Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Guest post: Derbyshire v Leicestershire preview


If you are doing some baking over the next four days and need your mixture stirring then the 3aaa County Ground is the place for you, as Leicestershire visit Derbyshire, who between them have collected the wooden spoon for the last four seasons in the County Championship Division Two. Leicestershire have three to Derbyshire’s one and both will looking to collect their first victory of the season to ensure they do not collect another this season. Derbyshire currently sit 8th in the table with Leicestershire one place above them separated by four points, although Leicestershire have played a game more, which means this match has all the ingredients to be a showstopper.

Both sides have had their issues over recent years, with Derbyshire still struggling to replace the wickets of Mark Footitt, who left for the Kia Oval two seasons ago and will again be without Hardus Viljoen and Will Davis who are both ruled out through injury until the end of June. This will mean the onus will fall to the other bowlers in the side to take the 20 wickets required and especially overseas leg spinner Jeevan Mendis who I have made my key man for Derbyshire in this game.

Leicestershire have lacked the ability to bowl sides out and put them in winning positions, although in their last match Dieter Klein showed that he could be the answer to their issues, bowling well and taking four wickets. They will also be looking for more a return from Clint McKay now he has returned to fitness. They will be hoping the impressive Ned Eckersey can continue his fine form and give the bowlers a target to defend.

Not for the first time this season the bookmakers have Derbyshire as the underdogs and it is easy to see why. However I feel it is too close to call and if I was a betting man I would be keeping my hard earned cash in my pocket. Both sides could win and both sides equally could collapse and lose.


Key Men
Derbyshire: As Derbyshire strive to win their first County Championship game in over a year, Jeevan Mendis will be key for Derbyshire. Mendis is a genuine international wicket taking threat with his leg spin, he can also offer control to captain Billy Godleman. Mendis has so far taken 11 wickets in the County Championship at an average of around 26, he can also score useful runs down the order and can quickly take a game from the opposition.

Leicestershire: In the modern game you want your Wicketkeeper to not only be a safe pair of hands behind the stumps, but also be able to score lots of runs too, in Ned Eckersley that is exactly what Leicestershire have. Eckersley is the club’s leading run scorer and is averaging over 45 in doing so, he has also taken five catches too. Having a high quality batsmen who is also a quality wicket keeper allows more balance to the side and for Leicestershire it is key to their success.

Team News:
Derbyshire have named a 14 man squad, Gary Wilson returns from international duty but is struggling with a sore knee so Smit looks set to continue behind the stumps. Viljoen and Davis remain side lined by injury so Godleman will have to use his other bowlers to take those elusive 20 wickets. The surprise inclusion in the squad is Alfie Gleadall, who is a young seamer who has impressed recently for the second XI.

Leicestershire welcome back Ben Raine to the squad, as the useful allrounder returns from injury, he will surely play and add balance to the Leicestershire side. Rob Sayer also returns from  injury, with Callum Parkinson and Tom Wells making way. The foxes still have injury issues though as Neil Dexter and Richard Jones are unavailable through injury and Charlie Shreck is only fit enough for the seconds.

Derbyshire squad: Billy Godleman (c), Alfie Gleadall, Alex Hughes, Rob Hemmings, Charlie MacDonnell, Wayne Madsen, Jeevan Mendis, Tony Palladino, Luis Reece, Ben Slater, Daryn Smit (wk), Tom Taylor, Shiv Thakor. Gary Wilson,

Leicestershire squad: Mark Cosgrove (c), Colin Ackermann, Zak Chappell, Harry Dearden, Ned Eckersley, Gavin Griffiths, Lewis Hill, Paul Horton, Dieter Klein, Clint McKay, Mark Pettini, Ben Raine, Rob Sayer.

Form

Derbyshire: LLLLD
Leicestershire: DDLLW

Weather and conditions
The weather looks set fair for the four days and whisper it quietly but you may even need your sun cream, especially if it goes to the fourth day. The pitches at Derby have generally been flat and true and not offered a great deal for the bowlers. There has been rain around in the lead up to the match and that may add a bit more spice to the pitch, but generally you can expect runs, runs and runs.

Date: 25th May 2017 to 28th May 2017
Time: 11:00am
Ground: 3aaa County Ground, Derby
Umpires: Millns and Taylor
Odds (SkyBet): Derbyshire: Evens  Leicestershire: 4/5

With sincere thanks for this preview to Huw Lloyd, writing for Deep Extra Cover.

Guest Piece: Unbalanced Squad

Oh dear, l think the good feel factor is disappearing faster than some of the loose deliveries despatched off a beleaguered Derbyshire attack.  
 
I thoroughly enjoyed the Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire matches, but since then the wheels seem to have come off.  Injuries, obviously, have not helped other than to underline lack of strength in depth, squad wise, especially in the bowling department.  Looking at the makeup of the squad it gives an impression of a lack of balance. We have more leggies than you can shake a stick at, and bizarrely three very good wicket keepers. The three keepers all offer slightly different qualities but nevertheless are fundamentally wicket keepers and you only need one in any given game.  HH hasn't had a look in and that seems like a waste of a talented cricketer.  I suppose at a push you could play all three but that seems unlikely.  The recruitment of one keeper was necessary but two, l don't think so, especially when reinforcements were required elsewhere.  Also to add to the unbalanced nature of the squad, we don't have an off spinner, okay we have 'Mads' but no SLA.

While the batting is not immune from criticism it's the bowling that has been the weak link and the signing of Hardus and Imran Tahir were welcome.  Obviously we have not seen the best of our strike bowler and Imran has yet to arrive, so in some respects we are left with last year's attack and that has not delivered on numerous occasions.  With hindsight another experienced seam bowler should probably have been signed rather than a third keeper.

Until the last few games, l thought we might have the makings of a strong and settled batting unit but those expectations were short lived.  Ben Slater has found himself a niche in the RLODC but he really needs to translate that into the longer version as, l think Adam said in an early response.  And why did Billy demote himself down the order, unless it was an attempt to avoid another unnecessary run out with Ben!  And there are still question marks about Shiv at three.  Is it asking too much with his bowling duties?  At the moment it seems as though if Wayne fails there is no one to take command of the innings at a vital time to either press on or repair the damage.

We have a handful of senior pros in Madsen, Palladino, Godleman and Wilson, along with our overseas contingent but the majority of the squad is made up of young cricketers trying to establish themselves in the game.  And while l am a big believer in home grown talent there is a case for a little more experience when you look at this youthful squad.  I am definitely not advocating going down the same route as Leicestershire , but maybe a tweak to the squad, with the introduction of an experienced loanee, especially in the absence of Viljoen.

In the meantime it will be interesting to compare our young guns with the senior citizens from Grace Road.  Just hope the Worcester debacle was a 'wake up call' for the team.

Stuart, York

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Guest pieces

If anyone is interested in doing a guest piece, either a review of a coming day's play, a preview of a match or a talking point/observational piece, please let me know at peakfan36@yahoo.co.uk

I am happy to publish it as a post, rather than comment, provided it doesn't contain personal attacks and is as well-written as most of your comments are.

Simply pop it into an email and I will paste it into the blog. Your name will be included too, so please don't simply post as 'Anon'. If you are especially shy, use a pen name, but be assured your email address will NOT be published! If you wish to use the comments box for such a piece that is fine, but please make its purpose clear.

The remuneration is the same as I get - which is nothing - but it will enable you to voice your opinions and share them around, while keeping the blog ticking over nicely.

I will be back intermittently in the week or so ahead,  but for now have bigger issues to deal with than a thirty-over capitulation.

I look forward to hearing from you and a preview, or previews, of the Leicestershire game will be appreciated.

Thanks to you all!




Time for a rethink, methinks...

Yesterday was a very bad day for Derbyshire, there's no getting away from that.

As I said last night, it was unacceptable, unprofessional and shockingly poor. Frustrating too, when the batting has been pretty good this summer. Let's not forget, only a week or so back we were hailing a side that was racking up one-day 300s for fun.

All sides have bad days and I don't agree with suggestions that wholesale changes are needed.

Tweaking is, however.

Billy Godleman is captain and a good, sound county opening batsman. So why move down to the middle order? It is a different game there. As captain and skipper, Billy should bat at the top of the order, partnered by whoever is deemed in form. Whether that is Ben Slater or Luis Reece is largely irrelevant, but the skipper should be and should stay at the top, where he handles a new ball well. Why Reece opened in the second innings when apparently with a runner is a questionable decision, some might say foolhardy.

The problem is best solved, in four day cricket, by either Slater or Reece dropping to three. I know they want to give Shiv Thakor a chance there, but a brilliant ton against Northamptonshire apart, he has played cameos, which isn't the job description of that position. Besides, with Jeevan Mendis he is one of only two bowlers who can be trusted to bowl steadily most of the time. Ben Cotton is a good one-day bowler, but I remain to be convinced he can bowl sides out, while Tom Taylor and Tom Milnes are struggling.

If we keep having to bowl Thakor for twenty overs an innings, he isn't going to be able to go in early and be mentally 'switched on' for batting three. Aside from Jacques Kallis, there aren't many have handled that over the years. Talented as Thakor is, he ain't no Kallis and he will struggle and eventually buckle under such a workload.

Then I read that wholesale changes are needed, with Harvey Hosein the first of them. I would like to see Tom Wood play the T20, but does anyone think that Wood and Macdonell in the batting would improve on who is there now? Who is going to bowl, other than what we have in the first team?

With Viljoen and Davis hors de combat until the end of June, we can largely write off four-day cricket success, as I just cannot see where twenty wickets will come. Put the two of them in a later season side with Imran Tahir and there's a different complexion on things, but three straight losses tells a sorry story. We could score 500 and not get first innings lead...

The Hosein story will keep coming back, but therein lies a self-inflicted problem. When I pushed for us to sign Daryn Smit last year, I knew of his stature as a wicket-keeper, but when we signed Gary Wilson I didn't expect it to happen. With Wilson away with Ireland regularly, Hosein was likely to get a lot of cricket.

Then we signed Smit and it was only a matter of time before those at the club saw what everyone in South Africa has known for years - that he is a very high standard wicket-keeper. You have only to watch the speed of his hand work in stumpings and the catches he has taken, with and without gloves to see that. Truth be told, he is probably better than Wilson and the call on who gets the gloves on his return will be a tough one.

So do they give them to Hosein? All he can do is score a load of runs and keep to a high standard in the twos and wait his turn. Both Smit and Wilson know that they need to maintain standards in both disciplines to retain the role, but a slip in one of them, with two of high standard in the wings, will be costly. Yet Wilson, a pugnacious and vibrant batsman, as well as vice-captain, needs to be in the side anyway, which creates another problem.

For the time being my four-day side, assuming all are fit, would be:

Godleman
Slater
Reece
Madsen
Thakor
Hughes
Smit
Mendis
X
X
X

A lot of X's, because not one bowler is making a case for guaranteed selection.

Therein lies the problem.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 4

I drifted in and out of the game today, for reasons you are well aware of. When I saw the visitors had 'only' got 140 runs ahead, I thought a draw would be well within our compass.

How wrong could I be?

To be bowled out inside 30 overs in a four day game is unacceptably poor. I don't care whether it was a fourth day wicket or helpful to the bowlers, that was quite horrible.

In the time it took me to leave my house to get to the hospital, the innings was in disrepair. Losing wickets to careless shots is poor, getting people run out in such a situation is unprofessional.

There need to be serious discussions after such a display, because long-suffering supporters deserve much better than that.

Thanks for your observations so far and please keep them coming in my hopefully brief break from the blog.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Derbyshire v Worcestershire day 3

While being able to bowl first was an obvious advantage for Worcestershire, the same frailties that have earmarked our cricket for the past couple of seasons were evident today.

I didn't follow play too closely but the scoreboard doesn't lie and we remain a side that struggles to take wickets.

I just hope that Imran Tahir is fit when he gets here, because he will probably be bowling at one end until September...

There could be a last afternoon battle against defeat here, so let's hope that this summer's saving grace, our batting, can at least get something from the game.

Over to you now...

Friday, 19 May 2017

Hiatus ahead...

Things are going to be intermittent over the next week or so folks.

My wife has been in hospital for the past fortnight after a heart attack and major surgery is taking place on Wednesday of next week to try and sort the thing that caused it, together with a bigger problem that has been discovered in the course of tests.

Much as I love Derbyshire cricket, her well-being is of far greater importance than any cricket match. I will blog when time allows, but there will be times when I don't and that is going to be the second half of next week at the very least, possibly longer.

I just want you to know that I'm not losing interest in the blog or the club, but some things are way more important than the winning or losing of a cricket match. With hospital visits and travel taking time, there just aren't enough hours in the day at present.

Do please keep your comments coming  and post them on the last blog available. I will add them and comment myself as time permits, but you will know the reason if there's a longer time lapse than normal. If I miss any, I will apologise now and assure you that normal service will resume as soon as she is restored to something resembling her normal rude health.

Thank you for your continued interest and support.

On the pitch, I don't think we will be too disappointed with today's effort. After the rain and the covers, Worcestershire were always going to bowl and probably fancied their chances of more wickets than they got.

That we got to the close with only three down is due to an excellent, gritty effort from Luis Reece, opening in the place of Billy Godleman. The two of them together, tomorrow morning, have an opportunity to push our total to respectability, on a wicket that will doubtless remain helpful to the bowlers.

Fingers crossed, in more ways than one.

Postscript - no Hardus Viljoen until the end of June...it makes sense, because the guy is in a no win situation. He bowls when not fit and people say he's no good. He doesn't play and they make silly accusations that he is just here for the money.

Get him fit, then let him loose in the second half of the summer with Imran Tahir.

It does make you wonder why he played in a dead game the other night though, when struggling with a hip injury.

I didn't get that at all.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Derbyshire v Worcestershire RLODC

And so, with more of a whimper than the roar of a lion, Derbyshire's RLODC campaign petered out on a murky day, perhaps in keeping with the way things ended.

The batting was adequate, but no more than that. It was a good toss to win and the ball zipped around early on. Shiv Thakor played a fine innings, much of it on the front foot as conditions dictated. Alex Hughes played a delightful cameo that threatened to make our score something challenging, while Daryn Smit played some inventive shots at the death, including a remarkable reverse sweep for six over the wicket-keeper.

Yet the target never looked challenging for the visitors and for the most part the Derbyshire attack looked pedestrian. The early assault by Kohler-Cadmore effectively won them the game and bruised too many bowling figures for comfort, while the out fielding was at times quite ordinary.

Later things improved. Smit held an excellent catch standing up to end the first wicket stand, technically better if not so spectacular as his later two handed grab from Viljoen. I thought the latter's second spell quite menacing and a couple of the batsmen were noticeably hurried by his pace and bounce. The catch by Mendis on the boundary to give him a third wicket was somewhat fortuitous for him, though stunning by the fielder, but it was all a little too late by then.

Worcestershire are a decent team in this competition and showed it by progressing to the knock out stages. For Derbyshire, it was a familiar tale of early promise that petered out in an all too familiar fashion.

I will acknowledge improvement, which is perhaps what we all hoped for, but there is work to be done before this side progresses further. Sorting all the problems in one winter was asking too much, considering where we were last summer, but we seem short of two bowlers of quality.

For another year, someone has to really kick on, or we need to look for options elsewhere and spend our Elton John swag on a proven wicket-taker.

There have been good spells by most of the bowlers, but until we have five who bowl more good than bad, we will continue to be consigned to the group stages of this competition.

Which is probably why we signed Matt Henry and Imran Tahir for the T20.

It makes a lot of sense, based on the efforts we all saw today.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Derbyshire v Worcestershire RLODC

A fifty-over game of cricket, featuring Derbyshire, live on Sky TV. I have even switched my day off in lieu of working on Saturday to see it. What could possibly go wrong?

Er, the weather for one thing.

Frequent showers tomorrow for the early part of the day, so it's likely to be one of these games where the side batting second have a radically different chase than first seems likely.

I don't see changes to the team at Leicester, because it is pretty close to the strongest that we have. Of course that defeat was frustrating, but more so because we have shown lately that we are a better side than that. You would have to be super-cynical to not see that, but there are obvious weaknesses that will need addressed for another year.

For all that Jeevan Mendis has done a decent job, there will be more bite to our attack when Imran Tahir joins up. He is a class act and continues to prove it in the IPL, as he will in the Champions Trophy. Nor have we seen anything like the best from Hardus Viljoen, still striving for rhythm but probably looking forward to having the slips in place in the four-day game.

There's a decent attack there with Viljoen, Davis, Cotton/Palladino, Thakor and Tahir. The batting will take care of itself and give them something to work with and I feel there is plenty of good cricket in this side over the months ahead.

Hopefully it starts tomorrow, against opponents missing Moeen Ali and the talented Joe Clarke, but including Australian spinner Nathan Lyon. They are a good one-day side and will take some beating.

Their squad:

Kohler-Cadmore, Mitchell, Fell, D'Oliveira, Cox, Whiteley, Leach, Barnard, Tongue, Shantry, Lyon, Rhodes.

Hopefully the weather allows enough cricket for entertainment and the real Derbyshire side turns up.

Oh..and the commentators don't spend all day referring to 'Derby' and waxing lyrical over Wayne 'Madsden'.

Nope. That's going to happen...you know it as well as I do.

More from me tomorrow.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Leicestershire v Derbyshire RLODC

I hope, that when we look back at the season in September, that this game can be seen as a watershed.

Because with the exception of a couple of players, this was fairly horrible.

Alex Hughes is worthy of mention in despatches, for a gutsy and battling personal best that was worthy of a century. He did blot his copy book by running out Wayne Madsen, which is akin to doing a sliding tackle on Lionel Messi in the warm ups to put him out of the game.

We can ill afford such extravagances and despite cameos down the order, the final tally on what was a rather blameless track by all accounts never looked enough.

Of the bowlers, Madsen bowled a tidy early spell and Ben Cotton a very good one, but the least said about the rest, the better.

I am a little short of time tonight, so that will need to do for now. Tuesday's game on Sky against Worcestershire, at the time it was announced a biggie, now carries all the importance, for us at least, of a beer match.

Yet we need more. We need to combine the hitherto excellent batting with bowling of far greater discipline.

To lose is one thing, to do it so heavily against an ordinary side is disappointing.

With that I say goodnight for now.