Northamptonshire 218 (Newton 67, McKerr 5-87)
Derbyshire 153-6 (Hughes 50 not)
Derbyshire trail by 65 runs
There are one or two critics of the lad at times, but Alex Hughes is one of those players who normally saves his best efforts for when they are most needed.
At 200-3 he will likely go in, slap it around a bit and get out for a breezy cameo, but at 50-3 he will get his head down and grit it out with the best of them. He did that today and we must hope for more tomorrow and a tail that gets us to at least parity in this game. Unless rain intervenes dramatically, a positive result is almost certain, after sixteen wickets fell on the first day.
Conor McKerr again did splendidly for five wickets and was well supported by Tony Palladino in particular, but the feeling was always there for me that we might struggle, if we had bowled out a good batting side so quickly with what is essentially our reserve attack.
So it proved and a keen home bowling unit nicked wickets out here and there. The absence of Luis Reece was worrying and I am sure we all wish the all rounder well, after he was taken to hospital and detained overnight, after complaining of breathing issues when bowling.
The medical diagnosis will dictate whether he can bat tomorrow, or play a part in the remainder of the game. I was astonished when, in his absence, Jeevan Mendis took on the role of stopgap opener. Against an older ball and tiring bowlers, I could see scenarios where the Sri Lankan might get runs in English conditions. Not against a new ball though and my choice would have been to get Alex Hughes or Tom Taylor to do it. The former has the technique, while Taylor has a dogged attitude that enabled us to get closer to the home score this evening than first looked likely. Neither could have done worse than Mendis, who approaches most innings with the restraint of Shahid Afridi. When it comes off, I am sure it is memorable, but other times, I suspect less so...
We need more from Hughes and Taylor tomorrow and an extension of their crucial 45-run stand, then the tail needs to wag as it did at Trent Bridge last week.
If it does, we will have a real game on our hands...
Postscript: a friend messaged me today and said that Chesney Hughes would get 23, before giving it away.
He wasn't far wide of the mark and his dismissal, on 20, was apparently weak.
An immense talent, is Chesney, but a mighty frustrating one. I still wish him well, but hitting it straight into the air second time around would suit me fine...