Warwickshire 32-1 (Olivier 1-11)
Derbyshire lead by 286 runs
From the moment he played his first few balls this morning, I thought that Wayne Madsen looked in touch.
It was the footwork, confidently forward and resolutely back, together with timing so sublime that boundaries eased from his bat. One on drive was a thing of such beauty that I almost gasped and I don't think I have seen anyone play an innings like that and sweep so consistently, both conventionally and with the reverse sweep.
It is not an easy batting track and was clearly prepared for Jeetan Patel. For Derbyshire to negate his threat, we needed to win the toss and get at least 250, for we knew we would not bat last on this wicket.
That toss was duly won but after a solid start, Ben Slater and Alex Hughes rather gave their wickets away with careless shots and Billy Godleman played all round a good yorker first ball. Luis Reece got a leading edge back to the bowler and we were in trouble at 84-4.
Gary Wilson played another good innings, though should have been caught behind first ball and had some sketchy 'pushes' outside off stump. Matt Critchley played a good knock too, but never looked comfortable against the excellent Patel. He seems to have so much time though, the hallmark of a fine player.
Yet that same tail we have had concerns about wagged most vigorously in support of Madsen and from 84-4 we made 318. Viljoen and Qadri did their bit, but a ninth wicket stand of 67 with Duanne Olivier took us to more batting points than we dared dream of, earlier in the day. Olivier played some good shots and showed stoic resistance while Wayne plundered at the other end.
It was a wonderful knock and he showed his fortitude by continuing way past a blow on the chin that needed lengthy treatment.
In the winter, one correspondent on this blog suggested that 2017 would be the summer that marked the start of Wayne Madsen's decline, this despite a stellar T20 competition. A benefit year and a new baby in the house would put anyone off their stride, but it was hardly a bad summer by normal standards.
Quite frankly, I wouldn't swap him for another batsman in the country and watching him today was an absolute joy. Many worse players have represented England and I cannot think of any who play spin better than him.Come to think of it, he plays pace rather well too and despite the struggles of those at the other end, there was barely a false shot.
There was an awful first three overs by Hardus Viljoen at the start of the home innings, when he often failed to get it on the cut strip. I can only assume he was trying to bowl too quickly on a helpful track but Gary Wilson made some impressive stops from very wide deliveries and Viljoen's fourth over was much better, beating the bat several times.
The day closed with two overs each from Matt Critchley and Hamidullah Qadri. Both were eventful and suggested that they may both play a major part in the result of this game. Combined age of 38. Leg spin and off spin. It was great to watch.
There was commitment and no little skill on a testing wicket, which may just have given them enough runs to go on and win this game.
And there was Wayne Madsen, who was simply sublime. Textbook in defence, versatile and inventive in attack. I would put that up there with one of the best innings I have seen for Derbyshire, given the testing conditions.
What a player.
In closing, thanks to Warwickshire for an excellent stream. As constructive criticism, they could make the font on the scoreboard a little bigger, as it was like the bottom line when I go to the optician.
But I managed to make out a top Derbyshire effort today.