Saturday, 26 September 2015

Season review - the batsmen

A season that started with excitement, generated by the hired guns from overseas, ended with disappointment and a gradual realisation that in every competition this summer, sad to say, we shot ourselves in the foot.

There were both encouraging individual and team performances, but a young team has to learn to finish off winning positions - and fast. In every competition, games that were effectively won were somehow thrown away, a mixture of inexperience. tactical naivety and poor cricket combining to render what might otherwise have been deemed a satisfactory summer a disappointment.

That the team can play cricket was evidenced by teams that they beat. It is many years since Lancashire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire were all beaten in the same season, each victory being memorable. Yet sadly so were some awful displays, especially in the County Championship, while gifting the game to the eventual winners, Gloucestershire, in the RLODC will go down as one of our worst displays of collective naivety. While six times out of ten the umpires may not have spotted the fielding transgression, that none of the players did was poor and unprofessional.

The four-day game saw us at our worst. While two players reached their thousand runs, the rest of the batting was brittle and no one else averaged thirty. Most batsmen had good days, but not enough to convince anyone, inside or outside the county, that we are a good batting side. Injuries were partly to blame, causing inexperienced players to have to bat too high in the order.

Only Billy Godleman of the batsmen made major positive strides. He has turned his career around with hard work and is now a very polished, effective opening batsman. Wayne Madsen also scored a thousand  runs, although a hand injury cost him several matches and vital rhythm as the season got into full swing. Several others did well, but consistency is the issue that needs addressed. I think Ben Slater and Chesney Hughes will compete for an opening berth next year and both will hope to surpass the 800 runs of this year. They had prolific spells and days when form looked some way distant, but the talent is there.

Alex Hughes scored a maiden century but was hampered by a broken thumb, split webbing and a fractured hand at different times. An average of 35 was higher than supposed 'big name' prospects around the country, while his bowling in one-day games was excellent. He and Shiv Thakor could be in competition next year, the latter having a poor year with the bat but making great strides with the ball. He has a 'golden arm' but needs to show improved form with the bat next season to cement a regular place in the side. Meanwhile Scott Elstone has to progress past the 'nice cameo' to a regular meaningful contribution to convince supporters he is of the requisite standard.

Neither wicket-keeper scored close to enough runs this year. While both kept adequately, the modern role needs all-round contribution that both Tom Poynton and Harvey Hosein struggled to fulfil. While time is on the latter's side, Poynton will know that next year, the last of his current deal, is crucial for his first-class career. Like Elstone and Chesney Hughes, contributions have to be more frequent.

The biggest disappointment? Half of the overseas input. Martin Guptill did what he has always done for us, while Hamish Rutherford suggested that he could be a huge player next year, one able to play all forms of the game with equal skill and success.

Yet for all the protestations of their use in the dressing room, Hashim Amla and Tillakaratne Dilshan were huge disappointments. Neither got going and while their presence put Derbyshire cricket on the map in the world game, we needed the runs that neither managed. While accepting it is hard to fly in and perform immediately, the stature of both players should have guaranteed greater success.

It didn't and neither will be remembered by supporters as an especially worthwhile recruit, very disappointing in the light of their reputations and the cost to the club.

The season in short? Promising displays in the RLODC and the T20, but an awful summer in the four-day game that should have been our strength. Too many winning positions squandered and must do better next year across the board.

Tomorrow - the bowlers

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