I'll say one thing about this Derbyshire side.
They can't half battle.
Ignoring any disagreement over team selection, the guys who have taken the field for this match have done just what they did in the two previous ones and taken the fight to the opposition. Just before tea today I thought we were looking at a deficit of 150, which would almost certainly have spelt the end of our ambitions in this match. Yet back they came again and the advent of the second new ball saw the last four Surrey wickets fall for just two runs.
I have nothing but admiration for Mark Footitt. The leader of the pack bowled with controlled aggression all day and returned the superb figures of 4-50 in 19 overs, neatly topping and tailing the Surrey innings with some hostile bowling that saw the key wicket of Hasim Amla go early, as it had to do if we were to stay in the game after an average day with the bat yesterday.
Yet he was followed by Solanki, de Bruyn and Davies, good, experienced players all and capable of taking Surrey out of reach of our young side. Solanki got his customary runs (his career average must be 50-plus against us) but the rest were cut off in their prime and a lead of seventy was probably a hundred less than Surrey would have wanted on a pitch increasingly taking spin.
Full marks to David Wainwright too for a long and canny spell at two an over that brought him three wickets, while youngsters Higginbottom, Burgoyne and Hughes toiled away for less reward. Mind you, it was somewhat ironic that Mark and Matt should so suddenly finish the Surrey innings, two players whose current contracts expire at the end of the season. Both are doing all they can to earn another deal and Footitt's championship scalps (30) are now down to a respectable thirty runs each. To give him credit where it is due, he has stood up to the challenge of cricket at a higher level and shown himself good enough - and, crucially, fit enough.
Ben Slater and Paul Borrington deserve pats on the back for reducing the deficit to 57 by the close, without being parted. The mental examination of opening the batting after a day in the field is considerable, but they got there and tomorrow is another huge day for their side. If they can put forty or fifty together, our opponents will start to get very edgy...
It is much easier to say than do on a deteriorating wicket, but if we could get up to 275-plus I don't think Surrey would fancy chasing 200 on the last day. You never can tell, as the big name batsmen at the top of their order should be capable of taking the game by the throat, but our first task is to get runs in the bank tomorrow. If every one of our batsmen played to their season average, we'd make 285, just so you know.
So much, again, depends on Wayne Madsen and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. One of the others has the opportunity to become a hero, but to get the runs that we need, someone has to get seventy or eighty-plus. You still cannot discount the side having a bad session, or day, but the demolition of Middlesex by Somerset today has put both sides under pressure and it will be fascinating to see which one copes with that the best.
Tim Tremlett didn't bowl tonight and his absence would give us a timely boost, yet we must prepare to face him and bat the day. It is a situation tailor-made for Shiv and if he or the skipper makes runs, we will win.
There you go. I've said it.