Thursday, 30 June 2016

Worcestershire v Derbyshire T20 preview

Having started so brightly in an admittedly tough group, then lost narrowly to some very good sides, Derbyshire travel to the delights of Worcester tomorrow for a 'must win' game in the T20 Blast.

Four straight losses have taken us from potential qualifiers to third bottom, though a win tomorrow will put us back in the mix for the qualifying berths, especially if we can follow it up with a win at Queens Park on Sunday.

After excellent efforts in the second eleven's eight-wicket win over Nottinghamshire today (more later), Scott Elstone and Tom Milnes are back in the squad  for the game. It is one that we will approach in good heart, having acquitted ourselves well against them this season, though we really could do with our Kiwis coming up with the goods. When the situation gets tight, you want your hired hands to do that and they will line up in this squad:

Hamish Rutherford
Wes Durston
Chesney Hughes
Neil Broom
Wayne Madsen
Scott Elstone
Jimmy Neesham
Alex Hughes
Shiv Thakor
Matt Critchley
Tom Poynton
Tom Milnes
Andy Carter

Great to see Wes back in the side and his thunderous starts have been missed of late. Ben Cotton is rested after a lot of overs at Canterbury and I don't expect any changes to the recent eleven.

Our hosts welcome Saffer Kyle Abbott into their ranks and have a good team in this format. It will be a very good game of cricket against this squad:

 Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Daryl Mitchell, Joe Clarke, Alexei Kervezee, Brett D’Oliveira, Ross Whiteley, Ben Cox, Joe Leach, Ed Barnard, Matt Henry, Kyle Abbott, Jack Shantry

We have enough in the side to win the game, but whether we do so is  anyone's guess. I always feel we have a better chance when chasing, so the toss will be important.

Fingers crossed...

Meanwhile, at Worksop, the seconds limited our dear local neighbours to 191-8 in 43 overs. Will Gidman and Greg Smith made 33 each, while Andy Carter took 3-37 and Tom Milnes 2-35.

In reply, Wes and Jon Tattersall went cheaply, but Scott Elstone (85 not) and Charlie McDonnell (67 not) eased their side to a win with four overs to spare.

Good effort lads!

Book Review: The Hard Yards: Highs and Lows of a Life in Cricket by Mike Yardy

Over the years I have written this blog, as regulars will know, I have always chosen my words carefully when talking about players and their form.

There are places on the internet where anything goes, from personal comments to harsh criticism that never seems to take account of one simple thing. That cricketers, like all of us, have things going on in their lives that sometimes make performing at their best a very difficult thing.

We have had our share at Derbyshire in recent years and the mental side of the game is huge. Even if you have the requisite technique or impressive statistics, there is always the niggle that you might not be good enough , might not be able to maintain standard and perhaps cannot deal with critics and their words.

This book is essential reading for anyone who has gone online and been critical of a sportsman or woman. It is also an outstanding read, as it reinforces the fact that even those at, or near the top of the tree have their insecurities. Some of them, big ones.

Like Mike Yardy. A member of a T20 World Cup-winning side and captain of a Sussex side that won two one-day trophies in 2009, yet tormented by self-doubt. Unsure of his talent, whether people believed in him and whether he could sustain his form, he sought help in 2011, when he should have been preparing for a World Cup quarter-final.

This is a fine and brave book, because Yardy was a cricketer that any side would love to have as a member. If this kind of thing can happen to him, how many others might this crippling depression affect? Lots actually, more than you might think and in an age when every ball, shot, drop or decision is scrutinised and commented on by all and sundry, not everyone can handle the pressure and the attention.

Now retired and studying for a degree in sports psychology, a career in which he hopes to help others deal with the highs and lows of professional sport, Mike Yardy can reflect securely on two things.

One, that he WAS a very good cricketer - you don't produce those statistics, nor make it to the level that he did, without being so.

Two that, with his collorator Bruce Talbot, he has produced one of the most compelling cricket books of recent times.

Do yourself a massive favour and buy it. It will open your eyes...

The Hard Yards: Highs and Lows in A Life of Cricket is written by Mike Yardy and published by Pitch Publishing. It is currently available at £18.99 as a hardback

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Kent v Derbyshire day 4

Kent 379 and 238-3 

Derbyshire 574-9

Match drawn

The last day of a game in which Derbyshire acquitted themselves well petered out at tea. The deficit had been easily passed and was always going to be, considering that, with Will Davis injured, we only had two full-time bowlers to pit against a good batting side on a decent track.

Ben Cotton and Tony Palladino huffed and puffed in vain, then it was left to the occasional spin of Wayne, Chesney and Ben to try and winkle them out. Neil Broom got his sixth first-class wicket, while Hamish Rutherford even turned his arm over before the rain mercifully ended things. Such days are dull and entertain no one, to be honest. Four day cricket is pointless when the fourth is like too many have been this summer.

What does it mean for Derbyshire? Well, with seven games left, promotion is slightly more likely than me winning Miss World, but after the slow start we had in the four-day game, 'twas always likely to be so.

What I would like to see now is Harvey Hosein given the gloves for the rest of the summer's four-day cricket. By this stage, we know what Tom Poynton can do and he will doubtless play the one-day games. What we need to know, for next year, is whether Hosein has the mental toughness for day-in, day-out first-class cricket yet, or if we need to look at options.

At nineteen, being first-choice wicket-keeper at the top level is a tough gig, but I do think that we need more runs from that position than we're getting at present. It is the way of the modern game and our side would be so much stronger if we had an O'Brien, Roderick, Cox or Hodd behind the timbers. If TP or Harvey could provide that quality, then fantastic, but we need to look at that carefully in September and over the winter. We have an improved batting side, but there will be plenty of times when a James Pipe/Luke Sutton rearguard action is needed in all forms of the game.

I'd also like to see Matt Critchley get some overs under his belt. Of course, they want him to keep his limited overs bowling mindset right now and I get that, but a day like today cried out for a specialist spinner and we don't have one right now.

There's not many around, of course, but if I was in charge of winter recruitment this year, my number one target would be a spin bowler. If he could bat a bit, great, but a man who you could toss a ball to on the last day of a four-day game and say 'Bowl them out' would be a godsend. Likewise a man who could bowl tight overs in one-day cricket - and get people out too.

My choice? Imran Tahir. At 38 next year, his international days must be coming to a close, but his impact on someone like Matt Critchley for a couple of years could be considerable. Were he available, I'm sure most counties would be chasing him, but his effect on a young side would be massive. No side would fancy 200-plus on the last day with him bowling at one end.

An alternative might be a seamer for April to June and Tahir for the later summer, if he was loathe to commit to a full summer here. He's a match-winner for sure, but others would doubtless see him similarly.

The sad thing is, that's it. Unless Pakistan reveal a mystery spinner for the forthcoming Test series, I can't think of another spinner in the world game who I would bank on to bowl sides out on a regular basis and might be persuaded to come to England. While India has a few, they are unlikely to need county cricket when they can earn fortunes in the IPL.

Sad, isn't it?

Get yourself fit, Edwin. Your county needs you...

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Kent v Derbyshire day 3

Kent 379 and 32-0

Derbyshire 574-9 declared (Madsen 163, Thakor 123)

Kent trail by 163 runs

It would be a great surprise to me if this match ended in anything but a draw tomorrow, but another highly impressive Derbyshire performance has had the sports writers reaching for their thesaurus of superlatives.

Wayne Madsen made his fourth century of the summer and his 22nd for the county, a total surpassed only by JohnWright, Peter Kirsten, John Morris and Kim Barnett. Those names suggest the magnitude of the feat and I have no doubt that he will ultimately go past all but the supremely gifted, if unorthodox, Barnett.

Be in no doubt, while you enjoy watching him bat in coming seasons, that you are witnessing one of the greatest batsmen in the club's history. He is young enough and sufficiently motivated to double his current tally, unless his record comes under scrutiny at a higher level.

Wayne is now the highest scorer in the country. Sure, it is against division two attacks, as detractors will say, but runs are runs and it should not be ignored that in our summer in division one, he was one of the leading scorers in the country. First to the thousand mark, if memory serves me correctly.

I have no doubt that Wayne would score runs at the top level. He has a rock solid technique, being more organised than many who have played at that level. He is at home against pace and spin alike and has no discernible weakness. You can't bounce him out, because he rarely hooks; you can't bank on getting him early  as he gets hands, eyes and feet working more quickly than most. Were there any justice in the game, he will be under consideration for a winter tour, because he WILL get runs. He made them as a captain, he's made them as one of the ranks. He is simply an outstanding cricketer.

Some years his junior, Shiv Thakor is also emerging as a special talent. He looked it at Leicestershire, had a quiet and modest year last summer and this time has looked a player of genuine class with bat and ball. 522 runs at 87, eighteen wickets at 27: by crikey, the lad can play. His bowling is always likely to get wickets, while his batting has the flourish of the best. He will be an England player in the next five years, without any doubt - and quite possibly sooner.

Their efforts took Derbyshire to a sizeable lead today, but Will Davis is unlikely to bowl tomorrow with a hip injury and the wicket is simply too slow for anything other than TNT to cause batsmen problems.

Nonetheless, in both making centuries against Kent for the second time this summer, Wayne and Shiv set a little bit of Derbyshire history.

We may not win a trophy this summer, but slowly and surely the blocks are falling into place for a good little team over the next few years. Four or five solid batsmen, a couple of all-rounders, two good young seamers emerging...

Yeah, plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Kent v Derbyshire day 2

Kent 379 (Northeast 191, Palladino 4-76, Davis 3-86)

Derbyshire 291-3 (Hughes 83, Madsen 73 not, Rutherford 65)

Derbyshire trail by 88 runs

A good, solid day for Derbyshire today ended with the side in a position of some dominance and perhaps able to push ahead tomorrow and leave the hosts with a tricky final day.

The last Kent wickets went down with the minimum of fuss, leaving them 21 short of their final batting bonus point and Sam Northeast dismissed nine short of a double century. Four wickets for Tony Palladino completed another sound performance by the veteran seamer, who is enjoying a good season.

Our batting progress was solid, rather than spectacular, but with two days left in the game, that was the requirement at this stage. The Kent attack, shorn of Matt Coles for 'personal reasons', could make little impact and all of the batsmen got starts.

Both Hamish Rutherford and Chesney Hughes will be disappointed not to convert good innings into match-defining ones, though Wayne Madsen sailed serenely on to stumps in the company of Neil Broom. With Ben Slater and Shiv Thakor to come next, Derbyshire have plenty of batting to push ahead and make the final day a potential push for victory - albeit on a wicket that is now said to be slow and lifeless.

The thinking money will remain on the draw, so Derbyshire need to get ahead and then push on tomorrow.

At least, I'm sure, that's the plan at this stage. a jocular fashion, maybe it's time for whoever updates the score to stop saying 'X is going well' or 'This is a great partnership'. Invariably it results in a wicket. Today was 'Chesney is looking back to the form in which he started the campaign'. Next tweet is 'Wicket: Chesney is out'.

Sigh...I know - when they bat, try 'the Derbyshire attack is looking fairly ineffective today'.

We'll bowl 'em out in two sessions...

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Kent v Derbyshire day 1

Kent 354-7 (Northeast 173 not, Ball 66, Palladino 3-69, Davis 3-81)

v Derbyshire

Sam Northeast played a captain's innings for Kent today, steering them from the perils of 90-4 to a fairly satisfied 354-7 by the close.

It was a fine knock that prevented Derbyshire from capitalising on another fine spell by Will Davis. The teenage pace bowler apparently got good swing in the early sessions, before later in the day the batsmen were able to fight back and get a decent score on the board.

Davis suggests that with another couple of years on him he could be quite special, while Tony Palladino showed that experience is something that improves all bowlers with another three wickets. Ben Cotton bowled tidily, but Shiv Thakor was probably not bowling flat out and the Kent batsmen racked up runs against a makeshift spin attack of Madsen, Hughes and Slater.

We'll not know the true value of the score until Derbyshire has batted, of course, but there appear to be no undue perils in the wicket and we shouldn't be too concerned about batting when our turn comes tomorrow.

In closing, I must praise a very disciplined performance by Derbyshire in the field. Only six extras in the day, one bye, three leg byes and two no balls. On a wicket that according to reports flattened out after early assistance, that is a good effort.

More from me tomorrow.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Kent v Derbyshire preview

Shiv Thakor is back in the Derbyshire 13 for their game against Kent at Canterbury, starting tomorrow.

The following squad has travelled:

Billy Godleman
Hamish Rutherford
Chesney Hughes
Wayne Madsen
Neil Broom
Shiv Thakor
Ben Slater
Tom Poynton
Rob Hemmings
Tony Palladino
Matt Critchley
Ben Cotton
Will Davis

If I was selecting the side on current form, the two to miss out would be Chesney Hughes and Rob Hemmings. Rob let no one down on debut, but there are stronger claims, while Chesney's recent form has been sketchy and Ben Slater, to be honest, is more deserving of a place. I'd open with Bill and Ben, then have Hamish at first drop.

As for the home side, they have yet to announce a team but having beaten us at Derby will hope to complete the double. I still think they bat better than they bowl, but we will need to up our game to get anything from this.

We can do though and, last night apart, we have played well in the last month. Let's not forget that we'd have likely beaten Worcestershire given four days of cricket.

I think, given a decent forecast, we can get the win points here.

Your thoughts are, as always, appreciated!

Questions being asked

There's a couple of questions being asked of me in your post comments and personal emails that I would like to take the opportunity to address on an otherwise quiet day.

The recurring one is why Tom Poynton hasn't yet been replaced by Harvey Hosein.

Tom is a lovely bloke, a very competent wicket-keeper and a batsman of talent, not always realised when he gets to the crease. He will play an occasional innings that hints of what he can do and that his batting skills are coming to the fore, then lapse into a run of mediocre scores. His glove work is generally sound, though a mistake or two has proved costly of late, according to reports.

The trouble is, Harvey Hosein has no real batting form to force his case. At 19, I don't think there's much between the two behind the stumps. I think Poynton, older and more confident at 26, keeps on top of the fielders better, Hosein has the greater potential with the bat. Yet Harvey has only played T20 cricket since the end of May, when he made 50 against Nottinghamshire, since when his scores have been 12 not, 1, 7 not, 10, 5 not, 0 and 25. The figures don't push his claim, even if the lot of a middle order bat in T20 is not a happy one at times.

I have seen both men keep well, and less so, but it is a high-profile role and, like goalkeepers in football, when a keeper makes a mistake it is usually critical. Harvey has time on his side and will, I think, be first choice for years once he establishes himself. He may well be good enough to bat five or six too, something that Tom won't, in my opinion.

Both are very good cricketers, they all are at this level, but their batting returns won't yet stop Derbyshire supporters looking around the circuit at other counties and the match-winning knocks their glove men produce and wishing. A more productive wicket-keeper with the bat wouldn't have changed much this summer from a results perspective, but come season end we have to look around and see if there is someone out there who could offer more, even if just as a stop gap until Harvey comes of age.

For what it is worth, I'd prefer us to play Tom in one-day cricket and Harvey in the championship. It is a compromise, but one that will help the youngster learn the concentration skills he needs for a top-level career. With respect, he won't do that playing T20 after T20 in the seconds and having to swing the bat when he does get a knock.

The other question is what I think of Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom's efforts this year and have they been worthwhile signings so far.

The answer is no, they haven't. They seem lovely blokes and have good reputations, but the bottom line for any overseas cricketer is that you will be judged on your statistics and the number of matches you win for your side. A mid-twenties average is acceptable for a young lad making his way in the county game, but the expectations are much higher when you are brought from another country, provided with a car and accommodation and are well paid.

Both have shown what they can do in bursts, but to pluck two names at random, we could have played Tom Wood and Jon Tattersall in one and four-day cricket this year and they would have largely matched the return of the Kiwis. From the current staff, both Ben Slater and Scott Elstone may have averaged the same, or in Slater's case, likely better. None of them would be costing as much.

It's a tricky thing though. Amla, Dilshan, Rutherford - all good players with credentials, but disappointing returns. Where are you now, John Wright and Peter Kirsten. What we'd give for their like again.

I cannot fault the thought process of the signings, but in neither case have we yet had the evidence that the value is commensurate to the cost. You look at someone like Wayne Madsen, each year since he has been  'taking the place of a local lad' he has averaged 58, 34, 27, 37, 41, 39, 47 and this year 55. They are quality statistics, befitting a quality player and others must aspire to similar.

Good second halves of season required in both cases for me to be convinced.

Elvaston CC book launch - 15 July

I'm also thrilled to be doing an event with Edwin Smith at Elvaston CC on Friday 15 July.

I will be talking about the new book, then Edwin and I will chat about his career and answer questions from the audience. It will also be the last chance to pick up a copy of Edwin's biography, with final copies on sale on the night.

It is hoped that the evening will see the only two living men to take a thousand wickets for Derbyshire together again, which will be really special.

Elvaston Cricket Club is on Stable Drive, Elvaston,  DE72 3EP and tickets for the event are £3, with proceeds going to the club's Defibrillator Appeal Fund. There will be a bar and food available, with the evening starting at 7.30pm.
Tickets are available from the club, or by calling Andy on 07722 485213.
I do hope that you come along, say hello and enjoy a fun evening of cricket chat, as well as supporting a very worthy cause.
Sincere thanks to Andy for all the organisation!

Chesterfield Launch

There will be autograph opportunities a-plenty at the launch of my book on Derbyshire CCC on July 11 at Chesterfield Library, 7pm for 7.30pm.

Various Derbyshire players will be in attendance (no names, got to turn up to find out who...) and the evening represents a great opportunity to hear a short talk from me about the background to the book - and the blog - then answer questions, along with those great names from the club's history.

There will then be a chance to buy the book and get it autographed by some of those whose tales are told within its pages. It should make for a cracking evening and tickets seem to be going well.

They are £3 and are available from Chesterfield Library by calling 01629 533400. Alternatively, you can pop in and pick one up from the library.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, 24 June 2016

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire T20

Derbyshire 114

Nottinghamshire 120-3

Nottinghamshire won by 7 wickets

Call it a hunch, as Quasimodo may once have said, but I had a vibe that tonight may be 'crash and burn' for Derbyshire and so it transpired.

For the first time in a long while I was unable to follow the game in some form or another and only saw the score three times. The first was at the end of our Powerplay, when too much damage was done and we looked to be digging a hole. Then I saw the final score and it would appear that we used JCBs to speed the process.

The end was swift and conclusive and it would appear we batted poorly tonight.

The hour being late and my not having followed the game, it is not appropriate to comment further except to express disappointment at a poor effort.

I look forward to the comments of those who were there and will respond tomorrow, when I perhaps have a little more time.


Thursday, 23 June 2016

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 4

Derbyshire 467-5

Worcestershire 164 and 294-6 (Cotton 2-34, Davis 2-87)

Match drawn

In the end, as I suggested may be the case last night, the wicket was simply too docile and a good batting side held out for a draw.

Yet there were real positives for Derbyshire, in the bowling of Tony Palladino and Ben Cotton, followed today by Will Davis.

The young seamer took two wickets in one especially hostile spell and could have had a third. Following on from his fine display against Australia last year, when he took 3-63, Davis has shown he can take wickets at this level and is very much a bowler with a future. I am sure he will get further opportunities before the season is out and seems to have leapfrogged Tom Taylor for the time being.

No disgrace in a draw - yes, we might have won with a more experienced attack, but we might not have had the potency and legs in them that we hope for tomorrow against Nottinghamshire in the T20.

It looks like the same team for me, with a question mark over Shiv Thakor that I hope is positively resolved with tomorrow's fitness test.

The visitors squad lines up:

Ball, Christian, Fletcher, Gurney, Hutton, Lumb, Mullaney, Patel, Russell, Smith, Taylor, Wessels, Wood.

Tough opposition and in that respect very like the last three games.

We acquitted ourselves well in all of them.

Now to go one step further...

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 3

Derbyshire 467-5 (Godleman 204, Madsen 109, Broom 93)

Worcestershire 164 all out (Cox 40, Cotton 4-28, Palladino 4-32)

and 24-1 (Cotton 1-6)

Day three of this game (day two of cricket) was a day of such total Derbyshire dominance against a very good Worcestershire side that it was hard to believe. Bear in mind that we had an attack of two regulars, two championship debutants and part-timers. What a funny game this cricket is!

Before lunch we added 148 runs for the loss of Billy Godleman, who made a career-best 204, and Neil Broom, who was unluckily, or carelessly out for his second ninety-odd of the summer. It was heartening to follow from afar, even though it appeared a prelude for a long session in the field against a talented batting line-up.

When I came back from a short meeting at work, Ben Cotton (pictured) had already got three back in the hutch, a talented three in Mitchell, D'Oliveira and Clarke. This season looks like it may go down as big Ben's breakthrough year, as after a slow start, albeit on dead wickets, he has bowled with hostility and skill in the past few weeks. A few months short of his 23rd birthday, it has started to 'click' for the tall seamer and he is starting to look the real deal.

As for Tony Palladino, he just keeps on running in, moving it around and getting people out if they don't maintain concentration. His accuracy is a lesson to all the youngsters coming through and four wickets for him too were apparently reward for a fine spell of accurate seam.

There was a first championship wicket for Will Davis, a proud moment for a talented young bowler,but if criticising his greater expense, keep in mind that the lad is 20 and three years back in his development from Ben Cotton. Rob Hemmings produced a tidy spell too, in his first day in the field among the big boys and at the same age.

It was all so very encouraging. Whether they can finish the job off by taking the last nine wickets tomorrow is a moot point. By all accounts the wicket hasn't changed that much and there was as much careless batting as accurate, skilled bowling to blame for the visiting demise.

Yet first sessions at Derby, especially if there's a little cloud cover, can be a challenge. If Tony and Ben can get among them with early wickets - and importantly, we hold our catches - then a first championship win is a possibility.

Who knows, we might even see one of our young tyros start to make a name for themselves.

It keeps getting better for John Sadler and his young side are playing some terrific cricket.

Let's finish it off tomorrow lads.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 2

Derbyshire 319-3 (Godleman 157 not, Madsen 109, Broom 28 not)

v Worcestershire

Captains Fantastic combined for Derbyshire at the 3aaa County Ground today as they recovered from 13-2 in the fourth over after being put in, to a position of considerable strength. This was largely thanks to a superb partnership between Wayne Madsen and Billy Godleman (pictured), which added 251 runs for the third wicket.

After being inserted, on a wicket that offered early help after yesterday's rain, Hamish Rutherford and Chesney Hughes both went early, in a new look Derbyshire side that rested Shiv Thakor, Matt Critchley and Alex Hughes ahead of the T20 matches, while giving Ben Slater a middle order berth and championship debuts to Will Davis and Rob Hemmings, after good displays in the second team.

None were needed today, as Wayne's 21st county century and Billy's career-highest score set a new county record against the visitors for the third wicket. They are both very good players and key to our prospects going forward in this form of the game. While Billy was set back a little by the hand injury at the start of the campaign, he is right back to his best now .

Both offer a solidity we aren't used to of late in the batting order and it must have made for a delightful day's cricket for the Derby faithful. We now have four batsmen (those two plus Chesney and Shiv) averaging over fifty, which is encouraging.

So too was Neil Broom's smaller knock as the day came to a close. He's not had an easy baptism into the county game, but then the wickets take some getting used to and he's not the first to find that. We'll probably see more of him next year, but he has plenty of time left before September to make an impact.

In closing tonight, there was another interesting trialist in the seconds, who were playing Northamptonshire today.

Charlie MacDonnell played against us and made a century for Durham MCCU earlier this summer, one of several good innings he played for them after a prolific summer for Buckinghamshire last year. He's the latest to have trials at the club and hopefully we could see one of them in line for an opportunity next year. Certainly Jon Tattersall has made a decent fist of an extended trial.

MacDonnell's 84 today did him no harm and we just need Tom Wood to get the same opportunity now and see what he can do. It was also good to see Tom Knight batting higher in the order too and making runs - I hope that tomorrow sees him bowling a few overs and rediscovering the mojo that made him a very exciting all round talent.

More from me tomorrow - enjoy your evening!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 1

No play today - rain.

Can't find anything more to say tonight really.

We're going to have a good old-fashioned three-day game now. Declarations before the close, last afternoon run chases and all that.

Lots to like!

I'll be back tomorrow, hopefully with some cricket to report on.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Yorkshire v Derbyshire T20

Derbyshire 153-9 (Thakor 30, Neesham 29, Hughes (A) 23)

Yorkshire 67-3 in nine overs

Yorkshire won by one run (D/L)

Another defeat for Derbyshire, but another very good performance from a young team who made the home side work home for their eventual win. One run by Duckworth-Lewis; it was that close.

Three defeats in the T20 this year, but each has been within a hairsbreadth of victory. Last over at Northampton, last ball against Warwickshire, one run against Yorkshire. There will be ultimate disappointment, but no disgrace in losing so narrowly to such a strong side. If you look at that Yorkshire side, they would probably fancy their chances against most international teams.

In the continued absence of Wes Durston, we again struggled through the Powerplay, but there was a better look to this side. We had the extra bowler and it enabled Broom and Rutherford to open together - not successful tonight, but you want your better batsmen in early. It also allowed Shiv Thakor in at four, a sensible use of a batsman in prime form.

Shiv, Jimmy Neesham and Alex Hughes all played good hands down the order, although 153 was always going to be a struggle to defend. Losing the toss again was crucial, but the bowlers set about their task well.

Led, it has to be said, by Wayne Madsen. I had said pre-season that we didn't use his spin option enough and he's had more bowling this year. Three overs for 17 was a fine effort and included the wicket of David Willey.

Matt Critchley also bowled two fine overs for just 13 and the wicket of Lyth, while skipper Alex Hughes bowled just one over for three runs and effected a brilliant run out of Kane Williamson, to end a brief partnership where the second and fourth-ranked batsmen in world cricket were batting together.

At 67-3 from nine overs, Yorkshire were one run ahead and had their England men, Joe Root and Jonathan Bairstow together, with Ballance in at six. That's an all-international top order, but they far from had the game their own way.

Chris Grant sent out a tweet this afternoon, re-tweeting from the Yorkshire chairman Steve Denison that Dickie Bird had predicted Yorkshire 'knocking them off in 15 overs'. It came with the hashtag 'confidence'. I'd replace that with #arrogance, because they would have won, but nowhere near that easily. Win with grace, lose with dignity - that's always been my maxim and sadly not one that some teams adhere to.

In closing, it was good to see Azeem Rafiq back in cricket today. We had him on loan at Derbyshire two or three years back, but my understanding is that he 'lost it' for a while and had the dreaded 'yips'. Good to see a fine cricketer back, still young enough to make an impact on the game.

And as I am on an airport run to pick up my son tonight, there's just time to acknowledge an unchanged Derbyshire squad from that which played Sussex last time out, for the four-day game at Derby, starting tomorrow. That squad:

Billy Godleman
Chesney Hughes
Hamish Rutherford
Wayne Madsen
Neil Broom
Shiv Thakor
Matt Critchley
Tom Poynton
Tom Taylor
Tony Palladino
Ben Cotton
Will Davis

Worcestershire's squad sees Mark Fell return from his battle with testicular cancer and it is great to see the lad back in the game. I wish him well - though not TOO well!

Their squad:

Mitchell, D’Oliveira, Clarke, Fell, Kervezee, Kohler-Cadmore, Whiteley, Cox, Leach, Henry, Barnard, Shantry

Let's hope the encouraging form carries into the long format.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Yorkshire v Derbyshire preview

Jonathan Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Tim Bresnan, Karl Carver, Ben Coad, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Steven Patterson, Liam Plunkett, Azeem Rafiq, Joe Root, David Willey, Kane Williamson.

There's nine internationals in that Yorkshire squad that will play Derbyshire at Headingley tomorrow. That's how worried they are about the Falcons...

OK, for the benefit of new readers tuning in, I jest, but the presence of the Yorkie's England men in this one will make it a formidable task for Derbyshire. Whether you like it or not (I'd reckon most of the latter are down south...) they are the strongest club in the country at the moment. The men outside that side - Leaning, Sidebottom, Hodd, Rhodes, Brookes etc - tell of their strength and it is a very tough game for our lads tomorrow.

Realistically, we shouldn't be coming home with the points, so we should look at this as a benchmark of our team against the very best, to see how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. That we took a strong Warwickshire side to the last ball last night speaks volumes for progress. It was a game that we would have lost easily a couple of seasons ago, yet that same young attack that has been winning matches took a strong side to the last ball and could very easily have won.

As was pointed out earlier today by Adam, the toss played a factor, together with the only big innings of the match by Ian Bell. Had either of them gone the other way, the result could well have been different.

Of course, that's what your big players are for. They like to do their stuff when they play for their counties and that's why we are looking down a barrel tomorrow. Yet in saying that, there's again no disgrace in defeat and every chance to spring a shock. It's the cricket equivalent of the FA Cup third round and let's give them a damn good game. At the end of the day, they can only use one bat and bowl one ball.

It is a day when our bigger names and experienced men need to deliver, while the young guns can build a reputation.  As I write there is no news on the availability of Wes Durston, but his inclusion at the top of the order makes a huge difference to our Powerplay efforts. He'll not be risked if not fit though, so it comes down to whether Billy Godleman is deemed a better bet than Ben Slater to open, or we include the extra seamer in Ben Cotton.

Fingers crossed for a strong and fearless performance.

Win or lose, if we produce that there can be no complaints.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Derbyshire v Warwickshire T20

Derbyshire 141-7 (Madsen 38, Rutherford 33)

Warwickshire 145-6 (Bell 67)

Warwickshire won by four wickets off the last ball

A super game of cricket at the 3aaa County Ground tonight, one in which there is no real disgrace in defeat.

It was a good toss to win and with scoring runs never easy, Derbyshire never really got going. A struggle through the Powerplay was rebuilt by Wayne Madsen and Hamish Rutherford, but only a late flurry by Shiv Thakor got us to a total that was competitive.

Able to pace their reply, rather than overstretch, the visitors looked to be strolling it at 99-1, but good, disciplined bowling by the Derbyshire attack took the game to the very last ball, four byes in the last over perhaps proving crucial.

I look forward to your comments, especially if you were at the game tonight. For me, the extra seamer in Ben Cotton would have been worthwhile, especially when we bat so deep. instead of Billy Godleman, who I remain to be convinced is a T20 player.

Having said that, the whole attack bowled well and deserve full credit for a battling display with not too many runs to play with.

So near, and yet, so far.

Finally tonight, I am delighted to see John Sadler announced as coach for the remainder of the season.

He fully deserves the chance, will doubtless make a very good fist of things and will allow a proper interview process to be conducted at the end of the season, when we know who is out there and what the options are.

More performances like we have seen in the past two or three weeks and the internal candidate will have a very good shout.

Good effort lads, can't really complain at that one, even if the points didn't come our way.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Derbyshire v Warwickshire T20 preview

One way or another, Derbyshire could get four in a row tomorrow night.

A fourth straight win under John Sadler would do very nicely, although the weather forecast is sufficiently 'iffy' to suggest a fourth straight washout is far from impossible.

Derbyshire name the same thirteen that has become the standard  of late. Jimmy Neesham kept his eye in playing for Kimberley at the weekend, with 67 from just 37 balls, before taking 3-26 with the ball (thanks for the information, David!) He and the rest of the side will need to be at their best tomorrow against a strengthened visiting side from the one we were due to play earlier in the week.

Chris Woakes and New Zealand wicket-keeper Luke Ronchi come into their squad, which looks very competitive:

Bell, Adair, Clarke, Evans, Gordon, Hain, Hannon-Dalby, Javid, Patel, Poysden, Ronchi, Thomason, Woakes

Having said that, our own squad looks good for this format and shouldn't be afraid of any opposition. The home squad:

Billy Godleman
Chesney Hughes
Hamish Rutherford
Neil Broom
Wayne Madsen
Jimmy Neesham
Ben Slater
Alex Hughes
Shiv Thakor
Matt Critchley
Tom Poynton
Ben Cotton
Andy Carter

I think there's enough in the home side to nick this one, irrespective of the visiting strength.

It might well be a good game to win, as Yorkshire on Sunday will have their England quintet of Root, Rashid, Plunkett, Bairstow and Willey available.

Now THAT will be tough...

Finally tonight, there's been no news all week about the outcome of this week's board meeting over the coaching position.

Perhaps something will be announced tomorrow, ahead of the game. Logic suggests something is done sooner, rather than later, as it is unfair on everyone involved to leave things 'hanging' as they are at present.

May common sense prevail and John Sadler get the job until the end of the summer. I fail to see what more he could have done to secure the role and no one could come in and do better at this stage.

Fingers crossed...

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Warwickshire v Derbyshire RLODC

Match Abandoned

The way the weather is going, I can soon turn this blog over to Carol Kirkwood and she could as accurately discuss Derbyshire's prospects...

Yesterday's weather and the forecast for the area suggested play might be problematic today and so it transpired, the match being abandoned pretty much as early as the game at Chesterfield on Sunday.

It is frustrating, when we were playing such good cricket, but at the end of it all, we have the equivalent of three wins from four games and any side would take that. We're also unbeaten, so the confidence can still be there.

Quite nice really. With the next batch of matches in the competition not taking place for another month, you can join me in turning to the league tables in that time and seeing Derbyshire on top of the pile.

Job only half done, but that's a good effort for now.

Meanwhile, back at the T20...

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Warwickshire v Derbyshire RLODC preview

It is good to see the confidence emanating from the Derbyshire camp ahead of recent games and it is no different ahead of the visit to Birmingham tomorrow to play Warwickshire (as opposed to Birmingham, who we play on Friday...)

That's assuming the weather improves. The footage of the area on tonight's news suggested it had seen torrential rain and floods. With more forecast tomorrow, the game looks likely to be truncated, if it starts at all.

There's enough talent in the squad to justify that confidence and if they all play to potential the side can give anyone a good game. Add it and team spirit to any group of players and there is a potent mix that makes them dangerous opposition.

The Derbyshire thirteen:

Billy Godleman
Chesney Hughes
Ben Slater
Hamish Rutherford
Neil Broom
Wayne Madsen
Alex Hughes
Shiv Thakor
Matt Critchley
Tom Poynton
Ben Cotton
Andy Carter
Will Davis

No Wes Durston for this one, though he may come into contention for Friday night at Derby. I'll not attempt to call the final eleven because you can't, without seeing the wicket and conditions.

Tomorrow's opponents are a good side, but they haven't enjoyed the best of results in one-day cricket so far. A few injuries haven't helped, nor the loss of the excellent Chris Woakes to England. With Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Sam Hain in the batting line-up they won't lack runs, but the bowling is missing Chris Wright, Keith Barker and Woakes, so looks a little more vulnerable. Having said that, in Jeetan Patel they have perhaps the best spinner in the current county game and a man who has given them excellent service.

The Warwickshire squad:

Bell, Adair, Ambrose, Chopra, Clarke, Evans, Hain, Hannon-Dalby, Javid, Patel, Poysden, Trott

If the game goes on the toss will be important, but there's enough in the Derbyshire tank, if they all play to potential, to win this one. Continued discipline, focus and hard work could make it count

And a win would put us in a very strong position in the group...

Monday, 13 June 2016

All good down Derby way...

There must be a good mood down at the 3aaa County Ground right now.

Third in the T20 group, top of the Royal London One-Day Cup group - hey, we've not known days like this for some time. The trials and tribulations of four-day form are but distant memories, as the team has gelled really well.

Assuming we get back onto the field, there is Warwickshire to play on Wednesday and if we could win that and one more game we will have a good shout of the knock our phase. There will be twists and turns along the way, but we are doing alright just now. Even better is the news that Wes Durston is close to fitness and may play a part this week, which adds to John Sadler's options and makes the selection of his best eleven even more of a challenge.

I think John has done well since stepping up to the new role. He handles the media stuff well and is articulate and knowledgeable, as well as confident. Irrespective of the decision made by the board this week, I'm happy to go on record and say that he has earned the right to take the role to the end of the season at least.

Let's face it, we're unbeaten under his tenure and you cannot ask for better than that. My suggestion is to leave things be, see how John handles the job and its various demands until the end of the season, then advertise it and see how things pan out.

As I have said before, while the top level experience isn't there, the qualifications are and he doesn't have the 'baggage' that goes with older coaches with 'scars' on the CV. End of season, when we can review everything and have time to perhaps re-scope the job specification and structure is the right and proper time to do it.

John will be a strong candidate, irrespective of who else is in for the job.

Anyway, in closing, thanks to those who have reviewed so positively on Amazon my book on Derbyshire cricket, 'In Their Own Words'. There will be a launch in Chesterfield Library on July 11, which looks like being attended by several of the featured players and would appear to be a great opportunity to get a few autographs for your copy, either bought on the night or beforehand.

More on that this week, and on the other launch at Elvaston CC on July 15, which also features the quite wonderful Edwin Smith and may also see special guests...

Copies of the book will be on sale at both events and you can also buy it from Amazon, Waterstones and all good booksellers.

Thanks for your support - and I'll be back tomorrow!

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Derbyshire v Yorkshire RLODC

 Derbyshire 0-0 (1 over) v Yorkshire

Match Abandoned

A weekend that promised much in the way of cricket excitement was a damp squib for Derbyshire, as this game followed the Nottinghamshire T20 in falling foul to the weather.

I am sure the club had the income from the game insured, as it promised to be a good 'earner' for them, but both sides go away with a point after the onset of more rain made play impossible.

It's a shame for Will Davis, who was set for his List A debut on a ground he knows well, but his opportunity will be just around the corner and he will be chafing at the bit to do so.

Next up are the Birmingham Bears in the RLODC on Wednesday at Edgbaston, followed by the same opposition in the T20 at Derby on Friday night.

That is assuming the rain stops between times...

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Donald Carr 1926-2016

The passing of legends is always sad to record and that of Donald Carr marks the end of an extraordinary cricketing life.

Carr progressed from being one of the finest schoolboy cricketers of his generation to county cricketer, before briefly becoming England captain on  his one tour to India in 1951-52. A long and successful career as a cricket administrator followed, before a retirement that was enjoyed with his close family.

His life and career were admirably documented by John Shawcroft in his biography of the player, but suffice to say that for Derbyshire fans of the 1950s, Donald Carr was always a pleasure to watch. As with most players brought up on reliable, public school wickets, he was happy to play his shots and was especially adept in front of the wicket and on the hook.

He was one of a number of former Repton boys to play for the county and took over the captaincy from Guy Willatt, when the latter retired prematurely. He led the side with good grace, charm and no little skill between 1955 and 1962, though contemporaries will cite an over-dependence on Les Jackson and Cliff Gladwin as a weakness, especially when he had Edwin Smith, Harold Rhodes and Derek Morgan in the attack.

He was a good enough bowler of slow left arm to take over 300 first class wickets himself and was one of the finest close fielders the county ever had. Carr held five hundred catches in his career at a rate of more than one a game, testimony to safe hands, good coordination and an attack that offered regular opportunities.

Above all he was an attacking batsman to be enjoyed and with Arnold Hamer carried the batting for a number of seasons. Nearly 20,000 runs at just under 29 are not figures to impress too many statisticians but, as with all players of the era, it should be remembered that uncovered wickets were no friend of the batsman playing for an average. It was generally reckoned that had Derbyshire had one more top class batsman - a May, Cowdrey or Graveney - they would probably have one at least one Championship in the 1950s. Carr scored over two thousand runs in 1959 and was one of Wisden's Cricketers of the Year, but his availability decreased thereafter.

He was both captain and secretary until 1962, when he became a highly respected administrator. He became assistant secretary of the MCC (1962-74), and secretary of the Cricket Council and TCCB (1973-86). He was also a useful footballer, winning his Blue at Oxford and making two Amateur Cup final appearances with Pegasus. Meanwhile his son John played for Middlesex for a number of years and his brother Douglas was also long time Derbyshire secretary, following him into the post.

I never met him, but his contribution to Derbyshire and English cricket was considerable and will never be forgotten.

Rest in peace Donald Carr.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Derbyshire v Yorkshire preview

I expect more of the same from Derbyshire tomorrow, at Queens Park in Chesterfield.

A committed display is essential against a strong Yorkshire eleven that has been strengthened by the arrival of Kane Williamson, for me one of the top three batsmen in the world (with Joe Root and Steven Smith, since you're asking...)

There's no Rich Pyrah, who usually turned matches against us into a passable impression of Garfield Sobers, but it will be a side chock-full of talent and will take a Derbyshire side at its best to get the right result.

I don't see a change from the game at Derby against Durham, unless Chesney comes back in ahead of Billy Godleman or Ben Slater. I'm not sure how John Sadler could do that though, given they enjoyed a century stand in that game. Billy has a good record in this competition and Ben can surely not be omitted after a ton - and before a game on his home patch?

As for Yorkshire, they have named the following squad:

Ballance, Bresnan, Carver, Coad, Hodd, Leaning, Lees (captain), Lyth, Patterson, Plunkett, Rashid, Rhodes, Willey, Williamson.

Their batting has been a concern in one-day cricket, which is surprising given the talent in there. The grumbles from 'oop north' are getting louder that they dominate the long format but struggle in the shorter ones  - much like in the 1960s, when the county's dominance in the County Championship was at odds with their comparative struggles in the Gillette Cup and John Player League.

It is hardly a crisis though and is more indicative of an intolerant fan-base, a little spoiled by success.
It will be a big crowd and I hope the occasion is matched by the weather - and a cracking game of cricket ensues...with the right result, of course!

Elsewhere, the Derbyshire board will meet this coming week to discuss the coaching role and how they wish to fill it. I am certain that they will look at the structure, given this is the time to do so and look at what is needed to take things forward.

I'd still be inclined to wait and see how John Sadler goes with the role, given the hectic schedules at present. The recurring name appears to be Chris Adams, though I have also had Peter Moores and Alan Butcher mentioned in emails. I have no issue with any of them and think Adams in particular could do a good job, if we can lure him back to his home county. He has twice accepted jobs (Yorkshire and Ireland) and then thought about it and said no, so there's something to be aware of there, but 'Grizz' would be my choice if John Sadler was deemed too inexperienced at this stage.

Going back to my suggestion last week of a player to 'do a Barlow' and take Derbyshire out on to the field, however, here's a left field and topical suggestion for you for another year.

What about Andrew Gale?

Widely regarded as an outstanding captain, yet largely playing only four-day cricket now, at 32 he has time and talent for fresh challenges and could, in my humble opinion, form an intriguing, all-Yorkie partnership with John Sadler. His current contract expires in December (with a one-year option) and who better to lead a young team than a tough captain who has trophies to his name?

I know he has off-field interests, but the geography might work and a fresh challenge might be worthy of his consideration. If we were to switch our overseas focus to a bowler for next summer, having a batsman of established reputation to step in would be no bad thing.

Thoughts? From Yorkshire or from Derbyshire...?

Finally today, in a wide-ranging blog that should attract plenty of comment, I see Tom Wood racked up another unbeaten century for the Unicorns yesterday, this time an unbeaten 105 against Leicestershire Seconds, before the rains came.

If I was in charge of Derbyshire, I'd go and pick the lad up to have an extended look at him. For all the batting is going well right now, succession planning is key to any good organisation and we should be giving him a game or two before the summer ends, to make an informed decision on his ability.

Whether we saw him last year or two years ago is irrelevant, and much happens in that timescale. 'Roons are roons' to quote Geoffrey Boycott and his record over the past eighteen months brooks no argument.

That's enough from me for now - as always, I look forward to your thoughts!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Win a copy of my new book!

Over on Cricket World, you can enter a competition to win one of five copies of my new book 'In Their Own Words: Derbyshire Cricketers in Conversation'

As all the best competitions should be, it is nice and easy to enter and I wish you luck.

Of course, if you don't win one, I'd be grateful if you make it your Father's Day hint this year. Or an early Mother's Day for next, if you will...

I look forward to seeing you when I come down on the promotion trail next month - more on what is happening and where in due course!

That link -

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire T20

Match Abandoned

Well, that didn't last long...

Derbyshire's first televised game of the summer only lasted long enough for us to be told that the latest they could start was 9.45pm, which apparently left 'plenty of time' for things to improve. This despite a simultaneous announcement that it would take 75 minutes when the rain stopped to get the ground fit.

My old mathematics teacher would have been proud with how I quickly worked out that they needed to be working on the ground by 8.30pm, which was only an hour down the line. It all looked very unlikely, despite our being assured on at least three occasions that the drainage 'really is world-class'. There was a glimpse of the Derbyshire players inside the dressing room and Wayne Madsen chatting to AJ Harris, but that was as much as we saw of our lads tonight.

World-class drainage counts for nothing when the night looked like one where you'd even have qualms sending out the mother-in-law for milk (sorry, mother-in-law) and so both teams went away with a point into the gathering gloom.

It all reminded me of a scene in the wonderful TV sitcom of many years ago, Outside Edge,  where the team captain, Roger, is seeking encouragement from a thin patch of blue in the distance to get the players to stay around. 'It's only drizzling' he said, ignoring the lake on the outfield in his desire for the win points.

Here's hoping for better luck on Sunday at Chesterfield. A big crowd and sunny day will mean a bumper earner for the club, always a good thing.

I don't think we'll complain at that point though.

Spot the mistakes..

Crikey, that's a big squad!

Looks like Mr Fletcher has a decision to make about his allegiance too, while Alex Hales must be doing a 'homer' in his spare time...there's a few unlikely names in the squads too.

I'm surprised they've not included Steffan Jones and Charl Langeveldt...

More from me later.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Post and email standard very high!

I've been really impressed with the standard of posts and messages on the blog and to me in recent days. It shows a good section of club support that thinks and cares, which is a nice combination and heartening to see.

Both Gary and Adam below my 'The Sun Has Got Its Hat On' post made pertinent comments as to how feasible it was for us to focus on all formats of the game and they are right. If we were affluent enough to carry one-day specialists, as some counties do, it would be quite nice indeed. Until the young seamers develop and we find a match-winning spinner from somewhere, I suspect competing in the four-day game will be tough.

It is all well and good scoring heavily, which we are capable of doing, but you have either to take twenty wickets or 'sucker' your opponents into setting you attainable targets. I remember in the Wright and Kirsten era, the last day run chases very quickly became upwards of 300, once it was evident that those two and others in a strong batting line up could make a mockery of most targets.

An email from Roy alerted me to both the youth of the contracted Derbyshire players, which I knew, but had good comparators with others. 'Young Will Beer' as referred to by Sky commentators, is a 'promising young spinner' at Sussex who is 27 and has taken just thirteen first-class wickets in nine matches since his debut in 2008. He only has 61 wickets in 81 one-day games, going for an average of seven-plus an over.

Compare that to Matt Critchley, who is taking wickets and going for under seven an over at the age of 19 and you get a sense of our sometimes being too harsh on young players. Ben Cotton is another, 'written off' by some, at 22, yet now with 21 one-day wickets and going for only five an over.

Alex Hughes is another whose gradual improvement has seen him elevated to the one-day captaincy and whose figures will only get better. Then there's Shiv Thakor, who I am convinced will one day play for England, and Ben Slater, whose averages are climbing all the time and suggests giving us a Derbyshire-reared batsman to head the batting line up for the first time in too long.

Others are further back, but we all can see signs of progress that are heartening. There will be setbacks and days when other teams or individuals are too strong, but keep in mind their ages and remember how Billy Godleman and Chesney Hughes 'cracked' the county game at 25 or 26, which the others are all way short of at this stage.

Going into a big weekend, I'm heartened by that and by the standard of those comments. Keep them coming, keep in mind the youth of the squad and let's enjoy the ride!

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire T20 preview

Tomorrow's game at Trent Bridge will be eagerly looked forward to by both sets of supporters, with the home side fancying a win after racking up 400-plus in each of their last two home matches in the RLODC.

With five international players in their side, logically they should do it, but our three Kiwis give us a little extra something if they fire and it should be a very good game in front of the Sky TV cameras. I'm always amused by the latter's choice of games, which rightly or wrongly always seems to be, from our perspective, 'Let's do the East Midlands local derby and then we'll do the Lancashire game at Derby, so we can get an extra Lancashire game in'....

John Sadler has named the following 14-man squad for the game:

Billy Godleman
Chesney Hughes
Ben Slater
Hamish Rutherford
Neil Broom
Wayne Madsen
Scott Elstone
Jimmy Neesham
Alex Hughes
Shiv Thakor
Matt Critchley
Tom Poynton
Ben Cotton
Andy Carter

I can't name a final eleven, to be honest. I rate Billy a fine batsman, though don't think this is his format and would rather see Ben Slater in to open. Conversely, you could omit both and play Ben Cotton as an extra bowler, unless Scott Elstone's all round talents are more in keeping with the wicket. Recent events suggest a run-fest, so going in with only five bowlers may be risky, especially when the side bats deep, whichever eleven takes the field.

Nottinghamshire's squad is packed with talent and the arrival of Andre Russell gives them another experienced player at the format. Dan Christian is doing well too, with the only real 'weakness' that the other batsmen have barely had a hit with Michael Lumb and Rikki Wessels in such prime form. A positive result for Derbyshire will need a huge effort, but we should never underestimate team spirit, nor the talent in our own side. Once again, a couple of early wickets can change the complexion of a game and good as Lumb and Wessels are, they're not Kohli and Gayle.

Their squad:

Jake Ball, Dan Christian (c), Luke Fletcher, Harry Gurney, Brett Hutton, Michael Lumb, Steven Mullaney, Samit Patel, Andre Russell, Greg Smith, Brendan Taylor, Riki Wessels and Sam Wood.

I look forward to seeing the boys in action and gritting my teeth every time the commentators call us 'Derby' and slip an extra 'd' in Wayne's name to make him 'Madsden'. Memo to Sky: we're a county side, not a city one. Yours sincerely, Ripley lad...

I would be accused of wild optimism to call a Derbyshire win, but if the side pulls together, performs its disciplines well and holds its catches, you never can tell.

I call it the Chuck Berry method of motivational speaking.

Here's hoping that we're saying that Johnnie (Sadler) B Goode tomorrow night...

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The sun has got his hat on...

It's been a while since things were as good as this for Derbyshire fans. Summer 2012 would be my guess at the last time we experienced this level of euphoria after three straight wins.

It didn't seem likely when the news broke of Graeme Welch's departure, but the coaching and playing staff have done a remarkable job in the past week and deserve every credit for a sequence of results that has made people believe in the club again. Well, some, at least...

John Sadler was extremely magnanimous in interview, attributing it to the players doing what they had worked at over the winter months. It's true of course and these skills don't just happen with players running in and hoping. By the same token, John has poured oil on troubled waters, lightened the mood and presumably talked a lot of sense. You can go a long way with personality and talent, both commodities he has in abundance.

Mind you, they will do well to keep that vibe going over the course of the coming weekend.

Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge on Friday. They racked up 445 earlier in the week, after Lumb and Wessels added 342 for the first wicket. As I write, they have racked up 415 against Warwickshire on an obviously belting track, the openers 'failing' in only adding 178...

They're too batsman-friendly for me. When a fine bowler like Jeetan Patel goes for eight an over, it is too one-sided, but as long as they win, neither the club nor its supporters will complain too much.

That's 520 runs added in two partnerships by Michael Lumb and Rikki Wessels, a reasonable indicator of quality, but then we should remember that any ball that can go for six can also get a batsman out. We all know the great leveler that is cricket and the game's history is littered with examples of batsmen who followed a big hundred with an early dismissal.

It should be well worth a watch, anyway and I just want to see our young side compete against our affluent  neighbours, with a win a bonus.

We have shown that we can pace an innings well in chasing and the next challenge will be to set a good target and then defend. At their best, the batsmen have shown that they can tick along well at seven or eight an over without the panics that used to tarnish our run chases. What I've enjoyed in the last two games is seeing an early over boundary, then the batsmen knocking it around for ones and twos without going mad. Batting first is a different mindset - what constitutes a good score that we could have an expectation of defending? It will be interesting to see how we handle such situations.

Derbyshire's success in the one-day stuff is diametrically opposed to their struggles in the longer format, the reverse of Sunday's visitors to Chesterfield, Yorkshire. They will win the championship again this year, but they've not looked the same force in the one-day games, largely because they have rested key personnel.

No doubt a run out in the scenic splendour of Queens Park will leave a few people fancying a hit on a good track with a fast outfield, so I will read little into advance form in another game in which we will start as underdogs.

That's the way we want it. There's enough good players in the Derbyshire side for danger to lurk in underestimation, enough confidence for surprises to occur. Let's face it, we play two of the best sides in the country over the weekend, so there should be no disgrace in defeat.

If we win either of them, it would be something special.

And David did beat Goliath, after all...

Postscript - quite a bit of discussion on the last Derbyshire-born batsman to score a hundred in a List A game. I reckon it is Chris Adams, who made five centuries in one-day cricket in 1997, his final year at the club. Ian Blackwell, another mentioned in despatches, had a highest  of 97 in our colours.

Unless anyone can tell me otherwise, I reckon that's the answer, which underlines the importance of the innings rather nicely.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Derbyshire v Durham RLODC - Two out of two ain't bad...

Durham 216 (Pringle 125, Thakor 3-36, Carter 3-59, Cotton 2-32, Critchley 2-53)

Derbyshire 218-3 (Slater 119, Godleman 42, Madsen 21 not)

Derbyshire won by 7 wickets

Whisper it quietly, for it be early days, but we're top of the league after two straight wins...

It'll get harder from here, because the surprise element is perhaps gone, but Derbyshire's young team under its young coach has just had a golden weekend. In doing so, they have played bright, aggressive, purposeful and professional cricket, with every member of the side playing a full part. There was no Chesney Hughes today, to add to the absence of Wes Durston, but it barely mattered as Ben Slater came in for his 50-over debut and scored 119 to steer Cap'n Alex's trusty ship to the calm waters of another two points.

27, 22, 22, 24, 19. That was the respective ages of Derbyshire's attack again today (Carter, Cotton, Thakor, Hughes, Critchley in order) Throw in Slater, at 24 and there are genuine reasons for optimism. Sure, there will be setbacks in the weeks and months ahead, as such is the game, but they are working hard, playing excellent cricket and getting their just rewards. Wayne Madsen and Neil Broom must feel like leaders of a scout troop at times, as the only over-30s...

It was disciplined once again. Only ten extras conceded in the innings and taking key early wickets. Andy Carter is coming into his own now and leading the attack well, while Ben Cotton has been a revelation in recent weeks. With an opening spell of seven overs for just ten runs, his bowling was in the best Derbyshire tradition. As for Thakor, he continues to look a very special cricketer and nipped out three wickets once again, while maintaining an economy rate that he can be very proud of.

Credit too to Matt Critchley, who emerged from his Worcester mauling to take two wickets and produce respectable figures, better than those of Scott Borthwick, who is often cited as the English leggie to watch. Matt is seven years younger, for the record.

Once again, I am told, Alex Hughes captained his side intuitively and well. With nine overs for 34 runs he played a key part in the field and it all resulted in a total of 216 that looked within reach. Durham would have struggled to three figures, had it not been for Ryan Pringle's brilliant 125. Some may remember the lad's agent playing a supposed interest from Derbyshire off against Durham to earn a better contract last October and today they would have realised it was money well spent.

It didn't affect the result though. While it could have been Durston and Hughes, Slater and Godleman led off in fine style and had a hundred on the board inside 20 overs before Billy was out. Hamish Rutherford wasn't in destructo-mode, but was only out to a brilliant catch, then the composed Mr Madsen came in, ensured Slater got enough strike to reach his ton and that the win was reached with the minimum of fuss.

It was Slater's day and rightly he was declared man of the match. It was an innings which gave John Sadler a good kind of headache, as he has more batsmen running into form than he can accommodate in an eleven. He's a good player is Ben, one who could easily head the county batting for a decade, given the luck that is always needed at key times. I'm really pleased for him and for the whole team.

In closing, earlier today I read someone saying how impressed he was with Worcestershire as a one-day side this year and how they could 'win silverware'. Maybe they could, but we beat them with some to spare on Sunday. Today, we eased past a division one side in Durham, by all accounts looking a good (and young) side in doing so.

Friday at Trent Bridge and then Sunday at Chesterfield will be big tests for that young eleven.

But by crikey, they are playing some good cricket at the moment.

Well done lads. Be proud of yourselves.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Derbyshire v Durham RLODC preview

After two fine wins over the weekend, Derbyshire's star appears, for the time being at least, to be in the ascendant. Truth be told, there are some good players in this squad and if they deliver with greater frequency, better results will be the consequence.

Hamish Rutherford was absolutely right in his post-Worcester interview, that different players have contributed to the two successes and that is the way it has to be from here. We don't have stand out stars and we all remember what happened when we had stellar names like Amla and Dilshan in the side. We do have some very good cricketers and some highly promising ones, so if they all do their bit we will give anyone a game.

Most immediately that is Durham, at the 3aaa County Ground tomorrow. They hit the highest score of the first round of games, racking up 340 against Leicestershire, although the ante has been upped a little today with Nottinghamshire posting 445-8 against Northamptonshire, which I think I can safely say, as I write, will be a winning score...

There's an unchanged thirteen for Derbyshire tomorrow - and rightly so - with my guess being that the same side will take the field as at Worcester. If we can bowl with similar discipline, field well and then bat with a common sense that hasn't always been the preserve of Derbyshire, we could keep the winning streak going.

As for Durham, they have a very strong top three in Stoneman, Mustard and Borthwick, while Paul Collingwood remains the ballast in the middle order. I think their batting better than the bowling, but there are one or two omissions from their squad for tomorrow. Graham Onions is one, Ben Stokes another and we will be lining up against eleven from this squad:

Stoneman (c), Mustard (wk), Borthwick, Clark, Collingwood, Pringle, MacLeod, Jennings, Arshad, Harrison, Rushworth, Coughlin, McCarthy, Richardson

A tough game for sure and three wins on the bounce would be quite something, but the talent is there and a growing self-belief never does any harm as long as it isn't combined with complacency.

We'll see soon enough.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Worcestershire v Derbyshire RLODC - Sadler's Stars Sizzle in Sunshine

Worcestershire 295 (Kervezee 77, Whiteley 61, Cotton 4-43, Carter 2-38, Thakor 2-59)

Derbyshire 298-3 (Rutherford 104, Godleman 61, Madsen 69 not, Broom 45 not)

Derbyshire won by seven wickets

A swarm of propitious bees flew over New Road earlier today as Derbyshire were in the field, yet by the end of the day it was the team and their supporters who were buzzing...

Let's be honest, the number of times that we have chased such a total with success is fairly limited, enough so to make it special when it happens. Today's run chase at Worcester was both professional and perfectly paced by a Derbyshire side that has followed the example of Muddy Waters and finally got its mojo working. As weekends go, this was a good one to be a Derbyshire supporter.

The key was a team effort. The four seamers bowled well, with Ben Cotton returning career-best bowling figures in one-day cricket. Andy Carter did well too, Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes were steady and Matt Critchley got the collaring that was always likely to happen  after some very good displays.

Whether Wayne Madsen or Chesney Hughes were fit enough to have bowled a couple of Matt's overs I don't know, but he ended up with the key wicket of Ross Whiteley when the latter could have put Worcestershire out of sight.

How many thought we could chase nearly 300 is a worthwhile question, but after Chesney was run out 'overestimating his powers of acceleration', Hamish Rutherford blazed a superb century from just 76 balls with 7 fours and 7 sixes. He had a couple of lives, but the way he plays that is always likely to be a possibility. Billy Godleman played the common sense role at the other end and when he was out in the 32nd over, we were 163-2 and needing 133 from the last eighteen. There was a time when that was considered more challenging, but you'd fancy that in a T20, with wickets in hand.

Rutherford went after 36 overs, when we needed 102 from 14, but a win never seemed in doubt today. Wayne Madsen was going well by that stage and he, partnered with admirable common sense by Neil Broom, got the required runs with almost two overs to spare and the minimum of fuss.

It was special and full praise is due to the team. It is appropriate to give credit to Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom, who have endured some stick this summer, but delivered today. It was interesting listening to Jimmy Neesham the other night after his Man of the Match Award. 'I did nothing different from Northampton' he said, 'but it went for me tonight'. Such is the game and if both kick on from here, few of us will remember April and May by the time the end of the summer comes.

As for Alex Hughes, he has played two, won two as skipper and must think this captaincy lark is a piece of cake. There was a reassurance of having Alex and Shiv with their pads on and suddenly the batting looks more robust in this form of the game.

Finally, warm congratulations to John Sadler. Whether new management has made a change to the environment only the players know, but he has two straight and impressive wins under his belt and no one could ask for more. He will know as well as anyone that you can't win them all, but this was a performance to savour. When they are interviewing for the new coach's role, he can cite this as one of the most professional run chases in old Peakfan's memory.

Durham at Derby is next. If they maintain this level of performance, the names don't matter, it's still only eleven against eleven.

Well done lads. We're bee proud tonight...

Where do we go from here?

I have had, as expected, quite a few mails in the past couple of days, since the news of Graeme Welch's resignation broke. The theme of most of them has been 'where do we go from here, Peakfan?'

There are, as I see it, three paths that Derbyshire's Board could choose to take.

The first is simply to stick with what we have and let John Sadler do the job until the end of the summer. We are coming into a busy part of the season, the last thing we need is disruption and realistically, any recruitment process worth its salt would take a minimum two months anyway. People who may be interested could well be contracted and we would want to give ourselves the best chance of getting the right man.

As I wrote yesterday, there is much to appeal in Sadler, a highly-qualified coach who is young enough to relate to the players and to be aware of current coaching techniques. Anecdotal evidence suggests he has good people skills and he has the requirements for the role, if not necessarily the experience. You could turn that around and say that he doesn't carry the 'baggage' of others either.

Option two would be that they look for someone new and all that entails. A new man would have his own ideas, which may or may not blend with what has been before. There has been much good groundwork done in the last two or three seasons under Graeme Welch, though mistakes have been made (see later). What is for sure, with any coach, is that there will be those who respond to him and those that don't. One player can respond to a coach's ideas, while another just doesn't get there. It doesn't make either bad at what they do, simply highlights that we're all different.

Chris Adams will have plenty of supporters and he's a classic example of a coach who has done well in roles and had his bad times too. It happens with them all and the professional reality is that at some point, somewhere, you will get the sack. Supporters will turn you from messiah to pariah very quickly, even if some are more understanding.

Option three? The most intriguing and the hardest would be to find another Eddie Barlow. A professional cricketer of international standing and proven leadership skills who could come in, be given the reins and responsibility and be asked to take the players on the field, show them how it is done and galvanise the club.

There was a time when I thought Jacques Kallis would be perfect for that, and Michael Hussey. They are both too old now and the difficulty is that players in that category can make way more money than we could put their way in the IPL. Brendon McCullum is the only one that springs to mind immediately, but it is unrealistic for him to turn up at the end of May and say 'Hi lads, so how's the first two months gone?' Equally so, I would think, to expect him to turn down IPL riches for a county deal and all that it entails.

What I am ever more aware of, however, is that for next year we must identify a quality bowler as an overseas player. Clint McKay is doing for Leicestershire what Charl Langeveldt did for us a few years back and someone like that, or a quality spinner, would be an asset to the captains. Unless one or two of the youngsters shows accelerated development in the remainder of the season, I'd switch focus for another year.

Finally, speaking of young player development, one player who I think poorly served in the last administration was Tom Knight. Here we had a lad who was an England under-19 spinner, proven to have a good temperament in big game occasions and with the ability to bowl a tight spell with the ball and then smack the ball a long way with the bat.

I understand the need to 'tweak' a player's technique to improve it, but to effectively attempt to reconstruct an action that was never broken, leaving the lad barely bowling a ball over two summers, is plainly daft. I know enough about coaching (level 2, thanks for asking...) and muscle memory to know that it is tough to tell someone who has bowled a certain way for over ten years to put his feet, hips, shoulder and hand somewhere different. With all that to remember, I would struggle to let the ball go.

The lad could have been - still could be - our equivalent of Steven Parry, a player who only does the one-day stuff for Lancashire but does it very effectively. To have Knight AND Critchley to bowl spin on responsive tracks would be handy for any captain, but instead we see a lad who scored a barrow load of runs in 2016 batting nine in the second team and barely turning his arm.

There has been much good work done by the coaching team, but I don't think their work with Tom should be seen in any way other than a failure. Whoever takes over should put an arm round his shoulder, tell him to run in and bowl as he always did, if he still can, and then hopefully reap the benefits. At 22, time is very much on his side if he is managed properly.

Put it this way - in one of his last one day games for Derbyshire, Tom was good enough with that old technique to dismiss both Paul Collingwood and Ben Stokes.

'nuff said, really...

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Worcestershire v Derbyshire RLODC preview

No doubt still thrilled from last night's win over Leicestershire in the T20, Derbyshire travel to the scenic splendour of Worcester tomorrow for a Royal London One-Day Cup match over fifty overs (henceforth known as the RLODC, as my life is way too short...)

A thirteen-man squad has been announced and it is pretty much as one would have expected, in the absence of Wes Durston and the unavailability for this competition of Jimmy Neesham. That thirteen is:

Billy Godleman
Chesney Hughes
Hamish Rutherford
Neil Broom
Wayne Madsen
Ben Slater
Alex Hughes (captain)
Shiv Thakor
Matt Critchley
Tom Poynton
Ben Cotton
Andy Carter
Will Davis

Slater and Davis look likely to miss out, but both will doubtless earn opportunity before the summer is out, as young players of talent.

Worcestershire have promised 'a different approach' to the competition this year, which is hopefully a losing one. George Rhodes, son of their coach Steve, is in the squad, which looks strong and talented:

 Mitchell, Kohler-Cadmore, Clarke, Kervezee, D'Oliveira, Whiteley, Cox, Leach, Barnard, Shantry, Russell, Rhodes.

If we can keep the intensity of our T20 cricket going, we can give them a good run for their money. They are strong in batting and probably start as favourites, but it could be a very good game of cricket.

Go get them Alex...

Postscript - the northern group is anyone's this year. Today, Leicestershire effectively did unto Durham as we did to them last night,  while Nottinghamshire handed Lancashire a third defeat in four games. So that's Yorkshire with three straight losses, Durham three losses from five and Nottinghamshire two losses from three at the bottom of the table, with Northamptonshire, Worcestershire and Derbyshire the top three.

Not a great advert for the big counties at this stage, is it?

A player to keep an eye on...

Thank you to all of you for the thougthful and tactful comments on both yesterday's game and the departure of Graeme Welch. While I don't always agree with every comment (and say so, when that is the case) I respect individual opinion and well-made points, which these were.

It looks like Wes Durston is going to be out for around a month, with a strained inter-costal muscle. It is a major blow to the side, but presents opportunity to Alex Hughes as the newly-crowned one-day skipper. I like the decision to give it to an able and intelligent lad and if he comes up with such gems as Wayne Madsen to bowl the first over and take a wicket on a regular basis, he'll do me. He will be aware, of course, that sometimes things come off and sometimes they don't, but I will never fault someone for trying something different. One of my pet peeves in cricket is captaincy by numbers, something which for many years we were guilty of in T20, but thankfully no longer.

So who replaces Wes? Well, Gary reckons Scott Elstone a good shout from an all-round perspective, but so too could be Greg Cork or Tom Knight. In T20 any of those would be my preference ahead of Billy Godleman, who isn't a short format player, or we could go with Ben Cotton and have another bowling option. We bat deep anyway and if six were needed off the last two balls either Cotton or Andy Carter would be as likely to succeed in reaching or clearing the fence as anyone.

There is, however, a potential T20 Derbyshire star of the future on our own doorstep. I'm not talking about Jon Tattersall, who is doing well enough on his trial with us to merit consideration for another summer, but Tom Wood.

Outside of followers of the Derbyshire Premier League and the Unicorns, the name may not mean a lot at this stage, but Wood has already, in the few opportunities he has had, shown he has the talent for a first-class career.

At 22 he has been scoring runs for fun for Ticknall, an aggressive batsman with all the shots and, increasingly, an appreciation of when best to play them. Last winter he was one of the leading scorer's in Melbourne first grade cricket, scoring almost seven hundred runs at an average over fifty and taking wickets with his useful medium pace. He was in contention for the league's Most Valuable Player award and had an outstanding season, this on the back of almost 1300 runs for Ticknall.

Earlier this summer, Wood made an unbeaten 163 for Ticknall in a club match against Sutton Coldfield that saw him catch the eye of the Unicorns selectors. Since then he has made good and steady runs for them in T20 against attacks of varying quality, a fifty against a strong Lancashire side being a standout. 88 against a handy Warwickshire attack, featuring  Javid, Wright and Hannon-Dalby suggested he could handle the fifty-over game too.

Yesterday he played for the Unicorns against Nottinghamshire, who fielded close to their strongest eleven for a run out. They won the game, as you would expect, but Wood blazed 67 from 35 balls against an attack featuring Fletcher, Gurney, Christian, Mullaney and Ball, who all played against Lancashire today.

I hope that there are plans to give a lad of obvious talent an extended trial. He's played a few second team games before, but his record suggests that he is now ready for a chance with a discerning county.

We didn't do too badly in taking a chance on Wes Durston and it could just be that the latest gem from the Unicorns, rather than plying his trade in the west country, is on our own doorstep simply seeking opportunity.

I'll be disappointed if it doesn't happen, to be honest. We're not that awash with local batting talent that we can let one slip through the net and our loss could well be someone else's gain.

Welch departure presents opportunity for another to benefit

If I was to sit down and quantify the good times and the bad in my 48 years as a Derbyshire supporter, it is a safe assertion that the latter would be comfortably in the majority. I've often thought that we should adopt the old Tremeloes classic, Even the Bad Times Are Good, as our team song, as there has always been a morbid curiosity in what was going to happen next. Whatever else, it is never dull.

So perhaps yesterday's resignation of Graeme Welch from his post as Elite Performance Director shouldn't have come as the surprise that it did. Sure, early season form was disappointing, but with a young squad and docile wickets it was always likely to be so. Nor was the form of all of his senior players what he might have hoped for, but we all know, or should, that sometimes it can be elusive for the very best.

Having signed a new contract prior to the season, securing the services of the best of the club's young players ahead of doing so, Welch seemed to be slowly building a squad for the future. That there was a need for his senior players to act as a buffer while younger ones became established was a given, as it has always been so. The introduction of Kim Barnett, Chris Adams and John Morris into the Derbyshire batting line up was gradual and alongside craggy professionals like David Steele. John Hampshire and Barry Wood, as well as stellar names such as John Wright and Peter Kirsten. Who could fail to learn alongside such names, nor benefit from their counsel at the end of the day, or during an innings?

After the disappointment of the 'Amla/Dilshan experiment', when two players of established world reputation failed to deliver the goods, Welch opted for two lesser names for this season to bolster a batting line up that at times displayed the fragility of fine china last year. His lynchpins were always going to be Wayne Madsen and Billy Godleman, who rose above it all in 2015 and have done again this year, though the latter suffered a hand injury that has set him back a little. Yet Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom, players of good reputation, have struggled, for whatever reason, which must have been an even greater frustration for the man who signed them than for supporters.

As tweeted by BBC Derby last night, Derbyshire 'are unable to reveal the reasons behind the resignations of Graeme Welch'. As a statement it is open to wild interpretation and conspiracy theorists will doubtless seek stories that may or may not be there. Perhaps we will never know the truth, yet Welch, an honourable man, decided it was better to go  - and presumably waive any rights to a pay off - than to linger. If there is dirty washing, it doesn't have to be done in public, which in itself marks a sea change for a club that has often signalled such moves with fanfares, loudspeakers and bunting.

Perhaps Graeme Welch is the latest example - and professional sport is littered with them - of the top coach who is better in such a role than that of manager. The former requires intimate knowledge of skills and techniques; the latter requires the very best of inter-personal skills and the ability to get the most out of your team. Eddie Barlow was a classic example of that. He was past his best as a player when he arrived at Derbyshire, but got the best out of the other ten members of the team and made them all better with charisma, personality and supreme man management. By the same token, when they looked for a lead, he was there, on and off the field.

I'm reminded of the story told by John O'Hare, formerly of Derby County, who was nervous ahead of a big away game and was put at ease by the great Dave Mackay, sat alongside him.

'Who's that bloke sat next to John O'Hare?' said Mackay, pointing at a fan outside the team bus. 'He just said that'. O'Hare left the bus feeling ten feet tall, Mackay satisfied that a key young player had been relaxed with a well-chosen sentence. That's how the very best do it.

Graeme Welch's contibution to Derbyshire cricket will be best measured in three or four years time, when players he has worked with come closer to professional maturity. He has put the technical groundwork in place and it is down to continued work now, but bowlers like Shiv Thakor, Matt Critchley, Ben Cotton and an array of young seam bowlers have started to emerge. For too many years before that, Derbyshire became the place for one last pay day, a rest home for the soon-to-be cricketing infirm and overseas players on passports of convenience. Short-term fixes, few of them successful.

Having said that, the batting form of Thakor, Ben Slater and Chesney Hughes can be attributed to John Sadler and his contribution should not be overlooked. 'Sads' is one of the most likeable men on the circuit and one of the youngest Level Four coaches in the game. For now he is charged with taking the players through a hectic period of matches and has an opportunity to stake a claim for the role on a permanent basis. At 34 he could easily still be playing, but if he can display a talent for man management alongside technical skills, his relative inexperience could be overlooked and the role could be his in the long-term.

Perhaps that is at the crux of it all. In the course of the research for my new book, several old professionals told me that the one thing they disliked was when a coach 'went public' with criticism of them. As a manager over thirty years myself, there have been times when harsh words needed to be said, but there are times and places in which to do that and it has always been in private. Maybe feathers have been ruffled and it was something that didn't sit easily with some members of the squad.

It is all conjecture. All we know is that from a timing perspective it was far from ideal but John Sadler now has the chance to impress with a group of players whose talents are undeniable but whose end product is, at this stage and with a few exceptions, more questionable.

If he can tap into that talent - and I suspect he will have until the end of the season, as a hasty appointment is the last thing we need - he could well have a shout of the role on a permanent basis.
There will doubtless be plenty of interest when it is advertised, both here and overseas,
but that is a subject for another piece altogether.

For now, all that remains is to thank Graeme Welch, a good, genuine and honest man, for his efforts. On and off the pitch he has not had an easy ride, but he always did his best.

No one can ask for more.