By John Brown
Derbyshire v Essex at Derby on 28 to 31 August: LV County Championship: Division 2
Essex were the visitors for this important match in Derbyshire’s chase for a promotion spot. Wayne Madsen won the toss and asked the visitors to bat first. All seemed to be going to plan when Derbyshire’s bowlers, helped by some outstanding fielding, reduced Essex to 151 for seven, but at this point Napier and Masters came together and added an invaluable and frustrating 74 together for the eighth wicket.
Even so Derbyshire will have been pleased to have dismissed Essex for 245 on the first day, with David Wainwright being the pick of the bowlers with four wickets of his well-controlled left-arm spin. But, Derbyshire had fifteen overs to bat before the close, and they managed to lose three wickets to the consistent Masters and Napier.
The weather on the second day was very wet over much of the country and there was play only at Worcester in the evening. The umpires felt that there was a chance of play at Derby, so the decision to call play off for the day was not made until five o’clock.
Derbyshire started the third day on 28 for three and this soon became a most unpromising 120 for seven, of which Paul Borrington, on his return to the first team, had made a determined 42 (99 balls): the conditions were just right for the accurate seam of David Masters and he caused many problems in the early part of the innings.
Now it was Derbyshire’s turn to fight back with an eighth wicket partnership: Ross Whiteley and Tom Poynton fought really hard in a twenty-nine-over stand of 86. After Whiteley was eighth out at 206 Poynton was helped by Tim Groenewald and Mark Turner to add another sixty runs for the last two wickets, so Derbyshire had a somewhat surprising first-innings lead of twenty-one runs.
Whiteley had reached his fifty from 96 balls, while Poynton faced 106 balls in reaching that landmark. Masters finished with the excellent figures of five for 51 from thirty overs.
Essex still harboured hopes of a late charge for a promotion spot, and they set off quickly in an effort to set a target which would tempt Derbyshire. By the close they had reached 85 for one from nineteen overs, with Westley being especially belligerent.
On the fourth morning Derbyshire concentrated mainly on restricting the Essex efforts to score quickly and there were often as many as eight men on the boundary. When Shah was caught at deep extra-cover, the bowler, Tony Palladino, celebrated having taken his fiftieth wicket of the championship season – it was a fine reward for a sustained and whole-hearted performance for his team during a challenging season.
Four Essex batsmen passed fifty as they batted on for seven overs after lunch before declaring. This set Derbyshire a target of 274 from a minimum of fifty-eight overs: the news of Derbyshire’s closest rivals, Kent and Yorkshire, was not good, since both counties had managed to set up a last-day run-chase which seemed generously favourable for those two teams.
Derbyshire started briskly, with Madsen looking in particularly good touch, but three wickets in seven overs while only nine runs were added made them reconsider their position. Wes Durston and Dan Redfern took their time in building the innings, and many people thought that they had no greater ambition than to ensure that they did not lose. When this pair had added almost a hundred, however, the decision seemed to be made to raise the run-rate and make an effort to win the match. This decision almost proved to be Derbyshire’s undoing as four wickets fell in quick succession while only five runs were added.
Now there was no choice other than to play for a draw, and Whiteley and Palladino were left with a minimum of 11.2 overs to keep out the Essex bowlers with a cluster of fielders round the bat. They stayed calm and resisted everything bowled at them before an unexpected shower of rain brought play to an early close with six overs (or 21 minutes) remaining.
It was not possible to start again, so Derbyshire drew the match taking eight points from the match. Both Kent and Yorkshire had won their matches, so Derbyshire’s lead at the top of the table had been reduced, and there will be some nerve-racking moments as four counties do their utmost in their final two matches before the two who are to be promoted to the First Division will be known.
Derbyshire will be playing Kent at Canterbury next week and the final, probably most crucial, match of the season will be at Derby, starting on Tuesday 11th September (10.30am start).
Essex 245 (78.5 overs) (GR Napier 42, DD Masters 35, JS Foster 31, RN ten Doeschate 29, OA Shah 26, AJ Wheater 26; DJ Wainwright 4 for 64, ML Turner 2 for 38) and 294 for 5 dec (55 overs) (T Westley 82, JS Foster 56*, RN ten Doeschate 52, ML Pettini 50, OA Shah 26; ML Turner 2 for 60)
Derbyshire 266 (89.5 overs) (RA Whiteley 56, T Poynton 55*, PM Borrington 42, DJ Redfern 31; DD Masters 5 for 51, GR Napier 3 for 80, TR Craddock 2 for 24) and 173 for 7 (52 overs) (WJ Durston60, DJ Redfern 46, WL Madsen 31; TR Craddock 4 for 66, DD Masters 2 for 47)
Derbyshire (8 points) drew with Essex (7 points)
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