Even the most cynical and negative Derbyshire fan must now, after the sensational - no other word will do - win over Essex yesterday. The team that were the favourites of most pre-season for promotion were hammered - let's be honest about it - by a Derbyshire side so aggressive, "up" and so impressive that it comes as a bit of a shock to most.
Not me though. You'll recall that I fancied a win pre-game and that I thought we would seal it on the third day, as we did with time to spare. I'm also enthused by the fact that my pre-season forecast of a promotion challenge is well and truly alive, even though we've yet to reach the season mid-point.
You only need to look at the statistics to get a feel for things. Notwithstanding the dodgy tracks at the start of the season, Guptill and Durston average over 50, Redfern just under it. The skipper weighs in with a very acceptable 40, while the less experienced players, Whiteley and Borrington, are at 30 and 22 respectively.The top six batsmen in the top six positions. The rest all average between 17 and 22, testimony to a side treating batting as a collective effort, which of course it should be.
Aggression and no fear were the by-words pre-season and that has been carried onto the pitch. Karl Krikken in a year has engendered a team spirit that has been noticed by every opponent and it has been a major factor in our success. Again, notwithstanding bad early pitches we've a collective eight centuries and 31 Championship sixes. I remember the days we didn't hit that many in a season.
At the forefront has been the man called the best overseas player on the circuit, Martin Guptill. He has learned from last year and while possessing a stronger defensive technique, has lost none of his aggression and willingness to hit over the top from early in his innings. Derbyshire sides of yore might have got that target yesterday for five wickets in 40 overs. Guptill's controlled aggression made it a walk in the park, well supported by Paul Borrington.
As for the bowling, we have Groenewald, Palladino, Clare and Wainwright taking 89 wickets between them, none costing more than 22 runs per wicket. Footitt, Durston and Whiteley have lent good support and taken wickets at valuable times, but that first four, again as I wrote pre-season, is the best in the division. Sides can no longer nullify Derbyshire by producing spinning tracks, because Wainwright, with support from Wes Durston, can outbowl any of them. If it seams, our boys are a match for anyone else too. We're not unbeatable, but no one has managed it yet...
Nor should we ignore the efforts of Tom Poynton behind the stumps. Poynton can be rightly proud of his season so far as no one talks about him. There's just an assumption that he will go out and do a very good job, which is good to see. Two things at Chelmsford impressed me - one was his clean hitting, which will have done him a power of good, while you should take a look at the catch he took to remove Shah in the first innings.
David Wainwright got the ball to turn and lift alarmingly, Shah was good enough to get an edge and Poynton did even better to read the first, react to the second and take a very, very good catch. Derbyshire's fielding this year has been of a very high standard and the focal point of that has been a young tyro wicket-keeper in who the coach had confidence, something that has been repaid handsomely so far.
The acid test will come, of course after the T20. If we can get to that stage with a lead at the top of the table we will be set fair, but a few teams come unstuck and lose momentum when the disciplines of the "proper" game are replaced by the smack and giggle version.
The other factor is how well Usman Khawaja replaces Martin Guptill in the overseas role. I think Khawaja will be a man on a mission and he has a real incentive to score heavily from June onwards. If he does and we avoid too many injuries, I think Derbyshire will be promoted.
Team spirit and talent does that for a side.