A team that seems determined to keep re-inventing itself, Derbyshire may just have found their winning formula finally. The county’s management raised a few eyebrows last season, as they appeared to allow player after player to walk out the door, starting with the side’s in-form bowler Tim Groenewald. All was not as bad as it seemed, however, and the Falcons’ faithful started to breathe a little easier as the victories rolled in. By the end of the season the team could hold its head high, taking fourth place in the Division Two table.
The season started on a low, overshadowed by a fatal accident and perhaps with players still finding their feet under a new coaching regime. When six players left the club in quick succession mid-season, it started to look like rats deserting the proverbial. Things were not that simple of course and, far from being held back, Derbyshire Elite Performance Director Graeme Welch took it as an opportunity to blood some young players.
The changes meant we got a look at promising young men such as Harvey Hosein and Ben Slater, who finished the season as the second highest run maker for the county. Mark Footitt, who had shown us glimpses of his abilities in 2013, was now forced from under Groenewald’s shadow and proved himself dangerously fast with the ball.
Beyond the four-day game Derbyshire struggled in the T20 competition, managing only one win in the tournament, but in the new 50-over format they were able to reach the quarter-finals where they succumbed to near neighbours, Nottinghamshire.
In the LVCC, the Falcons’ fortunes showed a big turnaround in the latter part of the season. Things weren’t perfect, something to which Glamorgan’s bowlers can testify, but if the result shows anything it’s that Welch has his team heading in the right direction. Since the much-vaunted coach took the helm at the 3aaa, the side has been able to attract such names as Indian international Cheteshwar Pujara and former Australian Test batsman, Marcus North. This year will see the return of New Zealander Martin Guptill and the appearance of Sri Lankan Tillakaratne Dilshan, as well as Australian quick Nathan Rimmington.
Derbyshire are sticking with the formula of home grown talent supported by tried and tested players, such as Footitt, Wayne Madsen, Chesney Hughes and Tony Palladino, with the international stars injecting their years of expertise. There’s little doubt that Welch and his side are aiming for promotion in 2015, but can they do it? If half a season of good performances saw the side finish in fourth place, who knows what can happen with a full season?
Ins: Shiv Thakor (Leicestershire), Will Davis (youth), Adam Wheatcroft (youth), Harry White (youth), Wayne White (Lancashire)
Outs: Tim Groenewald (Somerset), Mark Turner (released), Matt Higginbottom (released), Gareth Cross (released), Peter Burgoyne (released), Stephen Moore (retired), Richard Johnson (retired)
Derbyshire has had some exciting signings in the last couple of years and some young talent has come through the ranks, but whatever changes occur at the club there is one name that remains constant. Stable, confident and incredibly capable Wayne Madsen is very much the centre of this Derbyshire side.
He has proved himself a dangerous batter time and again, remaining determined even in the face of certain defeat. In 2013, he was the first player to reach 1000 runs in Division One, even while his side suffered one loss after another. He will long be remembered for his 261-run partnership with Tom Poynton in 2012 and his RLODC centuries in 2014, which helped take his side to the quarter-finals. A born captain, the players young and old will look to him to lead the way again in 2015.
Player to Watch
Wicket keeper Harvey Hosein, a product of the Cricket Derbyshire academy system, made his first team debut for Derbyshire in the tour match against India last July. At just 17 years of age he showed some skills with the bat, making 53* and took the catch that removed Shikhar Dhawan. In September, the Chesterfield-born Hosein made his first class debut against Surrey at the Oval where he took eleven catches – a Derbyshire record. Now 18 years old, that match also saw him become the youngest keeper to take seven catches in an innings during a Championship game. With the return of Tom Poynton on the cards, it’s not clear how much we’ll see of Hosein this season but he certainly deserves to make an appearance, if only an occasional one.
After some very impressive performances in the recent World Cup, Martin Guptill looks like a very astute signing for the Falcons. The veteran Kiwi opener has of course been with the club in the past and there are fond memories on both sides, so his return is no great surprise. Guptill’s skills and experience will be useful both at the top of the order and in the dressing room, especially if he can repeat some of his world cup heroics with the bat. He will be available for the first six LVCC matches and three T20 blast matches, before leaving to take up international duties with New Zealand.
Derbyshire will fill the void left by Guptill with Sri Lankan Test batter Tillakaratne Dilshan. Dilshan will move into the top order for two LVCC matches and four T20 blast matches, before heading to the West Indies for the Caribbean Premier League. He returns to Derby in August and is then available for all remaining fixtures. Another strong, experienced face at the top of the order is exactly what Derbyshire are in need of, as they will be looking to finish 2015 in style.
For the Natwest T20 Blast, Derbyshire have acquired the services of Aussie speedster Nathan Rimmington. The swashbuckling Queenslander, who started his Big Bash League career with the reigning champions Perth, moved to Melbourne Renegades for BBL02 and quickly became a fixture of the team’s attack. He is now the leading wicket taker in their history. Easily identifiable by his big shaggy beard, ‘Rimmo’ is notoriously dangerous both at the death and with the new ball. Welch has made it clear that the T20 competition will be a high priority this year and the bowling skills of Rimmington will be most welcome.
How they’ll fare
One season in the first division of the LVCC has left Derbyshire hungry for more and they have been working hard behind the scenes to make another bid for promotion. They will be contenders to move up a division next year, but should at least finish in a top four spot. The Falcons could realistically make the knock out stages of the Natwest Blast and possibly the RLODC, because of the new level of experience in the mix, but it’s hard to see them going further.
v Lancashire, Sunday 19th April at the 3aaa County Ground
Season Odds (via SkyBet)
LV County Championship Division Two: 7/1
Royal London One-Day Cup: 20/1
Natwest Twenty20 Blast: 28/1