Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Viljoen signing a stunning coup by county

The signing of South African pace ace Hardus Viljoen is a serious signing and statement of intent by Derbyshire County Cricket Club.

Most supporters, understanding that we were in the market for a seam bowler this winter, will have been scouring squad lists of the first-class counties and seeing who might be surplus to requirements around the circuit. I've also seen a few names from the international circuit mentioned, mainly West Indians who announced their international retirement.

Few will have considered Hardus Viljoen, or thought it realistic. A seriously quick bowler with a track record to match, everyone would surely be after him.

This chap is no Nantie Hayward. Nantie had been a good bowler, albeit erratic, in his prime but didn't show all that much in a short spell with Derbyshire. Viljoen is 27, in his pomp, a 90-mile an hour plus fast bowler who is desperately unlucky to be coming to his prime at the same time as several other bowlers. South Africa's quota system has claimed another victim, but their loss is very likely to be Derbyshire's gain.

The strapping Viljoen is a genuine fast bowler. He is a spearhead for any attack, bowling at Mark Footitt pace. 367 first-class wickets at 26 tells of his quality and a solitary Test match, in which he took the wicket of Alistair Cook first ball, is scant reward for a man of his talent.

This is a bowler who has 22 five-wickets hauls. Last year, playing only the last four championship games for Kent as a substitute overseas player, he took 20 wickets at 19 runs each. He gets them out and bowls economically in the one-day game as well, the bottom line being that no one likes facing a bowler who consistently tests both their reactions and bravery.

He can bat too, with half a dozen fifties to his name, one of them as night watchman for Kent last summer. Derbyshire will hope he doesn't have to do too much of that, but he will be a useful asset down the order.

It is a terrific acquisition by the county, one that will be enjoyed by the other seamers too, who can learn from him. As we have found down the years with the likes of Les Jackson, Harold Rhodes, Michael Holding and Mark Footitt, fast and hostile bowlers often produce wickets at the other end, as batsmen take a chance. What is telling about Viljoen is that a lot of his wickets are bowled and leg before, testimony to his accuracy. He'll keep the wicket-keeper and slips in business too. Keep an eye on him over the winter and notice how many times he whips out one or two top order batsmen and then comes back to blow away the tail.

It is a throwback to the halcyon days when, if Bill Copson could get early wickets, Tommy Mitchell would handle the middle order and they would take out the tail together.

If Derbyshire had 'only' picked up Jeevan Mendis and Imran Tahir, two spinners of genuine quality, this winter, opponents will have been tempted to bat first and avoid a ball fizzing around on the final day.

Now? They will have to choose between fending off a couple of quicks on the first morning, or a world-class spinner on the last afternoon. Decisions, decisions...

This will have opened a few eyes around the country, without a doubt. Am I bothered that we have gone down the Kolpak route? Not at all, because we have signed a player of quality, not just a bloke with a passport that allows him to play here, barely better than what we already have.

What I want to see, like most of you, is a winning Derbyshire side. This winter's additions should, with luck with fitness, help us to go some way towards that.

Kim Barnett promised players who would have specific skills that would enhance what we already have. Well, we now have a genuine strike bowler, one who I reckon will be the fastest bowler in the division by some distance.

Welcome to Derbyshire, Hardus. We cannot wait to see your bowling at close quarters.

Not TOO close though...

PS Here's a video to whet your appetite - a match-winning spell for the Lions in South Africa...


Anonymous said...

Brilliant. He was the one I wanted. Well done the club. I even made a comment last night saying I hope it is him. After Kent last season and the fact they hadn't announced him ao was convinced he was the one. Fantastic news. 3 years as well. Wow. Mark N

Peakfan said...

Yeah you called it mate. Sorry, little behind with comments and tidying up this morning before my enforced break!

Great signing - and as you say, for three years..

Anonymous said...

Yes I am buzzing and a great write up Peakfan. I hadn't seen that YouTube video before. Wow. He will demolish div 2

Ash said...

This really gets me excited, we mesn business, other counties must be looking on in envy

Tim, Chesterfield said...

I've decided to purchase a membership for the first time since 2004. Seriously good signing.

Anonymous said...

Quality player and a great a signing by the club. When at Kent this year he was taking wickets regular which is a good sign for us as he can adapt to conditions very quickly. Can't wait for the season to begin.


Ash said...

If anyone wants to get membership, i'll put you forward, its worth £25 each !

Tim, Chesterfield said...

He got a bit of stick in the game on Sky yesterday but that's no surprise on such a good deck. He smashed a few long balls in return later on. Bowling him anything in his arc appears a dangerous tactic as when he connects it stays hit.