A young Derbyshire team (average age 25) started their championship campaign in bitterly cold conditions on the earliest date in their history. Northamptonshire won the toss and invited Derbyshire to bat on a pitch which they expected to help their seam bowlers. At first the visitors seemed to have taken the advantage as Derbyshire lost their first three wickets for 21, and their fourth at 50.
Despite what seemed to be awkward conditions, however, Dan Redfern looked to be in the form of his life, and he played confident strokes all round the wicket. At lunch Redfern had made 52 made from only 55 balls out of 96 for four. After the break he, in partnership with Ross Whiteley, continued to make good progress and this pair were not parted until they had equalled the fifth wicket record for the county in all matches against Northamptonshire – 160.
Redfern was bowled for 110, his maiden first-class century, made from 143 balls with thirteen fours. From this point, 210 for five, the rest of the batsmen managed only another 76 between them, but the final total of 286 was far more than had looked likely earlier in the day. Whiteley went for a well-crafted 83 made from137 balls (11 fours and 2 sixes).
Northamptonshire had fourteen overs to bat before the end of the day and they did so with the help of the permanent floodlights, a luxury which was a change from the regulations for the previous season. Without them, this match would have been doomed to a draw with the players off the field for bad light for a probable several hours each day. Tim Groenewald and Tony Palladino dismissed the top three batsmen while they scored 28 before the close. It had been Derbyshire’s day.
On the second morning, Wakely and Sales concentrated almost entirely on defence: in thirty overs before lunch they could score only 53 runs as all Derbyshire’s bowlers made life difficult for them. Sales was very well caught at slip by Redfern, but O’Brien took over the very steady batting role which saw runs coming at fewer than two an over. Wakely took 184 balls to reach his fifty and O’Brien was not much quicker. They both fell for 62 and Northamptonshire finished the day on 241 for seven.
On the third day Middlebrook went early for a solid 45 and Derbyshire were able to claim a narrow lead of 22 runs. The game seemed evenly balanced.
Martin Guptill and Paul Borrington were made to work extremely hard at the start of their second innings, and they managed only twenty runs from the first twenty overs. It was slow going, but the cricket was always full of interest. From this position Guptill decided to move the game forward and it took just over four more overs for Derbyshire to reach their fifty. While Borrington concentrated on supporting his partner, Guptill began to play with more power and fluency.
In twenty-eight overs between lunch and tea Derbyshire’s opening pair added 105 runs, and they continued after tea until bad light brought an early close when they had put on 213 without being parted (Guptill 131, Borrington 66).
On the last morning Guptill was caught on the square-leg boundary, but Borrington played more freely and the runs came more easily. Sadly Borrington was dismissed for 98 (277 balls), just missing what would have been his first hundred for Derbyshire. Despite the loss of fifteen minutes to rain, Derbyshire were able to declare for the loss of three wickets, thus setting the visitors 337 to win from a minimum of 72 overs.
Their consistent opener, Peters, was lbw to the last ball before lunch and thereafter Northamptonshire never seemed interested in chasing their target. With increasingly attacking fields, Derbyshire applied considerable pressure as, once again, their bowlers bowled with accuracy and purpose. Groenewald had suffered a groin strain and was unable to take the field, but Palladino and Footitt bowled with pace while slow left-armer, David Wainwright, making his debut for Derbyshire, took a vital wicket with his first ball.
Even so, Newton and Wakely defended well and added 62 in twenty overs. At 103 for three with thirty-seven overs remaining a draw looked the most likely result, but at this point, just before the tea interval, Wainwright (pictured above) took two wickets in two overs to raise fresh hopes. When Durston captured the wicket of the obdurateNewton, Derbyshire were most clearly holding the upper hand.
With six, and sometimes seven, fielders clustered round the bat, the experienced pair of Middlebrook and Vaas kept their wickets intact for fifteen overs. Vaas was lbw to Wainwright, and the last hour began with Derbyshire still needing three wickets from a minimum of sixteen overs. Middlebrook was, perhaps, unlucky to be caught at backward point off a rebound from Redfern’s body at silly point, but his wicket practically assured Derbyshire of a remarkable yet thoroughly well-deserved victory.
Wainwright and Durston took another wicket apiece and the match was won with another thirty-six minutes remaining. Wainwright finished with six wickets, a career-best, but it had been a fine team performance, just the sort of start that the whole squad, players, management and officials would have been hoping for.
An interesting statistic is that Northants batted for eleven overs more than Derbyshire in the match, but scored 202 runs fewer.
Derbyshire 286 (80.3 overs) (DJ Redfern 110, RA Whiteley 83, T Poynton 20; JA Brooks 5 for 61, DJ Willey 3 for 59) and 314 for 3 dec (88 overs) (MJ Guptill 137, PM Borrington 98, DJ Redfern 26*; JA Brooks 2 for 76)
Northamptonshire 264 (112.3 overs) (AG Wakely 62, NJ O’Brien 62, JD Middlebrook 45; AP Palladino 3 for 60, TD Groenewald 2 for 25, RA Whiteley 2 for 30, MHA Footitt 2 for 60) and 134 (66.2 overs) (RI Newton 57, AG Wakely 30; DJ Wainwright 26-11-33-6, WJ Durston 2 for 32)
Derbyshire (20 points) beat Northamptonshire (5) by 202 runs
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