Darren Stevens: There’s life in the old dog yet

There’s an old saying that goes: “Every dog has it’s day” and for Darren Stevens it was definitely his day.

Managing to steal the headlines from a 21 year old who rode to his side’s rescue with a century after they slipped to a perilous position on the opening day is an achievement in itself but this was something quite considerable.

In his 171st first class game this was his first ever five wicket haul as his wobbly medium pacers were seemingly transformed into the cricketing equivalents of hand grenades on a greenish wicket, the type you get in early County season.

Managing to take 5-14 off 12 overs including England’s hero of the winter Alistair Cook and Ravi Bopara was a wonderful effort. But perhaps the real amazing thing is that it has taken Stevens this long to manage such a feat.

Though he is rarely entrusted with the new ball by his captain, he is a capable bowler particularly in One Day cricket which allied to his batting makes him one of County cricket’s top all-rounders. But like all good County pro’s he is wholehearted and ever willing to improve. His form over the past three seasons with Kent are worthy of higher honours, though whether at 34 he will be given an opportunity is a different matter.

But for someone at the opposite end of the scale like Essex’s impressive debutant Reece Topley who at 17 is already causing quite a stir including the wicket of Denly today, here was a lesson from one of County cricket’s wiliest old dogs.

Topley will surely have his day in the months and years ahead of him, but today was the day of one old dog in particular. And as Darren Stevens has shown there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet as Essex found out to their peril.

Glamorgan CCC’s winter of discontent

For all its history and tradition it is unlikely that Glamorgan Cricket Club have endured a more turbulent twenty four hours than that which has hit the club lately.

Losing their captain Jamie Dalrymple and coach Matthew Maynard have potentially left the club in turmoil. But how did it come to this, and what are the reasons behind their departure?

The start of a beautiful friendship

Former batting coach Maynard took over in 2007

In 2007 Maynard took over at Glamorgan, and the former England batting coach was then joined by Dalrymple in 2008 who immediately made a huge impression at the club, being named Glamorgan’s Player of the Year that season. That summer he was named club captain permanently with Maynard praising his “experience and strong character”.

Building for the Future

Under Maynard, the club adopted a policy aimed more towards developing their own young players, mixed with a sprinkling of seasoned professionals such as Dean Cosker and Robert Croft.

James Harris has thrived under Maynard's tutelage

This proved beneficial with the likes of James Harris, Huw Waters and Tom Maynard developing well. But real progress as a team was slow and in 2008/09 the club finished fifth in Division Two with only two wins, while they made little impression on the Twenty20, Pro40 or Friends Provident competitions.

Under Pressure

After a decent season in 2009, where the club came fifth in the County Championship, both Dalrymple and Maynard signed new deals with the club after the season. However Glamorgan chairman Paul Russell said: “You’re as good as your last set of results. The results have been enormously disappointing and that’s what Matthew and I, and [chief executive] Alan Hamer will be discussing in some detail.”

A season of peaks and troughs

Despite starting the season poorly against Sussex, the team bounced back quickly with victory at Lords against Middlesex, before recording a further four victories by June to put them in a handy position in the Championship, prompting Maynard to declare himself “delighted with the first half of the season.”

Yet the spanner in their works came in the limited-overs competitions which were a priority for the Glamorgan hierarchy. The team struggled to make an impact in the T20 Cup-finishing second bottom in the Southern Group, while worse was to come in the Pro40 where they finished bottom of Group A, below minnows Unicorns.

Meanwhile in the County Championship their form fell away, despite the prolific form of Cosgrove and the excellence of Harris and Allenby, and they were eventually pipped for promotion on the final day by Worcestershire, after drawing three of their last four games.

At the end of the season, Maynard hinted at potential trouble behind the scenes, stating: “How the season is viewed is up to the board as it is them I am answerable to. It will be interesting to get their views, one committee man blanked me and Jamie earlier so that suggests that they’re not too happy.”

Winter of discontent

Initially the winter began well, first with the signing of Graham Wagg from Derbyshire, plus the announcement of new deals for Harris, Tom Maynard and Robert Croft. But behind the scenes the club’s management were conducting a stringent review of their performances on the field, led by Colin Metson (more on him later).

Eventually the club came to the decision to remove Dalrymple as captain yesterday and Paul Russell, Glamorgan chairman, said it was made because “the management was under pressure from the committee to improve results.”

As Dalrymple’s replacement, in came Alviro Petersen, the South African batsman, who was charged with improving their short-form fortunes. The club’s statement barely concealed their motives behind his signing, stating: “Glamorgan’s record in one-day cricket over the past few years has been very poor and the appointment of Alviro as our captain forms a crucial part of the club’s strategy to improve our playing fortunes.”

Later Russell declared Maynard’s position at the club was “certain”, but the club’s decision to appoint Metson as head of their coaching staff, eventually forced Maynard into the inevitable as he declared his position “untenable”. Within 24 hours both the captain and coach had gone.

What next?

In truth, who knows what can happen next? The club have not only shorn themselves of the services of a club legend and a capable coach, but their former captain and potentially one of their better players. Dalrymple’s future is in doubt according to club legend Steve James, while a new captain and coach with little track record must take over a group of players who developed well under Maynard.

Furthermore Petersen’s arrival means an end for Cosgrove’s spell at the club, meaning they must also do without their leading scorer in First Class cricket last season.

After a season of peaks and troughs which generally showed that while they are not yet the finished article they were definitely heading in the right direction with a young team has been destabilised.

Though this is a story which has taken on many twists and turns already, there promises to be much more to come in an eventful winter for Glamorgan CCC.

One to Watch: The one and only Chesney Hughes

The one and only: Chesney Hughes

With a name that’s a headline writers dream, Chesney Hughes has slowly been carving out a fine reputation for himself in domestic cricket, both at home in the West Indies and in England with Derbyshire.

The name may sound like ‘The One and Only’ singer Chesney Hawkes, but Hughes is definitely doing his bit to make his name stand out in its own right.

Born in Anguilla, one of the Northern, he quickly caught the eye-turning out for the Island at 15 and the West Indies u19 team at 16, but it was in the distinctly unexotic location of Fleetwood in Lancashire where he was spotted by former Hampshire bowler Cardigan Connor.

It was Connor who tipped off John Morris, director of cricket at Derbyshire, to him and after a successful trial he was snapped up, and he quickly repaid the faith shown in him by taking to County Cricket like a duck to water.

His debut was memorable, faring better than his more experienced team-mates to score 41 against a strong Middlesex attack including internationals Iain O’Brien and Steven Finn. 15 days later, he achieved a more memorable feat, scoring his maiden first class century against Gloucestershire, in only his fifth first class innings.

By the end of the summer, he added a 156 scored against Northamptonshire to his list of centuries, and finished his debut season with 784 Championship runs at an average of 41, and 422 Limited Overs runs at an average of 35.

Now playing for the Leeward Islands this Winter, he has continued to thrive-finishing in the top 10 run scorers in the WICB 50 Over tournament-which is quite a turnaround from last season where he was omitted from their first class player list.

His strengths are obvious just to look at him. He is well built, and strikes the ball with great power but also terrific timing, plus being left-handed further benefits him against right-armed bowlers. Furthermore, his skill as a part-time finger spinner has led some to consider him as a potential all-rounder in the future.

The most impressive asset of all is his maturity, at just 19 he has a calm head, and a knack for thriving in crunch situations. Two of his most important innings show this; firstly for Derbyshire he struck 96* in a second innings total of 236 against Gloucestershire on a questionable pitch, which proved far too much for the home team who were bowled out for just 70 in reply.

Then this winter for the Leeward Islands, he struck a steady 81 in the semi-final of the WICB one day tournament in their total of 213, which was 4 runs more than the Windward Islands could manage in reply. For a young player, still learning the game, it is a promising sign and an indicator of a sound temperament.

West Indies or England?

The one question which hangs over his head is about who he could represent at international level in the future. As an Anguillan, he holds a British passport, and hence could conceivably qualify for England, though his heart is said to be set on representing the West Indies in the future.

But wherever his future lies, be it with England or the West Indies, it appears that Chesney Hughes can achieve big things in the years to come.

What they say:

“He is the best 19-year-old I’ve seen for a long time. I cannot remember anyone in my age group – and that included players like Neil Fairbrother, James Whitaker, Matthew Maynard and Rob Bailey – being any better than he is.” John Morris, head of Cricket at Derbyshire.

“Chesney is someone whose progress I will be following with interest. He is a cricketer that you guys in England should be getting very excited about and who England should certainly be trying to get on board now.

“He’s only 19, but he’s built like Matthew Hayden, and he has that same imposing figure at the crease. And some of the innings he’s played this year, including the 90-odd not out he made at Bristol, have been exceptional.” Former Derbyshire opening partner Chris Rogers.