Well, I think a few gloom and doom merchants on IMWT might be feeling a little silly tonight...
This morning the County Ground resembled a scene from casualty. Luke Sutton was unable to take the field after severe bruising to his little finger (thankfully not broken), Jon Clare had tweaked a hamstring and Usman Khawaja didn't look fully over his injury. Mark Footitt thankfully told me that he should be fit for next week, which was good news and not the last of the day.
Derbyshire were, quite simply, superb. In the morning session Tony Palladino (pictured) showed everyone what a fine bowler he is with a devastating pre-lunch spell. Regular readers will know I labelled this an astute signing when John Morris pulled it off back in December (16th if you wish to check) when I wrote:
"Critics say he can be expensive and loses his radar from time to time, but I tend to take a more pragmatic view. Five-an-over in List A and seven-an-over in T20 is hardly cafeteria bowling. In addition, Palladino, like Footitt and Mark Turner, takes wickets with impressive regularity. Eight four-wicket and two five-wicket hauls in 52 matches is impressive, as is a career record of 117 wickets at 34 with limited opportunity. Comparisons may be odious, but Lungley took three five-wicket hauls in ten years, as did Hunter and neither took four in a Championship innings.
Palladino is thus more penetrative and crucially four years younger. With opportunity he can get better, which realistically wasn’t going to happen with the other two. All things considered, John Morris has again strengthened the squad. Two aging bowlers of questionable fitness have been replaced by two who are not yet at their peak."
On today's showing Palladino is a class act who will only improve. He was aided by some sharp catching from a team who were obviously up for a fight and credit goes to Tom Poynton who stepped in for Luke Sutton and kept well at short notice. Tim Groenewald bowled well with little luck, while Chesney Hughes bowled some impressive spin to end the innings quickly, bowling Finn behind his legs and having Collymore sharply taken by Poynton. Mention should also be made of Ross Whiteley, who occasionally dropped onto leg stump but bowled some good balls in an improved spell.
A deficit of 76 was less than most expected, but fully deserved for a very aggressive display in the field. In the context of the game it was still substantial though and we needed a good start. Sadly Wayne Madsen fell to a brilliant piece of fielding and at 10-1 we were struggling.
Then came some marvellous batting on a difficult pitch by Durston and Khawaja. The odd ball was lifting sharply and some kept low, but by punishing the bad ball and leaving anything they didn't have to play, the two eroded the lead and we crept ahead. Durston played some delightful drives and sashayed down the track a time or two against the spinners for impressive boundaries. Khawaja still didn't look fully fit and it was noticeable that there were no sharp singles and they weren't pushing between the wickets. Yet the commitment and self restraint of the young Australian augurs well. He made the bowlers pitch it on the stumps where he picked off anything short or overpitched. One pull from Collymore went through mid on, testimony to how quickly he picked it up, while he played a delightful drive past the bowler that oozed class.
Wes looked set for a deserved century when he missed a leg glance and was lbw to sounds of disappointment from the crowd, while Khawaja was eventually to fall to an attempted cut. Yet even at that stage Derbyshire did well, with young tyros Hughes and Redfern batting sensibly and with great skill to the close. I've seen people label this a 'crucial' season for Redfern, which is nonsense. He's 21 for goodness sake! Bear this in mind -his record at that age is better than a player named John Morris at the same stage. If he turns out as good as that feller we'll have few complaints...
The match? 117 ahead with seven wickets in hand. Anything over 200 will be tough to get if we bowl right. If we get 250 lead they'll be really worried.
As for the rest, I was really impressed by today. The ground looked magnificent, the team were up for it and I met some lovely people - you all know who you are! I enjoyed the company of everyone and had the pleasure of a chat with Chris Grant, who I can assure you is passionate about his cricket and has great plans for our club. Having spoken to him I have no doubts that the future is bright and that the club is in very safe hands.
More of the same tomorrow gentlemen and we'll be some way towards back to back wins, just reward for some very impressive cricket today.
PS You will notice a picture of Tony Palladino at the top of this article. That's different to the Derby Telegraph, who currently seem unable to match the fine writing of Mark Eklid with a sub-editor who can add the right photo to the prose. Bet they'd not make that mistake with Derby County...