Derbyshire make the short journey down the M1 to Leicester this weekend, for a match between the sides most pundits and tipsters predicted would be the bottom two sides in the division this season.
It is easy to understand why, between them they have shared enough wooden spoons in recent years to supply a rustic kitchen, however while one swallow does not make a summer and in the early season both sides have shown enough promise to potentially make those pundits and tipsters look very silly.
Both have played one match in the Specsavers County Championship and both are yet to taste defeat. Leicestershire played out an extremely high-scoring draw with Sussex, where neither side managed to bowl each other out. Derbyshire enjoyed their first victory at home since 2014 against the much-fancied Middlesex, beating them by 101 runs with a number of new signings coming to the fore.
Leicestershire had a season of restructuring of their leadership both off and on the field, with county legend Paul Nixon taking charge of the Foxes off the field, and winter recruit Michael Carberry taking the on-field reigns in a revamped looking side county desperate for success.
They will be hoping that bringing in players and coaches of pedigree will be able to bring a winning mentality to a side, for who winning has not been a habit. Another player who will be desperate to have his name on the team sheet on Friday is Tom Taylor, who joined from Derbyshire over the winter. He will be wanting to prove his previous county wrong for releasing him, however he did not play in the season opener and will be hoping it is different come this Friday.
Derbyshire had, by comparison, a quiet winter, bringing in Ravi Rampaul as their only non-overseas signing, providing experience to a bowling attack which has struggled to take 20 wickets in a match previously.
The addition of Rampaul and overseas signing Duanne Olivier, coupled with the return to fitness of Hardus Viljoen, has given Derbyshire a bowling attack which can trouble batsmen and be a genuine wicket threat. Following their victory over Middlesex, Derbyshire will be looking to continue the momentum they have gained and follow it up with another win and make winning become a habit.
With the weather forecast and previous deck producing little help for the bowlers, it is hard to look beyond a draw in this game and frustration for both sides as Leicestershire look for their first victory and Derbyshire look to build on their victory last week.
All the great sides have balance and in Ben Raine Leicestershire have a player who can give them the balance that all sides crave. Raine bowls fast and is a genuine wicket taking threat, either opening the bowling or coming on at first change. He also bats either seven or eight and contributes lower order runs which ensure the Foxes can post competitive scores.
When you make an overseas signing you want them to have an immediate impact. Derbyshire have not always had this, but in Duanne Olivier it would appear they do. Eight wickets on debut, propelling Derbyshire to victory over Middlesex last week, was an excellent start and Derbyshire will be hoping the South African can have the same impact this week against Leicestershire.
Leicestershire have named a 12-man squad, with new overseas signing Varun Aaron set to make his debut replacing Mohammed Abbas after the shortest of short stints as overseas player. Also returning to the squad is Ned Eckersley with Javid making way. With the make up of the squad Dieter Klein could be the one to miss out again.
Leicestershire Squad: Carberry (c), Aaron, Ackermann, Cosgrove, Eckersley (wk), Dexter, Griffiths, Hill, Horton, Klein, Parkinson, Raine
Derbyshire travel with a 14-man squad, which is the same twelve as they named for the previous game, plus Callum Broderick and Hammidullah Qadri – the exciting spin prospect who shot to fame last year with a match-winning performance on his debut aged 16. They are unlikely to change from that Middlesex win, with the only potential change being Qadri for Palladino if the pitch looks like it will require a specialist spin bowling option.
Derbyshire Squad: Godleman (c), Broderick, Critchley, Davis, Hughes, Madsen, Olivier, Palladino, Qadri, Rampaul, Reece, Slater, Viljoen, Wilson (wk)
Weather and Conditions
The forecast does not bode well for the city of Leicester for the four days of this game, with the best chance of play looking like Saturday and it could be a very frustrating four days for both sides with plenty of thumbs being twiddled and changing room cricket played. If the pitch for this game is anything like the one from the previous round of matches you can expect runs, runs and more runs with over 1100 scored for the loss of just 21 wickets against Sussex. Whether we have time for that in this game, we will have to wait and see.
Date: 27th April – 30th April 2018
Ground: Fischer County Ground, Grace Road, Leicester
Odds (SkyBet): Leicestershire 11/10 Derbyshire 8/11