By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid) & David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
Last Season: 7th Division 2. W4 L7 D3.
Last five results: Lost v Kent (A), Won v Glamorgan (H), Won v Northants (A),
Lost v Middlesex (A), Lost v Gloucestershire (H).
2018 leading run scorer: Wayne Madsen, 1016 @ 37.6 (2x100, 7x50, HS 144).
2018 top of batting averages: Ben Slater, 676 @ 42.3 (0x100, 6x50, HS 99).
2018 leading wicket-taker: Tony Palladino, 51 @ 19.7 (BBI 6-29, BBM 10-81)
2018 top of bowling averages: Luis Reece, 11 @ 17.9 (BBI 7-20, BBM 7-38)
Derbyshire's problems could be encapsulated in the struggles of Captain Billy Godleman. The first eight games of the season brought him just a solitary fifty. Although he ended strongly, with 2x100 and 2x50 in the last six games, an average of 26.3 is not what you hope for from a batsman who had appeared re-born at Derby. An attack of Ravi Rampaul, Mark Footitt, Duane Olivier and Tony Palladino looked sturdy enough to give any batting line-up a hard time, but Footitt managed just a single game, and his England ambitions now seem to be over, and Ravi Rampaul’s 13 wickets came at more than 50 apiece. Rampaul’s season ended prematurely at Hove on August 19th when he left the field with breathing difficulties and spent several nights in the hospital bed.
Derbyshire have seen important changes both on and off-field over the winter. They have signed New Zealand all-rounder Logan van Beek as their overseas player for the entire 2019 season for all formats. A medium-fast bowler and middle-order batsman, Derbyshire hope that he will strengthen their attack. An international with The Netherlands, he has been out of their side for more than three years now but, instead, has played for New Zealand A and is close to a cap for them. Batsman, Tom Lace has been signed on loan from Middlesex but, as part of the agreement, will not be available for games against Middlesex. And Scotland spinner, Mark Watt, has crossed the Pennines from Lancashire, hoping for the opportunity of regular cricket. On the negative side, Ben Slater has left for Nottinghamshire, Duanne Olivier has taken a Kolpak deal at Yorkshire and stalwarts Gary Wilson (T20 captain), and Hardus Viljoen have both been released, alongside Will David and Callum Brodrick. While the playing staff seem thinner in 2019, the backroom staff is now full of experience. David Houghton comes back to his post as Head of Cricket. Steve Kirby is bowling coach, and Dominic Cork is Head Coach for T20, while John Wright will work as an advisor on recruitment and strategy.
Although 2018 was ultimately disappointing, it was, at least, despite all the injury problems, a small advance on the three wins and eighth place of 2017. However, one feels that 2019 is going to be a challenging year because recruitment has not matched the talent that has left the club. Derbyshire will need Billy Godleman to continue his late-season form from 2018 and for van Beek to get both runs and wickets. More than anything though, they will need Rampaul and Footitt to stay fit and have one, last hurrah if they are to bowl sides out regularly.
Prediction: Derbyshire will struggle to avoid a bottom three finish.
After several seasons of losing their best players, the county seems to be returning to stability. For 2019, Durham must do without Paul Collingwood, who has retired finally. Collingwood had a season to forget, without a single fifty and averaging under 15, but Durham will miss his calm and his authority. In his place they have made the brave, one might almost say, courageous signing of Cameron Bancroft. There is no question that Bancroft has talent, although his common sense and sartorial judgement might be questioned. It will be interesting to see what he makes of the spicy pitches of the Riverside, as an extended run for Gloucestershire in 2016 and 2017 brought minimal success: almost a quarter of his runs over sixteen matches came in a single inning. Bancroft will undoubtedly receive some “chat” from opposition players and fans alike and how he handles it may define Durham’s season. Elsewhere, the squad seems reinforced, with two shrewd signings in Leicestershire’s Ben Raine, a useful all-rounder, who enjoyed a wonderful 2018 season, and Yorkshire’s Alex Lees, exiting the club are Barry McCarthy as he is now, with Ireland’s promotion, an overseas player. Ryan Davis, a fringe player in the Championship, has also left for personal reasons. The county is unlikely to see much of Stokes and Wood – if he stays fit, Wood is likely to be playing for England – so a lot of weight will fall, again, on the shoulders of Chris Rushworth to hold together the attack. More critical still is for the batsmen to make top-order runs after a horrific collective 2018: if Durham is to challenge, they will need at least two batsmen to top 800 runs for the season and several more to go past 600. James Franklin is expected to join the coaching staff, bringing with him a wealth of experience.
Prediction: Durham needs to show that an up and down 2018, including some remarkable wins from unpromising positions, was the first sign that they are turning the corner. More consistency in 2019 and they could be dark horses to go up.
Cook’s return will be most welcomed perhaps by Tom Westley and Nick Browne who will be looking to have big seasons after disappointing large parts in 2018. The pair both tend to improve when batting with Cook with both men benefiting from the former England captain’s guidance and coolness in the middle. Whilst, unlikely a strong start to the season for either Westley or Browne could see an unlikely call-up for the Ashes, and learning from Cook can only set them in good stead.
In terms of winter arrivals the Eagles have secured Peter Siddle for a further two season after the Australian Paceman impressed last season, but there are fears that the club lose the opening bowling to international duty with the Aussies coming to town for the Ashes this Summer, and good start to his county campaign could see him receive another Ashes call-up. Siddle proved to be a popular character around the Cloud FM County Ground with the 34-year-old often seen helping the Essex bowling youngsters develop their game, and his experience will prove key for Jamie Porter, Sam Cook and Aaron Beard’s development long term, of course Porter will be hoping to line-up against Siddle in the Ashes come June.
Andre Nel, former Essex and South African strike bowler has linked up with the Eagles once again to become assistant and bowling coach replacing the departed Dimitri Mascarenhas, who struggled to make an impact at Essex in his year with the club. Nel’s international experience could prove important for the club’s young prospects with Jack Plom in particularly highly thought of within the club.
Prediction: Another season of challenging at the top awaits for the Eagles, they shouldn’t lose too many key men for the Ashes, and with the returning Alastair Cook they should be able to get the runs to set up their talented bowling attack.
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