Derbyshire and Lancashire, both promotion hopefuls, kick off their season this weekend at the newly refurbished 3aaa County Ground at Derby. Both sides have had large changes to personnel in the last couple of years and, while Derbyshire started to reap the rewards of theirs last year, Lancashire will be hoping to see quick improvements following September’s heartbreak.
After a disappointing 2014 that ended in relegation in the final game of the season, Lancashire have appointed Ashley Giles as Director of Cricket and brought in some other new faces, such as former Leicestershire seamer Nathan Buck and Australian, Peter Siddle, to boost their bowling stocks. Another key signing is Alviro Peterson, who brings experience to the top of the order having played in both county and international cricket in England.
Tom Smith steps up as club captain as veteran Glenn Chapple has moved into his new player/coach role.
Derbyshire’s new coaching structure really started to come into its own late last season and Graeme Welch’s side will be looking to maintain that momentum and take another, stronger stab at promotion. The county has a strong bowling side, led by Mark Footitt and Tony Palladino, and a solid batting line-up that will be boosted by the return of New Zealand international, Martin Guptill.
Derbyshire and Lancashire are strong and both will consider themselves promotion contenders. They meet each other this week to get their County Championship campaigns going, with the two sides boasting strong batters and quality bowlers in abundance. Can Welch’s Derbyshire and its proven coaching set up take advantage of Lancashire’s new and arguably unsettled one, or will Giles’ Red Rose fight back from relegation fast and take victory?
Derbyshire’s Mark Footitt, and his speed in particular, raised a few eyebrows last season and even sent a couple of batters to hospital. Derby is set to have overcast conditions and a possible sprinkling of rain, which should create conditions that the left handed seamer will enjoy. Very much a key feature of Derbyshire’s attack, Footitt’s 82 Championship wickets will not have gone unnoticed by the Lancashire men.
New captain Tom Smith has big shoes to fill but his promotion to captain is well deserved. Last season, he stood out for his all round consistency while as others struggled around him and finished the year as the club’s highest wicket taker in the Championship. He will be keen to make his mark quickly and set Lancashire’s campaign off to a good start.
Overseas batsman Martin Guptill has made a welcome return to the county with a bruising 161 against Cambridge MCCU last week and is, unsurprisingly, set to appear in tomorrow’s opening fixture. Shiv Thakor is also likely, making his first-class debut for Derbyshire. Tony Palladino and Chesney Hughes missed the university match but return to the squad this week and young Harvey Hosein steps in with the gloves. David Wainwright is still recovering from an ankle operation and Jonathan Clare, although back in training after his operation, is not yet ready to return either.
Derbyshire squad: Wayne Madsen (captain), Ben Cotton, Wes Durston, Mark Footitt, Billy Godleman, Martin Guptill, Harvey Hosein (wicketkeeper), Alex Hughes, Chesney Hughes, Tony Palladino, Ben Slater, Tom Taylor, Shiv Thakor
Lancashire will have experienced Australian international, Peter Siddle, available on Sunday. He, South African opener Alviro Peterson and Nathan Buck should all make their debuts for the Club.
Lancashire squad: Tom Smith (c), Alex Davies (wk), Tom Bailey, Nathan Buck, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft, Paul Horton, Kyle Jarvis, Simon Kerrigan, Alviro Peterson, Ashwell Prince, Luis Reece, Peter Siddle
Weather and conditions
It looks as though it’s set to be a chilly and slightly windy week, maybe with some dark cloudy patches on Sunday, but there shouldn’t be much if any rain.
Date: 19th – 22nd April 2015
Ground: The 3aaa County Ground, Derby
Umpires: Mark Benson & Martin Bodenham
Odds (SkyBet): Derbyshire 11/8, Lancashire 8/13