Sunday, 11 April 2021

Warwickshire v Derbyshire day 4

Derbyshire 189 and 244 (Critchley 83, Hosein 78* Hannon-Dalby 5-76)

Warwickshire 221 and 7-0

Match drawn

Last night I wrote that we needed a special effort to get something from this game. That came from two young players as we battled to a draw, snow ending play early.

Matt Critchley had a terrific game. With 64 and 83 in his two innings, he more than anyone else in the game came to terms with a far from easy early season wicket. Throw in  figures of 2-22 in the Warwickshire innings and there was no contest for man of the match.

I said pre-season that it was a big year for him and he could hardly have started it better. In prime form his bat has a delightful flourish and his play off his legs here was a joy. So too the security in his defence, which he has obviously worked on. 

Hosein was no less impressive. I sometimes feel he can struggle with his footwork when he first comes in and get trapped on the crease, but he was incisive from the start. Though his partner took the lead in scoring, Harvey showed fine technique and a full range of strokes. He batted through to be unbeaten at the end and can be proud of his efforts. 

It was a match-saving partnership that got through the crucial first session unscathed. Though wickets fell steadily after lunch, once a brisk knock from Hudson-Prentice complicated the win target, the run chase was 213 from 41 overs after tea. 

Snow ended play after four overs, but the approach of the home batsmen hadn't suggested they were going to go for them. Luis Reece bowled two maidens and, let's face it, few would send in Dominic Sibley in a run chase, regardless of his merits as an organised opening batsman. 

Derbyshire can be proud of their efforts here. There is room for improvement with bat and ball, but there were also plenty of reasons for optimism, at the start of a long season. 

Well done fellas. You made us proud today. 

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Warwickshire v Derbyshire day 3

Derbyshire 189 and 71-5 (Hannon-Dalby 5-29)

Warwickshire 221

Derbyshire lead by 39 runs

Unless someone produces the spectacular tomorrow, or the bad weather that took out the second half of the day again intervenes, Derbyshire will slide to defeat.

They bowled better today and found a combo that worked in Mikey Cohen's skiddy pace at one end, with Matt Critchley's leggies at the other. They didn't take too long to dispose of the home side and the deficit was 'only' 32.

It is a 'sporting' wicket though and we were only two ahead by the time the fourth wicket fell, the top batsmen all spirited away by Hannon-Dalby. We came out almost in one-day mode, presumably wanting to hit the bowlers off their length, but it didn't work. Godleman batted well for a while, though never suggested permanence, but Dal completed a miserable match of four runs from two innings, while du Plooy bagged a pair, likely his first in senior cricket.

I saw a silly comment about Dal on Twitter this afternoon, which was totally unfair. If a player as good as Leus can bag a pair, surely Anuj shouldn't be expected to score a hatful? Especially when he has been elevated from eight last year to number three, on a wicket where all batsmen have struggled.

Critchley has batted better than anyone in the two innings and he, with Madsen, hinted at a recovery. Yet Hannon-Dalby took his fifth, with the second ball in the match Wayne could do little about, leaving Hosein at the crease just before play ended, first for bad light and then for heavy rain.

More rain is forecast for tomorrow afternoon, so the chances of escaping with a draw hinge on batting with grit and luck tomorrow morning. On this wicket it will be some effort, though the odds in favour are not good.

Anyone know any good rain dances? 

Friday, 9 April 2021

Warwickshire v Derbyshire day 2

Derbyshire 189

Warwickshire 169-5 (Lamb 41*, Aitchison 2-31, Conners 2-40

Derbyshire lead by 20 runs

While they made regular inroads into the home batting today, I didn't think this was an especially good performance with the ball or in the field by Derbyshire today.

All of the bowlers bowled some good balls, but there were too many that could be easily left by the batsmen. When lines were adjusted, they went too far and gave away easy runs off the pads.

Maybe I am being unduly harsh, but I am judging by the high standards of others I have seen over the years, when more often than not the batsmen were made to play. I acknowledge a little early season rustiness, but in a game of low scoring with a helpful wicket, we could have done better. The lack of a third man was a puzzle too, with four or five boundaries squirting off the edge. For me, Reece and Cohen were the best bowlers, though that was not reflected in the scorebook

Nor were we especially good in the field.  Du Plooy put down a fairly straightforward one at slip, while Hosein seemed to put a more difficult one down last ball before tea, certainly from the reactions of the bowler and slips. There were also bits of sloppy fielding, which in a low-scoring game makes a big difference.

I think an issue that Billy Godleman has, with the options at his disposal, is getting them on in the right order and at the right end. Reece and Conners did OK, the former unlucky, the latter proving he can get good players out. Aitchison did very well when he came back after a loose early spell, as did Hudson-Prentice. Cohen didn't get on until the ball was 30 overs-plus old, while Dal, who is a more than handy seamer, wasn't used at all.

At the end of a rain-hit day, Warwickshire were 169-5 and slightly on top. Lamb top-scored but led a charmed life, as batsmen will on here with the ball in the right areas.

We need to bowl better lines and field much better tomorrow, that's for sure. 

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Warwickshire v Derbyshire day 1

Derbyshire 189 (Critchley 64, Reece 63, Norwell 5-32)

Warwickshire 13-1

A fine spell of bowling by Liam Norwell, slightly tarnished by overly enthusiastic appealing, was the difference between the two sides on day one at Edgbaston.

Norwell, with support from Oliver Hannon-Dalby removed the first three Derbyshire batsmen for ducks. Godleman got a second ball he would have struggled with in high summer and peak form, Dal looked correct but left a gap, while du Plooy assayed a leave but dragged on.

Madsen helped Reece bring up the fifty, but was well caught at slip to one that bounced, which brought in Critchley and the best spell of the day for Derbyshire.

He and the excellent, phlegmatic Reece put on the best stand of the innings, before the return of Norwell did for both. Luis showed good technique and concentration, while Critchley, as he often does, looked on a different wicket to the others at times.

He was becalmed after reaching a sumptuous fifty and was out soon after Reece, another held in the excellent slip cordon. Warwickshire held their catches well on a cold day, which is no mean feat. 

There was a somewhat disappointing end to the innings after Reece and Critchley batted so well. Only a few lusty blows from FHP were noteworthy thereafter, before he gave his wicket away to a loose shot, though Aitchison and Conners battled towards, but fell short of a batting point, the innings closing at 189.

There was time for Conners to remove Will Rhodes with his second ball, before bad light ended play early, with the hosts 13-1.

There's a big first session tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Warwickshire v Derbyshire preview

Well, old Peakfan dusted down his team selection crystal ball last week and seems to have got pretty close to the eleven that will take the field against Warwickshire at Edgbaston tomorrow.

To the eleven I named, Brooke Guest and George Scrimshaw are added. I am not sure if there are any doubts over Harvey Hosein that caused him to retire hurt against Lancashire, bit he seemed to bat easily enough against Cardiff UCCE. I suspect he will play and Guest will be 12th man, while I couldn't call the bowler who misses out from the thirteen below:

Godleman, Reece, Madsen, du Plooy, Critchley, Dal, Hosein, Hudson-Prentice, Cohen, Aitchison, Conners, Scrimshaw, Guest.

Meanwhile, the home squad contains England man Dominic Sibley, as well as the highly-rated Sam Hain. Tim Bresnan provides experience and their squad is:

Sibley, Rhodes, Hain, Bresnan, Briggs, Brookes, Burgess, Hannon-Dalby, Lamb, Miles, Mousley, Norwell, Yates. 

It will be a tough game, as they all are at this level. At this stage eighteen counties believe this is 'their' year and the home side has been bullish about their prospects. 

Those of every team depend on people staying fit and holding catches, of course. While there may be some concern at the lack of genuine experience in the Derbyshire attack, the flip side is that it contains players with reputations to make. 

In cricket, as in any organisation, that can be a potent weapon. 

Like all of you, I will be glued to my TV tomorrow and for the next few days. The forecast looks fair, even if it doesn't look like too many will be in a sleeveless top. No predictions at this stage, let's see how we shape up first. 

Good luck fellas. We're rooting for you. 


Monday, 5 April 2021

Derbyshire v Cardiff UCCE day. 3

Derbyshire 321-6 and 277-4 (McKiernan 101, Wagstaff 89)

Cardiff UCCE 258 and 137-1 (Ward 78, Palmer 50*)

Match Drawn

While neither are going to appear in the first team this week, there was much to enjoy in the batting of Mattie McKiernan and Mitch Wagstaff today.

The bowling may have been of dubious quality at times, but a century packed with powerful strokes was McKiernan's first for Derbyshire. One six caused the ball to be changed, no doubt shredded as it went over the stone chips of the car park across from the pavilion. He hit four sixes in all and perished going for a fifth, but it will have done his confidence a world of good.

Wagstaff again batted beautifully and in a controlled manner. Just about his only ugly shot was the one that saw him fall to a skier on 89, but he can be proud of his match return. At 17 he has a very bright future.

It was also a delight to watch Nafis Shaikh and he looks remarkably composed at the crease. His stature suggests someone drafted in to make up the numbers, but at the crease he has lovely footwork. It affords him time and watching him bat I was reminded of the Indian legend Gundappa Viswanath. He was also small but a wonderfully elegant player and Nafis looks a real talent.

Once the declaration came it was academic, but on a bitterly cold day there was no point in having the side out in the field for more than they needed to.

Cardiff batted in spirited fashion with close fields set and it was a good workout for the players.

One final comment. The stream was excellent. The additional camera(s) to show where the ball has gone are a real enhancement and it will be a treat to watch this summer.

Next stop Edgbaston on Thursday. I'm looking forward to seeing the squad announcement in due course. 

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Derbyshire v Cardiff UCCE Day 2

Derbyshire 321-6 dec and 20-1

Cardiff UCCE 258 (Banton 75, Bevans 68 Hutchinson 3-17, Sylvester 3-31)

Derbyshire lead by 83 runs

This has been a good work out and two nicely balanced sides, with Derbyshire'mix of half staff players and the others from the academy getting a good work out from the students.

Seamers Hutchinson and Sylvester bowled splendidly for Derbyshire, who made regular inroads into the visiting batting. They recovered well from 127-6 to get close to the home total and it has made for a fascinating final day tomorrow, weather permitting. 

It will be another part of the learning curve for the younger players in facing batsmen hopefully going for a target, while for senior bowlers Melton, Hughes and McKiernan it is a chance for another early season bowl.

It was disappointing to see Wood dismissed in the day's closing overs, but he has runs in him when the season gets into swing. 

More from me tomorrow. 

Team for Warwickshire?

I have had a few messages and comments regarding my team for the first game at Edgbaston.

It is always tough to call these things, because we don't know who is fully fit, who has rhythm in the nets and who will best suit the likely wicket at Edgbaston.

I think the batting largely picks itself, and the good thing about our plethora of all round talent is that we can bat deep and still have plenty of bowling options.

I am putting this team out there now, because for the next three days my long hours will preclude a lengthy blog. They will, however, enable me to watch almost all of the first game on the stream that the weather allows.

So here goes:

Godleman
Reece
Dal
du Plooy
Madsen
Critchley
Hosein
Hudson-Prentice
Cohen
Aitchison
Conners

My understanding is that Billy Stanlake isn't here for this one and I think the three seamers picked have so far shown the best rhythm.

It is a sign of strength that Melton and Scrimshaw are omitted, but their turn will come. Madsen may yet bat three, but hasn't pre-season, which might offer an 'in' to Dal, Hughes or Tom Wood. Tom perhaps needs a big score in the second innings of the current match, while Melton needs to get his lines and rhythm right to change the above eleven.

We will see in due course.

Now let me hear yours! 

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Derbyshire v Cardiff UCCE day 1

Derbyshire 321-6 (Hosein 89*, Shaikh 55, Wagstaff 45)

V Cardiff UCCE

The only disappointment for Dave Houghton today will have been that only Harvey Hosein of those around the first team enhanced his claims for a place in a first choice side.

Hosein's steady, unbeaten 89 restored an innings that looked set to run aground on the rocks after a good start.

Tom Wood and Mitch Wagstaff led off with a good opening stand, before Wood was straightened up by a good ball and caught behind. Hughes, McKiernan and Priestley got starts but failed to go on, while Mitch Wagstaff, a 17-year old left hander, looked good at the top of the order. He seems very strong through the covers and it was ironic that he played on, assaying another drive. 

Then came a splendid fifty for Nafis Shaikh. At 16 he has astonishing potential, but was helped by the opposition quicks forgetting that small players are generally strong pullers and cutters. There were nine boundaries in his knock, almost all of them square and he and Hosein steered Derbyshire past 300 with a century stand. 

He eventually went for 55, by which time Derbyshire were rock solid, reaching 321-6 by stumps.

Friday, 2 April 2021

Derbyshire v Cardiff UCCE preview

Dave Houghton has announced a youthful side for the final game of pre-season, a game against Cardiff UCCE which starts at Derby tomorrow.

The only senior players in the squad are Tom Wood, Alex Hughes, Mattie McKiernan and Dustin Melton, with Nils Priestley also likely to start.

All have an opportunity to get runs on the board and stake a claim for senior involvement this summer. My guess is that Melton will play in the season opener at Edgbaston next Thursday, as Billy Stanlake will not be over in time. I expect the giant Aussie to be treated well over here, not least because we will want him firing for the T20.

The rest of the squad is made up of academy players and Daryn Smit will be an interested onlooker to see how his young charges handle opposition that will be a few years older than them.

The rest of the squad includes Nafis Shaikh, Ben Hutchinson, Mitch Wagstaff, Archie Harrison, Chris Lawrence, Johnny Lawrence and Adam Sylvester and I wish them well.

It is a good opportunity to see how the young tyros are developing and there could easily be a county player or two for the future in that eleven.

I can't wait to see how they get on!

Go well, boys. 

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Lancashire v Derbyshire day 3

There were a few standout moments in a gritty day of batting by Derbyshire at Old Trafford.

The main one was a fine innings by Wayne Madsen, only ended when he dragged on an attempted cut for 78. One straight drive was sublime, but there were several strokes out of the top drawer. He looks in good nick, which is great to see. 

Then there was further proof of the tenacity of Mikey Cohen, who batted a long time, almost a session and a half, in a gritty and skilled innings. His walk away to square leg between balls could become part of the Derbyshire landscape, as might that of opposition batsmen doing the same when he gets his rhythm right..

It was also evident that Ben Aitchison and Sam Conners can handle a bat too, so the days of nine, ten, jack rolling over seem long gone. It was nice to see.

The earlier batting was sketchy but Harvey Hosein took a nasty blow that might be a problem in the short and medium term. We will likely hear more about that tomorrow, but I would expect Brooke Guest will keep tomorrow.

Finally Lancashire. I have to say I was unimpressed by their animated and aggressive appealing all day. Danny Lamb, who bowled very well, was the main offender, so too Alex Davies. There is no need to be pointing at umpires and sustaining an appeal as they did. It was unnecessary, and I would say exactly the same were Derbyshire the culprits.

If they carry on in that vein, I will be as pleased to see them lose this year as I am Nottinghamshire... 

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Lancashire v Derbyshire day 2

I didn't see as much of today's play as I would have liked, but I thought our bowlers did well in less favourable conditions than yesterday.

I wasn't especially sure why Davies wanted to keep batting after reaching a hundred in a friendly match, but he played well. In the post - tea session I thought Aitchison and Potts bowled with good rhythm and induced a number of false strokes. Aitchison is best bowling within himself and got good movement, while Potts looks a terrific talent at 18. 

Scrimshaw wasn't bowling flat out (why would he, in March?) but got good overs under his belt that he will be pleased with. On the occasions he put a little more in he got good bounce and looks a shrewd signing. 

Meanwhile Cohen bowled excellent lines and appeared to be getting the old ball to swing quite nicely at pace. In a varied attack that contained neither Melton nor Stanlake, plenty got good overs in their legs. 

While Lancashire took the lead in a game where the scores don't really matter, the bowling was tidy all day and Dave Houghton would appear to have plenty of options available to him when the serious stuff starts. 

Monday, 29 March 2021

Lancashire v Derbyshire friendly day1

Dave Houghton will, I think, be less bothered about the score today than by how too many gave their wickets away.

Godleman and Dal were the pick of the batsmen, though the skipper gave it away with an ugly attempted carve through the covers. Dal looked comfortable and stylish at three and I wonder if this signals Madsen dropping to five when the season proper opens? The latter got one that kept horribly low when he eventually batted and Critchley, after batting stylishly, overestimated his powers of acceleration and was run out by a fine throw from the deep.

FHP also batted well but this was largely early season batting against a strong attack, on a wicket the bowlers enjoyed all day. Mikey Cohen surprises me in the middle, arriving with little reputation but batting calmly and stylishly whenever I have seen him. There is potential with the bat, for sure. 

Neither keeper got going and they may perhaps each get an innings with the gloves to stake a claim for being first choice. Runs for either would be welcome before the proper business starts.

Godleman and Dal again looked in decent touch when we batted a second time, by which time they had stopped showing the score.

We bowl tomorrow and it will be good to see who gets early rhythm. 

Saturday, 27 March 2021

What purpose Derbyshire?

I read those words every now and again in the media and social media. Every time it annoys me (there are serial offenders) and although they don't just refer to us, it has the same effect each time.

Well, for one thing, like it or not, we are one of the best run clubs in the country. 'On course to be debt free by 2024' was what I took from the announcement of another profit this year. That is quite staggering, not just in cricket, but in professional sport. We cut our cloth to suit, but we wear it well. While the past twelve months have presented challenges, prudent house keeping has seen the bottom line in the black ink, rather than red. That without the vast majority of off-field income from concerts and events, though the 'bubble' that allowed overseas teams to stay and work at the Incora County Ground was a fair substitute and helped immensely.

Compare that to some bigger counties, reportedly millions in debt. These are worrying times around the shires, but the best sleeping patterns are likely to be found in the Peak District.

Then there's the academy. We haven't produced enough in recent years, but there are signs that the tide is turning. Alex Hughes, Harvey Hosein, Tom Wood, Nick Potts, Sam Conners and Nils Priestley are on the current staff and have emerged through the academy and/or local league system. There will be more, under the shrewd tutelage of Daryn Smit and Dave Houghton has got the balance right between recruiting locally and picking up unpolished diamonds elsewhere.

For example, Luis Reece, Wayne Madsen and Matt Critchley have all earned selection for teams in the new 'elite' competition. Would any of them have done so without Derbyshire? Luis was released by Lancashire and may well have drifted out of the game, while Matt may never have had the opportunities at that county that have seen him emerge as a potential England player. Meanwhile Wayne may or may not ever have played county cricket, without John Morris giving him a trial all those years ago.

Brooke Guest, Mattie McKiernan and Ben Aitchison were largely overlooked in Lancashire too and could yet become established county players. Good players all and how sweet would it be to see them mature and be successful in Derbyshire colours. The same goes for George Scrimshaw, released by Worcestershire, but who is to say that he might not become a classic late developer? One who bowls at 90mph...

Let's not forget Billy Godleman. After leaving Middlesex, his subsequent release by Essex might have seen him too drift from the County game. Instead, he has been county captain for five years and is respected across the country as a tough competitor, one who has made Derbyshire his home. For Godleman read Fynn Hudson-Prentice and Anuj Dal, good cricketers who lacked opportunity at the clubs where they learned their craft. Both have shown already that they can score runs and take wickets against good sides - and they will only get better.

We have also lost players to other clubs. Ben Slater, Will Davis, the Taylor brothers and Callum Parkinson have all gone on elsewhere, something that will always happen. It is why it is important to have eighteen counties. The cream will rise to the top, but greater opportunity creates a larger talent pool, which can only improve standards. Look how Billy Root has prospered at Glamorgan, after barely getting a game down the A52. Sometimes an environment just fits for a player and their development flourishes within it. Ryan Higgins at Gloucestershire is another example, as might be Tom Lace, erstwhile of this parish, in due course. 

Of course detractors will also point to the likes of Leus du Plooy, Michael Cohen and Dustin Melton and ask what they offer the English game?

The answer is simple. They improve standards, quality and entertainment. How could you not thrill at du Plooy's wonderful century at Nottingham last year, or his assault on Olivier at Headingley? Is there much more thrilling than two bowlers of genuine pace and aggression running in hard and unleashing thunderbolts, unless you are at the business end, of course? When laws and regulations allow them to qualify and play in this country, why shouldn't they? And why shouldn't it be Derbyshire - and Dave Houghton with his extensive contacts - who reap the benefits?

Finally, let's not ignore history. The success of the county streams over the past two summers have highlighted that many people support and follow a county, even if their lifestyle and location means they can rarely attend in person. It makes you no less a supporter, but that support is based on decades old rivalries before mobility of labour created a county diaspora.

Imagine football, if it was decided there would only be a Premiership and no other sides. This is what some want to happen in county cricket, eight or twelve sides who supposedly represent the best the game has to offer. 

The trouble is that I can think of dozens of players at counties who might then be overlooked that I consider very good cricketers. Some of them likely better than ones who have had national call ups in recent years. 

There may be trouble brewing, if the big counties want bigger slices of the 'Hundred' pie. But don't let anyone tell you that they want to do it for anything other than greed. 

As we go into Derbyshire's 150th season, we are in rude health and have a great deal to offer to the wider English game.

Enjoy it, as I do. 

Especially when we stick it to one of the so-called bigger sides...

Friday, 26 March 2021

Cohen and du Plooy - how they qualify

I have already had a few texts, emails and DMs on Twitter regarding the 'status' of Mikey Cohen and Leus du Plooy. 

Specifically, how they are both able to play here post-Brexit, when a number of cricketers of South African origin had to return home? 

The answer is simple. 

Cohen has 'pre-settled status' acquired through a French passport. Under the post-Brexit regulations, pre-settled status gives an individual the ability to work and live as a UK national for a period of five years, after which point they are able to acquire British citizenship. 

Leus is in a similar position as a result of a Hungarian passport, although his earlier arrival means he will qualify a year earlier. It is my understanding that by 26 years old Cohen will be British qualified (in another four seasons) while du Plooy will be the same when he is 29, in three seasons. 

I hope that clears it up! 

More valuable time in the middle

Sadly, rain allowed little time at Leicester, where the overnight batsmen retired and there was only time for Harvey Hosein to get a first-baller and Fynn Hudson-Prentice to play a couple of tidy strokes.

Meanwhile at Derby, Anuj Dal played the innings of the day, an unbeaten 72 with plenty of those wrist strokes we have come to enjoy.

There is a really good cricketer in Nuj. I saw him two or three years ago in the second team at Belper and he looked the best batsman on show. He can play all round the wicket, has fast hands (and feet) and scores quickly. Add in his handy, but too often neglected seam and his brilliant fielding and there is a serious player.

I fancy this year could be a breakthrough for him. He may struggle to bat higher than eight in a long lineup, but at 24 he knows his game and will be a fine addition to the side.

In the limited clips I saw, I was also impressed by 16-year old Nafis Shaikh, who looked a very compact, diminutive batsman. Astonishingly, he only picked up a bat for the first time three years ago, when he asked a team practicing in Normanton Park if he 'could have a go'.

He now plays his cricket at Swarkestone and Derbyshire arranged a scholarship for him to Repton School, where his cricket education will doubtless be accelerated. He didn't look fazed in making 25 against a decent Yorkshire attack and looks a player to keep an eye on.

Next stop Old Trafford, where a four-day friendly begins on Monday. With each passing game we will get closer to the season's opening eleven and competition for places is hotting up nicely.. 

Sincere thanks to Mark Allen

I would like to thank Mark Allen, a regular contributor to the blog under the name 'Clay Cross Mark' for a generous donation/sponsorship. 

Mark has various business interests but is happy to be merely acknowledged, which I am delighted to do. 

I aim to start a donor/sponsors 'roll of honour' in the sidebar and Mark will be the first name on the list. 

If you, your company or the one you work for are interested in sponsoring the blog, or linking to it as it approaches 2.5 million views, please DM me on Twitter or email me at peakfan36@yahoo.co.uk

Those who have been involved in recent years have found it a very effective way of advertising and getting themselves out there and it is relatively inexpensive. 

Hope to hear from you soon! 

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Leicestershire v Derbyshire pre-season day 1

Leicestershire 202-12 (Dearden 75, Hudson-Prentice 3-16, Critchley 3-32, Conners 3-48)

Derbyshire 121-3 (Critchley 38* Madsen 29*)

It was a pleasure to watch cricket once more today, on Leicestershire'excellent live stream. Even if the match was of a friendly nature and more about time in the middle than anything else.

Indeed, towards the end of the home innings, I was reminded of watching Zulu, the classic film with Michael Caine, at home with Mum and Dad. Specifically Dad's immortal words, that may well have been used at Rorke's Drift 'how many more of the buggers are there?'

Batting conditions weren't easy this morning and the Derbyshire steamers bowled pretty well, getting the rust from their run ups to a great extent. I thought FHP was excellent, so too Luis Reece, while Matt Critchley will be delighted with his first bowl on a March day. One or two looked more in need of time, but these are early days.

Derbyshire lost early wickets when they batted, but Critchley played beautifully straight and looked in lovely touch off his legs. Meanwhile our hardy perennial, Wayne Madsen, had his feet moving and unfurled the on drive and sweep for the first time this summer. It was, as always, a joy to watch and summer won't be the same when he eventually retires. Let's hope it isn't for years..

Meanwhile, at Derby a largely academy side worked hard against a strong Yorkshire XI. The visitors made 250-7, before we replied with 61-1, Wood the man out and Guest at the crease with du Plooy.

All in all, a good day and workout for all concerned.

Lovely stuff! 

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Season preview

Whisper it quietly, but there is a buzz around Derbyshire, ahead of the 2021 season.

There are reasons to be cheerful in a batting line up that SHOULD be full of runs. Billy Godleman will again lead from the front, his sixth season in charge. At 32, he knows his game and while it may not satisfy the purists, in Derbyshire we know. On his day he will carve, nurdle, dab and block his way to a score in the finest county tradition, solid yet capable of awakening supporters from their reverie with a carve through the covers, or over mid-wicket. As a skipper he has improved steadily and will appreciate added firepower this year from his attack.

He will again be accompanied by Luis Reece at the top, whose astonishing ability to open both batting and bowling makes him nigh unique in the world game, past or present. Were he able to focus on one or the other he might be valued higher outside the county, but again, we know what he offers and this was recognised in being picked up for one of the sides in the new competition. In full flow he is a joy to watch with the bat, while his nippy seam and swing will continue to get its share of wickets.

The engine room looks solid, with Wayne Madsen, Leus du Plooy and Matt Critchley likely to bat three to five. There is little more to say about Madsen than I have written over previous summers. He is firmly established as a county legend and deservedly so. At 37 he remains the most sought after wicket and we should all enjoy him while we can. Meanwhile du Plooy can build on a very positive start to his county career and has the potential to play international cricket, beyond doubt. 

As for Critchley, it is a big summer. England have not yet a confirmed first choice spinner and one who can purvey increasingly accurate and skilled leg spin is a bonus. Throw in batting that looked more correct yet no less destructive last year, plus good hands in the field and there is a strong argument for further honours in due course. 

Thereafter the batting can be lengthened by an array of candidates. Alex Hughes seems to have been around forever and will be a key member of at least the one-day sides again, yet in four-day cricket my guess is that Harvey Hosein or Brooke Guest will take number six. Both wicket-keepers are fine batsmen and I expect Dave Houghton to give both opportunity in the course of the summer, especially with the pounding their hands will take from a potent pace attack. Tom Wood will also stake a claim for a place in the order and I expect (and hope) to see him as part of the one-day side, later in the summer. So too Anuj Dal, one of those players beloved by county supporters, brilliant in the field, talented with the bat and useful with the ball.

I am looking forward to seeing the return to fitness of Fynn Hudson-Prentice, who missed a lot of last year's truncated season and was a big loss. His superb, match-winning knock at Trent Bridge showed his value to the side as a punishing batsman, but his bowling was restricted by a thigh injury and was sorely missed, especially in the one-day game.

Yet for all of the above, the key to success this summer will be in the bowling. On the one hand, we have lost the experience of Ravi Rampaul and Tony Palladino and someone needs to step up and take their place and wickets. Detractors will also say that there are fitness questions over two of the new recruits and they will struggle to get through the summer.

And yet...

IF Billy Stanlake comes over from Australia and handles a long county season, after years of injury-frustrated promise in Australia, there will be some nervous opening batsmen around the circuit. It is unusual to find an overseas player available for the whole summer these days, but the giant Aussie is a proven wicket-taker, certainly in the short forms of the game. Aside from an excellent photo opportunity with the much shorter Michael Cohen, they will be a strong contender for the fastest opening attack in the country. Cohen looked sensational at times last season and if that raw pace can be harnessed to improved and more consistent direction, few will look forward to playing us. 

Throw in the newest recruit, George Scrimshaw (has Dave Houghton got an online subscription to giantquickbowlers.com?) and there are three bowlers capable of hitting 90mph. Some hard, bouncy wickets will be the order of the day, for sure. Then there's Dustin Melton, who showed himself to be a prospective 'Ole Mortensen for the Millennium generation' last year, with pace, hostility and a strong work ethic, all accompanied by a positive aggression that was a delight to see. He and Stanlake will share the overseas role, pending Dustin qualifying through residence for another summer, both offering plenty to the attack. 

Yet it isn't all about pace. Neither Sam Conners nor Ben Aitchison are speed merchants, though both have a good quicker ball, but showed in limited displays last year that they can take good wickets at this level. I have high hopes for both and again, their height enables them to get bounce as well as movement both ways. They will both have learned a lot last summer and I look forward to seeing them progress in the months ahead.

Nor should we forget those who might at this stage be seen as more peripheral members of the squad. Nils Priestley hits a clean ball and is working hard on his bowling, while Mattie McKiernan is a leg-spin option, a handy bat and brilliant fielder anywhere. Meanwhile Nick Potts, another young seamer of talent, has done well for England Lions. Don't be surprised to see opportunity for all of them through the summer, nor to see them push for inclusion.

So how will we do? Well, as always it is how it translates from paper to grass. If that attack stays fit, it should take wickets and with a batting line-up that offers greater solidity than in some years past, there is potential to win matches. They need also to hold their catches and a disappointment in the T20 last year was how poorly we fielded at times. A return to the form of 2019 would be welcome and enable us to challenge. It is good to see Dominic Cork return to coach that squad and he will demand better displays than last year.

We are in strong groups, with the county champions in our four-day group and the north section perennially strong in the Vitality Blast. The explosive Ben McDermott will join us for the one-day competitions - and presumably will take the gloves - and we seem well able to mount another good summer of challenge on all fronts. Winning a trophy is a different matter, but if this squad gets on a roll..

At this stage it is just impossible to tell. But every year there is a surprise team, who get off to a good start and then surprise everyone by keeping it going. The naysayers will again expect us to prop up the tables and be nowhere, of course.

I disagree. With good luck (not least on the weather front, which has wrecked many a team's summer) and a squad that plays to its potential, there are enough surprise elements to this Derbyshire squad to do well.

At the very least, I expect exciting, purposeful, competitive cricket.

At best? 

We might have changed a few perceptions when September comes.

New look for new season - and sponsors sought!

 Hello again everyone.

There's a new look to the blog for my 13th season of running it. I have to admit that in 2008, when I started it, I had no idea I would still be doing it thirteen years later, nor that viewing figures would close in on two and a half million.

Please let me know if you have any issues in viewing the blog on any platform, as I have tinkered a little with colours and settings.

What I would really like, ahead of the season, is a new blog sponsor and some line sponsors to link to their business websites. This is negotiable and I would love to hear from anyone who is interested at the usual address, peakfan36@yahoo.co.uk

These are tough times and I appreciate that they are for everyone, but in the absence of sponsors I may need to reintroduce Google Ads to the site to keep some income coming in for the writing over the next six months. I will also be changing one or two links, so that the site becomes your first port of call for all things Derbyshire cricket. 

More immediately I will be producing my season preview. I have seen some odd ones so far, where there are inaccuracies over who our overseas players are and who is still on the staff. I would hope that mine will be accurate and I would love to hear your comments in due course.

If you would like to do a preview yourself (credited, of course) then please let me know.