The morning after the night before
The sight of Wayne Madsen, a classy, graceful player and one of the best batsmen the county has had, coming in at number 9 last night was an ample illustration of my dislike for the Twenty20 format.
Aside from a very occasional reverse sweep that goes awry, the Derbyshire skipper is incapable of playing an ugly stroke, and it is indicative of the ‘merits’ of the short form of the game that such a player feels inclined to go in after all the long handle merchants have had a go.
Yet it need not have been so. While we lost this game by bowling wrong lengths and lines to Leicestershire’s batsmen, the first six overs of each innings amply illustrates where we have work to do.
With the fielding regulations in, the batsmen can take risks in those early overs. Our opponents last night made 60-1 from their first six; we made 37-3. In losing by 27 runs, it is easy to see where we need to do better and can hopefully take things much closer.
Full credit to the side, especially Marcus North, in blazing 110 from the last ten overs, which was spectacular but cannot be expected to be replicated too often. Nor should it have to be if we show a little more nous when it matters.
In a side with such a lengthy batting order, we could afford to give two or three of the top five a licence to thrill. Ches ‘n’ Wes should be encouraged to go in and bat as they did against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge last year, rather than take eight balls for seven and 29 balls for 28 respectively. If you’re chasing 140, that’s fine, but someone, other than Stephen Moore, had to go for it last night, and none of our top four managed to do so. If there’s little urgency in chasing ten an over, you may as well get an early bus home.
It was Chanderpaul’s only game before returning to the West Indies and him playing on, second ball, was a cruel blow. Yet North was immediately into his stride and seemed wasted at number 5. Mind you, not as wasted as Scott Elstone who didn’t bat at all, despite being a naturally brisk scorer. Nor was his off-spin used, which poses the question as to why he was picked, as he’s a much better cricketer than an unused number 10.
It’s such inconsistencies that trouble me last night. Why did North not bowl either, when spin was the most effective bowling of the night? Why did we bowl 6 straight overs of seam in the Powerplay, before seeing how a spinner got on? Even an over in that period might have made the batsmen think and adjust a little.
I caught sight of statistics today that made unpleasant reading: Only one county in each category, either batting or bowling, has made worse use of Powerplays than Derbyshire. Historically, we average under 7 an over with the bat, while we concede a boundary every five balls. Until we can improve such statistics, our fortunes won’t change.
Such things will doubtless occupy the mind of Graeme Welch before next weekend. We now have time for people to work at their T20 disciplines and improve them. I’d like to see a tweak or two to the team, one of them enforced in the absence of Chanderpaul. Don’t expect a last minute overseas replacement, because my gut feeling is that any surplus budget for such a move will have been used up by the enforced signing of Gareth Cross for the summer. We may otherwise have pulled someone from the leagues or from overseas, but a less than affluent county must be down to the contents of the ‘swear box’ in the playing budget.
I’d bring in Tom Knight and Alex Hughes for the next one, replacing Shiv and Jon Clare. I think the latter needs bowling, and there are a few other seamers I would push ahead of him in the queue at this stage, especially Tony Palladino. Knight has proven ability in T20 and is improved in all disciplines, while Hughes is simply too talented a young player to leave out.
I’d also tweak the batting order and tell Chesney to really go for it in the first six. We bat low enough to regroup if it goes pear-shaped, but if he and the naturally quick-scoring Moore fire, we could put a game out of sight.
My side, in batting order:
With five spinners and three seamers, let’s mix it up with the ball, too: One and two over spells, before the batsmen line them up. So often in T20, a third over goes for plenty, and it’s breaking the familiarity of line, length and pace that helps the bowlers compete against bats that are now so chunky that mishits go for six.
I came across one of my old bats in the loft recently, and the edge was less than half that of my current one. Modern bats really have sides. Back in the 1960s, the great Majid Khan of Glamorgan proved a point about handling spin on a turning wicket by playing them in a net session with the edge of his bat. He could have done that in matches with a modern bat.
Let’s not panic. Losing last night didn’t end our season, any more than it did that of the other teams who came out losers on the evening. It was a wake-up call, though, and work needs to be done.