Sunday, 31 May 2015

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 1

Gloucestershire 251-6 (Klinger 93 not, Taylor 58 not, Taylor 3-64)

At 159-6 this afternoon, Billy Godleman's decision to bowl was thoroughly vindicated, but late resistance from the admirable Michael Klinger and from Jack Taylor left  honours pretty much even at the end of a truncated first day.

Klinger is a fine player and has been for many years, despite remaining on the periphery of the Australian national side. He rode his luck early on and perhaps should have gone when he skied a hook that Tony Palladino lost in the sun, but sometimes things go the other way and Klinger did a fine job for his side.

Congratulations are due tonight to Tony Palladino on his 300th first-class wicket and to Mark Footitt who took his 200th. Both were second to Tom Taylor in terms of wickets today, but we could do with the three of them wrapping things up quickly tomorrow.

The weather is set to take more time out of this game and time will tell if there will be enough for a positive result to be forced.

In closing tonight, just a word about events at Taunton. How do you score an unbeaten 151 in a twenty-over match, as Chris Gayle did today, and STILL finish on the losing side? Yet he only faced fifty per cent of the bowling, suggesting that his team mates didn't use a massive amount of gumption at the other end.

Astonishing. Quite astonishing.

I'm glad I don't do a blog on Somerset...

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire preview

Well, that's our games against the division winners (for so shall they be) Lancashire out of the way for the summer. Now, in game six of the championship summer, we play the return against Gloucestershire. It is hard to get away from the opinion that these fixtures weren't drawn up by a computer that was close to having a duvet day...

Tillakaratne Dilshan makes his championship debut and will slot in at four. His presence also gives us an additional spin option, so David Wainwright drops out of the squad. The decision on the day is whether one of the main seamers drops out or Matt Critchley does so, in this squad:

Ben Slater
Billy Godleman
Chesney Hughes
Tillakaratne Dilshan
Scott Elstone
Shiv Thakor
Harvey Hosein
Matt Critchley
Tony Palladino
Tom Taylor
 Ben Cotton
Mark Footitt

My guess is that one of the seamers makes way. With Shiv Thakor as a fine option, we don't really need five and Critchley has done little wrong. Indeed, he seems to have become lead spinner at the age of eighteen, which is both exciting and worrying in equal measure. David Wainwright seems to have lost his 'oomph' while Tom Knight would appear to be considered a work in progress, so far as his bowling is concerned. Talented a cricketer as young Master Critchley is, I wonder if he is ready for such a role at his age. Mind you, his current average of 93 with the bat is a strong argument for inclusion anyway and we are hardly awash with viable alternatives...

As for Gloucestershire, they show several changes from Bristol, with Michael Klinger back instead of fellow Aussie Peter Handscomb, while Kiwi Kieron Noema-Barnett is also dropped.

Their squad:

 Chris Dent, Will Tavaré, Michael Klinger, Gareth Roderick (wkt), Hamish Marshall, Geraint Jones (wkt), Benny Howell, Jack Taylor, David Payne, Matt Taylor, Liam Norwell, Craig Miles.

They are a decent batting side but we have already shown that they are beatable, albeit down to a remarkable Kiwi effort. The Derby wickets appear to be good cricket tracks and there is always early morning help for the bowlers.

We can win this.

Closing thoughts on a dazzling evening

Well, I was wrong and am happy to admit so.

Derbyshire showed last night that they CAN play T20. The trick now is for them to replicate that committed display on a regular basis.

It is a long time since I saw such a uniformly disciplined display by a Derbyshire side in the field and for that, both the players and coaching staff deserve credit.We looked a decent side last night with the reappearance of five senior, experienced cricketers, each of who played a part in the team success. You cannot undervalue such experience at this level of the game.

That's not to say that I advocate a return to the old days when we gave a last pay day to a range of old lags from the county circuit. If everyone is fit, we have a nice blend of experience and youth, but for the latter to flourish, they need a strong environment to do so. This summer we have been hit with an astonishing amount of injuries and it has left the senior team with an uncomfortably youthful look. There are times in games when such youth needs and looks to experience to guide them through troubled waters. Look at our 'classic' players, like Chris Adams, John Morris and Kim Barnett - all emerged through a side where their occasional indiscretions at the crease were covered by experienced players and they were able to learn from them.

I am sure they all watched last night how Hashim Amla and Tillakaratne Dilshan rotated the strike and kept the score moving without resorting to overly-flamboyant swipes and slogs. At times the running might have enjoyed better communication, but they took ten an over in the power play, almost without breaking sweat.

While not matching his feats on the world stage while he was with us, it was a joy to watch Amla last night. His timing was a thing of beauty and he had so much time to play his shots. Not since the halcyon days of Wright and Kirsten has there been such a pairing and the only disappointment was that it it ended when it did.

Dilshan is a fine player. He mixes pace, line and length, the occasional ball gets more of a 'tweak' and he is a canny bowler, especially in the early overs. When Rimmington returns we have solid experience at that crucial time, though both Ben Cotton and Shiv Thakor continue to impress.

Perhaps most rewarding last night was hearing the commentary team's comments on us. It was no longer patronising, but there was respect for the improved facilities, the use of young players, the recruitment of big names AND the performance. Special mention to Dominic Cork who remains supportive of what is going on at the club and still looks fit enough to bowl four overs himself. He has become a very good commentator, one with the rare gift of adding to the picture, rather than waffling away and detracting from the viewing experience.

I can see us winning more games, but then I can see us losing some. Every team does, but there is one 'tweak' I would like to see in our batting.

I expect Dilshan and Wes Durston to open from here, with Chesney (if what looked like a back issue allows it) at three. If we lose early wickets, for me it makes sense for Billy Godleman to go in next and anchor the innings, at least until Wayne Madsen returns. Someone needs to do that in T20 and the best sides in the format have a player who bats through. Of course, if a more flamboyant bat gets going it is fine and dandy, but Godleman can score quick enough and also prevent us sliding to 60-5, which we seem to do.

I'll be back later, with a preview of the Gloucestershire game that starts tomorrow.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Derbyshire v Lancashire T20 Blast

Lancashire 127-9 (Davies 41, White 3-21, Palladino 2-22, Cotton 2-26)

Derbyshire 128-5 (Amla 51, Dilshan 38)

Derbyshire won by 5 wickets

For all the protestations in some quarters of non-attendance because of our form, as well as the presence of Sky cameras, a good-sized crowd attended the 3aaa County Ground tonight.

And heavens to betsy, didn't we turn in a fine performance?

In the past couple of weeks I have excused defeats because of a lack of experience and there has been negativity in some quarters, the rationale of their counter-argument being that younger players needed to take responsibility. and justify their places. I disagreed then and do now. Young players will come on in their own time as they get to know their games. As supporters we must enjoy their successes, share their own frustration in failure and watch their gradual, but definite development.

Tonight we saw the benefit of experience. Tony Palladino and Wayne White were back and offered much to the bowling. Tillakaratne Dilshan's bowling was clever and added much-needed and economical variety, while youngsters Ben Cotton and Shiv Thakor bowled with common sense and considerable skill.

We had our traditional wobble as the finishing line approached, largely down to the quest to do so quickly, but it didn't matter too much by that stage. That was because Dilshan and Hashim Amla led off with a stand of 93 that largely rendered us collapse-proof.

The return and introduction of such players would improve any team, but there was a vigour, passion and commitment of the whole team in the field. The ground fielding was excellent, the catching sound (Amla's boundary catch a highlight) and the throwing swift and accurate. Dilshan's reputation at point is undimmed at 38, while his tight spell showed his all-round value.

I was impressed by all the bowlers. Tony Palladino bowled straight and varied his pace, while the return of Wayne White added one-day nous  with the ball, as it would have added depth to the batting had he been required. Best of all, perhaps, was Ben Cotton, whose ability to fire the ball into the block hole was as striking as the extra pace he has gained from last season.

Then came the big cheeses. Whatever other memories we hold of this season in years to come, watching Amla and Dilshan walk out to open our batting will be a lasting one. In his last appearance, Amla made a sparkling fifty, reaching it with an extraordinary, one-handed flick off his legs for six. He may not have been at his most dominant in our colours, but hearing Graeme Welch talk of his influence was telling.

In his first appearance, Dilshan was impressive, if understandably a tad rusty. Not everything came off the middle, but enough did to suggest he will be an asset when he gets his land legs and some Derbyshire air in his lungs.

There were some undignified, bucolic swipes after the Lord Mayor's show, more suited to the village green than the County Ground, but tonight was one for celebration.

The first win of the season and, to boot, one that hinted it may not be the last. Add Nathan Rimmington to the attack and Wayne Madsen to the batting and we could get a respectable placing in the group. I'll not suggest we are now going to take it by storm, but there were indicators tonight that we are mastering some of the main disciplines of T20 cricket.

If we have learned from the way that Amla and Dilshan milked the bowling around for singles when there was nothing else there, the future may contain more wins than the recent past.

More from me tomorrow.

Postscript - good to hear Tom Poynton behind the stumps again tonight, keeping the field on their toes and producing excellent glove work. As indeed did his counterpart for Lancashire, Alex Davies, who looks a fine prospect.

Anyone else think he looks like Chris Read of Nottinghamshire?

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Derbyshire v Lancashire T20 preview

There's a home debut for Tillakaratne Dilshan and the only home T20 appearance for Hashim Amla tomorrow as Derbyshire entertain Lancashire.

It is in front of the TV cameras and against a side against who we rarely do well, so logically we should be soundly beaten in this one, especially since our record in T20 of late is little short of abysmal. By late, I mean since the competition began...

I would settle for winning at least one more game than we did last year, which means we need two wins. It's a funny old game though, as Jimmy Greaves used to say. How else can you explain Leicestershire beating a good Durham side tonight, and with considerable ease? I may need to revise my impression of them, though their T20 line-up looks considerably stronger than that of their four-day side.

As for us, Graeme Welch has named the following squad for tomorrow night:

Dilshan, Durston, C Hughes, Amla, Godleman, Thakor, Elstone, Poynton, W White, Wainwright, Palladino, Cotton, Knight.

I couldn't call the two to miss out, though Dilshan's good off spin means we have an extra bowler in the side, whichever eleven takes the field.

Lancashire introduce James Faulkner to English county audiences in a squad that lines up as follows:

Ashwell Prince, Tom Smith, Karl Brown, Steven Croft, Liam Livingstone, Paul Horton, James Faulkner, Alex Davies, Jordan Clark, Tom Bailey, George Edwards, Arron Lilley, Stephen Parry, Rob Jones
No Alviro Petersen, but plenty of hard-hitting batsmen and accurate bowling. We should give them a game but I suspect that on the night they will prove too strong. I would love to say otherwise, but a track record of one win in sixteen matches in this competition hardly sets the heart a-flutter.
It just needs one special performance though. Our top four, on form, is excellent and theoretically we bat deep, as long as we can avoid manic middle overs. There are plenty of bowlers too and as The Eagles once said - one of these nights...
I'll be watching developments, like the rest of you and will blog after the game.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Lancashire v Derbyshire day 4

Derbyshire 370 and 166
Lancashire 551

Lancashire won by an innings and 15 runs

Not much time chez Peakfan tonight, as we celebrate, albeit a couple of days early, our daughter's eighteenth birthday. She and our son head down to Manchester for a few nights with friends tomorrow, so it is a whirlwind of activity here, with bags being packed and presents unwrapped.

All a little more celebratory than events in Southport today, although few of us would have anticipated a positive ending to this game. Lancashire's spinners duly capitalised on a wicket that gave them the expected assistance and when Hashim Amla went for eleven, the writing was on the wall in  big neon letters.

We need players back to fitness before a major upswing in fortunes will take place. Getting the services of Tillakaratne Dilshan as well as Hashim Amla for Friday's T20 against Lancashire is a welcome boost, although the ongoing absence of Nathan Rimmington is a cause for concern.

For now, the players will regroup and prepare for that game, but you can't fast track experience and we have a lot of players who simply don't have that at this level.

On the up side, if one takes the overseas players out of the game, ours acquitted themselves not too badly. We needed more first innings runs and you simply cannot legislate for when an international batsman plays at his best.

More from me tomorrow, when I will have more time.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Lancashire v Derbyshire day 3

Derbyshire 370 and 123-3 (Slater 58, Hughes 41)
Lancashire 551 (Prince 230, Taylor 4-113, Critchley 3-50)

Derbyshire trail by 58 runs

The romantic in me sees tomorrow panning out thus: Hashim Amla plays the sort of innings that confirms why he is one of the world's greatest batsmen, while his young team mates battle around him to eke out a lead of 150-plus. Lancashire then collapse in the chase and either Derbyshire win or the game ends in a tense draw.

The realist sees it differently, with Lancashire easing to a win by perhaps nine wickets in the early afternoon.

Which one is the closer to the truth?

I think the latter, on balance, though if Hashim wanted to spend time in Derbyshire colours to prepare for Test cricket, he could do worse than produce one of his trademark innings as a signing-off. I wouldn't regard his time with us as a success, though if he produces something special tomorrow I would be happy to consider that opinion.

He is the main hope of anything special tomorrow, though there is enough talent in the young batting line-up to make a fist of things. Ben Slater and Chesney Hughes did well today, as they led off the reply for us, but both will be disappointed to go when well set for the second time in the game. Scores of thirty to seventy are all well and good, but they don't really prove anything and rarely represent a match-defining innings.Mind you, if three of the remaining batsmen make seventy tomorrow it would leave things quite interesting...

Earlier Matt Critchley took his first wickets in senior cricket, the first, that of Ashwell Prince, being a nice talking point in years to come. He will gladly settle for 3-50 in a total of 551 and it will serve as a confidence booster.

Slater and Hughes have proved that it is not impossible to bat on this and I would like to see us make them work for a win, before we welcome down at Derby on Friday night. Anything better than that would be special, but I'll wisely avoid getting worked up about that at this stage.

What I will do is express incredulity at 'Anon's' comment below last night's piece. "We can't continue to use the same excuse of injuries. There comes a point where people need deliver" ran his comment.


There is a point at which they need to deliver, of course. But have Critchley (3) Taylor (9) Elstone (8) Hosein (7), their appearances in brackets, reached that point? For that matter, have Slater (27) and Thakor (28)? I was a much better cricketer at 30 than 20, far better at my job at the same age too. Each of these players will have days they will do well, and others they will struggle. It goes with the territory until they get to know their games much better, their strengths and their weaknesses.

You take ten players from any side in the country and they will struggle to compete. We have, but the fight has remained evident. Until we get the key, senior men fit, we will continue to do so. Wouldn't Madsen, Durston and Palladino, if fit, make a difference? Of course they would, but they're not available, so we have to see what the young tyros are made of.

Two Test players scored 343 of Lancashire's 551.

That's the way of cricket, but we're a long way from disgraced.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Lancashire v Derbyshire day 2

Derbyshire 370
Lancashire 348-4 (Prince 156 not, Petersen 113, Taylor 3-87

Lancashire trail by 22 runs

'Much will depend on Messrs Prince and Petersen' I wrote last night, though claim no mystic talents in their each scoring a century today.

Let's face it, they had things in their favour: a fairly young attack, a short boundary, a wicket that is a long way from spiteful and the presence of the current South African Test captain in the opposition. Lots of incentives, in fact, to prove a point.

They are both fine players and have proved it at the highest level, not just against the attack that we perforce have to field at present. That same attack has done well in recent weeks, but ran into a couple of batsmen in form, especially Prince, who is just short of a hundred in average so far. To think he was going to retire at the end of last season...

A man with eleven Test centuries to his name was always likely to cash in today and did so. It was a tough gig for Billy Godleman on his first stint as captain, but by all accounts he kept trying things and waited to see if anything would happen.

It didn't today, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

This will be a tough game to save now, but there can be no complaints tonight.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Lancashire v Derbyshire day 1

Derbyshire 335-9 (Godleman 75, Slater 69, Amla 69) v Lancashire

The old cricketing adage of 'runs on the board' is perhaps most apposite at the end of a topsy-turvy first day at Southport.

From the lofty heights of 141-0, then 238-2, Derbyshire will be a little disappointed with the final tally, although with the ball already lifting and turning at times, we will not know how well we have batted until Lancashire have a go on it.

As it is, Billy Godleman (pictured) got the first part of captaincy right when he won the toss, then followed it by batting through to lunch with Ben Slater. The pair are developing into an excellent partnership and gave us a fine platform. It was slightly ruined by both going within a few overs of the resumption, but Chesney Hughes continued his recent good form and Hashim Amla held the innings together as the rest folded somewhat disappointingly in the period after tea.

Shiv Thakor is struggling for runs at present and went first ball, although Harvey Hosein stuck around for an hour and Tom Taylor hit merrily in the day's closing overs. Meanwhile, Matt Critchley took his first-class average to 158 with an unbeaten 13, ahead of what appears likely to be a lot of bowling as this match progresses.

"Derbyshire have better of opening day" says the Derby Telegraph tonight, while "Lancs bowlers frustrate Derbyshire on opening day" is the Bolton News headline. You pays your money and takes your choice, I suppose, but for my money we are ahead at this point.

Assuming we bowl anywhere near what we can do and field much better than we did against Northamptonshire, we could press on and take the initiative tomorrow. Much will depend on Messrs Prince and Petersen, but there's nothing to be ashamed of in that first day against the team currently top of the table.

What happens next?

Book Review - Sundial in the Shade: The Story of Barry Richards, the Genius Lost to Test Cricket

If you never saw Barry Richards bat, you missed a treat.

I've watched the finest of games for 48 summers now and would bracket the tall South African with Viv Richards and Brian Lara as the best of my experience. It wasn't so much the runs he made, as the way that he made them. Viv had the power and Brian had a wonderful eye in their prime, but there are plenty who would acclaim Barry as the finest of them all.

It wasn't the runs he made as the way that he made them. Barry Richards had a classical technique and never seemed to do anything in a hurry. The fastest of bowlers - and there were plenty of them, in his era - never seemed to change his organised, cultured, yet innovative game, seemingly having a shot for every ball and some that others didn't consider possible. Most of all he had time, the surest indicator of supreme talent.

I never saw a batsman go 'inside out' and hit over extra cover before Barry Richards. This was often against bowlers who pitched outside leg stump in the vain hope of tying him down. His footwork, eye and timing combined to open up the off side and captains and bowlers alike shrugged their shoulders as they waited for him to get bored.

Which was ultimately the most effective weapon. This outstanding book confirms what most of us who had the pleasure of seeing him already knew. Barry Richards got bored. He was happier making a scintillating seventy than a turgid ton and generally needed a challenge to play at his best. That challenge may have been a quality bowler, a bad wicket, a game his team needed to win or a financial incentive. He went to play for South Australia in the winter of 1970-71 and was sponsored to the tune of a dollar a run above his salary, responding with 1538 of them in 16 innings at an average of 109.86...

Against Western Australia, featuring Graham McKenzie and Dennis Lillee as opening bowlers, he made 356, with 325 made on the first day. For over a decade, he made Hampshire one of the biggest draws on the county circuit, especially when he latterly partnered Gordon Greenidge, but over the years one of the greatest of batsmen became seen as an under-achiever, despite a final career average of almost 55.

He could easily have exceeded a hundred centuries, but often gave it away when he felt he had done enough. The ultimate challenge, Test cricket, was to afford Barry Richards only one series, in 1970, against the Australians. In four matches and seven innings he scored 508 runs at an average of 72.57, with two centuries and two fifties. He was only 25 and his international career started and finished at the same time.

That's as far as the record books show, but World Series cricket between 1977 and 1979 gave him one last crack at the best. He had not played international cricket for seven years and was facing the fastest bowlers in the world, operating in packs and encouraged by Kerry Packer to bowl short, fast and dangerously to create a spectacle. All this on wickets that were sometimes sub-standard and occasionally dangerous. Only three batsmen had the talent and skill to average over forty - Greg Chappell managed 56.6, Viv Richards 55.69.

Barry Richards averaged 79.14. He says in the book that his eyes had gone by that stage, which is a strong indicator of his talent and technique, let alone his bravery, at a time when the wearing of helmets was in its infancy.

This is a wonderful read and his former team mate at Hampshire, Andrew Murtagh, has done a fine job. Life has presented its challenges to Barry Richards, with a difficult relationship with his father, a far from affluent childhood and personal tragedy in retirement, but the author avoids none of them and the subject takes the opportunity to exorcise some personal demons.

I would heartily recommend the latest addition to Pitch Publishing's fine portfolio. Read it, and like me remember one of the greatest batsmen of the twentieth century. For those who never saw him, enjoy this clip of a sublime one-day century against Lancashire, courtesy of Youtube

Sundial in the Shade: The Story of Barry Richards, the genius lost to Test cricket is written by Andrew Murtagh and published by Pitch Publishing. It is currently available on Amazon for £15.90, and also from all good book shops.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Lancashire v Derbyshire preview

It occurred to me today, thinking about tonight's blog while spending several hours working in the garden, that there are strong parallels with last season in our start to this campaign.

There were major setbacks at the start of last summer that eventually, with a strong team spirit, were overcome. An outstanding finish to the season gave hope that this year would see a strong challenge for promotion in the championship.

This year's challenge has been the astonishing number of injuries. The skipper is out for anything up to six weeks, Wes Durston, Tony Palladino and Tom Taylor have knee niggles, Alex Hughes has a broken thumb,  Wayne White has had a side strain and David Wainwright is slowly recovering from surgery. Nathan Rimmington has had a finger injury while Jonathan Clare is still to turn his arm over in a match as we approach June. Oh, and Martin Guptill got a slight side strain that ruled him out of a match, too - that's ten players, to save you counting.

No wonder that performances have dipped in T20. I could name a Derbyshire eleven that would do well in the competition, but most of those players would be in it, leaving Graeme Welch searching for salvation in players perhaps elevated ahead of their time, yet largely doing well. Two weeks ago, few of us had heard of Matthew Critchley...

It is good that this game follows on so quickly after the Leicestershire defeat, as it enables a return to the format we usually play well. Watching England's anodyne attack today, I am even more of the opinion that a good performance against Lancashire could see Mark Footitt get the call for the second Test. New Zealand were hardly taxed by a sequence of right-arm fast medium and look likely to go on and win the match.

Of course, taking Mark from our already threadbare resources isn't going to help us, but I dearly hope the lad gets the opportunity that he so richly deserves and it is more than a one-off . He has the biggest incentive to produce a big performance over the next four days.

So too does Hashim Amla. No one in their right mind will doubt his talent and a reputation that is well-deserved as one of the great batsmen of his generation, but he owes us some runs in the next two matches before he makes way for Tillakaratne Dilshan. Top players don't come cheap and no one could say that we have had value from the signing at this stage, a sentence I didn't expect to write, to be honest.

I am pleased that Billy Godleman has been given the captaincy, a reward for working hard to turn around his career - and also for being one of the senior players. One assumes that Wes Durston's knee is not felt ready for four-day cricket, so Billy, an intelligent lad, gets the opportunity to lead a county side for the first time. I wish him well and can actually see him being good at it, as a combative player who has never been one to back down.

Tomorrow's Derbyshire squad:

Ben Slater
Billy Godleman (capt)
Chesney Hughes
Hashim Amla
Shiv Thakor
Scott Elstone
Harvey Hosein
David Wainwright
Tony Palladino
Tom Taylor
Ben Cotton
Mark Footitt
Matt Critchley

I couldn't call a final eleven, as I don't know how fit the seamers are. I suspect the first eight will play, with the other three effectively Mark Footitt plus two. It is ironic, in the light of our batting failings in T20, that the batsmen have been doing well for us so far, but a big innings from the great South African would do us no harm whatsoever.

Lancashire are down - shock, horror -  to three overseas players, with Peter Siddle finished and James Faulkner only just arrived from the IPL. I expect them to go on and win this division, but I still don't look at them and see a great team. Their batting is heavily dependent on South Africans Prince and Petersen, while Kyle Jarvis has been the form bowler of the division this year. All counties hope for such standards from their overseas recruits and Lancashire can have few complaints about theirs at this stage.

Their squad:

Croft (C), Horton, Lilley, Kerrigan, Jarvis, Buck, Bailey, Clark, Davies (W), Prince, Petersen, Brown

The bottom line? We gave them a good game at Derby and lost through a poor session bowling at the last pair, then having to face a swinging ball on the last morning. We could easily have drawn, at the very least. Then again, we should have beaten Northamptonshire and there are too many 'if's' about our cricket at the moment.

We need someone to deliver a big performance with bat and ball and we certainly need to catch better than we did in the last game. I'm not going down the path of declaring the season over, as there's way too much cricket left  - we're not even through May yet, for goodness sake.

I will address the T20 later in the week, but for now, let's hope our young side can raise their game and the spirits of supporters with a good four days at the seaside. The weather forecast suggests we may not start promptly after overnight rain, but otherwise there should be few interruptions over the four days.

Let's get the season back on track, lads.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Leicestershire v Derbyshire T20

Derbyshire 163-6 (C. Hughes 59, Godleman 38 not)
Leicestershire 164-3 (O'Brien 47 not)

Leicestershire won by seven wickets

I wrote last night that Derbyshire should win this game and for once, by the end of the Power play it looked like we might set a total that would enable us to do just that.

58-1 from six overs should have been the foundations for a score of 180-200, which will win you eight out of ten matches in this format. Despite the loss of Hashim Amla, who has thus far been a major disappointment, we were well set, with Wes 'n' Ches going nicely.

Sadly, that was the point when once again the wheels came off. Inside 21 balls we were 77-5, thus replicating events at Headingley last week and the impetus was gone. Well though Chesney and Billy Godleman battled to get the innings back on track, only 19 came from the last three overs and 163, against a side with some good batsmen, never looked enough, as I posted on Twitter at the interval between innings.

I'd have preferred to have been wrong, but the home side always looked in control and we didn't have enough runs to leave them needing to take risks. It was a defeat - and not an easy one to take.

It is hard to get away from the fact that it will be another long, hard T20 campaign. I was happy to write off last week against a good Yorkshire side, but will take some convincing that this is a strong Leicestershire team. By extension, this was a bad game to lose.

It is a young side, lacking players who would be certainties for inclusion were they fit and there is much work to do to make it a competitive one in this format. It is frustrating that a side that plays excellent cricket in the four-day game looks like a fish out of water in T20. Yet until we can lose a wicket and rebuild with intelligence, composure and skill, we won't win matches.

There were forty dot balls tonight in our innings, or almost seven overs. Leicestershire had thirty in their innings and on such detail are games won and lost in this unforgiving format. Chesney Hughes said after the game that we are close to a winning formula, but for me there are several things we need to change:

1 Fine bowler as he is, this is no competition for Mark Footitt. At his pace, edges and mishits are going for four and we simply cannot afford ten an over with our fragile batting.

2 We need to include Alex Hughes, who offers something with bat and ball, as well as being brilliant in the field. It seems at the moment that he is the easy man to drop.

3 We need to give Tom Knight a go. One of the cleanest hitters in the club, he should be given an opportunity, whether he bowls or not. If he went early, he would do no worse than the current middle order.

4 We need Tillakaratne Dilshan to produce all-round form and Nathan Rimmington to get fit. Thus far we have had no overseas input and a team as young as ours needs someone to take a leading role.

We are really missing Wayne Madsen and Tony Palladino, while a fit and firing Wayne White, a proven player in this format, would make a difference too.

Sadly, that's a lot more than 'being close'.

Disappointed tonight?

Yeah, definitely.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Leicestershire v Derbyshire T20 preview

There have been a few grumbles in recent days after Derbyshire's loss to Yorkshire in their opening T20 game of the summer.

All the old failings were there, but I am happy to hold fire on major criticism until we see the level of performance against lesser sides than Yorkshire. They are the best side in the country, beyond  doubt, even without some of their big international players. In Richard Pyrah they have a solid county all-rounder who turns into an amalgam of Garfield Sobers and Eddie Barlow when he plays against us, while they just turn out professional displays in all forms of the game.

It is something for us to aspire to, but we should hopefully have enough in the tank to beat a Leicestershire side tomorrow, even without Wayne Madsen, Nathan Rimmington and Tony Palladino. Graeme Welch has named a fourteen-man squad from which I find it impossible to call a final eleven. It is good to see Wayne White, a proven T20 performer, fit once more, though whether he is deemed match fit to play against his old county is a moot point.

I would like to see Scott Elstone, a player in form, bat at five. He made an unbeaten 60 today as Derbyshire's two matches against the Unicorns resulted in easy wins. Wes Durston also got runs under his belt, while both Shiv Thakor and Greg Cork both bowled very economical spells. Encouragingly, Wes also got overs and wickets in, hopefully without reaction.

The Derbyshire squad:

Wes Durston (capt)
Hashim Amla
Chesney Hughes
Shiv Thakor
Billy Godleman
Alex Hughes
Scott Elstone
Tom Poynton
David Wainwright
Tom Knight
Ben Cotton
Greg Cork
Wayne White
Mark Footitt

As for the home side, they have New Zealand World Cup star Grant Elliott in their side, a dangerous customer, but the batting looks stronger than the bowling. The O'Brien brothers are dangerous batsmen, as of course is Mark Cosgrove and we will need to bowl with the requisite discipline to keep them in check, hold the catches and, of course, bat with a little more common sense than we appeared to manage last week.

Leicestershire's squad:

Cosgrove, Eckersley, Elliott, McKay, Naik, K O’Brien, N O’Brien, Pinner, Raine, Sheik, Sykes, Taylor, Wells.

My forecast? The home side will be itching to get back on track after their last day collapse against Lancashire, but I think Derbyshire will get their first T20 win of the campaign, ahead of the televised game against Lancashire next weekend.

More from me after the game tomorrow.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Midweek musings

Sorry about the quiet few days, but I have been very busy on the work front and also on the domestic one.

Three successive 9 to 8 shifts at work, coupled with my daughter's imminent prom and university funding applications have left little time for anything outwith eating and sleeping, but hopefully normal service is close to resumption.

We now know that Wayne Madsen will be out for at least a month with his broken finger, which is extraordinary as the skipper has missed two games in seven years. That is an astonishing record for a man who faces a new ball at, or close to, its hardest, so you could say he was due one. Hopefully the revised line up will still mount respectable totals and it is down to them all to contribute.

It is Leicester on Friday and they 'warmed up' by being dismissed for just 78 by Lancashire today. I don't think a first championship win such Gandhi was a lad is imminent for the Foxes, who flatter to deceive on occasion. Mark Cosgrove has started well, but he will need to channel the spirit of Bradman to keep their side afloat this year.

I will be disappointed if we don't fare much better against them. There should be enough talent in whatever side we put out to win, though we should have an idea on the respective squads tomorrow. Even without Nathan Rimmington we should have too much for them, though we will have to bat much more sensibly than last week and work the ball around better.

To be fair, the two attacks are poles apart and we must impose ourselves on them. It is a game where Hashim Amla can prove his worth, something he will want to do after a subdued start to his time with us. It is the danger in revolving door recruitment, but Amla is a class act who will surely deliver sometime soon.

Finally tonight, well done to David Aust, who is over a thousand points clear in the Fantasy League, with Paul Kirk and Matthew Entwistle in second and third.

I will need to look at my team again...every year I vow to check regularly...every year I don't...

Time to come good, though!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Edwin Smith: a life in Derbyshire cricket

A few weeks ago, 'Old Supporter' asked when the interview that I did with Edwin Smith would appear on the blog.

The short answer is that it won't. After spending two hours in the company of Edwin and his delightful wife, Jean, it became patently obvious to me that his was a story that required telling in much greater detail than the space afforded by this site, even split into several 'chunks'.

This, let's not forget, is a man who took over 1200 wickets for the county over a twenty-year career that started at the age of seventeen, before going on to become county coach. He was the last man to take a thousand wickets for Derbyshire and will almost certainly be the last. In most other eras he would have walked into an England side, especially since many of those wickets were taken on wickets prepared for our many fine seam bowlers in that period...Gladwin, Jackson (Les and Brian) Rhodes, Ward, Hendrick...legends, to a man.

Had Edwin played for Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, Glamorgan or any of several other counties where wickets were often spin-friendly, he would have got closer to two thousand wickets. Not just with off spinners, but with one of the best of arm balls, years in the making, together with a cunning top spinner.

His memory of people and events is still, at 81, remarkably sharp and the tales that he has to tell had me laughing and realising that most of them had never before been put to paper. It seemed such a waste and I wanted to do something about it.

Thankfully, the Association of Cricket Historians and Statisticians agreed and asked me to write his story. As a result, this August Edwin Smith: a Life in Derbyshire Cricket will be published by them, the result of many phone calls to Edwin, his team mates and opponents, as well as many sessions where I was made most welcome in their Grassmoor home, immersing myself in his tales and poring over a wonderful collection of Derbyshire cricket memorabilia.

If I have done the job right, it should be informative and amuse you in equal measure. He played with some of the greatest characters in our history and both his and their stories should make you realise how lucky we have been over the years to watch them.

I was just grateful (and humbled) to spend time chatting and corresponding with such names as Mike Page, Harold Rhodes, Bob Taylor, Brian Jackson, Peter Gibbs, Peter Eyre, David Smith, Fred Swarbrook, Colin Tunnicliffe, David Steele and Geoffrey Boycott. The input of them all was and is appreciated. To a man they were friendly, patient and helpful.

Only five men in Derbyshire's 145-year history have taken more wickets than Edwin and his story is really quite special, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. You will also find that he was one of the finest amateur snooker players in the area, with tales of matches against some of the biggest names of the sport. You can do that, when you have recorded a highest break of 130...

I hope that you will support its publication and take advantage of planned signing sessions if you wish to do so. I will give more details regarding where these will be in due course, together with where else you can buy copies.

He's a special, wonderfully engaging man, is Edwin Smith, with a fascinating story.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Closing thoughts on Yorkshire

Thank you for your comments following last night's game. which was the first 'downer' of the season so far.

I do think that we need to remember the quality of the opposition and also that plans that have been weeks, if not months, in the preparation stage have been cast asunder by injuries. Of course, in sport one expects injuries, but perhaps not on the scale that we have seen so far this summer.

Now, of course, we have lost Wayne Madsen for at least a month as fortune's cull on our senior players continues apace. It places greater responsibility on those still standing, of course, but I can't help believing that we are a better side than we showed last night.

There are teams in the north group that, at this stage of our development, we can really only expect to beat if we are at our best and they have an off day. Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire are the most obvious, sadly our biggest rivals, but there are others that we could beat if we play well.

As Craig points out below last night's piece, we cannot afford fifty dot balls in an innings that only lasts for 120. Nor can we commit batting suicide and toss away five wickets in four overs, turning an innings of promise into a shambles in the time it took most people to eat their tea.

The balance of the side will, I think, evolve, disturbed by the absence of key personnel. Dilshan will offer a spark with bat and ball, while Rimmington's return will allow Mark Footitt's a breather before the tournaments that suit him best. The issue with Mark at T20 is that people will have a go at him and, if he misses his length, anything off either edge is four. He can bowl and take wickets, but is always likely to go for ten an over, when he hasn't necessarily bowled a bad spell.

If we can get runs on the board, the wickets he takes will compensate for the edges, but we need fifty more than last night to compete. I also agree with Sam about Scott Elstone's place in the order - a naturally quick scorer, he should be at five, leaving Alex Hughes and others to play out and hopefully boost the score in the closing overs. With Dilshan's arrival, I would swap Tom Knight in for Wainwright too, a player more likely to clear the boundaries near the end, even if his bowling isn't perhaps yet back to what they hope for.

And finally, picking up the thread from Mark, here's my understanding of our overseas roles for the summer:

Martin Guptill - finished

Hashim Amla - can play one more championship and two more T20 games

Tillakaratne Dilshan - four T20s and two championship matches till mid-June

Hamish Rutherford - seven T20s, three championship and four Royal London Cup matches until end of July

Tillakaratne Dilshan - four Royal London Cup matches and five championship games

That's what was announced and I am sure there will be good entertainment from all of them!

More from me tomorrow.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Yorkshire v Derbyshire T20

Derbyshire 128 (Amla 29, Hughes (C) 27, Poynton 27)
Yorkshire 131-3 (Cotton 2-19)

Yorkshire won by seven wickets

I'm not going to be too harsh on Derbyshire today.

For one thing, they were playing the best team in the country and were soundly beaten. They were short of some of their best players (though so too were Yorkshire) and they at least bowled pretty well. The four-over spell of Ben Cotton for just nineteen runs is something to build on, while Shiv Thakor also did a good job.

The bottom line, however, is that you will win one game in twenty with a score like that, only then if you are playing on a dirt track. I am sure we are a better side than we showed tonight, but appearances on paper need to be backed up by on-field performance. To go from 66-1 to 82-6 in four overs is amateurish. The game is all about partnerships and we didn't get any going after the second wicket fell.

Tom Poynton struck some lusty blows, but we need some of our older heads in to give a greater balance to the side. Whether they will be fit for Leicestershire next week I don't know, but we have to do much better with the bat.

There is little point in comparing ourselves to Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, however. At this stage they are a long way ahead of us. What we need to do is pick ourselves up and do a whole lot better against Leicestershire.

They are beatable, but only if we up our game by one hundred per cent. They worked hard at the T20 drills over the winter, but the batsmen were found sadly wanting tonight.

Finally for now, congratulations to Mark Footitt for being selected to work with England ahead of the first Test against New Zealand. Maybe some fast yorkers on the toes of the other seamers are called for to force the hands of the selectors...

Also worthy of note is the top score of Hamish Rutherford for New Zealand today. It augurs well for his spell with us later in the summer.

Just a pity he wasn't in Leeds tonight, preferably with a few mates.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

T20 preview

Can Derbyshire have a better T20 campaign than last year?

Well, I hope so. We won one out of fourteen last year and struggled to master the basics of the game. Namely, score quickly in the Powerplay, bat sensibly thereafter, minimise the number of dot balls when you are batting and treat each one when you bowl as the victory that it is.

Most of all, don't give away easy runs with wides and no balls - and make sure you have your best fielders in the key positions of long on and long off.

There, that's it sorted...

Despite an injury list that seems to increase with every sighting of a cricket ball, we still have a strong side for the competition. There are a number of clean-striking batsmen, and while the absence of specialist death bowler Nathan Rimmington, with a finger fracture, is a blow there are some talented bowlers too.

It is good to see Wes Durston returned to the side as skipper and I am thrilled to see Tom Poynton back in the side as vice-captain. It is a well-deserved honour for a consummate professional whose glove work is always exemplary. There is little between Tom and Harvey Hosein, but where he shades it is in the greater experience, especially of maintaining a level of concentration for long periods. This must be so hard for a young cricketer, as is Poynton's other strength, as vocal focal point.

It is unrealistic to expect a lad of eighteen to be 'on the case' of players his senior, whereas Poynton's extra years help him. This will be crucial in the T20 and I hope that Harvey, a wonderful talent, watches how Tom keeps everyone on their toes.

In a strong group, it will be a surprise to see us qualify, especially when the side lacks at least three, possibly more of what many would see were first choice players. Steady improvement would do nicely, with a couple of really special nights that entertain the fans.

The squad for tomorrow is thirteen strong and bats deep. I would be inclined to rest Mark Footitt, although he has a week after this one before he needs to turn his arm again. The squad in full:

Amla, Durston, C Hughes, Thakor, Godleman, A Hughes, Elstone, Poynton, Knight, Wainwright, Cotton, Cork, Footitt.

If one reads anything into the listing and the last two are omitted, Wes still has eight bowlers to choose from and a team that bats attractively all the way down.  That should enable him to rotate the bowlers and give them short, sharp spells before the batsmen line them up. A young team should field well, while you should expect Shiv Thakor to be one of the death bowlers, a role he fulfilled admirably at Leicestershire. I'd like to see one of the left-armers play, if only to give a different angle for them to think about.

No two ways about it, we are playing the best side in the country, yet one with several big names missing. Root, Lyth, Ballance, Sidebottom, Maxwell and Finch are elsewhere and if we are going to beat them, this is probably the time to do so.

Their thirteen still contains fine players, however:

Gale, Bairstow, Bresnan, Brooks, Fisher, Hodd, Leaning, Lees, Patterson, Plunkett, Pyrah, Rashid, Rhodes.

If Amla can play an anchoring role and the rest play their shots around him, this side is capable of giving Yorkshire a game. Perhaps thoughts of a win are fanciful, but I reckon that the Yorkies will know they have been in a game, however it turns out.

In a developing side, that will do for starters. Anything else will be a bonus, but the talent is there to do better, beyond doubt.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day 4

At the end of it all it was a noble effort against a team that was in the top tier last season, but Derbyshire's young side narrowly failed to bowl out Northamptonshire today.

I suggested as much last night. I was slightly sceptical of the 'deteriorating wicket' line, because we'd just scored 407-5 on it with a young batting side. Given an attack that was younger still, working our way through a long order was never going to be easy.

Yet we should have done it. Six catches were dropped and the brutal truth is that you cannot do that and expect to win a cricket match at any level. Full marks to the visitors and their battling efforts, especially by the injured Cobb and Wakely, but we should have had that in the bag and been up there on the shoulders of Lancashire.

Rob Keogh played a magnificent innings and didn't deserve to be on the losing side, but part of the learning curve for this talented bunch of players is to capitalise on errors by the other team. When you miss out on six such opportunities, a win is barely deserved.

It would have been a reward for a match of many positives, but a major negative was the final drop, which saw Wayne Madsen have to leave the field with what was later diagnosed as a broken finger. With the T20 starting on Friday, we look like having a very inexperienced side out against Yorkshire, hardly the side you want to face when you are almost a team of players short of your strongest eleven.

With captain-elect Wes Durston struggling, alongside other likely participants such as Tony Palladino, David Wainwright and Wayne White, we look like fielding the ones who are left standing at this stage. I'm also slightly concerned that overseas signing Nathan Rimmington has played no cricket for Plumtree for the past couple of weeks, hopefully not indicative of an injury.

As it stands, Hashim Amla and Mark Footitt look like being the creche supervisors of a very young squad on Friday, which doesn't suggest we are likely to get off to a flyer against the best team in the country. No disrespect intended, but more than a touch of realism.

More on that tomorrow, but for now, it is time to reflect on a job that was almost well done and be better prepared for the next championship match in just over a week, a very quick return fixture against Lancashire at Southport. There is a week after tomorrow's game for James Pipe to get revolving doors fitted on his office and a few people fit, but we are battling hard and that is something.

Special mention tonight, in closing, for Scott Elstone. He returned career-best bowling figures today and is a steadily improving cricketer. Mini-Wes, perhaps, but he did a good job today and can be proud of dismissing three good batsmen.

We are still in the mix and there's a lot of cricket to be played. With Lancashire losing to the Gloucestershire side that we hammered, it is a very open division.

We're fourth and with plenty of time to improve still further.

More from me on the T20 prospects tomorrow.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day 3

Safely returned to the bosom of my family, it was a pleasure to catch up with events at the 3aaa County Ground today and find that Derbyshire did especially well.

It confirmed my belief that we are witnessing the start of something special at the club, a theory borne out not just from events on the field, but from who is not currently involved for one reason or another. Palladino, White, Clare, Durston, Poynton, Wainwright and Godleman, senior players all, are currently missing from the line up, which largely comprises youngsters who are perhaps five to ten years from their peak.

All the batsmen contributed today, with Chesney Hughes the star turn with a century. I watched him yesterday and was very impressed with what I saw. He looked tighter and straighter in defence than I had seen before, happy to let balls go through and to take his time. Like a few others, I have felt in the past that he has been most vulnerable when he gets to twenty, perhaps the concentration wavering a little. This looked a new Chesney, still capable of punishing the bad ball, but better equipped to handle the good one.

It creates another dilemma for Graeme Welch of course. With Billy Godleman serving the last match of his two-game suspension, both Chesney and Ben Slater (94) served notice that they weren't giving up their slot for him. And so the battle for places goes on - and it is heartening to see.

The great Amla will be disappointed with only 21 runs from the match, but Scott Elstone and Shiv Thakor played the type of breezy knock that was required in the circumstances, while the skipper anchored one end to ensure there were to be no alarms. In such a young batting line-up, much depends on Wayne Madsen, but he rarely lets us down and is starting to churn out the runs once more.

Late in the evening, under the pressure of a 'pair', Harvey Hosein came into bat and scored faster than anyone, making an unbeaten 46 from 38 balls. It showed his fearlessness, similar to that displayed by Matt Critchley on day one and confirmed the selfless attitude instilled in their young charges by the coaching staff.

At which point it is time for a plaudit, so take a bow John Sadler and Ant Botha, because we currently have nine players averaging over thirty with the bat, some by a considerable margin. It is tribute to the work done by Sadler, the batting coach, whose talents in this area are already being spoken of in wider circles. One of the youngest level four batting coaches in the country at 33, Sadler, according to people I spoke to over the last few days, has a rare skill of stripping down technique to the basics and encourage people to play naturally and with confidence. It is no guarantee of constant success, as no one manages that, but what I saw of the Derbyshire players when I was down looked different, in a better way. 

In each game so far, one of the young players has put his hand up and scored the runs when needed, something that is a delight to see. We may have injuries, they may be young, but by crikey, they have a fighting instinct, for sure.

In the evening. Mark Footitt ran in like a whirlwind from the City end and removed both opening batsmen, opening the door a little for tomorrow's denouement. It should not be considered a formality that we will win, by a long chalk, as the visitors bat long and well. Equally, Footitt aside, the average age of our main attack is twenty, although 'veterans' Chesney Hughes and Scott Elstone (both 24) may turn their arms tomorrow.

Game on, then. There can be little wrong with the wicket, after our score today and we will need to winkle them out if we are to win. Which leads nicely to my final comment for tonight.

As supporters, we need to accept that the other team is entitled to play well and ours can be bettered. Against good teams, we will come off second best on occasion, when there are partnerships between fine players that we simply cannot break through.

Such a case happened yesterday. We didn't play badly, although the intensity dropped a little as I said at the time. It enabled Josh Cobb and David Willey, two of the best limited over batsmen in the country, to cart us to around a little. They played well and deserve credit for doing so. I will bet my bottom dollar they aren't the last to do so either, because it happens in cricket.

We did the same to Northamptonshire today.

Let's hope we can finish it off tomorrow.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day 2

Derbyshire 343 and 76-0
Northants 324 (Willey 103, Cobb 95, Taylor 3-72, Footitt 3-91)

Derbyshire lead by 95 runs

Today's play at the 3aaa County Ground mirrored that of the first, with early wickets going down before lunch, prior to a recovery being mounted by a late innings partnership. As Critchley and Taylor put on 162 for the eighth wicket yesterday, so Willey and Cobb put on 163 for the seventh today, after we had them in real trouble at lunch.

In the morning session we bowled well and caught even better, a good spell of cricket spoiled only by some no balls that we could have lived without. The seamers all took wickets and we looked a good team.

After lunch, David Willey and Josh Cobb came at us hard, but there appeared a lessening in intensity from the morning that helped them. Footitt hit the latter on the helmet, which necessitated treatment, but afterwards they played many a lusty stroke that saw the people disappear to all parts. They were always likely to, as dynamic T20 players, and we did well to eventually secure a slender 19-run lead.

Matt Critchley couldn't repeat his heroics of yesterday with the ball, but he has a nice, high action and got enough to turn and lift to cause checked and false strokes. While both batsmen lifted him for sixes, he baffled both with his googly and will look forward to bowling on the fourth day.

Ben Slater and Chesney Hughes then batted well in the final session to take the lead to 95 with two days to go. The visitors will not fancy anything over 300 on the last day, so tomorrow - especially the first session - is vital for both sides.

Northamptonshire bat low, but the ball is starting to keep low, so they will not fancy a big chase. Alex Wakely, who missed this innings with a bruised hand, is likely to bat in the second innings, but we need to set a target that gives us every chance of a second win of the season.

The groundwork has been done. Let's see if we can lay the foundations for victory tomorrow.

Postscript - once again, thanks to all those whose company I shared and enjoyed today. The day passed too quickly but there are many worse places to be than Derby in the sunshine.

Driving home tomorrow - report on tomorrow's game from home...

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire day 1

 Derbyshire 343 all out (Critchley 137 not)
Northamptonshire 0-0

When your work, location and domestic commitments limit your availability to watch live cricket, you hope that each day you see is something special.

We went  to watch Hashim Amla at Derbyshire today, but instead were royally entertained by an innings of Boys Own standard by Matthew Critchley, on only his second appearance in county cricket. And special it most assuredly was.

At 18, talented young cricketers are generally scoring good runs at club and academy level, the best perhaps gravitating to the county second team to see if they have what it takes. They are not, usually, transforming county matches with an innings of considerable skill, no little courage, a full range of shots and, at times, great panache. Matthew played with the uncomplicated style of most of his age, uncluttered by technicalities and unfazed by reputation.

He played a blinder.

Down the road at Trent Bridge, they may have players fighting transformers in an advert to promote T20, but at Derby we had a lad who rescued his side from the perils of 103-6 and elevated them to the splendours of an all out 343. It was Thunderbirds, Rocky and Iron Man rolled into one.

It was one innings, of course, not by some distance career-defining. He will bat better and score less, but the youngster showed an excellent temperament in a tough situation for his side. I was especially impressed with how quickly he settled at the crease. When he first went in he was 'going' at everything, but a word from his captain seemed to soothe the nerves and he began to build a 'proper' innings, defending when the ball merited respect and giving it the treatment when the bowlers erred in line or length.

To be honest, the visitors rather lost the plot as Critchley's partnership with the admirable Tom Taylor began to grow. They appeared to have a theory that he would perish to the short ball, with which he was peppered liberally, but most of them disappeared to and over the boundary, unless he opted to leave them alone. It rather undid their earlier good work when the pitched up ball, that nibbled around all day, did for the top order. Mind you, when they did pitch it up, Matthew drove with power and excellent placement, so maybe they ran out of ideas.

In the first hour, Chesney Hughes and Ben Slater batted beautifully and little passed the bat, but when Azharullah changed to a shorter run up, the ball started to zip about. Slater went to a good one, while his partner got his bearings wrong as the same bowler came around the wicket and bowled him.

Enter Amla to a fine ovation, but he lasted only seven balls before his fellow countryman Kleinveldt had him palpably leg before, the importance of the wicket reflected in a celebration akin to that of his side winning a trophy. Then Scott Elstone  reflected the 'beauty' of the game, following a century at Cardiff with a duck here.

Thakor and Madsen saw it through to lunch, but soon afterwards, Shiv was caught behind by the impressive Rossington and when Hosein went to his first ball, we were in major trouble.

Up in the stand we agreed that 150 might be the summit of our ambitions and 200 was a mere pipe dream. Wayne Madsen played some shots, presumably wary of an inexperienced tail, but was held behind after slip had knocked the ball up. We rationalised that from 151-7, 175 might be possible.

The next wicket went down 162 runs later. Critchley was wonderfully supported by Tom Taylor, who deserved a half century but fell one short. As their partnership mounted, the shoulders of the opposition fielders went down and by the end of the day they cut forlorn figures on the outfield, well aware that a chance had gone. Neither their catching nor fielding were especially impressive and that obsession with the short ball may cost them dear if we bowl well.

Tonight it is all about Matthew Critchley and rightly so. In only his second innings in first-class cricket, he has become Derbyshire's youngest ever centurion. On a wicket that is already dry, Derbyshire had intended to bat if they the toss and were surprised to be inserted. With expectation that it will turn later in the game  Critchley's leg-spin may well come to the fore and his starring role could be reprised.

My guess - and hope - is that the slight,modest young man may well have a contract before the week is out, because his potential was patently obvious today. Bad days will lie ahead, as they do for any cricketer, but he can sleep well tonight, aware that he can handle the first-class game. His family, friends and club mates at Wigan Cricket Club will be bursting with pride.

And rightly so.

Postscript - tonight's picture was taken by me as Matthew walked in at the end of the Derbyshire innings. Thanks to everyone whose company I shared and thoroughly enjoyed today, on a quite special day that those present will remember for a long time.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire preview

Tomorrow morning, nice and early, I will be heading down to God's own county for a few days, during the course of which I will pull in the first two days against Northamptonshire.

In an ideal world, we will win the toss, bowl them out before tea and then build a steady innings and an impressive lead by the end of the second day. Of course, Hashim Amla, to complete my feast of cricket watching, will progress serenely to a big hundred with good support from his new team mates.

Time will tell if I am the new Mystic Meg, but the Derbyshire side looks stronger for the return of Messrs Palladino and Taylor, while any side in the world would be strengthened by Amla.

Graeme Welch has announced a thirteen-man squad that is still short of Wes Durston, but the final eleven seems a little clearer:

Hughes (C)
Hughes (A)

Presumably either Ben Cotton or Tom Taylor will drop out, while Matt Critchley would appear favourite to be the other, unless Welch decides a specialist spinner might be useful as the match progresses. Otherwise, twirling duties would be in the hands of Chesney and Scott Elstone.

I am delighted to see the latter keep his place and hope that he is able to build on his fine display at Cardiff. He has much to offer, as a naturally quick scorer, brilliant fielder and useful off-spinner. His all-round talents may prove especially useful in the T20 and the jostle for places in that competition is well and truly on.

As for Northamptonshire, their local newspaper tonight reports that Richard Levi is likely to miss out with ligament damage to his little finger, so Kyle Coetzer is set to replace him. Alex Wakeley is restored to full fitness and David Willey returned from England duty. Rory Kleinveldt is proving a good overseas signing and their side, though lacking some familiar names of recent years such as Sales, Hall and Middlebrook, still has the dependable Stephen Peters at its head.

Their likely side:

Stephen Peters
Kyle Coetzer

Alex Wakely
Rob Newton
Rob Keogh
Adam Rossington
Josh Cobb
Steven Crook
David Willey
Rory Kleinveldt
Muhammad Azharullah

They bat long and did well in the last game against Lancashire, but Derbyshire have the all-round game to beat them, if they play to potential.

Session by session, if the weather holds and we do the same with catches, we can take the points from this one. Purposeful, dynamic cricket, of the type quickly becoming associated with this Derbyshire side, will be a handful for any side

What do you think?

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Amla arrives as Welch faces selection dilemma

There is something almost surreal in seeing the international superstar that is Hashim Amla in Derbyshire colours, as can be seen today on the club site.

If only for a short while, he is Hashim Amla of Derbyshire, a memory that I am sure will warm the cockles of your heart in years to come. If he performs to his usual standard over the next week or two we are in for a treat. The club's initiative of allowing youngsters in free of charge for the Northamptonshire game is to be applauded and I hope rewarded by a bumper crowd.

The make up of the Derbyshire side is anyone's guess. Will Tom Taylor, Tony Palladino and Wes Durston be fit? Will there be a place for a spinner? What will the batting line-up be?

Amla will come into the side, of course, but logically Chesney, the worst-performing of the batsmen at Cardiff, would be the one to make way. Yet that would leave us an opening batsman down, unless the skipper moved back to the top of the innings. It would be very harsh on Scott Elstone should he be omitted, while both Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes offer all-round options. It is a tough call, but a nice one, for Graeme Welch to make. Better that than trying to find six batsmen who are in good enough form to include.

We will have a better idea tomorrow, no doubt.

It was good to see Tom Poynton keeping the pressure on Harvey Hosein by scoring his second century of the summer for the seconds. Young Harvey will be well aware that he needs to maintain his standards with the bat and behind the stumps to remain first choice, but it is rare to have two such talented players for the same position on the staff.

Also interesting was seeing Michael Comber playing in the same side. He was a promising young cricketer at Essex before a couple of injuries slowed his development and he was released in 2012. Since then he has scored big runs for Suffolk, where he played alongside our wicket-keeping coach Simon Guy. An unbeaten 78 stated his credentials quite nicely and at 25 he still has time on his side to make the grade at county level.

No doubt he will have other opportunities before the summer is out, but his record suggests that he is well worth a look.

More from me tomorrow, time (and news) permitting,

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Rutherford signing completes classy quintet

There is a famous photograph on the wall of Sun Studios in Memphis of the so-called 'Million-dollar quartet' - Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. All of them got a start there and made it a place of legend among music followers. The photograph, of the four of them at a piano, is as famous as the performers themselves.

Guptill, Dilshan, Rimmington, Amla and now Hamish Rutherford. That would make a good composite photograph for the 3aaa County Ground, the class of 2015, in which the first 'graduate' has left a lasting impression.

His replacement, the current South African captain Hashim Amla, arrives in town this weekend and will hopefully leave his own mark on the county, while Tillakaratne Dilshan's reputation is every bit as impressive and augurs well.

That tricky mid-season spell when he goes off to the Caribbean was always intended to be filled by a New Zealander or Australian. Today it was announced that we would have the services of the increasingly impressive Hamish Rutherford for that period.

 A sign of my age is remembering watching his father, Ken, bat for his country, but Rutherford junior, at 26, is a player of talent. He will join up with us in the middle of June and will be available across all three formats until the end of July. In total, he will be available for seven NatWest T20 Blast fixtures, three Championship matches and four Royal London Cup games.

He has a good record across all of them. A strike rate of 141 in T20 is impressive and his first-class record is climbing steadily. The only left-hander of our summer, he had a learning curve at Essex in 2013, but will doubtless have benefited from that. His T20 displays for them were good and he has a good range of shots. While not the biggest name of our summer recruits, I expect him to do well and wish him the very best for his stay.

Looks like we are in for a treat...

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 4

That this game ended in a draw was not remotely surprising, given the amount of time that the weather took from it.

What was remarkable was that there was as much play, given that the BBC weather this morning had dark clouds hovering over Cardiff all day long. They got 68 overs in, sufficient time for Wayne Madsen to find his way back to the form that was always inevitable and for Scott Elstone to record a maiden century that was welcome and, apparently, impressive. An unbeaten 103 from 131 balls is an impressive rate to score a maiden ton and the batsman has given Graeme Welch a selection dilemma ahead of the next match. It is hard to drop someone who scores 151 runs for once out in a game, that's for sure.

From the comments, it would appear a few of you felt that yesterday's declaration by Jacques Rudolph was perfectly acceptable. That is, of course, your prerogative, and healthy debate is always good and enjoyed.

I still maintain that the declaration was at best a gimmick and at worst a cynical ploy to get their over rate back up. Rudolph may have opened with Hogan and Carter today, but he had Cosker on pretty sharply, after six overs and at no point did I feel that this young Derbyshire side was under threat.

I accept that the Glamorgan skipper was entitled to declare his innings when he wanted, but in doing so he laid himself open to accusations that he could have avoided with a little thought. I'm not convinced the combination of his attack and that wicket would have been an issue for us, but he did what he did and that's the end of it.

For Derbyshire, although we lost a lot of play (and two possible bowling points) there was much to respect in a solid performance. Competition for places is hotting up, we've found a young leg-spinner and Amla is coming.

Looking forward to Sunday already!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 3: just not cricket

Derbyshire 205 all out
Glamorgan 103-4 dec

It is hard to imagine that there could be so much publicity about a day of cricket where there were only six overs played.

Then again, it is hard to imagine that a team would declare as Glamorgan did and I'm afraid that there's too much in what has emanated from their camp today that doesn't ring true.

Jacques Rudolph said that he wanted to put pressure on an inexperienced Derbyshire line-up where 'they have bowlers at five and six'. Where I come from, they are called all-rounders, Jacques. Indeed, your own country had a bowler at three for many years, a bloke named Kallis, Previously, you had one at two, in Eddie Barlow.

I can only assume that skipper and staff pay no attention to Carol Kirkwood on the BBC or the Met Office. If they did, they would have seen that the chances of a positive result and putting us under pressure tomorrow are slightly less than the chances of me riding into the 3aaa County Ground next weekend like Lady Godiva.

Then there's their club site, that reads 'Glamorgan show positive intent with Derby declaration'. Hmmm...methinks the Welsh lady doth protest too much. I could accept that stance, were it not for every man and his dog (presumably a corgi) knowing full well that the only pressure we will be under tomorrow is when we can start the journey home. Check out this weather report if you will...

There have been declarations in the history of the game that were innovative, brave and inspired. Stuart Surridge, skipper of Surrey during their 1950s period of dominance, was famed for them. Sadly, this one will, I think quite rightly, go down as one that is calculating and totally against the spirit of the game.

The brief passage of play suggested that Derbyshire might end the first innings with a decent lead. The wickets of the overnight batsmen left us in a strong position and with every possibility of maximum bowling points. There was a possibility that Glamorgan might have picked up a batting point, but it didn't look something you would put money on.

To suggest that they felt they could put Derbyshire under pressure is actually disrespectful. I find it hard to believe that a professional cricket club would be oblivious to the weather forecast today and tomorrow. It was simply never going to happen.

What they did was to attempt to protect their poor over rate and thus a points penalty, as well as preventing Derbyshire from getting bowling points. Nothing more, nothing less. Not nice, not clever, not at all in the spirit of the game.

I hope that Derbyshire take this further. I hope that their appeal is listened to and upheld and I hope that Glamorgan are docked points, pour encourager les autres.

I'm not being biased. I am far removed from a one-eyed sports fan and can appreciate good play, irrespective of who produces it. If other teams beat us, fairly and squarely, I can live with it and will acknowledge it willingly. Anyone who reads this blog regularly will appreciate that.

Had the boot been on the other foot, right now I would have been criticising Derbyshire and would have actually been ashamed to support them. I don't like unsporting behaviour and would never condone it, whether as a player or spectator. Win with grace, lose with dignity...that's how I was brought up.

Reputation was sullied today. That of Glamorgan County Cricket Club and that of the game of cricket.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 2

Derbyshire 205 (Slater 53, Elstone 48)
Glamorgan 84-2 (Thakor 2-11)

Derbyshire lead by 121 runs

All things being equal, Derbyshire did OK today.

Yes, they would have liked a bigger total, especially after Ben Slater and Scott Elstone had shared an excellent century stand and taken the score to 132-2, but they battled. I suspect the two players above will be kicking themselves for rather giving it away when well set, a crime greater, in my book, than being dismissed before you have your eye in.

After that it was something of a procession, though Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes threatened to rebuild before being undone by a slow pitch, lack of concentration or both.

What impressed me, however, was the discipline shown by our attack. Glamorgan gifted us 34 runs, eight byes and 20 no balls the chief contributors. In an innings that lasted only 63 overs that was a poor effort, one put into perspective by our bowlers. Eight leg byes, something you can usually do little about, was all that was conceded in 32 overs of disciplined bowling.

Mark Footitt was tidy, the wicket too slow even for him, but the star turns were Shiv Thakor and debutant Matt Critchley. Thakor expressed the desire to improve his bowling under Graeme Welch and appears to have done so, regularly pitching in with wickets. When he and Critchley bowled together today, the scoreboard stopped moving, both of them finding a good line and length.

At 18 the young leggie did very well. We would have understood if he dropped a couple short or bowled the odd full toss, but his four overs - a spell of sensible length from the skipper - cost only five runs and will ensure that he sleeps well tonight.

He might get a chance to do more of that over the next two days, as the weather forecast for Cardiff is on the grim side of dire. High winds and heavy showers tomorrow, followed by heavy rain on Wednesday. While our hosts are probably ahead at this stage of the game, I don't think it is a major advantage and simply cannot see enough time remaining in this game for either side to force a positive result.

In closing, I had a comment today and a separate email suggesting that we carry too small a squad and should have had a contingency for the current injury situation.

I disagree completely. You have to expect injuries but perhaps not on the scale we have had this week, perhaps only exceeded by the situation at the IPro recently. Yet no county can carry enough 'spare' senior players to slot in - partly because they couldn't afford them, also because they wouldn't be happy playing second team cricket on senior player salaries.

We need to ride the storm, trust in the magic hands of Jamie Pipe and hope that all is well - or at least, improved - for the visit of Northamptonshire this weekend.

I'll be there for that one and am looking forward to it immensely.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day one

Derbyshire 47-2 v Glamorgan (Slater 25 not out)

If this was a T20 game, with the teams coming on to the pitch accompanied by an appropriate piece of music, I am unsure which would be the more appropriate for Derbyshire in this game.

The theme to Playschool would be one option, given the age of the side, while another might just be the theme from Casualty...

Already down three players (Durston, Godleman and Guptill) from the game at Bristol, Tony Palladino and Tom Taylor had to pull out with knee injuries. It left the Derbyshire side something akin to The Waltons, with Wayne Madsen and David Wainwright playing the roles of Ma and Pa. The average age of this side is 23, which must be just about the youngest that has ever taken the field for the first eleven in a county championship match.

I suggested last night that this might be a draw, with the weather forecast and I would think that Graeme Welch would take that right now. It will be interesting to see how a young side responds to adversity and one learns a lot from players in such situations.

Ben Slater suddenly looks to be one of the senior players and batted well in the fifteen overs of play possible. The Welsh side's attack, with the on-loan Andy Carter from Nottinghamshire looks solid and they accounted for the returning Chesney Hughes and Wayne Madsen before the close. The skipper is out of touch at present, but I have every confidence that this will return before too long. He is simply too good a player for it not to.

The next three batsmen are Thakor, Hughes and Hosein, so not a great deal of experience there, but the most interesting development of today was the senior debut of 18-year old leg-spinner Matt Critchley.

I have reported on his impressive form for the second team and Academy already, but in his wildest dreams he cannot have expected a senior debut so quickly. He plays his cricket at Wigan and is well-regarded as a player of some potential.

On a wicket expected to turn before the end of the game, he may get his chance to do so against a couple of international batsmen before this game is out.

More from me tomorrow, when hopefully there will be more play.

Kolpak/UK passport signings muddy long-term thinking

Colin Ingram, Ashwell Prince, Alviro Petersen, Richard Levi.

They're all good cricketers, have scored thousands of runs and have come to terms with the fact that their international careers are over. There are plenty of other names out there, all of them taking advantage of the legal loophole that allows them to ply their trade in the UK. Without doubt, each will score a lot of runs for their counties, in all likelihood win them a match or two and quite likely justify their signings.

What it won't do is a single darn thing for the development of local talent in their counties. Those defending them will, of course, say that playing alongside them will improve the young players in the side or squad, but does it?

Think back to when Robin Peterson played a season for Derbyshire. That he was better than we had at that time is undeniable, but does anyone think that playing alongside him furthered the career of any of our young players? Signing the right overseas player can do and I see that as a key part of the role. You need someone who will inspire, motivate, set an example, just as Shiv Chanderpaul did, Dean Jones did, Martin Guptill did. But they need to be SPECIAL.

Do you need several such players? Lancashire clearly think so, as they have three Kolpaks. Glamorgan have at least two (I'm unsure of the status of a few others) and there are more of them around the circuit this year than for some time.

Our neighbours in Nottingham have brought in Brendon Taylor from Zimbabwe on a Kolpak deal this year, a very good batsman who I advocated several years ago would have been a worthwhile overseas signing for a discerning county. He is opening their batting and has already recorded a couple of centuries, yet there is a bigger picture.

Just three years ago, Sam Kelsall was a star player for England under-19s. A big future was predicted for a diminutive opening batsman from Staffordshire, perhaps another James Taylor, if you will. Last season, two years on, he was released. At the age of 21, it was decided that Kelsall wasn't going to make it. Two other Nottinghamshire players, Brett Hutton and Sam Wood, were in the same England set up and neither look close to becoming established senior cricketers, yet watch, I assume in frustration, as their county signs players from elsewhere, each pushing them further back in the queue.

I struggle to comprehend how you can be one of the best in your field at 19, yet surplus to requirements two years later. There are similar examples elsewhere: Shozair Ali at Worcestershire, Ben Collins at Leicestershire, Rammy Singh at Durham. The latter is trialling with us, having been released by Durham at the age of 21, an England under-19 batting star two years earlier.

Then there's Aneesh Kapil at Worcestershire. He moved to Surrey in the hope of opportunity, which may or may not come his way. Given the southern county's reputation for spending big on established talent, I know where I would put my money.

Many of today's established players didn't look the part until their mid-twenties. Many current and former players I have spoken to freely admit that they didn't really know their games until that age. If they did, they struggled for consistency and the pressures of the game are considerable. Peter Burgoyne is a classic case, on our own doorstep. So too Azeem Rafiq, a huge prospect at one time, but now outside the senior game at the age of 24. There are many other examples, but I have heard plenty of tales of players for who the game was made too complicated by well-intentioned coaches, or who didn't realise that playing for a living was completely different to playing for fun. Some didn't make the most of opportunity, others simply didn't get it.

How many talented young cricketers with potential to go far are discarded prematurely in the quest for short-term success? The impatience of supporters and management boards/committees is a major factor. If your job as county coach depends on immediate success, rather than long-term development, then who can blame you for spending more time looking at established overseas players with UK passports, than youngsters on your own patch?

It is difficult, but I applaud Derbyshire for doing it the right way now. We went down the Kolpak/UK passport route with minimal success, but I look at the current squad and am heartened. We are competitive and show signs of being successful, the major factors of which, the youngsters aside, make interesting reading.

There's Wayne Madsen, who couldn't break through in South Africa so moved here to qualify for England. Wes Durston, released by Somerset after minimal opportunity. Tony Palladino, who left Essex after seasons of being a largely peripheral figure - and Mark Footitt, who was released by Nottinghamshire. Somewhat prematurely, as it turns out, don't you think? All have enjoyed the best of their careers from their mid-twenties onwards, rather reinforcing my argument.

I hope that Derbyshire continue to do the right thing and promote young talent. There appears a greater sense of purpose and togetherness among players who have developed through age-group cricket. Not all of our current batch will become top county cricketers, but I think that most of them will and at least a couple could go further still.

How many of their counterparts around the country will get that opportunity? How big an impact will it have on England's cricket future?

The BBC website records ELEVEN players who came into the county game on Kolpak or UK passport deals this past winter. A full team, over and above those already here. How many will qualify, as Wayne Madsen and Chesney Hughes have, for England?

Or are genuinely good enough to take the place of a lad who had done so...

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Enforced changes for Glamorgan game

Having already lost Billy Godleman for two matches through a suspension, Derbyshire now face going into their game against Glamorgan with a changed batting line-up.

Martin Guptill has a slight side strain that wouldn't have stopped him playing had Cricket New Zealand not pulled rank, while Wes Durston has a knee injury that sees him drop out too.

Thus there are three changes to the batting from Bristol, with Chesney Hughes coming in as opener, Wayne Madsen moving up to three and Scott Elstone coming in at four. Everyone else moves up in the order, with David Wainwright replacing Durston and Ben Cotton also included in the squad.

I am sure Graeme Welch could have lived without this, but the consolation is that Hughes, Elstone and Wainwright all come into the side on the back of recent second team runs. It represents opportunity, as one man's misfortune always does for another. With Hashim Amla not due for another week, our squad lines up as follows:

Hughes (C)
Hughes (A)

The most interesting name in a youthful squad is that of Matt Critchley, whose recent efforts for the Academy I have mentioned. A nineteen-year old leg spin bowler who can hit a ball hard, he has been registered after playing as twelfth man against Gloucestershire. Unless the wicket turns out to be akin to the Costa del Sol, he is unlikely to play, but it is good to see young talent encouraged and promoted.

As for our hosts, they name the following squad, with South Africans Jacques Rudolph, Craig Meschede, Chris Cooke and Colin Ingram alongside the returning Australian Michael Hogan. Is it me or is the English game more awash with overseas players than in recent summers? I know that Chesney and the skipper came through a similar route, but they have fulfilled residency requirements that I don't see too many of the others doing. There's an article a-brewing on this, coming soon.

James Kettleborough, Jacques Rudolph (capt), Will Bragg, Colin Ingram, Chris Cooke, Mark Wallace, Graham Wagg, David Lloyd, Craig Meschede, Dean Cosker, Andy Carter, Andrew Salter, Michael Hogan.

Glamorgan are a decent side, perhaps stronger in batting than bowling, though Graham Wagg will be keen to put one over his old team mates. Whether we are missing an overseas player or not, whether we have a young squad or otherwise, this is the sort of team that we need to beat this year.

I am confident in our bowling - so who in the batting line-up is going to step up?

Looking at the weather forecast, sizeable chunks could be taken from this game, so I am going for a draw.

What about you?

Postscript - congratulations to Billy Godleman, at the end of a frustrating few days, for his contract extension, that takes him through to the end of next summer. He has worked hard on his game and fully deserves it.

I can see Billy and Ben Slater forming a very good pairing at the top of the order.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Weekend warmer

Thanks for your emails on last night's Mark Footitt piece, which was written for Cricinfo, as well as the blog. As you will gather, I am a huge fan of the bowler and the way in which he has turned around a career that was going nowhere fast at one point.

That he should play for England against New Zealand is a no-brainer for me. Whether he does is another thing altogether. No doubt England will overlook him for a massively inferior bowler from down south who has taken a fraction of the wickets and probably bowls right-arm fast medium...

Elsewhere, and ahead of a preview of the game tomorrow, Glamorgan have named their twelve for the game that starts in Cardiff on Sunday. Interestingly, it includes two spinners, which suggests that my assertion that either David Wainwright or Tom Knight may make our squad isn't perhaps too far wide of the mark. Maybe they are preparing an early season beach...

Australian Michael Hogan is also back in their squad, after missing the early season matches through injury.

Finally tonight, a 'well done' nod to Huw Lloyd, who maintains his position at the top of the Fantasy League, though his lead over Robert Tomlinson has been cut to just 28 points. David Aust is closing fast in third in what looks a competitive league.

It is early days, though, just like in Derbyshire's season. Plenty of time for anyone to make a move and rise through the pack...

I'll be back tomorrow with a match preview.

Enjoy your weekend.