What a result!
While we all hoped, some of us prayed and a few remained sceptical, this young, ebullient side came up with a remarkable performance to steal a win in what must have been one of the best county championship games in many a year. After the concerns over pitch inspectors on the first day, Somerset are to be applauded for an excellent cricket wicket, so much better than the anodyne tracks of recent vintage that gave batsmen averages way ahead of their ability.
It was, as Shivnarine Chanderpaul pointed out on the club site, very much a team effort. Go through the side and there's not a player who didn't contribute in some way to the success. Shiv, with the humility that befits the man, name checks a few of them on the club site and tonight there should be special mention of the innings played by Alex Hughes. He will, I'm sure, go on to make centuries for Derbyshire that require less effort than the thirty-three runs he scored today. There's been debate over whether Peter Burgoyne should have played in his place, but the bottom line is that Hughes did us proud when we most needed it. And once again Karl Krikken's selection came off.
The same goes for the other youngsters in the side. Borrington and Slater led off with 52 and 49 in the two innings, partnerships that established momentum for the side and were of paramount importance. I've read unnecessary criticism of the pace of their batting, especially in the second innings, but those making such comments should try opening the batting on a pitch helpful to bowlers and in a pressurised situation. They did a grand job and such comments suggest that the team weren't fully au fait with the weather forecast. They are much better prepared than that.
Slater in particular can be proud of his contribution. 104 runs in the game is an excellent effort and I expect to see the lad given a full-time contract for 2014, at the very least. It was a wicket where failure would have been understandable, but Slats battled it out and played two very important hands for his side.
Another young player who is worthy of note is Tom Poynton. Over on the Somerset supporters board there were favourable comments about the standard of his wicket-keeping, especially in comparison to Craig Kieswetter, who had a nightmare match. His first innings partnership with Richard Johnson was of massive importance and took us to a lead that was more substantial than appeared likely. His work behind the stumps was, it would appear, near-exemplary.
Anyone else noticed the grit in these younger lads? There's been accusations in the past of youngsters coming in to a Derbyshire side and folding at the first sign of pressure. I don't know who or what has made the difference, but the battling spirit in this side is a joy to see and augurs so well for future summers.
It was apposite, however, that Tim Groenewald was in at the death. With 28 still to win and two wickets left, our senior pro was as good a man as you could wish for at number ten. He, Tony Palladino and Mark Footitt bowled splendidly and set the tone on the first day and the focus remained to the very end.
Yet I can't close without acknowledging a supreme innings from Shiv Chanderpaul. I've been critical of the volume of runs this summer and I'm sure the player himself would have hoped for and expected more. Yet on a day when we needed him so badly, he came up with the goods and steered us home. It is hard to evaluate the full significance of this win right now, but Shiv has given us a fighting chance of avoiding the drop and most of us will be talking about this win twenty years from now. It was that good - and so was our West Indian star.
Next up are Durham, top of the table and looking to be champions-elect. Logic suggests we are set for a fall, but this side of ours is currently defying logic. We might yet go down, but by crikey, we are going to do so fighting. Most importantly, the side has restored pride for the fans, reputation for the club and made names for themselves.
It has been a remarkable few weeks and better still I will be at the County Ground this week to see the Durham fixture. A month ago it looked like being just another game. Now? It's huge. But there's time for that another day.
Tonight, we celebrate.
Well done lads!