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.
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!