Friday, 30 October 2015

Win a signed Lashings CC cricket shirt!

How would you like to get your hands on a signed piece of cricket memorabilia?

I have two signed Lashings CC cricket shirts to give away this weekend, one on Twitter and one here on the blog. Both are small sized, so are perhaps more for the young cricket fan in your life, unless you are petite yourself.

They will, however, be a lovely addition to your cricket collection and are quite striking, as can be seen in the photograph.

Those signing it were:

Chris Schofield (England, Lancashire & Surrey)
Paul Horton (Lancashire & Leicestershire) 
Chris Harris (New Zealand, Gloucestershire & Derbyshire)
Brenton Parchment (West Indies & Jamaica)
Preston Mommsen (Scotland Captain & Leicestershire) 
Adam Riley (Kent & MCC)
Yasir Arafat (Pakistan, Scotland, Perth, Sussex, Kent, Lancashire, Surrey & Hampshire)
Matthew Coles (England Lions, Kent & Hampshire)
Min Patel (England & Kent)
Charl Willoughby (South Africa, Essex & Somerset)
Greg Smith (Leicestershire & Nottinghamshire)

Go to my @Peakfanblog Twitter account for another chance to enter, where you simply need to retweet my tweet on the shirt and follow my account.

On here, entry is equally simple. Drop me an email before 6pm on Sunday evening and tell me which of the players who signed the shirt had a short stint in Derbyshire colours.

The information above might just help you with that, just in case you are not old enough to remember! The first name pulled out by my daughter will win the prize, so please enclose your address with your email.

Thanks go to Lashings Cricket Club and to Burson-Marsteller for the merchandise.

Weekend warmer

It has been a fairly quiet week cricket-wise, but I had the pleasure of a trip down to the 3aaa County Ground yesterday for a lunch and talk with the the Derbyshire Cricket Society.

Edwin Smith and I were to be there, but the Derbyshire legend was unwell, so I had to do a rapid rewrite mid-morning. It seemed to go well, however and it was an absolute pleasure to meet so many committed Derbyshire supporters  and such nice people.

Thank you to each and every one of you and I hope that the talk met your expectations.

The good news is that Edwin is much improved today and should soon be back to his best. I am sure that the good wishes of those present, duly conveyed, have helped him considerably!

I have to say that the lunch was absolutely delicious and the recent changes to the catering at the 3aaa County Ground seem to have improved things dramatically. If that is a standard that can be maintained, there will be few complaints over the forthcoming festive season.

On the subject of the book, which was being promoted, we are down to less than fifty copies now and then it will be gone. If you would like to buy a copy, perhaps for a Christmas gift, please get in touch by email to the usual address. It will also be available on ebay for the next month, or while stocks last - simply search under 'Edwin Smith book'.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Another year for Chesney

Good news tonight in Chesney Hughes signing a contract for another year, which will keep him at the club until at least the end of 2016.

It is a sensible move. That Chesney, in prime form, is a devastating batsman is beyond doubt. He bludgeons, rather than caresses the ball and I get an idea if it's his day in the first ten balls. Sometimes his feet are moving well and thoughts of a big score come to mind. Supporters can settle back for a treat when he is the groove, though sadly it ends prematurely too often for some tastes.

Last season hinted at a man on the up. It was his best and most consistent summer and there were enough innings of substance to hint that he may at last be coming to terms with the county game.

I think this contract reflects that. It is recognition of a good summer, but also a clear message to him to repeat it and show a level of consistency that has so far eluded him. He will doubtless be a key member of the one-day side, but will face a battle to hold down a place in the four-day game.

If one assumes that Godleman, Madsen, Rutherford and Broom will occupy four of the top six, then Chesney and Ben Slater are competing for one place, as, one assumes Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes are lower down, unless both play on the seam-friendly early season tracks.

So there are incentives for hard work in the winter. I think Slater and Hughes are batsmen of genuine talent, the latter more experienced now and really needing to kick on. Ben, I think, has more time on his side but the competition is fierce, which can only be to the side's advantage.

I wish Chesney well. He is a genial character and I just wish that his left-arm 'darts' were not seemingly a thing of the past. Maybe they will be resurrected over the winter months..

More from me later in the week.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Lessons to be learned from history

I awoke this morning to a tweet, acknowledging it is a hundred years today since the death of WG Grace.

The first 'great' cricketer, Grace had but a moderate record against Derbyshire, never registering a century against us in 24 innings and only making two half centuries in the process. Nor did Donald Bradman, who 'only' averaged 61 against us, and nor did Peter May, who averaged a very modest 32 against Derbyshire in an otherwise glittering career.

Three of the biggest names in the history of the game and none of them registered a century against us, though each played at times when the county had a pretty good attack, of course. Grace faced Joe Hulme, George Davidson, Arnold Warren and Bill Bestwick over a lengthy career, while Peter May had to handle Gladwin and Jackson on uncovered wickets, something few managed to do for long.

Bradman? Well, he faced a largely aging attack in 1948, but came up against an inexperienced one in 1930 and one that was coming to the height of its considerable powers in 1934. All of which brings me to the point of today's article.

That attack in the 1930s was probably the most complete in the club's history and carried all before it in the seasons leading up to the Second World War. There was the pace of Bill Copson. as fast as anyone in the country for half a dozen overs, then the Pope brothers, Alf and George, who moved it around at sufficient pace to be awkward on most surfaces. They were also willing and able to bowl long spells, especially when they were taking wickets...

If they failed to break through there was the mercurial Tommy Mitchell's leg spin, or Les Townsend's off spin, while if things really got tough Stan Worthington would turn back the years and bowl a few overs of medium pace, having increasingly focused on becoming a very sound batsman as the decade progressed.

Eighty years ago next year, in 1936, that attack carried Derbyshire to their only county championship success, after coming third in 1934 and second in 1935. The truth of the matter is, however, that the seeds were sown between five and ten years earlier. With the exception of Copson, who burst onto the scene in 1932 and George Pope (1933) it was a time-served attack that needed only a decent batting effort to be able to force wins.

Which is why we will need a little patience, or recruits, if we are to hope for success in 2016. As our squad stands, I think we will improve in the four-day game, but I will need to see the progress in our young seamers to be convinced we can bowl out sides twice. If we picked up a good Kolpak seamer or all-rounder I would be more convinced, but Andy Carter and Tony Palladino cannot realistically be expected to bowl teams out all the time from April through to September.

With a young spin attack too, there needs to be an acceptance that a good all-round side may take a year or two to come together. Graeme Welch has recruited prudently and brought in two Kiwis who will stiffen the batting and with Wayne Madsen and Billy Godleman, we shouldn't find runs elusive. They should enable us to save more games than we managed last year, but if they quickly find form we will find opponents setting less than generous targets, just as happened when John Wright and Peter Kirsten were in their pomp.

In time, one or two of the clutch of young seamers may earn reputations to rank alongside some of the greats named above, but they need time to learn and hone their craft. If it happens next year I will be as thrilled as anyone, but I remain to be convinced that match-winning experience can be fast-tracked over one winter.

In time though, the groundwork now being done will pay greater dividends and we should all remember and acknowledge that.

Just as they did in 1936, when Sam Cadman's earlier work was commended and came to the ultimate fruition.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Book Review : Grizzly: My Life and Times in Cricket by Chris Adams

Forget Kevin Pietersen, this was the book that I had eagerly awaited since hearing of its forthcoming publication, some time back. Chris Adams is, after all, a Derbyshire legend, the Whitwell lad who should have been the cornerstone of our batting for years.

Yet it all went sour for him at Derbyshire, as it did for so many others at that time, of course. For supporters of the county, the first part of the book will be the most interesting and is something I will return to, but this book is excellent value throughout and doesn't disappoint in any way.

Bruce Talbot has done a fine job in the ghost writing and the book moves along at great pace, like the best of action thrillers. It pulls no punches, just like Adams at the crease. It is patently clear why he was such a good captain, leading his Sussex side from the front and into the most successful county side of the 2000s with aggressive batting, innovative captaincy and the not inconsiderable weapon of Mushtaq Ahmed as the spearhead of a potent attack.

His international career never took off and he was guilty of squandering a few starts, albeit against a strong South African attack. Luck plays a part in careers and a debut against a lesser side may have seen him flourish, yet England's loss was Sussex's gain and Adams led them to a period of unprecedented success.

His move to coaching was predictable and his early success at Surrey came as no surprise. Yet in the space of twelve months the club was in turmoil, suffering the death of Tom Maynard and the consequential and inevitable disarray as players and management struggled to cope with the loss of such a precocious talent. Ultimately Adams lost his job, but remains a coach with unfinished business at a shrewd county prepared to give him the opportunity.

That could have been at Derbyshire, as he explains being in the frame for the current role held by Graeme Welch. It is not hard to see his return to the county game at some point in the future, when his experiences, good and bad, will doubtless have steeled him and prepared him for a fresh challenge.

So what are his thoughts on those years at Derbyshire? He had 'difficult times' with Kim Barnett, who he describes as a man of few words but as a fantastic batsman. It was a troubled dressing room with strong characters, one in which Barnett and John Morris had a 'strained' relationship and in which the 'outspoken' views of Dominic Cork failed to help.

He admired Mohammad Azharuddin, struggled with Daryl Cullinan, who took his cricket very seriously and suffered from an especially juvenile prank, but really hit it off with Dean Jones and Les Stillman. The latter is credited with transforming his batting, but the abrasive style of Jones saw him at odds with most of the dressing room. While they almost delivered a second county championship to Derbyshire in 1996, the 'brutal honesty' of Jones did not sit well with other team members and Adams felt increasingly marginalised.

There's also a vivid account of the 1993 Benson and Hedges Cup Final and the lunchtime row with Wasim Akram over the latter's earlier beamer. The lead up to this is well explained, the bowler's later assertion that Adams threatened him with 'a butter knife' being denied and coming across as ever so slightly laughable. Yet it galvanised Derbyshire and Kim Barnett's assertion that they should 'leave Mike Atherton out there to chew up a lot of balls' later turned the game.

All of which makes for a quite terrific read. The only minus mark I could put against it is a sloppy mis-spelling of Guy 'Willett' (sic), the then Derbyshire chairman and former club captain. It doesn't detract from a book that should be high on the Christmas list of any Derbyshire, Sussex or Surrey fan, however.

Or indeed for any cricket enthusiast, tired of anodyne autobiographies that add little to what is already known about the subject from assorted media. Full marks to Pitch Publishing for another excellent read and for a book in which the typeface is excellent and the overall production of a very high standard.

Get it in your Christmas stocking.

You won't be disappointed.

Grizzly: My Life and Times in Cricket is written by Chris Adams with Bruce Talbot and published by Pitch Publishing, It is available from all good book shops and is currently available in hard back from Amazon, priced £15.90

Monday, 19 October 2015

Pringle story gets crisp response from Derbyshire

From the press release that emanated from the club today, it would appear that Ryan Pringle - or perhaps, more specifically, his agent, may not be flavour of the month in Derby right now.

I have to admit that I was surprised to read of our supposed 'signing' of the player from a newspaper report on Saturday. The club normally conduct their business discreetly and professionally, so to see a new player announced through another source was a surprise. The only precedent was when an Indian news agency announced that Cheteshwar Pujara had signed for the club, a day or so ahead of the club releasing the news themselves. That was more credible though - and at least turned out to be true.

 I suspect that the player's agent has attempted a little leverage on the current employers by releasing the 'news', which is a little naughty, but probably not at all innovative. Interest from other counties is an obvious tactic to use in contractual negotiations, but can also be a dangerous game, if the current employer haven't made up their minds on your future.

Being in the public domain, as it was, I reported on it, but am sure my concerns as to the veracity of the information were obvious to those reading it. So it transpired and we must wait for news of further team strengthening, which it will in its own sweet time.

Truth be told, I am increasingly selective of the news agencies that I believe. The news feeds to which I subscribe (not pay for!) contain many wild and woolly stories to entice people into reading, then their laptops and tablets are bombarded with a gazillion adverts they hope you will click onto.

As the club rightly said today, the time to believe a signing is when it is announced on their site, until which time it can really only be conjecture and supposition.

Just wait until you read of our signing AB de Villiers for the T20 though...

And be aware, if you read it on here, that it may just be April 1st.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Broom and Rutherford in form for Otago

A fine century by Neil Broom saved the match for Otago, after they were largely outplayed by Central Districts over the past four days.

Otago's first innings was built around Hamish Rutherford's 79, then bolstered by a century from Jimmy Neesham, another fine and very underrated cricketer, before Central Districts replied with a mammoth 650-8.

When they took two wickets before the close, including that of Rutherford, they must have sniffed victory, but Broom batted for all of the last day to make an unbeaten 131, with fifteen fours.

The game ended in a draw, but the form of the two Derbyshire men is good to see!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Ryan Pringle set for Derbyshire switch?

Durham all-rounder Ryan Pringle is, according to the North East Chronicle, set to be confirmed as a Derbyshire player this week, after contract talks broke down with his home county.

Pringle, an exciting young talent who bowls off spin, can be classed as a genuine all rounder. At 23, he averages thirty with both bat and ball and had a very encouraging summer with Durham last year. He is seen as one of their best young players and the signing of a cricketer of division one pedigree would be a huge boost to Derbyshire. IF it happens...

A later edition says that Durham have made an eleventh hour bid to retain the player's services with an improved contract offer, but let's all hope that the lad fancies working with someone from his own part of the world and doesn't change his mind.

Be aware, though, that despite what is written in some quarters, this is not yet a done deal, so it is one for which we should keep fingers crossed.

We will need to wait for the official news to break for a more detailed write up from me, but if you want to see what I have read, here you are!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Cotton extension ends a lively week

Better news from the 3aaa County Ground today, as Ben Cotton signed a contract extension that will keep him at the club until the end of 2017.

The genial giant is a fine prospect. Some way removed from the finished product, but a lad whose potential is obvious. I still think he can gain a yard or two in pace and can get nastier with a ball in his hand, but his skills can only be enhanced by working with Graeme Welch and he showed in flashes this season that he has much to offer.

His T20 bowling, until a side strain truncated his campaign, was excellent. Bowling at the top and tail of the innings, he showed a remarkable ability to drop a yorker into the slot and conceded under seven an over. What he now needs to do is improve his wicket-taking skills in the longer format, something that will put him to the front of the queue for a place in a first-choice side.

That Cotts can bowl is undeniable and the raw talent is there. By the end of his two-year deal, we should have a good idea as to whether he can become a very good county bowler - or maybe even more.

I've had a few mails, tweets and messages about the departure of Mark Footitt and thankfully thay have all recognised the excellent service that Mark gave to us. We would all have liked the stay to be longer, but, as I said last night, he is entitled to do what he feels is best for him, his career and his family.

Below last night's piece, Mark suggests that Wayne Madsen will be next to leave the county. I don't see that, to be honest, because his circumstances are, for me, quite different.

Wayne is a focal point of Derbyshire cricket, the star batsman, the captain, the figurehead of the club. As such, I would assume he is as well paid as we can afford and is the most indispensable player in it. Yes, he could be approached by other counties, but would be unlikely to be captain and I wouldn't have thought would be as well treated as he has been at Derbyshire, where is both respected and valued.

The latter is important to any player - for that matter to an employee in any organisation. With his wife running a successful business locally, a career at Derbyshire remains a common sense option for the skipper, but there is a persuasive argument ahead at his next contract discussion.

Next year will be Wayne's eighth in Derbyshire colours and I would hope that the club offer him a tax-free benefit in 2018 or 2019. That would likely be more lucrative than any other deal offered to him and would set him up quite nicely for a future career, quite possibly in coaching.

He is a decent and honourable man and every interview suggests that he wants to lead a young group of players into a bright future. I hope so, because his calm persona and exemplary personal conduct are what an impressionable group of players needs.

His captaincy isn't yet perfect. I would love to see him try a few more things when wickets are elusive, such as introducing Wes Durston earlier, or bowling himself more, but he is a thoughtful man and an outstanding batsman. He exudes calm and confidence at the crease and, to quote Edwin Smith when I watched a session of play with him earlier this season, 'he looks a proper batsman'.

I hope that we see that immaculate defence, the stylish drives and the best reverse sweep in the game in our colours for many seasons to come.

And I think we will.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Farewell to Footitt...

And so it came to pass that Mark Footitt, as I suggested on this blog a couple of weeks ago, has headed for the bright lights and Big Smoke, in signing for Surrey for the next four seasons.

I wish him well, as I hope you all do. There will doubtless be dissenting voices who scream a lack of loyalty, but Mark has gone for top level county cricket where the journalists are, in the hope that he can capitalise on the form and fitness of his life with an England call up. It would be the icing on the cake that should, assuming his agent has done his sums properly, ensure Mark is comfortable for the rest of his cricket career.

He is now at his peak and Surrey should, if their fitness and conditioning team are as good as ours, enjoy the four years of his contract with plenty of lively displays. Like Derbyshire supporters, Oval fans (the ground, not their shape) will enjoy the days when he gets it right and bowls with a pace and hostility matched by few in the modern county game. They must also tolerate those when the radar has gone and he occasionally endangers the well-being of the wicket-keeper, with dives and leaps to the limit of their sinews.

He is a lovely lad who has been a credit to his family and his profession in his attitude. Any one of us would swap doing a job we enjoy in one place for the same job, but greater reward elsewhere. Mark deserves a crack at the top level and should an England call come, we can still enjoy the thought of Derbyshire's role in that achievement.

Will he be missed? Of course, but I have seen a number of comments around social media asking who we can sign to take sixty, seventy, eighty wickets in his stead. The simple answer is 'no one'.

I think we will see a new bowler come in, whether from this country or on a Kolpak deal. The money has to be there, as Surrey have paid up the last year of his current deal and we have that money in the wage bill anyway. Yet bowlers who can take wickets in that quantity are as rare as snowdrops on the Kalahari and I would be astonished if someone came in to do that.

More crucially, for me, is that two players step up to take 30 wickets each, or three emerge to take twenty more than this year. Mark was over-bowled at times this season, usually because he was the one fit, experienced bowler and offered the best, at times only chance of a breakthrough.

If Graeme Welch can accelerate a couple of his young proteges to that level, he will have done extremely well. It is not too great a leap of faith to see Tom Taylor doing that, as he took 28 wickets this year at a decent average. He wasn't quite the same bowler when he returned after his car accident and a knee injury reduced his effectiveness too, but he has shown in a fledgling career that he can get good players out. A winter of hard work  - some of it in understanding the importance of over rates - could easily see him make the next step, as the talent is there.

Ben Cotton has more to give too, while Greg Cork and Harry White could easily emerge as our next left-armer. It is not hard to see Will Davis kicking on over the winter either, while Tom Milnes is a player that Welch obviously rates. There is an obvious incentive for all of these players, but they must listen and learn, then deliver.

Having said all that, it is unrealistic for these lads to bowl all summer, just as it is to expect Andy Carter and Tony Palladino to remain fit and firing for six months in three competitions. Another seam bowler of experience, for me, is a must and I am sure Graeme Welch will have several irons in the fire, even as I write.

One suggestion from me - how about Chris Wright, at Warwickshire? He has a year on his current deal there, but so did Mark Footitt and we know how that ended. He followed Graeme Welch to Birmingham from Essex and there is obvious, mutual respect.

More than anything, he is a very good bowler. Again one with injuries over the course of his career, but also with a proven record of taking wickets, as well as contributing useful lower order runs.

Wouldn't say no, that's for sure, yet that is something for the future.

For now it is thanks for all you have done at Derbyshire to Mark Footitt. Watching you race in from the City End will remain a vivid memory, as will stumps flying behind batsmen who were simply not quick enough to handle you.

It has been a pleasure.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Midweek musings

Good news once more from Derbyshire this week, with Will Davis and Rob Hemmings signing contracts for next summer.

The former is better known, his debut against the Australians being highly impressive. He seems likely to break through over the next couple of summers and, bowling with good pace, appears to have a fine future.

Hemmings is less well known, but scored consistently in the summer just ended, as well as taking useful wickets with his medium pace. The emergence of these players is good to see and while both have much work to do, they provide further proof of the county's coaching network producing the goods. The next step is for them, and others, to become established county players and that will be more of a test .

In other news, Hamish Rutherford's call up to the New Zealand test Test squad has attracted attention, though it is as part of a squad of fifteen  with no guarantees that he will play. That he is on the edge of the side will be an encouragement to a fine batsman and give him every incentive to do well for us next summer.

Both he and Neil Broom appear to be in good form at the start of the New Zealand summer and I expect both to play a major part for us next summer in a side that should prove far more consistent with the bat.

Finally tonight, is there anyone else bored rigid by the Test in Dubai? I reckon I could make runs on that wicket after two years without holding a bat. Such wickets do little for the cause of the international game and the thought of another three days of such tedium doesn't thrill me.

Its minimal appeal to the crowd appears fairly clear too, given that you need to look close to spot anyone. It is poor fare and looking like a nailed on draw, even at this early stage.

More from me soon.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Fit Carter a huge asset to Derbyshire

We will whisper it quietly, lest it all turns out horrid in the wash, but the signing of Andy Carter for the next two seasons could turn out to be an 'under the radar' piece of business by Graeme Welch.

Let's look at the facts. Carter is just turned 27 and has yet to complete anything like a full season in the first-class game. Indeed, he has only played 29 first-class matches, as a succession of injuries have caused problems. All of them were of a kind one might expect from a tall fast-medium bowler with a long back. There was a stress fracture to that back, a bout or two of absence with torn or pulled stomach muscles and an operation on an ankle.

They are all things that subsequent rehabilitation, amendment to an action and top-quality off field care can circumvent. They are little different to the issues faced by Mark Footitt in his days at Nottinghamshire and that didn't turn out too badly. Be in no doubt that Derbyshire's fitness and conditioning people will have gone over Carter's body and medical history with the finest of tooth combs prior to his being offered a contract. They will have opined that the player is fit - or fit enough to sign, with the likelihood of getting fitter.

As they did with great success for Mark Footitt, a personal fitness plan will be put together that will get the player fitter than before, ready to take a place in the Derbyshire attack next season. Whether that will be alongside Footitt is a matter of conjecture at present, but here we must return to the facts.

Because Carter can, without doubt, play cricket. You don't earn selection for England Lions, as he did, without having something special in the eyes of people that know the game. You don't get offered a new deal by your county without having something to offer. That he turned it down to move to Derbyshire speaks volumes for his ambition and also the stature in the game of Graeme Welch, who he admitted he wanted to work with.

Carter finished top of Nottinghamshire's averages this year, with five wickets at 18, albeit in one match. He finished top of Glamorgan's, where he spent four matches on loan, with sixteen wickets at 23. It suggests he can take wickets and will probably have a smile on his face if Wayne Madsen wins the toss and bowls on the first morning at Derby.

Now, if we can just hang on to Mark Footitt, there might be more than a few jealous stares coming our way from Trent Bridge.

Not to mention a few batsmen having sleepless nights before a trip to Derby. With Tony Palladino hopefully restored to full fitness and the young bucks improving, our seam attack could contain serious firepower.

Work your magic, Mr Pipe and Mr Tallent...

Friday, 9 October 2015

Weekend warmer

There was a bit of cricket news this week that surprised me - and I am at a stage of my life where I am not so easily surprised...

Former Shropshire batsman Richard Oliver turned down a contract with Worcestershire, where he was offered only a one-year deal, a season after bursting so spectacularly into the first-class game.

I saw him bat a couple of times and was impressed by his crisp, decisive stroke play. He was a late arrival in the county game at the age of 24, but averaged forty for his county and looked set for a decent first-class career. The lad can fairly tonk a cricket ball.

This year, he was less successful and was undoubtedly the latest, but not the last batsman of talent to experience the travails of second season syndrome. Few escape it, their technique having been examined by bowlers and coaches and the smallest chink in their armour being exploited.

The better players come through it, sometimes in the third season, but for others it takes a while longer. Look at Billy Godleman, a teenage prodigy at Middlesex but only establishing himself as a county cricketer to be relied upon,  seven or eight years later.

I'm not sure what surprised me most, to be honest. That he was only offered a one-year deal, or that he turned it down.

I can see the county's stance. There is no ECB money to be had and they have some talented young batsmen already. Yet Oliver showed that he could score runs a year earlier and hasn't lost that ability. It needs someone with the patience to tease it out again, albeit with the slight risk that he might, just might be a one-season wonder.

Look at Daniel Redfern. In 2012 he appeared to have made the breakthrough he had threatened for years. Yet the next year was a disaster and, after an uninspiring couple of seasons with Leicestershire, it would appear that he will have to play in the Minor Counties to rediscover the talents that he was given in abundance. Attitude? Technique? Only he knows the answer to that one.

I assume Oliver has had interest shown from elsewhere. Probably Leicestershire, who seem to be signing up batsmen from around the county as if they were completing a football sticker book. Got Pettini, got Dexter, got Horton...not got Oliver.

Were I a Worcestershire fan, I would have liked to see him given a two-year deal. I accept that for an unproven talent, one year takes the risk out of it for them and keeps the player aware of the need to perform. Coasting is not an option, but nor, by extension, is relaxing and displaying your best form.

I think that another county could pick up a gem in Richard Oliver and I hope will give him the contract that his talent justifies. I'm not necessarily suggesting Derbyshire, because I still have confidence that Ben Slater will become a reliable county batsman, but I hope that a lad with a first-class average of 30 from only 36 first-class knocks gets another opportunity

Anyway, I'm off now to start reading the new autobiography by Chris Adams, which arrived at my door today, courtesy of those lovely people at Pitch Publishing. I will be reviewing it in the next couple of weeks and look forward to it immensely.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Second print run of Edwin Smith book published

I am really delighted to announce that my book on Derbyshire cricket legend Edwin Smith has been reprinted by the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians, after the first edition almost sold out in a month.

Five copies of the first edition are still available on ebay, or by contacting me at the usual email address (peakfan36atyahoodotcodotuk).

Once the forthcoming second print run has gone, however, the book is gone forever, so please get in early to avoid disappointment. Orders are still coming in and I am thrilled with the reviews and kind comments that the book has received.

Edwin and I will be speaking at the Derby Cricket Lovers lunch on Thursday October 29th, for those of you who are members. We also hope to do a few more engagements in the Spring, so watch this space!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Good news time part 2 - Billy Godleman signs two-year deal

Great news today as Billy Godleman signed a new deal that will keep him at Derbyshire until the end of the 2017 season.

It is just reward for a player who has discovered the form of his life in our colours, and also for the club. We have now got the solid opening batsman we have sought for years and it is tribute to both the player and also to the coaches.

Plenty of people have worked with Billy in the last few years, but he has been given that precious commodity of opportunity, coupled with trust at the 3aaa County Ground. The role of skipper in the four-day game, when Wayne Madsen was injured, probably assured him that he was valued and appreciated, something everyone likes at their work. He responded splendidly and there is every chance that the opportunity could come his way again at some point.

It's a decent batting line-up taking shape now. Godleman, Madsen, Rutherford. Broom. Perm in any two youngsters you desire, plus Wes at seven, and we SHOULD make runs next year.

Throw in a good, proven T20 batsman and we will be really worth a watch in that format.

More from me soon.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Good news time

One of the first bits of good news of the close season came today with news breaking that Matt Critchley has signed a two-year deal.

The youngster came from nowhere - be honest, few had heard of him pre-season - and produced a brilliant maiden century, two or three nice cameos and a couple of good bowling efforts. All this at the age of 18. Given that he is still years - perhaps as much as a decade - away from his peak, he now has the opportunity to work on his game and hone his skills.

Let's face it, leg spin is the toughest to master but he has time on his side, as does Tom Knight, who I expect will be announced for a new deal soon. Next year, the two will vie for the senior specialist role, though Wes will doubtless be lead spinner overall. I don't see a move for George Dockrell, as I was asked yesterday, because I think he will stay in the south and because Graeme Welch has already made his spin intentions clear.

Then comes news that Tom Taylor is one of six bowlers selected for the England Performance Programme, another sign that the work with the Academy is bearing fruit. I thought Taylor looked leggy towards the end of the season, but his potential is obvious. It's funny, the other day I was struck by how much my son's physique has changed, for the better, since he was 21 (he's now 24). Trips to the gym three times a week have seen him fill out and he has changed considerably from the willowy youth of just three years back. Similar physical development of our seamers in the next few years will doubtless see them all a few yards quicker, while their skills can only improve.

Well done to Tom and well done to Ben Cotton, for acknowledging the work ahead of the squad this winter. Taylor is a good bowler but there are others not too far behind him at Derbyshire, all of them capable of earning further recognition. They have an excellent group of coaches to work with and in Welch have one of the best seam bowling coaches around. If they listen and work, there's a clutch of talented bowlers who could go far.

Finally tonight, Graeme Welch acknowledges that Mark Footitt may yet stay with us, which is wonderful news. Replacing that quantity of wickets is a nigh-impossible task, but this is big decision time for Mark. He is perhaps at his peak, near the England squad, taking wickets and in prime fitness. Two years down the line and those stars may cease to be in alignment, so he needs to take his time and do what is best for him.

Sometimes though, as Greg Smith and Tim Groenewald have found, the grass isn't necessarily greener elsewhere. Smith may struggle for another county after being released by Essex, while Groeners did OK, but nothing more than that for Somerset. They may have earned a few quid more than they did at Derby, but has their career been prolonged? I'm not so sure...

More from me soon.