Friday, 22 August 2014

Speculation season starts

Nathan Buck. Shiv Thakor and Moin Ashraf.

All names I have seen linked with a move to Derbyshire today.

The Telegraph reports that we have made an official approach for the Leicestershire pair, both of them good young players with the potential to get better.

Buck is a strapping seam bowler whose development has perhaps been impaired by having to be both strike and stock bowler in an average attack. Injuries haven't helped him in the past couple of seasons, but then Mark Footitt had similar issues at that age and has turned out quite nicely. At 23 he has massive potential but that will have been spotted by a number of counties.

Thakor is less advanced in his development but at 20 has a string of impressive first team appearances to his name. A genuine all-rounder, he is a long way from the finished article but his ability is unquestioned. Again, demand for his services is likely to be high but I'd expect us to be able to compete up to his real, rather than anticipated value, as I don't think we'd go down the 'silly money' route of some clubs.

Ashraf? A good bowler and, if Yorkshire are offering him reduced terms, I'd expect him to be a decent punt for a move to Derbyshire, again given our inside knowledge of players from that county. Which, of course, includes knowing them warts and all. As with Azeem Rafiq, we will know his real value and whether he can make the step from promising talent to established county cricketer.

Worth keeping an eye on, that's for sure.

Something for the weekend

There's such a feel-good factor around at present that you would swear Christmas was coming...

Such is the difference that a win makes, yet the thing that I see in the comments on the blog and the emails I have received is that people understand and are buying in to what is happening at Derbyshire.

Don't get me wrong. I'll not pretend that we're now a great side, nor that we're about to win the Royal London One-Day Cup. It would be truly astonishing if we did, but Tuesday's game against a Nottinghamshire side that probably costs three times the salaries of ours will test us to the limit. The chances are we're in for a rude awakening, but at the end of the day, it is still eleven versus eleven. The thinking money will naturally be on Nottinghamshire, but we have something going for us that they don't seem to have in such abundance.

A couple of weeks ago I watched a very dispirited-looking Trent Bridge outfit fail to defend a large total against Hampshire and the body language of the players was telling as the game turned against them. Heads went down, balls weren't chased and there was a lot of staring and finger-pointing as the southern county hunted them down in style.

What I liked about Derbyshire last night was the chirpiness, the vibe, the team spirit, the celebrations. It was Musketeer-like, all for one and one for all and the coaching staff and captain are to be commended for getting the team to that state after all that has gone on this year. It was a Derbyshire against the world mentality and a delight to see.

Whether we lose on Tuesday or not and irrespective of the disappointing results of early summer, I feel that this will be seen as when it all began. There was a false dawn in 2012, but this year has seen the emergence of a group of young players who will likely be the nucleus of our side for years to come.

Slater, Hughes, Elstone, Taylor, Cotton, Cork, Knight, Hosein - in different ways and at different times they have shown their potential and worth this summer, while an experienced nucleus of Madsen, Durston, Footitt and Palladino have, as the summer has progressed, produced the figures one expects from senior professionals.

It is appropriate to acknowledge the efforts of the coaching staff in their development and also in the re-emergence of the likes of Billy Godleman and Wes Durston. Earlier in the season they couldn't buy a run, yet both have obviously worked at their game and look like the players that their reputations suggested.

There are obvious weaknesses - we're still overly reliant on the 'big four' and are not getting the input from the overseas role that we need, to name but two - but the team spirit and collaborative approach has done wonders in getting us to the quarter finals from a starting position of minus two points.

It was interesting to read this morning in the Telegraph that Derbyshire may look to sign an Australian batsman who doesn't make the Ashes tour for next year's overseas role. It could just be press talk, but there are plenty of fine players in that country and not all of them can make the tour party. I'd certainly not say no to Phil Hughes, one on the periphery of the national squad but whose averages across different formats would make him an asset. Mind you, successive double centuries against South Africa A in recent weeks have pushed his case once more...

We're moving in the right direction and while difficult decisions have had to be made, Graeme Welch has shown himself up to making them.

I'm already looking forward to next year and this one isn't done yet by some distance...

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire One-Day Trophy

 Derbyshire 271-7 (Godleman 96, Madsen 57, Elstone 37)
Gloucestershire 218 (Footitt 2-39, Wainwright 3-45)

Derbyshire won by 53 runs

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty proud of the boys tonight.

Last night I said that we needed a "Cometh the hour, cometh the man" moment. Instead, we had two variants - the plural, together with the Godleman...

I didn't see the Derbyshire innings due to a little thing called work, but I got home for the start of the reply and then caught the highlights later. I was really taken with the commitment of the Derbyshire players, who held some terrific catches and produced some stellar work in the field. Wes Durston held two fine catches of contrasting skill sets, Alex Hughes and Scott Elstone were brilliant in the field and the side was captained with a level of astuteness by Wayne Madsen (or is it Madsden, as Sky irritatingly call him) that was a delight to see. Nor should the constant 'chirping' of Gareth Cross be overlooked, keeping the field on its toes. Tom Poynton will have enjoyed that.

The bowling had its less directed moments, but the highs outweighed them. Star turn was Mark Footitt, who bowled scarily quickly at times. Certainly too quickly for poor Michael Klinger, who ended up in hospital with a broken arm after fending off a Footitt flyer.

There were a few erratic deliveries, but the merit of the bowler was obvious, not least to the commentary team. You could almost see the words "our Mitchell Johnson" running through their heads and there is little doubt that Footitt's pace is sufficient to unsettle any batsmen. Another winter of development and fitness work and...who knows?

Then there was the ball of the day from David Wainwright. The chinaman that bowled the impressive Chris Dent was stunningly effective and the bowler could not have bowled it better in his dreams. The initial comment of "his arm ball" seemed woefully inadequate to me at first viewing, the ball ripping across the hapless batsman far more quickly than an arm ball could ever do. His reaction was priceless, just as the impact was on the game and our season.

Gloucestershire fought well and were never out of the game thanks to some spirited hitting from Dent, Alex Gidman and Jack Taylor, but Derbyshire always seemed to have it under control and took wickets at the right times to peg them back.

Earlier there were fine innings in contrasting styles from Wayne Madsen, Scott Elstone (who fully justified his selection) and Tony Palladino, but the standout was Billy Godleman (pictured). He carried on in similar vein to Scarborough and anyone watching will realise that the lad can play. He has a sound technique, as well as shots around the wicket and was only denied a century by an umpiring decision that was, frankly, awful. The wicket-keeper did well for them throughout the game, but his appeal for a leg-side catch followed on from that of the bowler like the dying throes of a Mexican wave as it finished the final side of the stadium. It was poor and I felt for the lad. He produced a top effort though and can be rightly proud of it.

Meanwhile over at Old Trafford, Leicestershire collapsed like a pack of cards and a weakened Lancashire breezed to an eight-wicket win with twenty overs to spare, meaning we earned the right to a quarter-final away at the home of our dear local rivals on Tuesday.

They will start favourites and rightly so. We will be rank outsiders and the likelihood is that we will emerge on the wrong side of the result. But this is a young and impressive side who work for one another and the greatest achievement is in getting to this stage having started on minus two points. Write us off at your peril...

Top effort from our boys. We're all going to bed happy tonight...

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Derbyshire v Gloucestershire One-Day Trophy

Tomorrow night, at the end of the big match between Derbyshire and Gloucestershire, I hope I am able to repeat the words of the immortal Cliff Gladwin in connection with our performance.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

That's what we are needing. Someone to stamp his authority on the game and ensure that we come out on the right side of the result. What happens at Old Trafford will dictate our progress in the competition, but Graeme Welch is absolutely right in his assertion that we focus on what we can control.

There's a Derbyshire squad unchanged from the loss at Scarborough for this one and rightly so. A side that has played good cricket throughout the competition hasn't suddenly become poor and there is enough talent in the squad to win this game.

There may have been a temptation to omit Scott Elstone after a poor run in the competition, but he has gone out and scored runs at club and second team level between times to rediscover his mojo. Elstone is a punishing bat when he gets going, a superb fielder and a surprisingly under-utilised bowler, especially in light of promising pre- and early-season form with the ball. Maybe he has carried an injury, but we could perhaps have given him a few more overs.

The name omitted from the squad, of course, is Chesney Hughes and after scoring 178 against Nottinghamshire for the second team and still not getting a look in, I'd reckon that his chances of a senior recall this summer are somewhere north of mine. The choice was always going to be between him and Elstone, with the latter's weekend runs and greater mobility in the field presumably getting him the nod.

I do feel for Hughes, but this innings, like the one at Headingley last summer, has been an oasis in a desert of barren form. Watching him at times, rightly or wrongly, he seems less motivated than some, though that could just be the natural Caribbean demeanour shining through. His talent is undeniable, but as he enters the final year of a contract next year - assuming nothing happens between times - he needs to produce something special to be considered for retention. And I will have to say that I didn't expect to be writing those words at this stage of his career.

Gloucestershire come along with a side that will be tough to beat. The Gidman brothers, Hamish Marshall and the returning Michael Klinger are all good cricketers and we will underestimate them at our peril. Yet we must focus on our strengths and a composite side from the two elevens would see a strong Derbyshire representation.

I think we'll win, then all eyes will be looking towards Old Trafford. For the first, perhaps only time, you might hear a local rendition of Lanky-lanky-lanky-lanky Lancashire.

Just the once, mind...

Postscript - there was an excellent win for the seconds today at Denby, beating Nottinghamshire by ten wickets. With wickets for Greg Cork, Jony Marsden, Will Davis and Matthew Critchley, the side chased down an easy victory target of 27.

Meanwhile the Academy beat their Durham counterparts thanks to excellent knocks from the prolific Ryan Bramwell and Elliott Savidge. There is another batch of excellent young cricketers emerging from the mini Academy and they suggest that the current conveyor belt of talent is going to continue to deposit players of first-class capabilities into the second eleven.

Their win followed one against Warwickshire, where Joss Morgan's unbeaten 73 saw them to a winning target of 226 and a win with three overs in hand.

Good work, young fellas! I'm impressed and I am sure that plenty of others are too.

Postscript 2 - Today's forecast doesn't appear conducive to a fifty-over game...let's hope we can win the toss then...

Monday, 18 August 2014

Monday musings

So, we're on Sky this Thursday - going to be a biggie, huh?

It may be against a Gloucestershire side short of Will Gidman, which would help us considerably, but the bottom line is that if Derbyshire play to potential they can win this game.

We are a far better side than played pretty dismally against Yorkshire and there will be no better way to illustrate that than on national television. Indeed, if we made the knock-out stages of the competition it would be a triumph of some magnitude.

We are indeed a better side than the one that took the snide comment from Vic Marks in this morning's media. "Even Derbyshire would bowl out this Indian side" said Mr Marks, displaying more than a little ignorance of the fact that we have two of the better seam bowlers in the division in our ranks. It was a crass, low blow and unworthy of a man who is usually a better journalist than he was cricketer.

If nothing else, it should serve as motivation for the side to show what they can do this week.

The good news today was that Chesney Hughes scored 178 for the second eleven against Nottinghamshire at Denby, while Scott Elstone, who has been badly out of form in this competition, made an impressive and important 95. Whether the innings are sufficient to preserve one place or gain elevation for another remains to be seen, but we must all trust Graeme Welch to make the right choice, which I am sure he will do. More than any of us, he knows what form the players are showing in the nets and how their confidence levels are.

There is no doubt that an in form Chesney Hughes would be an asset to a Derbyshire side and would walk into it, but he really needs some runs to cement obvious talent. His huge double century at Headingley last summer is a distant memory and he needs to show that he has the mental reserves, as well as technical ability, to be consistent at top level.

More on that game as the week progresses, but it is a season-defining one, for sure.

Finally tonight, three players who have been mentioned in despatches as potential signing targets for next summer signed new deals at Warwickshire today.

Laurie Evans, Oliver Hannon-Dalby and Richard Jones all signed deals, but I am sure that Graeme Welch has plenty of names on his 'hit' list for the winter - and for all we know, perhaps none of those players were ever on it.

More from me soon.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Potential new name?

I wasn't too surprised to see Azeem Rafiq released by Yorkshire today, but can see a decent-sized queue forming for his signature.

At 23 the lad has much to offer and is a good cricketer. He is a very accurate off-spinner and has proved himself especially effective in one-day cricket, where his T20 rate is under eight an over, very impressive by any standards.

A first-class average of mid-thirties per wicket doesn't suggest that he is yet the new Saqlain Mushtaq - if he was, they would be retaining his services - but he is a steady bowler who crucially has time on his side to get better. He can also handle a bat and has a first-class century to his name.

Adil Rashid is way out in front of him at Yorkshire and with promising spinners in their academy, they have made the decision to let him seek cricket elsewhere. I appreciate the rationale, but their loss could well be another county's gain.

A previous loan spell at Derbyshire, under another coach, was successful and the loss of Peter Burgoyne this summer has left us without an off-spinner, with the exception of Wes Durston's occasional slows. Marcus North's bowling has been little utilised this year and while we nominally have three slow left arm bowlers, Chesney Hughes has had little senior cricket this year and David Wainwright's bowling has only sporadically been successful.

Tom Knight's action is being re-modelled in readiness for next summer, so our spin cupboard, if not akin to Mother Hubbard's, is certainly a long way from full.

With two of our coaching staff having strong links in Yorkshire, the merits of Rafiq will be well-known and, perhaps more than anyone else whose availability has become known thus far, I could see merit in a move to the County Ground. That's always assuming we don't have someone else lined up, of course...

Thoughts?

Closing thoughts on Scarborough

We got back home this evening after a lovely stay in Scarborough. Cricket aside, the weather was better than we expected and we enjoyed the place as much as ever.

While I was away I was able to follow the cricket news online and the end of season comings and goings have started in earnest. Tom Jewell leaving Surrey, Murray Goodwin may be leaving Glamorgan  (as may a few others, as church mice have been having a whip round for them) and Gareth Breese is leaving Durham. Oh, and Will Gidman is leaving Gloucestershire and has signed a three-year deal with Nottinghamshire. There's a surprise, our dear neighbours signing the star turns neatly developed by other counties. Who knows, all that spending might bring them a trophy sometime...

Sorry, tiredness-induced sarcasm I'm afraid, but you know what I mean. I've heard whispers of a few other players who may be heading out of exit doors at counties, but you have hopefully known me long enough to know I prefer to deal in fact, rather than rumour and supposition.

I really enjoyed the Scarborough ground in the week, even if a few of the fans were unnecessarily boorish as they watched their side win. They are a good side, but far from unbeatable, although the addition of their England stars would make them a tougher proposition. The side that played us should have made it a fairly even game, that's for sure.

Rich Pyrah is another of those players on the circuit who enjoy playing us and he usually does well with bat or ball. He's a good cricketer, too good to be playing only occasional cricket, but he seems happy with his lot in life and who can blame him? Yorkshire bowled steadily, put the ball in the right areas and simply waited for us to make mistakes.

The ball nibbled around early and we might have given them a better game had we won the toss, but that's what happens. The loss of Wes to a catch at third man was cruel and not in the script, while Marcus North didn't look in nick at all. He's a fine cricketer and we all go through those periods, but we could do with him rediscovering his best form for the run in.

It was all a shame as the decent crowd deserved to see the Derbyshire that has been so impressive in recent weeks. I can't argue that the batting is overly reliant on Wes and Wayne at present and when they went early it was hard to see where the 'big' runs would come. Billy Godleman again looked a good batsman, as to be fair he has on every occasion I have seen him. His defence was tight, his strokeplay firm and with conviction, but when he looked set for a big score, he gave it away with a half-cock force to backward point which undid much of went before it and cut him off far too soon. He needs a big innings sometime soon to convince the doubters that he can play a part in the new team. In much the same way as Paul Borrington, only the churlish doubt his ability, but players need to produce the statistics to reinforce the message.

I also liked the look of Alex Hughes and Ben Cotton. Hughes struggled with his timing, like a good few others. but still managed to hit a straight six out of the ground. Defensively he is organised and he is a busy player who could, with continued development, become our Paul Collingwood. His bowling looked a couple of yards quicker than when I last saw him and he almost got a wicket with a surprise bouncer. Such a delivery would have been cannon fodder a few months back.

Cotton has a nice, easy action and a run up that is rhythmic and smooth. I got the impression that, like Tom Taylor, he perhaps doesn't yet use his full height (which is impressive) but he beat both batsmen on several occasions, no mean feat on a wicket that rolled out pretty flat. A tendency to drag the ball down leg on occasion will doubtless sort in time, but has plenty of potential.

It was a bad day at the office but we move on. If we beat Gloucestershire next week and Lancashire beat Leicestershire, we can still make the quarter-finals. Derbyshire fans rooting for our red rose cousins? Whatever next?

It would make for an encouraging end to the season, one that looked like it had sailed down the Swanee river a few weeks ago.

Graeme Welch and his coaching team, still relatively new in their posts, deserve credit for the way in which they have turned things around. They will add a few more points to their credit rating if a side that was largely written off a couple of months back can finish the season strongly.

I think we can do our bit. We just need to rehearse that song now...oh Lanky, Lanky...

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Yorkshire v Derbyshire One-Day Trophy

It was David v Goliath all over again at North Marine Road today, but this time Goliath came mob-handed...

Truth be told, Derbyshire were never in this game and it was a very poor display. Granted, winning the toss played a part and the ball nibbled around a little to trouble the top order, but there was a lot of unprofessional stuff went on that belied and undid much of the good that had been done in previous matches.

The batsmen struggled for timing throughout our innings and there were several scares as shots were lofted short of fielders. For us to win this game. it was fairly evident that we needed a score from Durston, North or Madsen and only the skipper hinted at  anything like permanence.

When he left, the only one of the top order not to get himself out, the writing was on the wall. Billy Godleman showed a sound defence and played some of the best shots of the innings, but his infuriating habit of getting out when well set continued, leaving in a tame manner when he should have been steering the innings to calmer waters.

Scott Elstone is a good player, but should be disappointed with an unnecessary waft outside off stump to his first ball and although Alex Hughes again showed remarkable maturity in nursing the tail, there was little else to write home about. Two catches were lobbed to the man on the not too distant leg side boundary and only a few telling blows from Ben Cotton, suggesting he can handle a willow, in any way redeemed an innings on the pale side of anaemic.

To be honest, it got worse. Cotton bowled some good balls and perhaps deserved a wicket in his early spell, but something had annoyed Mark Footitt and he bowled a spell that at best could be called thoughtless, but also much worse.

He's a good lad and a fine bowler, but there were too many bouncers. One went over a helpless Gaz Cross for four byes, then in his fifth over he bowled his one for the over, followed by a presumably unintentional chest high full toss. When he then bowled another bouncer, followed by one that went for four more byes over the keeper, the umpire had no option but to request his removal from the attack.

It was poor cricket and Footitt is better than that. Yorkshire cruised to the break on 64-0 in twelve overs and the game was over as a contest.

After it they continued on their merry way and eased to victory by ten wickets. It wasn't just the defeat, but the adverse effect on our net run rate that was galling. It was an inept performance in all three areas of the game and the frustration is that the players  and supporters know we are capable of much more.

We can still qualify if we beat Gloucestershire next week, but qualification now depends on other sides and not on our own efforts.

And if we play like we did today, we may as well not bother getting too excited.

Very disappointing. As my son said, on the way out of the ground, "Thank goodness we still have the rest of the holiday to look forward to."

Quite.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Yorkshire v Derbyshire One Day Cup Preview

Biggest game of the season?

Yeah, I'd say so, at least so far. If we win this one then there may well be bigger ones to come, but a game at North Marine Road (pictured today) featuring Derbyshire has always been high on the Peakfan 'things to do before I die' list. Tomorrow sees it become a reality.

It's been a lovely, if breezy, dry and sunny day today. Not one to be under a swirling catch, that's for sure, and early this morning you might not have fancied a brisk chance at slip, but it got better and ended up quite warm out of the wind.

Let's not forget that had it not been for a points deduction and an early onset of rain in one match we'd be pretty much qualified by now, but these things happened and we have everything to play for.

The side is likely, I think, to welcome back David Wainwright, as an extra bowler may come in useful. Wainwright will know this wicket better than most and since we're not using Tom Knight as a bowler just now, the swap may be worthwhile. Of course, if the plan is for Marcus North to bowl more overs, Knight could be kept in the side for his explosive batting alone. I don't see any other changes, barring injury, from last night's fine win against Northamptonshire.

As for Yorkshire, there will be no Jonny Bairstow, Ryan Sidebottom or Liam Plunkett, so it isn't the strongest side, while Rafiq, who always seems to bowl well against us, is also out of the squad, which lines up as follows:

Bresnan, Brooks, Gale*, Fisher, Hodd, Leaning, Lees, Lyth, Patterson, Pyrah, Rashid, Williamson.

We'd probably take Alex Lees' wicket for thirty right now, given his enjoyment of our attack in recent seasons, but the batting looks stronger than the bowling without the missing names.A good team, for sure - that's why they are top of the table - but beatable, as Essex showed on this same ground the other day, chasing nearly 300 with a degree of elan and panache that would be a delight to see Derbyshire match.

Mind you, I'd take us chasing 165 with an ultimately successful limp if given the chance. The thinking money will be on Yorkshire tomorrow, but they will underestimate a much-improved Derbyshire side at their peril.

I hope we give a good account of ourselves. A win would make an already delightful family holiday simply perfect.

The weather forecast is much improved and set fair for the day.

Over to you, boys...

Monday, 11 August 2014

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...

It's a few years since we had a family trip to Scarborough.

There's been a lot of work done in the intervening period. We're staying 'oop north' in the resort, about a stone's throw from the delight's of Peasholme Park, five minutes from the beach (if the weather allows it) and just a little more than that from the cricket ground.

The south end is a little more run down than we remember it, the Futurist Theatre is closed down and there's the same collection of tat that you find in such resorts the length and breadth of the country. It still retains a lot of the quaintness of its heyday though and the Spa is still a pleasant place to visit, while the Grand Hotel sits above the cliff like a colossus, albeit one that has itself faded a little from former glories.

We popped in to the cricket ground today on the way up to the shops. Arrived safely, unpacked in a very nice guest house and hit the streets to see what it has to offer. The ground looked lovely, but then it always does. Wednesday just needs it to be blessed with enough decent weather for the players to get out there and all of us to see some cricket.

It would be a downer if the rain was incessant, or if the coastal fog came in and ruined things, but, as old Chuck Berry said in one of his most famous songs, c'est la vie - you never can tell.

Either way we will enjoy our stay here. The forecast suggests that only the foolhardy or the wildly optimistic will wander around without a rain jacket or brolly this week, while I suspect that my shorts will remain in the case for the duration. Maybe no bad idea, to be fair...the locals might think I was spearheading a campaign to bring back that staple of many a Butlins holiday of years gone by, the knobbly knees competition...

Tomorrow we will probably have a stroll around the park and watch the naval display. There was a time when this was a recreation of famous British naval victories, but political correctness now ensures that we're fighting an unnamed foe today. It's as if the Second World War never happened. Britain versus Mars on a lake - this time, it's personal.

Still, with an ice cream in my hand and a leisurely pedalo around the lake, the cares of the world will melt away, much like that ice cream and I will think about a win for our boys tomorrow.

Fact or fantasy? We'll find out soon enough and who knows? Maybe I might see one or two of the lads on an evening constitutional.

Must look out for those 'Kiss Me Quick' hats...