Monday, 15 September 2014

Surrey v Derbyshire day one

Surrey 181 all out (Wilson 70, Footitt 6-69, White 3-39, Cotton 1-32)
Derbyshire 164-5 (Madsen 48 not)

Writing tonight's blog sees me having a similar problem to the promoters of those old rock 'n' roll revues in 1950s America. How do you sort top billing between Elvis, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard?

More appositely for our purpose - who gets top billing? Six-gun Footitt or Seven-up Hosein?

That was quite a day of cricket. Surrey appeared to be comfortable, if not entirely trouble-free at lunch, when Wayne White had continued his impressive return to the county with two wickets and Harvey Hosein (pictured) had pouched his first two victims in first-class cricket.

Afterwards, they were simply blown away by the Derbyshire howitzer. Footitt steamed in and the Surrey batsmen largely gave catching practice to Hosein and the close field, as he was simply too quick for them.

Seven victims on debut is perhaps something Harvey dreamed about and it's not something he can or will do on a regular basis in the future. All he can do is hold those that come his way, which he did quite admirably today. Great stuff from a young player of real potential and incredibly heartening.

Footitt now has 72 wickets at less than twenty runs each and surely has to get an England Lions chance this winter. If he doesn't, the selectors lose any credibility that remains, as his record in division one last year suggested that the level isn't an issue. This year he has been a gale-force wind blowing through the defences of batsmen across the land and few have fancied it. Sure, there are still times when he loses line and length, but he's not alone in that. When it goes wrong for him it tends to be spectacularly so, but when it goes is electric to watch.

There was a time, back in the 1980's, when pretty much every county had at least one genuine (usually overseas) quick and batsmen had to be fast on their feet to cope. Today there are very few genuine quick bowlers in the world game and, as member of a select band, Footitt is deserving of elevation to see if he is the real deal. I can vouch for a few batsmen who have been dismissed or hit by Mark this year who might just speak on his behalf...

Credit also to Ben Cotton for a less spectacular opening day in senior cricket, but one in which he bowled steadily and picked up his first wicket at first-class level. He is another who has impressed me and with hard work he could become the real deal.

When we batted, it seemed to be with a tad too much gay abandon. If the ball's there to be hit, then it needs put away, but I think a few people will be disappointed with breezy knocks that amounted to nothing of genuine substance when they got back to the dressing room. Four an over is fine, but not when you lose a wicket for every eight being bowled.

Apart from, that is, Maddo the Magnificent, unbeaten on 48 and a further 48 from his thousand for a second successive year. He really is a wonderful cricketer and a class act. It was entirely appropriate that as the day came to a close, young Harvey Hosein walked to the wicket with six overs to go in the day to join a batsman who could talk him through the undoubted nerves and set him at ease.

Seven catches, equalling the record set (twice) by the greatest of them all, Bob Taylor AND seeing the day through to the close unbeaten with the skipper.

Carlsberg don't do days.

But if they did...

Harvey, the autograph requests start here, lad. One game into your career and you're in the record books.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Surrey v Derbyshire preview

And so we come to the penultimate game of the season and a trip for Derbyshire down to the big smoke for a game against Surrey. At t'Oval, if you will...

Graeme Welch has announced a thirteen-man squad for the game, which includes a sizeable young element, headed, in youth at least, by Harvey Hosein, who makes his county first-class debut at the age of eighteen. I'm sure all supporters wish him well and will follow the formative steps in a cricket career with great interest.

The squad in full:

Ben Slater, Billy Godleman, Wayne Madsen, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wes Durston,  Alex Hughes, 
Harvey Hosein, Wayne White, David Wainwright, Tony Palladino, Mark Footitt, Ben Cotton, Tom Taylor.

Two will miss out and that looks like being two of the seamers. There's an argument for playing all of them, of course - experience for the younger ones, against the reliability of the older ones. Surrey will doubtless hope Mark Footitt is rested, but I'm sure our lethal weapon will want a chance to impress a few journalists whose idea of a trip oop north sees them get a nosebleed when they reach Birmingham...

As for our hosts, they have also named a thirteen-man squad which lines up:

Gary Wilson (captain), Zafar Ansari, Gareth Batty, Rory Burns, Steven Davies, Jade Dernbach, Matthew Dunn, Arun Harinath, Aneesh Kapil, Tim Linley, Stuart Meaker, Jason Roy, Vikram  Solanki 

They will provide a stiff test, but despite the reverse in Cardiff, this is a much-improved Derbyshire team in quality, as well as spirit. 

If the weather stays fine, I could see us chalk up another win in a vastly improved second half of season. 

In closing tonight, two quick comments - Shivnarine Chanderpaul now just 454 runs behind Brian Lara's West Indies record total after yet another unbeaten innings, this time 84, against Bangladesh. He's not yet been out in this series and remains an extraordinary little batsman.

Finally, congratulations to Sandiacre Town CC for winning the Royal London National Club Championship. There's classy cricket being played throughout the county at all levels.

Well done guys! Thoroughly deserved.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Weekend warmer

With just eight days of first-class cricket to go, Yorkshire have won the first division, which they thoroughly deserved as a very strong unit, while Worcestershire are promoted but could yet be pipped for the title by Hampshire. Northamptonshire have had a dreadful summer and they, probably with Lancashire, will be back with us in 2015.

I do feel a little sorry for Worcestershire, as there have been a number of comments doing the rounds regarding their success being largely due to a bowler whose action has now been declared illegal, with way more than twice the permitted 'flex' in the elbow. That their season has stuttered since his departure was hardly surprising, so influential was he on early season results, but they still needed to get the runs for him to bowl at, while someone still needed to bowl at the other end.

In recent weeks I have had the pleasure of several chats with former county spin bowling legend Edwin Smith, from which an interview will appear during the winter months. Here is a man who took over 1200 wickets for the county and was close to an England call at a time when every county side had a decent spinner, often two.

He told me that when the Derbyshire batsmen wanted to practice against a ball that was really turning, he would throw them down and they would turn and spit spitefully. You would expect nothing less from a man who got plenty of turn from his orthodox and perfectly legitimate action, but it serves to show what advantage can be obtained from a bend, or flex of the elbow.

There is a degree of unfortunate irony that some players - and I will use Harold Rhodes and Peter Eyre as examples from our own patch - whose actions were unusual but not remotely questionable, had their career prospects harmed, while others have been allowed to take many wickets at international level with little consequence, until now. Irony is one word, but there are many others...

Going back to Yorkshire and I think it a disgrace that their excellent skipper, Andrew Gale, was banned from receiving the trophy and wary of speaking to the press after their triumph yesterday. Gale was suspended from playing for Yorkshire for falling foul of the 'code', a term that sounds Mafioso-like, perhaps by design.

Why should his suspension include off-field activities? I'm sorry, this is the latest in a long line of ridiculous, poorly handled issues by the ECB who should really be more accountable for such fiascos. That Gale had a tete a tete with Ashwell Prince during the recent Roses match is undeniable, but was his 'crime' so heinous that he should be denied participation in the moment that he had worked for all summer?

Of course it wasn't. It shows that Derbyshire aren't always the victims in such circumstances, but Gale, a good man and a cricketer I respect, didn't deserve such shoddy treatment.

Speaking of which, someone else who deserves better is Alex Hughes. I have seen a few comments regarding his role in the side and one, on another site, suggested he 'wasn't good enough if we really want to go places'.

Seriously? We have here a lad who is just completing his FIRST full season as a professional, with all the physical and psychological demands that this entails. He's averaged around thirty, has added as fair bit of speed to his bowling and was our second most economical bowler in the Royal London One-Day Cup. He fields brilliantly too and is not close to the finished article - at 22 why would you expect him to be - yet people still have a go.

It's neither fair nor remotely clever. He will be better known next year and there are hundreds of examples of players who 'dip' a little in their second summer, but I think he will be a bigger threat with the ball in 2015, as well as tighter in technique in the early part of his innings. Give him and other young players a break though, for there's a long and winding road between promising tyro and county stalwart.

Take Darren Stevens, an excellent and perhaps similar player recently linked with a move to us (which I don't see happening, for the record). In his first summer he scored 562 runs at 28 and in his second 457 runs at 20. He didn't take more than one first-class wicket in a season until his EIGHTH summer as a professional!

Likewise Paul Collingwood. 464 runs at 23 in his first summer, 316 at 26 in his second, while taking a combined nine wickets over the two summers. He didn't turn out too badly, did he?

Cut young lads some slack. It's not easy, as the cases of Richard Johnson and Peter Burgoyne highlighted this summer. Some will succeed, others will fall by the wayside, but it's not for the lack of trying.Think back to what you could, or more appositely couldn't do at that age for a comparator and think about that before you put things into print.

Slater, Hosein, Hughes, Cotton, Taylor, Cork, Knight. All young lads, finding their way in the game.

The onus on all of us, as supporters, is to do what the name suggests.

Support them.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Cross goes as Harvey gets senior chance

Today's news that Gareth Cross had been released  by Derbyshire perhaps came as no surprise to many followers of the club.

He came in at short notice, after the double blow that robbed the club of two keepers of talent in a few weeks. While Richard Johnson was ultimately gone for good, we needed a stop-gap to cover behind the stumps while Tom Poynton recovered from the injuries sustained in that tragic, early season car crash.

Whatever the frustrations of his spell with us, there is no doubt that Cross was the best man available at the time. Yet he had thought his first-class career over and had little or no pre-season work to draw on when he was thrust back into senior cricket. At most levels below the county game, that wouldn't  have been an issue, but lack of pre-season preparation tells and Cross was no exception.

He kept wicket steadily, without being outstanding. While Derbyshire has an enviable history of seam bowling, we've done well with our wicket-keepers too and there were times when the standard dropped a little. Cross has been a good county player - you don't hold a place in a decent Lancashire side without being so - but he had a lot of catching up to do and it ultimately proved too big a job.

His batting suffered the most. There were some pugnacious one-day knocks, especially in the T20, but nothing suggested permanence at the crease and fans enjoyed it while it lasted, aware that it was likely to end too soon. It was often selfless, but sometimes suicidal.

His approach to batting was perhaps similar to that of James Pipe, although the latter both won and saved a good many matches in his time with us. Cross didn't and a batting average of just ten in the championship was nowhere close to good enough for a number seven, lower than that of Mark Footitt. His highest score of thirty came in his last game, but by then the writing was on the wall.

Harvey Hosein has been spoken about in junior cricket circles for a few years, keeping wicket for Matlock in the Derbyshire Premier League since he was just 13, but looking younger. Good judges told me then that he had an excellent pair of hands and an impressive temperament, happy to battle out for draws and to face the quickest of bowlers in doing so.

At 18, which he was last month, his talent is undeniable and his likely role, at least for now, as understudy to Tom Poynton, seems secure. Giving him experience in the closing games of the season makes great sense and, armed with a two-year professional contract, Hosein will let no one down and will push Poynton all the way next summer.

It is a pleasure to write about a locally-produced player of such potential and, while it would be silly to expect too much too soon, there is much to be excited about in a young man who keeps wicket tp a very high standard and has a lot of ability with a bat in his hands, as he showed with an unbeaten and unfazed fifty against the Indian touring side.

This summer has seen the introduction of a number of young cricketers who could form the backbone of a Derbyshire side for the next five to ten years. Traumatic and troubled as it has been at times, tough decisions have accelerated their involvement and progress.

We will reap the benefit in the summers ahead.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 3

The end of the game came pretty much as was expected. The winning of the toss proved crucial and Derbyshire ended up losers in a game where each innings was less than the one that preceded it.

We did well this morning to take the last five wickets in jig time, but in doing so the likelihood of our making the required winning total lessened. A total of over 250 was akin to climbing Everest in carpet slippers.

We didn't get close and there is little point in grumbling unduly. There were some very good batsmen in this match and none of them got going, something that tells its own story. The stand of Cooke and Wagg on the first day proved decisive and fair play to them for that.

It was not the baptism that Cheteshwar Pujara would have hoped for, but he will learn from the experience. Were he to rattle off centuries on moribund tracks it would prove little and it is unrealistic to expect him to handle such a track when people better prepared for them cannot.

The winning streak has ended but the season has not. A few net sessions and it will be time to get it going again.

Heads up, lads.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 2

Most eyes were on Cheteshwar Pujara today, as he made his batting bow for Derbyshire, but it was our other new boy who took centre stage and kept us in the game.

"Puj" as he is known to the players (I'd have quite liked "Chet" in honour of the great Chet Atkins, but...) struggled against some means protagonists of the moving ball, as he was ever likely to do. He's here to learn and an atmosphere conducive to swing was exactly what Messrs Hogan, Wagg and Allenby would have wanted.

None of our batsmen came to terms with the moving ball, although Gareth Cross got a season's best 30 in quick time. At 153-9 we were in danger of being out of touch, before Wayne White (pictured) and Mark Footitt added an aggressive fifty for the last wicket. White's 38 came from just 22 balls and wrested the initiative from the home side. We were 79 behind on first innings, but it could have been much worse.

When the home side made a brisk start to their second innings, we looked in trouble again, but the introduction of the pacy White to the attack brought two wickets in two balls. Just before the close, his reintroduction to the attack brought the wickets of both set batsmen to leave the game intriguingly poised.

White is a good cricketer and I would be delighted to get his services for a few seasons. He'll not always score runs and take wickets - who does? - but he presents a danger with bat and ball that offers potent possibilities.

All the bowlers did a steady job and special mention must be made of Alex Hughes, who kept things tight at one end and got the important wicket of Bragg. The lad is a good cricketer and I look forward to seeing the results of a winter of hard work in the nets and gym.

224 runs ahead, Glamorgan must be slight favourites and batting first in this game could turn out to be the deciding factor, but we're not out of this yet. Much will depend on how quickly we can remove the Welsh tail tomorrow and, with less favourable bowling conditions and greater resolve from the batsmen, we could feasibly chase a total under 300.

With a favourable forecast, there is a certain result in this game.

It could still go either way.

Postcript - there's an excellent piece on Pujara on Cricinfo today. Well worth a read.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day one

Congratulations tonight go to Mark Footitt, now officially public enemy number one for batsmen around the country. The left-arm pace bowler now has 65 wickets, one more than the previous most prolific bowler Saeed Ajmal, but all of them taken with a legitimate action, which sadly cannot be said of the Pakistan spinner after today's big world cricket news.

If Mark fails to get recognition at a higher level this winter, one can only assume that those in charge of our game are buffoons. As Maurice Leyland of Yorkshire once said, "None of us likes fast bowling...some just show it more than others". There's plenty of batsmen have failed to enjoy the 'Footitt experience' this summer and plenty of reason to suppose that his talent may flourish on a bigger stage. OK, there's few bigger stages than the 3AAA County Ground, I know that, but...

Time will tell how good our bowling performance was today, on a wicket that is expected to take spin as the game progresses. However, reports suggest that it is easy-paced and doing little  for the bowlers, which makes the efforts of ours all the more commendable. Any side that bowls out its opponents on the opening day of a four-day game should be proud of its efforts.

South African born Chris Cooke, fresh from a personal best against Kent, again did well and had good late order support from County Ground old boy Graeme Wagg. At 249-6 they may have fancied a total of around 350, but Footitt and the admirable Tony Palladino returned to blow away the tail quite nicely.

Palladino has developed into a typical Derbyshire seamer, with lots of effort and a style in parsimony that makes things a little easier for those at the other end. 3-34 in 21 overs is the kind of analysis returned by heroes of yore and Tony has become an integral, perhaps reinvented part of the attack. In his younger days there was the odd bad ball to help batsmen keep the score ticking over. Now, they are few and far between and he fulfils a pivotal role in the attack. Wayne White also bowled tidily, if less spectacularly, while the spinners will doubtless play a more important role in the second innings.

Tomorrow is a chance for an innings to be built and all eyes will be on Cheteshwar Pujara, when his turn comes to bat. A slow-paced wicket should be similar to those on which he learned his game and after a fine effort today, Derbyshire have a chance to build an innings which could well dictate the course of the match.

Bat, bat and bat some more. That's the plan from here, ideally until around tea time on Thursday.

If we do that, four wins out of four is eminently possible.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Glamorgan v Derbyshire preview

It was good to see Cheteshwar Pujara (pictured), recently arrived in this country, straight into PR work at Dale Primary School today.

The sight of a superstar - no exaggeration, given the Indian batsman's reputation on the sub-continent - prepared to get out into the community is immensely gratifying. That he did so with Wayne Madsen, an outstanding figure head as club captain, was no real surprise, but for budding young sportsmen and women, today will have been a day that they will never forget.

Tomorrow sees Pujara make his first-class debut for the county in Cardiff and there will be many, besides me, whose eyes will be trained on Wales tomorrow. He has some adjusting to do in his technique, that's why he's here of course, but I have every confidence that we will see a trademark innings or two in the remainder of the summer.

It's not all about him, of course. We are going for a fourth win on the trot and the team looks settled and confident. Sustaining the current form to the end of the season will be important for morale and will send the players into their winter work with renewed vigour.

I was pleased to see Billy Godleman get a year's contract earlier today, one which his hard work this summer deserves. In the early part of the summer he appeared on the road out, especially when an injury stopped him from playing for a few weeks. Yet the coaching staff have tweaked his technique and the player's hard work has earned a just reward.

Only a fool would doubt his ability and one has only to watch him bat for a few overs to see that his defence is secure and his strokes, when he decides the time is right to show them, are many and fluent. The surprise is that someone so talented hasn't scored more runs, but that will perhaps be realised after a winter's work in the nets.

The rest of the side picks itself and the only change I expect from the game at Derby is Pujara replacing Chesney Hughes in this side:

Hughes (A)

Four seamers and two spinners: I'll take that for a balanced attack, as well as a long batting line up.

As for Glamorgan, they have named the following thirteen:

JA Rudolph, WD Bragg, GP Rees, CB Cooke, J Allenby, DL Lloyd, AHT Donald, MA Wallace (capt and wkt-keeper), GG Wagg, DA Cosker, MG Hogan, KA Bull and WT Owen.

They are a decent side with some good players, but we beat them well at the 3AAA County Ground and could well do so again. The weather appears to be set fair and so are Derbyshire.

While a rude awakening could await us from a Welsh side with a few points to prove, I'm going for a fourth successive win and another step or two up the table.

A ton for Pujara would do just fine...

Godleman signs one-year contract

Good news from the County Ground this morning, as Billy Godleman has signed a new, one-year contract. I'd suggested that this might be an appropriate thing to do a few days ago and am delighted to see it happen. The player has been in fine form in recent weeks and just needs that big score to cement his growing reputation and boost his own confidence still further. His partnership with Ben Slater has potential and I look forward to seeing how it develops in the course of the remainder of this year and during next summer. More from me later, with a look at tomorrow's game against Glamorgan at Cardiff

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Higginbottom goes as Welch suggests his squad is 'almost there'

There's a very good article by Mark Eklid in the Derby Telegraph today in which Graeme Welch states that he's 'almost there' with his squad for next summer.

That could, of course, mean anything, but the piece suggests a new deal for Billy Godleman is imminent. I suggested that should be the case recently and think it is the right thing to do. Billy is a much improved bat of late and has a string of good scores in all forms of the game. He looks confident at the crease and can score around the wicket. He and Ben Slater looked a good pairing in the Worcestershire game and I'd be quite happy with them for next summer.

It crossed my mind that we must be fairly close, when I started to work out a notional championship team for next summer. We still have to assume that Pujara and White will sign, but for me they'd take a place in this side:

Hughes (A)

Where do you fit in Wes Durston? Chesney? Tom Taylor? Scott Elstone? Ben Cotton? Jon Clare? Greg Cork? Most of the above have development to do or fitness to prove, but it is a squad of great potential, when you add in Harvey Hosein as back-up keeper and, presumably, a T20 specialist.

One player who won't be in the squad is Matt Higginbottom (pictured), who can deem himself unlucky to be nearly 24 at a time when a clutch of talented 19 and 20 year olds are coming through. Will Davis is another who will be pushing his claims another year, as, presumably, will Jony Marsden. From a situation where we had barely a seamer of note emerge for several years, a veritable convoy has suddenly emerged.

Higginbottom has a decent first-class record, with fourteen first-class wickets at 35, but while he had the ability to bowl a wicket-taking ball, there was a similar tendency to put down a four ball each over too. He could yet be one of those players who go elsewhere to prove a point and Leicestershire could do worse than offer him a trial, but the writing was on the wall for Matt and it is no real surprise to read of his release.

I wish him luck in his future career, as I am sure you all do.