Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Derbyshire v Kent day 1

No play

I get the frustration from supporters, desperate to watch the last cricket of 2017 on home turf. The sun is shining, but the ground is waterlogged from heavy overnight rain and it is impossible.

Yet what, realistically, can the club be expected to do?

There has been a freakish amount of rain this summer and the volume that apparently fell on the Chesterfield area overnight would have done for many a county headquarters, let alone an out ground where the facilities are of a lesser standard.

Whether it allows for play tomorrow is a moot point, but with more rain forecast on Thursday, I have no hesitation in suggesting that this game will be a draw. With an obviously high water table, any volume on Thursday will rule out Friday. Such is the lot of the out ground.

It's a shame and frustrating, but the drainage at Queen's Park is improved yet couldn't cope. We might spend money on drainage this winter, and it may improve things, but there will still be days when simply too much rain has fallen and play is impossible.

It is a shame, but I don't know how you get around this one. There may have been play everywhere else, but unless you are a budding Carol Kirkwood, it may be that  they simply avoided the worst of the rain.

Let's see what tomorrow brings.

In other news, I read today that Glamorgan have a lot of work over the winter. To add to Jacques Rudolph's retirement, Colin Ingram only wants to play one-day cricket next year. In addition, Graham Wagg is out of contract and, after an injury-hit summer, it appears far from certain that he will be offered another deal.

Would you consider him for Derbyshire, or, at 35 next summer, is he too old now?

Monday, 18 September 2017

Derbyshire v Kent championship preview

Time for the penultimate preview of the 2017 season and, pleasingly, an extra game at that most scenic of grounds, Chesterfield.

Queen's Park will always be my favourite ground and I hope that the weather and crowds are good to it over the next four days.

Derbyshire come into the game on a high, the splendid win over Sussex a highlight of a summer that has had a few, for the first time in a while. Gary Wilson and Imran Tahir return from international duty and the home faithful will enjoy the sight of Hardus Viljoen and Tahir in the same attack.

A squad of fourteen has been announced, as below:

Luis Reece
Ben Slater
Callum Brodrick
Wayne Madsen
Alex Hughes
Matt Critchley
Gary Wilson (captain)
Harvey Hosein
Tony Palladino
Hardus Viljoen
Will Davis
Harry Podmore
Hamidullah Qadri
Imran Tahir


Unless there is a desire to again test the mettle of Callum Brodrick before the summer ends, I would assume that he, Qadri and Tony Palladino will miss out. We need to see if Harry Podmore is worth a permanent deal between now and the end of the summer and tomorrow's final home game is a chance to look at a possible attack for 2018.

There are opportunities across the team for people to make a statement. Team strengthening will take place over the winter and this is a chance for players to sell their own talents. I hope that plenty of them take that opportunity.

Kent have also named a fourteen-man squad that lacks Matt Coles but includes the evergreen Darren Stevens, after another fine season, as well as players of past and potential England pedigree. It would be unrealistic to expect Viljoen to repeat the heroics of the last game, so others need to step up and share the wicket-taking responsibilities.

Their squad:

Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sean Dickson, Joe Denly, Sam Northeast, Sam Billings, Zak Crawley, Darren Stevens, Will Gidman, Calum Haggett, Grant Stewart, James Tredwell, Imran Qayyum, Matt Hunn, Oliver Robinson.

Thursday looks a bit of a washout, but much will depend on the wicket as to whether there is sufficient time for a positive result.

Here's hoping the locals get something to remember over the long winter months ahead.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Derbyshire enigma

In a rollercoaster summer, I think there will be a lot of Derbyshire supporters of a similar mind to me this morning.

Do we have a good cricket team that too often lapses into mediocrity? Or a poor one, that sometimes plays above itself?

For what it is worth, I think we are two good players away from a side that could be promotion contenders in four-day cricket, as well as one that does well in one-day formats. Yet we are also the loss of two players away from also-rans.

Hardus Viljoen was brilliant in the game at Hove, but it would be unrealistic to expect him to be fit enough to do that from April to September. Perhaps the fact that he played hardly any cricket early season accounted for him being able to run in with the zest of a young gazelle. If he had four hundred overs in his legs, maybe the spring and zip that was too much for good batsmen may not have been there.

I am old enough to recall the September when a young Alan Ward arrived on the county scene and ran through county batting line-ups with some sizzling displays. Sadly, Alan was rarely fit enough to do that over a full season, though it was magnificent when it came together. Hardus is far more robust in build, and I suspect mentally tougher than Alan was, but 90mph for six months, with the body fit and the radar always locked on, is a huge ask for anyone. 

In his interview for my last book, Harold Rhodes told me that he quickly learned that you cannot give it all every time you bowl, and quickly have to learn to put in that lightning spell when conditions are in your favour, or the match is in the balance. Sage words from a man who would have enjoyed another quick bowler cutting a swathe through a batting line-up. Like Harold, Hardus is a canny enough bowler to be awkward when the wicket is slower and he has to cut down his pace and bowl an occasional quicker ball, itself a threat from shock value alone.

We saw the impact he had in this match, yet have seen the ineffectual nature of our attack in his absence. Without his whole-hearted approach, I doubt we would have come close to winning yesterday and the need to find quality support over the winter is clear.

Although I would have him back without question, I'm unsure if we have seen the best of Imran Tahir this summer. He bowled tidily in most T20 matches, won us one with a brilliant spell but has played little four-day cricket through injury and international duty. The prospect of Viljoen and Tahir together is a mouth-watering one, but for improvement another year we need to field three bowlers who can take wickets.

Shiv Thakor has been missed in that respect. Will Davis is a fine prospect, but raw, while Hamidullah Qadri is perhaps a decade from anything approaching a peak. Good players all, but addressing that missing link in the winter will determine if and how we progress.

Harry Podmore did his chances of a contract no harm at Hove. His batting was a revelation, while he overcame the disappointment of a dropped catch with the last two wickets. As Ash mentioned below yesterday's post, his frustration after that drop was obvious from video footage on Twitter, something he will need to handle better. No one deliberately drops catches, but it happens and you rise above it. Les Jackson used to shrug his shoulders and say 'catch next 'un', though Cliff Gladwin could be more volatile...

I'd like to see us sign a seam bowler who bats a bit for the early season overseas role. For all his expensive bowling in the T20, Matt Henry would be the type of player we need and would likely thrive in early summer here, with a spinner again for later season. Chris Morris would be terrific, but since he and Henry are normally involved in the IPL, that 'type' of player would be the target, those players themselves likely elsewhere.

Another player I like is Ben Raine at Leicestershire, sadly under contract until 2019. A combative cricketer who bowls good fast medium, battles with the bat and has the 'edge' that you want in a player. I'd see Raine as a player who would thrive in the right environment.

We're not far away. With continued progress from young players, better luck with fitness and sound 'tweaking' of the squad, 2017 may be seen as the year it all began, the watershed of Derbyshire cricket.

What do you think?

Postscript - I was amused yesterday to see that 87% of those voting felt Viljoen the star man for Derbyshire in the game just finished.

Turn that around though and 13% felt he wasn't...as I wrote on Twitter, what did he have to do to convince them?

Friday, 15 September 2017

Sussex v Derbyshire day 4 - Viljoen enters county legend

Derbyshire 338 and 322-8 dec

Sussex 271 (Viljoen 7-80) and 344 (Viljoen 8-90)

Derbyshire won by 45 runs

It might have taken longer for us to see Hardus Viljoen in action than we would have wanted, but having got his body right, it has taken him far less time to write himself into the county record books.

Eight wickets in the second innings of this game, following seven in the first innings, made him the first Derbyshire bowler since 1952 to take fifteen wickets in a match. The last man to do it was Cliff Gladwin, who took sixteen at considerably less pace than Hardus at Amblecote, in Worcestershire, where the wickets often favoured bowlers  and where Cliff would need no second bidding.

Viljoen took his on a wicket that was pretty good for batting, as evidenced by the match scores. Over on his excellent and informative Twitter account tonight, club historian and statistician David Griffin has some excellent statistics (and photographs) of the day's action and I acknowledge his assistance  in recording that Viljoen is only the fifth Derbyshire bowler to take fifteen wickets in a match for us, as well as the first non-English player to take more than thirteen wickets. There are plenty of other facts to savour, that will doubtless and rightly appear on the club site before long.

It is testament to the commitment and fitness of the big fast bowler that he reeled off 25 overs and seemed to maintain pace to the very end. It is also worth mentioning the efforts of Fran Clarkson, the club physio, in getting him to that stage after an early season ravaged by a knee injury that could have easily seen him play no more cricket in 2017.

It showed also what might be possible another summer, if he has more help at the other end and can maintain this fitness. As I noted this morning, a young attack was going to struggle to bowl out a lengthy batting line-up on a good wicket and at one point looked like they were not going to do so. Viljoen's excellent habit of getting an early wicket continued, but then Wells and van Zyl batted well to add 136, before the fast bowler's return took two quick wickets.

Harry Podmore then found the edge of van Zyl's bat and the catch, a difficult one, was put down by Harvey Hosein as the batsman and Luke Wright added another century stand. It looked like being a costly error.

At 267-3 there appeared only one winner in the game, but Viljoen's return ripped out three quick wickets, his next spell another two. The clips on Twitter show hostile, classic fast bowling, short and threatening, quick and straight. The photograph of Luke Wright's dismissal, when well set on 80, shows a man beaten for pace, no mean feat.

Harry Podmore's return to the attack saw him take the last two wickets and the players will enjoy their return journey tonight. They deserve to, after a job well done.

Rightly so, because, despite Hardus' tour de force it was a team performance. Everyone battled with the bat and some excellent catches were held, notably by Hughes and Qadri. Mention too of sound captaincy by Wayne Madsen, who would have loved another experienced bowler to work with, but who handled his young attack well.

They must have learned a lot from their giant spearhead's herculean effort today and David Griffin's photograph of Qadri and Viljoen with their arms around each other's shoulders is one of my new favourites.

Chesterfield is next. Hardus will enjoy the traditional bounce there. I reckon our supporters will too.

Well done Derbyshire and well done Hardus Viljoen.

Even Ian Bishop and Michael Holding didn't manage this.

You've entered county legend now...

Derbyshire Cricket Society ready to start winter programme

As the cricket season winds down this month, now is the time to join the Derbyshire Cricket Society and keep in touch with the game over the winter.

The society promotes and supports the interests of Derbyshire County Cricket Club. The programme of cricket speakers runs across six lunchtime meetings, usually the last Thursday in the month, starting in October and running through to March.

This year’s programme (below) starts on Thursday 26th October with a talk by Paul Smith, one of the most entertaining ex-county cricket speakers.

Membership for the year only costs £5. Please contact Marion Bingham, the Membership Secretary (address below) if you are interested.

Winter Programme 2017/18

Meetings are held with lunch, 12 Noon for 12.30, in the Legends Lounge, Elite Performance Centre (formerly the Gateway Centre), The 3aaa County Ground, Nottingham Rd, Derby DE21 6DA.

The cost of the two course lunch (Main Course; Dessert or Cheese & Biscuits; Coffee) is £20.00 for members; £22 for non-members.

BOOKING A LUNCH

Please send a cheque made out to Derbyshire Cricket Society to ARRIVE AT THE LATEST BY THURSDAY OF THE PREVIOUS WEEK to: Marion Bingham, 9 Malthouse Lane, Nether Heage, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 2AS.

Note that a vegetarian option is available and should be requested when booking along with Cheese & Biscuits, if required.

Thursday 26 October 2017 Paul Smith
Thursday 23 November 2017 Dean Allen
Thursday 14 December 2017 Wayne Madsen
Thursday 25 January 2018 Geoff Cope
Thursday 22 February 2018 James Graham Brown
Thursday 29 March 2018 Karl Krikken

Having spoken for the society before, I can vouch for a friendly welcome and a convivial atmosphere in which people are made to feel very welcome. 

That is also an excellent line-up of speakers, with a strong Derbyshire bias.

If anyone needs more information, please get in touch and I will connect you to them!

Names in the frame?

A comment from the always readable notoveryet caught my attention the other day.

He is a knowledgeable man and his opinions, like those of everyone who contributes on a regular basis, are respected and valued.

In the post in question, he suggested four players that may be worthy of Derbyshire's attention come the end of the season: Graham Onions, James Tredwell, Rolof Van der Merwe and Max Waller.

On the face of it, they are all players with things to like. Onions is one of the finest seamers in the county game, Tredwell an experienced spinner who can bat, Van der Merwe likewise, while Waller is a leg spinner who has found a niche in the 20-over game.

But would they really enhance our squad and would they really be available?

Onions is a very good bowler, another who has been unlucky with the timing of his county career, but at 35 I would be surprised if he left his home county. Another contract, primarily for the red ball game, is on the table and after an injury-hit summer I suspect that potential suitors will be wary. He has played little one-day cricket over recent summers and I think is too old for a contract elsewhere now. We may think otherwise, but our target market has surely to be among younger bowlers with more to offer? Something between what we have and Onions would be my preference and surely not someone older than Tony Palladino?

Tredwell? Not for me. 22 wickets at 42 in 2016, 3 at 76 this year. They aren't the figures of a bowler enjoying a golden Autumn to his career and I see little merit in any interest. Hamidullah Qadri needs cricket and will only kick on if he gets it. Whether Matt Critchley's leg spin falls by the wayside as his batting develops is anyone's guess, but both will have learned from Imran Tahir this year, a player I would be happy to have engaged next season in any capacity, for the record.

Geoff Miller's early career was blocked a little by the signing of Venkat years ago, just as one might argue that Tahir has done the same for today's tyros. Yet both overseas players were/are of world-class stature, something you couldn't really say about Tredwell, I'm afraid.

Max Waller? Again, no from me. With two young spinners on the staff and Matt Sonczak looking worthy of investigation in the seconds, I don't see enough in a player who would realistically play only T20 and who has today signed another deal with the county anyway.

Finally, Rolof Van der Merwe. On the face of it, I would rate him worthy of further enquiry, but he has played little four-day cricket in the past two seasons and only two games this year. He is, as notoveryet pointed out, a good hitter of a ball and a tidy spinner, certainly a handy number seven or eight and especially useful in the one-day formats, where he has produced his best.

Yet he signed a contract extension that keeps him at Taunton until the end of next season. We all know that these can be broken and frequently are, but I suspect that Somerset pay him more than we might be prepared to, based on his track record, so he would see things out there.

Daniel Bell-Drummond was also mentioned, a young player who is mentioned often in despatches as a future England player. Yet the figures again make interesting reading.

Bell-Drummond is currently averaging 25 for the four-day season. Probably not a true indicator of his talent, but how many cricketers would claim to be 'better than their average'? For what it is worth, that would leave him twelfth in our averages this year. As a comparator, Ben Slater, a 'rival' if you like, averages 31, Billy Godleman 40, Luis Reece 35.

As I have written before, our targets have to be better than what we have. Of course you would have a chat with an agent if the season was written off as one of those things for a player, but I remain convinced that we only need two or three players to improve next year.

If we're talking figures, look at these:

2017                                2016

Critchley 41                     24
Hughes 35                        33
Slater 31                          28
Godleman 40                   37

Each has improved on last season, Matt Critchley dramatically so. The biggest issue with our batting has been the decline of Wayne Madsen, from 59 to 26 and the absence of Shiv Thakor, who had gone from 67 to 33, before his enforced omission.

Both are such fine players that their decline can only be temporary and Wayne had such a fine one-day summer that something had to 'give' somewhere, in a season where he has also had to handle the commitments of his benefit, as well as being a father for the first time.

So for me, let's bring in the men we need, but be aware that existing personnel, in the batting ranks, are moving in the right direction.

As always, I welcome your comments. And suggestions of potential targets as future talking points!

Sussex v Derbyshire day 3

Derbyshire 338 and 322-8 (Podmore 66 not, Hosein 52, Critchley 51, Slater 45, Whittingham 5-80)

Sussex 271

Derbyshire lead by 389 runs

Based on their four-day form this season, I said that Derbyshire would lose this game. Yet I am pleased to say that they go into the final day in rude health, after an outstanding team display.

There was much to be proud of in the efforts of a young batting line-up yesterday, in which almost everyone batted time and made runs. With the home side needing a win to maintain their promotion aspirations, they will go for anything today and our task was to make their chase a challenge.

They could still get them, of course, against an attack that is some way removed from experienced. Sussex bat long and powerfully, but the crowd at Hove are set for an exciting last day with fair weather forecast.

The resilience of the young Derbyshire side was a joy to follow yesterday. Much seemed to depend on Wayne Madsen and when he went the likelihood of a collapse seemed high, Yet Alex Hughes batted time before being dismissed and Ben Slater did likewise, before being beaten by a terrific yorker from the Derby-born Stuart Whittingham.

Then came a partnership between Matt Critchley, who has grown considerably as a batsman this summer, and Harvey Hosein, who has spent most of it in the second team. I have previously written that Hosein had to bide his time then take his opportunity when it came, something he has done in this game. An unbeaten 38 in the first innings and 52 yesterday saw him do exactly that and he is hard to drop now, assuming his glove work is of a similar standard.

Both he and Critchley went after making their fifty, exposing a tail that suggested fragility and with the lead not yet conclusive. Yet Harry Podmore, with the career average of eight that I mentioned after the first day, confounded pundits with a career-best unbeaten 66 that was more than three times his personal best. With good support from Will Davis, who also made a career-best score, the lead approached 400 by the close, with a wicket in hand should we choose to bat on today.

The ease with which we made the runs suggested that the home side might do well in today's run chase, but I have nothing but respect for the way a young side went about its work here. With Billy Godleman unable to bat and out for the rest of the season, only Wayne Madsen, Hardus Viljoen and Luis Reece are over 27, with much of the side considerably younger.

Well done gentlemen, you have done us proud here.

Now finish the job today.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Sussex v Derbyshire day 2

Derbyshire 338 and 31-1

Sussex 271 (Viljoen 7-80)

Derbyshire lead by 98 runs

There's a cracking game of cricket going on at Hove.

I just hope that the weather doesn't disrupt things too much and that Derbyshire are as committed and focused over the next two days as they have been over the first two.

98 runs on with eight wickets in hand. Let's not forget that Billy Godleman won't bat, so an acknowledged short batting line-up has to find a hero or two tomorrow. Perhaps this is the day when Wayne Madsen returns to his usual four-day form, or the younger guns in the order steer us to a challenging score that sets 275-plus in the final innings.

We'll see, but today was all about Hardus Viljoen, fast and firing, taking seven wickets in the innings. It was the first time that this has been done by a Derbyshire bowler from overseas since 1992 (Ian Bishop, since you ask) and a reward for spells in which he ran in hard and got it down the other end a tad too briskly for some of the home batsmen. With four clean bowled, the radar was locked on today and Hardus got his just rewards.

We've done well, but could easily lose this game if we don't show the necessary application from here. Sussex are challenging for promotion and need to win this one, so will undoubtedly come out with guns blazing tomorrow.

That they are still in contention is largely down to two players of talent and experience, Luke Wright and David Wiese. The former has been a loyal servant of the county, while Wiese is a good, all-round cricketer, the kind we need for 2018. He scores valuable runs and takes wickets, a perfect player to have coming in at number eight when an innings is in freefall.

Wiese was dismissed by Hamidullah Qadri, a reward for another tight spell from the precociously talented youngster. After his first over went for eleven, Qadri's next eight went for only 20, control quite remarkable for a player who won't be seventeen until December.

To win, we need to bat and bowl well again and Viljoen cannot be expected to bowl them out twice. There was an early wicket for Harry Podmore and one for Will Davis, but both will need to lend strong support in the second innings if we are to come out on top at the end.

Big day tomorrow...

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Sussex v Derbyshire day 1

Derbyshire 338-9 (Reece 51, Godleman 51, Slater 48. Hughes 46)

v Sussex

It was bitter-sweet for Derbyshire today.

After Sussex elected to bowl, they would have hoped to bowl us out before the close, but resolute batting down the order ensured that we managed one of our better team displays with the bat. Frustratingly, once again a number of batsmen got starts, but none went past 51, on a day when the consensus was the home side bowled poorly.

Luis Reece batted as fluently as anyone and continued a fine season, his century stand with Ben Slater suggesting a major first innings score. When both departed with unseemly haste, Billy Godleman and Wayne Madsen continued to build, before Wayne was out leg before.

Yet the skipper and Alex Hughes built again and in  the evening session, with the score 232-3, we were perhaps even contemplating the giddy heights of 400. Yet it all went pear-shaped after Billy's dismissal, soon after he was hit on the hand by an accidental beamer. This was later deemed a break and likely end to his season, with Wayne Madsen taking over as skipper for the rest of this game.

Alex Hughes again batted well and has only to turn these good knocks into special ones to become a fine county cricketer, but the length of the tail was confirmed by the sight of Harry Podmore (career average eight) batting in that position.

Yet from 287-8, the last two wickets have so far added 51 runs. Will Davis hit merrily, while Hamidullah Qadri suggested he wouldn't be eleven in the order for too long, as he supported Harvey Hosein in the day's closing overs. Harvey finished unbeaten on 38, and the two youngsters have an opportunity to take us to 350 tomorrow.

Not a bad effort, by any means, but perhaps an opportunity missed for something special on a wicket that Billy Godleman described as 'a good one where you could trust the sideways movement'.

We'll know more tomorrow, no doubt.

As well as getting a first look at our Viljoen/Davis pace pairing.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Sussex v Derbyshire preview

Three games to go for Derbyshire and the one that starts tomorrow takes them to the scenic splendour of Hove, for a four-day game against Sussex.

Gary Wilson and Imran Tahir continue their hokey-cokey end to the season, out now because of international commitments, so our side isn't the strongest-looking that we have fielded this year. Nevertheless, there are reputations to be built and Harry Podmore, in particular, will hope for better opportunity to impress.

He didn't pull up any trees at Chester-le-Street in a poor team bowling performance, nor did he bowl at all against Glamorgan, so the game hopefully offers him a chance to impress. So too Callum Brodrick, who has looked a player of talent in his few appearances so far and perhaps has a chance to sparkle in the four-day game.

The Derbyshire squad:

Godleman
Reece
Slater
Madsen
Hughes
Critchley
Brodrick
Hosein
Palladino
Viljoen
Davis
Podmore
Qadri

The final side will be dictated by the pitch, as always, but it would be a surprise if we went in without a specialist spinner at this stage of the year, even one as such tender years as Qadri.

The home side has announced a talented squad with a number of exciting young cricketers. They will make for a stern test and, if the game goes its full course, we will do well to come away from this one with the points.

Their squad:

Ben Brown (captain)
Jofra Archer
Danny Briggs
Laurie Evans
George Garton
Chris Nash
Ollie Robinson
Angus Robson
Stiaan van Zyl
Luke Wells
Stuart Whittingham
David Wiese
Luke Wright

Sad to say, I'm predicting a defeat here. Sad to say, but in the light of our four-day performances this year, it's hard to say otherwise, I'm afraid.