What Happened Last Year?
Derbyshire were a surprise package in 2020, finishing the Bob Willis Trophy season above Lancashire in the north group. Only Yorkshire finished with a better record. Derbyshire can come away proud with their accomplishment having only lost one game (to Lancashire), while winning two (Durham & Leicestershire) and drawing the other two (Yorkshire & Nottinghamshire).
Fynn Hudson-Prentice finished the season with the highest average (48.33) while South African Leus du Plooy finished with more runs than anyone else (296). Derbyshire's ability with the bat was the standout for the 2020 season with 6 players averaging 35 or more.
Leg-spinner Matt Critchley excelled with the ball, taking more wickets than any other Derbyshire bowler (17 for an average of 26.88). He was supported by Luis Reece's 13 wickets at 26.15.
Key Player for 2021
Fynn Hudson-Prentice will be looking to back up his 2020 season with another good season with the bat. His overall first-class average is closer to 25 than the 50 he was pushing last season, so it'll be interesting to see where he settles. With club-captain Billy Godleman showing signs of slowing down, Derbyshire need someone to keep the runs ticking over, and while there is plenty of talent on the Derbyshire roster, Hudson-Prentice showed the ability to take over.
Hudson-Prentice batted down at #6 for Derbyshire, so it'll be interesting to see if he remains there as a genuine all-rounder, or if he starts to move up slightly. Derbyshire are not a one-man team, and if they want to challenge for Division 1 in the second stage, they'll need the majority of their team to step up.
I thought about putting Harvey Hosein here, Derbyshire's wicket-keeper, but that's a pretty stacked position for England. So instead I'm going to opt for leg-spinner Matt Critchley. He's more likely to breakthrough in limited-overs cricket and he'll be key for Derbyshire this year in the T20 Blast. He currently possesses a 26.30 average in T20 cricket to go with 43 wickets. However, at just 24, he did show signs of adapting his game to the longer format and his 26.88 average with the ball last year is significantly lower than his career average in first-class cricket of 44.85.
Sam Conners, a right-arm fast bowler is someone to keep an eye on for the future.
The target for this year?
Derbyshire will face new competition in the re-structured County Championship, you can read about the new structure here.
They have been placed in group one with Nottinghamshire, Essex, Durham, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
Finishing in the top two here will be difficult, with reigning champions Essex as strong as ever, Warwickshire possessing a lot of batting talent and Nottinghamshire on the brink of putting it all together.
I'd back Derbyshire to beat Durham and Worcestershire here but I can see them finishing 3rd behind Essex and Warwickshire.
Derbyshire have added Australians Billy Stanlake and Sean Abbott. Both are probably better known for their white-ball exploits, but both should add to the bowling unit for Derbyshire in first-class cricket.
Overseas players: Dustin Melton (Zimbabwe), Sean Abbott & Billy Stanlake (Australia), Ben McDermott (Australia, T20 only)