Sunday, 28 September 2014

No real surprises in club awards night

Mark Footitt was, as entirely expected, voted the Player of the Year at the club awards last night.

Wayne Madsen won the awards for the two one-day competitions, in which he batted splendidly, while Ben Slater deservedly took the award for most improved player. After the summer he has had, few could have been surprised.

Greg Cork was second eleven player of the year for some fine displays with bat and ball, while the highly talented Will Davis was the Academy equivalent.

There were also two awards each for Tom Poynton and Harvey Hosein, doing their bit for the wicket-keeping brethren, while Footitt also won the LV County Championship player of the season award to complete a memorable evening.

Finally this year's recipient of the Spirit of Cricket Derbyshire award was Billy Godleman, for accepting with good grace the decision that saw him given out on 96 against Gloucestershire in the Royal London One-Day Cup.

If I'm honest - and I always am - then there should be one extra award - and that goes to Chris Airey, writer on the club website.

In describing the above decision as 'contentious' he wins the inaugural Peakfan "Restraint in the Call of Duty" award for diplomatic phrasing. No trophy, I'm afraid...just the kudos of a job well done.

I think a more apposite word was "appalling."

Billy and Chris - I salute you both.

Season Review - Derbyshire County Cricket Club

At the start of the summer, I wrote that it was important for supporters to give Graeme Welch and his coaching staff time. Roles that only began in the new year needed time to embed and there was a need for players and coaches to get to know one another.

That was always going to be the case, but early season events conspired against the coaching team. The loss of Tom Poynton in a car crash that ended his season and caused the death of his father was one that affected everyone, irrespective of the support mechanisms put in place. So too did the loss of Peter Burgoyne and Richard Johnson to stress-related issues that saw them leave the club. A short notice replacement wicket-keeper had to be brought in and Gareth Cross did as well as could have been expected in the circumstances. Yet the move necessitated using the funds for a second T20 overseas player, which impacted on the next stage of the season.

The first half of the summer was horrid from a fan's perspective and positivity was difficult. Yet we could well have won the season opener, but for a world-class innings from the current England captain on a rare county outing. That may have kick-started the season, but there followed a series of anaemic performances that bore no relation to the talent within the squad.

The T20 campaign was likewise awful, but again the side hinted at the ability by beating Warwickshire, who went on to take the trophy. Games were lost by poor use of the batting power play, by insufficient mastery of the requisite bowling skill-sets and by leaving bowlers on for too long, too often. Success in T20 comes down to scoring well in the first six overs, then building on it, followed by short, sharp one-over spells for bowlers, so batsmen don't get their range. We didn't do that and results were disappointing, yet again.

Yet the tour game against India marked a watershed. Young players came in and added enthusiasm, together with high levels of skill and the second half of the summer saw a different side. The Royal London One-Day Cup was marked with some excellent performances and progress to the quarter-finals, reward for fine cricket. We were effectively beaten by James Taylor, another batsman of international pedigree, who showed his worth in an innings of some brilliance that took the game away from us, though supporters could take heart from a battling display.

Meanwhile, the county championship season was turned around by a series of displays in which the words 'dominating' and 'ruthless' could be applied to Derbyshire cricket for the first time in a long while. Having the fastest bowler in the country helped and Mark Footitt blew away sides time after time with a series of superb and hostile performances. He deserves the utmost credit for turning around an injury-plagued career and earning Lions recognition this winter - as of course do the fitness and physiotherapy team that kept him going through a long season.

He was well supported by a seam attack which, by season end, had extraordinary depth and potential. While the departure of Tim Groenewald was criticised by some supporters at the time, by season end he had largely been forgotten, as Tom Taylor, Ben Cotton and Greg Cork emerged to show real promise in their fledgling displays. With Johny Marsden and Will Davis behind them, the seam attack looks set for a golden era. The admirable Tony Palladino continued to offer good value with bat and ball, while Wayne White came in on loan and suggested he would be an excellent addition for next summer if he can be signed on a permanent deal.

There remain concerns over the spin bowling, with Wes Durston's occasional off-spin doing far better than the slows of David Wainwright as specialist spinner. There is scope for Tom Knight to emerge as first-choice spinner next year, if the winter re-model of his action proves effective. His batting developed remarkably this year and he could be a special, all-round player if his work ethic is strong enough.

The batting was fragile at the start of the summer but picked up well. Credit has to be given to the coaching staff, as well as the players themselves, for turning around the careers of Billy Godleman and Wes Durston. The former emerged as a solid opener with a good range of shots when set, while Durston turned the clock back to his glory days with some scintillating displays, together with handy off-spin that often got wickets when most required.

Ben Slater came through to suggest we have at last found an opening batsman who could last us for years, while Alex Hughes showed enough with bat and ball to suggest he will be a real asset . Both will be better known next year, but I am confident in both of their futures if they work at their games. The difference in the bowling of the latter, between the start and end of the season, was marked, while Slater simply looked like he belonged at first-class level.

Shiv Chanderpaul was solid, without perhaps the aggregates of his pomp, but his influence on young players cannot be underestimated. However, his replacement, Marcus North, failed. There was a blistering T20 knock at Leicester in defeat, but he never looked fully fit to me. While the rationale of his recruitment as an experienced international batsman was clear, the glory days appeared behind a worthy cricketer and it simply didn't work in any format.

Nor did the signing of Gaz Cross, who played a few T20 cameos but little of substance, while his wicket-keeping swayed between competent and sloppy. In late season, supporters were given another taste of things to come when Harvey Hosein made the team, after finishing school. The youngster appears to have soft hands and takes a ball well, but his exemplary footwork makes awkward catches routine. His batting also impressed and he appears to have a very bright future. He will doubtless push the sorely-missed Tom Poynton all the way next year.

In the second half of the summer, Derbyshire earned around forty points more than the next best county. Such form over the full season would have seen them ease to promotion. Replication next summer will make them the team to beat and we proved ourselves a match for any in the division.

If we can recruit the impressive Cheteshwar Pujara for 2015, or as much of it as international commitments allow, we will take some stopping. While there are still some players on the staff with points to prove, we ended the summer able to field a side that had all made positive strides forward during the year, the first time that could be said  in a long time.

Wayne Madsen did a fine job as skipper. He seemed to learn a lot in the one-day role as the season progressed and remained the lynchpin of the batting in all formats. He is also an admirable figurehead and role model for the club and it continues to be a pleasure to watch him bat. Whether he can continue to captain in all competitions is a question only he can answer, as the demands are high, but he is a massive asset to our club.

Graeme Welch came with a strong reputation that had been enhanced at the end of the season. He knows that expectations will be higher next summer, but he has elevated and accelerated young talent and been rewarded. While some of the events of the summer represented a baptism of fire, he came through brilliantly and showed himself the right man for the job, unafraid to make tough decisions. Anyone watching the intensity of pre-match fielding sessions and the team spirit of the side in the closing months will be aware that we are on the right track and that 2015 could, with the right additions to the squad, be special.

As supporters, we can be enthused and must continue to encourage. The club is in excellent shape and the exciting off-field plans are indicative of a club that is extremely well run, on and off the field. As long as no one does something silly to rock the boat, we are well set for a very bright future.

Well done to all many sleeps is it till April?

Picture taken as I left the 3AAA County Ground after the Leicestershire win. The one at the top in mid-summer.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Strange, but true..

On my way to the cricket yesterday, I stopped at Morrisons garage near the ground to get some fuel.

As I was filling up (the car, I wasn't emotional at the thought of being at the cricket again..) I looked across the forecourt and saw an unmistakable face across from me.

'Twas Gregory Cork with his motor, a modest but nice set of wheels and a personalised number plate to boot. It struck me that it was the first time in all my years that I had seen a Derbyshire player out of context - i.e. away from the ground.

I've met celebrities in unusual places before. I once met American country music star Marty Stuart outside Marks and Spencer in Glasgow (he was playing there that night, he hadn't taken a wrong turn...) and I also bumped into - literally - the actress, Greta Scacchi in WH Smith. We had a lengthy conversation, something along the lines of:

Me - "Oh, I'm sorry.."

Her - smiling...remember that - "It's alright."

I'm sure she fell for my debonair charms, but then she was gone from my life forever. But she smiled at me and I remind my wife of that whenever we've seen her in films subsequently. Usually White Mischief, in which she played a part where she was gorgeous. And also naked for much of the time.

I didn't get a chance to chat to Greg, but the portents were good as I went into the ground and had a look at the newspaper. I was surprised by something that I read.

Sam Kelsall released by Nottinghamshire.

Really? I subsequently heard from a couple of contacts on the dark side (I jest, lads...) who told me that their club were planning to sign Will Root, brother of Joe, who had a fine season for their second team. Kelsall was apparently sacrificed so they could engage Root. Even moneybags Nottinghamshire have to balance the books...hold the front page!

It set me thinking though. Kelsall, a diminutive batsman of similar stature to James Taylor, came through the same, excellent Staffordshire system that has seen us benefit from Alex Hughes, Ben Cotton and Tom Taylor in recent times. He will be well-known to our club and its coaching staff and would be of value as an option in the opening berths.

While Wes Durston and Chesney Hughes have been one-day options, neither are really four-day openers. Kelsall could be. He averaged over forty for Nottinghamshire in the second eleven championship; over fifty in the one-day competition. While we have plenty of middle-order competition for next year, we don't at the top of the order. He is the right age (21) and right ability for us and, while I can see interest from around the circuit in such a player (er...Leicestershire for one) he would surely be attracted to an opportunity to join Welch's wonders. Crucially, he should also be affordable.

I have no idea if he fits the bill for Graeme Welch, but he seems a better fit, at least to me, for where we are going than someone like Stephen Peters or Matt Pardoe, released by Northamptonshire and Worcestershire respectively.

And if he turned out as well as Mark Footitt - we'd not complain, would we? Something to think on, over the weekend.

Enjoy yours. Tomorrow I drive back to bonnie Scotland.

Maybe I will see Greta again...

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 3

Derbyshire beat Leicestershire by over 400 runs today. Or was it 4000? Either way, we destroyed them. It was ruthless, purposeful cricket of a kind I have seldom seen from a Derbyshire side and a heartening way to go into the winter months.

It was another memorable day. Ben Slater (left) duly completed his second century of the match to join a small and select band to have done so, while also cementing a solid-looking average of 46 for the summer. Onwards and upwards for young Ben, I think.

He was a little edgy as the century approached and survived a loud appeal for caught behind on 99, but the century came from an edge to third man and the relief washed over the ground.

Then we were treated to a century of sublime quality by Cheteshwar Pujara, who only lifted the ball once (for six, over mid-wicket) and played a range of shots that hasn't been seen in these parts since the halcyon days of Azharuddin.

It was wonderful. There were rapier-like cuts, on drives full of wristy, eastern promise, pulls that reached the fence before anyone moved...and the cover so perfectly bisected the two fielders that he could scarce have done better had he used a protractor before playing it. Another was a thing of such beauty that people around me gasped. It was a privilege to see such a player in our colours.

He stays admirably still at the crease and the only movement is a tap, then another of the bat. Pujara has so much time and when he decides the ball is fractionally short, or wide, or over-pitched he dismisses it from his presence with a flourish. The field was moved to plug gaps, yet the next shot went to where the man was moved from. A century looked likely from the moment he took guard and when it came it was to a standing ovation. If we can get him for next summer there is such a treat in store.

Wes Durston played an extraordinary innings and hit eight fours in his forty. His timing was as crisp as ever and he even played a 'draw' stroke that was popular in Edwardian times at one point, playing the ball to square leg under a raised front leg to the bemusement and amusement of the opposition and crowd simultaneously. Anyone watching could have handled another half an hour of Wes and 'Puj' in full flight.

Yet when Leicestershire batted it was a different game. They are a club in crisis and it showed, though nothing should be taken from Derbyshire. The Footitt flyer ran in from the City end and simply blew them away. Greg Smith was bowled by one that sent a stump cartwheeling and he was simply too fast for them. Dan Redfern was leg before to complete a miserable return and the visitors showed little stomach for a fight.

Later, when I got home, I found that the BBC Sports team had announced their County Championship team of the year and Footitt wasn't in it. Seriously, these people are paid as experts?  He'd be in mine as one of the first names on the list.

The Derbyshire pace attack was impressive and backed up by a field in which Harvey Hosein again impressed. He made several awkward takes look easy and his footwork is so good that he takes balls down leg side without the need to dive that earns applause from supporters. Those in the know appreciate that good footwork negates the need to do that and Hosein has a very good future ahead of him.

One final point. The presence of hundreds of school children today added an atmosphere that I have not known before at Derby, especially for an end of season game. They were quite brilliant, chanting "Derby" and cheering every run, especially by Pujara. The club is to be congratulated on the signing and the links they have fostered with the community. I hope that they strengthen next season.

An end of season round up will come over the weekend, but Derbyshire have made great strides this summer, after a slow start. Back them and we are set for a fine future, on and off the field.

In closing, thanks to everyone whose company I shared and thoroughly enjoyed today. Your chat made a great day even better and I look forward to seeing you all again next summer - and hearing from you over the winter.

Postscript - I stood next to Ben Cotton, chatting this evening after the crikey, he's big! In Scotland they call things smaller than him mountains...

Tom Knight signs new deal

After witnessing a dominating performance by Derbyshire yesterday, news comes this morning that all-rounder Tom Knight has signed a new one-year deal.

It is gratifying news. While Tom has hardly featured as a bowler this year and his action is in the process of being remodelled, his batting has come on remarkably and there have been several explosive innings at all levels of the game.

The player is a game-changer with the bat and I assume that the award of only a one-year deal, rather than the two offered to other players, recognises that his bowling is a work in progress. Coaches wouldn't tinker with a bowler's action unless they had identified a flaw that would prevent that player getting good players out. I can only assume that while Knight was a bowler capable of controlled spells in one-day cricket, a change to his action may result in his being a match-winning bowler in the longer game. Such a move earlier in his career may have worked wonders with Jake Needham, always a good one-day bowler but less able to take advantage of friendly tracks where he needed to bowl sides out.

I will await news of his winter work with interest.

Knight at his best would be a potent addition to any Derbyshire side.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 2

I walked to my car in the Gateway car park tonight and put on my sun glasses. Not just because of the glorious, late evening sunshine, though it was an extraordinary day for late September, but for witnessing a Derbyshire performance of utter dominance. Bright future? You gotta wear shades, my friends...

If this was a boxing match, it would have been stopped at tea. Quite honestly, the Derbyshire side I saw today look the best side in the division and may well have been promoted had their run started a little earlier.

The side bowled with purpose and fielded with an intensity that was refreshing to see. A fine opening attack of Footitt and Palladino was backed up by an equally impressive back up in White and Cotton. Alex Hughes also bowled well and the side caught impressively.

Footitt celebrated his call up to England Lions camp with some deliveries of searing pace, while Palladino bowled beautifully and completely outfoxed Dan Redfern with a fine delivery that saw a stump cartwheeling. It wasn't the happiest of returns for Redfern and a side that looked short of talent and spirit.

Ben Cotton impresses me more with every viewing and his batting namesake Mr Slater looks totally at home at this level. I also thought Harvey Hosein a keeper of remarkable talent.

I reckon we will bat till mid afternoon tomorrow then set Leicestershire a notional 450-odd to win.
They'll not get close. Not playing this sort of cricket.

A poor opposition notwithstanding, if we play like this next season we will be promoted. Simple as that.

More of the same tomorrow lads...I look forward to it immensely. A second ton for Slats and a viewing of Pujara  will suit me nicely...

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 1

Perhaps Derbyshire would have preferred to bowl first today, but after losing the toss against Leicestershire, they will be pleased with a final total of 289, especially when the visitors were two down for twenty-five by the close.

I'm not convinced that this one will run until day four, so my cricket-watching on this short family break will likely be truncated. Still, if the summer ends with a home win, few will complain.

Many congratulations go tonight to Ben Slater (pictured), who scored his maiden century for the club. It was an innings that dug us out of a hole and was well-deserved. Young Ben has perhaps snuck under the radar a little in the analysis of our bright young things, but, as Sir Geoffrey Boycott may have said on more than one occasion, "roons are roons." No matter that he will face better attacks in his career, he will always remember a first ton and those runs look the same in the scorebook, no matter who was bowling.

In the process his season average eased north of forty. Any batsman would be pleased with such a return and I am delighted for the lad and his family. It was the ideal way to celebrate the award of a new two-year contract today and I am sure that we will celebrate plenty more centuries in the summers that lie ahead.

The rest of the batting was sketchy. Cheteshwar Pujara found himself on the end of a dismissal that ranks either as unlucky or careless, depending on your viewpoint, while Wes seemed to be going like a train when he went somewhat off-track and hit the ball down the throat of deep mid-wicket. A century seemed there for the taking and he will be disappointed to miss out.

There were a few late blows from Tony Palladino and Ben Cotton, the former expected now, the latter seeming to have a fair bit to offer with the bat, but we might have hoped for 300 at least from 186-3, the total when Wes departed.

I think Alex Hughes is ready for a break after a long first season and Wayne White needs to work on his batting over the winter to restore his game to the genuine all-rounder status it was in his Leicestershire days.

Yet further congratulations were due in the evening gloom as Mark Footitt took his hundredth wicket of the summer in all competitions. There are hardly the adjectives to describe Mark's efforts this summer, especially when one considers the number of games he has played in comparison to his earlier career.

A second wicket for Tony Palladino before the close saw Leicestershire in some trouble at 25-2 by the close.

All things being equal, our trip down south should see me at the County Ground to see their position deteriorate tomorrow.

Not a vintage day for Derbyshire by any means, but a memorable one for Ben Slater and Mark Footitt - and we're currently in the box seat.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Derbyshire v Leicestershire preview

For the last time this summer, a match preview, before the long winter nights draw in and we have to make do with anticipatory thoughts of next year.

And nice thoughts they are, too, based on Derbyshire's late season form. In one and four-day cricket we played well, nay, brilliantly at times and looked as good a team as there is in the division in the long game.

There's an unchanged squad for the visit of Leicestershire, a club that hasn't had far to look for problems. An awful season has been compounded by the recent loss of Buck to Lancashire, Cobb to Northamptonshire and, of course, Shiv Thakor to us. While they still have some decent players, the drain of talent from the club must be galling to supporters and administrators alike and a major influx of fresh talent is needed during the close season.

They have two former Derbyshire players in their squad, Dan Redfern and Atif Sheikh. Both had times at the County Ground when they seemed ripe with potential, but it was never truly realised. They will have points to prove tomorrow, but an inexperienced side shouldn't really stand in the way of the Derbyshire juggernaut.

That squad is:

Smith, Robson, Eckersley, Redfern, Pinner, Boyce, O'Brien, Wells, Taylor, Raine, Sykes, Shreck, Sheikh

As for Derbyshire, I don't expect many changes from The Oval. Tom Taylor may come in for a final game of the summer, but Wayne White should play and Mark Footitt definitely will, when he is one wicket short of a hundred in all competitions.

I look forward to seeing play on the last three days, always assuming that play continues into Friday. The forecast is nothing  to worry about and I fully expect to finish the summer in style.

It is the least that recent form deserves.

Fourth place beckons, as long a we remain focused. And after the start to the summer, that is quite an achievement.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Ground development plans get go ahead

The granting of planning permission for development work at the  3AAA County Ground is welcome and further proof of the increased professionalism at the club.

The current Gateway Centre is set to be renovated into a state-of-the-art cricket centre of excellence and pavilion, while the Lund Pavilion will be developed to provide better facilities for members and corporate customers.

It is part of a bigger plan to transform the ground over the next few years as funding becomes available and will help the club immensely as they strive for facilities that will enable them to attract the best players to join.

As Simon Storey said in his presentation at the ground during the last home match, the current facilities are fairly modest and even the most ardent supporter would struggle to generate a 'Wow' as they enter the Gateway Centre. It is functional, for sure, but hardly a true reflection of twenty-first century architecture at its finest, or most innovative.

Most supporters will reserve excitement for the signing of new players, but this, in its own way, is a reflection of the club's continued improvement. On and off the pitch we are moving in the right direction and it is good to see.

Can't wait for the Leicestershire game!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Thursday thoughts

This time tomorrow, I could quite easily be posting this blog from a foreign country, depending on the result of today's referendum of the Scottish people on independence...

Time will tell on that one, but I couldn't allow the week to pass without recognising the ongoing genius of Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

He's not been dismissed in the current series against Bangladesh, after unbeaten scores of 84, 85 and 101. Only Donald Bradman in cricket history averages more in Test cricket after his 38th birthday than Shiv, whose powers of concentration remain undiminished. He is now just 289 runs behind Brian Lara in the West Indies batting pantheon, a total that he could easily pass in the coming months.

What next? Could we yet see him back in Derbyshire colours?

It all depends on the player. There is an option for him to have a third season at Derbyshire and while that could be taken up with him as overseas player, I think it unlikely. The 2015 English summer schedule for the West Indies is congested and Shiv would make a very small contribution in terms of availability, should he opt to stay in the international game. I also think that Cheteshwar Pujara will be the number one target, a player more likely to be available for the majority of the campaign.

But what if Shiv retired from international cricket on passing the Lara record?

If he reaches 12,000 Test runs, which seems likely, it is a record likely to stand for some time, especially given the current paucity of West Indian batting. Maybe he could push the total closer to 13,000, but I think him likely to be a man who goes on his own terms, quitting while he is ahead of the game, rather than having an enforced retirement, courtesy of the Caribbean cricket selectors.

I just wonder if Chanderpaul could be prevailed upon to return for at least one more summer as a Kolpak batsman. While we have a good number of options in the batting ranks. might the opportunity to have one of the world's greats be too good to resist? I've spoken to Derbyshire players who have told me of his influence, how he talks them through innings and how his attitude to practice is exemplary, especially for young players.

While acknowledging that a Kolpak presence takes up a space that could otherwise be taken by a young local player, there's a considerable difference between Chanderpaul and the common and garden Kolpak.

We don't know how much a permanent deal for Pujara or Wayne White may cost, nor of any change to the contracts of current players. But if we could still afford a T20 specialist afterwards, the appeal of a middle order of Madsen, Pujara and Chanderpaul is considerable.

We might need to start playing twelve-a-side to fit them all in...

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Surrey v Derbyshire day 3 - Billy leads way in county canter


I like that word and from me it represents the ultimate in praise. It is someone doing the job that they are trained and qualified to do to the best of their ability, whether it is an electrician, plumber, car mechanic - or cricketer.

So when I say that Derbyshire won today's game with consummate professionalism, it is intended as the highest of praise. Because the result never looked in doubt at any point. Ben Slater and Billy Godleman led off with an opening stand that settled the nerves and confirmed their potential as pairing for the future. Getting through the new ball was of paramount importance; getting through to lunch with ten wickets intact was a huge bonus.

Slater went soon afterwards and the closest that there was to concern was when Wayne Madsen edged to slip after scoring only two. There was a time when such blows might have seen a swift descent and four, maybe five back in the hutch pretty quickly.

Not today.

For Godleman it was confirmation of a renaissance in his fortunes that has been heartening to see. A good few people - and I admit to being one of them - struggled to see a future for him in the first half of the summer, as a combination of injury and poor form kept him out of the side. His contract up at the end of the summer, it was hard to see where he had to go.

He deserves the utmost praise for working hard to turn things around, as do the batting coaches. He admits to a 'tweak' in his technique, having worked with Ant Botha and it has paid dividends. When I have seen him this season he has looked secure in defence, strong in attack and with a good range of shots. While one innings doesn't make a season, his recent sequence of scores suggests that he could yet become the batsman that appeared likely when he burst onto the scene as a seventeen-year old at Middlesex. Yes, he needs to kick on further and turn a thirty average to nearer forty next year, but he can be proud of his effort today and in recent weeks.

As can Cheteshwar Pujara. I had no doubt that he would show his undoubted ability in this short stay and he proved himself today. Both Graeme Welch and Chris Grant have spoken about the need for 'match-winners' and Pujara confirmed himself worthy of that title today.

It wasn't just the runs that he made as the way he made them. His unbeaten innings of 90 was not far from a run-a-ball and would have been, but for a noticeable and sporting easing back on the throttle as the runs required for the win and for a Godleman century became a close call. He played a couple of maidens at that point, to ensure his partner reached a century of considerable importance and such sportsmanship was gratifying to see.

The thing that separates very good from outstanding batsmen is the margin of error. The outstanding batsman will punish even the slightest error in line and length and Pujara showed that today. There were fours around the wicket without really taking risks and I really look forward to seeing him next week against Leicestershire.

Could there have been a more gratifying game? Harvey Hosein's catches and records, good seam bowling from Ben Cotton, more evidence of Footitt's raw power, Godleman's ton, Pujara coming good, the skipper passing his thousand for the season  - the list goes on.

Graeme Welch has had a tough baptism and the opening months of the summer were unexpectedly traumatic, on and off the field. Yet there is a growing realisation and appreciation that his squad ends the summer looking better than the one that started it and that there is genuine cause for optimism ahead of 2015.

The short-term signings of both Wayne White and Cheteshwar Pujara have proved beneficial and if both can be engaged on a long-term basis, this is going to be a winter of optimism and anticipation.

Well done lads. A really impressive effort in this game.

One more to go...

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Surrey v Derbyshire day 2: Harvey Hosein: record-breaker

You would have to say, after two days of this game, that the word 'pulsating' is pretty apposite, though not if you bought an advance ticket for day four...

Especially, I'm sure, from the perspective of Mr H. Hosein. I'm not sure if the lad is writing the script for this game, but if he is, sometime after tea tomorrow he will make a composed, unbeaten thirty to steer us to a win.

251 to do so. Not easy, on a wicket that has seen 30 wickets go down in two days, but not impossible, given the innings played by Wayne Madsen and Jason Roy. One of our batsmen, or a couple of them, has to harness technique and courage tomorrow, the latter in being unafraid to play shots and steer us to a win on a wicket where yours could be in danger at any point. It isn't treacherous and to be fair it's the type of track that first-class cricket needs, far more than some of the moribund ones elsewhere.

The game mirrors that of last season quite closely. If you remember, Surrey chased down 218 in the final innings and got them for the loss of six wickets, largely thanks to an innings of international quality from Hasim Amla. We have the players who could play such an innings and it would be an ideal opportunity for Cheteshwar Pujara to show his worth. He's not got going yet, but he is here for the experience and at this stage it doesn't matter too much...though a contribution to a win would do very nicely tomorrow.

Our innings came to a somewhat premature end today, with no contribution of note, other than that of the skipper. He needs 33 runs tomorrow to reach a thousand in the county championship, a fine effort, though tellingly if our side all batted to their season average tomorrow we will end up 22 runs short. Read into that as you will.

So someone needs to step it up and I hope they do so. We've done well in this game and controlled it for large periods, but lost control for a while this afternoon and I hope that doesn't come back to bite us. The wickets were shared out nicely between seam and spin, with special mention for Alex Hughes for breaking through when it looked like Surrey were getting away with their third wicket pair. He bowled a tight spell and did a good job for the side, as he may need to do tomorrow with the bat. Ben Cotton also confirmed his positive impression and there are terrific signs coming from our young players.

Of course, I can close in no other way than with Harvey Hosein (pictured). One game into his first-class career he stands astride the record books, leaving giants like Bob Taylor, Harry Elliott and George Dawkes in his slipstream. Not to mention Karl Krikken, who, with Howard Dytham, mentored him from a tender age.

It was both gratifying and, at the same time, worrying to see him named in a poll on Cricinfo today entitled "Which bright young thing from 2014 excites you most for the future?"  I don't wish to rain on the parade, but isn't that a tad premature after one game?

By all accounts he kept very well and the video footage confirmed that he has a very good pair of hands and he takes a ball undemonstratively, in similar style to Bob Taylor. Yet let's not lose sight of the fact that any wicket-keeper can only take what comes his way and in that respect he was well served by the Derbyshire bowlers. Of yesterday's catches, six were regulation, the leg-side take from Batty's glance highly impressive.

He will keep better, in all likelihood and barely feature in the score book. Such is the beauty of the game and I write the above not to be a party pooper, but to ensure that the lad doesn't fall victim to the kind of advance publicity that he really doesn't need at this stage of his career. There are those out there who will think him a failure if he doesn't do that again sometime soon...

Yet I am thrilled for the lad. He is a terrific talent and I remember watching him dive around for balls hit by Howard Dytham in the nets a couple of summers back. His handling was as impressive as his stature, or lack of it, at that stage and it was obvious that with proper coaching he was headed in the  right direction.

He will push Tom Poynton all the way for the first-team gloves next summer and that is perfect from the team's perspective, as it will keep both men on their toes. But for now he can help us win the game tomorrow then sit down and reflect on one simple fact.

After 144 years of club history, it has taken him one match to enter into the record books.

Well done son. You've earned the right to be proud, as I'm sure your family and team mates are tonight.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Surrey v Derbyshire day one

Surrey 181 all out (Wilson 70, Footitt 6-69, White 3-39, Cotton 1-32)
Derbyshire 164-5 (Madsen 48 not)

Writing tonight's blog sees me having a similar problem to the promoters of those old rock 'n' roll revues in 1950s America. How do you sort top billing between Elvis, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard?

More appositely for our purpose - who gets top billing? Six-gun Footitt or Seven-up Hosein?

That was quite a day of cricket. Surrey appeared to be comfortable, if not entirely trouble-free at lunch, when Wayne White had continued his impressive return to the county with two wickets and Harvey Hosein (pictured) had pouched his first two victims in first-class cricket.

Afterwards, they were simply blown away by the Derbyshire howitzer. Footitt steamed in and the Surrey batsmen largely gave catching practice to Hosein and the close field, as he was simply too quick for them.

Seven victims on debut is perhaps something Harvey dreamed about and it's not something he can or will do on a regular basis in the future. All he can do is hold those that come his way, which he did quite admirably today. Great stuff from a young player of real potential and incredibly heartening.

Footitt now has 72 wickets at less than twenty runs each and surely has to get an England Lions chance this winter. If he doesn't, the selectors lose any credibility that remains, as his record in division one last year suggested that the level isn't an issue. This year he has been a gale-force wind blowing through the defences of batsmen across the land and few have fancied it. Sure, there are still times when he loses line and length, but he's not alone in that. When it goes wrong for him it tends to be spectacularly so, but when it goes is electric to watch.

There was a time, back in the 1980's, when pretty much every county had at least one genuine (usually overseas) quick and batsmen had to be fast on their feet to cope. Today there are very few genuine quick bowlers in the world game and, as member of a select band, Footitt is deserving of elevation to see if he is the real deal. I can vouch for a few batsmen who have been dismissed or hit by Mark this year who might just speak on his behalf...

Credit also to Ben Cotton for a less spectacular opening day in senior cricket, but one in which he bowled steadily and picked up his first wicket at first-class level. He is another who has impressed me and with hard work he could become the real deal.

When we batted, it seemed to be with a tad too much gay abandon. If the ball's there to be hit, then it needs put away, but I think a few people will be disappointed with breezy knocks that amounted to nothing of genuine substance when they got back to the dressing room. Four an over is fine, but not when you lose a wicket for every eight being bowled.

Apart from, that is, Maddo the Magnificent, unbeaten on 48 and a further 48 from his thousand for a second successive year. He really is a wonderful cricketer and a class act. It was entirely appropriate that as the day came to a close, young Harvey Hosein walked to the wicket with six overs to go in the day to join a batsman who could talk him through the undoubted nerves and set him at ease.

Seven catches, equalling the record set (twice) by the greatest of them all, Bob Taylor AND seeing the day through to the close unbeaten with the skipper.

Carlsberg don't do days.

But if they did...

Harvey, the autograph requests start here, lad. One game into your career and you're in the record books.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Surrey v Derbyshire preview

And so we come to the penultimate game of the season and a trip for Derbyshire down to the big smoke for a game against Surrey. At t'Oval, if you will...

Graeme Welch has announced a thirteen-man squad for the game, which includes a sizeable young element, headed, in youth at least, by Harvey Hosein, who makes his county first-class debut at the age of eighteen. I'm sure all supporters wish him well and will follow the formative steps in a cricket career with great interest.

The squad in full:

Ben Slater, Billy Godleman, Wayne Madsen, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wes Durston,  Alex Hughes, 
Harvey Hosein, Wayne White, David Wainwright, Tony Palladino, Mark Footitt, Ben Cotton, Tom Taylor.

Two will miss out and that looks like being two of the seamers. There's an argument for playing all of them, of course - experience for the younger ones, against the reliability of the older ones. Surrey will doubtless hope Mark Footitt is rested, but I'm sure our lethal weapon will want a chance to impress a few journalists whose idea of a trip oop north sees them get a nosebleed when they reach Birmingham...

As for our hosts, they have also named a thirteen-man squad which lines up:

Gary Wilson (captain), Zafar Ansari, Gareth Batty, Rory Burns, Steven Davies, Jade Dernbach, Matthew Dunn, Arun Harinath, Aneesh Kapil, Tim Linley, Stuart Meaker, Jason Roy, Vikram  Solanki 

They will provide a stiff test, but despite the reverse in Cardiff, this is a much-improved Derbyshire team in quality, as well as spirit. 

If the weather stays fine, I could see us chalk up another win in a vastly improved second half of season. 

In closing tonight, two quick comments - Shivnarine Chanderpaul now just 454 runs behind Brian Lara's West Indies record total after yet another unbeaten innings, this time 84, against Bangladesh. He's not yet been out in this series and remains an extraordinary little batsman.

Finally, congratulations to Sandiacre Town CC for winning the Royal London National Club Championship. There's classy cricket being played throughout the county at all levels.

Well done guys! Thoroughly deserved.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Weekend warmer

With just eight days of first-class cricket to go, Yorkshire have won the first division, which they thoroughly deserved as a very strong unit, while Worcestershire are promoted but could yet be pipped for the title by Hampshire. Northamptonshire have had a dreadful summer and they, probably with Lancashire, will be back with us in 2015.

I do feel a little sorry for Worcestershire, as there have been a number of comments doing the rounds regarding their success being largely due to a bowler whose action has now been declared illegal, with way more than twice the permitted 'flex' in the elbow. That their season has stuttered since his departure was hardly surprising, so influential was he on early season results, but they still needed to get the runs for him to bowl at, while someone still needed to bowl at the other end.

In recent weeks I have had the pleasure of several chats with former county spin bowling legend Edwin Smith, from which an interview will appear during the winter months. Here is a man who took over 1200 wickets for the county and was close to an England call at a time when every county side had a decent spinner, often two.

He told me that when the Derbyshire batsmen wanted to practice against a ball that was really turning, he would throw them down and they would turn and spit spitefully. You would expect nothing less from a man who got plenty of turn from his orthodox and perfectly legitimate action, but it serves to show what advantage can be obtained from a bend, or flex of the elbow.

There is a degree of unfortunate irony that some players - and I will use Harold Rhodes and Peter Eyre as examples from our own patch - whose actions were unusual but not remotely questionable, had their career prospects harmed, while others have been allowed to take many wickets at international level with little consequence, until now. Irony is one word, but there are many others...

Going back to Yorkshire and I think it a disgrace that their excellent skipper, Andrew Gale, was banned from receiving the trophy and wary of speaking to the press after their triumph yesterday. Gale was suspended from playing for Yorkshire for falling foul of the 'code', a term that sounds Mafioso-like, perhaps by design.

Why should his suspension include off-field activities? I'm sorry, this is the latest in a long line of ridiculous, poorly handled issues by the ECB who should really be more accountable for such fiascos. That Gale had a tete a tete with Ashwell Prince during the recent Roses match is undeniable, but was his 'crime' so heinous that he should be denied participation in the moment that he had worked for all summer?

Of course it wasn't. It shows that Derbyshire aren't always the victims in such circumstances, but Gale, a good man and a cricketer I respect, didn't deserve such shoddy treatment.

Speaking of which, someone else who deserves better is Alex Hughes. I have seen a few comments regarding his role in the side and one, on another site, suggested he 'wasn't good enough if we really want to go places'.

Seriously? We have here a lad who is just completing his FIRST full season as a professional, with all the physical and psychological demands that this entails. He's averaged around thirty, has added as fair bit of speed to his bowling and was our second most economical bowler in the Royal London One-Day Cup. He fields brilliantly too and is not close to the finished article - at 22 why would you expect him to be - yet people still have a go.

It's neither fair nor remotely clever. He will be better known next year and there are hundreds of examples of players who 'dip' a little in their second summer, but I think he will be a bigger threat with the ball in 2015, as well as tighter in technique in the early part of his innings. Give him and other young players a break though, for there's a long and winding road between promising tyro and county stalwart.

Take Darren Stevens, an excellent and perhaps similar player recently linked with a move to us (which I don't see happening, for the record). In his first summer he scored 562 runs at 28 and in his second 457 runs at 20. He didn't take more than one first-class wicket in a season until his EIGHTH summer as a professional!

Likewise Paul Collingwood. 464 runs at 23 in his first summer, 316 at 26 in his second, while taking a combined nine wickets over the two summers. He didn't turn out too badly, did he?

Cut young lads some slack. It's not easy, as the cases of Richard Johnson and Peter Burgoyne highlighted this summer. Some will succeed, others will fall by the wayside, but it's not for the lack of trying.Think back to what you could, or more appositely couldn't do at that age for a comparator and think about that before you put things into print.

Slater, Hosein, Hughes, Cotton, Taylor, Cork, Knight. All young lads, finding their way in the game.

The onus on all of us, as supporters, is to do what the name suggests.

Support them.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Cross goes as Harvey gets senior chance

Today's news that Gareth Cross had been released  by Derbyshire perhaps came as no surprise to many followers of the club.

He came in at short notice, after the double blow that robbed the club of two keepers of talent in a few weeks. While Richard Johnson was ultimately gone for good, we needed a stop-gap to cover behind the stumps while Tom Poynton recovered from the injuries sustained in that tragic, early season car crash.

Whatever the frustrations of his spell with us, there is no doubt that Cross was the best man available at the time. Yet he had thought his first-class career over and had little or no pre-season work to draw on when he was thrust back into senior cricket. At most levels below the county game, that wouldn't  have been an issue, but lack of pre-season preparation tells and Cross was no exception.

He kept wicket steadily, without being outstanding. While Derbyshire has an enviable history of seam bowling, we've done well with our wicket-keepers too and there were times when the standard dropped a little. Cross has been a good county player - you don't hold a place in a decent Lancashire side without being so - but he had a lot of catching up to do and it ultimately proved too big a job.

His batting suffered the most. There were some pugnacious one-day knocks, especially in the T20, but nothing suggested permanence at the crease and fans enjoyed it while it lasted, aware that it was likely to end too soon. It was often selfless, but sometimes suicidal.

His approach to batting was perhaps similar to that of James Pipe, although the latter both won and saved a good many matches in his time with us. Cross didn't and a batting average of just ten in the championship was nowhere close to good enough for a number seven, lower than that of Mark Footitt. His highest score of thirty came in his last game, but by then the writing was on the wall.

Harvey Hosein has been spoken about in junior cricket circles for a few years, keeping wicket for Matlock in the Derbyshire Premier League since he was just 13, but looking younger. Good judges told me then that he had an excellent pair of hands and an impressive temperament, happy to battle out for draws and to face the quickest of bowlers in doing so.

At 18, which he was last month, his talent is undeniable and his likely role, at least for now, as understudy to Tom Poynton, seems secure. Giving him experience in the closing games of the season makes great sense and, armed with a two-year professional contract, Hosein will let no one down and will push Poynton all the way next summer.

It is a pleasure to write about a locally-produced player of such potential and, while it would be silly to expect too much too soon, there is much to be excited about in a young man who keeps wicket tp a very high standard and has a lot of ability with a bat in his hands, as he showed with an unbeaten and unfazed fifty against the Indian touring side.

This summer has seen the introduction of a number of young cricketers who could form the backbone of a Derbyshire side for the next five to ten years. Traumatic and troubled as it has been at times, tough decisions have accelerated their involvement and progress.

We will reap the benefit in the summers ahead.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 3

The end of the game came pretty much as was expected. The winning of the toss proved crucial and Derbyshire ended up losers in a game where each innings was less than the one that preceded it.

We did well this morning to take the last five wickets in jig time, but in doing so the likelihood of our making the required winning total lessened. A total of over 250 was akin to climbing Everest in carpet slippers.

We didn't get close and there is little point in grumbling unduly. There were some very good batsmen in this match and none of them got going, something that tells its own story. The stand of Cooke and Wagg on the first day proved decisive and fair play to them for that.

It was not the baptism that Cheteshwar Pujara would have hoped for, but he will learn from the experience. Were he to rattle off centuries on moribund tracks it would prove little and it is unrealistic to expect him to handle such a track when people better prepared for them cannot.

The winning streak has ended but the season has not. A few net sessions and it will be time to get it going again.

Heads up, lads.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 2

Most eyes were on Cheteshwar Pujara today, as he made his batting bow for Derbyshire, but it was our other new boy who took centre stage and kept us in the game.

"Puj" as he is known to the players (I'd have quite liked "Chet" in honour of the great Chet Atkins, but...) struggled against some means protagonists of the moving ball, as he was ever likely to do. He's here to learn and an atmosphere conducive to swing was exactly what Messrs Hogan, Wagg and Allenby would have wanted.

None of our batsmen came to terms with the moving ball, although Gareth Cross got a season's best 30 in quick time. At 153-9 we were in danger of being out of touch, before Wayne White (pictured) and Mark Footitt added an aggressive fifty for the last wicket. White's 38 came from just 22 balls and wrested the initiative from the home side. We were 79 behind on first innings, but it could have been much worse.

When the home side made a brisk start to their second innings, we looked in trouble again, but the introduction of the pacy White to the attack brought two wickets in two balls. Just before the close, his reintroduction to the attack brought the wickets of both set batsmen to leave the game intriguingly poised.

White is a good cricketer and I would be delighted to get his services for a few seasons. He'll not always score runs and take wickets - who does? - but he presents a danger with bat and ball that offers potent possibilities.

All the bowlers did a steady job and special mention must be made of Alex Hughes, who kept things tight at one end and got the important wicket of Bragg. The lad is a good cricketer and I look forward to seeing the results of a winter of hard work in the nets and gym.

224 runs ahead, Glamorgan must be slight favourites and batting first in this game could turn out to be the deciding factor, but we're not out of this yet. Much will depend on how quickly we can remove the Welsh tail tomorrow and, with less favourable bowling conditions and greater resolve from the batsmen, we could feasibly chase a total under 300.

With a favourable forecast, there is a certain result in this game.

It could still go either way.

Postcript - there's an excellent piece on Pujara on Cricinfo today. Well worth a read.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day one

Congratulations tonight go to Mark Footitt, now officially public enemy number one for batsmen around the country. The left-arm pace bowler now has 65 wickets, one more than the previous most prolific bowler Saeed Ajmal, but all of them taken with a legitimate action, which sadly cannot be said of the Pakistan spinner after today's big world cricket news.

If Mark fails to get recognition at a higher level this winter, one can only assume that those in charge of our game are buffoons. As Maurice Leyland of Yorkshire once said, "None of us likes fast bowling...some just show it more than others". There's plenty of batsmen have failed to enjoy the 'Footitt experience' this summer and plenty of reason to suppose that his talent may flourish on a bigger stage. OK, there's few bigger stages than the 3AAA County Ground, I know that, but...

Time will tell how good our bowling performance was today, on a wicket that is expected to take spin as the game progresses. However, reports suggest that it is easy-paced and doing little  for the bowlers, which makes the efforts of ours all the more commendable. Any side that bowls out its opponents on the opening day of a four-day game should be proud of its efforts.

South African born Chris Cooke, fresh from a personal best against Kent, again did well and had good late order support from County Ground old boy Graeme Wagg. At 249-6 they may have fancied a total of around 350, but Footitt and the admirable Tony Palladino returned to blow away the tail quite nicely.

Palladino has developed into a typical Derbyshire seamer, with lots of effort and a style in parsimony that makes things a little easier for those at the other end. 3-34 in 21 overs is the kind of analysis returned by heroes of yore and Tony has become an integral, perhaps reinvented part of the attack. In his younger days there was the odd bad ball to help batsmen keep the score ticking over. Now, they are few and far between and he fulfils a pivotal role in the attack. Wayne White also bowled tidily, if less spectacularly, while the spinners will doubtless play a more important role in the second innings.

Tomorrow is a chance for an innings to be built and all eyes will be on Cheteshwar Pujara, when his turn comes to bat. A slow-paced wicket should be similar to those on which he learned his game and after a fine effort today, Derbyshire have a chance to build an innings which could well dictate the course of the match.

Bat, bat and bat some more. That's the plan from here, ideally until around tea time on Thursday.

If we do that, four wins out of four is eminently possible.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Glamorgan v Derbyshire preview

It was good to see Cheteshwar Pujara (pictured), recently arrived in this country, straight into PR work at Dale Primary School today.

The sight of a superstar - no exaggeration, given the Indian batsman's reputation on the sub-continent - prepared to get out into the community is immensely gratifying. That he did so with Wayne Madsen, an outstanding figure head as club captain, was no real surprise, but for budding young sportsmen and women, today will have been a day that they will never forget.

Tomorrow sees Pujara make his first-class debut for the county in Cardiff and there will be many, besides me, whose eyes will be trained on Wales tomorrow. He has some adjusting to do in his technique, that's why he's here of course, but I have every confidence that we will see a trademark innings or two in the remainder of the summer.

It's not all about him, of course. We are going for a fourth win on the trot and the team looks settled and confident. Sustaining the current form to the end of the season will be important for morale and will send the players into their winter work with renewed vigour.

I was pleased to see Billy Godleman get a year's contract earlier today, one which his hard work this summer deserves. In the early part of the summer he appeared on the road out, especially when an injury stopped him from playing for a few weeks. Yet the coaching staff have tweaked his technique and the player's hard work has earned a just reward.

Only a fool would doubt his ability and one has only to watch him bat for a few overs to see that his defence is secure and his strokes, when he decides the time is right to show them, are many and fluent. The surprise is that someone so talented hasn't scored more runs, but that will perhaps be realised after a winter's work in the nets.

The rest of the side picks itself and the only change I expect from the game at Derby is Pujara replacing Chesney Hughes in this side:

Hughes (A)

Four seamers and two spinners: I'll take that for a balanced attack, as well as a long batting line up.

As for Glamorgan, they have named the following thirteen:

JA Rudolph, WD Bragg, GP Rees, CB Cooke, J Allenby, DL Lloyd, AHT Donald, MA Wallace (capt and wkt-keeper), GG Wagg, DA Cosker, MG Hogan, KA Bull and WT Owen.

They are a decent side with some good players, but we beat them well at the 3AAA County Ground and could well do so again. The weather appears to be set fair and so are Derbyshire.

While a rude awakening could await us from a Welsh side with a few points to prove, I'm going for a fourth successive win and another step or two up the table.

A ton for Pujara would do just fine...

Godleman signs one-year contract

Good news from the County Ground this morning, as Billy Godleman has signed a new, one-year contract. I'd suggested that this might be an appropriate thing to do a few days ago and am delighted to see it happen. The player has been in fine form in recent weeks and just needs that big score to cement his growing reputation and boost his own confidence still further. His partnership with Ben Slater has potential and I look forward to seeing how it develops in the course of the remainder of this year and during next summer. More from me later, with a look at tomorrow's game against Glamorgan at Cardiff

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Higginbottom goes as Welch suggests his squad is 'almost there'

There's a very good article by Mark Eklid in the Derby Telegraph today in which Graeme Welch states that he's 'almost there' with his squad for next summer.

That could, of course, mean anything, but the piece suggests a new deal for Billy Godleman is imminent. I suggested that should be the case recently and think it is the right thing to do. Billy is a much improved bat of late and has a string of good scores in all forms of the game. He looks confident at the crease and can score around the wicket. He and Ben Slater looked a good pairing in the Worcestershire game and I'd be quite happy with them for next summer.

It crossed my mind that we must be fairly close, when I started to work out a notional championship team for next summer. We still have to assume that Pujara and White will sign, but for me they'd take a place in this side:

Hughes (A)

Where do you fit in Wes Durston? Chesney? Tom Taylor? Scott Elstone? Ben Cotton? Jon Clare? Greg Cork? Most of the above have development to do or fitness to prove, but it is a squad of great potential, when you add in Harvey Hosein as back-up keeper and, presumably, a T20 specialist.

One player who won't be in the squad is Matt Higginbottom (pictured), who can deem himself unlucky to be nearly 24 at a time when a clutch of talented 19 and 20 year olds are coming through. Will Davis is another who will be pushing his claims another year, as, presumably, will Jony Marsden. From a situation where we had barely a seamer of note emerge for several years, a veritable convoy has suddenly emerged.

Higginbottom has a decent first-class record, with fourteen first-class wickets at 35, but while he had the ability to bowl a wicket-taking ball, there was a similar tendency to put down a four ball each over too. He could yet be one of those players who go elsewhere to prove a point and Leicestershire could do worse than offer him a trial, but the writing was on the wall for Matt and it is no real surprise to read of his release.

I wish him luck in his future career, as I am sure you all do.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Random thoughts from a trip down south

As I mentioned the other day, I attended the club member forum at lunchtime on Sunday.

After an excellent presentation, only slightly ruined by one or two individuals with personal agendas, I made my way back to my seat in the stand to rejoin my friend. I'd not been sitting for five minutes when someone else came over and sat behind us.

"I've just been at the member meeting" he said to his two neighbours.

"They're knocking down the Gateway building..."

Eh? Had I missed something? An exchange of looks with my friend suggested not and I felt my head start to shake. Seriously, how could anyone have come out of that meeting with that impression? They're not, for the record, but it will be substantially different when next season comes around and rightly so. It is a functional building, but would only win an architectural prize against some of the inner city monstrosities of the 1970s. Perhaps not even then...

Still the work being done is laudable and the men at the helm of our club deserve great credit for their visionary efforts. I said so to them at the end of the meeting, as people are quick to criticise and slow to praise round these parts and it is important that this imbalance is addressed.

Clarity of thought and future-proofing has never been strong at our county but it is hard to fault recent events. One supporter suggested we should never have let Tim Groenewald go, something I disagree with. My understanding is that the player wanted a new challenge and that nothing we could offer would change his mind. We're hardly going to offer silly money, so he went. The advent of Tommy Taylor, Ben Cotton and Greg Cork, together with the introduction of Wayne White, suggests that it was a good move. The supporter's assertion that Timmy G, a worthy cricketer, would have got us to Lords, was, I suspect, more than a tad fanciful...

As for complaints about the standard of cricket in the tour match  - counties cannot dictate to touring sides and what is so wrong with seeing all of the Indian party, rather than just eleven? Personally, I don't like watching friendly games in any sport as they're always like that, but we got senior action for some of our young talent, something that was worth its weight in gold.

We also got on good terms with the Indian cricket hierarchy and perhaps worked, thanks to Tom Poynton, with the local community more than ever before. The signing of Cheteshwar Pujara was a consequence of this  and I foresee great interest in him, especially if we can clinch a longer-term deal. Appearances at local businesses and restaurants could make it a real winner for the county, perhaps even more so than it already seems.

So too the signing of Shiv Thakor. That marks a real sea change for me, the first time that a young, hot property in the county game has opted for Derbyshire.  That there was substantial opposition is to be expected, but the player decided to come to us, having been impressed by Graeme Welch and Ant Botha.

Thakor is the real deal, as is the older, but street-savvy Wayne White. Add in the undoubted talents of Pujara and the side for next year starts to take an impressive-looking shape.Signing them all on full-time should excite even the most negative of fans.

I'm impressed and everyone should be. A five-minute chat with Graeme Welch at the end of that meeting convinced me of his passion to do well in this job and his enthusiasm is infectious. One has only to look at recent results to see that. Early season results were tough, but there was a lot going on that legislated against Welch and his team's attempts at building team spirit.

I'll certainly not be betting against him next year. A winter working on fitness and techniques should see this squad, given a modicum of luck, do much, much better.

In the words of an old TV show - the sky's the limit.

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day four

That was as close to the perfect day as you could wish for as a Derbyshire fan.

A day that opened with news of the signing of Shiv Thakor ended with a thoroughly convincing win over the side that has topped the table for most of the season. It was our third successive win, suggesting both that the season is ending too soon and that our coaching team have, after only eight months, started to get things the way they want them.

I've seen a lot of the team in recent weeks and have been impressed. The batting looks a little more settled - more later - while the bowling is a good combination of power and skill. Having the howitzer that is Mark Footitt to open is an asset, because time and again this year he has blown away the top order, then returned to do the same with the tail. Yet the contribution of Tony Palladino should not be overlooked, despite the majority of wickets falling to spin. Six maiden overs at the start of the innings set the tone and made it clear that this was going to be no picnic. Dino did his job beautifully and its importance cannot be underestimated.

It was nice to see Wes Durston (pictured) back in the wickets with a career-best 5-19 and the team's intensity, something that has increasingly impressed me of late, was too much for Worcestershire. I wish them luck for next season, as they seem sure to go up at this stage, but would be surprised if they made much impression on the top flight without Moeen Ali and Saeed Ajmal

Their batting was functional, rather than impressive and Hampshire look a better (more affluent?) bet to go up and make a good fist of things. In Daryl Mitchell they have a very good opener, but the rest of the batting blows hot and cold and unless they can find the money for investment in the side, or can re-engage Ajmal, I suspect a tough summer lies ahead for them next year.

Still, we played an excellent game and a team game. That we were able to set a challenging target on the last innings was down to Wayne Madsen. His 98 underpinned an innings that would otherwise have gone into free fall and highighted just how good a player he is. 154 runs in the match was an impressive effort from the skipper and he is a delight to watch.

Two more comments on the game - and it was good to see Chesney Hughes finish things off. It has been a tough old summer for him  and his batting in this game didn't suggest his travails are behind him, but the return of the left arm 'darts' brought quick reward and they have been missed in all forms of the game.

And finally the wicket. This was an outstanding track for four-day cricket and the fact that the game finished in the final session of the fourth day highlights that. Good players could make runs, but there was something for all the bowlers as the game progressed and that is exactly as it should be. Top marks to Neil Godrich and his team for that.

We're heading to Cardiff in good shape and will be accompanied by Mr Pujara - I am really looking forward to seeing how he gets on. As I drove north today, it crossed my mind that a middle order of Madsen, Pujara and Thakor would be seriously impressive, should we land the Indian batting genius, for 2015. Full of eastern promise, indeed.

It's coming together, my friends...

Derbyshire sign Thakor on two-year deal

The announcement this morning of the signing of Leicestershire's Shiv Thakor on a two-year deal may not seem massive for too many people, but be assured that it is, my friends.

At twenty, Thakor is one of the country's brightest talents and the quest for his signature on a contract was strong and competitive. There is much to like about the player, a batsman who already averages just under forty, as well as being able to bowl good overs and take wickets in all forms of the game.

His average is only seven an over in T20, the benchmark of a good player and it is telling that he moved because of his desire to work with Graeme Welch.

Equally telling is his interest in our signing Cheteshwar Pujara and the work done by Tom Poynton and the club among the local Indian community bears fruit once more.

A fantastic signing, not just for potential but for immediate results, because this lad can play.

More from me later. A long drive awaits...

But the cricket world will be impressed by this one - and you should be too.

I know I am. Good to see we'll still have a Shiv in our side...

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 3

I'm not sure if this is the day when we let Worcestershire off the hook, or if it is one in which they underlined the fighting qualities that will assert their championship credentials.

I had expectations - not as impressive as those of Charles Dickens - that we would get a first innings lead of some description, but the Worcestershire tail wagged with the alacrity of that of the world's happiest dog.

Perhaps we could have done better, but credit the batsmen and, to be fair, the runs being scored suggest that the wicket has not suddenly turned into a devil track, despite the early-game protestations that the bounce was erratic.

Top marks go to the remarkable Mr Footitt, who, in taking six wickets for the third time this summer, reached sixty wickets in what has been an outstanding season. At the same time he took his 150th wicket for the county and he deserves full recognition for his season's work and a level of fitness that must have seemed a pipe dream in his Nottinghamshire days

He now needs only four wickets to move ahead of Saeed Ajmal in the wicket-taking stakes.With three games to go after this one, that is highly likely to happen.

When our turn came to bat, Billy Godleman and Ben Slater reinforced their positive first innings impression and made fifties. Their dismissal should have been followed by those of Chesney Hughes and Wayne Madsen, both dropped at slip by Daryl Mitchell, at which point the game might have tipped towards the visitors.

It will be a fascinating final day with all three results possible. We should see the ambition of our visitors at the very least..a win comes close to sealing the title, a draw would keep them ahead of the pack. Early in the game they looked a little like us in 2012, approaching the finishing line but running out of steam almost too rapidly.

If they win this they would be worthy champions, but Derbyshire's players can be proud of running them close so far. For all we seemed to lose a little intensity today, it's been a good effort.

Off the pitch, news came today that Cheteshwar Pujara will indeed play against Glamorgan next week. Visa niceties complete, one of the world's best players of spin bowling will be available to bat on two wickets that usually offer it in abundance.

What's not to like?

Monday, 1 September 2014

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 2

It was another highly encouraging day for Derbyshire at the 3AAA County Ground today.

After Tony Palladino hit merrily in the first session, Mark Footitt made a characteristic early breakthrough with a caught and bowled from a leading edge. There followed a period of cricket that perhaps redefined the word 'attritional', with Mitchell and Fell batting with good technique and a fair share of luck.

That will increasingly be needed on a wicket that is showing signs of uneven bounce and any lead that we can grind out tomorrow will be invaluable on the final day. Once again there was little between the two sides and any neutral observer might well have thought that Derbyshire were the division's runaway leaders.

The afternoon session saw a fine spell from Alex Hughes, who looks to have added several yards of pace this summer. He should have had a couple of wickets, a dropped gulley catch by Billy Godleman helping the cause no more than the edge that flew between keeper and slip and should really have been Gareth Cross' ball.

Daryl Mitchell, an admirable opener, did sterling work for his side once more, but Footitt came back after tea with a spell of considerable pace that wrecked the innings. He and Wayne White bowled with excellent pace and control and the Worcestershire batsmen were hopping around as the erratic bounce made for an awkward time.

White was very impressive. There was a time when he bowled with good pace but also a tendency to a bad ball per over that cost his figures. Not today. He went for under two an over and deserved far more than the one wicket that he took. Joe Leach took a nasty clang on the helmet from a rising ball, while a concerted appeal for caught behind in the closing overs was so confident that it was almost in three-part harmony. The umpire ruled not out, though the gently shaken glove of the batsman suggested that a reply in the affirmative might have been closer to the truth...

Anyone wondering why we have re-engaged White, hopefully with a view to a longer stay, should have had their question well and truly answered today.

135 runs ahead, four wickets to take. This game could go either way but the first session tomorrow will be crucial. If we can get a lead in excess of fifty it will give us an excellent opportunity to force a win and the visitors will not fancy anything over 250 on the last day.

Good, confident, disciplined cricket. That's what we played today, the bowlers working as a unit to force the collapse despite a confident Worcestershire start. The season is ending too quickly, but the closing weeks have given plenty of cause for optimism.

In closing tonight, thanks to all those whose chat made today especially enjoyable. It was an absolute pleasure to talk to you and I hope to see you again at the end of the month for the season closer.

I can't wait...