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.