At the start of the season the smart money was on Lancashire to win Division Two of the Specsavers County Championship, and if the opening six rounds of fixtures are a good indicator, it was indeed smart money. They sit top of the league, unbeaten and three places and 21 points above their hosts for the next four days.
Derbyshire on the other hand were predicted by many to struggle, and are currently enjoying proving the many wrong. They have won, drawn and lost two games so far this season and if things had gone their way, that record could easily have been better.
It’s easy to see why Lancashire are top of the league. Their squad is glistening with international talent: James Anderson, Graham Onions, Keaton Jennings, Haseeb Hameed to name just four, and when you include the players who have been recognised at Lions level, it becomes an even more daunting task for their opposition.
Lancashire have rotated their seam attack and, with England not having any test match commitments, Anderson has been available and has been unsurprisingly taking wickets. He is not their leading wicket taker this season, though. That honour falls to Richard Gleeson, signed from Northants in the Summer and justifying the money they have invested in him.
The Red Rose county have relied on captain Vilas for runs along with Rob Jones and Liam Livingstone – another who is knocking on the door of England recognition.
Derbyshire’s young side have been sharing the runs around this season, with all of the top five having scored a century and two of those going on to make it a “Daddy” hundred. Derbyshire do bat deep, and expect to see a specialist batsman in Leus Du Plooy to bat as low as eight in the order, a luxury afforded by the inclusion of two genuine all rounders in Luis Reece and Matt Critchely in the top six.
When it comes to the bowling, it has been the revelatory Ravi Rampaul who leads the way for the home side. After an inauspicious first season with the club, Rampaul has been excellent this season, taking 27 wickets at 23.52, ably assisted by the aforementioned Reece and evergreen Tony Palladio with 42 wickets between them. With the weather as it has been, expect those three to be at the fore again for the bowling duties this week.
The bookies have Lancashire as favourites and it’s easy to see why. They are top of the league, have international players a plenty and are a side in form. However, with weather about and Derbyshire having a good season, the Falcons are also a decent bet at odds against if the weather doesn’t intervene too much.
When the weather has been how it has been, and the bowlers are expected to be in top form, the life of an opening batsman is not a fun one. In Billy Godleman, Derbyshire have an opening batsman who is capable of grinding out runs and seeing off the new ball. Against Lancashire’s much vaunted seam bowling attack, it will be key to Derbyshire’s success to see off the new ball and ensure the middle order are not exposed to a Anderson, Onions, Gleeson et al with a new cherry. Godleman doing this is central to Derbyshire being able to secure a total that will challenge Lancashire.
It doesn’t matter how hard you try it’s impossible to look beyond James Anderson as key man for Lancashire. He heads the bowling averages with 19 wickets at just over 10, despite only playing four matches. Only Gleeson has taken more wickets for the red rose in first class cricket this season. Everyone knows what Anderson offers. He is arguably the best bowler this country has ever produced and, if he hits form against Derbyshire, their batsmen could be in for a torrid time and Lancashire’s victory chances will be greatly enhanced.
Derbyshire are yet to name their squad for their first home game since the 22nd of May. I expect it will be very similar to the one that drew with Glamorgan last time out. Expect the same playing eleven plus the inclusion of a young seamer in the 12. New signing Hudson Prentice may have to wait for his place and bide his time in the seconds before breaking into the first team.
Derbyshire squad: TBA
Lancashire are also keeping their powder dry when naming their squad, but again expect a similar squad to the one that drew in the rain effected match with Worcestershire. The rested Gleeson may return to the squad, as the rotation policy of Lancashire continues this season. If Lancashire decide they need a leg spin option then expect Matt Parkinson to come in, but with the weather that has been about and forecasted, that is highly unlikely.
Lancashire squad: TBA
Weather and conditions
Its been wetter than an otter’s pocket in Derby for the last week or so, so I would imagine the pitch will have a fair bit if juice in it and provide plenty for the seamers. With Anderson and Onions likely to be in the side for the visitors, I would be astounded if there was a toss. Dane Villas likely to opt to bowl first. The weather looks mixed for the four days, with sunshine and showers predicted for the duration.
Ground: Pattonair County Ground, Derby
Odds (SkyBet): Derbyshire 11/8 Lancashire 4/7