Saturday, 26 April 2014

Worcestershire v Derbyshire preview

Derbyshire take on Worcestershire at New Road tomorrow and are forced to field their third wicket-keeper of the season, after an unspecified illness for Richard Johnson ruled him out of the side.

With Tom Poynton already missing and highly-rated academy youngster Harvey Hosein still at school, Graeme Welch has brought in Yorkshire wicket-keeper Dan Hodgson (pictured) on a month-long loan. He has done well in his appearances for the white rose county and averages in the mid-twenties with the bat from limited opportunities, as well as having a good reputation with the gloves.

He will be well known to wicket-keeping coach Simon Guy and the club is to be applauded for moving quickly and decisively in an awkward situation. If it turns out as well as the loan deal for Azeem Rafiq a summer or two back, neither county will have any complaints.

Tomorrow Hodgson and his new team mates come up against a Worcestershire side that welcomes back Pakistan spin bowler Saeed Ajmal to their squad. The veteran off-spin bowler is a good player and will add much-needed guile and experience to a side that lost their strike bowler, Alan Richardson, to a coaching role at Warwickshire when Graeme Welch moved to the County Ground.

There are a few less familiar names in their side but they cannot be underestimated. Former Derbyshire favourite Ross Whiteley will be keen to do well against his old team mates and, like our last opponents Hampshire, they have a long batting line-up, headed by England man Moeen Ali.

Their side: Mitchell (captain), Pardoe, Moeen Ali, Kohler-Cadmore, Kervezee, Whiteley, Cox, Andrew, Shantry, Ajmal, Morris.

As I write, there's no news on the Derbyshire squad, but I don't expect major changes at this stage. While the middle order from five to seven hasn't yet contributed weight of runs, there's too much talent there for knee-jerk reactions. Opportunities for the likes of Alex Hughes, Scott Elstone, Ben Slater and Paul Borrington may come, but all need to add weight of runs at club and second team level to the argument for playing them.

The same goes for bowlers, of course. While there's been good discussion on these pages in recent days on the make up and balance of our attack, none of us sees them in the nets and knows the current form and fitness of those concerned. Graeme Welch does and makes his decision on the side based on that, something that we must all respect.

With Ajmal in the home side's ranks, there will be an expectation of the wicket turning as the game goes on, so I would expect to see a role for David Wainwright in this one, probably at the expense of Mark Turner unless there are injuries in the seam bowling ranks we are unaware of at this stage.

Stephen Moore will be keen to maintain his good early season form at the county where he got his start in the county game, so there are a few sub-plots to look out for in this one.

The weather forecast isn't great for tomorrow, but better for the last three days. I have confidence in a Derbyshire squad that has competed well so far without firing anywhere close to its full potential. That being the case, I'm going to take this one as the game in which we come good.

With decent luck with decisions and the weather, accompanied by better fielding than we saw on the first day against Hampshire, I'm going for a first Derbyshire win here.

What about you?

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