Anuj Dal completed career-best figures of six for 69 to launch a determined Derbyshire fightback on the second day of the LV= Insurance County Championship match with Gloucestershire at the Seat Unique Stadium, Bristol.
The 27-year-old seamer doubled his tally of three first-day victims to help restrict the hosts to 377 all out, from an overnight 333 for six, including a superb catch off his own bowling to dismiss Ollie Price for 132, also a career-best.
Derbyshire openers Harry Came (68) and Luis Reece (77) then built on the momentum with an opening partnership of 132 before their side closed on 260 for six, skipper Leus du Plooy unbeaten on 44.
Gloucestershire began the day hopeful of a 400-plus total, but had added only eight to their overnight total when Dal dived full length to his right to cling one-handed onto a low return catch offered by Price, who had faced 194 balls and hit 18 fours.
It was 366 for eight when Josh Shaw was also caught and bowled for 18, Sam Conners capitalising on a sharp chance, and 376 for nine when debutant Ed Middleton, on nine, fell leg before to Dal. Play was then interrupted by a shower and 12 overs of the 104 due to be bowled in the day were lost.
On the resumption at 12.10pm, Dal had Dom Goodman caught behind to end the innings and left the pitch holding the ball aloft. It was the second time in as many games that he had claimed five wickets or more in an innings.
By lunch, Came and Reece had put 20 on the board from five overs and it looked like being a tough afternoon for Gloucestershire’s injury-hit bowling attack on a dry pitch offering little assistance to seam or spin.
So it proved, although the home side’s fortunes would have been lifted had they had they not spilled three catches, the first a straightforward chance to wicketkeeper James Bracey, moving to his right, offered by Came on 39.
Luke Charlesworth was the unlucky bowler and he suffered again soon afterwards when Miles Hammond failed to cling onto a high chance at point, Reece this time profiting with his score on 22. Came was later given another life on 64, Price unable to grasp an fast edge into his midriff at slip off Zafar Gohar.
Those scares apart, the two openers looked comfortable, Somerset-born Reece bringing up the century stand and his own fifty with a three off Goodman in the 29th over. He had faced 91 balls and hit 3 fours and 2 sixes.
A two off the same bowler took Came to his half-century off 89 balls, with 7 fours, and by tea the visitors were sitting pretty at 128 without loss. The third ball after the interval saw Charlesworth’s luck change as, with four runs added, he earned an lbw verdict against Came.
Reece’s 142-ball innings ended with the total on 169 in the 49th over as he skyed a pull shot off the tall Goodman to Zafar Gohar at fine leg. Then Hammond atoned for his earlier error with a direct hit at the wicketkeeper’s end to brilliantly run out Brooke Guest for 15, attempting a single after Wayne Madsen had played a delivery from Goodman to point.
When Madsen surprisingly surrendered his wicket, lbw for 11 trying to reverse sweep Gohar, Derbyshire were 203 for four, still 174 behind.
But du Plooy had arrived at the crease with more than 1,000 Championship runs already behind him this season and the 28-year-old South African managed to steady the ship, ably assisted by Matt Lamb in bright early evening sunshine.
Lamb produced one of the shots of the day with a swashbuckling back-foot stroke though backward point for four off Charlesworth before clinching Derbyshire’s first batting point with a boundary off Gohar. But with the score still on 251, he carelessly pulled a short ball from Gohar straight to Chris Dent at mid-wicket and departed for 24.
The fifth-wicket stand had been worth 49, but Conners’ promotion in the order quickly backfired when he edged a catch to Bracey to give Gohar a third wicket and du Plooy now holds the key to his side at least gaining first innings parity.
After career-best bowling figures, Derbyshire’s Anuj Dal said: “Coming off the back of a five-for in the last game, I felt I was in good rhythm.
“With Leus’s captaincy, I have tended to bowl more and to be given that bit more responsibility is nice.
“It was not a good final session for us. We have talked about trying to be ruthless and not allowing opponents back into games, but we did exactly the opposite.
“We face some tough work tomorrow morning on a pitch that looks as though it is spinning quite a bit.
“It will be a challenge and our objective will be to get as close to Gloucestershire’s score as possible.
“Then it will be a case of pushing on from there.”