Monday, 31 August 2015

Surrey v Derbyshire preview

My apologies for the lack of blogging this past weekend, but a combination of work and a need to get stuff organised for our imminent holidays meant I had very little spare time to comment.

Truth be told, there wasn't much to report. T20 Finals Day - or what I saw of it around work - was a disappointment, with a slow pitch hardly conducive to quick scoring or big hitting. Given that is a major part of it for supporters, the good crowd will have had limited fun, unless they came from Lancashire, of course.

Fair play to them for winning the whole shebang, but it shows that we just need to improve the fractions, the percentages, to compete more. We beat them at the 3aaa County Ground with some ease and with shrewd additions over the winter it is not unrealistic to think we could do better next year. I think the bowlers are already in place, although a second overseas player who can turn his arm over, or a Kolpak, would be useful. The nucleus is there, though and with another ten per cent we might escape the group stages next year for the first time since Gandhi was a lad...

Tomorrow sees us play a return fixture against Surrey, the opponents on what was our worst display of the summer - indeed, many a summer - earlier this year. It was the only time I have left a day's play ahead of the scheduled close and our lads had 'gone' way before they batted that day. This is a chance to make amends and I hope that the players remember the hurt after that game at Derby.

Fresh from his second team heroics, Tom Milnes is named in the squad and deserves to make his debut, ahead of what I expect to be a move to us in the close season. He replaces the injured Alex Hughes, still struggling after the blow on the hand against Kent and deserves a chance to show what he can do at county level. I suspect he will do rather well, judging by his figures for Warwickshire in the top tier.

The Derbyshire squad:

Billy Godleman
Ben Slater
Chesney Hughes
Wayne Madsen
Wes Durston
Shiv Thakor
Harvey Hosein
Matthew Critchley
Tony Palladino
Tom Milnes
Mark Footitt
 Ben Cotton

I expect the final place to be between Ben Cotton and Milnes, but have no more idea than the rest of you on the fitness of the others. It is a decent mix of youth and experience and there will be some nice sub-plots in the game. Can Billy Godleman get four successive centuries? Can Harvey Hosein replicate last year's feats? Can several young players reinforce the positive impressions of the summer, while Mark Footitt uses the opportunity of a game in the Big Smoke, aka where the journalists are, to  stake a winter tour claim?

I hope the answer is yes to all of them, but our hosts welcome back Kumar Sangakkara in a strong side that is pushing Lancashire all the way for the title. With them promoted, next year should be a pretty even division two, whoever comes down. Their squad:

Gareth Batty (capt)
Zafar Ansari
James Burke
Rory Burns
Sam Curran
Tom Curran
Steven Davies
Jade Dernbach
Ben Foakes
Arun Harinath
Kumar Sangakkara
Gary Wilson

It will be a fascinating game and I hope that we acquit ourselves well against a determined side with talented players.

More from me tomorrow. In closing, just a heads up that the Peakfan family will be on their annual holidays from the coming Sunday, for ten days in the delights of Spain. While I will blog briefly in that time, when time and wi-fi availability fall into alignment, it will be as and when.

I will be back in time for our last game of the summer and should be down to see most of the Leicestershire game. It would be great to see old friends at that one, before autumn and winter fall upon us once more.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Second XI are cup winners!

Terrific win by the Second Eleven at Durham tonight, as they took the One-Day Trophy by ten runs over their hosts.

It was a well-deserved win for them, who had gone through the tournament unbeaten and contained a good mixture of youth and experience in the side. 69 from Chesney Hughes, 45 from Ben Slater and 41 from Wes Durston were the top scores, but Tom Knight's 32 and Matt Critchley's sensible 18 at the end saw us to a challenging score of 247-8 in 50 overs.

Durham's side also included players of considerable first-class experience but Phil Mustard struggled to get the ball away before being leg before to Critchley and when Tom Taylor removed the dangerous Calum Macleod for 41, the writing was on the wall.

There were late wickets and common sense bowling from Tom Milnes, who finished with 3-43 and the trophy will be heading back to the 3aaa County Ground.

Some will doubtless say 'it's only a second team' but the talent in that side leaves grounds for optimism, especially with a very young attack.

I would not be at all surprised to see Milnes engaged for next summer, as the lad has done little wrong since joining from Warwickshire on loan. Indeed, 22 wickets in seven innings confirms that he has done an awful lot right and the lad's record suggests that he might be worth a punt.

His limited opportunity at Edgbaston has left him with a batting average of 28 and, with a best bowling performance of 7-39, there's no concerns that the lad can bowl. Yes, we need experience in our side for next year, but at 22 Milnes may well be worth a contract.

That's for others to decide, but for now, enjoy the taste of success...I hope it is just an aperitif for the youngsters in that side.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Good luck to the seconds

I am sure you will all join me in wishing the Second Eleven the best of luck in their one-day final against Durham tomorrow.

They have played some fine cricket this summer and the icing on the cake would be a win in the final, on the ground of their opponents.

While the under 17s quest for silverware ended up short at the weekend against a strong Surrey side, the seconds could go all the way.

Bring home the trophy lads!

We're all rooting for you.

Edwin Smith launch a great success

It was a memorable night for both Edwin Smith and old Peakfan last night, as my new book on Edwin's career was launched at Chesterfield Library in front of a fine audience.

Several of Edwin's former team mates were in attendance, as was Derbyshire captain, Wayne Madsen, who happily chatted and posed for photographs as the books were sold and signed.

Edwin was in fine form and entertained the audience with stories from his career, then took questions from the audience.

Thank you to everyone who came along for making it a special evening and please get in touch if you would like to buy.

The book is now available on Ebay - simply search under 'Edwin Smith'.

Photo shows: back row - David Millner, Peter Eyre, John Eyre, Wayne Madsen
Front - Peakfan, Edwin Smith, Brian Jackson

There's the basis of a good little team there, but I don't fancy my chances of either opening the batting or taking the new ball...

Thanks to all at Derbyshire County Libraries for making the evening one to treasure.

Photograph courtesy of Derbyshire County Libraries

Adieu to David Wainwright

It is always sad when a county favourite is released, although there was an inevitability about that of David Wainwright, which was announced today.

He had been a peripheral figure this season, struggling to recover from a pre-season injury which ultimately caused form to be elusive. His last appearance, which even at the time appeared a farewell, was against the Australians and his batting was, as ever, dogged.

The truth is that David always was a battler, a 'nuggety cricketer', as I have heard him described. There was a touch of the Fred Swarbrooks about the way in which he got his head down and tried to save a losing cause, but the harsh reality was that he perhaps didn't score the runs that his talent deserved.

As for his bowling, he never recaptured the form of that golden summer of 2012, when he won us matches, shut an end up as required and, crucially, gave balance to the side. He lost the control of that summer and seemed less able to bowl the maidens that are so useful to a captain whose seamers are going around the park.

More importantly, he didn't take wickets when he was expected to do so. At Southport, in favourable conditions, he was outbowled by Matt Critchley and then struggled to take wickets in second team cricket.

It was all very sad and inevitable. We seem set to go with Tom Knight and Critchley next summer, both of who crucially have time on their side but a lot of learning to do.

David Wainwright will doubtless score runs and take wickets in club cricket for many years to come, while supporters will remember his contribution to that title of 2012 and the 'magic ball' in last year's RLODC that set him off on something approximating a lap of honour of the County Ground.

He was a good cricketer and always gave of his best.

You can't ask for more.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Still tickets left for the Edwin Smith book launch

There are still tickets available for the launch of my book on Edwin Smith, which takes place at Chesterfield Library tomorrow evening (Tuesday) at 7.30pm.

It will be an opportunity to recognise the wonderful contribution made at all levels of cricket in Derbyshire by Edwin. As well as 1214 first-class wickets, he took thousands more in league cricket across the north of England and was also county coach for three seasons.

He is engaging company and good fun, something that I hope is reflected in the book, which contains many stories never previously in print about a range of Derbyshire cricket characters.

Containing the thoughts of many of Edwin's contemporaries in Derbyshire sides, as well as such luminaries as Geoffrey Boycott and David Steele, the book costs £14 and will be available on the night. Afterwards, signed copies can be obtained from me by using the contact details that you will find on the left hand side of this blog.

Unsigned copies can be obtained by calling the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians on 01323 460174.

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow, when I will interview Edwin on his career, before we take questions from the audience and then sign copies of the book.

My thanks go to Derbyshire County Libraries for hosting the event. Call Chesterfield Library on 01629 533400 to reserve your ticket for the evening. They cost £3 (£2 concession)

Derbyshire v Kent day 4

Derbyshire 253 and 234-3

Kent 159 and 231-5 

Match drawn

My comment regarding the weather being the deciding factor turned out to be quite propitious today, when an absorbing day's cricket that ebbed and flowed throughout was ended by the rain at tea.

It came bang on cue, as given by the forecasters, yet stopped a game that could have gone either way in its tracks. When Rob Key and Sam Northeast were going well, Kent clawed back the ascendancy that had gone to us with two early wickets, but Tony Palladino's removal of the former slowed their progress.

Ben Harmison looked sketchy to start but had got into his stride before tea with three successive boundaries before he got too confident against Chesney Hughes' spin and edged to Wayne Madsen at slip. It was the last action before tea and, coming soon after Mark Footitt had induced an edge from an assayed hook by Northeast, saw Derbyshire go into the interval the more confident side.

Five down was effectively six, with Billings unable to bat, so with 98 needed to win and two new batsmen at the crease, the Derbyshire attack will have come out after tea for one final assault on the tail. With Alex Hughes off the pitch after a crack on the hand yesterday, along with Shiv Thakor, still hors de combat after his first day blow to the head, we were two bowlers light and the burden on the rest was considerable.

They did extremely well. Ben Cotton and Palladino ran in hard, but star turn was once again Mark Footitt, whose pace never dropped from the first over to his last and who bowled 24 overs in the innings. It was a top effort by the paceman and all three will sleep well tonight.

Given better weather, it is a game we would have won easily and the team can be pleased with a good effort over the four days.

Especially Billy Godleman.

That will live long in his memory.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Derbyshire v Kent day 3

Derbyshire 253 and 234-3 (Godleman 105 not)

Kent 159 and 30-0

Kent require 299 to win

I suspect that the weather will have the last laugh tomorrow in a game that, in a fair four days, we would have won easily.

Tonight is one to salute Billy Godleman, for his second century of the match, third in succession and fourth in five innings of all cricket. He couldn't be in a more purple patch if he sat eating those funny shaped Quality Street with the caramel and nut centre, while listening to Deep Purple and Prince on his ipod...

Billy follows some illustrious names in the three in a row sequence, with Kim Barnett the last, 25 years ago, preceded by Peter Kirsten, William Storer and Levi Wright. He is up there with them now and looks such a good player right now. If he gets another in his next knock, I might need to rename this Billy's Blog and leave his picture up in perpetuity...

He was given good support by Chesney Hughes, who reached a solid fifty before being bowled, which brought in the skipper to play a selfless innings, full of improvisation. When he was dismissed, Alex Hughes became the latest to retire hurt in the game, before the declaration came with one eye on the gathering clouds and the other on tomorrow's forecast.

Kent got through largely untroubled, but unless we produce a magical morning, rain threatened after 3pm may well render a lot of very good cricket in this game to naught.

In closing tonight, thanks to all who came along to make the signing session at the ground so pleasant today. Your chat and kind words meant a lot and I hope more of you manage along to Chesterfield on Tuesday.

Be assured that Edwin Smith is a very entertaining man and it will be a special evening.

Postscript - it was duly confirmed today that Dilshan has played his last game for the county. It proved to be a largely unsatisfactory experience, although the memory of him opening the batting with Hashim Amla in the televised Lancashire T20 will live long.

It was also announced at the members forum that we will soon announce the signing of a young all-rounder and are seeking the services of a Kolpak or dual-nationality player.

That should start the rumour mill going nicely - any thoughts?

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Good luck to the under-17s

Time to wish the DCB under-17s the very best of luck in their one-day cup final against Surrey at Kibworth tomorrow.

I would have gone along to that, had I not been otherwise engaged at the 3aaa County Ground, as I have heard good reports about these lads. Archie Gleadall, Joss Morgan and Ryan Bramwell make up a trio of talented batsmen and they are backed up by a balanced attack and a high standard of fielding.

They could go all the way and win it, which would be a terrific achievement for them and for their coach, Howard Dytham.

Congratulations also go to Ryan Bramwell, who has been selected for the Midlands under-17 squad to take part in the regional festival.

Bring home the silverware, boys!

Derbyshire v Kent day 2

Derbyshire 253 and 73-1 (Godleman 42 not)
Kent 159 (Footitt 4-61)

Derbyshire lead by 167 runs

As truncated days go, this was a very good one for Derbyshire.

I missed the morning session but taking five wickets for under 70 runs was impressive work. In the afternoon, some of the out cricket got a little sloppy, but the catches were held with sufficient regularity for the Kent innings to fold well short of our total.

While Mark Footitt again bowled well and led the wickets tally, I was taken with Ben Cotton's bowling today. I think he has the ability to be a really nasty quick bowler, but is too nice a lad to rough up the opposition batsmen as someone of his size could do. By the time he is the finished article, I think he will add a couple of yards to his already handy pace and I enjoyed the way that he was happy to use and threaten with the 'throat ball' today, perhaps a sign of things to come.

He's a big lad and could be a formidable bowler for us in the coming years. So too will Tony Palladino, who bowled within himself, yet with metronomic accuracy. The attack had a good look to it and it was a good effort, all topped off with a brilliant stop and throw from Scott Elstone in the deep to get the final wicket.

When we batted, I didn't think Ben Slater looked as sound in technique as when I have seen him previously, perhaps a little more hesitant in his footwork that goes with a player not quite in the best of form. He stuck around though and gave us the solid start that we needed, in conjunction with Billy Godleman.

The latter looks the real deal now, an opening batsman with an air of permanence about him. Sure in defence and crisp on the attack, Billy has an on drive that is all his own and that I would say was his trademark shot. The coaches have done a good job with him, but his own work ethic is important, as is the fact that, at 26, he now knows his game. After bursting onto the scene, Billy had several years of under-achievement, exactly as others in their early twenties have found.

Another 166 runs would take him to his first thousand, while nine more will make it his most prolific season, overtaking his first in 2007.

He has been a standout this summer and his efforts have set us up for a win that could be ours, if the weather doesn't intervene.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Busy weekend with the book

I hope to meet a few of you over the next few days as my new book on county bowling legend Edwin Smith is launched.

Edwin and I will be at the County Ground on Sunday from 1.30pm, giving you the first opportunity to buy a copy of 'Edwin Smith: a Life in Derbyshire Cricket'. We will both be available for signing copies too, should you wish.

Then, on Tuesday evening at 7.30pm, we will be at the theatre in Chesterfield Library, where I will interview Edwin before we both take questions from the audience and then sign copies for those who wish to buy.

Ticket for this event are priced £3 (£2 concession) and can be reserved on the door by calling 01629 533400.

The book costs £14 and is full of stories from a life in the county colours, as well as many photographs.

I look forward to catching up with friends old and new over the days ahead.

Time for a little more thought

As I like to do, I've been thinking about some of your comments in recent days.

I don't think some of them have been especially fair.

For one thing, what we all overlooked at the time was that Derbyshire had the nous to start contract negotiations with Mark Footitt at this early stage, before he got into the last year of his contract. It was always unlikely that Mark would sign the first contract offer, especially, as I wrote the other night, when he is coming to the peak of his career.

Think on this...who put it 'out there' that Mark had rejected the club's contract offer? Of course, using one of the 'tools' open to him to get the best deal for his client, it was in all likelihood Mark'a agent. In one fell swoop he alerted clubs around the country that he may be available IN TWELVE MONTHS TIME and to start forming an orderly queue for his services.

I would be surprised if there were any early signature on a contract and I think it would be worth Mark's waiting to see how the winter goes for one thing. He can't deny that Derbyshire have looked after him physically and financially, when he was hardly awash with offers on leaving Nottinghamshire. Such considerations will come into his head, as will the fact that his bowling has come on apace under the tutelage of Graeme Welch, as has that of other players. he would not be the first to find things went pear-shaped on a move to pastures new.

I fully respect his right to consider options, but I have total confidence that the club will do the right thing in trying to keep him, as well as in realising when they can go no further.

I have to say that I disagree regarding the supposed lack of communication with the club too. As supporters, we have no right to know exactly what is wrong with am injured player, because confidentiality between a practitioner and patient is important. We don't want opposition sides knowing that bowler A has a knee problem, because they can then prepare for him neither bowling at full pace nor for long spells and bat accordingly. The people in charge of our club are not daft and sometimes the appreciation of why they are tardy in releasing information needs greater contemplation than is being given in some quarters.

Nor are they, as being suggested by one or two of you, poor coaches. These are highly qualified men, as advanced as one can be in the profession, more than most of us in ours. That their young charges don't always carry out instructions to the letter is no real surprise - do the young employees in your organisation always get it right? Are you, for that matter, entrusting the future of your company to them because there are no viable alternatives at this point in time?

Which brings me neatly to Tony Palladino. Do you really think that if Tony was fully fit he would be omitted from one-day sides? The team has cried out for experience, but there was every chance that Mark Footitt could have been on England duty, so Tony's availability for the four-day game was even more important. I fully expect, at the end of the season, to hear that he is to undergo surgery, but the club has every right to release information on players and their fitness when they see fit, like every other across the land. Those suggesting that the coach is 'to be questioned' on his omission will, I am sure, be back on here to tender their apologies in due course should it happen...

There's the rub, as I have written previously ad infinitum. No one outside the club knows the reasons for decisions and if the club feels that it is best things stay that way, then so be it. I follow the news feeds from the various county clubs and Derbyshire are far from being the least communicative with their members and followers. If there are issues with specific players, just as happens in your organisation, the parties involved are fully entitled to discretion. Be it fitness or discipline, these things happen and the parties concerned are the only ones with a right to know about it.

I do hope that greater consideration is given by everyone before committing comments to the blog, or I will need to start being more ruthless. Before you say anything, ask yourself one simple question - if the person you are writing about was stood opposite you, would you say to him what you are happy to write? I would and when I am critical, I try to remember that the person concerned is somebody's brother, father, son or grandson. I don't feel a need to hide when meeting people at the club, because I like to think my comments are generally fair, even if I am critical. Can you always say the same?

It is important that this is the case for everyone, because I won't allow a witch hunt aimed at any individual or section of the club. It simply isn't right. There are places on the web where that kind of thing is fair game, but this isn't and will never be one of them.

As I have said before, I don't want this site to be a cross between The Waltons and The Little House on the Prairie, but it is aimed considerably higher than cheap shots at people with dignity and a commitment to improve things, which they will. Expect changes this winter, expect improvement in the summers ahead.

Keep your comments coming, but give them considered thought please.

Derbyshire v Kent day 1

Derbyshire 253 (Godleman 108)

Kent 27-0

Situation squandered at Derby today, when a good start under cloudy skies, largely thanks to another century from Billy Godleman, was reduced to 253 all out, with Shiv Thakor concussed by a short ball.

With Kent losing Sam Billings to a dislocated finger, there were a few injuries but the visitors will have been the happier at the end of the first day.

Over at Chesterfield, there was better news as the seconds beat Surrey by five wickets to reach the final of the one-day trophy.

Half centuries by Tom Knight and Tom Poynton saw our lads to fine win that sees them play the final next Thursday.

More from me tomorrow, but plenty of things to do ahead of a journey south tomorrow.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Good luck to the Seconds

Fingers crossed for the seconds as they play Surrey in the semi-final of the Second XI trophy at Queens Park tomorrow.

Their squad:

Rahib Ali
Ryan Bramwell
Greg Cork
Will Davis
Scott Elstone
Rob Hemmings
Tom Knight
Tom Milnes
Tom Poynton
George Sellers
Tom Taylor
Harry White

There is some good young talent in that side, so here's hoping that Surrey field a side of similar youth and don't stack a side with Solanki, Batty and others...

Good luck lads!

Derbyshire v Kent preview

Whoah there, folks...

No sooner does news break of Mark Footitt's turning down of a contract, than people are suggesting more departures and issues where they really don't exist.

Please try to keep comments to things we know - i.e. Mark - than things based on nothing more than supposition. Just because Tony Palladino hasn't played much one-day cricket , it doesn't mean he's leaving, nor is Wayne Madsen because he wasn't one-day captain.

Let's keep comments to facts, thank you.

Full marks to Graeme Welch today, in omitting Tillakaratne Dilshan from the side to play Kent this weekend. I wrote the other night that it would be a brave decision to omit the overseas player, but I applaud it. His form has been wretched and any player should be given a break when form is proving so elusive.

I feel sorry for the coach. He has come in to build a dynasty at the club, progress the development of young players and get them into the first team. He has done that, granted with mixed success, which is always going to be the case with young cricketers. He has a strong bunch of young players in the second team and another impressive batch in the under-17s. Could he really do more in a two-year period, especially with some of the hurdles he has had to face, on and off the field?

He could, with a full complement of contributing senior players and in that he has been somewhat hamstrung by contractual decisions made before he came to the club. This winter will see a revamp of the playing staff and the Derbyshire coach is sensible enough to realise that it is an important one, without any of us spelling it out. He has made one very positive move in engaging Hamish Rutherford, who will make a big difference across all formats next summer and I expect other exciting announcements in the coming months.

Whether it is with or without Mark Footitt, 2016 will be a big season. Further progress will be expected from young players and an influx of those with greater experience, battle-hardened players if you will, are needed. Godleman, Madsen, Palladino and Durston make up a steady four, but they will need support. We need to show further signs of the improvement that has been hinted at this year with wins over good sides, while eliminating some of the errors that have strewn other performances.

I still think Welch will get there, but supporters need to show patience and should trust in those in charge at the club.

For the Kent game, he has chosen a squad of twelve that is as strong as we could name in the circumstances, one with a good depth in batting and a strong content of young players.

Billy Godleman
Ben Slater
Chesney Hughes
Wayne Madsen
Wes Durston
Alex Hughes
Shiv Thakor
Harvey Hosein
Matthew Critchley
Tony Palladino
Ben Cotton
Mark Footitt

Sitting below us in the table, Kent have had a tough year and name the following squad, with South African batsmen Sean Dickson possibly making a debut:

 Sam Northeast (c), Daniel Bell-Drummond, Rob Key, Joe Denly, Ben Harmison, Sean Dickson,  Fabian Cowdrey, Sam Billings (wk), Calum Haggett, James Tredwell, Matt Hunn, Ivan Thomas.

With Matt Coles and Darren Stevens rested, this is a match we can win.

If the weather stays out of it, I think we will do.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Footitt deal is in the air

The BBC report tonight that Mark Footitt has rejected a new deal at Derbyshire.

At 29, the fast bowler is coming to his peak and has a year remaining on his current deal. His current contract will doubtless see him among the best paid in the club, but it is unlikely that he couldn't get a better deal elsewhere.

On his recent England duties, he will doubtless have seen and heard the sums on offer around the circuit, presumably being interested in the salary undoubtedly picked up by David Willey in his move to Yorkshire, that was announced today.

I am sure that Mark and his agent are looking for the best available deal at a key stage of his career and the next three years are likely to be the most potentially lucrative for the player. His injury issues are behind him, his pace is good and he is a very good bowler. In what is a short career, I don't blame him or the agent for their stance. Whether Derbyshire can match those demands is a moot point.

Every player has his price and it is all well and good to say, as I read elsewhere earlier, that we should do what it takes to keep him. With respect, that is nonsense.

Derbyshire will make the best offer they can afford to the player, but that is all. They won't break the bank, for the simple reason that we have to finance a squad, not just one player.

If Mark gets - and I'm plucking a figure from the air here - an extra £20K a season, why shouldn't Wayne Madsen and Wes Durston, respective captains, get parity, or better? Don't you think that the agents of other players might not want their client looked after too?

If we are to retain the best of the youngsters, we need to look after them. If we want to bring in a couple of Kolpaks, we need to have the money to do so. If we hope to recruit from other counties, we need to have a budget to do that.

David Willey going to Yorkshire blocks the path of an existing player or two on their staff and there will be one or two of them unsettled. It is the case with any signing and it may open doors for other counties, including Derbyshire, to pick up good county cricketers.

I hope Mark Footitt stays and plays for us for a number of years, but Derbyshire will balance his demands against the returns. He is a fine four-day bowler, but doesn't play T20. Logically, if a more affluent county comes in for him and money is his sole motivation, then he will go, perhaps even before the end of his contract. As we all know, they aren't really worth squat these days, when the benefits are seemingly all with the player and little with the club, if a player wants to go.

A better summer for us would have helped and no one can blame Mark for looking at what is out there, perhaps resulting in some silverware in his career. Yet how many counties, outside of Yorkshire, can guarantee that?

I have no doubt that discussions will continue through the autumn and winter and we will all keep a wary eye on developments. Just trust the very good people at the club to do what is required. We may or may not keep Mark, but I wish him the best either way.

But either way, the club will continue.

And I await your comments with interest...

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Derbyshire v Worcestershire RLODC

Derbyshire 234-8 (Thakor 68, Elstone 52)

Worcestershire 181 (target 231)

Derbyshire won by 49 runs on D/L

A nice closing win for Derbyshire today, granted in a match that meant little other than for pride and bragging rights. Yet win it we did and in some style, thanks largely to an all-round display of great promise by Shiv Thakor (pictured).

It's been a funny old year for the youngster. He arrived with the reputation of being a batsman of talent who could bowl a bit, but has displayed his talent with the willow only fleetingly. He looks so composed and comfortable at the crease that it comes as a surprise when he is dismissed, which has been too early, too often this summer.

Yet his bowling has come on a huge amount. He is one of our most reliable one-day bowlers and at 21 is a long way from the finished product, yet produced another economical - and penetrative - display today. 68 runs and 3-37 made him a shoo-in for man of the match, but Scott Elstone did well with his 52 and Matt Critchley hit freely towards the end to set a competitive, if not overly scary total.

We needed discipline and economy and got both. Only four extras in the innings was good to see, with Alex Hughes bowling an equally frugal spell and removing the dangerous Alex Gidman. Neither he nor his brother Will have enjoyed the best of summers after leaving Gloucestershire and both have spent too much time in second team cricket at their stage of career. Another case of the grass not being greener, perhaps...

Four wins and four losses pretty much sums up our summer. We have shown we can beat good sides, when the commitment and focus is right, but equally slip to alarmingly poor defeats when there is a lessening of intensity. The very best sides can get away with one or two players not being quite 'there' at times, but we are some way from that and need eleven pulling together most of the time.

Enough people did their stuff today to beat a decent first division side, just as we have beaten Yorkshire, Lancashire, Somerset and Nottinghamshire this summer. It shows that the talent and potential is there, but defeats against considerably weaker sides suggests that at times we 'switch off'.

Things to work on, as there always is with young players of course.

Finally tonight, warm congratulations go to Derbyshire under-17s, who made the final of the ECB Royal London one-day trophy, beating Nottinghamshire at Repton School. They sadly lost to Warwickshire in the semi-final of the two-day competition, but can be very proud of their efforts.

Excellent match reports can be seen on the Derbyshire Cricket Board website.

Well done lads - and good luck in the final on Sunday!

That's one that I will be following closely...

Monday, 17 August 2015

Durham v Derbyshire RLODC

Durham 247-8
Derbyshire 192 (Madsen 77)

Durham won by 55 runs

The ninth wicket stand between Gordon Muchall and Chris Rushworth took this game away from Derbyshire, on a day when their limp middle order once again failed to function. Durham ran out comfortable winners, despite a brave and nigh-solo hand from Wayne Madsen, whose 77 was the highest score of the game.

At 183-8, we had every chance of taking it, but as the home side's score mounted towards 250, each run seemed like a nail in the coffin of our winning chance. I don't look at this Derbyshire side and see it chasing down 250 in 50 overs and therein lies an obvious area for winter strengthening.

Muchall does that kind of rescue act on a regular basis for Durham and we need someone like him at the 3aaa County Ground. Young players can and will improve over the winter and their comfort in such situations will be easier with experience, but we need a couple of older heads in there for next year. Their presence will help the youngsters and, for me, help to accelerate their progress.

It would have been handy to have overseas input in such a situation but once again Dilshan failed. I would have loved to have seen Rutherford in the side today, because I can put no gloss on what has been an horrific stint by the Sri Lankan. I have no doubt that he has tried his best, but with the pressure of the overseas role comes a need to perform and an expectation of results, especially from an international name of such standing.

When I look at the side and actually feel it would be stronger were he not in it, I'm saddened. The signing was acclaimed and seemed a very good one at the time, but it hasn't worked out in any way shape or form.

Of more benefit, as far as I am concerned for the remainder of the summer, would be giving a run to Tom Knight. Batting at four for the seconds today, against Nottinghamshire, Tom held the innings together with 97. He has made enough runs in that side to justify an opportunity and, irrespective of whether his bowling comes back (I think it will, for the record) he could be a good enough batsman for the senior side in the long-term.

It would be a brave man who omitted an international star in favour of a youngster, but those long-term aspirations are of far greater importance than any short-term niceties. I'm not laying today's loss at Dilshan's door at all, but if you are looking at playing our strongest side just now, I don't think you could say he would be in it. 199 runs in 13 innings across the formats tells its own story, I am afraid and perhaps for his sake, as well as ours, it is time for a breather.

Pride and contracts to play for in the remainder of the season, opportunity there to be grasped...

Who will take it?

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Season-defining week ahead

I don't always agree with 'Anon' in his (or her) many guises, but I did to today, when such a post commented on Mark being 'really bored' with this season. How can you be, mate, ahead of a week where we have a chance to qualify for the RLODC quarter-finals?

I've not been bored by the season at all. Frustrated at the number of opportunities to win games that we have let slip, for sure, but correct decision-making in the heat of battle against a decent team is generally given to the experienced, rather than novice cricketer. At this stage of our development, we have too many of the latter in the side and, while they have performed very well on occasion, the naivety shows through on occasion.

Wes is fit, which we will all be thrilled about and the squad is pretty much what we would all have hoped for. If ever there was a time for Dilshan to show his best form, this is it. The squad:

Wes Durston
Billy Godleman
Tillakaratne Dilshan
Wayne Madsen
Chesney Hughes
Alex Hughes
Scott Elstone
Shiv Thakor
Tom Poynton
Matt Critchley
Greg Cork
Ben Cotton
Mark Footitt

It is hard to call the final line-up, though Graeme Welch may be inclined to go with depth of batting on a wicket that could help the seamers, as it so often does at The Riverside.

Their captain Mark Stoneman calls us a 'very good side', which I think we are at this format. They have pretty much a full squad to choose from, aside from their Ashes heroes, so we will need to be at our best to win on Monday. A win would put one foot into the quarter-finals and, depending on Northamptonshire's games this week, could take us through. They have a much inferior run rate than us and would need to win both of their games to pip us, assuming we lost to Worcestershire after beating Durham.

Lots of hypotheticals and no point worrying about them. We need to head up north and do the business, simple as that. If we do, the pressure is on someone else and that is a nice situation to be in.

In closing tonight, warm congratulations to the second eleven, who are in the Trophy semi-final against Surrey at Chesterfield, this week after winning all their games in the competition this season. It is the success of this side, as well as the excellent under-17s, that gives me belief that we are on the right path. It would be lovely to fast track experience, but it simply doesn't happen and we need to continue to nurture some strong talent in the younger age groups and await their time.

This was how the currently dominant Yorkshire side came through, with a strong academy system and a second team playing fearless, hard cricket. Their success should be celebrated and should give anyone who purports to be a supporter real grounds for optimism.

More on all this week's cricket, at all levels, in due course.

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Weekend warmer

I thought I would check back in to say hello and give you my thoughts on an albeit quiet cricket week, one in which I have done another lot of long shifts to clear my weekend for some writing and relaxation.

I have been on social media and thanks to those who have re-tweeted the information on the Edwin Smith book launch at Chesterfield. I do hope a few people will manage along to that, at Chesterfield Library Theatre on Tuesday 25 August, 7.30pm. Edwin is well worth listening to and I shall be interviewing him, before there is an opportunity for audience members to ask questions of the two of us, then a chance to buy the book and get it signed.

As you may have seen on the club website, your first chance to buy a copy will be at 1.30pm on Sunday 23 August, when Edwin and I will both be happy to append signatures, should you wish. This will be during the lunch interval of the game against Surrey. This is a signing session only.

The book, published by the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians, costs £14.

Other events are planned and I will let you know about them in due course. If you are interested in hosting one, please get in touch. I will be down between September 22 and 26 and only have a commitment on the evening of the 23rd at this stage.

On the field, it has been a quiet time. With T20 quarter-finals going on, the cricketers of ten counties have had little to do but wish they were involved. Derbyshire could so easily have been, but for making a mess of the closing overs a few times. There are very small margins involved in success and failure in the format and with prudent winter recruitment we can be on the right end more often in the future.

I was interested to see that Hampshire had recruited South African all-rounder Ryan McLaren for the last month of the summer, in an attempt to avoid relegation. McLaren is a good player and one that came to my mind  when thinking of players from that country who may be prepared to 'go Kolpak'. I don't see his international opportunities as being good, but he would be a good acquisition should he decide to move back here, where he made his reputation with Kent, of course.

I am looking forward to the T20 series between South Africa and New Zealand, two teams I see as among the best at the format. Neither are at full strength, but there is enough talent on display to make this compelling viewing.

All things being equal, I will be back over the weekend with news of our team for Monday's crucial RLODC match against Durham. Keep your fingers crossed that Wes is fit and that Tillakaratne Dilshan has, somewhat akin to Austin Powers, found his mojo...

Be honest, you never expected to see those two names in the same sentence, did you?

Later  - and to book your tickets for Edwin Smith at Chesterfield, call 01629 533400. Tickets £3 and £2 (concessions)

Monday, 10 August 2015

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 4

Derbyshire 345 and 241

Leicestershire 314 and 273-7 (O'Brien 87, Palladino 3-32)

When we look back on this season in the depths of winter, this game will be looked back upon as another one that got away.

While acknowledging correctly the threat of Niall O'Brien, a very good wicket-keeper batsman, I didn't really see a way that we could lose today. That the home side lost only three more wickets in scoring the required runs was disappointing and it would appear that we were off the pace intensity-wise today.

It's a shame and I feel for Wayne Madsen and Billy Godleman, scorers of very good centuries that should have seen them on the winning side. It didn't happen and they will have been frustrated in failing to turn a position of some dominance into the points.

Got to credit the opposition though. Ali's four-and-a-half hour 42 cannot have been fun to watch, but was mightily effective, while Raine and Agathangelou contributed well. Half chances weren't taken and there's no doubt that the loss of Wes Durston was a major one in the field, thoroughly exposing our lack of quality spin options.

It's been one of those seasons. A step forward and one back, sometimes two. We just need to continue battling and aim for as high a finish as we can, before revamping the squad over the winter months.

In other news today, Wayne White signed for Leicestershire again, which was no surprise and exactly as I suggested a few days back. He 's a good player and may well rekindle his old skills for them. He deserves to do well and I wish him the same.

Finally tonight, I did a piece for Cricinfo on the young players emerging in the club and it is now live on their site

Hope you enjoy it...

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 3

Derbyshire 345 and 241 (Godleman 101)

Leicestershire 314 and 56 for 4

Leicestershire need 217 to win

Much as was the case in the first innings, Derbyshire's second was largely down to a superb century from a top four batsman, exactly what you want in such situations.

For Wayne Madsen, this time read Billy Godleman (pictured), whose century was his first in the championship this season but took him to top of the run scoring charts for the club, just ahead of Wayne Madsen. He has reinvented himself and become a very solid and dependable batsman, exactly the sort of player that we need. He deserves every plaudit for turning around a career that appeared to be on the wane and making himself a shoo-in pick for an opening berth for the four-day side.

So too do his coaches. Supporters can be quick to criticise, but he has let no one down this year. I still maintain that a middle order role in T20 doesn't suit him at all, but happily accept that it was a role he was asked to play in the absence of viable alternatives earlier in the season.

Sadly, Tillakaratne Dilshan is so out of form right now it is painful. The international star of that name seems some way away at present and instead his replacement appears to be looking desperately for the next run. He took a wicket today, but he has been brought over to score runs - big runs - and hasn't delivered. I hope that we can see some vintage Dilshan before he returns home, but it will need a sizeable reversal of form.

On a pitch now showing signs of variable bounce, which resulted in four last innings lbw decisions, the home side should not get close tomorrow. O'Brien is perhaps the last hope and even a Derbyshire attack missing Wes Durston, with an apparent intercostal strain, should have enough to seal the win. A concern will be getting our one-day skipper fit for the RLODC game against Durham, so I am sure James Pipe will be even busier in the days ahead.

The discipline in the final innings has been impressive, only two wides in 21 overs. Just what you need when you haven't a huge amount of runs to play with, but to the home side tonight they must feel like they are in the foothills of Mount Everest.

Light rain is forecast for Monday, but hopefully we will have enough time to wrap up a win that, over the piece, will be well-deserved.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 2

Derbyshire 345 (Madsen 172 not)
Leicestershire 304-8 (Cosgrove 102, Footitt 4-49)

Derbyshire lead by 41 runs

There is a good old game going on at Leicester, where in the old days a battle for first innings lead points would have been tense tomorrow.

Any lead will be useful but we could do with knocking over nine, ten, jack as soon as possible then making a decent fist of our second innings. We made a respectable score, but Wayne Madsen got half of them and we need more contributions. I still think we can win this game, but Mark Cosgrove was again a thorn in our side today, as he was a time or two in his Glamorgan days.

Few would look at the Australian and confuse him with an athlete, but in this country at least he has scored his weight (sorry) in runs and regularly racks up round about a thousand.

Mark Footitt again took wickets and was well supported by Tony Palladino, but the rest of the attack had a somewhat anaemic day and perhaps allowed our hosts to get closer than they should have to our score, even allowing for more favourable batting conditions. Mark was twice warned for running on the wicket but still produced the goods and is now a very special bowler.

We'll see what happens tomorrow and hopefully it will all be set up nicely for a good final day.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Leicestershire v Derbyshire

Derbyshire 320-8 (Madsen 164 not) v Leicestershire

I was quite amused tonight, when I read the headline on Cricinfo. 'Shrek takes three' was the summation of day one, which somewhat neglected a rather more impressive feat going on among the batting side.

When I heard we had lost the toss and would be facing Charlie Shreck and Clint McKay on a green top, I had a few concerns and fully expected us to be bowled out by tea time. Both are good experienced bowlers and they had every advantage they could have wished for.

Nothing up to lunch changed that opinion, though a battling stand between Alex Hughes and Wayne Madsen (pictured) ensured we at least got there with only three wickets down. That we got to the close and passed 300 with two wickets left was down to the good support lent by Shiv Thakor and Harvey Hosein and to a quite superb innings by the captain.

He would perhaps admit himself that this has not been his best season, but a broken finger cost him matches and rhythm. Today's innings makes him yet again our leading championship run scorer and his average is 47. If we had another three batsmen in that sort of 'poor form' I would gladly take them...

Our finishing position is better than looked possible but is not yet, I would think, a match-winning one. Having said that, much depends on how the wicket plays tomorrow, when a brittle home batting side, heavily reliant on a couple of players, could be in trouble in similar conditions.

Plenty of fight then and not for the first or last time we are indebted to Wayne Madsen, one of the best batsmen we have had, possibly up there with Kim Barnett if you take out those who played in overseas roles. Where we would have been without him in recent seasons is a moot point.

We can make a good step towards winning this one with disciplined bowling tomorrow, although first on the agenda will be ten more runs for Mark Footitt and a personal best score. I'm still slightly baffled as to how he gets in ahead of Ben Cotton, who I have seen bat a few times and can hit a ball, but Mark enjoyed a merry ninth wicket stand today that took us to the extra batting point.

For what it is worth, I would still have had him at Trent Bridge, but am pleased to see that barring weather Noah was preparing for, England should go 3-1 up and take the Ashes tomorrow. That was my pre-series prediction, quite possibly the only one I have got right this year.

Which is why I don't bet, of course...

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Leicestershire v Derbyshire preview

Derbyshire have a 14-man squad for tomorrow's game at Leicester and to be quite honest, I couldn't and won't attempt to call the final eleven.

All those involved have justification for inclusion, including on-loan Tom Milnes, who has 15 wickets in two matches for the seconds. If there are plans to offer him a deal at the end of the season, it may be that he is given an opportunity tomorrow to see what he has to offer at senior level.

However, there are plenty of our own, home-reared bowlers ahead of him and with Mark Footitt not required in the Test at Trent Bridge (the Aussies wouldn't have made fifty had he played...) there is a decent-looking squad available:

Billy Godleman
Ben Slater
Chesney Hughes
Wayne Madsen (captain)
Tillakaratne Dilshan
Wes Durston
Alex Hughes
Shiv Thakor
Harvey Hosein
Matthew Critchley
Tony Palladino
Ben Cotton
Mark Footitt
Tom Milnes

In-form players look likely to miss out, whichever eleven is chosen, so I am happy to leave that with the coach, who will see the pitch tomorrow before making his final choice.

The home side has Charlie Shreck back and looks a little stronger than that which played us in the one-day cup. Nevertheless, we should have enough in the tank to see off the home side, with Shiv Thakor keen to impress on his return to the club and Mark Footitt eager to show why he was called up by the national side. Their squad:

Cosgrove (capt), Agathangelou, Ali, Eckersley, Freckingham, Hill, McKay, O’Brien, Raine, Robson, Sayer, Shreck, Taylor.

The toss will be important, but weather permitting, I'll take a Derbyshire win here.

In closing tonight, warm congratulations to Derbyshire Under-17s for a wonderful win in the quarter-finals of the age group trophy against Yorkshire at Ticknall.

Their opponents batted first and racked up an impressive 300-5 in their 50 overs, but it was not enough to beat our lads.

After the loss of an early wicket, the wonderfully named Eddie Barlow (142) and Ryan Bramwell (110 not) added 229 for the second wicket and Derbyshire won with ease by seven wickets.

By any standards that is an impressive effort and warm congratulations go to the boys, who go on to play Nottinghamshire in the semi-final.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Calling all spinners...

I am happy to publish this press release that has been sent to me and hope that any young spinners around our wonderful county think about applying.

Let's be honest, there's places to be grabbed...

National Spin Competition: Trip to India for Spin School for two winners
The search is on for the UK’s most promising spin talent, with two winners being sent to Mumbai, India, for next year’s Spin School Scholarship.
In its fifth year, the National Spin Competition aims to develop the UK’s amateur spinners and provide them with as many opportunities as possible. Run by Club Cricket Conference in conjunction with HKSZ.TV, this competition will be the third consecutive time that Cricket Deal Direct ( has co-sponsored the event.
“Cricket Deal Direct is based around the concept of ‘helping and supporting’ cricket – at all levels,” said managing director Ian Anderson, “It’s very important to us to see players develop and this competition is an excellent opportunity for the winners to do just that.”
The entrants will give their best under the watchful eyes of their judge, former Kent and England spinner Min Patel.
“This event for amateur spinners from around the UK plays a significant part in promoting and showing the skills of extremely talented club spinners” said Club Cricket Conference manager, Gulfraz Riaz.
“There is always a huge amount of interest in this competition with applications from around the UK increasing to record numbers each year” said Riaz.
Entries are being sought from UK cricketers aged 18-21 who have no links to first class county sides and are available to travel to Edgbaston on 20 September 2015.
The two winners, having beaten some of the UK’s top amateur spinners, will travel to India in 2016 for the 7-day workshop at the Global Cricket School in Mumbai. 
Cricket Deal Direct also offers a Young Elite sponsorship programme to players wishing to obtain world-class cricket equipment through their clubs. To learn more, contact Ian Anderson via the Cricket Deal Direct website or on 01778 345618.

Wayne White departure no real surprise

The news that broke this afternoon, regarding the departure of Wayne White, comes as no real surprise to Derbyshire cricket followers.

Wayne was signed on a one-year deal after good performances at the end of last season, when he was taken on loan from Lancashire. He did enough to suggest that he might be in direct competition for a place in the side with Jonathan Clare, who was likely to be fit from May, according to reports.

As it has transpired, neither has seen much first team action. A side strain hampered White's early season, although he returned to the side and produced some good displays in both the county championship and the T20. Indeed, his departure comes as he sits top of the bowling averages in the four-day game, with 17 wickets at under seventeen runs each from three appearances.

There have been suggestions of a fall-out and I can neither substantiate nor disprove that. The bottom line is, however, that White is the latest to find that cricket is increasingly becoming a young man's game and that regular appearances and contributions are needed to maintain a place on a county staff with limited resources. While he was second in the wicket-taking table in the T20, he was well down the list in economy rates.

Crucially, that was behind an array of young seam bowling talent such as Derbyshire has not had in years. Ben Cotton, Tom Taylor, Greg Cork and Will Davis all suggest massive potential which needs to be given opportunity, while his role in the team was effectively duplicated by Alex Hughes and Shiv Thakor. Both are considerably younger and have the potential to go farther in the game, something that White, at his age, was unlikely to do. With Mark Footitt and Tony Palladino key seam bowlers of the four-day side, White's role became increasingly marginalised.

In some ways, the release mirrors that of Tim Groenewald last year. The latter was seen as a key member of the attack but his release has enabled Graeme Welch to accelerate the development of young bowlers, something that has proved successful. With the club openly looking to restructure the playing staff for next year, the role of senior players on higher salaries nearing the end of their contract was always going to be looked at. Bringing in one, perhaps two Kolpak players will strengthen the side and the club also has to look after the developing players to ward off interest from elsewhere.

It is always sad when a player leaves and one remembers the good and the bad days they have had that have played a part in that decision. If Wayne, as is suggested in the Derby Telegraph, was wanting to approach other counties, then he has now got the freedom to do that.

For me, it is a sign of our ambition and potential that we can afford to let him go yet remain confident in the alternatives, for 'twas not always so. There are talented players on the staff and we may have options lined up elsewhere, for all I know.

I wish him well. At his age he needs regular first team cricket and may well interest Leicestershire, where he produced the best form of his career. Neither of his spells at the club that gave him his start really worked out and that is a shame, but life goes on.

For Derbyshire, it is the first part of the building towards next season and I look forward to your comments tonight.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Pop's pups hound Foxes...

Leicestershire 156 all out (Hughes 3-31)

Derbyshire 159-4 (Durston 80)

Derbyshire won by six wickets

Leicestershire may not be the strongest opposition that we have faced this season, but Derbyshire did all that they could be expected to do today and won with a professional performance. They also scored the required runs with sufficient speed, led by Wes Durston, (pictured) to improve their net run rate quite impressively.

There were a few comments before the game on the ages of the attack, with Alex Hughes officially the grand old man of the five, at the ripe old age of 23. An average age of under 21 speaks volumes for the work going on at the club and the development of a group of young seam bowlers who will soon be the envy of the county circuit. When one considers that Tom Taylor and Will Davis are outside this group, as well as Tony Palladino, one cannot fail to be excited at the future.

Hughes, looking more an established county cricketer with every match, led the way, but the early wickets taken by Shiv Thakor, removing Leicestershire's form players in Robson and Cosgrove, were important. Shiv had a point to prove tonight and, along with his fluent unbeaten 27, he made it.

I've been impressed by Matt Critchley's bowling in this competition. He got a bit of stick at Guildford, but will have those days against quality players and the lad seems to have a nice loop to his bowling. Add in his more than useful bowling, fine fielding and age (18) and he has much going for him.

The bowling and fielding efforts left only common sense required for a win, but Cap'n Durston is in prime form at present and launched an assault that saw us win with a convincing 20 overs to spare. Former Derbyshire junior Atif Sheikh took some serious stick from the skipper and it was all very smooth and polished.

Two games to go and with Durham losing to Gloucestershire today, the game at The Riverside in a fortnight takes on added importance. It would be good if Dilshan spent some time in the middle over the next fortnight, but there is plenty to be cheerful about with our current play.

Not to mention the players doing the business.

Pop's pups hound Foxes. If these lads keep working they can do that to a few more in the years ahead.

Professional lads. I like it.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Derbyshire v Leicestershire RLODC

It's welcome back to Tillakaratne Dilshan for tomorrow and the remainder of the season.

The legend - a fairly apposite title - that is Dilshan replaces Hamish Rutherford, a player who let no one down in his stint at the club. We now need the Sri Lankan, undoubtedly one of the finest players to emerge from his country, to show the form that earned him that reputation.

No one would say that his form in the previous stint was vintage Dilshan. Even his runs against Lancashire in the televised T20 were scratchy and his CPL stint brought only 67 runs in four matches. Yet I understand that the player has had family concerns and any one of us who has been through such trauma will know how it can affect your everyday life.

Hopefully he is back to his best and can reproduce the form that made him one of the stars of the World Cup, because to progress to the knockout stages of this competition we need to win our last three games. All are winnable - we should have beaten Durham at Derby and we weren't far away from Worcestershire either. Given that tomorrow's opponents and the latter are bottom two in the group, at our best we really should be beating them. Then it will come down to that result, where? Down by the Riverside....humour me, old song, old joke...

The squad is largely unchanged, with Will Davis replacing England-bound Mark Footitt as the only change. The attack will be young and largely inexperienced, but there's only one way to get the latter and that is to play. Our squad:

Wes Durston
Billy Godleman
Tillakaratne Dilshan
Ben Slater
Chesney Hughes
Scott Elstone
Wayne Madsen
Alex Hughes
Shiv Thakor
Tom Poynton
Matt Critchley
Greg Cork
Ben Cotton
Will Davis

Our visitors lost to Yorkshire today, leaving them with only a no-result point from four games. They have some good players, but we really should be beating such teams if we play at our best. Young the squad may be, but they are undoubtedly talented and need to show that.

If we concentrate, make no daft mistakes and work hard, we will be very much in the quarter-final mix this time tomorrow.

That'll do quite nicely, I think.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Surrey v Derbyshire RLODC

Surrey 326-6 (Sangakkara 109, Davies 115)

Derbyshire  249 (Durston 129)

Surrey won by 77 runs

We were a little outgunned today.

Two very good batsmen in Steven Davies and Kumar Sangakkara took the game away from us with a brilliant second wicket stand of 204, although an innings of considerable brilliance, even for him, from Wes Durston kept us in the game for longer than most of us thought likely.

Most of the bowlers won't want to linger on their bowling figures today, though Shiv Thakor's nine overs for just 31 on a shirt front were highly impressive. That's what top batsmen with the bit between their teeth will do though, just as McCullum did at Birmingham in the T20.

At one point Surrey looked set for closer to 400 than they did and we pulled it back fairly well. Mark Footitt could have chosen a better day for one of his profligate spells, but a bowler of his pace on a good track and with short boundaries is always likely to travel.

At 153-1 after 23 overs we were in the game, the skipper well-supported by Billy Godleman and by Chesney Hughes, but the quick loss of the latter and Wayne Madsen was a major blow from which we never really recovered. Scott Elstone fought well, but the absence of a form overseas player was a major factor. Fantastic innings by Wes  though, one he later said was his best one-day knock.

You can't really say that our 'win one, lose one' manner in this competition is steering us to the next stage, but all we can do is try to win our remaining matches and see where we end up.

Progress at this stage seems unlikely, but three wins could make all the difference and they have to believe they can do it.

A little World Cup form from the returning Tillakaratne Dilshan would do us no harm...

Book Review: A Flick of the Fingers - the chequered life and career of Jack Crawford by Michael Burns

To the uninitiated, Jack Crawford burst onto the Edwardian cricket scene like a meteorite, a teenage all-rounder who bowled deadly off spin and produced a full range of sumptuous shots. He became Surrey's youngest centurion and England's youngest player.

Yet, as so often happens in a meteoric rise to fame, things didn't quite adhere to the script afterwards.

A row over captaining a weakened side against the Australians, something that is commonplace today, resulted in a fall out and ultimate life ban from his county. He emigrated to Australia and established himself as one of the game's great all-rounders, then moved to New Zealand, but his career and life were dogged with controversy.

He married and deserted a teenage Adelaide beauty, dodged involvement in the Great War and returned to England to divorce, re-marry and fade into middle-aged obscurity, but also produced some astonishing feats on a cricket field, two of his greatest innings coming in his thirties.

A strong candidate for the greatest cricketer produced by Repton School, Crawford could play innings that dazzled and could bowl out the best of batsmen. A career batting average in the thirties and a bowling one of twenty runs per wicket confirms his talent, but the overriding feeling from Michael Burns excellent book is of a talent wasted.

Crawford played his last first-class match at 34, having settled his dispute with Surrey after the war. His innings of 144 against the Australian Imperial Forces side of 1919, which largely became the great Australian side of 1921, was widely regarded as the innings of his life. The last wicket stand with Tom Rushby, which added eighty runs, saw the tall, bespectacled Crawford score all but two of them, so well did he 'farm' the bowling. Playing for an Australian XI in New Zealand in 1914, he made 354 (14 sixes, 45 fours) and added 298 in 69 minutes with the legendary Victor Trumper.

This book is admirably researched and is one of those rare ones that you learn from. Crawford's father was chaplain of a mental hospital, set up after William Gladstone's now horrifically titled Idiot's Act. This divided the insane into lunatics, idiots and imbeciles, something I never knew and that made me read further on the subject. A book that does that has always served its purpose.

Crawford is a worthy subject of such a book. The term 'flawed genius' is perhaps apposite when considering his talent, but then many of us aspire to moderate success on a cricket field and never hit the heights attained by a man who was one of the greatest of his age.

It is a fine book and a worthy addition to the excellent output of Pitch Publishing, one of the leading sports publishers in the country. If your interest in the game extends to the people who helped to make the modern game, then I would strongly recommend buying a copy.

A Flick of the Fingers: The Chequered Life And Career of Jack Crawford is written by Michael Burns and published by Pitch Publishing.

It is currently available from Amazon at £15.58 and can be ordered through all good bookshops.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Surrey v Derbyshire RLODC

First up tonight, warm congratulations to Mark Footitt on his selection for the England squad for the fourth Ashes Test at Nottingham.

Whether he plays is in the lap of the Gods, but I am sure that there would be cheers the length and breadth of the county should he get a call that is well deserved. Mark's performances over the past few seasons are the equal, at least, of any bowler in the country and there will be few batsmen around the circuit who would admit to enjoying facing him at the business end of the wicket.

The first Derbyshire player to be named in an England squad since Dominic Cork in 2002, he is in the squad for Guildford tomorrow and will hope to impress against Surrey. With Scott Elstone retaining his place after a fine century for the seconds this week, the final selection will come in the morning when we see the wicket.

Surrey are flying high in the table and have a lengthy batting line up headed by the evergreen Kumar Sangakkara. Their squad:

Gareth Batty (capt)
Zafar Ansari
James Burke
Rory Burns
Sam Curran
Tom Curran
Steven Davies
Jade Dernbach
Ben Foakes
Tim Linley
Jason Roy
Kumar Sangakkara
Gary Wilson

They will be a strong test for us, in a side without an overseas player, but I expect a battling performance from our side, if only to help erase the awful memory of the championship meeting between the two sides at Derby. That was the nadir of our season and things have steadily improved since then.

More from me tomorrow.