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 If you are especially shy, use a pen name, but be assured your email address will NOT be published!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:


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.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Derbyshire v Worcestershire RLODC

A fifty-over game of cricket, featuring Derbyshire, live on Sky TV. I have even switched my day off in lieu of working on Saturday to see it. What could possibly go wrong?

Er, the weather for one thing.

Frequent showers tomorrow for the early part of the day, so it's likely to be one of these games where the side batting second have a radically different chase than first seems likely.

I don't see changes to the team at Leicester, because it is pretty close to the strongest that we have. Of course that defeat was frustrating, but more so because we have shown lately that we are a better side than that. You would have to be super-cynical to not see that, but there are obvious weaknesses that will need addressed for another year.

For all that Jeevan Mendis has done a decent job, there will be more bite to our attack when Imran Tahir joins up. He is a class act and continues to prove it in the IPL, as he will in the Champions Trophy. Nor have we seen anything like the best from Hardus Viljoen, still striving for rhythm but probably looking forward to having the slips in place in the four-day game.

There's a decent attack there with Viljoen, Davis, Cotton/Palladino, Thakor and Tahir. The batting will take care of itself and give them something to work with and I feel there is plenty of good cricket in this side over the months ahead.

Hopefully it starts tomorrow, against opponents missing Moeen Ali and the talented Joe Clarke, but including Australian spinner Nathan Lyon. They are a good one-day side and will take some beating.

Their squad:

Kohler-Cadmore, Mitchell, Fell, D'Oliveira, Cox, Whiteley, Leach, Barnard, Tongue, Shantry, Lyon, Rhodes.

Hopefully the weather allows enough cricket for entertainment and the real Derbyshire side turns up.

Oh..and the commentators don't spend all day referring to 'Derby' and waxing lyrical over Wayne 'Madsden'.

Nope. That's going to happen...you know it as well as I do.

More from me tomorrow.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Leicestershire v Derbyshire RLODC

I hope, that when we look back at the season in September, that this game can be seen as a watershed.

Because with the exception of a couple of players, this was fairly horrible.

Alex Hughes is worthy of mention in despatches, for a gutsy and battling personal best that was worthy of a century. He did blot his copy book by running out Wayne Madsen, which is akin to doing a sliding tackle on Lionel Messi in the warm ups to put him out of the game.

We can ill afford such extravagances and despite cameos down the order, the final tally on what was a rather blameless track by all accounts never looked enough.

Of the bowlers, Madsen bowled a tidy early spell and Ben Cotton a very good one, but the least said about the rest, the better.

I am a little short of time tonight, so that will need to do for now. Tuesday's game on Sky against Worcestershire, at the time it was announced a biggie, now carries all the importance, for us at least, of a beer match.

Yet we need more. We need to combine the hitherto excellent batting with bowling of far greater discipline.

To lose is one thing, to do it so heavily against an ordinary side is disappointing.

With that I say goodnight for now.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Leicestershire v Derbyshire RLODC preview

A different day, but I suspect a very similar team for Derbyshire in their must win game against Leicestershire tomorrow. Even if they do win, the chances are that mathematics will do for them, in this season where only the top three qualify, with the two top sides going straight into the semis and the others playing for the right of opposing them.

Tony Palladino may come back in, depending on the look of the surface, but I don't see too many changes from a side that has been playing some fine cricket.

The opposition have some decent players, but they are the sort of side that we should be looking at beating for any aspirations of progress. It is an ageing squad, nor one of the most mobile in the field.

 McKay (capt), Ackermann, Ali, Chappell, Cosgrove, Delport, Eckersley, Griffiths, Hill, Klein, Parkinson, Pettini, Sayer, Sykes, Wells.

Despite leaving the field with a hand injury yesterday, Jeevan Mendis is fit and, if the rain stays out of it, I expect Derbyshire to win.

Simple as that, really.

Saturday thoughts on a loss: Viljoen the right choice

I have had a few emails and comments overnight regarding the defeat yesterday at Stanley Park.

There was a common theme - and one that I will disagree with - in that Billy Godleman made the wrong decision in entrusting the penultimate over to Hardus Viljoen.

Why wouldn't he? Hardus is an experienced bowler who has carried out the role well many times over his career. In the game against Warwickshire he bowled a nigh-perfect closing over and the hope would have been that he replicated that. He has done similarly many times in South Africa and doubtless will many times for us in the future. Brought over as our strike bowler, he has earned that reputation for a reason.

Yet sometimes it goes wrong, for him and for all bowlers. The margin between a ball that is hit and one that isn't is small and you have to second guess what the batsman is planning. You get it wrong, and he goes back in his crease to one that you bowl short of a length, it travels. Or he may come down the track, or back away outside leg, go the other way to scoop, or simply edge it.

You get the picture. It isn't as simple as 'he bowled badly' on occasion and you have to credit the batsman when it happens. Look at Ben Stokes in the Kolkata T20 World Cup Final, when the sixes were raining from Carlos Brathwaite's bat and he conceded 24 from the over. Did it make Stokes a bad player? Of course not. He is a far superior cricketer to Brathwaite and has bestrode this year's IPL like a colossus, but on that night he got his lengths wrong and the West Indian kept hitting through the line to great effect.

If they repeated that final over a hundred times, my money would be on Stokes in at least 95 of them, probably more, because he is s stellar cricketer.

It is especially an issue for fast bowlers and for Hardus Viljoen read Mark Footitt, or Devon Malcolm. They get it right, when body and mind are in synch and they are lethal. Get it wrong, at that pace, it flies away, anywhere and everywhere.

The only other option for Billy Godleman yesterday was Matt Critchley, but the critics would have had a field day had a young leggie been given the ball and been hit. He could have thrown the ball to Alex Hughes or Luis Reece, but neither had bowled in the innings and being then given the penultimate over is a tough gig. Let's be honest, we are all wise after the event.

No, Billy called it right but it didn't work yesterday. By the same token, it doesn't make Hardus a bad bowler by a long chalk.

Finally today, the wicket-keeping of Daryn Smit will have given food for thought when the T20 starts. A leg side stumping from a wide by Jeevan Mendis yesterday was further proof of his credentials and he has yet to concede a bye in the games in which he has kept. The decision between Smit and Gary Wilson for the short form of the game will be interesting and just one of many decisions that John Wright will need to make when he gets over.

Mind you, he has a gem in Shiv Thakor. What a player the young all rounder is and to bowl such a spell on a small ground when the batsmen are going for it reinforced his growing reputation, as did his earlier clean hitting. When this reviled new competition gets up and running he will be a very sound 'pick' for one of the sides.

The signs are we are much improved and good displays against Leicestershire and Worcestershire in the coming days can reinforce that opinion.

More from me soon.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Lancashire v Derbyshire RLODC

Derbyshire 132-2 (Slater 60 not, Thakor 38)

Lancashire 162-7 (Thakor  3-23, Mendis 2-38)

Lancashire won by three wickets

Although not yet mathematically impossible, Derbyshire's chances of group progress hang by a knife edge after an unfortunately sloppy end to one of those days of cricket hated by most cricket fans.

Stop start days are fairly wretched any time, but on an out ground, where facilities  are often limited, there is usually nowhere to go.

Derbyshire built a sound platform for another big score, with Ben 'Mr Consistency' Slater batting beautifully, before the rain allowed no resumption after lunch and the home side were set a target that makes little sense to anyone bar the statisticians.

They got off to a flyer and were pulled back by the spinners and Shiv Thakor. How he ended on the losing side is hard to figure, but while he can be proud of his excellent all round figures, for Hardus Viljoen it was a game to forget.

Notwithstanding his match rustiness, which is slowly coming back, he would have hoped for more than 0-44 in his four overs. With 24 needed from two and Thakor bowling beautifully,  most people's money would have been on Derbyshire, but Viljoen conceding 17 from the penultimate over wasn't part of the script and it left only a common sense job in the last.

Sometimes you have to admit that the opposition played well and deserved it and fair play to Lancashire for a fine run chase today.

But from a Derbyshire perspective, notwithstanding Duckworth/Lewis, a slippery outfield when we fielded and an innings that was never allowed to get to the 'business' part, it was a game that we had in our grasp and blew it.

That's the disappointment.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Lancashire v Derbyshire RLODC preview

Before the season started, one of the games that stood out to me was the game against Lancashire at Blackpool. I've watched league cricket at the ground but not the county game. It would have been nice to tick that one off, but there's a few too many things going on in my life right now to allow for that trip, nice as it would be.

But let's hope that Derbyshire do like to be beside the seaside on a wicket that could be dry after the recent weather but could also offer help to seamers under what is reckoned to be a fair old cloud covering. There won't be any great need for knotted hankies on the head or the trousers rolled up, but with a 60% chance of rain forecast, old Duckworth/Lewis may come to the fore again.

Derbyshire has named a fourteen-man squad, but I would be surprised if there were changes to the side for the game on Wednesday. With Gary Wilson unavailable, Daryn Smit rightly retains the gloves and perhaps the only thought is whether Luis Reece's seam option may be more use than Matt Critchley's non-spin from the other day. Mind you, Critch is developing into a very handy closer of an innings, one capable of reaching and clearing the ropes, so my guess is he will be retained.

They come up against a very strong seam attack in Jimmy Anderson, Ryan MacLaren and Kyle Jarvis, one that will test our batting. With several talented young batsmen in the side, they will be a real test for our revitalised side.

Their squad is:

 Steven Croft (Captain), James Anderson, Karl Brown, Jordan Clark, Alex Davies, Haseeb Hameed, Kyle Jarvis, Simon Kerrigan, Arron Lilley, Liam Livingstone, Ryan McLaren, Stephen Parry, Tom Bailey and Dane Vilas.

Sometimes these games can depend on an element of luck. Run into a side with their England men missing and star players nursing niggles and tough opponents become less of a challenge. Certainly Northamptonshire without Kleinveldt and Sanderson were an easier proposition than it would otherwise have been. Mind you, Yorkshire handled the absence of big guns well and their batting took the game just out of reach of our talented batting line up.

It is some considerable time since I was able to write those words with any real conviction, but the RLODC batting of this Derbyshire side is worthy of the accolade.

Let's hope our current good mood doesn't deflate faster than a Pleasure Beach balloon. I can handle defeat if it comes at the end of a good battle.

We have been doing that this year and it is both refreshing and heartening.

Long may it continue.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Professional Derbyshire pace chase to perfection

Warwickshire 292-7 (Hain 109, Bell 93, Thakor 3-48)

Derbyshire 296-6 (Slater 82, Godleman 46, Mendis 44 not)

Derbyshire won by 4 wickets

Last winter, when Kim Barnett was announcing the signings of various players, he said that he was looking for players who would get us across the line in matches.

Today, a number of those players, with notable assistance from existing and local ones, contributed to a fine team effort and an excellent record run chase.

Irrespective of mixed results, it is a long time since Derbyshire batted with the solidity and professionalism of this summer. You probably have to go back to Barnett's era, or that of John Wright and Peter Kirsten, to get anything similar and even they didn't rack up the runs that this side has in recent games as consistently. When one considers that you have a couple of handy clumpers at the bottom end of the order, there are reasons to expect one-day fun to continue.

The run chase was accomplished without major input from Messrs Godleman, Thakor and Madsen, all of them standouts thus far, but the rest of the batting delivered. Ben Slater played another fine innings and is a special player in this format, even if the partnership with Billy Godleman ended in a run out for the third time in five innings. Something to work on there, but they have been very consistent as a pairing so far.

Alex Hughes also played an important innings and remains a busy and important player in all aspects of the game. As for Daryn Smit, he has the calm head of experience on his shoulders and played a key role in resurrecting an innings that was wobbling a little at 170-4, with eight an over needed off fifteen.  He isn't the biggest hitter in the side, but any solid run chase needs a bloke who ticks over at a run a ball and provides the solidity that the bigger hitters need to do so freely.

Earlier, I understand, he also kept wicket impressively, as befits  man of his reputation behind the stumps. There is a tough call, moving forward, as to who gets the gloves for Derbyshire, for we are very well covered in that area.

Then there was Mendis. You hope, in these situations, that your hired overseas sees you home and shows his experience. Jeevan did that today, quickly into his stride and providing a fitting finale. While the early season wickets haven't been especially suitable for his bowling, he has been tidy, has taken us over the line today and probably effected the match-defining moment with the run out of Ian Bell. The right call as man of the match, for sure.

Earlier, the visiting batting looked set to get away, but they were reined back by an excellent spell by Shiv Thakor. It was also heartening to see Hardus Viljoen showing great nous at the death, with Thakor keeping the run chase to under 300 with canny closing overs.

All to play for then and a trip to the seaside on Friday.

Lancashire next and another win keeps us very much in the mix.

Well done lads. That was a good one today.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Derbyshire v Warwickshire RLODC preview

I only see one change to the Derbyshire side for tomorrow's visit of Warwickshire in the RLODC.

Tony Palladino will surely come back into the side to add another bowling specialist. That should take care of ten of the problem twenty overs from Headingley, while more opportunity for Alex Hughes should handle the vast majority of the other ten.

That squad of thirteen:

Billy Godleman
Luis Reece
Ben Slater
Shiv Thakor
Wayne Madsen
Daryn Smit
Jeevan Mendis
Alex Hughes
Matt Critchley
Tony Palladino
Hardus Viljoen
Tom Milnes
Ben Cotton

Visitors Warwickshire have won only one of five games and so, irrespective of their first division status, must be seen as beatable - IF we bowl better. Sod's Law is that we will choose this one to bat badly, but the line up looks long and impressive.

The visitors squad:

 Ian Bell, Mark Adair, Tim Ambrose, Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke, Sam Hain, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Ateeq Javid, Matthew Lamb, Jeetan Patel, Josh Poysden, Grant Thornton, Aaron Thomason, Jonathon Trott

If we play to potential, with that side, we can win. If their top batsmen get going, then we will struggle.

I'm going for a home win though.

Don't let me down, lads.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Yorkshire v Derbyshire RLODC

Yorkshire 349-7 (Handscomb 140, Ballance 63, Mendis 2-59)

Derbyshire 334-8 (Madsen 112, Smit 77 not, Critchley 49)

Yorkshire won by 15 runs

Whatever the shortcomings of this Derbyshire side, the batting isn't an issue. For the third successive innings we went past 300 and today reached an imposing tally, but the task was simply too great.

The in-form Peter Handscomb, an overseas player preferred to a local behind the timbers, which rings a few bells, played a fine innings that looked to have put the game well beyond us. A fine knock by Wayne Madsen kept us in the hunt, while a late and bucolic assault by Matt Critchley made the game closer than earlier looked possible.

Smit kept wicket very tidily, as I expected, effecting a very sharp run out and a stumping that was conducted with the minimum of fuss and maximum efficiency. He then played an excellent innings that thoroughly justified his selection in the role.

The concern lies around the bowling. Viljoen took an early wicket and although he went for seven an over, his final spell suggested that he was regaining his rhythm and the accompanying skills. Shiv Thakor was again steady and Jeevan Mendis was tidy, but the least said about the rest, the better.

The 20 combined overs of Messrs Cotton, Hughes, Reece and Critchley went for 160 runs and until we can find greater control from that portion of the attack, we won't win many matches.

Viljoen will improve, Thakor is very reliable and Mendis steady, without ever suggesting he might rip the heart from a batting line up. Tahir will add more, later in the summer, but we need one of our young seamers to offer more than at present. You can make up ten overs, but twenty is a challenge that few could handle.

Still, even with five stars missing this is strong opposition and Handscomb is proving a very sound signing for the white rose county. They remain a tough side to beat and for me, with Middlesex, are the best team in the country.

Derbyshire? Work to be done before we get across the line in first place, but we haven't had this deep a batting line up in some time.

Another win isn't too far away.

Hosein's turn will come

There has been a lot of discussion with regard to the selection of Daryn Smit over Harvey Hosein for today's RLODC game against Yorkshire, at Headingley.

The people who are in charge of team selection have looked at the two options available to them and decided that for this match, Smit is the better option. Were we about to embark on a four-day game, perhaps the decision may have been different, but none of us, outside the club, see the players in the nets and in every match they play.

Of course Hosein is a precocious talent. Without doubt he is one of the best prospects that we have had in years. Yet he will be well aware that there can only be one wicket-keeper in any cricket team. He is very competent with the gloves, capable of brilliance, as well as being a solid batsman, if not yet one who you would back to play a match-winning innings when the runs v balls equation was against you. That will come in time, I'm sure.

Yet his rival is a man who was considered by many good judges to be the next in line for South Africa when Mark Boucher retired. We have already seen that Daryn Smit has an excellent pair of hands and two or three of his catches thus far have been unbelievable. He is on record as saying that he plays his best cricket when he is more involved and keeping wicket, which is another consideration.

There is no 'risk' in fielding a man with over 300 first-class victims behind the stumps. Crucially he is experienced in keeping to leg spin and has done so to Imran Tahir on a number of occasions. Perhaps, in watching both Smit and Hosein keep to Jeevan Mendis, the decision has been made on those grounds.

Given that Smit will probably not bowl again until his shoulder is fully healed - and this has to have an impact on his throwing arm - giving him the gloves also enables an 'extra' player to be selected. Rather than field them both, there is the option of including an extra batsman or bowler, depending on the perceived greater need.

Those of you of a certain vintage will recall when Peter Bowler kept wicket for most of our successful Sunday League season. He did a competent job, standing back for a seam-based attack, which enabled the team to be better balanced than had we chosen a specialist. There is no comparison between Bowler and Smit as a wicket-keeper and we have simply chosen one specialist over another. It is an enviable position in which to find ourselves.

Once the decision is made that for THIS game Smit is the better option with the gloves, the choice is simple. Is Harvey Hosein a better one-day batsman, at this stage, than his rivals for a place and does he give another option, other than batting? Well, both Luis Reece and Charlie Macdonell offer bowling options and are likely to be equally good in the field, which means that Hosein misses out for now. Those last two words are important, because that same discussion will take place before every game this season.

If Daryn Smit drops a catch or misses a stumping today, someone will doubtless be quick to say 'Hosein wouldn't have done that'. But he might, and Harvey is no less immune to error than anyone else. I have seen him put down a catch or two, just as I saw Bob Taylor miss a few and there were no better keepers than Bob in the fifty years I have watched the game. Daryn, as an experienced pro who has in his younger days been on the other end of the decision in South Africa, will know that Hosein is awaiting opportunity at any major sign of error or sloppiness.

We must be very clear on this: we cannot say that we have to play Harvey, or he will leave to join 'X'. The club cannot and must not be held to ransom by any player and there are good keepers around the circuit who he would need to displace anyway. Everyone knows Chris Read is retiring at Nottinghamshire, but in Tom Moores they have a talented and able replacement. They also have Brendan Taylor, who has kept many times for Zimbabwe and other counties are equally well-off in that department.

The bottom line is that we could field Harvey in every game this season, but he could still walk away if a bigger county offered him daft money. Such is the way of the world and that frustration has been felt by every county in the country.

All we can do is watch the players in matches. Those selecting the team will see them in the nets, be aware of health and fitness and consider everything going on around a player when making a selection.

That is the way that it has to be and we, irrespective of our friendships, loyalties, family ties and preferences, must abide by that.

They have the full picture, we don't.

Simple as that, really.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Yorkshire v Derbyshire preview: Viljoen debuts in strong county 12

A debut for Hardus Viljoen against an excellent Yorkshire side is one reason to be cheerful, going into tomorrow's game at Headingley.

So too is the absence of five Yorkshire players, all of them in the England squad for the one-dayers against Ireland. That costs us the services of the excellent Gary Wilson, but Derbyshire will give the gloves to Daryn Smit tomorrow.

There will be those who expected to see Harvey Hosein take over behind the stumps, but Smit allows the side's balance to be tweaked, depending on the type of wicket that they encounter tomorrow.

The Derbyshire 12 is:

Billy Godleman
Luis Reece
Ben Slater
Shiv Thakor
Charlie Macdonell
Wayne Madsen
Daryn Smit
Jeevan Mendis
Alex Hughes
Matt Critchley
Hardus Viljoen
Ben Cotton

The man to miss out is likely to be one from Critchley, Reece and Macdonell, though all offer bowling options that may be useful, in a Derbyshire side that bats long and has plenty of them.

Seeing Viljoen on the team sheet is welcome, but we should not expect too much, too soon from a player who needs to gain confidence his body is up to the job and then recover rhythm after a lengthy lay-off. Expectations of his running through Yorkshire would be unrealistic, while criticism of his failure to do so would be unfair. The time to judge him is at season end and he will hopefully get fitter and, crucially, stay fit.

The home side may be missing five stars but will still field a strong side, skippered by Gary Ballance, a man in prime form. Their fourteen is:

Gary Ballance (Captain), Tim Bresnan, Karl Carver, Ben Coad, Matthew Fisher, Ryan Gibson, Peter Handscomb (Wicketkeeper), Jack Leaning, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Steven Patterson, Azeem Rafiq, Will Rhodes, Matthew Waite.

 There are some fine players in there, but there are in our side too and if you are going to play and beat Yorkshire, this is probably the time that offers the best opportunity. Ballance and Australian Peter Handscomb are key men, while youngster Ben Coad has been a revelation this summer and Azeem Rafiq so often turns into Saqlain Mushtaq against us.

A win at Headingley is always special and I think we can nick this one tomorrow, with a team that is playing good cricket and just needs to find an extra 5-10% to get across the line.

With the weather set fair, it should make for a good day's cricket.

More from me tomorrow!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Viljoen returns to second team duty

Good  - no, make that great - to see Hardus Viljoen in a strong second team that is traveling to play Worcestershire tomorrow.

One would assume, if there is no reaction, that he will be in the frame for the game against Yorkshire on Sunday, which has come at the right time for Derbyshire. We will be missing Gary Wilson, who has been in such fine form this summer, but our hosts will be without Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett and David Willey.

I'd suggest that makes our task a little easier than it would otherwise have been, although Yorkshire will still field a strong and hard to beat eleven,  led by Gary Ballance, who has been in prime form  this year and has been a thorn in our side since leaving us.

I hope that Hardus comes through it and is able to play at the weekend, though we should not expect too much too soon from the giant South African. It has been four months since he last played and rhythm takes a while for any bowler.

More important is that he learns to trust his body again and I hope his knee is fully restored to health and he can take the next step to a regular place in the side.

There will be important appearances for other players  tomorrow.

Harvey Hosein will likely be in pole position to replace Gary Wilson and will let no one down. Tomorrow he will keep to both Matt Critchley and Hamidullah Qadri, so will get experience that will be of use for Sunday and Jeevan Mendis.

Luis Reece is also involved and it is a robust sign of our progress that he cannot get into the one day side at present. To be honest, any batsman would find it tough to get into a side that racked up successive 300s in a fifty-over game and some exciting young players must wait their turn.

Tom Milnes is also playing and I hope he gets his mojo working and a little confidence restored. Tom hasn't become a bad cricketer and there were plenty who said we should not discount him for the first choice side when this was being discussed over the winter. His first-class figures confirm him as a decent player, but he's just having one of those periods at present. We shouldn't forget that he is only 24 and in 'old season' terms has only a summer behind him.

23 first-class games don't make you established, nor give you the experience you need to handle different situations. He'll come again, but like most of you, I feel it will be easier for him away from the public eye at this stage.

If things get much worse on the seam bowling front, we'll be tossing the new ball to Alex Hughes and Luis Reece, as Abid Ali and Eknath Solkar, and recreating the Indian side of the 1970s with all these spinners we have...

That seconds twelve:

Luis Reece
Charlie Macdonell
Tom Wood
Harvey Hosein
Matt Critchley
Callum Brodrick
Greg Cork
Tom Taylor
Hamidullah Qadri
Hardus Viljoen
Archie Gleadall
Tom Milnes

More from me tomorrow, hopefully with good news from Kidderminster.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Derbyshire v Notts RLODC

Derbyshire 303-4 (Godleman 90, Slater 72, Madsen 66 not)

Nottinghamshire 286-6 (Hales 77, Wessels 67, Patel 59 Madsen 2-26 Mendis 2-53)

Nottinghamshire won by 4 wickets.

It is hard to be overly critical of Derbyshire tonight.

Yes, we lost but we took a near-international side to the last over and by all accounts played some good cricket. Be honest, we topped 300 for the second time in three days, not a common feat in our one-day history...as in never.

A very solid batting display was led off by the skipper and Ben Slater, the latter sadly run out for the second match running. Late 'oomph' came from the classy Mr Madsen, though looking back there may be thoughts that the more bucolic Gary Wilson might have gone in at five, ahead of Daryn Smit. The latter did little wrong, but Wilson has a reputation for late innings pyrotechnics that we should have utilised earlier.

The bowling? Full marks for using Madsen against Michael Lumb, who likes pace on the ball, but it was puzzling that he didn't bowl more. The same for Alex Hughes, whose four overs for 21 were worthy of more.

Neither leggie did badly but there wasn't the turn that we would have hoped for in opting to bat. Ben Cotton was collared for the first time this year and it is sad to see the travails of Tom Milnes continue.

Yet we should remember that this is a side choc-full of internationals. To beat such a side you need to catch them on a bad day and hardly put a foot wrong yourselves.

We didn't quite manage that today, but can hold our heads high. It is a work in progress, but one that is moving in the right direction.

With everyone fit..perhaps with Viljoen and Davis to lead the attack, things might have gone the other way.

But they didn't roll us over and the small gains that will tip the result another time will be studied carefully.

Disappointed? Yes of course, we all are after a defeat.

But not despondent.

Not by a long chalk.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire preview

After an early start and a long, but untroubled drive, I returned to the bosom of my family at lunchtime today. I had a great 'road trip', even if the weather in Durham made it less  memorable than it could have been. Yesterday's batting display by Derbyshire made up for it and I consider myself privileged to have watched and enjoyed such a professional effort.

Here's a trivia question for you...when did Derbyshire name a fourteen-man squad that includes four leg-spinners?

The answer is...tomorrow. Logic suggests that we will use the same wicket for the local derby against Nottinghamshire as we did yesterday. There wasn't a lot of turn in it then for Jeevan Mendis, but a day in drying winds and hopefully sunshine today might change that for tomorrow's match.

I am pleased to see Matt Critchley in the squad, a thoroughly deserved promotion after good figures with bat and ball in the seconds. He joins Mendis and possibly Daryn Smit in the leggie contingent, as does Hamidullah Qadri.

For those who don't know him, Qadri is a hugely talented young man of Afghan origin, who has scored runs and taken wickets in large quantities through age group cricket and is currently on the Derbyshire Academy.

I have spoken to very good judges who expect him to push for the first team inside the next couple of seasons. He was recently on tour in Sri Lanka with England under-16s and has turned in some excellent displays for Alvaston and Boulton with bat and ball.

He will be in tomorrow's squad for experience, of course, unless we go with one of the most left field of left field selections. He takes his place in this squad:

Billy Godleman
Luis Reece
Ben Slater
Shiv Thakor
Wayne Madsen
Daryn Smit
Gary Wilson
Jeevan Mendis
Alex Hughes
Matt Critchley
Tom Milnes
Tom Taylor
Ben Cotton
Hamidullah Qadri

My guess would be that Luis Reece and Qadri miss out, together with one of Tom Milnes or Tom Taylor. Critchley is a good one day bowler and although he took a little stick last year at Welbeck, I think he might be a worthwhile option on a pitch that may offer a little turn. Neither Tom stood out against Northamptonshire, though Milnes looked better in his second spell from the Racecourse End and beat the bat on a couple of occasions.

Our opponents are choc-full of talent but have lost both their games so far.

Their squad:

 Brendan Taylor, James Pattinson, Chris Read, Stuart Broad, Riki Wessels, Alex Hales, Harry Gurney, Luke Fletcher, Samit Patel, Greg Smith, Jake Ball, Michael Lumb, Billy Root.

Root and Smith are likely to miss out, leaving Derbyshire facing 'only' nine internationals, including a pace attack of Broad, Pattinson and Ball. Which makes a slow, hopefully turning wicket an even greater priority, don't you think?

Logic suggests that the visiting Goliaths should slay the home Davids, yet they have lost both games so far, while we have three points. A loss tomorrow would effectively end their interest in the competition, so they will undoubtedly be up for the challenge.

Yet don't discount home advantage, nor that old juggernaut of momentum. They have the stronger attack, but there's not that much between the batting sides, in my opinion. There are big names in their line-up, capable of 400-plus scores as we saw last year, but we have seen them under perform in the past and they are beatable. We need eleven players at their best, but bats and a ball will do fine, instead of the jawbone of an ass...

If we lose, we will still be able to benchmark ourselves against a good side.

If we win, we can perhaps start dreaming of what might be.

Postscript - thanks to everyone for smashing the previous record for the busiest April since the blog began, with a staggering increase of 40 per cent

It shows the huge interest in Derbyshire cricket, while yesterday was the biggest single day in the blog's history.

On a day where records were broken left, right and centre, that's another one for you!