Friday, 1 April 2016

Four-day season preview: steady progress?

It would be a brave man who heralded the onset of the new season with a prediction of four-day silverware for Derbyshire. Last year, after all, was disappointing in terms of results and performances, with a last day failed run chase against a somewhat average Leicestershire side indicative of a side with much to do to convince supporters.

The batting was flimsy and too often dependent on Billy Godleman and Wayne Madsen, while the attack was carried, far too often, by the now-departed Mark Footitt.

So what has changed?

Well, there has been a full winter of coaching and development for starters. Graeme Welch now has a squad of his own choosing for the first time and among them has a plethora of young, seam bowling talent. Tom Taylor, Ben Cotton, Greg Cork, Will Davis and Harry White all showed potential in patches last year, though the challenge for all is to master the skills and fitness levels required to produce regular results. While it is unrealistic for one of them to step into Footitt's shoes, it is more so to expect to see signs of progress. How much they have made may dictate the progress of the side.

Welch has shrewdly brought in Andy Carter from Nottinghamshire to replace Footitt. The two have similar records on leaving Trent Bridge and the hope will be that the new man can replicate the old. That he has the talent to do so is undeniable and if James Pipe and his team can keep him on the field, he may surprise a lot of people. An aggressive, chirpy cricketer, he may be just what the side needs.

Although he played a few games at the end of last season, Tom Milnes will also add to the options available. A skiddy seamer who can bat well in the lower order, I have a feeling that Welch sees a little of himself in the player. If he develops into a 'Pop Junior' there will be few complaints.

Spin bowling will again be in the hands of Wes Durston, with support from two young all-rounders of potential. Tom Knight has barely bowled in a match since his action was re-modelled and all supporters will hope that his left arm spin is still going to be an option for us. His batting has progressed well and he is still young enough to emerge as a talent for the future. Meanwhile leg-spinner Matt Critchley burst on the scene like a meteor last year and will hope for steady progress and opportunity as the summer progresses and the drier wickets appear. A winter spell with the Lions will have boosted his confidence and his talent is undeniable.

The batting should be more robust, after last year's revolving door style of overseas recruitment was shown not to work. This year, Hamish Rutherford will hope to build on a successful late summer stint of 2015 and will have been given a boost by the award of the vice-captaincy today in all cricket. The genial and talented Kiwi has a reputation to build and a good summer could make people sit up and take notice back home.

Alongside him will be his Otago team mate and another man of international experience, Neil Broom. He comes off the back of an excellent winter back home and should bring skill and experience to that middle order.  With the perenially reliable Wayne Madsen alongside him and Rutherford, we should not lack for runs this summer. New skipper Billy Godleman will lead from the front and both  Ben Slater and Chesney Hughes will aim to produce the performances to open alongside him.

Further down the order, Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes are all-rounders of huge promise but both need to produce the goods on a regular basis. Each has the ability to be a key component of Derbyshire sides for years to come, able to contribute with bat and ball, but whether a first-choice four-day side can accommodate both, especially as the summer progresses, is a moot point. For each the challenge is obvious, like for everyone else - produce the figures to make it impossible to leave you out. I am sure that Graeme Welch would prefer that kind of headache to one where he has to find players in form.

Finally there are the wicket-keepers. While both Tom Poynton and Harvey Hosein kept steadily last year, neither did so well enough, nor produced anything close to the required runs, to become an obvious number one. Good winters for each should have helped and I expect a battle royal for the gloves when the action starts.

Which leaves us where?

With only one team going up, the pressure is on and I think it unlikely that a young side is yet ready for a sustained challenge. Yet a good start sees momentum build and an undeniably strong team spirit can often be the 'X Factor' that makes a difference.

I want to see improved individual and team performances and the side is eminently capable of a top half of table finish. Beyond that, much depends on fitness and luck, both of which deserted us too often for comfort last year.

Yet these are exciting times at Derbyshire and the feeling remains that the best is yet to come.

Perhaps 2016 will be seen as the year when it all started to come together...

What do you think? Leave your comments below and/or vote in the new poll.


creweblade said...

Hi Peakfan - i like the batting make up (lots of options) - its reliance on mostly unproven bowling attack that would worry me - for me its a 5th or 6th place finish. Better than last year but cant see us bowling enough sides out twice - remain to be pleasantly proved wrong

Anonymous said...

Any news on getting an experienced seamer for the season.


Tim, Chesterfield said...

Predicting Derbyshire to have a successful seasons has not generally been a fruitful one in the long run. I genuinely thought at this time last year we'd challenge in 'proper' cricket but I was sadly way off the mark with generally limp displays the order of the day as the summer wore on.

If pushed I'd predict we'll bat better (though reliant on foreigners to do so - something in the ideal world I'd wish we didn't have to do) but bowl no better without Footitt. Worries for me are a lack of young batsman coming through and no one really other than Wes with the nous to take first class wickets with slow bowling.

Personally I feel this is a big season for Welch - enough talking has been done; now is the time for progression to match what appears to be a club led well away from cricket with the ground upgrade and financials all seeming to be in good health.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to think (hope) we'll see an improvement on last season and get to the top four at least although with only one team going up promotion may be unrealistic.
I have three main concerns: 1) lower middle order batting; 2) experience in the fast bowling ranks and 3) spin bowling. As to 1) in recent seasons none of durston, thakor, Alex Hughes, elstone, Hossein or poynton have scored sufficient runs to justify their places in the four day team. We can't rely in the top order, strong as it looks, to score all our runs so we need more out of 6, 7 and 8 in the order. Turning to 2) if Carter and/or Palladino go down injured (and neither has a recent fitness record that inspires complete confidence) we really will be relying on the youngsters entirely. And that won't do them or the team any good. To his credit Welch at least recognises that as our ongoing efforts to recruit show. Hopefully these will bear fruit soon. Finally 3) the less said about our spin bowlers the better. We are reliant on a batter who bowls and a couple of raw youngsters. The latter have bags of potential but is perhaps unrealistic and unfair on them to expect 40 odd wickets from either individually or in combination. I can't help feeling spin is a major weakness, we shall see.
What we do have is a strong looking top order. If Carter and Palladino stay fit and one or two of the youngsters really come on I see no reason why we can't get that top four finish. But progression from youth and a degree of luck with injuries will be required, along with a lack of turning tracks in high summer!

Spireite Tim

Mark said...

Mid table again I feel, still lacking another quality seamer to bowl teams out twice. Milnes and Carter are OK but nothing special. Only time will tell, but another struggle awaits.

Anonymous said...

Bowling attack not strong enough , lack of proven spinners .. 5th at best