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Derbyshire cricket: Some changes are necessary

I had to smile this morning, in reading a report on the Worcestershire CCC site regarding yesterday's second team game.Leach and Whiles strike as Elstone hits opening day double century read the headline, not truly reflecting a close of play scor...

DERBY, ENGLAND - APRIL 04: Graeme Welch, Elite Performance Director of Derbyshire CCC poses for a portrait during the Derbyshire CCC photocall at The County Ground on April 4, 2014 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Graeme Welch

I had to smile this morning, in reading a report on the Worcestershire CCC site regarding yesterday’s second team game.

Leach and Whiles strike as Elstone hits opening day double century  read the headline, not truly reflecting a close of play score of 422-2. Even positive old Peakfan might have been tempted to use “Bowlers under the cosh at Derby” or something similar.

Anyway, it was encouraging to see Graeme Welch refer to changes before the Kent game. While Wes Durston and Chesney Hughes will doubtless be staples of our T20 and one-day sides, the reality is that neither has scored runs in four-day cricket for a year, yesterday being the anniversary of Chesney’s massive innings against Yorkshire. With Billy Godleman also struggling to translate talent into runs, the likes of Scott Elstone, Paul Borrington and Alex Hughes must come under very close scrutiny for a role in the game against Kent that starts a week on Sunday.

The irony, of course, is that the scheduling for second eleven cricket is daft. After their exploits yesterday, it is unlikely that the young tyros named above will get another knock in this game and the next scheduled three-day game isn’t until the 27th May. Between times they get to play twelve T20 matches – two games per day against six sides – which is far from ideal preparation for championship cricket.

If one takes another of our promising talents, Ben Slater, who normally bats down the order in T20, he’s not going to get a ‘proper’ bat in cricket for a month, at a time when we’re in need of another opening batsman to partner Stephen Moore.

It is quite possible that Durston, Hughes and Godleman could find form in T20 and getting a few off the middle of the bat is often what it takes to get back into a semblance of form. Eddie Barlow, when coaching players in the nets, used to say “see the ball, hit the ball” and try to uncomplicate things. Yet there’s a world of difference in the two games.

I’ve seen some very good limited overs batsmen who were walking wickets in the longer game, Thick edges and opening the face for four to third man is fine and dandy when there’s no slips, but is a recipe for the long and lonely walk to the pavilion in the real thing. So too is playing away from the body, safe in the knowledge that the edges are likely to go wide of the wicket-keeper. Likewise, I’ve seen bowlers who offered control when they had men back on the boundary to cover the odd bad ball. Put men around the bat and they couldn’t bowl accurately, or with sufficient guile, to get people out.

As first-class cricketers, of course, there is an expectation that you learn and master such skills. Unlike a team mate of mine, many years ago, who was on the verge of district selection as a pretty quick bowler. In a league match up here, playing for a new club, I was asked to field short leg to him, which I did (ah, the naivety of youth…)

I watched him turn to start his lengthy run and focused on the batsman. Next thing I knew I was on the floor with a lot of people around me. Gordon, it turned out, tended to lose his radar when he had fielders close in front of the wicket and had hit me with an especially erratic delivery. It remains the only time I’ve ever been hit on the head and was the reason why he never progressed…and why I never fielded close to him again.

I hope that Graeme Welch and his team have contingencies in place to allow players some real time in the middle in the coming weeks. With the senior T20 approaching, there will be a temptation to play Ches ‘n’ Wes as openers in the seconds, with Bozza therefore dropping down. With Elstone, Alex Hughes and, presumably, Godleman in the top six, you could have a situation where Ben Slater doesn’t get a knock till seven.

Tough decisions to be made and this is where Welch will undoubtedly earn his money.

As I said in a comment below yesterday’s piece, there’s nothing massively wrong with the Derbyshire side, but we do need a team on the field where eleven people contribute. While we will be bottom of the table when we play Kent, I genuinely don’t see us staying there.

Maintaining focus has to be a major factor. Conceding nearly two hundred runs after tea to Worcestershire on the third day made the last day a difficult one, while losing a wicket in attempting a second run to a former team-mate who had perhaps the best arm in the club was silly beyond belief.

When that side of things improves, we will.

Published with permission from Steve Dolman.

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