Shiv Thakor claimed career-best bowling figures, before Hamish Rutherford and Chesney Hughes both hit half centuries, as Derbyshire drew a rain-affected Specsavers County Championship fixture versus Essex at Chelmsford.
Nick Browne (255) and Ravi Bopara (5-49) also claimed career-bests during the fixture, but a defiant second innings display from the visitors ensured a fifth successive draw for Derbyshire to open up the new first-class season.
Derbyshire exercised their right to field first on a pitch which they hoped would favour seam bowling on the first morning. The Essex openers started briskly with 20 runs coming from the first three overs, but thereafter the Derbyshire seamers made runs a little more difficult to come by.
When Tony Palladino returned for a second spell he captured two wickets in four balls, both of them lbw. Essex now were 70-2 and, had Browne been held at first slip when he had scored 49 and the total had reached 80, Derbyshire, and especially Palladino, would have had a very good start to the day.
But the catch was not held and Essex were able to take full advantage, first with a partnership of 111 between Browne and Bopara for the third wicket, and then Dan Lawrence stayed with Brown until to close, taken at 284-3. Browne by now had reached an unbeaten 154 with Lawrence on 51.
Lawrence was eventually out in Hughes’ first over, by which time he had reached his hundred from 181 balls and shared in a stand of 210 for the fourth wicket. Ryder joined Browne and this pair added a further 114 before Essex were able to declare after an hour’s play in the afternoon. Browne was finally dismissed for a career-best 255 from 445 balls (34 fours and 1 six). Shiv Thakor finished with a career-best 4-107 from his 26.4 overs.
Derbyshire had to face a minimum of forty-one overs before the close on the second day, a task which they achieved for the loss of two wickets with both Godleman and Hughes being bowled after looking well-set. Hamish Rutherford and Madsen saw out the rest of the day when Derbyshire had reached 124-2.
The third morning was another fine day, although rain was forecast for the fourth morning. It was important that Derbyshire’s batsmen played long innings. Hamish Rutherford, Wayne Madsen and Neil Broom all defended strongly, but none of them were able to play the sustained innings which was required. Derbyshire lost three wickets in the pre-lunch session, and then three more followed in the first four overs after the interval. Only some bold hitting by Tom Taylor, Palladino and Ben Cotton gave the final total any sort of respectability as they added 73 for the last two wickets. Ravi Bopara took five wickets in an innings for only the second time in his career.
Essex enforced the follow-on, so Derbyshire were left with 47 overs and a full final day to survive if they were to save the match. Godleman and Hughes again started well until Hughes was forced to retire with score on 76 as he was feeling unwell. Rutherford joined his captain and they added a further 60 runs in thirteen overs before Godleman was bowled for a determined 75 (127 balls, 10 fours). Night-watchman Taylor saw the day out with Derbyshire on a much more satisfactory 150 for one.
The first band of forecast rain arrived just before ten o’clock, but it only delayed the start until 11.50 with a possible 83 overs remaining in the day. After half-an-hour more rain arrived with Derbyshire still having lost just the one wicket (174 for one).
This rain developed and became much heavier than expected so there was no play for the whole of the afternoon session. After a planned restart at 4 o’clock, which was later adjusted to 4.10pm with 31 overs to be bowled. Rutherford and Taylor took their partnership to fifty, before Taylor was out and then Hughes returned to share another fifty partnership with Rutherford. Rutherford completed his own fifty from 92 balls with six fours before he was caught at the wicket.
Essex claimed the last hour at 5.18pm but, after two of the last sixteen overs had been bowled and Derbyshire had cleared the deficit, the teams agreed to finish with the match ending as a draw. Hughes finished with an unbeaten 66 (124 balls with 8 fours and 1 six).
Essex 538 for 7 dec (148.4 overs) (NLJ Browne 255, DW Lawrence 116, JD Ryder 51, RS Bopara 49, JC Mickleburgh 24; SJ Thakor 4 for 107, AP Palladino 2 for 86)
Derbyshire 280 (87.2 overs) (HD Rutherford 49, BA Godleman 43, CF Hughes 37, NT Broom 33, TAI Taylor 25, AP Palladino 24*; RS Bopara 5 for 49, PA Beard 2 for 67) and 261 for 4 (54 overs) (BA Godleman 75, HD Rutherford 68, CF Hughes 66*)
Match Drawn (Derbyshire 8 points, Essex 11)