A day that began with the news of Tim Groenewald's departure started well for Derbyshire on the field, with three men back in the pavilion inside the first thirteen balls of the game. The home side then fought back well and ended their first innings 311 all out, thanks to a solid middle-order effort, before we closed on 12-0 in nine overs of batting before the close.
Mark Footitt (pictured) has enjoyed an excellent championship season so far and his 6-65 was the second best analysis of his career. He is fast, fit and in form and now has 27 wickets at under 20, just reward for being in the physical shape of his life. One lightning lifter struck Niall O'Brien on the helmet, but the Irish wicket-keeper is a doughty battler and produced the innings of the day after a lengthy stoppage.
Footitt did well and was supported nicely by Tony Palladino, who is recovering his best form. Tom Taylor was wicket-less on debut, but will benefit from the exposure and from playing alongside a better class of player. There were tidy spells from Marcus North and Scott Elstone too, the latter suffering from a dropped chance at slip that might otherwise have continued the positive all-round impression that he has made in his early appearances.
More worrying was the form of David Wainwright, whose fourteen overs went for 63 runs. If conditions don't favour your spinners, you really want them to keep things tight as North (nine overs for 16) and Elstone (seven for 22) duly did. As the front-line spinner, Wainers will have hoped for a better return and will aim for improvement in the second innings.
Between times it is over to the Derbyshire batsmen and the openers did what was needed in the closing overs. Tomorrow they need to give us the sound foundations of an innings that will put us in the ascendancy. With no Nathan Buck or Charlie Shreck to contend with, there will be few better opportunities for the Derbyshire batsmen to get in and make a score.
In closing tonight, a final word on the departure of Tim Groenewald, in response to a few comments and mails already received.
I don't have any issue with Groenewald wanting to leave. Cricketers have only one career and if he has found someone who will pay him far more than we are able to do and offers him greater potential of trophies, then good luck to the guy.
Yet we have a finite budget and besides doing the right thing by him, Graeme Welch and Chris Grant need to consider the impact of any salary increase on the rest of the squad. If the player's agent wanted an extra £10-20K a year for him to stay at Derbyshire (and I stress I have no idea of the amounts involved), how does that impact on the salaries of other senior, deserving and contributing players?
Tim Groenewald has been an important player for Derbyshire, but then so have Wayne Madsen, Tony Palladino, Mark Footitt and Stephen Moore. Each and every player has a value and, perhaps more importantly, an affordability figure which we simply cannot go past. With a limited playing budget, we cannot pay six players £80K a summer, as we'd only have the money for a squad of twelve or thirteen people.
Would I prefer Groenewald to stay? Yes, of course. Am I sad he is leaving? Likewise. But as a senior player presumably already on a senior salary, we have to trust our management team that the demands from his agent for a new deal were excessive. They have made the call that the money could be more beneficially spent on team strengthening in other areas, especially when young seamers of talent appear our biggest asset right now.
I'm a realist. A team that hasn't yet won a match this summer needs obvious strengthening and I have no doubt that Graeme Welch has plans at this stage as to how he might do that. I'm more than happy to wait and see how that shapes up, rather than start an unnecessary hare around the park and start moaning about lack of ambition. Such comments in some quarters are an insult to Welch and his coaching staff, as well as to the chairman and chief executive, who want nothing more than a successful Derbyshire side and continue to work tirelessly to get one.
In sport and in life, sometimes tough decisions have to be made.
And today Derbyshire just announced one.