Saturday, 30 July 2016

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire RLODC - Neesham in squad

Derbyshire travel to Wantage Road tomorrow for the first of two weekend fifty-over games that will decide their season. Win them both and we qualify for the quarter-finals that looked likely at the halfway stage. Win one and it will come down to net run rate.

Lose them both? Let's not consider that just now...

Having said that, John Sadler will have had to work to pick the side up after the last two defeats. As it happens, tomorrow's game is against a side that has had a very thin squad all summer and has patched up their players for the past few weeks. They have also heard today that highly-rated seamer Olly Stone is going to be playing at Warwickshire next summer, with several other players being keenly pursued by an array of suitors. Such is the lot of one of the game's poorer counties, but they have done astonishingly well this summer, especially in the one-day game.

No news on their side as yet, but it will be top heavy with powerful batsmen who, unless we bowl with discipline, will be setting us 300-plus. As for our team, the big news is that Hamish Rutherford has been replaced by Jimmy Neesham 'to provide additional bowling options'. It is a sensible move and means that if Wes Durston isn't fit to bowl, we have more than a straight five bowlers that limited us against Lancashire.

Our squad:

Wes Durston
Billy Godleman
Ben Slater
Chesney Hughes
Jimmy Neesham
Wayne Madsen
Neil Broom
Shiv Thakor
Alex Hughes
Alex Mellor
Matt Critchley
Tony Palladino
Ben Cotton
Will Davis

Neil Broom's return to form last night was welcome. A big game from him and Neesham would make such a difference.

I can't call this one, so won't.

Just go out and do us proud, lads.

T20 appraisal

There will be those who, after we failed to qualify from the T20 group again, say that it was the 'same old, same old'. Then there are the others, who take a closer look.

Our hopes went to the last over of the last game and we failed to qualify from a really tough group with plenty of Test-ground counties. We lost seven games, but three of them were by just one run and, for supporters used to seeing us hammered in these games, it was a refreshing change to see us compete - and compete well.

'We still lost' I hear one or two cry. Yes, but we are making progress, on the back of a lot of hard winter work on the key disciplines. We gave away few extras, held some blinding catches, dropped a few, but such is the game. The fielding stood up well to the pressure and only in a couple of matches did we let ourselves down.

A lot was pinned on the three New Zealanders, just as it was the previous year with Hashim Amla and Tillakaratne Dilshan. We were all excited about their involvement but the reality was that they didn't really deliver. Jimmy Neesham did best, producing a match-winning performance against Lancashire and being steady with bat and ball. Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom disappointed, playing cameos, rather than the match-defining innings that we needed and, to be fair, expect from that key role.

That is it with T20. 'Steady' isn't enough and, whoever we recruit for next season, they will stand or fall on their ability to win us matches. Reputations count for little in this game, as we know and Somerset found out. With Gayle and Jayawardene in their side, success had to follow, but they came bottom of their group having shelled out thousands.

Continued improvement depends on prudent winter signings. There is a strong nucleus of young local talent, while Wayne Madsen and Chesney Hughes provide more experience, but the need for three or four new recruits is strong. One has to be a batting wicket-keeper, while a reliable overseas bowler is essential, likewise a top order batsman or all-rounder.

There is no quick fix. No one can wave a magic wand and make us top of the group with a hundred per cent record. There is no getting away from the fact that our playing resources are still slim next to many clubs, but we punch above our weight at times. The right new men would make all the difference in landing the knock out blow.

I remain confident that we are on the right track and hope that the hard winter work, led by Graeme Welch and John Sadler, can be repeated to greater success next year.

In closing, I feel duty-bound to answer a question that has been asked several times in recent correspondence. Will Wes Durston be captain in 2017?

My answer is simple. Like any other professional sportsman, Wes knows that another contract depends on the club looking for and finding someone better. It hasn't been a vintage season for him and with only one score over fifty, as well as an injury, it didn't go to plan. If there's a better option out there, I am sure the club will pursue it, if not, he will be back for, I'd guess, another year next year. He has been a wonderful servant to the club, but won't look back on this as one of his best summers.

For what it is worth, unless we can recruit a real talisman to the club, I'd be inclined to give the one-day captaincy to Alex Hughes. He strikes me as a lad who thrives on opportunity and challenge and was coming in too late to make an impact in the T20.

He skippered in some of the more magical moments of this summer's campaign and expect him to make a good fist of things if offered the role for another year.

Makes a lot of sense to old Peakfan.

In closing tonight, I'd just like to wish James Pipe all the very best for the new role he has secured at Nottinghamshire CCC later this year.

He has a lot of friends at Derbyshire and always will have, testimony to his friendly persona and ever-present smile. He is one of the highest-rated men in the game and is destined to go far.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Durham v Derbyshire T20

Durham 193-2  (MacLeod 83, Stoneman 82 not, Neesham 1-25)

Derbyshire 180-9 (Broom 68, Durston 44, Borthwick 3-33)

Durham won by 13 runs

Alas, at the end of it all, came disappointment.

There wasn't a point tonight at which I thought 'yeah, we can win this', despite a fine effort from Neil Broom, an innings that hinted of vintage Wes Durston and a brief flurry from Shiv Thakor that took us from 'no chance' to 'maybe'.

The side's weakness was well revealed tonight, as Mark Stoneman and Calum MacLeod put our young attack to the sword. Jimmy Neesham bowled an exemplary spell to finish a solid, if not spectacular spell as overseas specialist, but the rest went for ten an over and we're not that good a batting side that two hundred falls easily within our compass.

All a little frustrating really, as Warwickshire (or Birmingham) failed to chase 125 to win at Old Trafford, showing that it really is a tight group where any side can beat another on a given night and four points separated fourth place qualifying and bottom of the table. We went from verge of qualification to third bottom with one defeat, despite a T20 summer in which we played much better cricket than previous years.

'A game of extremely fine margins and we need to get on the right side of them, fast' tweeted chairman Chris Grant tonight. He's absolutely right and if we could have found an extra 5% this summer we would be in the quarter-finals, without doubt.

A young team has potential, though some may not get to the promised land alongside them. Winter recruitment will be key to that - but there's a piece for another day.

Attention now turns to the last rolls of the dice in the RLODC.

Can we win two from two? On recent evidence, I have my doubts.

So go prove me wrong.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Durham v Derbyshire T20

Can Derbyshire beat Durham tomorrow night in the final group game of the T20? Yes, most definitely.

Will they? That's a more complex question, but I think they will.

There's been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth today and I get the reason why. We should have beaten Lancashire and probably would from that position seven times in ten. The other three is why supporting the club is such a roller coaster ride, because you can never call it with total confidence.

It's done now, the impact will be seen by Monday and we must accept that. All we can do is aim to win all the games from here and see if other results go our way. If we lose them, then we just need to go again another year. Life goes on and, disappointing as it is, there are more things in life to worry about.

This evening the club announced the signing of Warwickshire wicket-keeper Alex Mellor (pictured keeping wicket) on an initial month's loan. He's a Staffordshire lad who has played most of his cricket for Leek, so I have no doubt that Kim Barnett's counsel has been sought on his worth. The lad can obviously play, as he got a double century for Staffordshire last year, as well as taking eleven catches in the same match. He's got some good runs for them this year and another left-hander down the order is never a bad thing

He should not be confused with the target for next year, in my opinion, as I think the club will aim for am established county professional for a pivotal role in the side. If we can get a keeper who is capable of batting in the top five, especially in one-day games, it would balance the side and allow us to recruit a bowler that we badly need.

We will go through if we win and either Birmingham or Yorkshire lose, but our bit is the focus. I don't see many changes, as we are fast running out of players, but the batting will be worthy of consideration. Would Chesney Hughes or Neil Broom strengthen the line-up? I see them coming in for Ben Slater and Billy Godleman as the changes, as well as Mellor for Harvey Hosein, who was never going to be fit for three games in four days. There was perhaps discussion on Wayne Madsen getting the gloves, but for a man with little experience in the role, that's asking a lot at short notice.
Jimmy Neesham is a strong addition to the side, of course and a big performance from him would help us immensely.

My team:

Rutherford
Durston
Hughes (C)
Madsen
Broom
Neesham
Thakor
Hughes (A)
Critchley
Mellor
Cotton

Two final points tonight. Andy Carter signing for Hampshire to the end of the season...that surprised me. Will he take division one wickets? Based on what we saw, no, but cricket is a funny game and a change of environment can sometimes work for players.

Finally, thanks for the continued support of the blog. Last month set a new record for visits with almost thirty thousand. This month will go past forty thousand tomorrow, a figure that tells its own tale on the interest in the club, irrespective of results.

Long may that continue!

No news on either squad at present, but Phil Mustard is on loan at Gloucestershire and that can only help our cause. Having said that, they have some dangerous batsmen and could easily put the game out of our reach if we don't hit lines and lengths from the off.

I'll be back tomorrow night with my comments on the game and hope for an improved performance - and result...

The morning after...

Grrrrr....

Just when you think we are starting to get somewhere, a reversion to the 'old days' threatens to de-rail the hopes of qualification from the RLODC group stages.

I saw none of the Lancashire innings, due to that pesky little thing called work, but after dinner settled down to watch a Derbyshire reply that was progressing smoothly, after the loss of Ben Slater. Billy Godleman looked good, Hamish Rutherford was composed and we passed the hundred with few alarms and at five an over.

In these days of twenty-over obsession...sorry...dominance of world schedules, I find it useful to break down an innings in the longer format into bite-sized chunks. A hundred off twenty left 180 off thirty at a run-a-ball. Sixty off the next ten leaves you 120 from twenty overs. We were at that stage last night and should we be chasing such a total on Friday at Durham, might you not fancy the chances, with most of the batting in hand?

Of course you would. All it needs is a cool head. Knock it into space, take the twos where you can, put the bad ball away, job's a good 'un. Except it wasn't.

As he has done too many times this summer, Hamish Rutherford gave it away when set with a poor shot that hinted at a loss of concentration. Disappointing, but it brought in Wayne Madsen and when we passed 170 and needed seven an over to win, I was mentally composing a victory blog that referred to a 'professional run chase'.

Then those wheels came off. Wayne had struggled for timing but it was unusual to see him give it away so carelessly, then the dismissal of Billy Godleman, after a splendid innings, left the new men to rebuild.

It was still very possible, but Wes Durston didn't look fit to me last night and was out of sorts at the crease. Whether going in at five 'threw' him I don't know, but nine off seventeen balls was not part of the script and was pretty much diametrically opposed to the Wes we have grown to love. Shiv Thakor, who scores quickly most of the time, played a horrid shot that can only be part of the village green coaching manual.

It spiralled from there and we all know the result. The injury to Harvey Hosein highlighted the importance of a quality wicket-keeper batsman for next summer, in that we can't assume a young lad of talent will get through a summer unscathed. We were a bowler short too, making the decision of Wes not to turn his arm over puzzling. For Lancashire, Kyle Jarvis looked the 'go to' bowler of quality that I have previously suggested we need for another year and rendered our final power play effort as effective as a fly swatter for a swarm of bees.

Time to regroup, clear heads, focus. I accept it is easy from the boundary edge or armchair to criticise, but the players work on scenarios and situations all winter and in training. They should be prepared for and be better able to handle, those like last night, which too often happen in front of TV cameras.

It leaves a big job in restoring confidence for John Sadler over the next two days. Finding a wicket-keeper is number one, because I find it hard to believe, despite last night's piece in the Derby Telegraph, that a lad who can only hold a bat with one hand on Wednesday night will be fit for three big games on Friday, Sunday and Monday.

I don't suppose Quinton de Kock is visiting his granny in Crich, by any chance?

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Derbyshire v Lancashire RLODC

Lancashire 281-8 (Livingstone 98, Croft 68, Cotton 3-62)

Derbyshire 254-9 (Godleman 91, Rutherford 47)

Lancashire won by 27 runs

Irrespective of what happens in the last two games, Derbyshire's players will look at this as the one that got away. Or more to the point, was given away.

Putting not too fine a point on it, we should have breezed that. We needed 168 from 28 overs when Hamish Rutherford perished to a poor shot, then 105 in 15 when Wayne Madsen, most uncharacteristically, did the same after almost being out in the same place the ball before. When Billy Godleman effectively yorked himself, the writing was on the wall.

The normally classical Shiv Thakor played a village green shot and while Alex Hughes was a little unlucky, his hand was forced by that stage.

In any T20, if you needed 105 in fifteen overs with seven wickets in hand (I discount the injured Hosein) you would fancy your chances. We may pay the ultimate penalty for our profligacy when the qualifying places are being sorted.

I wasn't impressed by Wes Durston tonight. The slow bowlers were hard to get away, yet he didn't bowl, while he looked leaden-footed and awkward at the crease. If he wasn't fit enough to bowl, he shouldn't have played, as Chesney could have done the same job while Alex Hughes skippered the side. Not a good night for the skipper, I'm afraid.

It was all a shame for Harvey Hosein and his fractured thumb will rule him out for several weeks and require a quick search of available replacements. It was also hard luck on Billy Godleman, who played a fine hand and timed the ball as well as anyone on a surface where the ball never seemed to come on to the bat as they would have wished.

More to the point, it was a shame for the club, because they threw away a gilt-edged opportunity to get two points in a game they worked hard to win, but ultimately threw away like we did in some of the bad old days.

More from me tomorrow.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Derbyshire v Lancashire RLODC preview

Well, Leicestershire did it today, so let's hope that Derbyshire can emulate them, beat Lancashire tomorrow and put one foot in the Royal London One-Day Cup knock-out stages.

In fact, our East Midlands rivals trounced them and if we go into tomorrow's game with the level of commitment and focus that has characterised most of our one-day cricket this summer, we can get the points.

With Warwickshire handing out a good hiding to Northamptonshire, the game offers us a chance to put daylight between us and the chasing pack ahead of the games against Northamptonshire and Leicestershire. It goes without saying, in such a tough group, that qualification would be an impressive achievement.

There have been plenty of pictures from today's training, with Dominic Cork involved with the bowlers and turning his arm over himself. He still looks fit enough to be playing, though the fielding might catch him out a bit these days. I can relate to that...

Tomorrow he will back behind the microphone and maintaining impartiality as best he can for Sky. John Sadler has named a fourteen that shouldn't see much change, in the final eleven, from Sunday at Welbeck. From reports we did little wrong there but ran into a very good side on a good day. For us to realistically entertain hopes of beating such sides, someone has to produce something special and hope for an off-day from the opposition.

Our unchanged squad:

Wes Durston
Billy Godleman
Ben Slater
Chesney Hughes
Hamish Rutherford
Wayne Madsen
Neil Broom
Shiv Thakor
Alex Hughes
Harvey Hosein
Matt Critchley
Tony Palladino
Ben Cotton
Will Davis

The big decision, I would think, is who misses out among the batsmen. Chesney and Billy did at Welbeck, but Neil Broom needs to deliver sometime soon to keep gaining selection ahead of them. It is a dilemma to have to consider dropping a man who, although on a British passport, is essentially an overseas player with international experience and a good track record. Yet it hasn't really happened for Neil (or Hamish Rutherford) this year. Might this be 'the one' where it does?

I'm sure we all hope so.

Lancashire's side today, presumably similar to tomorrow, was:

Smith, Petersen,  Brown, Procter, Livingstone, Croft, Clark, Moores, Parry, Jarvis, Buck

Alviro Petersen is the key man, but there are some dangerous players in the side and we will need to be at our best to come out on top.

I think we will. There appears to be a good 'vibe' around the club at present and, even in front of TV cameras, I think we can deliver the type of performance that can maintain our place in the top four.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, winning the toss tomorrow will help our cause immensely.

Good luck lads. Do us proud.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Monday Musings

It was good to listen to Dominic Cork on Radio Derby tonight.

I will give him his due, he has remained a Derbyshire fan, even before he came back into the fold and has always spoken up for us on Sky, an oasis of sanity in the desert of 'Derbys' 'Madsdens' and at times patronising nonsense.

It was especially good to hear that the approach came from John Sadler and that puts my mind at ease a little. Both Kevin Dean and Kim Barnett are offering assistance, as and when required, but staying at arm's length, which is the way it should be. We are doing OK just now and the big danger is in the 'too many cooks spoiling the broth' malarkey.

John has done well and despite a few losses in his tenure, the side has shown fight and tenacity. I have seen enough Derbyshire sides go down with a whimper over the years and the current batch are, in their spirit, a throw back to better times. They are playing some very good cricket too, individually and collectively.

It was obvious again yesterday that a great need for next summer is a 'go to' bowler for whichever captain and format. Kim Barnett had it with Michael Holding, an experienced man  who could bowl a tight over or two, maybe nick a wicket. Charl Langeveldt fulfilled a similar role over a shorter period and it is so important for any skipper.

When a batsman is going well, as Rikki Wessels was yesterday, as a captain you look at your resources and wonder who can make a difference. Such players can do that and find the lines and lengths required as a matter of course. They command respect on reputation, but follow it through with their deeds.

I wouldn't be averse to Jimmy Neesham again in T20, though I suspect the bigger fish of IPL will command his attention next year, if he stays fit. He averages 28 with the bat and is top wicket-taker with 14, albeit at nearly ten runs an over. He's bowled the key top and tail spells though, something he hasn't often done in the past and has performed steadily, if not spectacularly. That 'go to' bowler would help him too.

Tomorrow night I will be looking at Wednesday's game against Lancashire, who we have already proved we can beat this season. If we can get back to winning ways in that one, it sets us up royally for our big weekend.

The key to the biggest week the club has had in recent times will be in keeping the players relaxed but maintaining focus. If we can go out and play with maximum intensity, we can give anyone a good game and can beat a lot of sides. When Mick Newell says that his side produced a '9.5 out of ten' performance yesterday, but we were far from disgraced, it speaks volumes for the potential in a young team.

These are heady times, as exemplified by the visitors to this blog. There have been five thousand views over the last two days, as the blog has hit a new high in readership with a week of the month still to go.

Please do keep checking in and making comments. As long as I can understand them and they're not filed under 'personal attacks' they will be live pretty quickly!

Thanks for your interest.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire RLODC

Nottinghamshire 340-7 (Wessels 114, Read 59 not, Thakor 3-78)

Derbyshire 275 (Slater 51, Critchley 43, Hosein 41, Gurney 3-47)

Nottinghamshire won by 65 runs

Local cricket fans had a good day at Welbeck today, with 600 runs scored and good entertainment enjoyed by all.

Realistically, the result was as one might expect, as a team full of international experience overcame a young Derbyshire side. For us to compete, one of our internationals had to deliver a big innings and sadly, both Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom went for 20s, which has sadly become a season average.

The omission of Chesney Hughes was a pre-game talking point and whether he may have done better than the struggling Broom is a moot point, but the decision was made and there's no  point wondering at this juncture.

Derbyshire's main contributors were youngsters, who all showed a spirit that was impressive and bodes well for the future. Matt Critchley had a good game with bat and ball and has made major one-day strides this summer, while Harvey Hosein showed that he will, given time, be a very good all-round player for us. Meanwhile Ben Slater led off the innings with an array of shots that suggested a one-day role may become a regular occurrence in the near future. Ben can graft away in the four-day game, but with two centuries and a fifty in his last three List A games, he seems to have got his head around the one-day stuff quite nicely now.

Nottinghamshire's win was largely down to the late assault by Chris Read and Steve Mullaney. How they will eventually replace Read is a moot point, as he turned what looked like a sub-300 score into a very competitive one. A hundred runs from the last ten overs took it to nose bleed territory, this after Derbyshire had come back well in the middle overs. Rikki Wessels sizzling century helped them recover from the loss of two wickets to Shiv Thakor and such an innings had to be played at the top of our innings for us to get close.

Despite the best efforts of Slater, no one else in the top order got going and it was left to the two teenagers to give it their best shot.

Critchley had earlier been the most economical of the bowlers, even on a small ground. While four-day wickets will take him a while to get to grips with, he has done an astonishing one-day job this summer and can be proud of his progress.

So while we are off the top of the group, we control our own destiny. The Northamptonshire game, against a side just below us in the table, is a biggie, but we also play Lancashire and Leicestershire, the bottom two in the group.

A favourable finish, but most of us have seen Derbyshire stumble against sides that should be beaten.

Two wins from three will do it and a repeat of the recent win against Lancashire, on Wednesday, will send us into next weekend in fine fettle.

One final point...has there ever been a bigger weekend, finals excepted, in our history? Durham in the T20 on Friday, Northamptonshire on Sunday in the RLODC, then Leicestershire in the same competition on Monday.

Keep them calm and keep them focused John.

If they produce their best, they can do this.

Cork back in consultancy role

Interesting news breaking today in that club legend Dominic Cork is with the side at Welbeck for the game against Nottinghamshire.

Cork will be working under John Sadler on an occasional consultancy basis over the next few weeks and, of course, brings a lot of experience with him into the role. Not to mention his expertise and personality, which brought a never-say-die attitude into the Derbyshire dressing room of the time and makes him one of the most listenable commentators and experts on television.

No problem whatsoever on on this one, as long as Sadler gets to make the decisions and calls on Cork and anyone else required for advice, as and when required.

It is, in fact a sound move and having someone of such reputation, both on and off the pitch, involved in the club is good thinking.

We have got to an exciting position in both one-day competitions and any little extra that we can bring in to get a few per cent more from the players and team can only be seen as a positive and worthwhile move.

Thumbs up from me.