back up.

Derbyshire's squad for today's game, where a lot of people need to make an impression:

Godleman, Slater, Borrington, Durston, Redfern, Clare, Poynton, Burgoyne, A Hughes, Higginbottom, Evans, Whiteley.

I'm disappointed that Tom Knight isn't in there, but the rest is pretty much as I called it the other night, especially among the batsmen who need to get good runs here.

More later, hopefully, but old Peaky is playing tonight so it will be much later...

Monday, 3 June 2013

Latest Cricinfo piece

My latest piece on Derbyshire's fortunes is now up on Cricinfo. You can see it here.

Spread the word, as the Supporters Network is proving a popular addition to the site!

Monday musings

There's a couple of talking points around Derbyshire cricket tonight. One is the form of Billy Godleman, while the other is the possibility that the ECB could take action against Karl Krikken for comments made yesterday after the Surrey game.

Let's start with that one. Krikk suggested that decisions were going against Derbyshire because we are a 'small town club' and cited a couple of 'nailed on' lbw shouts against Ricky Ponting soon after he completed a fifty. These were because of the latter's standing in the game, according to the Derbyshire head coach and followed poor decisions at Headingley, when we lost to Yorkshire.

I can understand his frustration after a difficult start to the season when he will be feeling under pressure. He's a good and able man who can only do so much, the rest being up to the players. That's all any coach can do, provide some technical assistance, a shoulder to cry on when needed, a kick up the backside at times, words of encouragement at others and an environment in which a positive team mentality can flourish.

What he can't do is go into the middle then bat and bowl for them. As Denis Smith, the old Derbyshire coach was fond of saying, you can't hold their hand in the middle, where it is an unforgiving place. Weaknesses, both mental and technical, will be worked on by opponents and it is very much survival of the fittest. To a great extent Derbyshire's players have been found wanting this summer.

It is not through lack of effort, nor poor attitude, but some of our players have had rude awakenings. Few of them have played at top level before, so can have had no real appreciation of what was waiting for them. I will admit to not fully appreciating the gulf between the two divisions and thought that we would handle the step up more easily than has been the case.

With limited resources we signed two available - note that word - players in the close season. One of them, Richard Johnson, has been a reasonable success, keeping well and batting steadily. He made a good fist of his last innings against Surrey, although it could equally be said that on that wicket Tom Poynton may have done as well with the opportunity.

Billy Godleman, however, has struggled. His run of scores this year goes 2, 55, 3, 31, 1, 2, 9, 26, 5, 17 and 28. I cautioned a few months back that he may not find northern tracks to his liking and he has struggled to adapt, the only fifty coming on his old ground at Lords, made while men grew beards and women weary. It gives me no pleasure to point this out, but the question remains that if one substituted his name for Paul Borrington, would people have been so understanding? Would he have remained in the side?

I don't think so and Krikken has a tough call. On the one hand he wants to retain his winter signing, the best available, the one we could afford, but on the other, everything suggests he is pulled from the firing line to join Redfern, Whiteley and Poynton in rediscovering form in the Seconds.The difficulty is that there are so many guys out of nick that we've effectively run out of replacements. There's Ben Slater, Alex Hughes, that's it, unless Dave Houghton is going to be registered as a player...

Slater deserves a run in the side and, based on his two composed knocks in the YB40, Borrington should perhaps get a chance too. That would leave a good middle order and allow Chesney Hughes the chance to drop down to a preferred role there. No doubt the cynics will be out in force at that comment, but Boz is unlikely to produce worse returns.

I really hope that Billy Godleman comes good. I would like nothing more than to see him go on a run spree in the second half of the championship summer and fully justify his signing. Right now though, I think the lad needs a spell in the seconds and a chance to get some form under his belt.

As for Karl Krikken, I hope that the ECB appreciate that this committed bloke is guilty of nothing more than wearing his heart on his sleeve. Poor decisions happen in cricket and over the piece tend to even out.

We're owed one or two now. That's all.