There have been several comments below yesterday's piece with regard to the decision to put Hampshire in to bat at The Rose Bowl. Those comments were based on generalities such as "when the sun is shining, you should bat", as well as the time-honoured tactic of being wise after the event and, of course, being able to read a wicket from a distance of hundreds of miles away.
The truth of the matter is somewhat different. Wayne Madsen and Graeme Welch went out to inspect the wicket yesterday and with over thirty years of collective first-class playing and coaching experience between them, reckoned that our best chance of success, were we to win the toss, was to field.
Mark Eklid's report in the Derby Telegraph today confirms that we should have had success in the first period. They would have, had the skipper not put down his opposite number, Jimmy Adams, in Mark Footitt's opening over. That cost us sixty runs, but as I said last night, it happens. Maybe the skipper might benefit from being at mid-off in the early exchanges while he is pondering the options of the day, but we have lost two first choice slip fielders in Wes Durston and Chesney Hughes, so practice has suggested Madsen is the best replacement. He has held some blinders in his time at the county, so it would be silly to argue.
There were plenty of plays and misses that on another day could have seen wickets go down, but having already seen a drop cost us 60 runs, Gareth Cross then put down the free-scoring Adam Wheater, which cost us another 87. Take those runs from the total and Hampshire could easily have gone for under 250.
I prefer to look at facts, not supposition. The facts are that in eight LV County Championship matches at The Rose Bowl last year, on five occasions the side winning the toss bowled first. Fast forward to this year and the side winning the toss has so far bowled on EVERY occasion. Feel free to check if you wish. I did and was prepared to make a concession, had the figures proved otherwise. To suggest that Wayne Madsen and Graeme Welch made a mistake yesterday is just churlish. Of course, they wouldn't have wanted, nor expected, a closing score of 332-7, but as explained above, that could have been very different.
In high summer, when the sun is shining, the wicket is hard and dry and there is a strong likelihood of turn later on, of course you bat. Even then, if it is 'muggy' and the ball is likely to swing, you cannot always say you will do so, as you factor in other things, perhaps including the opposition overseas player who is a past master in such conditions. Only the people on the field, looking at the wicket and in full possession of the facts are qualified to make such judgements - on which they stand or fall, of course, unlike those of us commenting from afar.
I have been critical of Wayne Madsen this summer - I felt the rotation and handling of bowlers at Leicester in the T20 was poor, but there could have been factors we were unaware of. We don't know if player A had a bruised spinning finger, sustained in making a stop, or player B had a niggle that prevented him from bowling. From a distance, decisions seemed odd, but they were made for a reason, not, presumably, on a whim.
In my club game yesterday, the opposition skipper was delighted to win the toss and put us in on a wicket that was awful. Balls would lift spitefully off a length and then shoot through from a similar spot next ball. We were in big trouble early on, but, as I pointed out to successive batting partners, if we made a hundred they'd not get near it. This was in a forty-over game and we got past the ton with a few runs to spare in the end.
The efforts weren't pretty, but I was right. Our opponents didn't get fifty. The track was only going to worsen, as far as I could see, but someone else thought otherwise. Some you win, some you lose...
Derbyshire may or may not struggle when it is our turn to bat today. Yet the facts suggest we may have done a lot worse had we done so yesterday against a high-class seam attack offered help on a first morning.