With apologies to Mr Punch...that's the way to do it!
It was a superb performance by Derbyshire today on a belting track on a lovely ground on a beautiful summer's day. It was what Wallace and Gromit might call a grand day out and contained some fine individual performances on the way to our highest-ever List A score, all this against a team that are currently top of the group with only one defeat before today.
Why James Foster chose to bowl on such a day is a question that will puzzle some, but I can only assume that they entertained hopes of Derbyshire over-reaching themselves and ending up a few short of a challenging total. At one point that did look a possibility, as Wes Durston's 71 from 46 balls gave us the required fast start before he was dismissed in the fourteenth over and Paul Borrington went five runs later. The skipper, Wayne Madsen took over with Shivnarine Chanderpaul and they added 78 in eleven overs before Madsen fell. Richard Johnson's cameo ended in the thirtieth over and at 219-5 we could have subsided to 250-260 all out.
Not today though, as university graduate Alex Hughes confirmed his talent with a sparkling, unbeaten 59 from just 36 balls, as he and our West Indian legend added 102 in the last ten overs. I think Hughes will have a long county career, but if he never does another thing he will be able to regale his grand children with tales of the day that he played the major part in a century stand in just ten overs with one of the game's greats. As stories go, that one will take some trumping.
To be fair, it didn't surprise me, as my impression of Hughes from several viewings is that he is a precocious talent with the attitude to go far in the game. He doesn't seem fazed by occasions and whether batting or bowling comes out and gives it his all. No team or supporter could wish for more and I see him becoming a regular in the side before too long.
As anyone who has played the game will tell you, going in to bat chasing eight an over from 40 is a tough call. On a smallish ground with a fast outfield it was a possibility for Essex, but they needed a fast start and to keep wickets in hand. They managed the first - indeed, kept up the pace well throughout their innings - but Derbyshire took wickets at key times to prevent them getting up a real head of steam. The extra speed of Mark Turner and Mark Footitt was an asset, as pace always is, while Tim Groenewald nipped in with two wickets himself.
Yet the final word went to Alex Hughes, with three wickets to add to his runs. He went for 56 runs, which on this sort of track is always a possibility at his pace, but he kept at them and had the final word.
Peter Burgoyne got a little stick today, but Derbyshire fans have to be encouraged at the sight of Burgoyne, Hughes and Slater emerging from the Academy to regular first team cricket. Indeed, if you needed vindication of the club's policy, today provided it, with Chanderpaul showing, not for the first time, exactly why he was engaged to work with young players. It confirmed my belief that this team is eminently capable of playing very good one day cricket. If they can just replicate this on a more frequent basis and pick up a dasher at the top of the order for the T20, the one-day game could redeem our season.
It was a sensible move to keep Chanderpaul away from the new ball, as it allowed him to improvise in late innings as he can do so well. That also allowed Durston to open, where I think he is best suited for the one day game. He is a naturally quick scorer and today gave us the early impetus to go on and win the game. The switch illustrates that they are thinking about the game and I'm happy with that.
Last night I said that it would need something special by one of our top order to win this one. Well, we had something special from three of them, in a display that warms the heart as much as the sun warmed and probably toasted the skin of those who managed along today. Sincere congratulations to all at Leek for another excellent day that fully deserves to become a annual fixture for many years to come.
Especially if they can sort the weather, display and result as they did today.
Great stuff lads. Well done to all concerned...especially Alex Hughes.
PS In mentioning university graduate Alex Hughes, big congratulations to my son, big Steve, aka Man Mountain. He has graduated with honours in Computer Science at 2:1 from Strathclyde University. I know this is a cricket blog, but I am very proud of the big fella, as is Mrs P. Well done son!
If anyone out there is looking for a computer wizard whose forte is digital forensics, just give me a shout...