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.

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