Derbyshire 267 (Madsen 76, Hosein 63, Rushworth 6-58) and 280 for 5 (Madsen 74, Critchley 69) drew with Durham 475 (Bedingham 257, Burnham 75, Conners 5-83) and 175 for 2 declared (Lees 78*, Bedingham 53*)
Durham had been sustained throughout a wearying final day by the thought of a second new ball. They knew they would have 21 overs with it, ample time to knock over Derbyshire’s tail. Just get into position then bang, bang, bang.
They got there with only five wickets down, Derbyshire’s high-class pairing of Matt Critchley and Wayne Madsen having been removed in successive overs as the old ball awoke to its task with its last breath. A glimmer of hope. But instead of bang, bang, bang there was not so much as a whimper. Stalemate was agreed with four overs remaining.
When Durham’s new captain, Scott Borthwick, returned north in revivalist frame of mind, he was wise enough to negotiate a five-year deal, which should at least allow him to see a relaid square quicken up a bit. Bowling sides out twice on these pitches will be a challenge. The outcome of this game – a draw accepted with four overs remaining, and Derbyshire 280 for 5 in mock pursuit of 384, could be a harbinger of the frustrations to follow.
Durham have now not won in 10. They are making progress in that they are drawing better. Derbyshire also have three draws to their credit and will take consolation in that. Their staunch resistance won professional respect. But Group 1 has produced 12 draws in 15 games in a dry April and is in danger of becoming a non-event, with Essex and Warwickshire winning matches and hoping to qualify in the right way, and everybody else drowning in draw points and hoping to nick something they barely deserve. If Group 1 is to be termed The Group of Death it will be because everyone is dying of boredom.
Derbyshire’s dedication was there for all to see. But it is apt to remember more ambitious times. Their record chase was the unforgettable day in 1997 that they made 371 for 9 in less than 69 overs to beat the Australians at Derby, galvanised by their Australian captain, Dean Jones, who encouraged them to treat the greatest legspinner of them all, Shane Warne, like an offspinner and just whack him over mid-on.
At Chester-le-Street, on a docile pitch that had even lost interest in providing an occasional shooter, they required 384, only 10 of them chipped away overnight. It would have taken someone with the vaulting ambition of Jones to persuade them to chase it, to overpower logic with desire. Sadly, Jones has departed, not just from Derbyshire, but from life itself. They never took it seriously.
At the same time, in Mumbai, Ravi Jadeja struck a record 37 off an over and was consumed by the Art of the Possible, as defined by IPL – nothing can be discounted. In Chester-le-Street, Derbyshire’s definition of the Art of the Possible owed more to the pessimism of real politik, the meaning with which the phrase was first uttered by the 19th C. German statesman Otto von Bismarck – settle for what is attainable, settle for second best, settle for draw points.
With Championship draw points up from five to eight this season, settling for second best will happen a lot this season. It will be defended as the essence of professionalism, but there will be some dull days as run chases are eschewed prematurely, limitations are respected, and spectators (when they are ever allowed in) disconsolately drift away. Eight points is too many. It is to be hoped that some counties just decide, to hell with it, let’s accept the spirit of the age, take on the challenge and if we crash and burn, so be it. Otherwise, it is hard to see the Championship surviving as an entertainment sport. And, in that case, why should it survive at all?
When Derbyshire’s fourth-wicket pair, Critchley and Madsen, were in the early stages of their match-saving stand of 143 in 40 overs, they were actually scoring at a match-winning rate, not that it mattered. They had no evidence that others could take up the challenge. This duo are a class apart from any other batter Derbyshire can offer, and this Derbyshire side is not in the same league as the one that Jones led in 1997.
Derbyshire’s opening gambit had been plodding: 88 for 3 in 38.4 overs, survival already on their mind. Durham rued their ill luck – Tom Wood’s fast edge which flew through David Bedingham’s hands at second slip and ensured the hand sanitiser would sting for the rest of the day; Borthwick turning a legspinner to strike Leus du Plooy on the back pad, but finding him too far down the pitch for the umpire to take a view.
But gradually the wickets came: Wood, bowled through the gate by Ben Raine who will be lucky if his in-your-face celebration escapes censure; Luis Reece lbw to Borthwick on the sweep; and du Plooy’s crouching defensive innings, as if in perpetual fear of a shooter, ended when he managed the crouch but not the shot and with both feet outside of stump, was adjudged lbw to Raine, bowling around the wicket. It was a decision that probably only an international umpire, educated and battle-hardened by the constant, all-knowing second opinion of ball tracking, would have dared to give and Richard Kettleborough was up to the task.
That Critchley is on the verge of being regarded as Madsen’s equal is testimony to his advancement. He now has five half-centuries in six and the one he missed (which cost him a Derbyshire record) was 40, ended with a shooter in the first innings here. Madsen, who fell to a freakish head-high rearer from Raine, also had individual satisfaction as he made two fifties in a match for the first time for four years.
They had occasional luck, not least when Madsen was 74 and Stuart Poynter, standing up to Raine, thought he had him caught at the wicket. Another incident where the match referee, Wayne Noon, will consider whether penalty points for dissent are appropriate. But it was not luck that settled this match, but judgement – the judgment that a draw was reward enough.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
(With Inputs from ESPN)
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