Okay, so ‘great’ might be stretching it, we won only two white-ball games all season and fared little better in the red ball environment… but somehow we retained our place in division one by the skin of our teeth!
As is often the case, we started well, winning our first three County Championship matches. The wheels then not only came off but rolled down the hill and out of sight! Quite how our T20 then One-Day form was so bad, I have no idea. Given the improvements we’d made in recent seasons, it was extremely frustrating. Australian Josh Phillipe was a particular disappointment but to be fair, he fared little worse than anybody else. We finished bottom of our group in both white-ball competitions with just a solitary win in each format.
And so it came down to the final few games of the County Championship. The scorecard above details how young Greg Birch, with only a couple of First Class games to his name, roared to match figures off 11-87 to seemingly preserve our division one status. Sadly we collapsed to just 88 all out in pursuit of only 104 for victory. At this point and following the trauma of such an up and down match, I thought that we’d been relegated by just 16 runs. I then realised that we had one game left and it happened to be a winner takes all relegation play-off against neighbours Derbyshire, who had a 3 (It might’ve been 5) point advantage.
Joe Root was selected for only the second time in half a decade and made 51 returning to his roots as an opener. Matt Fisher (4-79), recalled after taking eleven wickets in a second XI game, restricted the hosts to only a small lead after they’d looked set for a match-defining one. James Wharton, who despite his horror show as white-ball captain had performed well (With bat and ball) in the County Championship, set the tone with 77. Josh Phillipe (50) after a quiet few innings, dug deep as we fought the opposition and the rain. It was Fisher (4-50) again who ripped through Derbyshire second time around to send them down to division two. Having sunk into the relegation zone, we’d looked doomed but a combination of youth and experience had saved us.
The emergence of a number of young pace bowlers, not least the aforementioned Birch, means that we say goodbye to Ben Coad and Sam Cook. The money saved by releasing those players allows us to invest heavily in coaching/physio facilities and crucially youth development. Josh Phillipe will return next year. The Australian played some crucial knocks in First Class cricket but will hope to demonstrate his white-ball prowess more in 2028. 26-year-old off-spinning all-rounder Oliver Price has joined the squad and will hope to make a belated professional debut.