Hampshire 249-8 (Afridi 101, Vince 55, Critchley 3-32)
Derbyshire 148 (Cotton 30, Dawson 3-27)
Hampshire won by 101 runs
On a ground that used to be a racecourse, Derbyshire, sadly, were not even at the races tonight.
You have to give credit to Hampshire, who outplayed, out thought and out fought us, but it was tough to watch for Derbyshire fans near and far. The bottom line is that our favourites never got going. We played the occasion, not the opposition and were so far in second place it was, quite frankly, embarrassing.
From the first ball we were outflanked. Hampshire sent in 'Boom Boom' Afridi to hit Wayne Madsen out of the attack, which he did with four boundaries in the first over. At that moment it seemed that our game plan had gone and, with hardly anyone else finding a consistent line and length, or being allowed to, the Pakistan veteran simply slaughtered us.
The frustration was, from someone who has watched him bat for 20 years, that we never tried to tuck him up, dig it in at his ribs, make him think. He hits through the ball well, a fine, clean striker of a ball, but he has never been a strong puller. He never needed to tonight, as we pitched it into his arc and he kept hitting it further and further down the ground. If I know that, even from watching him play for us in the distant past, surely we should have known it as a team?
Matt Critchley was the only bowler I would absolve from criticism tonight. He at least mixed up line and length and was rewarded by three late wickets, but the rest were poor. They were made to look worse than they were by a Hampshire side that never let their foot off the accelerator, the late wickets we took making it look more of a contest than it ever was. Vince was classy, Bailey briefly brutal, but after Afridi's explosive knock, they could have batted Richard and Judy. Or Punch and Judy, for that matter. Credit where due though, to far superior opponents.
The likelihood of our chasing 250 to win was wafer thin and it soon evaporated. Godleman tried to slog sweep everything, without any use of feet, and soon holed out, Critchley did the same and Luis Reece, after a few good shots, was caught behind.
Then came...Viljoen. On a night of disappointments, why we thought Viljoen a better bet than Madsen at four was beyond me, especially when he proceeded to play 'like a batsman'. It smacked of Alan Ward going in early against Yorkshire at Lord's in 1969. A move of desperation and, for me, sending out panic signals a mile high. Hardus is no mug with a bat, but to put him in ahead of Wayne, our star batsman, or the skipper himself, made no sense.
Neither succeeded and although Alex Hughes played a few nice shots, Daryn Smit improvised and there was a merry last wicket stand between Cotton and Tahir, it was way too little, too late.
It was, in short, hugely disappointing. Those who have seen us perform with skill, aplomb and discipline through an encouraging campaign will have found the lack of bowling discipline tonight a real frustration. Daryn Smit had his work cut out with some horribly wide balls outside leg and off stump, while we didn't field well. One or two good catches were held, two or three more were put down and when the usually reliable Madsen drops a straightforward catch from Afridi, you know it isn't going to be your night. There was some sloppy ground fielding too, none of it helping our cause.
We have done well to get to this stage, very well.
But to play like that, on a big occasion, in front of the television cameras was really sad to see.
Still, well played Hampshire.
Go well on finals day. You were way too good for us tonight.