A Canterbury Tale – by David Griffin

Wednesday 10 June | Written by Neil Bates

Vice President David Griffin looks back at this week’s LV= County Championship victory over Kent at Canterbury.

Kent’s St Lawrence Ground sits atop my table of favourite headquarters venues alongside Taunton, the home of Somerset.

Situated on the outskirts of the venerable ancient cathedral city of Canterbury, the tree lined perimeter and beautifully refurbished pavilion provides a quintessential setting for county cricket.

The only downsides of a trip to Canterbury are the 400 mile round trip, via M1, M25 and M2, and the fact that until this week, Derbyshire hadn’t won a first class game there this century.

However, the usual hardy bunch of Derbyshire supporters made the long trek, with a few newer faces around the boundary; clearly supporters who fancied a trip to the so-called ‘Garden of England’.

As – finally – the strong winds which have characterised the season to date, dropped on the opening day, to reveal clear blue skies and warm sunshine, and spectators were finally able to relax in shirtsleeves, the expectation of 4 long days in the sun was a very appealing one.

Kent’s first innings total, however, of 205 in a shade over 66 overs had Derbyshire followers mulling over the prospect of a fourth day watching Kent’s second eleven at Maidstone, or a trip to Margate.

And by the time Derbyshire slumped to 0-3 in reply, we started making plans for the third day.

Kent had lost two wickets in their first over, and now Derbyshire had lost two in theirs and the mumblings about Pitch Inspectors began to be heard around the ground.

Matt Coles bowled with serious pace and matched Footitt with five wickets in a splendid and fiery spell of fast bowling and by the close of the first day, Derbyshire found themselves in serious trouble at 67-7, and the evening socialising in the city centre took on a rather sombre air.

However, my initial thought on watching Derbyshire succumb to 86 all out by eleven thirty on the Monday morning was that we’d seen it all before. Not that that offered much comfort, but cricket – like life – has a funny way of surprising you.

But when Kent began their second innings with a lead of 119 runs, again in sunny and dry conditions, not many present expected anything other than Derbyshire being faced with a huge target to chase for victory sometime on the third day.

However, just as Derbyshire had subsided to pace, so did Kent.

Mark Footitt had recorded yet another five-wicket haul in the first innings, ably backed up by a superlative 3-19 in 18 overs from Tony  Palladino, and in the second innings it was a rejuvenated Wayne White, hostile and accurate, steaming in to take a career-best 6-25 from just 9.4 overs who took the plaudits. White beat several batsmen for pace, their stumps cartwheeling out of the ground, and no Kent batsman looked comfortable at any stage in the match, save for Sam Northeast’s pleasing 85 in the first innings.

White had previously taken five wickets in an innings for the county of his birth back in 2007, during his first spell with Derbyshire when he took 5-87 at Northampton.

The final wicket fell to an outstanding running catch on the boundary by Tillakaratne Dilshan off White leaving Derbyshire a target of 232 – the highest score of the match but with more overs left in the game than runs required.

Footitt finished with two second innings wickets meaning that in his last 20 consecutive championship games he has taken 99 wickets. An outstanding achievement. He has stayed fit, bowled consistently fast, and taken a whole load of wickets. Surely international recognition beckons.

And so to the Derbyshire second innings. Coles dismissed Ben Slater for the second time in the match and a two-day finish looked possible. However, Billy Godleman – playing a captain’s innings for the second successive game, along with Chesney Hughes, took the score to 50 in the 10th over and after the tea interval batted serenely, with the occasional flurry of boundaries, including one muscular pull for six by Hughes

In just two hours, the game had changed completely.

Both left-handers looked untroubled and the Derbyshire followers started to gain confidence as every bowling change failed to separate the two, and the runs-required showing on the scoreboard fell to double figures.

And as the two batsmen walked off the field with just 63 more runs required for victory the following day, they could be justifiably proud of their determination and skill in taking their side so close to victory.

When, I wrote earlier that we’d seen it all before, my reference point was – as always – the most remarkable game I’ve ever witnessed, in 2010 when Derbyshire won before tea on the second day having been bowled out for 44 in just 77 minutes by Gloucestershire on the opening morning at Bristol.

Two players played in both that game and the win at Canterbury, Wes Durston and Chesney Hughes. Back in 2010 Hughes’ 96 not out in Derbyshire’s second innings against Gloucestershire set up the unlikely victory at Bristol, and his 94 runs in Derbyshire’s second innings against Kent was every bit as crucial.

With Captain Billy Godleman, who made an unbeaten 82, the pair added 186 for the second wicket, which in a match where there were only two other fifty partnerships, was crucial to the win.

When Hughes departed, Tillakaratne Dilshan walked out to finish the job in quick time, hitting consecutive balls for 4 to win the game, with the last coming via his speciality, the ‘Dilscoop’.

As the teams left the field with a possible 187.4 overs remaining, the Derbyshire batsmen were greeted by their delighted team mates and supporters on the boundary edge. Derbyshire had broken their 21st century duck and emphatically defeated their hosts by eight wickets.

The next four-day stop is at Chelmsford – where Derbyshire won in 2012, but lost in 2014 – and another victory in the south east would certainly set Derbyshire up for a tilt at promotion in the second half of the season.