Sunday, 31 August 2014

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 1

As I walked out of the ground this evening, there was much to reflect upon from an absorbing opening day's cricket.

On it, I thought Derbyshire did very well on a wicket where there was something for the bowlers all day. The quicks got steepling bounce at times and there was lateral movement too. Morris and McClenaghan bowled very well for the visitors, although the latter was guilty of some bowling that was also wild at times. Morris impressed me and ran in as hard at the end of the day as he did in the early session. The days final overs were bowled by McClenaghan and Shantry and I cannot recall seeing two left-arm seamers bowling round the wicket in tandem before. Curious...

I thought we largely batted well and was impressed by Ben Slater and Billy Godleman at the top of the order. Slater looks comfortable at this level and only needs a big score to 'seal the deal'. Godleman was on three after 75 minutes play, then opened up and played some good shots before falling to Morris.

The skipper looked cool, calm and classy, but then he usually does and it was a shame when he fell. Durston was a little uncomfortable against a barrage of short stuff but looked to have got through it when he was dismissed, while Chesney failed to make the most of a rare opportunity by misjudging the line and seeing his stumps rearranged.

Gareth Cross didn't last long and David Wainwright fell tamely, but Alex Hughes and Tony Palladino joined forces and took us past the 300 mark in a breezy, unbroken ninth wicket stand. Hughes continues to impress and has a new personal best in his sights tomorrow. He is a busy cricketer and I like his attitude more each time I see him. Meanwhile Palladino clumps merrily and perhaps plays the hook and pull as well as anyone in the side. While Wayne White looked like he needed matches, he will probably enjoy bowling on this wicket tomorrow, one which is dry and taking a little spin already. If we could get to 350 tomorrow, Worcestershire will have to bat very well to stay in the game.

Being honest, I didn't see much between the two sides today, which only illustrates further the strides made by the side in recent weeks. If we can get early wickets tomorrow, the groundwork for a win will have been well and truly laid.

Off the field it was a pleasure to chat to so many people once again - no names, no packdrill - and I remain impressed by the quality of personnel we have behind the scenes at the County Ground and their unfailing pleasant demeanour.

The members forum was interesting and afforded an opportunity to see the exciting development plans at the ground, excellently presented by Simon Storey, as well as hearing a range of questions neatly fielded in addition by Graeme Welch, Chris Grant and Jason Fage.

I shook my head at the query on why we released Tim Groenewald and the suggestion that he would have got us to the one-day cup final (he wouldn't) and perked up on hearing that Cheteshwar Pujara's short stint this year may be the precursor to a longer stay next season. I'd also clarify a point I made previously regarding Tom Taylor and Harvey Hosein - both have signed full-time permanent contracts and have deferred university entrance for the immediate future to give county cricket a good go.

Having those two available next summer will surely affect our recruitment plans. The potential of both is obvious and Hosein will be an admirable back up for Tom Poynton.

As for Taylor, he, Cotton, Cork and perhaps Will Davis will be pushing for regular senior cricket from an academy that appears to be bearing some excellent fruit.

The future is so bright, I gotta wear shades...

Thanks to everyone for their chat today - it really was a pleasure.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Derbyshire v Worcestershire County Championship preview

After the largely positive experience that was the Royal London One Day Trophy, Derbyshire return to county championship action tomorrow against a side that has been runaway leaders of the division for much of the summer.

Worcestershire got off to the kind of flyer that we enjoyed in 2012 and it continued, largely because of the phenomenal returns of Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal. Win the toss, bat then win on the last day was the obvious route to success and Ajmal bowled with great stamina and no little skill for them until he had to return home for international action.

The irony of his action subsequently being called into question - not for the first time - is not lost and there is no doubt that they were a stronger side with him in it, as any would be, of course. Mitchell McClenaghan, the honest journeyman Kiwi who has replaced him, is a decent bowler but hardly of the same quality.

So Derbyshire have a chance over the next four days to show what might have been, had our season started sometime before the onset of June. The early season issues are well enough documented, but recent form in the different formats - OK, not T20 - have been more like supporter expectations.

The side has changed drastically in the intervening period and tomorrow sees us play without an overseas player. Marcus North, as expected, has played his last game for us and Cheteshwar Pujara has not yet arrived from India. That leaves a vacancy for our resident Anguillan to step in, at least to the squad, to see if he can make a decent fist of his first senior opportunity for some time.

He may not play, as my call on the side, obviously without seeing the wicket, would be:

Hughes A

I think Ben Cotton could miss out here, as the other bowlers pick themselves to some extent. It would be brave, or silly, to go into a game in late August without a specialist spinner and we're hardly going to omit the returning Wayne White, Palladino or Footitt. That's my call, anyway, so I'd be interested to see yours.

As for Worcestershire, they are captained by the prolific Daryl Mitchell and their squad lines up:

Mitchell, Oliver, Fell, Kervezee, Kohler-Cadmore, Cox, Leach, Choudhry, ShantryMcClenaghan, Morris, WhiteleyD'Oliveira

Ross Whiteley will hope for a return after a disappointing campaign, while Alex Kervezee will hope to continue an excellent record against us.

My prediction? I think we can win this. There's fresh optimism and with some justification in the Derbyshire camp and for me there's little between the two sides in ability.

It just goes to show what an impact a good overseas player can make to a county's fortunes. Something that will doubtless occupy the minds of Graeme Welch and his coaching team over the winter.

Pujara would do very nicely, as far as I am concerned.

I'm looking forward to seeing the first two days and catching up with friends, old and new. I'm especially looking forward to seeing Wayne White back in our colours. He would be a very sound signing, were we able to secure a permanent deal.

Postscript - the Guardian newspaper today said that Kent's Darren Stevens was believed to have received a very good offer from Derbyshire for next season. Newspaper talk? Buried as it was in a match report, it was unlikely to sell them many copies, but if there is any substance to him coming here I'd be very excited.

At 38 he is not in the first flush of youth, but probably has three or four good years left in him. He averages 40 with the bat this year and has over forty wickets at 23, so there is no sign of a diminution in what have been very impressive county standard powers.

Put it this way. If it helped to secure his signature, I'd drive down to Kent from Scotland to give him a lift...

Cotton signs professional deal

Great news this morning that Ben Cotton (centre, left)  has signed a two-year professional deal with the club.

The potential in the giant seamer is obvious and it is in such players that our future improvement and success will lie.

Congratulations to the player and to the coaching staff, who have undoubtedly accelerated his development this summer.

More from me later.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Poynton news a timely tonic

The news that Tom Poynton is recovering well from the injuries sustained in an early season car accident is about the best that Derbyshire fans could have hoped for at this stage of the summer, when trophies are out of reach.

That accident, which tragically took the life of his father, Keith,  cast a cloud over our early summer from which we struggled to recover for some time. For all the support mechanisms that were put in place, such an occurrence could not fail to have an impact on the others in that dressing room. It is a close one, not so much a team as a tribe and the impact will have been substantial.

They have done well to come back from there with more recent performances of encouragement, but we have missed 'TP' behind the sticks. Gareth Cross has done fairly well, without convincing everyone at this stage, but Poynton is the most complete player to emerge from the academy in recent years.

It isn't just his pugnacious batting, which will only get better, nor his undemonstrative glove work, which rarely slips below tidy and is often brilliant. Most of all we have missed Poynton's 'gobby' attitude in the field. It is a term I use affectionately and is crucial to any team. Watch any Derbyshire side in the field with Poynton behind the stumps and you will be immediately aware of a non-stop barrage of encouragement. It happens after every ball and the influence of Karl Krikken, never a man to use one word when five would do, is obvious.

If he is able to play a full and active part in pre-season training, which starts in November (seriously...) then we can all be grateful to the medical and physio team that have got him there. One thing is for sure - a Derbyshire side with Poynton in it will be so much the stronger.

Elsewhere, it appears that Marcus North may have played his last game for the county and that his battling innings at Trent Bridge will be his last in our colours. It hasn't been a huge success and when I have seen him he seemed much less mobile than I remembered. He has been a good cricketer, but his perceived value to us, as far as I could see, was as an all-rounder who might take his share of wickets with tidy off-spin, while contributing good runs in the middle order.

His spectacular assault on Leicestershire at the start of the T20 was as good as it got and he will be disappointed with his returns. When he bowled it appeared to be an afterthought and I can only assume that there was an injury that prevented it. There is no other logical reason.

Whether he retires at the end of the summer or goes on to another county is a moot point, but Marcus has been a good and worthy cricketer. At his best, which we saw in his first stint with us, he was very good indeed.

He deserves thanks for his efforts, as well as in the way that he conducted himself as a professional.

Finally tonight, I meant to extend my condolences before now to the family of former Derbyshire chairman, Trevor Bowring, who died earlier in the week.

Mr Bowring was a gentleman and I had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions. A resident of Kelso in the Scottish Borders, he was kind enough to offer me a lift to Derby should I ever have needed one. It was an unnecessary, but appreciated gesture by a man who did a lot for the county club.

He will be sorely missed.

Postscript - I will be making a trip to the County Ground over the weekend to see the first two days of the Worcestershire game. I look forward to some good cricket, as well as seeing friends, old and new.

And if Craig is reading this - it will be good to catch up, my friend!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Responses to a few questions

The last few weeks have been manically busy, so a few minutes this evening gives me a chance to respond to a few of the more common questions directed at me recently.

Would I offer Billy Godleman another deal? 

In the light of recent form, yes. I think Billy looks a good batsman and whatever he has done with the batting coach, John Sadler, seems to have worked. Much will depend on who Graeme Welch has in his sights as new players and, as in all professional sport, you're only a regular until someone better comes along. 

For all his improved form, however, he really needs a big innings or two to cement the position and convince the doubters. For me, Ben Slater should be a championship opener and potentially more, but Billy has four matches to convince the people that matter that perhaps a one-year extension might be in order.

What about Jonathan Clare?

Well, he's contracted for another year but has been seen slightly more often than Lord Lucan on Derbyshire cricket fields in the past two years. I like the lad and I have enjoyed watching him play cricket, but if his perenially fragile body isn't allowing him to play, we have a major problem.

I know no more than the rest of you what his injury issues have been, but the reality is that a club with less resources than almost every other is paying what I assume to be a good salary for a player who simply isn't playing.

Will the winter see a parting of the ways and a deal over the remainder of his contract? I don't know, but there has to come a point where both parties accept the inevitable. Whether that is this winter or at the end of his contract is down to those involved.

If he is fit, Jon would be a first pick in a Derbyshire side, but he isn't, so anything is possible.

Is Wayne White likely to replace Clare?

Again I don't know, but it is a like for like replacement. Clare gave Derbyshire balance when he played. White, if we get him on a permanent deal, will do likewise.

What about Chesney Hughes?

He is another who is contracted. Chesney has lots of talent but it isn't translating to runs. I know he got 178 last week against a poor Nottinghamshire second team attack, but that doesn't really prove anything.

I would dearly love to see Chesney in prime form in the Derbyshire side, because at his best he is good to watch. With every month that passes, however, I feel it less likely to happen.

And what about Gareth Cross?

He's a good player. You don't hold down a role in Lancashire's side for several years without being one, but he did little pre-season work and has played catch up ever since. His glove work has been tidy on the whole, with a few days, like yesterday, where the standard has slipped. His batting is better than statistics perhaps suggest, as he's given it away in the selfless pursuit of runs a few times.

It will depend on who else is available and the respective financial demands. I see Tom Poynton as number one next year, assuming full recovery from his injury, and whether we can justify the cost of another senior keeper is a moot point.

I have seen several references to our moving for Steven Davies of Surrey, but these have been from supporters and the reality is that he's another player contracted to the end of 2015.

Still, contracts seem only to protect the player and rarely the club.Wayne White is contracted at Lancashire and it looks like he could move here. So were Ross Whiteley and Dan Redfern. If we're not going to go with Cross, it has to be someone substantially better, or cheaper. Time will tell.

And finally - are we on the right path?

Undoubtedly. Off the field we have the structure and outstanding people. On it, we just need to get the right personnel. I doubt that Graeme Welch will sort his entire staff this winter, but I suspect that we will start next summer in a much stronger position than this one.

There have been plenty of encouraging signs from young players this year. A winter of hard work on their techniques and overall fitness can only see them improve.

Throw in new, key personnel and the future is bright.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire One-Day Cup

This one went the way that most people expected, although for a good part of the day Derbyshire competed well.

Indeed, the early spells by Ben Cotton and the opening one from Tony Palladino were of a very high standard. To win the game, we needed to get into the home side's long batting line-up early and we did that, Ben Cotton removing both openers with a good ball and a fingertip respectively.

After that, the class of James Taylor, in particular shone through. Samit Patel is a fine player. but there's always a chance he may over-reach and his running is on a par with that of Chesney Hughes. Taylor could have been run out twice, but was saved by his speed, but an appeal for lbw by David Wainwright looked very close and pad-bat, rather than the bat-pad that the umpire adjudged it to be.

The fielding was a curate's egg. Wayne Madsen did some brilliant work, especially at short extra, but there were some poor throws and careless work throughout. I'd have to say that Gareth Cross has had better days - he was vocal and kept people on their toes, but a wicket-keeper sets the tone and he missed and dropped more than his share today.

To chase 314 to win, we needed something special from someone and the ideal person would have been Wes Durston, a naturally quick scorer. He went early, however and the chase looked doomed to failure from that point.

Nottinghamshire are a fine side - an affluent club, let's not forget - and even though they were missing several players they were not going to let this one slip. We needed to beat our highest-ever successful run chase of 286 to win and it looked an unlikely prospect.

Billy Godleman batted well for a while but played on unluckily, while Wayne Madsen built a decent partnership with Marcus North but holed out to extra cover, ironically a position where he had done so well himself.

It left a mountain to climb. I never felt Marcus North was in prime form and he's not looked fully fit to me this summer, perhaps the reason for his lack of bowling. He grafted his way to a workmanlike half century, but Alex Hughes didn't last long and neither did Scott Elstone. Both were undone by the wiles of Samit Patel and Elstone, to be fair to him, went to a superb catch by Chris Read.

There were some trademark lusty blows from Gareth Cross and David Wainwright probably played more fluently and innovatively than anyone in merry partnerships with Ben Cotton and Mark Footitt, but Nottinghamshire ran out easy winners by 85 runs.

It showed that much remains to be done, but this is a work in progress and it starts to go through the gears in the close season. The team can be proud of their efforts in making this stage of the competition from the unfortunate way that we started it two points behind the other sides in the group.

There's an obvious target for next year - let's go at least one better.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire preview

It was the weekend that kept on giving...

We signed Cheteshwar Pujara, Derby County won, then we signed Wayne White and now I managed to get the day off tomorrow to see the quarter final against Nottinghamshire. Be still my beating heart!

If this is the standard of winter recruitment, it promises to be a fascinating one. That both signings have potential for something long term, according to Mark Eklid in the DET today, is massively encouraging. Both Pujara and White have points to prove and reputations to rebuild, both positive indicators when signing players.

Pujara has already shown his unquestioned ability on the sub continent, but struggled, with almost all of his team mates, to come to terms with English seam bowling at Test level. Then again, he won't be facing Broad and Anderson every week on the county circuit and three matches for us would help him maximise his undoubted potential.

As for Wayne White, he would be a terrific asset. I have advocated a move for him, not just since this time last season, but since he was first touted to leave Leicestershire. He may have done well financially from the move to Old Trafford, but career-wise it has been a disaster. He is too good a player to be in second team cricket and now has a gilt-edged opportunity to prove his worth in an environment that will appreciate what he has to offer.

I don't see him as a threat to the role of Alex Hughes in the side, to respond to one question from today, as they complement each other. Alex is at present a batsman who can bowl useful overs, whereas Wayne's bowling is perhaps the stronger of two very good suits. I'd reckon they would be excellent at six and seven in the order.

I think White will be the third seamer for the remaining games, to answer another question, and adds depth to the batting. I would love to have seen him in tomorrow's team, but I don't expect changes from last week's win against Gloucestershire.

Why should there be? It was a fine team performance and a repeat tomorrow might just see us spring a surprise. Nottinghamshire are missing both Alex Hales and Harry Gurney, key performers for them this year. They have plenty of other good players, but the bottom line is that we do too. If we can make early inroads into a long batting line up, then bowl and bat steadily, you never can tell.

One thing that is for sure is that our lads will be up for the game. I hope to see a performance tomorrow and if we compete and challenge, as we showed at Trent Bridge last season, they could crack.

Their squad:

 Michael Lumb, Steven Mullaney, James Taylor, Samit Patel, Riki Wessels, James Franklin, Chris Read, Sam Wood, Ajmal Shahzad, Luke Fletcher, Jake Ball, Brett Hutton

Bring it on boys!

Wayne White returns on loan to end of season

It's all happening at the County Ground...

News breaks this morning that Wayne White is returning to the County Ground on loan for the remainder of the season. He is available for the remaining four County Championship games, which, in the words of Graeme Welch, gives him a chance to showcase his talents.

The inference from this, of course, is that he would be available for a permanent deal should it go well and both clubs are able to come to an agreement regarding a release from his contract. White still has a year to go on his contract at Lancashire, but a player of his ability, age (28) and experience needs to be playing regular county cricket, not just odd games here and there.

He has been a standout performer for Swarkestone this summer, but that in itself is indicative of a lack of senior opportunity. Regular readers will know that I have previously advocated a move for the player and I am a big fan of his cricket and the way that he plays the game.

He is a naturally aggressive performer with bat and ball and offers genuine balance to a side in the middle order. This is a golden opportunity for him to kick start his career again and  I hope that he takes it. Both player and club would benefit if that happens.

I wish him well and am sure that supporters who have seen how well he did at Leicestershire will welcome him back with open arms.

More later, but that's a great way to start a new week!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Pujara signs in interesting county move

So the news that I picked up earlier on Cheteshwar Pujara turned out to be accurate. The Indian batsman has signed for the remainder of the championship campaign in a deal that ticks all the boxes as far as I am concerned.

There's little to dislike in a player whose first-class average is a shade under sixty. Granted, most of that experience has come in his own country, but it's still highly impressive. He will have a maximum of  eight first-class innings (which will make him long-serving compared to Chris Harris...) and should create a massive interest among the local ethnic community.

It is good to see the bonds built earlier in the season, for the visit of the Indian tourists, bearing fruit, though whether this was ever on the agenda at that stage is unlikely. I doubt that many anticipated the Indian batsmen struggling so badly with English conditions and it is to Pujara's great credit that he is the one player who is keen to do something about it.

Of course, he is not high on the IPL list and his future is very much planned around the Test itinerary, this despite a List A average of 53 and a highest score of 158. I wouldn't mind having a 'weak' one-day player like that in our side on a regular basis...

What  happens in the longer term is anyone's guess. It would be exciting, but perhaps fanciful, to imagine Pujara playing a longer spell with the county, but it is good to see us building bridges and  being a first pick for a world-class player ahead of other counties.

Supporters will undoubtedly enjoy Pujara. He is a classical batsman with a strong bottom hand, more Dravid than Sehwag, with an appetite for runs that we would all love to see sated at the County Ground in the coming weeks.

Full marks to Graeme Welch and Chris Grant, together with Simon Storey for making this happen.

The closing weeks of the season should be well worth a watch and both player and club should benefit from the association.

Pujara set for Derbyshire stint?

Indian news source Rediff reports this afternoon that batsman Cheteshwar Pujara has signed a deal to play for Derbyshire for the rest of the summer.

Cricinfo had previously reported that the player had sought permission to play county cricket, with Leicestershire supposedly favourites to sign him

The 26-year old, who has made plenty of starts on the current tour without going on to the big scores for which he is known, has supposedly opted for the county despite several offers from elsewhere.

He averages just under 59 in first-class cricket and over fifty in the one-day game, with a highest score of 352. That's not in one-day cricket, just in case you wondered...

With twenty-six centuries and twenty-five fifties in his short career so far, there is little doubt that he is a batsman of great talent and will undoubtedly benefit from the exposure to English wickets.

He made 81 against us at Derby earlier in the tour and the signing would create a buzz around the 3AAA County Ground in the remaining games.

“This will be announced soon both by the cricketer himself as well Derbyshire County Cricket Club," an unimpeachable source very close to the right-hand middle-order batsman told the website on condition of anonymity

 "No, it isn't for money, but for the experience of playing in English cricket, which is a challenge in itself for the best of cricketers, that Cheteshwar has decided to play for a county, which in his case happens to be Derbyshire County Cricket Club."

Fact or fiction? We'll doubtless know in the next 24 hours, but since the news is out there on the web, I'm duty bound to bring it to you. I'll accept the veracity of the information when I see it on the club site, but should it happen, Pujara will become the fourth Indian to play for Derbyshire, after Venkat, Mohammad Azharuddin and Mohammad Kaif.

More later, if this proves to be correct - or otherwise.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Speculation season starts

Nathan Buck. Shiv Thakor and Moin Ashraf.

All names I have seen linked with a move to Derbyshire today.

The Telegraph reports that we have made an official approach for the Leicestershire pair, both of them good young players with the potential to get better.

Buck is a strapping seam bowler whose development has perhaps been impaired by having to be both strike and stock bowler in an average attack. Injuries haven't helped him in the past couple of seasons, but then Mark Footitt had similar issues at that age and has turned out quite nicely. At 23 he has massive potential but that will have been spotted by a number of counties.

Thakor is less advanced in his development but at 20 has a string of impressive first team appearances to his name. A genuine all-rounder, he is a long way from the finished article but his ability is unquestioned. Again, demand for his services is likely to be high but I'd expect us to be able to compete up to his real, rather than anticipated value, as I don't think we'd go down the 'silly money' route of some clubs.

Ashraf? A good bowler and, if Yorkshire are offering him reduced terms, I'd expect him to be a decent punt for a move to Derbyshire, again given our inside knowledge of players from that county. Which, of course, includes knowing them warts and all. As with Azeem Rafiq, we will know his real value and whether he can make the step from promising talent to established county cricketer.

Worth keeping an eye on, that's for sure.

Something for the weekend

There's such a feel-good factor around at present that you would swear Christmas was coming...

Such is the difference that a win makes, yet the thing that I see in the comments on the blog and the emails I have received is that people understand and are buying in to what is happening at Derbyshire.

Don't get me wrong. I'll not pretend that we're now a great side, nor that we're about to win the Royal London One-Day Cup. It would be truly astonishing if we did, but Tuesday's game against a Nottinghamshire side that probably costs three times the salaries of ours will test us to the limit. The chances are we're in for a rude awakening, but at the end of the day, it is still eleven versus eleven. The thinking money will naturally be on Nottinghamshire, but we have something going for us that they don't seem to have in such abundance.

A couple of weeks ago I watched a very dispirited-looking Trent Bridge outfit fail to defend a large total against Hampshire and the body language of the players was telling as the game turned against them. Heads went down, balls weren't chased and there was a lot of staring and finger-pointing as the southern county hunted them down in style.

What I liked about Derbyshire last night was the chirpiness, the vibe, the team spirit, the celebrations. It was Musketeer-like, all for one and one for all and the coaching staff and captain are to be commended for getting the team to that state after all that has gone on this year. It was a Derbyshire against the world mentality and a delight to see.

Whether we lose on Tuesday or not and irrespective of the disappointing results of early summer, I feel that this will be seen as when it all began. There was a false dawn in 2012, but this year has seen the emergence of a group of young players who will likely be the nucleus of our side for years to come.

Slater, Hughes, Elstone, Taylor, Cotton, Cork, Knight, Hosein - in different ways and at different times they have shown their potential and worth this summer, while an experienced nucleus of Madsen, Durston, Footitt and Palladino have, as the summer has progressed, produced the figures one expects from senior professionals.

It is appropriate to acknowledge the efforts of the coaching staff in their development and also in the re-emergence of the likes of Billy Godleman and Wes Durston. Earlier in the season they couldn't buy a run, yet both have obviously worked at their game and look like the players that their reputations suggested.

There are obvious weaknesses - we're still overly reliant on the 'big four' and are not getting the input from the overseas role that we need, to name but two - but the team spirit and collaborative approach has done wonders in getting us to the quarter finals from a starting position of minus two points.

It was interesting to read this morning in the Telegraph that Derbyshire may look to sign an Australian batsman who doesn't make the Ashes tour for next year's overseas role. It could just be press talk, but there are plenty of fine players in that country and not all of them can make the tour party. I'd certainly not say no to Phil Hughes, one on the periphery of the national squad but whose averages across different formats would make him an asset. Mind you, successive double centuries against South Africa A in recent weeks have pushed his case once more...

We're moving in the right direction and while difficult decisions have had to be made, Graeme Welch has shown himself up to making them.

I'm already looking forward to next year and this one isn't done yet by some distance...

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire One-Day Trophy

 Derbyshire 271-7 (Godleman 96, Madsen 57, Elstone 37)
Gloucestershire 218 (Footitt 2-39, Wainwright 3-45)

Derbyshire won by 53 runs

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty proud of the boys tonight.

Last night I said that we needed a "Cometh the hour, cometh the man" moment. Instead, we had two variants - the plural, together with the Godleman...

I didn't see the Derbyshire innings due to a little thing called work, but I got home for the start of the reply and then caught the highlights later. I was really taken with the commitment of the Derbyshire players, who held some terrific catches and produced some stellar work in the field. Wes Durston held two fine catches of contrasting skill sets, Alex Hughes and Scott Elstone were brilliant in the field and the side was captained with a level of astuteness by Wayne Madsen (or is it Madsden, as Sky irritatingly call him) that was a delight to see. Nor should the constant 'chirping' of Gareth Cross be overlooked, keeping the field on its toes. Tom Poynton will have enjoyed that.

The bowling had its less directed moments, but the highs outweighed them. Star turn was Mark Footitt, who bowled scarily quickly at times. Certainly too quickly for poor Michael Klinger, who ended up in hospital with a broken arm after fending off a Footitt flyer.

There were a few erratic deliveries, but the merit of the bowler was obvious, not least to the commentary team. You could almost see the words "our Mitchell Johnson" running through their heads and there is little doubt that Footitt's pace is sufficient to unsettle any batsmen. Another winter of development and fitness work and...who knows?

Then there was the ball of the day from David Wainwright. The chinaman that bowled the impressive Chris Dent was stunningly effective and the bowler could not have bowled it better in his dreams. The initial comment of "his arm ball" seemed woefully inadequate to me at first viewing, the ball ripping across the hapless batsman far more quickly than an arm ball could ever do. His reaction was priceless, just as the impact was on the game and our season.

Gloucestershire fought well and were never out of the game thanks to some spirited hitting from Dent, Alex Gidman and Jack Taylor, but Derbyshire always seemed to have it under control and took wickets at the right times to peg them back.

Earlier there were fine innings in contrasting styles from Wayne Madsen, Scott Elstone (who fully justified his selection) and Tony Palladino, but the standout was Billy Godleman (pictured). He carried on in similar vein to Scarborough and anyone watching will realise that the lad can play. He has a sound technique, as well as shots around the wicket and was only denied a century by an umpiring decision that was, frankly, awful. The wicket-keeper did well for them throughout the game, but his appeal for a leg-side catch followed on from that of the bowler like the dying throes of a Mexican wave as it finished the final side of the stadium. It was poor and I felt for the lad. He produced a top effort though and can be rightly proud of it.

Meanwhile over at Old Trafford, Leicestershire collapsed like a pack of cards and a weakened Lancashire breezed to an eight-wicket win with twenty overs to spare, meaning we earned the right to a quarter-final away at the home of our dear local rivals on Tuesday.

They will start favourites and rightly so. We will be rank outsiders and the likelihood is that we will emerge on the wrong side of the result. But this is a young and impressive side who work for one another and the greatest achievement is in getting to this stage having started on minus two points. Write us off at your peril...

Top effort from our boys. We're all going to bed happy tonight...

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire One-Day Trophy

Tomorrow night, at the end of the big match between Derbyshire and Gloucestershire, I hope I am able to repeat the words of the immortal Cliff Gladwin in connection with our performance.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

That's what we are needing. Someone to stamp his authority on the game and ensure that we come out on the right side of the result. What happens at Old Trafford will dictate our progress in the competition, but Graeme Welch is absolutely right in his assertion that we focus on what we can control.

There's a Derbyshire squad unchanged from the loss at Scarborough for this one and rightly so. A side that has played good cricket throughout the competition hasn't suddenly become poor and there is enough talent in the squad to win this game.

There may have been a temptation to omit Scott Elstone after a poor run in the competition, but he has gone out and scored runs at club and second team level between times to rediscover his mojo. Elstone is a punishing bat when he gets going, a superb fielder and a surprisingly under-utilised bowler, especially in light of promising pre- and early-season form with the ball. Maybe he has carried an injury, but we could perhaps have given him a few more overs.

The name omitted from the squad, of course, is Chesney Hughes and after scoring 178 against Nottinghamshire for the second team and still not getting a look in, I'd reckon that his chances of a senior recall this summer are somewhere north of mine. The choice was always going to be between him and Elstone, with the latter's weekend runs and greater mobility in the field presumably getting him the nod.

I do feel for Hughes, but this innings, like the one at Headingley last summer, has been an oasis in a desert of barren form. Watching him at times, rightly or wrongly, he seems less motivated than some, though that could just be the natural Caribbean demeanour shining through. His talent is undeniable, but as he enters the final year of a contract next year - assuming nothing happens between times - he needs to produce something special to be considered for retention. And I will have to say that I didn't expect to be writing those words at this stage of his career.

Gloucestershire come along with a side that will be tough to beat. The Gidman brothers, Hamish Marshall and the returning Michael Klinger are all good cricketers and we will underestimate them at our peril. Yet we must focus on our strengths and a composite side from the two elevens would see a strong Derbyshire representation.

I think we'll win, then all eyes will be looking towards Old Trafford. For the first, perhaps only time, you might hear a local rendition of Lanky-lanky-lanky-lanky Lancashire.

Just the once, mind...

Postscript - there was an excellent win for the seconds today at Denby, beating Nottinghamshire by ten wickets. With wickets for Greg Cork, Jony Marsden, Will Davis and Matthew Critchley, the side chased down an easy victory target of 27.

Meanwhile the Academy beat their Durham counterparts thanks to excellent knocks from the prolific Ryan Bramwell and Elliott Savidge. There is another batch of excellent young cricketers emerging from the mini Academy and they suggest that the current conveyor belt of talent is going to continue to deposit players of first-class capabilities into the second eleven.

Their win followed one against Warwickshire, where Joss Morgan's unbeaten 73 saw them to a winning target of 226 and a win with three overs in hand.

Good work, young fellas! I'm impressed and I am sure that plenty of others are too.

Postscript 2 - Today's forecast doesn't appear conducive to a fifty-over game...let's hope we can win the toss then...

Monday, 18 August 2014

Monday musings

So, we're on Sky this Thursday - going to be a biggie, huh?

It may be against a Gloucestershire side short of Will Gidman, which would help us considerably, but the bottom line is that if Derbyshire play to potential they can win this game.

We are a far better side than played pretty dismally against Yorkshire and there will be no better way to illustrate that than on national television. Indeed, if we made the knock-out stages of the competition it would be a triumph of some magnitude.

We are indeed a better side than the one that took the snide comment from Vic Marks in this morning's media. "Even Derbyshire would bowl out this Indian side" said Mr Marks, displaying more than a little ignorance of the fact that we have two of the better seam bowlers in the division in our ranks. It was a crass, low blow and unworthy of a man who is usually a better journalist than he was cricketer.

If nothing else, it should serve as motivation for the side to show what they can do this week.

The good news today was that Chesney Hughes scored 178 for the second eleven against Nottinghamshire at Denby, while Scott Elstone, who has been badly out of form in this competition, made an impressive and important 95. Whether the innings are sufficient to preserve one place or gain elevation for another remains to be seen, but we must all trust Graeme Welch to make the right choice, which I am sure he will do. More than any of us, he knows what form the players are showing in the nets and how their confidence levels are.

There is no doubt that an in form Chesney Hughes would be an asset to a Derbyshire side and would walk into it, but he really needs some runs to cement obvious talent. His huge double century at Headingley last summer is a distant memory and he needs to show that he has the mental reserves, as well as technical ability, to be consistent at top level.

More on that game as the week progresses, but it is a season-defining one, for sure.

Finally tonight, three players who have been mentioned in despatches as potential signing targets for next summer signed new deals at Warwickshire today.

Laurie Evans, Oliver Hannon-Dalby and Richard Jones all signed deals, but I am sure that Graeme Welch has plenty of names on his 'hit' list for the winter - and for all we know, perhaps none of those players were ever on it.

More from me soon.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Potential new name?

I wasn't too surprised to see Azeem Rafiq released by Yorkshire today, but can see a decent-sized queue forming for his signature.

At 23 the lad has much to offer and is a good cricketer. He is a very accurate off-spinner and has proved himself especially effective in one-day cricket, where his T20 rate is under eight an over, very impressive by any standards.

A first-class average of mid-thirties per wicket doesn't suggest that he is yet the new Saqlain Mushtaq - if he was, they would be retaining his services - but he is a steady bowler who crucially has time on his side to get better. He can also handle a bat and has a first-class century to his name.

Adil Rashid is way out in front of him at Yorkshire and with promising spinners in their academy, they have made the decision to let him seek cricket elsewhere. I appreciate the rationale, but their loss could well be another county's gain.

A previous loan spell at Derbyshire, under another coach, was successful and the loss of Peter Burgoyne this summer has left us without an off-spinner, with the exception of Wes Durston's occasional slows. Marcus North's bowling has been little utilised this year and while we nominally have three slow left arm bowlers, Chesney Hughes has had little senior cricket this year and David Wainwright's bowling has only sporadically been successful.

Tom Knight's action is being re-modelled in readiness for next summer, so our spin cupboard, if not akin to Mother Hubbard's, is certainly a long way from full.

With two of our coaching staff having strong links in Yorkshire, the merits of Rafiq will be well-known and, perhaps more than anyone else whose availability has become known thus far, I could see merit in a move to the County Ground. That's always assuming we don't have someone else lined up, of course...


Closing thoughts on Scarborough

We got back home this evening after a lovely stay in Scarborough. Cricket aside, the weather was better than we expected and we enjoyed the place as much as ever.

While I was away I was able to follow the cricket news online and the end of season comings and goings have started in earnest. Tom Jewell leaving Surrey, Murray Goodwin may be leaving Glamorgan  (as may a few others, as church mice have been having a whip round for them) and Gareth Breese is leaving Durham. Oh, and Will Gidman is leaving Gloucestershire and has signed a three-year deal with Nottinghamshire. There's a surprise, our dear neighbours signing the star turns neatly developed by other counties. Who knows, all that spending might bring them a trophy sometime...

Sorry, tiredness-induced sarcasm I'm afraid, but you know what I mean. I've heard whispers of a few other players who may be heading out of exit doors at counties, but you have hopefully known me long enough to know I prefer to deal in fact, rather than rumour and supposition.

I really enjoyed the Scarborough ground in the week, even if a few of the fans were unnecessarily boorish as they watched their side win. They are a good side, but far from unbeatable, although the addition of their England stars would make them a tougher proposition. The side that played us should have made it a fairly even game, that's for sure.

Rich Pyrah is another of those players on the circuit who enjoy playing us and he usually does well with bat or ball. He's a good cricketer, too good to be playing only occasional cricket, but he seems happy with his lot in life and who can blame him? Yorkshire bowled steadily, put the ball in the right areas and simply waited for us to make mistakes.

The ball nibbled around early and we might have given them a better game had we won the toss, but that's what happens. The loss of Wes to a catch at third man was cruel and not in the script, while Marcus North didn't look in nick at all. He's a fine cricketer and we all go through those periods, but we could do with him rediscovering his best form for the run in.

It was all a shame as the decent crowd deserved to see the Derbyshire that has been so impressive in recent weeks. I can't argue that the batting is overly reliant on Wes and Wayne at present and when they went early it was hard to see where the 'big' runs would come. Billy Godleman again looked a good batsman, as to be fair he has on every occasion I have seen him. His defence was tight, his strokeplay firm and with conviction, but when he looked set for a big score, he gave it away with a half-cock force to backward point which undid much of went before it and cut him off far too soon. He needs a big innings sometime soon to convince the doubters that he can play a part in the new team. In much the same way as Paul Borrington, only the churlish doubt his ability, but players need to produce the statistics to reinforce the message.

I also liked the look of Alex Hughes and Ben Cotton. Hughes struggled with his timing, like a good few others. but still managed to hit a straight six out of the ground. Defensively he is organised and he is a busy player who could, with continued development, become our Paul Collingwood. His bowling looked a couple of yards quicker than when I last saw him and he almost got a wicket with a surprise bouncer. Such a delivery would have been cannon fodder a few months back.

Cotton has a nice, easy action and a run up that is rhythmic and smooth. I got the impression that, like Tom Taylor, he perhaps doesn't yet use his full height (which is impressive) but he beat both batsmen on several occasions, no mean feat on a wicket that rolled out pretty flat. A tendency to drag the ball down leg on occasion will doubtless sort in time, but has plenty of potential.

It was a bad day at the office but we move on. If we beat Gloucestershire next week and Lancashire beat Leicestershire, we can still make the quarter-finals. Derbyshire fans rooting for our red rose cousins? Whatever next?

It would make for an encouraging end to the season, one that looked like it had sailed down the Swanee river a few weeks ago.

Graeme Welch and his coaching team, still relatively new in their posts, deserve credit for the way in which they have turned things around. They will add a few more points to their credit rating if a side that was largely written off a couple of months back can finish the season strongly.

I think we can do our bit. We just need to rehearse that song now...oh Lanky, Lanky...

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Yorkshire v Derbyshire One-Day Trophy

It was David v Goliath all over again at North Marine Road today, but this time Goliath came mob-handed...

Truth be told, Derbyshire were never in this game and it was a very poor display. Granted, winning the toss played a part and the ball nibbled around a little to trouble the top order, but there was a lot of unprofessional stuff went on that belied and undid much of the good that had been done in previous matches.

The batsmen struggled for timing throughout our innings and there were several scares as shots were lofted short of fielders. For us to win this game. it was fairly evident that we needed a score from Durston, North or Madsen and only the skipper hinted at  anything like permanence.

When he left, the only one of the top order not to get himself out, the writing was on the wall. Billy Godleman showed a sound defence and played some of the best shots of the innings, but his infuriating habit of getting out when well set continued, leaving in a tame manner when he should have been steering the innings to calmer waters.

Scott Elstone is a good player, but should be disappointed with an unnecessary waft outside off stump to his first ball and although Alex Hughes again showed remarkable maturity in nursing the tail, there was little else to write home about. Two catches were lobbed to the man on the not too distant leg side boundary and only a few telling blows from Ben Cotton, suggesting he can handle a willow, in any way redeemed an innings on the pale side of anaemic.

To be honest, it got worse. Cotton bowled some good balls and perhaps deserved a wicket in his early spell, but something had annoyed Mark Footitt and he bowled a spell that at best could be called thoughtless, but also much worse.

He's a good lad and a fine bowler, but there were too many bouncers. One went over a helpless Gaz Cross for four byes, then in his fifth over he bowled his one for the over, followed by a presumably unintentional chest high full toss. When he then bowled another bouncer, followed by one that went for four more byes over the keeper, the umpire had no option but to request his removal from the attack.

It was poor cricket and Footitt is better than that. Yorkshire cruised to the break on 64-0 in twelve overs and the game was over as a contest.

After it they continued on their merry way and eased to victory by ten wickets. It wasn't just the defeat, but the adverse effect on our net run rate that was galling. It was an inept performance in all three areas of the game and the frustration is that the players  and supporters know we are capable of much more.

We can still qualify if we beat Gloucestershire next week, but qualification now depends on other sides and not on our own efforts.

And if we play like we did today, we may as well not bother getting too excited.

Very disappointing. As my son said, on the way out of the ground, "Thank goodness we still have the rest of the holiday to look forward to."


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Yorkshire v Derbyshire One Day Cup Preview

Biggest game of the season?

Yeah, I'd say so, at least so far. If we win this one then there may well be bigger ones to come, but a game at North Marine Road (pictured today) featuring Derbyshire has always been high on the Peakfan 'things to do before I die' list. Tomorrow sees it become a reality.

It's been a lovely, if breezy, dry and sunny day today. Not one to be under a swirling catch, that's for sure, and early this morning you might not have fancied a brisk chance at slip, but it got better and ended up quite warm out of the wind.

Let's not forget that had it not been for a points deduction and an early onset of rain in one match we'd be pretty much qualified by now, but these things happened and we have everything to play for.

The side is likely, I think, to welcome back David Wainwright, as an extra bowler may come in useful. Wainwright will know this wicket better than most and since we're not using Tom Knight as a bowler just now, the swap may be worthwhile. Of course, if the plan is for Marcus North to bowl more overs, Knight could be kept in the side for his explosive batting alone. I don't see any other changes, barring injury, from last night's fine win against Northamptonshire.

As for Yorkshire, there will be no Jonny Bairstow, Ryan Sidebottom or Liam Plunkett, so it isn't the strongest side, while Rafiq, who always seems to bowl well against us, is also out of the squad, which lines up as follows:

Bresnan, Brooks, Gale*, Fisher, Hodd, Leaning, Lees, Lyth, Patterson, Pyrah, Rashid, Williamson.

We'd probably take Alex Lees' wicket for thirty right now, given his enjoyment of our attack in recent seasons, but the batting looks stronger than the bowling without the missing names.A good team, for sure - that's why they are top of the table - but beatable, as Essex showed on this same ground the other day, chasing nearly 300 with a degree of elan and panache that would be a delight to see Derbyshire match.

Mind you, I'd take us chasing 165 with an ultimately successful limp if given the chance. The thinking money will be on Yorkshire tomorrow, but they will underestimate a much-improved Derbyshire side at their peril.

I hope we give a good account of ourselves. A win would make an already delightful family holiday simply perfect.

The weather forecast is much improved and set fair for the day.

Over to you, boys...

Monday, 11 August 2014

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...

It's a few years since we had a family trip to Scarborough.

There's been a lot of work done in the intervening period. We're staying 'oop north' in the resort, about a stone's throw from the delight's of Peasholme Park, five minutes from the beach (if the weather allows it) and just a little more than that from the cricket ground.

The south end is a little more run down than we remember it, the Futurist Theatre is closed down and there's the same collection of tat that you find in such resorts the length and breadth of the country. It still retains a lot of the quaintness of its heyday though and the Spa is still a pleasant place to visit, while the Grand Hotel sits above the cliff like a colossus, albeit one that has itself faded a little from former glories.

We popped in to the cricket ground today on the way up to the shops. Arrived safely, unpacked in a very nice guest house and hit the streets to see what it has to offer. The ground looked lovely, but then it always does. Wednesday just needs it to be blessed with enough decent weather for the players to get out there and all of us to see some cricket.

It would be a downer if the rain was incessant, or if the coastal fog came in and ruined things, but, as old Chuck Berry said in one of his most famous songs, c'est la vie - you never can tell.

Either way we will enjoy our stay here. The forecast suggests that only the foolhardy or the wildly optimistic will wander around without a rain jacket or brolly this week, while I suspect that my shorts will remain in the case for the duration. Maybe no bad idea, to be fair...the locals might think I was spearheading a campaign to bring back that staple of many a Butlins holiday of years gone by, the knobbly knees competition...

Tomorrow we will probably have a stroll around the park and watch the naval display. There was a time when this was a recreation of famous British naval victories, but political correctness now ensures that we're fighting an unnamed foe today. It's as if the Second World War never happened. Britain versus Mars on a lake - this time, it's personal.

Still, with an ice cream in my hand and a leisurely pedalo around the lake, the cares of the world will melt away, much like that ice cream and I will think about a win for our boys tomorrow.

Fact or fantasy? We'll find out soon enough and who knows? Maybe I might see one or two of the lads on an evening constitutional.

Must look out for those 'Kiss Me Quick' hats...

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire One Day Cup

Not a bad day all things considered. A nice run to Scarborough, a lovely sunny (if blustery) day and an enjoyable time with the family. Then Derby County win, round about the same time that we moved into the crucial fourth place in the section with a fine win against Northamptonshire, albeit a closer finish than it should have been.

After a terrific spell, Mark Footitt's last over went for 22 and we were facing a tense last over, but with the right man bowling it. Tony Palladino duly delivered and a six-run win ensued. The icing on the cake came with the news that both had signed two-year contract extensions, keeping them as Derbyshire players until the end of the 2016 season. Fantastic news!

The difference was again Wes Durston and his scintillating century gave us the score that was always going to test a Northamptonshire side that has been cruelly hit by injury. He got good support from Marcus North and while the rest subsided in the quest for quick runs, a handy total was posted.

Richard Levi may have his limitations, but he has a liking for our attack and while he was in the home side always had a chance. The admirable Andrew Hall lent good support, but with Stephen Peters unable to bat until the end, we had every chance

Wickets continued to fall with sufficient regularity for the innings not to gain momentum and the win was just reward for another fine effort. Ben Cotton lent good support with the ball and can be pleased with his performance, while Wes bowled a steady spell to add to his fine knock

If we can replicate that at North Marine Road on Wednesday, where Yorkshire lost to Essex today, we can make the quarter-finals. A big 'ask' against a team we haven't done well against in recent encounters, but maybe this will be different.

I'm looking forward to finding out...

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Derbyshire v Essex One-Day Cup's it.

Match abandoned after torrential rain. Another point for us and the only thing you can say is that it eases the pressure on the players with three games in four days now reduced to two in three.

There's only one thing more depressing than a wet cricket ground and that's a seaside resort in the rain. I can only hope that the weather improves for Wednesday's game against Yorkshire at Scarborough, otherwise and orderly queue will be forming at the doctor'...

Between times there's a game against Northamptonshire tomorrow, allowing time for the lads to get up to the delights of North Marine Road on Tuesday for a stroll along the seafront and maybe a bag of chips ahead of the game on Wednesday.

Northamptonshire have had a tough old season and now have Mark Turner to bolster their weakened bowling ranks. Our batsmen should know plenty about him and if they can remove the 'feast or famine' that is Richard Levi they have enough to win this one.

Levi was found out at international level because almost all of his attacking shots are shovelled through the leg side with a strong bottom hand. He's been found out in the county game too and an early twenties average isn't close to enough for an overseas player. Teams generally bowl outside off stump to him and wait for the mistake that has come too quickly for their supporters.

He's dangerous, without doubt, but in a similar way to Loots Bosman was at Derbyshire. The style is rustic and it comes off occasionally, but not with sufficient regularity and without an underpinning technique to satisfy the doubters.

So hopefully tomorrow's game is a win and that sets us up nicely for Yorkshire. We're due a win against them and to do it on my second favourite ground in the country...well, would be a delight!

It will be tough though. They have a fine team and they're top of the section for a reason. It is eleven against eleven though, so the right attitude could bring dividends.

More from me - wi-fi willing - as the week progresses. The club's excellent Twitter feed must suffice tomorrow, as the journey to Scarborough commences!

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Derbyshire v Essex preview

By virtue of their run rate and the game in hand, Derbyshire are in a decent position going into this game tomorrow. Mind you, the three extra points we would have had but for the pitch penalty from last year and the Duckworth/Lewis against Worcestershire would have left us sitting pretty.

Tomorrow's visitors, Essex, are a fine one-day side and have as destructive a batting line up as any in the country. We will need to be at our best to keep them under control, that's for sure. Their likely squad is:

Mark Pettini, Tom Westley, Greg Smith, Kishen Velani, Jesse Ryder, Ryan ten Doeschate, James Foster, Tim Phillips, Graham Napier, Matt Salisbury, David Masters, Jaik Mickleburgh, Reece Topley

Tom Taylor is, as expected, out of the Derbyshire squad so Ben Cotton comes in. That may be the only change to a side that has played some very good cricket so far, though a tweak to the batting line up might see Ben Slater open and Billy Godleman drop to three in place of the out of form Scott Elstone.

The Derbyshire squad:

Wes Durston (3)                                                             Billy Godleman (1)
Scott Elstone (10)                                                          Wayne Madsen (77)Marcus North (8)                                                            Alex Hughes (18)Gareth Cross (7)                                                             David Wainwright (21)Tony Palladino (28)                                                         Mark Footitt (4)Ben Cotton (36)                                                             Tom Knight (27)Ben Slater (26)

A win would do us nicely at the start of three games in four days. At the end of the sequence we will have a pretty good idea if there is opportunity to progress, but this season of change is as much about opportunity for some players as it is results. No one would ever turn down a win, though...

Too close to call this one, but we need a big team effort and the toss may be crucial.

Fingers crossed for the right result - more from me tomorrow.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Departures continue as Turner departs

There was a time, and not that long ago, when quick bowlers were there to bowl and do little else. In his autobiography, the great Yorkshire quick bowler Bill Bowes recounted being told off by his captain, Brian Sellars, for diving in a vain attempt to stop a boundary.

"You're here to bowl...we have other people to field" said his skipper, not wanting to see his strike bowler sustain an injury. Fast forward a few years and few people saw the likes of Les Jackson and Cliff Gladwin dive. They could catch and they had decent arms, but diving could potentially damage a shoulder and we could scarce afford to lose them for weeks when physiotherapy skills were more or less limited to a brisk rub down from firm hands.

I still recall Fred Rumsey, never an athlete, huffing round the boundary in vain pursuit of an edge at Chesterfield and tripping over, falling in a manner that owed less to grace and more to the undeniable force of gravity as he landed with an almighty thump on the boundary edge.

"Did the earth move for you, Fred" shouted one wag, as Rumsey picked himself up and, looking slightly embarrassed, retrieved the ball from the base of the advertising board.

This preamble being to assert that Mark Turner is perhaps the best outfielder of all the quick bowlers I have seen in Derbyshire colours. I'm not including all-rounders such as Graeme Welch, Dominic Cork and Phil De Freitas, of course. Mike Hendrick was an excellent slip, but as a catcher of a ball and a fully-committed outfielder, Mark Turner took a lot of beating.

Few will forget the stunning catch he took against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in last year's T20, running in quickly and diving full length to grasp the ball just before it touched the turf, before leaping up and volleying the ball into the middle distance in excitement. He held two more catches on the boundary edge that night, easy as shelling peas, taken with the nonchalance of someone who knew what he was doing and had a great pair of hands.

He made some great stops too and although having no real pretensions as a batsman, could clump a few when his eye was in. On his day, he could also bowl pretty quickly, on occasion not too far behind Mark Footitt in pace, which is no mean feat.

His problem has always been the erratic nature of his bowling. When John Morris brought him to the county from Somerset, he was a wild tyro who, it was hoped, could improve, with a little coaching, to become a genuine county strike bowler.

To be fair, the lines did improve, but the length continued to be varied and a problem. While admittedly bowling at the death, he went for eleven runs an over in the T20, while championship cricket brought just one wicket this season for 230 runs. Nearing his thirtieth birthday, sixty first-class wickets at forty-six runs each wasn't a strong argument for retention as the end of his contract loomed.

The progress of Tom Taylor, Greg Cork and Ben Cotton effectively sealed the deal, younger models with considerable potential, all of them products of the club's academy. There is also an obvious need for a reliable, penetrative senior bowler or two to support the admirable Footitt and Palladino, something that, sadly, Mark never showed himself to be.

He will be remembered as an affable lad and one who gave total commitment, irrespective of the state of the game. The ball might not have always come out of the hand as he and we would have wanted, but the effort was there.

We will all be curious about the replacement(s) but if they come with Mark's enthusiasm and a greater sense of direction, we'll be alright.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Derbyshire v Lancashire One-Day Cup

We were well-beaten tonight by a Lancashire side that seems to have the measure of us in one-day cricket, at least for now.

There was a fine effort from Tony Palladino with the ball, but the injury sustained by Tom Taylor left us a few overs short. Alex Hughes bowled tidily, but four fifties in the visitors innings left us with a big chase, one that looked a little too much at an early juncture.

The loss of Wes Durston was the key moment, so often an early innings catalyst for a good batting display. Scott Elstone hasn't enjoyed the best of competitions and the loss of Billy Godleman left us in parlous straits at 66-3, much depending on Marcus North and the skipper.

It wasn't to be the Aussie's day either and when the skipper went for a rare 'failure' on 49, we had nowhere to go. Alex Hughes did well for a while, but there wasn't a stage where we looked to threaten a professional Lancashire effort, with Wayne White enjoying figures of 4-33.

The run had to end somewhere and it is important that we regroup quickly for the visit of Essex on Sunday. The section is wide open at this stage and a first half finish is within our grasp.

It does appear that there might be a couple of changes for Sunday though, unless Taylor's injury recovers in time and Scott Elstone finds his mojo in the nets. As a brilliant fielder and fast scorer there's a lot of merit in his place at number three, but he's in a bad trot just now, like all cricketers experience from time to time.

Down but not disheartened, then.

But with much work to do.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Derbyshire v Lancashire preview

It being a very busy time for me right now, I have little for a full preview of tomorrow's game.

Suffice to say that a likely unchanged Derbyshire side - in personnel and morale - should give a good account of themselves against Lancashire tomorrow.

Old boys Usman Khawaja and Wayne White are likely to line up for our opponents, whose squad is:

Horton, Bailey, Brown, Clark, Croft, Davies, Jarvis, Kerrigan, Khawaja, Lilley, Prince, Procter, White, Hogg

If we play as we have thus far in the competition, we can extend the unbeaten run. If there's any lessening in the intensity or quality, we won't, simple as that.

So what do you think?

More tomorrow.

Hello Greg...adieu to Paul

As one door opens, another one closes...

That's what it seems like at Derbyshire today, as two sons of well-known fathers go in opposite directions at the 3AAA County Ground.

For Greg, son of Dominic Cork, the next two years presents an opportunity for him to emulate a legend. A tough gig, however you look at it. Cork senior was abrasive, brash and confrontational, but above all else he was a terrific cricketer. With bat and ball, he never backed down and almost from the day that he made his senior debut he 'belonged'.

Greg is an obviously different player, not just because he bowls with a different hand, but his potential is considerable and the biggest pressure will be that of expectation. It would be unwise, perhaps unrealistic, to expect too much too soon but the signs are that junior Cork has the skills for first-class cricket. Time will tell if he has the strength of character that is so crucial to continued development.

I wish him well, as all fans of the county will do.

As one well-known name reappears on county team sheets, another departs. Tony Borrington gave admirable service to the county over a ten-year career that started when he was 23 years old. 'Gritty' was perhaps the apposite word for his batting style, though it should not be forgotten that he was the second Derbyshire player to make a forty-over century, after the similarly attritional Alan Hill. They had the shots, as Neville Cardus wrote of a Yorkshire player of earlier vintage, but didn't always choose to play them...

There are ironies in the release of Paul Borrington (pictured). Despite being only 26, he is on his ninth season in and around the Derbyshire staff, give or take a few when he rarely played because of university commitments. Having made his debut at seventeen, there was a long time when he barely seemed big enough for first-class cricket. Nottinghamshire's James Taylor would look like a basketball star alongside the younger Bozz and that lack of height, weight and muscle saw him exposed far too early at first-class level.

There was no one else, of course, so Paul opened the batting and worked the ball around, successes and failures shared as they are for any player. He usually did well at The Oval and shared some important stands with Martin Guptill in our championship summer of 2012. There were several occasions when he was going well, only to be stymied by a freak dismissal, while an extra fourteen runs to go with that unbeaten 86 at Leicester this summer could have been a catalyst. We'll never know, at least in Derbyshire colours.

I always felt he should have played more one-day cricket, as his ability to find the gaps and work the ball around were as acute as almost anyone in the side. Rotation of the strike has not always been a strong suit for Derbyshire batsmen but Bozz did it well. The perception of him as a one-paced opener was hard to kill though, at least in some quarters.

I've been a strong supporter of the lad, not just because of his impeccable attitude and unfailing pleasantness, but because his technique was as good as any of recent vintage. So too his mental toughness, something that those who haven't faced new ball bowlers spitting fire and pithy comments will know little about. The bottom line was that, for all of the above, he never quite cemented his place in the side with weight of runs. 

At 26, the writing was on the wall, as the club ceased to get ECB funding for him as a home-raised product. He may yet, but at another county, prove himself a late developer and realise the talent that has always been there at first-class level. He wouldn't be the first or last to do that, but wherever his future lies it will be successful, because his attitude is right. He's had his critics, most notably on another 'fan' site, but he always gave his best for the club and no one can expect any more.

My undying image of the lad will be flying through the air to hold a brilliant catch that heralded the Hampshire collapse on the last day at Derby in 2012. We'll gloss over the swirler he put down moments later, but Paul saved plenty of runs in the field and was a fast and safe member of the fielding unit.

I wish him well, as I am sure we all do. I don't blame Graeme Welch for his decision and the revolution is underway. Our need for at least one established opening batsman is patently obvious, the role of local junior partner looking set, at this stage, to be offered to Ben Slater, a good friend of Paul's who will doubtless miss him around the place.

Thanks Bozz - that wicket was always sold dearly and a lot of us valued that.

One in, one out at Derbyshire

News breaks this morning that Paul Borrington has been released from his Derbyshire contract and will pursue opportunities elsewhere.

At the same time, Greg Cork has signed a two-year deal in recognition of some highly encouraging displays in T20 cricket this summer.

More on those stories later.

Apologies for the restricted blogging in the past few days, but we're incredibly busy at work and my current hours of nine until eight are eating into the day a little...

I will see you later though!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Weekend warmer

Sorry about the lack of blogging this weekend. but a short notice trip down south was required and I didn't have much access to the internet.

What I did get, while on my travels, was an interview that I am sure you will find fascinating in due course with a club legend who never took guard for the county and who is the last remaining link with pre-war Derbyshire cricket.

At 97 years of age, Walter Goodyear has a remarkable recall of the people and events of his time at the club and told me some remarkable stories. He was good enough to allow me the best part of four hours of his time and it was spellbinding stuff.

I need to edit it down now and will naturally honour the agreement to keep some of those stories confidential. There was so much information that it will take me some time, but the wait for it, in close season, will be worthwhile.

There's much to like in the club recollections of the legendary groundsman, covering a period from 1932 to 1982 and I'd like to publicly thank Walter for his time and those precious memories, as well as Harold Rhodes for facilitating the meeting. I am extremely grateful to both of them.

I hope my finished article does them justice.

Further afield, the T20 semi-finalists are now known and I suppose we all dream that sometime soon Derbyshire might make finals day. We'll need to bowl much better than we did this year, that's for sure, but the vastly improved form of the one-day cup suggests that there is potential with the addition of key personnel.

I watched Nottinghamshire today and once again this expensively compiled side lost out on a big occasion. Hampshire batted beautifully to overhaul their challenging total, led by James Vince, who I firmly believe to be one of the best batsmen in the country to watch. He's such a good timer of the ball and managed to overcome the loss of Maxwell and Adams to successive deliveries to steer his side home in some comfort. It shows how well Derbyshire did to beat the southern county in the fifty-over competition recently.

I'd also make passing comment on the Test series, given Derbyshire are not playing until Thursday, to say that the IPL is ensuring that India are unlikely to be top dogs in international cricket in the near future. While the touring side won the second Test against a luke-warm England side, their much-vaunted batting line-up's inexperience of English conditions is likely to cost them dearly.

Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Chetshwar Pujara don't look anything like the players they are at home. While the exclusivity of IPL contracts works well for the organisers and has given the players financial security beyond their wildest dreams, they need experience on different types of wickets to attain the talent and reputation of such predecessors as Gavaskar, Tendulkar and Azharuddin, who came to England and effectively used it as a finishing school.

The current trio will doubtless score thousands of runs in their careers, but the majority will be in their own country or on moribund tracks elsewhere. That's a shame, as all are potentially much better than that and both need and deserve greater exposure and experience than afforded by a twenty-over slog, even one as slick as the IPL.

Finally today, is it just me that finds the lack of cricket at the height of summer frustrating? I know the T20 is going on (and we're not in it) but next week we play on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, then have an eight-day gap, followed by a ten-day one.

It is messy and at a time when many people are taking holidays and are technically free to watch some cricket, is counter-productive. I've no doubt that the players will be glad of the breaks, but when the same old critics start moaning about the lack of crowds at cricket, just think back to a time of year when they had the opportunities to get some and blew it.

Because they hadn't arranged any matches.