Although non-first-class matches don’t normally feature in our match preview series, the Cardiff UCCE fixture which takes place at The Incora County Ground, Derby between 3 and 5 April presents an opportunity for some of Derbyshire’s players to make their case for selection in the opening County Championship match at Edgbaston beginning on Thursday 8 April, and as such, is worthy of inclusion and is the first in our regular match previews.
Our Heritage Officer, David Griffin, looks at the historical and statistical background to the game. All statistics relate to non-first-class matches.
Derbyshire have never played Cardiff UCCE in any form of the game. They were scheduled to meet in a three-day friendly at Derby in 2012 which was abandoned without a ball bowled with no toss made.
Matches against the universities and MCCUs have alternated rather randomly between first class and non-first-class since the turn of the century and henceforth will never be denoted as first class following an ECB ruling.
Derbyshire’s initial non-first-class MCCU fixture took place against Leeds/Bradford at Derby in 2001 when the home side opted for batting practice as Michael Di Venuto and Luke Sutton both made hundreds in a draw, and a year later bat once against dominated in a draw against Loughborough with Matthew Dowman making a century, while in the second innings all four of Derbyshire’s top order scored 70-plus.
The Loughborough side included some future England international cricketers in Jimmy Adams and Monty Panesar, as well as a future Derbyshire player, Steve Selwood, while John Francis, who went on to play for Hampshire and Somerset scored 128.
In 2003 Loughborough were once more the visitors for a 50-over game at Derby. Derbyshire scored 329-8 with Chris Bassano making 104 off 67 balls before the visitors were dismissed for just 95, Neil Gunter taking 3-15.
Once again, the visitors fielded a side including some future county players including Chris Nash, James Anyon and Lee Goddard who would play for Derbyshire later in the decade.
A mere week later Loughborough returned to Derby for a three-day game and were forced to chase leather for 107 overs as Derbyshire racked up 511-5 with Selwood making 157 and Dominic Hewson 153. Derbyshire’s short-term overseas player at the start of the season, Shahid Afridi, opened the batting and scored 59 off 52 balls while his partner Andrew Gait also made a half century.
Only 55 overs were possible on the following two days as a result of persistent rain which meant that a positive result was not possible.
Four years passed before another non-first class university match, and once again Loughborough were the opponents, this time at their home Haslegrave Ground in a two-day fixture.
On 4 April 2007 Derbyshire named a 16-man side and batted first scoring 408-12 declared off 96 overs, with three players passing fifty as Graham Wagg top-scored with 74.
Loughborough named 18 players and scored 242-14 before the game ended. Paul Borrington, who had already played for Derbyshire, opened the batting for the hosts who also included in their side Arun Harinath and Jigar Naik who went on to play for Surrey and Leicestershire, respectively.
Leeds/Bradford returned to Derby in 2009 with an opening bowling attack of Richard Browning, who had played one List A game for Derbyshire in 2006, and Toby Roland-Jones, still playing for Middlesex now and who also appeared for England in Test cricket.
Steve Stubbings and Wavell Hinds both scored hundreds for Derbyshire while Roland-Jones hinted at his potential with 5-81 from 23.1 overs.
Jon Clare and Mark Lawson both took three wickets as Leeds/Bradford were dismissed for 219 before Ross Whiteley and Jon Sadler made centuries in Derbyshire’s second innings’ 283-2 before rain brought the game to an early conclusion on day three.
In 2011 Derbyshire travelled to Fenner’s for a 50-over game, 13 players per side, with 11 to bat and field.
Cambridge MCCU batted first and compiled 229-9 with Zafar Ansari – a future England and Surrey cricketer – top-scoring with 76. The Cambridge side included Craig Park, a brother of Garry Park, the Derbyshire all-rounder who opened the batting and was caught by his brother for nought.
Chesney Hughes made 51 and Dan Redfern 68 as Derbyshire looked well on course to win at 186-3 but collapsed to 212-8 with Ansari dismissing both Hughes and Redfern.
Ben Slater and Chris Durham added 17 for the ninth wicket but couldn’t take Derbyshire over the line, the game ending as a tie.
Just one month later Leeds/Bradford visited Derby for a three-day match.
Redfern led the way with 82 and Usman Khawaja 58 as Derbyshire made 305 all out, six batsmen dismissed LBW. Luis Reece was first change for the visitors but didn’t take a wicket in his six overs.
Reece batted at number seven for the university, making 56, with colleagues Harry Bush (75) and Simon Barrett (168) as Derbyshire were put to the sword to the tune of 437 all out in 121.2 overs. Slow left arm spinner, Tom Knight, who would make his first class debut later in the summer, took 7-153 off 45.2 overs.
In their second innings Derbyshire made 241-3 off 57 overs as Chesney Hughes scored 108 not out, Luis Reece taking his only wicket of the game, dismissing Borrington for 0.
Although there was never any real chance of a result, the students did equip themselves in a favourable manner against a strong Derbyshire side.
As already mentioned, the Cardiff UCCE game in 2012 was abandoned without a ball bowled but when Durham MCCU arrived at Derby in June 2013 the weather was excellent, and a good crowd was in attendance on the opening day.
Resting front line bowlers, but not batsmen, Derbyshire rattled up 436-7 declared in only 94.1 overs as Wes Durston 117*, Ben Slater 116* and Alex Hughes (73) led the way.
Matt Milnes, later to play for Nottinghamshire and Kent, opened the bowling for Durham MCCU, taking two wickets, but otherwise the Derbyshire batsmen dominated from ball one.
Durham’s innings was in tatters at 124-8 before Frederick van den Bergh – batting at number nine and a future Surrey cricketer – scored a belligerent 106 off 115 balls with five sixes and 12 fours.
Nonetheless, with a lead in excess of 200, Derbyshire elected to bat again making 224-4 declared in 44.5 overs, Redfern scoring 91 and Tom Poynton 77.
Requiring 432 to win, Durham made a tremendous effort to chase down the target despite losing their first wicket off the third ball of the innings. The next seven batsmen made scores of 41, 57, 68, 23, 53, 36 and 31, and for a while, spectators considered the prospect of Derbyshire being defeated but the experienced Wes Durston’s off-spin (3-47) closed the game out as the hosts won a competitive game by 65 runs. On reflection, despite some of the mismatches over the years between counties and universities, this game was arguably deserving of first class status.
In 2015 Derbyshire returned to Fenner’s winning comfortably by an innings and 264 runs inside two days.
On the subject of mismatches, once Slater and Billy Godleman had departed, the game became horribly one-sided (for Cambridge) as Martin Guptill (161 off 108 balls) and Wayne Madsen (133) drove Derbyshire towards 535-6 declared in just 84 overs, a run rate of 6.4 per over.
Mark Footitt (4-35) was far too fast and skilled as Cambridge subsided to 95 all out off 27 overs before following-on and making an improved 176 all out, Shiv Thakor taking 4-24.
Durham were the visitors to Derby in 2016 and the opening day offered useful batting practice for Derbyshire as the home side scored 396-6 declared in 82.3 overs, Madsen and Durston both making exactly 100, retired out.
Charlie Macdonell then scored 109 for the visitors, earning himself an approach and contract from Derbyshire as Tony Palladino took 3-40 in Durham’s 287 all out. The weather was poor throughout the game – cold and damp – and only 3.3 overs were bowled when Derbyshire batted a second time.
Loughborough was the venue once again in 2017 as Gary Wilson, one of Derbyshire’s winter signings, scored 106 in Derbyshire’s 363-8, Sam Cook, now a county championship winner with Essex, taking 3-51.
James Bracey scored 104 for Loughborough and has subsequently developed into a fine player with Gloucestershire.
The hosts actually led on first innings but in unseasonably warm weather Derbyshire batted steadily in their second innings with Madsen making an undefeated 80 and Godleman and Reece, the latter signed during the winter, both scoring half centuries. At 255-2, Derbyshire declared their second innings and the game ended as a draw,
The final game of these non-first class university matches was scheduled to be played against Leeds/Bradford at Weetwood, a venue just a mile or so north of Headingley in Leeds. The weather was appalling, and the umpires abandoned the game without a ball being bowled on the morning of the second day of three.
There is little doubt that these matches still have something to offer; as we have seen, a fair number of future county and international players continue to appear in the university fixtures which also offer Derbyshire the opportunity for early or pre-season practice.
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