Friday 23 February 2024

Thoughts on the Tickner deal

Blair Tickner might not have been on many people's shortlists when names were being mentioned for the second overseas role, but he looks to be just the sort of bowler we need.

6'4, capable of bowling around 90mph and getting a lot of bounce, he should fit in well with a Derbyshire attack that isn't exactly vertically challenged. The wickets in New Zealand are fairly similar to those here and I would like to think that Tickner, who is closing in on 450 career wickets, will be an awkward proposition in early season.

There are a lot of excellent quick bowlers in New Zealand and for him to have reached international level in such company is a good effort. The highlights reels I have seen today suggest a wholehearted bowler who will quickly become a fan favourite. Supporters will always get behind a player who is giving his all and that appears to be his modus operandi.

As I mentioned earlier, I am unsure how many times he will share a new ball with Mohammad Amir, but I suspect opposition opening bats will not rejoice if they see both names on a team sheet.

My thoughts now are that he will take his place in the side for the season opener. I suspect that we will break Amir in gently and, for what it is worth, I would go with the following side to start our summer:

Reece
Came
Lloyd
Madsen
Guest
Lamb
Donald
Dal
Chappell
Conners
Tickner

That side has good depth in batting, not to mention six seam bowlers. I doubt we will need a spin option at that stage of the summer, but I would not be surprised were Tickner to be replaced by an overseas spinner for the second half of the season.

So what do you think? The side that starts 2024 is considerably different to the 2023 model

When one looks at who is outside of it, you realise how strong a squad it is.

I will draw short of saying happy days are here again. 

But with the talent in that squad, they really should be...


Tickner signs on for overseas role

So now we know the identity of our second overseas star  for 2024 -  experienced New Zealand international Blair Tickner

On the face of it an interesting and solid signing and I will give my thoughts a little later, as today is a busy one. As I mentioned to a friend earlier, I became increasingly of the opinion that it would not be a Pakistani bowler in recent days - less an insight or tip off than a hunch, especially when I heard the announcement would be today.

An experienced red ball bowler who has white ball experience, the signing makes a lot of sense. He will be available for nine four-day and eight Blast games.

Whether we will see him open the bowling alongside Mohammad Amir in four-day cricket is a moot point, with the latter apparently available for up to five four-day matches, as well as the Vitality Blast. A return to the old Kim Barnett rotation methods would be welcome and make a lot of sense.

More from me later

Monday 19 February 2024

Chappell signs deal extension

Excellent news from the Incora County Ground today, as it is announced that Zak Chappell has extended his current deal until the end of the 2026 season 

He had an excellent first season with Derbyshire last year, taking 24 wickets at 36 in ten first-class appearances and a record-breaking 26 wickets in fourteen T20 Blast appearances. He also contributed useful runs down the order and showed himself to have a safe pair of hands in the field.

It was good to see him refer to an area where he - and others - can improve this summer, by improving the economy rate. At times we gave away additional runs with a loose ball an over, which lessened the pressure being applied to batters at one end, often by Anuj Dal. 

As well as all of the new signings over the course of the winter, it has been especially heartening to see the core of a strong established staff have extended their deals.

Everything is very encouraging right now, with one more piece of the jigsaw - the filling of the other overseas role - to go.

Like a few of you I watched the opening weekend of the PSL and there were some excellent games, admittedly on wickets that largely favoured batters. Mohammad Amir looked the class act we know he is yesterday, bowling his four overs for just 29 runs in a run-fest. Equally impressive were two players I have mentioned previously , Mohammad Wasim Junior and Abrar Ahmed. It is unlikely to be this season, but I fully expect both to be picking up county deals in this country before too long.

Less than fifty days to go...

Monday 12 February 2024

Skippers announced

There is no real surprise in the announcement of Derbyshire's captains for 2024, but today's news, with the sun shining around the country, makes the season seem that little bit closer.

David Lloyd will be the club captain for red ball cricket, while Samit Patel will skipper the side in the white ball formats.

As I have written as recently as yesterday, both were expected. Brooke Guest will have been considered and would have been a sound option, but Lloyd was a solid skipper of Glamorgan before coming to the Incora County Ground and Patel has unrivalled experience of the T20 around the globe.

Like all of you, I am looking forward to seeing what they bring to their respective roles. Lloyd promises aggressive cricket and pushing for results, which is the only way to gain promotion, of course. 

With a squad that has plenty of batters who can score quickly and a world-class bowler in Mohammad Amir, the second overseas role, together with pitches that offer something for bowlers, will go a long way towards that.

The work will continue behind the scenes. Things look good, but the acid test will be when they get out on to the grass, of course.

Sunday 11 February 2024

Guest shines - and a little story...

Time for a little story..

Derbyshire has a talented young player on the staff. He's played age group cricket for his country and made the first team at a rate commensurate with his perceived ability.

His first season sees an encouraging 750 runs scored with four fifties in 36 knocks. An average of 25 is OK; nothing special but reasonable for a young player. In his second summer 21 innings sees him average only 17, with a highest score of 69. Just 362 runs. There are a few concerned eyebrows being raised, as the lad continually gets out the same way, often nicking to the slip cordon as he plays away from his body. "Too flash" say the critics, who, as always, are sharpening - if not knives - at least their pencils.

Season three? Not much better. 443 runs in 23 innings, an average of 23, a highest of 67. Three seasons of first-class cricket sees an average of 21 from eighty knocks and while the next sees a maiden century and the average creep just north of 30, another 24 innings sees one more but little else.

The player has a career record of 2100 runs from 105 innings and an average of 24. That's less than Billy Godleman (3693 runs from 132 innings at 29) Chesney Hughes (2060 runs at 35 from 61 innings) Dan Redfern (3193 runs from 112 innings at 30) Ross Whiteley (1225 runs at 28 from 50 innings) or Paul Borrington (1544 runs from 64 innings at 27).

Yet we persist and from there the young player takes off and becomes one of our greatest players.

His name is Kim Barnett.

Proof that some players take time to become established in the county game. Others take to it like a duck to water. But sadly, not everyone is granted the extended opportunity given to Barnett by a sage coach, who could clearly see the talent within.

The demands of first class cricket are strong. You may have all the talent in the world, but the realisation that you are now playing for money - and your reputation and career rests on regular performance - is not something that everyone can handle. Nor the constant testing of mental and physical toughness by senior players who want to stay just that.

For every Kim Barnett there have been plenty who fell by the wayside, for whatever reason. Chris Armishaw, Alan Morris, Pete Burgoyne, Ben Spendlove, Tom Knight, Ben Cotton - there are plenty of other examples of players who looked to have real talent but didn't quite get there.

That is why, regardless of how we do this year, I hope the youngsters emerging from our Academy will be given opportunity to first get into the side, then a chance to shine.

Harry Moore and Yousaf Bin Naeem are in the vanguard and it would be grand to see future county elevens thrive on the feats of our own product. 

So keep an eye on the second team games, whose fixtures were announced in the past week, as well as the performances of the Pathway.

Maybe the next Barnett is just awaiting his turn...

Finally today, it was good to see Brooke Guest selected for the Comilla Victorians in the Bangladesh Premier League and rewarding them with a fine performance on his debut.

Brooke took a catch and conceded no byes, before a breezy 34 at a run a ball helped his side to a win.

Something to look out for. I still think the genial wicket keeper is a likely skipper for at least one format this summer, possibly more. That should be announced soon, with David Lloyd, my guess for 4 day cricket and Samit Patel a decent shout. for T20. 

But Brooke would be a good option too and it would come as no real surprise to me.

Watch this space!

Sunday 4 February 2024

February Weekend Warmer

For those who, like me, are getting excited at the thought of the forthcoming cricket season, the weekend has given several reasons to do so.

We have seen Wayne Madsen, crazily overlooked by the Johannesburg Super Kings, make an important, unbeaten 44 from 29 balls to help them win only their third match of ten, while chasing 204 to win against the Durban Super Giants (no modesty in these names, eh?!)

Then Samit Patel followed a breezy 32 by taking 0-8 in 3 overs in one match, with 2-14 in a second as his team, the Sylhet Strikers, won both of them in the Bangladesh Premier League.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Amir continued an outstanding winter with successive figures of 3-34 and 2-29 for the Desert Vipers in the ILT20 in Abu Dhabi.

When you also consider that the likes of Ross Whitely, Nye Donald, David Lloyd, Luis Reece, Zak Chappell and Brooke Guest will be in the Derbyshire T20 side this summer, we should see some very large crowds and more than our fair share of wins in 2024. It really promises to be special and if those named above live up to their reputations, we should have no reasons for complaint.

I don't think it will be too long before we hear Mickey Arthur's plans for the second overseas role. Will he split it, or has he found someone who would be an asset in all forms, like Mohammad Amir?

Someone I mentioned a few weeks back, who I would love for the T20 was Imad Wasim, now retired from the international game. In the past few days he became only the fifth Pakistan player to go past 300 wickets in the short format.

Interestingly, three of the others have played for Derbyshire. Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir and Shahid Afridi are the players in question, the other being Sohail Tanvir. It is thus fair to say that country has been a fine source of overseas talent for the county.

More from me in the course of the next week. Who knows, perhaps the next piece I write is about that crucial second overseas role...

Monday 29 January 2024

Weekend Warmer

We are nearly at the end of January and you know what that means? 

Later this week we will be able to say that the county cricket season starts next month! Only just, with the start of the three-day friendly against Leeds MCCU on the last day of March, but we are looking at small wins here. Hopefully a prelude to some big ones when the action starts..

England gained a quite remarkable win in the Test match, thanks to an extraordinary innings by Ollie Pope and a second innings seven-wicket haul by Tom Hartley. I have to admit that nothing I had seen of the Lancashire spinner suggested he was going to win a Test match anytime soon, but fair play to the lad, he came back from a first innings mauling to be the hero of the hour.

Forty-two wickets in his previous twenty first-class matches didn't suggest he was the new Hedley Verity, but he showed remarkable mental fortitude in rising to the occasion and outbowling established counterparts in the Indian side.

But what do we expect of spinners? If there is a pitch in this country that shows a degree of turn before the last day, pitch inspectors head in. Most get marginally more opportunity than I do and we have selected three for the tour who don't yet have one hundred first class wickets between them. The days of the specialist spinner are long gone and they generally need to be decent batters to get a game at most counties 

You don't generally become fully-skilled at the spinning art in your youth. No greater authority than Edwin Smith told me that he didn't regard himself as the finished article until he reached 30, by which time most modern equivalents have been consigned to the scrapheap, or are only playing a few first-class games at the end of the summer. 

I suspect that there are plenty more twists and turns in the series but India will not have expected Messrs Ashwin and Jadeja to be outbowled by a young lad from Ormskirk...

Moving on, my post about my FAVOURITE Derbyshire eleven produced a bumper mail bag and plenty of comments. I must stress again that it wasn't my greatest Derbyshire eleven, which would be really difficult to do.

How do you compare someone like Arnold Hamer and, say, Peter Bowler? The averages suggest the latter a far superior player, but the former played on uncovered wickets, where batting was a lottery if it rained. Contemporaries said he was a brilliant player against all bowling and often  didn't have a lot of support. 

Similarly, how do you compare Les Townsend and Geoff Miller? Many of us saw Geoff, loved and rightly respected him, but none of us saw Les and his batting and bowling averages were better. Geoff scored 2 hundreds and 72 fifties, to go with 888 wickets at 28, while  Les scored 22 centuries and 102 fifties, as well as over a thousand wickets at 21 each. 

Was Mike Hendrick, as an example, better than William Mycroft? The latter took 863 wickets at just 12 runs each! Granted at a time when the game was vastly different to today, but he dominated in his era and none can do more than that. George Davidson must have been another terrific cricketer, with the figures he produced, yet how does he compare with George Pope, Derek Morgan or Dominic Cork as an all rounder? How do you compare the runs made by batters against the plethora of quick bowlers in the 70s and 80s against those made today? Kim Barnett and Wayne Madsen are probably the two finest batters in our history, yet the conditions in which they made their runs - and the bowlers they faced - are very different.

I don't pay too much attention to social media 'greatest' elevens, because they are heavily weighted in favour of those, understandably, who have been seen. If you follow football, you would think the game didn't matter before the advent of the Premier League. Yet if I chose my favourite eleven most people in it would pre-date that. Was Steve Bloomer better than Kevin Hector, or Bobby Davison? In his era he was a giant of the game and his legend lives on, but most voters in such a poll would likely vote for Chris Martin...

If everyone who reads this submitted a 'greatest' Derbyshire eleven, I would reckon no two would be the same. 

Especially when the format would need to be clarified! 

Wednesday 24 January 2024

My favourite eleven

At the end of last season, I was asked if over the winter I could turn my thoughts to an eleven, over the time I have spent watching Derbyshire, who I really enjoyed watching. Not necessarily the best players, but personal favourites. 

It has taken me a while, for reasons you know and if I thought about it for too long I would probably change that eleven on a regular basis! But my favourite side (and choosing only two overseas players was a challenge!) is as follows:

1 Kim Barnett

Needs no explanation. Simply the greatest bat the club has ever had, as well as being one of the most entertaining. Skippered the best side I have seen in our colours and always a joy to watch. Handy bowler too and fine fielder.

2 Alan Hill

I have always enjoyed a batter who grafts solidly away at 30-40 a session, presenting a bat as wide as a door. 'Bud' was a definitive example of this. He had the shots, mind, but batted for the team.

3 John Morris

Classy, stylish, powerful and eminently watchable. Didn't stay long enough but he was such a fine bat. If he was in for an hour it was one of the best hours you could wish for.

4 Eddie Barlow

One of my overseas. Also my skipper. Oh, and first change bowler too, as well as opener if we needed one through injury. Magnificent man and cricketer. As a kid I wanted to be him, still idolise the bloke

5 Wayne Madsen

Second best bat I have seen, after Barnett. But it is the way he makes his runs, as well as the sheer volume. Brilliant catcher, one of the nicest guys you could wish to meet and one I will miss considerably, when he eventually calls time on playing

6 Anuj Dal

Love watching him bat and bowl, while he is brilliant in the field. But he always seems to enjoy himself and just edges out Luis Reece in this team. Busy cricketer and another lovely bloke.

7 Fred Swarbrook

Solid, in every sense of the word. Dependable and gritty with the bat, a terrific spinner until he got the 'yips'.  Good pair of hands too. Geoff Miller was a better player, but I loved watching Fred and his commitment to the cause.

8 Michael Holding

Underrated bat, wonderfully quick bowler with all the skills. A safe counsel for Barnett and Eddie Barlow would love such a weapon in his attack. A genuine great of the game

9 Bob Taylor

Worth the admission money, just to watch him take the ball. I feel sorry for very good keepers since, because the standard he set, day in, day out, was astonishing. Another lovely man, but what a player!

10 Alan Ward

When he was on song, was fit and full of confidence, he was a joy to behold. That long back, high action and follow through. There were a few didn't fancy getting in line against him and he was an awesome sight in full flow.

11 Mike Hendrick

Not especially quick, but wonderfully accurate. On his day he could be unplayable and I saw him tie Geoff Boycott in knots at Chesterfield before dismissing him, one evening. Not many could do that. Excellent fielder too, when not all seamers were..

Others bubble under. I liked Bruce Roberts, Ashley Harvey-Walker, Matt Critchley, Chris Wilkins, Mohammad Azharuddin, Dean Jones, Ian Bishop, Tony Borrington... There are many more, but that eleven above gave me great pleasure over the years.

I would give good money to see them walk on a pitch and play together!

And if anyone else fancies a go, by all means let me know...

Thursday 18 January 2024

Big news day!

So today is one of two momentous pieces of news.

The first is that it has now been confirmed that Mickey Arthur has left his role in Pakistan and will from now on be focusing all of his attention on Derbyshire. I think that we can all be grateful for that and I am hopeful that the season ahead of us will be where his work thus far comes to fruition, certainly in terms of sustained levels of performance.

According to The Cricketer, his contract with Derbyshire is for another 3 years, whereas  I (and Dean who sent me the link, thanks mate!) thought it was for two. I can only assume there is an optional extra year and that will be very much dependent on results in the intervening period.

What impact it has on any plans for our second overseas role I don't know. I guess the obvious one is that he will not know so quickly who is excluded from their World Cup plans, but I am certain he will have several irons in the fire and one of them will come through in due course.

The second piece of news? Probably more personal, but I will be retiring on June 19. I have brought it forward from the end of September, but I have worked long enough and I have to admit retiring with a summer ahead of me holds considerable appeal.

Especially when that retirement allows me to fulfil a long standing desire to attend the Chesterfield Cricket Festival - or at least the Yorkshire four-day game part of it.

So at the same time as completing the paperwork for work, my hotel is booked and all I need now is for the weather to be kind and, of course, Derbyshire to produce a good performance!

Hopefully I will see plenty of old and new friends on that trip. I'm not sure how many times I will be able to do that now, but this is something I have wanted to do for some time. Since I like Chesterfield as a town, there will be plenty to keep me occupied even if the weather is less favourable!

Looks like I will be keeping my fingers crossed for some time...

Sunday 14 January 2024

Weekend warmer

I watched a little of the South African T20 this week and was astonished to see that Wayne Madsen had been omitted from the opening game for the Johannesburg Super Kings. An oxymoron if there ever was.. 

Now it may be that I missed news of him picking up an injury, but their fielding against MI Cape Town was almost as bad as the bowling. Chances of regulation standard at that level were missed (although Faf du Plessis held a blinder) while the ground fielding was very inconsistent. For that alone Wayne should have been in the side, as he has always been very reliable. Their opponents rattled up a not inconsiderable 243-5, with Ryan Rickelton and Robbie Van Der Dussen added 200 for the first wicket, against bowling that strived for line and length and managed neither. Only Lizaad Williams emerged with any bowling credit in a poor display.

Leus du Plooy made a breezy 48 from 24 balls, but Joburg were hammered out of sight on a small ground where the ball flew to all parts.

Speaking of Leus, I wonder if he has had any second thoughts about his move to Middlesex? This week came news that they cannot afford an overseas player this summer, so the high profile signings of du Plooy and Henry Brookes are it. While last year's signings were poor, they could do with some additional input to offset the loss of John Simpson and Tim Murtagh and it is hard to see anything other than a summer of toil ahead.

I also followed (but didn't watch) Pakistan against New Zealand and they have been outclassed. I don't think a muddled selection policy helps them and it appears the dressing room must have a revolving door, so frequent are the changes of personnel. With the selection of the bulky Azam Khan they are on their third wicket keeper of the winter, while I am unsure of the merit in batting one of world cricket's most destructive openers, Fakhar Zaman, at number four. It reminded me of our attempt last year to turn Haider Ali into an opener, which didn't work and rarely looked like doing so.

Thanks to Dean for forwarding me a link to the interview of Mickey Arthur in the Wisden Cricket magazine. It was interesting and gave an interesting insight to the processes in Pakistan, which don't always make sense. I am looking forward to the announcement of their T20 World Cup squad, as recent selections suggest their might be suprise omissions, which could benefit Derbyshire, of course.

Finally today I was pleased to see Grant Bradburn get an opportunity at Glamorgan, leaving Pakistan behind as Arthur himself has done. 

The Kiwi is an excellent coach and I think he will do well in Wales.

As long as it isn't against us, that's fine...

Tuesday 9 January 2024

Ben Smith in as new batting coach


It is a sure sign of one's own advancing years when the newly announced batting coach for your club is remembered as a talented young bat in his own right!

So it is with Ben Smith, who was a very good county bat over a couple of decades for first Leicestershire and then Worcestershire. Forty first class centuries and a hundred half centuries confirm what was a considerable talent and he was often considered to be on the edge of international recognition, without quite getting there. 

But a first class average of just under 40 confirms that he could play alright and he has been announced as the new full time batting coach for Derbyshire, replacing Ian Bell. The latter's many commitments meant he could only do the job part time and, as Mickey Arthur has mentioned, the job needs to be done on a full-time basis.

He brings considerable experience, having held similar roles at his previous counties, as well as Worcestershire, Ireland and currently the Central Stags in New Zealand.

At 51 he has a wealth of experience and this could prove to be a very astute piece of work by Mickey Arthur.

He will take up his role at the end of February and I am sure that you will all join me in wishing him well.

Friday 5 January 2024

Weekend warmer

It has been nice to get back to a semblance of normality in the last few days and catch up with my messages and my mail bag.

A couple of people asked if I thought that Mickey Arthur might be interested in Aamir Jamal, who has done so well for Pakistan in the series against Australia. 

While his team has struggled, Aamir followed an innings of 82 that featured some remarkable shots with 6-69 as his side took an unlikely first innings lead. More anaemic batting will probably see them whitewashed, however, although Aamir and Rizwan, the two main scorers first time around, will need to replicate their brilliance to give them any chance.

So to answer the question, yes, he will have taken note of the performance but will already be aware of what the player brings to the table. I think it is unlikely he will be in their squad for the T20 World Cup, as he is a little slower than many alternatives and goes at ten an over in his short form career so far. He could be a good asset in the four day game, lengthening the batting, zipping it around and worth an enquiry, perhaps. But there are plenty in that country and I am sure that the Head of Cricket has various irons in the fire depending on the eventual squad selection.

Mind you, Amir and Aamir would keep the proof-readers on their toes...

I still think he will split that second role and have a seamer for the four-day games and an all rounder for the Vitality Blast. 

Speaking of which, I have also been asked if I think there will be any interest in Josh Cobb, who it has finally been announced is leaving Northamptonshire. Cobb seemed to be on his way in the second half of last season, so no doubt there have been contractual niceties to conclude, before the parting of ways was confirmed.

There was a time when I would have grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He has been a long- time thorn in Derbyshire sides over the years, both with Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. 

However, after the winter of recruitment, I can't see how he would improve on what is already there. He is a powerful bat and a useful spinner, while he also has a good pair of hands in the field, even though weight fluctuations can impact on his mobility.

I'm not sure he brings anything different to the squad and in itself that is a favourable comment on how well Mickey Arthur has recruited this year. I cannot think there is money remaining in the budget anyway and our need for a second quality overseas player is greater with what budget is left.

I said a few months back that Mickey had recruited shrewdly in signing Mohammad Amir, as he knows he will be available for the start of the season through to the end of the Blast. That can't be said about too many players and it is interesting that counties have moved for those who they know they can safely recruit. Northamptonshire themselves look set to sign Sikander Raza from Zimbabwe, who won't be at the T20 World Cup, while Worcestershire have  signed Kiwi bowling all-rounder Nathan Smith to go with Usama Mir, who they must feel is far enough down the Pakistan pecking order to be a safe recruit.

There are still plenty of positions to be filled around the country and the next couple of months look likely to be busy. 

I am intrigued as to who Derbyshire will end up with and I think the signing will be crucial to our hopes of a much improved season.

I expected to do better anyway, but the right import could make it very special indeed...

Sunday 31 December 2023

Happy New Year

I just wanted to come on here, prior to the New Year, to wish everyone the very best for 2024.

Normal service will be resumed on the blog next week, with a weekly roundup of any news that catches my eye.

I hope that you all enjoyed the festive period and I suspect we will be enjoying the cricket season more than many in the recent past.

With less than 100 days to go now and the days gradually getting longer, I cannot wait!

See you all next week.. and thank you for your understanding over recent events.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Two books sorted!

If Paul Fitzpatrick could now get in touch with his choice of Gideon Haigh on the Ashes or the Mike Smith book, that would be grand. I also need your address, Paul. 

I will then send the other one to Brian Birtles if you could remind me of your address please, Brian.

Hoping to get these away in the post asap!

Thank you to all those who have made donations. Your support is much appreciated.

Friday 15 December 2023

Haider misses out on PSL deal

I was a little shocked, if not, totally surprised, to see that Haider Ali ended the PSL draft without being selected for any of the teams.

The statistics don't lie and I read that in 54 T20 matches over the past year, he only averages 17. It isn't good enough for a top order batter and certainly not for a player who is regarded as one of Pakistan's great young batting hopes.

At 23 he is young enough and has sufficient talent to turn this around. Yet while all of us will think back to his time with Derbyshire last year and recall some powerful blows, equally memorable are the times when he got out through simply not seeming to concentrate. Playing around a straight one first ball, going for the big shot straight away and walking out of his crease when the ball was on the ground in front of the wicket keeper were all things that saw him dismissed in frustrating fashion. His early innings footwork could be lazy and word seemed to go around that one pitched well up might see him try to flick through square leg, with the only contact his left pad. Playing straight would surely have brought greater dividends?

The talent is obvious. His innings at Queens Park against Yorkshire was superb, his cover driving as good as you could wish to see, his running between the wickets excellent, his technique impressive. Likewise, in the T20 at Headingley, when he played a fine innings, yet by the end of his stay it was hard not to consider him a talent unfulfilled. Albeit not sided by an ill-fated attempt to turn him into an opener, which he has never been.

I read an interview that said his problem - and I tend to agree - is that many of his shots are premeditated. Before the ball has been released, he has decided where it is going to go and what shot he is going to play. A good eye can get you away with that to some extent, but against good bowlers and on pitches that offered greater help to bowlers than his homeland, it is not a recipe for success.

I hope that he can turn it around, because when he is in full flow it makes for captivating viewing. But not being selected by any side for a format that most would say was his strength will be a shock.

There is work for him to do.

Finally today, I have had a chance to look at the festive draw and the first named pulled out by my wife were , in order, Mark Allen, Carl Peters, Paul Fitzpatrick and Brian Birtles. 

Mark has chosen the Ray Illingworth book, if Carl could let me know his choice from the others by email and both can let me know the delivery address, I can then let Paul know the ones left to choose from. 

Thursday 14 December 2023

Mum


For as many years as I care to count, I had told my wife that when one of my parents passed away, I didn't expect the other to 'last six months.'

Dad died on May 18 and Mum, God bless her, followed him yesterday.  Truth be told, she had 'seen' him every day, grieved him and never got over his passing. It was inevitable, given that they were married for 70 years and the truth of it all was that Mum simply didn't want to go on without him. But she proved me wrong and managed nearly seven months, the last month of it in hospital, after fracturing a hip in a fall.

She was a remarkable woman, yet left no lasting stamp on the world, other than having been a fantastic wife and mother. She didn't want anything, except for all of the family to be happy and to remember her birthday. She was nobody's fool, but she would happily talk to anyone and everyone. Many was the time when she told me to always speak to older people, 'because you never know if you are the only person they will speak to today.' Dad always used to say that if they were out and he couldn't find her, he would listen for someone laughing - it would be Mum or the person she was chatting with.

She was only 5'2 in her prime, slipping under five feet before her passing. She made it past the 90 mark, which we celebrated with a party to her surprise and great pleasure. But she missed Dad being there, as she did every single day from May onwards. The irony of one of their favourite tunes being September Song by Frank Sinatra isn't lost on me. 'Oh it's a long long while, from May to December' says the lyric, which was when each of them passed..

She loved to sing and she loved to dance, this despite the fact that Dad always said that you  'couldn't train that voice with a whip.' The fact that she started every song too high and only knew a couple of lines from most of them never stopped her. She had a great love and knowledge of musicals, the old Rodgers and Hammerstein ones being her favourites. But she always said that My Fair Lady and Oliver were the best and any reference to them in conversation would see her slip effortlessly into a greatest hits selection of songs, sometimes in a key that only dogs could hear, then likely not without pain..

My wife always loved her to bits, her scattiness and willingness to laugh at herself prized. Today she reminded me of the time when, out of nowhere, Mum put one foot up on a chair in the kitchen, pretended to pull on stockings and started singing Lili Marlene, in the style of Marlene Dietrich. Now, as then, Sylvia convulsed with laughter at the incongruity of it all.

She was proud of my success and read my books from cover to cover several times. Each time she said 'I don't understand it, but I loved every word.' Perhaps that is the greatest praise one could wish for. Clearing the house this week, my two books were part of the three at her bedside, alongside one by Tess Gerritsen. I'll settle for that company and would accept those sales.

She encouraged my love of sport and knitted my first cricket jumpers. She also knitted Derby County scarves and bobble hats for me, always interested to hear how they had got on, but only for the sake of Dad and I.  She had a dinner on the table minutes after we got in from the football, or when I got home from school. Just as she made sure I never got up on cold winter mornings without a roaring fire to change in front of.

In those salad days, when I played cricket on a Saturday and Sunday, she always ensured my whites were spotlessly clean for both days. I still have no idea how she did it, but had there been a prize for the cleanest cricket gear on any pitch, I would have won the award in perpetuity.

I have visited every two or three weeks since Dad passed away and we spoke every day. On each visit she wanted me to play her favourite songs, all of them by Ken Dodd. She loved him as a singer, less so as a comedian, but she would close her eyes and sometimes shed a tear at those favourites.

Mum was the last of a large family from Derby. Her Mum was from County Cork and her Dad was second generation German. She was proud of her roots and always claimed she got a good deal at World Cups, when she could follow England, Ireland or Germany. 

She did so much for us to the end of her days, but above everything she made us laugh and gave us all the love we could handle. She got to ninety and I never heard anyone say a bad thing about her. Talking to a couple of people in the street this week, they both said 'she was just a bloody lovely woman, your Mum. So, so nice.' That has to count for something.

Thanks Mum, for everything. Rest easy with the angels.

But maybe leave the singing to them. At least for a bit.

Postscript - please excuse the self-indulgence here, but writing it has been cathartic. Like Dad, Mum wanted a direct cremation - 'no fuss, like me' she said - and this is what I would have read at any celebration of her life.

Sunday 10 December 2023

Apologies

I was hoping to do the cricket books prizes this weekend, but I am currently down south, where Mum is receiving end of life care.

Tough old time, I will be back and will get that sorted as soon as circumstances allow.

Thank you for understanding

Monday 4 December 2023

Time for a subscriber competition!

As we near Christmas, it is time for me to thank subscribers with a little competition to win a cricket book of their choice.

This time I have four different titles available. All you need to do to be in the draw is to have made a recent donation to the site. Thank you to those who have done so and I will do the draw next weekend. That gives people the chance to make a donation, whether it is the price of a cup of coffee, a monthly amount or something of their choosing. All those who have contributed will be in the draw and the first named will get to choose the book of their choice, then the second and so forth.

If you would like to be included, please send me an email with your first and second choices of book, should you be drawn out of the hat.

The prizes are as follows (in no particular order)

Disappearing World - the 18 First Class Counties by Scyld Berry

Yorkshire Grit - The Life of Ray Illingworth by Mark Peel

On The Ashes by Gideon Haigh

Mike Smith, The Last Corinthian by Mike Thompson

Usual email - peakfan36@yahoo.co.uk

Thanks to everyone!

Friday 1 December 2023

Wagstaff signs one-year deal

Nice news to wake up to this morning, as Mitch Wagstaff has signed for 2024.

It is no real surprise, as he said in a radio interview near the end of the summer that he would be around next year. But it is welcome, for all that, as he is a young player of obvious potential who has come through our own academy.

At 20 he has plenty to offer. There were signs last season that he could be very useful, with a hard-fought half century at Scarborough followed by a more aggressive innings against Glamorgan. In both displays he looked to have what it takes and when one factors in his useful leg spin, there is much to like.

It would appear unlikely that he will start next season as a first choice, given the number of signings made over the winter months. Yet there should be opportunities for him and they come both on and off the pitch, as he can tap in to the experience of some very good cricketers and incorporate things in to his game that could take him to the next level.

Nice to start the day, and the month with good news!

Monday 27 November 2023

Just a number...

That have been a number of comments in recent days regarding what some people are referring to as Derbyshire's recruitment of experienced players 'seeking one last payday'.

Quite a few disagree and I am one of them.

It would be easy to go back to the period before World War Two and find any number of very experienced cricketers over the age of 40 in the first class game. Derbyshire signed Garnet Lee from Nottinghamshire and because of qualification requirements he did not make his debut until he was 38. Yet he played until he was 46 and probably produced the best form of his career in doing so, playing a major role in helping to develop the players who made up the 1936 championship-winning side.

After the war, counties filled their sides with players probably too old, because younger options were not there. So the Derbyshire ranks in 1946 included Albert Alderman, Denis Smith, George Pope and Bill Copson, all of them in their late 30s, while Tommy Mitchell would have played at the age of 44, had they been able to make it worth his while.

Moving on, the excellent Derbyshire side of the late 70s and early 80s was so good because of the recruitment of time-served professionals who aided in the development of younger tyros. Barry Wood and David Steele made their county debuts at 38, John Hampshire at 41. All were still very good cricketers and few were better than Eddie Barlow, 36 when he first played for the club. Ron Headley was very good in one-day matches at 35, Phil Sharpe was steady for two summers at 39, as well as being still the best slip fielder in the country.

Moving forward again, the England side that won the T20 World Cup final in 2022 had an average age of just over 33. The Australian side that recently won the World Cup averaged just under 32 years per player, with no player under the age of 29.

Next year's Derbyshire? 

Here's a notional first choice T20 side (at present) of:

Reece, Came, Madsen, Donald, Lloyd, Whiteley, Patel, Guest, Chappell, Brown, Amir

Ignore the batting order, but the average age is again 33. The oldest players would be Madsen (40) Patel (38) and Whiteley (35). Could you name a younger player who would be a better option? All will be key to our chances and neither Madsen or Whiteley need hidden in the field, as once we had to hide the likes of Fred Trueman and Fred Rumsey, or more recently Ravi Rampaul or Imran Tahir.

As for Patel, his recurring T20 contracts around the globe suggest plenty of good judges feel he has plenty to offer. He might not be an athlete - he never has been - but there are few better limited over spinners in the game, he still hits a long ball and he has a safe pair of hands.

I firmly believe that Derbyshire's emerging young players will benefit from the input of such experience, while someone like Alex Thomson can tap into the expertise of Patel. Yusaf Bin Naeem will surely learn from working with the likes of Wayne Madsen and as for Harry Moore, might he not pick up a few things from Mohammad Amir? 

I would like to think so.