Bob Willis Trophy preview

Saturday 25th July 2020
& News
Photography by: David Griffin

A season like no other – first-class cricket finally begins on August 1 2020; Heritage officer David Griffin previews the coming season.

There will have been 309 cricket-free days for Derbyshire since their players walked off the field at Lord’s on 26 September to bring the curtain down on the 2019 season. Nobody could have contemplated what followed, and although first-class cricket is about to return shortly, it will only be as part of a very truncated season, and with controls and processes in play which will never have previously been required to play a game of professional cricket in the UK.

There have been longer gaps between seasons – two World Wars accounted for ten missing seasons in the twentieth century – and back in the nineteenth century there was a gap of 346 days between the end of the 1872 season and the beginning of the 1873 season. However, only two games were played per season in 1871, 1872 and 1873, and they were staged at the height of summer, hence the large gap.

The competition in 2020 will not reward the winners with the title of Champion County as the 18 counties will be split into the three original T20 six-county groups – Derbyshire are joined by Durham, Lancashire, Leicestershire Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire – and the two counties with the most points across the divisions will compete for the Bob Willis Trophy at the end of the season.

Twenty20 cricket will also feature, but not until late August.

A first for Derbyshire will be playing home first-class matches at away grounds – the Nottinghamshire match at Trent Bridge and the Durham game at Chester-le-Street are both designated as home matches for Derbyshire, although it remains to be seen what that means in practice.

In 2000, Derbyshire played a third  round NatWest Bank Trophy match against the Derbyshire Cricket Board at Derby, with the recreational board side given home status, but such an occurrence has never taken place in first-class cricket.

The five matches will all begin at weekends, something which would ordinarily delight traditional county supporters, but as the games will be staged behind closed doors, that delight will be tempered somewhat, although the games will be streamed on the Internet allowing followers to keep an eye on the action, while the BBC will also be broadcasting ball-by-ball coverage from all matches.

A total of five first-class games means that Derbyshire will play the fewest matches in a season since they played four played in 1874, when Lancashire and Kent were their only opponents.

Trent Bridge will host the opening match, with Derbyshire returning for the first time since a rain-affected draw in 2017 when Billy Godleman scored a splendid 121, the first championship hundred for Derbyshire at Nottingham for 13 years.

Derbyshire’s last win at Trent Bridge was in 2002 when nine wickets from Dominic Cork and two half centuries by Chris Bassano saw Derbyshire home by four wickets.

The Fischer County Ground, Leicester will welcome Derbyshire for their next fixture, a ground where Derbyshire triumphed by 65 runs in their last championship game there in May 2019.

On that occasion, Tony Palladino’s 5-29 gave Derbyshire a narrow first innings lead before Wayne Madsen (51) made the only half century of the match leaving Leicestershire with too many to chase in the fourth innings. Ravi Rampaul and Luis Reece both took three wickets and Palladino a further two as Derbyshire sealed a 65-run victory.

Of the current squad, both Billy Godleman and Wayne Madsen have scored first-class hundreds at Leicester.

The third match will be at Emerald Headingley in Leeds and will be the county’s first visit for a championship match since 2013 when Chesney Hughes scored a mammoth 270 not out, albeit in a losing cause.

Derbyshire’s last first class win at Headingley was in 2003 when Luke Sutton (127) and Graeme Welch (eight wickets) were the two main contributors to Derbyshire’s 166-run triumph.

Match four is another designated as a home fixture, although it will be played 153 miles away from the Derby headquarters, at Chester-le-Street.

Derbyshire lost their last game in the north-east – by 29 runs – in June 2019 although Matt Critchley batted extremely well in making 79 not out and 71.

The last win at Chester-le-Street was by 165 runs in 2004 when Jon Moss made a superb 147 not out and Mo Sheikh and Paul Havell both took six wickets.

The final match of the five is against Lancashire at Aigburth, the home of Liverpool Cricket Club, and will be Derbyshire’s tenth first-class game at this venue and the first since 1990. Both sides have won two of the previous nine matches with the remainder ending as draws. The last game to produce a positive result was in 1957 when Derbyshire won by an innings and 66 runs thanks mainly to Arnold Hamer’s 104 and Derek Morgan’s 9 wickets.

Several players are approaching milestones, with the captain, Billy Godleman, needing to appear in five more matches to reach 200 in all formats for Derbyshire, and just three more games as captain will see him become the 13th player to captain Derbyshire in 100 matches.

Matt Critchley and Harvey Hosein should both play their 50th first-class match for Derbyshire while Tony Palladino requires only three wickets to reach 350 in first-class matches for the county.

With a possible 10 innings available, Wayne Madsen will be eying the 11,000 first-class runs landmark – he currently has 10,656 – and would become only the 21st player to score 11,000 runs for Derbyshire, and the first since John Morris almost 30 years ago.

Together, We Are All Derbyshire. Four-day cricket has returned you can follow all five of Derbyshire’s Bob Willis Trophy matches live on our match centre at

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