Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Sussex v Derbyshire day 4

Derbyshire 150 and 307 (Thakor 81)

Sussex 447-8 and 11-0

Sussex won by ten wickets

Well, the tail wagged and a second innings of respectability was reached, but it was too little, too late for Derbyshire in this one. As was always likely after being bowled out in a session on the first day, of course.

That's our last four-day cricket for some time and thank goodness for that, as it has been a disappointment. Here's hoping we make a better fist of the fifty and twenty-over stuff, which occupies our minds for the next few weeks. It looks a stronger format for us at present, though 'stronger' may or may not be relative. Time will tell on that...

Tomorrow I will look at our T20 side and its make up, but the sole encouraging factor of the loss at Hove was that the players battled to the end. Such a mentality is good to see and is indicative of a team spirit that is still strong. If the 'name' players come to the party now, we'll have a chance of putting some results together.

Anyway, the loss was the one bad thing about today. The month ending tonight is the second busiest month in the blog's history, beaten only by July of last year in the amount of hits. Indeed usage continues to grow, which is a great thrill after several years and when it might have peaked. Thanks to all for your continued involvement and support.

I hope that extends to my book, 'In Their Own Words: Derbyshire Cricketers in Conversation', which is out tomorrow. You can order it through all good bookshops and it is on Amazon as both a hardback book and as an ebook for download. I've had nice and favourable comments ahead of publication but the acid test is what readers think and I hope you first of all buy it and then let me know in due course.

With representation from older legends of the club like Walter Goodyear, Edwin Smith and Harold Rhodes, as well as newer ones such as Wayne Madsen, Graeme Welch and James Pipe and plenty in between, I hope you learn something and get a few laughs and an insight into the professional game along the way.

If you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed chatting to some of my heroes, I can live with that!

Until tomorrow.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Sussex v Derbyshire day 3

Derbyshire 150 and 195-6 (Thakor 58 not, Godleman 49)

Sussex 447-8 (Wells 104, Brown 61, Critchley 2-101)

Derbyshire trail by 102 runs

Barring rain of biblical proportions tomorrow, which would scarcely be fair on the home side, Derbyshire will lose this game by an innings and plenty, probably some time before lunch.

It has been a poor display, albeit one which highlighted a couple of things, as I followed events from afar (while painting my garden fence, truth be told).

One is that there is at least fight and discipline in the side, especially from some of the younger contingent. Quite frankly, Shiv Thakor is magnificent at present and can be absolved from any criticism with his willingness to occupy the crease, while still playing shots and scoring runs at a good rate. His average for the season is now a remarkable 94 and it must be something in the name, his willingness to battle for the cause reminiscent of Shiv Chanderpaul at his best.

Discipline was evident in the bowling. In a score of 447 in 110 overs, there were only twelve extras, which speaks volumes for the bowlers and wicket-keeper Tom Poynton, even if the end figures were not ones they will recall in their memoirs.

Our problems are twofold at present. One is the youth of the attack, which battles gamely but is a little out of its depth. In the long term they will benefit from the exposure to top level batsmen and there are signs from all of them that they are, if not swimming strongly in the first-class game, bobbing along gamely on the tide. Ben Cotton, Tom Taylor and Matt Critchley are all showing promise in bursts, but it is unrealistic to expect them to run  through teams.

The other is in the batting. Thakor speaks for himself, Wayne Madsen is averaging his usual fifty and Chesney Hughes 65. Cap'n Billy is in the steady if not spectacular mid-thirties, but the problem lies with our two Kiwis.

That both are good players is evident from their records in the first-class game. However, it isn't happening for them right now and that must be a frustration for Graeme Welch, as much as supporters. There wasn't a single dissenting voice when Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom were signed, but the reality is that they each currently average 25 in the four-day game, which is much less than Ben Slater, who is outside the eleven.

This isn't 'have a go at the Kiwis' hour, but with the status of overseas player and one brought over on a British passport comes expectation of performance. They know that and we know that. I have said before that a good county batsman should be averaging in the thirties, a very good one in the forties. For me, the benchmark of an overseas batsman has to be fifty or thereabouts. You are paid well and looked after, so the return should be relative to that. I admit I grew up on the feats of Wright and Kirsten, but we have had plenty of others who spoiled us from that angle, including Rogers, Di Venuto, Katich, Azharuddin and Jones. They set the standard that others must aspire to.

25 doesn't cut the mustard and both men have to up their games in the second half of the summer. It won't make any difference to the championship, because any expectation of achievement there is largely gone for the reasons stated above. Yet we need them to produce their best form and give supporters something to cheer in the one-day game. They can do it and on their improved efforts we can see performances improve.

In closing tonight, read a very interesting post from 'Roy of the Falcons' that I received earlier today and is below last night's piece. I totally agree with him as you will realise from the above, as well as the article I wrote 'Time for a Reality Check' last week.

Keep your comments coming my friends, but please avoid conjecture, personal stuff and insults.

It's a bad old trot, but as supporters, the clue is in the name - and this is when the players need it more than ever.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Sussex v Derbyshire day 2

Derbyshire 150 (Thakor 47 not)

Sussex 342-4 (Joyce 106, Wells 104 not, Nash 65, Taylor 54, Madsen 2-65, Taylor 2-87)

Sussex lead by 192 runs

At the end of another fairly wretched day, Derbyshire are still just about within sight of Sussex in this match, but need to bowl extremely well tomorrow and then bat a heck of a lot better than they have done in their last two championship innings to give them a game.

The thinking money is on it not happening at present, much as it pains me to say so. There appears a crisis of confidence that I hope can be sorted soon and the onus is on the senior players to rally and turn things around. In such roles they are paid well and need to justify those salaries, as do all professional sportsmen.

To give credit to Derbyshire, they stuck to their task fairly well and didn't give too much away. Wayne Madsen confirmed that my pre-season appraisal of his bowling was accurate in bowling a long and economical spell that was rewarded with two wickets, while two late wickets for Tom Taylor made up for some earlier expense. The discipline that they show will come in useful in years to come, but for now they are just not penetrative enough and the attack lacks the 'oomph' it had when the captain could toss the ball to Mark Footitt.

The others bowled tidily, but the batsmen were largely untroubled and, from reports, rather got themselves out.

We'll see tomorrow if there is more fight in the side, but the likelihood is that there will be a deficit of around 350 on first innings.

The stuff of nightmares, really.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Sussex v Derbyshire day 1

Derbyshire 142-9 (Thakor 44 not) v Sussex

I think it is safe to say, from his remarks at the end of the day, that Graeme Welch was unhappy with his side today.

Rightly so. Having had the option to bowl today, we opted to toss, lost it and Sussex opted to bowl. Welch and Billy Godleman presumably thought that the best chance of success in this game was in batting first - the coach suggested 250 would have been a competitive score, but it didn't work out that way.

'Poor shot selection' said Welch. To be fair, having arrived at their hotel in the early hours, they may have got to the ground and wondered what format they were playing. By the same token, the weather meant they didn't play till after tea and they should have been well tuned by that stage.

It was a dispiriting day, truth be told, each buzz of my phone heralding a new tweet and another wicket. Once again the admirable Shiv Thakor held things together and led a late rally, but there was little support and to lose nine wickets in forty overs was an especially weak effort.

Got to do better than this, fellas.

For your coach, the supporters and professional pride.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Sussex v Derbyshire championship preview

Just a short piece from me on this one, but I reckon somewhere near the south coast tonight, Ed Joyce must be in bed now, his trusty willow on the pillow beside him, ready to dream of carrying on where he left off at Derby a couple of weeks back.

Indeed, the Sussex side will be hoping that justice is done and they can get the win in this one that they were robbed of at Derby.

I've seen no news of our squad, but don't see many changes, unless Andy Carter is brought back after his efforts tonight.

Sussex name the following squad:

Danny Briggs
Ben Brown (c/wkt)
Harry Finch
Lewis Hatchett
Ed Joyce
Matt Machan
Steve Magoffin
Chris Nash
Ollie Robinson
Ajmal Shahzad
Ross Taylor
Luke Wells
Stuart Whittingham

Still no Chris Jordan and Luke Wright, but a good side, especially in batting. We will need to up our game considerably to come back with anything, but the talent, as they showed for much of the Kent game, is there.

It is just about sustaining the effort.

We'll see how it goes tomorrow.

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire T20

Derbyshire 195-7  (Durston 47, Hughes (C) 46, Poynton 37 not)

Northamptonshire 196-7 (Levi 58, Carter 3-32, Critchley 2-19)

Northamptonshire won by three wickets with two balls to spare

There was no disgrace in losing this excellent game of cricket.

In doing so, however, the players and coaching staff will doubtless look back at a spell in our innings when we lost our way after a blistering start.

At 140-3 halfway through the fourteenth, Wayne and Chesney going like trains and 14 off the first three balls of the over, we were looking at 200-plus. Yet by the end of the over, both had gone and in eleven balls we were 151-7 and rebuilding.

That we got to an imposing score that normally wins you matches was down to a fine effort by Tom Poynton, who hit his highest T20 score in making an unbeaten 37 from just 21 deliveries. At the halfway stage we definitely had a chance. Wes Durston's early onslaught was matched by an impressive knock by Ches, the only error being neither of them going on to a match-defining score.

The home side went off like trains, as they were always going to do. Levi has hammered international attacks and on his night hits the ball a long way, as does Josh Cobb, who always seems to save his best for us. I mentioned them last night and they took their side to 108 at the halfway stage, well up with the clock.

Yet both went in successive overs from Matt Critchley who again did wonderfully well. At this point you question the captaincy a little, because the lad's three overs went for only nineteen runs and those two wickets, while Wes bowled two for 22. Alex Hughes only went for eight an over and Andy Carter bowled very well at the death to take three wickets and the game into the final over.

All in all it was a very good effort by our lads, who can hold their heads high. Not such a good night for the Kiwis though. They starred at Old Trafford but had a collective bad night tonight. Twenty runs from the three of them and four overs for 47 from Jimmy Neesham made it a less memorable day at the office.

There however, you have cricket in  a nutshell. One day you are on top of the world, the next it turns round and bites you on the bottom. We've all been there, and for those still playing the game, you almost certainly will be there again.

Disappointing to lose then, but plenty of positives. Things to build on, and to work at, but we've played two good games of cricket so far and can win more in this competition.

Safe travel tonight guys. Whoever scheduled these fixtures must have a warped sense of humour...

Link to Elvaston event Facebook page

I have added a link on the left hand side of the page to the event where I will be appearing, under a Boundary Club promotion, with Edwin Smith at Elvaston Cricket Club on Friday, July 15.
It will be one of the launch events for my new book 'In Their Own Words: Derbyshire Cricketers in Conversation' and is one that I look forward to immensely. 
I will be chatting to Edwin, a genuine legend who took 1209 wickets for Derbyshire, about his fantastic career, talking about this blog and the new book and signing copies both of it and any last copies of my biography of Edwin that we can round up for the event. As these are now in single figures, I cannot guarantee that they will be available, but I will do my best. We are both then happy to answer questions from the floor.
Elvaston Cricket Club is on Stable Drive, Elvaston,  DE72 3EP and tickets for the event are £3, with proceeds going to the club's Defibrillator Appeal Fund. There will be a bar and food available, with the evening starting at 7.30pm.
Tickets are available from the club, or by calling Andy on 07722 485213.
I do hope that you come along, say hello and enjoy a fun evening of cricket chat, as well as supporting a very worthy cause.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire T20 preview

The old adage that if it ain't broke, you don't fix it is likely to followed by Derbyshire at Wantage Road tomorrow, in their T20 match against Northamptonshire.

Ben Cotton and Scott Elstone are the other members of the thirteen, over and above the eleven that played against Lancashire at Old Trafford (and thrashed them, he enjoyed writing...)

It will all depend on the wicket, of course, but I don't see any changes unless Ben is brought into the eleven. Scott had a good knock in the corresponding fixture last year, but I expect him to miss out here.

Our hosts won their first game against Leicestershire Seekkuge Prasanna doing all you could want from an overseas professional by bowling his leg spin tight and hitting a six to win the game. With Richard Levi and Josh Cobb heading a powerful batting line up, they will present a stern test for Graeme Welch's men.

Mind you, if they play as they did at Old Trafford last week, they don't need to worry about anyone. It is when the intensity dips and 'old' Derbyshire resurfaces that trouble strikes.

Which one will take the field tomorrow? I can't answer that.

But if it is the side with the right mentality, we have plenty in the tank to win the game.

Book talk - any interest in the High Peak?

As you will know, I have my second book, a history of the club since the last war, told by some of its main characters of that period, due out on June 1.

In Their Own Words: Derbyshire Cricketers in Conversation features interviews with post-war Derbyshire cricket legends and is published by Pitch Publishing and priced £16.99. It is available from all good book shops, online and from me if you prefer.

I will be down in Derbyshire for what is looking like a full week of promotional work between 11 and 16 July and have an event lined up in Elvaston, on Friday 15th, as well as one in Chesterfield on Monday 11th - details will be announced shortly.

As my Wednesday plans revolve around seeing the T20 game against Lancashire at the 3aaa County Ground, I'd be more than happy to do an event on either Tuesday 12 or Thursday 14, as long as someone has a venue and the likelihood of a crowd.

The High Peak would be great, but if there's anyone out there with any ideas, and you are far enough from Chesterfield and Elvaston not to affect their attendance, do please get in touch at the usual email address - you can find it down the left hand bar of the site.

Alternatively, get me on Twitter, @Peakfanblog

Time for a reality check

After all these years of doing the blog, I'm still mildly amused that there's way more comments and mails in adversity than when we do well.

492 runs in the first innings against Kent and there's barely recognition of a job well done; tumble for under a ton in the second dig and there's pops at Pop a-plenty.

I think it is time for a reality check. You may have noticed that I made no pre-season predictions of glory this year. Just, hopefully, signs of progress. Sometimes signs of the latter take time to appear, while at others they can be almost overnight.

Look at Chesney Hughes. I've lost count of how many mails there have been in recent seasons questioning whether he would make it. All of a sudden, it clicks and he's scoring runs for fun. The same goes for Shiv Thakor. Last year people were asking why we'd signed him, ignoring the fact that he'd missed a year of cricket and was playing catch up. There are no such questions this year, that's for sure, when he is sitting with a batting average of 68 and a bowling one of 23. I've used the analogy before and will do again - would you expect your average under-25 to be a key contributor at your place of work, or assume that he or she still had much to learn? I think I know the answer.

You can't fast track development. To answer one recurring theme in my mail, yes, Graeme Welch did say that he now has the staff that he wants at Derbyshire, but this should not be liberally translated as 'and it is one that will challenge for honours'. For me he now has a staff of players where everyone is fit and able to play, even if they are some way back in their development from where he wants them to be. Last year we had senior players on commensurate salaries in the second team or constantly injured, something that was patently unsustainable.

I know how Graeme rates the young  clutch of seamers at the club, but sometimes that 'click' takes a lot longer than coaches wish and supporters are prepared to tolerate. I have spoken to a lot of coaches over the years and each has told me that the greatest requirement for the job is patience. Indeed John Wright, a pretty good coach at county and international level, told me that is the biggest difference between the two - with the latter, you are dealing with the creme de la creme. If someone fails, you bring in someone else, and there are plenty of options. At county level, with a finite budget, you HAVE to be patient, as there aren't the alternatives nor the money to sign them.

Coaching is all about making players the best they can be. In making modifications, you are aiming to improve their game by ten per cent, but some players take things on board - or are willing to do so - more easily than others. It can take months for a penny to drop, or seasons in some cases, as you will see by looking around the county circuit.

It is the only way with a club like Derbyshire. If Graham Onions came on the market, he would improve our attack considerably, but then every county would be chasing him, including those who, Godfather-style, can make an offer that it is hard to refuse. It isn't as easy as that, and this summer's wickets haven't helped to encourage young bowlers learning their trade.

One or two have also suggested it is time we looked for another coach. Really? Who?

We have a coach who is highly regarded in cricket circles by insiders, people who really know the game. Jimmy Neesham cited Welch as as reason for joining the club, as did Andy Carter and Luke Fletcher. Now the returns of the last two have been a disappointment, but sometimes it takes time to settle. It is frustrating to see the success of Fletcher since his return to Nottinghamshire, while Carter hasn't looked to have his usual rhythm yet, for whatever reason.

I still think he will come good and will win us matches in time. As for Graeme Welch, he recently signed a contract extension and rightly so. He will oversee the continued development of the young players he has sensibly signed up for the next couple of seasons and at that time a decision will be made on his future. An informed one, taking on board his track record in his time at the club. both in results and player development.

By the age of 24 or 25, players are usually showing what they can do and, in the case of many of Derbyshire's younger players, they will have worked with Welch for four or five years by then. They will have developed as players, or fallen by the wayside and that will be the time to judge him fairly.

Besides, if anyone thinks that our club can afford to change coach and pay off one, recruit a supposedly 'better' one and bring in bigger name players, you're a better man, or woman, than I.

Patience is a virtue - and we all need to show a lot more of it while young players hone their skills. As with any team in any sport there will be ups and downs and we should make sure to celebrate the former all the more.

It makes the latter more tolerable, if nothing else.

And if we pick one up at Northampton tomorrow, we will all be smiling again.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Derbyshire v Kent day 4

Derbyshire 492 and 94

Kent 412 and 176-3

Kent won by seven wickets

I have to admit being disappointed by this one.

I had a vibe last night that we'd go down today and we did, quite heavily. It was a question of whether we bowled or batted the worst, on a wicket that was offering reasonable help for bowlers. By all accounts Kent got their combination right  and bowled as they needed to do. We didn't and there should be a few embarrassed players tonight. To make nearly 500 in the first innings and then fail to make three figures in the second is, quite frankly, a poor effort. Only Wayne Madsen looked to come to terms with the wicket, which in a decent batting side is, to use that word again, disappointing.

I'm a little baffled tonight to be honest. We have a young leg-spinner who has huge potential in Matt Critchley and he got carted today, as Kent wisely decided to go for it, rather than waiting for one of dodgy bounce to do for them. Yet Matt was the sixth bowler used and we need to get him some overs, in one team or another. I just get the feeling he is currently being used as an afterthought in the championship.

Leg spin is a fiendishly difficult art to master, but there's only one way to do that - by bowling, then bowling more. He's not yet a good enough batsman to play in the latter capacity, so in four-day cricket we either need to bowl him more and accept there will be times he will be costly, or give him the bowling he needs to perfect his skills between the one-day game and the second team. He will be a key component of our one-day side in a more defensive role, but  if he is only going to be used as a second or third spinner in the championship, maybe Alex Hughes or Scott Elstone  should be given a try.

It was all rather a shame for Shiv Thakor, who had the best game of his life yet somehow ended up on the losing side. There wasn't much more that he could have done, that's for sure.

Let's hope that we can put this one behind us with another good T20 performance on Friday night at Northampton. I bet the players are looking forward immensely to the drive down to Hove straight afterwards...that's quite a trek on a Friday night.

Shades of the 'good old days'.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Derbyshire v Kent day 3

Derbyshire 492 and 9-3

Kent 412 (Dickson 207 not, Thakor 5-63, Cotton 3-66)

Derbyshire lead by 89 runs

At one point today, with Kent, without new father Joe Denly, effectively 285-8, Derbyshire entertained hopes of either enforcing the follow on, or at the very least having a healthy first innings lead.

Yet a side that bats low, with Matt Coles a more than handy number ten, recovered to post an all out tally of 412, before reducing Derbyshire to 9-3 by the close. Hughes, Taylor and Rutherford were all out cheaply, with Billy Godleman forced to retire hurt after being hit by a throw from a fielder, according to reports. He will be assessed in the morning to see if he can continue his innings.

It changed the dynamic of the game. In a session, we went from possible winners of the game to quite likely losers, unless someone does something special tomorrow. It is unlikely that a winning position can be manufactured from here, so it would appear that the summit of ambitions, at this stage, is draw number six.

I am no statistician, but I can't think there have been many times in our history when we have conceded a double century to an opposition batsman in three successive matches. South African Sean Dickson carried his bat and his team making half of their total and confirming the promise that was suggested on his arrival in this country.

The bright spots for Derbyshire? A maiden five-wicket haul for Shiv Thakor, who, after his century yesterday has had a match to remember. Ben Cotton also appears to have bowled well and was rewarded with three wickets, while Tony Palladino was as accurate as ever, if wicket-less. At least Tom Taylor got his first of the summer and can hopefully kick on from here.

We will see what tomorrow brings, but the first task tomorrow will be to save the match, with Messrs Madsen and Broom faced with a very similar position to the first innings of the game, when they take guard tomorrow.

As someone said to me recently, it's deja vu all over again...

Monday, 23 May 2016

Derbyshire v Kent day 2

Derbyshire 492 (Thakor 130, Taylor 80)

Kent 79-1 

Derbyshire lead by 413 runs

If Derbyshire are to take the initiative in this game tomorrow, they are going to have to find ways to winkle out the opposition in a way that has thus far proved elusive in this game.

What they did, when they bowled, was produce commendable accuracy and economy, with two an over being the standard for most of them. Ben Cotton took the wicket of the talented Bell-Drummond, courtesy of a stunning catch by Tom Poynton, but it will be a tough ask to get twenty wickets on what appears a docile track, even if getting the timing right on it can prove problematic.

Earlier in the day, Shiv Thakor made a magnificent maiden county century, adding 150, a new county record against Kent, with Tom Taylor for the eighth wicket. It was a fine effort by both, highlighting the depth of batting in the side and the ability in some of its younger members.

When he made his debut, a former county stalwart, discussing him, told me he could bat, as well as bowl. It would appear an accurate summation of things and he looks likely to score his share of runs as well as, in time, taking wickets.

As for Thakor, his century crowned a fine few weeks. As we near the end of May, he has a season batting average of 87, to go with a bowling one of 27 as the county's top wicket-taker. If he carries on at that rate, he will be hard to ignore for some winter recognition, which would be deserved.

Before that, we must see if anything can be manufactured here. Any result looks likely to be by virtue of a last afternoon run chase, succeeding or failing.

We'll see.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Derbyshire v Kent day 1

Derbyshire 381-7 (Madsen 103, Broom 96, Thakor 86 not, Taylor 39 not, Coles 4-75)

v Kent

Having won the toss and opted to bat at Derby today, it would not have been part of the script for Derbyshire to slip to 35-3 inside the first hour, with captain, top scorer and overseas star all back in the pavilion.

There was a time when such a start would have heralded teatime submission, but this Derbyshire side is showing itself to be made of sterner stuff and, by the close, had reached a very respectable 381-7.

The recovery was led by Wayne Madsen, who made his 20th century for the club and reached it with a reverse sweep, a sign of class and confidence. He will be annoyed at going soon afterwards, but shared a fine stand of 161 with Neil Broom, who made 96 and showed, after last night's sensible knock, that he is coming to terms with English wickets at last.

It takes time, even for a man of international experience and with a first-class average north of forty. Yet class will always tell and I have every confidence that he will make a telling contribution for us this season. It was a shame he missed his first ton in our colours, but it will come, before too long.

Broom added 85 with Shiv Thakor, who was unbeaten on 86 at the close and is having a really good season. There were a few doubters last year, when the all rounder struggled for his best form with the bat, even though he bowled well at times. This year he has both disciplines working well, scoring fluently and bowling accurately and well. It is a tough gig, but if Shiv continues to work and listen to his coaches, he has what it takes to go a long way in cricket.

Tom Poynton and Matt Critchley failed, highlighting the dilemma at seven once again for Graeme Welch and supporters. I think that they are both very good cricketers, but eight is their place in the order, at the highest, on their form with the bat this summer. Alex Hughes would give greater depth to the batting and offer something different with skiddy seam, but Critchley offers variety, if he can take wickets with his spin as well as he kept Lancashire quiet last night. He should get to bowl on a last day pitch here.

Of course, Wes Durston is another option, but Wes has a big workload in one-day cricket in the coming weeks and we don't want to overload a very important cog in our T20 plans as captain, pinch-hitter and spin option.

At the end of the day, as the bowlers tired, Tom Taylor came in and shared in an unbroken stand of 69 with Thakor, confirming his own ability with the bat and coming in ahead of Tony Palladino for the first time. They saw off Matt Coles with the new ball and scored steadily, this after the bowler had taken four earlier wickets. I rate Coles as a cricketer and it is just a shame that he occasionally does daft things that get him into bother. He runs in hard all day and hits a good ball too, an asset to any side.

Tomorrow all eyes will be on Shiv Thakor, to see if he can make his first Derbyshire century, and on Tom Taylor, to see if he can register a maiden fifty. If they do and we can push on to 450, then we are in a position of control in this game.

It is all up to the bowlers, after that, though it doesn't look the world's worst batting track at this stage.

Derbyshire v Kent preview

The run up to this fixture is always tinged with sadness for me. I used to enjoy and exchange of mails with the late Martin Moseling, a fervent Kent supporter and accomplished writer, catching up on lives and the fortunes of our teams. His passing was untimely and he is missed by many, not just in his own county.

Today's game's big challenge is to avoid anti-climax after yesterday's sparkling effort. While the photos I saw didn't suggest a packed Old Trafford (how could it be, with the FA Cup final on that featured one of the city's teams?) it will have been a bigger crowd than will be at the 3aaa County Ground today. I hope it is warmer than I experienced on my last trip and am sure that our boys will be looking to get away to a flier this morning.

We need a really good first innings, but the truth is that any tinge of green will see the away team bowl and have a strong likelihood of success. Unless, of course, they misread the pitch...

Derbyshire go with an unchanged squad, namely:

Billy Godleman (Captain)
Chesney Hughes
Hamish Rutherford
Wayne Madsen
Neil Broom
Shiv Thakor
Matthew Critchley
Tom Poynton
Tom Milnes
Tony Palladino
Ben Cotton
Tom Taylor

It looks like one of the seamers will miss out this morning and I wouldn't attempt to second-guess Graeme Welch on that one.

Kent come without the injured Darren Stevens and Adam Riley, so there are recalls for Matt Coles and James Tredwell in their squad. They have been batting well this summer, with another Kiwi, Tom Latham, doing well for them.

Sam Northeast, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Tom Latham, Joe Denly, Sean Dickson, Alex Blake, Adam Rouse, Calum Haggett, Matt Coles, James Tredwell, Mitchell Claydon, Matt Hunn, Ivan Thomas.

While the weather forecast suggests some play lost to light rain tomorrow, the forecast for the rest of the game is fine. We will need to be on top of our game from the outset to get a win on the board and certainly need greater penetration with the ball.

Rekindling the intensity of yesterday would be no bad thing and on that note, thank you to everyone who made it the biggest single day in the blog's history. It went way past the number who looked in when we announced the signing of Shiv Chanderpaul and I did a double-take when I saw the statistics last night.

Thank you - and good luck today, lads!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Lancashire v Derbyshire T20

Lancashire 131-7 (Croft 31, Neesham 2-38)

Derbyshire 132-1 (Rutherford 71 not, Durston 30, Broom 25 not)

Derbyshire won by nine wickets


Since the competition began, there have been few 'special' performances by Derbyshire in T20 cricket. Sure, we have won a few games here and there, with someone producing a little bit extra to get us across the line, sometimes by the skin of our teeth.

Yet today was pretty much a complete performance. Bowling well, fielding tigerishly and then batting with a degree of elan seldom seen in our colours in this format. Sometimes we bowl well, then stumble with the bat; others we do the opposite. Today, in a game that I wrote last night would benchmark us for the season, we set a very high standard indeed.

I really don't care that Lancashire chose to omit one or two players, nor that Jos Buttler and Martin Guptill are still in India. Nor that they lost a bowler after one ball to a nasty injury, because all you can do, at any level of any sport, is to beat the team that are lined up against you. We thrashed them today, end of story.

It was a display that was highlighted by pivotal roles for our three Kiwis. Call them the Otago Musketeers, The Three Amigos or whatever, but they all did a great job today. Jimmy Neesham took two wickets and effected a run out, Hamish Rutherford (pictured) blazed away as you hope your overseas batsman will do, while Neil Broom just played a professional innings. He didn't try to match Rutherford shot for shot, simply gave him the strike and admired it from the best seat in the house. It enabled us to win at a canter, with almost six overs to spare.

Yet it was a team effort. Shiv Thakor bowled two fine Powerplay overs, while Andy Carter did as good a job as Neesham at either end of the innings. In between times, Alex Hughes bowled a fine spell in which he removed the dangerous Petersen, while Matt Critchley was quite outstanding. Until his last ball went for six, he had conceded only thirteen runs in 23 balls, thoroughly justifying his sage selection ahead of Ben Cotton. Horses for courses and the latter's turn will come, but the young leg-spinner played a major part in a youthful - and more than useful - Derbyshire attack.

It was impressively disciplined, with only three wides as extras in the innings, as the home side struggled to reach the fence. A lot of work goes into such displays, work that deserves recognition tonight.

Would we stumble in the pursuit? No, because Wes Durston came out with guns blazing and raced to 30 from 15 balls before being caught. It brought in Neil Broom, perhaps to keep the left/right combo going in the middle, and he ticked over nicely at around a run-a-ball. It was the sort of knock we cried out for someone to play last year and Broom's innings was simply workmanlike and professional, exactly what we needed.

At the other end, Rutherford hit 71 from 40 balls, as only Steven Croft kept a lid on the carnage. What will go down as my Tweet of the day came from the club, saying that you could hear a pin drop at Old Trafford as the Kiwis cantered to victory. There have been enough noisy and boorish defeats in front of Lanky-lanky-lanky-lanky Lancashire fans to make this one quite special.

The challenge now is to make this the standard. If we can do, then a summer of excitement beckons, showcased by our Triwis but underpinned by a fine effort from what is actually a really young team. Perhaps in the next game we will come crashing down to earth, or maybe we will deliver a similar display of consummate professionalism. I know no more than you, but I will savour this one tonight, a win against the reigning champions in their own back yard.

Back to the four-day stuff at Derby tomorrow, quite a contrast, I would think. 

George Formby, Gracie Fields, Kathleen Ferrier, LS Lowry, Neville Cardus, Tom Finney and Andrew Flintoff...your boys took one hell of a beating today.

Your day will come again, but tonight is a good one to be a Derbyshire fan.

Well done to all involved and for putting smiles on faces tonight that I hope are reflected in your comments later.

PS Still unbeaten...

Elvaston is first confirmed date for new book

I am very pleased to confirm that I will be appearing, under a Boundary Club promotion, with Edwin Smith at Elvaston Cricket Club on Friday, July 15.
It will be one of the launch events for my new book 'In Their Own Words: Derbyshire Cricketers in Conversation' and is one that I look forward to immensely. 

I will be chatting to Edwin, a genuine legend who took 1209 wickets for Derbyshire, about his fantastic career, talking about the new book and signing copies both of it and any last copies of my biography of Edwin that we can round up for the event. As these are now in single figures, I cannot guarantee that they will be available, but I will do my best. We are both then happy to answer questions

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

Friday, 20 May 2016

Lancashire v Derbyshire T20 preview

Scott Elstone and Matt Critchley are added to the eleven that I named last night for tomorrow's game against Lancashire at Old Trafford.

The ground often helps spinners, so there is a chance that Matt could play, but all will depend on the look of the wicket tomorrow. There will be considerable interest in the first appearance of Derbyshire's 'Otago Musketeers' in the middle order and irrespective of tomorrow's result against a traditionally strong one-day side, I expect to see improved performance and results for us in this year's competition. Whether that is enough to qualify from a perenially difficult group I don't know, but if we can keep a first-choice side fit, we could do well.

Last year we really had no contribution from the overseas role until Hamish Rutherford arrived, lost Alex Hughes and also Wayne Madsen. Any of those players could have seen games that ended up narrow defeats turned into wins. On such things fortunes change...

Our hosts have not yet got Martin Guptill, so Alviro Petersen and fellow Otago player Neil Wagner headline their side. Their squad:

Karl Brown, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft (Captain), Alex Davies (Wicketkeeper), George Edwards, Gavin Griffiths, Kyle Jarvis, Arron Lilley, Liam Livingstone, Stephen Parry, Alviro Petersen, Luke Procter, Tom Smith, Neil Wagner

Let's face it, they won the competition last year, so they must have a certain aptitude for the format. If nothing else, it will give us a good benchmark for the format and our chances in it.

Remember one thing. Last season, in one-day cricket, we beat Lancashire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, three of the best sides in the country. If we can do it once, I'd argue that we can do it again, with a stronger side this year.

Consistency will decide it, but here's to a good start tomorrow.

Your thoughts, as always, are welcome!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Time we made a decent fist of T20

Derbyshire and T20 haven't mixed in recent years. OK, in any years. Our efforts at competing each year have at times been pitiful, at others frustrating but always underwhelming.

It has not been for the want of trying. There has been a range of big name signings, most notably last year, when the Amla/Dilshan combo patently failed to work. It should have, to be fair, but the former was out of touch and the latter, sadly, some way past his prime.

This year? Well, there is a trio of Kiwis - triwis, if you will - who could just bring their nation's nous at the format to the 3aaa County Ground. While neither Hamish Rutherford or Neil Broom have been in the best of touch so far, sometimes going and giving the ball a smack is just what the doctor orders.

The arrival of their fellow countryman, Jimmy Neesham, could prove a catalyst for them and for their team. Neesham, probably the most entertaining cricketer on Twitter, comes over as a genuine personality who combines sharp wit off the field with rare ability to excite with bat and ball on it. A back injury has set him back for twelve months, but now, fully fit, he will look to use the English competition as a springboard back into the New Zealand side.

He had a good start today, making 65 from 41 balls as a Derbyshire 'Second XI' beat the Unicorns twice. There were runs for his compatriots too, as well as for Alex Hughes, while it was great to see Tom Knight back in the wickets, taking 3-19 in the second game. Ben Slater took two with his leggies, with which he will doubtless be chuffed to the power ten...

Selection is going to be challenging for the right reasons, but I would love to see something close to this side on Saturday at Old Trafford:

Hughes (C)
Hughes (A)

Seven bowlers there, with Tony Palladino given a rest as the wicket-taker in four day cricket. Good depth in batting and excellence in the field. I like the balance.

We will find out Graeme Welch's squad tomorrow.

So what are your teams?

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Essex v Derbyshire day 4

Essex 538-7

Derbyshire 280 and 261-4 (Rutherford 68, Hughes 66 not)

Match drawn

Played five, drawn five in the championship, ahead of the last game in this section of it, against Kent, starting on Sunday at the 3aaa County Ground.

There have been recurring themes - inadequate first innings, lack of penetrative bowling and then a more encouraging second innings. Again, the wicket proved to be the only winner and there was a brief wobble when we lost two quick wickets, but it never looked likely that we would be bowled out a second time, largely thanks to a fifty stand between Hamish Rutherford and Tom Taylor.

Taylor, like Ben Cotton and Tony Palladino, can bat and the days when our last three lasted the time needed for the openers to pad up again are gone. Rutherford did well and will be glad to get some runs under his belt, yet will be disappointed to be out before the end.

I remember years ago talking to a grizzled old professional from Lancashire and the subject went around various themes of batting, one of them the importance of 'cashing in'. I remember him saying to me that any batsman can get out early, even into the teens, but it is important then to capitalise on a start and make a big score. Nick Browne did that, as did Ed Joyce in the last game. Even if they have two or three low scores, they have the memory of that to draw on, like water reserves.

Chesney is doing that this year, his seventh on the staff. There have been times in the intervening period where it looked like he might not make it, but the same thing happened with Billy Godleman, Wes Durston, Wayne Madsen et al All needed several seasons to cement their game at top level, so don't you think we are being unrealistic expecting our seamers to do it in less experience than a season's worth of games?

I take points about Ben Cotton and Tom Taylor, but at their ages, the bad days outnumber the good and do for most young players.  For every Stokes and Root there are a couple of dozen others whose progress is slow. Look at James Vince, who has looked a good player in flashes for a few years, but only now, in his eighth year as a professional, is he seen as the finished article.

In the absence of bottomless pits of money and with a relatively small talent pool to draw on, Derbyshire has to produce its own and wait for them to flourish. I was told the same thing by John Wright when I interviewed him for my forthcoming book  You cannot fast track experience, match skills, mental strength and consistency. In much the same way as a girl has to kiss a lot of frogs to find her handsome prince, batsmen and bowlers alike must experience plenty of failure to enjoy and capitalise on success.

I won't join those suggesting a change of coach, as it is daft. A new coach can't fast track those things above: all he might do is perhaps capitalise on the efforts of those who preceded him. Eddie Barlow worked wonders at Derbyshire, but had the benefit of a clutch of young players, like Tony Borrington, Alan Hill, Harry Cartwright, Colin Tunnicliffe and others, who got their break under Edwin Smith.

Graeme Welch is respected in the game and I doubt we could get a better qualified coach. Yes, if we make a hash of T20 again and play poorly in the fifty-over competition, the grumbles will turn to shouts, but the young players have to learn. To suggest, as someone did the other night, that  'this is the worst Derbyshire team I have seen' only indicates the short-term support of youth. I have seen plenty worse, believe me. Some had wretched days without break, but it lessened neither my support nor my hope for something better around the corner.

The Kiwis will come good and Jimmy Neesham will be very important. We bat long and have young bowlers with good skills  for T20. I won't pretend we have excelled thus summer, but we are still unbeaten. The weather has helped in that, but Welch and his staff can only pick who they have on the staff, and can only have on the staff who and what they can afford.

If it takes another couple of years or so, such is life.

Enjoy the ride, bumpy as it is at times, then savour the end product.

It will come together.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Essex v Derbyshire day 3

Essex 538-7 

Derbyshire 280 and 150-1

Derbyshire trail by 108 runs

I don't know what Derbyshire have for their lunch, but the impression from the season so far as that it disagrees with them. Not for the first time, we collapsed in a post-lunch session, with only some lively hitting by nine, ten, jack avoiding a disaster.

As it was, one has to consider it a poor show by the county. None of the reports suggest anything untoward with the pitch, nor anything especially required by the bowlers than the somewhat basic merit of bowling straight and waiting for someone to make a mistake.

The second innings redeemed things to some extent, with Billy Godleman making an accomplished 76 and Hamish Rutherford digging in. Chesney had to retire, apparently ill, so Tom Taylor came in to see it through to the close.

Tomorrow's forecast suggests that there will be little play and so we should keep up our 100% draw record, but the collapse today was worrying. While Ravi Bopara is a useful bowler, nothing I have ever seen has suggested a bowler who should run through sides.

If things don't pick up, the calls for Messrs Slater and Hughes to earn selection will gather pace.

And rightly so.

More from me tomorrow, when I will have more time.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Essex v Derbyshire day 2

Essex 538-7 (Browne 255, Lawrence 116, Thakor 4-107)

Derbyshire 124-2 (Godleman 43, Hughes 37, Rutherford 28 not)

Derbyshire trail by 414 runs

Like old man river, Nick Browne kept rollin' along today and became the second batsman in consecutive games to score 250 from our attack. Once again it is neither a game nor a wicket that bowlers will look back on with fondness, but that has been par for the course this summer.

Again, Shiv Thakor was the pick of the bowlers and at this stage vies with Chesney Hughes as the player of the season, albeit at an early juncture. He has obviously worked hard at both his batting and bowling over the winter months and is starting to reap the rewards. Good luck to the lad, he has earned it.

There was little else to cheer today, but both Tom Taylor and Ben Cotton went for under three an over and I will take that from a young bowler on a pitch that offers little help.

That was evidenced by our reply, which progressed serenely along until perhaps a loss of concentration did for both openers, sadly at the point when they were well-set and should have been cashing in like Browne did earlier.

We need Rutherford and Madsen, the two not out batsmen, to dig in and bat long tomorrow, while runs from Neil Broom would be most welcome. Both Kiwis will be ready to welcome Jimmy Neesham, who arrived in Derby today, ahead of the T20 competition.

The forecast for day four is not especially good, so once again we can only salvage a draw from this game. Yet salvage it we must. It is all about professionalism and doing exactly the job that you are paid for.

This time tomorrow, I hope to report on a solid and efficient Derbyshire batting display.

There is absolutely no reason not to, the way this wicket has played.

Fantasy update

There's a battle royal taking place in the Peakfan Blog Fantasy League this year, with Dean Doherty at one and three with his teams, while Chris Hallam is in second and fourth place. There's all to play for, with last year's winner,  David Aust, in seventh place at present but with a lot of cricket still to go.

I was bottom of the 22 teams for some time, but have climbed to seventeenth after a ruthless purging of my side.

Paul Walters - your turn for that ruthless purge, my friend!

Thanks to everyone who joined - it is a good bit of fun and will continue to be throughout the summer.

Now to look at my selection again...

What we need, Peakfan, is...

There have been two regular themes in the messages I have had in the past two weeks. Sub-themes if you like, with the main one being 'How can we force results this year'

My answer, to be honest, would be to pour water on the wicket for an hour before the third day's play, but don't think that would work too well with the authorities, nor the groundsmen, for that matter. Mind you, it should get some results going...

Anyway, the two suggestions have been:

'We need a new Charl Langeveldt'. 

I dare say that Graeme Welch wouldn't say no, if one came on the market, but the world game - or specifically, the Kolpak-enabled world game - isn't awash with such players. Given that to claim such status players must have recently played the game at international level, be giving that up and be from Zimbabwe, South Africa or the West Indies, it doesn't leave a huge talent pool to choose from.

Only the Saffers from that short list have any bowlers and since they use so many for different forms of the game, anyone of any talent still has reasonable grounds for international inclusion. I think most will see that as a preferable option to the county grind, to be honest.

'We should have signed a quality spinner this winter'

OK. Who? There are none in England. My regular joke to Edwin Smith is that if he got his whites back out, he'd be in the top six off-spinners in England now, at 82. Even our Test off-spinner really isn't that good. I've had the names of James Tredwell and Monty Panesar suggested, neither of who are match-winning bowlers, certainly in four-day cricket.

Internationally there is a similar dearth. The Indians can't come, Pakistan don't have any stand-outs, Sri Lanka's best spinner (Herath) looks less of an athlete than me and the best West Indian (Narine) has recurring doubts over his action. Imran Tahir would probably be in-demand should he decide to come here, but I doubt South Africa would want him to do so.

Ish Sodhi of New Zealand looked a decent bowler in the World T20, but that was on helpful wickets and a career average of over 40 in first-class cricket doesn't suggest he would run through teams on this summer's tracks. 

No, they are valid questions but there is no easy answer. I hope that the 'experiment' on the toss is consigned to the scrapheap and we can have result wickets again next year. Ones that give all bowlers a chance of success and batsmen a chance to make runs if they have the technique.

If they don't they risk killing the four-day game.

Unless, of course, that is the Machiavellian intention... 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Essex v Derbyshire day 1

Essex 284-3 (Browne 154 not, Lawrence 51 not, Palladino 2-61)

When Derbyshire opted to bowl at Chelmsford today, there was an expectation that they might have some early success, on a wicket that in the past has offered first morning help. With three players in the side (Godleman, Rutherford and Palladino) and a coach who know the ground well, one could be sure it was a decision made in reasonable confidence of success.

Yet it didn't pan out that way. The indefatigable Palladino picked up two pre-lunch wickets, including the in-form Tom Westley third ball, but after that Nick Browne survived a chance to Hughes at slip and proceeded to another big innings against us.

In 2014 at Chesterfield he made 132 not out and 100 not out, then 60 at Chelmsford last year, before 'failing' with 18 at Derby . He would be interested in carrying our attack around in his cricket bag, no doubt and will resume tomorrow intent on taking his impressive average against us still higher.

Yet despite the tough day there has to be respect for the way a young attack maintained discipline. The scoring barely got above three an over all day and all the young seam bowlers continued to keep tight lines and good lengths.

The down side was the catching. I know that this is a skill that is worked upon and drilled, but the bottom line is that no matter how many 'blinders' are taken in warm ups, if they are missed when the action starts, it really counts for nothing.

On wickets where help for bowlers is far from obvious, they need support from the rest of the side when they manage to induce the loose shot. Something to work on, for sure and the old adage of 'catches win matches' has never been more apposite. We have been weak on that so far and must do better.

Still, we weren't the only side to choose bowling first, only to struggle, today. Yorkshire did the same thing at Taunton and chased leather all day as Somerset amassed 342-4.

A funny old game, cricket. We look like batting after the home side score 500 here, so let's hope we make a decent fist of it and bat as a unit, just like the home side has done.

More from me tomorrow.

Postscript: a million hits reached after a very busy couple of days on the blog! Thanks so much to all of you for your support - onwards and upwards eh?

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Million hits and new book make for exciting weekend!

It is an exciting weekend for old Peakfan.

Over the course of it, the blog will reach a million hits, something that I never considered possible when I started out. My intention at that stage was to perhaps, in starting something out of the wreckage that was the old BBC 606 site, to make contact with one or two like-minded supporters who might fancy swapping thoughts on the club's progress.

I never realised then that it would go on to be read in over forty countries and attract messages from many of them. It has been a pleasure in getting to know so many people and thank you all for your interest and support over the summers and winters. Usage is still on the rise and that is both satisfying and humbling at the same time.

I hope that many of you will be interested in my new book. My copies arrived yesterday, thanks to those wonderful people at Pitch Publishing, ahead of the book's launch on June 1. I have to say (and I will accept accusations of bias, but...) it looks terrific. They have done a great job with it and I am absolutely thrilled that it does justice to everyone who agreed to an interview with me.

What is it about? 'In Their Own Words: Derbyshire Cricketers in Conversation' is a collection of interviews with people who have been major contributors to the club's fortunes over the past seventy summers, since the end of the Second World War.

Truth be told, thanks to Walter Goodyear's extraordinary recall, the book goes back to the championship-winning side of 1936. Walter's stories, an expanded version of what was once on the blog, start the book, which continues through Edwin Smith, Harold Rhodes, Keith Mohan and Peter Eyre. Their stories of the club in the 1950s and onwards are fascinating, leading on to those who were stars in the years to follow.

Bob Taylor, Brian Jackson, Peter Gibbs, Alan Hill, Tony Borrington and Colin Tunnicliffe take the story through the 1960s through to the 1980s, before it is brought up to date by interviews with more recent heroes.

John Wright, Geoff Miller, Devon Malcolm, Kevin Dean, James Pipe, Graeme Welch, Wayne Madsen and Chris Grant bring the story right up to the present day. All were engaging company, as they answered questions that, in some cases, had been in my head for a long time.

The ideas was to create a post-war history of the club, telling how it has been from the playing perspective. There are insights of life on the road, the dressing room laughs and fall-outs, the opponents who were respected and the big days that were enjoyed. I wanted to know what got them into the game and find out more about what they have done outside it. As I listened, there were things that surprised me and really opened my eyes. My gratitude to each and every one of them is complete.

It is a chance to read about Gladwin and Jackson, the Harold Rhodes affair, the 1969 Gillette Cup semi-final and final, Lord's 1981, Dean Jones, Les Stillman and much more from the people who were at the centre of it all. I aimed to get a better understanding of key figures and events from the people who made the stories and to capture precious memories of the club and its characters for posterity. Hopefully I have done so and those who buy it enjoy their fantastic and often funny tales.

The book is published by Pitch Publishing, who have been fantastic to work with. It is priced £16.99 as a hardback and is available through Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith and all good booksellers.

I will have copies available from June 1 and am happy to send these out to you, signed and/or inscribed. I will give more information on this in due course, together with postage costs.

An early indication of interest in the latter would be useful, so I can order copies from the publisher.

I will be doing various events through the summer and will let you know all about them as soon as they are confirmed.

Enjoy your day - and good luck to The Rams this afternoon!

Friday, 13 May 2016

Great effort by the Seconds

Two T20 wins for the second team today, against Nottinghamshire at the 3aaa County Ground.

Wes Durston captained the side, which included Neil Broom and Andy Carter, but it was youngsters who largely led the way.

In the first game, we made 156-5, with Ben Slater making 57 and Scott Elstone 28 not out. The visitors, despite some big names in their side including Brendon Taylor, were 127-8, with Harry White returning the excellent figures of 2-14, as we won by 29 runs.

In the second game, Nottinghamshire made a very average 123-5, with Will Davis taking 2-26 and Andy Carter conceding only ten runs in taking one wicket in his four overs.

We breezed to victory, with Alex Hughes and Greg Cork adding an unbroken 84 runs and finishing 45 and 40 not out respectively. An eight-wicket win with three overs in hand is pretty emphatic.

Very encouraging, I am sure you will agree!

Essex v Derbyshire preview

It's goodbye experience and hello, young tyros as Derbyshire head to Chelmsford for the four-day game against Essex, that starts on Sunday.

Out go Luke Fletcher, Andy Carter and Wes Durston, while in come Tom Milnes, Ben Cotton and Tom Taylor, as Graeme Welch rings the changes for what will be a tough game.They are brave moves, indicative of the man and sensible ones to boot. None of the experienced men have torn up trees as yet, while the youngsters have accepted their place in the seconds and produced figures to say to the coach 'Pick me'. Equally, Carter and Durston will likely be in the frame for T20, so a breather now will ensure they are ready to roll.

There's no better time to be picked for a team than when you are in form and while I accept that the gulf between first and second team cricket is considerable, the young players coming in have the ability and have proven it sporadically in the past. All have had brief careers with shining moments; their challenge now is to produce those moments more frequently.

Matt Critchley also returns and I applaud Welch's encouragement and reward of good performance. Without longer exposure to senior cricket, we won't know which of these lads can make it, but like the others, Critchley returns to the side on the back of form with bat and ball.

The final make up won't be known until the morning of the game, though Chelmsford is likely to be one for the seamers. Dare we play all five, leaving spin in the hands of Chesney Hughes and Wayne Madsen, or play four and the leggie? All will be revealed in due course, but the twelve is:

Billy Godleman (Captain)
Chesney Hughes
Hamish Rutherford
Wayne Madsen
Neil Broom
Shiv Thakor
Matthew Critchley
Tom Poynton
Tom Milnes
Tony Palladino
Ben Cotton
Tom Taylor

Essex will be tough. They won't have Alastair Cook, but Tom Westley is in prime form and Nick Browne always seems to do well against us. Ravi Bopara, Ryan ten Doeschate, James Foster and (if fit) Jesse Ryder give them international experience, while Jamie Porter has joined the evergreen David Masters and Graham Napier in forming a potent seam attack.

Can we win? We need to bat and bowl much better than we have, that's for sure. Half the batsmen are in good form and half aren't. Only Tony Palladino and Shiv Thakor have taken wickets this summer at senior level, so the side as a whole needs to up their game.

It is a game against the side that I expect to win the division this summer, after years of under-performance. As such, it will be a good benchmark for our team - and a feather in the cap of the young players if they acquit themselves well.

I hope they do, but we'll do well to get something from this one.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Derbyshire v Sussex day 4

The rain came down again at Derby today, meaning we only had to bat for around a session on the final day of the game against Sussex.

We made 92-2 in that time, with Chesney adding to his season tally nicely with 58 not out. There were never any jitters, though Hamish Rutherford would have wanted some time in the middle - more than the one ball he faced, anyway.

Six points separate fourth and seventh, which we are tonight. The division has only seen four positive results in four rounds of matches, which tells its own story. I disagree with Paul, who commented the other night that if the games had played to a finish we'd have played four, lost four. This one, certainly, but no one can predict how a cricket wicket will play, nor how a day's play will do at a given point. While we have flattered to deceive at times, we are still - just - unbeaten.

Sunday will test us, as we head for Chelmsford and a match against the early leaders, Essex. Perhaps this is the year that those perennial under-achievers finally come good and we will need to raise our game by some considerable margin to compete. Essex are top because they are batting and bowling well. We are seventh because we are batting as individuals, rather than a unit, and our strike bowlers, Tony Palladino apart, haven't done well enough.

There is a strong argument for Ben Cotton to replace Andy Carter in this one, because he has been left out since Bristol and has let his figures do the talking. Today, he led the seconds to a great win over a strong Nottinghamshire side, taking 5-31 in fifteen overs, while Matt Critchley followed his innings of 83 with three wickets, as Nottinghamshire, set 306 to win, were bowled out for 195. Their side included Brendon Taylor, Sam Wood, Will Gidman and Will Root, so it was a fine effort by a young Derbyshire side. There was a wicket apiece for Alex Hughes and Tom Knight, so they can all be rightly pleased with their efforts.

It is all they can do - keep scoring runs, taking wickets and waiting for an opportunity.

It is then down to them to take it.

More from me tomorrow.

Postscript - less than two thousand views to the million mark. Crikey...never expected to get close to this, back when it all began...more on that in due course.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Derbyshire v Sussex day 3

No play today.

It was hard to believe. We had a glorious day in Scotland today and the T-shirts and shorts were de rigeur for many. Looking at the photographs of the 3aaa County Ground, it was hard to believe it was the same continent, let alone island. Still, it's usually the other way round so we will make the most of it.

It helps our cause, of course and we now have one day to bat, instead of two. Based on the first two days, we don't deserve anything from the match, but a good effort tomorrow could earn us more than looked likely.

It will be tough on Sussex, who have totally outplayed us and may yet go on to bowl us out tomorrow. The wicket may 'sweat' a little after being under the covers for a day, but it is down to the team to graft and graft some more.

I still think that we will get plenty of runs this summer, in all forms of the game. Most of the batsmen have made runs and once Neil Broom finds his form there will be good and deep runs in the line-up. The bowling must be a concern for Graeme Welch, though.

Tony Palladino and Shiv Thakor have both done all the coach could have wanted, taking wickets when conditions allowed it, bowling tight when they didn't. Wes Durston has bowled decently enough and at least gives us a spin option, but the other two seam bowling roles are far from secure. Luke Fletcher will be heading back to Trent Bridge soon, having bowled tidily, for most of the time, but without suggesting he can bowl sides out. His record suggests him a better bowler than this spell has shown, so maybe it's just a rhythm thing.

The same goes for Andy Carter. I had great expectations of the tall, genial seamer, but when I have seen him he doesn't seem as 'loose' as I have seen before. Maybe rhythm, perhaps unlucky with the early season surfaces, but his lines and lengths haven't been right, both pretty crucial for any bowler.

There are opportunities for the young brigade. Ben Cotton has gone to the seconds and bowled tight, as well as taking wickets. Greg Cork has got wickets and scored good runs. Tom Milnes seems to get two or three wickets whenever he bowls at that level. The challenge for each - and those behind them in the pecking order - is to produce those figures when they make the step up.

Tom Taylor is another who is slowly getting back to form, though prone to the 'four ball' an over that is frustrating. All of these lads have the talent.

Can they translate it to results?

It'll be worth watching...

Monday, 9 May 2016

Derbyshire v Sussex day 2

Derbyshire 191

Sussex 468-5 (Joyce 250, Wells 116, Thakor 3-59)

Sussex lead by 277 runs

If this was a boxing match, the umpires would have stopped it at tea.

Ed Joyce played a magnificent, career-best innings for the visitors, with excellent support from Luke Wells, as they added a record 310 for the second wicket. Reports suggested that the day-long sun had long dried the green from the wicket and batting turned from pre-lunch challenge into post-tea carnage.

Shiv Thakor can be extremely proud of his 3-59 in 23 overs, magnificent figures on such a day and indicative of an exemplary line and length. Tony Palladino bowled respectably and Wes Durston twirled away to finish with the wickets of the two centurions.

I'd have to say though that the figures of Luke Fletcher and Andy Carter don't bear close scrutiny. While accepting that it was not a day for bowlers, both were very expensive and it is fair comment  that supporters would wish for better figures from experienced men.

Neither has made the impact that I expected thus far and came in for fearful stick from Joyce, who took five successive fours from Fletcher and four from a Carter over.

Putting not too fine a point on it, each has to do better, or the youngsters in the wings should be given an opportunity. At least we'd get ECB payments for their appearance, even if they were no more successful. With greater experience in sport comes greater expectation and neither of the seamers has impressed as yet. I'm disappointed, I have to say and expect economy and discipline, even if the wickets are unfavourable.

Got to do better. Simple as that.

In other news, it appears that Mark Footitt is set to miss 'a considerable part' of the season with a side strain, after his move to Surrey. It is a shame for Mark, who had two seasons of constant fitness at Derbyshire, but shows again how important a contribution James Pipe and Jamie Tallent made to his game. A tailored fitness regime kept him going and bowling long spells at top pace, something that we are badly missing this season.

We'll likely lose this one, but I will be watching the players response to batting a second time, a likely 400 behind. I hope to see a much better effort and people spending time at the crease, as there would appear no excuse for them not doing.

Let's see.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Derbyshire v Sussex day one

Derbyshire 191 (Thakor 36 not, Hatchett 5-58)

Sussex 83-1 (Joyce 41 not)

Sussex trail by 108 runs

Well, we are in a hole here...

In much the same way as at Northampton, a strong and well-fought lunch position was squandered in the afternoon and by the close, we were looking down a barrel in this game.

The Twitter photograph of the wicket suggested a little green and it was always likely that the visitors would opt to bowl on it. They didn't make headway before the interval, but after Hamish Rutherford was out shortly after lunch, the middle order imploded in worrying fashion. An engine room that suggests a lot of runs and power is misfiring badly at present, which must be a frustration for Graeme Welch.

Shiv Thakor confirmed his continued progress with another fighting knock, but the rest came and went with worrying regularity and 191 all out was a disappointing first innings, even with conditions that helped the bowlers. The form of Neil Broom continues to be a cause for concern, but we must hope the Kiwi comes to terms with English wickets sooner, rather than later.

Having said all that, I applaud the production of a wicket that at least ensures a result.

Whether we play well enough collectively to be on the right side of it is another thing altogether...

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Derbyshire v Sussex preview

It was good to see Graeme Welch demanding more from the Derbyshire players ahead of the fourth championship game of the summer, starting at the 3aaa County Ground tomorrow against Sussex.

We have played steadily and batted with greater elan than has been the case for some time, but haven't really fired yet. We have three batsmen in division two's top twelve, yet have not yet achieved a match-defining first innings.

As Welch points out today, to win on the blameless tracks, you have to post 600 in the first innings, but then to bowl teams out twice you need a special bowler, the like of which we don't yet have. It is equally important to get those runs with reasonable speed, because otherwise there will be insufficient time to play with.

If the weather is kinder to the two teams for this coming match, there is every chance of a result. Neil Godrich seems to have got a better handle on pitch preparation than his counterparts at Bristol and Northampton, where they will struggle for positive results this season on early evidence. I was amazed to see Steve Rhodes commenting that the new toss idea was working this week, because it doesn't look like that to me, or many others.

We have a thirteen-man squad for tomorrow, which is the side from Northampton, plus Matt Critchley and Ben Cotton. Ben has done well with bat and ball for the seconds this week and will doubtless be the first in line when Luke Fletcher's stint with us ends. I'd be surprised if there was any change to the last game though, which most would consider a first-choice side at present. Our thirteen:

Billy Godleman (Captain)
Chesney Hughes
Hamish Rutherford
Wayne Madsen
Neil Broom
Wes Durston
Shiv Thakor
Matthew Critchley
Tom Poynton
Tony Palladino
Ben Cotton
Luke Fletcher
Andy Carter

Sussex were widely tipped to  go straight back up this year, but with Luke Wright injured and Chris Jordan at the IPL they haven't had a full-strength side yet. Both miss this game, while Ajmal Shahzad has a side strain and may also miss out.

They still have plenty of good players though and with Kiwi Ross Taylor in their ranks, the New Zealand flavour will be strong. They have a strong batting side and in Steve Magoffin have a very solid bowler. Their squad:

Danny Briggs, Ben Brown, Harry Finch, George Garton, Lewis Hatchett, Ed Joyce, Matt Machan, Steve Magoffin, Chris Nash, Ollie Robinson, Ajmal Shahzad, Ross Taylor, Luke Wells, Stuart Whittingham.

It will be a good test for Derbyshire, but would be a very good game to win. That there is talent in the side is undeniable, but we need everyone, especially the bowlers, to be closer to their very best on a wicket that should give them a little more help than those on other grounds.

If we can find another ten per cent, I will go for a home win. There are a few people with points to prove and this is a good time to start doing it.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 4

Derbyshire 324 and 229-1 (Hughes 109 not, Godleman 94)

Northamptonshire 470 (Levi 104)

Match drawn

A match that looked like it had 'draw' written all over it from the end of the second day lived up to its moniker today.

The wicket was simply too good for a finish and Billy Godleman and Chesney Hughes saw us comfortably through to a draw with a superb opening stand of 215. It was the latter's second ton of the season, in which he already has 400 runs at a trifling average of 133..

It was a fine effort, albeit with controversy when Billy Godleman refused to walk for a catch near the boundary, believing the ball hadn't carried. The fielder said he had caught it cleanly, the batsman felt he hadn't and the umpires agreed. Whether the home side and its supporters were unhappy is neither here nor there, but any batsman is entitled to stand his ground if unsure and the decision has to be made by the umpires. That is, after all, why they are paid. We have all seen and many of us taken catches we felt clean that bounced just ahead of our dive - think back to the T20 World Cup final and the 'catch' taken by Jos Buttler from Marlon Samuels.

There will doubtless be calls of Billy 'attracting controversy', but I don't buy it on this occasion.

Last week I talked about the need, on such dead wickets, for sides to play 'brave' cricket and there was another example here, where the home side failed to do so. Their decision to bat on last night left them only one slim window to win the game - making enough runs to sow seeds of doubt in our minds, then bowling us out. It appeared an unlikely scenario on such a track and, with respect, needed a better attack than they have to do so.

Had they declared on 300, or even 275, they had two chances. There was a slim likelihood of bowling us out, perhaps with quick wickets last night, or a better chance of chasing, say, 275 in 55 overs. It may not have worked either, but it gave them a better chance of a positive result.

Sides need to seek and take those chances this season, or it will go down as one of the most dull in recent memory. Look at the scores in the current round of matches and see what I mean. From a spectator perspective, last days have all the intrigue of watching a melting ice cube. If the four-day county game is to be eased out, they have found a mighty fine way of going about it. Death by boredom may yet occur...

It was good to see Andy Carter take two of the last three wickets today. He's not yet hit his stride, but I remain convinced he will. There are plenty of bowlers struggling this year and trying to make an impression at a new county is not easy in such conditions.

Still, we were professional to the end and a draw eased to is better than the scrambled efforts we have seen many times before, or the somewhat ignominious defeats.

You have to admit, the batting looks strong this year.

Sussex at home next. More from me soon.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 3

Derbyshire 324

Northamptonshire 438-7 (Libby 102, Kleinveldt 97, Levi 84 not, Duckett 60)

Northamptonshire lead by 114 runs

In a game bearing strange similarities to the recent one at Bristol, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Derbyshire could lose this game tomorrow. The home side are 114 ahead and, if they can stretch that to around 200 in the morning session tomorrow, there is a chance that they could put us under pressure in the afternoon and evening.

Having said that, it really shouldn't happen. While a cluster of wickets went down after lunch on each of the first and third days, for the rest of the time batting has appeared to be a fairly uncomplicated affair. That the late order batsmen of either side have managed to register impressive tallies tells a story and I will be very disappointed if a side that bats as long as ours appears to do is bowled out on such a surface tomorrow.

Shiv Thakor followed up his unbeaten 83 with a three-wicket burst in the afternoon, which reinforced his claim for the number seven spot on a regular basis, but also gave us a glimmer of being able to dictate the pace and course of the game. Until then, Northamptonshire had scored steadily, but rather slowly. If they don't bowl us out tomorrow they might rue their decision to bat on, as a run chase on such a wicket might have been a nice prospect for them.

As it was, Rory Kleinveldt cemented his status as a good value overseas player by adding 97 runs to his three wickets yesterday. His hitting took the game away from us too quickly, with fearsome stick being handed out to the bowlers and especially Andy Carter, who went for 24 in one over. With on-loan Jake Libby scoring a century and Richard Levi nearing one at the close, the home side barely missed their injured players.

It wasn't a day that too many of our bowlers will look back on with any fondness, Thakor apart. Mind you, there aren't many tracks that bowlers will be looking forward to this year and I suspect there may be some horrific bowling averages around the circuit. They at least stuck at it well, conceding only 17 extras to the 41 that we were gifted.

Given the opportunity, of the first and second eleven games currently going on I would sooner have been watching the twos. They have an excellent game going on against Lancashire at Crosby, in which we were bowled out for 104, before bowling out the home side for 150, Ben Cotton taking 4-46, Tom Taylor 3-33 and Tom Milnes 2-26.

By the close, we were 123-3, a lead of 77, with Jon Tattersall making 48 and Greg Cork an unbeaten 39. For me, that's proper cricket, a fair battle between bat and ball, where the technique of batsmen is tested and the bowlers get encouragement, if they are bending their backs.

Against a strong Lancashire side, the Derbyshire boys are doing well. I hope that they push on to win their game, while the first team do all they can do now and save theirs with something to spare.

Could be a long and, it has to be said, fairly dull championship summer at this rate.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 2

Derbyshire 324 (Thakor 83 not)

Northamptonshire 66-0

Derbyshire lead by 258 runs

There was a shortened day at Wantage Road today, with Derbyshire adding useful runs for the last wicket once again, before the home side posted a steady reply ahead of the forecast rain, which wiped out the rest of the day.

I sometimes have reservations about late innings rallies. Good as they are, they are usually indicative of an under-performing batting unit and at this stage it looks like we did that here. 324 is a steady first knock, but when your last man comes in and knocks it around with ease, there is a suggestion that the 'proper' men should have done better.

Still, Carter the Unstoppable Six Machine did his stuff and helped Shiv Thakor to add valuable runs. Shiv will take confidence from this effort and rightly so. The lad can play and has much to offer us in the coming seasons. He seemed to use a lot of common sense too, not really a surprise from a level-headed young man.

My concern, at this stage, is the bowling. They are not, by any standards, bad bowlers, as you can't be if playing at this level. Yet there is a sameness about our attack, which regular readers will know has been my criticism of that of the national side. Right arm over times five, at different speeds, which rather allows batsmen to line things up and enjoy themselves. Mark Footitt gave us more than lightning pace, he gave us a change of angle, which in itself can be useful. Right now our attack looks like a tidy one that may do well in one-day cricket, rather than one which will bowl sides out twice, to win a game, but we will see.

It would appear that there is every incentive for Greg Cork and Harry White to work at their games though. Their left-handedness gives them an advantage which would benefit the side - as long as it is accompanied by right lines and lengths, of course...

It will be an interesting day tomorrow, not least to see how the home side play their innings. Do they aim for 450 and the hope of putting us under pressure on the last day? Gloucestershire tried that and it didn't work at all. Or do they get to 250 or 300, then pull out and see what sort of target we are prepared to set them on the last afternoon?

I wrote last week that on this year's wickets, teams will need to be prepared to gamble to get positive outcomes. Unless something extraordinary happens with bat or ball tomorrow, the last day would appear to need a little innovation to make something happen after today's lost time.

Hopefully we are on the right side of things, but I will be happy to see an attempt at a result.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 1

Derbyshire 275-8 (Thakor 60 not, Palladino 49) v Northamptonshire

It was a curious old day at Wantage Road.

It began and ended well, yet the post-lunch session was as madcap a procession as we have become used to in recent years. 117-2 became 161-7 in the time that I took our puppy, Wallace, for a walk, each beep of the incoming tweet leaving him looking at me with what appeared increasing incredulity.

He's not used to it, of course. It was a shame, because Billy Godleman and Chesney Hughes led off in fine, aggressive style and when Billy departed, Hamish Rutherford took up the cause and looked well set at lunch, with Wayne Madsen as his partner.

Ye the middle order disintegrated with a fine spell from the tireless Rory Kleinveldt, a worthy overseas professional who just keeps bowling. At that stage it looked like 200 might be the underwhelming summit of our ambitions, but at a time of adversity you look for your players to dig deep. They did.

Shiv Thakor has disappointed with the bat since arriving from Leicestershire, though the occasional innings has hinted at the talent that appeared obvious when he played there. Here he had the opportunity to play himself in and shape an innings, to which end he applied himself splendidly. Almost three hours of application brought him an unbeaten sixty, with six boundaries, as he shared a priceless stand of 105 with Tony Palladino.

We know Tony of old. He is another who digs deep when the chips are down and has probably performed rescue acts often enough now to be considered an all rounder. Perhaps an average of fifteen doesn't substantiate that, but his big scores usually come when the runs are most needed, which will do me, his team mates and undoubtedly his coach, too.

He deserved a fifty, but fell one short and Luke Fletcher saw it through to a premature close when the light got too murky.

How good is 275-8? Well, we won't know until the home side bats tomorrow, but the best sign is that wickets can go down on the track, which will do me. A few runs more would have been nice, but it could have been considerably less.

Fingers crossed tomorrow sees our four-man seam attack 'do a Kleinveldt' - but hopefully without the late-innings heroics.

I'll see you then.

Book Review: The Good Murungu: A Cricket Tale of the Unexpected by Alan Butcher

I always liked Alan Butcher as a cricketer. He was a committed character who always gave of his best and, as such, was a player with who fans could easily identify.

After his coaching role at Surrey ended, the book reveals his struggles, but a phone call from Dave Houghton alerted him to the possibility of coaching the Zimbabwe national side. Whatever your impression of Zimbabwe's fragmented cricket and nation, it will only be heightened by this extraordinary read, which documents Butcher's three madcap years in charge.

At times it is like reading a good review on Trip Advisor, but that is far from a criticism. For the many who have never been, nor considered going to a troubled country, it highlights the beauty and the issues of that country, while giving a compelling account of why working in it can be so frustrating and difficult.

After forty years as a player and coach, little could really prepare Alan Butcher for what he encountered, including accusations of racially motivated selections and conflict with cricket bosses and selectors alike. His efforts to improve team morale and technique were not always met positively and slowly but surely, even his natural positivity was drained.

Despite it all, his tenure saw Zimbabwe's first Test win in six years, which was followed by a one-day series win, as well as victory over neighbouring South Africa in a tri-nations tournament.

It is a compelling read, one which should be essential for all cricket fans. It left me sad that a once proud and talented cricketing nation has been consigned to international also-rans, but is a book that I enjoyed from start to finish.

Well worth opening your wallet for!

The Good Murungu: A Cricket Tale of the Unexpected is written by Alan Butcher and published by Pitch Publishing. It is available from all good book shops, priced £12.99

Book review - The Girls of Summer: An Ashes Year With the England Women's Cricket Team by David Tossell

David Tossell has been writing books on a range of sports for a number of years now and this latest offering is one that fits into a 'niche' heading.

In fairness, it would be wrong to say that all cricket fans are followers of the women's game, though those who are will recognise the huge strides that have been made in recent years. Thinking back to my youth, the national side seemed to be overly reliant on Enid Bakewell and Rachael Heyhoe-Flint with little else as back up.

Today, the national women's side are fitter (though not fit enough yet, according to their coach after the recent World Cup) and with better techniques. Several players are 'names' on an international scale and some hold their own in competing with and against their male counterparts. There is respect for the women's game in most quarters and rightly so.

The author was granted access to see and talk to the team as they prepared for the Ashes, attending training and social events, as well as being in the dressing room ahead of matches.

The result is a fascinating insight into not just the games, but the participants themselves. As you work through the book, you learn the personal battles faced by players, on and off the pitch, challenges no different to those faced by all on a daily basis yet often forgotten where elite sports men and women are concerned.

The book deserves to do well and is an engaging read, as one would expect from a writer of such experience.Full marks to Pitch Publishing in seeing its potential and helping to raise the stock of the women's game still further.

Long may it continue.

The Girls of Summer: An Ashes Year With the England Women's Cricket Team is written by David Tossell and published by Pitch Publishing. It is available from all good book shops, priced £12.99

First talking point of the summer

Well, that got people restless!

The omission of Ben Slater from the Derbyshire eleven for the game at Northampton resulted in my biggest mail bag for some time. One thing I will say, straight away is that you should remember to append a name to posts, especially if being critical. I am big enough to have my face and name on here and so are other people. Please ensure that you do the same, thank you!

One point of reference for one of the more caustic comments - I am not 'in Derbyshire's pocket'  by a long stretch. That I agree with most (not all) of what happens at the club these days reassures me that all is largely well, but no one at Derbyshire ever can or will tell me what to write, as the thoughts on here have always and will always be mine alone.

With regard to the Ben Slater omission, there was always going to be a battle between him and Chesney Hughes to open with Billy Godleman and the chance that he could miss out was always 50/50, unless Hamish Rutherford opted to open and Alex Hughes or another all rounder came in. Omitting the new skipper, a man who was one of only two truly convincing four-day players last year, was never an option once he was fit.

Yes, Ben has done pretty well this year and I count myself among his biggest fans. He has come through the ranks, scored steadily and let no one down. As I said last week, however, to cement a place in the side he needs to convert good fifties into hundreds. Chesney did that at Bristol and, as the heaviest scorer of the two in the games so far, deserves his opportunity.

So should Neil Broom have been the man omitted? Not for me, because for one thing you are then swapping an opener and middle order batsman. He has just come off a winter back home where he averaged over fifty in the first-class game and over eighty in one-day cricket. Yes, he has played league cricket here, but to cite that as relevant experience for facing first-class bowling here suggests I could replace Lewis Hamilton, because I can drive.

Broom needs time in the middle and will deliver, as his record suggests. He has had just three innings in this country and needs more. He hadn't played for a month, prior to arriving here, because of an operation and omitting him at this stage would, in MY opinion, be both silly and patently unfair. By the same token, should he not discover form, as he showed last year with Tillakaratne Dilshan, Graeme Welch would be man enough to make the call to omit him, but that is some way down the line.

Moving to a new place, let alone new country and uprooting family is a big thing for anyone and Neil needs a little time, as anyone else would.  That we have players of the quality of Ben Slater, Matt Critchley, Harvey Hosein, Tom Knight, Alex Hughes and a raft of talented seamers outside the squad is testimony to what is developing at Derbyshire. Only eleven can ever play and all those on the staff will know that sustained levels of performance are the one way to guarantee a place in the side.

I have no doubt that Ben will take this on the chin, score heavily in the second team and be back in the side before too long. The only way he won't is if he doesn't do that, or if those in possession are simply doing too well to drop.

If that is the case, then I wouldn't anticipate too many complaints.