After the days of unbelievable snow that we had up here (around 12-15 inches fell) I drove to work earlier this week in the first Spring sunshine. There is a definite difference in the light and the temperatures are gradually getting warmer - not that I'd be wearing my sleeveless sweater just yet...
There have been some good signings announced this week. Kent picked up the South African batsman Heino Kuhn and Leicestershire announced the signing of Mohammad Nabi of Afghanistan. Both will be shrewd bits of business and I think Nabi, a player I mentioned on the blog a few weeks back as an excellent T20 'gun for hire', will do a solid job for our neighbours. Meanwhile Ross Taylor has been signed by our Nottingham neighbours for the first half of the season.
It may be that Kuhn isn't the last of a lengthy list of South Africans to sign Kolpak deals, because Morne Morkel, Farhaan Behardien, Stephen Cook, Wayne Parnell and Aaron Phangiso have all missed out on central contracts for this year. Morkel has already announced his retirement from international cricket, but the middle three may all think that Kolpak deals are options for them. Behardien is a player I have always liked, while Cook had a stint at Durham last year with mixed success. Parnell is a player I thought would hit the heights when he emerged as a precocious schoolboy talent, but he has never quite hit the top level with consistency.
As for Derbyshire, we still don't know if John Wright is returning (if he is, it hasn't been announced) and we still have a T20 berth to fill.The players will be moving outside in the near future and gearing up for the first game, against Leeds/Bradford MCCU in just over a month's time.
I have finalised my early season trips and can 'exclusively reveal' that I will be there for the season opener against Middlesex in April, as well as the RLODC games against Durham and Leicestershire in May. I will also be making a trip to The Riverside, for the first couple of days of the Durham game in June, weather permitting and have time set aside for September, just in case we make a decent fist of the four-day game and the 'p' word is a possibility.
None for the T20, I'm afraid, as family holidays in July and August take precedence and I cannot justify a 700-mile round trip for three hours of cricket. If I happen to be down there it is a different matter, of course, and I will view keenly any games on Sky, assuming that they don't just show Lancashire every week...
In between times I will be working on my season preview, as well as announcing details of this year's Fantasy League, which I hope will see plenty of you involved.
Last year saw a record number of participants and I hope that you will all be back for an exciting summer of cricket - and blogging!