Friday, 23 June 2017

Good effort by second team aganst Yorkshire

There were good performances from some Derbyshire players in the second team game against a strong Yorkshire side this week, but nothing that one would expect to influence first team selection at this stage.

A home side that included plenty of players with first team experience, including Kohler-Cadmore, Leaning, Rhodes, Rafiq, Carver and Fisher, as well as Jon Tattersall, who trialed with us last summer, were bowled out on the first day. Rob Hemmings bowled the tidiest and took two wickets, as did sixteen-year old Hamidullah Qadri, recently offered a contract for the first time. Both Tom Milnes and Ben Cotton were more expensive, though the latter did take the wicket of Will Rhodes.

On the second day, we batted well, with a century for trialist Michael Jones, 75 from Greg Cork and 48 from Hemmings. Yet Harvey Hosein made only 20, when more were really needed to make a genuine push for senior contention in the next couple of games.

The rest of the game was a run feast, with Kohler-Cadmore the trencherman, making 230, while Leaning made an unbeaten 112.

It was good to see the likes of Qadri, Josh Lacey (son of our former spinner, Simon) and Joss Morgan, who has been scoring heavily for Ticknall, in the team.

They will all doubtless get other opportunities and we will enjoy watching their progress.

Easy friendly win for county

A side that came very close to what I called as our T20 strongest did all it could do last night and clinically disposed of a Kevin Dean XI in a friendly match.

There was no Luis Reece, after his recent illness, and no Shiv Thakor, presumably rested after what seems to have been a season-long struggle with his ankle. Nor was there any sign of Imran Tahir or Matt Henry, somewhat understandably in the circumstances, but the side had more than enough to dispose quite clinically of a decent-looking side on paper.

With Ben Slater, Dan Birch, Matt Cassar and Garry Park in the opposition, as well as Kevin Dean, there was a familiar look to the side, but Derbyshire batted well to make 195-8 in their 20 overs. Billy Godleman made 26 and Tim Maxfield sadly failed, but the latter is worth more than a game if he was deemed worthy of a trial in the first place.

Tom Wood hit 54, as did Wayne Madsen, while late impetus came from Alex Hughes, who hit 29 from 12 balls. Ben Slater will have been pleased with the wickets of Gary Wilson and Matt Critchley and the total looked quite competitive.

It was even more so when Hardus Viljoen and Wayne Madsen took two wickets each when opening the bowling, the rest of them being shared equally between Critchley and Hughes, who took three wickets each for just nineteen and thirteen runs respectively as the opposition were all out for 91 runs.

They will face tougher opposition in the weeks ahead, but there were good indicators in the tactics, with Madsen's opening overs often effective, presumably opposite Viljoen's pace. Matt Henry and Imran Tahir will handle the middle overs, with Critchley, Thakor and Hughes there as required. With Maxfield and Reece also possibilities, Gary Wilson will not lack options out on the pitch.

More from me later.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Interesting name in friendly eleven

The name of Tim Maxfield (pictured) may not mean much to many local cricket fans, but the Staffordshire batsman, who can bowl useful medium pace, has a place in the Derbyshire eleven for the game against a Kevin Dean XI at Alvaston and Boulton tomorrow night.

One assumes it is a trial for a player who has earned a reputation as a hard-hitting and fast-scoring batsman in Staffordshire cricket. He will be well known to Kim Barnett and has some impressive performances to his name.

Playing for Walsall in a T20 match, he hit a remarkable 157 from 59 balls a couple of years back, while this summer he has impressed for Staffordshire in all forms of the game.

A left handed batsman, Maxfield also bowls left arm medium pace and has taken 5-25 and 4-18 in his last two one-day outings for Staffordshire, while also scoring an unbeaten 83 against Herefordshire, with nine fours and five sixes.

He normally bats at three and, at 26, has also played for the Unicorns.

Worth keeping an eye on...

Gary Wilson appointed T20 skipper

The appointment of Gary Wilson by Derbyshire as T20 skipper is one that makes eminent sense. The kind of decision that one might expect from John Wright, in fact.

I'd mentally pinned it down to either Gary or Alex Hughes, who did a sterling job last summer with limited opportunities. My own preference would be to see Alex made vice-captain, where his enthusiasm, commitment and cricket brain will be a good asset. This competition is his forte and I can see him as a future county skipper, but he now has an excellent learning opportunity.

Gary Wilson has proved a great success since his move from Surrey last winter. He is articulate, affable and intelligent, playing his cricket in an aggressive and bullish manner that bodes well. Having skippered Surrey to a semi-final in his time there, and having played the game at international standard, he knows the way to success.

I don't think he will keep wicket, as that would be asking a lot of him. Besides, in Daryn Smit we have an excellent keeper who has crucially kept to Imran Tahir on many occasions and can doubtless read his many variations. It is, however, an option, if the balance of the side needs tweaked.

I strongly feel, however, that the route to our improved fortunes lies in two things.

The first is luck with injuries and fitness. If we can field an attack of Imran Tahir, Matt Henry, Hardus Viljoen and maybe Will Davis, along with a combo of Shiv Thakor, Matt Critchley and Ben Cotton, we should win some matches. Yet if a couple of the first four names are injured we are back to square one.

The second is in thinking outside of the box in the batting. Gary apparently mentioned yesterday a line up that included Billy Godleman, and I don't think this is his competition. I have complete respect for Billy as a cricketer, captain and man, but like some other very good cricketers - Chris Rogers, Simon Katich and, in his earlier years, Usman Khawaja among them - he has struggled in this format.

I could easily name eight of a first choice T20 side, assuming fitness, but the other three names will make the difference in winning more games and escaping the group.

I'd have Matt Critchley as one, a bowler who did well last year and proved in the RLODC that he can hit a long ball, then either Luis Reece or Tom Wood to open.

And I can't get away from the need for someone else to bat with them, take advantage of the Power play and give us a good chance of a start. Unless, throwing in a curve ball, we try Alex or Matt Critchley at the top as a pinch hitter. Until last year, when time caught up with him, Wes Durston did that job so well and could bowl a few overs too.

A pipe dream maybe, but without it, even with Wright's nous and Wilson's captaincy, I expect us to challenge for top four, but ultimately just miss out on the knock out stage in what is always a strong group.

My side:

Wood/Reece (or Wood and Reece)
?
Thakor
Madsen
Wilson
Hughes
Smit
Critchley
Henry
Viljoen
Tahir

Thoughts?

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Just a thought...Kyle Coetzer for T20 anyone?

It has been good and encouraging to read John Wright's bullish comments this week, ahead of the T20, which approaches fast.

No doubt the Derbyshire players will be working hard on their skills in the coming weeks and I think that the format may - injuries permitting - suit us this summer. An attack of Tahir, Thakor, Viljoen, Henry and one other looks promising, though the current absence of two of these from the Derbyshire attack is a concern. As we have already seen, the well is a little more dry below these, though Matt Critchley and Ben Cotton have proved their ability in this format in previous summers.

My concern - and that of a few others, I think - is the absence of a top order 'biffer'. Someone who can get us off to a flyer and make the job of those to follow a little easier. I agree with John Wright's assertion that the opposition win few games from being 30-4 after the Powerplay, but on the days when the wicket is a belter, we need someone who can set a platform in those crucial first six overs.

Looking at the current staff, perhaps the best-placed to do that might be Tom Wood, but it is asking a lot of a relatively unknown youngster to come in and be the star of the show. In an ideal world, a more experienced man alongside him might be ideal.

Just a thought, but what about Kyle Coetzer?

The former Northamptonshire and Durham man (pictured), at 33, is in the form of his life for Scotland, coming off the back of a successful stint in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz in the winter. There he partnered Tillakaratne Dilshan and often outscored him, making a 35-ball 63 in the competition final, including 7 sixes. Throughout the tournament, against international bowlers, he scored at a rate well over a hundred, often much higher. Earlier in the competition, making 87 from 57 balls against an attack containing Yasir Arafat, Dwayne Smith and Marlon Samuels, he shared a stand of 120 in ten overs with England's Chris Jordan.

This summer he scored 118 from 84 balls as Scotland beat Sri Lanka in a pre-Champions Trophy game, while in recent days he scored 112 against Namibia, then 109 against Zimbabwe, each at better than a run-a-ball. He also scored 156 off Bangladesh in the 2015 World Cup and, as I write, has an unbeaten 50 from 45 balls today, against Zimbabwe again.

A county average over 30 confirms he could handle the level and, as we did when signing Wes Durston a few years back, there is little better than picking up someone when they are in prime form.

 I'm not claiming that he is better than, say, Martin Guptill would be, but would be more affordable and might be available, depending on his Scottish commitments, where he is captain and doing very well. I accept that Zimbabwe's attack isn't the best in the international game, but you still have to make the runs and he is getting them, quickly, in large quantities.

I am more than happy to promote players from our current staff, but after years of under-achievement in this format, might an experienced, in-form player not perhaps make a difference?  I would be very surprised if a county out there didn't think Coetzer was worthy of a short-term deal.

As always, I like to create talking points here on the blog and would welcome your thoughts...

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Dame Fortune

The greatest of cricket commentators, Richie Benaud, once said that captaincy was 'Ninety per cent luck and ten per cent skill - but don't try it without that ten per cent'.

You could, by extension, say that success in cricket as a whole needs ten per cent of luck at various times.

Take Derbyshire this summer. We were all set for a fun-packed season, in which our gun fast bowler cut down opposition batsmen in swathes, only to find he turns up with an injury, which effectively ruled him out of things until the end of June. To compound this, our other fast bowler, Will Davis, after a couple of sparkling displays, picks up a side injury and is ruled out for a similar period.

Luck with injuries, tosses, the absence of star players from the opposition due to international call ups, catches that you just make by the finger tips, rather than going to ground by similar margins, getting the right blend in the dressing room, winning tosses in wet conditions - they all play a part. However well Leicester City played to win the Premier League, they had few injuries and were able to play a settled side, while the 'big guns' all had seasons where they had to rebuild, or struggled to do the same.

It has been challenging for Billy Godleman and Kim Barnett this year, without doubt and had that ten per cent gone their way, I suspect that supporters would be a little more content than they are right now. By the same token, there have been a few situations when the requisite intensity wasn't there, while it is probably safe to say that our young seamers haven't all progressed as we would have wished. Had they done so, the loss of Viljoen and Davis would not have been so keenly felt.

On the subject of good fortune, I feel a little for Harvey Hosein today. He has done little wrong in the seconds and has scored steadily, if not spectacularly. At the same time, Daryn Smit has kept wicket nigh-flawlessly, having taken over from Gary Wilson when he went first to international commitments and then returned with a knee injury.

Yesterday, Harvey scored an unbeaten century for the second team against Worcestershire and, were there a game this weekend, may have played himself into it, especially when Smit himself sustained an injury in the final innings against Northamptonshire.

Yet there is no game for the senior side for another eleven days. Between times, Smit will likely get fit and Harvey can only press his claims by scoring runs and keeping well in next week's scheduled game against a likely strong Yorkshire second team. By the same token, he then only has the game at Cardiff, followed by the Chesterfield cricket week, before the T20 starts, not currently his game.

As things stand, his route into the side appears most likely either as being deemed a better wicket-keeper batsman than Daryn Smit, or a more in-form batsman than Alex Hughes, ironically the two batsmen who came out of the Wantage Road defeat with their reputations intact.

See what I mean about luck?

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Welcome (back) John Wright

Hello Mr Wright. We've been expecting you...

The arrival of John Wright back on English and Derbyshire soil has come at the right time and will doubtless give everyone associated with the club a much-needed boost.

Besides being one of the most approachable men in the game, he is also one of the most successful. He played a key role in what was probably the best Derbyshire side that I have seen, while also becoming a highly respected opening batsman for his native New Zealand.

For those who didn't see him, John was a no-frills batsman, with the best 'leave' outside off stump that I have seen. Yet he had the shots too, sometimes unfurling them all and at others, aware of the percentage nature of some on certain wickets, he played the 'business shots' that would tick his score along and preserve his wicket, saving the drives for days when expansive strokes paid off.

There were two reason that supporters warmed to him. One was a genial nature that saw him prepared to chat to everyone. The other was his willingness to dig in and graft when conditions were not in his favour. The game is and always has been full of players who average 35-40 a summer by making big scores on shirt front wickets, but John got a lot of runs when the die were heavily loaded in favour of the bowlers.

His innings at Chesterfield against the West Indians of 1980 was one of the bravest that those who saw it will ever witness. He fell just short of a thoroughly deserved century where the ball flew from a bouncy track and the visitors attack were all out to impress and enjoy themselves. He ended the innings black and blue, but it was one of those occasions when people might have been forgiving had he failed. From the boundary edge it was like watching a boxing match where the referee was never going to step in and stop it, yet he gritted his teeth and gritted it out, becoming the stuff of legend in doing so.

He was one of our all-time greats, then became a revered coach, first with Kent in the county championship, then with his beloved New Zealand, where he oversaw a successful period in which they beat Australia in a series for the first time. Then he became the first non-Indian coach of their national side and fashioned a talented bunch of individuals into a team, perhaps for the first time. He did it by ensuring that each knew their role and how they could contribute to a winning cause, explained in greater detail in my most recent book 'In Their Own Words: Derbyshire Cricketers in Conversation'. Available from all good book shops and me, but you know that...

He then went on to coach Mumbai to winning the IPL and has subsequently acted as a talent-spotter for them, most notably seeing the potential in the young Jasprit Bumrah, who holds himself 'eternally in John Wright's debt' for giving him an opportunity and seeing possibilities that others were failing to see.

Few would complain if he spotted a similar diamond in local cricket ahead of the T20, but no one can doubt his credentials, nor the considerable coup, by Kim Barnett, that bringing him to these shores represents. He is at a time of his career where he doesn't need full-time coaching and the burdens that it brings, but his presence over this summer's T20 gives the current coaching staff and players an opportunity to learn from one of the greats, a man with a proven CV that brooks no argument.

It is no guarantee of success, of course, but offers us more than we have had, which we would all gladly take. Every season we approach the T20 in a similar manner to the impending visit of a friend and their poorly behaved children. It starts with smiles and nice words, then gradually dissipates before the end, when everyone looks at one another and says 'thank goodness that is over' as they drive away in the car.

Success for John Wright will be in turning raw materials into a team. The talent is there, but it needs someone to bring it out and sustain it over a sprawling tournament. We have proven before that we can beat good teams, but lose to poor ones with equal alacrity. There have been more false dawns than a Tony Orlando tribute night in Derbyshire T20 cricket and no one can fault the effort put in to getting it right. We have had hard-hitting batsman, talented all-rounders, quality death bowlers and, sadly, way too many under-achievers. Two talented players will improve your side, but they will rarely beat an eleven that plays as a team.

This year we have the world's best bowler in the format and an IPL regular, in Imran Tahir and Matt Henry. It strengthens our weaker suit, but we'd all still be happier if there was a means of a top order 'blaster' too. Yet teams SHOULD struggle against those two, Hardus Viljoen and Shiv Thakor, assuming the latter are fit to bowl. The question then is if we might struggle more, as our batting line-up looks short of 'oomph' at the top, unless Tom Wood becomes the find of the season or the coach has brought Brendan McCullum in his hand luggage.

I wish John well, as I am sure you all do. There are apparently stages of this competition called quarter-finals and then a 'finals day', though we have got closer to the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow than either of them before. Last season we were within touching distance...this year?

If John Wright can get us to either of them, he will cement his place in county folklore and in the hearts of supporters.

Go well John.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Farewell (and thanks) to Conor McKerr

It was sad to see the departure announced today of Connor McKerr, a day after he entered the county record books for being the youngest player to take ten wickets in a match for us.

It would be lovely to see him back again on loan, perhaps next season, but there's a good old trivia question in there along the lines of 'which Derbyshire player took ten wickets in a match and never played for the county again'.

I understand Surrey recalling a player in fine form, but unless they have serious injury issues, I am unsure how Conor will leapfrog Messrs Curran (times two), Footitt, Rampaul, Dernbach and Meaker. That's two sides worth of seamers and a luxury that few could afford, certainly not us.

As Kim Barnett said today, the expectation is that Hardus Viljoen and Will Davis will be fit for the Glamorgan game and add a more penetrative edge to the bowling, as of course will Imran Tahir. I hope so, as I am sure you do.

I see a big future for McKerr, however and Derbyshire's role in his development will not be forgotten. He has now gone from a talented young man who has taken age group international wickets to a seamer who has proven he can get men out at first-class level. Psychologically that is a big step and he will doubtless kick on as a result of it. How Surrey keep seven seamers happy is a problem that they will have to deal with.

The two-week break will let a few pulled muscles and bruised bones be restored to fitness,
not to mention a few bruised egos and consciences. There were walking wounded by the end of the Northamptonshire match and were there another game in the next few days, a few players may have been struggling. Thankfully there is time to restore body and mind and a better team will take the field at Cardiff.

Hopefully the virus that attacked Luis Reece's heart is not a long or even medium-term thing, as he is a worthy cricketer who has done pretty well this year. There are things to build on, but there is potential in a man who can both bat and bowl.

Two final points, one of them county-related. I overlooked the signing of Hamidullah Qadri's first professional contract. I have heard a lot of good things about this young man, who is a genuine all-rounder, bowling off-spin. He has time on his side and there is a large gap in a Derbyshire eleven for such a player.

I wish him well and look forward to his continued development. Should he make the first team, which seems inevitable, he will be the first Afghan-origin player to represent the county and quite possibly play the county game. That's one that I will leave to the statisticians...

Finally, what on earth happened to South Africa yesterday? They always seem to blow it at big tournaments and a much-vaunted batting line-up flopped badly and were as disappointing as our own side, probably more so.

It amply illustrated, of course, that collapses can happen to any side at any level. If Amla, de Kock, Du Plessis, de Villiers and Miller can come and go with poor shot selection and reckless running, what chance have the rest got?

By the same token, I love the variety in the Indian attack and think their opening bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, are seriously talented players. Throw in talented spinners in Jadeja and Ashwin and they are a match for any side.

An England v India final looks likely and that will be well worth anyone's money.

More from me soon.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 3

Northamptonshire 218 and 277 (McKerr 5-54, Palladino 3-60)

Derbyshire 176 and 191 (Taylor 69, Smit 29 not)

Northamptonshire won by 128 runs

So, after less than three days of a four-day game, another anaemic batting performance by Derbyshire saw them subside, without too much fuss, to a sizeable and hugely disappointing defeat.

It would be easy, in the aftermath of such a defeat to demand changes, and doubtless there will be those who say just that, but the reality is that this was one of those poor performances that have for a long time frustrated supporters, just at the point when light can be seen at the end of the tunnel.

We don't play any more cricket until June 26 at Cardiff, which gives everyone time to think, work and regroup. By that stage we will have Viljoen, Davis and Tahir in the attack and it should make us more competitive as a result.

I'd love to see us retain Conor McKerr until season end, because he is a player of real quality. Ten wickets in only his second first-class match is a remarkable effort in a 19-year old and he is the youngest-ever player to take ten in a match for the county.

Retaining him would be better for his development than playing in Surrey seconds, while enabling Derbyshire to rest the returning quicks as required. Watching his action, his wickets and his attitude it is very easy to see why he was so highly-rated in South Africa. The lad likes to bowl and, according to Billy Godleman, keeps asking to bowl. No captain can ask for more from an opening bowler.

He produced the type of spell this morning that I suggested we needed last night, but the top order was blown away by another fine opening bowler, Ben Sanderson, who fully illustrated the virtues of a late developer. Aside from Alex Hughes (again) only Daryn Smit, Tom Taylor and McKerr prevented the game's denouement from being embarrassing.

If we were playing another game on Friday, you might look at the batting and changes, but I don't know how you could genuinely guarantee improvement. Ben Slater might then have come in for Luis Reece, while he was restored to full health (and let's not forget the game may have been much closer but for batting ten men in each innings) but who else?

Thakor, Godleman, Madsen and Wilson are all established first team players and have previously been in decent or very good form. Alex Hughes and Daryn Smit, the two who have previously been the most short of runs, were the only batsmen to resist here, though mention should be made of another good batting effort from Tom Taylor, who is developing into far more than a tail-ender.

Every team has its good days, just as they all have their bad. We seem to have a few too many of the latter for comfort, but I still look at the overall picture and see progress, albeit of the two step forward, one back variety. Or is it the other way around?

To close on a brighter note, I guarantee we won't lose in the next fortnight.

And I still have no idea why we opened twice with Jeevan Mendis...

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 2

Northamptonshire 218 and 247-4 (Newton 108, Wakely 79)

Derbyshire  176 (Hughes 62 not)

Northamptonshire lead by 289 runs

Barring a first session spell akin to the one produced by Tom Taylor at Trent Bridge last week, Derbyshire are facing a massive task to save this game.

Nearly 300 behind with two days to go, something special needs done in the second  innings. If more players channel the resolve of Alex Hughes, who resisted for three hours, we might take the game into the fourth day, but we need to do much better than the first knock.

Late wickets for Tony Palladino and Conor McKerr made the scoreboard look closer than it was for much of the day, but we are well behind in this one and need a comeback akin to those produced by Bangladesh and England in recent days.

The absence of Shiv Thakor from the attack has been noted, while Luis Reece's absence from the eleven may yet extend to the full match.

More important is that he soon return to full health and, like all of you, I wish him well.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire day 1

Northamptonshire 218 (Newton 67, McKerr 5-87)

Derbyshire 153-6 (Hughes 50 not)

Derbyshire trail by 65 runs

There are one or two critics of the lad at times, but Alex Hughes is one of those players who normally saves his best efforts for when they are most needed.

At 200-3 he will likely go in, slap it around a bit and get out for a breezy cameo, but at 50-3 he will get his head down and grit it out with the best of them. He did that today and we must hope for more tomorrow and a tail that gets us to at least parity in this game. Unless rain intervenes dramatically, a positive result is almost certain, after sixteen wickets fell on the first day.

Conor McKerr again did splendidly for five wickets and was well supported by Tony Palladino in particular, but the feeling was always there for me that we might struggle, if we had bowled out a good batting side so quickly with what is essentially our reserve attack.

So it proved and a keen home bowling unit nicked wickets out here and there. The absence of Luis Reece was worrying and I am sure we all wish the all rounder well, after he was taken to hospital and detained overnight, after complaining of breathing issues when bowling.

The medical diagnosis will dictate whether he can bat tomorrow, or play a part in the remainder of the game. I was astonished when, in his absence, Jeevan Mendis took on the role of stopgap opener. Against an older ball and tiring bowlers, I could see scenarios where the Sri Lankan might get runs in English conditions. Not against a new ball though and my choice would have been to get Alex Hughes or Tom Taylor to do it. The former has the technique, while Taylor has a dogged attitude that enabled us to get closer to the home score this evening than first looked likely. Neither could have done worse than Mendis, who approaches most innings with the restraint of Shahid Afridi. When it comes off, I am sure it is memorable, but other times, I suspect less so...

We need more from Hughes and Taylor tomorrow and an extension of their crucial 45-run stand, then the tail needs to wag as it did at Trent Bridge last week.

If it does, we will have a real game on our hands...

Postscript: a friend messaged me today and said that Chesney Hughes would get 23, before giving it away.

He wasn't far wide of the mark and his dismissal, on 20, was apparently weak.

An immense talent, is Chesney, but a mighty frustrating one. I still wish him well, but hitting it straight into the air second time around would suit me fine...

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire preview

I think it unlikely, after a positive effort that deserved to win the game against Nottinghamshire, that there will be any change in the Derbyshire eleven to play at Wantage Road over the coming days.

I am a big believer in sticking with what works and although we have named a squad of thirteen, it looks likely that Ben Slater and Rob Hemmings will split the drinks-carrying. That squad:

Billy Godleman
Luis Reece
Ben Slater
Shiv Thakor
Wayne Madsen
Daryn Smit
Jeevan Mendis
Alex Hughes
Gary Wilson
Tom Taylor
Rob Hemmings
Tony Palladino
Conor McKerr

As for the home side, who chased a target down on the last afternoon at Derby earlier in the season, they replace the injured Richard Levi with our own Chesney Hughes, who will doubtless be out to prove a point. They are big shoes to fill though and Levi is a key part of this side, but Rory Kleinveldt is back and they will be a tough nut to crack. Their squad:

Azharullah, Buck, Crook, Cobb, Gleeson, Holden, Hughes, Keogh, Kleinveldt, Newton, Sanderson, Wakely.

Derbyshire will be encouraged by the display at Trent Bridge and have the talent to win, but they will need to match the home side's excellent seam attack to do so. Kleinveldt, Sanderson, Buck and Gleeson are good bowlers and our long batting line-up will need to be at its best to get runs on the board.

The likelihood is we will bowl first after recent rain, so let's see how things pan out later today!

In closing, warm congratulations to Alfie Gleadall, who has a two-year deal on the Derbyshire staff. I have heard good things about him and the potential is there for a bowler of genuine pace, never a bad thing.

If he works hard and listens to the right people, we could be on to a good 'un there. At seventeen he has time on his side and is one to watch.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Fantasy update

Less than five hundred points separate Clive Whitmore, who leads the Peakfan Blog Fantasy Cricket League, from Dean Doherty and Gary Cunningham, who form the chasing pack at this stage.

David Aust, a regular winner in recent summers, is in fourth place a little way back, but still ready to make a charge in the second half of the season.

As am I, currently in 24th spot of a record 25 team league. Recent events have meant I had yet to make a change to my season-starting line-up, but have now got a stellar line-up of in-form players.

Which means, of course, that they will soon be out of nick and missing straight ones...

Thanks to all those participating!

Reasons to be cheerful?

It is funny how big a difference four days makes.

Before the match at Trent Bridge, Derbyshire supporters were resigned to a bit part in a match that seemed set to be the latest in Nottinghamshire's march to promotion glory.

The likelihood is that they will go up as champions, but the reality is that, shorn of their best bowlers, they aren't any better than us. Let's face it, a batting side strong enough to omit a former international captain should have put them out of sight, against a bowling unit led by a young lad of 22 and a nineteen-year old debutant.

Yet they didn't. Tom Taylor and Conor McKerr bowled splendidly and with hostility, backed up by the veteran Tony Palladino and Jeevan Mendis. Their performances enabled Shiv Thakor and Luis Reece to play only bit parts with the ball, crucial when they both bat in the top three.

The captain's innings enabled us to dictate the game and he has flourished in our northern setting. His second innings took him past five hundred runs in the championship, and he and vice-captain Gary Wilson are leading from the front with the bat. Both average over 60 and we can ask little more of either than they are giving.

It's funny, we signed Wilson as a wicket-keeper batsman and Daryn Smit as a batsman and in a roundabout way it has worked. The former has flourished with the bat and is playing as a batting specialist, while Smit's wicket-keeping has been of a world-class standard. Having watched him bat a few times, I remain convinced that the runs to cement his position are not too far away, but his glove work has set a high standard in the field, the number one requirement of anyone in the role.

We haven't yet seen vintage Wayne Madsen and a season average of 30 at this stage is less than normal, yet his batting at Trent Bridge suggested the big innings is not too far away and he remains a joy to watch. His second innings dismissal was to the crudest shot I have seen him play, but the sight of him walking in to bat remains as reassuring a sight as any county supporter could wish for. Distractions of a testimonial year aside, I would still back him to be around the thousand-run mark by the end of the summer.

It is also worth mentioning Jeevan Mendis as his stint with us nears its end. His career batting average suggests him a better batsman than his stint with us has shown, though his preference to 'bat like Afridi' and play his expansive leg side shots with only one hand on the bat haven't helped.

Yet it is some time since a Derbyshire spinner had 24 wickets before the end of the first week in June and the charm of watching a quality leg-spinner remains intact. He isn't as good as Imran Tahir, but few are and he has let no one down on wickets not generally favourable to his kind. And has done it all with a smile that has barely left his face since he got here.

We have the Northamptonshire game this weekend, then have a break of two weeks before the Glamorgan fixture, when the players will doubtless be honing their T20 skills. A two-week break as we approach the longest day of the year is something that still baffles me, but is sadly the way that the game is going.

By the time we head to Cardiff, our bowling ranks should be enhanced by Tahir, Viljoen and Davis. If they stay fit, the second half of the summer should be more rewarding than the first.

Reasons to be cheerful?

Plenty, I reckon.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire day 4

Nottinghamshire 229 and 349 (Taylor

Derbyshire 363 and 190-5 (Madsen 61, Wilson 31 not)

Match drawn

The wait for a first championship win since 2015 goes on, but if Derbyshire can reproduce this level of commitment for the remainder of the four-day campaign it will not be long coming.

As last night's post said, the forecast virtually ruled out any prospect of a win, but we came very close and to use the words of erstwhile heavyweight boxer Tony Galento, had the weather stayed out of it we would have 'moidered da bums'.

This was, beyond doubt, a performance that made you proud to be a Derbyshire fan. Logic suggests we should come nowhere near beating the likes of Nottinghamshire, a side of considerable international experience, even in the absence of some internationals. Then again, logic should have seen us doing better in other games this summer, ones that we ended up losing.

The real Derbyshire is probably somewhere in between, but there are plenty of positives to take from this game, one in which every player made a contribution. While there were a couple of ungainly heaves towards the end, the run chase was conducted with a degree of elan and I have no doubt that Gary Wilson, Jeevan Mendis and Daryn Smit would have steered us to the win, but for the rain and bad light.

A mention in passing for Tom Taylor, whose fine spell today was the culmination of a match in which his rhythm was right and his bowling was coming back to that of the bowler who was selected for England training not too long ago.

With Conor McKerr, he looked to form a decent opening pairing, one better than their respective novitiate status warrants.

It was a pleasure to watch it through the Nottinghamshire live stream and, if we haven't quite got across the line to claim bragging rights, even the most ardent of home fans would struggle to suggest anything other than they got away with it today.

A great effort from our boys.

Now let's keep the bandwagon rolling.

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire day 3

It is a shame that the weather looks set to prevent a positive finish at Trent Bridge as a great finish was in store.

The home side fought back well yesterday but post lunch wickets kept us in the game.

Jeevan Mendis bowled some good balls and quick wickets today would offer a great chance of a shock win.

It doesn't look likely as things stand though.

More from me later.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire day 2

Nottinghamshire 229 and 67-2 

Derbyshire 363 (Godleman 121, Madsen 56)

Nottinghamshire trail by 67 runs

Irrespective of what happens for the rest of this game, and there are some very good batsmen standing between us and a run chase we would fancy to win, Derbyshire's players have restored pride in the club and impressed everyone with their attitude.

It remains a wicket where the bowlers have encouragement and for us to win we need to take opportunities, just as Daryn Smit did this evening. One catch, to remove Libby, was impressive. The other, to dismiss Pujara, was simply stunning. Such athleticism and sure-handedness needs to be replicated across the team tomorrow, because the forecast for Monday suggests not too much cricket.

Earlier the innings was held together by a masterful century from Billy Godleman, his third of the four-day season. You don't get to the end of a long innings by the skipper having admired the stroke play, but you always respect his commitment and ability to make the most of his game. He did so again today, playing plenty of trademark shots off his hip and getting his cut shot going well. He was well supported by Wayne Madsen, who hardly looked in trouble before being dismissed.

I wasn't at all impressed by the West Indian umpire, who seemed incapable of making a clear decision, something on which the home side attempted to capitalise with some silly appealing that verged on intimidation. The decision against Gary Wilson seemed contentious and the Derbyshire player looked bemused at the dismissal, the home side seemingly hedging their bets on what they were actually appealing for, the batsman unconvinced that he had hit the ball.

Daryn Smit overcame a nervy start and was looking good when he achieved the rare feat of being lbw and late cutting a four to the same ball, while late resistance from the tail took the Derbyshire lead from useful to challenging. I still don't see how Jeevan Mendis has scored big hundreds in Sri Lanka, but his bowling tomorrow could be a match-winner.

Whatever else, there is reason to be proud after the effort of the first two days.

The task for tomorrow is to finish things off.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire day 1

Nottinghamshire 229 (Mullaney 76, Palladino 4-44, McKerr 2-53, Taylor 2-58)

Derbyshire 52-2 (Godleman 18 not)

Derbyshire trail by 177 runs

Today, blessed by the first real spare time I have had in a month, I was able to watch a fair bit of the excellent live stream from Trent Bridge of today's game. Those pitching it as David v Goliath came close to witnessing a similar outcome, on a day that must be our best of the season, at least in the four-day game, so far.

That we bowled out our illustrious neighbours in around two sessions of play was most impressive and tribute to a largely more disciplined bowling display. Tony Palladino took most of the plaudits with four wickets, but there was good support from the new ball pairing of Conor McKerr and Tom Taylor.

I thought both did well before lunch, before rather losing their way in the period after it. There is a good bowler in Taylor and he bowled some really good - and at times hostile - stuff today. It was again liberally scattered with stuff that I'd have fancied hitting for four, but once he can lessen this flaw in his game he could make it. There's a greater rhythm to his bowling than when I saw him earlier in the summer and I hope he can build on this effort.

As for the debutant McKerr, I was impressed. He uses his height, which at 6'6" you would hope for and bowls good lines. There was a time or two that I thought he could have slipped in a bouncer, just to keep the batsmen on their toes, but he had a good batting side hurrying their shots, always the mark of a slippery bowler.

At 19 his potential is considerable and, based on today's effort, he could do worse than playing with us for the remainder of the summer. With the Curran brothers, Mark Footitt, Ravi Rampaul, Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker ahead of him, his chances of playing in their first team this year - or next - are likely just a little better than mine. Even if Hardus Viljoen and Will Davis are fit at the end of this month, I think it unlikely that they can play all the cricket from then to the end of the summer.

It was nice to see us having a genuine quick in the attack and he will only get faster and better as he fills out. Quite a talent, Mr McKerr.

The catching was good and Daryn Smit was again impeccable with the gloves, while Billy Godleman skippered the side well, correctly bringing on the leggie to draw things to a close, when too often we have been frustrated by tenth wicket stands.

Luis Reece and the skipper looked solid in reply, before the lively Wood had Reece caught, then Shiv Thakor looked to be taking things to the close, before assaying a somewhat unnecessary shot from the bowling of Hutton, being well held by Samit Patel from the day's final ball.

Derbyshire's day, beyond doubt, but the onus now lies on the batting to build on a good effort from a much maligned attack.

Today they did well and deserve praise accordingly.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Loan signing tells a story for Derbyshire

I am thrilled to announce that after four weeks in hospital and just over a week since eight-hour heart surgery after a heart attack, my wife, Sylvia, came home today.

There is a journey ahead to get back to full fitness, but the surgeons have done a wonderful job and have pronounced themselves 'delighted' with the outcome. We are equally thrilled and I can only say that your good wishes and prayers have helped considerably over the past few weeks.

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Thanks also to all of you who have kept the blog going with guest pieces and with comments, all of which have been appreciated. Normal service should soon be resumed, now I have regained five or six hours of visiting and travel time that was a part of each day.

My thanks have been extended personally to the wonderful cardiac team at the Golden Jubilee Hotel in Clydebank, but I am happy to repeat them here.

On to cricket matters and the signing of Conor McKerr tells a disappointing story from a county perspective. With bowling places very much up for grabs, no one has yet put their hand up to say that they can be a regular member of this side, in the absence of Hardus Viljoen and  Will Davis.

Those two bowlers need to get fit and, in the case of our terrific young prospect Davis, he needs to get his body to a level of fitness where he can bowl quick on a regular basis. That can take to the mid-twenties for some, as their bodies fill out and the musculature for such an arduous task becomes defined. Time will tell if Davis becomes the real deal or perhaps another Alan Ward, whose physique never fully came to terms with the demands of full-time professional cricket.

As for the others, the four-day game has proved a challenge too far at this stage.  All are capable of bowling good balls, but there are simply not enough of them and a few too many poor ones to build up any pressure on the batsmen. As the club greats of the past showed, when conditions are against you, sometimes you can frustrate a batsman out, yet the current crop, albeit young, struggle to maintain that pressure and offer a 'four ball' almost every over.

In our current travails, I can only assume that Greg Cork is now seen as a batsman who bowls, rather than an all-rounder. Otherwise he had to be worth a go, but instead we have brought in McKerr, a strapping 6'6" fast bowler from Surrey. At 19 he is  hardly an experienced man, but the hope is that his raw pace might surprise opponents in the next month. He is well-rated and, having represented his native South Africa at under-19 level, has obvious talent.

Where he gets a game at The Oval is a moot point, as they are awash with fast and seam bowlers of talent. I don't expect the lad to run through teams, as this is first-class cricket, not a fairy tale, but if he offers something different it is worth the gamble.

He will get a stringent test of his talents at Trent Bridge this weekend, that's for sure...

Guest Blog: Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire preview by Rob Enderby

Tomorrow sees Derbyshire take on our mighty neighbours from up the A52 Nottinghamshire. A match up that I believe is more than a little unfair. My beloved Southend United don’t often play Arsenal or Chelsea. When they do it creates all manner of interest and scramble for tickets. Then come the big day it usually ends in glorious failure. Normally by half time..

With their facilities, financial largesse and reputation for poaching the best talent that other counties have produced (Broad and Gurney who are likely to play tomorrow being two examples) Nottinghamshire really should not be languishing in Division 2 and that they are should serve as an embarrassment to all concerned.

In reality Derbyshire are in a league within a league along with Leicestershire, Glamorgan, Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire. Our season will be remembered by how we finish in this mini league.

I am writing this prior to team announcements and was about to bemoan our bowling line up when I read that the club have signed Conor McKerr on loan from Surrey and I for one wish him well. More on his situation later.

My team assuming no further injuries:

Ben Slater
Billy Godleman
Shiv Thakor
Wayne Madsen
Gary Wilson
Daryn Smit WK
Tom Wood
Jeevan Mendis
Tom Taylor
Tony Palladino
Conor McKerr 
 
There is enough rain around to help our cause and I’m hopeful of securing a draw in the available time – we shall see.

I offer some thoughts and observations from afar as to our current problems and their solutions.
The captain has too much to do and this may lead to muddled thinking. Captain, opening bat, selector and coach roles all take their toll. In the first innings of the match v Worcestershire Ben Slater was out in the first over. The ball still being new and shiny called for an opener to replace him but Billy still came out at 5. Clearer thinking needed.

Much has been said on the wicket keeping front. All I would add is decide on the best keeper and play him.

With our resources and lack of pulling power we are simply not going to be able to entice established county professionals to us, they will always have better options. I think it was John Morris who said that we can never get a first teamer from Surrey, but we can get their 14th/15th man, and we just have in young McKerr. Exposure to first class cricket may be just what he needs. His and others routes in to the first team are always going to be difficult. Just as they appear to make their breakthrough then Surrey poach Footitt and on and on. No one can argue that signing Gary Wilson has been anything other than a roaring success.

Although laudable, the idea of playing home grown talent has just not worked out. For a number of years we have had a number of players who have not made themselves an automatic pick. Perhaps they will always be 5-10% short of the required standard and I don’t believe we can afford to carry passengers. Peakfan will argue about jam tomorrow but we haven’t exactly had bread today for a number of years. If these players are not progressing better to let them go and rely on young McKerr and his ilk.

We have 2 or 3 players that are attempting to do everything well and perhaps are not doing anything well enough. We should encourage these players to find their best suit and stick to it. Players such as Flintoff and Stokes are rare indeed and in the future are unlikely to emanate from Derbyshire, for the reasons mentioned above. As soon as they show any signs of talent, Surrey, Nottinghamshire et al will come a-knocking.

I am happy to stick for this. But on the same subject whilst I understand that spin bowling and leg spin bowling in particular take time to master, young Critchley is as far away from our 4 day squad as ever. He is not taking enough wickets in the 2nds for anything like inclusion. However he does bat well. Why not turn him into a batter who occasionally turns his arm over. Cricketing history is littered with such examples.

I headed this piece Support Support Support and that is what we should do. After all, the clue is in the name. There is a car park in Chelmsford that my now grown up children still call “the Derbyshire lost car park”. This is where, time after time, their Mum would come to pick me up, sat glumly on the step after another defeat at the hands of Essex. 

 Yet I still stick with it. Enjoy the highs (oh for 2012 and KK again) accept the lows. Be realistic, objective, drink from a hall full cup and the world seems a much brighter place.

My elderly Mother wants to watch Chelsea as she can celebrate a win before the game has already started. I couldn’t agree less. I love the unpredictability of sport. Every now and then David wins and wouldn’t it be great for that to happen in the next 4 days? 
 
Rob In Essex

Guest blog: Derbyshire bring in Conor McKerr on loan by Huw Lloyd

None can deny that Derbyshire’s season hasn’t got off to the start they would have liked, winless in the County Championship and last season’s troubles of not being able to take wickets have followed them into this season like that annoying friend at a party who you just can’t shake off. 

They have mitigating circumstances, Will Davis their home grown fast bowler who started the season well taking thirteen wickets sin this two appearances is now injured, as is winter signing Hardus Viljoen, who is yet to play a first class game for the county. However the management team have clearly recognised something needed to be done and the club have tonight announced the signing of Conor McKerr from Surrey on an initial 28-dayloan deal.

McKerr is South African but holds a UK Passport, so can play as a domestic player and has been doing so for Surrey Second XI this summer where he has impressed,  taking 10 wickets in his last two appearances for the county’s second string. McKerr has also represented South Africa under 19s on eight occasions, with best figures of 2 for 23. Derbyshire will be hoping McKerr can bring this wicket threat to a bowling attack which has failed to take the required 20 wickets in all bar one of its first class matches this season.

McKerr is a like for like replacement for the injured Viljoen, standing over six feet tall and showing genuine pace and wicket taking threat. He goes straight into the squad to face Nottinghamshire away at Trent Bridge starting on Friday. Director of Cricket Kim Barnett was keen to point out that the decision to bring in reinforcements came from the players saying “The captain, vice-captain and coaching staff felt the squad needed the impetus of a quick bowler.” They clearly have signed that fast bowler with McKerr being reported as bowling over 90mph.
Barnett was sure they had secured this too saying “Conor comes highly recommended and has represented South Africa at youth level, impressing with his natural pace. Running in at over six feet tall, he can provide that strike bowling option that we currently lack with the injuries to Hardus Viljoen and Will Davis.” McKerr also appears to be excited at the chance to play for Derbyshire tweeting “Exciting few weeks! On loan with Derbyshire for some first class exposure! Can’t wait for this opportunity… (fire) and also in replying to Derbyshire’s tweet announcing his signing saying “Can’t wait to be part of your squad!”
Derbyshire will not be able to wait either, and will be hoping the excitement and fresh impetus that a new signing can make comes up the M1 and has a positive effect on the bowlers and squad as a whole. He could not ask for a bigger challenge in his first match for the club though, away at the current Division Two leaders Nottinghamshire who are unbeaten in their five games so far this season. However he will not be a bowler many of the Nottinghamshire players know much about nor will they have prepared to face him, which may help him and Derbyshire in this match.
Whichever way this game or the next 28 days go for McKerr and Derbyshire, no one can deny that the club have been proactive in trying to find a solution to their wicket taking problems and we shall all wait to see how the move turns out for the club and McKerr himself.

With thanks to Huw Lloyd and Deep Extra Cover

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Guest blog: Daryn Smit - Derbyshire's four-dimensional cricketer by Huw Lloyd


In modern cricket we are always told that cricketers cannot be one-dimensional anymore. If they are, a bowler they must learn to contribute with the bat and, if a batsman can offer a few overs to give frontline bowlers a breather, then their stock rises. Also, now gone are the days of Phil Tufnell and Monty Panesar having to be hidden in the field, everyone must be able to field and catch.

Derbyshire this season, though, have gone one better and signed Daryn Smit, who is potentially the world’s first true four dimensional cricketer: a middle order batsman averaging 36 in first-class cricket, a wicket keeper with over 350 dismissals, an excellent slip fielder and, finally, a leg spin bowler with over 100 first-class wickets to his name.

So far he has done all four for Derbyshire this summer, following a spell for the seconds last season where he scored a double hundred against Glamorgan. The club made him wait, however, as Smit tells the story.

“Scoring a double hundred on trial was a dream, but with the restructuring of the club nothing came through, contract-wise,” he said. “So I went back to South Africa and completed another season at home there, and was very much hoping to hear something.

“I put my feelers out and was hoping perhaps something would happen but nothing came through. Then on March 8 an offer came through from Derbyshire, which was late as county offers go, but very much an offer that you can’t say no to.”

I am sure that following Smit’s start to the season, Derbyshire and their fans will glad that he didn’t say no.

At one point last season, Derbyshire’s wicket-keeping cupboard looked pretty bare. The retirement of Tom Poynton due to injury left the club with just 19-year-old Harvey Hosein, who performed well. Then with the signing of Gary Wilson from Surrey, it appeared that Smit’s wicket keeping gloves would not be required.

However, with Wilson away on international duty it has been Smit and not Hosein who has been keeping, not what the all-rounder was expecting.

“When they signed me they made it clear they were signing me as a batsmen,” he said. “The keeping side of things had been taken care of. [They were] wanting to be open and honest with me, so I wasn’t disappointed.

“But then, as its turned out over the last few weeks with Gary [Wilson] away, the captain’s choice has been to use me rather than go to the youngster in Harvey, which has been great.

“I’ve absolutely loved being back there behind the stumps; its turned out really brilliantly.”
Anyone who has seen Smit keep, while Wilson has been away with Ireland, would find it hard to disagree with that decision. His glove work has been superb, hardly conceding a bye and effecting two stumpings, taking seven catches and also being credited with a run out.

So what is his strongest dimension? Smit is very clear where he feels his biggest strength lies, and that is with his keeping.
 
“My whole career, I’ve always been a wicket keeper. When I was first selected for South Africa Under 19s, AB de Villiers was the back-up wicket-keeper to me. That’s always what I’ve been about.”

However, like all good players, Smit has recognised the need to evolve and develop his game, and not be one-dimensional. He can see clearly how this has happened.

“As my career has developed, from 2003 onwards really, times have changed and wicket keepers have been forced to contribute with the bat. If you look at the way my career has panned out, I was always a keeper who could kind of chip in, but as a result of supply and demand I’ve been forced to develop my batting and make much bigger contributions.

“I think that’s shown through in the stats over the years, as I’ve got older and developed my batting. So much so that, over the last few seasons, I’ve played as just a batsman.”

Smit’s realisation of the need to evolve, and add extra dimensions to his game, will be something that as a senior player Derbyshire will be hoping he can pass on to their young squad. It’s something Smit was keen to point out was part of his role at the club.

“It’s not just about scoring the runs, taking the catches, or wickets out there in the middle, particularly in the set-up we have at Derbyshire without a head coach as such.

“To be able to support Billy (Godleman) as captain, to be another senior player in there to develop others; in my case I can make contributions to wicket keepers, leg spinners and batsmen and to try and develop the youngsters.

“Any contribution I can make can go a long way to helping the club develop.”

If Smit can help develop other players into cricketers as well rounded as him, this may even be his fifth dimension.

The new off field structure at Derbyshire is agreeing with Smit since his arrival, and the South African was singing its praises.

“I’m absolutely loving it. Not having a head coach breathing down your neck as such has allowed me that freedom. As an experienced 33-year-old who knows what it takes to perform at my peak, and get the best out of myself, it’s given me that space and freedom to do it.”

Smit was also keen to point out, though, that it did mean that extra responsibility on him and other senior players to nurture the younger players in the squad.

“That onus and responsibility falls on us, as a core of senior players, to help them learn their game and to show them the ropes.”

It’s clear that Smit is enjoying his move to Derbyshire and is enjoying the challenge of playing first-class cricket in England.

“Every week, every team you play against, you’re coming up against international quality players, whether it’s an overseas player or a local guy who’s played international cricket for England.

“You just don’t get that in South Africa. Very rarely do you get to play against international players and, as a professional cricketer that’s you want: to be testing yourself against the best in the world. The last game, we faced up against Nathan Lyon. That was a great challenge; it’s very rare to get that challenge in South Africa and I’m loving it.”

Derbyshire and their supporters will be hoping that Smit continues to enjoy his time and cricket for the county, and contributes with all four dimensions to his game on and off the field for years to come.

I have no doubt that Smit will be a great success for the club, and that he has the potential to write his name into the club’s history books with bat, ball, gloves and in the field. I look forward to watching him do so.

 Huw Lloyd (@Lloydzilla) for Deep Extra Cover.

Used with permission.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Good effort by Derbyshire yesterday

I was surprised - you could make that disappointed - to see no one commenting on a good effort by Derbyshire yesterday.

There were plenty of nay-sayers on Twitter and elsewhere suggesting that the wicket would 'change' when we batted on it, but I maintain that our batting is a decent unit this summer.

We were awful on the last day against Worcestershire, but we have produced some good batting efforts and the crux of our current woes is a weak attack, for reasons well documented.

Fair play to Billy Godleman for leading from the front and to Shiv Thakor for showing that he can produce the goods at number three. Mind you, there's a big difference in batting three after a decent first wicket stand and going in early, something that I still think will take a lot of doing. If you get a chance to get your mindset right at three, it is a heck of a lot easier than going in 15 minutes after being in the field for a day and a half and bowling twenty overs.

Gary Wilson again showed that he brings an ebullience and swagger to the middle order, something that was needed after a couple of quick wickets, while Daryn Smit's composure helped to stabilise things. Both will be annoyed at getting out to shots they didn't need to play, or executed poorly, but Derbyshire are still in the game and all three results are possible ahead of day four.

I will keep an eye on it while on the daily hospital visits and hope that we don't do something silly to throw the game away having worked hard to get back into it.

All comments welcome later, when I am likely to be busy.

Postscript - thanks to all for making this the busiest-ever May in the blog's history. There's already a 20% increase on last year, so whatever the on-field travails at times, off field interest remains as strong, if not stronger than ever.

Thank you.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Random and passing thoughts

My first half an hour free for a couple of days so thought I would pitch in with a few comments.

First up, my wife had eight-hour surgery on Wednesday and is recovering slowly but steadily. The surgical team are happy with progress and she has moved from intensive care to high dependency. She is likely to be in hospital for at least another week, as things stand, but a life-threatening issue appears to have been rectified. Needless to say, my respect and admiration for a wonderful team of surgeons, doctors and nurses knows no bounds and my thanks to them are absolute.

Hopefully I can report on continued progress sometime during the week.

On to cricket and our limited attack took a bit of a pasting, as expected, from Leicestershire. I don't recall a weaker county attack since the early 1970's, when we opened the bowling with the very pedestrian Ian Buxton, in the absence of viable alternatives. Having said that, Ian would have strengthened the attack in this game and was a gutsy cricketer.

The wicket appeared to me a road and I can't think Hardus Viljoen would have got much from it either. When you encounter such tracks, all you can do is grin and bear it, take the punishment when it is dished out and make sure that you cash in yourselves.

That is what Derbyshire has done. While the visitors have, on paper, a stronger attack, there's nowt short of a howitzer will get joy on such a wicket. While cloud and rain will likely truncate the play tomorrow, we should have no fears in such a track and should simply bat ourselves to safety.

Finally from me, I totally agree with Ian's post on the last article. Take the best two bowlers from any attack in the country and it will struggle and my pre-season post saying that we needed luck for success was entirely correct. Hardus Viljoen has remained fit for the past few years in South Africa, but has picked up an injury that rules him out of half of the summer. Meanwhile, Will Davis is also out and our likely impressive opening attack has been ripped apart.You can't blame anyone at the club for this, but they will likely be working on personal fitness plans for the two, much as was developed for Mark Footitt when he encountered such problems.

As for the wicket-keeping role, you pick your best player and do so until he fails to deliver. Daryn Smit kept for 144 overs in this game and conceded not a single bye, despite standing up for a lot of that time. Anyone who has seen him will doubtless agree he is one of the best glove men we have had in many years, much as I expected from reviews of his technique from South Africa.

Against that, arguments for his exclusion in favour of Harvey Hosein can generally only be the result of friendship and family loyalty. No one is clamouring for Tom Wood to play in place of Wayne Madsen, another player at the peak of his game. In any sport you pick your best players and in my opinion Smit is our best keeper, just as Madsen is the focal point of the batting.

He has been steady, if not yet prolific with the bat and set high standards behind the stumps. Harvey has scored some, but in my opinion not enough runs in the second eleven to make a strong case for himself.

Until he does so, or until Smit's standards drop, there is no argument.

With that, I say farewell  for another few days, bar for comments when I have time.

Thanks to the guest contributors for their help and please get in touch if you would like to run a piece.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Guest post: Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 1

On the wrong end of another vital toss on a warm morning at Derby.  Having said that we stuck to the task well in the morning session.  All the seamers bowled manfully in hot conditions. Special mention must go to Robert Hemmings whose opening spell of seven overs for nine runs was commendable.  Also interesting to see him open rather than come on first change.  Dino was back to his miserly best while snapping up the wicket of Horton, caught behind by Daryn Smit who kept the gloves despite the return of Gary Wilson.

We need a similar commitment after lunch.  The only downside, as ever, is where is the next wicket coming from?  That is, of course, the  perennial problem!

A couple of boundaries off Palladino following similar treatment to Taylor doesn't augur well.  Could be a long afternoon.

But then Dearden flashes at a delivery from Taylor and is well caught by Alex Hughes in the gully. Just need to get Cosgrove early!  Oh dear, Cosgrove dropped on eight off Tom Taylor.  Hope that doesn't prove expensive.

Interesting test for Rob Hemmings as he returns to the attack.  Cosgrove got hold of him and probably right to remove him from the front line.

Ackermann and Cosgrove beginning to look threatening. Oh for another wicket!

Leicestershire pass two hundred with only two down, it's looking ominous.  Tea can't come too soon!

Tea interval and time to regroup.  The attack is under the cosh and not sure where next wicket is coming from.  We just don't have a bowler in the ranks who can undermine the opposition.

What we need is a sporting declaration!!

Mendis and Madsen open the bowling after tea and Ackermann reaches his ton as the torment continues.

Two hundred and fifty up and no sign of a breakthrough.

Hang on a minute, we have another wicket as Mendis has Ackermann caught by Gary Wilson at slip.

Tom Taylor takes new ball as Leicestershire move on untroubled towards three hundred.

Last ten and we looking tired and a little ragged as opposition move on to three hundred and fifty.  No let up and heads dropping!

Four hundred up and there is no let up in the pain.  Another disappointing day for Derbyshire and their supporters.  Not sure where we go from here?

Interesting to see Graeme Welch in the Leicestershire camp.  He must have mixed feelings watching the sad demise of his old side.

Stuart, York

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Guest post: Derbyshire v Leicestershire preview


If you are doing some baking over the next four days and need your mixture stirring then the 3aaa County Ground is the place for you, as Leicestershire visit Derbyshire, who between them have collected the wooden spoon for the last four seasons in the County Championship Division Two. Leicestershire have three to Derbyshire’s one and both will looking to collect their first victory of the season to ensure they do not collect another this season. Derbyshire currently sit 8th in the table with Leicestershire one place above them separated by four points, although Leicestershire have played a game more, which means this match has all the ingredients to be a showstopper.

Both sides have had their issues over recent years, with Derbyshire still struggling to replace the wickets of Mark Footitt, who left for the Kia Oval two seasons ago and will again be without Hardus Viljoen and Will Davis who are both ruled out through injury until the end of June. This will mean the onus will fall to the other bowlers in the side to take the 20 wickets required and especially overseas leg spinner Jeevan Mendis who I have made my key man for Derbyshire in this game.

Leicestershire have lacked the ability to bowl sides out and put them in winning positions, although in their last match Dieter Klein showed that he could be the answer to their issues, bowling well and taking four wickets. They will also be looking for more a return from Clint McKay now he has returned to fitness. They will be hoping the impressive Ned Eckersey can continue his fine form and give the bowlers a target to defend.

Not for the first time this season the bookmakers have Derbyshire as the underdogs and it is easy to see why. However I feel it is too close to call and if I was a betting man I would be keeping my hard earned cash in my pocket. Both sides could win and both sides equally could collapse and lose.


Key Men
Derbyshire: As Derbyshire strive to win their first County Championship game in over a year, Jeevan Mendis will be key for Derbyshire. Mendis is a genuine international wicket taking threat with his leg spin, he can also offer control to captain Billy Godleman. Mendis has so far taken 11 wickets in the County Championship at an average of around 26, he can also score useful runs down the order and can quickly take a game from the opposition.

Leicestershire: In the modern game you want your Wicketkeeper to not only be a safe pair of hands behind the stumps, but also be able to score lots of runs too, in Ned Eckersley that is exactly what Leicestershire have. Eckersley is the club’s leading run scorer and is averaging over 45 in doing so, he has also taken five catches too. Having a high quality batsmen who is also a quality wicket keeper allows more balance to the side and for Leicestershire it is key to their success.

Team News:
Derbyshire have named a 14 man squad, Gary Wilson returns from international duty but is struggling with a sore knee so Smit looks set to continue behind the stumps. Viljoen and Davis remain side lined by injury so Godleman will have to use his other bowlers to take those elusive 20 wickets. The surprise inclusion in the squad is Alfie Gleadall, who is a young seamer who has impressed recently for the second XI.

Leicestershire welcome back Ben Raine to the squad, as the useful allrounder returns from injury, he will surely play and add balance to the Leicestershire side. Rob Sayer also returns from  injury, with Callum Parkinson and Tom Wells making way. The foxes still have injury issues though as Neil Dexter and Richard Jones are unavailable through injury and Charlie Shreck is only fit enough for the seconds.

Derbyshire squad: Billy Godleman (c), Alfie Gleadall, Alex Hughes, Rob Hemmings, Charlie MacDonnell, Wayne Madsen, Jeevan Mendis, Tony Palladino, Luis Reece, Ben Slater, Daryn Smit (wk), Tom Taylor, Shiv Thakor. Gary Wilson,

Leicestershire squad: Mark Cosgrove (c), Colin Ackermann, Zak Chappell, Harry Dearden, Ned Eckersley, Gavin Griffiths, Lewis Hill, Paul Horton, Dieter Klein, Clint McKay, Mark Pettini, Ben Raine, Rob Sayer.

Form

Derbyshire: LLLLD
Leicestershire: DDLLW

Weather and conditions
The weather looks set fair for the four days and whisper it quietly but you may even need your sun cream, especially if it goes to the fourth day. The pitches at Derby have generally been flat and true and not offered a great deal for the bowlers. There has been rain around in the lead up to the match and that may add a bit more spice to the pitch, but generally you can expect runs, runs and runs.

Date: 25th May 2017 to 28th May 2017
Time: 11:00am
Ground: 3aaa County Ground, Derby
Umpires: Millns and Taylor
Odds (SkyBet): Derbyshire: Evens  Leicestershire: 4/5

With sincere thanks for this preview to Huw Lloyd, writing for Deep Extra Cover.

Guest Piece: Unbalanced Squad

Oh dear, l think the good feel factor is disappearing faster than some of the loose deliveries despatched off a beleaguered Derbyshire attack.  
 
I thoroughly enjoyed the Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire matches, but since then the wheels seem to have come off.  Injuries, obviously, have not helped other than to underline lack of strength in depth, squad wise, especially in the bowling department.  Looking at the makeup of the squad it gives an impression of a lack of balance. We have more leggies than you can shake a stick at, and bizarrely three very good wicket keepers. The three keepers all offer slightly different qualities but nevertheless are fundamentally wicket keepers and you only need one in any given game.  HH hasn't had a look in and that seems like a waste of a talented cricketer.  I suppose at a push you could play all three but that seems unlikely.  The recruitment of one keeper was necessary but two, l don't think so, especially when reinforcements were required elsewhere.  Also to add to the unbalanced nature of the squad, we don't have an off spinner, okay we have 'Mads' but no SLA.

While the batting is not immune from criticism it's the bowling that has been the weak link and the signing of Hardus and Imran Tahir were welcome.  Obviously we have not seen the best of our strike bowler and Imran has yet to arrive, so in some respects we are left with last year's attack and that has not delivered on numerous occasions.  With hindsight another experienced seam bowler should probably have been signed rather than a third keeper.

Until the last few games, l thought we might have the makings of a strong and settled batting unit but those expectations were short lived.  Ben Slater has found himself a niche in the RLODC but he really needs to translate that into the longer version as, l think Adam said in an early response.  And why did Billy demote himself down the order, unless it was an attempt to avoid another unnecessary run out with Ben!  And there are still question marks about Shiv at three.  Is it asking too much with his bowling duties?  At the moment it seems as though if Wayne fails there is no one to take command of the innings at a vital time to either press on or repair the damage.

We have a handful of senior pros in Madsen, Palladino, Godleman and Wilson, along with our overseas contingent but the majority of the squad is made up of young cricketers trying to establish themselves in the game.  And while l am a big believer in home grown talent there is a case for a little more experience when you look at this youthful squad.  I am definitely not advocating going down the same route as Leicestershire , but maybe a tweak to the squad, with the introduction of an experienced loanee, especially in the absence of Viljoen.

In the meantime it will be interesting to compare our young guns with the senior citizens from Grace Road.  Just hope the Worcester debacle was a 'wake up call' for the team.

Stuart, York

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Guest pieces

If anyone is interested in doing a guest piece, either a review of a coming day's play, a preview of a match or a talking point/observational piece, please let me know at peakfan36@yahoo.co.uk

I am happy to publish it as a post, rather than comment, provided it doesn't contain personal attacks and is as well-written as most of your comments are.

Simply pop it into an email and I will paste it into the blog. Your name will be included too, so please don't simply post as 'Anon'. If you are especially shy, use a pen name, but be assured your email address will NOT be published! If you wish to use the comments box for such a piece that is fine, but please make its purpose clear.

The remuneration is the same as I get - which is nothing - but it will enable you to voice your opinions and share them around, while keeping the blog ticking over nicely.

I will be back intermittently in the week or so ahead,  but for now have bigger issues to deal with than a thirty-over capitulation.

I look forward to hearing from you and a preview, or previews, of the Leicestershire game will be appreciated.

Thanks to you all!




Time for a rethink, methinks...

Yesterday was a very bad day for Derbyshire, there's no getting away from that.

As I said last night, it was unacceptable, unprofessional and shockingly poor. Frustrating too, when the batting has been pretty good this summer. Let's not forget, only a week or so back we were hailing a side that was racking up one-day 300s for fun.

All sides have bad days and I don't agree with suggestions that wholesale changes are needed.

Tweaking is, however.

Billy Godleman is captain and a good, sound county opening batsman. So why move down to the middle order? It is a different game there. As captain and skipper, Billy should bat at the top of the order, partnered by whoever is deemed in form. Whether that is Ben Slater or Luis Reece is largely irrelevant, but the skipper should be and should stay at the top, where he handles a new ball well. Why Reece opened in the second innings when apparently with a runner is a questionable decision, some might say foolhardy.

The problem is best solved, in four day cricket, by either Slater or Reece dropping to three. I know they want to give Shiv Thakor a chance there, but a brilliant ton against Northamptonshire apart, he has played cameos, which isn't the job description of that position. Besides, with Jeevan Mendis he is one of only two bowlers who can be trusted to bowl steadily most of the time. Ben Cotton is a good one-day bowler, but I remain to be convinced he can bowl sides out, while Tom Taylor and Tom Milnes are struggling.

If we keep having to bowl Thakor for twenty overs an innings, he isn't going to be able to go in early and be mentally 'switched on' for batting three. Aside from Jacques Kallis, there aren't many have handled that over the years. Talented as Thakor is, he ain't no Kallis and he will struggle and eventually buckle under such a workload.

Then I read that wholesale changes are needed, with Harvey Hosein the first of them. I would like to see Tom Wood play the T20, but does anyone think that Wood and Macdonell in the batting would improve on who is there now? Who is going to bowl, other than what we have in the first team?

With Viljoen and Davis hors de combat until the end of June, we can largely write off four-day cricket success, as I just cannot see where twenty wickets will come. Put the two of them in a later season side with Imran Tahir and there's a different complexion on things, but three straight losses tells a sorry story. We could score 500 and not get first innings lead...

The Hosein story will keep coming back, but therein lies a self-inflicted problem. When I pushed for us to sign Daryn Smit last year, I knew of his stature as a wicket-keeper, but when we signed Gary Wilson I didn't expect it to happen. With Wilson away with Ireland regularly, Hosein was likely to get a lot of cricket.

Then we signed Smit and it was only a matter of time before those at the club saw what everyone in South Africa has known for years - that he is a very high standard wicket-keeper. You have only to watch the speed of his hand work in stumpings and the catches he has taken, with and without gloves to see that. Truth be told, he is probably better than Wilson and the call on who gets the gloves on his return will be a tough one.

So do they give them to Hosein? All he can do is score a load of runs and keep to a high standard in the twos and wait his turn. Both Smit and Wilson know that they need to maintain standards in both disciplines to retain the role, but a slip in one of them, with two of high standard in the wings, will be costly. Yet Wilson, a pugnacious and vibrant batsman, as well as vice-captain, needs to be in the side anyway, which creates another problem.

For the time being my four-day side, assuming all are fit, would be:

Godleman
Slater
Reece
Madsen
Thakor
Hughes
Smit
Mendis
X
X
X

A lot of X's, because not one bowler is making a case for guaranteed selection.

Therein lies the problem.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 4

I drifted in and out of the game today, for reasons you are well aware of. When I saw the visitors had 'only' got 140 runs ahead, I thought a draw would be well within our compass.

How wrong could I be?

To be bowled out inside 30 overs in a four day game is unacceptably poor. I don't care whether it was a fourth day wicket or helpful to the bowlers, that was quite horrible.

In the time it took me to leave my house to get to the hospital, the innings was in disrepair. Losing wickets to careless shots is poor, getting people run out in such a situation is unprofessional.

There need to be serious discussions after such a display, because long-suffering supporters deserve much better than that.

Thanks for your observations so far and please keep them coming in my hopefully brief break from the blog.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 3

While being able to bowl first was an obvious advantage for Worcestershire, the same frailties that have earmarked our cricket for the past couple of seasons were evident today.

I didn't follow play too closely but the scoreboard doesn't lie and we remain a side that struggles to take wickets.

I just hope that Imran Tahir is fit when he gets here, because he will probably be bowling at one end until September...

There could be a last afternoon battle against defeat here, so let's hope that this summer's saving grace, our batting, can at least get something from the game.

Over to you now...

Friday, 19 May 2017

Hiatus ahead...

Things are going to be intermittent over the next week or so folks.

My wife has been in hospital for the past fortnight after a heart attack and major surgery is taking place on Wednesday of next week to try and sort the thing that caused it, together with a bigger problem that has been discovered in the course of tests.

Much as I love Derbyshire cricket, her well-being is of far greater importance than any cricket match. I will blog when time allows, but there will be times when I don't and that is going to be the second half of next week at the very least, possibly longer.

I just want you to know that I'm not losing interest in the blog or the club, but some things are way more important than the winning or losing of a cricket match. With hospital visits and travel taking time, there just aren't enough hours in the day at present.

Do please keep your comments coming  and post them on the last blog available. I will add them and comment myself as time permits, but you will know the reason if there's a longer time lapse than normal. If I miss any, I will apologise now and assure you that normal service will resume as soon as she is restored to something resembling her normal rude health.

Thank you for your continued interest and support.

On the pitch, I don't think we will be too disappointed with today's effort. After the rain and the covers, Worcestershire were always going to bowl and probably fancied their chances of more wickets than they got.

That we got to the close with only three down is due to an excellent, gritty effort from Luis Reece, opening in the place of Billy Godleman. The two of them together, tomorrow morning, have an opportunity to push our total to respectability, on a wicket that will doubtless remain helpful to the bowlers.

Fingers crossed, in more ways than one.

Postscript - no Hardus Viljoen until the end of June...it makes sense, because the guy is in a no win situation. He bowls when not fit and people say he's no good. He doesn't play and they make silly accusations that he is just here for the money.

Get him fit, then let him loose in the second half of the summer with Imran Tahir.

It does make you wonder why he played in a dead game the other night though, when struggling with a hip injury.

I didn't get that at all.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Derbyshire v Worcestershire RLODC

And so, with more of a whimper than the roar of a lion, Derbyshire's RLODC campaign petered out on a murky day, perhaps in keeping with the way things ended.

The batting was adequate, but no more than that. It was a good toss to win and the ball zipped around early on. Shiv Thakor played a fine innings, much of it on the front foot as conditions dictated. Alex Hughes played a delightful cameo that threatened to make our score something challenging, while Daryn Smit played some inventive shots at the death, including a remarkable reverse sweep for six over the wicket-keeper.

Yet the target never looked challenging for the visitors and for the most part the Derbyshire attack looked pedestrian. The early assault by Kohler-Cadmore effectively won them the game and bruised too many bowling figures for comfort, while the out fielding was at times quite ordinary.

Later things improved. Smit held an excellent catch standing up to end the first wicket stand, technically better if not so spectacular as his later two handed grab from Viljoen. I thought the latter's second spell quite menacing and a couple of the batsmen were noticeably hurried by his pace and bounce. The catch by Mendis on the boundary to give him a third wicket was somewhat fortuitous for him, though stunning by the fielder, but it was all a little too late by then.

Worcestershire are a decent team in this competition and showed it by progressing to the knock out stages. For Derbyshire, it was a familiar tale of early promise that petered out in an all too familiar fashion.

I will acknowledge improvement, which is perhaps what we all hoped for, but there is work to be done before this side progresses further. Sorting all the problems in one winter was asking too much, considering where we were last summer, but we seem short of two bowlers of quality.

For another year, someone has to really kick on, or we need to look for options elsewhere and spend our Elton John swag on a proven wicket-taker.

There have been good spells by most of the bowlers, but until we have five who bowl more good than bad, we will continue to be consigned to the group stages of this competition.

Which is probably why we signed Matt Henry and Imran Tahir for the T20.

It makes a lot of sense, based on the efforts we all saw today.