Derbyshire remain the only side to fail to reach T20 finals day. Actually scrap that. After 17 years Derbyshire finally had their day out at Edgbaston and, despite defeat to Essex, it has whetted their appetite for more and, now that monkey is off their back, they will be hoping to go from strength to strength.
The whole experience has proved a positive one for the club, showing the wider cricketing world that, despite having the smallest squad and budget in county cricket, they can compete with other counties on the biggest stage. When they qualified the media team tweeted out “Little Derbyshire no more!” Clearly this was a tag they wanted to lose, and were happy to tell anyone who would listen – as well as some who were reluctant to – that they were there to compete.
Derbyshire do have a small squad, with only 13 established senior players on their staff, and two of those didn’t start the season on the club’s books. As a club of small resources, the off field team of Dave Houghton and Steve Kirby have to be excellent at spotting and acquiring talent. In signing Leus Du Plooy from South Africa, Fynn Hudson-Prentice from MCC Young Cricketers and Tom Lace on loan from Middlesex they have strengthened the side, and have been rewarded with valuable contributions from all of them.
It also means, however, that if you are not contributing then you risk being released. Young bowlers Alfie Gleadall and James Taylor have been let go, and Hamidullah Qadri has sought more money at Kent – all bowlers of undoubted potential, but potential does not pay the bills and the club have been ruthless as they look to bring through those who will contribute.
The evolution of the squad will continue over the winter and, come the new season, the squad will have a stronger look to it as the club look to maintain the improvement they have seen in T20 and First Class cricket this season.
Lead again by the excellent Billy Godleman, who broke 1000 First Class runs this season for the second time in his career. He will of course have the ever-reliable Wayne Madsen on his side, to help him guide the young batsmen, the resurgent Ravi Rampaul, who took 44 First Class wickets this season, and the dependable Tony Palladino who chipped in with 27 wickets of his own.
It has been a season of steady improvement for Derbyshire and, with continued improvement and sensible recruitment; there could be exciting times ahead.
SSCC: 7th, Division Two
Vitality T20 Blast: Semi Final
RLODC: Group Stage – 5th, North Group
SSCC: Billy Godleman 1008 avg 38.77
Vitality T20 Blast: Wayne Madsen 464 avg 46.40
RLODC: Billy Godleman 521 avg 74.43
SSCC: Luis Reece 52 wickets at 19.65
Vitality T20 Blast: Ravi Rampaul 23 wickets at 15.74 Economy 6.70
RLODC: Ravi Rampaul 8 Wickets @ 33.38 Economy 5.24
Player of the Season
There were so many contenders for this award this season. Billy Godleman scored nearly 2000 runs across all formats and Ravi Rampaul took 75 wickets across all formats, but when you have a player on your staff that can do both, he has to be Player of the Season.
Luis Reece regularly opened both the batting and bowling in Championship, scoring 785 runs and taking 52 wickets. Throw in 635 runs and 15 wickets in the white ball game, across both formats, and his contribution and importance to the side is evident. Reece is not a natural opener either: he has changed and adapted his game for the good of the side, giving them a strong opening pairing whilst often bowling long spells with the new ball.
Last year, Fynn Hudson-Prentice was playing for MCC Young Cricketers having been released by Sussex the previous season. At the start of this season, he was playing for Derbyshire seconds on a trial basis. By the end of the season, he was playing in the T20 Blast semi final and taking six wickets against his former county.
After breaking into the first team and being rewarded with a three-year contract, Hudson-Prentice became a regular in both first class and T20 cricket. His ability to bowl lively seam up bowling and score lower order runs make him a valuable asset to the side. His figures back up the faith shown in him with that three-year contract, as in just seven first class games he took 20 wickets at 23.25 and scored 342 runs at 34.20. He fell agonisingly close to his first First Class century, being dismissed for 99 against Middlesex when he was promoted to bat at 3 in the order.
The Derbyshire supporters have really taken to the 23 year old, who is fast becoming a firm fan favourite. He, the coaches and those fans will be looking forward to more contributions like this next season.
Could have done better
When you sign an overseas player, you sign them to win you games and, while Derbyshire’s overseas player this season was durable and reliable, Logan Van Beek did not win games for his side. Taking just 19 wickets in the County Championship, at an average of 38.21, and despite being promised a strong lower order batsman, an average of 14.11 and just a return of 127 runs did little to back up this promise.
He faired a little better in white ball cricket, taking 16 wickets, but still failed to turn in that star performance. No one could doubt Van Beek’s effort and commitment to the Derbyshire cause, but there was doubt about his on-field contribution and Derbyshire will be hoping for more from their overseas player next season.
Need to work on
Consistency, consistency, consistency. On their day, Derbyshire can beat any team in the land, as shown by beating Gloucestershire in the T20 quarterfinal and Worcestershire and Sussex – both sides tipped for promotion – in the Championship. However, they can also lose to any side and, in the Championship, turn drawing positions into losing ones.
If they can show consistency across the season, with bat especially, then the mid-table performances can turn into results, which could mean they are pushing for promotion, and qualification in the white ball tournaments, on a regular basis.
It will be an interesting off-season for Derbyshire. They will be extremely keen to sign Tom Lace, either on loan again or permanently, from Middlesex for next season. Lace has made a massive contribution the club with the bat, and has fitted into the team well. If he is not to be pulling on Derbyshire colours next season, the club will be looking to find someone to replace the runs he has scored this year.
The other area of recruitment the club will be looking at is in the fast bowling department. The resurgence of Ravi Rampaul this season, and the clutch of all-rounders, has helped mask the lack of out and out bowlers in the side. Two young bowlers have been released in Taylor and Gleadall, with Sam Connors retained and Dustin Melton signed from the seconds. Another experienced bowler may well be sought.
The club will also be hoping to re-sign Dominic Cork to the T20 coaching role, after guiding them to their first semi final. If they’re hoping to go at least one better next season, having Cork at the helm can only help matters.
This season has seen an improvement under Dave Houghton and Dominic Cork: a first semi final in the T20 at last was a great achievement. Although they finished seventh again in the Championship, they were contending for promotion until the last two matches. They finished 37 points outside the promotion places, but had some other results gone their way and a few loses been turned into draws, a more impressive league position could have been achieved.
Again in the RLODC, fifth place was deserved. Finishing with three victories from eight, two more would have seen them qualify.
This Derbyshire side are a work in progress, and another season under Houghton and Cork could well see them challenging for honours in any of the three formats next season.
Season Rating: 6.5/10