Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Derbyshire enigma

In a rollercoaster summer, I think there will be a lot of Derbyshire supporters of a similar mind to me this morning.

Do we have a good cricket team that too often lapses into mediocrity? Or a poor one, that sometimes plays above itself?

For what it is worth, I think we are two good players away from a side that could be promotion contenders in four-day cricket, as well as one that does well in one-day formats. Yet we are also the loss of two players away from also-rans.

Hardus Viljoen was brilliant in the game at Hove, but it would be unrealistic to expect him to be fit enough to do that from April to September. Perhaps the fact that he played hardly any cricket early season accounted for him being able to run in with the zest of a young gazelle. If he had four hundred overs in his legs, maybe the spring and zip that was too much for good batsmen may not have been there.

I am old enough to recall the September when a young Alan Ward arrived on the county scene and ran through county batting line-ups with some sizzling displays. Sadly, Alan was rarely fit enough to do that over a full season, though it was magnificent when it came together. Hardus is far more robust in build, and I suspect mentally tougher than Alan was, but 90mph for six months, with the body fit and the radar always locked on, is a huge ask for anyone. 

In his interview for my last book, Harold Rhodes told me that he quickly learned that you cannot give it all every time you bowl, and quickly have to learn to put in that lightning spell when conditions are in your favour, or the match is in the balance. Sage words from a man who would have enjoyed another quick bowler cutting a swathe through a batting line-up. Like Harold, Hardus is a canny enough bowler to be awkward when the wicket is slower and he has to cut down his pace and bowl an occasional quicker ball, itself a threat from shock value alone.

We saw the impact he had in this match, yet have seen the ineffectual nature of our attack in his absence. Without his whole-hearted approach, I doubt we would have come close to winning yesterday and the need to find quality support over the winter is clear.

Although I would have him back without question, I'm unsure if we have seen the best of Imran Tahir this summer. He bowled tidily in most T20 matches, won us one with a brilliant spell but has played little four-day cricket through injury and international duty. The prospect of Viljoen and Tahir together is a mouth-watering one, but for improvement another year we need to field three bowlers who can take wickets.

Shiv Thakor has been missed in that respect. Will Davis is a fine prospect, but raw, while Hamidullah Qadri is perhaps a decade from anything approaching a peak. Good players all, but addressing that missing link in the winter will determine if and how we progress.

Harry Podmore did his chances of a contract no harm at Hove. His batting was a revelation, while he overcame the disappointment of a dropped catch with the last two wickets. As Ash mentioned below yesterday's post, his frustration after that drop was obvious from video footage on Twitter, something he will need to handle better. No one deliberately drops catches, but it happens and you rise above it. Les Jackson used to shrug his shoulders and say 'catch next 'un', though Cliff Gladwin could be more volatile...

I'd like to see us sign a seam bowler who bats a bit for the early season overseas role. For all his expensive bowling in the T20, Matt Henry would be the type of player we need and would likely thrive in early summer here, with a spinner again for later season. Chris Morris would be terrific, but since he and Henry are normally involved in the IPL, that 'type' of player would be the target, those players themselves likely elsewhere.

Another player I like is Ben Raine at Leicestershire, sadly under contract until 2019. A combative cricketer who bowls good fast medium, battles with the bat and has the 'edge' that you want in a player. I'd see Raine as a player who would thrive in the right environment.

We're not far away. With continued progress from young players, better luck with fitness and sound 'tweaking' of the squad, 2017 may be seen as the year it all began, the watershed of Derbyshire cricket.

What do you think?

Postscript - I was amused yesterday to see that 87% of those voting felt Viljoen the star man for Derbyshire in the game just finished.

Turn that around though and 13% felt he wasn't...as I wrote on Twitter, what did he have to do to convince them?

13 comments:

Ash said...

Ben Raine is a very good cricketer and I'd love him at Derbyshire, just a shame that PdB has left Leics, I read that 6 players were looking to leave if he had of stayed.......we 'might' have been able to pinch him!

notoveryet said...

Just to be clear, I don't think the bottle kicking episode followed the dropped catch, which was after lunch. The bottle-kicking was in the morning after Podmore's first spell, and I think was annoyance at a poor spell and/or being taken off rather than anything else. It was, frankly, a poor piece of behaviour which went on for several minutes and involved sweater being thrown onto the ground and kicked, and at least four separate kicks of the water-bottle. It was worse than it looked on the piece of video, where he might just have been getting an obstacle off the playing area. He had actually licked the bottle into the playing area himself, and it had been there for at least two balls and I suspect we would have conceded 5 runs if the ball had hit it.

This episode apart, I wasn't particularly impressed with Podmore. His spirited innings was that of a tail-ender getting lucky, and I suspect we'll wait a long time to see another like it. He's got no great pace or movement although he does get decent bounce and can bowl the proverbial heavy ball, but his line and length is very variable. He shares that with Taylor but doesn't carry the same threat or pace, and I really don't think he adds anything to what we've already got.

Rob said...

Hi Peakfan, what a wonderful win. The lack of comments on here proves your point that it's easier to be negative. Let's not forget that we were a front line batsmen and our captain missing for our second innings. I agree with you that we are not far away. Slater and young Hughes seem to be coming to the party and long may it continue. This also reignited the wicket keeper debate, which I dont think will go away. Another middle order batsmen (possibly Wood) and a front line seamer will do just fine for me. All that is for the winter. For now let's enjoy the solid win and see how we get on v Kent. Rob in Essex

Peakfan said...

Thanks notoveryet. I saw it reported as after the drop so noted accordingly.

The typo made me chuckle...'licking' a bottle into the playing area is something our Wallace would do. Am guessing Harry wasn't that vexed!

Peakfan said...

Fair point though. He needs wickets before the season end to justify signing at this stage...

Gary said...

Reflecting on the season I would say its 1 step forward. The one day format we have a team that can beat any side. I personally can't see this team being promtion contenders for atleast 2-3 years. I see that we could finish at best be mid table. If you look at satistic how many times this years have our opening pair scored more than 60 partnership. I havn't looked this up but from memory we rarley have a good opening stand. In season we got promoted we had alot of good opening partnership. It makes Makes Madsen and Hughes job alot easier. I think Reece edges for me more than Slater. I think Slater prehaps our best 50 over batsman but he just not took his chances in championship. We also need to look at Gary Wilson postion in Championship team as this season he played about 75% of game this will be reduced over the coming years with Ireland. I think he has added alot of exprience to this group of players along with Smit. The bowlers is our biggest issue. I think Viljoen who is fit can get 50 wickets in a season but keeping him fit will have to be neogiated. I would like to see him being rested early season when we have 50 over. There is far to much cricket being played for a bowler like him to play in. I think Davis looks like a fantastic prospect but as a team we have to be careful of the expectation. We have to be patient to see the fruit with only recent times Foottit took while till he became the player that batsman feared. We need 2 bowlers and looking at out of contract players there not much diffrence with the players we have already got. I would go overseas that number 6 and strike bowler Kopack. I do feel we need to realease a few of bowlers who just havn't produced. It is never nice comment to make but we do have 3 bowlers on the staff who are sadly just not good enough for proffesional cricket. I think going into 2018 we have enough encouragment that under Barnett we are going the right direction.

notoveryet said...

Interesting comments about the risk of injuring Viljoen through over-bowling. He looks to me like a bowler who thrives on bowling long spells, which he's commented on himself. With an economical, ambling run-up, and a fairly gentle trot in his follow-through, he doesn't put nearly as much pressure on his body as many bowlers, and he also doesn't try to bowl flat-out every ball. One of the strengths I saw at Hove was the way he could suddenly produce a much quicker delivery with no discernible change in the speed of his run-up or action, which made the explosive quick ball more of a threat to the batsman (and wicket-keeper). It often seems to take him an over or two to get into the spell, but once settled and hitting a rhythm, he looks as if he just wants to carry on bowling. His general injury record suggests that he doesn't usually have problems, so we may just have been unlucky this year, and now that he knows more about the demands of a county season, he'll be able to manage and prepare better.

Peakfan said...

He is a very fit man, notoveryet, as can be seen by his physique. But 40 overs plus a game will be unsustainable for any fast bowler
He bowled better in the T20 when he had successive overs but more support, so he doesnt need to be a shock AND stock bowler can only be a good thing.

Old Supporter said...

Hardus Viljoen's performance has claims to be Derbyshire's greatest ever by a bowler. I remember some extraordinary analyses recorded by Cliff Gladwin, the incomparable Les Jackson and Harold Rhodes but these were on uncovered wickets and frequently on small grounds such as Buxton, Ashby, Stourbridge or Burton-on-Trent, where batting could be perilous on the first day, never mind on the afternoon of the third after rain. These were the days when 250 was often a match-winning score and Hampshire could be dismissed for 23. Viljoen's wickets came on a flat track in a match where 1,275 runs were scored.

Peakfan said...

I am inclined to agree, Old Supporter.
Quite extraordinary...

Ash said...

To be fair I think every side in the division would say they are 2 players away from challenging for promotion, winter recruitment is going to be vital

Peakfan said...

For sure Ash! And take 2 key players from each side, as we lost Viljoen and Thakor this year, and it wrecks it all.
Would Notts have won trophies without Patel and Mullaney? Or Essex the title without Porter and Harmer?
The latter is an example of what we need. An inspired signing, not rated as the best Kolpak signing pre-season, but made a huge difference
And yet got hammered in T20.
Horses for courses...

Captain Chessy said...

I agree with your comments about Ben Raine. Pity he is under contract. A few other names to throw into the mix are Ian Cockbain,Will Gidman,Luke Procter,James Harris and Charlie Morris. The Sussex camp does not seem happy at the moment according to reports from last week and I see that they have 'rested' Chris Nash,Angus Robson, David Wiese and Ben Brown this week. The Derby-born Stuart Whittingham could be a possible target. He seems to be pretty sharp and took 5 wickets in an innings against us last week.
I also see that Kent are resting Claydon,Coles and Milnes this week and Billings could be doubtful.It looks like Gidman could play.