After 21 seasons of T20 cricket enough time has passed and sufficient players have represented Derbyshire in the shortest format of the game to be able to select a fantasy eleven.
Heritage officer David Griffin has watched all but two of Derbyshire’s 249 T20 matches and offers his selection below.
Derbyshire struggled to get to grips with T20 cricket for more than a decade after its introduction in 2003. Granted, they reached the quarter final stages in 2005 but there were only four group games in the early days and a defeat to Lancashire at Old Trafford was their last appearance at that point of the competition until 2017.
Several players impressed in those early days but a winning formula was never established. The number of group games was extended to 10 – and subsequently more – in 2008 and for eight seasons Derbyshire were never sufficiently competitive to average even a single point per match.
That all changed in 2017 when John Wright and Dominic Cork took joint charge of T20 cricket at Derby and oversaw eight victories en route to the quarter final. There were eight wins once more in 2019 as Derbyshire reached Finals Day for the first time, and in 2022 under the tutelage of Mickey Arthur there were a club record nine wins and another quarter final.
Thus, the bulk of Derbyshire’s leading performances have been by players of more recent vintage with four of my dream team having featured in Derbyshire’s side in 2023 with five of the eleven playing in the club’s sole Finals Day.
I have also decided to select a side with just two overseas players meaning that some fine cricketers have missed the cut.
In the opening slots Wes Durston and Luis Reece give the side a right hand – left hand combination plus the bonus of being able to bowl. Durston and Reece typified the modern T20 utility cricketer, capable of producing dynamic strokeplay while also taking crucial wickets. In Durston’s case he often opened the bowling while Reece remains more likely to bowl later in the innings.
Durston was the first Derbyshire T20 cricketer to hit sixes in this form of the game with any degree of regularity. Although T20 cricket appears to have always been about six-hitting, a mere dozen years ago Derbyshire’s players struck a collective 47 over the ropes in 14 innings. Fast forward to 2023 and in the same number of innings the number of sixes was 96. His off spin was invaluable at the start of a game while his tally of 44 wickets has only been bettered by four bowlers, and 2,114 runs place him second in the Derbyshire table. An automatic selection.
Reece is another immensely powerful player with a wide range of glorious strokes and his 1,722 runs put him third on Derbyshire’s list while his 22 wickets have often come at important times. Experienced and at the peak of his form in 2023, Reece joins Durston in a very entertaining and effective opening partnership.
At number three Wayne Madsen is the only contender. The finest T20 player in Derbyshire’s history, he’s scored more runs – 4,117 – than anyone else, a total which is almost twice that of Durston in second place. He’s the only Derbyshire player to score two T20 hundreds one of which, off 47 balls against Durham at Derby in 2022, remains the fastest in any format in the club’s history, while his 30 scores of fifty or more is twice that of his nearest challenger. A useful bowler and splendid fielder, the way Madsen compiles his runs marks him out as one of the best T20 cricketers of the Vitality Blast generation. Capable of scoring all around the wicket, at times he can appear impossible to bowl to.
The number four position goes to Leus du Plooy. An outstanding striker of the ball off any type of bowling, du Plooy thrilled Derbyshire spectators with his extravagant strokeplay but also demonstrated his sense of occasion in scoring runs at crucial times when games seemed lost. Yorkshire supporters will doubtless be celebrating du Plooy’s departure to Middlesex ahead of 2024 meaning that the left-hander will no longer be able to routinely destroy their bowling attack during the T20 group stages.
Matthew Critchley is another cricketer Yorkshire fell foul of – at Chesterfield in 2018 – when he smashed 22 off five balls in the final over of a game which was lost. A very capable all-round cricketer, Critchley offers powerful strokeplay alongside effective leg spin bowling.
An attacking player, aways keen to be a part of the action, he was a fine fielder off his own bowling and during the 2019 journey to Finals Day was outstanding during the middle overs, often taking wickets but also producing a good economy rate.
Alex Hughes occupies the number six spot. He’s one of only two players to appear in 100 or more T20 games for Derbyshire, Hughes was unheralded but utterly indispensable, often partnering Critchley in bowling the vital overs immediately following the PowerPlay and more than capable of clearing the boundary with bat in hand. A fine fielder anywhere, he was exceptional off his own bowling.
My wicketkeeper is Daryn Smit on the basis that he was the best I have seen behind the wicket since Karl Krikken, and before him, Bob Taylor. He was a sublime operator, with very quick and safe hands. Useful with the bat, he would already be in credit from the runs he saved behind the stumps.
Tim Groenewald took 51 wickets in this form of the game for Derbyshire and despite leaving in the middle of the 2014 season, his record wasn’t overtaken until several seasons later. He was a fine bowler, operating at a fair pace, and used as an opener before coming back later in the innings.
Match-winning bowlers – especially in T20 cricket – are like gold dust, and extreme pace or high-quality spin are much sought after. Imran Tahir is therefore my first overseas selection – a top quality cricketer, infectious in his enthusiasm for the game and especially for wicket-taking. He was the heartbeat of the 2017 side which reached the quarter final stages and his celebrations remain firmly in the memory.
The final two picks both offer pace, albeit in different options. George Scrimshaw took 57 wickets for Derbyshire at a remarkable strike rate of one every 15 balls. With a particularly effective short ball, Scrimshaw produced one of the great T20 individual performances for the county against Lancashire at Derby in 2022 when the atmosphere as he bowled the final over of the game was to be savoured.
His pace partner is Lachlan ‘Lockie’ Ferguson, a bowler of genuinely high pace, and capable of producing yorkers at will. Watching him racing in wearing black boots, arriving at the crease, arching his back, and delivering thunderbolts with a follow through which took him halfway down the pitch was a delight to witness.
So, there is my team – specialists with bat and ball, plus all-rounders and a high class ‘keeper.
However, what of those who missed out?
I could make a case for Shan Masood, Martin Guptill and Michael Di Venuto but that would mean leaving out one of the overseas bowlers, and I’m happy with my openers, one of whom would have to give way to accommodate one of these three overseas players.
Albie Morkel and Jimmy Neesham would both be ideal at number six, pace bowlers who bat very effectively, but as overseas cricketers they would need to displace either Tahir or Ferguson.
Ravi Rampaul was an overseas player but also played one season for Derbyshire as a Kolpak cricketer. As a Kolpak selection he could come into the side for Ferguson allowing Morkel or Neesham to replace Hughes.
There were other contenders for the top half of the order – Chesney Hughes, Greg Smith and Ant Botha could all have been selected in the top six – but, again, I’m happy that those selected were more effective.
Further down the order, Tom Lungley and Zak Chappell were considered but both Groenewald and Scrimshaw have better records and were more effective over time. Of course, if Chappell continues in the same vein as in 2023, he will surely force his way into the side.
Lastly, both Rampaul and Zaman Khan could have taken the number 11 position ahead of Ferguson, but allied to the New Zealander’s high pace and wicket-taking prowess was his economy rate of 6.64, almost unthinkable for a bowler of such pace.
Of course, some other fine players represented the county in T20 cricket but only when the format was in its infancy meaning that they played few games; Dominic Cork only played five matches for Derbyshire and Krikken just one.
In the end, of course, everyone has their favourites, but I’m happy with my selection.
Here’s my XI in batting order:
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