Saturday, 30 April 2016

Final call for Edwin Smith book

I had the pleasure of an afternoon with Edwin Smith and his delightful wife, Jean this week. It was good to catch up with a true legend of Derbyshire county cricket and to see him in such rude health.

On my next visit, I will realise an ambition and play snooker against him. Maybe I should re-phrase that...I will be beaten by Edwin at snooker. He still plays to a very high standard and while I know I won't face him on a cricket field, this is a pretty good plan B, as far as I am concerned!

He told me that he has four signed copies of his biography still available and if anyone is interested in buying one of these, please drop me an email and I will put you in touch with him.

The Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians has a single figure quantity left of a final print run and these can be obtained by calling 01323 460174. Copies cost £14 plus post and packing, whether from Edwin or the society.

There is just over a month to until the launch of my second book, 'In Their Own Words: Derbyshire Cricket in Conversation'. This will be published on June 1 by Pitch Publishing and will be available in hard back and ebook.

More on that in due course!

Friday, 29 April 2016

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire preview

It is, as Graeme Welch pointed out today, a sign of Derbyshire's progress that Ben Slater cannot get into the squad for the trip to Wantage Road, for the game that starts on Sunday.

Nor can Matt Critchley, who is likely to be omitted from the side that played Glamorgan at Derby in favour of Shiv Thakor. The latter did all he could do after being left out for the home match - he went away to the seconds and took economical wickets for the seconds, as well as scoring runs.

With skipper Billy Godleman replacing Slater, Derbyshire are likely to line up as follows:


Northamptonshire's small squad is stretched by the absence of several key players, including Rob Keogh, Rob Newton, Steven Crook and Olly Stone. Nor is Monty Panesar considered fit enough to play yet, so they go with the following squad:

Wakely (C), Sanderson, Duckett, Gleeson, Libby, White, Cobb, Azharullah, Levi, Rossington (WK), Murphy, Crook, Kleinveldt. 

The keen-eyed will see Crook in the squad but deemed unlikely to play by the local newspapers.

The forecast is pretty favourable, with light rain showers on Monday deemed the only inclement weather, so this is a game that Derbyshire could win. While the home side has some good players, I'm going to tip our lads to produce their best form and return with win points in the bag.

It is worth remembering that we are still unbeaten since the start of  pre-season, so confidence should be high and I am anticipating another strong team performance.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Slow start but potential for more

Played two, drawn two.

That is Derbyshire's record so far and fourth place after two matches is just about where most people  expected us to be. Top half, steady in batting and with question marks thus far against the bowling. We'd take that placing at season end, but hope for more exciting events between times.

In their defence - and that of most teams in the division, the new regulations on the toss, or lack of one, are leaving clubs running scared. There are unlikely to be first-day, old school green tops, because the away side will exercise their right to bowl and leave the home club playing catch up for the rest of the game.

To be fair, I think the majority of supporters would prefer seeing a game of 200 plays 200, even if the match finishes inside three days, to one where you see two big first innings and get no closer to a result than Julian Clary is to Tyson Fury. It effectively renders days three and four of most matches pointless. If the power that be are wanting to lessen still further the appeal of four-day 'proper' cricket, they are going the right way about it.

After those first few games, I am reassured by Derbyshire's batting. Even without Billy Godleman and with our Kiwi signings still to fire, we are scoring runs down the order. Wayne Madsen, Chesney Hughes and Ben Slater are in good form and there are good players outside the eleven awaiting an opportunity.

The bowling hasn't really had a chance. Andy Carter and Luke Fletcher look good bowlers and Tony Palladino is running in more freely than last year. When wickets are more conducive to their talents - and they will be around the circuit - they will get people out. That we lack a quality spinner is a given, though Wes Durston bowls steadily. Truth be told, there are few quality spin bowlers in the division, while identifying regular twirly match-winners around the country would not require the use of all digits on one hand.

Essex are off to a flier, as they should be with their squad, but you also need a combination of good fortune and players to take full advantage of result tracks. What I think is a clear way forward, after two games, is that any team with genuine aspirations of success will need to play brave cricket.

By 'brave', I mean that sides will need to be willing to risk defeat in order to win. If one were to use Warwickshire, Graeme Welch's old club, and Derbyshire as examples, the former had the players to produce basic, route one cricket - score heavily, then bowl sides out with quality seam and world-class spin. That's all well and good, but not every side is blessed with such talent.

While fully accepting that the weather took too much out of the game at Derby over the past four days, similar wickets in the months ahead should produce results, especially if we can get a little bounce and some sunshine on them. It does look, however, as if there will be last days where those brave decisions will have to be made.

Setting or chasing, say, 270 in sixty overs could see defeat, but could see a win if we bat, bowl and field with the intensity that I saw at Derby. Sure, a couple of chances went down, but on days that Jacques Rudolph claimed were the coldest on which he has played cricket, I can forgive that. Even on a dead afternoon yesterday, Derbyshire maintained focus, professionalism and discipline.

They will need all of that in the months ahead. I'm happy to see them risk defeat in order to win, as long as they have a fighting chance of doing so.

Far better as an option than a dull as dishwater final afternoon that ends in a draw of stupefying boredom.


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 4

Glamorgan 377 and 87-2

Derbyshire 345

Match drawn

I decided today that, as a fairly recent owner of a puppy, I was going to commemorate the arrival of Wallace with a cricket award. The winner, even at this early stage of the season, of the inaugural PUP (Peakfan's Utterly Pointless) Award will be today's cricket.

Last night, when Derbyshire continued to bat after the dismissal of Wayne Madsen, I felt that an opportunity for a result had gone. When we came back out to bat at six o'clock it seemed even more likely and that was confirmed this morning, when Tom Poynton and Andy Carter took their last wicket stand to 56, before the latter was dismissed for a career-best 39.

I understand that Derbyshire wanted to make a game of it on the last day, but the visitors were unwilling to do so. I get that, having lost their first game under a new coach. In addition, the timing of a declaration was always going to be problematic, when it was far from clear how much of the day would be lost to the weather. Still, all that was left was an utterly meaningless last day of cricket that carried the spectator value of watching someone cut their toenails.

To be fair to Derbyshire, they maintained focus and both Luke Fletcher and Wes Durston bowled good spells. Fletcher removed Kettleborough with one he left that bowled him, while Durston had Bragg leg before with a decision that the batsman patently disagreed with.

So long did he linger, in fact, that he will be lucky to avoid censure. His look back at the umpire and louder than it should have been oath as he walked off were both telling and unnecessary. I understand frustrations in the game, but when you play at any level of it for a while, you realise that sometimes they go your way too.

I left as very obvious storm clouds gathered over the ground. Perhaps it was nature's way of putting us all out of our misery, although I may well have gone anyway. I rarely leave a game of cricket before the day's last ball has been bowled, but today was nothing more than a glorified net session and I am not that desperate for entertainment.

On the up side, it was good to see Billy Godleman heading to the nets and returning with a smile on his face, presumably an indicator that it went well. Pop's next decision is, I assume, who partners him at Northampton on Sunday.

So it is back to Scotland for me tomorrow. My next trip down will hopefully see better weather (it couldn't be worse!) and a 'proper' game of cricket. It is a shame, as the three previous days had contained much to admire and enjoy, if not the weather...

As for that award, I will have a chat with Wallace, our fox terrier, when I get home tomorrow.

I'm sure he can come up with something appropriate...

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 3

Glamorgan 377

Derbyshire 331-9 (Madsen 97, Slater 62, Durston 43, Carter 31 not, Poynton 30 not)

Derbyshire trail by 46 runs

With a day of this game to go and more inclement  weather forecast for tomorrow, it is hard to see how a positive result can be achieved in this one.

On another bitterly cold day, Ben Slater and Wayne Madsen batted sensibly and well in the first hour or so, each reaching a deserved fifty that owed as much to common sense as it did sound technique. There was plenty of time to admire Slater's two variants on the leave  - one is more expansive than the other, perhaps a 'You must be joking?' to a 'Nah, no thanks' of the first. He leaves a ball well and looks increasingly an assured presence at the crease. He needs only turn these assured fifties into match and career-defining centuries to become the real deal. As it is, Graeme Welch has a tough decision on his hands when choosing between Ben and Chesney to partner Billy Godleman in the coming weeks.

Madsen looked his usual assured presence. Only a ball that rapped him on the hand after lifting from a length disturbed his equilibrium, yet his retort was successive square cuts for four that reasserted his presence. There is an air of solidity about Wayne's batting that is unusual among Derbyshire batsmen and, at his best, it is hard to see anyone getting him out.

On the other hand, Neil Broom looked a little at sea and needs time on English wickets to be seen at his best. Wes Durston played some expansive shots in his inimitable style, yet never suggested solidity nor permanence, playing and missing regularly against Graham Wagg in particular, before getting caught behind. Wagg and David 'Bumble 2' Lloyd bowled well after lunch for the visitors, looking altogether more of a challenge than those before the interval.

Matt Critchley is a wonderful talent and will become a very important player for Derbyshire, but is batting too high at number seven on this showing. At 19 it is perhaps unrealistic to expect otherwise, but he never got going and was well held by Jacques Rudolph at slip.

Madsen was becalmed on reaching the eighties, largely the result of losing the strike. In four successive overs, partners played out five balls then took a single from the sixth and for me, it looked like he was trying to push to his century ahead of a declaration when he advanced down the wicket against Salter and effectively yorked himself. It was a superb, nigh-flawless innings, that once again highlighted his importance to the side.

When Tony Palladino fell to a good leg side catch by Cooke, the Derbyshire innings had somewhat gone off the rails. Luke Fletcher's trudge to the wicket was accompanied by gathering clouds and he faced only five balls before the umpires removed the bails and the ground staff brought on the covers as the rain/sleet/hail/snow began to fall. In his short stay, I thought Tom Poynton looked good and his feet were moving much better than they ever did last year, a good sign in any batsman.

I left the ground with the ground looking eerie under the floodlights and liberally covered by Neil Godrich and his efficient team. Further play looked unlikely, barring a miracle of biblical proportions.

A last afternoon run chase is the only chance of a result here, but with both captains uncertain as to what time is left in the game, any declaration is unlikely to be realistic nor  the cause of a positive result.

Thoughts on the game so far? Despite one or two failures, I have few concerns over our batting. Neither Kiwi scored runs, but they will and we mounted a decent tally without them. The bowling looks more functional than deadly, but time will tell. To say 'we miss Footitt' is easy and undeniable, as any team would miss a 'go to' bowler as he was.

There is a dilemma for Graeme Welch at seven though. At this stage it is essentially between three all-rounders: Shiv Thakor (the best bowler), Alex Hughes (the best batsman) and Matt Critchley, who gives variation. Tom Knight, if his bowling returns, could be another option, but we could do with one of those players kicking on and delivering, for the better balance of the team in four-day cricket.

Finally, massive respect to James Pipe and to the ground staff today. SHORTS! In April, when most people were wearing several layers of clothes and wondering where they could procure more. I can only assume those concerned have constitutions like an ox, or wooden legs, as the circulation in mine would surely have ended, if the skin were exposed to the elements today.

Gentlemen, I salute you!

Postscript - I wrote this at tea, when the thought of spending  time on a cold, soggy cricket ground had as much appeal as dipping my feet in acid. To get from the then 274-8 to 331-9 in little time was a good effort and reinforced my earlier assertion that TP is batting well.

As for Andy Carter - who knew we had a top value tailend clumper, as well as a fine bowler?

I didn't. It shows good team spirit, which augurs well.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 2

Glamorgan 377 (Palladino 5-83)

Derbyshire 98-2 (Slater 41 not, Madsen 23 not)

Derbyshire trail by 279 runs.

Derbyshire didn't get long in the middle today, after fighting back well with the ball to get Glamorgan out for 377. For most of the day yesterday, 450 looked likely, but the admirable Tony Palladino added another five-wicket haul to his collection for the club and only some late, lusty blows from van der Gugten took the visitors past 350.

Our reply was a little stop start affair and we lost Chesney to a flat-footed shot that has been too common in previous years. When Hamish Rutherford perished to third man, one of the more unusual ways to get out in a four-day game, there could have been alarm bells ringing, but Ben Slater batted sensibly and with considerable skill, while Wayne Madsen simply did what he has been doing all season so far. If one accepts his retirement on 100 against Durham MCCU as a not out, Waynce currently sits with a season average of 300. Bradmanesque? Madsenesque, perhaps. In this form there are few better players in the country and aspirations of England may not be unrealistic.

Hopefully there will be better luck tomorrow, but the forecast isn't great and this game looks even more the nailed-on draw that it appeared at lunchtime yesterday. I doubt we will see a challenging declaration on the last day at this stage of the summer, but I will be there to see how it goes regardless.

One final word - Mark asked my thoughts on Martin Guptill going to Lancashire. I have no issue with it. Gup is a wonderful player and will doubtless do well for them, but from a balance perspective our need for this year was more a batsman who bowls or all-rounder.  The batting looks strong and long and be in no doubt that Jimmy Neesham is a very good cricketer. Assuming that he is over his back injury, he could give us the 'nous' to get across the finishing line in the T20.

I'm sure Martin Guptill will be warmly welcomed back at Derby in any capacity, for or against us.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 1

Glamorgan 308-6 (Bragg 129, Palladino 3-62, Carter 2-83) v Derbyshire

All things being equal, Derbyshire did pretty well today at the 3aaa Coiunty Ground, on a day when the weather rendered anything less than five layers of clothing foolhardy, and those with less than three in danger of frostbite.

I felt sorry for the players, to be honest and the sight of Andy Carter and Luke Fletcher tearing in with only short-sleeve shirts on should have immediately qualified both for the final of Endurance. Both bowled very well, bent their backs and kept largely excellent lines and lengths, yet the wicket suggested from the start that there was little in it for them.

I am concerned for this year's championship, because the competition will be won by the groundsman who can produce a wicket that offers bowlers help but allows batsmen to score runs if they work. At the moment, too many are too heavily weighted in favour of the latter, as evidenced by Glamorgan declining the option to bowl and instead hoping to win the toss and bat. They did.

We omitted Cotton and Thakor from the thirteen in favour of Palladino and Critchley. Tony Palladino took three wickets and ran in with his usual commitment, his line and length improving as the day went on and rustiness left him. It was obvious that he has recovered from last year's knee problem and heartening to see.

Runs came more steadily as the day went on and the spinners had spells. The wicket was drier than expected, hence the team selection of two, but it will need to deteriorate quickly for batsmen to be unduly worried.

It was too cold to swing, too dry to move around and too easy for the batsmen for most of the day, but credit where it is due to our bowlers for maintaining discipline throughout the day. Early breakthroughs tomorrow would make things interesting, but there was little to suggest it tonight, even though Andy Carter took two in two in the final session and Wes Durston removed the excellent Will Bragg after a fine hundred.

A few observations on the day? I thought Hamish Rutherford captained with intelligence and set some interesting fields, not simply conforming to the coaching manual. Two short extras and two short mid-wickets were set for different batsmen and he impressed me.I also thought Derbyshire were more 'chirpy' in the field than I have seen for a while and that is a positive. Tom Poynton set the tone and Messrs Carter and Fletcher bristled with aggression. While not wanting to see us descend to the level of some county sides in the field, it was good to see us maintaining focus and a competitive edge to the end of the day.

As for the ground, the new look was excellent. The media centre is coming on well and is still on target for early July, while the new PA system is excellent. Previously one needed an ear trumpet and a seat below the speaker to make out announcements; now they were crystal clear - well done!

The club shop is a nice new addition and combines second-hand cricket books with merchandise, all served by a very friendly woman with a ready and regular smile - again, something to be applauded.

I loved the new boards outside the pavilion that showed the club's history timeline and that of the ground too. It gives a sense of where we have travelled from as we aim for something much better. All very positive and sincere congratulations to all involved in making the ground more like a stadium. The boundaries have come in quite a lot too - I'd guess ten to fifteen yards in place, which will doubtless be appreciated on T20 nights...

Finally, thanks to all those whose company I enjoyed today. It is always reassuring to see familiar faces as a new season dawns and it was a pleasure to talk to you all.

Who knows, next time I may not look like an extra in a documentary on Eskimos...

More from me tomorrow.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Interesting trialist

There was an interesting name in the second eleven that beat Somerset by three wickets at Taunton School.

At 21, Jonathan 'Jonny' Tattersall is a former England under-19 from Halifax who played but one List A game for Yorkshire before being released. A few games on trial at Durham saw runs, but his debut for Derbyshire was impressive.

Similar in build to Joe Root, Tattersall is slight and not a big hitter, but played a fine hand in the second innings, making an unbeaten 124 as opener to steer his side home. It followed on from a fine match for Greg Cork, who took four wickets in the first innings and then scored fifty in each knock.

Matt Critchley carried his fine winter into the summer months and took five second innings wickets that earned him elevation to the senior squad.

Whether Tattersall can do enough to warrant a senior contract is a moot point and it is ironic that we now seem to have options as openers for the first time in a few years.  Godleman, Slater, Hughes and Rutherford are all strong options, but the youngster, highly-regarded at one time, can do no more than score heavily and see what happens.

Having played a major role in getting England to the under-19 World Cup final in 2014, Tattersall can obviously play and I will be watching his progress with interest, as with all the young players.

They are, after all, the next generation.

Well done, lads!

Derbyshire v Glamorgan preview

More than anything, as we approach the first home game of the summer, I hope for a sporting wicket where scores of 250-350 play off against each other, batsmen can score runs but bowlers can get something out of it with the requisite skills and effort.

It is all you want from a cricket wicket and in many ways the surfaces produced by Neil Godrich will define our season. Looking at the team critically, there are runs-a-plenty in the batting, but to get wickets on dead wickets needs a special bowler of which the county game has few.

Despite a poor showing at Bristol, I remain hopeful that the seam attack can get wickets on a surface offering help and expect to see Tony Palladino return to the Derbyshire side tomorrow against Glamorgan.Our seamers will need rotated this summer and Tony is probably glad to have missed Bristol, but he knows the Derby wicket well and I expect him to replace Ben Cotton tomorrow.

Matt Critchley's inclusion in the squad gives them an option if the wicket is dry, but that would be a feat in itself at this stage of the season. If he played it would likely be at the expense of Shiv Thakor, as otherwise the latter would be first change seamer, something he is perhaps not yet ready to do.

I'd be surprised though, so Palladino for Cotton is my likely change to Bristol, leaving us as:


Glamorgan are missing the injured Colin Ingram, so young batsman Aneurin Donald retains his place in a side well-beaten by Leicestershire in their first game. Jacques Rudolph remains a threat with the bat and Graham Wagg is a key member of the side.

J Rudolph (capt), J Kettleborough, W Bragg, C Cooke, A Donald, D Lloyd, G Wagg, C Meschede, M Wallace, M Hogan, T van der Gugten, A Salter, H Podmore

It is a game that we can win, but there is rain about on a couple of days and the question is whether there is enough time in the game for a positive result to be forced by either side.

Nonetheless, I will be down at the ground, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed tomorrow, eager to see the new look to the place and to see our favourites in action.

I look forward to seeing you there over coming days. Now to throw the last things in my travel bag and get on the road, after saying farewell to the family.

See you soon!

Friday, 22 April 2016

Back in God's own county

It has been a hectic few days for old Peakfan for a range of reasons, but tomorrow I will be heading down to God's own county for a few days.

I am looking forward to it immensely and will be previewing the Glamorgan game tomorrow evening.

An unchanged twelve from Bristol, with Matt Critchley added seems to cover all the bases, while the game will see a return to Derby of Graham Wagg, always a popular figure.

More from me tomorrow and I look forward to seeing old friends over the coming days!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 4 - batsmen the only winners

Derbyshire 444 and 260-2 (Hughes 137 not, Rutherford 78)

Gloucestershire 563

Match drawn

At lunchtime yesterday, I exchanged texts with a good friend as he commented on Liam Norwell scoring a century as night watchman.

'You could play this over seven days and still not get a result' was my reply. And so it came to pass, as Derbyshire's batsmen saw out the day with ease and with plenty in the tank. It was dull cricket for me, as is any game where the battle between bat and ball is not an even one. I am sure that Chesney Hughes and Wayne Madsen were trying to talk the groundsman into rolling it up and into the back of their cars by the end, having emerged from the game with early season averages of 233 and 177 respectively...

Top marks to Chesney, who seized the opportunity to score heavily with conditions in his favour. The old Nottinghamshire batsman, George Gunn, always used to urge team mates to 'drink at the well' on such days, well aware that on another the ball would be zipping around to his detriment. He did and set his stall out for the duration. I hope he builds on an excellent effort here, as that's a sizeable amount towards a thousand runs, in only the first game.

One has to spare a thought for Ben Slater, run out at the non-striker's end on a day when he must have fancied a long knock himself. His day will come, but the early wicket came to naught with Hamish Rutherford adding 174 with Hughes in making 78 himself.

With conditions in their favour, the batsmen did all they could and batted on and on. There have been plenty of examples in the not too distant past when we didn't and we must be glad of that and happy to praise a job well done. It was professional by the batsmen, two solid efforts that give optimism for the season ahead.

The bowlers will hope to tighten up though. Even on a good batting track, one would hope for good lines and length to make batsmen work and too often we failed to do that. I have no doubt that another day will see improvement, but we could have had Lillee, Hadlee, Warne and Murali in the attack in this game and still got nowhere fast.

'A big change from my day', said Edwin Smith when I chatted to him tonight. They used to have three spinners in the side at Bristol and would have been chafing at the bit by the end of day two.

On here, they might have had to wait until day nine...

A good effort by Derbyshire today, but wickets like that will kill the game stone dead.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 3

Derbyshire 444

Gloucestershire 563 (Dent 180, Norwell 102, Marshall 72, Noema-Barnett 58, Hughes 3-87, Durston 3-149)

It is fair comment to say that we took a bit of a pasting today.

The home side added 453 to their overnight tally, leaving Derbyshire a potentially tricky last day, which they will commence 119 runs behind.

There should be few concerns about the pitch, which reports are calling 'benign' and 'a road' That a confirmed number eleven was able to last long enough to register a maiden century in any form of cricket speaks volumes. Mind you, it says just as much about Derbyshire bowling that was too short, too often and did little to cause upset. Poor, in short and they are better than that.

Dent is a good player who often does well against us, but the ease with which batsmen were able to get in and score freely should have been seen by our batsmen ahead of the final day as a positive. There would appear no reason why we should worry about defeat, but tomorrow SHOULD be about getting time in the middle. It is a good test for our resilience and I will have concerns if we get into bother on such a track.

I don't share the concerns voiced in comments last night at this stage, but all of our bowlers are capable of much better than they showed here. My greatest concern, from here and other grounds across the country, is that we may see groundsmen erring too much on the side of caution in pitch preparation. With the visiting skipper able to choose to bowl before a contested toss, maybe we will see too many moribund tracks where runs can be steadily accumulated  at will.

Give me a sporting track any time, but look over this round of matches and you will see batsmen feasting and bowlers labouring. Positive results will be only the result of contrived cricket in most cases.

I find that sad. And boring.

Mind you, I'll settle for boring at Bristol tomorrow...

Monday, 18 April 2016

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 2 - Magnificent Madsen

Derbyshire 444 (Madsen 150, Poynton 53)

Gloucestershire 110-1 (Dent 61 not, Thakor 1-23)

After slipping to 266-6 in the first hour this morning, cynics will have expected our batting to subside in time honoured fashion today. That we did not was largely down to an innings of consummate brilliance, concentration and stamina by Wayne Madsen.

Wayne made 150 from seven and three-quarter hours batting, a wonderful early season effort which emphasised how important his new winter contract is to the club. By the time it is finished, I fully expect him to have scored more centuries than almost any other Derbyshire batsman, leaving only the legend that is Kim Barnett ahead and even Denis Smith in his slipstream.

He needed support, of course and that came from Tom Poynton. In his hundredth match for Derbyshire, he passed a thousand first-class runs and showed a welcome return to the batting form we all know that he is capable of. Coming in at number eight, if he can produce a batting average of upwards of twenty to go with his excellent wicket-keeping, we will be a much better side.

444 was a solid total, one that gives you control of most matches, although our opening bowlers could perhaps have done better, according to reports, with the new ball. Both are fine players and I have no concerns over their ability to take wickets for us, but it appears they got the length wrong today, bowling too much short stuff. I am sure that Graeme Welch will have a quiet word about that before tomorrow morning.

First session wickets are more common at Bristol, just as they are at Derby, so a good first hour could yet see us take a stranglehold on the game. By the same token, the wicket is a long way from a death trap and at this stage the thinking money would be on a draw.

There's a lot of cricket to go, though and we are still in the ascendant in this one.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire day 1

Derbyshire 242-3 (Hughes 96, Madsen 58 not, Slater 42, Broom 30 not) v Gloucestershire

In the corresponding fixture last year, Martin Guptill smashed an exhilarating double century as Derbyshire scored over 400 on the first day.

Today was an altogether more circumspect affair, but by the end of it, the due diligence of  a succession of batsmen had played us into a solid position. Graeme Welch said before the game that he thought we would be a 'man's team' and that is exactly how we played today. Battling cricket, the sort that wasn't played at times last summer, when inexperience caused premature capitulation, a nasty complaint for any cricket team...

Star turn was 'our Ches' who showed that he has learned you can't always go crash, bang, wallop, especially on early season tracks. I hope this is a summer of vintage Chesney and while there will be days he thrills more than today, there will be few where his contribution is more valuable.

Ben Slater lent good support and a century opening stand was all we could have hoped for, in the absence of our opening bat captain, Billy Godleman. Although Hamish Rutherford failed, Wayne Madsen came in and showed the requisite application to succeed. 58 from 180 balls may not have excited the neutral, but if you want someone to battle for your side, Wayne would be one of them. He's still there to bat again tomorrow and we'll all take that.

In the company of Neil Broom, he saw us through to a healthy 242-3. If we can have a good first hour tomorrow, a score in excess of 400 is possible, with plenty of batting to come.

It was, in short, an encouraging day. Trophies are not won, nor summer's made, in one day, but slow and steady steps, such as this, make all things possible.

One final thought, in closing. With Tony Palladino omitted from the twelve in favour of Ben Cotton, has any county taken the field with a taller seam attack? Andy Carter, Luke Fletcher and Ben are all 6'5" or 6'6".

Hope they have sight screens of a decent height...

Friday, 15 April 2016

Fletcher signing an inspired bit of business

I have had a seriously busy electronic postbag today, with comments regarding the signing of Luke Fletcher being the main topic of discussion.

It has met with pretty much universal acclaim, with the only negatives to question the effect it has on the development  of Ben Cotton, Tom Taylor, Greg Cork, Will Davis and Harry White. My response is that the effect can only be a positive one. All of those lads will get first team opportunities this summer, but it will be a gradual introduction to the side as their form and fitness permits.

None of the seam attack will play every game this season, as it is impossible to expect them to do so. The demands of four-day, fifty overs and twenty overs cricket are considerable and a rotation policy is the way to success.

So too, certainly in the championship, is getting off to a good start. I think most supporters accept that our batting looks stronger than it has for several years and the addition of Fletcher, a bowler with considerable top tier experience, gives us a strong first-choice, early season seam attack. Like Andy Carter, Fletcher is a big, aggressive bowler who will give no quarter on the pitch and the two of them, with the ever-reliable Tony Palladino, make up a very experienced and skilled trio. One that can take wickets and one that can win games.

The young lads named above can learn from these players, watching them, talking to them and playing alongside them. Graeme Welch knows seam bowling and when he says that Fletcher is a bowler he has long admired, you listen. 200 top division wickets at an average well under thirty argue his case well, yet he is still around eighth choice at Trent Bridge.

My hope is that Luke enjoys his stay so much that he considers a move across the East Midlands in due course. He is contracted until the end of 2017, but who knows? At 27, I would far prefer to be playing first team cricket somewhere than being a bit-part player with only occasional days in the sun.

Earlier today I read a piece by Chris Adams in a Sussex newspaper in which he says that experience is crucial in the quest for trophies. He is absolutely right. While Derbyshire are doing the right thing in developing their own youngsters, they will flourish better and more quickly in an environment where youthful naivety and errors can be tolerated and overcome.

As our county season is almost upon us, there is a nice blend to the side. Whether it results in more victories is something that only time will tell, but we are in a good position, with players of quality and experience throughout the eleven. Over and above that, there are talented youngsters chafing at the bit for opportunity. It augurs well.

If they play to potential, it will be an entertaining summer.

Luke Fletcher in on loan

At the eleventh hour before the season proper commences for Derbyshire, Graeme Welch has brought in experienced Nottinghamshire seamer Luke Fletcher on loan for the first five games of the season.

With 213 first division wickets in 71 matches, the strapping pace man should help us to get off to a good start in the division, which, as we all know, is so important.

More from me later on this, but a pace attack of Fletcher, Carter and Palladino will be among the most dangerous in the division.

Very good work by Derbyshire - see you later with more on this.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The waiting almost over

It seems like an eternity since I last looked over the 3aaa County Ground in September, the shadows lengthening over a ground that held so many personal memories and was set to be transformed through a winter's work.

A long winter lay ahead, one that turned out not as cold as some of recent past, but dark and dismal for all that. Now, as the daffodils brighten the roadsides and tubs and the days are growing longer, 'proper' cricket is back. County cricket. DERBYSHIRE cricket.

The tour matches and warm-up games are done and we get down to the nitty-gritty, the stuff that matters. The players have worked hard for this all winter and this is when we all see how much they have progressed with all the coaching and fitness work.

Hopefully a lot. There was encouragement to be found in patches last season, but something more sustained and obvious must be the goal for 2016. In the next 48 hours we should see Graeme Welch's squad for the first match and he will probably take 13 or 14 to Bristol and check the wicket before announcing a final eleven.

Our hosts were heavily beaten in their first match, Essex perhaps setting out their stall for an improved season with a ten-wicket win. Their Australian import, Cameron Bancroft, may need time to acclimatise to English wickets, while only Gareth Roderick and the talented Jack Taylor resisted for long.

Time will tell, as it will for Derbyshire. I don't expect a team too different to this one to be taking the field at Bristol:

Hughes (C)

An option could be for Hamish Rutherford to open himself and bring in another seam bowling all-rounder, Alex Hughes, instead of Chesney. Not having seen them in the nets and being unaware of their respective fitness, I can call that no better than the rest of you.

It is a solid-looking side, with good depth in batting, four seamers and three spinners, if one considers Ches and Wayne as options, as I do. Hopefully we get off to a flyer and have no more injuries, from accidents or otherwise, to contend with between times.

Then I will be down for the Glamorgan game  the following week - and really cannot wait...

Now, where are my thermals again?

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Game ends in predictable draw

While affording the players valuable match practice over the past three days, the friendly against Durham MCCU petered out into a draw today, something that was always likely after the second day was largely wiped out by rain.

It will be remembered by the batsmen as being a good opportunity to find form, which most took, while the bowlers had a curate's egg kind of day today. Tony Palladino did what he always does, ran up, bowled tight and took wickets, while Shiv Thakor again showed himself to be a man with a golden arm.

The others were less convincing. Ben Cotton has proven himself as a bowler who can keep things tight in all forms of the game, but now needs to show he can take wickets. Having said that, the coach will doubtless be more pleased with his performance than that of Tom Milnes and Tom Taylor, both of who bowled too many loose balls for their and the team's good.

Unless the promised loan bowler makes an appearance between times, my guess is that Cotton has played himself into the seam attack for Bristol, alongside Palladino and Andy Carter. If you are not taking wickets in any side, it is important that you build pressure on the batsmen from which the other bowlers will profit. It was something that Gladwin and Jackson did so well, on the rare days they didn't take wickets, which enabled the change seamers to come into their own as batsmen tried to get runs on the board.

More from me later in the week, but for now a quick word on James Taylor, who has sadly had to retire from the game with a serious heart condition. Taylor always looked like a man most likely to succeed from his early days at Leicestershire and little changed. He was a busy, compact, skilled batsman whose RLODC century against us a Trent Bridge a couple of summers ago effectively put us out of the competition.

I am sure that he will make a success of his second career, inside or outside the game and, for all the comments passed on him, it is worth remembering that his career has ended but his life has been saved. In the many columns of text I have read there has been scant recognition for the medical people and the prompt and excellent attention that picked up the problem quickly.

Tragic as it is for the play, his family, friends and club, it would have been far worse had he suffered a similar fate to Fabrice Muamba and passed out on the pitch, which might otherwise have happened.

Like anyone and everyone I wish a highly talented player well for the future and first the major surgery he faces later this week. With the assistance of friends and family he will rebuild his life and career.

We should all be very thankful for that.

Back later

Apologies for the lack of blog last night but my son and I went to see the quite superb Jeff Lynne in Glasgow. It was a 'leave early, back late' kind of night that legislated against it.

I will be back later to report on the last two days of the game.

Not much play on day 2, of course...

Monday, 11 April 2016

Derbyshire v Durham MCCU day one

Mixed news for Derbyshire today, the worst of it being the freak injury sustained by Billy Godleman before the game which saw him get a small break at the base of his thumb.

It will probably rule the new four-day skipper out of the first three championship matches and delay his captaincy regime.  Hamish Rutherford, who missed today's game through jetlag, will this take on the captaincy, doubtless with wise counsel from Wayne Madsen and Wes Durston.

There was better news for the last two named, club and one-day skippers respectively, as each recorded a century today before retiring. They will face more demanding attacks this summer, but the early opportunity to get runs on the board and feet, hands and eyes working should never be missed.

Ben Slater and Shiv Thakor also recorded stylish fifties as Derbyshire racked up 396-6 in a truncated day's play. Tomorrow will hopefully see the seamers stake their claim for a starting role and the students could face a tough examination tomorrow.

Billy's injury is far from ideal, but Graeme Welch has plenty of options for the opener's role. Rutherford himself could open, or Slater and Chesney Hughes could do so. Alex Hughes is outside this side too and will be craving opportunity, so there's a big decision for the coach to make before next weekend's trip to Bristol.

I am sure the remainder of this game will throw up a few options.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Derbyshire v Durham MCCU preview

I am assuming that there are a few pointers in Graeme Welch's first squad of the summer in the three-day game against Durham MCCU at the 3aaa County Ground (weather permitting...)

Billy Godleman (Captain)
Ben Slater
Chesney Hughes
Wayne Madsen
Neil Broom
Wes Durston
Shiv Thakor
Tom Poynton
Tom Milnes
Tony Palladino
Tom Taylor
Ben Cotton
Andy Carter

With Hamish Rutherford only just arrived in the country, it would appear that Ben Slater and Chesney Hughes have a battle to claim the other opening slot alongside the new red-ball skipper, Billy Godleman. I would expect Rutherford to slot in at number three, giving Derbyshire an 'engine room' of talent and experience for the first time in many summers.

Wes Durston's all-round capabilities earn him a go at number six, with Shiv Thakor getting the nod over Alex Hughes for this one. Similarly, Tom Poynton's good pre-season form has earned him the gloves, with the seam bowling then a case of perming any three from five. I can't attempt to second guess Welch on this one. On the one hand he could give his two senior bowlers, Tony Palladino and Andy Carter, a chance to find early rhythm, or he could play his three younger options to see who earns the right to partner them when the season proper starts next weekend down at Bristol.

It is a good side and the strength of the squad this year is in the players who haven't made the cut this time.

There is always so much excitement at the start of a season and, in my 48th summer as a Derbyshire supporter it shows no sign of palling. I will be down for most of the first home game, against Glamorgan and look forward to seeing the new-look ground and all the winter work.

County cricket is back - and I'm lovin' it!

The rivals

There's been a lot of pre-season pieces written around the country in magazines, newspapers and online. Looking at some of them, you would think that we may as well not bother turning up. A curious feature of all of them is that in 'departures' from last year's staff, no one mentions David Wainwright, which seems odd.

Mind you, one or two seem to have overlooked the signing of Neil Broom, too, which suggests that not all that much homework was done ahead of writing the pieces concerned. Yesterday I read a piece by All Out Cricket, which forecast us as coming bottom of the table. Time for the anti-depressants, methinks...

As I said in my previous piece on our prospects,  I won't be gung-ho to suggest we will stroll the title and sole promotion place, but what I will say is that it is a very open division and we have an equally good chance as the rest. Last year, Surrey and Lancashire seemed to have the resources and staff that the rest could only envy and so it transpired. Lancashire got off to a flyer and never looked back, while Surrey took a while to gain momentum but then deservedly took the second promotion berth.

This year? Bear with me while I go through the others.

Essex - perennial under-achievers who finally changed their coach and will hope Chris Silverwood gets the best out of fine players. They have some good batsmen, but Reece Topley has gone to Hampshire, Graham Napier retires at the end of the summer and David Masters struggles for fitness. One of their new dual-passport bowlers needs to fire because I don't see how they can regularly bowl sides out twice.

Glamorgan - Jacques Rudolph guarantees runs and Graham Wagg had a golden 2015, but both players need consistent support and for me there are too many question marks on their all-round game for promotion. Craig Meschede is a solid signing, but better than us? I don't think so.

Gloucestershire - James Fuller has gone to Middlesex and they have the excellent Michael Klinger arriving in June, but they are another side in need of a bowler to emerge. Gareth Roderick is a good player, but asking him to skipper, as well as be wicket-keeper and a key batsman is a big 'ask'. They did very well to win the RLODC last year and as such are an object lesson to all.

Kent - Plenty of batting, which for me made signing an overseas batsman (Tom Latham from New Zealand) an odd move. He will score runs, but they seem to be pinning their hopes on James Tredwell and Adam Riley spinning sides out. Kagiso Rabada should give them a boost for six weeks around July, but again, bowlers need to emerge.

Leicestershire - They have strengthened more than most, with the arrival of Neil Dexter, Mark Pettini and Paul Horton suggesting they should not struggle for runs. Mark Cosgrove will also score heavily (sorry...) but both Wayne White and Clint McKay need to stay fit for them to bowl sides out. Ben Raine remains a good all-round cricketer and they should be an improved side.

Northamptonshire - With similar, possibly worse financial issues than Leicestershire, they only carry a squad of fifteen full-time professionals. If injuries hit they will struggle and the loss of David Willey to Yorkshire is a big one. A solid side if they all stay fit but that asks a lot over a long season and their seam attack of Kleinveldt, Azharullah and Stone will be tired by September.

Sussex - came down last year after a lot of injuries hampered their summer. They have brought in Danny Briggs from Hampshire to replace the retired Michael Yardy and will have high hopes that Ross Taylor will bring runs from New Zealand. The death of Matt Hobden may have a residual effect on them, but a seam attach of Ajmal Shahzad, Chris Jordan and Steve Magoffin is the best (on paper) in the division. The team to beat, for me.

Worcestershire - a tight-knit squad that has lost two or three players from last year and is lacking experience. As a relegated side they will be among the favourites, but probably need Matt Henry and Kyle Abbott to take a lot of wickets in their shared overseas role to sustain a challenge. Shouldn't lack for runs, though.

There you have it. Sussex probably the team to beat but a division in which every side can have genuine and realistic expectations of a decent summer. The ones that emerge from the pack will enjoy (and need) their share of luck with the weather, wickets, decisions and fitness but will also need to play consistently.

A good start, as we showed in 2012, can be the catalyst to great things and we will hope to build on an excellent pre-season tour and produce the goods.


Thursday, 7 April 2016

Quiet pre-season week

Apologies for the lack of blogging this past few days, but there has been a potent combination of factors legislating against it.

Domestic commitments plus a week at work where I don't get in till around 9pm each night has somewhat legislated against it, as has the need to go through the proof of my book, which is looking terrific (thanks, Pitch Publishing!)

Truth be told, the weather has legislated against cricket anyway with Derbyshire's closing pre-season work largely confined to the indoor school. I am sure they will be ready for the opening fixture at the weekend, assuming the ground dries up in between times.

It was good to see Dominic Cork back at the club with the Sky cameras, checking out the new media centre and having a go in the indoor school. Watching Corky bowling in the nets reminded me of when Les Jackson, then well into retirement, was asked to bowl the first ball to mark the opening of a new cricket ground in the area. He duly did so and, despite not having played for many years, dropped it straight on to a perfect length...

Like all other clubs though, Derbyshire's players are bullish about their chances. Everyone is at this stage, of course, and at the weekend, when I have time, I will look at our rivals and see where the likely challenge is.

Over in fantasy land, it is good to see a dozen teams in the Peakfan Blog Trophy - use the link on the left of the blog further down to join and get a team or teams involved. To join the league you need the key 8031395 and if you have problems in joining, do please get in touch and I can help.

More from me soon!

Friday, 1 April 2016

A chat with a legend

I got home last night to a letter.

It was from Walter Goodyear. He had lost my number and wanted to let me know something. We speak every couple of weeks or so, anyway, but he had some news.

Walter, who for the uninitiated was groundsman par excellence at the County Ground between 1938 and 1982, is now officially the oldest NCO (non-commissioned officer) of the Sherwood Foresters Regiment. It is the latest achievement by a man who has lived a most extraordinary life.

We chatted for around a quarter of an hour, the conversation ranging from Derby County, to the wickets in the World T20 and some of his wonderful, golden memories of his years involved with the club. His health has been in and out these last few months, but at 99 and two months, that is to some extent to be expected.

He hopes to make the old players day in late May and we talked about some of the people who might be there. Astonishingly, he remembers them all, his recall of players and the events in which they were involved quite extraordinary.

But then again, Walter Goodyear is an extraordinary man.

His memories make up the first interview in my next book, which will be out at the start of June and for anyone interested in the history of our club, they are gold dust.

Consider this. Walter has told me how he remembers Bill Bestwick walking around the ground with his dog in the mid-1930s, when he had a flat that overlooked the ground and brought it down for exercise. This is a man who first played for Derbyshire in the late nineteenth century.

Now that is special...congratulations Walter, on that latest achievement.

Long may you keep racking them up.

Four-day season preview: steady progress?

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

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

So what has changed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which leaves us where?

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

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

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

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

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