Derbyshire 265 (Viljoen 60 not, Madsen 47, Harris 4-68)
A glorious sunny day greeted the arrival of the first-class season at the 3aaa County Ground in Derby and a decent crowd arrived to witness it. A good number will have come in on the back of the 'bring friend free' offer that was extended to county members, but I'd like to think a few might have come along, as will be the case through the summer, to show support for a form of the game that the English Cricket Board seems intent on marginalising.
Derbyshire got through to lunch pretty well, at 117-3, after Middlesex opted to bowl. It was a decision that may have taken some thought, but there was movement for the seamers and one or two balls lifted from around a length. It was a wicket that kept the bowlers interested as the day progressed and offered lateral movement; similarly, it was one on which a batsman was never truly 'in'.
Luis Reece and Ben Slater opened, Billy Godleman having opted for a middle order berth this year. The two looked pretty comfortable, until Reece departed to a stunning, one-handed catch by Ollie Rayner at second slip, the first of four that he took. That brought in Wayne Madsen, restored to his (and my) preferred position of number three. We were soon being treated to trademark drives and though there were a few alarms, he survived through to the interval on an unbeaten 46.
Not so his partners. Ben Slater batted well, before a miscalculation on line saw him bowled, while Alex Hughes, after a few nice shots, was caught behind off the final delivery of the session, from the bowling of Cartwright.
Still 117-3 at the interval was better than most other sides batting first, at a traditionally tricky time of year. There was a need for a partnership, though, as the players came out for the afternoon session.
It was not to be. The consensus was that 250 was a score with which we could be fairly happy, but the departures in quick succession of Godleman (17) and Madsen (47) left a lengthy-looking tail dangerously exposed with the county at 143-5.
Gary Wilson gave it away with a half-hearted attempt at a pull that lobbed up to mid-wicket and a decent lunch position had evaporated in the space of half an hour.
Thereafter the position improved, thanks to a dogged innings by Tony Palladino and one of impressive quality from Hardus Viljoen. Those of us with concerns over the tail end batting were heartened to see the giant South African go to his fifty with three sixes, a huge one over mid wicket sandwiched between two effortless drives.
There was a fourth six before the end came quickly and Derbyshire's mood was lightened by these late order runs, obvious from their demeanour as they came on to the field. Ravi Rampaul took the new ball and and shaped it beautifully, getting Holden caught behind as he ran one across, after swinging the previous ones into him.His initial spell for the county was an impressive one.
Viljoen and Olivier worked up good pace, but the line was often wanting. Both suggested though, when the line is adjusted, that the wickets will come, plenty of balls leaving the batsmen groping.and a couple of edges falling short of the slips, who could perhaps have been up a yard or two with the batsmen not assaying too many aggressive strokes.
It was a spell of cricket that hinted at good times to come. Only twenty runs came from the bat in the first twenty overs, a good few of them from the edge of the bat and in stark contrast to an innings in which Derbyshire scored at four an over. Olivier took his first wicket for us, courtesy of a sharp catch from Matt Critchley at slip, while Viljoen adjusted his line and, bowling a fuller length, had the Australian, Cartwright, beautifully held at second slip by Alex Hughes.
All in all? A very encouraging day's work. There is more to to do tomorrow to get through the Middlesex batting, but we are ahead at the end of day one.
And that's against what most considered the likely champions this summer.
Not bad at all..