Hampshire v Derbyshire preview
The disaster that is our current T20 campaign should not, in a knee-jerk reaction, be allowed to mask the improvement that change has brought to the championship side.
Yes, we still await a win, but there was reason for optimism in the Gloucestershire game. A combination of gritty batting, penetrative bowling and being on the right side of helpful conditions for once combined to give us the upper hand in a game that simply lost too much time to the elements.
Graeme Welch has made changes to the championship side and, while in their early days, they have proved successful. Having started both campaigns with senior players, Welch discarded Messrs Godleman (average 11) Chesney Hughes (10) and Durston (12) after their struggles for early season runs. Logic suggests that a similar process may now follow in T20, in the understanding that those coming in can really only improve fortunes.
Thus far their replacements Paul Borrington (40) Scott Elstone (43) and Alex Hughes (52) have done well. Throw in the experience of Wayne Madsen, Marcus North and Stephen Moore and the batting has a more robust look. They will be tested tomorrow, however, by a Hampshire side that early season form suggests will be in the front-runners this year.
Aside from any runs they score, the involvement of the three younger lads has a marked impact on the vitality in the field. The catch held by Borrington against Gloucestershire could only have been held by someone with pace, courage and excellent hand/eye coordination. There was a lot of ground to make up to get under the looping bat/pad and Michael Klinger must have thought he would get away with it
Such catches give bowlers a huge boost and the agility and pace of these lads in the ring will save perhaps twenty to thirty runs in an innings. They don't go in the score book against their name, but it is a healthy credit balance before you go out to bat and should not be overlooked by supporters. It certainly won't be by team mates.
As we enter June, this season can probably be written off from a promotion perspective. We cannot discount the possibility of getting on a roll in the championship, but realistically Graeme Welch will look at his squad in match action and realise who he can count on, who will develop and who will need phased out.
He has already identified the talent of Scott Elstone as one for the future and I think he will do well. I fully expect to see opportunity given to other young players as the summer progresses, if only to see how they react to involvement in the senior match environment.
Lads like Greg Cork, Ben Cotton and Tom Taylor aren't far from consideration. Matt Higginbottom did pretty well last year and may get further opportunity, while Tom Knight will continue to pressure David Wainwright. For what it is worth, I feel that supporters will be more understanding of failure from such tyros than of those of greater experience.
Having said that, I expect little change for the Hampshire match, after the Gloucestershire improvements. They will come up against a side with strapping quick bowlers, aggressive batsmen and a canny skipper. They will need to be ready to battle it out and show the fight that Graeme Welch did on a cricket field.
Yorkshire was yesterday and you can't change that. Tomorrow is a different matter and we have to be much, much better.