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.


Anonymous said...

Well done Derbyshire! To qualify whilst the likes of Yorkshire, Lancashire and especially Northants failed is some achievement.  And a home draw to boot.  The team deserves all the plaudits for qualifying in a very strong group.

The journey hasn't been easy and at times we haven't been totally convincing but nevertheless eight victories and second in the table is no mean achievement.  For me the highlight was the double over Yorkshire and l live there!

Overall it's been a great team performance although it has to be said that Wayne Madsen has been outstanding in all areas of the game.  And hats off to Billy Godleman who most of us thought couldn't adapt to this shortened format; how wrong we were.  Great to see Matt Critchley beginning to show what an excellent cricketer he is with some notable contributions with bat and ball.

The slow bowlers have had a major impact on this competition while are quickies have not always got it right.  The call up of Ben Cotton was a bold move and it worked because it gave us that extra front line bowler and saved us from having to fiddle those last few overs.

When you consider that the vast majority of the personnel involved in this format are those that have maybe underperformed in the championship it says a great deal about John Wright and his management skills.  Would we have got this far without him, l doubt it.

Good effort from the team tonight under great pressure and no mean achievement in bowling the opposition out for under one hundred.  Imran and Wayne did the business but were well backed up by the seamers on this occasion.

Whatever the outcome in the quarters we have made serious progress in this competition for the first time in years.

Stuart, York

Mark said...

Let's not get carried away here Peakfan, it's a huge step in the right direction to reach the quarters but we now have to make sure we reach finals day. More batting like we've seen in the last couple of matches and we'll be left concentrating on not finishing bottom of the county championship. The batting worries me as we haven't got quick hitters and more importantly don't seem to have three or four consistent scorers. It's generally one big score from one player that's getting us through at present. Hopefully this will change on Tuesday, good luck to the lads.

Peakfan said...

Like I said in the piece Mark, we can't look at this as the end game. Most T20 games are won by one big innings and the rest batting around them, as Billy, Wayne and Luis have shown this summer. Matt could have won us the game at Leicester, with better support and let's not forget that Gary Wilson will be back next week.

All can and do score quickly and if we combine the facets of our game, who knows?

Rob said...

Blimey Peakfan, after 14 games you deserve to finish where you do. 2nd out of this lot is absolutely fantastic. And yet there are still some nay sayers. Absoloutley wonderfull. Although negotiations are at an early stage I'm hopefully the redoubtable Mrs E will fancy an 8hr round trip on Tuesday. Rob In Essex.

jasper said...

Worth remembering the batting in the last couple of matches has been on pitches not conducive to quick scoring.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with Mark it's only a quarter final Derbyshire are still the only side never to have reached finals day

Peakfan said...

'Only' not quite the word when we havent been there in 12 years...
We all know that record and the class of 2017 now have a chance to do something about it!

David Woolley said...

Bring Hampshire on Peakfan. That's what I say.
This team seems to thrive when the opponents are a supposedly bigger County, with their International and England stars.
Those who are saying 'it's only a quarter final' are in some aspects correct. But i'm sure all will agree that the players deserve time to celebrate before getting their heads down again to prepare for Tuesday.
For me, the most relevant comment is that our skipper is back for Tuesday. His experience, batting ability and captaincy are all a plus point for me.
Come on Falcons supporters, let's celebrate reaching the quarters with the team, but not think the job is done, then get down to the 3aaa's on Tuesday to roar the boys on.

mh said...

I do not think that Worcestershire have reached finals day either !

Tim, Chesterfield said...

What's the capacity of the ground these days? Unless I've missed it I've been surprised to see the hospitality tent unused for the T20 games I've attended. Odd.

Nic H said...

That was the best atmosphere I have heard at the county ground for 20 years. Let's rank it up on Tuesday!!

Peakfan said...

Health and safety regs keep it at 4999 Tim. If it gpes over that theres different criteria need met and additional costs. Besides which, creating demand is always good from a marketing perspective...
Doubt they will use what is now a very successful 'earner' for viewing. They have it well booked and need to keep it in good condition for those bookings

notoveryet said...

Just a thought first about the competition as a whole so far. The 8 games last night all had a bearing on qualification, so all mattered. Apart from the teams that had already qualified or were already out of the reckoning, I reckon 12 teams had a chance of qualifying. The final qualification place wasn't settled until the last ball of the group stages. I'd guess total attendances were well in excess of 100,000, with many more following on TV, radio, and on-line. So what is broken about the T20 that needs to be fixed, and do we honestly expect the new competition to deliver the same level of passion and engagement?

I thought the most nerve-wracking part of the night was watching the rain forecast change, losing the toss and having to bat, with the risk that DLS would come into play. The one area that I'd confidently expect Worcs to beat us every time would have been over 5 overs, and once it was clear that the rain was swinging south, it actually felt quite comfortable to me. Madsen batted beautifully and got just enough support to get us to a score that was probably worth 30 or 40 more on a better pitch. One of the things that struck me here, as it has in the previous couple of matches, was that too many people were out attempting big hits or playing unorthodox shots too early, and we've lost the composure and pacing of the innings that was so evident in the first 10 games. I held my breath briefly when Viljoen opened the bowling again and speared the first ball down the legside again for 4 leg byes, but he settled beautifully after that and finally looked like the bowler we've paid so much for. I held my breath again when Brodrick found himself under another high catch, and took it so well that you wonder how he's spilled two simple catches in earlier games. Hopefully, he's got that out of his system now, and otherwise his fielding was electrifying, and stood out even in the context of a brilliant fielding performance. Running between the wickets was sharp after a very leisurely showing on Thursday. Altogether it looked like a different team from the lacklustre, careworn bunch from the previous night, and whoever was responsible for that in the leadership deserves credit. I'm not sure I agree with the comment about expecting your big guns to fire on the big occasions. I rather expect that all of the time, and hope that last night's display doesn't mean that they've been cruising up to now.

As to the quarter-final, I'm amused by the idea that Hants fans see us as a plum draw. Apart from the fact that their team has just been rolled out so cheaply, I see them as the plum draw from the South group. Surrey you definitely don't want to see until finals day, Somerset would be worse to face in the quarter-final than the finals where they have their own demons to cope with given their history of choking, and likewise I'd like to see Glamorgan, where their own inexperience of big occasions is as likely to cause them to freeze as ours might. Hampshire seem to me to be a side with plenty of talent but not a lot of substance, and rarely add up to the sum of their parts. Their record in qualifying hasn't been brilliant, and I sense there are too many dilettantes in their batting for them ever to feel comfortable about making a good total. If everything fires at the same time, they will probably bury us, but anything less than that, and I really fancy our chances if we can perform like last night.

Peakfan said...

Totally agree on the T20 notoveryet.
We have a great product based on longstanding historical rivalries, yet the suits feel they can sell something better. To who, I still don't know.

Of course you want your big names to fire all the time, but few do. Think back to the greats of the last 50 years...Viv and Barry Richards for example, pulled out their great knocks for TV and big matches. Yes they did well, but more often when the muse took them and there was additional stimulus.

I think we can handle Hants too and was keen to avoid Somerset and Surrey...for now!

justmissin'leg said...

A home quarterfinal. Yippee!
..and a decent weather forecast for Tuesday.

Ticket on the mantelpiece.

Falcons versus Hawks.

We have defended totals and chased down scores on our own patch.
Billy is due another score and the return of our skipper boosts our firepower. Hardus and Imran have whetted their, and our, appetites now.

Sure, Hampshire are favourites.
We, though, have forged a team that competes this campaign and is something on which I hope we can build in the following seasons.

So, let them bring their big names and reputations. It will make a more memorable evening when we beat them.

Since our host invites us to dream, Derbyshire can be backed at 9/1 still to lift the trophy.

Maybe it's this Malbec, but I'm starting to feel lucky...

Tim, Chesterfield said...

I hope our pricing for this game doesn't stop in being the sell out it should be.

Nic H said...

Yes down with the franchise souless nonsense. This year has shown that it's the demographics of counties that drives competition and rivalry and brings the crowds in.