Sunday, 5 July 2015

Hindsight

Ok Peakfan, I know you rarely disagree with decisions made by the club but give me one good reason why we should not have batted against the Bears. Forget about McCullum, he's not the issue, what is the issue is why change something that worked well in the previous match for no apparent reason?

I'm sorry, but I agree with many of your comments but this is agreeing with what happened at the toss for the sake of it. Don't forget, whatever reasons may have been at the forefront of Durston's mind, they did not work. Why agree with something that was so obviously wrong? 

I got the above comment from Marc, late last night and decided that it needed a response in greater detail than the comments box would allow.

First of all, I don't disagree unduly often because they are professional people who largely make the right decisions through that professionalism. Both on and off field affairs are run by men of exceptional talent, who work with the limited resources that they have in order to make us a competitive side. I think, with the benefit of that wonderful tool available to us all called hindsight, that we got most of the overseas decision wrong this year (or half of it) but there were few dissenting voices at the time. Why would there be, given the reputation of those involved?

Yet even there, if the awareness of names like Amla and Dilshan coming to our club convinced the agent of, say, Mitchell Marsh, that a stint in Derby was of career benefit for half of next summer, there may be unseen merit that is not being considered right now.

So, coming back to Marc's point, why change what worked in the last game? Well, you base decisions in life on that day and time, not on history. I enjoyed Mrs P's delightful poached salmon yesterday, but it will be nice to enjoy something different today. I had a good trip to work on Friday, but am going a different route on Monday because of roadworks, a factor, or unknown quantity thrown into the mix.

Can any supporter, from his armchair or even the boundary edge, judge conditions better than a professional, experienced captain who is looking at the wicket, knows the conditions, the opposition and the feelings of his own team? I won't flatter myself that I do, so anyone who makes an assertion to the contrary is kidding themselves on.

Yes, we beat Nottinghamshire the previous week by batting first after winning the toss, but we beat Lancashire doing the opposite and should have beaten Durham by the same tactic. We beat Leicestershire after they won the toss and put us in, so you can't read too much into previous games.

I think our bowling is our stronger suit and as such it made sense to try and limit a team perhaps striving for too many runs and falling down in doing so. While improved, our batting is patchy and not entirely trustworthy, so for me, the decision was the correct one. Had we opted to bat first on the first day of a four-day game under cloudy skies with a green wicket, I would say the opposite, but it is rarely so clearcut.

A former Derbyshire coach once told me that supporters don't know half of what goes on in the dressing room and nor should they. Your star batsman may have a bad headache and you bowl to give him a chance to recover. Your best bowler has a painful wisdom tooth and could do with time to recover, or seek treatment. Your star all-rounder has had a row with his wife and is in a bit of a state. All these things (and none relate to the current side, for the record) can have an impact on a captain's decision.

Finally, Mark says 'Ignore McCullum, he's not the issue'. Really? We are up against one of the top three T20 batsmen in the world and we don't consider the best way to combat him? Do you think football teams facing Lionel Messi ignore him in pre-match chat, or cricket teams due to bowl at Chris Gayle or AB de Villiers ignore their presence? Did captains playing Worcestershire last summer ignore the fact that the opposition had Saeed Ajmal in the side and say 'You know what, we'll put them in and opt to bat last against a bloke who will turn it sideways'? Of course not.

If we had nicked McCullum early, we had a decent chance of winning on Friday, but Birmingham are a good side and may well have beaten us anyway. They have not won eight out of ten by accident, after all.

Maybe, had we opted to bat, we would have scored 200 again, got McCullum early in their reply and won the game. Maybe, our fragile batting would have imploded and we would have been bowled out for 130, leaving them to win in a canter.

We opted to bat at Northampton and didn't bat to potential, then lost the game. We did the same at Worcester and made a mess of our innings, leaving them winning with seven overs to spare. For whatever reason, Wes Durston opted to bowl, it might have worked, it didn't. End of story. There were no guarantees either way. Cricket is no exact science and things don't always go to plan.

Today he may opt to bat and we win, or opt to bowl and do so. He's a hero then, good old Wes. If we lose, it is a different matter, because we are all Mike Brearley, with the benefit of hindsight

But the skipper was still better placed than any of us armchair or deckchair enthusiasts to make that call...sorry Marc.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire T20

First up tonight, I would like to send a get well message to Bob Taylor, the greatest of all Derbyshire wicket-keepers, as he awaits heart bypass surgery following a heart attack.

Bob was a hero of all of us in our youth and he remains one of the nicest men in the game. Anyone who has met him will tell you the same and I am sure that you will join me in wishing him well in the coming days and weeks.

Moving on, Derbyshire have a chance to get back to winning ways tomorrow, albeit against a side that beat us easily in the corresponding fixture a few weeks back. It is an unchanged side, although Graeme Welch has announced opportunity for younger players in the remaining games.

I don't agree with those who felt we should have batted last night. It is always easy to be wise after the event and McCullum could have gone early, just as Alex Hales did the week before. If you don't get players of his quality early, the chances are that he will punish you. Leicestershire got him today, but that is cricket. Great players can be dismissed, but when it is their day they will take you apart. We, I assume, thought he might over-reach in the Powerplay, but he didn't and, like a Duracell battery, he kept going on and on.

The visitors side has yet to be announced, but the man who won them that game, David Willey, is out for four weeks with an ankle injury and Shahid Afridi's stint has ended. The local newspaper is suggesting the same team that lost narrowly to Nottinghamshire last week, so one assumes:

Levi
Cobb
Duckett
Crook
Keinveldt
Rossington
Wakeley
Keogh
Stone
White
Azarullah.

With short boundaries, a fast outfield and aggressive batsmen on both sides, this should be a high-scoring match, more likely than not decided by the crucial first six overs. We have done better in this period than in previous summers, but, as we know, T20 wins are about stringing together a consistent 40 overs.

We can win this tomorrow, but will need to do exactly that to do so.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Birmingham v Derbyshire T20

Birmingham 242-2 (McCullum 158 not)
Derbyshire 182 (Durston 43, Rutherford 39)

Birmingham won by 60 runs


Years ago, when I was just a nipper, my old Dad used to take me to the Baseball Ground. He always taught me to appreciate sport as featuring two teams and to appreciate when the other team, or someone in it, did something special.

I remember an especially fine goal by Peter Knowles of Wolverhampton Wanderers, the result of a sweeping move and a clinical finish, which my Dad applauded warmly, while others nearby were disputing his parentage and shouting at Derby for no other reason than being powerless to stop brilliance.

A man in front of us in the old Osmaston Stand took exception to Dad's applause and told him he shouldn't be doing it. Big mistake. He got 'the look' and a very slow but to the point comment that suggested the bloke should get on with watching one team while he watched both. Might not have been that polite, come to think of it, but it was mighty effective...

It was such tonight at Birmingham. No complaints from me, when you are beaten by a giant of the modern game in Brendan McCullum. He's done that times many to international attacks around the globe and to the very best bowlers. When he gets the bit between his teeth, is in form and finds a wicket to his taste, there's no bowling to him. How do you set a field to someone who hits it over the boundary with such regularity? How do you reply to 158 runs from just 64 balls faced?

Truth be told, despite the bowlers, without exception, taking some stick, we battled well. Hamish Rutherford and Wes Durston batted with equal panache, but didn't last so long. We were only ten runs behind at the end of the Powerplay, but the admirable Jeetan Patel bowled his four overs for just eighteen runs, astonishing in the circumstances. I have seen Derbyshire sides in recent years would have collapsed like a pack of cards, but we battled down the order and ran up a total that, on another day, might have won the game.

Like I say though, one has to accept brilliance in sport, whatever the hue of the shirt. If you can't, you really shouldn't follow competitive sport.

Well played Brendan McCullum. A captain and man for who I have the utmost respect, for leading as popular a touring side as has toured this island in many a year.

As well as being a fantastic cricketer who pretty much beat us on his own tonight.

Fantasy League update and a player to watch...

Take a bow David Aust, who is not only winning the Peakfan trophy Fantasy League in a canter (1800 points clear) but is also ranked 45 in the competition overall.

Matthew Entwistle is in second place, with Dean Doherty's two sides in third and fourth place.

My side has finally started to find some form and I have made my last transfers of the season in a push for a top ten placing. This is, of course, when those in my eleven incur major injury..

I am, of course, far too nice a bloke to mention who is currently in bottom place...

On a different tack - a player to watch would appear to be Jurie Snyman, currently plying his trade with great success for Denby in the Premier League. At 20, the young South African has broken batting records through his school days and is making a name for himself with punishing displays back home for Easterns.

The talented Mr Snyman had a school average of over 80, with a highest score of...wait for it.. 395 in a fifty-over game. With four double centuries and no less than 38 centuries in school colours, the opposition must have looked at the fixture against his school with fear in their hearts, together with a vivid imagination as to a feigned injury in their heads.

He showed his talents against Derbyshire for the Kevin Dean XI on Wednesday, registering a fine half century. The left-hander also bowls off spin and looks to be a cricketer to watch.

All he needs to be REALLY special is a granny from Heanor...

Birmingham v Derbyshire T20

Birmingham...seriously, Birmingham? Were I a Warwickshire fan outside of the city, I wouldn't be best pleased about the name, that's for sure, but such is the gimmickry of T20 that a name change is deemed important...(sighs loudly...)

Anyway, tonight's game, against a side that has won six from eight in the competition, will be a tough test for Derbyshire, after last week's heroics against our near and dear neighbours.

We have beaten Warwickshire before (enough of this monicker malarky) and to do so again would be quite something. Reinforced by Kiwi powerhouse Brendan McCullum, a man who led one of the most popular touring sides in recent memory, they will be a tough test. If the New Zealand skipper gets going, he can put any total  out of sight and ambitions to win this game must first revolve around minimising his impact on it.

Derbyshire have named a similar squad to last week, Ben Slater coming in for Will Davis who has a minor injury. The opener returned to form with a sparkling innings for the seconds this week, but I don't see to much tinkering with a winning formula. The side, at peak form, bats long and has plenty of bowling options.

Our squad:

Wes Durston (capt)
Hamish Rutherford
Chesney Hughes
Ben Slater
Shiv Thakor
Wayne Madsen
Alex Hughes
Scott Elstone
Tom Poynton
Tom Knight
Wayne White
Nathan Rimmington

The opposition, led by Varun Chopra, has announced the following squad:

Varun Chopra (Captain)
Tim Ambrose (Wicket Keeper)
Rikki Clarke
Laurie Evans
Recordo Gordon
Oliver Hannon-Dalby
Ateeq Javid
Tom Lewis
Brendon McCullum
Jeetan Patel
William Porterfield
Josh Poysden
Boyd Rankin

They have batsmen in form, after this week's game against Sussex, while in Jeetan Patel they have the man I regard as the best value overseas player in the county game.

I would love to predict a win here, but we need to be at our very best to do so. Anything less than that will see a defeat, so the onus is on the boys to replicate the form, commitment and quality of last week.

We will see if they can later tonight.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Midweek musings

Sorry about the lack of blogging this week, but three successive days of 9am to 8pm have eaten into my available time and there's been no real news anyway.

A Derbyshire XI beat a Kevin Dean XI tonight at Chesterfield tonight, 169-6 beating 132. It would have been a good run out and an opportunity to get used to both the wicket and the outfield before the week's major matches.

The outfield should be like polished glass if it stays dry and the scoring rates will be high, I would have thought. Mark Footitt has been released from England duty and so is available, on what is normally a quick wicket that he should enjoy.

Northamptonshire on Sunday should be a high-scoring game and there are two sides of aggressive batsmen who will enjoy short boundaries and getting full value for a well-timed shot.

I just hope Derbyshire continue the form they showed against Nottinghamshire. A good performance is always to be enjoyed, but carries much more weight when it is replicated.

When we do that, we will really start going places.

More from me nearer the weekend. Enjoy the sun, while it lasts.

It's raining in Glasgow tonight...

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Burgoyne signs for Sussex

Just a note to say how surprised I was to see that Peter Burgoyne has signed for Sussex and is playing for them in the game against Warwickshire today.

Maybe he felt that a move away from Derbyshire was the best way to resume his career, but when we are crying out for a spin bowler, it seems a little surprising.

Maybe there will be more on that in due course, but I wish the lad well. He is a very talented cricketer and has a lot to offer.

It is just a shame it is not going to be for Derbyshire...

Postscript - having considered this, and thought about the well-documented stress-related issues that  led to Peter leaving in the first instance, I come to the conclusion that a move elsewhere for a fresh start was deemed best for both parties.

We don't miss much at Derbyshire these days, so I suspect that is the true reason.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Edwin Smith book launch in Chesterfield

I am very pleased to announce that my first book, a biography of Derbyshire cricket legend Edwin Smith, will be launched in his home town.

Chesterfield Public Library have kindly agreed to host the launch, which will take place on the evening of Tuesday, August 25 at 7.30pm.

I will be interviewing Edwin on the stage of the library lecture theatre and we will then take questions from the audience before signing copies of the book for interested parties.

Priced £14, Edwin Smith: a Life in Derbyshire Cricket is published by the Association of Cricket Historians and Statisticians and features Edwin's recollections of a career where he was the lead spin bowler in the Derbyshire side at the age of 18 and remained so for twenty summers.

Over the course of his career, which ran from 1951 to 1971, he took 1217 first-class wickets and is one of only seven Derbyshire bowlers to take more than a thousand. Of those players, only he and Derek Morgan survive and, as the last to the landmark, Edwin will almost certainly be the last man to do so.

Many good judges rated him among the finest off spin bowlers in the country and only the presence of other outstanding bowlers such as Jim Laker, David Allen, John Mortimore and Fred Titmus kept him from international recognition.

He is a quite remarkable man with a great sense of humour and an extraordinary recollection of the players that he played with and against. The book contains his memories of those players and many stories have emerged, many of them in print for the first time. Hopefully it has captured life as a county cricketer over a twenty-year period and many of his contemporaries have been kind enough to supply information and stories.

It would be great to see as many people there as possible, to acknowledge Edwin as the living Derbyshire legend that he is.

Tickets will be available from the library in the near future, priced £3 (£2 concession) and I will provide contact details as soon as I have them. Please try and keep the date free!

We will also be signing copies of the book during the lunch interval of the County Championship game against Kent on Sunday August 23, after the members forum on that day.

I would like to thank both Derbyshire County Cricket Club and Derbyshire Libraries for their support - and hopefully you as well!

Not to mention Edwin...

The morning after the night before...

There was no negativity, as it may have been perceived in some quarters, in my suggesting that Derbyshire would lose to Nottinghamshire last night.

It was a comment born out of realism. When we lost so badly and performed in such an ignominious fashion, as we did against Surrey, what real expectation was there of a win against our local rivals? The Surrey side we played was not far short of their second team, while Nottinghamshire have a team of galacticos, featuring seven players of international experience. It would have been easy to go gung-ho and say 'We can win this', perhaps shaking an inspirational fist for emphasis, but I like to think I base comments and forecast on more than crossing my fingers behind my back as I spout forth...

Yet win we did, in style. Indeed, after the dismissal of Rikki Wessels, the game always seemed to be there. Truth be told, it was there from the point when Hamish Rutherford injected the so-important 'oomph' into the first six overs. I said last week that I would gladly take him now for as much of next year as he can manage, so having shown his ability to play both the more restrained role and that of the dashing young blade I am even more convinced. Come to Derbyshire, build a reputation and get into your national side, lad. You know it makes sense.

Chesney's violent assault on the bowling will have entertained, but the greater common sense shown down the order was pleasing. Given a platform, there's no need for daft shots. Work it around, hit the bad balls for four and rotate the strike. When we got to 170, we had a shout, 200 was a terrific effort, made possible by everyone in the side. While the efforts of the top order in the Powerplay gave us the impetus, those of Messrs Hughes, Knight and Poynton in the last four overs took our score out of sight.

So which is the real Derbyshire? The timid, unprofessional outfit that lost to Surrey, or the slick, talented one that beat Nottinghamshire's finest? I guess we will need to wait and see. The words of Graeme Welch must have stung them last week, though they shouldn't need that to perform like they did last night. A reminder of professional obligations rarely does harm, though and perhaps it will serve as a catalyst for a strong end to the season. After all, there are three months of cricket to go...

I still maintain - and will continue to do so, be warned - that we need to factor in the youth of the side. Some of you scoff at the notion, but in your own place of work, how many of the key personnel are under 25 (unless you work in a creche...)? How many of the best footballers are under-25, rather than between that age and their early thirties?

Both Alex Hughes and Shiv Thakor bowled exceptionally well last night, Hughes also contributing key runs down the order. They have both come in for criticism, but both are learning their games and will have good and bad, perhaps not even in equal measure. They are 23 and 21 respectively. Tom Knight is 21 too and the staff is full of lads of similar age. They have not yet fully grown into their bodies, developed an awareness of what they can and can't do, mastered their game and realised what they need to do to compete regularly at top level.

Give them all another three years and we will see them fly. The ECB didn't select the age of 26 for making payments to counties fielding players under that age by accident. It was because by that stage there is every expectation that a player, if he is up to the requisite standard, will be pulling his weight on the staff. Not all of the current batch will get there, but we have a good chance of success.

It doesn't change the fact that we need players alongside them with the necessary combination of experience and talent. Rutherford and Rimmington did what you want your overseas players to do last night and we have not had that from those roles this year. By the same token, both have minimal experience of English conditions and each has had his own learning curve.

The frustration is that the perception of a season is based on narrow margins. We should have breezed a win against Northamptonshire in the championship and didn't. It was there for the taking against Durham in the T20 and we bottled it. We were awful against Surrey last week.

Yet we excelled against Gloucestershire, impressed against Lancashire at Derby and were something special last night. It is tapping into those wins for consistency, getting the right combination of youth and  experience on the field and pressing the button for maximum commitment, EVERY time, that will dictate how quickly we progress.

The talent is there. No question. They just need to prove it, prove it again, then keep proving it.

That's how you become a good side.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire T20

Derbyshire 201-7 (C Hughes 52, Rutherford 37)
Nottinghamshire 167 all out (Wessels 66, Rimmington 3-24)

Derbyshire won by 34 runs

What a fantastic response by the Derbyshire players tonight!

My arguments over the talent in the side were thoroughly vindicated tonight as we comfortably beat our 'big' yet perennially under-achieving local rivals by 34 runs.

It was a team performance, par excellence. Almost everyone got a few runs, led off by Hamish Rutherford, who gave the Powerplay overs the impetus we required. Then came Chesney, with five fours and three sixes in his 52, before Alex Hughes, Tom Knight and Tom Poynton showed common sense and power in the closing overs to steer us to a highest-ever T20 total of 201-7.

It gave us every chance of a memorable win, yet the visitors were going like a train before Wes Durston removed both Michael Lumb and the dangerous Rikki Wessels. Still, with a depth in batting, the game was far from won, but a key spell was bowled by Alex Hughes. He followed his useful innings with a spell of four overs for only 22 runs, priceless in such a high-scoring game.

With Nathan Rimmington bowling tight closing overs that he is famed for, finishing with 3-24, Derbyshire won when Mullaney was held by Wayne Madsen in the deep from the bowling of Wayne White.

It was an excellent effort, a team effort, with the entire eleven playing a part and showing that the talent is most definitely there. Shiv Thakor again bowled an excellent spell and got rid of middle order danger men Patel and Taylor, while the fielding held up well.

Seeing a performance like that proves the talent is there and, if we can just find a way of tapping into that conviction and commitment more often, we can win more matches.

Now, let's see everyone who is quickly on here to criticise be equally effusive with praise tonight, because it is fully deserved.

There will be more from me tomorrow night, but tomorrow is a working day and I must head to bed shortly.

The pride is back, now let's keep it there and get on a roll.

Well done. lads.