For most people Derbyshire were last season’s surprise package in the Bob Willis Trophy, finishing second in a strong North Group – beating Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, drawing with Durham and Yorkshire and losing once to Lancashire in the final game of the group stages, a loss which cost Derbyshire a place in the final of the trophy.
They did not fair so well in the Vitality T20 competition, finishing bottom of the North Group, winning only once against Leicestershire, which was a disappointing campaign following reaching finals day the previous season. They will be hoping to build on the success they had in the BWT and reverse the fortunes in T20 cricket to secure a return to Finals Day this season
This will not be easy in the always tough Northern group of the T20 Blast and they have been drawn with perennial champions Essex, Test match counties Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire and Durham and also Worcestershire in the County Championship.
The off-season has been a period of relative calm for the Falcons without the upheaval of previous seasons. There has been one change off the field with assistant coach and bowling lead Steve Kirby departing for Somerset to be replaced by Ajmal Shahzad.
Two of his bowlers have left the club, Tony Palladino released after 10 years and 347 first-class wickets for the club and Ravi Rampaul’s Kolpak status has caused his release due to Brexit. Both will leave a hole in captain Billy Godleman’s bowling attack. Those missing wickets will hopefully be replaced by new signing George Scrimshaw, released by Worcestershire, Ben Aitchinson, who made an impressive start to his Derbyshire career last season before injury, Michael Cohen, who shows real pace and venom in his bowling, and overseas signing Billy Stanlake.
Brooke Guest has also made his loan move from Lancashire permanent and will add competition to the wicket keeping roster for the club. Also adding to the keeping roster for the T20 will be exciting Australian Ben McDermott, who is so big hitting that some of his shots may land down the A52 in Trent Bridge as a warning to their neighbours of what to look out for when they meet.
Derbyshire have a squad with a good blend of youth, experience, potential and excitement and if they fire as they can, they will win more matches. But with last season behind them and 2019 Finals Day under their belt, they will not be a surprise package anymore.
Ins: Brooke Guest (Lancashire), Nick Potts, George Scrimshaw (Worcestershire)
Outs: Tony Palladino, Ravi Rampaul
When you open the batting and bowling for a side in junior cricket you are normally the captain or coaches son. Luis Reece is neither and does both because he deserves to. Last season he was the county’s second highest run-scorer and wicket-taker in first class cricket and performed well in T20 cricket too. His presence in the side gives balance and his captain increased bowling options and variation to the attack. His ability to score runs at the top of the order gives his side great starts to an innings. Reece’s performances are key to the success of the side.
Player to Watch
It feels like Matt Critchley has been around for ages, yet he is only 24 and he could easily be in the category above as a key player. He was voted Derbyshire’s player of the season last season with 17 wickets and 234 runs in the Bob Willis Trophy across five matches. Yet Critchley is still developing, he regularly works with Aussie leg-spinning mentor Stuart MacGill who regards him very highly and his batting improves year on year too. Expect him at five in the order and bowling as the county’s only spin option and, if Critchley continues on the trajectory he is currently on, expect him to achieve recognition at a higher level before long.
Overseas Signings: Dustin Melton, Billy Stanlake, Ben McDermott (For T20)
Dustin Melton played under the Kolpak ruling for Derbyshire for the last two seasons and deserves his opportunity to fill one of the overseas slots available this year. He has developed well and shows control with the ball and has the ability to progress even further. He is sharp enough to cause batters problems and consistent enough to not do the same for his own captain. The Australian Billy Stanlake is available all season and across all formats for Derbyshire and, as previously mentioned the need for wickets will fall to him as an international bowler. He is tall, quick and on early-season English pitches could cause all manor of issues for opposing sides. Ben McDermott will arrive for the T20 competition and, after his performances in the Big Bash this winter, Derbyshire fans have every reason to be excited as he is big hitting and even bigger scoring. The Incora County ground may not be big enough this season if McDermott hits his straps. He will look to fill the role that Derbyshire have often missed at the top of the order, someone who can take the game away in the powerplay and give the side impetus.
How they’ll fare
Derbyshire find themselves in tough groups for both the County Championship and T20 Competition, with sides with bigger budgets, resources and fan bases. If they are to do well they have to upset some of the big boys. That is not beyond them, they are capable to beating anyone on their day and they could win both groups. More likely is that they will finish second or third in both groups and qualify for the next stages and continue the progress they have made over the last few years.
Opening Fixture: April 8-11, Warwickshire vs Derbyshire, Edgbaston, LV County Championship
Season Odds (www.skybet.com)
LV County Championship 25/1
Bob Willis Trophy 25/1
Royal London One-Day Cup: 28/1
Vitality Twenty20 Blast: 20/1