Monday, 30 June 2014

Derbyshire v India preview

I really hope that the people of Derbyshire - especially the local Indian community - gets behind this game over the next few days.

The amount of work that has gone on, led by the injured Tom Poynton among the community, deserves to get an excellent response and in all honesty, who wouldn't want to take advantage of a rare opportunity to see some of the world's greatest players in the flesh? I'd have loved to see the giants of the east against some of Derbyshire's young guns, but work commitments have meant there is no chance of my getting away.

Nonetheless, I will be following the game closely over the next few days and hope that the Derbyshire side acquits itself well. After all, there are places to be had in the first team over the remainder of the summer and what better way is there to boost confidence than against one of the best teams in the world?

There's no news yet on the Indian side, but they will want to give their best batsmen and bowlers as much exposure to English wickets as they can before the Test series starts. Fine players as they are, few of them have major experience of English wickets, something that could be their undoing as the summer progresses. The bowlers will also need to bowl a different length to back home, but it would be silly to expect this to be beyond some fine bowlers. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is a very fine swing bowler, while Varun Aaron is a lively customer - certainly he appeared so in the IPL.

Much to look forward to then, although Derbyshire academy youngster George Sellers will no doubt enjoy the re-telling of his dismissal of Cheteshwar Pujara in the nets today, whatever else he accomplishes in a promising career. There's some good lads in that age group and it is in their continued development that our future prospects lie.

Graeme Welch has chosen a young squad for this game and the fourteen is as follows:

Paul Borrington,  Ben Slater, Wayne Madsen, Billy Godleman, Chesney Hughes, Wes Durston, Alex Hughes, Harvey Hosein, David Wainwright, Ben Cotton, Mark Turner, Matt Higginbottom,                    
Greg Cork, Rahib Ali.

How many of the youngsters play is a moot point and I think the first seven pretty much picks itself. I suspect that Hosein and Ali are along for the invaluable experience, with the other man to drop out between Higginbottom, Cotton and Cork. I'd quite like to see the latter given another go sometime soon, as he's a better cricketer than his bowling figures suggested yesterday. While his bowling isn't especially quick just now, as commented on by a couple of contributors below yesterday's post, he has plenty of time to fill out and add more pace. We should not overlook the effect of nerves on any young player making a first-class debut and if you throw in television cameras and his Dad's reputation, there was a lot for Greg Cork to cope with yesterday. He'll be back, though.

Much like Derbyshire, really.

Postscript - there's an excellent piece on Tom Poynton over on Cricinfo. Well worth a read...

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Durham v Derbyshire T20

Well, that was fairly horrible.

Thank goodness for Alex Hughes, the only batsman in our innings who showed a modicum of common sense on a tricky pitch. There were too many expansive shots on a tricky track and we were horribly outclassed in this game.

As was always likely to be the case, of course. That Durham side is very experienced and has some canny players in its ranks (not my attempt at speaking Geordie, for the record...). Phil Mustard is one of those match-winning players that Graeme Welch referred to as needing at Derbyshire. He quickly took any chance of an upset away with a brutal innings, being especially severe on Greg Cork, while England man Ben Stokes again highlighted his great talent.

Cork minor cannot have expected such a tough baptism, but he will learn that the margins of error in the senior game are much less than he has met so far. I liked his attitude and composure with the bat and he'll come back strong. Time is very much on his side.

On the basis of today I'm not especially looking forward to the next three months, but we must carry on regardless and hope that some of the team find their best form.

As I said last night, there's places in the squad for the future up for grabs.

Sadly, none of those with points to prove did much about it today.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Departures sad, but change little in the long term

Apologies for the lateness of the blog tonight, but I was working till 6.30pm and after dinner simply had to see the scorching set of Robert Plant's Sensational Shape Shifters at Glastonbury. I'm glad I did...

It's given me a little time to think what I wanted to say in this piece and, to start things off, I'll have to say that the departure of Stephen Moore surprised me only in that it happened mid-season, rather than at the end of this one. He is an intelligent man and was always going to want to start a career in business sooner, rather than later. He's had a very good career and can be proud of a first-class average in the mid-thirties. Perhaps his keenness to play shots cost him a few points on that, but it's hard to criticise a player who has given rich entertainment over a lengthy career.

Worcestershire saw the best of him, but there was enough left in the tank for him to become our leading run-scorer at the time of his retirement. It was a pleasure to watch his century against Hampshire earlier in the season, one that belied the idea that he was a spent force in longer-form cricket.

A fine player and lovely bloke, he will be missed, but his departure offers opportunity at the top of the order. Paul Borrington, Ben Slater, Chesney Hughes and Billy Godleman will all hope for a run to stake their medium-term claim for a place, all of them aware that their first-class careers depend on making the most of it. That all have talent is undeniable, but they now need to translate that into weight of runs and make the kind of positive impression that Alex Hughes has done.

Nor was Richard Johnson's departure much of a surprise, as various rumours had reached me from sufficient people to make it appear likely. He was a battling batsman and a good wicket-keeper, but I didn't think he was quite good enough at either discipline to displace Tom Poynton. Whatever the technical merits of a professional cricketer, perhaps the most crucial asset is a tough mental attitude. Without it, the challenges of individual performance in a team game must become insufferable, especially when everyone following the game tells you what you're doing wrong.

I wish Richard Johnson well in his future pursuits and I'm sure he will continue to prove himself a fine cricketer just outside the top level, while pursuing his degree.

Of the three, the one that most disappoints me is Peter Burgoyne. If I'm honest, I still entertain hopes that we've not seen the last of him in the county colours, but he needs time to sort a few things and the mutually reached decision to release him was the right one at this time.

It gives the player time to get better, perhaps to rediscover his love for the game and to produce some of his best form in the local leagues without the pressure that is on players at first-class level. Burgoyne can hit a clean ball and has excellent technique, while his off-spin, while needing some work, had plenty of potential. He is still a young man and it would be a surprise to see someone of such natural talent fail to realise that over the course of the next few years. At the end of the day, it will rightly be his choice on whether he wants to do so and that must be respected.

There's an odd article on Deep Extra Cover today that suggests, inadvertently or otherwise, that something is wrong at Derbyshire, but I'm inclined to regard it as sensational, perhaps lazy journalism. It would be silly to lay the blame of any of these departures at the club's door and the reality is that only that of Stephen Moore changes anything from where we were yesterday. I certainly had no expectation of seeing the others this summer.

Will we see new players? Not now, I think. Who are we going to sign mid-season, apart from second-team players? I'd prefer to see us hold fire and Graeme Welch have the maximum 'pot' for reinforcements during the winter. This group of players is good enough to finish mid-table in the championship, while another couple of wins in the T20 would build on last night.

Major surgery is needed. There is the nucleus of a side with Madsen, Elstone, Hughes, Poynton/Cross, Footitt, Wainwright and Palladino and opportunity for others to join them on the back of performances in the next three months. But we need three or four players of proven talent and few would deny that.

Matt, below my last post, suggests we might struggle to sign such players, but I'm not so sure. In my humble opinion, we will have saved good money with the departure of Moore and Groenewald, while I'd be surprised if we retained Shiv Chanderpaul, who will have been one of the county circuit's most expensive recruits. Then there's Burgoyne and Johnson, plus the salaries of any other players we opt to release.

No, I don't think money will be an issue, as long as we can identify players who buy into the club'svision. I'm also confident that the contacts of our current coaching set up will match anything we have had in the past and we could pick up people who would make an immediate and telling impact.

More on that in the coming months, but for now let's see another good display against Durham tomorrow and build a little momentum.

Moore, Burgoyne and Johnson depart county staff mid-season

News today that Stephen Moore, Peter Burgoyne and Richard Johnson are leaving Derbyshire with immediate effect.

Of the three, that of Moore was the greatest surprise, although his signing was always likely to be short-term, given his intention to move into a business career. The increasing demands of juggling the latter with his cricket and family commitments meant that something had to give. It was a no-brainer that it had to be the cricket, given his age and circumstances.

Neither Peter Burgoyne nor Richard Johnson have played much cricket this year because of anxiety issues and we must respect the decision by both of them to leave the first-class game.

More on this breaking news and a look at tomorrow's game with Durham later on, but for now I have a day's work to do.

See you this evening with my thoughts.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Derbyshire v Warwickshire T20

Praise be, we won one!

Chasing 9.5 an over, and losing Chesney Hughes to the first ball of our innings, I reckon there's few Derbyshire fans entertained thoughts of a win.

Yet we got them, with an over in hand and while there were some excellent contributions down the order, the crucial factor was the improved use of the Powerplay. In earlier games, we have made between thirty and forty in those first six overs. Tonight, we scored 68-2, largely thanks to a long-awaited return to form by Wes Durston (pictured).

No one doubts Wes can play and he's played enough memorable knocks over recent seasons to last long in the memory. The short form of the game has been his forte, but last year seemed to knock him back a little and this year he hasn't got going. Yet tonight he got away quickly with a four and a six, then seemed to find his latent mojo buried under the batting crease, as he smashed 53 from 21 balls and gave us the early impetus that we never lost.

Sometimes that's all you need. A couple of shots off the middle that help you remember how to bat, then the confidence comes back. I hope it does for Wes, because in form he is important to this Derbyshire side and we're better and more balanced as a result.

Wayne Madsen again played a lovely innings and has proven to all that he can play T20, while Alex Hughes again showed maturity in the quick burst of 24 from just ten balls, before Tony Palladino and David Wainwright saw us over the line.

Earlier, Derbyshire bowled steadily with only Matt Higginbottom taking real stick, although it paled to insignificance against that suffered by England bowler Boyd Rankin. Supposed international bowlers really shouldn't be going for seventeen an over from three and Derbyshire profited from some erratic stuff by the erstwhile England man. At which point it is only fair to credit greater discipline in our bowling, with only two leg-byes and three wides in the Warwickshire innings.

Yes, I know they call themselves the Birmingham Bears in this format, but I can't subscribe to such nonsense. They are a county side and as such their name should represent that. Put it another way, if we ever drop the 'shire' from our name, I will be at the front of the protest marches, even if the Sky commentators persist in calling us 'Derby' for reasons best known to themselves.

Finally tonight, deserved mention for a worthy and popular cricketer in Tony Palladino. Three overs for twenty in a total such as Warwickshire compiled was an excellent effort, while his cool head at the death with the bat was important.

It does make you wonder why he was never considered before this year. That's a plus point for 'Pop' Welch.

But not as big as that win tonight.

Sleep well, my friends...

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Indian game a delightful throwback

Those of a certain vintage, like me, will recall when the cricketers of India were a delightful ingredient of the English summer.

Farokh Engineer was the trailblazer, giving wonderful service to Lancashire as they became the standout one-day side of the 1970's. He was followed by the likes of Bishan Bedi, he of the wonderful, lissom action that is still a model for everyone, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and, for one summer only, the great Sachin Tendulkar at Yorkshire.

They were all wonderful players and Derbyshire, of course, did well from their Indian imports. First there was Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan, an off-spinner of guile and considerable talent, who would have been all the more valuable in a side that gave him something to bowl at. We rarely did and although his partnership with the less-exotically named Fred Swarbrook was hugely effective, we won relatively few matches in his time at the club.

Then came that wonderful stylist, Mohammad Azharuddin. If I was given half an hour to watch one Derbyshire batsman once more I would choose, after considerable thought, the former Indian captain. He was a batsman of such wonderful touch and timing and the extraordinary elasticity of his wrists made a mockery of line and length. Good length balls on off stump would be whipped through mid-wicket and when he was on his game there appeared no way a bowler could get him out until he got bored. While the word 'genius' is overused in professional sport, there is none more apposite for the Indian maestro.

Last came Mohammad Kaif, another player of delightful skill who had only a handful of games in our colours and didn't score the runs that his talent warranted. Yet those who saw him will recall a player with time to play his strokes and  plenty to choose from.

Next week's game against the Indian touring side is like a throwback. Not just because some of the greatest players in the world will be playing but because it represents an all-too-rare opportunity to see them in the flesh that is there only every four or five years. It is quite likely that, as an elder statesman of a young team, we may never get another opportunity to see Mahendra Singh Dhoni (pictured) on a Derbyshire cricket ground.

When I was a youngster, the playground chat in the summer revolved around who was coming to play us that weekend. It might have been Garfield Sobers, Mike Procter, Barry Richards, Clive Lloyd or a host of others. With cricket an occasional thing on television, we all wanted to see the players whose names adorned the sports pages and whose feats captured our imagination, like nothing before and very little since.

In this modern media-heavy era, you can see players all the time on Sky and can follow the Indian Premier League from afar, envying the huge crowds and the extraordinary atmosphere at matches. But you can't see the top Indian players in the flesh. The exclusivity of their IPL deals prevents them playing in twenty-over competitions elsewhere, while the vast  rewards on offer mean that they simply don't need to.

The likes of Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and, of course, MS Dhoni would grace our domestic game and put thousands on crowds, especially in places with large Indian communities. Who wouldn't want to see such players in the flesh? It is the cricket equivalent of a red carpet film premiere, choc-full of players we might dream of playing for us one day, but tinged with sadness at the realisation that they never will.

It is a game that deserves to do well and, although the tourists will want to make a positive impression, there's much to enjoy for the Derbyshire players, many of them young and eager to learn. The same goes for supporters, a number of who will cheer on their Indian heroes, while the club loyal will naturally root for our boys and hope for a positive impression.

It reminds me of the young Neville Cardus, ahead of a Test match between England and Australia, in something of a quandary ahead of his night time prayers. After giving the matter some thought, he came up with what he felt was a workable solution to a dilemma.

"Please, God" he prayed, "let's bowl out Australia for 150 tomorrow, But please let Victor Trumper get a hundred..."

We may see something similar next week. But with the galaxy of talent in this Indian side, the team tally may need to be raised to 450, just so we get to see them all...

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Kent v Derbyshire day 3

No Eddie Barlow Inspirational Performance then, but a battling effort by Alex Hughes and David Wainwright restored a degree of pride and at least made Kent bat again. It also meant that the pitch inspectors deemed the wicket 'below average' with no points deduction, leaving Kent relieved and aiming to take steps to make them better in future. So 'just below average' next, then...

The brave effort by two battling cricketers cannot mask the day two frailties of a Derbyshire performance that was well below the requisite standard and needs to improve dramatically if we're not to end our current arm-wrestle with Leicestershire for the wooden spoon in last place.

I was concerned about Wainwright's future a few weeks back, but he has been a standout in recent weeks. Similarly, Hughes has passed his personal best on several occasions this summer and I am quite confident that, with continued hard work, he will be a fixture in the Derbyshire side for many years to come.

As I said before the game, this was one we could have won and that we lost so heavily is worrying. Yet there's little we can do with regard to changing personnel this season. Ben Slater may be due a run at some point, but neither Wes nor Ches have gone to the seconds and forced their case with big scores. Billy Godleman is injured and has had little chance to do anything of late, so we go with what we have, unless Graeme Welch decides to use some of his 'Groeners Fund' with a loan move for a batsman.

I was reminded of that yesterday, when I read, with a smile, that Glamorgan's second team against us included Gareth Rees, Stewart Walters, Murray Goodwin and Darren Sammy. And we reckon we have senior men in the second eleven!

I'm not sure who may be available or worth a move, to be honest. If we were to go for someone, I'd prefer it to be a player who might become a full-timer in the future, like Groenewald has done with Somerset. It makes more sense that way, as a player playing two or three knocks for us then going back to his normal club seems somewhat pointless.

Anyway, I await your comments, as always, with interest.

As for our team, the quest for consistency - make it form, in a lot of cases - continues. At least there's still a little fight in there, which is a starting point.

Canterbury Tales - An Inspector Calls

Good literary references in the heading there, as news breaks today of a pitch panel being convened at the end of this game, also known as mid-afternoon today.

For all the brave protestations of Wayne Madsen in today's Derby Telegraph, there was not a hope of two of our batsmen making a hundred to change the game on wicket which was referred to as being 'like a fourth day track on day two'.

Such hope disappeared when the two batsmen most likely to do it - the skipper himself and Marcus North - were both back in the hutch during the first hour. It is, to be honest, the sort of wicket where you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Play your shots, get away with a few and then perish attempting something ambitious to be labelled irresponsible, or retreat into your shell, block it out for twenty overs, take no risk and eventually go, having made no substantial inroads to the deficit. Take your chances and play your own game would be my attitude, fortune sometimes favouring the brave.

If, again to use the skipper's words, there were chunks coming out of the wicket on the first day, then it is difficult to get away from the fact that the home side prepared a result track. Fair play, they're neither the first or last to do that and the end result was always going to be decided by a toss that they could have lost, but it's not doing the game any favours when good professionals, but unashamedly dibbly-dobbly bowlers, like Darren Stevens can just drop it on a length and wait for things to happen.

Cricket is about a fairly even battle between bat and ball and I am no more in favour of moribund Taunton-esque tracks as they once were, than of  wickets where games last not even three days when four are scheduled. It might add a few more points to the club's tally (at least until the pitch panel nick them again) but does little for the reputation of the club and the game.

Remember back in the days of Kim Barnett's captaincy? Teams used to turn up at Derby in the expectation of green wickets to start the game, but knew that they would settle down as the game progressed. The first morning saw the ball zip about, but those of a certain vintage, such as I, well recall Barnett leading from the front and blazing away in complete disregard to the conditions. The difference was also that runs could be made by those with the right technique and shots.

The games were great and well-balanced, the scores normally 200-275 per side and the results shared between home and away sides as the toss evened things up, but they produced cricket that was worth packing a picnic for. I'm not so sure a wicket that is bad on day one and then deteriorates badly by the second justifies the same statement, unless as a supporter you exist only to see your team win and would be happy seeing them smack a bowling machine around.

I'm not excusing Derbyshire's batting, which was insipid and distinctly average, but I won't go along with those who suggest that the side has no talent, because the records of most of those involved belies that. What I would say is that we're collectively lacking in confidence at present and there's no quick solution to that, unless Paul McKenna does cricket courses. The erudite comment of Martin Moseling, a Kent fan, below yesterday's piece is as always worth a read.

All the Derbyshire players can do is work and keep working. Sometimes a couple of good boundaries is all that's required to make you realise you can still bat; a brilliant catch lifts a team, as does a fine spell of bowling. I don't subscribe to the media obsession of building up and knocking down. The recent stupidity over Roy Hodgson being a case in point. After the first World Cup game he was a man to lead us from the dark ages into the promised land of adventurous football. After the second, most wanted him sacked, ignoring the fact that there wasn't a single worthwhile candidate to replace him.

It's the same with Derbyshire. Graeme Welch needs time, the players need an arm round their shoulder or a critical word, depending on what motivates them and we need to be patient, because, to quote the Hollies, the road is long, with many a winding turn...

We need one of those Eddie Barlow Inspirational Performances, that we give the award for each Autumn .

So, after this game is finished, one of those players has to step up to the mark and provide it, sometime soon.

But who?

Monday, 23 June 2014

Kent v Derbyshire day 2

An evening of cricket coaching tonight was blessed relief from another awful day for Derbyshire. After the encouragement of yesterday, our batting showed the resilience of a jelly on a hot summer's day. Notwithstanding the odd ball that misbehaved, it was a pitiful effort.

Maybe, when we're looking at players to sign in the close season, we should look at Darren Stevens, if only because whenever he plays against us he turns into Garfield Sobers. If he doesn't score runs he takes wickets and he must wish he could carry us around from ground to ground to play against.

I can't defend a limp display such as today and I won't try. If heads went down after a late Kent rally they really shouldn't have. We should have been capable of staying well in contention in this game, when the reality is that we will probably have lost it by lunch tomorrow.

That Kent chose to enforce the follow on, even with the wicket taking increasing amounts of spin speaks volumes. They clearly didn't expect to have to bat again and nor are they likely to do so. A decent, but no more than that, attack simply tore us apart.

There have been some dark days for supporters this summer, one that has turned into an annus horribilis if there ever was one, but this was the nadir for me. I'm not convinced we will score three hundred in an innings any time soon, let alone force another win in current form. Heck, if you offered me 250 in our next match I'd snatch your hand off.

Awful. Truly awful. 

I'd best leave it at that for now.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Kent v Derbyshire day 1

A wonderful spell of seam bowling in the finest Derbyshire traditions by Tony Palladino enabled us to shade the first day at Canterbury, despite a century for the precociously talented Daniel Bell-Drummond.

I don't suppose Kent will be too upset at topping 250, which keeps them very much in the game, but we need to dispose of the last two wickets quickly tomorrow and then bat for a long time. A dry surface suggests that batting last will be no picnic, but talented a prospect as Adam Riley is, he's no Saeed Ajmal and we really shouldn't be unduly fazed at this stage of his development.

I feared the worst when we lost the toss, but the seamers stuck to their task well and Palladino was quite superb. Mark Footitt said before the game that Tony had been bowling well with little luck, something that happens to all bowlers at one time or another. Today he got his reward at the end of the day, having spent most of a hot one bowling with commendable accuracy. Twenty-three overs for only 54 runs and five wickets is a wonderful effort and he deserves full credit for it.

Tom Taylor did well too, his early spell appearing to have been challenging and skilled. This run in the side will do him no harm at all and we will undoubtedly reap the rewards for it in the summers ahead. Meanwhile David Wainwright had a lengthy spell that kept the pressure on and Derbyshire's attack can be proud of their efforts today.

So too can Wayne Madsen, whose decision to hold fire on the new ball until his seamers could give it a twelve-over blast at the end of the day was shrewd captaincy. Like all skippers, he will make mistakes and like the better ones he will learn from them. We can ask no more than that.

In conclusion, it is nice to report on a good day for the team and I hope I can say the same this time tomorrow.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

League watch - Knight spectacular blitzes Chesterfield

Another day, another special innings from Tom Knight today, as he put Chesterfield to the sword with a century from just 62 balls, as Swarkestone piled up a massive 319-6 in 50 overs.

Knight hit seven sixes and seven fours in his assault and was ably assisted by Wayne White, who hit 90 from 97 balls. It was always likely to be a tough chase for the visitors, who subsided to 174 all out, only Ben Slater with 85 making a substantial contribution. Former Derbyshire star Ross Whiteley endured a miserable match, his twelve overs going for 113 runs, while he scored only eight when he batted.

I feel for Wayne White, who had matured into a very good county cricketer at Leicestershire and has seen his career go nowhere in the first two years of a three-year deal at Lancashire. At his age he needs to be playing county cricket and aside from the money, the deal with the red rose county county has been a poor one for him. I still feel he could be a good signing for us if they were prepared to release him and he would give us good balance in the middle order.

There were three wickets for Wes Durston as Spondon beat a weakened Ticknall side, though his batting struggles continued with a first ball duck. I hope that Wes, a cricketer of considerable talent, rediscovers his form in the next couple of months as we could use him at his best. The blistering form of 2012 seems a long way off just now though.

More from me tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of your evening and let's hope for an improved performance by the county side at Canterbury.

Kent v Derbyshire preview

An unchanged Derbyshire side heads to Canterbury from the defeat against Surrey at the County Ground, something that cannot come as a surprise.

The batting picks itself at present. With Billy Godleman and Wes Durston injured, neither Ben Slater nor Chesney Hughes have scored the weight of runs required at second team level to force a way in. Both have had a succession of starts, yet thirties and sixties don't convince many people that you're in the nick to contribute heavily at senior level.

So we go as we are and I'd love to see us bat as a unit for the first time in a while. I look at Yorkshire, as an example and their middle order are coming in at 170-2 or similar, which makes getting a start an awful lot easier against an old ball and bowlers starting to tire. Even when we've had a start, the middle order implodes and we need to see a concerted effort down the order. A first innings score of three hundred gives you something to bowl at. Under two hundred leaves you with nowhere to go...

Kent's side has yet to be announced and they come into the game off a mauling from Glamorgan. They have good players, but are beatable if we play to potential. Then again, so have most of our opposition this season and we've fallen down on most occasions.

Much as I love the cricket season, part of me would love to fast forward to September and allow the rebuilding to start. My ambitions for the remainder of this campaign have changed and are now to avoid the wooden spoon in the championship and see some of our young seam bowlers respond to their undoubted opportunities over the next three months. That's a long way to fall to what I predicted pre-season, but too many players have fallen below the standards required and one can only assume that they are not as good as we thought, or hoped, they were.

I have no doubt that we will get good value from Wayne Madsen and Stephen Moore. Likewise Mark Footitt and Tony Palladino will do their stuff with the ball, especially in the county championship. David Wainwright's resurgence in form is timely, while Gareth Cross' innings last night may give him the confidence to show his best batting form on a regular basis.

What we now need is the younger brigade - Elstone, Hughes and Borrington - to cement their undoubted talent with a big innings or two that confirms it. Batting positions in next year's team are very much up for grabs and each now has the opportunity to stake a claim.

Tom Taylor has another chance to experience senior cricket and has an idea now of what is required, both from a fitness and technique perspective. He's not been found wanting, but will know what is needed to become a professional now. Matt Higginbottom's second team performances last week must have seen him close to a recall and there are others knocking on the door.

I look forward to seeing which ones have the courage and skill to open it.

No news yet on the Kent side, but this has the potential for a good game of cricket - and is one that in our best form we can win.

Postscript - thanks to Sam in Perth (the Australian, not Scottish one) for sending me a link to a piece that you should enjoy, over on Cricinfo. Russell Jackson is an excellent writer and another of the many distant Derbyshire fans out there. Like Sam, of course...


Friday, 20 June 2014

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire T20

I didn't preview this game for two reasons. The main one was that I had no time last night, attending the school prize-giving at which our daughter won a couple of prizes, including the award for the school's outstanding student of English. Naturally we are very proud of our lovely girl!

To be honest, there seemed little point either, as we were always going to lose this game. That's not defeatism, just realism after a T20 campaign that has been truly horrid. Nonetheless, we learned a few things tonight and I just hope that they are written in three-inch high capital letters in the coach's notes.

One is that we may as well bowl youngsters in the remaining games. Mark Footitt is an excellent four-day bowler, but he got slaughtered tonight and three overs for fifty in any form of cricket would make a bowler wince. We can't afford to lose him for the championship, so give him a break, along with Tony Palladino, please...

Mark Turner did OK and had the best economy of the seam bowlers, though the puzzle is again why Marcus North bowled only two overs for fourteen. Unless he picked up an injury, I don't understand that.

When we batted there was an encouraging innings from Gaz Cross, who is a better player than his batting returns have thus far shown. His problem, I think, is that he will have done little work in the close season, presumably not expecting his first-class career to be prolonged. While other players had a couple of months at least in the nets and more in the gym, Cross will have been playing catch-up. He won't have been unfit, but getting the technique back together takes a little time each year and Cross had to hit the ground running, never an easy thing to do. I'm pleased for him tonight, and his stand with Wayne Madsen gave Nottinghamshire a few scares.

As a stand of 103 in less than nine overs would do to any side, of course, though again it posed the question as to why such an excellent batsman as the skipper is kept back to the ninth over to make an entrance. Over his last two innings, Madsen has shown he has 'sussed' T20 batting and in each has scored around the 180 runs per hundred balls mark. That is Gayle/Pollard/Maxwell territory and most impressive, but why wait till the deep fielders are in place to bat?

We wouldn't have won that game anyway, as we just don't chase ten an over, but the bold approach of those two players at least sent supporters home with something to cheer.

Next is a trip to Kent and a game that is winnable, if we adopt the right, positive approach and work as a team.

I'll preview that tomorrow, which promises to be another busy day - our son's birthday.

Life's not dull, chez Peakfan...

Encouraging off field news as Groenewald departs

So it is adieu to Tim Groenewald, as he heads to Taunton and a new career in the west country for the remainder of this summer and the three to follow. A top-earning player such as him was always going to be going to one of four counties and Somerset is a good fit. There's a small number who could offer the financial security that he sought and good luck to a top man and good cricketer. I wish him well.

He is and has been an admirable player but after the last couple of weeks I am pleased to see him make the move.The longer he stayed around, the more calls for his return there would have been, despite Graeme Welch making it clear that he was going with youth from now on. Welch will now have the chance to introduce young players without people sniping about 'absent friends' and, while I don't expect us to tear up trees in the remainder of the season, I hope to see potential in performances from young players who will be our lifeblood in the future.

There's more encouraging news off the field, with the introduction of an injury update section to the club website being an excellent idea. The club's communications have improved remarkably over the past few seasons and anything that increases transparency gets my vote. The conspiracy theories in some quarters over the absence of Jonathan Clare, for example, have been silly.

If he was fit, do people really think he wouldn't get a game? The reality is that he hasn't been fit - at least to bowl - for a long time and I hope that someone can get to the root of the problem. If they can't, I genuinely fear for the long-term career of a player who has great natural talent but has not enjoyed the best of luck with fitness in recent seasons.

Finally, it is great to read of the creation of a physical exhibition and online archive by the club, thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. In looking forward to the future, it is important to celebrate  the past and Derbyshire has much to look back on with pride. My background in libraries and archives was always going to make this an easy thing to appreciate and I hope that people get behind it.

If I can help in any way, I'd certainly be delighted to do so.

It deserves to do well.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Midweek musings

The denouement of today's game was swift and as expected, with Derbyshire's players back in the middle for practice after a lengthy debriefing.

It is disappointing to be so comprehensively beaten, but the team battled and we cannot ask for more at this stage in its development. As things stand, I think that we have around half a dozen players around who you can build a team, lots of potential among the younger brigade and much work for Graeme Welch and his staff in the next few months.

I can see both sides of the Groenewald issue. He's been a good servant and is a good player, but if Welch feels that long term he has better bowlers on the staff, then we as supporters must respect that. He and his team are better qualified than any of us to make that judgement and, ultimately, they will stand or fall on the decisions that they make. In three years time, the decision to release him will either be seen as a Nostradamus-like piece of foresight or a terrible mistake.

As I have pointed out before, however, a club with a finite budget cannot continue to apportion large chunks of it to two or three players when they need to carry a staff of, I'd guess, around eighteen as a minimum. As captain, star batsman, club figurehead and ambassador, Wayne Madsen is worth whatever we pay him. Mark Footitt has thoroughly justified his new deal and, with 34 wickets at just 19, is one of the most effective bowlers in the country. Both justify their deals, without question.

I have massive respect for Groenewald, as anyone who has read this blog over the past five years will realise. But there's a limit to what we can justify paying him, or any player, unless the statistics produced make an undeniable argument. Tim has sixteen wickets at 29 this summer and the reality is that there's a lot of seam bowlers around the country, many of them less well known, with better statistics.

What if, in and end of season restructure, Welch picked up one of them? I don't blame Groenewald, or more specifically his agent, for looking for the best deal possible, but they will be well aware that the greatest bargaining tools for any sportsman are statistics. It is the same for all of them. Name your salary if you can score twenty goals a season, take seventy-five wickets or score a hundred off fifty balls in T20. They need to be good, though and I'm not convinced that Groenewald's this summer are that special.

That he is among the best three seam bowlers on the current Derbyshire staff is undeniable. Yet the crux of the issue is whether, even right now, Graeme Welch has someone lined up for next summer who is better. Someone whose own salary would be similar to that of the departing player, but who offers better statistics, or potential.for them over a prolonged period. Someone who we could only afford if we make a tough call to release a fine player in favour of someone who could be even better.

I got an email yesterday from someone who 'despaired' at the lack of quality players in the Derbyshire squad, something I disagree with. I think Madsen, Moore, Elstone, Alex Hughes, Wainwright and Palladino are all players of quality. There are several others among the younger ranks who could join them as good county cricketers. Then there are more - too many, I'm afraid -  who I fear are not quite up to the requisite standard or have declined in either form or fitness to such an extent that their professional cricket careers are in doubt - at least to me.

That's an honest appraisal. The role of overseas player thus becomes of paramount importance for our club and Paul asked me my opinion on the role yesterday, so here goes with another one.

Next year we need a player who will 'do a Guptill', as it's asking a lot for someone to 'do a Barlow' with the world game as it is. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to have seen Shivnarine Chanderpaul in Derbyshire colours, but think that the essentially attritional nature of his game is perhaps at odds with our needs. There's a middle ground, of course and nor do we need someone who approaches every innings like the last five overs of a T20, but I think we can learn from a few signings elsewhere this summer.

 With 35 wickets at 16, Kyle Abbott has been a stand out for Hampshire. Mitch Hogan has 30 at 15 for Glamorgan. Steve Magoffin has 37 at 18 for Sussex. All are good bowlers, none of them in a bracket I would expect to be massively expensive.

The best pound for pound overseas player in county cricket in the past few summers has been Jeetan Patel at Warwickshire. No question about it. He scores runs and takes wickets, this summer averaging 28 with the bat to go with 28 wickets at 26. He'll not be costing them serious money and, I'd hazard a guess, much less than we are paying for Chanderpaul. Shiv has been a long way from a failure, but the colossal scores of his prime haven't been there and we have needed them. Given that players of his stature in the game don't come cheap, I'm unconvinced we have had true value for money, even factoring in the experience of batting and working with him.

For me, a steady, consistent, dependable and sometimes dynamic overseas player is a must, preferably one who can commit to a full season. There is an argument for retaining the services of Marcus North, a player who would be available all summer, but again, only if the stats and cost matched up to a convincing argument.

I've got a few ideas, but they're for further down the line.

More importantly, I think Graeme Welch has more than a few of his own.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Derbyshire v Surrey day 3

Derbyshire 153 and 288 (Wainwright 56 not, Elstone 47, Borrington 38); Surrey 421

Surrey need 21 to win

There's not much to say tonight and little time to do so because of extensive family commitments.

Suffice to say that while a number of batsmen got their heads down and battled today, no one built on their hard work and made the big score that was needed if we were to give Surrey a tricky final day.

We needed to score 400-plus to do that and at the moment the likelihood of our doing that is slim. The spirit and the will is there, but the side lacks a form player who would make a difference. Realistically, one from Moore, Madsen and North needed to make a score and none did. All made starts and will be disappointed not to have built on them.

Fair play to David Wainwright, who is in fine nick, as well as to Scott Elstone and Paul Borrington, who got their heads down and made the visitors fight. Sadly, it was not enough.

More from me tomorrow.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Derbyshire v Surrey day two

Derbyshire 153; Surrey 392-8 (Ansari 105, Davies 124, Footitt 3-55)

I don't think there's any doubt that we are going to lose this game, but I hope that we show enough fight tomorrow to at least take the game into the fourth day.

We have been outplayed in this one, although there are a few bright spots from today's play. Mark Footitt bowled a tight spell and again took wickets, while Scott Elstone showed himself to have something of a golden arm. Meanwhile Tom Taylor duly took his first wicket in the senior game, and lo, as prophesied in the Peakfan Blog last night, 'twas that of Hasim Amla, one of the world's greatest batsmen.

Taylor got some stick afterwards, but a lad making his way in the game must expect that and come back again. more aware of what is required to make the grade. Surrey will probably make 400 tomorrow and then crowd the bat in the hope of an innings win.

Rain seems an unlikely saviour and nor should it really do so.  Our first innings was a mess yesterday and it is difficult to win any game when your first innings puts you behind the eight ball, as ours did.

The game is gone, but there's at least an opportunity to salvage a little respect on a wicket that has been proven to offer batsmen runs if they are prepared to graft.

I hope we see that tomorrow.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Derbyshire v Surrey day 1

 Derbyshire 153 all out (North 44, Cross 27) Surrey 44-1 (Amla 25 not out)

There's not a great deal to be said  about today at the County Ground.

Having been slated in some quarters for bowling in previous games, Derbyshire opted to bat first on a track that proved lively and 'sporting' on day one. Only Paul Borrington and Marcus North batted for any length of time and their dismissals saw a slide to a total that was some way short of adequate.

Surrey struggled in turn, although Hasim Amla was apparently the best batsman on show, according to a trusted watcher who contacted me late in the day. It would have been a pretty good day to bowl, so the decision to bat is a puzzler. The odd ball lifted nastily, some kept low and there was enough movement to keep the bowlers interested.

I assume the game plan was to get a decent score in the first dig and then capitalise as the wicket deteriorates later in the match. For that to happen, we need a remarkable morning tomorrow, as Surrey could conceivably have first innings lead by then.

Tom Curran, son of the late Zimbabwean all-rounder Kevin, had the best day of his fledgling first-class career and blew us away by bowling straight. Many a good Derbyshire seamer of yesteryear would have fancied such a wicket and I've little doubt that Mark Footitt, Tony Palladino and Tom Taylor would too.

Not impressive then and much work to do.

Postscript: I was working outside in the garden today, when a sudden 'newsflash' hit me that Tom Taylor's first wicket in senior cricket was Hasim Amla. A portent of things to come?

I hope so - and early tomorrow would be very much appreciated...

Update:  I understand that both captains intended to bat if they won the toss today. Both felt that the wicket would settle down after the first hour and the sun would come out. It can therefore be safely said that it was a very good toss to lose for Surrey.

Given that both sides also expect it to turn as the game progresses, we really need a big first session tomorrow.

And we now know why that decision was made this morning.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Derbyshire v Surrey - championship preview

There's been a different Derbyshire on view in the past week, one that scraps as a team, rather than relying on the contribution of specific individuals. Such efforts have been successful in our better teams of yore and will undoubtedly be in the future.

Graeme Welch has, somewhat unsurprisingly, made no change to the side that won with some comfort against Leicestershire. There would have been a recall for Tim Groenewald in his mind, but his comments after the announcement of his departure suggest that youth will get its chance in the remainder of the season, so Tom Taylor keeps his place.

Our visitors tomorrow have a strong squad with plenty of international experience, headed by the new South African captain Hashim Amla. With Vikram Solanki, Jade Dernbach, Steven Davies and Chris Tremlett also in the squad, they will provide a sterner test and we will need to be at our best against them.

I think the toss will be important and it would be good to see Wayne Madsen's success in the T20 coin tossing continued tomorrow. We are undoubtedly a good enough side to take a win from this game, but the onus is on the players to show that the result last week was a turning point and not just a one-off.

There's a good four-day forecast ahead which gives every chance of a positive result.

Let's hope that we're on the right end of it.

Postscript: closing on my piece last night, a comparator. My works cricket team has three 'proper' cricket players and lots of keen beginners. So our games work, one of us opens, one scores and one umpires when we are batting. This ensures we might score runs, record an accurate total and make the correct decisions.

It's the only legitimate reason I can think of to not have your best players at the top of the order.

I rest my case...

Friday, 13 June 2014

Derbyshire v Worcestershire T20

Worcestershire 177-5: Derbyshire 169-8 (Madsen 65, North 38, Moore 32)

Worcestershire won by eight runs

There was a much improved and in many ways encouraging performance by Derbyshire against the section-toppers, Worcestershire, tonight.

Yet ultimately we went down by eight runs and one cannot help but feel that it was partly self-inflicted.

I just don't understand why we leave Marcus North until the twelfth over to make his entrance. I suppose the rationale is that he's a clean hitter and quick scorer, thereby giving us a good chance of making a decent fist of the last few overs.

Yet for me, he could make an even better job of the first six in the company of Stephen Moore, able to reach the boundaries when the opposition have to keep the majority of the field in. We were improved in that area tonight, largely thanks to Moore, and outscored our opponents, but we can do better.

North opening, Elstone at three and the skipper at four. I know Cross has 'previous' as a pinch hitter at Lancashire, but his batting form hasn't come with him thus far and he could and should be utilised down the order. Having advocated the use of Knight up the order, I'd be inclined to leave things for now and put him in lower, as the lad's not being given a fair chance. If he's batting eight for the second team and six for his club side, putting him in at three for the first team, rightly or wrongly, smacks of desperation.

I well recall the 1969 Gillette Cup Final, when we got behind the clock in chasing a Yorkshire total that by modern standards was only moderate. Out came Alan Ward, promoted up the order to give it the long handle. It didn't work, as sagely predicted by my Dad as we watched events unfold.

"This one's gone, lad. They've panicked" he said and he was right. Knight is a much better batsman than Ward and is starting to prove it, but this move does him no favours without the appropriate back up at lower levels. I hope it is carefully looked at.

There was a top innings from the skipper tonight, which looked like carrying us home for a while. The rotation of bowlers was better too, but Ajmal bowled two very tight overs that cost us in the end.

It was better and I'm pleased to say that, but we're very much a work in progress at this stage.

Postscript: Thanks to Martin for the suggestion of potted scores at the end of a day's play. For those on holiday abroad this summer, it may just save you a lot of money in data charges and I'm glad to help out and save you looking elsewhere...

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Derbyshire v Worcestershire T20 preview

Were I to be granted a listen to Graeme Welch's ipod, I reckon there would be a couple of old classics on there at the moment.

Changes by David Bowie and The Young Ones by good old Cliff Richard might be getting air on rotation, by the look of the squad that has been chosen for tomorrow night's game against Worcestershire Rapids, a name that sounds more at home in US soccer circles or something similar.

There may be a senior debut for Greg Cork and a start for Matt Higginbottom as Graeme Welch rings the changes for tomorrow's game. Mark Footitt, so crucial to our hopes of climbing the table in the County Championship, is rested, along with David Wainwright, while Tim Groenewald also sits it out. From those named, I'd be inclined to omit Mark Turner and see how the youngsters get on, though Higginbottom could miss out if the coach opts for a more experienced man. For what it is worth, this would be my batting order:

Stephen Moore                                            
Marcus North                                           
Scott Elstone                                              
Tom Knight
Wayne Madsen
Alex Hughes
Wes Durston
Gareth Cross                                                 
Tony Palladino                                
Greg Cork
Matt Higginbottom/Mark Turner   

Knight's place in the order should be fluid, but we'd have a chance to score quickly in the Power play with this line up. North is probably the best batsman (at least in this format) and you really want such a player to have the most available time to bat. He opened with great success in the past winter so it wouldn't be a major change for him, while there's plenty of batting lower down to repair things if it went awry, with Durston, Cross and Palladino around with experience at the death.

Cork will get a chance to show his all-round talents in good time and will doubtless rise higher in the order as his career progresses, but it would make for an interesting evening seeing how a young bowling attack cope with a strong Worcestershire side.

Saeed Ajmal is the obvious threat in the attack, but with big-hitting Kiwi Colin Munro as second overseas player in a batting line-up that contains former County Ground favourite Ross Whiteley, we will undoubtedly start as underdogs.

Their squad:

 Daryl Mitchell, Richard Oliver, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Colin Munro, Alexei Kervezee, Ross Whiteley, Ben Cox, Brett D'Oliveira, Jack Shantry, Saeed Ajmal, Chris Russell and Gareth Andrew.

I'd love to predict a home win to follow on from the win at Leicestershire, but it will need a special performance from someone, or better still a collective of positive performances, to steal this one from a good one-day side. 

More tomorrow.


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 4

"A colony of monkeys was seen in the outfield at Grace Road this evening. They are believed to have been released from the backs of Derbyshire players, following their victory stroll against Leicestershire today..."

So might have gone a news story this afternoon, as Derbyshire made light of what could have been a tricky run chase against Leicestershire. I've been around for long enough to know that we can make a mess of such chases and end up 188-8 if we're lucky, or 160 all out if we're not.

188-1 marked a conclusive win, the sort that is more often the preserve of other sides. It was the first win of the summer  - but you knew that - and may yet serve as a catalyst for the remainder of it.

It wasn't against an especially strong side and the attack today was not one that should ordinarily have caused alarms, but you can only play against what's in front of you and the finish was both polished and professional. Stephen Moore gave impetus to the chase and did what he was signed for, while it was nice to see Wayne Madsen in at the end and able to hit the winning runs.

This has been a difficult couple of months for the Derbyshire skipper and he will be delighted to get up and running at last. His captaincy throughout the game was shrewd and I especially liked the way that he handled Tom Taylor on his debut. Giving him overs just before intervals and the last over of the day offered him a little more protection and the youngster will have been grateful for such supportive captaincy. Yet perhaps most important of all, the final day was a triumph for Paul Borrington (pictured) who made an excellent unbeaten 86. 

It's a big year for Bozz and long-time readers will know how I admire his technique and his 'stickability' when things are rough. His team mates do too and he ends this game with an average only just south of forty and the prospect of forming a very good partnership with Stephen Moore.

The two have shared several decent stands so far and are a pairing of contrasts. Moore is flamboyant and always willing to take on the short ball at any stage of his innings. Borrington is more circumspect and likes to get his hands, eyes and feet moving before assaying anything too ambitious. Yet he has all the shots and, as one of his team mates told me last season, he works the ball into gaps and rotates the strike as well as anyone.

We're off the bottom of the table and have done so with a degree of elan not often associated with Derbyshire sides. Our left-arm spinner will have gone home tonight with the satisfaction of a job well done and with the confidence of a modern day Wilfred Rhodes, an all-rounder par excellence. Mark Foottitt reaffirmed his talent as an excellent topper and tailer of an innings, while Tony Palladino lent excellent and tireless support.

It was a team effort in which everyone contributed and can be proud of that contribution. Tom Taylor will sleep well after a debut that heralded a bright future, while Alex Hughes and Scott Elstone did their bit in the middle order, with both bat and ball. Indeed, Hughes' first innings knock was the knock that started to turn the game.

Most of all tonight, I am pleased for Graeme Welch. I have no doubt that when he planned this season he had his first win in his mind before now. But he can enjoy this one and plan for Friday with the rest of his coaching staff.

We've not become world-beaters by winning this, but we weren't the worst team in the world beforehand either. We just needed the breaks and we got them here.

The season has started and I hope we can get on a roll against Worcestershire on Friday.

Nice work lads. You deserved that one.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 3

Its a funny thing, confidence.

After scoring his maiden century for Derbyshire today, following two for Yorkshire, David Wainwright must have felt ten feet tall and gone out to bowl feeling he was Bishan Bedi.

We've all been there. Take a few wickets and your bat feels like Excalibur; bat well and your bowling possesses devilment beyond its normal compass. It's funny, but true and Wainwright capitalised today by becoming only the third man since 1937 to take five wickets and score a century in a match.

The other two, for the record, were one Graeme Welch and Jonathan Clare, the latter sadly some way from such triumphs at present. Back in 1937, we were somewhat spoilt and had both Les Townsend and George Pope manage the feat, indicative of the quality of those two outstanding all-rounders.

Top marks to Tom Taylor for a terrific supporting knock again today, though he looks like having to wait for his first wicket. Scott Elstone took another couple of wickets to reinforce his growing reputation, but things could have been so much better had we not again missed decent chances in the field. It is frustrating, to say the least and I hope our profligacy in these areas doesn't come back to bite us tomorrow.

We look like chasing under 200 to win. I'd have been much happier had it been around 150, but with all day to get them and the opposition not having the most demanding of attacks, we should be asking serious questions if we don't get there. I just hope we go out with a positive but sensible intent, rather than trying to grind them out, which is when we often get into trouble. With Alex Wyatt batting with a runner tonight, it would appear he is unlikely to bowl, which leaves them struggling a little.

Sincere congratulations to David Wainwright tonight. He's had a rough old summer so far but might just have bowled us to the verge of a first win of the campaign and reaffirmed his talent into the bargain.

Though I'm not going anywhere near those chickens for a roll call at this stage...

Monday, 9 June 2014

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 2

There's an absorbing old game going on at Grace Road, where Derbyshire closed the second day 32 runs behind with two first innings wickets in hand.

That we recovered from 115-6, still  47 short of the follow on, to 279-8 was down to a Derbyshire-best unbeaten 83 from David Wainwright (pictured), together with a gritty personal best 60 from Alex Hughes. As the closing overs of the day were played out, 19-year old Tom Taylor showed he knows how to handle a willow with an unbeaten 20 that enabled us to get close to parity.

The early batting was sketchy, but what reports refer to as 'extravagant movement' was a major factor. Yet Alex Hughes lends an air of solidity to a Derbyshire innings, even this early in a county career and it was good to see David Wainwright following his bowling of yesterday with an innings of considerable substance. It showed him as a cricketer of mettle and I respect a player who, even if not in prime form, will battle for the cause.

This could go either way and the first session tomorrow is likely to be pivotal. We're unlikely to want to chase much more than 250-275 in the final innings, so the new ball will take on massive significance.

Game very much on and we'll see which side is most 'up' for the battle tomorrow.

Off the field, the big news was the announcement by Chris Grant that Graeme Welch will have 'significant' funds available for strengthening the side in the close season. We're also going to be concentrating recruitment on proven match-winners, augmenting their input with young, locally-produced players.

It is a laudable statement and one that marks a major shift for the county. For a long time we have existed and recruited from the offcuts of county retained lists, sometimes with greater success than others. If we are to genuinely compete AND sign people who are in demand elsewhere, it will be a major change and success for us.

Cynics will undoubtedly suggest that it is a similar statement to that of the 'landmark signing' promised by Chris Grant when he first took up his role. It was a comment made with a degree of naivety, unaware as he was at that time of the congested fixture calendar and the difficulty of convincing top quality players to spend a summer in England, instead of the IPL.

Yet Grant is more experienced and wiser now. He knows how it works and importantly has an extensive network of coaches and contacts to draw upon. He also has the experience of Geoff Miller to call on and it would be a brave man who would bet against him delivering.

After all, despite the challenges, we still signed Chanderpaul...

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 1

A day that began with the news of Tim Groenewald's departure started well for Derbyshire on the field, with three men back in the pavilion inside the first thirteen balls of the game. The home side then fought back well and ended their first innings 311 all out, thanks to a solid middle-order effort, before we closed on 12-0 in nine overs of batting before the close.

Mark Footitt (pictured) has enjoyed an excellent championship season so far and his 6-65 was the second best analysis of his career. He is fast, fit and in form and now has 27 wickets at under 20, just reward for being in the physical shape of his life. One lightning lifter struck Niall O'Brien on the helmet, but the Irish wicket-keeper is a doughty battler and produced the innings of the day after a lengthy stoppage.

Footitt did well and was supported nicely by Tony Palladino, who is recovering his best form. Tom Taylor was wicket-less on debut, but will benefit from the exposure and from playing alongside a better class of player. There were tidy spells from Marcus North and Scott Elstone too, the latter suffering from a dropped chance at slip that might otherwise have continued the positive all-round impression that he has made in his early appearances.

More worrying was the form of David Wainwright, whose fourteen overs went for 63 runs. If conditions don't favour your spinners, you really want them to keep things tight as North (nine overs for 16) and Elstone (seven for 22) duly did. As the front-line spinner, Wainers will have hoped for a better return and will aim for improvement in the second innings.

Between times it is over to the Derbyshire batsmen and the openers did what was needed in the closing overs. Tomorrow they need to give us the sound foundations of an innings that will put us in the ascendancy. With no Nathan Buck or Charlie Shreck to contend with, there will be few better opportunities for the Derbyshire batsmen to get in and make a score.

In closing tonight, a final word on the departure of Tim Groenewald, in response to a few comments and mails already received.

I don't have any issue with Groenewald wanting to leave. Cricketers have only one career and if he has found someone who will pay him far more than we are able to do and offers him greater potential of trophies, then good luck to the guy.

Yet we have a finite budget and besides doing the right thing by him, Graeme Welch and Chris Grant need to consider the impact of any salary increase on the rest of the squad. If the player's agent wanted an extra £10-20K a year for him to stay at Derbyshire (and I stress I have no idea of the amounts involved), how does that impact on the salaries of other senior, deserving and contributing players?

Tim Groenewald has been an important player for Derbyshire, but then so have Wayne Madsen, Tony Palladino, Mark Footitt and Stephen Moore. Each and every player has a value and, perhaps more importantly, an affordability figure which we simply cannot go past. With a limited playing budget, we cannot pay six players £80K a summer, as we'd only have the money for a squad of twelve or thirteen people.

Would I prefer Groenewald to stay? Yes, of course. Am I sad he is leaving? Likewise. But as a senior player presumably already on a senior salary, we have to trust our management team that the demands from his agent for a new deal were excessive. They have made the call that the money could be more beneficially spent on team strengthening in other areas, especially when young seamers of talent appear our biggest asset right now.

I'm a realist. A team that hasn't yet won a match this summer needs obvious strengthening and I have no doubt that Graeme Welch has plans at this stage as to how he might do that. I'm more than happy to wait and see how that shapes up, rather than start an unnecessary hare around the park and start moaning about lack of ambition. Such comments in some quarters are an insult to Welch and his coaching staff, as well as to the chairman and chief executive, who want nothing more than a successful Derbyshire side and continue to work tirelessly to get one.

In sport and in life, sometimes tough decisions have to be made.

And today Derbyshire just announced one.

Groenewald to leave and youth to get opportunity

Today's breaking news that Tim Groenewald is set to leave the county is sad, but will, I think, be seen as the day when the Welch revolution started moving through the gears at the County Ground.

I like Groenewald as a cricketer and he has been an excellent servant to Derbyshire. Then again, the club has been good to him and had it not been for the opportunities offered with the new ball when he left Warwickshire, his career could have taken a completely different route.

One thing is for sure, we will miss a player who has always given one hundred per cent and who has proved the most robust of seamers. Look back over his time at the club and there are few periods where he missed matches. Whether one-day or four-day cricket, Timmy G has run in to bowl and done so consistently.

He has not been quite so effective in the T20 this year and with a current rate of ten runs an over against him is not enjoying the best of campaigns, but he will be remembered as a very good seam bowler and an excellent club man. He is also a thoroughly nice guy and I am sure that Derbyshire fans will wish him well, wherever he ends up.

That Derbyshire waived their right to the player serving 28 days notice before speaking to other counties can be construed as a goodwill gesture, but also as a vote of confidence in the crop of young bowlers coming through. I fully expect to see change and experiment in the course of this summer and next, as opportunity knocks for the young brigade of seam bowlers. Tom Taylor is the first of these to gain elevation and replaced Groenewald in the side at Leicester today. The lad is a genuine talent and needs opportunity to move up a level. So too do the likes of the giant Ben Cotton, the whole-hearted Matt Higginbottom and the all-round talent of Greg Cork, even before you consider the likes of Jony Marsden and Will Davis.

Five years from now, maybe even three, Derbyshire may well field a first-choice attack that is primarily home-grown. There will also be more opportunities on the batting front, where again there are players emerging through the Academy who could force their way into the side in time.

Derbyshire will have made Tim Groenewald a decent contract offer but presumably could not compete, or chose not to compete, with what is on offer elsewhere. In all such dealings one has to consider the importance of the player and the cover available for them should they decide to leave.

In this instance, Graeme Welch has decided that he has the cover and that the money could be more beneficially used for strengthening elsewhere.

That's what he is paid for. Let the revolution commence... 

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Leicestershire v Derbyshire preview

There's an unchanged team for Derbyshire in this game, which hardly comes as a surprise. While the batting was hardly at its best in Southampton, nor is there anyone close to the form required to oust one of them from their position.

Nor do they deserve to lose out. I think the top six has a good look to it and the three younger players in there have all done enough in the past couple of matches to warrant a decent run. As for the bowlers, David Wainwright could come under pressure from Tom Knight in the near future, but the seamers largely speak for themselves and I don't foresee any changes.

The Derbyshire squad:

Hughes (A)

As for Leicestershire, they're missing Ollie Freckingham and Nathan Buck to injury and there will be a late fitness test for the experienced Charlie Shreck, who pulled up after only three overs in their last championship game. Their squad is:

Smith, Robson, Eckersley, Sarwan, Cobb, O'Brien, Taylor, Raine, Naik, Sykes, Ireland, Shreck, Wyatt.

Angus Robson has been in good form for them and they are a side that habitually does well against us, despite not looking to be the strongest on paper. Ramnaresh Sarwan remains as overseas player, but this is a game that, weather permitting, we should really hope to win and kick start our season.

Will we? Monday and Tuesday are set for showers, but a good performance here will build on some positive vibes from the Nottinghamshire game last night. I know I'm tempting providence...

But I'll go for a win here.

Knight impact needs further thought

I've been ruminating this morning.

OK, for maximum effect I should have written 'Oi been ruminatin' this maarnin'...perhaps making me sound more Wurzel-like. Though why I'd want to do such a thing is a moot point.

Still, a-ruminating I have been, as I have gone around my chores and the focal point of them was Tom Knight in the game against Nottinghamshire yesterday.

I'm a self-confessed fan of the lad and have been since I first saw him. His action is in the process of being revamped and I'm not going to sit here and say there was nothing wrong with the old one. If better coaches than me think they can improve his bowling with a couple of tweaks, then such a medium to long-term project is good enough for me.

Where I don't think we were fair to the lad, however, was in his batting slot at number three, effectively in a straight swap with Chesney Hughes. I have advocated giving him a go as a pinch-hitter, but in doing so we have to be sensible.

His normal place in the order is at seven or eight and he has worked his way up the team sheet quite nicely with an improved technique and the ability to time the ball and hit it a long way. That regular slot is in the second team and also at Swarkestone, where in a strong batting side he often struggles to get in much earlier.

I think Knight could be successful in that pinch-hitting role, but the club has to do right by him. I'd like to see him batting at three (or opening) for the second team in their game this Monday and I'd like to see him given similar opportunity by his club side on a regular basis.

Facing a new ball is, as I have written before, considerably different to batting down the order. The ball bounces and moves more and the bowlers are generally fresh. It is less an enterprising initiative and more of a sacrifice if  someone is put in there to slap it about without prior experience of doing so. It is hardly fair to someone to say that we think you're a good enough player to bat eight for us as a rule, but we would like you to bat three against our local rivals in front of four thousand people on a Friday night. It might come off, but the thinking money would be against it. And at the end of the day you prove and learn nothing.

Turning it on its head, you wouldn't thank your mate for a safe lift to the Silverstone Grand Prix, then tell him he was replacing Lewis Hamilton on the starting grid. Nor would you toss a promising spinner the new ball and tell him to bowl seam-up. I think that Knight's use in the role he was offered last night is a valid one and he has shown on several occasions that he has the ability to pierce and clear the field against decent bowlers. Yet the only way that he can be expected to play that role on a regular basis is to be given greater opportunity to do so.

There is no logic to someone being considered good enough to bat three at county level, yet much lower in second team and club cricket. I'd like to see that on the 'action' list in the teams concerned. If the lad proves he isn't able to do it on a regular basis, that's fair enough, but he should at least be afforded better preparation next time.

That way, his chances will improve considerably.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire T20

There was a better performance by Derbyshire tonight, but in the end the result was the same as in the previous T20 matches this summer and a fourth defeat ensued.

It was not surprising, of course, against a team that features six past or present internationals, but the game was won and lost  - again - by the respective Powerplays and the talent of two of the best T20 batsmen in the world game.

After six overs we had progressed to 32-3, while Hales and Lumb took Nottinghamshire to thirty in two overs. They reached the six over mark at 70-2 and the game was pretty much over as a contest by then. We fought back well, but Nottinghamshire won with over three overs to spare and there was no disguising their superiority.

I missed our innings as I was working, but the first ball loss of Stephen Moore was a blow and Wes once again failed to get going. I applaud the promotion of Tom Knight, which I advocated last week, but it was a tough attack to face. I don't follow the rationale of keeping back Marcus North until number five and Scott Elstone would be a much better option than Wes Durston on current form at the top of the order. Better, but a work still in progress for me.

There was no Chesney tonight and I feel we'd be better served in utilising the talents of Alex Hughes (who didn't bat tonight) and Elstone higher in the order, but at least there appeared to be better rotation of the bowlers, even if the firepower of the opposition batting rendered it largely redundant.

Anyway, to Leicester next, though the swathe of bad weather cutting across the country overnight may legislate against a prompt Sunday start, or even one at all.

More on that tomorrow.

Postscript - good to see Usman Khawaja back in the county game at Lancashire. While he won't be remembered as one of our most prolific batsmen, there was a certain charm about his game at his best and no one who saw it will forget his marvelous last day innings against Hampshire that steered us to the division two 2012.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire preview

In the light of our track record against them, allied to recent form, it is probably unrealistic to expect a Derbyshire win tomorrow against Nottinghamshire.

Yet let's not forget that this is cricket and that remarkable thrash at Trent Bridge last summer, when we beat them with some ease, our side featuring neither overseas player.

It can happen and our season has to start somewhere. How good would it be if it was tomorrow?

Graeme Welch is keeping everyone guessing by naming a fifteen-man squad:

Stephen Moore (2)                     Chesney Hughes (22)
Wes Durston (3)                         Marcus North (8)
Wayne Madsen (77)                   Scott Elstone (10)
Alex Hughes (18)                       Tom Knight (27)
Gareth Cross (7)                        Tony Palladino (28)                   
Tim Groenewald (12)                  Mark Footitt (4)
Matt Higginbottom (20)                Tom Taylor (15)
Mark Turner (6)

I can't call the side, so won't attempt to. Meanwhile, Nottinghamshire turn up with an England opening pair and are awash with international players, past and present. Logic suggests it should be the biggest mis-match since David tackled Goliath, but we must hope that Derbyshire's batsmen and bowlers pack especially potent slingshot tomorrow.

I'm working till 8.30pm tomorrow night, so the game will be pretty much done by the time I get home. Maybe that's no bad thing, but I am a man of simple pleasures and hope for just two things tomorrow:

Please let's bat against the clock, rather than the sundial in the Powerplay

Let's rotate the bowlers and throw more spin at them.

If nothing else, the latter will keep the seamers fresh for the game that starts against Leicestershire on Sunday, one that affords a genuine opportunity of a win.

But if somehow we can beat the Nottinghamshire Predators...sorry....Outlaws....we'd not say no, would we?

Welch the right man?

I've had two or three emails in the past week or so, asking for my thoughts on the current situation and whether I still felt that Graeme Welch was the right man for Derbyshire County Cricket Club.

Mark, below the last post, is the first to ask this question in the public domain, so I am happy to give a response.

I can understand the comments. Ten competitive games into the season, we await our first win and the form of a number of players is a matter of concern. There has been what could be perceived as a lack of clarity in team selections and a continuation of the sort of batting slides with which Derbyshire fans have become all too familiar. Some of the one-day bowling has hinted at a dearth of requisite skills, while the same format has highlighted a lack of urgency in the crucial power play overs that is worrying and lamentable in equal measure.

Welch is approaching the five-month anniversary of his three-year appointment and that needs to be remembered. I've had a number of jobs over the years and have always maintained that it takes six months before you feel you have a genuine understanding of the role and its responsibilities. You contribute earlier than that, of course, but to start to develop takes considerably longer and requires the building up of knowledge on the systems and processes, as well as the people that you work with. Importantly, it also depends on the people who work under you.

Having built up an excellent reputation as a number two, or bowling coach at other counties, Welch was always going to have to step up a little. The new coaching structure, while perhaps something similar to what he had been a part of in the past, required him to be the man in charge for the first time. It would be very surprising if this did not bring challenges, as it does for most people.

He has nothing to prove as a coach, nor indeed do his staff, all of who have reputations as being very good at their job. Yet the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating and ours hasn't been the tastiest of dishes thus far.

I think that Welch was and is the man for the job, but he needs time. He has gone on record as intending to give opportunities to players this summer and will already know that he has something of a curate's egg of a playing staff. Two things need to be remembered, however.

One is that it is a squad that he inherited, not one that he built. Critics will say that certain players performed well under Karl Krikken, but the reality is that there has been a marked decline in the performances of some players since 2012. At the end of that summer, a number were given contracts to retain their services in the euphoria of the title success, that perhaps didn't fully understand their longer term value, especially when they were untried at a higher level.

For some, that proved a level too far and they have not recaptured the form of that summer and may not do so. If one thing has been learned, it is that there is a fine line between a contract that retains the services of a good player and one that inadvertently encourages complacency. A player given a longish contract who turns out to have shortcomings is taking up space and blocking the progress of youth. By the same token, if you don't give them the longer deal, the risk of predatory neighbours coming scavenging is heightened. Between the devil and the deep blue sea, eh?

How do you know? If a player scores heavily in a summer, or takes fifty wickets, how do you tell if it is a breakthrough or just a one-off, the stars coming into alignment for a while? I don't know the answer to that one, but suspect that a top coach stands or falls on making the right call.

The role isn't easy at Derbyshire. A more affluent county can go and sign an experienced county professional or two with the expectation of an improvement in playing fortunes. Two players at £80-100K a summer might do that, but we don't have that money to throw around. Nor does it always work, as John Morris found with Rikki Clarke, a good player who enjoyed little success at Derby.

People have mailed me to say that the time to judge Graeme Welch is next summer, but there aren't too many of the current staff whose deals expire at the end of this one. That is going to limit the money he has to change things around, should he decide to do so and I suspect that the required works will need at least until year three before he has had an opportunity to be more radical.

There's always the possibility of coming to an agreement with some who are deemed surplus to requirements, but we may see a younger side emerge with too many higher paid people in the seconds for comfort. Then again, we might also see a rediscovery of collective mojo, which would be nice but is not, in some cases, looking especially likely.

On the upside, I would hope that our extended coaching network might bear fruit from a wider contact base and Welch will undoubtedly look carefully at the overseas role and who is available to fill it. Perhaps there is a need for a more demonstrative, ebullient overseas player in the style of Martin Guptill, though the possibility of perhaps a Kolpak deal for Shiv Chanderpaul, were finances available and the player retired from international cricket, holds considerable appeal in a young and developing side. It would be hard to find a better role model, even if the weight of runs from his greatest days has reduced.

We'll need to see. When Graeme Welch was appointed, there wasn't a single dissenting voice. Early results have been a major disappointment, but he needs and deserves the time to do the job properly. The tragedy affecting both the Poynton family and the club, as well as the anxiety issues that have cost us Peter Burgoyne and Richard Johnson, will have had an effect on everyone, even if they have fought well to keep it under control.

As supporters, we need to give Graeme Welch and his staff the opportunity to build the club.

Time, gentlemen, please.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Hampshire v Derbyshire day 4

Not much to say tonight, except we were lucky - very, very lucky - to escape from this one with a draw.

I'd be hard pushed to say we deserved it and won't, but full marks to Alex Hughes for a gritty, stoic unbeaten sixteen that got us a few extra points. It is further evidence of why I like the lad as a cricketer and why I predict a bright future for him, if he continues to work at his game. There are times in your cricket playing where scoring runs is relatively easy, but I take more interest in people who score them when the chips are down.

That's why I had so much time for Fred Swarbrook in his time, a man who would fight to the end, as well as for Tony Palladino and Tim Groenewald, who have rescued a few lost causes themselves. There's been a few more besides - people like Alan Hill and Tony Borrington, who you knew teams would have to dig out. Both had their shots - they were the first two men to score forty-over centuries for the county, after all - but they rarely gave it away.

We could have done with more of that spirit today, because we shouldn't have lost so many wickets so quickly. A draw should have been straightforward with the amount of time lost, but we almost made an unholy mess of that.

In short, we got draw points, but it was a long way from impressive.

Next up is Nottinghamshire in the T20 on Friday. More on that tomorrow, but even positive Peakfan will struggle to see anything other than a defeat against our neighbours, especially in our current form.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Hampshire v Derbyshire day 3

Derbyshire fought back well on day three, ending the day on 31-0 and requiring a further 315 to win the game. The latter seems largely irrelevant in the light of tomorrow's weather forecast, one that suggests any play before late afternoon, at the earliest, is unlikely.

I referred to needing a 'special' performance to lift the mood and it came today from Tony Palladino, one of the most admirable of cricketers. I like Tony, as he will always give a hundred per cent, even if the conditions aren't in his favour. With good support from the lion-hearted Tim Groenewald, the two took their side past the follow-on mark, albeit one that was unlikely to be enforced.

Hampshire's reply was lively, as might have been expected, but there were two wickets for Scott Elstone to reinforce his positive impression, before Paul Borrington and Stephen Moore took us through to the close with a degree of confidence that was encouraging.

Finally tonight, closing comments on the "To bat or not to bat" piece that caused an interesting level of discussion over recent days.

In today's Derby Evening Telegraph I read:

Stephen Moore acknowledged that Hampshire should not have been allowed such a position of strength as they went on to score 388 in their first innings.

“If we had taken our catches they would probably have been 240 and this game would have been wide open then,” he added.

Which was my point exactly, nicely emphasised by someone who had played on the wicket, rather than following the game from a distance. We didn't bowl as well as we might, but the decision was fine.

Such is the nature of the game.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Hampshire v Derbyshire day 2

After day two of this game, it appears that Derbyshire are sliding to the latest defeat of a horrid season.

The top six all got starts, but none went on to the sort of score that was badly needed for us to retain parity in this game. Granted we are up against an attack that I regard as the best in the division, but we require a major effort to avoid the follow on tomorrow and I just don't get the impression that the side is up for it at present.

Marcus North apparently got a poor decision, but for the rest it was a battle that they survived for so long but were then dismissed. There were encouraging signs, against a team that includes two international bowlers and two England Lions, but the unavoidable truth is that this team of ours needs time to come together and glean the personnel and experience to compete at this level.

The Hampshire side is packed with players of great individual talent that are playing as a team, I have no doubt that we have players of talent, but they aren't playing as a unit, which is what happened when we won this title in 2012.

We played above ourselves that year, having got off to a flyer with some good fortune with the weather and inspirational performances from Martin Guptill. The latter was more important than a lot realised, his confident approach on a cricket field rubbing off on young and impressionable team mates.

This year, whether on or off the pitch, Lady Luck has deserted us. I'm not buying into the 'bring Krikk back' comments, as that's gone now. Graeme Welch is in charge, as everyone hoped he would be when Karl Krikken declined to apply for his own role and we must now be patient and allow Welch the time and breathing space to shape this team.

His start has been the stuff of nightmares, but we have to show the patience referred to by Chris Grant last week and by Rob Enderby in an excellent piece below my last article. There is no alternative. The club doesn't have the money to make wholesale changes and perhaps a few players reached a career peak in that 2012 summer that seems a long way off right now.

Subsequent performances certainly suggest that and we need a major effort in the coming weeks to recover some of the respect that we have built up over the past two summers.

And with that, for now, I bid you a good night.

Postscript - great to see Tom Poynton taking a lead in the Cricket Derbyshire India Club. If we can tap into a large and growing community and see some of  them at the ground on a regular basis, it will be of huge future benefit to our club.

I wish him all the luck in the world and hope the initiative results in a bumper crowd for the visit of some legendary cricketers - and more county members in the long term.

To bat, or not to bat? That is the question

There have been several comments below yesterday's piece with regard to the decision to put Hampshire in to bat at The Rose Bowl. Those comments were based on generalities such as "when the sun is shining, you should bat", as well as the time-honoured tactic of being wise after the event and, of course, being able to read a wicket from a distance of hundreds of miles away.

The truth of the matter is somewhat different. Wayne Madsen and Graeme Welch went out to inspect the wicket yesterday and with over thirty years of collective first-class playing and coaching experience between them, reckoned that our best chance of success, were we to win the toss, was to field.

Mark Eklid's report in the Derby Telegraph today confirms that we should have had success in the first period. They would have, had the skipper not put down his opposite number, Jimmy Adams, in Mark Footitt's opening over. That cost us sixty runs, but as I said last night, it happens. Maybe the skipper might benefit from being at mid-off in the early exchanges while he is pondering the options of the day, but we have lost two first choice slip fielders in Wes Durston and Chesney Hughes, so practice has suggested Madsen is the best replacement. He has held some blinders in his time at the county, so it would be silly to argue.

There were plenty of plays and misses that on another day could have seen wickets go down, but having already seen a drop cost us 60 runs, Gareth Cross then put down the free-scoring Adam Wheater, which cost us another 87. Take those runs from the total and Hampshire could easily have gone for under 250.

I prefer to look at facts, not supposition. The facts are that in eight LV County Championship matches at The Rose Bowl last year, on five occasions the side winning the toss bowled first. Fast forward to this year and the side winning the toss has so far bowled on EVERY occasion. Feel free to check if you wish. I did and was prepared to make a concession, had the figures proved otherwise. To suggest that Wayne Madsen and Graeme Welch made a mistake yesterday is just churlish. Of course, they wouldn't have wanted, nor expected, a closing score of 332-7, but as explained above, that could have been very different.

In high summer, when the sun is shining, the wicket is hard and dry and there is a strong likelihood of turn later on, of course you bat. Even then, if it is 'muggy' and the ball is likely to swing, you cannot always say you will do so, as you factor in other things, perhaps including the opposition overseas player who is a past master in such conditions. Only the people on the field, looking at the wicket and in full possession of the facts are qualified to make such judgements - on which they stand or fall, of course, unlike those of us commenting from afar.

I have been critical of Wayne Madsen this summer - I felt the rotation and handling of bowlers at Leicester in the T20 was poor, but there could have been factors we were unaware of. We don't know if player A had a bruised spinning finger, sustained in making a stop, or player B had a niggle that prevented him from bowling. From a distance, decisions seemed odd, but they were made for a reason, not, presumably, on a whim.

In my club game yesterday, the opposition skipper was delighted to win the toss and put us in on a wicket that was awful. Balls would lift spitefully off a length and then shoot through from a similar spot next ball. We were in big trouble early on, but, as I pointed out to successive batting partners, if we made a hundred they'd not get near it. This was in a forty-over game and we got past the ton with a few runs to spare in the end.

The efforts weren't pretty, but I was right. Our opponents didn't get fifty. The track was only going to worsen, as far as I could see, but someone else thought otherwise. Some you win, some you lose...

Derbyshire may or may not struggle when it is our turn to bat today. Yet the facts suggest we may have done a lot worse had we done so yesterday against a high-class seam attack offered help on a first morning.