Monday, 21 August 2017

Derbyshire v Hampshire T20 Quarter Final

You know, I have been doing this blog for ten years and never once had the opportunity to write that. Derbyshire, in a quarter final. Oops, I did it again, said he in his best Britney Spears voice...

I started the blog in 2008 and it was three years prior to that when we were beaten in the competition's quarter final by Lancashire, at Old Trafford. Seventeen runs was the margin, but we never really looked like winning the game at any point.

Will 2017 be different?

It is division two versus division one. A county that struggles to make ends meet versus one that seems to have limitless pots of cash, liberally spent. Realistically and logically, it should be a one-sided contest.

And yet...

We have turned the 3aaa County Ground into a mini fortress this summer, losing only one of our games and that narrowly. We have played some excellent cricket, as you have to do to get out of a very tough section, beating the reigning champions along the way and Yorkshire twice. To be fair, there have been occasions when the standard has dropped and we have bowled poorly, batted with less nous and fielded erratically. Yet every side does that and it now comes down to a knock out stage and who holds their nerve.

The game has big occasion players on each side and  on such occasions you hope, as a supporter, that your heroes are the ones who produce their best and come out on top. Perhaps tomorrow one of our experienced players will produce a special performance. Then again, maybe a younger player will announce himself to the wider cricketing world, when the eyes of the county game are upon us, as being something special.

Can we win? Yes, most definitely. If we bowl as we did on Friday night and bat as we have on occasion in this competition, we can beat anyone. But we have to have eleven men on top of their game, because this is serious stuff. Proper, knock-out, winner takes all cricket. To the victor, the spoils. To the loser...a lower profile sequence of four-day cricket until Autumn ends it all for another year.

We welcome back Gary Wilson as skipper and middle order 'finisher' tomorrow and for me he will take his place in this team:

Godleman
Critchley
Reece
Madsen
Wilson
Hughes
Smit
Henry
Viljoen
Cotton
Tahir

Callum Brodrick has done well in his appearances, especially in the field, but that's the eleven I expect to take the field tomorrow.

As for the visitors, they welcome back Michael Carberry and Jimmy Adams in a strong squad that reads:

Carberry
Adams
Vince
Bailey
Alsop
Wheal
Ervine
Afridi
Berg
Wood
Crane
Dawson
Abbott
Dickinson

Plenty of international experience there and the visitors will start favourites, despite our home advantage. With seven internationals that is understandable, but we know that we can hold our own and have to go in there and mix it with them.

Five summers ago, on a late summer afternoon, Derbyshire chased down a moderate total to beat Hampshire and clinch the division two title, amid scenes of great euphoria. There were grown men weeping that day, for the best of reasons, as a young side had defied critics and expectations to gain promotion.

There will be more tears tomorrow if they can pull off a similar heist. Not just in Derby, but everywhere the club's supporters live, the length and breadth of the country, across Europe, throughout the Americas and in both Australia and New Zealand. I know this, as I get regular messages from them. Their circumstances may not allow regular, or even infrequent attendance, but their interest and support is undiminished.

Make us proud lads. Go out, give it everything and let's make it a season to rank along the very best.

Go well, Derbyshire.

And good luck.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Correspondence catch up

I thought I would use a lazy Sunday morning to catch up on correspondence over the past week. Some of the questions suggested that the answers may be of more general interest, so I will put the answers in here.

I remain happy to give my thoughts on a range of Derbyshire cricket-related topics. I don't expect you to agree with all (any?) of them, but they are out there for the world to see!

Do you think that the quarter-final will be a sell-out?

It should be. It deserves to be. It would be a reward for the efforts of the Derbyshire side, which has been quite special this summer in this competition. The side is a work in progress and will continue to be for some time, but it has 'clicked' in this competition. Most of the time...

How come we once had eighteen thousand at Derby as a capacity, but now have much less than that?

Because health and safety legislation has changed, as has the ground. When that number attended the first day of the game against the Australians of 1948, the ground was a large open space, a racecourse. I have no idea how many of the crowd saw much of the match, but it is now an enclosed stadium and the capacity is set at 4999, above which different health and safety criteria come into play.

It is the same at Chesterfield. I was there for the Gillette Cup semi-final of 1969, when the crowd was reportedly 11,000 and packed like sardines. You simply cannot do that today.

Isn't our qualification in the T20 devalued because of 'all the Kolpaks'?

My parentheses. Point of reference: we have ONE Kolpak, Hardus Viljoen. Daryn Smit plays here on an ancestral visa, Wayne Madsen is English-qualified. We have the two permitted overseas players and six English players, four of them coming up through our academy and/or second team.

Personally I think that a good mix.

Wouldn't you sooner have seen an eleven of local Derbyshire-reared players?

In an ideal world, yes, but that is some time off. The days when we could do that (1936) are long gone and we need to catch players early, teach them the right habits and support them as they develop.

I think it will be the 'Qadri generation' where we get closer to that. Their fruition is some time off and, in the mean time, we are doing the right thing in being competitive. While the less knowledgeable will come out with the 'Kolpaks' slur, there is an even greater danger, at a time when the county game is changing, in being the perceived, expendable, weakest link.

How would you strengthen next season?

Wherever we can find players who are better than we have! I think most will accept that we need one seamer of quality at the very least and number three in the batting order has never been filled to satisfaction. Maybe someone will make that their own before the season ends, but they haven't as yet.
As I said before the season, if Davis and Viljoen stayed fit, we'd have a serious attack. They haven't, Tony Palladino isn't getting any younger and none of the others have staked a claim for a regular berth in the side.

With more South Africans reportedly considering a Kolpak deal before the end of the year (when the window is likely to close), would you consider another one?

In a heartbeat. I am plucking names out of the air here, but if one from Morne Morkel, JP Duminy, Chris Morris, Hashim Amla and one or two other rumoured names were desperate to join up with guys they know from back home and live in God's Own County, why would you say no?

As I have said before, good young players will still come through and will thrive in a competitive environment IF THEY ARE GOOD ENOUGH. There are no free meal tickets in life and to get to the standards set by the likes of Madsen, Tahir, Viljoen and Smit you have to work very, very hard.

To eventually replace them, you need to watch them and work with them, listen to their advice and try the things that they advise.  Eventually, if you are good enough, your time will come. Some won't make it and the county history is littered with good cricketers who dominated at club and second team level, but couldn't make that final step to first-class. It is the way of things, just as we are not all cut out to be managing director or chief executive of the company.

A question of my own to finish - do you think we would now be looking forward to a quarter-final without that quartet named above?

A little rhetorical, perhaps...

As always, your thoughts are most welcome.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Dare we dream?

One of the things that I really enjoyed last night, in the post-match glow of a Derbyshire triumph, was an excellent collection of photographs by David Griffin, which appositely recorded the evening and the end of a group stage that offered varied but ultimately successful cricket.

There was a pumped-up Hardus Viljoen, screaming to the heavens, having beaten Brett D'Oliveira for pace and rearranged his stumps. Then a montage of Imran Tahir, celebrating his wickets with the enthusiasm of a teenager and becoming the highest wicket-taker in a T20 season by a Derbyshire bowler. Tahir again, leading the team off at the end, smiles as wide as the Mississippi on all of them. Then John Wright and Kim Barnett, smiling and doubtless acknowledging a job well done, one fashioned in the depths of a cold Derbyshire winter.

It was a magical evening and will be a similar weekend for Derbyshire fans. Some will not have known such a feeling, being new to supporting a county better known for its lows than highs. Others have supported them longer, but can still count such nights as out of the ordinary. I regard myself as lucky to have followed the club through fifty summers that, relatively speaking, count as our golden years. We've won trophies in that period and many supporters prior to that watched us play for decades without doing so.

It is easy to dismiss the 'hired hands' as simply that, but the excitement, passion and commitment shown by Hardus Viljoen, Imran Tahir and Daryn Smit couldn't have been greater had they just won a trophy with their native South Africa. They were up for a battle and, in the pressure cooker environment in which you hope they would stand their ground, they delivered.

So too did the younger players. For the likes of Matt Critchley, Alex Hughes, Ben Cotton and Callum Brodrick, this was a taste of a big occasion that they will want to repeat. For Wayne Madsen, who has been stellar in this season's competition, it was vindication for staying with the county that gave him opportunity, when many others would have moved elsewhere. Coming in his testimonial year, the timing is perfect, just as his has been with the bat. Having scored 500 runs, taken key wickets and bowled economically, as well as holding at times blinding catches, this was his, as much as Derbyshire's triumph.

Yet the job is not yet done and we must not look at this as the summit of our ambitions. Our quarter-final opponents are Hampshire, a side with talented players but now missing South African Rilee Rossouw for the summer after hand surgery.

Their key man is captain and opening bat James Vince, a batsman of class and poise who can quickly take a game away from you, while former Australian one-day skipper George Bailey has struggled this summer but is a big occasion player. South African Kyle Abbott leads the attack, which also features our one-time overseas player, Shahid Afridi.

It will be a terrific game and with Afridi and Mason Crane on their side, as well as Liam Dawson, their will be spinners a-plenty on view. Hampshire will be dangerous opponents and some of their supporters last night were crowing on Twitter about the 'plum draw' that they had secured after being thrashed by Somerset in their final game.

For all that our players have attracted criticism - rightly so, at the time - there will be the more discerning among their supporters who will see this as a banana skin. They will see a Derbyshire side that bats deep and offers plenty of bowling options. One that has three international bowlers in the attack and has already beaten Yorkshire twice and the reigning champions, as well as taking the tournament favourites, Nottinghamshire, very close twice. A side that came second in a strong group to one that has far greater resources.

When the big games come, the big names thrive. They are star men for a reason, to get you to big occasions and to deliver when you get there. After fourteen matches that offered more ups and downs than a theme park, Tuesday will be a night to savour. There will be finger nails chewed, balls watched through fingers and digits crossed. We need eleven men to step up to the mark and say 'we can do this' and show the cricketing world just that.

We made it and plenty of so-called bigger teams didn't. With Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire in the quarter-finals, the East Midlands is the power base of T20 in the north of England. Ironic, when the chances of two of those sides hosting an eleven in the ill-fated city-based competition are slightly lower than the chance of me being seen as the new Usain Bolt.

With Lancashire and Yorkshire out, together with Middlesex and Glamorgan and Somerset joining the Foxes and us in the knock out stage, it's not been a good competition for those who want to marginalise the smaller counties, has it?

Be proud folks.

Because our team has done us proud and may yet do even more.

Derbyshire v Worcestershire report by Huw Lloyd of Deep Extra Cover

Derbyshire set out this evening with their destiny in their own hands, knowing a victory would hand them a home quarter final. By the end of the evening it was still in their hands and they were celebrating a first ever home quarter final in the Natwest T20 Blast and their first since 2005, winning by 48 runs with 4.2 overs to spare. 

The celebrations had started in the crowd long before the final wicket fell, as the Worcestershire innings fell away in the face of a dominant Derbyshire bowling attack. It left Derbyshire on 17 points, one behind table toppers Nottinghamshire and ahead of Birmingham and Leicestershire on net run rate.

Daryn Smit, standing in for Gary Wilson, who was again away on international duty, lost his third consecutive toss and with the threat of rain about it was no surprise when Rapids captain Joe Leach invited his hosts to bat first. At the end of the third over, when Derbyshire had only managed ten runs for the loss of Billy Godleman, it looked an excellent decision. Three overs later, when they had only added 33 more and lost the wickets of Reece and Critchley, it still looked that way. 

On a pitch that always offered assistance to the bowlers, Derbyshire made steady progress throughout the innings, kept in check by the young pace attack of Worcestershire and the experienced overseas player Mitchell Santner. Derbyshire found boundaries hard to come by and from the ninth to the 15th over failed to cross the rope, but kept a steady scoring rate batting sensibly, looking for gaps and running hard for singles and twos. The innings was marshaled beautifully by the exceptional Wayne Madsen who became the second Derbyshire batsmen this season to score four fifties in a T20 season and took his season total past 500, the first time a batsmen has achieved this feat.

As Derbyshire moved towards a score which looked to be under par, strangled by some excellent bowling from D’Oliveira and Hepburn, it took an injection of impetus in the 18th over by Madsen and Matt Henry who both cleared the rope for six and pushed Derbyshire towards what looked like a defendable total. The last two overs reverted to type and saw singles and twos, but the damage was done and the total of 147 on a tricky pitch looked a reasonable total if not an imposing one.

If Joe Leach was happy with his decision to bowl first at the half way stage, six overs later, as his side finished the powerplay on 39 for 4 with Leach, Clarke, Cox and D’Oliveira all back in the changing rooms he may have begun to doubt his decision. A clearly fired-up Falcons bowling attack came out and blew away the top order, with Hardus Viljoen bowling fast and accurately and Wayne Madsen being his usual nagging self. It only got worse for Leach and his team as their batting order capitulated.

Wickets continued to fall at regular intervals realistically putting the game beyond them, as Imran Tahir did exactly what he was brought into the club to do, destroying the Rapids middle order, taking four wickets for just seventeen runs in a man of the match performance that bowled Derbyshire to victory. All the bowlers deserve praise though, as they all contributed to fine Derbyshire victory and one of the most impressive bowling displays I have seen from a Derbyshire bowling unit. 

Derbyshire now move onto their quarter final which will see Hampshire visit the 3aaa County Ground for the first time in T20 cricket.

Huw Lloyd writes for Deep Extra Cover

Friday, 18 August 2017

Derbyshire v Worcestershire T20

Derbyshire 146-8 (Madsen 55)

Worcestershire 98 (Tahir 4-17, Cotton 2-14, Viljoen 2-20)

Derbyshire won by 48 runs

Quarter finalists, for the first time since 2005.

It is apposite, on a day when one of television's great entertainers, Bruce Forsyth, passed away, to use one of his catch phrases tonight.

Didn't they do well?

In true Derbyshire style, they kept us worrying to the end of the group stage and at the half way point in this match there were a lot of barbed and premature comments flying around Twitter. Only a battling 55 from Wayne Madsen had given us any sort of total, aided in turn by Daryn Smit and Matt Henry. Yet only Wayne and Matt Critchley had managed any fluency on a wicket that appeared slow and offered turn, so perhaps the hard graft at the innings end would make the difference.

At least that's what I told myself between innings and so it transpired. Once again the magnificent Madsen took a wicket, this time the visitors skipper, Joe Leach, second ball. Yet we were all at the ground, listening to the radio or following on line and wondering if the back up bowling was going to let us down, with so few runs to play with.

To quote that great cricketing sage, Billy Ocean, when the going gets tough, the tough get going and this was a night when the South African influence was strong. Hardus Viljoen bowled fast and accurately, not always words used in the same sentence this summer, and key to the win was his removal of D'Oliveira and Cox in a four over spell in which three of those overs were consecutive. Maybe this is what he needed, a chance to get his rhythm and crank it up, rather than four spells of an over each.

Then came Imran Tahir (pictured), who once again bowled with superb control and followed his four overs for just thirteen at Leicester with four overs for only seventeen and four wickets tonight. I get the impression from many years of Tahir watching that there are days when the muse is with him and he is irresistible. There is a greater spring in his run up on such days, greater purpose in the run up and better returns as a result.

This was such a night and he blew the visitors middle order away. Once Ross Whiteley had been caught (much to his annoyance) the rest folded as befitted a side that has had a poor T20 summer. Due credit to the 'locally reared' wicket of the dangerous Joe Clarke, who was going like a train before being caught by Callum Brodrick from the bowling of Ben Cotton.

Ben later finished things when George Rhodes was caught by Matt Henry and Derbyshire could celebrate their first quarter-final since 2005 and only our second since the advent of the competition.

It is fair to mention the captaincy of Daryn Smit, who mixed things up well and saw his bowlers concede only three leg byes in the innings. Such discipline is key in this format, when you cannot afford to give free hits and extra balls to the opposition.

More than anything tonight I am pleased for John Wright and Kim Barnett. Kim had the foresight to bring in a man of proven international pedigree as coach and the quarter final berth is just reward for a summer where we have played some purposeful and entertaining cricket.

Wright has brought his international nous and IPL pedigree with him, been well assisted by Dominic Cork and has seen the players respond to his management style. Nor should Steve Stubbings be overlooked, batting coach at Northamptonshire last season, when they won the competition, now in the quarter-finals with his own county.

It hasn't been perfect, of course, as we all know, but there's time to discuss where we can improve before our now guaranteed home quarter final against Hampshire, next Tuesday. Gary Wilson will be back for that and, such is this Derbyshire side, we could either fall flat on our faces or reach the promised land of finals day.

Tonight, and all weekend, we can celebrate though.

Quarter-finalists. We got there, but the reigning champions didn't. Nor did Lancashire, nor Yorkshire. We won eight of our games in a very strong group and only played the worst side, Durham, once.

By heck, we'll take that, won't we?

At least for now...

Derbyshire v Worcestershire preview by Huw Lloyd

Worcestershire arrive in Derby on Friday for the last round of Natwest T20 Blast matches knowing no matter what the outcome, they will finish in eighth place in the North Group and cap off what will have been a disappointing season for them in the shortest format of the game.
Derbyshire however find themselves in unusual territory, they know that a win will guarantee them a quarter final place for the first time since 2005 and unless Birmingham (it never feels right calling them that) or Leicestershire win by a massive margin, a home one at that. Should they draw or be rained a point may also be enough for Derbyshire, however this will then leave them looking at other results around the grounds to see if sides or the weather have done them favours.
Both sides are coming off the back of losses and will want to finish the group stages on a high, Worcestershire for pride and Derbyshire to secure a place in the knockout stages. Derbyshire losing last night to the Leicestershire Foxes in a low scoring game and the Falcons will be hoping their batting line up can fire against the Rapids. Worcestershire lost last time to Lancashire again in a low scoring game they never looked like winning and will be looking to be far more competitive when visiting Derby. Derby have only lost once at home this season and will be hoping to keep that record intact.
The bookies make Derbyshire favourites and it’s easy to see why, they have an excellent record and Worcestershire do not, however all the pressure on Derbyshire and none is on their visitors and pressure can do funny things in cricket. I would imagine most of the Derbyshire fans will be watching this game through their fingers, but only when they aren’t biting their nails. It may though however all be academic as the weather may be the ultimate winner if the forecast is to be believed.
Key Men
Derbyshire Falcons: If you have more strings to your bow in modern day cricket then you are a very attractive player in the coach’s eyes, and in Matt Critchley That is exactly what Derbyshire have. Elevated this season to open the batting due to his ability to strike the ball cleanly and clear the ropes, he has been a success. Throw in his ability to bowl leg spin effectively, having spent time learning from Shane Warne, Jeevan Mendis and lastly Imran Tahir, his bowling has come on leaps and bounds and he can keep it tight whilst taking wickets. Finally add his superb fielding, it is clear to see why Critchley’s success is key to Derbyshire’s.

Worcestershire Rapids: Who doesn’t love a six being hit? Well apart from the bowler, and in T20 cricket the Rapids have one of the best in Ross Whiteley, as when Whiteley fires they show themselves to be a side who can score big runs. The pinnacle of Whiteley’s powers were shown earlier in the campaign when he achieved the dream of six sixes in an over off Karl Karver against Yorkshire. If he can do something similar against his old side then their chances of upsetting the Falcons will be greatly enhanced.

Team News

Derbyshire will again will again be without T20 skipper Gary Wilson who is away on international duty with Ireland, so Daryn Smit will again take on the role of understudy. Derbyshire are yet to announce their squad, however I would anticipate an unchanged squad and side from the one which played vs Leicestershire and throughout the majority of campaign.

Worcestershire are also yet to announce their squad, but suffered no injuries in their previous game, so I envisage the squad being very similar to last time out. Now qualification is beyond them they have chosen to play their youngsters and if you are down at the game, keep an eye out for young paceman Josh Tongue, he has genuine pace and a great future in the game.

Derbyshire Falcons squad: TBA
Worcestershire Rapids squad: TBA

Form

Derbyshire Falcons: LWLWWA
Worcestershire Rapids: LLLLWW

Weather and conditions
The current forecast for Derby on Friday night shows rain for the duration of the match, so if they do get any cricket then Duckworth and Lewis may well be required. The last game at Derby produced a low scoring match, prior to this though Derby has seen high scoring games and batsmen really enjoying themselves. With there having been better weather around in the area in the last few days, the groundsman will have had more preparation time and hopefully if the precipitation stays away we will see a return to pitches more akin to runscoring.

Date: 18th August 2017
Time: 19:30pm
Ground: 3aaa County Ground, Derby
Umpires: TBC and TBC
Odds (SkyBet): Derbyshire Falcons 4/6 Worcestershire Rapids 6/5
  Co
Huw Lloyd writes for Deep Extra Cover


Thursday, 17 August 2017

Leicestershire v Derbyshire T20

Derbyshire 139-7 (Critchley 72 not)

Leicestershire 143-6 (Cosgrove 57 not, Critchley 2-28)

Leicestershire won by 4 wickets

A magnificent all round performance by Matt Critchley was not enough to prevent a battling Derbyshire side go down to defeat in their penultimate group match of this T20 campaign.

Whether tomorrow's game is our last, and we again fall short at the final hurdle only time will tell, but we at least still control our own destiny.

After Yorkshire's astonishing win against Northamptonshire tonight. largely down to an astonishing tour de force by Adam Lyth, they move to second in the table, with us third due to net run rate.

Tomorrow looks like a battle to get on the pitch around the country, with Nottinghamshire v Durham looking likely to fall the same way as our game to the weather. So too does Lancashire's game against Birmingham, while Northamptonshire look set for the best conditions, against Durham.

On that basis, we may yet still qualify, but not for a home tie and will need to play better than we did tonight, by all accounts.

The batting never got going, with the exception of Critchley, who showed the nous to stick in there and bat the overs. The others perished one by one on a pitch that was never easy and for us to win with 139, we needed early wickets and tight bowling.

We got wickets, thanks to a stunning catch by Wayne Madsen and good bowling by the spinners, but frustratingly 3.3 overs from Henry and Viljoen went for 40. It is hard to point the finger, but in matches where runs are tough to come by, ten an over from your main seamers simply isn't good enough. Slower bowlers got the most success and Madsen, Tahir and Critchley all did well, but on the night it wasn't enough. There were a couple of opportunities, but we needed to get Cosgrove and the perennial thorn in our side did his stuff once again.

So on to Derby, where the weather, rather than any individual performance, may decide the ending of a fascinating, absorbing and entertaining group competition.

Will it be ultimately successful?

We'll find out tomorrow.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

No bigger game than this: Leicestershire v Derbyshire T20 preview

Depending on results, Derbyshire may already have done enough to qualify for the T20 knockout stage. Yet professional pride and a desire for a home quarter-final should make them strive for at least one more win in the remaining two games.

Leicestershire, who we play tomorrow, have handed us some heavy and embarrassing defeats over the years. Hands up who still remembers a last ball 'catch' from Brad Hodge, or an inept batting effort that saw us rolled over by Josh Cobb when chasing only a modest victory target.

This year's model has been stronger, better organised, more resilient, more disciplined. Yes, there are still frailties and it is both ironic and impressive that the stand out performances have not come from the overseas roles. Imran Tahir has been tidy, but has not yet run through a side, while Matt Henry has bowled a couple of good spells yet been horribly expensive in others.

And yet, the whole is considerably more impressive than its constituent parts.The success has been the result of three of the top four being prolific, the fourth dynamic in the Power play. Then the middle order has come in and kicked on, chasing targets especially with a degree of composure (last night notwithstanding) that has rarely been the preserve of Derbyshire elevens in T20 cricket.

Can we qualify? I think so, from here, though this is no time for resting on laurels. Can we make finals day? I think we could, because I think the northern group the stronger of the two. As I have written before, if someone produces something special on a given night, anyone can beat anyone. Luis Reece did that last night, Billy Godleman at Worcester, Wayne Madsen's brilliance nearly beat Nottinghamshire, a team effort beat Yorkshire - twice.

If we keep that discipline, retain focus and - crucially - keep people fit, then we will be celebrating this weekend.

Tomorrow will be tough, with Cosgrove, Ronchi, Ackermann and company a far better side than they looked at Derby. Clint Mckay remains a key man with the ball and we will need to be at our best, or near it, once more.

I think we can do it, while wary of a side that has historically been strong in the format.

What about you?

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Derbyshire v Durham T20 - match report by Huw Lloyd

Derbyshire set out tonight looking for a win that would all but guarantee them a place in the top four of the North group and a quarter final berth for the first time since 2005. Durham set out to add more respectability to their points total which has been blighted by the deduction of four points for financial issues last season. By the end of the night the hosts needed to look no more, winning and moving them to 15 points and second place in the Northern Group of the T20 Blast and edging them closer to that precious quarter final berth.

With the quarter final qualification left in the hands of stand in captain Daryn Smit, he would have wanted a good start and despite losing the toss in his first game in charge, that’s exactly what he got. His bowlers and fielders restricting Durham to 42 for 4 in the powerplay, which included two run outs, one by Critchley in the first over, dispatching outgoing England opener Keaton Jennings with a superb direct hit and the second with Hardus Viljoen running out Michael Richardson without scoring in his follow through using fancy footwork, not his hands. 

The other two wickets fell to the excellent Wayne Madsen and overseas player Matt Henry, Madsen really put the breaks on the Jets, with his tight nagging off spin limiting the scoring options for the Jets batsmen. Henry saw the back of danger man Tom Latham off the last ball of the Power play, when he picked out Alex Hughes on the deep mid wicket boundary for a well made 28 of 23 balls.

Smit’s spinners continued to give him control with the ball in the middle overs, restricting the flow of boundaries, with the Jets failing to find the boundary for a period of five overs and at that point it looked like Durham were going to struggle to post a really competitive total, not helped by the loss of two further wickets with Coughlin and Burnham both departing. This brought Poynter to the crease and this gave Durham the impetus the innings needed, scoring a magnificent 61 not out off 40 balls. 

Durham still looked to be well short of a competitive total, but 35 off the final two overs with Cotton and Henry both losing their control of length, allowing the Jets to post 161 for 7 and setting the Falcons 162 for victory.

That chase got off to a steady start with Critchley and Godleman nudging singles and finding the boundary once anover, until Godleman was caught off what looked to be a no ball but the third umpire saw some part of Weighell’s boot behind the line and he had to go. The Falcons reached the end of the powerplay with 44 runs to their name and the further loss of Critchley. 

Madsen and Reece then set about building an innings and moving Derbyshire towards their victory total. When Madsen fell in the 11th over they had moved the score to 76 for 3 and looked relatively comfortable, although not guaranteed that win. The man who took them there was Luis Reece, who scored a beautifully crafted 66 of 49 balls, including five 4s and two 6s and in the process became the first Derbyshire batsman to make four scores of 50 or more in a T20 season. 

It could have been very different however had Paul Coughlin held on to a relatively simple catch offered to him on the deep mid-wicket boundary when he was just on 21. This was a running theme for the Jets fielders throughout the innings, with mis-fields and dropped catches the norm and when they did hold a catch it was off a no ball.

While Reece quite rightly named man of the match a special mention must go to Matt Henry, who came in and scored a quick fire 20 off 10 balls and allowed Derbyshire to have a stuttering finish, before captain Smit hit the winning runs with three balls and three wickets to spare.

On the victory Smit said “I’d have taken 161 at half time, I thought it was below par looking at the batting side and If you’d told me at 15 overs we would’ve won with three balls to spare I’d have taken that, we were under pressure at one stage, before Luis Reece and Matt Henry changed the momentum of the innings.” 

Derbyshire now move on to play Leicestershire on Thursday knowing a win will guarantee them a place in the quarter finals and, barring a set of results which would challenge even the loftiest of maths professors, a home one to boot. Durham however move on to Northampton on Friday certain of finishing bottom of the group.

Huw Lloyd writes for Deep Extra Cover

Derbyshire v Durham T20

Durham 161-7 (Poynter 61 not, Henry 3-42)

Derbyshire 164-7  (Reece 66)

Derbyshire won by 3 wickets

My evening was spent on a delightful coastal walk in Berwick-on-Tweed, after a lovely meal at the local golf club. We finished, as Derbyshire rather stumbled across the line, as the only people (and dog!) on an otherwise deserted beach.

Every 'beep' of my phone saw it eagerly checked for a score update, the signal remarkably good for a remote area, though there were way too many irrelevant ones - in other words, on a night such as this, from the football updates at Pride Park.

Yet we got there, crossing the line with a fine cover drive from the skipper (thanks Twitter) after three wickets went down in ten balls. Once again Luis Reece played a key innings after Billy Godleman was given out to what looked like, from the pictures I was sent, a no ball. There were contributions down the line, none more valuable than that of Matt Henry, after the equation came down to fifty from five overs.

More than that I cannot really comment, so I do hope you all come on later tonight or tomorrow to share your thoughts on things.

Thank you to those who kept me updated as the evening went on, which was really appreciated.

The commentators still appear to know as much about Derbyshire as I do about Peruvian pottery dynasties. Rob Key apparently referring to Wayne Madsen's 'leg spin' and Nick Knight referring to our having 'found a good one in Luis Reece'. Yes we did, at Old Trafford...

Still, second in the league, two games to go and we have won more this season than in any previous T20 campaign.

The sea air, a Derbyshire win  - and one for the Rams, because I do care really - means I will sleep well tonight.

Great stuff lads - and well done to Daryn Smit on his captaincy debut.

It's within touching distance now...

Polite request

Regulars will know that I am in Northumberland right now, with Mrs P, our daughter and Wallace.

That being the case, I cannot watch the Sky coverage tonight, but if anyone is able to record the highlights for me from Sky late tonight, I'd be very grateful.

More than happy to pay for a disk and postage, if anyone can get in touch to the usual address.

Mind you, if we have a nightmare, I might revise that...

I will, of course, look forward to all of your comments, on a day that has already broken the blog record for most visits in 24 hours.

That's before we play, and shows the level of interest in this match.

Go well, boys!

Match preview: Derbyshire v Durham by Huw Lloyd

Derbyshire Falcons vs Durham Jets

Durham and the Sky TV Cameras are visiting the 3aaa County Ground tonight with Derbyshire looking for a victory which will push them towards the precipice of the quarter finals for the first time since 2005. The match for Durham however is a dead rubber, with them sitting bottom of the North Group on 2 points following their points deduction at the start of the season for the financial matters last season, meaning they are playing for nothing but pride. Conversely Derbyshire though find themselves in fifth on 13 points, but with two games in hand over the sides above them and a victory will see them climb to second in the table and virtually guaranteed a quarter final place.
Last time out Derbyshire lost to the table toppers Nottinghamshire and will be looking to put that behind them and get back to winning ways and move back into the quarter final spots. Before that they beat Leicestershire comfortably and they will be hoping for a repeat of that tonight. Durham also lost last time out and won the time before that and will be hoping to get back to winning ways, although with nothing to play for Derbyshire’s desire for victory should be higher.
The bookies make Derbyshire clear favourites and it is clear to see why, the weather looks set fair and Derbyshire have only lost once at home this season they will be looking to keep that record intact.

Key Men
Derbyshire Falcons: When Derbyshire started this campaign not many would’ve put four day skipper Billy Godleman in their starting eleven, with a reputation for steady and safe scoring, however in this competition Billy the sensible has become “Billy the Basher” and given the side real impetus at the top of the order, impetus that every side needs. If Godleman can fire as he has done throughout the campaign then Derbyshire’s chances of victory will be greatly enhanced. With Wilson away as well Godleman’s captaincy experience will be invaluable to stand in skipper Smit.

Durham Jets:
Durham started the campaign poorly to say the least, but this was without overseas star Tom Latham, since Latham has come into the side the Jets’ fortunes have improved having only lost one of the games he has played. When Latham scored runs for the Jets, they have won, scoring 62 in the victory over Worcestershire. If Latham can repeat this tonight then Durham’s chances will improve no end.

Team News
Derbyshire will be without their regular T20 captain Gary Wilson, who is away on international duty with Ireland, so Daryn Smit takes over the reigns and will also continue to keep wicket. The Falcons do however have Matt Crictchley back, who has had an enforced absence since being struck on the helmet against Leicestershire and his clean hitting at the top of the order will be welcomed

Durham are yet to announce their squad for the game, however they will be hoping for consistency in selection to enable their recent improvement in form in this competition having Won and Drawn one of their last three matches. They will be looking for Tom Latham and the evergreen Paul Collingwood as the experience and quality in their squad to push for victory.

Derbyshire Falcons squad: D Smit (c, wk), C Brodrick, G Cork, B Cotton, M Critchley, B Godleman, M Henry, A Hughes, W Madsen, T Milnes, L Reece, I Tahir, H Viljoen, T Wood

Durham Jets squad:

TBA

Form

Derbyshire Falcons: LWWAWL
Durham Jets: LWDLWL

Weather and conditions
The forecast is good for Derby this evening, with Sunshine predicted for the entirety of the game. The pitches at Derby so far this year have provided runs and have played true and provided entertaining cricket. The game last week at the 3aaa County Ground against the West Indies also provided plenty of runs and I would imagine this will continue this evening.

Date: 15th August 2017
Time: 18:30
Ground: 3aaa County Ground, Derby
Umpires: Peter Hartley and Martin Saggers
Odds (SkyBet): Derbyshire Falcons 4/7 Leicestershire Foxes 11/8

Huw Lloyd writes for Deep Extra Cover

Derbyshire v Durham T20 preview

Finding myself with a far better WiFi signal than last year, together with a little early morning time while my family are getting ready, I have an opportunity to preview tonight's big game at the 3aaa County Ground against Durham.

On paper and on form it is a game we should win. Yet we all know that such things often count for nothing in the game, especially if the favourites go into it with a blase attitude. This is a decent Derbyshire side, yet we can only aspire to such status if everyone is fit and available, then delivers the 100% commitment that is necessary.

Gary Wilson will be missing from the next three matches on international duty and the loss of the captain and 'finisher' is a big one for us. The former will be replaced by the appointment of Daryn Smit to the role, a man who captained the Dolphins for a number of years in South Africa. His experience doubtless trumped the claims of Alex Hughes, even if it means that his matches will be hectic. Smit has a shrewd cricket brain and others have alluded already to how Wilson and Billy Godleman seek his counsel in matches.

The 'finisher' role is one for which someone must stick up their hand. The likeliest scenario, from the announced squad, is that Matt Critchley returns and slots into that position, leaving Tom Wood at the top of the order where he is used to batting. There's no point in tinkering at this stage, as most people, I think, know our best eleven.

For me, in this game, it reads:

Godleman
Wood
Reece
Madsen
Hughes
Critchley
Smit
Henry
Viljoen
Cotton
Tahir

That would leave Callum Brodrick, Greg Cork and Tom Milnes on the sidelines, with Brodrick for Wood the most likely alternative, if one was required.

As for our visitors, we cannot underestimate them. Keaton Jennings returns from England duty with a point to prove, while Paul Collingwood is as dangerous as ever. Michael Richardson and Ryan Pringle are also good cricketers and Paul Coughlin has shown ability with bat and ball. With Kiwi Tom Latham at the top of the order, they have the firepower, even if results have largely eluded them.

It is a game we can win and need to win. By general consensus, we need two wins from the last three games and the knock-out stages lie tantalisingly within reach, but only if we deliver a performance, in front of what I hope is a good crowd.

We have a good, well-balanced side, with four local lads among the international stars.

If they all fire, we will win it. If they don't, we won't.

Simple as that really, and in a format where one stand out performance on either side can nick it, these are matches where you need your big names to stand up.

Here's hoping.

Good luck lads.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Derbyshire v West Indies day 3

West Indies 427-3 and 327-6 (Powell 100 retired, Chase 60 not, Sonczak 2-56, Macdonell 2-57)

Derbyshire 181 and 51-0 

Match drawn

Three days of practice - you couldn't really call it a match  - for the West Indies ended in a somewhat predictable draw today.

Declaring at tea, or is it supper, they left us 574 to win in a session, which was as unlikely as it gets. Perhaps they could have declared and pushed for a morale-boosting win, since we hadn't got an especially strong batting line-up out there.

Instead they opted for batting practice, which saw Powell make a century before retiring and Roston Chase make his fourth score over fifty in four innings. I look forward to watching Chase against better bowling, having watched him making centuries in a couple of online videos. One of them, against Pakistan, reminded me of a young Carl Hooper in his languid style. That he bowls off spin makes it an especially apposite comparison and I suspect that there will be a county looking closely at him for an overseas role in some capacity next year.

The problem, of course, is the Caribbean Premier League and the amount of time that it takes out of our season. While their players will improve more by gaining experience on wickets around the world, the temptation to stay home and make money for less effort and disruption to their life will be strong.

Matt Sonczak will remember his debut with fondness, having bowled decently in both innings, while Charlie Macdonell also took two wickets and steered us to calm waters at the close, sharing in an unbeaten first wicket stand of 51 with Ben Slater.

I've not yet heard from anyone who was there, but it didn't strike me as the kind of game that would have one rushing for the computer to comment.

A very young Derbyshire side at least got a taste of senior cricket. For some, there was almost certainly the realisation that they have a lot of work to do. For others, perhaps, the understanding that, good players as they are, this is a level too high for them.

On the evidence of the three days, we have a decent enough first eleven, but are not yet blessed with anything like strength in depth, nor competition for places.

Food for thought come September, no doubt.

And now for a big week of T20.

I will flit in and out as time permits, but holidays beckon.

Derbyshire v West Indies day 2

West Indies 427-3 and 60-1

Derbyshire 181 (Brodrick 52, Slater 39)

West Indies lead by 306

It was a better day for Derbyshire off the field than on it yesterday.

Yorkshire's defeat at the hands of Leicestershire in the T20 Blast left them in grave danger of elimination, while keeping our opponents in the final game of this week in the mix. Crucially, at this stage we are firmly in control of our destiny and our next two matches are against the bottom two sides of the division. Two wins from three should see us through, so the portents are good.

Of course we could lose them. Neither Worcestershire or Durham are bad sides and Leicestershire are better than they looked at Derby. They have to be, to beat a side like Yorkshire, but the undeniable fact is that if we don't make the knock-out stage this year, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Having beaten two of the three sides above us (we have a game in hand), no one can say that we aren't good enough. It will come down to attitude and holding our nerve.

That said, on the evidence of yesterday, should we have any injuries there aren't many people banging on the door for a place. It is harsh, but true, to say that all the runs in second team cricket count for nothing if the form isn't translated into the occasional first team opportunity. Luck plays a big role in anyone's career, and not just in sport, but the key to success is in grasping opportunity when it is offered.

Our batting may have misfired at times this summer, probably too many times for comfort, but on this evidence there is no one better waiting in the wings.  It is hard to be overly critical of a side that, if one takes out Tony Palladino, has an average age of 21, but opportunities for most appear to be some way down the line.

Only Ben Slater and Callum Brodrick scored any runs yesterday. Ben will be disappointed to have got in and then out when he'd done the hard work. I am a big fan of the lad, but after a fine start in the RLODC, his season has been too inconsistent for comfort. He's never had the security of a role in the side guaranteed, but that is the way with professional sport and the pressure to maintain performance levels is acute.

That's why the recent move of Dominic Sibley from Surrey to Warwickshire astonished me. Apparently the latter 'guaranteed' him a role in the top three, which you simply cannot do in professional sport. His form since his move barely suggests him worthy of such an assurance and it is one that is likely to end in tears, because form is always a transient thing.

Maybe the escape clause is 'we never specified in which team'...

Back to Derbyshire and the man who came out of yesterday with claims enhanced was 19-year old Callum Brodrick. We have seen this slight young man in the T20 and his fleet-footed ability in the field stood out. Yesterday he showed that my glimpse of his talent at Belper a few weeks back was a true reflection, as he scored a maiden half century on first-class debut. In doing so, he made the highest score by a Derbyshire player on debut against the West Indies.

Callum has been through a lot in his young life and has come through the devastating effects of Crohn's disease. In April last year he was in a critical care ward in Derby Royal Infirmary after major surgery, so to get back to this standard, so quickly, is a massive tribute to a young man of unquestionable talent and commitment.

Like Darren Fletcher, he had a long haul to fitness, but has got there. On the evidence of yesterday, he is the likely first man in line should there be a batting vacancy and he can be proud of his efforts, as I am sure his family were.

Let's hope that a few others at least jostle for that position today.

PS Worthy of mentioning a debut wicket for sixteen-year old James Taylor, younger brother of Tom. It has been quite a summer for players of that age and while he has a long way to go, James will have slept well last night having got his wicket tally underway.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Derbyshire v West Indies day 1

West Indies 340-3 (K Hope 105, Powell 92, S Hope 69 not, Chase 62 not)

v Derbyshire

I am not sure how much their exposure to a Derbyshire Seconds and Academy attack will have helped the West Indies prepare for Anderson, Broad, Ali et al, but they pretty much all enjoyed lengthy time in the middle yesterday.

The score ticked over at four an over and by all accounts were largely untroubled, as you might expect. There will be better times to judge their true value, but the potential of Shai Hope, the younger of two brothers, appears good, even if he can't claim the gloves in this game. Seems like we aren't the only side with a surfeit of keepers...

The most interesting player, for me, appears to be Roston Chase, who at 25 looks to be the best bet for the big time among their batsmen. He followed scores of 81 and 50 not out against Essex with n unbeaten 62 here, confirming why a career average of 45 and Test average of 48 doesn't flatter. With five centuries and 18 fifties in just eighty first-class innings, he would appear to have talent and eighty wickets with his off spin makes him the sort of player most teams would like to have in their ranks.

Derbyshire? Well , we had James Taylor, at 16, joining his older brother Tom in the side and shading him in terms of economy, while Matt Sonczak, who I have seen described as an off spinner and slow left arm, confirmed himself very much the latter and took a maiden first-class wicket in bowling Kyle Hope.

Otherwise it was a tough old day for the bowlers. There was an early wicket for Tom Milnes and one for Tony Palladino, but senior cricket is tough and our youngsters will have got a clear indicator of that yesterday.

We'll see how they go later today, pink ball and all.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Sincere thanks to Huw Lloyd

I am very grateful to Huw Lloyd of Deep Extra Cover, who is going to send me previews and reports on the first two T20 matches of the coming week.

I will contribute as I can, but am unsure of the time I will have available and found our wifi last year to be very erratic.

Sincere thanks to Huw, and to anyone else who gets involved.

Your comments are always appreciated, so please keep them coming!


Thursday, 10 August 2017

Derbyshire v West Indies

There was a time, back in the day, when the tourists match against your county was special. A chance to see names that you had only previously read about in newspapers, to watch them bat and bowl and maybe get close enough for an autograph or two.

Nowadays, most of those players are on Sky TV all the time and the thrill isn't quite the same. Added to that, most counties field second elevens, using the game as an opportunity to see who might, just might have what it takes at senior level.

While the West Indies of today are a pale shadow of the great teams of yesteryear, the game that starts tomorrow offers a chance to see a few players who are less well known and who can use this tour as a springboard for something special.

It is now unusual for West Indian players to be signed as overseas professionals. The bigger names can earn so much as T20 'guns for hire' that they don't need the county grind. Most don't even play full T20 stints here, so the Caribbean players are less well-known than most. The rest simply don't get the opportunity to hone their techniques on different wickets and the search for the next Richards, Lara and Chanderpaul goes on.

So the next three days offers dual possibilities for Derbyshire. We might see one or two of a very young side make a statement, while there might be someone among the tourists who catches the eye as an option for another summer.

Academy seamer James Taylor makes his debut, while off spinner Matt Sonczak does the same, the youngest members of an inexperienced side, led by Tony Palladino. With Harvey Hosein behind the stumps, the side is:

Ben Slater
Charlie Macdonell
Tom Wood
Callum Brodrick
Harvey Hosein
Tom Milnes
Greg Cork
Tom Taylor
James Taylor
Matt Sonczak
Tony Palladino

It is a big game for several players whose contracts are either up this year or were for this summer only; an opportunity to earn a deal for others.

I look forward to following the game and seeing who impresses - and look forward to the comments of those who manage along for the game.

And the rest of you, of course.

Postscript - unaware of the impressive fist we would make of the T20 this summer, I booked a week away with Mrs P, our daughter and Wallace for next week, when we will once again enjoy the scenic splendours of Berwick-on-Tweed and the Northumberland coast.

I will be back home for the Friday evening game, which may well be crucial, but may or may not have time to blog on the two matches earlier in the week.

I'd love to hear from anyone who would like to do a preview, or a post-match analysis, which I would be happy to post.

More than happy to comment as I can, but this one is for my wife, for reasons that will be obvious to all regular readers.

See you tomorrow.

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire day 4

Derbyshire 220 and 227 (Godleman 47, Slater 44)

Nottinghamshire 508-9

Nottinghamshire win by an innings and 61 runs

A visit from my god friend and best man when Mrs P and I got married 31 years ago prevented any blogging last night. Iain now lives in New York and we see him twice a year on average, so a visit in our anniversary week was both timely and enjoyed.

It also gave me an evening to reflect on Derbyshire's performance, before putting my thoughts down.

Having done so, they can be encapsulated in one word.

Shocking.

I know Nottinghamshire are a good side, we ran into Alex Hales in prime form and they had Mark Footitt back, keen to make a point. I know we had a few players missing, ahead of the T20 finale next week. I know Wayne Madsen was poorly yesterday.

But that was dreadful. We batted badly, bowled without control and, from the messages that have come my way, showed a lack of commitment and willingness to battle that was hugely disappointing. With nine wickets and seventy-five overs to survive, granted on a wicket that had been under covers for over 24 hours, we lasted just 63.

Like most supporters of the club, I can take losing, as long as there is a fight - heaven knows we are used to it by now. But after the partnership between Ben Slater and Billy Godleman was broken, there was little evidence of this until Tom Taylor and Tony Palladino got together. When 'extras' is second top score, you have a major problem.

Good bowling? Yes, to a point, but you don't need to pull out all the stops when the opposition shows the resilience of a poppadom. Over the three days of cricket, we were so far second in this game that it would have been laughable, were it not deeply frustrating for those who care about the club.

Billy Godleman was right in his assertion that we have played better cricket this season, more so in saying that we did badly here. 

In a fixture where the bragging rights are important but too often go to Nottingham, we simply didn't turn up.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire day 3

No play yesterday, which given my lack of time last night was no bad thing.

It doesn't look like there will be a full day's play today either, so Derbyshire's batsmen have every incentive to battle and get a draw from the game. You could argue that our efforts so far don't deserve one (honourable exceptions for Messrs Hughes and Reece) but given the farcical ending at Trent Bridge, when we were robbed of a win, perhaps a draw might even things out a little.

More from me later.


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Guest post - Keep the Faith, by Rob Enderby

What do people want? 

Have a look at the Test match grounds, full to the brim at £75 per day and £5 for a pint and you start to realise why supporters (the clue really is in the title ) should be more restrained and accepting of  our difficulties.

We are within touching distance of progressing in the Twenty20 against some huge teams.  We absolutely smashed Leicestershire out of the park, in a game that I attended and thoroughly enjoyed - perhaps too much, as at £3.70 a pint I had 4 or 5 too many.  Yet we question why we have rested Smit and Tahir, in a game we should on paper have no chance of winning in the championship.  In my opinion we should have rested a few more - Madsen, Wilson and Viljoen - and given youth a chance, in a competition where we are not going to finish above 7th.

I said earlier in the season that we shouldn't really be able to compete against Nottinghamshire. They hoover up all the talent, Footitt being another prime example.  Let other counties do all the work in developing a bowler of promise who has lacked opportunity, then take him back once that process is finished.  What hope do we have?

Our best bowlers have been injured for most of the season, one of our best players has found himself in difficulties off the pitch and others have found that they are perhaps short of  the required standard.
 Hosein gets a gig, is out first ball and all of a sudden is rubbish, in the eyes of some at the ground the other day. Why is that?

I firmly believe that in my lifetime counties will go to the wall.  There will be six or seven Test match ground teams and that's it. And we will have contributed to our own downfall by hopeless negativity.

We currently have a handful of players who I would imagine would get a game at most second division clubs.  Godleman, Madsen, Wilson, Smit, a fit Davis and an equally fit Viljoen, perhaps Hughes and the young spinner Qadri.  The challenge is to supplement these with two or three others and we will compete, perhaps across the board.

Until then, buckle up and enjoy the ride. Stop thinking that we know better than paid professionals, or that there's a conspiracy theory around every corner when the club doesn't tell us what Tahir had for breakfast. 

Take the defeats, but my word celebrate like we've won the World Cup  when we win and above all else support, support, support.
 
Rob in Essex    

Monday, 7 August 2017

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire day 2

Derbyshire 220 and 45-1

Nottinghamshire 508-9 (Hales 218, Read 75)

Derbyshire trail by 243 runs

After commenting before the game on how the season's fixtures between these two sides had been close affairs, this one has gone completely the way of the visitors. So much so, in fact, that if it were a boxing match the referee would have stepped in and stopped it already.

The visitors dominance was the result of a brilliant innings by Alex Hales, who really shouldn't have been here at all. For me, Hales is a really class act, and while he opens to great effect for England in the one-day game, he would be a huge asset for them in the middle order. I would take him every time over Dawid Malan and Tom Westley, both good players but not, in my humble opinion, in the same league as Hales. He can give it away on occasion, as any player with his aggressive mindset will do, but when it is his day, he is quite magnificent. Stick him at five in the England order, between Root and Stokes, then sit back to enjoy it.

He slaughtered us today, along with Bruce Read, in his final innings against us. Another great player in Nottinghamshire colours, who often produced his best against Derbyshire and was under-used by the England selectors.

As for Derbyshire...well, it wasn't good, was it? Notwithstanding the class of Hales, the bowlers all took stick and and, to quote the skipper, didn't find the top of off stump often enough. You might say they didn't find the top of any of them at times, judging by the fifty extras that we conceded.

I have to say that really annoys me, as a supporter. 24 no balls, 10 wides, 11 byes - it tells of indiscipline and that, at this level, is poor. They have to be better than that and well as Hales batted, he's going to face more demanding attacks than that.

Defeat lies ahead, the challenge for the players being to battle and take the game into the final day.

On the evidence of today, that looks unlikely.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire day 1

Derbyshire 220 (Reece 45, Hughes 55 not Hutton 5-52)

Nottinghamshire 93-2 (Mullaney 35 not)

Derbyshire lead by 127

It was always likely that Derbyshire would be batting first today, the visitors quickly exercising their right to bowl. It was equally likely that we might struggle, against a keen attack that contained our erstwhile favourite, Mark Footitt, as well as recent England man, Jake Ball.

As it turned out, it was a more unsung hero, Brett Hutton, who did the damage, taking five wickets as our batsmen laboured all day. Luis Reece did well for a while and Alex Hughes once again showed the battling instincts for which he is becoming known. Ben Cotton knocked it around too, in a last wicket stand that added 48, but I was left with the feeling that 220 was OK, but little more than that.

Tomorrow's first session is one where the visitors will either get away or be pegged back and we need a huge effort. Hardus Viljoen took his first championship wicket for us, but early inroads tomorrow are vital from an all seam attack.

Most of the comments and messages that I fielded today on Twitter and elsewhere revolved around Harvey Hosein playing, but not keeping wicket. The assumption that you would make, from that, is that Harvey is seen as the third best keeper in the club and is in the side for his batting exploits in recent weeks for the second team.

I think that a fair summation of things. Given that Gary Wilson was brought in to mentor the lad, he was obviously seen as a better wicket-keeper, but in turn was succeeded by Daryn Smit, who is seen as better still. As my old Dad said this afternoon, when we discussed it, how would you see him as the finished article at 20?

Harvey's return to the fold was short and sweet, nicking one through first ball to Chris Read from the bowling of Hutton. He is a better player than that and will hope to show his true worth in the second innings.

Plenty of work to do then, over the next three days.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire championship preview

If you add in the close finish at Trent Bridge in the season's first four-day fixture between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire (which we would have won, bar for the weather, lest you forget), there's been very close finishes in every match between the two sides this summer.

There shouldn't be, of course, because there is considerable fiscal difference between the two clubs. Yet this year, in particular, the constituent parts have added up better for Derbyshire, especially in the one-day competitions.

Tomorrow's game is, however, tinged with irony. Earlier in the season, we struggled because our strike bowler, Hardus Viljoen, was injured, leaving a sizeable burden on the shoulders of Jeevan Mendis. Now, as Viljoen makes his championship bow at the start of August, we find ourselves without a fit or available spinner in the club.

Imran Tahir has a minor injury, and is being rested ahead of the remaining T20 matches, while Matt Critchley is still recovering from the blow on the helmet against Leicestershire and Hamidullah Qadri is with England Under-19s.

So it seems we go with seam. There is a balancing act with Viljoen, of course, needing him to get some overs in his legs, yet not wanting any recurrence of the injury that has so blighted his season. The risk is that it is aggravated to the detriment of our T20 fortunes, but the fitness staff, the selection team and Viljoen himself must feel he is ready to go. Perhaps not for a huge workload, but enough to build the rhythm for the challenges ahead.

Matt Henry would probably have enjoyed a longer bowl too, but the possibility of  him replacing Tahir in the overseas role was scuppered by another minor injury. Daryn Smit is also rested, giving an opportunity to Harvey Hosein behind the stumps. Hopefully the lad acquits himself well after his wait for a place, as he lines up in this twelve:

Billy Godleman
Luis Reece
Ben Slater
Wayne Madsen
Alex Hughes
Gary Wilson
Harvey Hosein
Tom Taylor
Tom Milnes
Tony Palladino
Hardus Viljoen
Ben Cotton

Taylor and Milnes would appear to be battling for the final place and with that side we can only hope it's not going to be dry and dusty...

In another example of irony, Mark Footitt looks set to make his Nottinghamshire debut against his former employers, while Ish Sodhi is set for a first championship match. Their likely squad for the game, according to the Nottingham Post, is:

 Libby, Mullaney, Patel, Hales, Wessels, Root, Moores, Read, Hutton, Wood, Sodhi, Ball, Footitt, Gurney.

Logic suggests this a mis-match, but we know that Derbyshire can bat well on their good days. Whether the attack has the variety to bowl out a very strong side is  debatable, but local pride is again at stake and supporters will want to see the feel-good factor continue.

We'll find out soon enough.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire T20

Nottinghamshire 189-4 (Moores 57, Madsen 1-39)

Derbyshire 181-7 (Reece 53, Madsen 31)

Nottinghamshire won by eight runs

Before this game, most of us thought that we needed to win two of the last four games to qualify for the knockout stage of the competition.

Tonight, after a battling display, it is two from three, in all likelihood.

The chase never seemed quite 'there' tonight and although the side battled hard to the end, the visitors ended up doing a narrow double over us, winning by eight runs. The sixes from the last two balls of the Nottinghamshire innings were the match defining moments and sealed the margin of victory.

I'm quite tight for time tonight and am up for work at six tomorrow, so I am happy to leave thoughts on tonight's performance to the many of you that I am sure were there. I will give my thoughts tomorrow night or Sunday, when I have a little more opportunity to do so.

Interestingly (make that happily...) both Yorkshire and Warwickshire lost tonight, to Durham and Worcestershire respectively, so we remain top of a very competitive group with three games to play.

Two of them are at home, too.

Our destiny remains very much in our own hands and we still have the second best net run rate in the group.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Yorkshire v Derbyshire T20

Yorkshire 180-5 (Sarfraz 42, Viljoen 2-46)

Derbyshire 184-5 (19.4 overs, Godleman 67, Madsen 47, Wilson 33 not)

Derbyshire won by 5 wickets

Wow. Wow, wow, wow!

Beating Yorkshire at Chesterfield was something special. Doing it at Headingley, therefore completing a T20 double over them, was simply astonishing.

This wasn't a weakened Yorkshire either. OK, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow were with England, but the rest of their big guns, bar Liam Plunkett, were there, including players who star in England's T20 side. Many would have expected us to come home with noses bloodied; instead, we head back down the M1 with the points and every right to be immensely proud.

Midway through the Yorkshire innings, 'Anon' sent a message to say that 'Henry and Viljoen are bowling their usual rubbish'. No name, not published and I disagreed. I thought we stuck to things well in the field, conceding only seven extras, compared to Yorkshire's seventeen. At the end of the night, such profligacy cost them. And for the record, aside from three successive wides in the penultimate over, Henry bowled well and Viljoen took key wickets.

Once again, Wayne Madsen starred with bat and ball, thoroughly justifying his earlier PCA Player of the Month Award. Imran Tahir also bowled a crucially tight spell and Yorkshire never got away in the middle section of the innings. Honourable mention too for Alex Hughes, who reeled off three economical overs that prefaced a telling final contribution later.

At halfway I dared to think 'maybe'. We needed a good start and while Tom Wood didn't set the world alight, 24 were on the board when he was out after three overs. Luis Reece didn't last long, but as soon as Wayne Madsen came in he was into his stride once more. Billy Godleman already was and the transformation of Billy into a very good T20 batsman this year has been simply extraordinary.

They put on 77 in eight overs, before Billy was out, with 62 needed off 6 overs, which brought in Gary Wilson.

The skipper hasn't had much opportunity in this competition, but three times now he has come in and played the role of finisher to perfection, exactly as we hoped for when he was signed last winter. He and Wayne knocked it around and, with ten an over off the next three, seemed to be steering us home.

Wayne's dismissal, closely followed by that of Matt Henry, wasn't in the script though and left the equation at 18 from nine balls, but two fours from Wilson left ten from the last. How many times have we lost three wickets in such an over and fallen five short?

Not this time. Alex Hughes smacked his first ball for six , then took a two and a single, leaving the skipper to pull the fourth ball of the over for the winning four. He finished 33 not out from 16 balls, a terrific innings. A captain's innings.

Top of the league. Anything from tonight and tomorrow, against Nottinghamshire, was regarded by most as a bonus. Yet we came, we saw, we conquered. Doubtless the often boorish local support went home unhappy tonight, but for Derbyshire fans, we'll float through the rest of the night and tomorrow.

No chicken-counting yet.

But this really could be the year we qualify, you know.

Two more wins should do it, I reckon, but let's keep the good times rolling.

Fantastic lads. Now for Nottinghamshire...

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Yorkshire v Derbyshire T20 Preview

You could argue that tomorrow is the toughest game of the summer, as Derbyshire head to the lion's den of Headingley for a T20 showdown.

It is a game that in many previous summers we had little chance of winning, but surprised a few people. Greg Smith and Loots Bosman did well there and we must hope that the class of 2017 look back on their trip with a degree of pride in a job well done.

It will be tough. There's no news on the Yorkshire side, but it will be strong, albeit without Messrs Root and Bairstow. Tim Bresnan and Liam Plunkett will feature in the attack, alongside Adil Rashid, which offers a delicious leg spin shoot out with Imran Tahir.

Peter Handscomb has been replaced as overseas player by Pakistan's Sarfaraz Ahmed and with Shaun Marsh in the side too, the home eleven is packed with experienced cricketers.

And yet we beat them at Chesterfield.

They will be itching for revenge and the winner will likely move to the top of the table as a prize. Backed by a good few thousand home fans who, as always, will be generous with praise and gracious in winning or losing (!) it will be a hostile environment and only the strong survive.

Yet we have shown this summer that we have players of character, experienced themselves and with the ability to defend a total and chase one down with equal aptitude and elan. It could all go horribly wrong tomorrow, of course, but 48 hours against Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire is a tough gig and one of those, at the very least, may go pear-shaped.

We'll see. We are batting pretty well and bowled brilliantly last time out, so need to keep that going. A win of the toss would be no bad thing either.

Tom Wood looks set to replace Matt Critchley and it is in his and our favour that Yorkshire won't really know him. Otherwise, I expect an unchanged side and a battle royal.

If we hold our catches and bowl as we largely did at Chesterfield, they should know that they have been in a game.

Any more than that and we won't complain...

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Comment creates research

An interesting comment from John, below the Leicestershire match report, provoked a little research today. In turn, it suggests to me that there will be an enforced change in the Derbyshire side for the games against Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire later this week.
The ECB Return to Play guidelines are quite clear in that after a player has taken a blow to the head:

Regardless of the extent or nature of the concussion there is a need for immediate cognitive and physical rest.
Understanding of concussion is evolving but neurophysiology suggests that the brain does not begin to recover for some days after the initial insult and that there is an increased risk for some time after the initial injury.

It goes on to explain that a return to activity should be gradual and monitored by an appropriate professional, but:

Graded steps of gradual increase in activity must be accompanied by a 24-hour window to check for further symptoms or signs.
To achieve the last two levels as identified in the below table, the player needs a 24-hour window for each level and this therefore means no further return to a full training situation for six days.

On that basis, Matt Critchley, who had to leave the field after a blow to the head on Sunday, will play no cricket this week, at the very least.

It is a shame for the lad, who was doing well in his role at the top of the order, but his well-being is of far greater importance than two games of cricket. I am sure he will be back before too long and will doubtless play a key role in the final phase of T20 matches.

As is always the case in life, one man's misfortune is another's opportunity and the likely beneficiary is Tom Wood. I suggested on several occasions that this competition might be his forte and unless Imran Tahir goes Kolpak and Martin Guptill flies in to replace him in an overseas role before Thursday (hey, a man can dream!), Tom Wood is likely to find opportunity knocking.

I feel sorry for Tom, as well as Charlie Macdonell this year. In most other seasons they would have had first team opportunity before this, having scored a fair share of runs at second team level. They can do no more than that, yet it is otherwise hard to see where a chance will come for either. Ben Slater is another whose chances have been limited since early season, but the batting line-up in this competition is solid and established.

All they can do is keep plugging away and take the chance if and when it is presented. Matt Critchley did that, as did Luis Reece when he was battling for a place. So too has Alex Hughes and more recently Ben Cotton. When the chance came, they were ready, prepared to battle and produced the goods.

No one can ask more.