Monday, 9 March 2015

Pre-season starts on winning note

One should never read too much into pre-season matches.

Results are less important than team efforts, while individual displays, staking early claims for a place in the side when the proper stuff starts, are the most precious of commodities.

That being the case, there will have been some satisfied smiles being worn in Dubai tonight, as Derbyshire not only turned around what looked a losing position to win, but had some sparkling and encouraging individual efforts to celebrate.

It was a young team, that perhaps bore little resemblance to most people's first choice side on previous form, but they posted an impressive 298-9 in 50 overs. Star turn was Chesney Hughes (pictured), with an impressive-sounding 112 after opening the batting, while Alex Hughes made 60 and Tom Poynton an unbeaten 44. It was a fine effort after being four down for too few at the start.

In reply, Worcestershire appeared to be easing to a win at 203-3 in 34 overs, but three wickets for Alex Hughes, together with two each for Wayne White, Tony Palladino and Shiv Thakor, saw Derbyshire end up winners by six runs.

For Chesney, it was the best possible start. His career has stood still over the past two seasons, a few lusty cameos in T20 notwithstanding. Perhaps his game has been over-complicated by well-meaning coaches and if Graeme Welch and his team have stripped it back to basics, then the early portents are good. He is a beast when in full flow and a decided asset at his best, with bat and ball.

As for his namesake, Alex simply produced the sort of display to which I think we will become accustomed in the years ahead. Regular readers will know how impressed I have been with him over the past couple of summers and for me he could become the Derbyshire Paul Collingwood. Net footage suggests his pace has increased further, which it will as his body develops. His 3-25 in a high-scoring match was a sterling effort and, like Chesney, he has staked a strong claim for a starting role.

Equally pleasing were early runs from Tom Poynton, sorely missed for most of last summer. Tom can contribute good and aggressive runs down the order, has an excellent pair of hands and, quite frankly, was possibly heard back at the 3aaa County Ground today. You need that from a keeper and the 'Pavarotti of the Pitch' is back and firing on both lungs...

It was also good to see Shiv Thakor taking death overs and to read of him mixing up his pace and getting wickets in doing so. At 23 and 21, Alex Hughes and Shiv have massive careers ahead of them, while the 25-year old Poynton and 24-year old Chesney simply highlight the potential in a very good and youthful group of players.

Of course, as happens with any team in any sport, there will be days when it doesn't come right and when we are on the wrong side of the result. Yet the possibilities for this summer are intriguing and I am increasingly convinced that this group of players could take Derbyshire into a very successful period, leading up to the 150th anniversary of the club in 2020.

It was telling that my greater interest today was in our pre-season friendly, rather than the inept showing by England against Bangladesh that saw them knocked out of the World Cup. For all Eoin Morgan's protestations that the players are good enough, they had a funny way of showing it in this tournament. The batsmen looked hapless and the bowlers jaded and it was no surprise to hear Nasser Hussain echo my comments about the 'sameness' of the attack. Four right arm seamers and two part-time off spinners allows opposition batsmen to line them up and England, quite rightly, return home with tails between their legs.

Questions will quite rightly be asked of those in senior positions and it would be a shock if there were no repercussions. Reports suggest that players heads are filled with dossiers and too much information on the opposition  - alright in sufficient quantities, but if overdone perhaps building them into supermen. I recall Don Revie being accused of similar years ago as England football manager and while you should know your opponents, perhaps we went too far across the line with the current set up.

Peakfan's tip? Jason Gillespie as next England coach...remember you saw it here first...

Finally tonight, a big 'well done' to Neil Bates, who provided excellent updates on today's play from his 3aaa apprenticeship. It is a big opportunity for him, one that will be envied by a few people, but he took it very well. If he keeps up that standard throughout the summer, none of us will have any cause for complaint.

Hey, he may even become a lucky mascot...


Anonymous said...

Interesting to hear Moores' comments about England lacking a left arm seamer.

Who is that lad who took over 100 poles last season? Bowls left arm fast...?


Shaun said...

I echo your comments about Neil Bates Peakfan. It was really great getting those regular up-dates and made us more involved in the game. Great stuff!