Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Pop's pups hound Foxes...

Leicestershire 156 all out (Hughes 3-31)

Derbyshire 159-4 (Durston 80)

Derbyshire won by six wickets

Leicestershire may not be the strongest opposition that we have faced this season, but Derbyshire did all that they could be expected to do today and won with a professional performance. They also scored the required runs with sufficient speed, led by Wes Durston, (pictured) to improve their net run rate quite impressively.

There were a few comments before the game on the ages of the attack, with Alex Hughes officially the grand old man of the five, at the ripe old age of 23. An average age of under 21 speaks volumes for the work going on at the club and the development of a group of young seam bowlers who will soon be the envy of the county circuit. When one considers that Tom Taylor and Will Davis are outside this group, as well as Tony Palladino, one cannot fail to be excited at the future.

Hughes, looking more an established county cricketer with every match, led the way, but the early wickets taken by Shiv Thakor, removing Leicestershire's form players in Robson and Cosgrove, were important. Shiv had a point to prove tonight and, along with his fluent unbeaten 27, he made it.

I've been impressed by Matt Critchley's bowling in this competition. He got a bit of stick at Guildford, but will have those days against quality players and the lad seems to have a nice loop to his bowling. Add in his more than useful bowling, fine fielding and age (18) and he has much going for him.

The bowling and fielding efforts left only common sense required for a win, but Cap'n Durston is in prime form at present and launched an assault that saw us win with a convincing 20 overs to spare. Former Derbyshire junior Atif Sheikh took some serious stick from the skipper and it was all very smooth and polished.

Two games to go and with Durham losing to Gloucestershire today, the game at The Riverside in a fortnight takes on added importance. It would be good if Dilshan spent some time in the middle over the next fortnight, but there is plenty to be cheerful about with our current play.

Not to mention the players doing the business.

Pop's pups hound Foxes. If these lads keep working they can do that to a few more in the years ahead.

Professional lads. I like it.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Derbyshire v Leicestershire RLODC

It's welcome back to Tillakaratne Dilshan for tomorrow and the remainder of the season.

The legend - a fairly apposite title - that is Dilshan replaces Hamish Rutherford, a player who let no one down in his stint at the club. We now need the Sri Lankan, undoubtedly one of the finest players to emerge from his country, to show the form that earned him that reputation.

No one would say that his form in the previous stint was vintage Dilshan. Even his runs against Lancashire in the televised T20 were scratchy and his CPL stint brought only 67 runs in four matches. Yet I understand that the player has had family concerns and any one of us who has been through such trauma will know how it can affect your everyday life.

Hopefully he is back to his best and can reproduce the form that made him one of the stars of the World Cup, because to progress to the knockout stages of this competition we need to win our last three games. All are winnable - we should have beaten Durham at Derby and we weren't far away from Worcestershire either. Given that tomorrow's opponents and the latter are bottom two in the group, at our best we really should be beating them. Then it will come down to that result, where? Down by the Riverside....humour me, old song, old joke...

The squad is largely unchanged, with Will Davis replacing England-bound Mark Footitt as the only change. The attack will be young and largely inexperienced, but there's only one way to get the latter and that is to play. Our squad:

Wes Durston
Billy Godleman
Tillakaratne Dilshan
Ben Slater
Chesney Hughes
Scott Elstone
Wayne Madsen
Alex Hughes
Shiv Thakor
Tom Poynton
Matt Critchley
Greg Cork
Ben Cotton
Will Davis

Our visitors lost to Yorkshire today, leaving them with only a no-result point from four games. They have some good players, but we really should be beating such teams if we play at our best. Young the squad may be, but they are undoubtedly talented and need to show that.

If we concentrate, make no daft mistakes and work hard, we will be very much in the quarter-final mix this time tomorrow.

That'll do quite nicely, I think.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Surrey v Derbyshire RLODC

Surrey 326-6 (Sangakkara 109, Davies 115)

Derbyshire  249 (Durston 129)

Surrey won by 77 runs

We were a little outgunned today.

Two very good batsmen in Steven Davies and Kumar Sangakkara took the game away from us with a brilliant second wicket stand of 204, although an innings of considerable brilliance, even for him, from Wes Durston kept us in the game for longer than most of us thought likely.

Most of the bowlers won't want to linger on their bowling figures today, though Shiv Thakor's nine overs for just 31 on a shirt front were highly impressive. That's what top batsmen with the bit between their teeth will do though, just as McCullum did at Birmingham in the T20.

At one point Surrey looked set for closer to 400 than they did and we pulled it back fairly well. Mark Footitt could have chosen a better day for one of his profligate spells, but a bowler of his pace on a good track and with short boundaries is always likely to travel.

At 153-1 after 23 overs we were in the game, the skipper well-supported by Billy Godleman and by Chesney Hughes, but the quick loss of the latter and Wayne Madsen was a major blow from which we never really recovered. Scott Elstone fought well, but the absence of a form overseas player was a major factor. Fantastic innings by Wes  though, one he later said was his best one-day knock.

You can't really say that our 'win one, lose one' manner in this competition is steering us to the next stage, but all we can do is try to win our remaining matches and see where we end up.

Progress at this stage seems unlikely, but three wins could make all the difference and they have to believe they can do it.

A little World Cup form from the returning Tillakaratne Dilshan would do us no harm...

Book Review: A Flick of the Fingers - the chequered life and career of Jack Crawford by Michael Burns

To the uninitiated, Jack Crawford burst onto the Edwardian cricket scene like a meteorite, a teenage all-rounder who bowled deadly off spin and produced a full range of sumptuous shots. He became Surrey's youngest centurion and England's youngest player.

Yet, as so often happens in a meteoric rise to fame, things didn't quite adhere to the script afterwards.

A row over captaining a weakened side against the Australians, something that is commonplace today, resulted in a fall out and ultimate life ban from his county. He emigrated to Australia and established himself as one of the game's great all-rounders, then moved to New Zealand, but his career and life were dogged with controversy.

He married and deserted a teenage Adelaide beauty, dodged involvement in the Great War and returned to England to divorce, re-marry and fade into middle-aged obscurity, but also produced some astonishing feats on a cricket field, two of his greatest innings coming in his thirties.

A strong candidate for the greatest cricketer produced by Repton School, Crawford could play innings that dazzled and could bowl out the best of batsmen. A career batting average in the thirties and a bowling one of twenty runs per wicket confirms his talent, but the overriding feeling from Michael Burns excellent book is of a talent wasted.

Crawford played his last first-class match at 34, having settled his dispute with Surrey after the war. His innings of 144 against the Australian Imperial Forces side of 1919, which largely became the great Australian side of 1921, was widely regarded as the innings of his life. The last wicket stand with Tom Rushby, which added eighty runs, saw the tall, bespectacled Crawford score all but two of them, so well did he 'farm' the bowling. Playing for an Australian XI in New Zealand in 1914, he made 354 (14 sixes, 45 fours) and added 298 in 69 minutes with the legendary Victor Trumper.

This book is admirably researched and is one of those rare ones that you learn from. Crawford's father was chaplain of a mental hospital, set up after William Gladstone's now horrifically titled Idiot's Act. This divided the insane into lunatics, idiots and imbeciles, something I never knew and that made me read further on the subject. A book that does that has always served its purpose.

Crawford is a worthy subject of such a book. The term 'flawed genius' is perhaps apposite when considering his talent, but then many of us aspire to moderate success on a cricket field and never hit the heights attained by a man who was one of the greatest of his age.

It is a fine book and a worthy addition to the excellent output of Pitch Publishing, one of the leading sports publishers in the country. If your interest in the game extends to the people who helped to make the modern game, then I would strongly recommend buying a copy.

A Flick of the Fingers: The Chequered Life And Career of Jack Crawford is written by Michael Burns and published by Pitch Publishing.

It is currently available from Amazon at £15.58 and can be ordered through all good bookshops.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Surrey v Derbyshire RLODC

First up tonight, warm congratulations to Mark Footitt on his selection for the England squad for the fourth Ashes Test at Nottingham.

Whether he plays is in the lap of the Gods, but I am sure that there would be cheers the length and breadth of the county should he get a call that is well deserved. Mark's performances over the past few seasons are the equal, at least, of any bowler in the country and there will be few batsmen around the circuit who would admit to enjoying facing him at the business end of the wicket.

The first Derbyshire player to be named in an England squad since Dominic Cork in 2002, he is in the squad for Guildford tomorrow and will hope to impress against Surrey. With Scott Elstone retaining his place after a fine century for the seconds this week, the final selection will come in the morning when we see the wicket.

Surrey are flying high in the table and have a lengthy batting line up headed by the evergreen Kumar Sangakkara. Their squad:

Gareth Batty (capt)
Zafar Ansari
James Burke
Rory Burns
Sam Curran
Tom Curran
Steven Davies
Jade Dernbach
Ben Foakes
Tim Linley
Jason Roy
Kumar Sangakkara
Gary Wilson

They will be a strong test for us, in a side without an overseas player, but I expect a battling performance from our side, if only to help erase the awful memory of the championship meeting between the two sides at Derby. That was the nadir of our season and things have steadily improved since then.

More from me tomorrow.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire RLODC

It was a day that kept on giving for Derbyshire fans today, after the frustrations of Bristol. Indeed, it ended in a win of some professionalism, as diametrically opposed to the other night as could be possible.

It was due to two performances, one a portent of things to come, the other indicative of the new-found confidence of a player who could easily have slipped from the county circuit a couple of year ago.

The first. of course, came from Matt Critchley, an all-rounder of great promises who took his first List A wicket today, then followed it with three more as the opposition went after him. He stood up to the test very well and, after the criticism of his captaincy the other night, Wes Durston deserves credit for having faith in a young bowler.

I have spoken to several very good judges in recent weeks and all have told me that we should treat anything positive that Matt does with the ball over the next five years as a bonus. Much as spinners, per se, take years to reach their peak, leg-spin is the most difficult of arts. By the same token, when it is bowled on a helpful wicket, it can be wonderfully effective and Matt will sleep well tonight, aware of the major role he played in restricting the total of our visitors.

Josh Cobb played the sort of innings that makes one wonder why he bats so low in other cricket and without him we would have had an easy task, but our batsmen set about the task well, with Billy Godleman leading the way with a fine, unbeaten century.

That's over 850 runs in all cricket this summer for Billy, who was well supported by Wayne Madsen after Wes Durston was adjudged leg before.  There was even time for the exchange of some choice words with Rory Kleinveldt after a ball change and a claimed catch behind, something that often makes Billy all the more focused. He has had a very good summer so far and there should be more runs to come.

It is rare to be able to write of a Derbyshire run chase that was accomplished without alarm and with complete professionalism. Tonight they did that, so just as I was critical of Wednesday night, I am happy to praise a very good response today.

Equally good news came off the field, with the news that Hamish Rutherford has signed up for the whole of next season, aside from any international commitments. At this stage, his country don't have any in our domestic season, although late additions and training camps can never, of course, be discounted.

What it does, of course, is give us consistency in our overseas role next season. Rutherford has shown himself already to be a player of some considerable talent, crucially a man with a reputation to build. A thousand championship runs next summer and another 500-plus in other cricket will be a strong argument towards inclusion in his national side, of course.

Perhaps equally important, however, is that it gives Graeme Welch the knowledge of how and where he can strengthen his squad.

He now has a confirmed opening batsman, or first-wicket down, of class and with a thirst for runs for the whole of next summer.

If he is looking for a Kolpak, or someone with an English passport, he can look to other areas of the side with a degree of confidence.

A good effort today. Fifth in the group at the halfway stage and everything to play for.

Derbyshire v Northamptonshire RLODC

Sorry about the lack of blog last night and its just a short note from me this morning.

We can win this game, with a squad that is rightly unchanged. There was little wrong with the performance or personnel at Bristol, aside from a manic last four overs that cost us the game. As I wrote then, credit the opposition for the courage of their convictions, but the wheels came off and we would have won that game 99 in a hundred times.

It was good to see Wayne Madsen admit team culpability over the last ball error, because it was. Someone should have been 'switched on' enough to notice that we had too many fielders on the leg side; if two umpires can spot it, eleven players should be able to.  'Commitment, attention to detail and professionalism' was, as several people pointed out yesterday, what I noted as crucial - and exactly where we fell down. A very good side can fall down in some areas and still win, but a developing one needs to get most things right, or will struggle. Just as we saw, really.

Our visitors have won the two T20 games between the sides so Derbyshire will be wanting to get onto the win column between the sides.

There's enough in the tank to win this one.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire RLODC

Derbyshire 274-5 in 48 overs (Rutherford 110, Madsen 106 not)

Gloucestershire 205-4 in 35 overs

Gloucestershire won on D/L

It is hard to know what to say tonight.

We beat Somerset handsomely, lost to Yorkshire narrowly by Duckworth/Lewis and were then given tonight's game by the same calculation. Rain interruptions left Gloucestershire needing 68 from the last four overs, something I saw as I was on my last break at work. Easy-peasy from there, thought I, well aware of how well we had bowled at the end of games this year.

What I didn't know was who had to bowl those overs. No criticism of Matt Critchley, but Wes Durston, who has taken on the captaincy, will have expected to use Ben Cotton and Shiv Thakor at the death, not, because of D/L, have to use those who had not already bowled seven overs.

You have to give credit to the home side, because they got there. Jack Taylor played a highly impressive cameo of 41 from 14 balls, but one has to say that a team should be capable of defending seventeen an over. The batsmen chanced their arm and got away with it, but we should still have been capable of holding off their charge.

Indeed we would have done so, but for something that incurs my greatest criticism. We were unprofessional at the last.

The captain will bear the brunt of the flak, because them's the breaks when you take on the role. You make a good bowling change or set a clever field, you are the bees knees. You do something wrong, you're considerably less than that. To be fair, having too many men on the leg side is a pretty basic error, but I don't hold Wes solely responsible. There were eleven players on that pitch and surely one of them should have spotted it and said something?

It all rather ruined a fine batting effort, when Hamish 'Signhimup' Rutherford and Wayne Madsen scored sublime centuries and took us to a position of strength. We could and should have won from there, but for rain and, when it mattered, people simply not thinking about what was happening.

They will be disappointed tonight, but from such adversity things are learned. We have developed a nasty habit of losing close finishes and it is frustrating to be so close and yet so far. Having said that, we are playing decent cricket and if we cut out the errors, can still qualify from this group.

On Monday night I was happy to admit that we ran a good side close and were a little unlucky in the grand scheme of things.

Tonight, not to put too fine a point on it, we threw it away.

At the end, I found the only thing I can say.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Clive Rice

For me, the true judgement of an outstanding all-rounder is simple. Were you to take one of their skills from them, could that player still stand as a first-class player?

Think through a few supposed all round talents in the modern game and the answer is probably no. Yet Clive Rice, who died today, was a giant of a cricketer in an age when they were not in short supply. A fair indicator of his standing in the game, and certainly at Nottinghamshire, where he starred for many seasons, was that it was unlikely they would have swapped him for any of them.

Following Garfield Sobers as overseas player was a thankless task, but Rice, admittedly with a better standard of team mate, did more than the great West Indian at Trent Bridge, which was some achievement. While Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and his Nottinghamshire team-mate, Richard Hadlee were regarded as the four great all rounders of the time, only Rice's lack of international cricket stopped him joining that quartet.

As a batsman he could graft or he could take the game away. 48 hundreds and 137 half centuries confirm his talent, together with another eleven tons in the one-day game. Those runs came at an average in excess of forty, while his 930 wickets came at a cost of just 22. There were a further 517 in the one-day game too, as Rice became a man for all occasions and cricket formats. He was county skippers from 1979 to 1987, leading them to trophies and being a skipper in the Eddie Barlow mode - setting the tone, getting on the front foot and keeping his team on top by personal deeds and force of personality.

By the time South Africa was readmitted to the international fold he was 42 and past his best. He only got three one-day games, but plenty of fine players before him got less. I read of his ill-health only recently and it came as a shock to hear of his passing today.

Nottinghamshire were and are our rivals, but they have perhaps never been better than when Rice and Hadlee took the new ball on helpful tracks. Watching them mark out their run ups made you fear the worst. Watching them walk to the wicket was exactly the same and they rarely let the side down. Both were scrappers, fierce competitors who got the best from helpful bowling conditions, then somehow scored runs when the opposition fancied them too.

Clive Rice was a giant of the game. I mourn his passing and will remember him as one of the best players I have seen.

Rest in peace, Clive.

Gloucestershire v Derbyshire RLODC preview

Derbyshire head to Bristol tomorrow for a game that could see them establish a place in the group's likely qualifiers. Defeat wouldn't end our hopes, but this is a game we can win with commitment, attention to detail and professionalism.

Gloucestershire have some good players, but this summer they have more impressed me as a team that is better than its constituent parts. Skipper Michael Klinger is the 'name' player, but the rest are largely players who fly below the media radar. Having said that, there are some good ones among them and we will need to be at our best tomorrow to beat a side chosen from this squad:

Michael Klinger (c), Chris Dent, Gareth Roderick (wk), Benny Howell, Geraint Jones, Kieran Noema-Barnett, Jack Taylor, James Fuller, Craig Miles, Tom Smith, David Payne, Will Tavare, Liam Norwell.

We keep the same squad as for the first two games, with the addition of Ben Slater. Graeme Welch will announce his final eleven when he has seen the wicket - and probably the weather - tomorrow, but there's enough in this Derbyshire side to secure another win.

I'll report on that tomorrow and keep my fingers crossed that we quickly return to winning ways.