If you are doing some baking over the next four days and need your mixture stirring, then the 3aaa County Ground is the place for you, as Leicestershire visit Derbyshire. These two sides, between them, have collected the wooden spoon for the last four seasons in the County Championship Division Two.
Leicestershire have three to Derbyshire’s one and both will looking to collect their first victory of the season to ensure they do not collect yet another.
Derbyshire currently sit 8th in the table with Leicestershire one place above them, separated by four points, although Leicestershire have played a game more, which means this match has all the ingredients to be a showstopper.
Both sides have had their issues over recent years. Derbyshire are still struggling to replace the wickets of Mark Footitt, who left for the Kia Oval two seasons ago. They will again be without Hardus Viljoen and Will Davis, who are both ruled out through injury until the end of June. This means the onus will fall to the other bowlers to take the 20 wickets required, and especially overseas leg spinner Jeevan Mendis.
Leicestershire have lacked the ability to bowl sides out and put themselves in winning positions, although in their last match Dieter Klein showed that he could be the answer to their issues, bowling well and taking four wickets. They will also be looking for more from Clint McKay, now he has returned to fitness, and hoping the impressive Ned Eckersley can continue his fine form.
Not for the first time this season the bookmakers have Derbyshire as the underdogs, and it is easy to see why. This one is too close to call, though, and a betting man would be keeping his hard earned cash in his pocket. Both sides could win and both sides equally could collapse and lose.
As Derbyshire strive to win their first County Championship game in over a year, Jeevan Mendis will be key. Mendis is a genuine international wicket taking threat with his leg spin and can offer some control to captain Billy Godleman. Mendis has so far taken 11 wickets in the County Championship at an average of around 26 and he is capable of scoring useful runs down the order, quickly taking a game away from the opposition.
In the modern game you want your Wicketkeeper to not only be a safe pair of hands behind the stumps, but also be able to score lots of runs too. In Ned Eckersley, that is exactly what Leicestershire have. Eckersley is the club’s leading run scorer, averaging over 45, and has also taken five catches. Having a high quality batsman who is also a quality wicket keeper allows more balance to the side and, for the Foxes, it is key to their success.
Derbyshire have named a 14-man squad for this fixture. Gary Wilson returns from international duty, but is struggling with a sore knee so Smit looks set to continue behind the stumps. Viljoen and Davis remain side lined by injury so Godleman will have to use his other bowlers to take those elusive 20 wickets. The surprise inclusion in the squad is Alfie Gleadall, who is young fast bowler who has impressed recently for the second XI.
Leicestershire welcome Ben Raine back to the squad. As the useful all-rounder returns from injury, he will surely add balance to the Leicestershire side. Rob Sayer also returns from injury, with Callum Parkinson and Tom Wells making way. The foxes will be missing Neil Dexter and Richard Jones, who are unavailable through injury, and Charlie Shreck is currently only fit enough for the seconds.
Derbyshire squad: Billy Godleman (c), Alfie Gleadell, Alex Hughes, Rob Hemmings, Charlie MacDonnell, Wayne Madsen, Jeevan Mendis, Tony Palladino, Luis Reece, Ben Slater, Daryn Smit (wk), Tom Taylor, Shiv Thakor. Gary Wilson
Leicestershire squad: Mark Cosgrove (c), Colin Ackermann, Zak Chappell, Harry Dearden, Ned Eckersley, Gavin Griffiths, Lewis Hill, Paul Horton, Dieter Klein, Clint McKay, Mark Pettini, Ben Raine, Rob Sayer
Weather and conditions
The weather looks set fair for the four days and, whisper it quietly, but you may even need your sun cream, especially if it goes to the fourth day. The pitches at Derby have generally been flat and true and have not offered a great deal for the bowlers. There has been rain around in the lead up to the match and that may add a bit more spice to the pitch, but generally you can expect runs, runs and runs.
Date: 25th May 2017 to 28th May 2017
Ground: 3aaa County Ground, Derby
Umpires: Millns and Taylor
Odds (SkyBet): Derbyshire: Evens, Leicestershire: 4/5