Saturday, 31 August 2013

Surrey v Derbyshire day 3

It might not have been pretty, but it was pretty effective...

Derbyshire batted all day to end it 161 runs ahead with three wickets in hand. All results are still possible, but in taking the game into the fourth day, Derbyshire have given themselves every chance of bowling on a wicket at its worst.

It may all be in vain, of course. We could still lose, with Surrey's experienced batting line up earning their money and taking the game from us on the last afternoon. However long we bat tomorrow, they need to go for the runs, as they are in danger of being cast adrift at the bottom with nowhere to go. A win for us leaves us only a point behind Somerset, our next opponents, in what becomes a game of monumental importance. A loss, I fear, leaves us with too much to do.

It was a good effort today on a pitch with variable bounce and offering help to the spinners. Neither Ansari nor Batty are close to front rank purveyors of twirlies, so it is hard to judge how well Wainwright and Burgoyne might do tomorrow.

I reckon that we need at least another forty runs and at that point Surrey may worry (nice rhyme, huh?). Chasing 200 in the last innings will be no picnic and will be a challenge psychologically, as well as technically. Amla, Solanki and de Bruyn will again be key and how we need Mark Footitt to have his radar locked on again and bowling at his fastest. If he could take a couple of early wickets, no matter how many they are chasing, it could set the alarm bells ringing.

I suspect David Wainwright will see early action with the ball and will be a tired man tomorrow night. He and Tom Poynton added a crucial 48 unbroken runs in the last session this evening, stretching the lead to 161 and suggesting, if no more, that we could still nick this one. I like Poynton and in his formative career he has suggested that he will be a valuable player for us in the years to come. He's prepared to get his head down, but can give it a smack if it is there to be hit. His batting average heads steadily northwards and has plenty of time to improve in the years ahead. Wainwright too has the right mentality and after a difficult season seems to be rediscovering form at a crucial time.

Once again Wayne Madsen was to the fore with a hard-earned fifty, before falling leg-before to one that kept low. While disappointed to be dismissed, he will have enjoyed seeing the ball misbehave and the Derbyshire players will be well aware that they have a chance tomorrow. Paul Borrington also battled hard and can be pleased with his efforts in the match on a difficult pitch.

So where's your money folks? If we could scrap to 200 in the morning I will fancy our chances, but less than that will be desperately close. Scoring hasn't been easy throughout the game and is unlikely to be tomorrow. Will Surrey be prepared to scrap as we have done, or will they stroll to victory on the back of some wild bowling as Derbyshire lose their mojo? Will they, conversely, collapse like a pack of cards?

I think a 200 target will win it, especially if we can make the runs/overs equation challenging tomorrow - and not give away as many extras as we did in the first innings, which was way too generous on such a track. Every run will count, that's for sure.

But whatever happens, this Derbyshire side have restored pride. The willingness to graft is heartening and will stand them in good stead for the future, whatever happens tomorrow.

My fingers are crossed though.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Surrey v Derbyshire day 2

I'll say one thing about this Derbyshire side.

They can't half battle.

Ignoring any disagreement over team selection, the guys who have taken the field for this match have done just what they did in the two previous ones and taken the fight to the opposition. Just before tea today I thought we were looking at a deficit of 150, which would almost certainly have spelt the end of our ambitions in this match. Yet back they came again and the advent of the second new ball saw the last four Surrey wickets fall for just two runs.

I have nothing but admiration for Mark Footitt. The leader of the pack bowled with controlled aggression all day and returned the superb figures of 4-50 in 19 overs, neatly topping and tailing the Surrey innings with some hostile bowling that saw the key wicket of Hasim Amla go early, as it had to do if we were to stay in the game after an average day with the bat yesterday.

Yet he was followed by Solanki, de Bruyn and Davies, good, experienced players all and capable of taking Surrey out of reach of our young side. Solanki got his customary runs (his career average must be 50-plus against us) but the rest were cut off in their prime and a lead of seventy was probably a hundred less than Surrey would have wanted on a pitch increasingly taking spin.

Full marks to David Wainwright too for a long and canny spell at two an over that brought him three wickets, while youngsters Higginbottom, Burgoyne and Hughes toiled away for less reward. Mind you, it was somewhat ironic that Mark and Matt should so suddenly finish the Surrey innings, two players whose current contracts expire at the end of the season. Both are doing all they can to earn another deal and Footitt's championship scalps (30) are now down to a respectable thirty runs each. To give him credit where it is due, he has stood up to the challenge of cricket at a higher level and shown himself good enough - and, crucially, fit enough.

Ben Slater and Paul Borrington deserve pats on the back for reducing the deficit to 57 by the close, without being parted. The mental examination of opening the batting after a day in the field is considerable, but they got there and tomorrow is another huge day for their side. If they can put forty or fifty together, our opponents will start to get very edgy...

It is much easier to say than do on a deteriorating wicket, but if we could get up to 275-plus I don't think Surrey would fancy chasing 200 on the last day. You never can tell, as the big name batsmen at the top of their order should be capable of taking the game by the throat, but our first task is to get runs in the bank tomorrow. If every one of our batsmen played to their season average, we'd make 285, just so you know.

So much, again, depends on Wayne Madsen and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. One of the others has the opportunity to become a hero, but to get the runs that we need, someone has to get seventy or eighty-plus. You still cannot discount the side having a bad session, or day, but the demolition of Middlesex by Somerset today has put both sides under pressure and it will be fascinating to see which one copes with that the best.

Tim Tremlett didn't bowl tonight and his absence would give us a timely boost, yet we must prepare to face him and bat the day. It is a situation tailor-made for Shiv and if he or the skipper makes runs, we will win.

There you go. I've said it.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Umpiring decisions

The recent Ashes series has been awash  with contentious umpiring decisions, referrals et al, but if you thought you'd seen it all, spare a thought for old Peakfan, playing his final evening game of the season last night.

It was a grim game on a poor wicket and my flighted filth proved hard to get away. Indeed our opponents only made 48 all out in 15 overs (it was a T15 because of the shorter evenings at this time of year).

My final over saw three balls played quietly as I kept it tight. Two more went past the outside edge. The sixth took the edge and was gleefully pouched by Martin, our keeper, who has been responsible for a fair proportion of my wickets in the past twenty years.

He went up, I went up, slip went up. A wicket maiden was surely mine, as I turned to the umpire. The batsman hadn't moved, but his demeanour suggested he was resigned to his fate.

The umpire shook his head, then looked at me somewhat reluctantly.

"Sorry mate", he said.

"I wasn't watching..."

Surrey v Derbyshire day 1

It's hard to know what to make of day one.

On the face of it, we have under-achieved and 219 is at least a hundred short of where we would have hoped to be after winning the toss, especially on a wicket where batting last is expected to be fraught with problems from spin bowling.

We now need to bowl exceptionally well tomorrow to stay in this game, but the way that Derbyshire had to graft for runs today suggested that it wouldn't be getting easier as the game goes on. Surrey will, of course, hope that the experience of the likes of Solanki, de Bruyn, Davies and especially Amla will put them out of sight before the third innings and much has been made already of the omission of Tony Palladino.

It was a brave decision, for sure. Time will tell if other words are more apposite, but I thought last night that the final choice would be between a seamer and one of the keepers, and so it transpired. Yet Tom Poynton, perhaps the most vulnerable after Richard Johnson's crucial runs against Middlesex, got second top score and got us past a batting bonus point.

No one would suggest the batting looks full of runs with four young players in the top six and we realistically needed either Madsen or Chanderpaul to make a big score. For once the skipper failed, while Shiv battled to top score before falling lbw to one that reportedly pitched outside leg stump.

Can we pull it back? We'll need early inroads tomorrow and the prompt removal of Amla is essential. Surrey's batting this season, for all its big names, has been no more reliable than ours and we must aim to apply pressure and take wickets regularly. It isn't over yet, by a long chalk and the one sure thing about this Derbyshire side is that they will battle.

It wasn't an especially good day all round. Middlesex seem traumatised by their demise at Derby and have had a horrid experience against Somerset, looking nothing like title challengers. Defeat is almost certain tomorrow and the battle to avoid relegation will run and run.

Let's just hope that Derbyshire manage to pull away at the finish, like a cricketing Mo Farah.

Finally tonight, there's been a few comments and e mails about the absence of Tim Groenewald and Chesney Hughes on paternity leave. As a Derbyshire fan, who wants to see our strongest side out as we approach a crucial point of the season, I can fully sympathise with the view of fans.

Yet as a father who attended the birth of both of his children (and wouldn't have missed it for anything) I can see the other side quite clearly too. Derbyshire as a club are an enlightened employer and employee rights - especially those of cricketers - are much different to a few years back.

I would welcome the thoughts of a regular correspondent who is a top employment lawyer though...

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

News on Surrey

Good to see that I called the twelve for the Surrey game correctly last night and, while we're a fair bit below full strength, our hosts are too. They have lost Jade Dernbach to England duty (I'm still not convinced he's that good, but...) and Gary Wilson to Ireland commitments. So their squad lines up as follows:

Batty, Amla, Ansari, Burns, Curran, Davies, De Bruyn, Edwards, Harinath, Linley, Sibley, Solanki, Tremlett

There are some fine players in there, with Amla an obvious danger man, Solanki a frequent thorn in our sides and De Bruyn and Davies very good batsmen. Tremlett is also a fine bowler, but they have under-achieved this summer and we are the team on a roll at present.

Whisper it quietly, but I think we have the ability and the team spirit to win this and take a massive stride towards safety. We will need a massive effort from everyone and the absence of Tim Groenewald will be important, but we have the self-belief that is so important at this stage of the summer.

We now know that we can win games at this level and have beaten two of the best three sides in the country in our past two games. If we approach this game with the same attitude and don't take a statistically inferior side for granted, we could get to Sunday with a smile on our faces.

Somerset had a decent day today at Lords (how did Chawla get 50?) and we'll need to hope that we didn't knock too much confidence out of Middlesex in the last game. Time for 'Buck' Rogers to do us a favour, I think...

Like all of you, I will be keeping a very close eye on this one tomorrow.

Go and do us proud, lads. You know you can do it...

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Midweek musings

It's been a busy old weekend and early week, so apologies for the lack of blogging. The last two YB40 matches caught the attention of few people, as evidenced by the lack of comments and e mails about them. People have been understanding about the fielding of a weaker team and appreciate that the next two weeks are massive.

It's funny though. Week by week we all think through our team selections and none of us are privy to the things going on in the background that can dictate one player's involvement and the exclusion of others. I once had a chat with John Morris, who told me that if fans knew half of what went on in the background they would never query a team selection.

This week is a classic case. There will be no Chesney Hughes, now heading back to the Caribbean for the birth of his first child (hope all goes well, Ches) and quite possibly no Tim Groenewald either, who has become a proud father today. Warm congratulations go to Tim and his lovely wife on their new arrival!

Lovely, exciting times for both of them, but a challenge for Karl Krikken. He has to find a replacement for his leading wicket-taker, as well as an opening batsman for the game against Surrey, which if it isn't conclusive to the season's destiny will go some way towards it.

I think that Paul Borrington will rightly get the nod as Ben Slater's opening partner, based on his good form in one-day cricket this summer and his recent century in the second team. Importantly, he has a good record at The Oval, making runs there in the recent YB40 game, while in 2011 he made a technically excellent 87 there, on what was effectively a beach on which no one else got more than 32.

I know Billy Godleman made a few runs down at Colchester, but it has been a painful time following his fortunes this summer. It is also perhaps telling that his highest scores have come against his former counties and his form in the second team has not suggested that his struggle for form is yet fully resolved.

We're going to see Madsen, Chanderpaul and Hughes minor in the middle order, but the wicket will dictate whether Wes Durston returns, or Richard Johnson plays as a specialist batsman once again. Conversely, Johnson could take the gloves from Tom Poynton, which might allow for the inclusion of a specialist spinner.

My best guess towards the finished side, assuming that Groenewald will be unavailable, is:


Yes, I'd love to see Jon Clare in there, but have seen nothing to suggest he is close to fitness. Tom Knight has been bowling well, but a season championship debut at such a stage would be a brave move. The above team has seven bowlers and sufficient variety to make the most of any conditions. Surrey are low on confidence but have some handy and experienced players, not least Hashim Amla, one of the world's best.

We could win the game, but need big contributions from senior players and the timing would be perfect for a Chanderpaul special. Having said that, a draw wouldn't be the end of the world, as long as Somerset don't do as well at Lords against Middlesex.

Finally tonight, Derbyshire target Matt Coles has joined Hampshire on loan for the remainder of the summer. I haven't a clue if it will affect our chances of signing him on a permanent basis, but his new county have a chance to see him up close. There is an interesting appraisal of the player in the latest Cricinfo Supporters Network post from Ben Howarth, which is well worth a read, as are all of the contributor posts.

Enjoy your Wednesday, for battle commences on Thursday...

Monday, 26 August 2013

Derbyshire v Hampshire YB40

Tight for time again tonight, but back to normal tomorrow.

Today's game again went as expected with an inexperienced side. A fine effort by Chesney took us closer than might have been the case and there were a couple of decent bowling performances, but defeat was neither a surprise nor a disaster

Indeed it all seemed like the largely irrelevant warm-up act for a major event, which comes later this week, of course.

I'll be looking at that tomorrow night.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Essex v Derbyshire YB40

Not much to say about today's game, except that a very inexperienced (for understandable reasons) Derbyshire side was always going to be up against it and so it transpired.

Good to see Billy Godleman get a few, while a shame that Scott Elstone apparently got a good one early. Perhaps more importantly, Tony Palladino turned in a good spell that bodes well for the coming games.

And so to Derby tomorrow, where I suspect we will see a similar side and result.

By the same token, the circumstances of the season dictate the course of action and if we can stay in the top tier as a consequence there will be few complaints.

More tomorrow!

Something for the weekend

Apologies for the lack of a blog last night, but I'd swapped sports for the evening and attended the centenary dinner of my former hockey club in Glasgow.

It was a lavish occasion, attended by 230 people and it was lovely to see some (old) familiar faces and talk over the many good times. I was a right back or sweeper in the side and we had a lot of fun over the ten years or so that I played. I organised a cricket team for a few years and we played a few games, though our club's greatest contribution to the summer sport, Scotland and former Warwickshire all-rounder Calum MacLeod, came too late for it.

Calum was there last night though and the celebrations went on long into the night, resulting in bed around 3am. Which makes me wonder why I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning at 8...

Back to cricket and I was delighted to see the name of Scott Elstone (pictured) in Derbyshire's squad for today's trip to Colchester and the largely academic game against Essex. Regulars will know I have been suggesting a winter move for the lad for several weeks and I am pleased to see that Karl Krikken wants a look at him at a senior level. His stunning century last week for the seconds, with 20 fours and a six, was indicative of a player in prime form, while his unbeaten thirty in the second innings from 17 balls with seven fours suggests a player for who timing is not an issue.

I hope he does well, but I would think his inclusion in this and probably the Monday squad was as much to assess his manner in the top level of the game. Everything about his season so far for the Second XI and Dunstall looks positive, but as we have seen in the final Test match with Simon Kerrigan, some players can look awkward outside their comfort zone. I'd be surprised if the potential offer of a contract was dependent on his scoring fifty or more here, but more on how he looks. Given that he offers a useful off-spin option and brilliant fielding, he has much to bring to the table and I wish him well.

It is a strange-looking side. No Madsen, Chanderpaul, Groenewald, or Footitt,  all of them rested ahead of this week's massive game at The Oval. No Poynton either, so Richard Johnson takes the gloves and presumably gets a chance to show his skills and potentially take over and allow an extra batsman or bowler for the championship game.

The squad in full:

Chesney Hughes
Wes Durston
Paul Borrington
Scott Elstone
Richard Johnson
Alex Hughes
Ben Slater
Billy Godleman
David Wainwright
Tony Palladino
Tom Knight
Alasdair Evans
Matt Higginbottom

The final eleven is tough to call and will depend on the pitch, but there is a big opportunity for several players. Wes Durston's eight wickets for the seconds could well bring him a recall for The Oval, but he will want to get runs under his belt. David Wainwright or  Tom Knight could also feature there, so both will hope to get an opportunity, while Paul Borrington will hope to reinforce some impressive one-day batting displays in the last two games.

More later.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 3 - what relegation?

With a few ever so slightly nervy spells along the way, Derbyshire duly wrapped up a second remarkable victory on the trot at the County Ground today, beating Middlesex by 56 runs.

That's the current second and third teams in the country that we have beaten in consecutive matches and I'd suggest that only Yorkshire are playing such purposeful cricket as we are at present. It is an extraordinary turnaround for a young side, robbed of several senior players by injury but getting through on effort, willpower and no little talent.

We may yet go down, but those who a few short weeks ago were decrying the team as rubbish, the worst side ever to represent the county, a rabble and much more are now wiping considerable quantities of egg off their faces. We're still not the best team in the country by a distance, but we're playing the brand of cricket that characterised the early period of last summer. We're not a great batting side, but we're getting enough runs together collectively to win. We're not a great bowling side, but there's enough variety and novelty value in the attack to keep people guessing. We're not the best fielding side, but we're catching more than we were and again can draw on that magical team spirit that does so much for any side.

Full credit to Middlesex, who, as I suggested last night, fought all the way. Ollie Rayner had perhaps his greatest-ever game, yet ended up on the losing side, while Gareth Berg got them to the point where most of us started to wonder if things might not go the way we planned.

Yet they did. Judging from the number of overs bowled I don't think Tim Groenewald was fully fit after yesterday's injury, so a greater burden was placed on Mark Footitt (pictured), who responded magnificently. Mark has had his critics, especially with regard to his one-day bowling, but this must surely go down as his best season. He has bowled with consistent pace and has the ability to bowl over and round the wicket with no diminution of pace, further testimony to his improved fitness levels.

Matt Higginbottom was less effective today, but took the key wicket of Berg, while Peter Burgoyne bowled a long and controlled spell and took the last, among three wickets. Add in the sparingly used Alex Hughes and the attack had a very youthful look that ended up doing the business.

A couple of contributors have made the point that we cannot rely on them throughout the run in and they are right. I take my hat off to Karl Krikken for a team selection that he got spot on, even if a second spinner might have been useful today. He will need to look carefully - and he will - at the team on a match by match basis. Palladino, Clare, Wainwright and Knight could all come into the mix over the next few games, while the Poynton v Johnson battle will merit regular scrutiny. We could accomodate another bowler or batsman if Johnson kept, but that might be to the detriment of his batting, while Poynton's keeping remains a very high standard.

There's time for all that though. For now let us celebrate a team that has gone from being unlikely to see a win all summer in some eyes to sitting outside the relegation places. Somerset got lucky today and would have lost to Warwickshire bar for bad light, while Surrey look like getting little from their game against Durham. We can rest a few legs for the coming YB40 games if need be, ensuring that key personnel are fit and well for The Oval next Thursday.

Oh, and the Second XI beat Durham by ten wickets too, Borrington and Elstone knocking off the fifty-odd runs required in jig time and keeping Steve Stubbings' side atop the table. Good times huh?

Well, yes, apart from the pitch for last week's YB40 against Durham causing us to be docked two points from next year's fifty-over competition. Those nice people at Lords listened to the commentators and saw fit to punish us for a sub-standard pitch. To be fair, it wasn't great, but Durham did win the toss and opt to bowl, which was hardly indicative of them expecting it to be like North Pier at Blackpool in the second innings either.

So we take it on the chin, while raising a mental two fingers in the direction of Lords. Maybe that's just me...

Maybe we shouldn't have beaten them today.

Postscript - on the subject of pitches, top marks to Neil Godrich and his team for an outstanding four-day track in this game. You could make runs if you worked at it. You could take wickets if you bowled in the right areas.

You cannot ask for more.

And while handing out accolades, there have been excellent photographs through the season, but especially in recent weeks, on the club's Twitter feed. Full marks again to David Griffin, for capturing key moments so well for those of us unable to get to matches.

Matt Coles

Matt Coles potentially a Derbyshire player?

Yes please.

Late piece from me tonight as I was late back from my work team's first fixture, which ended in an exciting tie (four off the last ball) and am still buzzing from it all.

I won't count this as a done deal at this stage though, because a player of his talent is likely to raise interest from elsewhere. As Jeff says below another piece tonight though, he would be a fairly close replacement for Ross Whiteley, although a far better bowler at this stage and a batsman who isn't yet close to his capabilities as a very powerful  left-hander, capable of hitting the ball a long way.

At 23 he is the right age but has had a tough summer with niggling injuries. Nor do rumours suggest Kent to be the happiest of ships, so Coles has made it clear that he wants to build a career elsewhere.In comparison, Derbyshire's reputation as a club that looks after its players is growing and that should do them no harm.

The Kent forum suggests that Nottinghamshire are also interested (there's a surprise...) while another says that he wants to play division one cricket, which he may not yet do with either, depending on coming results.

You pays your money and takes your choice, but a fit and firing Matt Coles could bring a lot to Derbyshire, for one thing offering the balance that Ross Whiteley did when he was at his best.

I suspect there's some way to go on this one, but the fact that the club site says we have met with his agent is indicative of planning for next summer and reassurance that the powers that be have their fingers on the pulse in so far as team improvements are concerned.

Yeah, like the idea of this one and can see the rationale quite clearly.

Let's just hope it all comes together in time.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 3

If ever a game is set up for a thrilling finale, this is it. Middlesex need what appears a daunting 272 more runs to win, while we need eight wickets on what seems set fair from a weather perspective.

For a third successive day, this was a marvelous effort by Derbyshire. They didn't prevent Middlesex from passing the follow-on target, but they weren't likely to enforce it anyway, with the wicket starting to offer variations in bounce that will be welcome on the last day. That all three seamers had three wickets each speaks volumes for the team approach and ethic that has been evident in the last two matches. The return of the positive, fearless cricket of 2012 is welcome and might just have come at the right time.

Batting wasn't easy and wickets went at regular intervals. The two stands were between Shiv Chanderpaul and Richard Johnson, then Johnson and Alex Hughes. All three contributions in the context of the game were priceless and I am more than happy to confirm that Johnson thoroughly vindicated his selection in the middle order with a an innings of grit and skill. It was a top effort and may just be the innings that wins the match.

There's some work to do before then, though. Robson and Voges are players of the highest class and Morgan, Dexter, Berg and Simpson will fight all the way. The game could go either way, but for Middlesex to win one of those players has to play brilliantly and Derbyshire bowl much worse than they did in the first innings. Disciplined bowling - control of line and length with no freebies from extras - will be key to Derbyshire achieving a second successive win.

We could have lived without a late injury scare for Tim Groenewald, but evening tweets suggest he will be fine tomorrow.

We're off the bottom of the table tonight. Tomorrow we could even - if only fleetingly - be out of the bottom two.

There were long odds on that, two games ago.

Comment catch-up

A day off for me today, in lieu of working on Saturday, so a chance to catch up on some recent comments (and follow more closely the goings-on at the County Ground today...)

Tim from Chesterfield doubted that at 29 Wayne Madsen might not get an England Lions call. Maybe not, but there's plenty of recent examples of similar or older call ups. Nick Compton was the same age when he got his full England cap, while Michael Carberry is 33 and is in the recently announced T20 squad. Age isn't and shouldn't be a barrier to selection, as I've said many times that players develop at different paces.

In a similar vein, Marc asked why more players haven't stepped up in a similar way to Wayne Madsen. The simple answer is that they're not as good. That's being honest, rather than cruel, but again I've said a time or two that some players have gone out of their comfort zone this year and for a few the sad truth is that they might never be quite the requisite standard. Others have realised that they need to do more and are slowly but surely improving.

This, of course, means that winter recruitment will have to be canny and, in all likelihood, on a budget. For example, recent innings by Matt Lineker led me to suggest he was prematurely released. I still think he was, as ten innings is hardly enough in which to make an informed decision, especially when he'd already made the leap from league to second eleven in the same season. As you know yourselves, getting a promotion at work brings a challenge that takes some time to adjust to and you don't feel at home in that role for some time. It's not fair to expect sportsmen to do so and make immediate impacts, yet we do and it is an additional pressure.

I think Matt will get another opportunity and I think it more likely to be at Grace Road, although I am sure his form this summer will lead to some discussion behind the scenes. Yet with the progress being shown by the much younger Ben Slater, I think it unlikely we would 'gamble' - which is what it would be - on two unproven players next summer. With Paul Borrington still in the mix, having played some good one-day knocks this summer, we probably need an experienced batsman of proven quality if we are going to go down the route of another opener - assuming we have the money to do so.

We are now starting to see players names being mentioned in the end of season clear out mix though. Steffan Piolet has said that he is likely to be leaving Warwickshire and, perhaps as a precursor to a permanent deal, he has gone to Sussex, from whence he came, on loan. The imbalance in cricketing finances meanwhile reveals itself with the news that Warwickshire have served 28-day notice of a move for both Nick Compton AND Jos Butler. When one considers the strength of their batting now, it opens your eyes a little, though one or two players of talent may not fancy being in their second team for long periods.

Kent are also looking at a clear out, but I don't see wholesale changes at Derbyshire. Given most players are contracted already, the only decisions would appear to be new deals for Footitt and Evans and on whether Slater and Higginbottom should be offered permanent, as opposed to summer contracts.

So what's your thoughts on that, folks?

Terrific effort by Seconds

Another fine performance from the Seconds yesterday as they beat Durham at Middlesborough.

Batting first the Derbyshire top order put together some solid batting with the top three posting half centuries.
Spinner Ryan Pringle finally claimed the breakthrough wickets of the two openers Godleman (50, caught and bowled) and skipper Borrington (51).  Chase then took the wicket of Derbyshire top scorer Scott Elstone, bowling him after a cavalier 58 from 35 balls including 9 fours.
Pringle then claimed a third wicket after he dismissed Hopkinson without troubling the scoreboard.
Knight (22no) and Turner (10no) added the final runs to the Derbyshire innings to reach 226-6 off their 40 overs.

The Durham innings got off to a good start with Clark and Singh putting on 75 for the first wicket before Wainwright claimed the wicket of Singh for 35 in the 16th over. Clark went four overs later, after making 34 and an over after Pringle was trapped lbw leaving Durham 91-3 just past the half way mark. 

The experienced Gordon Muchall (35) and Paul Coughlin (34) were the hope for Durham as the pair put together a partnership before Muchall was dismissed in the 34th over  and Couglin in the 35th as Durham fell behind the run rate at 182-6.

Unfortunately the tail failed to wag for Durham with none of the last five in making double figures as Turner (3-39) and Wainwright (3-43) ripped through the lower order to bowl them out for 203 in the 39th over, 23 runs short of a victory.

Today the two sides began a 3-day match and Durham were dismissed for 208 (Wainwright 4-43) before Derbyshire piled on the runs, finishing on 133-1 with Elstone making a remarkable unbeaten 102 from just 65 balls.

Quite a player, that lad. With useful off-spin to add to the mix, as well as brilliant fielding, he has to be worth a contract for next summer. At 23, time is very much on his side and talent is not in short supply...

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 2

At the end of day 2, Derbyshire have done remarkably well to be ahead in this game, although the match situation is similar to a few we have experienced this summer, including that at Lords. We've worked ourselves into a good position - can we force it home?

Hats off to Karl Krikken, whose selection has thus far been shown to be absolutely right with everyone justifying their selection to some extent. Loud applause tonight for Matt Higginbottom, who returned excellent figures of 3-51 by the end of the day, while Tim Groenewald led the attack with his normal aggression and panache, well supported by Mark Footitt who showed good control, especially in his early spell.

There is still much to do and there are runs to be had in the visitors lower order unless we are among them quickly tomorrow. Earlier today, Groenewald and Footitt lent splendid support to the skipper and took our score to a most impressive 385 all out, the skipper unbeaten on a magnificent 138.

Big first session tomorrow that will perhaps make or break the game. A first innings lead of 120-plus would set us up nicely, if we bat as well a second time. There is a long way to go in this game, but we have earned both credibility and respect for our efforts so far,

That's it from me tonight. Much more tomorrow, but my mate is over from the States today and a fine evening is afoot. He's got his lads with him too, so a good time is set to be had by all, especially since its five years since we saw them...

In the words of Led Zeppelin, been a long time...

I look forward, as always, to your comments!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Calling all cricket writers...

There's a great opportunity for budding young cricket writers to enter their work for awards in the name of the late and great Christopher Martin-Jenkins. 

The details of the competitions are below - I hope that one or two of you are encouraged to enter your work and wish you luck in doing so!

ECB invites entries for the County Cricket Journalism Awards 2013

ECB is inviting entries from young journalists and regional newspapers for the County Cricket Journalism Awards 2013 supported by The Times.
The awards, now in their third year, are designed to recognise outstanding contributions towards the coverage of domestic cricket during the 2013 county season.
A new award has been introduced for 2013 – the Christopher Martin-Jenkins Young Broadcaster of the Year award – to recognize broadcasting excellence within the domestic county game.
The Young County Journalist of the Year award will also be re-named after ‘CMJ’ – the former BBC Radio Test Match Special commentator and The Times cricket correspondent who died earlier this year.
From this year, The Times will also fund the £5,000 scholarship which is awarded to the Young Journalist of the Year to report on an overseas cricket event involving English county teams.
The three other categories in which awards are made to recognise outstanding coverage of County cricket are: National Newspaper of the Year, Regional Newspaper of the Year and Best Online coverage of the Year.
The National Newspaper of the Year award and Best Online coverage of the Year award will be made by a panel of cricket writers and broadcasters based on their assessment of the season’s coverage in these categories.
 Entries are invited for the Regional Newspaper of the Year Award, the Christopher Martin-Jenkins Young Broadcaster of the Year and the Christopher Martin-Jenkins Young Journalist of the Year award.

Entry criteria:

Christopher Martin-Jenkins Young Journalist of the Year
·       This category is open to any newspaper or online journalist who was under the age of 30 years-old on January 1st, 2013. Each entrant is required to submit a maximum of three examples of their coverage of county cricket, preferably including evidence of exclusive stories or original material, which must have been published after January 1st 2013. 

Christopher Martin-Jenkins Young Broadcaster of the Year
·        Each entrant in this category must also have been under the age of 30-years-old on January 1st 2013 and is required to submit a maximum of three previous examples of their coverage of County cricket. This can be live commentary or interviews/features or a combination of the two. All must have been broadcast after January 1st 2013.

Regional Newspaper of the Year
·        This category is open to any daily, evening or weekly regional newspaper in England and Wales.
·        Each entrant in this category is required to submit examples of their newspaper’s coverage of County cricket – a maximum of five articles and all must have been published after January 1st, 2013.
·        Each entrant is also required to supply a short statement of no more than 200 words explaining how the publication expanded or improved its coverage of County cricket in 2013.

Please note: The closing date for entries is Monday, September 17th, 2013:
Entries can be sent:
·         Via post with photocopies of articles to the below address or via email with PDFs of articles to
·         For the Young Broadcaster Award, please email MP3 files to or send a CD to the below address

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 1 - Magnificent Madsen.

After the season that he has had, it is hard to find something to say about Wayne Madsen that I haven't said before.

He is, without a doubt, an outstanding cricketer and once again today we were indebted to his technique, his powers of concentration and his consummate skill in getting us to a position where winning may not necessarily be a pipe dream.

In making his third century of the season, to go with seven half-centuries, he became the first man to reach a thousand championship runs this summer. I suspect that the latter feat is a 'first' for Derbyshire, although I have not yet seen that verified by a greater statistician than I. Given that for many years we struggled to find  batsmen who could limp past a thousand runs, it is unlikely that his feat has ever been done before, not even by such luminaries as Barnett, Kirsten or Wright. I am sure that David Baggett, the club's long-time statistician, would easily be able to verify that one.

Some people can't handle the additional pressures of captaincy and prefer to concentrate on their game, but Madsen seems to have thrived on it. His form fluctuated a little last year for understandable reasons, but he still produced some telling innings when they were most needed . This summer, as if aware that his team mates needed a lead, he has had the most golden campaign imaginable. If he can keep it going to the end of the summer, anything really could be possible.

He will need support though and today he got it to varying degrees. Ben Slater again impressed and is surely playing himself into a full contract for next summer. A second successive championship fifty was reward for a gritty effort that gave us the sort of start we badly needed. Shiv Chanderpaul failed and saw his average fall below forty as a consequence, but Richard Johnson gave good support in an innings that promised much but again fell short of the mark at which a point would have been made. That he can bat is beyond doubt, but to confirm his place in the middle order as a specialist batsman he needs to go past attractive thirties and forties to something more significant.

Of course, his immediate goal is probably to reclaim the gloves from Tom Poynton, who failed with the bat today but has kept so well in recent weeks that is not immediately crucial. He will need to keep at the top of his game though and to that effect Johnson's presence is of particular merit.

Alex Hughes also appeared to bat well, before perhaps getting overly ambitious against the second new ball, but his talent is obvious. So too is that of Peter Burgoyne, who saw it through to the close with his skipper and carries the promise of further runs on the second day. Interestingly, Burgoyne is the only Derbyshire batsman above Madsen in the averages this summer, albeit from over nine hundred fewer runs, but only the churlish would deny a precocious talent, one that at 19 has massive potential.

Where does it leave the game? Laudably, Krikk went with the youngsters who did so well in Sussex, so Groenewald, Higginbottom and Footitt will make up our seam attack. Alex Hughes will offer an interesting variant, with the spin in the hands of Burgoyne and, presumably, the skipper. I was slightly concerned when I saw Rayner and Voges taking wickets on the first day, but unless the pitch has been totally misread we must assume that spin is not expected to play a major part on the final day, especially with Durston omitted alongside Wainwright and Knight.

Mind you, in his current form, Madsen will probably take five wickets...

In closing tonight, it was good to see Chris Grant tweeting today about Madsen's potential with regard to an England Lions call up. He was absolutely correct in his assertion that the media would be pushing for it if he played elsewhere.

But they can't deny him for long. He is in the most wonderful form and is now a player of undeniable class. Such a call up cannot be far away and aside from the obvious moaners about his South African background, there is no logical argument that would exclude him from selection in the near future.

Great effort skipper. Take us to 350 tomorrow and it would set the game up very nicely.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Derbyshire v Middlesex preview

So, imagine you're Karl Krikken tonight and have got to finalise your team from the thirteen-man squad announced for the Middlesex game tomorrow. What do you do?

Chesney Hughes
Ben Slater
Wayne Madsen
Shivnarine Chanderpaul
Wes Durston
Richard Johnson
Alex Hughes
Tom Poynton
Peter Burgoyne
Tony Palladino
Tim Groenewald
Matt Higginbottom
Mark Footitt

While Mark Eklid  in this morning's DET suggested that Krikk might stick with the youngsters, I think that Matt Higginbottom will miss out, probably alongside Richard Johnson. The latter may get the nod over Tom Poynton, as some have suggested, but I see no reason to drop Tom. His presence would still see a likely eleven that features four Academy graduates, no mean feat and something to be proud of.

I am surprised that there's neither Wainwright nor Knight in the squad, so can only surmise we're going to slug it out toe to toe with the much-vaunted Middlesex seam attack, leaving Durston, Burgoyne and our new all-rounder, Wayne Madsen, to bowl the spin if required. Did the media reaction to the track against Durham change the thinking? Who's to say, but the decision is made and we'll stand or fall by it.

Middlesex's squad is as follows:

Neil Dexter
Gareth Berg
Corey Collymore
Joe Denly
James Harris
Eoin Morgan
Tim Murtagh
Ravi Patel
Ollie Rayner
Sam Robson
Toby Roland-Jones
John Simpson
Adam Voges

Whichever two are omitted (Patel and Collymore is my guess) that is a strong side and we will need to be at our best to beat them. Should Steve Finn be omitted from the England side for the final Test he can return for the second day onwards. This will be tough match and we will need eleven players at their very best to compete, let alone have expectation of a win.

Yet we must hope and battle - and then? I long ago ceased to be surprised by what happens in cricket, but if I could predict which Derbyshire side would turn up for a given game it would be a good deal easier. If the right one plays tomorrow and over the next four days, this game could just be a good deal closer than most will expect; likewise if Middlesex treat us lightly. 

Logic suggests we will be beaten, but you never can tell.

Give it your all lads. We can't ask for more.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Like buses...

One week after scoring a century for the Unicorns, Matt Lineker has scored another for them, this time against Leicestershire. Hundreds, they're like buses - you wait for one to turn up then they all come at once...

His 132 from just 104 balls contained seventeen fours and two sixes and has given them a chance of a win over the Foxes. He's just taken three fours and a six from an over by Anthony Ireland, who most will remember dismantling our batting in the T20 a couple of weeks ago.

I know there were valid reasons for dispensing with his services and engaging an opener with greater first-class experience in Billy Godleman, but Matt has shown that at 28 he still has possibilities in first class cricket. I know that Leicestershire haven't the greatest attack in the game, but Yorkshire's isn't the worst and they were put to the sword last week.

In his last dozen or so innings for Lincolnshire in the Minor Counties and for the Unicorns, Lineker's scores have gone 53, 27, 56 not, 44, 109 not, 72, 2, 62, 50, 41, 11, 107 and 132  .

At the risk of being in a minority of one, I'd suggest we were hasty to release him.

In fact, while his first-class average at the time, just under twenty, wasn't the strongest argument to retention, he has done as much as he could this summer, with a List A average of sixty, to prove one simple, but at this stage undeniable point.

We were wrong.

Postscript  - Gary Park also scored 31 and took four wickets...good day for Derbyshire old boys.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Quick thoughts on T20 finals day

Warm congratulations tonight to Northamptonshire, winners of the T20 for this year. They're not, on paper, close to the strongest team in the competition, but the whole was pretty impressive and in Cameron White they have a very good overseas player. Richard Levi also impressed, more effective at this level with his predominantly leg-side heaves than at international level.

I was also pleased because they hammered Surrey in the final. I didn't like the attitude of Gareth Batty in the quarter-final that saw him banned for today and he has, after all, got 'previous' in this line. It is one thing to play aggressive cricket, another to be unnecessarily aggressive and Batty crossed the line and set a poor example against Somerset.

So the underdog rules and more power to their elbow. Congratulations also to Freddie the Falcon for second place in the Mascot challenge.

Mind you I'd sooner have seen him 18th and Derbyshire there today.

Maybe next year...

PS While I am in a congratulatory mode, belated ones to Matt Lineker for his century earlier in the week for the Unicorns. They still lost, but it will be something to remember for a long time to come.

Well done, Matt!

Something for the weekend: Krikk's dilemma

There will be more than a few thoughts running through Karl Krikken's mind this weekend and the decisions that come out of them will be crucial to our prospects against Middlesex.

While Derbyshire will start Tuesday's game as underdogs, the players and coach will be well aware that they gave them a good game at Lords for a couple of days, before one horrendous session  cost them dearly. The visitors are in contention for the title, but then again, so are Sussex and we beat them in our last game with relative ease.

Having thought long and hard about it, I still feel we really need this to be a spinner's track and I've not changed my mind since last night's game against Durham. By the same token, we can't have it turning right angles from the first session, or the pitch inspectors will be down at the ground faster than you can say 'Muttiah Muralitharan'. Neil Godrich has a fine line to tread in getting the wicket just right, like Goldilocks' third bowl of porridge.

Why? Middlesex are challenging for the title because Finn, Murtagh, Roland-Jones, Collymore and Harris have nearly 120 wickets between them. Ollie Rayner, their sole spinner of note, has seventeen wickets in eight matches. I'm not going to pretend that Wainwright, Durston, Burgoyne and Knight are channeling the skills of Indian legends circa 1970's after Thursday night, but they do represent, for me, our best chance of success in this one.

Of course, it is not as clear cut as that. It would help considerably if we won the toss and could bat first, but there's only 50/50 on that one, as is always the case.We also need to bat well, there being nowhere to go if we are rolled over for 175 on the first day, even if the toss goes our way.

Yet the key man in the intervening period is James Pipe. Is Chanderpaul fit? Is Wes Durston? Will Tony Palladino get through four days of cricket after a stomach strain? For that matter, will Jon Clare emerge from another injury-ruined season?

Clare is an enigma. He's a lovely lad, a dangerous batsman and a bowler who hits the wicket hard and on his day would be a shoo-in for a first choice side. Yet his body is the biggest obstacle to him developing as the cricketer we all thought he would be when he burst onto the scene in 2008. He only played nine championship matches over the following two seasons, but had an excellent 2011. Last summer he again did well and despite missing a third of the matches was a key player in the championship win.

This year he has missed around half of the matches and not looked close to his best form with bat or ball for much of the time. Maybe he needs to replicate the winter work of Mark Footitt, another whose career has been blighted by injury but who has maintained a level of fitness this summer that is highly commendable. Maybe he has just been unlucky.

I hope that Clare gets himself fit for another summer, as our side is undoubtedly the stronger for him being in it and at the peak of his fitness and game. At 27 he is coming to a crucial part of his career and where it goes from this point will be largely down to him.

I think that we will play three seamers - we have to, in case one goes lame - but the final place will be dictated by Wes Durston's fitness to bowl perhaps fifteen or twenty overs. We know that Chesney can't bowl this summer, so  Durston opposite Wainwright will be key on what I expect to be a slow, turning wicket. If there's any doubt, then I suspect Peter Burgoyne's superior batting might get him the nod at six in this side:


It would be tough on Burgoyne or Alex Hughes to miss out, as both had good games at Sussex,  but I would see that as my most likely eleven. As I said the other night, I feel Tom Knight the better spinner at the moment, but if we need another one his inclusion would leave us with a long-looking tail. Some might say that Durston's championship form this summer doesn't warrant selection, but he's due an innings and has shown form with bat and ball since the Sussex game.

We're all experts after the event. It is easy to call a bad selection or a poor bowling change, a bad shot or a missed catch with the benefit of hindsight. When you have to make a judgement call in advance of a game, or on the spur of the moment, it is massively different. Karl Krikken makes decisions based on fitness reports, seeing players in the nets, being aware of their mental state and a gut feeling. All of us can only go on the latter.

It will be tough, but that's top tier cricket. We have the ability to win it, as the team have shown on various occasions this summer, but the all-important question has to be answered.

Which Derbyshire will turn up?

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Derbyshire v Durham YB40: We are the Sultans of Spin...

There was another display of potential from Derbyshire tonight, albeit in a somewhat redundant YB40 fixture, which they won with some ease.

A solid team effort got us to a competitive 218-8 in our forty overs, with Richard Johnson top-scoring with an excellent fifty and the skipper weighing in with 37. There were good cameos down the order too, with Tony Palladino carving merrily at the death as we all know he can do.

He then had a good spell of seven straight overs that will do his confidence good ahead of next week's championship match against Middlesex, although he was outdone by his opening partner, Wayne Madsen.

Is there anything this bloke can't do? Besides batting as if his blade is three feet wide this season, he is emerging as a more than useful bowler who tonight returned the superb figures of 3-27 in eight overs. To be fair his record in the Lancashire Leagues suggested he could bowl, but it is good to see him having the confidence as captain to lead from the front and turn his arm over. 

I do think he needs to do a bit of work in the winter though. If he can also develop his seam bowling, he could come on as first change, bowl some handy Kallis-like seam, then switch to spin as the ball got soft. Oh, and still bat three and problem then, eh?

I was delighted to see Tom Knight in the wickets tonight and it is no more than the lad deserves. He is and has always been a good bowler and we should have used him more this summer, especially when David Wainwright was having a few issues with his bowling. As was pointed out by a contributor the other day, he gives you a degree of control, is much improved in the field and can handle a bat.

I think Knight a more developed bowler than Peter Burgoyne at present, although the latter's superior batting and fine catching at slip will earn him brownie points and he will continue to develop, as Knight will do, with opportunity. Seeing the latter bowl in the last two YB40 games merely serves to illustrate my recent point that we missed an opportunity to field him in more one-day games this summer. Both have a massive role in our future.

Then again, David Wainwright took a look at a helpful track tonight and presumably thought "I'll have some of that". Figures of 4-11 in less than five overs indicates a bowler with increased confidence and a sense of purpose. He senses a challenge from Knight and that can only be a good thing for the team.

It was a good win but more than anything it gives Karl Krikken food for thought ahead of Middlesex's visit to the County Ground. I think that we will aim for a similar wicket to tonight for that game, aim to bat first then turn the spinners loose.

Be honest, worthy bowlers as Groenewald, Footitt and Palladino are, would we pit them against Finn, Murtagh and Harris on a green top? I'm not sure I would, but I would be inclined to go with something close to this team:

Hughes (C)
Hughes (A)

Yes, you could play a third seamer and go with Durston and Wainwright for spin, but both Burgoyne and Knight are in good form and full of confidence. Durston may not be able to bowl long spells either, which could be a deciding factor.

I'd be inclined  to let one of them loose. Both, if Burgoyne batted six and Alex Hughes was omitted, but that would leave you without a third seamer.

Thoughts? Let's get your comments coming in week is a big match

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Derbyshire v Durham YB40

Meaningless game to a great extent tomorrow, though professional pride and a need to build reputations should dictate a strong Derbyshire performance against Durham at the County Ground.

I don't expect many changes to the team from last night, though it is good to see Tony Palladino in the squad, who may get a run out ahead of next week's game. The news that both he and Jon Clare are returning to full fitness is welcome, as the successful triumvirate of Palladino, Groenewald and Clare from last season have rarely featured together this year.

It would, I think, be a gamble to play both Palladino and Clare against Middlesex unless we were very confident in their fitness. In a game of such importance we can scarce afford to lose a seamer early in the game.

There's been a few mails flying around with 'conspiracy theories' about Clare and his fitness/unfitness. It seems to me that we can't have a genuine injury round these parts without it being construed as having hidden meanings. The reality is that as a club with a small nucleus of experienced players we have endured too many injuries this summer. Chanderpaul and Durston miss out tomorrow to ensure they are fit for Middlesex and the squad has the look of a team selected from a Scout troop.

Still, it is an opportunity that some will take and others won't and, in the long term, that separates the cricketing wheat from the chaff.

Weather permitting, I'll be skippering my work side tomorrow in our debut match against a local club, so my blog will perforce be later. It promises to be interesting, with our side including five players with varying experience and six blokes who are very keen but have never played cricket before.

Still, from such acorns substantial trees grow. We'll be on tour next year...

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Lancashire v Derbyshire YB40

There was no real surprise in losing to Lancashire at Old Trafford tonight, nor any disgrace.

They are to all intents and purposes a division one side and should be again next season. With Ashwell Prince and Simon Katich in their batting lineup they have international quality and we had no one of that experience in our ranks in the absence of Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Wayne Madsen once again was to the fore, leading from the front as he has done all summer, then chipping in with a decent bowling spell and the prize wicket of Simon Katich. There was little support though, until David Wainwright helped him add 80 for the seventh wicket and Derbyshire's total, though reasonable, never looked likely to challenge Lancashire unduly unless they lost early wickets.

For Wainwright it was a welcome return to batting form. When he joined from Yorkshire I had high hopes that he would make a genuine all-rounder, having a couple of centuries to his name for the white rose county. It hasn't happened and despite a couple of doughty knocks last summer he remains a bowler who knows how to handle the willow in most eyes.

His bowling has been the major concern this summer and again tonight there were a couple of expensive overs as he was outbowled by Tom Knight, in a welcome return to the side. I just wonder how much his winter back problems have affected his bowling this summer, when he certainly seems to have had more issues with keeping a length than in the past.

Knight will be pleased with seven overs for thirty runs against a good batting side and the control offered by him, in conjunction with Wes Durston, took the game a lot closer than might have otherwise been the case.

As I said the other night though, this was about competing and experience. On both counts it was fair enough.

Just nothing to write home about.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Fickle fans and the future

Forgive the alliterative nature of the header, which came to me this afternoon while following online the action in the sensational final day's play in the fourth Test at The Riverside.

I've been critical at times of some of the Derbyshire support and the comments made in the aftermath of defeats, yet some of the stuff being spouted by people as Australia's score inched towards the target set by England today was extraordinary.

I always said Cook wasn't a captain. Broad doesn't look a Test bowler. Swann isn't the player he was. They're not as good a side as they've been made out to be. These and more hit the internet from people who, one assumes, have a modicum of knowledge about the game. How silly to make such statements about outstanding cricketers in the best England team in many years. How silly did these people look later in the day when the expected happened - Australia collapsed like a pack of cards.

Don't get me wrong. I think Cook a decent, rather than fine captain and as I've said before, the captaincy 'gig' is a lot easier when you have the bowlers that he has at his disposal. A top captain makes things happen and will try something different - he's proactive rather than reactive. Someone like Eddie Barlow would have tried Joe Root or Kevin Pietersen today to change it around. Mind you, Eddie would have bowled himself and the job would have been sorted in jig time...

The Aussies were never going to make those runs and there were enough lucky moments, even when Rogers and Warner were going well, to reassure me that all would turn out well. I said so to work mates and so it transpired. The major problem they have is that they have little collective experience of English tracks that move around and it was no surprise that Chris Rogers has looked as good as they have, as his long experience of our conditions has served him well.

Usman Khawaja is a good player but looks short of this level, while Steve Smith is an improving player who really needs to complete his cricket education with a season here, foregoing the IPL where he earns good money but picks up bad habits. When the Aussies ruled cricket, people like Langer, Hayden, the Waugh brothers, Martyn, Hussey et al  had solid county experience behind them. They don't have that now and, realistically, won't get it again in a hurry. Why would Smith forsake £100K for six weeks in the IPL for much less in the county game and over a longer period?

Anyway, back to the county circuit and we're at Old Trafford tomorrow. Yesterday was kind of strange, as we batted really well, but realistically you should be able to defend 290 in 40 overs. There's been criticism of Mark Footitt in different places, but we all know what you get with Mark. On his day he can be dynamite and rip through teams, but when its not he's hittable, as line and length go out the window. At 28 I don't know if that will change, so you have to take the rough with the smooth, as you do with Mark Turner.

'We shouldn't play them' is the cry from some, but they are at least fit. Palladino and Clare aren't, while Higginbottom would be a one-day gamble as his propensity to the bad ball an over is known. Ali Evans could have been worth a try, but there's nowt else there. It makes you value all the more the efforts of Tim Groenewald, who has stepped up to the plate once again and been the Mr Consistent of the side, both in performance and appearance. He is, quite simply, an excellent professional.

I expect another defeat at Old Trafford, unless it's a raging bunsen of a track, but I'll settle for encouraging performance. The recent efforts of Paul Borrington and Ben Slater have made me think carefully about our winter recruitment needs and I'm of the opinion that at least one of these lads could become established next summer. It's nice to read others acknowledging what I have said for some time about Borrington's technique and now he is developing the strength to hit the ropes,  he is an improved player. Slater is another slight player who will get better in the next few years, if Krikk offers him a permanent deal.

Some might like to see another seamer come in, but we need to be careful and not block the progress of young talent. I don't know how close the likes of Cotton, Taylor, Cork and Marsden are to senior cricket, but at 18, 19, 20 they must be close. I'd hate for their development to be stymied by the signing of a bowler from elsewhere though, such as happened with Tom Knight.

I totally understand why we signed David Wainwright and fully acknowledge the role he played in our success last summer. I understand why we signed him too, with Knight away at the time with England Under 19s. Yet Tom has barely featured for two summers and I feel for the lad. He's seen Peter Burgoyne leapfrog him and despite thirteen wickets at 15 and a batting average of 37 this summer (something he has really worked at) he's had barely a sniff of senior action.

For next season I'd like to see us offer opportunity and encouragement to young talent and sign an experienced batsman and an all-rounder. I know no more than you the available players, nor our budget at this stage, but I will tell you a player I would like to see at Derbyshire.

Wayne White.

If I was White, I'd be looking at this as a lost season. He's a very good cricketer who can take wickets and score good runs but has barely featured for Lancashire this summer. He has, to my knowledge, two years left on a contract and at 28 needs second team cricket like I need flower arranging classes. I'd love to see him seek a similar release to that pursued by Ross Whiteley, because I think he would be perfect for Derbyshire, batting six or seven. He averages 70 with the bat and 14 with the ball in Lancashire's second team this summer and is way too good to be wasting his talent at that level. The highlight of his summer has been his efforts for Swarkestone in the Derbyshire Premier League, where he has done as well as a player of his ability would be expected to do.

It would be great to welcome Wayne home to Derbyshire in the near future.

Next season would do me very nicely.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Surrey v Derbyshire YB40

It was a cracking game of cricket at The Oval today, with nearly 600 runs scored in 80 overs. Yet Derbyshire ended up on the wrong side of the result, something that seemed unlikely for the duration of our innings and for the first half of Surrey's.

The game seemed to turn on two expensive overs from Mark Footitt, which gave impetus to a Surrey innings that was in danger of being stifled by a good spell from David Wainwright. The problem today was that no one was able to bowl with similar control apart from Tim Groenewald, whose closing spell took the game to a closer finish than appeared likely, five overs from the end. Neither Alex Hughes nor Peter Burgoyne enjoyed the best of games, but it is silly to be harsh on two lads who are learning the game. They will, in adversity, have learned a lot about bowling at the death in the first-class game and will enjoy better fortunes on many occasions in the years ahead.

It was obviously a superb pitch, as one-day pitches there often are there at this time of year and I think a major reason for our eventual defeat today was the way that our innings hit the buffers after the dismissal of Paul Borrington. Wes Durston led off well, then Chesney took the lead after his dismissal and played some trademark shots en route to a run-a-ball 80.

Yet today's star was undoubtedly Paul Borrington, whose 72 came from 69 balls and probably made a few people sit up in the process. Over the past couple of years I have suggested on more than one occasion that a run of one-day games could be the making of him and he has enjoyed an excellent run in the Yorkshire Bank 40. The freedom to go out and play a few shots has helped and he has no doubt enjoyed the lack of close fielders for a change. It was an excellent effort from Boz.

After his dismissal we added 'only' 78 runs in the last nine overs, five wickets going down in the following six overs and our final total owed much to a late flurry from Tim Groenewald. Again, the inexperience of the middle order was a factor and experience will show them that there are different ways to keep a total ticking over than expansive shots, especially when they first come in.

One can take nothing away from Surrey though, who tackled a daunting run chase with common sense and skill. In the not too distant future I would love to see a Derbyshire side tackle a similar challenge in such style and with considerable panache.

A defeat then, and one that I suspect spells the end of our YB40 ambitions for the summer.

There were reasons to be cheerful though.

Book Review - The Ashes: Match of My Life by Sam Pilger and Rob Wightman

I've always been a little wary of books that have effusive praise on the cover.

"One of the greatest ever books on the Ashes" is loud and clear at the bottom of the front cover of this one, from no less a pen than that of the late Frank Keating of The Guardian.

He was right, though. This engaging tome does, very simply, what it says 'on the tin'. Fourteen Ashes 'legends' discuss their greatest match in the oldest international cricket contest and their memories of the tour in which it took place. While I am not sure that Ashley Giles is worthy of the accolade 'legend' (ten wickets at 57 in the series in question, with some staunch batting) the subjects have played their part in ensuring that this remains the greatest, most keenly contested and eagerly awaited battle in the cricket calendar.

So here, side by side, we have Neil Harvey, David Gower, Justin Langer, Bob Willis, Geoff Boycott, Jeff Thomson, Glenn McGrath and more recounting their memories through the able pens of Sam Pilger and Rob Wightman.

Their great skill is to present the pieces in a way in which you feel you are sitting with the subject in your favourite local and listening to their story with a pint in your hand and a hot fire in the grate. While the book has obvious topicality in the middle of an Ashes summer, it will be equally relevant and enjoyable if you are looking at it during the coming winter, perhaps curled up in bed, or at any other time for that matter.

Some of the tales have been told before and there's no great surprise in the matches chosen. Yet, having read on many occasions of the comeback of Geoff Boycott at Trent Bridge in 1977 and how he ran out local favourite Derek Randall before playing two match-winning innings, here it comes across with the freshness of the first time, no mean feat.

Some pieces are better than others, but that is largely down to the personalities of the subject. Thus, Merv Hughes and Jeff Thomson come across perhaps better than Mark Taylor, but giving a favourite in such a book is like choosing your favourite child - impossible.

Once again, Pitch Publishing has come up with the goods and produced a book that will stand the test (pardon the pun) of time and still be worth buying in a second hand shop in fifteen years.While first published in 2006, this revised and expanded version is well worth the money, especially if you missed out the first time.

The Ashes: Match of My Life  is written by Sam Pilger and Rob Wightman and published by Pitch Publishing. It is available on Amazon priced £16.99 and from all good book shops.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Cricket at Buxton

We traveled up in my Dad's Ford Anglia most of the time, the one that he'd got when he passed his driving test after a few years on a motor bike. The latter wasn't much use to get the four of us around, so his first car was special and lasted us for around nine or ten years from 1967.

We lived at Ripley until 1970, when Dad's work at the pit meant a move to a council house only a mile away from it, one they still live in to this day. It didn't matter too much which house we left from, as a trip to Buxton was a fairly long haul either way.

I enjoyed the drive up there, the anticipation of the game ahead keeping my mind off car sickness, something that affected me throughout childhood (for that matter to some extent until I started to drive myself). I enjoyed the scenery en route and we'd listen to the radio as we chatted, the classic sounds of the era with me to this day. Let's Go To San Francisco, I Can't Let Maggie Go, Build Me Up Buttercup - in my mind's eye these tunes played on repeat, though they will have been a small percentage of the ones we listened to and only for a year or so. I loved them all, though my old man's preference would have been music from an earlier vintage; big bands, Crosby, Sinatra, Mills Brothers, Ink Spots.

The Bowl at Buxton was special as we'd made that special effort to get there, though Dad always studied the weather before we set off. It seemed to have its own climate, as evidenced by that freakish day of snow there on June 2, 1975. We didn't go up there that day (Dad was pretty good at this weather lark by that stage...) but we'd been on the Saturday, when Lancashire racked up 477-5 in the day, with Clive Lloyd hitting 167. The great West Indian slaughtered us and I remember sixes going to all corners. Having checked up on it, at one point he hit seven sixes in the course of 50 runs scored and he was especially severe on a young Geoff Miller, whose 14 overs went for 94 runs.

Our first trip had been exciting and perhaps fueled my love of the game, with what was a fairly ordinary Derbyshire batting side hitting 400-4 on the first day against Somerset (a strange venue for such a game) in 1968. Both Mike Page and Derek Morgan scored centuries in what was as close to cavalier batting as we saw in those days, then, after good bowling by Brian Jackson and Harold Rhodes we finally won by just two wickets after being only set 70-odd to win. It was a game that emphasised the uncertainty of Derbyshire batting, though I would have to say the latter was more typical of my early experiences...

In 1969 we went up for another game against Somerset, but this time in the fledgling John Player League. Forty overs on a Sunday afternoon, starting at 2pm. Lovely. We only made 151 but quick bowling by Alan Ward and Harold Rhodes reduced them to 38-6, the wickets including a young Greg Chappell, who had a season of contrasts ahead of a glittering international career. We won by 52 runs, with Rhodes returning figures of 8-3-11-3 and Fred Rumsey, who had left Somerset at the end of the previous season and had joined Derbyshire for a one-day deal, had 8-3-14-2. Any resemblance to modern one-day cricket was accidental.

1970 saw another Sunday game but Lancashire thrashed us in the game I referred to earlier in the week, making 229-5 in 39 overs, way ahead of par at that time. Among the carnage, Phil Russell bowled a very good 8 overs for just 20 from the pavilion end, but Peter Eyre's seven overs went for 75, in stark contrast to his Queens Park heroics of the previous year's Gillette Cup semi-final. We only made 115 in reply, with Wilkins hitting some brave blows, including the massive straight six I referred to the other night, before hitting a huge skyer that Jack Bond took with ease.

We were beaten there again in 1971, which was when Brian 'Tonker' Taylor of Essex hit the first Sunday century I saw. They were not far short of 200 and despite a vigorous 71 from Ian Buxton we lost out by around 20 runs in a rain-reduced game of thirty overs a side.

We didn't go up in 1972 as the weather was poor and both the Sunday and championship matches there that season were washed out, but in 1973 we saw Glamorgan beaten by one run in a thrilling finish as their batting fell apart when it seemed impossible to lose. Venkat and Mike Hendrick bowled well in that one but the running of the Glamorgan batsmen at the death lives with me to this day as shambolic.

The last game we saw at Buxton was in 1976, the first day against Lancashire of an extraordinary match. We did well to bowl them out for 290 on the first day, but were 72-5 at the end of the day and in big trouble. I remember us coming home in the car and Dad muttering 'bloody rubbish' on a regular basis as we talked about the play, ignoring earlier good bowling by Keith Stevenson, who took five wickets.

On the second day we followed on and got to the close at 224-6, around seventy ahead with Eddie Barlow injured and unlikely to bat. Yet bat he did and on the last day he made a typical 73, batting at number nine, which left Lancashire 202 to win. A very well balanced attack put them out for 186 and a win by fifteen runs. Barlow was unable to bowl, but Hendrick and Stevenson did well before Geoff Miller and Fred Swarbrook tied up the win with their spin.

That was it at Buxton until 1980, but by then I was on the verge of moving to Scotland after my degree. Matches were sporadic thereafter, but the last county game there was in August 1986, when we were again in action against Lancashire in  - surprise, surprise - a rain affected draw.

They were great days, fun days, with memories of portable toilets, spartan facilities, ice creams, tarpaulin sightscreens but good, competitive cricket.

Not to mention a lot of laughs and music with my old man in that Anglia...

Friday, 9 August 2013

Surrey v Derbyshire preview

Grand day out in London for Derbyshire on Sunday, when they play Surrey in the YB40. It is not yet beyond the realms of possibility that we could qualify in this group and a good display will keep the 'feel good' factor going for a while longer.

Karl Krikken has announced the following squad:

Wes Durston
Chesney Hughes
Paul Borrington
Shivnarine Chanderpaul
Wayne Madsen
Ben Slater
Alex Hughes
Tom Poynton
Richard Johnson
Dan Redfern
David Wainwright
Peter Burgoyne
Mark Footitt
Tim Groenewald
Mark Turner

While acknowledging the suggestion to keep Ben Slater involved from a contributor the other day, I suspect that he, Johnson and Turner will miss out, together with one from Wainwright, Redfern and Borrington.

Surrey have rested several players for the game, including  Steven Davies, Jade Dernbach, Jon Lewis and Zafar Ansari. Their squad is as follows:

Gareth Batty
Rory Burns
Tom Curran
Zander de Bruyn
George Edwards
Arun Harinath
Tom Jewell
Gary Keedy
Tim Linley
Jason Roy
Vikram Solanki
Gary Wilson
Freddie van den Bergh

There's a good mix of youth and experience in that squad, but Derbyshire, as they have shown with wins over Sussex and Nottinghamshire recently, have enough talent to beat anyone if they remain focused and play their best purposeful cricket

I'll forecast a win here, as long as we can take early wickets and remove the dangerous Roy and Solanki.

If  we manage that, there's even more to play for than we envisaged a week or so back

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Off field news a tonic for Derbyshire

Great news for Derbyshire today with confirmation that ECB grant funding will be £700K more than the previously intimated £1 million.

The money is ring-fenced for capital expenditure projects such as improved facilities for players, members, spectators and the media, as well as potential upgrades to wireless internet and floodlights.  Yet the club's Chief Executive, Simon Storey, confirmed the commitment to increasing the playing budget, which would bring us closer to parity with other counties - though likely still some distance from the big guns, even allowing for the salary cap of £1.9 million per total squad.

It hardly needs Einstein to work out that more money enables you to hire better players, but the improvements to the ground will increase our ability to lure them to the club, will improve our credibility and standing within the game and our long-term ability to host international or junior international fixtures. It is, in short, great news.

If they can get match funding from Derby City Council to cover some of the ongoing ground maintenance costs, it will free up money for the playing budget and take the club to a whole new level. That will not just be on the field, but also from a community involvement perspective, including a potential role in the healthy living agenda.

The club's Supervisory Board is one hundred per cent correct in holding fire on its plans in order to ensure that they use the money for the maximum benefit, presumably once they are fully aware of the Council's intentions.Such common sense is the reason why we now have such a Board, with professional people who have specialist talents to bring to the table. With no disrespects intended to past committee members, a modern, professional club needs the professional expertise of those at the helm of our club now.

It was also good to see Wayne Madsen today pay tribute to Dave Houghton's role in his batting success this summer. Houghton is an engaging man who knows cricket inside out, but it has been easy for some to lay the failure of our batsmen this summer at his door. He is, after all, our batting coach.

It is not as easy as that. Houghton in his first spell at the club had to work hard and show players the correct technique to play the game at first-class level, something that will have continued to a lesser extent in his current stay. Yet his greater role now is in highlighting the mental approach required to make a success of the game.

"Well, he's not been very good at it" the churlish will say, but Houghton can only do so much. For some the assimilation of his tuition will take much longer; some may not manage it at all, because they have 'topped out' at the previous level of the game. Madsen has gone on to the next level and so have many other good players around the globe, but Houghton cannot bat for them if they are finding the going tough.

I am sure that if I had the benefit of Dave Houghton's coaching for a week he would improve me as a batsman. I know that he wouldn't make me into a county player though, no matter what my commitment and how high my desire.

Much as Houghton helped Dan Redfern improve last year, he has undoubtedly aided Ben Slater and Peter Burgoyne this season. It is no coincidence that both spent time with him in Zimbabwe, while Redfern went to Australia where faults perhaps crept into his game. The margin between success and failure in cricket is very small and what we don't know is whether the natural aptitude of any of these young players, coupled with a top coaching set up, is enough to make them established county cricketers.

Some will fall by the wayside, but my guess is that if a few of them make it, they will owe a considerable debt to the expert tuition of Dave Houghton. The others will still be better players for his input, just not good enough for the county game.

That's the way of professional sport.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Midweek musings

There were more glad tidings of comfort and joy from the twos today, as Derbyshire bowled out the MCC Young Cricketers for just 112 on the first day at Belper.

There were four wickets for Mark Turner and a couple for Ali Evans as the Lords lads failed to cope with a pitch offering a little help. So much so that we lost early wickets too, before Wes Durston, with an unbeaten 84 and Scott Elstone (again) with an unbeaten 38 saw us to the close at a healthy 167-4.

The return to form of Wes Durston is welcome and timely. I said last week that I hoped we would see him in the runs and back in the side as a consequence. We have missed his runs this summer, while his bowling is always handy and his fielding brilliant. It will not have gone unnoticed that his attitude since being dropped has also been first rate. Five wickets in the recent win, then good runs today - that's what a coach is wanting to see from a player who is looking for form and Durston could have done no more.

It should also be noted that Tom Knight has moved up the batting order at this level, as he has in club cricket. Tom has worked hard on his batting and scored a fifty last week for the Seconds. He is a long way removed from the youngster who to some extent appeared a walking wicket on his arrival in the first-class game and he earns respect for working on his game. He will, of course, be well aware of Peter Burgoyne's emergence in the side, but there could in the medium to long term be room for both in a Derbyshire XI, Peter as a batsman who offers useful overs, Tom as a bowler who can handle a bat. Both could yet emerge as genuine all-rounders and have time on their side in which to do so.

I'm looking forward to seeing our team for the Sunday game in the Pro 40, as we still have a chance of qualifying in the competition if we can string some form together. I think that most of the side picks itself, but there are a few places up for grabs. As I see it just now, it will be:


Johnson/Redfern/Borrington for the batting spot?

Wainwright/Knight/Turner for the bowling option?

What do you think?

Time to go now. Twenty-seven years of marriage for Mrs P and I today, one day after our lovely daughter Rachel got seven As and a B in her standard grades - 'O' levels for those of a certain age and geographic location.

Life is good. A continuation of form would make a nice anniversary present and cap a grand old week...