Thursday, 26 April 2018

Leicestershire v Derbyshire preview

It is as you were for Derbyshire, as they travel to our East Midlands rivals Leicestershire for our second county championship match tomorrow.

After the tremendous win over fancied Middlesex, who sadly heard today that Toby Roland-Jones is out for the summer with a stress fracture of the back, some will think that this should be a walkover for Derbyshire.

Therein lies the challenge. A Derbyshire eleven that competes from the first ball can beat anyone, as we have proven over recent seasons in different formats. Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Warwickshire, Middlesex - they have all been beaten handsomely, so the ability is there. If Billy Godleman and his men can maintain intensity, they are capable of a very fine season.

With the second team match abandoned without a ball bowled this week, there was no chance for Daryn Smit to win a place over Gary Wilson, but the latter has to score runs and maintain his form behind the timbers. Hamidullah Qadri, Callum Brodrick and Will Davis travel with the squad, Qadri or Davis options if they decide to rest Tony Palladino or the pitch dictates a change to the eleven.

Leicestershire are still to announce their squad, but Indian Test bowler Varun Aaron is in the frame for a county debut as their overseas player. They had a high scoring draw with Sussex to start the season, and new captain Michael Carberry heads an experienced batting line up that includes Colin Ackerman, who scored 186 against Sussex, as well as the prolific Mark Cosgrove.

Their likely line up is:

Carberry, Horton, Ackerman, Cosgrove, Javid, Dexter, Hill, Raine, Parkinson, Griffiths, Aaron

I'm putting this down as a draw, for no other reason than that tomorrow's weather, like Monday's, suggests a lot of rain. So unless the forecast is wrong, or the wicket is like a few around the country in the past fortnight and allows a two-day finish, I can't see how either side will have the time to force a positive result.

When there is play, you will be able to follow it through their live stream, which you can see by clicking here

It will be nice to see their covers tomorrow. If there's more than that, I'll be back to comment on it.

The 'One Hundred' and the wider game of proper cricket

None of us like the idea, but that doesn't matter to the English Cricket Board, because it isn't aimed at us.

The 'One Hundred', or whatever it is eventually called is aimed at 'mothers and children', according to Andrew Strauss, erstwhile successful England skipper and fast becoming as popular as someone with bubonic plague in a tent.

A few years ago, when the Iceland store had an advert that said 'that's why Mums go to Iceland' I stopped shopping there. I was never a regular anyway, but I haven't been in since, because they clearly weren't aiming at Dads. It's similar to when Gerald Ratner proclaimed that the stuff sold in the Ratners Group stores was 'crap' and simultaneously pressed the self-destruct button on his company.

To exclude generations of cricket lovers, the ones who have supported the game and their county for years, in bringing in a new competition is either brave or foolhardy in the extreme. Let's face it, cricket isn't that hard to understand if you spend some time on it and the existing game has been growing in recent years with the T20 Blast. Four-day cricket could do too, if they scheduled it properly. Look at the crowds for last weekend's championship fixtures, and the thousands who followed streaming online. Note also that it was scheduled over a weekend, praise be, and crucially enjoyed good weather, which is not always the case.

But for the ECB to introduce a new competition, claim they are going to simplify it and then say they are running it for mothers and their offspring can easily be seen as patronising. Let's face it, women's cricket has grown in appeal and there are many women who know as much, if not more, than some of the men who watch the game and purport to understand it. And I still don't know how fifteen overs of six balls, then one of ten is easier than twenty six-ball overs. If they want it easy and fitting in a time slot for television, why not have twenty five-ball overs, since they are changing things anyway?

I'm unsure why they aim to find legions of new fans, rather than better cater for the many existing ones. The thousands tuning in to streaming services and radio commentaries are evidence of the current interest, but the scheduling of the game precludes their greater involvement. Why not arrange more cricket Friday to Monday, so working people need only take two days leave to see an entire four-day game? Why not look at the many retired people who are looking for things to fill their time and might, just might be interested?

They are not off to the best of starts and have much to do ahead of the competition launch. You couldn't get me to one of the games unless you paid me a considerable sum, but I watch developments with interest, because I am concerned about how it affects the game that I love. It will be the same elsewhere, because folk in Sheffield, Bradford and Barnsley won't get behind a side called Leeds, any more than those in Liverpool, Wigan and Southport will get behind Manchester.

Look how many people cringe when Sky commentators call us Derby. I'm a Ripley lad, my Dad is from Swadlincote, and there's many in Chesterfield, Buxton and elsewhere. If we cringe at not being called Derbyshire, are we going to get behind Nottingham? I think not...

Irrespective of the fact that this competition will be played in mid-summer and will take a projected one hundred players from the existing county game, I agree with Mike Atherton that the county championship should be played at the same time.

Why? Well, for starters, the county game would then enjoy the best of British weather, rather than being played when the polar bears wear body-warmers. We all know our climate ain't so good sometimes, but there's more chance of good days in what is helpfully called 'high summer'. To simply shut down 'proper' cricket when the circus comes to town would be self-defeating. And since there will be two audiences, it really shouldn't be an issue. The 'Mums and kids' will be watching one, the men, women and children will enjoy the other.

I would go to see a Derbyshire side, or switch on my laptop now to do so, if they fielded a team of under-eighteens. There have been times when we have fielded young and weaker teams anyway and if all counties were the same, I'd still do it. If nothing else, it affords opportunity for young players to make a mark and it would be exciting to be in at the start of things for a special player.

The cricket could be enhanced by allowing counties to sign two overseas players, and changing the qualification ruling. As those rules stand, county cricket would never have seen players like John Wright, Peter Kirsten, Greg Chappell, Keith Boyce, Clive Rice, Glenn Turner, Viv Richards and many others. They all came here to make a name and did so in spades.

There are plenty of good cricketers in the world game who would enhance county cricket, but haven't made the requisite international appearances in recent years to qualify. So what if we could see D'arcy Short, Dane Paterson, Cameron White, Willem Mulder and others in the county game?

Remember Chris Wilkins? He was never an international player, but he entertained royally in three summers at Derbyshire and with the introduction of such players, the county game would still hold appeal. Run more of it Friday to Monday and you heighten that considerably, because those who work can actually go and see a game. Just like last weekend.

With big names already precluded from participation with IPL and CPL contracts, along with short-notice overseas tours, then many of them going to this circus, this move is essential and counties should press for the change.

I am pleased that this new competition is going to break the rules. I am pleased that it has brought in the ten-ball over (more so than the poor sap who has to bowl it) because it won't be seen as a replacement for the T20 Blast. It won't be seen, or recorded, as 'proper' cricket, because the records will be totally different and cricket loves its statistics. Sobers got 36 off an over, but Gayle in prime form could get fifty from a ten-ball over.

But however they work it, however much the ECB envies the Big Bash and Indian Premier League, however they want to create Live Aid meets It's A Knockout meets a bastardised form of cricket, one thing they cannot do a thing about is the weather.

It is easy to get excited about a night out at the cricket when the sun is shining, you have a cold drink to hand, dancing girls, a plunge pool and a jacuzzi, with side shows and giveaways for the kids.

Change the picture and make the offer to those Mums and their kids when there's a wind blowing, a spit of drizzle in the air, the threat of heavier rain on the horizon and the ground half empty accordingly and it isn't so pretty. I'll pass on that plunge pool thanks. Do you have any Bovril?

Still, that's their problem, and I won't be watching it anyway.

As long as my Derbyshire, your Derbyshire continues in its present form they can have bowlers on bicycles and batsmen using power ups, like in Nintendo games. They can dress them as clowns, let them bowl from fifteen yards and use a bat as wide as the stumps. Rule out lbw's and let batsmen only be out if caught one-handed. Hey, they're going to have a countdown - that's worth the admission price alone, because we've never sat at a match and thought 'fifteen to win and ooh..there's only six balls left'.To call a countdown innovation is also patronising, come to think of it.

I really don't care.

But I love, and will always love, my county cricket.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Guest post - from Rob Enderby

After reading Keith's comments on the last blog post, I feel a strong urge to write and offer some support / thoughts.  I normally keep these thoughts to myself but on occasion I can't help myself. 

The comment from Keith is both unnecessary and crass.  For those of us in full time employment and not living remotely near HQ, Peakfan's blog is a regular read and the place to go to find rational comment on the clubs fortunes.  I understand how difficult it is after I guested during his wife's illness last year ( I trust she is on the mend?) So if nothing else, thank you for what is informed and well thought out comment.

It serves to show how differently we view things. I am literally running around Southend with my shirt over my head. My own spouse and others are bored to tears with my mentioning it and at approx 1710hrs on Monday 23rd April, it was noticed that I was either fitting or jigging about in my car while stopped at traffic lights!

A terrific win over four full days, no behind the scenes contrived result, having been put into bat first.  This is fantastic and should rightly be acknowledged as so.  For Keith to talk about injuries and half the team missing does this result a massive injustice and quite frankly is insulting to the team.  I would hate to see this guy when DCCC lose.

In any case he should perhaps keep his negative comments to himself.  That he then contradicts himself by saying that we should roll over a weak Leicestershire side this weekend again does neither him nor the side any favours.  We are not suddenly the cricketing Brazil and any team we beat this year will be hard fought, with full concentration required.  

Which leads me on to my main point.  Both Keith and several so call expert journalists have failed to pick up what I consider a pertinent point.  After this terrific win it was mentioned that Middlesex were resting their England players and others were injured.  Their implied point being that they were much weaker for that.  Well if you look at it my way, so were Derbyshire, but differently.  

Both Mark Footitt, and Tim Groenewald were signed as fringe players turned into excellent bowlers and both, as others, were lured away by 'bigger' counties with expectations of trophies and more money.  As a result, we are continually having to shop around, Even if you do not follow or agree with my point, it is clear that we are not playing on a level playing field.  So one could reasonably argue that our attack was weakened as a result.  This does not happen to Middlesex or Notts or Lancashire and so to feel sorry for them that they are missing their England internationals is not easy.

This point follows on from journalists saying our hard earned handout from the ECB is being spent badly on players who they call mercenaries, or who are not qualified or ever going to play for England.  Well we wouldn't have to if the bigger clubs were not continually sniffing about.  To then carry on by suggesting that Derbyshire and others should be disbanded is again missing the point.  Footitt was languishing in Nottinghamshire seconds, Groenewald similar at Warwickshire. If they were only eight clubs, the above two players would not get a look in and would be lost to the game.  Younger players would not get a chance and there would be no progression.  That this point point is missed continually surprises me.

If Leicestershire were not a professional county, how would Broad, Taylor and Gurney have got opportunities? Repeat that, ad infinitum, around the shires. 

In summary: a fantastic blog, a fantastic win and we should all revel in this. If I'm ranting as much as Keith I most certainly don't mean to be. It's just that continual Derbyshire bashing irritates me!

Up the shire 

A very excitable Rob Enderby, Essex.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The development of Captain Godleman

Thank you for all your comments after yesterday's fine win over Middlesex.

It is a continuing pleasure to swap thoughts with fellow supporters and it is always nice to meet up with regular contributors. If you see me wandering round a ground over the summer, do please come up and say hello, as it is nice to put a face to a name!

There were three things I wanted to touch on today, before the team is announced for the trip to Leicester on Friday. The first is the excellent wicket that Neil Godrich prepared for the first game of the summer.

The last few weeks have been a nightmare for groundsmen around the country and there have been plenty of pictures of floods and puddles. To prepare a wicket that lasted well until after tea on the fourth day is a great credit to Neil and his team. There was something for bowlers throughout, even if the final new ball of the match barely moved. There was decent bounce and batsmen could, if they got in, play their shots, which many managed to do.

Here's hoping such tracks continue throughout the summer, ideally with a little more turn if we can pick up a spinner from somewhere. The Pakistan leg spinner Yasir Shah was mentioned in a link the other day, and although he didn't set the world on fire for Kent last year, sometimes environments and circumstance work for players.

Look at Matt Henry. Last year there were few fans in the Derbyshire support following a disappointing stint in the T20, but he is on fire for Kent at present, the wickets and format better suited to his bowling. If we landed Shah, it would be quite a coup, but it may just be media conjecture.

Then there's Billy Godleman. He didn't have much chance to contribute with the bat, but his decision to drop to the middle order was typical of the man. It has given Luis Reece and Ben Slater a chance to bat in their preferred position, while giving us another experienced man in the middle order. He has made runs there before and it may just give him a better chance to switch on and off after being in the field.

Out in the middle the other day I was impressed with his captaincy. Bowlers were changed around, and switched ends. There were innovative field settings and regular chats with his senior players. Yet it was clear that he was in charge and in his demeanour he is growing well into the role.

There are those for who captaincy is foreign and it doesn't sit well with them. I think Joe Root one such player, but I look at Billy and see a man who has handled the expectation well and has become more than competent .

He is obviously respected by his team and it was good to read today how Duanne Olivier was always offering to bowl another spell. Such an overseas signing is gold dust to a captain, just as Michael Holding was to Kim Barnett. All bowlers want a crack when the wicket is in their favour, but Olivier was keen to bowl even when the batsmen were getting on top. Full marks to him for that and good luck to Billy for the remainder of the summer.

Finally today, I think we will hear soon about a new, perhaps short term signing in the seam department. Sadly, the weather has meant that neither Charlie Hartley nor Mohammad Azharullah have had a chance to impress for the second team, who have yet to get on to the pitch against Lancashire at Liverpool.

Either of them would be an asset for the upcoming RLODC, but the loan market may also be worthwhile. With Mark Footitt not getting a game for Nottinghamshire, and Conor Mckerr some way back in the queue at Surrey, there's two bowlers who might enhance our attack. The latter was in the wickets for their second team yesterday and after his fine loan spell with us last year would doubtless be welcomed back with open arms. I'd be pleased to see him return, as I see neither Tony Palladino or Will Davis playing in that competition and we need an extra option.

Until then, we have a nice clutch of bowlers who will look forward to a trip across the East Midlands later this week.

More on that in due course.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 4

Derbyshire 265 and 333-3

Middlesex 157 and 340 (Harris 64 not, Helm 52, Roland-Jones 46, Olivier 4-82)

Derbyshire won by 101 runs

A home win. The first since 2014. In the first game of the summer too, so the weight is removed from our neck, the monkey from our back, the albatross consigned to history.

Full credit to Middlesex tonight, because the game looked as good as done at lunch, but Harris, Helm and Roland-Jones batted sensibly and with great skill and courage to take things into the final hour. Truth be told, I couldn't see where we were splitting that ninth wicket stand, as they had defied everything we threw at them. Helm made the first fifty of his county career and Harris barely looked troubled as the wicket got slower.

There was a very close shout for lbw, when Hardus Viljoen hit Harris on the pad with a full toss. When that was turned down I feared the worst, but Matt Critchley returned from an earlier, one-over mauling by Roland-Jones, in which he finished a flurry of boundaries by hitting straight to Ben Slater.

A good ball, what looked like his googly, was enough to see the umpire's finger raised and that exposed Tim Murtagh, one of the more rabbit-like tail enders in the county game. He handled Critchley OK, but once the quicks returned he wasn't going to stay for long and Duanne Olivier bowled him to seal a memorable win.

Critchley did well, two wickets showing his value to the side, while Wayne Madsen's crucial wicket just before lunch opened up what we thought was the tail. So much for that, eh?

Olivier finished with four wickets, to go with four in the first innings, while Hardus Viljoen ran in hard and didn't quite get his just reward in this game. I thought Ravi Rampaul's post-tea spell was excellent, troubled the batsmen and made them work, though we were a little wide with lines at times again today.

When Holden and Rayner were quickly removed this morning, an easy win looked on the cards, but Derbyshire had to work, the bowlers had to bend their backs and the fielders, as they did throughout the match, held most of what came their way.

It wasn't a bad wicket and credit to Neil Godrich and his team for producing one, after all the weather we have had, that took the game into the final hour of the fourth day.

We'd have liked it a little less worrying than that, but this was a superb advert for county championship cricket. Middlesex, with their fighting spirit to the very end, showed why they will challenge for promotion this year, irrespective of this result.

Derbyshire? We've shown a few non-believers what we are capable of.

Those pre-season predictions of tenth place might be even less clever now.

Well done guys. You stuck to it well and got your reward in the end.

Leicestershire next...

Mohammad Azharullah in second team today

Interesting to see that Mohammad Azharullah, as well as Charlie Hartley are in our second team for the game against Lancashire second eleven, that starts today at Liverpool.

Thinking over the weekend, I reckon we are a bowler light for the RLODC, which is coming up fast.

I wouldn't expect Tony Palladino to play, nor Will Davis, as both will be key to our four-day fortunes this summer. That leaves us with Messrs Viljoen, Olivier and Rampaul to bowl thirty overs, but where do the other twenty come from?

Yes, we have Alex Hughes, Wayne Madsen, Luis Reece and Matt Critchley, but I would prefer them to cover the final ten between them, rather than twenty.

Azharullah is a proven bowler of county class and is currently without a county. Hartley was unlucky to be released by Kent and has a lot to give, in my opinion.

It will be worth keeping an eye on their fortunes in that match, as well as following the first eleven at the 3aaa County Ground. With Will Davis also in the squad, that's a decent seam attack, even before Alfie Gleadall and Sam Connors are considered.

Keep an eye on Daryn Smit's performance too. Another big score would make his first team claims very difficult to ignore.

The Derbyshire squad:

Kettleborough, Smit, Brodrick, Hosein, Qadri, Dal, Hartley, Azharullah, Sonczak, Gleadall, Connors, Davis.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 3

Derbyshire 265 and 333-3 (Reece 157* Slater 99, Madsen 52)

Middlesex 157 and 86-3 (Olivier 2-25)

Derbyshire lead by 355 runs

Another day, another disciplined effort by Derbyshire, as they moved within seven wickets of their first home championship win in four seasons.

Seven wickets are needed tomorrow, on what looks like a full day of cricket. The wicket is not playing undue tricks, but seemed to have more in it when we bowled, especially as the visitors were shorn of the injured Harris and Roland-Jones.

That takes nothing away from Ben Slater and Luis Reece, who took their opening stand to 219, a county record against Middlesex, before Ben got bogged down on 99 and hit to cover. It takes nothing, bar a digit in the record book, from an excellent innings that continued his fine early season form and confirmed his ability to get his head down.

Reece went on and on, remaining unbeaten when the declaration came after another top innings. His success since moving from Lancashire has been entirely gratifying in all forms of the game, though not especially if you go to cricket matches with a red rose on your jumper. His short spell late in the day was also promising, bowling a full length that troubled the batsmen and got the ball to swing. I cannot think of too many opening batsmen who gave you a left-arm seam option over the years, and he is becoming a very special cricketer.

Tony Palladino was also on the mark and beat the batsmen with late movement in a typical display, but the star turn was again Duanne Olivier.

Hardus Viljoen ran in hard and took the key wicket of Robson with a big in-swinger, but he didn't appear to have full rhythm today. It will come, but when Olivier switched to the Racecourse/Media Centre End, he really seemed to slip himself. He had taken a wicket with his first ball from the City End, but from the other he looked a handful and the quickest bowler on show.

The sight of a Derbyshire quick bowler with five slips and two short legs brought back memories of Messrs Holding, Bishop and Malcolm in their pomp and Olivier responded to being pulled for four with a fine delivery that left Cartwright and gave a simple catch to Gary Wilson.

I still think the keeper is too far back and he was taking a lot of deliveries at his ankles, which seemed to confirm that, but to find faults in this performance is churlish in the extreme.

It won't be easy to take the last seven wickets tomorrow, but I was heartened by how Billy Godleman switched his bowlers around and tried them at different ends. It looked like a captain in control of things and with the confidence that he had the firepower to win a four-day match, perhaps for the first time in his captaincy.

We'll see if that is the case tomorrow, but we have had three very impressive days so far.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Derbyshire v Middlesex day 2

Derbyshire 265 and 118-0 (Slater 63 not Reece 47 not)

Middlesex 157 (Olivier 4-26)

Derbyshire lead by 226 runs

If you had offered this position to Derbyshire supporters at the start of the match, they may well have laughed. Even at the start of the day for that matter. To be 226 runs ahead of the county fancied by many to win this division this summer, with two days of good weather to come, is a very impressive effort.

Two days do not make a summer, of course and the key for us now will be to finish off a job that we have started extremely well, then continue with the high intensity level of cricket we have displayed for the rest of the summer.

Kim Barnett must be happy with the initial return on the investment in Ravi Rampaul and Duanne Olivier. Both showed their class over the opening two days, bowling with skill and purpose that was simply too much for the visiting line up.

Rampaul runs up to the crease looking nothing out of the ordinary, yet the final rock back sees a strong body and shoulder deliver a ball that is likely quicker than it appears to the casual bystander. I said pre-season that he may benefit from 'flying under the radar'  and I think he will do so in the months ahead, a steadying influence at one end, like Tony Palladino, steadily nipping it one way and the other, making the batsmen think.

Olivier, I think, we have got at the right time. A good spell here will put him to the front of the queue of would be South African bowlers and everything about him strikes me as a cricketer of purpose. His run accelerates, unlike Rampaul, into a final coil and whip which must make him awkward to face, with bounce and lateral movement a potent combo. In the flesh he looks quicker than on video and he is a key component of what looks a very strong seam attack. He shows the same purpose in the field and is a fine cricketer.

That attack apportioned the wickets out quite nicely today and Middlesex were never allowed to get going. The only criticism one could make was in some of the direction, which made Gary Wilson's life a difficult one and added too many unnecessary runs to the visiting tally for most tastes.

When we went in again, with a lead of 108, Ben Slater and Luis Reece did extremely well. Slater, as he did in the first innings and in pre-season, looked a player of real talent, playing shots all around the wicket. Reece led a more charmed life, with a couple of lbw calls and a rap on the hand before the rain stoppage, but they are phlegmatic characters who could become a fixture at the top of the county order for years to come.

As the clock passed six, the partnership a hundred and the lead 200, those supporters who remained could reflect on two impressive, professional days of cricket.

Proper cricket.

Let's keep it going gentlemen...

Friday, 20 April 2018

Derbyshire v Middlesex day one

Derbyshire 265 (Viljoen 60 not, Madsen 47, Harris 4-68)

Middlesex 45-3

A glorious sunny day greeted the arrival of the first-class season at the 3aaa County Ground in Derby and a decent crowd arrived to witness it. A good number will have come in on the back of the 'bring  friend free' offer that was extended to county members, but I'd like to think a few might have come along, as will be the case through the summer, to show support for a form of the game that the English Cricket Board seems intent on marginalising.

Derbyshire got through to lunch pretty well, at 117-3, after Middlesex opted to bowl. It was a decision that may have taken some thought, but there was movement for the seamers and one or two balls lifted from around a length. It was a wicket that kept the bowlers interested as the day progressed and offered lateral movement; similarly, it was one on which a batsman was never truly 'in'.

Luis Reece and Ben Slater opened, Billy Godleman having opted for a middle order berth this year. The two looked pretty comfortable, until Reece departed to a stunning, one-handed catch by Ollie Rayner at second slip, the first of four that he took. That brought in Wayne Madsen, restored to his (and my) preferred position of number three. We were soon being treated to trademark drives and though there were a few alarms, he survived through to the interval on an unbeaten 46.

Not so his partners. Ben Slater batted well, before a miscalculation on line saw him bowled, while Alex Hughes, after a few nice shots, was caught behind off the final delivery of the session, from the bowling of Cartwright.

Still 117-3 at the interval was better than most other sides batting first, at a traditionally tricky time of year. There was a need for a partnership, though, as the players came out for the afternoon session.

It was not to be. The consensus was that 250 was a score with which we could be fairly happy, but the departures in quick succession of Godleman (17) and Madsen (47) left a lengthy-looking tail dangerously exposed with the county at 143-5.

Gary Wilson gave it away with a half-hearted attempt at a pull that lobbed up to mid-wicket  and a decent lunch position had evaporated in the space of half an hour.

Thereafter the position improved, thanks to a dogged innings by Tony Palladino and one of impressive quality from Hardus Viljoen. Those of us with concerns over the tail end batting were heartened to see the giant South African go to his fifty with three sixes, a huge one over mid wicket sandwiched between two effortless drives.

There was a fourth six before the end came quickly and Derbyshire's mood was lightened by these late order runs, obvious from their demeanour as they came on to the field. Ravi Rampaul took the new ball and and shaped it beautifully, getting Holden caught behind as he ran one across, after swinging the previous ones into him.His initial spell for the county was an impressive one.

Viljoen and Olivier worked up good pace, but the line was often wanting. Both suggested though, when the line is adjusted, that the wickets will come, plenty of balls leaving the batsmen groping.and a couple of edges falling short of the slips, who could perhaps have been up a yard or two with the batsmen not assaying too many aggressive strokes.

It was a spell of cricket that hinted at good times to come. Only twenty runs came from the bat in the first twenty overs, a good few of them from the edge of the bat and in stark contrast to an innings in which Derbyshire scored at four an over. Olivier took his first wicket for us, courtesy of a sharp catch from Matt Critchley at slip, while Viljoen adjusted his line and, bowling a fuller length, had the Australian, Cartwright, beautifully held at second slip by Alex Hughes.

All in all? A very encouraging day's work. There is more to to do tomorrow to get through the Middlesex batting, but we are ahead at the end of day one.

And that's against what most considered the likely champions this summer.

Not bad at all..

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Derbyshire v Middlesex preview - and so it begins

It's been a long cold, wet, dark winter. Come to think of it, a long cold, wet, dark Spring, but cricket is here again and to mark its arrival, Derby has once more been transformed into Derbados. I'm sure that Duanne Olivier and his new wife arrived in the city wondering what on earth they had done, but I am sure that both will enjoy their spell in God's own county now that the sun has remembered that it shines here from time to time.

If Duanne delivers, as part of a four-pronged pace and seam attack that promises much, we will all be very happy. Because despite what the doom-mongers of the media may say, in suggesting we will be lucky to finish tenth in the division, I still disagree.

IF Messrs Viljoen, Olivier, Rampaul and Davis, with assistance from Tony Palladino or anyone else, hit their straps early, no one will fancy batting against us. Especially if we have backed it up with pitches that offer assistance. If the batting can graft their way to totals that offer them something to work with, who knows?

The initial twelve effectively picked itself, the only question, for me, being whether Gary Wilson or Daryn Smit got the gloves. The vice-captain got the gig, which is hard luck on arguably the best keeper on the county circuit, who scored an unbeaten hundred the other day. You could say, of course, that Harvey Hosein can also feel unlucky, but therein is a measure of the strength of this Derbyshire squad.

There have been times, in the not too distant past, where you looked at a named twelve and had concerns in certain areas. I don't here, save for there being no top spin option, but that's not an issue at this time of year and Matt Critchley and Wayne Madsen can fill that gap if required. A spinner might have been the reason for preferring Smit behind the timbers, as a better all round glove man.

Here's the squad:

Godleman
Slater
Reece
Madsen
Hughes
Critchley
Wilson
Viljoen
Rampaul
Olivier
Davis
Palladino.

One assumes Palladino will miss out, but that depends on the expected wicket and he knows Derby tracks pretty well, besides lengthening the batting order.

As for the visitors, they are fresh off their first win last week, against Northamptonshire, but it is no bad time to be playing them. They have a few players missing, including Steven Finn and Nick Gubbins, as well as Dawid Malan and Eoin Morgan.

Their squad:

Robson
Cartwright
Franklin
Harris
Helm
Holden
Murtagh
Rayner
Roland-Jones
Scott
Simpson
Stirling
White

I see Middlesex as the most likely winners of the division, so this is a chance for us to make a statement and benchmark ourselves against the best. They have a very strong seam attack, but will be looking at ours and thinking 'this might be a test'.

All very exciting and I look forward to seeing how the game unfolds over the next four days - or less, if the wicket is anything like those of last week around the country.

I hope the club gets the support it deserves and that 2018 is a year we can all be proud of.

Let's get going gentleman.

Maybe it's the year of the Falcon...