Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Clive Rice

For me, the true judgement of an outstanding all-rounder is simple. Were you to take one of their skills from them, could that player still stand as a first-class player?

Think through a few supposed all round talents in the modern game and the answer is probably no. Yet Clive Rice, who died today, was a giant of a cricketer in an age when they were not in short supply. A fair indicator of his standing in the game, and certainly at Nottinghamshire, where he starred for many seasons, was that it was unlikely they would have swapped him for any of them.

Following Garfield Sobers as overseas player was a thankless task, but Rice, admittedly with a better standard of team mate, did more than the great West Indian at Trent Bridge, which was some achievement. While Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and his Nottinghamshire team-mate, Richard Hadlee were regarded as the four great all rounders of the time, only Rice's lack of international cricket stopped him joining that quartet.

As a batsman he could graft or he could take the game away. 48 hundreds and 137 half centuries confirm his talent, together with another eleven tons in the one-day game. Those runs came at an average in excess of forty, while his 930 wickets came at a cost of just 22. There were a further 517 in the one-day game too, as Rice became a man for all occasions and cricket formats. He was county skippers from 1979 to 1987, leading them to trophies and being a skipper in the Eddie Barlow mode - setting the tone, getting on the front foot and keeping his team on top by personal deeds and force of personality.

By the time South Africa was readmitted to the international fold he was 42 and past his best. He only got three one-day games, but plenty of fine players before him got less. I read of his ill-health only recently and it came as a shock to hear of his passing today.

Nottinghamshire were and are our rivals, but they have perhaps never been better than when Rice and Hadlee took the new ball on helpful tracks. Watching them mark out their run ups made you fear the worst. Watching them walk to the wicket was exactly the same and they rarely let the side down. Both were scrappers, fierce competitors who got the best from helpful bowling conditions, then somehow scored runs when the opposition fancied them too.

Clive Rice was a giant of the game. I mourn his passing and will remember him as one of the best players I have seen.

Rest in peace, Clive.

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire RLODC preview

Derbyshire head to Bristol tomorrow for a game that could see them establish a place in the group's likely qualifiers. Defeat wouldn't end our hopes, but this is a game we can win with commitment, attention to detail and professionalism.

Gloucestershire have some good players, but this summer they have more impressed me as a team that is better than its constituent parts. Skipper Michael Klinger is the 'name' player, but the rest are largely players who fly below the media radar. Having said that, there are some good ones among them and we will need to be at our best tomorrow to beat a side chosen from this squad:

Michael Klinger (c), Chris Dent, Gareth Roderick (wk), Benny Howell, Geraint Jones, Kieran Noema-Barnett, Jack Taylor, James Fuller, Craig Miles, Tom Smith, David Payne, Will Tavare, Liam Norwell.

We keep the same squad as for the first two games, with the addition of Ben Slater. Graeme Welch will announce his final eleven when he has seen the wicket - and probably the weather - tomorrow, but there's enough in this Derbyshire side to secure another win.

I'll report on that tomorrow and keep my fingers crossed that we quickly return to winning ways.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Derbyshire v Yorkshire RLODC

Yorkshire 239-6 in 42 overs (Ballance 69)

Derbyshire 189-9 in 29 overs, chasing 197 to win (Rutherford 56, Godleman 45)

Yorkshire won by seven runs

I have to say I don't really understand Duckworth/Lewis.

How we came to be chasing only 42 less than Yorkshire made in 13 overs less, when they had an uninterrupted innings remains a mystery to me. I know it is all about acceleration and what they might have done, but my life's too short to try and fully understand its intricacies and nuances.

That said, Derbyshire made a very good fist of their run chase tonight and, against the best side in the country, made them fight to the end to hold on. That they did was down to experience and know-how, but our young side can be proud of how we grafted and took it to the wire.

The bowling again held its own against a good side, one with most of its available big guns included. Maybe we could have made better use of the two spinners, whose eight overs went only for 33, Matt Critchley doing well on his List A debut. Yet no one let us down and as in the game at Taunton yesterday, a young attack did an admirable job.

The batting did likewise. Restored to his best place as an opener, Billy Godleman played a fine knock and Hamish Rutherford, with support from the lower order and especially Tom Poynton, almost took us to what would have been an unlikely win. When he was caught on the boundary, from the final ball of the penultimate over, the game was up, but it was a very good effort. Brooks, Patterson and Bresnan, experienced campaigners all, held their nerve and we just hadn't enough in the tank to cope. Again, an experienced finisher in that slot might have made a difference in a narrow finish, something that Graeme Welch will be more aware of than any of us.

Irresepective of the result, it was a game that augurs well for the remainder of the competition. Yes we were beaten, and the churlish will doubtless say that a loss is a loss, irrespective of the margin. I'm not one of them though, because that was an excellent effort.

If we replicate those skills and the intensity shown tonight, more wins will come in this competition.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Somerset v Derbyshire RLODC

Derbyshire 134-7 in 14 overs (Madsen 45, Durston 29)

Somerset 74 all out, set 104 to win in ten overs

Derbyshire won by 29 runs

When I awoke this morning and saw a video of Taunton in the rain on Twitter, the likelihood of play seemed remote. Especially when the regular updates suggested that the rain had eased...no, had got torrential again...

Nonetheless, the ground staff worked wonders and the game was eventually set for fourteen overs, ironically the shortest game we have played all season. Winning the toss in such games is often crucial - and we lost it.

Yet by the end of that innings, I felt confident. We had the equivalent of a near-200 score in T20, which will win you more games than you lose. Star turn was Wayne Madsen, with 45 from 27 balls, while Wes Durston enjoyed himself on his return to his earlier stomping ground, making 29 from 19 balls. There were late innings cameos from Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes and the total looked competitive, at the very least.

The only surprise, indeed, was in such a short game going with Billy Godleman at four. I rate Billy as a cricketer, but this isn't his game and asking him to play the key role of pushing it on from there is akin to asking me to play the role of Johnny Depp in a biopic of the actor. He brings a lot to the side, but we have quick scorers who could and should have gone in earlier, leaving him as an insurance policy if it went pear-shaped.

Still, short boundaries plus big hitting batsmen (even without Trescothick) could have spelled trouble without disciplined bowling, but by crikey we bowled well. From Mark Footitt getting the dangerous Jim Allenby in the opening over, the grip was tightened and never subsequently loosened.

20, 21, 21, 23. That's the age of that attack, Footitt apart and they bowled so well. Compare that to Tim Groenewald's three overs for 35 for total vindication of Graeme Welch's decision to release the South African last summer. Good a bowler as he was, the coach quickly spotted the talent in his young charges and realised that they needed opportunity. With Tom Taylor and Will Davis outside this eleven, not to mention the older Tony Palladino, the potential is obvious. So too is the need to praise Welch for their development, which has been remarkable across the board in just twelve months.

It is one of the things in all sport. As young players come through, their potential needs to be encouraged and Tom Poynton will be well aware that Harvey Hosein will be pushing for top spot with the gloves. At 18, he may be a couple of years from that role outright, but with two players of even equal talent, the younger will always win out, just as Hosein would do himself in ten years time if another, younger challenger comes along. Competition is good for any team and we are getting this now throughout the side.

Thakor may not have made the runs that he or we might have expected this summer, but his bowling has come on a long way. Cotton has been a revelation in the matches he has played and Greg Cork is starting to make a strong case for inclusion. Indeed, a couple of very good judges have told me that they believe that Greg's stronger suit may yet turn out to be his batting, suggesting that he may not be living in his Dad's shadow for too long.

Meanwhile Alex Hughes again did his stuff, with quick runs at the end of the innings, plus two tight overs again, while the catches were held. In short, we were professional and polished, with the skipper doing his job with regular bowling changes that worked. Can you ask more from a performance?

Yorkshire tomorrow, who will doubtless be seeking a revenge for Chesterfield, but that doesn't take away from a good start in this competition.

Played one, won one. Top of the league. No, I'm not having a laugh...

Well done lads. It'll be a jolly old journey home tonight.

Somerset v Derbyshire RLODC

Forgive the use of the acronym, but do please get used to it, because the idea of typing 'Royal London One-Day Cup' on a regular basis in the next couple of weeks doesn't thrill me unduly...

Tomorrow, or rather today as I type this, Derbyshire play Somerset at Taunton in  the first match of a competition that will test their resilience and their Sat-Navs in equal measure. Whatever criteria were used to draw up the schedule, logic doesn't appear to have been one of them. Between tomorrow and next Sunday, the route seems somewhat akin to the old American rock 'n' roll tours, where bookers picked up gigs anywhere and everywhere with scant disregard for the distance in between.

Sunday in Taunton, Monday in Derby, Wednesday in Bristol, Friday in Derby and Sunday at The Oval is like the bad old days of the John Player League, when championship games were interrupted by cross-country hikes with little regard for the welfare of players. After throwing yourself around all day, you ideally don't want to be sitting in a car for several hours, perhaps explaining why we have taken another bowler on loan, just in case.

At least the competition sees us play largely different opposition to the T20, which is something. Despite their being a first division side, this Somerset side is beatable, with no Gayle and no Trescothick from the T20. Their squad, captained by the dangerous Jimmy Allenby:

Jim Allenby (capt), Tom Abell, Michael Bates, Tom Cooper, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Jack Leach, Johann Myburgh, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Peter Trego and Max Waller.

As for Graeme Welch, he has matched a youthful-looking opposition with an equally young Derbyshire squad of rich potential:

Wes Durston
Billy Godleman
Hamish Rutherford
Chesney Hughes
Wayne Madsen
Alex Hughes
Shiv Thakor
Tom Poynton
Matt Critchley
Greg Cork
Ben Cotton
Mark Footitt

One would assume that Matt Critchley will be twelfth man, but there is good depth to the batting that at some point will bear fruit. The duration of the innings and the less frenetic manner of the cricket should suit us. If we can bowl with similar professionalism and skill as we did in the shortest form of the game, there is no reason why we should not do well in this competition.

Derbyshire v Australia day 3

Australia 413-9 declared and 95-1 (Clarke 44 not)

Derbyshire 259 (Palladino 82, Marsh 4-41)

Match drawn

In the end, the match ended in the fashion that I predicted, although not with special prescience. The Australian back up bowlers got a work out, Mitchell Marsh showed himself to be every bit the dynamic all-rounder I have felt him to be for the past two years and it all ended somewhat limply after a rather lack lustre few days.

After losing two sessions to the weather it was always likely to be so and the fact that we selected close to a second team for the match rendered it a somewhat uneven game. That we got as close as we did to the Australian score was due to an innings of rare brilliance from Tony Palladino, who seems to harness the spirit of Gilbert Jessop whenever he hears Australian accents.

Tonking the ball merrily through and over the field, Tony's 82 came from just 68 balls and was as diametrically opposed to the attritional nature of what went before it as was possible. Four sixes and eight fours poured from the bat of a man who must be close to consideration as an all-rounder these days. He is a fine professional and a cricketer we should cherish, always giving of his best in every match.

He was well supported by David Wainwright, who made 38 and reminded everyone of the sort of rearguard action that was once commonplace. It is just such a shame that David seems to lack confidence in his bowling these days, some way short of the man who looked so impressive in that golden summer of 2012.

The same must be said for Jonathan Clare, who is feeling his way back into the first-class game after too long out with a major back problem. Will we see either in the county colours again? I don't know the answer to that one, but the reality is that both have younger competition for the jobs they do in the side. Ultimately, in any sport, that happens and it is tough to see a talented match-winner, which Jonathan was in his prime, struggling to re-establish himself.

The Australians seemed to be model guests and conducted themselves well, signing autographs as one would hope they would do of course. For the young people who attended and got those signatures, the three days and the result were largely incidental.

They rubbed shoulders with cricketing deities and will doubtless keep the evidence of that for years to come.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Fantasy Cricket update

Early congratulations are perhaps apposite for David Aust, who is a piffling 1600 points clear  in the Peakfan Blog Fantasy Cricket League.

David is 54th in the overall competition, while Matthew Entwistle is just 300 points (or a good innings from Prince or Petersen) ahead of Dean Doherty, with Dean shadowing himself in fourth place with his B team (well, I hope it is!)

As for old Peaky, I am nicely up to mid-table, a consequence of having used all my players, but also electing good old Ashwell Prince as skipper...all those runs and counting them twice  - I salute you, sir....

I can live with that, considering I haven't looked at the league for about three weeks!

Good luck to all, in the remainder of the season.

Derbyshire v Australia day 2

Derbyshire 81-2 v Australia

Anyone think that this game will result in an exciting last day run chase? Derbyshire declare overnight, Australia forfeit their second innings and we set off in pursuit of 333 to win?

I don't. While the inexperience of the Derbyshire side suggests that we wouldn't get close anyway, I can't see Australia giving us the option. Instead, I think that we will bat on tomorrow, weather permitting, until we are all out or declare, giving their attack a handy work out. Then they will go in again for another knock, allowing those most in need of time in the middle (Michael Clarke?) a chance to do so.

All things being equal, we did not too badly today, albeit aided by twenty extras that boosted the score somewhat artificially. The attack they had out was a good one and we battled, which is what you want a side to do.

It would be good to see the rest of the batting line-up show equal willingness to graft and both Jonathan Clare and David Wainwright need some runs after failing to register with the ball yesterday. Both have endured difficult spells and deserve a good day.

Having said that, there will be neither quarter asked, nor given, against such opponents.

A nailed on draw this one, after the rain. Anything else would be a serious surprise.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Derbyshire v Australia day 1

Australia 413-9 (Marsh 101 retired, Warner 101 retired, Davis 3-63, White 2-85)

v Derbyshire

The visitors may have racked up 400 at Derby today, but against what was close to a second team attack, that was always likely.

Shaun Marsh, a batsman I have always liked, joined Test incumbent Dave Warner in a stand of 154 for the first wicket, but thereafter our young attack came back into it and gave a decent account of themselves.

Harry White, at 20, did a good job as another left-arm option to our seam bowling ranks, while star turn was Will Davis (pictured), who at 19 looks a bowler of some potential. I have heard many things about him, all of it positive and his spell in the afternoon, when he dismissed Michael Clarke and Adam Voges, looked most impressive. He bowls with lively pace and will almost certainly get quicker as he thickens out.I don't think we have too much to worry about in the seam bowling ranks for the next few years, because the talent is undoubtedly there and Graeme Welch is as good a man as there is to build on their talents.

Indeed, the ranks were bolstered in the short term by the loan signing of 22-year old Warwickshire seamer Tom Milnes today. He has come on board for a month, presumably covering for Tom Taylor, who was injured in a car crash the other day. With Ben Cotton just returned from a side strain, Graeme Welch will be loathe to overwork Greg Cork and Davis at a formative stage of their development and has rightly and sensibly moved for a bowler of talent who he knows well from his days at Edgbaston.

Whether this is with a view to a longer-term deal is anyone's guess, though the use of 'it gives him a chance to show us what he can do' in the club's write-up suggests it may be a possibility. The player's contract is up this summer, so he has an opportunity to impress in the next few weeks.

I wish him well, like the Derbyshire batsmen tomorrow.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Derbyshire v Australia

I'm feeling quite psychic tonight.

First I predicted that Mark Footitt wouldn't play against Australia tomorrow, which turned out to be bang on the money, then suggested that Derbyshire might look to the Kolpak market for recruitment, something that Graeme Welch confirmed in an interview with Mark Eklid in today's Derby Telegraph.

Much as I suggested, we might even be prepared to go 8/3, if the right players were available. It just makes sense, with Welch suggesting a Kolpak and an English passport player, plus an overseas. A cursory glance at white players in South Africa whose futures could be under threat from the changes threw up a few interesting names. None of them may be interested in giving up their international claims, but there are some good players in there.

I also said that Mark Footitt wouldn't play against Australia and he's not. It made no sense at any point for him to do so, given that we'd want his pace to come as a surprise for England, should he be required. He also has a lot of bowling to do for us this summer and a couple of wickets against Australia is really neither here nor there. We all know he can bowl and if he doesn't get a tour chance this winter the selectors clearly have no idea what they are doing.

The side tomorrow sees a number of regular players rested, but a welcome return for Ben Slater, fresh from scoring a hundred in each innings against Worcestershire Seconds. He skippered the side to a fine win and should be full of confidence for his return. The lad will have benefited from his break and will be a long-term talent for the club.

The side:

Ben Slater
Hamish Rutherford
Wayne Madsen
Scott Elstone
Harvey Hosein
Jonathan Clare
Tom Knight
David Wainwright
Tony Palladino
Harry White
Will Davis

Rob Hemmings is twelfth man.

There is a rare outing for David Wainwright and Jonathan Clare, while Harry White and Will Davis make up a youthful but talented seam attack with Tony Palladino. The youth of the side suggests they are unlikely to replicate the win that the 1996 side had over the tourists, but they will doubtless battle hard and gain great encouragement from any successes. Which is what it is all about, of course.

Australia will doubtless play their fringe players, though Shaun Marsh has a strong claim on a Test place should Chris Rogers not recover from his dizzy spells before the next one. Shane Watson will be desperate for runs, as will Brad Haddin, but there should be good entertainment for the crowd.

I'd hoped to get down there for this one, but have too many other commitments closer to home.

I will be following things closely from afar and hope we give a good account of ourselves.