Derbyshire set out tonight looking for a win that would all but guarantee them a place in the top four of the North group and a quarter final berth for the first time since 2005. Durham set out to add more respectability to their points total which has been blighted by the deduction of four points for financial issues last season. By the end of the night the hosts needed to look no more, winning and moving them to 15 points and second place in the Northern Group of the T20 Blast and edging them closer to that precious quarter final berth.
With the quarter final qualification left in the hands of stand in captain Daryn Smit, he would have wanted a good start and despite losing the toss in his first game in charge, that’s exactly what he got. His bowlers and fielders restricting Durham to 42 for 4 in the powerplay, which included two run outs, one by Critchley in the first over, dispatching outgoing England opener Keaton Jennings with a superb direct hit and the second with Hardus Viljoen running out Michael Richardson without scoring in his follow through using fancy footwork, not his hands.
The other two wickets fell to the excellent Wayne Madsen and overseas player Matt Henry, Madsen really put the breaks on the Jets, with his tight nagging off spin limiting the scoring options for the Jets batsmen. Henry saw the back of danger man Tom Latham off the last ball of the Power play, when he picked out Alex Hughes on the deep mid wicket boundary for a well made 28 of 23 balls.
Smit’s spinners continued to give him control with the ball in the middle overs, restricting the flow of boundaries, with the Jets failing to find the boundary for a period of five overs and at that point it looked like Durham were going to struggle to post a really competitive total, not helped by the loss of two further wickets with Coughlin and Burnham both departing. This brought Poynter to the crease and this gave Durham the impetus the innings needed, scoring a magnificent 61 not out off 40 balls.
Durham still looked to be well short of a competitive total, but 35 off the final two overs with Cotton and Henry both losing their control of length, allowing the Jets to post 161 for 7 and setting the Falcons 162 for victory.
That chase got off to a steady start with Critchley and Godleman nudging singles and finding the boundary once anover, until Godleman was caught off what looked to be a no ball but the third umpire saw some part of Weighell’s boot behind the line and he had to go. The Falcons reached the end of the powerplay with 44 runs to their name and the further loss of Critchley.
Madsen and Reece then set about building an innings and moving Derbyshire towards their victory total. When Madsen fell in the 11th over they had moved the score to 76 for 3 and looked relatively comfortable, although not guaranteed that win. The man who took them there was Luis Reece, who scored a beautifully crafted 66 of 49 balls, including five 4s and two 6s and in the process became the first Derbyshire batsman to make four scores of 50 or more in a T20 season.
It could have been very different however had Paul Coughlin held on to a relatively simple catch offered to him on the deep mid-wicket boundary when he was just on 21. This was a running theme for the Jets fielders throughout the innings, with mis-fields and dropped catches the norm and when they did hold a catch it was off a no ball.
While Reece quite rightly named man of the match a special mention must go to Matt Henry, who came in and scored a quick fire 20 off 10 balls and allowed Derbyshire to have a stuttering finish, before captain Smit hit the winning runs with three balls and three wickets to spare.
On the victory Smit said “I’d have taken 161 at half time, I thought it was below par looking at the batting side and If you’d told me at 15 overs we would’ve won with three balls to spare I’d have taken that, we were under pressure at one stage, before Luis Reece and Matt Henry changed the momentum of the innings.”
Derbyshire now move on to play Leicestershire on Thursday knowing a win will guarantee them a place in the quarter finals and, barring a set of results which would challenge even the loftiest of maths professors, a home one to boot. Durham however move on to Northampton on Friday certain of finishing bottom of the group.
Huw Lloyd writes for Deep Extra Cover