Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Sussex v Derbyshire day 4

Derbyshire 150 and 307 (Thakor 81)

Sussex 447-8 and 11-0

Sussex won by ten wickets

Well, the tail wagged and a second innings of respectability was reached, but it was too little, too late for Derbyshire in this one. As was always likely after being bowled out in a session on the first day, of course.

That's our last four-day cricket for some time and thank goodness for that, as it has been a disappointment. Here's hoping we make a better fist of the fifty and twenty-over stuff, which occupies our minds for the next few weeks. It looks a stronger format for us at present, though 'stronger' may or may not be relative. Time will tell on that...

Tomorrow I will look at our T20 side and its make up, but the sole encouraging factor of the loss at Hove was that the players battled to the end. Such a mentality is good to see and is indicative of a team spirit that is still strong. If the 'name' players come to the party now, we'll have a chance of putting some results together.

Anyway, the loss was the one bad thing about today. The month ending tonight is the second busiest month in the blog's history, beaten only by July of last year in the amount of hits. Indeed usage continues to grow, which is a great thrill after several years and when it might have peaked. Thanks to all for your continued involvement and support.

I hope that extends to my book, 'In Their Own Words: Derbyshire Cricketers in Conversation', which is out tomorrow. You can order it through all good bookshops and it is on Amazon as both a hardback book and as an ebook for download. I've had nice and favourable comments ahead of publication but the acid test is what readers think and I hope you first of all buy it and then let me know in due course.

With representation from older legends of the club like Walter Goodyear, Edwin Smith and Harold Rhodes, as well as newer ones such as Wayne Madsen, Graeme Welch and James Pipe and plenty in between, I hope you learn something and get a few laughs and an insight into the professional game along the way.

If you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed chatting to some of my heroes, I can live with that!

Until tomorrow.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Sussex v Derbyshire day 3

Derbyshire 150 and 195-6 (Thakor 58 not, Godleman 49)

Sussex 447-8 (Wells 104, Brown 61, Critchley 2-101)

Derbyshire trail by 102 runs

Barring rain of biblical proportions tomorrow, which would scarcely be fair on the home side, Derbyshire will lose this game by an innings and plenty, probably some time before lunch.

It has been a poor display, albeit one which highlighted a couple of things, as I followed events from afar (while painting my garden fence, truth be told).

One is that there is at least fight and discipline in the side, especially from some of the younger contingent. Quite frankly, Shiv Thakor is magnificent at present and can be absolved from any criticism with his willingness to occupy the crease, while still playing shots and scoring runs at a good rate. His average for the season is now a remarkable 94 and it must be something in the name, his willingness to battle for the cause reminiscent of Shiv Chanderpaul at his best.

Discipline was evident in the bowling. In a score of 447 in 110 overs, there were only twelve extras, which speaks volumes for the bowlers and wicket-keeper Tom Poynton, even if the end figures were not ones they will recall in their memoirs.

Our problems are twofold at present. One is the youth of the attack, which battles gamely but is a little out of its depth. In the long term they will benefit from the exposure to top level batsmen and there are signs from all of them that they are, if not swimming strongly in the first-class game, bobbing along gamely on the tide. Ben Cotton, Tom Taylor and Matt Critchley are all showing promise in bursts, but it is unrealistic to expect them to run  through teams.

The other is in the batting. Thakor speaks for himself, Wayne Madsen is averaging his usual fifty and Chesney Hughes 65. Cap'n Billy is in the steady if not spectacular mid-thirties, but the problem lies with our two Kiwis.

That both are good players is evident from their records in the first-class game. However, it isn't happening for them right now and that must be a frustration for Graeme Welch, as much as supporters. There wasn't a single dissenting voice when Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom were signed, but the reality is that they each currently average 25 in the four-day game, which is much less than Ben Slater, who is outside the eleven.

This isn't 'have a go at the Kiwis' hour, but with the status of overseas player and one brought over on a British passport comes expectation of performance. They know that and we know that. I have said before that a good county batsman should be averaging in the thirties, a very good one in the forties. For me, the benchmark of an overseas batsman has to be fifty or thereabouts. You are paid well and looked after, so the return should be relative to that. I admit I grew up on the feats of Wright and Kirsten, but we have had plenty of others who spoiled us from that angle, including Rogers, Di Venuto, Katich, Azharuddin and Jones. They set the standard that others must aspire to.

25 doesn't cut the mustard and both men have to up their games in the second half of the summer. It won't make any difference to the championship, because any expectation of achievement there is largely gone for the reasons stated above. Yet we need them to produce their best form and give supporters something to cheer in the one-day game. They can do it and on their improved efforts we can see performances improve.

In closing tonight, read a very interesting post from 'Roy of the Falcons' that I received earlier today and is below last night's piece. I totally agree with him as you will realise from the above, as well as the article I wrote 'Time for a Reality Check' last week.

Keep your comments coming my friends, but please avoid conjecture, personal stuff and insults.

It's a bad old trot, but as supporters, the clue is in the name - and this is when the players need it more than ever.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Sussex v Derbyshire day 2

Derbyshire 150 (Thakor 47 not)

Sussex 342-4 (Joyce 106, Wells 104 not, Nash 65, Taylor 54, Madsen 2-65, Taylor 2-87)

Sussex lead by 192 runs

At the end of another fairly wretched day, Derbyshire are still just about within sight of Sussex in this match, but need to bowl extremely well tomorrow and then bat a heck of a lot better than they have done in their last two championship innings to give them a game.

The thinking money is on it not happening at present, much as it pains me to say so. There appears a crisis of confidence that I hope can be sorted soon and the onus is on the senior players to rally and turn things around. In such roles they are paid well and need to justify those salaries, as do all professional sportsmen.

To give credit to Derbyshire, they stuck to their task fairly well and didn't give too much away. Wayne Madsen confirmed that my pre-season appraisal of his bowling was accurate in bowling a long and economical spell that was rewarded with two wickets, while two late wickets for Tom Taylor made up for some earlier expense. The discipline that they show will come in useful in years to come, but for now they are just not penetrative enough and the attack lacks the 'oomph' it had when the captain could toss the ball to Mark Footitt.

The others bowled tidily, but the batsmen were largely untroubled and, from reports, rather got themselves out.

We'll see tomorrow if there is more fight in the side, but the likelihood is that there will be a deficit of around 350 on first innings.

The stuff of nightmares, really.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Sussex v Derbyshire day 1

Derbyshire 142-9 (Thakor 44 not) v Sussex

I think it is safe to say, from his remarks at the end of the day, that Graeme Welch was unhappy with his side today.

Rightly so. Having had the option to bowl today, we opted to toss, lost it and Sussex opted to bowl. Welch and Billy Godleman presumably thought that the best chance of success in this game was in batting first - the coach suggested 250 would have been a competitive score, but it didn't work out that way.

'Poor shot selection' said Welch. To be fair, having arrived at their hotel in the early hours, they may have got to the ground and wondered what format they were playing. By the same token, the weather meant they didn't play till after tea and they should have been well tuned by that stage.

It was a dispiriting day, truth be told, each buzz of my phone heralding a new tweet and another wicket. Once again the admirable Shiv Thakor held things together and led a late rally, but there was little support and to lose nine wickets in forty overs was an especially weak effort.

Got to do better than this, fellas.

For your coach, the supporters and professional pride.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Sussex v Derbyshire championship preview

Just a short piece from me on this one, but I reckon somewhere near the south coast tonight, Ed Joyce must be in bed now, his trusty willow on the pillow beside him, ready to dream of carrying on where he left off at Derby a couple of weeks back.

Indeed, the Sussex side will be hoping that justice is done and they can get the win in this one that they were robbed of at Derby.

I've seen no news of our squad, but don't see many changes, unless Andy Carter is brought back after his efforts tonight.

Sussex name the following squad:

Danny Briggs
Ben Brown (c/wkt)
Harry Finch
Lewis Hatchett
Ed Joyce
Matt Machan
Steve Magoffin
Chris Nash
Ollie Robinson
Ajmal Shahzad
Ross Taylor
Luke Wells
Stuart Whittingham

Still no Chris Jordan and Luke Wright, but a good side, especially in batting. We will need to up our game considerably to come back with anything, but the talent, as they showed for much of the Kent game, is there.

It is just about sustaining the effort.

We'll see how it goes tomorrow.

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire T20

Derbyshire 195-7  (Durston 47, Hughes (C) 46, Poynton 37 not)

Northamptonshire 196-7 (Levi 58, Carter 3-32, Critchley 2-19)

Northamptonshire won by three wickets with two balls to spare

There was no disgrace in losing this excellent game of cricket.

In doing so, however, the players and coaching staff will doubtless look back at a spell in our innings when we lost our way after a blistering start.

At 140-3 halfway through the fourteenth, Wayne and Chesney going like trains and 14 off the first three balls of the over, we were looking at 200-plus. Yet by the end of the over, both had gone and in eleven balls we were 151-7 and rebuilding.

That we got to an imposing score that normally wins you matches was down to a fine effort by Tom Poynton, who hit his highest T20 score in making an unbeaten 37 from just 21 deliveries. At the halfway stage we definitely had a chance. Wes Durston's early onslaught was matched by an impressive knock by Ches, the only error being neither of them going on to a match-defining score.

The home side went off like trains, as they were always going to do. Levi has hammered international attacks and on his night hits the ball a long way, as does Josh Cobb, who always seems to save his best for us. I mentioned them last night and they took their side to 108 at the halfway stage, well up with the clock.

Yet both went in successive overs from Matt Critchley who again did wonderfully well. At this point you question the captaincy a little, because the lad's three overs went for only nineteen runs and those two wickets, while Wes bowled two for 22. Alex Hughes only went for eight an over and Andy Carter bowled very well at the death to take three wickets and the game into the final over.

All in all it was a very good effort by our lads, who can hold their heads high. Not such a good night for the Kiwis though. They starred at Old Trafford but had a collective bad night tonight. Twenty runs from the three of them and four overs for 47 from Jimmy Neesham made it a less memorable day at the office.

There however, you have cricket in  a nutshell. One day you are on top of the world, the next it turns round and bites you on the bottom. We've all been there, and for those still playing the game, you almost certainly will be there again.

Disappointing to lose then, but plenty of positives. Things to build on, and to work at, but we've played two good games of cricket so far and can win more in this competition.

Safe travel tonight guys. Whoever scheduled these fixtures must have a warped sense of humour...

Link to Elvaston event Facebook page

I have added a link on the left hand side of the page to the event where 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 this blog and 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 from the floor.
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.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire T20 preview

The old adage that if it ain't broke, you don't fix it is likely to followed by Derbyshire at Wantage Road tomorrow, in their T20 match against Northamptonshire.

Ben Cotton and Scott Elstone are the other members of the thirteen, over and above the eleven that played against Lancashire at Old Trafford (and thrashed them, he enjoyed writing...)

It will all depend on the wicket, of course, but I don't see any changes unless Ben is brought into the eleven. Scott had a good knock in the corresponding fixture last year, but I expect him to miss out here.

Our hosts won their first game against Leicestershire Seekkuge Prasanna doing all you could want from an overseas professional by bowling his leg spin tight and hitting a six to win the game. With Richard Levi and Josh Cobb heading a powerful batting line up, they will present a stern test for Graeme Welch's men.

Mind you, if they play as they did at Old Trafford last week, they don't need to worry about anyone. It is when the intensity dips and 'old' Derbyshire resurfaces that trouble strikes.

Which one will take the field tomorrow? I can't answer that.

But if it is the side with the right mentality, we have plenty in the tank to win the game.

Book talk - any interest in the High Peak?

As you will know, I have my second book, a history of the club since the last war, told by some of its main characters of that period, due out on June 1.

In Their Own Words: Derbyshire Cricketers in Conversation features interviews with post-war Derbyshire cricket legends and is published by Pitch Publishing and priced £16.99. It is available from all good book shops, online and from me if you prefer.

I will be down in Derbyshire for what is looking like a full week of promotional work between 11 and 16 July and have an event lined up in Elvaston, on Friday 15th, as well as one in Chesterfield on Monday 11th - details will be announced shortly.

As my Wednesday plans revolve around seeing the T20 game against Lancashire at the 3aaa County Ground, I'd be more than happy to do an event on either Tuesday 12 or Thursday 14, as long as someone has a venue and the likelihood of a crowd.

The High Peak would be great, but if there's anyone out there with any ideas, and you are far enough from Chesterfield and Elvaston not to affect their attendance, do please get in touch at the usual email address - you can find it down the left hand bar of the site.

Alternatively, get me on Twitter, @Peakfanblog

Time for a reality check

After all these years of doing the blog, I'm still mildly amused that there's way more comments and mails in adversity than when we do well.

492 runs in the first innings against Kent and there's barely recognition of a job well done; tumble for under a ton in the second dig and there's pops at Pop a-plenty.

I think it is time for a reality check. You may have noticed that I made no pre-season predictions of glory this year. Just, hopefully, signs of progress. Sometimes signs of the latter take time to appear, while at others they can be almost overnight.

Look at Chesney Hughes. I've lost count of how many mails there have been in recent seasons questioning whether he would make it. All of a sudden, it clicks and he's scoring runs for fun. The same goes for Shiv Thakor. Last year people were asking why we'd signed him, ignoring the fact that he'd missed a year of cricket and was playing catch up. There are no such questions this year, that's for sure, when he is sitting with a batting average of 68 and a bowling one of 23. I've used the analogy before and will do again - would you expect your average under-25 to be a key contributor at your place of work, or assume that he or she still had much to learn? I think I know the answer.

You can't fast track development. To answer one recurring theme in my mail, yes, Graeme Welch did say that he now has the staff that he wants at Derbyshire, but this should not be liberally translated as 'and it is one that will challenge for honours'. For me he now has a staff of players where everyone is fit and able to play, even if they are some way back in their development from where he wants them to be. Last year we had senior players on commensurate salaries in the second team or constantly injured, something that was patently unsustainable.

I know how Graeme rates the young  clutch of seamers at the club, but sometimes that 'click' takes a lot longer than coaches wish and supporters are prepared to tolerate. I have spoken to a lot of coaches over the years and each has told me that the greatest requirement for the job is patience. Indeed John Wright, a pretty good coach at county and international level, told me that is the biggest difference between the two - with the latter, you are dealing with the creme de la creme. If someone fails, you bring in someone else, and there are plenty of options. At county level, with a finite budget, you HAVE to be patient, as there aren't the alternatives nor the money to sign them.

Coaching is all about making players the best they can be. In making modifications, you are aiming to improve their game by ten per cent, but some players take things on board - or are willing to do so - more easily than others. It can take months for a penny to drop, or seasons in some cases, as you will see by looking around the county circuit.

It is the only way with a club like Derbyshire. If Graham Onions came on the market, he would improve our attack considerably, but then every county would be chasing him, including those who, Godfather-style, can make an offer that it is hard to refuse. It isn't as easy as that, and this summer's wickets haven't helped to encourage young bowlers learning their trade.

One or two have also suggested it is time we looked for another coach. Really? Who?

We have a coach who is highly regarded in cricket circles by insiders, people who really know the game. Jimmy Neesham cited Welch as as reason for joining the club, as did Andy Carter and Luke Fletcher. Now the returns of the last two have been a disappointment, but sometimes it takes time to settle. It is frustrating to see the success of Fletcher since his return to Nottinghamshire, while Carter hasn't looked to have his usual rhythm yet, for whatever reason.

I still think he will come good and will win us matches in time. As for Graeme Welch, he recently signed a contract extension and rightly so. He will oversee the continued development of the young players he has sensibly signed up for the next couple of seasons and at that time a decision will be made on his future. An informed one, taking on board his track record in his time at the club. both in results and player development.

By the age of 24 or 25, players are usually showing what they can do and, in the case of many of Derbyshire's younger players, they will have worked with Welch for four or five years by then. They will have developed as players, or fallen by the wayside and that will be the time to judge him fairly.

Besides, if anyone thinks that our club can afford to change coach and pay off one, recruit a supposedly 'better' one and bring in bigger name players, you're a better man, or woman, than I.

Patience is a virtue - and we all need to show a lot more of it while young players hone their skills. As with any team in any sport there will be ups and downs and we should make sure to celebrate the former all the more.

It makes the latter more tolerable, if nothing else.

And if we pick one up at Northampton tomorrow, we will all be smiling again.