Derbyshire enter their 136th season of first-class cricket with renewed optimism under a new Head Coach, Mickey Arthur, and with two new world-class overseas cricketers.
Heritage Officer, David Griffin, previews the red ball season.
Despite playing first-class matches from 1871, the County Championship wasn’t formalised until 1895 when Derbyshire played sixteen matches, winning five with four defeats and seven draws.
Derbyshire’s best finish in the championship came in 1936 when they were winners. They finished twice, in 1935 and 1996, and third in 1934, 1937, 1954 and 1991.
Playing largely in the second division since the championship was split in 2002, Derbyshire won the second division title in 2012.
The two division format returns for the first time since 2019 and competing sides are placed in those divisions based on their finishing positions at the conclusion of that season.
This summer Derbyshire will therefore feature in the second division alongside seven other counties, with every county playing the other twice, making fourteen matches altogether.
Joining Derbyshire are Durham, Glamorgan, Leicestershire, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Sussex and Worcestershire, two of whom will be promoted at the end of the season.
As is now the convention, the season begins with a flurry of games – six matches in seven weeks – all of which begin on a Thursday. This early season run of games can be quite hectic, but at least in terms of travel, things don’t appear too onerous for Derbyshire. They visit Lord’s for the opening game, but thereafter the next five matches are at Derby, Nottingham and Leicester.
Derbyshire’s first opponents, Middlesex, have appointed former opening bowler Richard Johnson as their new first team coach and long-standing Derbyshire supporters might remember Johnson taking 10-45 for Middlesex against Derbyshire at Derby in 1994, the best innings figures ever recorded at Derby, and now he has charge of a squad which combines youth with experience.
Peter Handscomb and Shaheen Shah Afridi are their overseas players, and Middlesex should provide good quality opposition, and a perfect opportunity for Derbyshire’s players to avenge their late season defeat in 2021.
Sussex have been a side in transition for a while. County Champions in 2003, 2006 and 2007, they were a powerhouse in domestic cricket for a decade at the start of the 21st century, winning four white ball competitions as well, but recent years have proven to be more difficult for the south coast side.
Derbyshire beat a much-weakened Sussex side at Hove in the final match of the 2021 campaign, but they will expect to be boosted on the field by the arrival of former England fast bowler Steven Finn, and off the field by the appointment of former Derbyshire player Chris Adams to their cricket committee.
Fynn Hudson-Prentice will begin his first full season back at the club which gave him his start in the professional game.
Leicestershire have been Derbyshire’s second-most frequent opponents; 217 matches have been scheduled between these two counties in first class matches – only Derbyshire / Lancashire clashes, currently standing at 221 have bettered that number.
Colin Ackermann, Callum Parkinson, Lewis Hill and Chris Wright provide experience and their overseas signing Beuran Hendricks will be one to watch; a left arm pace bowler with an impressive first class record.
Glamorgan will face Derbyshire in red ball cricket for the first time since 2019 with Michael Hogan sure to want to make a final impression on the county game before he retires following his testimonial season.
David Lloyd is their new captain and he’ll be hoping that his two Australia overseas players, Marnus Labuschagne and Michael Neser, are regularly available.
Worcestershire will be without Daryl Mitchell who featured in thirteen championship games against Derbyshire between 2006 and 2021. Their former captain has retired from the game, but Worcestershire will still have plenty of experience in the shape of overseas star Azhar Ali alongside Moeen Ali, Ben Cox, Joe Leach and Brett D’Oliveira.
Nottinghamshire may be able to at least begin the season with Stuart Broad and Jake Ball in a pace bowling attack together with Luke Fletcher who had a splendid season in 2021. Complementing that trio will be Dane Patterson who had a fine first summer with Nottinghamshire and with former Derbyshire player Ben Slater at the top of the order alongside Haseeb Hameed, Joe Clarke and Ben Duckett, they should be capable of making large totals, and if Tom Moores and Steven Mullaney make their usual contributions, they may start the season as favourites for promotion.
In a quirk of the fixture list, Derbyshire won’t play Durham until their ninth game, meaning they will have already faced Middlesex and Sussex twice before meeting the north east outfit.
With leadership off the field provided by another former Derbyshire player, Marcus North, Durham might lose the services of Alex Lees depending how his accession to England colours goes during the tour to the West Indies. However, in Chris Rushworth, Durham have one of the outstanding bowlers in domestic cricket and Scott Borthwick will again lead the side. David Bedingham also returns, and Derbyshire followers will be hoping that his wonderful 257 against them at Chester-le-Street in 2021 won’t be repeated this year, at least against Derbyshire.
So what of Derbyshire?
In Shan Masood and Suranga Lakmal, they have recruited two experienced overseas cricketers, and despite the loss of Matt Critchley and Fynn Hudson-Prentice to, respectively, Essex and Sussex, there is still talent aplenty in the squad.
Wayne Madsen and Billy Godleman have scored forty-eight first class hundreds between them; only Kim Barnett and John Morris have made more than Madsen’s 31, while Godleman’s 17 put him 16th on Derbyshire’s all-time list with power to add.
Luis Reece has developed into a true all-rounder – averaging over thirty with the bat and less than 27 with the ball, and Leus du Plooy has produced some sparkling innings since his arrival in 2019, none better than his wonderful hundred at Nottingham in 2020.
As such, the top half of the order, despite the travails of 2021, certainly possesses the experience and career records to suggest runs aplenty and combine that with the emerging talent of Brooke Guest as a wicket-keeper batsman alongside the medium-paced bowling all-rounders, Alex Hughes and Anuj Dal, and the side is more than capable of making totals which allow them to control the game.
With the ball, Lakmal’s experience should prove invaluable to Ben Aitchison and Sam Conners, both of whom will be looking to further improve on the impressive strides already taken in their fledgling careers, while Mikey Cohen and Dustin Melton will hope to put their injury woes of 2021 behind them.
George Scrimshaw will provide an alternative with the ball, delivering at pace from great height while spin bowling will be in the hands of leg spinner Mattie McKiernan, and off spinner Alex Thomson.
Harry Came and Tom Wood are likely to be back-up to the above-mentioned but can both bat anywhere in the top six.
Mickey Arthur is convinced that the ability is present within the squad, and that learning how to win under pressure is the biggest task facing him and his new charges.
Promotion will doubtless be the objective for a dynamic optimist like Arthur, and Derbyshire have a potentially outstanding top and middle order, with plenty of promising young quick bowlers to work alongside Lakmal.
As such, Derbyshire should not be languishing in the lower reaches of the table in 2022 and might just surprise a few once the action gets underway.
2022 Membership – One Club, Our County
2022 Membership is on sale now, with supporters able to attend a full season of Derbyshire home cricket for the first time since 2019, along with a host of other great benefits for!