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Together, We Are All Derbyshire: Homegrown Hughes

Saturday 2nd May 2020
Photography by: David Griffin

During these challenging times for all, we want to help keep everyone associated with the club and wider community positive and engaged. We’re in this together and Together, We Are All Derbyshire. 

Paul contacted us about Alex Hughes and asked for a career overview.

Paul wrote; “Under the radar and underrated – that’s Alex Hughes. Time and again he delivers with bat and ball and is an excellent fielder. We still think of him as ‘young Alex’ and yet he’s been on the staff for about ten years. Could you please write an article about his career at Derbyshire?”

Our Heritage Officer, David Griffin, writes;

Of all the players to have emerged from the Derbyshire Academy since its formation in 2003, no one has played more games, scored more runs, or taken more wickets for the county, than Alex Hughes.

He made his debut for Derbyshire in a Twenty20 game against Yorkshire at Derby in 2011; it was a low-scoring defeat in which Hughes scored 11 from 12 balls and bowled three overs for 24.

And that was it for almost a year, until Derbyshire gave him his List A debut against Warwickshire at Derby when he dismissed Rikki Clarke – his first wicket in senior cricket and retained his place for the next – rain-ruined – one day game against Sussex at Horsham. He continued to play in the one-day side throughout that summer, and also featured in three Twenty20 matches.

However, his first notable performance came in the Clydesdale Bank 40 game against Yorkshire at Chesterfield on a hot and sunny afternoon when the visitors posted 238-7 in their 40 overs.

Derbyshire were 56-4 after 7.5 overs and in some trouble, and when Hughes joined Richard Johnson in the middle, 98 runs were still required with four wickets in hand and just over 15 overs to get them in. Both batsmen played splendidly, adding 80 runs in just over ten overs with a combination of superb striking and dynamic running between the wickets.

Johnson scored a superb 79, as Hughes offered tremendous support with a fine 37 not out from 43 balls including four fours. Johnson was out with 18 still required and a large crowd rose to Hughes as he left the field after taking his side to victory. For Derbyshire supporters, this was an early indication of Hughes’ talent and determination. Yorkshire – with Starc and Rashid to the fore – had tested him, and he had come through with flying colours.

Into 2013, Hughes was still a regular in the one-day side, and he delivered his most impressive performance to date in the delightful setting of the Highfield ground at Leek.

Essex were the visitors and when they asked Derbyshire to bat first, the hosts wasted no time in rattling up 321-5 in 40 overs. Wes Durston made 71 at the top of the innings, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul scored 85 not out, but Hughes’ innings did not pale in comparison to either as he made an undefeated 59 off only 36 balls, with six fours and three sixes. Essex never got close to Derbyshire’s total, and Hughes capped a fine man of the match performance by taking 3-56 as Derbyshire won by 63 runs.

Despite being a white ball regular, Hughes was yet to play a first-class game, but that all changed in early August 2013, when, after a poor run in the first division of the county championship, Derbyshire’s Head Coach, Karl Krikken, gave competition debuts to Hughes as well as Matt Higginbottom, in a side which also included fellow Academy graduates Peter Burgoyne, Tom Poynton and Ben Slater.

Derbyshire had not won a single County Championship match to date, and when Sussex totalled 314 in their first innings there was little to suggest that would change. Hughes performed well with the ball, taking 3-49 from 15 overs, and demonstrated those changes of pace which have become a trademark of his bowling.

However, Wayne Madsen scored 97 (Hughes scored 11) as Derbyshire trailed by only 40 on first innings. Tim Groenewald took 5-27 and Hughes added a further wicket as Sussex were dismissed for 133 leaving Derbyshire 174 to win. Slater, Chesney Hughes and Madsen finished the game off inside three days, scoring at over four an over to register a nine-wicket win.

This was Derbyshire’s first win in Sussex since 1998 and a largely young side had proved their worth against a strong Sussex team.

Hughes retained his place in the side for the rest of the summer and then played 13 matches in 2014 in first-class cricket, while also beginning a run in the one-day side which saw him miss a mere two games in six seasons.

In Twenty20 cricket, Hughes became a virtual ever-present and his run of 47 consecutive games between 2015 and 2018 has only been bettered by Madsen and Durston.

His next major breakthrough came with the bat in a comprehensive seven-wicket win in the county championship against Northamptonshire at Northampton in July 2015.

In a game which ended inside three days, Hughes made a superb first innings 111 not out, batting at number six, passing his previous best of 82, and hitting 18 fours. Northamptonshire followed on and despite a better showing in the second innings were easily defeated.

Having scored a first-class hundred, it was expected that more would follow, but a relatively fallow period followed, before he made another three-figure score, this time on home soil, against Gloucestershire at Derby in August 2016, by which time Hughes had been promoted to number three in the order.

He only scored one in the first innings and when he went in at number four in the second innings, Derbyshire were 16-2, still 77 runs adrift. However, in a magnificent show of determination, patience and stroke-play, Hughes batted for almost six hours to score 140 including 20 fours and a six.

Captaincy was also added to his repertoire in 2016, being asked to lead the side in four Twenty20 games and three Royal London One-Day Cup matches.

By the time the 2017 season came around, Hughes had settled into the batting order at number five, and he performed particularly well in the early season one day games, making consecutive scores of 39, 96 not out, 37 and 53 in the space of only nine days in the Royal London One Day Cup, and on a very dry and dusty Chesterfield pitch, he scored 108 against Durham in the championship, albeit in a losing cause.

The 2017 season saw Derbyshire reach the Twenty20 quarter-finals for only the second time, and for the first time in 12 years, with Hughes very much to the fore.

He scored 800 runs in first-class matches, averaging 40, and a total of 1,153 across all forms of the game, bringing him the Player of the Year award, while the icing on the cake was the awarding of his county cap at Queen’s Park, Chesterfield in September.

In 2018, his bowling in Twenty20 cricket reached new heights; he took 17 wickets during the campaign, matching the best ever in a single season for Derbyshire by Imran Tahir, a year earlier, and in 2019, against Northamptonshire at Derby he took 3-13 from four overs, one of the most economical spells of bowling for the county in the shortest form of the game.

The 2019 season saw Derbyshire reach Twenty20 Finals Day for the first time, with Hughes again to the fore and throughout the campaign, producing figures of 1-19 off four overs in the quarter-final against Gloucestershire at Bristol, and 2-24 in four overs in the semi final against Essex at Edgbaston.

In all, Hughes has now played 215 games for Derbyshire, second only to Madsen of the current squad, and has scored 4,816 runs, taken 127 wickets, and held 114 catches.

Still only 28 years old, there should be much more to come from Hughes – he is a very capable cricketer and like so many of his fellow Staffordshire-born cricketers, plays tough, uncompromising cricket, seeming to enjoy the game all the more when the situation is at its tightest, requiring strong nerves and a willingness to step up.

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