NatWest T20 Blast: Derbyshire looking to reach first Finals Day
Dominic Cork: "We have played really consistent cricket and we don't fear anybody with bat or ball as we've got some top players."
Last Updated: 04/12/17 5:33pm
Derbyshire will end one hell of a hoodoo with a win over Hampshire on Tuesday night.
The east Midlanders are one of two teams, Worcestershire being the other, never to reach T20 Finals Day since the competition was introduced in England in 2003.
A quarter-final finish in 2005 is the only time Derbyshire had progressed from the pool stage - until now, with a second-place spot in the North Group securing a home tie in the last eight.
Wayne Madsen has been instrumental with bat and ball, amassing 522 runs - only Kent's Joe Denly and Yorkshire record-breaker Adam Lyth have topped him on that front - and bagging 13 wickets.
But Derbyshire have also been aided by club legend Dominic Cork, with the Sky Sports expert a part of John Wright's T20 coaching staff. Not that he is claiming any credit for the side's success…
"It's not about me or John," Cork, who will be on commentary duty in the Pod for Tuesday's clash, told Sky Sports. "It's all down to the players, who have gone out and expressed themselves.
"John doesn't take things too seriously or get intense - he always asks people to relax and not put themselves under too much pressure and the players have embraced that.
"This game now is about a group of guys going out on the field and seeing if they can create a bit of Derbyshire history and get themselves into Finals Day at Edgbaston.
"We didn't get in the backdoor by coming fourth in the North Group, we came second and finished just a point behind Nottinghamshire.
"Hampshire is going to be a hard game. They have a fantastic academy which keeps churning out players, and more internationals than us and lot of other teams, so they'll go in as favourites.
"But if we play anything like we can do, we'll give them a game. We have played really consistent cricket and we don't fear anybody with bat or ball as we've got some top players."
Cork played for Derbyshire between 1990 and 2003, smoking an unbeaten 92 and being named man of the match as his side beat Lancashire by six runs in the 1993 Benson and Hedges Cup Final.
The former seamer returned to Derby last term to help out during the Royal London One-Day Cup campaign, before focussing on the shortest form this year.
"Being the assistant coach or bowling coach, call it what you will, has been really enjoyable. I have been at every game and missed only one training session, due to a commentary or something like that.
"I have worked with the guys and tried to talk to them about how to handle pressure, so hopefully they are in good stead to turn up against Hampshire and perform.
"It is very difficult when you played as I long as I did to go straight into coaching - I think I needed some time away to refresh.
"I am very lucky that I have been able to work with Sky Cricket and Sky Sports News - that helped me stay around the game and keep an eye on things before I dived back in."
He is not a vocal coach but when he talks people listen – I think he’s like Duncan Fletcher and Trevor Bayliss in that regard. He is always available if players need advice, whether technical or mental.
Dominic Cork on Derbyshire T20 coach John Wright
Madsen's form has been backed up by 17 wickets from South Africa leg-spinner Imran Tahir and 14 apiece for seamers Hardus Viljoen and Matt Henry, while Luis Reece (417 runs) has also matched Madsen's four half-centuries with the bat.
"We have had three or four consistent players throughout," said Cork. "Madsen, Tahir, as well as Billy Godleman and Reece, with other guys chipping in.
"You know what you are going to get with Imran - he's not near the top of the T20I bowling rankings for nothing. He breeds confidence within the side.
"Our last group game, when we dismissed Worcestershire for 98, was the best we have bowled and Imran led that with his 4-17. He is dangerous in the middle overs.
"Madsen has also been a quality player for years - he has kept Derbyshire afloat with the bat for a long time and he is now enjoying his role up front with the ball.
"It's just that when you play at a small club, sometimes people don't take a lot of notice of you. If he was at a Surrey or a Yorkshire, you'd hear a lot more but he's more than happy with that."
Cork ended his playing career at Hampshire, taking four wickets as the club beat south coast rivals Sussex in the final of the 2009 Friends Provident Trophy and then captained them to the T20 title a year later - Hampshire beating Somerset in a thrilling final on fewer wickets lost.
The Ageas Bowl outfit reached Finals Day for six years in a row between 2010 and 2016, winning the trophy for a second time in 2012, but Cork hopes a home quarter-final will give Derbyshire the edge.
"It's great for the players but also the fans and the club to have the game on our soil, on our wicket, with hopefully lots of people from Derby cheering us on. It could make a big difference.
"Hampshire have got James Vince, Mason Crane - an aggressive spinner who I am backing for The Ashes - Liam Dawson, Shahid Afridi, George Bailey and Kyle Abbott.
"Throw in experienced players like Sean Ervine, Chris Wood and Gareth Berg, and it's going to be a tough ask. Let's hope none of them find their form on Tuesday night!
"We are going to have to play 10 per cent better than we have done in the tournament to get through, but to get to Finals Day you've got to beat good teams. We're ready."
Watch Derbyshire v Hampshire in the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-finals, live from 6pm on Tuesday on Sky Sports Cricket (channel 404).