After seven seasons and 296 wickets across all forms for Derbyshire, Tony Palladino was awarded a Testimonial Year in 2018. Heritage Officer, David Griffin, looks at the seamer’s career at The 3aaa County Ground.
As Tony Palladino walks to the boundary edge, red dye-stained trousers accompanied by grass-marked knees arising from a combination of fast bowling and exertions in the field, one is reminded of many who have gone before him wearing the rose and crown of Derbyshire.
That laboured walk to the boundary edge after another lengthy spell of bowling, the light touch of the peak of his cap, or the almost shy wave of acknowledgement for the applause following another fine over, has been replicated by the very best in the tradition for which Derbyshire is best known; namely, fast and fast-medium, high quality, nagging, mean, grudging bowling.
I’ve had the unique privilege of seeing every ball Tony Palladino has bowled for Derbyshire since his debut in 2011, and I remember that first game vividly.
Play began on time against Gloucestershire at a decidedly fresh but sunny Bristol on 8 April and Pat Gibson, the venerable cricket journalist, placed a small thermometer on the outside windowsill of the old press box as Luke Sutton led his Derbyshire side onto the field. The reading on the thermometer was four degrees centigrade, leading Gibson to remark that it was warmer in the press box fridge.
Tim Groenewald bowled the first ball of the season, but Palladino took the first wicket, dismissing Cockbain, caught by Chesney Hughes at slip with the score on 21. Gloucestershire piled on the runs, closing their innings on 343 on the second day, with Palladino taking 2-33 in 19 overs.
Those figures, the result of some hostile, accurate and nippy seam bowling have become his trademark over the ensuing seven seasons – always taking wickets, but virtually guaranteeing economy and control for his captain.
That first season saw Palladino take 52 first class wickets at an average of 26.51 placing him top of the Derbyshire averages as the leading wicket-taker.
His chief partner-in-crime was Groenewald and their combined efforts in 2012 saw a revitalised Derbyshire side secure promotion from the second division as champions.
The pair took 98 wickets between them, with Palladino grabbing 56 at 24.14, including his best figures of 7-53 against Kent at Derby in a match Derbyshire had to win to ensure they could go into the final quarter of the season still top of the league. In a low scoring game, Palladino’s nine wickets in the match were crucial to Derbyshire’s narrow two-wicket win.
Earlier in the season he took a sensational hat-trick against Leicestershire at Grace Road, including as his third victim, the West Indian Test cricketer, Ramnaresh Sarwan, comprehensively clean bowled.
Little wonder that he was awarded his County Cap that summer, the 106th recipient for Derbyshire, and a reward for two seasons of skillful performances.
When the title was secured with that thrilling victory over Hampshire on 14 September 2012, Palladino could happily sit back in the dressing room with the trophy and a drink, confident that he had played a prominent role in securing Derbyshire’s best championship finish since 2000.
That summer, he again topped the list of leading first-class wicket-takers, and his 7-53 against Kent was the best of his career, and the fourth best for Derbyshire in the 21st century.
Palladino has taken five wickets in an innings on 11 occasions for Derbyshire, with only Mark Footitt, Kevin Dean and Graeme Welch beating that in the 21st century, and on many occasions, he has produced valuable runs down the order, combining watchful defence with spectacular hitting.
His one first class century came against Australia A in 2012 at Derby, and he almost repeated the feat against the full touring Australia side in 2015, when, batting at number nine, he scored an excellent 82 against an attack including Siddle, Cummins and Mitchell Marsh. He scored his runs off just 68 balls including eight fours and four sixes.
In 2017, he captained Derbyshire against the touring West Indians at Derby, and with a total of 296 wickets in all forms of the game for Derbyshire, he should become the 43rd player to take 300 for the county in 2018. In all cricket, having previously played for Cambridge UCCE, Essex and Namibia, Palladino has 466 wickets.
In many ways, despite the modernity of training and pre-match methods, Tony Palladino is a throwback to the old-style Derbyshire seamers – a genuine compliment. His role has changed since he first arrived, when he bowled at a brisk fast-medium, almost always making early breakthroughs. Latterly, he has adopted the mantle of senior pro, bowling at a slightly reduced pace, but with immaculate control and setting the standard for the young quick bowlers around him.
His nagging accuracy and reluctance to give runs away is invaluable to his captain, and reminiscent of his many fine predecessors, and his appointment as player coach at the start of 2017 has offered him more opportunities to pass on his knowledge and skills.
Always polite and happy to engage with Members and supporters, Tony Palladino has become a hugely popular member of the Derbyshire side in recent seasons, and his Testimonial Year comes as a reward for consistent performances – may the summer of 2018 bring many more.
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