Derbyshire welcome Durham to the 3aaa County Ground today, but it is a rather different side to the one that visited last season. Gone are Keaton Jennings, Graham Onions and Paul Coughlin; Durham are now a younger and more inexperienced side.
Any side that loses three players of undoubted international quality is going to struggle, and after the first game of the season it looked like that was going to be that way for Durham. Ultimately, however, they won that first game. It was a feat made even more remarkable by the fact that they followed on in their second innings – the first time that the North Eastern county had won a match after following on in their first class history.
While Durham will be arriving full of confidence, Derbyshire may have had their confidence rocked a touch. After beating Middlesex in their first game, they were comprehensively defeated by Warwickshire last week.
The home side will naturally be hoping to put that defeat behind them and get back on track with another victory. For this to happen, Derbyshire will be hoping their batting line up can put enough runs on the board to give their dangerous looking bowling attack enough time to take the 20 wickets required.
Derbyshire currently find themselves in fourth place, and will be looking for a win and plenty of points to leave them as high up the table as possible before the break in First Class cricket. Durham find themselves in 9thposition, but just 10 points behind their hosts this week. A victory here will probably see them leapfrog the Falcons and send them into the break full of confidence.
The bookies make the hosts slight favourites and I would have to agree with them. I can see the men from the North East returning home with their second loss of the season. But, as ever when it comes to predictions, what do I know?
Wayne Madsen is currently Derbyshire’s leading run scorer this season, with 247 runs, and his success and runs are key to his side’s success. The batting line up is consistently inconsistent apart from Wayne Madsen, he is the rock on which Derbyshire’s innings are built and, when he scores runs, Derbyshire succeed. They will be hoping he is on form this weekend.
If you want to win a first class cricket match you have to take wickets and, in a Durham squad shawn of quality with the Summer departure of Onions, the return of Mark Wood will be key. England international Wood adds the a real X Factor to their attack; genuine pace and wicket-taking threat and the Derbyshire batsmen will definitely have to be ready to have their mettle tested. Wood will presumably be bowling from the racecourse end of the ground, so as to keep his imaginary horse happy between overs.
Derbyshire have absences from their squad for the visit of Durham. Vice-captain Gary Wilson is on international duty for Ireland in their inaugural test match vs Pakistan, while Mark Footitt on loan from Nottinghamshire is absent due to injury.
Also missing from the last squad are youngsters Hamidullah Qadri and Callum Brodrick. However, the squad is bolstered by the return of Tony Palladino and the inclusion for the first time this season of Daryn Smit and Harvey Hosein, who will be battling it out to see who will wear the wicket keeping gloves.
B Godleman (c), M Critchley,W Davis, H Hosein (wk), A Hughes, W Madsen, D Olivier, T Palladino, R Rampaul, L Reece, B Slater, D Smit (wk), H Viljoen
Durham have bolstered their ranks this week with the signing of Matt Dixon, on loan from county champions Essex, and the early return of Wood from his IPL stint. Dixon will be looking to get overs under his belt on his return from injury, and Wood will be looking to secure a place in England’s first test squad of the Summer. The pace bowling attack will be completed by former Derbyshire man Nathan Rimmington, who might be looking to get one over on his former team mates.
P Collingwood (c), G Clark,M Dixon, G Harding, G Harte, A Markram, S Poynter (wk), M Richardson, N Rimmington, W Smith, C Steel, J Weighell, M Wood
Weather and conditions
The forecast for the four days should allow plenty of cricket to be played. There may be a showers on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Today and Monday, however, look fair. The only fixture so far played at the 3aaa County Ground was an enthralling game, with competitive scores and the bowlers having chances as well. The players and spectators will be hoping for more of the same this time around.
Date: Friday 11thMay to Monday 14thMay
Ground: 3aaa County Ground, Derby
Odds (SkyBet): Derbyshire 4/5 vs Durham Evens