Happy days are here again...
A fantastic day for Derbyshire today as they bowled out their hosts for 177 before progressing steadily to 67-1 by the close. You'll not need me to tell you that this is a fantastic situation for the end of the first day in a four day game, but we now need to press on, get a good lead and then bowl them out again.
I find it hard to believe that Leicestershire will capitulate quite as easily again, but the biggest danger to Derbyshire may well be the weather. Tomorrow and Friday are not looking brilliant weather-wise, so it is imperative that we push along and allow maximum time to bowl them out again.
There was great news before the start with the return of James Pipe to the side. This gives a little more solidity to the batting and offers added impetus to the lower order. Nantie Hayward and Jon Clare were omitted, while Mark Lawson was preferred to Jake Needham, surprisingly in some eyes.
Or was it? This is the time of year for leg-spinners to come into their own, with harder, drier wickets tending to dust a little and offer more extravagant bounce - exactly what a leggie needs. It may be that we could see more of Lawson in the coming weeks and he could change people's opinions of him. Certainly his 5-wicket hauls at Yorkshire were obtained in the later season and it is a good weapon to have, especially on last day tracks.
That Lawson took two wickets today (his first ones in the Championship for us) was a first day bonus. Last night I suggested that Steffan Jones had been a little flat, results-wise in recent games and could make way for Nantie Hayward.
WRONG! Hands up to the Steff-meister who produced a two-in-three double to remove Boyce and Dippenaar. When Greg Smith ripped out the middle order we could see light at the end of the tunnel. Wayne White batting at seven doesn't suggest a line-up of great depth and Derbyshire will be very satisfied with bowling the hosts out for just 177, especially when they elected to bat. Jones ended with 4-43, Smith 3-31 and Lawson 2-20. It was a good performance by our boys, with only the 25 extras taking them any way to a total. The only concern was a shoulder injury to Graham Wagg which will be scanned tomorrow. I'm sure we all hope our influential and multi-talented all rounder will be OK.
In reply, I was encouraged to see the skipper getting his head down and Wayne Madsen doing likewise. Madsen was lbw to Claude Henderson before the close, but Garry Park played soundly having earlier held three fine catches.
As for the rest of the match, we could do with runs on the board as quickly as possible. Depending on progress (and let's not forget we need to score them and it is not a foregone conclusion) there could even be a declaration before the close tomorrow or certainly before lunch on Thursday. Maximum batting points would be superb, but it will need a team effort.
If the skipper can make a ton against his former employers tomorrow it will go a long way towards a good points haul in the match, which in turn will set next week's match against Northamptonshire up as a classic. As things stand, we've again leap-frogged Gloucestershire in the table after the first day, while Kent have not had a great time against Northamptonshire on the first day.
Realistically, all we can do is continue to win our games. That in turn will put pressure on the other sides and it is all still very open. Any of six sides could go up this year and much will depend on holding nerve at key moments.
Nice one lads. Keep it up