As the curtain falls on another year at Derbyshire County Cricket Club, we look back at a historic campaign for Wayne Madsen's side. In part one we revisit Derbyshire's first top-flight win in over a decade.
After a 13-year absence, Derbyshire's young side stepped into the unknown to do battle in the highest league in the land; LV= County Championship Division One.
Many in the media wrote off the chances of Madsen's men, and after the opening fixtures even the most dedicated of supporters couldn’t argue with the pre-season predictions.
But in the face of adversity, a Derbyshire side containing a plethora of Cricket Derbyshire Academy in association with the University of Derby graduates broke the mould and at the height of summer handed the county their first Division One victory since the two-tier structure was launched, back at the turn of the century.
During an astonishing four-week period, the Club clinched three wins – more than Surrey and East Midlands rivals Nottinghamshire claimed all season – to re-install an immense sense of pride to the people of Derbyshire, and to kick start their Division One campaign.
After a challenging start to the season, Derbyshire travelled to Hove at the start of August still looking for their first Division One victory. And after two evenly-fought days it seemed likely that the wait would continue.
But no one could have predicted what was to follow on the penultimate day.
It was a complete turnaround from the early season struggles, as a young Derbyshire attack, led by the always reliable Tim Groenewald (5-30), ripped through a Sussex line-up containing no less than five internationals to dismiss the hosts for just 133 inside 48 overs.
All four front-line seamers chipped in with Mark Footitt, who bowled with good pace and aggression, returning figures of 3-39, while debutants Alex Hughes and Matt Higginbottom picked up a wicket apiece to set Derbyshire 173 for victory.
With their first win in sight, you couldn’t begrudge a few nerves within the visiting dressing room. The openers, however, set an early president that forged a pathway to victory.
Chesney Hughes shrugged off any early-innings concerns to strike 34 off just 43 balls as part of a 69-run opening stand, and in good time – laying the perfect platform for Ben Slater and his skipper Madsen to see their side home.
And they did so in style.
Slater compiled his maiden first-class half-century for the Club to end unbeaten on 66, while Madsen ably assisted the 21-year-old with 62 not out as part of an unbroken 105-run partnership to seal a nine-wicket win, with a day to spare.
The classy Madsen gave his junior partner Slater the honour of leaving the field first to the applause of the small band of travelling players, staff and supporters.
Derbyshire’s had finally found their feet in Division One – and the victory proved to be a turning point in the county’s fortunes.
Part Two will follow tomorrow.
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