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I have had some interesting email exchanges and conversations in the past 24 hours, from people on both sides who were at the game at Chesterfield.

The consensus, and it is hard to deny, is that we lost the game on the first afternoon, when we bowled poorly and, having dropped Temba Bavuma, allowed him to get away, accompanied by some lusty-hitting partners.

They probably scored a hundred or so more than par as a result, and we were subsequently behind the game thereafter. It was a good toss to win, but the wicket was very poor for first-class cricket.

Over the course of a season, cricketers will expect to play on pitches that offer help to the bowlers and others that are batting-friendly. This was a bowling wicket, but as well as lateral movement, the bounce was variable. When you have two players bowled off their elbows and others undone by it keeping low, batting becomes something of a lottery. There was also considerable turn from the first day, something acceptable in bygone days, but more likely to see you run into trouble with modern regulations and pitch inspectors.

One or two have criticised the second innings approach, especially Billy Godleman running down the wicket each ball, but it was a valiant, though vain attempt to unsettle the bowlers and not allow them to get into a rhythm. We made the second highest score of the match in the fourth innings, which was a fair effort, in my opinion. It probably saved the pitch from being 'mentioned in despatches', because the two middle innings lasted only 77 overs between them.

I adore Chesterfield, as do most who attend matches there, and hope that the festival week continues to be a part of the cricketing landscape for a long time to come.

But the wicket has to be better. At a ground where cricket is traditionally well supported, we have lost two days gate money and two days beer money, something we can ill-afford in our situation. We lost the game too.
Next year, in all aspects, I hope we do better.
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I was first made aware of the possible signing of Darren Stevens for the Vitality Blast a couple of days ago.

Two separate sources, first a fellow supporter of Derbyshire, followed by a contact from Kent, referred me to a supporter forum down in that county, which rumoured his move for the duration of the competition.

I was, I admit, unsure what to think. That he has been one of the best all rounders in the county game for many years is beyond dispute, something I have openly admitted on this site on a few occasions. Every season he takes 30-50 wickets, as well as contributing some hard-hit runs along the way, as befits a man with 33 first-class centuries to his name. He deserves immense credit for maintaining the fitness to play in the modern game.

This isn't, as someone mentioned earlier, a return to the days of signing Clive Inman and Fred Trueman, as they were both retired when we decided to bring them back for one last hurrah. Stevens is still a very good cricketer, top of their bowling averages with 28 wickets at 24 each.

Yet he is 43. I reckon I would be safe in my assertion that he is the oldest loan player in cricket history, and only Marcus Trescothick on the circuit is older. He hasn't played the format since 2017 and will undoubtedly need to be hidden in the field, as befits his years.

So to some extent it is a gamble, but one that might, just might, be successful.

And really needs to be.

The withdrawals of both Kane Richardson and Billy Stanlake left us in a bad position, with no overseas player and limited availability of those who were affordable, post-World Cup. I thought that Richardson, who withdrew to protect his workload after the World Cup, might have come after all, when he played only two matches in the tournament, but that didn't happen. Stanlake's injury is one of those things, but not really a surprise for those who have monitored a career with too much down time for anyone's comfort.

So my understanding is that we were left either paying silly money, that we don't have, for players of moderate ability, or admitting defeat and going with only one overseas player, Logan van Beek, whose struggles have been documented.

Logan, I believe, like Sam Conners, is currently carrying an injury that may limit his involvement in the competition, potentially leaving us without an overseas player. Hardly ideal from anyone's point of view, so the search for someone to fill the void has taken us down to Kent and Darren Stevens.

Don't be surprised if he does well. Age aside, there is no more canny bowler on the circuit, still. His last two games for Kent have seen five-wicket hauls, as well as runs. You don't have to be a greyhound to score runs at cricket (ask Chris Gayle) though Stevens and Anuj Dal batting together may be a mismatch. Nor do you need to bowl at the speed of light, as many a batsman has found in recent seasons, lured to their fate by what I have called his 'innocent dibbly-dobblies' in the past, while recognising and admiring their effectiveness.

Whatever the fitness of others, Stevens is a winner and his experience will be very handy for Billy Godleman, as well as the rest of the team. Like any bowler, there will be days where he goes a long way, but there will be others where he frustrates and wheedles them out. He offers yet another bowling option, as well as depth to the batting.

My biggest concern is the impact on the fielding. With neither Mark Watt nor Ravi Rampaul exactly lithe and fast in the field, and both likely to be in a first choice side, we may not be as dynamic in that department as we would wish.

Yet one has only to look at the anger in the Kent social media feeds today to realise that we might just have played a blinder. We have picked up a player with over 25,000 runs and 750 wickets in senior cricket, experience of winning the competition and all-round ability.

Assuming that is it for the T20, which I think we should, my first choice twelve would be:

Godleman, Reece, Madsen, du Plooy, Critchley, Hughes, Stevens, Hudson-Prentice, Lace, Smit, Rampaul, Watt.

I expect Hosein to play, though would choose Smit to stand up to most of that attack. Lace, in not offering a bowling option, may be the one to miss out, as does Dal. Nine bowling options...

I look forward to your comments - and teams - with the first game against Yorkshire on Saturday.
It is now a sell out. Well done to all concerned for making it so.
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George Earl played one first-class match for Derbyshire in 1883 and also played for England Colts in 1880, against the MCC.

He was a right hand bat and right arm fast medium bowler, who in the 1901 census was noted as an innkeeper, who lived in Castle Street, Melbourne, with his wife, Mary.

He died on April 20, 1933 and was born, lived, worked and died in Melbourne.

Andy Heafield is researching his life for a project and is keen to get in touch with anyone who is related to him, or has any information regarding him.

Please get in touch in the usual manner if you can help, and if you have any idea what team is in the photo below. George is standing to the right of the umpire as we look at the photo.

Thanks in advance!




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Northamptonshire 342 and 122

Derbyshire 146 and 246 (Lace 41)

Northamptonshire won by 72 runs

And so, as I expected, Derbyshire slid to defeat against Northamptonshire before lunch today.

There were those still entertaining hopes of a home win, but even good old optimist Peakfan tends more to the pragmatic and err to the realistic side.

When you see your top batsmen struggling to score the runs, any expectation of the lower order to bail you out should be tempered.

Having said that, full marks to the team for battling to the very end and scoring more runs than I expected. Almost everyone chipped in and there was a second unbeaten innings for Fynn Hudson-Prentice, reinforcing not just his talent but also my assertion that he should be batting higher.

It was a defeat, but as I have previously written, one that was largely dictated by the winning of the toss on the first morning. It was a result pitch, but not a good one, as shown by the 24 wickets that went down yesterday.

It is not the end of our promotion ambitions, but we cannot afford too many more defeats. It is also a shame that the long anticipated Chesterfield Cricket Festival did not get more than two days cricket. With the weekend forecast not looking especially good at this stage, supporters in that part of the county will consider themselves unlucky and perhaps short-changed again.

By the same token, had we won the toss, and had a batsman to take advantage of the best of the wicket as Temba Bavuma did, that would have been of less importance.

We move on, and keep our fingers crossed on the weather...

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Northamptonshire 342 and 122 (Palladino 4-33)

Derbyshire 145 and 155-5 (Lace 32*)

Derbyshire need 164 runs to win

At the end of a second day that one could almost understate as being eventful, I feel that I can say, with some justification, that this was a good toss to win.

A fourth innings run chase of 319 would appear to be very unrealistic. It would be the highest chase ever at Chesterfield and our fifth highest in 149 years. There has been considerable help for the bowlers and that is unlikely to change in the near future.

Having said that, scoring runs is not impossible, as evidenced by Fynn Hudson-Prentice, whose gutsy half century yesterday morning at least gave our first innings a semblance of respectability.

Much as was the case with Leus du Plooy recently, I think that he is batting too low. For me, having scored 99 batting at 3, he should come in at 6, ahead of Harvey Hosein and Matt Critchley.

He was the only one to come to terms with the wicket yesterday  morning, but credit is again due to Derbyshire for the way in which they fought back in the afternoon. Tony Palladino led the way, while Fynn also chipped in with a couple of wickets.

Northamptonshire, with a lead of 196 runs, were bowled out for 122, leaving a victory target of 319.

Billy Godleman set out as if it were a rehearsal for The  Hundred and all of the batsmen played aggressively. There was no real alternative on a wicket offering movement, variable bounce and spin. We had reached 155-5 by the close, with a further 164  required.

Were we to get there it would go down one of our greatest ever wins, but someone has to produce the extraordinary for it to happen.

Tom Lace has batted well, and there is the talent at the crease and to come to get us close. But it is a huge ask and the thinking money must surely be on an away win.

If I am wrong, I will be reporting on something very special tonight.

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Northamptonshire 342 (Bavuma 134, Critchley 4-107)

Derbyshire 34-1

A busy domestic day, coupled with the viewing demands of one of the finest games of cricket one could wish to see delayed the blog until today.

Apologies for that, but at the end of the first day honours I just about even at Chesterfield. A fine century buy Temba Bavuma gave Northamptonshire a competitive but not overwhelming first innings score.

He is a fine, technically correct player whose experience in this country will serve him well in years to come. He had support down the order, but no one else passed 40 and Derbyshire did well to bowl them out for 342.

There were four wickets for Matt Critchley, although he went at six an over on this small ground, with two each for Hamidullah Qadri and Luis Reece. There seemed to be a fair amount of turn, so we will be hoping to get at least parity on first innings, and ideally the lead. Batting last will not be easy, but a long batting order can earn its corn today.

Although we lost Luis Reece early, Billy Godleman and Wayne Madsen will resume this morning and hope to make inroads into the visiting total.

More from me later.

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Nice to see Hamidullah Qadri back in the Derbyshire twelve what has been announced for the 4-day game against Northamptonshire that opens the Chesterfield Cricket Festival tomorrow.

He hasn't had that much cricket this season, when examinations have rightly taken precedence.

Chesterfield being Chesterfield, the likelihood is that he will be in the final  eleven, in the hope that spin plays an increasing role as the game goes on.

With Leus du Plooy showing his potential as a slow left armer, Billy Godleman will then have four spin and seam options available to him.

The Derbyshire 12:

Godleman, Reece, Madsen, du Plooy, Lace, Hosein, Critchley, Hudson-Prentice, Palladino, Qadri, Rampaul, Dal.

As for our visitors, they have gone well in recent weeks, with Ben Sanderson in fine bowling form. Temba Bavuma has played some important knocks in the middle order and we all know how dangerous Richard Levi can be.

It should be a good game and I hope that the weather allows a positive result.

It is a game that Derbyshire can win and need to win, to maintain our aspirations of division one cricket next year.

We will know soon enough.

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After watching the second of the T20 games yesterday, Derbyshire's plans for the competition are a little clearer.

Billy Godleman will skipper in this format too, for one thing. He has improved considerably in the short form and you know what you will get with Billy. The charge down the wicket, the 'larrup' over mid on, or mid-wicket, the six over point, which was a highlight yesterday. More discerning opponents may try to tie him down with spin, but he will have his successes in the weeks ahead.

The only viable alternative, Alex Hughes, lost form at the wrong time and, while he will doubtless play a key role in the side, should focus on his game, without other distractions at this stage.

It doesn't look like there will be a second overseas player, unless something remarkable happens this week. Looking at yesterday's side, the batting will be fine, with remarkable depth and some genuine power in there. The addition of Leus du Plooy has given a solidity to the middle order we haven't seen for some time, his confidence and ability to score off nearly every ball heartening to see. So too Tom Lace, who has blossomed this summer and looks a really good, stylish player now. Don't forget that he has only just turned 21, so the potential is quite remarkable.

What encouraged me yesterday  - and I am factoring in the quality of the opposition - was the ruthless way that the side went about things, together with the batting depth. Critchley, Hughes and Hudson-Prentice, hard hitters all, were waiting to come in and there is great potential in that line up. For those who didn't follow the game, it was:

Godleman, Reece, Madsen, du Plooy, Lace, Critchley, Hughes, Hudson-Prentice, Hosein, van Beek, Watt

The question mark is over who gives way for Ravi Rampaul. I could make a case for Anuj Dal to be in there too, especially for his fielding, but Rampaul is our experienced 'death' bowler and someone must give way.

I could make a case for it being Hughes, but his T20 record is excellent, he was top wicket-taker last year and is a key fielder in the side, as well as being capable of lusty blows. I could also make a case for van Beek, but I have a feeling that he may just come into his own in the T20. His aggression, ability to bowl a quick bouncer and brilliance in the field may be a suitable counter to that 'wild ball' that drags down each over. Yesterday he took two wickets in his first over, and we wouldn't complain if that was a permanent feature.

You could even make a case for the exclusion of Hosein, with Lace as wicket-keeper. Harvey is the least likely of the side to score quickly, but were that likely to happen I think we would have seen Lace keeping yesterday. Besides, with a lot of the bowling likely to come from spinners, you need more than a stop gap. Peter Bowler did a decent job in our Refuge Assurance winning season, but he was largely standing back, which is much easier for any keeper.

I don't think, on what I have seen, that you can exclude Mark Watt. The Scot took a little stick on arrival for looking less fit than the rest of the side. I think it fair to address that now and yesterday he looked much more trim. He will never be skinny, nor an athlete in the body shape sense, but he is in the side for a specific strength.

Mark, again a youngster at only 22, has remarkable command of line and length. When he ambles up to the crease it looks quite innocent, but he is canny beyond his years. He rarely gives the batsman width, but watches them closely. Any sign of them using their feet and he drops his length to frustrate. He is a fine fielder from his own bowling and one ball, in the first game yesterday, summed up for me his combative nature.

The Warwickshire number three, Lamb, took a step outside leg stump as he was in delivery stride. Perhaps it threw him, but if so, he had the nous to run through and not deliver the ball. The next delivery, he bowled from around 23/24 yards, with a couple of steps less run up. It was still on the spot and the batsman, presumably taken unawares, played it back down the pitch.

In that moment I thought 'you'll do me'. It was combative, feisty even, a sign that he wouldn't be bossed. He bowled in both the Powerplay and at the death yesterday, yet still conceded only 19 runs. Like any bowler, there will be times when he will get stick, but his flight yesterday got him the big wicket of Agar, a good cricketer and he rarely seems to bowl too short or too wide.

Will we make the knock out stages? My head tells me no, because the absence of an extra top seamer  will hurt us on occasion. I look at other teams in a strong group and think that there will be times we will be chasing too many, even for a deep and talented batting side.

But Derbyshire have made us proud this summer, with some professional, polished displays. Be prepared for a few more of those, before this tournament concludes.
And if they get on a roll...
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It is rare when I miss an opportunity to watch Derbyshire play at any level. So today it was nice to be able to watch the second team in a double header T20 against Warwickshire.

Both sides fielded players of considerable experience. Critchley, Hughes, Dal and Watt joined Smit in our side, while overseas professional Ashton Agar joined Ed Pollock and Alex Mellor for the visitors.

They opted to bat in the first game and the home bowling, with its heavy emphasis on spin, was reminiscent of the Indian side of the 1970s. That was as far as it got, however, as the quality was a little varied. Only Watt came out of it with reputation intact, bowling an intelligent spell that might have been better but for shoddy fielding.

It is impossible to tell on the stream by who, but a few of the younger players might benefit from less obviously displaying their displeasure and frustration. Agar took advantage of this and played an excellent innings, as one might expect from a cricketer of international experience at this level. He finished on an unbeaten 84 from 47 balls as Warwickshire finished on 181-3.

It was positively parsimonious compared to the early overs by Warwickshire, which were hideous at times in direction. Wood and Critchley put on 50 in five overs, before the former, after a few bucolic strokes, swung across the line and was bowled.

The introduction of Agar brought greater control, though it was the left arm leg spin of Lintott that removed Critchley. He was a little starved of the strike and holed out at long on after a breezy innings.

Derbyshire needed a partnership and someone to play an 'Agar innings'. Dal came in to join Hughes, who had started sketchily, but soon began to find his range. Three powerful boundaries from Lintott brought down the rate, but Barrett bowled a good one at Dal to take it back up.

Fifty-five were needed from the last five overs, but once Lamb cleverly removed Hughes with a slow yorker it was effectively over. Dal couldn't score at the required rate and canny bowling saw the visitors win by 25 runs, the innings ending at 156-7.

The second game was much different, as Derbyshire took the opportunity to field the first team and give much-needed practice ahead of the T20.

Agar again batted aggressively, before being undone by the impressive Watt. He and van Beek were the powerplay bowlers and did a fine job. Logan finished with 3-28, taking two in his first over, while Mark took 2-19. It made for heartening viewing, albeit qualified by the opposition.

The visitors made 134-9.

Then came carnage, which  highlighted the difference between second and first team cricket. Reece hit a six and was caught going for a second, then Godleman and Madsen took the score to 84 by the end of the powerplay. Both hit freely and Madsen reached a half century in just 21 balls, before he too holed out in the deep, this after batting as if it were a beer match.

Godleman went the same way, the top order clearly rehearsing their long hitting, before du Plooy and Lace took Derbyshire to a win in the 13th over.

The South African finished it with another huge six, and it was a fine run out for the side before the competition proper begins.

Scorecard https://live.nvplay.com/ecb/#m38f08dd1-1259-480a-9442-e85aefa47f00

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Besides the excellent news from Kidderminster today, the news broke that Daryn Smit has earned a one-year extension to his contract, reward for his sterling efforts with the second team this summer.

Regular readers will know that I am 'big' on professionalism. I can handle losing, as long as we don't give it away and compete. I like to see the players of the teams I support display that professionalism, just as I have always tried to do in my various roles over the years.

Daryn Smit is a consummate professional. He may not have scored the runs that we expected at senior level for Derbyshire, but few would doubt his preparation and the example that he sets for others, whatever and wherever the match. Nor that he is an outstanding wicket-keeper.

He has done very well with the second team this summer, especially when one considers it primarily academy players and trialists. The wicket-keeping remains to the very highest standard, while he has time and again scored runs to keep the side in matches.

Above all, he has a shrewd and impressive tactical brain, which has brought dividends. This deal allows him to work towards his level four coaching badge and it will most definitely be of mutual benefit.

I am thrilled that he has earned this extension and look forward to seeing him make a sizeable contribution to the ongoing development of our club.

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