Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Derbyshire v Kent day 4

Derbyshire 492 and 94

Kent 412 and 176-3

Kent won by seven wickets

I have to admit being disappointed by this one.

I had a vibe last night that we'd go down today and we did, quite heavily. It was a question of whether we bowled or batted the worst, on a wicket that was offering reasonable help for bowlers. By all accounts Kent got their combination right  and bowled as they needed to do. We didn't and there should be a few embarrassed players tonight. To make nearly 500 in the first innings and then fail to make three figures in the second is, quite frankly, a poor effort. Only Wayne Madsen looked to come to terms with the wicket, which in a decent batting side is, to use that word again, disappointing.

I'm a little baffled tonight to be honest. We have a young leg-spinner who has huge potential in Matt Critchley and he got carted today, as Kent wisely decided to go for it, rather than waiting for one of dodgy bounce to do for them. Yet Matt was the sixth bowler used and we need to get him some overs, in one team or another. I just get the feeling he is currently being used as an afterthought in the championship.

Leg spin is a fiendishly difficult art to master, but there's only one way to do that - by bowling, then bowling more. He's not yet a good enough batsman to play in the latter capacity, so in four-day cricket we either need to bowl him more and accept there will be times he will be costly, or give him the bowling he needs to perfect his skills between the one-day game and the second team. He will be a key component of our one-day side in a more defensive role, but  if he is only going to be used as a second or third spinner in the championship, maybe Alex Hughes or Scott Elstone  should be given a try.

It was all rather a shame for Shiv Thakor, who had the best game of his life yet somehow ended up on the losing side. There wasn't much more that he could have done, that's for sure.

Let's hope that we can put this one behind us with another good T20 performance on Friday night at Northampton. I bet the players are looking forward immensely to the drive down to Hove straight afterwards...that's quite a trek on a Friday night.

Shades of the 'good old days'.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Derbyshire v Kent day 3

Derbyshire 492 and 9-3

Kent 412 (Dickson 207 not, Thakor 5-63, Cotton 3-66)

Derbyshire lead by 89 runs

At one point today, with Kent, without new father Joe Denly, effectively 285-8, Derbyshire entertained hopes of either enforcing the follow on, or at the very least having a healthy first innings lead.

Yet a side that bats low, with Matt Coles a more than handy number ten, recovered to post an all out tally of 412, before reducing Derbyshire to 9-3 by the close. Hughes, Taylor and Rutherford were all out cheaply, with Billy Godleman forced to retire hurt after being hit by a throw from a fielder, according to reports. He will be assessed in the morning to see if he can continue his innings.

It changed the dynamic of the game. In a session, we went from possible winners of the game to quite likely losers, unless someone does something special tomorrow. It is unlikely that a winning position can be manufactured from here, so it would appear that the summit of ambitions, at this stage, is draw number six.

I am no statistician, but I can't think there have been many times in our history when we have conceded a double century to an opposition batsman in three successive matches. South African Sean Dickson carried his bat and his team making half of their total and confirming the promise that was suggested on his arrival in this country.

The bright spots for Derbyshire? A maiden five-wicket haul for Shiv Thakor, who, after his century yesterday has had a match to remember. Ben Cotton also appears to have bowled well and was rewarded with three wickets, while Tony Palladino was as accurate as ever, if wicket-less. At least Tom Taylor got his first of the summer and can hopefully kick on from here.

We will see what tomorrow brings, but the first task tomorrow will be to save the match, with Messrs Madsen and Broom faced with a very similar position to the first innings of the game, when they take guard tomorrow.

As someone said to me recently, it's deja vu all over again...

Monday, 23 May 2016

Derbyshire v Kent day 2

Derbyshire 492 (Thakor 130, Taylor 80)

Kent 79-1 

Derbyshire lead by 413 runs

If Derbyshire are to take the initiative in this game tomorrow, they are going to have to find ways to winkle out the opposition in a way that has thus far proved elusive in this game.

What they did, when they bowled, was produce commendable accuracy and economy, with two an over being the standard for most of them. Ben Cotton took the wicket of the talented Bell-Drummond, courtesy of a stunning catch by Tom Poynton, but it will be a tough ask to get twenty wickets on what appears a docile track, even if getting the timing right on it can prove problematic.

Earlier in the day, Shiv Thakor made a magnificent maiden county century, adding 150, a new county record against Kent, with Tom Taylor for the eighth wicket. It was a fine effort by both, highlighting the depth of batting in the side and the ability in some of its younger members.

When he made his debut, a former county stalwart, discussing him, told me he could bat, as well as bowl. It would appear an accurate summation of things and he looks likely to score his share of runs as well as, in time, taking wickets.

As for Thakor, his century crowned a fine few weeks. As we near the end of May, he has a season batting average of 87, to go with a bowling one of 27 as the county's top wicket-taker. If he carries on at that rate, he will be hard to ignore for some winter recognition, which would be deserved.

Before that, we must see if anything can be manufactured here. Any result looks likely to be by virtue of a last afternoon run chase, succeeding or failing.

We'll see.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Derbyshire v Kent day 1

Derbyshire 381-7 (Madsen 103, Broom 96, Thakor 86 not, Taylor 39 not, Coles 4-75)

v Kent

Having won the toss and opted to bat at Derby today, it would not have been part of the script for Derbyshire to slip to 35-3 inside the first hour, with captain, top scorer and overseas star all back in the pavilion.

There was a time when such a start would have heralded teatime submission, but this Derbyshire side is showing itself to be made of sterner stuff and, by the close, had reached a very respectable 381-7.

The recovery was led by Wayne Madsen, who made his 20th century for the club and reached it with a reverse sweep, a sign of class and confidence. He will be annoyed at going soon afterwards, but shared a fine stand of 161 with Neil Broom, who made 96 and showed, after last night's sensible knock, that he is coming to terms with English wickets at last.

It takes time, even for a man of international experience and with a first-class average north of forty. Yet class will always tell and I have every confidence that he will make a telling contribution for us this season. It was a shame he missed his first ton in our colours, but it will come, before too long.

Broom added 85 with Shiv Thakor, who was unbeaten on 86 at the close and is having a really good season. There were a few doubters last year, when the all rounder struggled for his best form with the bat, even though he bowled well at times. This year he has both disciplines working well, scoring fluently and bowling accurately and well. It is a tough gig, but if Shiv continues to work and listen to his coaches, he has what it takes to go a long way in cricket.

Tom Poynton and Matt Critchley failed, highlighting the dilemma at seven once again for Graeme Welch and supporters. I think that they are both very good cricketers, but eight is their place in the order, at the highest, on their form with the bat this summer. Alex Hughes would give greater depth to the batting and offer something different with skiddy seam, but Critchley offers variety, if he can take wickets with his spin as well as he kept Lancashire quiet last night. He should get to bowl on a last day pitch here.

Of course, Wes Durston is another option, but Wes has a big workload in one-day cricket in the coming weeks and we don't want to overload a very important cog in our T20 plans as captain, pinch-hitter and spin option.

At the end of the day, as the bowlers tired, Tom Taylor came in and shared in an unbroken stand of 69 with Thakor, confirming his own ability with the bat and coming in ahead of Tony Palladino for the first time. They saw off Matt Coles with the new ball and scored steadily, this after the bowler had taken four earlier wickets. I rate Coles as a cricketer and it is just a shame that he occasionally does daft things that get him into bother. He runs in hard all day and hits a good ball too, an asset to any side.

Tomorrow all eyes will be on Shiv Thakor, to see if he can make his first Derbyshire century, and on Tom Taylor, to see if he can register a maiden fifty. If they do and we can push on to 450, then we are in a position of control in this game.

It is all up to the bowlers, after that, though it doesn't look the world's worst batting track at this stage.

Derbyshire v Kent preview

The run up to this fixture is always tinged with sadness for me. I used to enjoy and exchange of mails with the late Martin Moseling, a fervent Kent supporter and accomplished writer, catching up on lives and the fortunes of our teams. His passing was untimely and he is missed by many, not just in his own county.

Today's game's big challenge is to avoid anti-climax after yesterday's sparkling effort. While the photos I saw didn't suggest a packed Old Trafford (how could it be, with the FA Cup final on that featured one of the city's teams?) it will have been a bigger crowd than will be at the 3aaa County Ground today. I hope it is warmer than I experienced on my last trip and am sure that our boys will be looking to get away to a flier this morning.

We need a really good first innings, but the truth is that any tinge of green will see the away team bowl and have a strong likelihood of success. Unless, of course, they misread the pitch...

Derbyshire go with an unchanged squad, namely:

Billy Godleman (Captain)
Chesney Hughes
Hamish Rutherford
Wayne Madsen
Neil Broom
Shiv Thakor
Matthew Critchley
Tom Poynton
Tom Milnes
Tony Palladino
Ben Cotton
Tom Taylor

It looks like one of the seamers will miss out this morning and I wouldn't attempt to second-guess Graeme Welch on that one.

Kent come without the injured Darren Stevens and Adam Riley, so there are recalls for Matt Coles and James Tredwell in their squad. They have been batting well this summer, with another Kiwi, Tom Latham, doing well for them.

Sam Northeast, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Tom Latham, Joe Denly, Sean Dickson, Alex Blake, Adam Rouse, Calum Haggett, Matt Coles, James Tredwell, Mitchell Claydon, Matt Hunn, Ivan Thomas.

While the weather forecast suggests some play lost to light rain tomorrow, the forecast for the rest of the game is fine. We will need to be on top of our game from the outset to get a win on the board and certainly need greater penetration with the ball.

Rekindling the intensity of yesterday would be no bad thing and on that note, thank you to everyone who made it the biggest single day in the blog's history. It went way past the number who looked in when we announced the signing of Shiv Chanderpaul and I did a double-take when I saw the statistics last night.

Thank you - and good luck today, lads!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Lancashire v Derbyshire T20

Lancashire 131-7 (Croft 31, Neesham 2-38)

Derbyshire 132-1 (Rutherford 71 not, Durston 30, Broom 25 not)

Derbyshire won by nine wickets


Since the competition began, there have been few 'special' performances by Derbyshire in T20 cricket. Sure, we have won a few games here and there, with someone producing a little bit extra to get us across the line, sometimes by the skin of our teeth.

Yet today was pretty much a complete performance. Bowling well, fielding tigerishly and then batting with a degree of elan seldom seen in our colours in this format. Sometimes we bowl well, then stumble with the bat; others we do the opposite. Today, in a game that I wrote last night would benchmark us for the season, we set a very high standard indeed.

I really don't care that Lancashire chose to omit one or two players, nor that Jos Buttler and Martin Guptill are still in India. Nor that they lost a bowler after one ball to a nasty injury, because all you can do, at any level of any sport, is to beat the team that are lined up against you. We thrashed them today, end of story.

It was a display that was highlighted by pivotal roles for our three Kiwis. Call them the Otago Musketeers, The Three Amigos or whatever, but they all did a great job today. Jimmy Neesham took two wickets and effected a run out, Hamish Rutherford (pictured) blazed away as you hope your overseas batsman will do, while Neil Broom just played a professional innings. He didn't try to match Rutherford shot for shot, simply gave him the strike and admired it from the best seat in the house. It enabled us to win at a canter, with almost six overs to spare.

Yet it was a team effort. Shiv Thakor bowled two fine Powerplay overs, while Andy Carter did as good a job as Neesham at either end of the innings. In between times, Alex Hughes bowled a fine spell in which he removed the dangerous Petersen, while Matt Critchley was quite outstanding. Until his last ball went for six, he had conceded only thirteen runs in 23 balls, thoroughly justifying his sage selection ahead of Ben Cotton. Horses for courses and the latter's turn will come, but the young leg-spinner played a major part in a youthful - and more than useful - Derbyshire attack.

It was impressively disciplined, with only three wides as extras in the innings, as the home side struggled to reach the fence. A lot of work goes into such displays, work that deserves recognition tonight.

Would we stumble in the pursuit? No, because Wes Durston came out with guns blazing and raced to 30 from 15 balls before being caught. It brought in Neil Broom, perhaps to keep the left/right combo going in the middle, and he ticked over nicely at around a run-a-ball. It was the sort of knock we cried out for someone to play last year and Broom's innings was simply workmanlike and professional, exactly what we needed.

At the other end, Rutherford hit 71 from 40 balls, as only Steven Croft kept a lid on the carnage. What will go down as my Tweet of the day came from the club, saying that you could hear a pin drop at Old Trafford as the Kiwis cantered to victory. There have been enough noisy and boorish defeats in front of Lanky-lanky-lanky-lanky Lancashire fans to make this one quite special.

The challenge now is to make this the standard. If we can do, then a summer of excitement beckons, showcased by our Triwis but underpinned by a fine effort from what is actually a really young team. Perhaps in the next game we will come crashing down to earth, or maybe we will deliver a similar display of consummate professionalism. I know no more than you, but I will savour this one tonight, a win against the reigning champions in their own back yard.

Back to the four-day stuff at Derby tomorrow, quite a contrast, I would think. 

George Formby, Gracie Fields, Kathleen Ferrier, LS Lowry, Neville Cardus, Tom Finney and Andrew Flintoff...your boys took one hell of a beating today.

Your day will come again, but tonight is a good one to be a Derbyshire fan.

Well done to all involved and for putting smiles on faces tonight that I hope are reflected in your comments later.

PS Still unbeaten...

Elvaston is first confirmed date for new book

I am very pleased to confirm that I will be appearing, under a Boundary Club promotion, with Edwin Smith at Elvaston Cricket Club on Friday, July 15.
It will be one of the launch events for my new book 'In Their Own Words: Derbyshire Cricketers in Conversation' and is one that I look forward to immensely. 

I will be chatting to Edwin, a genuine legend who took 1209 wickets for Derbyshire, about his fantastic career, talking about the new book and signing copies both of it and any last copies of my biography of Edwin that we can round up for the event. As these are now in single figures, I cannot guarantee that they will be available, but I will do my best. We are both then happy to answer questions

Elvaston Cricket Club is on Stable Drive, Elvaston,  DE72 3EP and tickets for the event are £3, with proceeds going to the club's Defibrillator Appeal Fund. There will be a bar and food available, with the evening starting at 7.30pm.
Tickets are available from the club, or by calling Andy on 07722 485213.
I do hope that you come along, say hello and enjoy a fun evening of cricket chat, as well as supporting a very worthy cause.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Lancashire v Derbyshire T20 preview

Scott Elstone and Matt Critchley are added to the eleven that I named last night for tomorrow's game against Lancashire at Old Trafford.

The ground often helps spinners, so there is a chance that Matt could play, but all will depend on the look of the wicket tomorrow. There will be considerable interest in the first appearance of Derbyshire's 'Otago Musketeers' in the middle order and irrespective of tomorrow's result against a traditionally strong one-day side, I expect to see improved performance and results for us in this year's competition. Whether that is enough to qualify from a perenially difficult group I don't know, but if we can keep a first-choice side fit, we could do well.

Last year we really had no contribution from the overseas role until Hamish Rutherford arrived, lost Alex Hughes and also Wayne Madsen. Any of those players could have seen games that ended up narrow defeats turned into wins. On such things fortunes change...

Our hosts have not yet got Martin Guptill, so Alviro Petersen and fellow Otago player Neil Wagner headline their side. Their squad:

Karl Brown, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft (Captain), Alex Davies (Wicketkeeper), George Edwards, Gavin Griffiths, Kyle Jarvis, Arron Lilley, Liam Livingstone, Stephen Parry, Alviro Petersen, Luke Procter, Tom Smith, Neil Wagner

Let's face it, they won the competition last year, so they must have a certain aptitude for the format. If nothing else, it will give us a good benchmark for the format and our chances in it.

Remember one thing. Last season, in one-day cricket, we beat Lancashire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, three of the best sides in the country. If we can do it once, I'd argue that we can do it again, with a stronger side this year.

Consistency will decide it, but here's to a good start tomorrow.

Your thoughts, as always, are welcome!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Time we made a decent fist of T20

Derbyshire and T20 haven't mixed in recent years. OK, in any years. Our efforts at competing each year have at times been pitiful, at others frustrating but always underwhelming.

It has not been for the want of trying. There has been a range of big name signings, most notably last year, when the Amla/Dilshan combo patently failed to work. It should have, to be fair, but the former was out of touch and the latter, sadly, some way past his prime.

This year? Well, there is a trio of Kiwis - triwis, if you will - who could just bring their nation's nous at the format to the 3aaa County Ground. While neither Hamish Rutherford or Neil Broom have been in the best of touch so far, sometimes going and giving the ball a smack is just what the doctor orders.

The arrival of their fellow countryman, Jimmy Neesham, could prove a catalyst for them and for their team. Neesham, probably the most entertaining cricketer on Twitter, comes over as a genuine personality who combines sharp wit off the field with rare ability to excite with bat and ball on it. A back injury has set him back for twelve months, but now, fully fit, he will look to use the English competition as a springboard back into the New Zealand side.

He had a good start today, making 65 from 41 balls as a Derbyshire 'Second XI' beat the Unicorns twice. There were runs for his compatriots too, as well as for Alex Hughes, while it was great to see Tom Knight back in the wickets, taking 3-19 in the second game. Ben Slater took two with his leggies, with which he will doubtless be chuffed to the power ten...

Selection is going to be challenging for the right reasons, but I would love to see something close to this side on Saturday at Old Trafford:

Hughes (C)
Hughes (A)

Seven bowlers there, with Tony Palladino given a rest as the wicket-taker in four day cricket. Good depth in batting and excellence in the field. I like the balance.

We will find out Graeme Welch's squad tomorrow.

So what are your teams?

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Essex v Derbyshire day 4

Essex 538-7

Derbyshire 280 and 261-4 (Rutherford 68, Hughes 66 not)

Match drawn

Played five, drawn five in the championship, ahead of the last game in this section of it, against Kent, starting on Sunday at the 3aaa County Ground.

There have been recurring themes - inadequate first innings, lack of penetrative bowling and then a more encouraging second innings. Again, the wicket proved to be the only winner and there was a brief wobble when we lost two quick wickets, but it never looked likely that we would be bowled out a second time, largely thanks to a fifty stand between Hamish Rutherford and Tom Taylor.

Taylor, like Ben Cotton and Tony Palladino, can bat and the days when our last three lasted the time needed for the openers to pad up again are gone. Rutherford did well and will be glad to get some runs under his belt, yet will be disappointed to be out before the end.

I remember years ago talking to a grizzled old professional from Lancashire and the subject went around various themes of batting, one of them the importance of 'cashing in'. I remember him saying to me that any batsman can get out early, even into the teens, but it is important then to capitalise on a start and make a big score. Nick Browne did that, as did Ed Joyce in the last game. Even if they have two or three low scores, they have the memory of that to draw on, like water reserves.

Chesney is doing that this year, his seventh on the staff. There have been times in the intervening period where it looked like he might not make it, but the same thing happened with Billy Godleman, Wes Durston, Wayne Madsen et al All needed several seasons to cement their game at top level, so don't you think we are being unrealistic expecting our seamers to do it in less experience than a season's worth of games?

I take points about Ben Cotton and Tom Taylor, but at their ages, the bad days outnumber the good and do for most young players.  For every Stokes and Root there are a couple of dozen others whose progress is slow. Look at James Vince, who has looked a good player in flashes for a few years, but only now, in his eighth year as a professional, is he seen as the finished article.

In the absence of bottomless pits of money and with a relatively small talent pool to draw on, Derbyshire has to produce its own and wait for them to flourish. I was told the same thing by John Wright when I interviewed him for my forthcoming book  You cannot fast track experience, match skills, mental strength and consistency. In much the same way as a girl has to kiss a lot of frogs to find her handsome prince, batsmen and bowlers alike must experience plenty of failure to enjoy and capitalise on success.

I won't join those suggesting a change of coach, as it is daft. A new coach can't fast track those things above: all he might do is perhaps capitalise on the efforts of those who preceded him. Eddie Barlow worked wonders at Derbyshire, but had the benefit of a clutch of young players, like Tony Borrington, Alan Hill, Harry Cartwright, Colin Tunnicliffe and others, who got their break under Edwin Smith.

Graeme Welch is respected in the game and I doubt we could get a better qualified coach. Yes, if we make a hash of T20 again and play poorly in the fifty-over competition, the grumbles will turn to shouts, but the young players have to learn. To suggest, as someone did the other night, that  'this is the worst Derbyshire team I have seen' only indicates the short-term support of youth. I have seen plenty worse, believe me. Some had wretched days without break, but it lessened neither my support nor my hope for something better around the corner.

The Kiwis will come good and Jimmy Neesham will be very important. We bat long and have young bowlers with good skills  for T20. I won't pretend we have excelled thus summer, but we are still unbeaten. The weather has helped in that, but Welch and his staff can only pick who they have on the staff, and can only have on the staff who and what they can afford.

If it takes another couple of years or so, such is life.

Enjoy the ride, bumpy as it is at times, then savour the end product.

It will come together.