Sunday, 28 June 2015

Burgoyne signs for Sussex

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Edwin Smith book launch in Chesterfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not to mention Edwin...

The morning after the night before...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's how you become a good side.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire T20

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

Derbyshire won by 34 runs

What a fantastic response by the Derbyshire players tonight!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well done. lads.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire preview

I am a little tight for time tonight, so will make this preview short and sweet.

I don't really expect David to slay Goliath tomorrow. Let's be honest, our moneybags neighbours should be walking this group with the players that they have. It could be argued that with the players they have they should be more disappointed with their fortunes than we are with ours. Their top six or seven are largely internationals and they are not delivering the goods.

By the same token, Derbyshire look to have a decent side out and, if they play to potential and with the added incentive of wounded pride, we should make them know that they have been in a game.

It just needs someone to produce that special performance to put them under pressure, just as Wes and Ches did in that ten-over thrash at Trent Bridge.

The squad:

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

Nottinghamshire's squad is as follows:

Ball, Carter, Christian, Fletcher, Gidman, Gurney, Hales, Lumb, Mullaney, Patel, Smith, B Taylor, J Taylor, Wessels, Wood.

I will be back tomorrow, when hopefully I will have more time. My expectations are to be reporting on a defeat, but I will gladly take an improved performance against such opposition.

In closing: Luke Fletcher: is he stalking us?

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Time to circle the wagons

Well, the dust is starting to settle after a fairly awful day yesterday and it is time for Derbyshire to circle the wagons, regroup and prepare for the remainder of the season.

Thanks to all of you for your comments, all of them well-made and pertinent. Without exception they display the passion and desire that we all have for our club and the wish for the side to become a force in the game once more. What we need is for the players to show similar passion in their performances to the end of the summer.

I am not going to go down the path of a retained list, nor would I wish anyone else to do so. We are all aware of those who are doing better than others, but such decisions will be made by Graeme Welch, based on performance and potential, neatly counter-balanced by an obvious need to strengthen the side in key areas and releasing the budget to do so.

I mentioned yesterday that I went to see the second team in action at Belper and it made interesting viewing. Two players - Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes - looked way too good for that level and are likely to be back in the side for the next match. Thakor scored a century, while Hughes went onto a double century today and both looked fine players with big futures.

They may not yet be quite ready for sustained first team cricket, but they will be soon. I remain convinced that both will be an integral part of our team for a number of years to come. So too will Ben Slater, who is enduring a rocky patch at present but who will get back to form, simply because he is too good a player not to. Harvey Hosein has massive potential too, while I understand that Tom Knight is making good progress with his bowling and could yet be the answer to our spin bowling issue, as well as offering good runs.

Then there's Tom Taylor and Ben Cotton, both fine seamers with things to learn, but markedly improved from last year. Give them another couple, like Will Davis and the next generation attack is in place, all of it home-reared.

What we need, and right now, however, is experience in the batting order. The captain has had a stop/start summer with injury and has not yet discovered his best form, but Billy Godleman, Wes Durston and Chesney Hughes have all had their good days, without scoring the weight of runs we desperately need. To be honest, Wayne Madsen's absence through injury has highlighted all too clearly how often he has papered over cracks and carried us in recent summers.

Whatever happens in the close season, we need to inject greater experience into the side and somehow the nous to handle match situations. I know I have banged on about this, but we cannot fast track experience. Four years ago, at 26, Mark Footitt's career was going nowhere fast. Now he is on the threshold of the England team, having realised what he and his body could do. David Willey has been several seasons emerging as a quality all-rounder. He and Ben Stokes are mid-twenties, yet with two to three times the match experience of our lads. Which is why they are now winning them for their clubs and country.

The youngsters named above need games but they also need experience alongside them giving them support and setting examples. Willey has watched the likes of Andrew Hall, Stokes played with Paul Collingwood, and both will have learned from the experience. I watched Gareth Batty yesterday and we hadn't a player prepared to take on the role that he played.

We also need an overseas player who is prepared to graft but more importantly inspire. Eddie Barlow did that, Dean Jones did it too. We need someone on the pitch who is going to inspire with words and deeds. The teams that Eddie and Dean skippered lost games, but rarely, if ever, without a fight.

I have previously rejected the idea, but watching the last two days suggested to me that we could do worse than a time-served Kolpak, if only to get to parity with other teams. We would still be able to play the 9-2 formula mentioned in the blueprint, but the presence of an experienced batsman in there would be a godsend. A Petersen, Prince or Ingram, or maybe a Kiwi with a grannie from Bolsover...

It is obvious what we need and where, yet undeniable that the club has talent. We just need to give it an environment in which to flourish. The likes of Barnett, Morris and Adams became the players they were by being gradually eased into a strong batting side, that included the likes of Barry Wood, David Steele, Alan Hill and John Hampshire, besides John Wright and Peter Kirsten. Experienced players all, used to a range of match situations. The failures of youth were less obvious and their successes better appreciated than if they were all thrown in at the deep end, without the life jacket of experience to help as required.

I totally agree with Mr Grant and his comments yesterday, as well as his right to make them. He is a supporter, first and foremost, an unpaid volunteer who has put his considerable reputation and skills on the line for no other reason than a burning desire to make our club better. As the elected chairman of the club, he is entitled to say what he thinks. Players have been happy enough to accept his praise and generosity when things are going well. They must be equally prepared to accept criticism when it is deserved.

Which it was on this occasion. If anyone thinks it wasn't, then you have a different understanding of professionalism to me, because we were not professional yesterday, with bat, ball or in the field. What I am sure has been made patently clear by Graeme Welch is that the remainder of this season is where contracts will be won and lost. If people want to be a part of what I still think will be a bright future, they need to battle for places and work when they have one.

Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes went to the seconds, scored big and argued their case for a place. I applaud them for doing so and the next step is to translate undoubted talent into sustained performance in the first team. Not just a nice fifty now and again, but regular scores and contributions with the ball, too. Both can go a long way in the game, but need to be prepared to work for it, like David Willey and Ben Stokes have done.

There will be further pain in the weeks ahead, but if people step up to the plate, we can minimise the frequency.

Then build the future that we all want to see.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Derbyshire v Surrey day 3

Surrey 239 and 315
Derbyshire 207 and 125

Surrey won by 222 runs

I have to make an admission here.

I left this game with an hour to go before tea, once the Surrey lead had reached 275, as there was no way that we were going to score such a total. Instead, I opted to pop into the delightful Belper Meadows ground to watch the second team. Shiv Thakor got a hundred, Alex Hughes did the same (and was still batting beautifully when I left) while Tom Knight's  bat sounded like the finest piece of willow on the circuit as he was immediately timing the ball well, with Derbyshire 350-5 against Durham.

What did I miss? A shambles. No other word for it. Bowled out in little more than a session by an attack that was made to look much better than it was by a spineless piece of batting. I wasn't there, but that wasn't even a first-choice Surrey attack. I can take losing, but not in a manner that smacks of defeatism.

The chairman apologised on Twitter tonight and I don't blame him. He and the off field team have spent a lot of time and energy in bringing in players, attracting sponsors and trying to build a team that is fit for purpose in a vibrant and improving ground. Things are improving, slowly but surely, but we keep shooting ourselves in the foot with a twelve-gauge shotgun.

The first hour today was great cricket. We bowled good lines and there was barely a shot in anger. Yet Surrey saw it out and the runs gradually came. There were two or three strong shouts for catches behind, yet the umpire's finger stayed firmly in his pocket and Surrey reached lunch with only two wickets lost in the crucial morning.

The early afternoon session was critical. Footitt ran in and bowled very quickly, could have had more than the wicket he got and gave it everything. Yet at the other end, I think largely with an eye on another slow over rate, Wes Durston bowled tight, but a long way from dangerous, off spin. We needed wickets and Surrey were able to mount their score with relative ease.

They finally made 315, of which 61 - yes, SIXTY-ONE - were extras. If we were a good batting side I would struggle to excuse that, but we are not. We are, indeed, some way removed from that right now.

There is a crisis of confidence among the batting and it makes for painful viewing. Individually we have some good players in there, but in the last two to three weeks we have lurched from one crisis to another with our attempts with the bat.

Any hopes of promotion are well and truly over now. We must play for respectability and need a far better effort than this to get even that modest aspiration under our belts.

Supporters are hurting tonight and I know exactly why, because I am.

This was poor. Shockingly poor.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Derbyshire v Surrey day 2

Surrey 239 and 77-2
Derbyshire 207 (Rutherford 59)

Surrey lead by 109 runs

There is a big first session at the 3aaa County Ground tomorrow, with Derbyshire needing wickets to take back the initiative that they surrendered today.

After rising at 4am and leaving at 5, I got to the ground in time for the start, which was surprisingly prompt, considering the heavy rain showers I drove through not too far away. In all honesty, the Derbyshire batting was a little anaemic, albeit in conditions that helped the seam bowlers, as first session tracks tend to do at Derby.

Several batsmen were guilty of hesitant footwork and loose shots. That takes nothing away from the visitors who bowled steadily (especially Nottinghamshire loanee Luke Fletcher), but they didn't have to work unduly for some of their rewards.

The best batting came from Hamish Rutherford. I thought him quite like Michael Di Venuto in build and stance, though there is a bit of the Dave Warner in the way he punishes the bad ball. Strong off his legs like all the best left-handers, he was punishing if anything was short or over-pitched, though obviously disappointed with himself when he too rather gave it away when he was looking set. Previously he had looked a very well organised player.

On the basis of one viewing, I would happily take him for next summer. He is at a stage of his career where Martin Guptill was when he first came, eager to impress and with a point to prove to get into his national side. If he came here next summer and scored a thousand runs, he would make that point quite emphatically. On the basis of his play on an awkward track, he could do that if he cashes in when conditions are more favourable.

Only Wes Durston, who batted well before also playing a loose shot, and Tony Palladino, who clumped merrily in an important last wicket stand with Mark Footitt, suggested permanence thereafter. A first innings lead of even fifty would have been handy, but we surrendered one of 32, which could gain in significance as the game goes on.

There were two spectacular clean bowleds for Mark Footitt, amid some close shaves for others in the Surrey second innings, but we need to take advantage of the first session conditions tomorrow. If the visitors gain a lead in excess of 250, recent track record doesn't suggest we will chase with any confidence.

Stranger things have happened, but we need to bat much better than we did today. I still maintain that winning this one keeps us in the promotion shake-up, but a loss would leave too much to make up and, I think, only respectability to play for.

We will have a better idea by this time tomorrow.

For now, good night. Don't mind admitting that I am shattered tonight after that early start...

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Derbyshire v Surrey day 1

Surrey 239 (White 3-43, Footitt 3-74)

Derbyshire 64-1

Derbyshire trail by 175 runs

Were it not for a few missed opportunities to dismiss the visitors for under 200, this was a good effort from Derbyshire.

They have faced less imposing Surrey sides in the recent past and gradually worked their way through the batting order, finishing with a flourish in taking the last four wickets for just four runs.

Mark Footitt and Wayne White led the way with three wickets each. Mark's will send him off to the England training camp in good fettle, while Wayne maintained his current record of taking his wickets at just fourteen runs each. There will be those at Old Trafford who wonder why he never produced such form for them, but Derbyshire can be pleased with the pace man's form since his return from early season injury, as can the bowler himself.

White will be a key factor in our attack when Mark Footitt goes off. He is quick enough to be awkward and if he can rediscover his batting talents could become a key all rounder too. Support came from Tom Taylor, who went off injured at one point, while Wes Durston nipped in with a couple of handy wickets, especially on a first-day wicket. That one of them was the dangerous Dean Elgar was especially handy and we looked to have a chance of the ascendancy once the South African had been dismissed.

Billy Godleman didn't last long when we went in after tea, but Ben Slater got welcome runs on the board, if less flamboyantly than usual, while Hamish Rutherford showed the technique and concentration that is so important from a number three in English conditions.

There's a big first session in store tomorrow, assuming the weather allows a prompt start. Showers are forecast, which may truncate the play, make the batsmen restart their innings and keep the bowlers fresh. We need to work hard and build partnerships, but after the first day we have a good chance of taking the initiative here.

Time to go. Tomorrow I rise at 5 and hope to be at the ground in time for the start, traffic and weather permitting.

Might need a coffee when I get there...

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Jim Brailsford

Frank Collis 'Jim' Brailsford played only three matches for Derbyshire, all of them in 1958, after being on the staff since 1951. Yet his involvement in the county continued over the years that followed and he was always a supporter.

He returned to the club in 1975, becoming a member of the General Committee, before becoming Vice Chairman in 1976. He was also a life-long member of Chesterfield Cricket Club, spending close to 70 years with the Club as a player, supporter and benefactor.

He was a good player, scoring thousands of runs at club level, but his highest score in his three county appearances was 41. He could forever reflect on one of those appearances being in the game against Hampshire at Burton-on-Trent in 1958, when his aspirations as an opening batsman in county cricket were hardly helped by a rain-affected wicket that saw 39 wickets go down in a day.

It was a game that entered into the legend of the club and Jim was one of only eleven to recall it from the business end. I had hoped to speak to him as part of the series of interviews for the blog, but when I called him, only a few short months ago, he declined with an apology, not feeling well enough to do so.

At the age of 81, he has passed away. It is fitting that his wake will be held in a marquee at his beloved Queens Park cricket ground, just before the start of the cricket festival there.

He would have liked that.

Rest in Peace, Jim.