Derbyshire 331-9 (Madsen 97, Slater 62, Durston 43, Carter 31 not, Poynton 30 not)
Derbyshire trail by 46 runs
With a day of this game to go and more inclement weather forecast for tomorrow, it is hard to see how a positive result can be achieved in this one.
On another bitterly cold day, Ben Slater and Wayne Madsen batted sensibly and well in the first hour or so, each reaching a deserved fifty that owed as much to common sense as it did sound technique. There was plenty of time to admire Slater's two variants on the leave - one is more expansive than the other, perhaps a 'You must be joking?' to a 'Nah, no thanks' of the first. He leaves a ball well and looks increasingly an assured presence at the crease. He needs only turn these assured fifties into match and career-defining centuries to become the real deal. As it is, Graeme Welch has a tough decision on his hands when choosing between Ben and Chesney to partner Billy Godleman in the coming weeks.
Madsen looked his usual assured presence. Only a ball that rapped him on the hand after lifting from a length disturbed his equilibrium, yet his retort was successive square cuts for four that reasserted his presence. There is an air of solidity about Wayne's batting that is unusual among Derbyshire batsmen and, at his best, it is hard to see anyone getting him out.
On the other hand, Neil Broom looked a little at sea and needs time on English wickets to be seen at his best. Wes Durston played some expansive shots in his inimitable style, yet never suggested solidity nor permanence, playing and missing regularly against Graham Wagg in particular, before getting caught behind. Wagg and David 'Bumble 2' Lloyd bowled well after lunch for the visitors, looking altogether more of a challenge than those before the interval.
Matt Critchley is a wonderful talent and will become a very important player for Derbyshire, but is batting too high at number seven on this showing. At 19 it is perhaps unrealistic to expect otherwise, but he never got going and was well held by Jacques Rudolph at slip.
Madsen was becalmed on reaching the eighties, largely the result of losing the strike. In four successive overs, partners played out five balls then took a single from the sixth and for me, it looked like he was trying to push to his century ahead of a declaration when he advanced down the wicket against Salter and effectively yorked himself. It was a superb, nigh-flawless innings, that once again highlighted his importance to the side.
When Tony Palladino fell to a good leg side catch by Cooke, the Derbyshire innings had somewhat gone off the rails. Luke Fletcher's trudge to the wicket was accompanied by gathering clouds and he faced only five balls before the umpires removed the bails and the ground staff brought on the covers as the rain/sleet/hail/snow began to fall. In his short stay, I thought Tom Poynton looked good and his feet were moving much better than they ever did last year, a good sign in any batsman.
I left the ground with the ground looking eerie under the floodlights and liberally covered by Neil Godrich and his efficient team. Further play looked unlikely, barring a miracle of biblical proportions.
A last afternoon run chase is the only chance of a result here, but with both captains uncertain as to what time is left in the game, any declaration is unlikely to be realistic nor the cause of a positive result.
Thoughts on the game so far? Despite one or two failures, I have few concerns over our batting. Neither Kiwi scored runs, but they will and we mounted a decent tally without them. The bowling looks more functional than deadly, but time will tell. To say 'we miss Footitt' is easy and undeniable, as any team would miss a 'go to' bowler as he was.
There is a dilemma for Graeme Welch at seven though. At this stage it is essentially between three all-rounders: Shiv Thakor (the best bowler), Alex Hughes (the best batsman) and Matt Critchley, who gives variation. Tom Knight, if his bowling returns, could be another option, but we could do with one of those players kicking on and delivering, for the better balance of the team in four-day cricket.
Finally, massive respect to James Pipe and to the ground staff today. SHORTS! In April, when most people were wearing several layers of clothes and wondering where they could procure more. I can only assume those concerned have constitutions like an ox, or wooden legs, as the circulation in mine would surely have ended, if the skin were exposed to the elements today.
Gentlemen, I salute you!
Postscript - I wrote this at tea, when the thought of spending time on a cold, soggy cricket ground had as much appeal as dipping my feet in acid. To get from the then 274-8 to 331-9 in little time was a good effort and reinforced my earlier assertion that TP is batting well.
As for Andy Carter - who knew we had a top value tailend clumper, as well as a fine bowler?
I didn't. It shows good team spirit, which augurs well.