Head of Cricket, Dave Houghton believes the competition Derbyshire will face in the Bob Willis Trophy will provide a measure of the progress his team has made in the past year.
Having not played a competitive fixture since the draw at Middlesex in September of last year, Derbyshire make the short journey to Trent Bridge on Saturday for the first game in a tough North Group.
Division One counties Yorkshire and Lancashire make up the section along with Durham and Leicestershire but Houghton is confident his players are ready for the challenge.
“They are four-day First-Class games and we will approach them as if it was the normal season,” Houghton said.
“We’re not kidding ourselves, we are in a very strong section with Nottinghamshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire and a vastly improving Durham so ourselves and Leicestershire have our work cut out to compete with these guys.
“But we played really good cricket last year and I expect us to do the same this season. We’ve got the core of the side from last year and are fairly confident we can compete with these big sides so this will be a good test.”
Derbyshire can draw encouragement from some good red-ball performances in 2019 when Houghton believes they could have been in the mix for promotion, but for a couple of key defeats.
“We didn’t quite do what I was expecting us to do last year, we could have been better in four-day cricket when we let a couple of games slip out of our grasp, Glamorgan at home and Durham away, which could have been the difference between us being promoted,” he said.
“But we have the core of that team and I think that’s huge in terms of where you start to go and what you start to challenge for is having a good core of people who are good cricketers who understand the game really well and understand what’s required to win games.
“So I don’t see any reason why we should take a step back from where we were last year; if anything I hope we will take a couple more steps forward.”
With Derby currently a training base for the Pakistan team ahead of the Test series and then staging England Women’s internationals, Derbyshire have been using the facilities at Repton School, and Houghton has been pleased with the players’ work in training since they returned.
“We’ve had a really good month, the wickets have been great and we’ve had access to the indoor facility which is state-of-the-art so we couldn’t wish for a better substitute place to train,” he said.
“I think we’ve been ready for about a week now. All the groundwork we did in January, February, March was already in place so although we had the lay-off afterwards, after a couple of weeks of practice we were ready to go.”
Derbyshire will be without Ravi Rampaul for the opening match, but their bowling attack has been boosted by the addition of promising quick Michael Cohen, who joined over the winter.
“Ravi flies on 5 August and will be ready for our second game on the 8th,” Houghton added.
“The one thing about the lockdown in Trinidad is he’s had plenty of opportunity to go and bowl in the nets, he wasn’t restricted to just being at home so we are comfortable that he’s up to speed and ready to go.
“Mikey is a left-arm quick bowler, not particularly tall but skiddy, fast, and I think this season is about us getting to know what he can actually do.
“We are just looking forwards to seeing him play, at his age now he’s still learning the game, he’s got natural raw talent so it’s just how quickly he learns to put it in the right place to get people out.”
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 derbyshireccc.com.