With a few ever so slightly nervy spells along the way, Derbyshire duly wrapped up a second remarkable victory on the trot at the County Ground today, beating Middlesex by 56 runs.
That's the current second and third teams in the country that we have beaten in consecutive matches and I'd suggest that only Yorkshire are playing such purposeful cricket as we are at present. It is an extraordinary turnaround for a young side, robbed of several senior players by injury but getting through on effort, willpower and no little talent.
We may yet go down, but those who a few short weeks ago were decrying the team as rubbish, the worst side ever to represent the county, a rabble and much more are now wiping considerable quantities of egg off their faces. We're still not the best team in the country by a distance, but we're playing the brand of cricket that characterised the early period of last summer. We're not a great batting side, but we're getting enough runs together collectively to win. We're not a great bowling side, but there's enough variety and novelty value in the attack to keep people guessing. We're not the best fielding side, but we're catching more than we were and again can draw on that magical team spirit that does so much for any side.
Full credit to Middlesex, who, as I suggested last night, fought all the way. Ollie Rayner had perhaps his greatest-ever game, yet ended up on the losing side, while Gareth Berg got them to the point where most of us started to wonder if things might not go the way we planned.
Yet they did. Judging from the number of overs bowled I don't think Tim Groenewald was fully fit after yesterday's injury, so a greater burden was placed on Mark Footitt (pictured), who responded magnificently. Mark has had his critics, especially with regard to his one-day bowling, but this must surely go down as his best season. He has bowled with consistent pace and has the ability to bowl over and round the wicket with no diminution of pace, further testimony to his improved fitness levels.
Matt Higginbottom was less effective today, but took the key wicket of Berg, while Peter Burgoyne bowled a long and controlled spell and took the last, among three wickets. Add in the sparingly used Alex Hughes and the attack had a very youthful look that ended up doing the business.
A couple of contributors have made the point that we cannot rely on them throughout the run in and they are right. I take my hat off to Karl Krikken for a team selection that he got spot on, even if a second spinner might have been useful today. He will need to look carefully - and he will - at the team on a match by match basis. Palladino, Clare, Wainwright and Knight could all come into the mix over the next few games, while the Poynton v Johnson battle will merit regular scrutiny. We could accomodate another bowler or batsman if Johnson kept, but that might be to the detriment of his batting, while Poynton's keeping remains a very high standard.
There's time for all that though. For now let us celebrate a team that has gone from being unlikely to see a win all summer in some eyes to sitting outside the relegation places. Somerset got lucky today and would have lost to Warwickshire bar for bad light, while Surrey look like getting little from their game against Durham. We can rest a few legs for the coming YB40 games if need be, ensuring that key personnel are fit and well for The Oval next Thursday.
Oh, and the Second XI beat Durham by ten wickets too, Borrington and Elstone knocking off the fifty-odd runs required in jig time and keeping Steve Stubbings' side atop the table. Good times huh?
Well, yes, apart from the pitch for last week's YB40 against Durham causing us to be docked two points from next year's fifty-over competition. Those nice people at Lords listened to the commentators and saw fit to punish us for a sub-standard pitch. To be fair, it wasn't great, but Durham did win the toss and opt to bowl, which was hardly indicative of them expecting it to be like North Pier at Blackpool in the second innings either.
So we take it on the chin, while raising a mental two fingers in the direction of Lords. Maybe that's just me...
Maybe we shouldn't have beaten them today.
Postscript - on the subject of pitches, top marks to Neil Godrich and his team for an outstanding four-day track in this game. You could make runs if you worked at it. You could take wickets if you bowled in the right areas.
You cannot ask for more.
And while handing out accolades, there have been excellent photographs through the season, but especially in recent weeks, on the club's Twitter feed. Full marks again to David Griffin, for capturing key moments so well for those of us unable to get to matches.