Sunday, 11 April 2021
Saturday, 10 April 2021
Friday, 9 April 2021
Thursday, 8 April 2021
Wednesday, 7 April 2021
Monday, 5 April 2021
Sunday, 4 April 2021
Saturday, 3 April 2021
Friday, 2 April 2021
Wednesday, 31 March 2021
Tuesday, 30 March 2021
Monday, 29 March 2021
Saturday, 27 March 2021
Friday, 26 March 2021
Thursday, 25 March 2021
Saturday, 20 March 2021
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.
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.
We might have changed a few perceptions when September comes.
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, email@example.com
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.