Derbyshire confident of finding success when cricket resumes
Derbyshire head of cricket Dave Houghton believes the club has built a squad capable of challenging for trophies when cricket resumes after the enforced break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The county season had been due to begin over the Easter break but the ECB announced last month that no cricket will be played before May 28 amid the ongoing health crisis.
That date might yet be pushed back further with the ECB revealing it is modelling options to start the season in June, July or August with a priority on the formats that provide the greatest financial benefit for counties.
Preparations for a new season are therefore uncertain but whatever form this season might take Houghton remains confident Derbyshire have a squad that is capable of taking on the bigger names beyond this summer.
They proved that last summer by reaching Vitality Blast Finals Day for the first time in the club's history under the guidance of T20 head coach Dominic Cork and Houghton has challenged his players to be ready do the same in other formats should the Coronavirus restrictions be lifted.
"I think we have a team that would not do itself justice if it didn't start winning a few things," Houghton said.
"In the Second Division I'm not sure there is a better bowling attack than us and we certainly have as competitive a top six batting line up so, all things being said, Championship-wise we have as good an outfit as anyone.
"I think we showed in the T20 that we have found a formula that works really well for us which is enhanced by the fact we have so many all-rounders in the side.
"So my message to my guys will be fairly clear; we can go through the next couple of years and have a nice time and play some good cricket or we can go through this period and leave something behind that's a legacy.”
Derbyshire are usually consigned to the 'also-rans' when it comes to pre-season forecasts but Houghton responded: "I think the people that write us off don't do their homework.
"If they looked at us with the side we have and the way we performed last year, I think they will realise we are a side that can compete in all formats now.
"But I'm not unhappy if they don't because I don't mind being the dark horse coming up on the outside rail."
Derbyshire's batting is headlined by skipper Billy Godleman, who passed 1,000 runs in the championship in 2019, Wayne Madsen and Luis Reece who emerged as a genuine all-rounder.
Reece was leading wicket-taker with 52 victims in four-day cricket while Ravi Rampaul's tally of 23 in T20 was the highest in the competition.
This season the bowling attack is due to be strengthened by the signing of South African fast bowler Michael Cohen and the Australian paceman Sean Abbott.
"Sean is right on the edge of the Australian team at all times," Houghton said. "He bowls 90 odd miles an hour and he's got a fantastic record in all formats of the game.
"He's young enough and he's got lots to prove. It's almost the perfect signing because you've got a guy who's hungry and wants to show how good he is and get an international reputation and I think Sean will be exactly that.
"You speak to anybody in Australia who knows him and they will tell you he's a great player so I'm looking forward to seeing him play here. "