Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Derbyshire v Lancashire T20

Derbyshire 211-5 (Reece 97 not, Smit 42 not)

Lancashire 176-9 (Livingstone 44, Brown 41, Henry 3-37, Critchley 2-16)

Derbyshire won by 35 runs

On an evening that marked the halfway point of the T20  competition, Derbyshire won a game of marvelous entertainment by some distance in the end, although there were times when the result seemed less certain.

When Liam Livingstone took 26 from the first over of Matt Henry, I could imagine a few people reaching for their phones to make blog comments, on a player who has not yet impressed in Derbyshire colours. However, to his great credit he came back and his next three overs produced just eleven runs and three wickets. It was a test of his character and one that he passed with flying colours.

That Lancashire didn't mount the successful chase that looked likely at the halfway point was down to two other unlikely heroes. Matt Critchley has bowled little this year, but his dismissal of Karl Brown and Joss Buttler swung the game our way. The former was going well and we got the latter before he got into his stride, always important.

After that, the decline came fast and the runs dried up, as the recalled Ben Cotton bowled a great spell of four overs, costing just 28 runs. Big Ben is, for me, a solid performer in this format of the game and returned to the form that he showed over the past couple of seasons, crucially giving us an extra, dependable bowler. I suspect that he will now be in to stay, because quite simply he deserves to be in the side after such an effort.

It was encouraging to see Hardus Viljoen return to form too, after my criticism of both he and Henry at the weekend. You need your star men to take the lead and they both put in a good stint tonight. Meanwhile, although Imran Tahir went for a few boundaries, he too pulled it back and I am sure that a healthy crowd enjoyed his wicket and typical celebration.

Earlier, Derbyshire got off to a flyer and stayed at a steady rate, largely thanks to Luis Reece, who will have enjoyed his innings against his old team. He deserved a century, but although he kept getting on to the strike, he couldn't quite reach the landmark. Nonetheless, that was a terrific effort from the left hander.

At 134-5 in the fourteenth over, we could quite easily have subsided to 175 or thereabouts, much as we did at Edgbaston. To add 77 in those closing overs was  a terrific effort and full credit is also due to Daryn Smit for his crucial role.

Belying a suggestion  that he scores too slowly for the format, Smit's unbeaten 42 from just 20 deliveries took the pressure from Reece and heaped it on to the visitors, as we passed 200 with an over to spare. It also, for me, made more sense for him to come in with overs to bat, than the more aggressive but less dependable Henry. Twice now he has played crucial, late hands for us in this competition; each time that innings was the difference at the end of the game.

It was stirring stuff and must have been special for a large crowd on a balmy summer's evening. The club's coffers must have swelled nicely, just like our prospects in the competition.

Now for Friday night.

Let's go again, boys...

Now, I look forward to your comments!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Derbyshire v Lancashire T20 preview

There is an opportunity for Derbyshire to lay down a marker tomorrow, in a game against Lancashire that marks the half way point of the T20 group stage.

Defeat wouldn't spell the end of our ambitions, in a group that is wide open and where seven or eight wins might take a team through. But it would suggest our recent decline could be terminal to those ambitions.

We need a statement in front of a likely good crowd and a repeat of last year's excellent win over the visitors. It was a game in which Jimmy Neesham, who for me should have been re-engaged for this year, produced a fine bowling performance, before one of the last Wes and Ches shows, with a fine knock from Hamish Rutherford, took us home.

We are a stronger side this year, but the bowling has been sketchy and thus far, for me, only Imran Tahir can be said to have genuinely improved it. Hardus Viljoen bowled well in the first two games, but since then, perhaps with injury, has struggled, while Matt Henry has bowled some good balls but been horribly punished. I know the bowlers will have talked and worked on the lines and lengths they need to be bowling with Dominic Cork, but it would appear they have been missing them. Badly.

I don't see them being dropped though, as one pundit wrote elsewhere the other night. They are players of proven ability and we can only hope that their mojo returns and a home crowd gets the best from them. I may be in a minority of one, but don't see better options languishing in the second team at this stage.

I do think we need to bring in an extra bowler and Ben Cotton could be that man. In previous summers he has managed to hit the wide yorker lengths pretty well and that will be important against a side that carries some punishing batsmen down the order.

I'm not going to predict this one, because I am unsure which Derbyshire side will turn up. As I wrote last night, we cannot keep leaving the batting almost 200 to chase and expect them to come up trumps.

Lancashire have had stronger sides in the past, but are doing well because they play as a team and have several players who can score the quick, requisite thirties. They also have Junaid Khan, a good death bowler who stifled us at Old Trafford and the presence of Joss Butler in the middle order is always a threat.

For Derbyshire to win, someone - batsman or bowler - needs to produce something magical for us.

Who will step up to the plate?

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Birmingham Bears v Derbyshire T20

Birmingham Bears 197-4 (De Grandhomme 65 not, Pollock 66)

Derbyshire 177-9 (Reece 33, Elliott 4-37)

Bears won by 20 runs

After seventeen overs of the home side's innings today, a betting man might have fancied a few bob on Derbyshire coming out on top in this game.

At 137-3, with Ian Bell dismissed, the thinking would have been a total of around 170, comfortably within the compass of a side that has been batting well.

Then the wheels came off, faster than a pit stop at a grand prix.

SIXTY runs conceded in the last three overs.Six, zero.

The target had gone from challenging, but possible, to unlikely in eighteen balls. A friend texted me to say that, according to the radio, we would fancy anything under 200. Sadly, not for me.

When the momentum swings against you, it is very difficult to stop it and swing it back. The home side will have been buzzing after the late assault by Colin De Grandhomme and Will Porterfield, something we appear to have been powerless to stop.

I am less concerned about Wayne Madsen conceding runs, though the question of bowling him at that stage, as a non-regular bowler, is a valid one. Both batsmen have reputations as hitters, though I guess he has been our best bowler and just had one of those overs. What is disappointing, however, is that we continue to hemorrhage runs from our overseas quicks, from who one would really expect better.

It is not fair to judge players at this stage, but is safe to say that both need to up their game if this is to be anything other than the latest in a long list of promising, but ultimately disappointing campaigns. We have gone from 3-1 to 3-3 in the blink of an eye and although the batting worked hard to the end, we cannot expect them to be chasing 200 every time and no one really got going today.

With the role of overseas professional and Kolpak come rewards, but also considerable expectation. If Ben Cotton and Tom Taylor had gone for those runs we would write it off to inexperience, but players who are well rewarded and experienced should be doing better. Just as De Grandhomme did, as Grant Elliott did and, indeed, as Imran Tahir did, after taking some stick in his opening over.

At the end of a disappointing weekend, we sit third in the table on run rate, one of four teams on six points with the reigning champions and Leicestershire, a side we have still to play twice, above us.

There is a lot to play for and we can get back on track.

But by crikey, those closing overs need to be a heck of lot better, even if I acknowledge a terrific effort by the two home batsmen.

Don't let us down now lads, after all the hard work you have put in so far.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Birmingham Bears v Derbyshire preview

You see, that's the thing with T20.

It only needs a batsman to come out flying on either side and it can make a mockery of predictions and form. Like Riki Wessels last night, after the hardest work appeared to have been done.

Tomorrow's opponents Warwickshire (for it is they, in an animal guise...) have some good players but are having a wretched summer. They seem destined for the drop in the four-day game and have committed the cardinal sporting sin of letting a good team grow old together. A look at the side that played Yorkshire last night shows a collection of players who are unlikely to be whippets in the field, but can still produce the goods with bat and ball.

As good as Yorkshire and Northamptonshire, who we beat? No. Probably on a par with Worcestershire, who we also beat, but carrying a threat beyond the playing field in possibly being underestimated, as the likes of Ian Bell, Tim Ambrose, Grant Elliott and Jeevan Patel have been good players for a long time. They may not have the constant flame of their pomp, but from time to time they can turn it on and still win games.

Such a game could easily be tomorrow, and our increasingly impressive side must guard against complacency or they will get badly burned.

I don't see any changes in the Derbyshire side, unless late injury dictates otherwise and the only question, as mentioned earlier, is if there is a need for an additional bowling or batting specialist in the side. The way our batting is going I don't think so and, if your top seven don't get you runs, why should you expect a bloke at eight to do so? It's a shame that Ben Cotton hasn't the form of a couple of years back, when he looked a very good limited overs bowler, as he would have strolled into the side otherwise .

Taking the pace off seems to be the way we go, so I think it will be a straight call between Callum Brodrick or Hamidullah Qadri, with the former likely to get the nod. Given he hasn't yet batted or bowled, it can hardly be claimed that he has let us down, can it? Slow and turning would be nice, though, for a wicket...

Our hosts look likely to field the side that lost to Yorkshire, which will thus line up:

Hain, Bell, Porterfield, Ambrose, Elliott, Thomason, de Grandhomme, Barker, Patel, Rankin, Hannon-Dalby.

With three Kiwis in that side, John Wright should have an idea what to expect, as should Matt Henry on the pitch.

A Derbyshire win? If we hope to progress in the competition, it has to be. Good players as they are, you would have to say we need to beat them, Durham and Leicestershire to go through. I can understand losing to Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire. To lose to the others, we are deluding ourselves with expectation of progress.

We'll see how it goes tomorrow.

Good luck lads.

A season-defining week ahead

The next week is one that will define whether the 2017 season will go down in history as where Derbyshire started their climb to a side of quality, or sparkled briefly, only to fizzle out once more.

It is undeniable that we have played a better quality of cricket than before in this T20.

So far.

The key is now to extend that through a week of largely home matches, against teams who we should have a chance of beating. Warwickshire away are beatable, after a wretched summer, while Lancashire could, with a little more batting nous, have been beaten at Old Trafford. If we can do better on Tuesday, it sets the return against Northamptonshire up nicely on Friday, before table-topping Leicestershire visit on Sunday.

In previous years I would have thought 'one win, three losses' among that set, but it is a sign of the change of mindset that all could be viewed as wins. They possibly won't be, but we are a better-equipped and more experienced side this year, if we maintain focus.

Yes, as a contributor said yesterday, we are missing Shiv Thakor, but I would be surprised if we see him, so must continue as we are. We are crying out for a Charl Langeveldt, but the batting in this format has evolved even since his time. With batsmen using the full depth and width of the crease and carrying bats that will mishit sixes, short boundaries make the task of the bowler an onerous one.

Any bowler, especially those who often bowl in the Powerplays, who hits the ten an over mark for runs conceded is probably achieving par. As we saw the other night with Matt Henry, his last three balls changed impressive figures to average, as they went for 16 runs. None were bad balls, but the batsman chanced his arm and strength and away the ball went, along with his figures. It was the same for Imran last night, they perhaps didn't always read him, but rode the luck and reaped the rewards.

If the eleven that played last night remain fit, I don't see changes this week. Who would you leave out, with all the batsmen scoring runs and three internationals in the bowling ranks? Callum Brodrick's place is the most vulnerable, but do you pick a batsman who might not bat, a bowler you may not need or your best fielder?

With Madsen, Henry, Viljoen and Tahir to bowl 16 overs, I think the other four will continue to be split between Reece, Hughes and Critchley, unless Ben Cotton rediscovers his best bowling form or Tom Wood hits furiously this weekend at club level. Maybe Charlie Macdonell, who bats well and offers another spin option. Perhaps Hamidullah Qadri, whose height may make him more difficult to get 'under'. If they are unlikely to be used, then pick the best fielder, whoever he is.

Will it be enough to make it a golden week? I know no more than you, but I reckon that the side goes into every game now with a fifty per cent chance of success, sometimes more.

It is a long time since we have been able to say that and the efforts of John Wright and the captaincy of Gary Wilson have been impressive. We have plans, something we haven't had for a year or two, but not rigid ones. Reece didn't bowl last night (and will doubtless be pleased!)while the opposition don't 'line up' our bowlers in longer spells. We are lessening the impact of dot balls on our totals and largely batting with greater urgency, batsmen encouraged to express themselves.

It will make for a worthy week of watching and I hope that the locals turn up in the numbers that the efforts of everyone deserve.

If I get to next Sunday evening and remain in a state of anticipation, it will be a job well done.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire T20

Nottinghamshire 227-3 (Wessels 110, Taylor 67 not, Madsen 2-32)

Derbyshire 222-5 (Madsen 86 not, Godleman 43 not)

Nottinghamshire won by 5 runs

You can forget the city-based competition, because there will be nothing remotely close to the excitement on a night when two East Midlands rivals slugged it out under the Trent Bridge floodlights.

Yes, in the end the home side prevailed, narrowly, when we couldn't get a six off the game's final ball to tie it. Be honest, how many of you had any idea we would get within a hair's breadth of a total of that magnitude?

There may well be criticisms of the bowlers tonight, but sometimes you need to credit batsmen who play a blinder, albeit with the aid of a boundary that was a tad on the short side. Riki Wessels is a perennial thorn in our side, and even when Wayne Madsen took the wickets of Hales and Patel, the danger of Wessels and Brendan Taylor was obvious. They hit us around the park, as we later did to their bowlers.

Madsen was the best by a distance, as he was later the best batsman. He is having a quite astonishing tournament and is in the form of his life, after a sketchy four-day season so far. The rest went for ten an over-plus, but if you combine big bats and short boundaries, something has to give. I had messages about poor fielding and Wessels was dropped, but this happens in any form of cricket. The side that fields the best often just shades it, but we came so close.

Critchley and Godleman again went off like a train, Reece ticked over steadily and then came Madsen. An unbeaten 86 from just 44 balls as we stayed in the game to the very end, with support from Gary Wilson and then Alex Hughes.

In the end it was...just...too much. But on a night when over fourteen thousand filled Trent Bridge, county cricket was the winner. Why do we need to introduce a 'better' competition, which will have all the competitive edge of Ethel and Mary knitting sweaters at the WRI? I am still firmly of the opinion - and hope - that it dies on its backside.

It was a magnificent game to follow, in my case on Twitter and Cricinfo, and a huge credit to both sides.

Where does it leave us? Still, I think, in a very strong position. If we can chase and not be fazed by a total of that size, other counties will be worried about what we might do. If the fielding and bowling can hold their own, the batting appears to be going from strength to strength.

In any other season, if you had told me the opposition had made 220, I would have backed us to fall a hundred short.

This year? We are a team of constant surprises.

Perhaps the best is yet to come.

Postscript - shameful piece on the BBC cricket site about Callum Brodrick's dropped catch at Worcester the other night. It was labelled 'an easy catch', which anyone who has ever played the game knows they never are.

When the eyes of everyone are on you and the ball is coming down from a great height, it is never easy. Some may make it seem so, but factor in a big crowd, a lad making his county debut and the television cameras and the complexity increases.

Whoever was responsible should be ashamed, as should whichever hack editor thought it a good idea.

They got their come-uppance on Twitter today, that's for sure.

And rightly so.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire T20 Preview

The first of the two big local derbies arrives tomorrow, with Derbyshire taking the short trip to Nottingham to play our long-standing rivals.

For a long time there was no real expectation of our lads winning, but now? I think if we are focused and can field a full-strength side, we can handle anyone. That's not a comment borne of last night's euphoria, more based on beating two very good sides earlier in the competition. We have chased down big totals with time to spare and have shown ourselves to be excellent pacers of a run chase. That may be the first time in the blog's history I have written that sentence...

Last night, before he was drowned out by the inanities of Rob Key, Dominic Cork was making the point that John Wright has told us that if we score one off every ball, we will win most matches. Key's response, almost too stupid to recount here, was 'but 120 won't win you many games, Dominic'. He missed the point, in failing to be a comedian, that Cork was making - you score something off every ball, putting away the bad ones when they come and eliminating the dot deliveries, you will score big and quickly. You'll gather I wasn't a fan of the commentary team last night, but Wright's words were exactly those that I have used for the past few seasons, at this stage of the summer.

Can we do it tomorrow? Well, our hosts are, I think, some way removed from the side they were even last season, since when they have lost, for one reason or another, Messrs Taylor, Lumb, Fletcher, Broad, Smith and Read. Such is their strength that they will still field a strong side, but there's not too much between the elevens tomorrow.

I think that we fielded our strongest eleven last night. There are plenty of bowling options and a depth to the batting, to which Callum Brodrick adds. He could also bowl, if needed and, a dropped catch apart (and who hasn't dropped one or two?) he fielded brilliantly. I suspect there will be no changes tomorrow and that Tom Wood's elevation to the side may have to wait for now.

I'm not sure that Hardus Viljoen is even 70% fit, based on his movements last night, but they need to keep strapping up his knee and he needs to find better lines and lengths than he did against Worcestershire. Nonetheless, he is a key component of the eleven. 

The home side? They will have England star Alex Hales to open and we will hope for a Nathan Rimmington-style departure for him in the early overs, in which he will feature in this squad:

Taylor, Mullaney, Wessels, Hales, Gurney, Wood, Patel, Moores, Hutton, Ball, Christian, Sodhi, Root.

Talented? Yes. Unbeatable? No, unless Hales produces another of his special innings. There's no Mark Footitt either, which might be the first suggestion to Mark that he won't get the regular cricket that a return to Derbyshire may have brought him.

There is an interesting battle of the leggies, between Imran Tahir and Ish Sodhi, with our challenge to stop an aggressive top order going berserk in the Powerplay. Madsen apart, if the others bowl as they did in that period last night, they could have 80 on the board by that stage.

Which brings me to my final point tonight. I wouldn't swap Wayne Madsen for any other batsman in county cricket. Seriously, would you? Last night's innings was so breathtakingly good I had to keep telling myself it was Derbyshire I was watching. When he and Godleman were going at full tilt, the standard of batting was so high it was astonishing. I don't recall feeling that way about our batsmen in a long, long time, with, as a contributor said last night, hardly a false stroke.

It could all go pear-shaped tomorrow, but we are ahead of the pack right now, along with Leicestershire, who won again tonight.

If we do win, there may be a few more people sit up and take notice.

More from me tomorrow.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Worcestershire v Derbyshire T20

Worcestershire 186-5 (Madsen 2-20)

Derbyshire 189-3 (18.2 overs, Godleman 70, Madsen 58 not, Critchley 31)

Derbyshire won by seven wickets

I'll admit, from the start, that Billy Godleman played the sort of knock that I didn't think he had in him tonight.

I respect him massively, but the statistic on Sky TV tonight, that showed it as his first T20 fifty since 2009, tells a story. Yet it also tells the success of Derbyshire's coach, John Wright, who has, as Billy said afterwards, taken the pressure off the batsmen and told them to go and play their normal game.

Back in 1970, I recall watching David Smith, a gritty Yorkshire left-hander for us, hammer Derek Shackleton, then one of the county game's most economical and successful bowlers, to all parts, during a Sunday afternoon fixture against Hampshire. I never saw him play another innings similar, so Billy's challenge now is to use this as his launch pad.

Today he batted superbly and the ring of the ball from his bat was a pleasure, as was the range of his shots. Once again, he was admirably partnered by Matt Critchley, whose clean hitting helped to get us off to the flyer we needed when chasing over nine an over. When the partnership ended, at 64 after five stunning overs, we had a platform to win the game.

Billy, partnered by the sublime Wayne Madsen, made sure that it was a walk in the park. I have seen Wayne bat many times, but don't think I have seen him in better nick than tonight. He should have been caught, without doubt, but his sweeping and switch-hits were magnificent and I haven't seen a more aesthetically-pleasing innings this summer. He really is a joy to watch.

In their contrasting styles they steered us to the edge of victory, before Billy took a huge swing at Mitchell Santner and was stumped, leaving Gary Wilson to ease us across the line with a typically bucolic cameo.

It was a breathtaking, brilliant run chase, professional and heart-warming for supporters used to years of failure. Maybe this could be the year we make the knockouts. Maybe that other, special day, but there's way too much cricket to get ahead of ourselves.

The bowling? A mixed bag. Madsen, again, was excellent and a shoo-in for man of the match with two wickets. So too Imran Tahir, who seemed unplayable until Ross Whiteley chanced his arm in his final over. It was brave to open with Luis Reece's slow left arm, yet kind of worked after an awful first over. I didn't think Matt Henry bowled badly at all tonight, but his figures suffered from a last over slog. He bowled some good balls though and it was good to see improved form.

Poor bowler tonight? Hardus Viljoen for me, who seemed to lack rhythm and direction. He did get the key wicket of Joe Clarke, who looked set for 150 the way he was batting, but it was with a fast full toss that hardly qualified as a good ball in school cricket.

Yet again, we came out on the right side. The ground fielding was sound and I was hugely impressed by Calum Brodrick, who was like a whippet in the deep, quick to the ball, brave and brilliant in his stops and sure with his throwing. It reinforced my opinion of his talent when I saw him at Belper and he is another young man to watch.

Three out of four. If we can string together both disciplines on an evening, we will really be special, but a third of the way through the competition, we are in a good position, ahead of a trip to Nottingham, which will be tough.

Full credit to Messrs Wright, Barnett, Cork and Stubbings. They are making a very good fist of this at present.

One final comment. Does Paul Allott of Sky watch any cricket, or follow the game? His surprise at Wayne Madsen opening the bowling couldn't have been greater had Wayne done so in a tutu. Likewise the commentators being surprised at our wanting to finish it quickly suggested they were oblivious to the niceties of net run rate, which could change fourth into fifth and vice versa at the end of the group stage.

Corky was entertaining and informative as ever, but I do hope he learns how to pronounce 'Madsen' sometime soon.

Just the one 'd', Dominic, thank you.

Still, I'll forgive that tonight.

Proper win, that one.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Worcestershire v Derbyshire T20

It is good to see Tom Wood in the Derbyshire squad for tomorrow's game at Worcester, which is live on Sky from 5.30pm.

Wood, now recovered from injury, played two good knocks for the second team in recent days and for me will get a place in a team that has so far struggled for starts in the competition.

If we are to be bold, I would like to see Tom open, or go in at first drop. Luis Reece then affords a left/right combo at the top of the innings and I would like to see the following side tomorrow:

Critchley
Reece
Wood
Madsen
Wilson
Hughes
Smit
Henry
Viljoen
Tahir
Qadri/Cotton

Billy Godleman and Callum Brodrick are also in the squad, but we need to take steps to offer a better start to the innings. Of course there is a danger, in two attacking players in the top three, of having wickets down quickly. Yet so far we have been wickets down and few runs on the board.

No matter how good the attack, we will win few matches from 30-1 after the Powerplay. Critchley and Wood offer the possibility of doubling that, a launch pad for a win more often than not.

Matt Henry will want to rediscover his best form against the side he played for in this competition last year and Derbyshire need him performing at international standard against a side that has some fine cricketers.

Their squad contains some dangerous cricketers, although Josh Tongue and Adam Finch are on England under-19 duty. With our old boy Ross Whiteley a danger man in the middle order, we will have to hope that our overseas seam and spin combo is better than theirs, John Hastings and Mitchell Santner.

There is enough in our side to win and I expect us to do so, but only if the whole attack bowls well. I expect Ben Cotton to get the nod for the final place, but much will depend on the look of the wicket and we must bat and bowl better than we did at Old Trafford.

If not, we will go into Friday's game in dire danger of a firework start turning into a damp squib.

Yet, in a competition of 14 games, there is a long way to go and a talented home side have still to win, illustrating the strength of the group.

Here's hoping I can still write that tomorrow...

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Lancashire v Derbyshire T20

Derbyshire 152-8 (Madsen 52, Critchley 40, Reece 37)

Lancashire 155-5 (Buttler 42 not)

Lancashire won by 5 wickets

At the halfway point of this game, a friend  texted me and asked what I thought of the Derbyshire score.

'About 20 runs short' was my concise reply and I don't think that I was too far wide of the mark in that assertion. Apart from a brief wobble when they were 56-3, there wasn't a point at which I thought we could claw this back, as we did at Chesterfield last weekend.

For us to do so, we needed a similarly tight bowling Power play and, after Matt Henry went for 17 in his first over, that theory was consigned to the waste bin. It was a game to forget for the Kiwi, his two overs going for 29 on a surface where most bowlers fancied at least keeping it tight. As his stronger suit, we really need him to do better than in this game, because there are several other seamers on the staff who can go for less than fifteen an over.

Batting first on a slow track made sense, as it was only going to get slower, but to win such games you need to get a total on the board and then bowl well across the unit. We didn't do either today, so, in a nutshell, deserved to lose.

The experiment with Matt Critchley opening worked, and despite the early loss of Billy Godleman (you know my thoughts there) we recovered well, first with Luis Reece and then Wayne Madsen. Critchley's strike rate was at odds with most others in the game, but when he went, Reece was perhaps a little slow. If a batsman is going to score at less than a strike rate of a hundred, he needs to bat through and let others hit around him. In getting out when he did, Luis rather fell between two stools. A steady innings, much like his bowling later, but not quite enough on the day.

At 111-2 in 14 overs, we should have been looking at the 170-180 I mentioned earlier. Instead, only 41 came from the last six and batsmen came and went with undue haste as the wheels on the bus, instead of going round and round, fell off with a clatter.

Full credit to Lancashire, who bowled tight to keep us to a run a ball in that period, but after Madsen's dismissal for a fluent 52, it was largely an example of binary batting, that was reminiscent of too many bad days past.

The ten an over start given to Lancashire by Livingstone and Brown put things into perspective, and although Imran Tahir got another two wickets and most of those who were tried did well, the four overs bowled by Henry, Qadri and Critchley went for 54, and so did the game.

No complaints regarding Qadri, whose T20 debut saw him bowl at one of the world's most destructive batsmen in Joss Buttler, but one would expect better from a specialist overseas bowler than to only bowl two of his allocation. He will, I think come back stronger but needs to, as one of the key men in the side.

It is not a night for weeping, wailing and gnashing teeth, since it is our first defeat in the competition, but it is one where the players will doubtless look at areas where they could and should have done better.

There were too many of those for another mark in the 'win' column tonight.

And doubtless things for John Wright to talk about in the nets tomorrow.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Lancashire v Derbyshire T20 preview

It is, I think, a sign of how Derbyshire has progressed that I don't look at tomorrow's game against Lancashire at Old Trafford and fear a hammering.

It could happen, of course, if we don't play with the same focus that was a highlight of our two straight wins so far. Any side with Joss Buttler in it can take a game away from you quickly, while the likes of Karl Brown, Liam Livingstone and a few others are very good players.

Yet you look through our squad and see the same. Any of their supporters, looking at the squad announced today, will see Wayne Madsen, Gary Wilson, Matt Henry, Hardus Viljoen, Imran Tahir and a few more, then think 'we've got a game on here'.

I watched the Roses match the other night and it was a fair game, but I saw nothing to worry me ahead of tomorrow. What I did see, and I am sure the Derbyshire players saw, was a slow wicket that will probably be replicated. The slow bowlers and those who took the pace off the ball reaped dividends and from a named Derbyshire fifteen, I expect to see the following side take the field.

Critchley
Slater
Reece
Madsen
Wilson
Hughes
Henry
Smit
Viljoen
Qadri
Tahir

While the risk of a young spinner getting slogged in this format is high, I watched Hamidullah Qadri bowl at Belper last week and was hugely impressed. He has astonishing command of line and length for his age, and while he will be picked on a 'horses for courses' basis, I suspect that this is one of those courses. Meanwhile I think Ben Slater's runs at Belper will see him retain his place, ahead of Billy Godleman, while Matt Critchley will get a chance to see his side off to a faster start than we have managed so far.

With four seamers and four spinners at his disposal, Gary Wilson won't lack options in the field and his task, somewhat obviously, will be to have them on at the right end at the right time.

Lancashire has announced an unchanged squad from their tied match against Yorkshire and I suspect the side will be the same. So expect them to line up:

Brown, Livingstone, Buttler, Vilas, McLaren, Croft, Lilley, Clark, Parry, Bailey, Junaid

It will be tough, with a hostile, partisan atmosphere that will test the faint-hearted. Yet I suspect that there's a tougher core to this Derbyshire side and we won't be easily intimidated.

I'll stick my neck out and predict a win, to keep the good times rolling.

More from me tomorrow.

And do let me know your thoughts in between times.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Good win for twos and Footitt rejoins Notts

There was a contrived, but undoubtedly satisfying win for the second team at Belper yesterday.

Tom Milnes took 5-37 to seal a last session win, completing a good all-round match, in which he had earlier shared a big stand with centurion, Harvey Hosein.

I don't expect either to push into this weekend's T20 reckoning on the back of the performances, though if there was a four-day game about to start, they may well come into consideration, depending on the form or fitness of others.

They both did all they can do, however and must continue to work at their games, as I am sure they will, awaiting opportunity.

Elsewhere, I had a couple of emails asking why 'we' weren't in the hunt for the services of Mark Footitt, after he was released from Surrey for what were described as 'personal reasons'.

My understanding is that we were, as a contact down in the south told me that Surrey were understanding of his situation and were willing to let him go immediately, as long as 'home' was exactly that. Such a move could realistically only involve ourselves and the other team in the East Midlands and I have every confidence that the professional people now in charge of cricket affairs at our club will have made an approach and an appropriate offer.

There was a time when our enquiries for a Surrey seamer might have seen us see if Robin Jackman or Geoff Arnold were still available, but not these days.

The reality is that Nottinghamshire will have been able to offer more money, as well as first division cricket next summer. Crucially, they also have the only man who has managed to keep Mark fit through long cricket seasons in James Pipe, all of them strong reasons to sign on the dotted line.

Taking a parochial view, Mark could have returned to be a big fish in a smaller pond at Derbyshire and, if everyone is available, one wonders how much first team cricket he will get at Trent Bridge, where he wasn't too well-treated last time around. However, in making his last big money move - his express pace will have gone by the time this contract expires - no one can argue that he has done what is right for him and undoubtedly his family.

I wish him well. he remains a lovely lad and as long as he keeps his best form for matches that don't involve Derbyshire, he'll be alright.

More from me over the weekend, with a T20 preview and, of course, a report on the game at Old Trafford, one that could have considerable bearing on our T20 fortunes.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The scent of opportunity...

Before the first ball had been bowled in this year's T20 Blast, a few people thought that this summer might, just might, present an opportunity for Derbyshire to progress in the competition. On paper, the attack looked talented, though the batting lacked what owners of a certain make of car might call 'Va-va-voom'.

After two matches. whisper it quietly, there are signs that even the most negative of fans (and we have a few...) cannot ignore. Wayne Madsen seems to be a wild card thrown in to the power play with success, while the return of Hardus Viljoen has given us a wicket-taking threat in the crucial middle period. Teams can sometimes get off to a flyer and take games out of sight in the middle ten overs, but thus far, Viljoen and Imran Tahir have eroded and strangled opposition batting line-ups with success.

It is a funny old group, where everyone is beating everyone else. Take Leicestershire's win over Lancashire the other day, a result that surprised many. With Yorkshire and Northamptonshire rained off yesterday, there is an opportunity for to put daylight between us and the chasing pack when we play Lancashire this weekend.

The red rose county quite like turning tracks for this competition and strangling the opposition batting with Messrs Kerrigan and Parry, with other options available. They will be aware of the danger in this with Tahir in our ranks and I would expect Hamidullah Qadri to be in the squad too, as well as Matt Critchley and Wayne Madsen. That's four spin options available to Gary Wilson and, assuming they bowl well, a chance of success.

I think that 'Operation Critchley', seen at Belper the other day, will be replicated at senior level. It may not come off, but the signs were there of a hard-hitting and quick-running partnership between Matt and Ben Slater. The latter isn't a big hitter, but you don't need to hit it out of the ground to score quickly. I always use the examples of Dean Jones and Peter Kirsten, neither of them enormous hitters but both fast scorers. Why? Because their timing of the ball and placement enabled them to run twos, when others were hitting it hard to the deep field. It was encouraging to see some of the second team players doing this the other day, especially in the second game. If you can reach the end of the power play with 60 on the board and wickets in hand, the platform has been laid for the rest.

'Critch' can help us to do that and his hitting against a strong Durham attack, was eye-opening. Why not utilise a lad like that, when the field is less deep and even mishits can carry for boundaries? His batting is clearly far more than that of an agricultural slogger and I suspect it will become his stronger suit in time.

Using him there would also enable another bowling specialist to play, at this point likely to be either Qadri or Will Davis. Will bowled quickly, without really letting it slip at Belper, understandable when he has been out. I think, in time, that he will realise that he can bowl at 80% a lot of the time, then use the really quick one as a surprise weapon, rather than trying to bowl at 100 and then find something extra that his body doesn't have.

But speaking of percentages, the big change this summer is exactly that. In previous years, we have needed the whole team to play at one hundred per cent to win games.

This year, I don't think, with bat or ball, we have yet approached a hundred, yet have beaten the reigning champions and a very strong Yorkshire side.

If we can bat better and bowl solidly as a unit, as well as holding our catches, there is an opportunity with this group of players.

IF, as I have said before, we can keep them fit and available.

Which may be the greatest challenge.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Enjoyable and interesting day watching the seconds

There were a lot of interesting things that made watching the second team at Belper an enjoyable experience today.

There was an opportunity to meet up with friends old and new, catch up on news, shoot the breeze and watch several hours of Derbyshire cricket.

Then there was a chance to see who is 'bubbling under' the current eleven and may be next in line should a vacancy occur in the side. There were impressive displays as Derbyshire tied the first game and won the second by ten runs against a strong Durham eleven.

Who impressed? For me, over two matches, an opening pairing of Ben Slater and Matt Critchley. I have suggested this in recent posts and today it worked. In the first innings, Ben looked scratchy, should have been stumped and more definitely run out, but he made forty-odd, while Matt looked a million dollars in making 37 from 19 balls. There were a couple of booming drives, a delightful cut and a pull of real severity. In the second game, he went more quickly, but not before depositing the opening bowler into the distant tennis courts. This time, Slater batted more fluently and looked classy through the off side, in making 60-odd runs of high class.

It was good to see Will Davis back and bowling again, working up a fair head of steam in doing so and troubling the batsmen, while in the second game Hamidullah Qadri looked every inch the supremely talented off spinner that he is. Don't be surprised to see him in the frame for T20 matches, because the batsmen tried to get after him and failed. If we can create a space at the top of the order for Critchley, a place lower down for a bowler will be there and for me, Qadri just shaded Davis as the day's most impressive bowler.

Ben Cotton bowled a decent over or two, Alex Hughes played some shots that left the ball ringing off the bat, while Callum Brodrick played a reverse sweep so deft, to help tie the first game, that it could have been caressed by Harry Potter's wand.

In short? Reece, Hughes, Critchley and Slater looked like first team players, Qadri and Davis looked to be on the verge of that.

It was good to see John Wright, Kim Barnett and Dominic Cork there today, sharing opinions and passing on ideas. They saw some pretty solid fielding, some variable bowling and steady batting, apart from one madcap over in the first game that saw Hughes daftly run out, Taylor brilliantly caught and Reece give it away with a hoik to long on.

For me, Critchley to open at Old Trafford and if they prepare the usual turning wicket, don't be surprised to see Qadri play. Irrespective of his tender years, the lad has just got it. His control of line and length is astonishing and he looks a genuine talent.

It was all watched by a decent crowd and with the weather decent, bar for one heavy shower, I'm sure they all went home happy.

Like me, really.

Thanks to all those whose company I shared today. You know who you are....

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Portents good in T20

What a splendid week they had for the Chesterfield Festival!

The weather stayed good and there were five excellent days of cricket in the most picturesque of settings. It is still a wonderful place to watch the game and it culminated in a pulsating win for the county against our old rivals, Yorkshire, from the final ball of yesterday's T20 game.

Truth be told, apart from putting down a catch yesterday, T20 skipper Gary Wilson has done little wrong in his first two outings. He has won the toss and each time chosen a different course of action, each time seeing his side come out on the right side of the result. Even that catch will not have been as simple as it might have looked from the boundary, because they never are, when you are trying to pick up a red ball against a background of tightly-packed, multi-coloured clothing from a big crowd.

The experienced hands signed over the winter have done what we wanted, while the contributions of the side's younger members should not be overlooked. Our fielding was just one of the deciding factors yesterday and is something that John Wright and the coaching team will have worked at, ahead of the competition.

There is, at this stage, a robust look to the side, with deep batting together with bowling options, but there are two obvious weaknesses that opponents will look to exploit.

One is the eight overs that cannot be bowled by Messrs Tahir, Viljoen and Henry. Wayne Madsen has done a good job so far with his spell, but the absence of Shiv Thakor is keenly felt and there are no guarantees as to if or when he may be available. So the onus shifts on to Matt Critchley and Alex Hughes to cover some of those overs, as economically as possible.

Unless we look at another option.

Most contributors are noting the slow starts we have made in the two games so far. They have not been costly, because the bowlers have done their stuff, but there will come a good track and we will be chasing nearer, or over 200.

I can see a point of including either Ben Slater or Billy Godleman, but not, in T20, both. Their inclusion doesn't really offer us the prospect of a flying start and with Luis Reece at three, we have three left-handers at the top of the order, to which bowlers can attune their lines.

My suggestion would be, assuming form and fitness, either to include Tom Wood in place of one of them, or promote Alex Hughes or Matt Critchley to what would become a pinch-hitting role. We would then have a right-hander to break things up, as well as someone, in all three cases, who can better capitalise on close-set fields.

Hughes and Critchley are both clean hitters, but both are being under-utilised at eight or nine in the order. With neither Ben or Billy offering a bowling option, we would also have the flexibility to bring in another batsman, bowler or all-rounder.

I'd still have liked to see a move for Kyle Coetzer, who could have given us that extra 5% that might swing more close matches, but the budget may not have been there or he may not have been interested anyway. Or us in him, for that matter...

This is intended as constructive criticism,at a time when the club is doing very well. Tweaking a winning formula, as Brian Clough always used to say, is a lot easier than having a major overhaul when things go wrong.

I look forward to your thoughts, but we're flying high at present and can enjoy the feeling, at least until next weekend.

Maybe there's an option within the club, so, having missed the Chesterfield Festival due to my wife's medical commitments, I am pleased to be down in God's own county for a few days. If the weather is kind, I hope to pop across to Belper tomorrow, where the second team are in their own T20 action against Durham.

I look forward to seeing some of our young talent making a case for inclusion and perhaps seeing a few old and new friends too!

More from me soon.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Derbyshire v Yorkshire T20

Derbyshire 165-8 (Madsen 42, Smit 30, Henry 28)

Yorkshire 162-7 (Lyth 68, Tahir 3-18, Viljoen 2-33)

Derbyshire won by 3 runs

I said, Derbyshire won by three runs!!!

By crikey, that was riveting stuff to follow online, as Derbyshire followed beating last year's winners yesterday by beating the best team in the country.

Fair play to Matt Henry, who went from hero to villain and back to hero, as first his brisk 28 from ten balls gave us something to bowl at, then bowled a wide on the penultimate ball to change the visitors winning equation from a six to a four. Finally, in a denouement worthy of Shakespeare, Luis Reece held the catch that ensured a spirited - no, make that marvelous - team effort was rewarded with the points.

It was a team effort, but one in which our quartet of South Africans all played leading roles. Wayne Madsen's 42, in partnership with Henry, ensured that we recovered from a very slow start and then took the key wicket of Kohler-Cadmore with his second ball. His four overs for just 22 runs were priceless in ensuring that the visitors didn't get off to a flyer.

Daryn Smit? Well, he again kept wicket impeccably and his end of innings cameo took our total from respectable to challenging. The dismissal of Handscomb, a dangerous customer, was the turning point and from then on, Yorkshire were chasing the game.

Then there was Hardus Viljoen. Chesterfield is a challenge for a quick bowler, because most edges go for four, but his conceding only 33 runs he kept us in the game. That was especially the case in the penultimate over, when he allowed only five runs and took the vital wicket of Adam Lyth, who looked like he might have nicked it for the white rose.

Above all, perhaps, was Imran Tahir. In this form of cricket, three for 18 in four overs is sensational. On a small ground, where the slightest error in line and length will be punished, Imran's three spells kept our opponents guessing and he remains a potent weapon for any captain.

They were all heroes today, but Alex Hughes three overs for 23 were also key in not allowing our 'bits 'n' pieces overs to be punished.

It was a great day for Derbyshire supporters, for John Wright and for Gary Wilson, who would appear to be a canny skipper. There's still things to do with the Power play, because it was a misnomer again today, albeit against a quality attack.

But we have two wins from two, against very good teams. We won't play better ones, so if we can keep the intensity, and crucially keep key personnel fit, maybe this is the year we escape the group stages.

No fantasies at this stage.

Just an enjoyment of played two, won two.

Top of the league. And no, we're not having a laugh.

Now I intend to sit back and look forward to your comments coming in. If you were there, let me hear your thoughts on the game, the ground, the occasion.

Party at our place...

Derbyshire v Yorkshire preview

Just an hour to go until the big game and I'm afraid domestic commitments have prevented an earlier preview.

Suffice to say that this will be a very big test - perhaps the ultimate test - in the group for Derbyshire. Yorkshire are a side full of quality players and to beat them would need a huge effort. Only Nottinghamshire in a strong group can match them and they hammered our dear rivals last night.

So...

We need to be at our best, hold our catches, bowl tight lines and lengths, then bat with the same nous that we did last night.

Then, maybe.

Nevertheless, my head says this is a step too far for now, but it looks like everyone from last night is fit, so you never know.

More from me later, when I should have more time.

Good luck lads.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire T20

Northamptonshire 179-6 (Duckett 69, Viljoen 3-28)

Derbyshire 180-3 (Reece 75 not, Madsen 37, Wilson 28 not)

Derbyshire won by seven wickets

Wow...

If John Wright and Gary Wilson had sat down and scripted tonight's game, they could scarcely have done it better.

Playing the champions, a team adept at chasing, you want to win the toss and get them to set one. We did that, then bowled sensibly and well. The tactic of Wayne Madsen taking an end in the Power play was effective and the early wicket was handy.

I'm not too bothered about Matt Henry going for ten an over, because, as Nasser Hussain said in the recent series between England and South Africa, it is now the standard for a bowler turning his arm at either end of the innings. He got the key wicket of Ben Duckett and the early run out of Rossington so played his part.

The middle overs were handled well by Imran Tahir, with Alex Hughes and Matt Critchley in support, but the stand out bowler of the night was Hardus Viljoen. Splitting his overs throughout the innings, Viljoen showed what we have missed all summer with a quality display of fast bowling. The wickets of Cobb and Wakeley in successive balls slowed the home advance and a final target of 180 seemed at least possible.

Of course, we have chased such totals many times and failed, but tonight was handled with an elan and calm that has not always been the Derbyshire way. We were never far behind the rate, although I remain to be convinced about the opening pairing. Tonight it didn't matter, because after Billy Godleman's cameo at the start, Luis Reece marshaled the rest of the innings with great skill, making an unbeaten 75 from 51 deliveries.

It was no real surprise, because regular readers will recall my reporting on his ability when he was signed. An innings against us last year, where he outscored Alviro Petersen, confirmed a talent to me and it was realised again tonight. If one of your top three bats through the innings, the likelihood is that you will win a fair number of these games and Luis played a blinder to ensure that we did.

The partnership of Reece and Wayne Madsen swung the game our way, 64 runs in just over six overs, but when the latter was dismissed, we still needed 47 from just over five overs.

We got them in 26 balls, with the skipper coming in and bludgeoning an unbeaten 28 from just fifteen deliveries. Doing exactly what you want your experienced men to do, in fact, when the game gets down to the nitty gritty. With plenty of batting in hand, the win was completed in style.

Credit all round, not forgetting Dominic Cork, who has been working with the bowlers in the lead up to this competition. If one was to be critical, there were too many dot balls at the start of our innings and we cannot afford that if chasing nearer 200. However, the bowling was steady and controlled, with only nine extras conceded and we are away to a fine start.

One swallow doesn't make a summer, of course and we can only hope that Viljoen, a key component of the attack, has come through the game unscathed. If we can keep this eleven on the pitch there will be more wins, but Yorkshire tomorrow will be a tough task, especially after they hammered Nottinghamshire tonight.

We'll see though. There are plenty of reasons to be cheerful this evening and the skipper and his side will enjoy the journey home.

Well done lads.

Now see if we can sustain that against the Yorkies.

Derbyshire squad announced

It is nice to see 19-year old Callum Brodrick in the Derbyshire 14 for tonight's visit to Northampton, just as it is good to see the name of Hardus Viljoen in there.

Brodrick could be along for the experience, but Viljoen, presumably, is deemed fit to play in an attack that I would expect to be himself with Matt Henry, Imran Tahir, Ben Cotton and Matt Critchley, with others pitching in as required.

That squad:

Billy Godleman
Luis Reece
Ben Slater
Wayne Madsen
Alex Hughes
Gary Wilson
Callum Brodrick
Daryn Smit
Matt Critchley
Hardus Viljoen
Matt Henry
Tom Taylor
Ben Cotton
Imran Tahir

I would have liked to see Tom Wood at the top of the order, but he picked up an injury in the second team and had to retire when batting. The lack of top order 'oomph' has been commented upon by myself and others, but the counter-argument is that when we have had it (Guptill, Dilshan, Bosman from overseas, Ches and Wes domestically) we didn't win many games. There were perhaps hopes that Tim Maxfield could have provided that impetus, but his three trial innings scores were 0, 1 and 1. Perhaps his time will come again, but such scores will sadly not have convinced anyone yet.

So let's give John Wright his head and see how it goes. For me, the ones to miss out here would be Godleman, Taylor and Brodrick, though the latter is a hard-hitting and in-form batsman and fine fielder, so his inclusion cannot be discarded, as much for the fact that no one really knows him and novelty value is always useful.

Northamptonshire, conversely, have a side packed with hard hitting batsmen, with Duckett, Cobb, Rossington and Keogh dangerous in the format. Richard Levi may or may not be fit but their top order will take some handling.

In closing, three things I would like to see from us in the competition this year:

1 Top-class fielding. Games are won and lost on catches held and runs saved. Simple really.

2 Common sense. Ten an over doesn't require at least a boundary, although one early in the over tkes pressure off. Four twos and two singles get you there too, so better running, placement, timing of shots and minimisation of dot balls are key.

3 Chin supports. Heads have sometimes gone down when opposition batsmen have got going. The role of senior players is to keep the others going and take the chances when they arise.

My team:

Slater
Reece
Madsen
Hughes
Wilson
Critchley
Henry
Smit
Viljoen
Cotton
Tahir

It is a decent attack with eight bowling options, and if there's no real top order 'biffer', there are some fine clean hitters in the middle and lower order.

We'll see soon enough.

Your thoughts?

Derbyshire v Durham day 4

In the end, day four was one of disappointment for Derbyshire supporters, with the county's bowlers unable to break through what I had called the previous night a long batting order.

Maybe the wicket didn't deteriorate as we hoped, or maybe we just didn't bowl well enough at key times. Certainly we didn't catch well enough (Wayne Madsen aside) and in these close games you simply cannot require to take thirteen or fourteen wickets.

Fair play to Durham, who batted splendidly and never really looked like losing, except for a brief wobble after lunch. Tahir and Qadri had long bowls and the young off-spinner again seems to have acquitted himself well, but the season-long (or is it seasons-long?) issue of seam bowling hit us again.

Gurjit Sandhu did as well as a trialist bowler could be expected to do in this game, but wouldn't have been engaged were the staff bowlers good enough or fit. Tony Palladino is having to play every game at present and will doubtless look forward to a break in the T20, when we at least have Matt Henry to spearhead the attack.

It is an area of the side that has to be addressed over the winter. The seam attack looked useful when we had Conor McKerr on loan from Surrey, as a genuine quick bowler has an impact on everyone else. Otherwise, batsmen can rock onto the front foot and lessen the effect of swing, while not worrying too much about an occasional, easily fended shorter one. The value of a fast, or faster bowler to an attack is considerable, often as effective for others, possibly more so.

And so to the T20 and tonight's opening game against Northamptonshire. I'm wary of suggesting progress this year, because none of us know the current fitness of key players and, like many of you, I have concerns about the top order and utilisation of the Powerplay.

Maybe John Wright may throw a curve ball and open with, say, Matt Critchley and Tom Wood, but until we know who is fit (and for how long..) it is hard to predict our prospects.

No team announced yet, but I can only name a handful of players who I would see as certainties, assuming fitness: Madsen, Wilson, Hughes, Tahir, Henry and Critchley. The rest are undoubtedly places up for grabs.

Yesterday's news on Shiv Thakor put an additional dampener on things and his absence, as a key member of the T20 side, will be keenly felt. Please don't comment on that particular story, as there are obviously legal niceties to be observed. Thank you.

More from me later.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Derbyshire v Durham day 3

Derbyshire 368 and 214 (Hughes 108)

Durham 301 and 36-0

Durham require 246 more to win

Where's your money tonight, my friends?

Irrespective of the result, it cannot be denied that this has been an absorbing game of cricket on a very good cricket wicket, for which the staff at Chesterfield deserve every credit. It has been a track on which batsmen could score runs if they worked at it, but offered something to bowlers of all kinds, if they were skilled enough and put their backs into it.

My money is on Derbyshire, for the simple reason that a fourth day wicket should offer more turn and variable bounce on an out ground. When we signed Imran Tahir as overseas player, this was exactly the sort of scenario that we would have hoped for. 250 ahead on the last day and a leggie and off spinner to wheel away for, I would think, a large part of the final sessions of play.

I'll be disappointed if we don't win from here, but Durham are a good side and have fine players down the order. Paul Collingwood will be key, as he has been for so long, but we have to hold our catches, even though nine first innings wickets were taken without one.

Our second innings, after Gurjit Sandhu had reinforced a positive impression by taking the last two wickets, was something of a struggle. Only Alex Hughes and Matt Critchley really got going and, as Hughes said tonight, wickets can go down in clusters, because getting in is hard work.

His innings today was typical of a player for who I have the utmost respect. Once again, when the chips were down, he came up with a knock that made up just over half of the side's total. Without it, we would be in trouble; with it, we could just have enough runs in the bank to nick a win here, ahead of a last day where all three results are very possible.

There will, of course, be comments tonight following another failure for Daryn Smit with the bat and it is frustrating to see his current struggles. Undoubtedly, were there another four-day game coming up, the wicket-keeping role would be up for discussion. Yet realistically, assuming everyone was fit , the likely change, were there to be one, would be for Gary Wilson to take over.

Why? Because the two most vulnerable men in the team were Matt Critchley and Alex Hughes and they both responded with centuries in this match. Godleman has largely carried the batting, Wilson has done well and Madsen, for all the reduced output this summer, is still Madsen. With Reece or Slater to open, that would leave a place for a fit Shiv Thakor for your top seven.

That particular post bag will be closed after this piece and its responses, because there are clearly divided feelings among supporters and none of us are privy to selection meetings, training sessions and all performances of every side. Those that are have made decisions and they will stand or fall by those decisions. I also think it is counter-productive to continue.

Daryn Smit's ability as a wicket-keeper is beyond dispute, but so is a season batting average of just under 20. Nevertheless, that average is the highest by the regular county glove man since 2013, when Tom Poynton averaged 22. Between times, Poynton, Gareth Cross and Harvey Hosein have all had the majority of seasons, in which their averages were less, sometimes considerably so.

Broadly speaking, as I have said before, I don't get hung up on who plays for us. If Mickey Mouse and Pluto opened the batting and were a reliable pair, that would do me. As long as we get a combination of players out there that offer the best chance of winning games, I don't have favourites.

What I do have is respect for those who dig in when things are tough, as Matt Critchley and Alex Hughes did in this game. They saw opportunity and grasped it with both hands. Much the same as Smit has shown us a consistent level of wicket-keeping we have not seen for a few years. Every keeper lets byes and sometimes there's nothing they can do. All of them drop catches, and I include Bob Taylor and Jack Russell, the two best I have seen, in that.

Yet the better ones, and I would include Smit in that, having seen him half a dozen times this year, minimise mistakes, hold the tough ones and make those that are less so a formality.

If there's a better keeper/batsman in the club than Smit, on current form, they will play him. That might be Gary Wilson or it might be Harvey Hosein. Then again, it could be the current incumbent is still the right choice. As a supporter, whoever they pick will have my full support and I will hope for their success. I hope that you will too.

At the moment, the man in possession is Daryn Smit. The others need to make their case as better all-round options and I personally don't think, with the T20 coming up, that Gary, with a dodgy knee, will want to keep wicket AND skipper the side.

Which leaves a choice from two. Given that neither is likely to bat till eight or nine in the order, my guess is that the decision will go to the one who they expect to keep best, both to faster bowlers and, crucially, to Imran Tahir.

That is John Wright's call and it will be interesting to see his take on it.

Good luck tomorrow lads. Two on the bounce would be grand.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Derbyshire v Durham day 2

Derbyshire 368 (Godleman 98, Sandhu 46 not)

Durham 274-8 (Richardson 64, Coughlin 62 not, Tahir 5-98)

Derbyshire lead by 94 runs

It didn't take Imran Tahir long to make an impression on Derbyshire cricket.

Five wickets on debut for the South African spinner put Derbyshire ahead in this one, although a ninth wicket stand of 69 by Paul Coughlin and Barry McCarthy dented our aspirations, just as our last wicket century stand between Billy Godleman and Gurjit Sandhu took the wind somewhat out of Durham sails.

There wasn't a great deal for the Derbyshire seam attack, although it appears to have been tidy. Sandhu got a wicket, to go with the positive impression made with his batting and I'll be interested to hear the opinions of those who were there as to his value.

Then came Tahir. While Hamidullah Qadri was again tidy and picked up a wicket, Tahir whirled away for almost thirty overs and picked up five wickets on his county debut, the first time in the club's history that this has happened in successive matches. No one older has done this on debut either, so records seem to be tumbling thick and fast right now.

Maybe Matt Critchley will get a bowl in the second innings, but there's only two ends and Tahir can expect a lot of bowling before the end of the summer. A fit new ball pairing would give us a pretty lively attack, but that is one for the future.

As for the match, the last forecast I saw suggested showers on Thursday, so Derbyshire will want to get a decent lead tomorrow then press on to allow time to force a win. Durham won't fancy facing Tahir on the last afternoon and anything over 300 will probably take some getting.

We've again done well for two days and must press the current advantage home tomorrow.

Gleadall and Qadri standard-bearers for next generation

Today's news of the selection of the selection for England under-19s of Alfie Gleadall (17) and Hamidullah Qadri (16) is exciting for Derbyshire cricket followers.

The talent of Qadri has already been announced, his match-winning haul at Cardiff last week having captured the imagination of the national, as well as local media. While impressive, I don't think it comes close to the full talent of a young man who has been taking a lot of wickets and scoring a lot of runs in club, age-group and second eleven cricket. He will be a major part of the Derbyshire side for the next generation, all being well.

As will Alfie Gleadall. People whose judgement I trust reckon that he is a genuine fast bowler and has rich talent, which it is nice to see recognised at national level, with time to spare. Like Qadri, and indeed any young player, developing the mental and physical toughness for a career in top-class sport is important, as is working at your game and listening to the right people.

Well-meaning or otherwise, everyone has advice for the young and identifying the right people to listen to and acting on their ideas is key to quicker development. I still think of a talent ruined in Tom Knight, who could so easily have been a Ross Whiteley-style batsman and perhaps one-day bowler, if we hadn't messed up his long-grooved action. The time to have done that was his early teens, before muscle memory made the major change a thankless and ultimately fruitless task.

While Gleadall and Qadri are the highest-profile in the current academy, there are others of real talent. Callum Brodrick has been doing very well in the second team and league cricket, as has Alfie's brother Archie, while Sam Conners, a talented seam bowler, has impressed people on the second team circuit. There are also good vibes about Josh Lacey, son of our former spin bowler Simon, who himself is still playing well locally.

They will follow on to Matt Critchley and Harvey Hosein, both just twenty and Will Davis, who at 21 needs only to get his body stronger to be a special fast bowler. These young men are hugely talented and will almost certainly be a part of the club's future.

Of course there are challenges along the way, as all three have already discovered. Yet that is life and each will come through the other side stronger. In a strange irony, Hosein's current battle mirrors that of current first choice Daryn Smit.

He first played for the Dolphins franchise in 2002, but was kept out of a regular place in the side by the presence of first Errol Stewart and then Duncan Brown, both solid cricketers, the former playing one-day games for South Africa. Yet he persevered, worked at his game and by the time he was 23 became a regular in the side.

Critchley, Hosein and Davis are novices in cricket terms and each has endured frustrations in their fledgling careers, as have Ben Slater and a good few others. Yet they will also be aware that the key to getting a regular place in the side is to produce sustained performance.

I always think back to Kim Barnett, Chris Adams and John Morris, who all managed to break into a Derbyshire batting line-up of talented seniors that included David Steele, Barry Wood and John Hampshire. Throw in two talented overseas players in John Wright and Peter Kirsten and there weren't many obvious ways in, yet all three persevered, did what was expected and gradually took their place in what became the county's strongest-ever batting side.

If Critchley uses the opportunity to learn from Imran Tahir, Hosein taps into the knowledge of Smit and Davis learns from Tony Palladino and Hardus Viljoen, the reality of a team that is primarily raised in Derbyshire will not be as unrealistic as some might think.

And it is all very exciting, but the key for them - and for us - is patience.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Derbyshire v Durham day 1

Derbyshire 332-9 (Critchley 102, Godleman 79 not, Madsen 54, Sandhu 36 not)

v Durham

When opportunity knocks, as old Hughie Green used to say, who will open the door?

Today, most assuredly, Matt Critchley did. Last night I couldn't see how he would play, but Gary Wilson presumably had an issue with the knee injury that has troubled him this summer. He thus joined Shiv Thakor, Hardus Viljoen and Will Davis on the sidelines and it left a Derbyshire attack of two left and one right arm seamers, two leg-spinners and an off-spinner (maybe two, if we include Wayne Madsen).

There is certainly a hint of eastern appeal in the bowling, with Indian, Pakistani and Afghan origin bowlers in there, They have something to bowl at tomorrow too, and I am sure that Imran Tahir will be in the attack fairly quickly. Curiously, the combined age of our other two spinners isn't quite that of Tahir...

Critchley did a fabulous job and, given opportunity, took it with both hands. At 20, his bowling has a long way to go, but if he can develop his batting to true all-rounder status he will be hard to omit, whoever is fit. He showed in this year's RLODC that he could really hit a ball and today's innings, if it wasn't already, cemented his place in that side, I'd have thought.

There was another fifty for Wayne Madsen, who will be a little frustrated at again getting out when set, but Billy Godleman, batting at six, nursed the innings to respectability, mainly with assistance from Gurjit Sandhu, who exceeded his previous best by 28 runs in making an unbeaten 36, sharing in an unbroken last wicket stand of 66 in the process. As debut impressions go, that's a pretty impressive one. I suspect he won't bat eleven in the second innings...

There were a few failures along the way, as you will always get, but I would expect Billy Godleman and Kim Barnett will be quite pleased with the score at the end of the first day.

My mind was on the game all day and in other circumstances I would have been there. The crowd was apparently excellent and I look forward to hearing from those who were there, as well as those who, like me, had other things to do.

More from me tomorrow, when hopefully the news is equally positive.

One thing is for sure. Results may not have gone as we wanted and we have a few too many injuries for comfort, but there is nothing wrong with the team spirit.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Derbyshire v Durham preview

Derbyshire has named a fourteen-man squad for the championship match that marks the start of Chesterfield cricket festival, starting tomorrow.

There is again no Hardus Viljoen, nor Will Davis, which most people were expecting, but the game marks the eagerly-awaited county debut of Imran Tahir, who will doubtless form an intriguing spin pairing with Hamidullah Qadri. At opposite ends of the professional cricketer age spectrum, each left the country of their birth, though the latter, talented as he is, has a long way to go to be ranked alongside a modern great like the South African leg-spinner.

Their appearance should see a healthy crowd and they are likely to be rewarded with another debut, that of Gurjit Sandhu, the former Middlesex left-arm seamer.

Sandhu, as I reported last week, has been playing for the second team with some success and has also appeared this summer for Shropshire, where Karl Krikken is the coach and has presumably spoken with Kim Barnett with regard to his ability. A left-arm seam bowler, having been named in the squad I would expect him to play.

The Derbyshire squad:

Godleman
Reece
Slater
Madsen
Wilson
Hughes
Smit
Taylor
Milnes
Critchley
Palladino
Sandhu
Tahir
Qadri

I don't expect Matt Critchley to play, because he wouldn't get that many overs and you have the one of the world's best exponents of the art in the side. His involvement is good to see, however, especially ahead of the T20, where I expect him to play a regular role. With Wayne Madsen a useful spin option, as we saw at Cardiff, I don't see a scenario where Critch will play here.

I also expect Tom Milnes to miss out, with the final place between Tom Taylor and Sandhu. For me, Ben Slater should play, as otherwise we have a tail that starts at seven. As notoveryet pointed out the other day in the comments, there has been a worrying fragility in the middle order and only when you are very confident in the top six can you go with a tail that would otherwise be worryingly long.

Durham? Well, they are without their England men Mark Wood and Keaton Jennings, so it is probably a good time to play them. They do welcome back pace bowler Usman Arshad for the first time this season, and will arrive at Queen's Park with the following thirteen, captained by the evergreen Paul Collingwood:

Paul Collingwood (c), Cameron Steel, Michael Richardson, Jack Burnham, Graham Clark, Ryan Pringle, Paul Coughlin, Stuart Poynter (wk), Matthew Potts, Usman Arshad, Barry McCarthy, Chris Rushworth, George Harding.

Can we make it two in a row? The weather alone will be a question mark, with rain forecast on Tuesday, so my head tells me a draw is the most likely result here

We'll see, but there promises to be some cricket, which alone is an improvement on last year.

What do you think?