Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire day 1

Derbyshire 242 (Slater 109, Broom 36, Miles 4-30)

Gloucestershire 27-1 (Milnes 1- 9)

Derbyshire lead by 215 runs

If today's cricket were a musical, it would have doubtless had Maurice Chevalier in a boater, crooning 'Thank 'eavens, for Benny Slats...'

Without him, beyond doubt, we'd have been in a pretty bad place tonight, but one of the few Derbyshire players to have made marked progress this summer effectively carried a side where only Neil Broom lent support after the dismissal of Billy Godleman.

It makes it all the more surprising that he was omitted at times this summer and one given for 2017 is that we have a solid opening pair in Slater and Godleman. Neil Broom continues to frustrate to the season end, making a start then getting out, while the least said about the rest, the better.

It was a funny-looking side to be honest, with everyone from number six at least two places too high. Matt Critchley is a good cricketer, but eight in the batting line-up at best at this stage. Harvey Hosein too and even from distance it looked a side that could go from 150-3 to 230 all out in no time. So it pretty much transpired.

An early wicket for Tom Milnes gave hope, but we need a good first session tomorrow to stay in this game.

Finally tonight, I read with interest that Angus Fraser echoed my own thoughts on yesterday's run-fest for England. Such one-sided contests are dull for those who like to watch a game, rather than long hitting all the time.

Fair play to England for a terrific display, but if we carry on like this, in fifty years time cricket will consist of a bowling machine at either end while batsmen compete to hit the biggest six  and running between the wickets will be a thing of the past.

Let's have a greater balance between bat and ball in future.

It has largely been a batsman's summer, for sure.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire preview

The penultimate home game of the summer sees Gloucestershire make the trip to Derby, in a game that has little riding on it, except for a home desire for a first championship win.

It is good to see Will Davis, Ben Cotton and Harvey Hosein restored to fitness and taking their place in this squad:

Billy Godleman
Ben Slater
Alex Hughes
Wayne Madsen
Neil Broom
Charlie Macdonell
Harvey Hosein
Matt Critchley
Callum Parkinson
Tom Milnes
Tony Palladino
Ben Cotton
Will Davis

My guess is that one spinner and one seamer will drop out on the morning, Callum Parkinson likely to get the spinner's berth in this format. Charlie Macdonell will hope to reinforce the positive impression of his debut, with another effort that might just earn him a contract for another summer.

Michael Klinger has returned to Australia, so England under-19 George Hankin replaces him in this squad:

Roderick (c), Dent, Tavare, Marshall, Hankins, Mustard, J.Taylor, Miles, Payne, Norwell, M.Taylor, Shaw.

I'd love to predict a Derbyshire win, but the season-long issue remains - who is going to take the twenty wickets required? A draw appears a more likely result.

But I hope I am proved wrong...

Monday, 29 August 2016

Monday musings

Dominic Cork for coach?

A sentence I didn't think I would be writing and would still be surprised to write, while omitting the third word.

I thought I should pen it, however, after the recent comments below the piece on Cork junior signing a new deal at the club.

I am quite clear in my admiration of Dominic Cork as a cricketer. He was combative, feisty, supremely talented with bat and ball, a match-winner and very much a player you would want on your side. He was a pretty good captain too - no Eddie Barlow or Kim Barnett, but shrewd and unafraid to lose a game in trying to win it.

I like him just as much as a commentator, where his opinions make sense, are succinctly and articulately expressed and show that he retains his support of and loyalty to the county where he played the majority of his first-class career.

His return to the club a few weeks back, as assistant coach in an advisory role came as a surprise, especially when his burgeoning media career appeared to legislate against it.

Maybe I am in a minority of one, but I would be very surprised if Cork, should he even decide to throw his hat in the ring, would come out of a selection process as the new coach of the club.

As many other people in different sports have found, there is a world of difference between making informed comment on a sport and being able to inspire others to produce their best in it. One has only to look at the pundits on Match of the Day, none of them close to being regarded coaches, to see what I mean.

Cork's comments on the game of cricket make a lot of sense, but could he motivate our young players into producing their best on a regular basis? Could he spot and help them eliminate weaknesses in their games to take them on to the next level? Would he be prepared to forsake his media career in order to do so and would Derbyshire be best served, at a time when we need a coach of recognised talent, experience and qualifications, to appoint a man who hasn't held such a role anywhere?

It would be a leap of faith, for sure. If one were to think of people who may potentially be interested, there's a few with good coaching backgrounds who I would consider above him, Chris Adams an obvious one.

Much will depend on the role and its specification. I think that would change from the one that Graeme Welch had and I don't think that we'll see the same number of people involved. Of course you need your two teams covered and the academy, but the appointment of Tony Palladino to a playing contract with a bowling coach remit may be telling.

Doubtless we will hear before too long, as the club cannot afford to linger long in its decision making. The club needs that and John Sadler deserves to be told whether the role, or a role, is his so he can make plans for the future. Whoever gets the job needs close to a full winter and Spring with the players to engender a team spirit and improve techniques.

Much to watch in the coming weeks, but I would be genuinely surprised if Dominic Cork was the successful candidate - or indeed wanted to cut his coaching teeth in a role that is some way removed from being a walk in the park.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Cork latest to sign contract

Another day, another contract at Derbyshire, as Greg Cork signed a new one-year deal today, one that puts the onus on him squarely to work hard over the winter and next summer.

I always feel sorry for the sons of famous sports people, because they will always be compared, usually unfavourably, with their parents. It has been seen times many in cricket and Greg Cork, talented cricketer as he is, will always struggle to emerge from his father's shadow. Good a player as he was, Richard Hutton never emerged from that of Len, although in Derbyshire circles, Harold Rhodes managed to become an even better player than his father, which was quite an achievement.

The incentive to do so is clear. A left-arm bowler who can hit a ball hard and score runs would be a huge asset to Derbyshire and no one else on the current staff offers that. Greg now needs to score more runs and become more penetrative with the ball, things that would edge him ahead of the likes of Will Davis, Ben Cotton and Tom Taylor in his age group.

Next year will be a big one for him and he will know that there is a lot resting on the next twelve months. It is right that the club have given him that time to show his worth, and I hope that he realises his obvious talent.

There's been some good comments in recent days and thank you for them. Notoveryet questioned the results of Derbyshire's overseas players and suggested that only Cheteshwar Pujara, Martin Guptill, Usman Khawaja and Albie Morkel had been successes since Chris Rogers, with Jimmy Neesham and Hashim Amla, maybe Shiv Chanderpaul given the benefit of the doubt.

As a hard man to please - and remember, I grew up watching Barlow, Wright and Kirsten - I'd say that only Guptill earns an unqualified pass mark from me. Pujara wasn't here long enough, Khawaja will be remembered as much for his Hampshire last day knock, rather than what preceded it, while Morkel did OK but won us few, if any matches.

That T20 gig is tough though. Neesham's four wickets and composed knock against Lancashire won us the game, but in a format where two or three good overs and a quick thirty can make you a star, few of ours over the years have been standouts.

I'd agree that Shiv was past his best and Amla, like Dilshan, disappointed. It is a frustrating business, though I'd not agree we shop in the bargain basement for such players. There are world-class names in there, who don't come cheap. In signing them, an expectation of runs was largely unrealised. Would a good English-qualified player be a better bet? Yes, if you could guarantee a return, such as you get from Wayne Madsen, but remember Rikki Clarke? A top player for Surrey and also for Warwickshire, but his stint with us was a costly disappointment. There are no more guarantees in cricket than there are in life...

On the Chesney situation, logic suggests his contractual situation is the reason for non-selection. It could be his agent's valuation of his worth as opposed to Derbyshire's, in much the same way as Greg Smith and Tim Groenewald ended up leaving. It could be that he wants to winter back home, while we want him here to work on his game; he might not be fully fit for a four-day game, or it could be that they just want to try out other options. By the same token, his agent could have been very busy and just not had a chance to sit down and chat.

We shouldn't be too quick to jump to conclusions, but if Mark Footitt is earning the £150K that Huw Lloyd suggested last night, then expectations of Derbyshire competing in that market are unrealistic. Put another way, you'd need to guarantee a lot of runs and wickets for us to consider such an outlay - and you still have the rest of the squad to finance. Then what happens when player X and Y deliver better results on less money? I think you know the answer...

Based on Huw's figure, in Mark's injury-shortened season so far, each wicket is costing 7.5K. Were he playing for us, I'd venture there'd be a few dissenting voices on those statistics.

Keep the comments coming.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Tony Palladino signs two-year deal

If good preparation is worth anything, Derbyshire's prompt work in securing the services of another key senior player today should reap rewards in time.

Tony Palladino has been an exemplary cricketer for the club since his move from Essex and today's announcement, of his signing a new two-year deal, effectively ensures that he finishes his career with us.

That is especially relevant with his role including coaching responsibilities, something that will doubtless please a player whose experience alone suggests him as someone with plenty to offer the younger bowlers.

He has again done well this year, despite having to play the part of stock bowler due to the lack of strike options at the other end. Our rich collection of seam bowlers can only benefit from his experience and input and I am delighted that his involvement with a club that means so much to him will continue.

It does suggest, at least to me, that the person who will be in charge of affairs next summer and beyond is already at the club, or is in discussions about the way forward. Logically, one doesn't sign up five players for another two years or more, then appoint a coach who may or may not have wanted them on board. Securing the services of Billy Godleman and Shiv Thakor was a no-brainer, as was the deal for Will Davis. Rob Hemmings would perhaps have needed a decision, with little first team experience to judge him by, while appointing TP to some form of coaching role must have had input from the head coach they have in mind, or someone likely to be involved in some capacity.

That's my take anyway. I do hope that an announcement on a future structure and that crucial coaching role is made sooner, rather than later, as the successful candidate needs as long as possible to sort his squad for a key summer next year.

The recent flurry of activity seems to leave two senior players in a 'pending' tray - Chesney Hughes and Wes Durston. Both have contracts up for renewal, each may or may not be offered or sign them. One can never tell and it will continually come down to one crucial question - is there someone out there who is better, younger and better value? Like the rest of you, I have no idea of our winter plans, but if the chairman is going on record about big improvements and changes, there has to be more in the pipeline than engaging our better young players long term, laudable as that is.

I totally 'get' the cynicism of one or two of you with recent comments on this, but would urge you to wait and see. If we get to next March with no new or bigger names then the knives will doubtless be out. For now, let's trust some very good people with excellent contacts to deliver on promises.

It does, as one or two of you have pointed out recently, feel like the end of the season already, despite there being a few games to go. I think those games will be important for some young players, gaining exposure at a higher level and staking a claim for inclusion, or a contract, another year.

Finally tonight, it is good to see David Wainwright back in the county game with Hampshire. He's done well in the Minor Counties this year and will have built his confidence up accordingly. A few runs and a couple of wickets has done him no harm today and it would be good to see a lovely bloke get another opportunity at this level.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Davis and Hemmings sign new deals

After the new contracts for Shiv Thakor and Billy Godleman in the week, it is good to see two of our younger brigade, Rob Hemmings and Will Davis, signing two-year deals today.

Hemmings produced some good displays for the second team this summer, but can bat and bowl, making him a potentially fine cricketer for us if his development continues.

Davis is a little further on in his development and his extra pace marks him as a player to watch. He will need carefully nursed as his body fills out, but in a handful of appearances he has shown himself capable of dismissing good batsmen. With plenty of time on his side, he could become the real deal as a strike bowler, if he listens to the right people and works hard on all elements of his game.

They are not signings to excite the doubters, but they have the right stuff and, with the right players alongside them, could help to build a brighter future.

Well done to both on their deals.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Well done to Northamptonshire

I am absolutely thrilled for Northamptonshire, who I spent yesterday supporting on finals day in the T20.

As the 'little' county of the four that participated, they were always going to get my support and they did all the little clubs in the country proud.

That one of their wins was against Nottinghamshire was especially good, a real David v Goliath battle. For all that Andre Russell had a good game, I think our East Midlands rivals erred in not selecting Imran Tahir, who is an especially effective bowler in this format.

Northamptonshire have some very good players, and let us not forget that they were missing Gleeson and Prasanna, two of their most effective bowlers in the competition.

Josh Cobb is a very good T20 cricketer, while Ben Duckett is a special talent who will doubtless play for England before too long. Alex Wakely played two important innings for them and handled his side competently and confidently in the field, aided by bowlers who kept good lines and fielders who held some blinding catches.

We're not that far away from them, on this year's evidence, but need to find, for another year, a means of producing our best more often, while getting greater and crucial input from the overseas role. In Richard Levi and Rory Kleinveldt, Northamptonshire have got two imports who contribute regularly and well. They win them matches, which, apart from a couple of games this summer, was something ours never did.

I hope that they can keep the predators at bay (unless we're chasing any of their players!) and continue to show that the little guys have a big right to be at cricket's top table.

Well done to everyone there.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Quieter than a winter week

It's been a lovely week of weather on the coast and family Peakfan has now returned home to be met by...rain.

Never mind, it's good for the grass and flowers.

The encouraging news, picked up from the times when the erratic wi-fi worked, is that we must have major winter plans. As Huw Lloyd picked up from his interview with Wayne Madsen, the players we are bringing in have to be of proven first-class standard. While not discounting the signing of a young player or two - and both Tom Wood and Charlie MacDonnell have given themselves a good shout of a contract - our major need is proven experience.

I remain convinced that our greater need is for an overseas bowler, especially in the four-day game, so another experienced batsman, together with a wicket-keeper who can bat high in the order, is a must for me. So too is ideally a strike bowler and spinner of experience. We were always going to miss Mark Footitt, while  we cannot rely on young lads to carry the spin side of the attack, especially as Wes Durston has slipped from the reckoning.

Of course, targeting such players and getting them to sign on the dotted line are different things, but Madsen, Godleman and Thakor must have reasonable grounds for expecting such signing to be landed to do so themselves.

Plenty to think about over the coming weeks then, and ahead of our next game, at Derby against Gloucestershire in the championship.

More on that in the near future.

In closing, I read today that Niall O'Brien is leaving Leicestershire 'with immediate effect' to pursue an 'exciting new opportunity'.

He's a very good, combative cricketer, with a mid-thirties batting average to match his age, one who would buy time for Harvey Hosein as he makes his way in the county game.

If that new opportunity is within the game, he would be a more than useful addition to our squad, beyond doubt. 

And as always, I welcome your thoughts...

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Derbyshire v Essex day 4

Derbyshire 303 (Critchley 43, MacDonnell 35 not)

Essex won by an innings and 62 runs

A few minutes to spare until we go out for the evening, so just a few comments on today's result, which was never really in any doubt.

Matt Critchley played another nice cameo, while Charlie MacDonnell dug in nicely for the second time in the match and finished unbeaten at the end.

In other news, it is pleasing to see the chairman's comments today, suggesting that there are plenty of irons in the fire. This is neatly reinforced by the announcement of new contracts for Shiv Thakor and Billy Godleman, two men who are very much key to our future plans.

I don't think they would have signed up for the immediate future without an indication of the club's ambition, perhaps an idea of the players we are chasing and the coaches who have expressed an interest in the Derbyshire role.

I'd also suggest it as very clever and sensible marketing by the club, getting the news 'out there' at the end of a game where we largely outplayed after the first session.

More from me soon.

Derbyshire v Essex day 3

Essex 530-9

Derbyshire 165 and 213-5 (Godleman 100)

Derbyshire trail by 152 runs

Having finally managed to get my wireless dongle to work in this neck of the woods, a chance to say a few things about yesterday and reply to notoveryet, as I promised I would do.

Credit to Alex Mellor and Matt Critchley in their battling efforts in the morning, while Billy Godleman's century gave us something to hang on to, even if it is, in the grander scheme of things, not amounting to all that much. We're left with the youngsters to battle through the final day, though logic suggests that it may not take too long, based on the evidence that precedes it.

It has been depressing fare, especially for those who sat through and endured it. That it is not good enough is undeniable and, as notoveryet says in his piece below my previous comments, a captain fielding in the deep is not the way to go about it. A skipper needs to be near his bowlers and to be within reach of his wicket-keeper for ideas to make the batsmen work. That is hardly likely in such a position and needs thought through.

Going back to those comments, I won't argue with what people see at games that I haven't attended. It is well known that I live 300 miles from the club, see them as much, over the course of the season, as I can and apart from those occasions, write comment pieces, not commentary.

These are based on match reports and other sources and I don't pretend otherwise. What I do know, however, is how much work will be going on behind the scenes to put it right.

I would be surprised if anyone, inside or outside the club, felt that the elite structure of the past three years had worked unconditionally. In principle it was fine, but was dependent on our bringing on young players, introducing them to the first team and watching them grow, aided and abetted by overseas players of quality.

Having a director, batting coach, bowling coach and fielding coach was overkill. That we introduced young players to the senior side is a given, as is that some have made decent progress. Aside from Ben Slater and Shiv Thakor, none would be said to have set the world alight this year, but there is promise in the likes of Davis, Critchley, Cotton, Parkinson and Hosein. Others may come into the mix, but it takes time, which the average member or supporter is loathe to give.

There is no option though. There are ten to twenty slower developers for every Root and Stokes, some never making it at top level. We still need to find a system, or a coach, to accelerate their progress, as Durham, Lancashire, Worcestershire and Northamptonshire seem to do more frequently.

There were few dissenting voices when Graeme Welch took over and while he did a solid job in some areas, we have been let down by overseas imports of some reputation, together with poor decision-making at times. In that, I agree with notoveryet.

Where I disagree is in his assertion that 'the advisory board cannot simply be trusted to get on the field decisions right any more'. They don't make those decisions, they appoint a coach to do so. That mistakes have been made is a given, but that will always happen and the board's task now is to find someone who can take the club forward, then leave them to get on with it. With the right person in place, you shouldn't need to do anything else.

Is that man John Sadler? At one point, in the honeymoon period enjoyed by new coaches in most sports, a lot of people would have said yes, but injuries and poor performances more recently have undermined his case. I don't doubt he is an excellent coach and he is a lovely bloke, but in any sport a coach will be judged on results, often irrespective of mitigating circumstances. Doubtless a robust recruitment and interview process will take place to identify interested parties and I hope that happens soon and we can get the right man  in position with a remit to take us on to the next level. If we get that role right, the successful candidate should then be left to get on with it as he sees fit.

I also disagree that 'two of our younger players will be wanting to leave'. That is just scaremongering. How do you know that? No more than I can say that X's innings was the best I have seen. I don't say that, when I haven't seen it; by the same token, people should not make assertions in such a manner when not privy to individual thought processes and plans.

Bringing in new people is always a challenge for a smaller club, but the right coach with good contacts helps, as does having people involved who are on good terms with agents and individual players. As his interview in my recent book confirms, Chris Grant is very confident that 'there is no player in the game that we could not sign at Derbyshire' as the resources are, with prudent and innovative work off the field, in place.

There's a big winter of work ahead on that front, that's for sure.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Time for reflection

Yesterday I wrote that I wished we could fast forward to the end of the season. Quite honestly, I feel that more this year than any before it.

I think that there is a need to regroup and plan such as we haven't seen for some time, with a new- look side increasingly likely for another summer.

We haven't been helped by injuries of late, with most of our young seamers incapacitated in one way or another. Cotton, Davis, Taylor, Thakor - all would have gone into contention for yesterday's game without question.

The irony of Andy Carter bowling out Nottinghamshire in Hampshire colours yesterday was not lost, no less than seeing Luke Fletcher do the same thing when he returned to his old club from his stint at the 3aaa County Ground earlier in the summer. His departure left the club with little more than youngsters and the admirable workhorse that is Tony Palladino to work with, something that next year I hope will change.

I think that Cotton, Davis and Taylor will all, in time, be good county bowlers at the very least, but it was telling to hear Michael Johnson on the Olympics coverage say that sports stars don't really know their game and their bodies until 25 or 26. Jessica Ennis-Hill said the same thing and I know from many discussions with former and current players that it is the same with cricketers. Our 'problem' is that we have too many youngsters and we need more players of proven quality alongside them, to guide, support and take the pressure off.

Back up and assistance is needed for the seamers, just as it is for Matt Critchley and Callum Parkinson. While they will produce the occasional fine performance, it is unrealistic to expect them to regularly bowl out sides at 19 or 20, because players rarely do at that age. Likewise we simply have to bring in a top wicket-keeper/batsman. If we could bring in a player who could bat in the top six, it enables the coach to play an extra bowler if he chooses, or lengthen the batting.

I have no idea why 'Ches and Wes' are currently out of the side, but can only assume that it is for valid cricket reasons. Chesney started the summer well, but has started to creep back into old habits as the season has gone on with the usual detrimental effect on his average. He should be kicking on more, over a full season, and could be really special if he manages to do so.

Wes just seemed to be out of sorts to me this summer and no doubt discussions on his role next year will take place come season-end. As I have mentioned recently, if there was someone better out there, a 'junior Wes', that player would be under consideration. For what it is worth, as his four-day involvement is now minimal, I suspect that any offer to Wes for next summer might be for one-day cricket only. We'll see, but it has been a tough year for a fine player, beyond argument.

Neil Broom? He's had a tough year too, one that he probably didn't expect. Ask any 'new' overseas professional the toughest part of their role, though and they will tell you it is the weight of expectation, together with an amount of cricket, way in excess to anything they have played before. It has affected plenty before him and has done the same to Broom this year. Yet his pedigree is there on the statistical websites and I am sure that he will benefit from this year's exposure to the county game and return stronger in 2017. He will want to make amends and I think he will. The signs are there of improvement in recent weeks and he will have learned a lot this summer.

I don't think there are major issues behind the scenes, other than people hurting after the one-day disappointments, so don't, as one or two recent emails have suggested, see senior players throwing their toys from the pram. In talking to them, I still get a feel of enjoyment from the people we would all see as crucial to our future plans and am sure that the likes of Shiv Thakor, Billy Godleman and Ben Slater will be at the club another year and for more to come. So too will Wayne Madsen, whose benefit offer and recent contract suggest that he will see out his career at Derbyshire. Amen to that, I am sure you all say...

Having thought about it overnight, I don't see team selection being done by anyone other than John Sadler and Billy Godleman. Both are proud and strong men and, while they will get selection wrong on occasion (what coach doesn't?) they will do their best and are very much their own men. I know, from talking to him in the interview for my recent book, that Chris Grant works tirelessly off the pitch to improve matters, but leaves the on field matters firmly in the hands of the professionals. He will express an opinion, which is his right as chairman, but that will be all it is.

Which brings us, neatly, to Kim Barnett and his role. As a former player of great distinction, together with some coaching involvement in his native Staffordshire, Kim's counsel will undoubtedly have been sought and given. I am sure that he will have cast an eye over the current set up and told it like it is, when asked. If that leads to a better Derbyshire side, moving forward, I have no complaints and nor will anyone else. I don't think any of us can say that we have got it right as things stand, so an informed opinion is another to be thrown into the melting pot. The Advisory Board will be working very hard behind the scenes and I am sure that things will improve.

Indeed, I think that the winter months will be more exciting than the summer this year. There is a coaching role to discuss, presumably as a matter of urgency, then players to bring in. A lot have gone out of the door already and others may yet do so.

That yesterday was intensely disappointing is beyond dispute, yet the acid test will be in how the players and the club respond to such a day. A better effort over the next two days, a determination to do much better next season.

Watch this space.

Postscript: family Peakfan are off on their holidays today and we will be away until next weekend. I will check in when I can, subject to wifi availability, and will put up comments as soon as I am able.

Keep them coming, but as always, ensure there are no personal attacks and no 'rants'. Thanks!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Derbyshire v Essex day 2

Essex 530-9 (Browne 229 not, Milnes 6-93)

Derbyshire 116-6 (Broom 31, Mellor 20 not)

Essex lead by 414 runs

On a day when Mo Farah won his third Olympic gold medal to enter the sporting pantheon, Derbyshire were sadly like one of the runners that he lapped last night.

Nick Browne made his predicted and predictable double century, Essex amassed the expected runs and then our early order collapsed like a pack of cards on the same wicket. It was horribly frustrating to follow from afar and must have been awful and inexplicable to watch.

Neil Broom batted a while but got out when set, Charlie MacDonnell dug in, as did Alex Mellor and Matt Critchley, but we are hopelessly outclassed here.

I don't think we have helped ourselves with the team selection and order though. Alex Hughes bowled first change, but only got twelve overs in an innings that lasted 145. Then he bats three, which isn't his position, while MacDonnell batted six, instead of his usual first wicket down. It is all a little messy and the end of the season cannot come fast enough right now. Surely Greg Cork's left arm swing might have, at least, given another angle? Certainly the two spinner option didn't work, the youngsters taking a combined 2-277.

There is so much work to be done this winter, but a squad like ours can ill afford the number of injuries at present. The only bright spots were the grafting ability of the younger batsmen, together with the bowling of Tom Milnes.

Sometimes the burden of responsibility sits well on a player and Milnes has bowled increasingly well in the past two games. His earlier appearances have been marked by erratic lines and lengths, but 6-93 in 32 overs when your team is hit for 500 is a splendid effort by any standards.

As things stand, he is one player who can leave this game with his head held high.

With fair weather forecast, we look like losing this one by an innings and plenty.

You'd have to say that's pretty poor fare.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Derbyshire v Essex day 1

Essex 291-4 (Browne 116 not out, Westley 73, Milnes 2-48)

v Derbyshire

Essex's day, largely thanks to another (predicted, I thank you) century from Nick Browne, who now averages 227 against Derbyshire in a relatively brief first-class career.

With Greg Cork omitted from the side, our seam attack was Milnes and Palladino, with Alex Hughes perhaps bowling first change seamer for the first time in his first-class career. They all bowled tidily, Milnes much improved on his control from Leicester and seemingly impressive. Had Neil Broom held what was described as a regulation slip catch after tea, we might have deemed it a decent day from a young attack.

Callum Parkinson again impressed and I like what I have seen of Alex Mellor, who held one very good catch and from what I hear looks a compact and able wicket-keeper. I have no idea when we last bowled three spinners before lunch at Derby on the first day, but reckon that it must be a long time back.

I predicted a draw last night and we have the batting to ensure that happens. Browne may well go on to his second double ton of the summer from our bowling, but we must dig in, continue to bowl with the control shown today and see what happens.

More from me tomorrow.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Derbyshire v Essex preview

Charlie MacDonnell and Greg Cork make their first championship appearances of the summer for Derbyshire against Essex tomorrow.

It makes sense, as it affords an opportunity to have a look at two players who have good second team form of late. For Cork, at the end of his current deal, it is a chance to see if he can make the step up that was breezed by his father, Dominic. For MacDonnell, who started the summer in the Durham UCCE team, it is an opportunity to stake a claim for a contract in 2017.

MacDonnell's early season efforts for the university side see him currently sit with a first-class average of just under 49, though this will be a tougher level for him, of course, I just hope that the same opportunity is afforded to Tom Wood before season end, another lad - but of local origin - to have made a good fist of second team cricket this summer.

The emergence of both means that there is no place tomorrow for Hamish Rutherford, who we must now assume has played his last game for the county.

With the squad shorn of several players through injury and having already left the club, most of the rest of the side is effectively picked by them all having the requisite body parts in working order. It reads:

Billy Godleman
Ben Slater
Chesney Hughes
Charlie Macdonell
Wayne Madsen
Neil Broom
Alex Hughes
Alex Mellor
Tom Milnes
Greg Cork
Matt Critchley
Callum Parkinson
Tony Palladino

No idea on the final side, but all eyes will be on Wayne Madsen to see if he can become the first man to a thousand runs in the country. Sam Northeast (995) and Keaton Jennings (965) are closest rivals and I guess it will come down to which teams bat first. Whatever happens, Wayne has had another fine summer and if we had a few more at that standard we would do much better.

Essex have taken Yorkshire all rounder Will Rhodes on loan for the rest of the championship season and he makes his debut for them in a side that is also hit by injury to key bowlers, with others rested ahead of their RLODC match next week. Their squad:

Ryan ten Doeschate
James Foster
Will Rhodes
Graham Napier
Jaik Mickleburgh
Jamie Porter
Ravi Bopara
Kishen Velani
Tom Westley
Tom Moore
Nick Browne
Paul Walter

I am sure Nick Browne will get up in the morning and practice acknowledging the applause of the crowd, as he normally scores big against us. There's no reason for us not to do the same, though, with a decent batting side.

I'm calling it a high-scoring draw as I can't see where the wickets will come from, to be honest.

We'll see soon enough. Meanwhile, enjoy the beer festival, a terrific initiative that deserves to do well.

Time for a re-evaluation?

After watching the T20 quarter finals, I am sure I am not alone in thinking that Derbyshire acquitted themselves pretty well in the northern group.

Nottinghamshire eased past Essex, Northamptonshire hammered Middlesex, Durham saw off a late Gloucestershire charge to go through to finals day, while Yorkshire beat Glamorgan so easily it was laughable.

Let's be honest. The white rose side last night was considerably weaker than the ones that only beat us by a hair's breadth on two occasions. There were big names absent, yet they won in a canter.

I accept that Nottinghamshire were too good for us on a night where we simply didn't turn up, but there was little between a young Derbyshire side and Northamptonshire at Wantage Road and we weren't far away from Durham, despite being a little undercooked.

The right winter signings will take us closer still, especially in the crucial overseas roles. We did pretty well without major input from those roles and if we could get someone who delivers, our chances, with good domestic input, will be considerably enhanced.

As for finals day, my heart says Northamptonshire, as I always support the underdog, but my head says Yorkshire, if they can put out their strongest squad.

As for our dear neighbours, it is about time that they delivered on all the lustre in the side - or will they choke on the big occasion yet again?

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Madsen awarded richly deserved benefit

There was a time when cricketers formed an orderly queue, after ten years of service from the award of their cap, to be granted a benefit year or testimonial in recognition of their services.

Looking back at some of the rewards in the old Derbyshire yearbooks, I used to be staggered at what seemed paltry, single figure amounts for club legends. Of course, in the naivety of youth I had not factored inflation into the equation. For each, a sum of in the single-figure thousands would have been the equivalent of around 40-50K today.

Steve Stubbings was the last man to get a benefit from Derbyshire, in 2008, since when our better players have flitted briefly across the cricketing landscape before opting for pastures new and the opportunity for greater reward. Some have gone for financial reasons, others to win trophies. Few, to be fair, have managed the latter and an uncomfortable number have had only a few years elsewhere before drifting from the first-class game.

The announcement today, of a benefit year for Wayne Madsen in 2017, is one with which few will argue. There will have been opportunities, since he made his Derbyshire bow in 2009, to move elsewhere for greater reward. There are not many players of his quality in the first-class game and his talents will have been coveted. I would struggle to name one who I would take over him in the batting line up and most counties would fancy him somewhere between three and five in the order. Yet throughout he has remained loyal to the club that gave him an opportunity, a commodity so rare in the modern game it should have a carat rating.

With 22 more runs required, he could be the first man in the country to the coveted thousand-run mark. Cynics say it is only against division two bowling, conveniently forgetting that he was one of the country's top run scorers in our ill-fated summer in division one in 2013.

As a captain he was steady, if not spectacular, commanding respect because he was the best batsman, an outstanding figurehead for the club and a man with a word for anyone who cares to say hello. In a team of friendly personalities, he still stands out like a beacon.

When considering someone to write a foreword for my recent book, Wayne was an obvious choice to do it. He accepted immediately, saying it was 'an honour' to do so. The honour was all mine, I can assure you and my gratitude remains.

This year, having relinquished the captaincy, he has had his best summer, averaging 65 and again proving to be the wicket the opposition want more than any other. He has bowled more too, turning in some handy spells in all forms of the game, as well as holding his share of catches around the field.

No doubt there is a busy winter ahead for Wayne Madsen, organising a wide range of events with the assistance of a good team of people. If there is any justice, he would be on an overseas tour too, because he is as technically equipped as any batsman in the country.

Time will tell on that, but for now I am sure you will all join me in congratulating a true Derbyshire great on today's news.

Next year, coincidentally, will be my fiftieth in following Derbyshire. Aside from overseas batsmen and Kim Barnett, I've seen no one better.

Congratulations Wayne.

May 2017 be especially memorable for you.

A glimpse of greater times

Old Peakfan's on holiday now and next Monday will be heading away to the scenic splendour of Berwick on Tweed for a few days break with the family and pup.

For now, I have a chance to catch up on a few things and the first is a look at a wonderful archive clip of footage from a game between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire at Trent Bridge in 1934. Thanks to Simon for bringing it to my attention.

You can find it on the superb British Film Insititute website here

The game was played from June 2 and Derbyshire won the toss and elected to bat. The footage opens with two of the great pre-war umpires, Frank Chester and Alec Skelding, walking down the pavilion steps, followed by a Nottinghamshire side led by skipper Arthur Carr and including Harold Larwood and Bill Voce. They are followed by the Derbyshire openers, Alan Skinner (in the cap) and Albert Alderman.

Predictably, it opens with footage of the great Larwood in action, then Charlie Elliott and Denis Smith at the crease. Stan Worthington then makes an appearance and we see the left-handed Smith, a player renowned for his grace and time to play at the crease, playing Larwood with some ease around the two-minute mark. 

Later we see the Pope brothers batting, and number eleven 'Tosser' Armstrong looking less than comfortable against Bill Voce. What is fascinating is seeing the players and umpires lying down for a rest at the fall of a wicket on a hot day, not something you would see these days!

Derbyshire made 263, with Les Townsend's 46 the top score and Larwood taking 4-53.

At the seven-minute mark we see Arthur Richardson lead his men on to the field at an interval, as Larwood comes in to bat with his partner, Bill Voce (I think) - again, check out his batting gloves with the 'wraparound' thumb guard and little other protection bar the pads.

Nottinghamshire were bowled out for 203, with Thomas Armstrong taking 5-72 and Les Townsend 4-59.

The footage then shows the start of the Nottinghamshire innings, with Charlie Harris taking strike against Alf Pope, before the slow left-arm Armstrong is shown bowling in tandem (and a cap) with Les Townsend.

Between times, Derbyshire had been bowled out for 135, primarily by Voce (7-53), leaving the home side 196 to win.

Towards the end - and out of sequence - Albert Alderman is seen being treated for a blow in the chest from Larwood, before Armstrong is seen wheeling away and finally getting Harold Butler leg before wicket as Nottinghamshire were bowled out for 167 and we won by 28 runs. Armstrong took 3-76 and Townsend 7-47.

The film is a fascinating glimpse of a Derbyshire side on its way to greatness - winning the championship two years later - and of the cricket of the period.

Armstrong was a spinner of some talent, unlucky that his career coincided with that of Townsend and Tommy Mitchell. The latter's absence in this game meant he got an opportunity, one of only 58 games he played between 1929 and 1950. 

Golden stuff - and more to follow in the coming weeks!

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Tuesday thoughts - spin a winner

I spent a while last night watching the T20 quarter final between Nottinghamshire and Essex, which easily went the way of the home side.

As a northern lad, I'll gladly hope that the side from that section wins, not only to highlight the strength of that northern section, in which Derbyshire produced some stirring displays. Even if we came out on the wrong side of some tight finishes that might otherwise have seen us involved at this stage.

Watching the brilliance of Samit Patel and Imran Tahir as they spun Essex to defeat was an education, for me and doubtless for the wider cricketing public. Time was that spin bowlers were considered cannon fodder in this form of the game, but they have upped the skills and become the road to success around the world.

I'd love to see a world-class spinner at Derbyshire next year. For one thing, they would give us a chance on some of the later game tracks where this year we have been found wanting. For another, with two young spinners of talent on the staff in Matt Critchley and now Callum Parkinson, a man who has seen and done it all would be a huge asset for both at a formative stage of their careers.

It is a tough skill to learn and many fall victim to the need to be able to bowl teams out in one form of the game, then keep them from scoring in another. There have been more that could do the latter than the former, as evidenced by the paucity of such talent in the county game. For all his talents as a cricketer, Moeen Ali is, at least for me, only in the England side as lead spinner because of the lack of viable alternatives and because he adds vital depth to the batting.

Perhaps Derbyshire should allow their young tyros the chance to develop to their own strengths, rather than falling victim to the need to be jacks of all trades. Let Critchley be lead spinner in one-day cricket, Parkinson perhaps fulfilling the same role in the longer forms. Then, when they are more confident in their skills and more experienced in the first-class game, they could team up in both, perhaps after they have added to their expertise with expert assistance.

A pipe dream? Maybe, but how nice it would be to see us in the knock out stages of the T20. Once again, tonight, a side from the northern group, Northamptonshire, won. Two from two, indicative of the group's strength.

More pertinently, if a team of such limited resources can do it, then there's hope for the rest.

Plenty of work to do over the winter to get there, though.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 4

Leicestershire 380 and 294-9 (Eckersley 104, Parkinson 3-88)

Derbyshire 362 and 104-4 (Madsen 42 not, Thakor 31 not)

Match drawn

"They batted well this morning, they made us work hard to get them out, so credit to them for that. But it's a deteriorating pitch, the ball is starting to go up and down a bit - it's the sort of pitch the bowlers can control the scoreboard on, and anything around 200 or more wouldn't be an easy chase.

"We still have some good batters, Ned Eckersley and Niall O'Brien are class, and we're not too worried yet. I can't see us settling for a draw at any point."

They were the words of Ben Raine on the BBC website last night

Hmmm. So Leicestershire then bat on today for two sessions, scoring 185 runs in 58 overs, leaving Derbyshire 313 to win in a session, or 38 overs if you will. Either he thought that they had Hadlee and Holding to open the bowling, or we had Wright and Kirsten back by special arrangement.

If they had left us 270 in 60 overs they'd have had a very good chance of a win, especially when we started our innings with the nonchalance of a man bailing out a sinking ship with a teaspoon . Were it not for the common sense and skill of Messrs Madsen and Thakor once more, we could have been in trouble anyway, but that was awfully negative cricket from the home side.

I followed the morning cricket in expectation of a late morning thrash and declaration, but when they batted on and on I stopped checking the score until the last half hour. That doesn't happen very often and speaks volumes.

Be assured that if Derbyshire had batted similarly I would have been equally vitriolic in my comments, because the day did no favours to the home side, nor to county cricket.

It was a shame really, as it has been a good game of cricket for three days. Callum Parkinson bowled another splendid spell, finishing his debut with seven wickets and an unbeaten 48, while credit should be given to 'Ned' Eckersley, a talented cricketer for completing his second century of the match.

But by crikey, what a disappointing end to it all.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 3

Leicestershire 380 and 109-5 (Milnes 2-29)

Derbyshire 362 (Hughes 48, Parkinson 48 not, Palladino 46 Raine 5-66)

Leicestershire lead by 127 runs

In a county championship season not littered with such days, this was one of our best of the season.

Before the day began, it was easy to see a quick denouement to our innings, either side of the follow-on target, then the home side batting again to be 300 or so ahead by the close. It was not to be.

With a tail that wagged as vigorously as that of our dog Wallace, Derbyshire ended up within eighteen of the home side's tally. Alex Hughes' gritty knock ended two short of a fifty with one that kept a little low, but Alex Mellor and Tom Milnes contributed usefully. The icing on the cake was a merry last wicket stand of 73 in  eighteen overs between Tony Palladino and Callum Parkinson. We all know that Tony is capable of such things, but the young debutant suggested, with an unbeaten 48, that he won't bat eleven too many times. His second team career is littered with useful scores and hopefully this innings will not long remain a career-best.

The momentum continued when the home side began a shell-shocked second innings, with Palladino and Milnes taking a first over wicket each. The latter took another later and bowled much more tightly than in the first innings.

I read notoveryet's summation of yesterday's play with interest, but I tend to look at Milnes differently.

As regulars will know, I look more at what people can do than what they can't. Undoubtedly Milnes needs to work at his economy rate, which is on the profligate side of expensive at times, but he does take wickets. In a side that has struggled to do that this year, Milnes and Will Davis bowl wicket-taking lengths that will have their good days and bad, but you need that in four-day cricket, where simply keeping teams quiet isn't an option.

There is a little irony that, in the closing games of a difficult championship season, we have unearthed a pace bowler of potential in Davis and now a spinner of similar ilk in Callum Parkinson. He followed a first innings four-wicket haul with a second exemplary spell of economy, plus another wicket. As long as no one messes with his action, as they did with Tom Knight, we may just have a cricketer on our hands in this youngster.

The game? We need to split the dangerous O'Brien/Eckersley partnership tomorrow and work through a tail that can score runs. I doubt we will want to chase much in excess of 250, but as things stand we have a chance of a championship win.

I've not said that many times this year...

Friday, 5 August 2016

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 2

Leicestershire 380 (Eckersley 117, Parkinson 4-90)

Derbyshire 199-6 (Madsen 76, Alex Hughes 40 not)

Derbyshire trail by 181 runs

Well, last night I did warn you that we'd need all of a lengthy batting line-up to cope with a keen home attack and so it transpired today.

After Callum Parkinson took a fourth wicket to finish with an impressive 4-90 on debut, the Derbyshire batting got starts but, apart from two players, rather gave it away.

One of those two players somewhat unsurprisingly, was Wayne Madsen, whose innings ended when he was 64 runs short of the thousand-mark for the summer in four-day cricket. Counties crave a batsman who nigh guarantees a thousand a summer from overseas. That we have one on our own doorstep is something we should cherish for as long as it lasts. There is no doubt that Madsen bestrides Derbyshire cricket like a colossus and I wouldn't like to think where we would be without him.

The other was Alex Hughes. Regulars will know that I rate Alex, an intelligent cricketer who will always battle and rarely gives it away. Whether his bowling develops into anything more than useful one-day stuff is a moot point, though that would be enough for most. His batting has been under-utilised this summer and, whatever happens over the winter on the coaching and playing front, I hope that we can find a means of better utilising his talents another year.

Late in the day he earned good support from Alex Mellor. The young keeper had done very well behind the stumps and, having seen it today, his catch off Parkinson was quite special. The ball turned and lifted and the keeper held an exceptional catch, standing up, from a good nick. He can be proud of his efforts so far and I hope he continues to bat well into tomorrow.

There's much for Derbyshire to do. We first need to avert the follow on and then reduce the deficit still further. While we succeeded in bowling a side out for under 400, few will be convinced that at this stage we can escape with anything worthwhile in this game.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Leicestershire v Derbyshire day 1

Leicestershire 300-7 (Eckersley 73 not, Parkinson 3-64)

v Derbyshire

All things considered, it was a decent first day for Derbyshire.

After Leicestershire won the toss and opted to bat, a fairly depleted attack chipped away all day, led by their debutant slow-left armer, Callum Parkinson, whose twin brother, Matt plays and bowls leg spin for Lancashire. He bowled with exemplary control in taking 3-64 in 26 overs. Good wickets they were too: two Aussies in Cosgrove and McKay, as well as the experienced Neil Dexter.

At nineteen he could scarce be expected to do more and there were good reports about young wicket-keeper Alex Mellor too. Tony Palladino bowled with metronomic efficiency, although Tom Milnes was a little too expensive, despite an early wicket, while Shiv Thakor took another two in what has been an excellent season.

The main talking point was the omission of Hamish Rutherford and it may be that the Kiwi has played his last game for the county. From my perspective, there is little point in selecting a player who is unlikely to play for us next summer, over another who will, when little rests on the game. There is good depth to the Derbyshire batting here, but against an experienced seam attack of McKay, Shreck and Jones we may need that.

Honours even then, at this stage.

Let's see if we can finish them off tomorrow - then bat for a long time.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Passing thoughts

Just an early note from me that there will be no blog tomorrow night, ahead of the four-day game against Leicestershire.

My daughter and I are going to an eagerly-awaited Laurel and Hardy night at Glasgow's Panopticon Theatre, which was where Stan Laurel made his theatrical debut in 1906. No, we're not going in fancy dress, though doubtless I'd have to be Oliver Hardy if we did...

It will be interesting to see the squad for the game and I will naturally be commenting throughout.

In response to a couple of messages overnight - and having checked myself this time - I can confirm that both Ben Cotton and Harvey Hosein are contracted for next year at this stage, which is reassuring with two young cricketers of such talent.

Another who looked to have the world at his feet a year or two back was released by Lancashire today.

Luis Reece looked a really class act when he first burst onto the scene a few years back but has struggled with a knee problem and failed to cement a place of late. A left arm seamer and opening bat, there's a good cricketer in there if someone was prepared to take a chance, though I firmly believe that Derbyshire's greater need is players of more experience at this stage.

It is sad to find today that there are two months of the season left and we only have five matches in that time.

Such is the cost of failure, eh?

I'll be back soon.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Derbyshire v Leicestershire RLODC

Derbyshire 260-6 (Broom 90, Godleman 66)

Leicestershire 0-0 (chasing 230 in 38 overs)

Match Abandoned

The rain that fell on the 3aaa County Ground tonight, marking the end of our one-day cricket for the summer, may have been symbolic of supporter tears at an opportunity missed.

A few short days ago, we were top of the section in the Royal London One-Day Cup, needing two wins from four to qualify for the knock-out stage of the competition. We won none of them and that's a thought that will sit uneasily over the next few weeks and months.

That more work is needed is a given. That new players are essential is likewise. There is good young talent at the club - Ben Slater has done very well, Matt Critchley bowled well in most one-day cricket, Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes had their moments. There is the nucleus of a decent one-day side, but we need able and experienced reinforcements for another summer.

Billy Godleman played another good hand today and, like Slater, has had a good RLODC campaign, but runs eluded Wes to the end. Perhaps, at last, teams have got wise to him and tuck him up. Give him width or lose your length and he'll destroy you, but maybe the feet aren't moving so well - it appeared so when I saw him this summer.

Neil Broom finished the competition in better fettle than he started it and followed a good innings at Durham with an accomplished 90 here. It has taken him a while to get used to English wickets and I am sure that the intensity of the games, with no time to recharge batteries as there is back home, has come as a surprise. Hopefully we will see improved form next year, when he certainly owes us a few runs.

Alex Hughes and Jimmy Neesham helped Broom to take Derbyshire to a competitive total, but any chance of finding out it it would have been a match-winning one disappeared in the gathering storm clouds.

It is, as the chairman put on Twitter over the weekend, hugely disappointing that we have no one-day cricket after the first day of August. We should be used to it by now, but there is no reason to accept second best, nor do I think we will.

At the end of the summer, I think we need a quick decision on the coaching role, as the successful candidate may draw people to work with him. I would not attempt to second guess that one, nor suggest who may be in the frame, but we need to get it right. John Sadler has let no one down, but the early impetus dissipated over the last few games and a big finish is required.

 The existing coaching set up hasn't worked, or if it did, only in a qualified manner. Lesson need learned from that and more resources put on, rather than off, the pitch. Knowing the people on the club board, they will not need that pointed out to them.

There is only pride, and the avoidance of a wooden spoon to play for in the four-day game. As was pointed out by notoveryet last night, the contracts of Messrs Durston, Hughes (C), Slater, Palladino, Cotton, Hosein, Davis, Cork, White and Hemmings are up at season end, according to the club website. While I suspect the club will want to retain the services of most, there is an incentive for others to earn another deal where there may be an element of doubt.

Plenty to play for then, but alas, not enough of major import for the loyal fan base.

More from me tomorrow, all being well.