Saturday, 30 April 2016

Final call for Edwin Smith book

I had the pleasure of an afternoon with Edwin Smith and his delightful wife, Jean this week. It was good to catch up with a true legend of Derbyshire county cricket and to see him in such rude health.

On my next visit, I will realise an ambition and play snooker against him. Maybe I should re-phrase that...I will be beaten by Edwin at snooker. He still plays to a very high standard and while I know I won't face him on a cricket field, this is a pretty good plan B, as far as I am concerned!

He told me that he has four signed copies of his biography still available and if anyone is interested in buying one of these, please drop me an email and I will put you in touch with him.

The Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians has a single figure quantity left of a final print run and these can be obtained by calling 01323 460174. Copies cost £14 plus post and packing, whether from Edwin or the society.

There is just over a month to until the launch of my second book, 'In Their Own Words: Derbyshire Cricket in Conversation'. This will be published on June 1 by Pitch Publishing and will be available in hard back and ebook.

More on that in due course!

Friday, 29 April 2016

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire preview

It is, as Graeme Welch pointed out today, a sign of Derbyshire's progress that Ben Slater cannot get into the squad for the trip to Wantage Road, for the game that starts on Sunday.

Nor can Matt Critchley, who is likely to be omitted from the side that played Glamorgan at Derby in favour of Shiv Thakor. The latter did all he could do after being left out for the home match - he went away to the seconds and took economical wickets for the seconds, as well as scoring runs.

With skipper Billy Godleman replacing Slater, Derbyshire are likely to line up as follows:

Godleman
Hughes
Rutherford
Madsen
Broom
Durston
Thakor
Poynton
Palladino
Fletcher
Carter

Northamptonshire's small squad is stretched by the absence of several key players, including Rob Keogh, Rob Newton, Steven Crook and Olly Stone. Nor is Monty Panesar considered fit enough to play yet, so they go with the following squad:

Wakely (C), Sanderson, Duckett, Gleeson, Libby, White, Cobb, Azharullah, Levi, Rossington (WK), Murphy, Crook, Kleinveldt. 

The keen-eyed will see Crook in the squad but deemed unlikely to play by the local newspapers.

The forecast is pretty favourable, with light rain showers on Monday deemed the only inclement weather, so this is a game that Derbyshire could win. While the home side has some good players, I'm going to tip our lads to produce their best form and return with win points in the bag.

It is worth remembering that we are still unbeaten since the start of  pre-season, so confidence should be high and I am anticipating another strong team performance.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Slow start but potential for more

Played two, drawn two.

That is Derbyshire's record so far and fourth place after two matches is just about where most people  expected us to be. Top half, steady in batting and with question marks thus far against the bowling. We'd take that placing at season end, but hope for more exciting events between times.

In their defence - and that of most teams in the division, the new regulations on the toss, or lack of one, are leaving clubs running scared. There are unlikely to be first-day, old school green tops, because the away side will exercise their right to bowl and leave the home club playing catch up for the rest of the game.

To be fair, I think the majority of supporters would prefer seeing a game of 200 plays 200, even if the match finishes inside three days, to one where you see two big first innings and get no closer to a result than Julian Clary is to Tyson Fury. It effectively renders days three and four of most matches pointless. If the power that be are wanting to lessen still further the appeal of four-day 'proper' cricket, they are going the right way about it.

After those first few games, I am reassured by Derbyshire's batting. Even without Billy Godleman and with our Kiwi signings still to fire, we are scoring runs down the order. Wayne Madsen, Chesney Hughes and Ben Slater are in good form and there are good players outside the eleven awaiting an opportunity.

The bowling hasn't really had a chance. Andy Carter and Luke Fletcher look good bowlers and Tony Palladino is running in more freely than last year. When wickets are more conducive to their talents - and they will be around the circuit - they will get people out. That we lack a quality spinner is a given, though Wes Durston bowls steadily. Truth be told, there are few quality spin bowlers in the division, while identifying regular twirly match-winners around the country would not require the use of all digits on one hand.

Essex are off to a flier, as they should be with their squad, but you also need a combination of good fortune and players to take full advantage of result tracks. What I think is a clear way forward, after two games, is that any team with genuine aspirations of success will need to play brave cricket.

By 'brave', I mean that sides will need to be willing to risk defeat in order to win. If one were to use Warwickshire, Graeme Welch's old club, and Derbyshire as examples, the former had the players to produce basic, route one cricket - score heavily, then bowl sides out with quality seam and world-class spin. That's all well and good, but not every side is blessed with such talent.

While fully accepting that the weather took too much out of the game at Derby over the past four days, similar wickets in the months ahead should produce results, especially if we can get a little bounce and some sunshine on them. It does look, however, as if there will be last days where those brave decisions will have to be made.

Setting or chasing, say, 270 in sixty overs could see defeat, but could see a win if we bat, bowl and field with the intensity that I saw at Derby. Sure, a couple of chances went down, but on days that Jacques Rudolph claimed were the coldest on which he has played cricket, I can forgive that. Even on a dead afternoon yesterday, Derbyshire maintained focus, professionalism and discipline.

They will need all of that in the months ahead. I'm happy to see them risk defeat in order to win, as long as they have a fighting chance of doing so.

Far better as an option than a dull as dishwater final afternoon that ends in a draw of stupefying boredom.

Thoughts?

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 4

Glamorgan 377 and 87-2

Derbyshire 345

Match drawn

I decided today that, as a fairly recent owner of a puppy, I was going to commemorate the arrival of Wallace with a cricket award. The winner, even at this early stage of the season, of the inaugural PUP (Peakfan's Utterly Pointless) Award will be today's cricket.

Last night, when Derbyshire continued to bat after the dismissal of Wayne Madsen, I felt that an opportunity for a result had gone. When we came back out to bat at six o'clock it seemed even more likely and that was confirmed this morning, when Tom Poynton and Andy Carter took their last wicket stand to 56, before the latter was dismissed for a career-best 39.

I understand that Derbyshire wanted to make a game of it on the last day, but the visitors were unwilling to do so. I get that, having lost their first game under a new coach. In addition, the timing of a declaration was always going to be problematic, when it was far from clear how much of the day would be lost to the weather. Still, all that was left was an utterly meaningless last day of cricket that carried the spectator value of watching someone cut their toenails.

To be fair to Derbyshire, they maintained focus and both Luke Fletcher and Wes Durston bowled good spells. Fletcher removed Kettleborough with one he left that bowled him, while Durston had Bragg leg before with a decision that the batsman patently disagreed with.

So long did he linger, in fact, that he will be lucky to avoid censure. His look back at the umpire and louder than it should have been oath as he walked off were both telling and unnecessary. I understand frustrations in the game, but when you play at any level of it for a while, you realise that sometimes they go your way too.

I left as very obvious storm clouds gathered over the ground. Perhaps it was nature's way of putting us all out of our misery, although I may well have gone anyway. I rarely leave a game of cricket before the day's last ball has been bowled, but today was nothing more than a glorified net session and I am not that desperate for entertainment.

On the up side, it was good to see Billy Godleman heading to the nets and returning with a smile on his face, presumably an indicator that it went well. Pop's next decision is, I assume, who partners him at Northampton on Sunday.

So it is back to Scotland for me tomorrow. My next trip down will hopefully see better weather (it couldn't be worse!) and a 'proper' game of cricket. It is a shame, as the three previous days had contained much to admire and enjoy, if not the weather...

As for that award, I will have a chat with Wallace, our fox terrier, when I get home tomorrow.

I'm sure he can come up with something appropriate...

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 3

Glamorgan 377

Derbyshire 331-9 (Madsen 97, Slater 62, Durston 43, Carter 31 not, Poynton 30 not)

Derbyshire trail by 46 runs

With a day of this game to go and more inclement  weather forecast for tomorrow, it is hard to see how a positive result can be achieved in this one.


On another bitterly cold day, Ben Slater and Wayne Madsen batted sensibly and well in the first hour or so, each reaching a deserved fifty that owed as much to common sense as it did sound technique. There was plenty of time to admire Slater's two variants on the leave  - one is more expansive than the other, perhaps a 'You must be joking?' to a 'Nah, no thanks' of the first. He leaves a ball well and looks increasingly an assured presence at the crease. He needs only turn these assured fifties into match and career-defining centuries to become the real deal. As it is, Graeme Welch has a tough decision on his hands when choosing between Ben and Chesney to partner Billy Godleman in the coming weeks.

Madsen looked his usual assured presence. Only a ball that rapped him on the hand after lifting from a length disturbed his equilibrium, yet his retort was successive square cuts for four that reasserted his presence. There is an air of solidity about Wayne's batting that is unusual among Derbyshire batsmen and, at his best, it is hard to see anyone getting him out.

On the other hand, Neil Broom looked a little at sea and needs time on English wickets to be seen at his best. Wes Durston played some expansive shots in his inimitable style, yet never suggested solidity nor permanence, playing and missing regularly against Graham Wagg in particular, before getting caught behind. Wagg and David 'Bumble 2' Lloyd bowled well after lunch for the visitors, looking altogether more of a challenge than those before the interval.

Matt Critchley is a wonderful talent and will become a very important player for Derbyshire, but is batting too high at number seven on this showing. At 19 it is perhaps unrealistic to expect otherwise, but he never got going and was well held by Jacques Rudolph at slip.

Madsen was becalmed on reaching the eighties, largely the result of losing the strike. In four successive overs, partners played out five balls then took a single from the sixth and for me, it looked like he was trying to push to his century ahead of a declaration when he advanced down the wicket against Salter and effectively yorked himself. It was a superb, nigh-flawless innings, that once again highlighted his importance to the side.

When Tony Palladino fell to a good leg side catch by Cooke, the Derbyshire innings had somewhat gone off the rails. Luke Fletcher's trudge to the wicket was accompanied by gathering clouds and he faced only five balls before the umpires removed the bails and the ground staff brought on the covers as the rain/sleet/hail/snow began to fall. In his short stay, I thought Tom Poynton looked good and his feet were moving much better than they ever did last year, a good sign in any batsman.

I left the ground with the ground looking eerie under the floodlights and liberally covered by Neil Godrich and his efficient team. Further play looked unlikely, barring a miracle of biblical proportions.

A last afternoon run chase is the only chance of a result here, but with both captains uncertain as to what time is left in the game, any declaration is unlikely to be realistic nor  the cause of a positive result.

Thoughts on the game so far? Despite one or two failures, I have few concerns over our batting. Neither Kiwi scored runs, but they will and we mounted a decent tally without them. The bowling looks more functional than deadly, but time will tell. To say 'we miss Footitt' is easy and undeniable, as any team would miss a 'go to' bowler as he was.

There is a dilemma for Graeme Welch at seven though. At this stage it is essentially between three all-rounders: Shiv Thakor (the best bowler), Alex Hughes (the best batsman) and Matt Critchley, who gives variation. Tom Knight, if his bowling returns, could be another option, but we could do with one of those players kicking on and delivering, for the better balance of the team in four-day cricket.

Finally, massive respect to James Pipe and to the ground staff today. SHORTS! In April, when most people were wearing several layers of clothes and wondering where they could procure more. I can only assume those concerned have constitutions like an ox, or wooden legs, as the circulation in mine would surely have ended, if the skin were exposed to the elements today.

Gentlemen, I salute you!

Postscript - I wrote this at tea, when the thought of spending  time on a cold, soggy cricket ground had as much appeal as dipping my feet in acid. To get from the then 274-8 to 331-9 in little time was a good effort and reinforced my earlier assertion that TP is batting well.

As for Andy Carter - who knew we had a top value tailend clumper, as well as a fine bowler?

I didn't. It shows good team spirit, which augurs well.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 2

Glamorgan 377 (Palladino 5-83)

Derbyshire 98-2 (Slater 41 not, Madsen 23 not)

Derbyshire trail by 279 runs.

Derbyshire didn't get long in the middle today, after fighting back well with the ball to get Glamorgan out for 377. For most of the day yesterday, 450 looked likely, but the admirable Tony Palladino added another five-wicket haul to his collection for the club and only some late, lusty blows from van der Gugten took the visitors past 350.

Our reply was a little stop start affair and we lost Chesney to a flat-footed shot that has been too common in previous years. When Hamish Rutherford perished to third man, one of the more unusual ways to get out in a four-day game, there could have been alarm bells ringing, but Ben Slater batted sensibly and with considerable skill, while Wayne Madsen simply did what he has been doing all season so far. If one accepts his retirement on 100 against Durham MCCU as a not out, Waynce currently sits with a season average of 300. Bradmanesque? Madsenesque, perhaps. In this form there are few better players in the country and aspirations of England may not be unrealistic.

Hopefully there will be better luck tomorrow, but the forecast isn't great and this game looks even more the nailed-on draw that it appeared at lunchtime yesterday. I doubt we will see a challenging declaration on the last day at this stage of the summer, but I will be there to see how it goes regardless.

One final word - Mark asked my thoughts on Martin Guptill going to Lancashire. I have no issue with it. Gup is a wonderful player and will doubtless do well for them, but from a balance perspective our need for this year was more a batsman who bowls or all-rounder.  The batting looks strong and long and be in no doubt that Jimmy Neesham is a very good cricketer. Assuming that he is over his back injury, he could give us the 'nous' to get across the finishing line in the T20.

I'm sure Martin Guptill will be warmly welcomed back at Derby in any capacity, for or against us.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Derbyshire v Glamorgan day 1

Glamorgan 308-6 (Bragg 129, Palladino 3-62, Carter 2-83) v Derbyshire

All things being equal, Derbyshire did pretty well today at the 3aaa Coiunty Ground, on a day when the weather rendered anything less than five layers of clothing foolhardy, and those with less than three in danger of frostbite.

I felt sorry for the players, to be honest and the sight of Andy Carter and Luke Fletcher tearing in with only short-sleeve shirts on should have immediately qualified both for the final of Endurance. Both bowled very well, bent their backs and kept largely excellent lines and lengths, yet the wicket suggested from the start that there was little in it for them.

I am concerned for this year's championship, because the competition will be won by the groundsman who can produce a wicket that offers bowlers help but allows batsmen to score runs if they work. At the moment, too many are too heavily weighted in favour of the latter, as evidenced by Glamorgan declining the option to bowl and instead hoping to win the toss and bat. They did.

We omitted Cotton and Thakor from the thirteen in favour of Palladino and Critchley. Tony Palladino took three wickets and ran in with his usual commitment, his line and length improving as the day went on and rustiness left him. It was obvious that he has recovered from last year's knee problem and heartening to see.

Runs came more steadily as the day went on and the spinners had spells. The wicket was drier than expected, hence the team selection of two, but it will need to deteriorate quickly for batsmen to be unduly worried.

It was too cold to swing, too dry to move around and too easy for the batsmen for most of the day, but credit where it is due to our bowlers for maintaining discipline throughout the day. Early breakthroughs tomorrow would make things interesting, but there was little to suggest it tonight, even though Andy Carter took two in two in the final session and Wes Durston removed the excellent Will Bragg after a fine hundred.

A few observations on the day? I thought Hamish Rutherford captained with intelligence and set some interesting fields, not simply conforming to the coaching manual. Two short extras and two short mid-wickets were set for different batsmen and he impressed me.I also thought Derbyshire were more 'chirpy' in the field than I have seen for a while and that is a positive. Tom Poynton set the tone and Messrs Carter and Fletcher bristled with aggression. While not wanting to see us descend to the level of some county sides in the field, it was good to see us maintaining focus and a competitive edge to the end of the day.

As for the ground, the new look was excellent. The media centre is coming on well and is still on target for early July, while the new PA system is excellent. Previously one needed an ear trumpet and a seat below the speaker to make out announcements; now they were crystal clear - well done!

The club shop is a nice new addition and combines second-hand cricket books with merchandise, all served by a very friendly woman with a ready and regular smile - again, something to be applauded.

I loved the new boards outside the pavilion that showed the club's history timeline and that of the ground too. It gives a sense of where we have travelled from as we aim for something much better. All very positive and sincere congratulations to all involved in making the ground more like a stadium. The boundaries have come in quite a lot too - I'd guess ten to fifteen yards in place, which will doubtless be appreciated on T20 nights...

Finally, thanks to all those whose company I enjoyed today. It is always reassuring to see familiar faces as a new season dawns and it was a pleasure to talk to you all.

Who knows, next time I may not look like an extra in a documentary on Eskimos...

More from me tomorrow.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Interesting trialist

There was an interesting name in the second eleven that beat Somerset by three wickets at Taunton School.

At 21, Jonathan 'Jonny' Tattersall is a former England under-19 from Halifax who played but one List A game for Yorkshire before being released. A few games on trial at Durham saw runs, but his debut for Derbyshire was impressive.

Similar in build to Joe Root, Tattersall is slight and not a big hitter, but played a fine hand in the second innings, making an unbeaten 124 as opener to steer his side home. It followed on from a fine match for Greg Cork, who took four wickets in the first innings and then scored fifty in each knock.

Matt Critchley carried his fine winter into the summer months and took five second innings wickets that earned him elevation to the senior squad.

Whether Tattersall can do enough to warrant a senior contract is a moot point and it is ironic that we now seem to have options as openers for the first time in a few years.  Godleman, Slater, Hughes and Rutherford are all strong options, but the youngster, highly-regarded at one time, can do no more than score heavily and see what happens.

Having played a major role in getting England to the under-19 World Cup final in 2014, Tattersall can obviously play and I will be watching his progress with interest, as with all the young players.

They are, after all, the next generation.

Well done, lads!

Derbyshire v Glamorgan preview

More than anything, as we approach the first home game of the summer, I hope for a sporting wicket where scores of 250-350 play off against each other, batsmen can score runs but bowlers can get something out of it with the requisite skills and effort.

It is all you want from a cricket wicket and in many ways the surfaces produced by Neil Godrich will define our season. Looking at the team critically, there are runs-a-plenty in the batting, but to get wickets on dead wickets needs a special bowler of which the county game has few.

Despite a poor showing at Bristol, I remain hopeful that the seam attack can get wickets on a surface offering help and expect to see Tony Palladino return to the Derbyshire side tomorrow against Glamorgan.Our seamers will need rotated this summer and Tony is probably glad to have missed Bristol, but he knows the Derby wicket well and I expect him to replace Ben Cotton tomorrow.

Matt Critchley's inclusion in the squad gives them an option if the wicket is dry, but that would be a feat in itself at this stage of the season. If he played it would likely be at the expense of Shiv Thakor, as otherwise the latter would be first change seamer, something he is perhaps not yet ready to do.

I'd be surprised though, so Palladino for Cotton is my likely change to Bristol, leaving us as:

Slater
Hughes
Rutherford
Madsen
Broom
Thakor
Durston
Poynton
Palladino
Fletcher
Carter

Glamorgan are missing the injured Colin Ingram, so young batsman Aneurin Donald retains his place in a side well-beaten by Leicestershire in their first game. Jacques Rudolph remains a threat with the bat and Graham Wagg is a key member of the side.

J Rudolph (capt), J Kettleborough, W Bragg, C Cooke, A Donald, D Lloyd, G Wagg, C Meschede, M Wallace, M Hogan, T van der Gugten, A Salter, H Podmore

It is a game that we can win, but there is rain about on a couple of days and the question is whether there is enough time in the game for a positive result to be forced by either side.

Nonetheless, I will be down at the ground, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed tomorrow, eager to see the new look to the place and to see our favourites in action.

I look forward to seeing you there over coming days. Now to throw the last things in my travel bag and get on the road, after saying farewell to the family.

See you soon!

Friday, 22 April 2016

Back in God's own county

It has been a hectic few days for old Peakfan for a range of reasons, but tomorrow I will be heading down to God's own county for a few days.

I am looking forward to it immensely and will be previewing the Glamorgan game tomorrow evening.

An unchanged twelve from Bristol, with Matt Critchley added seems to cover all the bases, while the game will see a return to Derby of Graham Wagg, always a popular figure.

More from me tomorrow and I look forward to seeing old friends over the coming days!