Derbyshire 229 (Madsen 62, Roland-Jones 5-45) and 222 for 4 (Masood 98, Madsen 49*) beatMiddlesex 251 (Pettman 3-40) and 196 (Stoneman 67; Reece 3-26, Dal 3-50) by six wickets
You really should come to Queen’s Park, you know. I can’t promise you a game such as we have enjoyed over these three days; a game which saw Derbyshire inflict a first Championship defeat on Middlesex and move themselves up to third place in Division Two; a game that ended with a guttural, flat-vowelled roar from the pavilion as Luis Reece completed a win that will always look more facile than it was.
But the outgrounds always seem to conjure something precious and you might think it’s a reward for the volunteer labour expended in putting the matches on in the first place. Nor can I promise you a contest as enthralling as this, whose outcome only became clear on this third evening when Shan Masood made 98 and Wayne Madsen’s unbeaten 49 ensured that Derbyshire would suffer no jitters en route to their first victory over Middlesex at Chesterfield since 1965, when Brian Jackson took eight wickets and the home side were five down when chasing a paltry 34.
No, I can guarantee none of these things should you come to Chesterfield…
But there are beeches and copper beeches, there are oaks and weeping ash and liquidambar and ancient yews; there is an old mulberry tree near one of the two bandstands, and there is a lake, and across the road there is Parkside Café, which rivals Wickets in Taunton as the best nosebag on the circuit.
And while you are eating your cobs and drinking your coffee, you can look again at the sweet chestnut and the sycamores and marvel at the trees’ fellowship and think of the consolation offered by conifers that stay green when the rest of their world is grey and the cricket ground is sleeping. And when you look beyond or above the trees, you will see buildings that have summat about them, like the six-columned town hall or the Church of St Mary and All Saints; yes, the one with the spire that’s gone in the fetlock. You see, you know the place already. Look up the route, now, before the magic fades.
There is cricket, too, and there are times, like today, when it becomes the sole focus for those sitting in this greatly blessed world. Only when Derbyshire needed fewer than ten to win did the spectators began to drift slowly away and very few left properly until the game was done. They recalled their team had collapsed in a heap on Monday and they knew it was less than seven hours since the match was utterly in the hazard..
Middlesex began the morning with a lead of 117 and seven wickets in hand as they sought a target beyond Derbyshire’s capabilities. Mark Stoneman and Ethan Bamber added another 23 runs in half an hour before Stoneman gloved a lifter from Anuj Dal to Brooke Guest and trooped off through the warm, dandelion-seeded air. Bamber fell to Dal as well but not before he had got on one knee and swept Mark Watt into the avenue of limes, where a fellow gave not a fig for his years and reached up to stop the ball.
The lead was 179 when Bamber drove fatally to Sam Conners at point and it had been extended by only 13 more where John Simpson called Max Holden for a single and seemed to receive a tentative ‘yes’, followed by a mighty ‘no’. Simpson was run out by 20 yards; indeed when the bails were removed, he was near enough to give Holden a mighty kick up the arse, which is a course of action he may have contemplated. Unembarrassed, Holden hit Alex Thomson for a six over long on but was brilliantly caught by Billy Godleman running from mid-off to cover when he attempted to repeat the trick.
We had lunch with Middlesex on 189 for 7. I walked out to the middle and wondered if this was how Fanshawe felt in M R James’ “A View from a Hill” when he sees the glorious spire of Fulnaker Abbey through Baxter’s binoculars, only to find it was a vision from the past. Reassurance was provided by an unlikely source: “From the Lake End, Mark Watt” boomed the chap on the public address.
I drifted uncertainly back to the present and, almost on the instant, Luke Hollman was caught by Masood off Reece. The lead was 212 and no one thought it enough against a batting side that included the Pakistani. Give or take, it would have to do, though. Only six more runs had been added by the time Middlesex were bowled out and one admired the medium-pace bowling of Reece and Dal, each of whom took three wickets.
Derbyshire’s pursuit of 219 began disastrously but could have been bum-numbingly awful. In the fourth over, Godleman was sent back when he called Masood for a mirage-single and Holden’s throw beat the Derbyshire skipper by around 11 yards. Next over, Masood nicked Roland-Jones to first slip where Stevie Eskinazi, possibly put off by Simpson, shelled the thing. The game settled again and the folk under the limes lost themselves in the struggle.
Derbyshire got to tea on 89 for 2, the second batter dismissed being Guest, who was caught behind off Murtagh for 10. On the resumption, Masood got inside the line and drove Roland-Jones wide of mid-on; two overs later he nodded appreciatively when utterly beaten but resumed more normal service by cover-driving Hollman twice in the same over. The ball was changed at the end of the 30th over, which is normally a sign the shape of the game does not suit the fielding side. Ten minutes later, Masood cut Roland-Jones hard to gully where Sam Robson dropped the chance. Had not the Derbyshire’s supporters recalled their side’s first innings hours previously, they would have begun to believe this great thing was possible.
Masood had batted beautifully but not faultlessly. Nevertheless, he was two short of a century and nine shy of his thousand first-class runs for the season when he cut Bamber to gully, where Robson clutched the thing. Derbyshire still needed 74 at this point but Leus du Plooy chose the fast lane to glory, whacking Bamber and Roland-Jones for sixes before nicking Tim Murtagh to Robbie White at slip.
If Reece felt any nerves, he concealed them perfectly. The Middlesex cricketers, who had hardly celebrated their late successes with much joy, became reconciled to defeat. A few minutes later, players and spectators were shaking hands, saying their farewells and looking ruefully at their sunburn. One day, I hope you will be able to join them. Indeed, I hope beyond dreaming that you will get the chance, not least because if you do, it will probably mean that Chesterfield and so much else that is precious about our game has been saved. Evenings like this encourage the hope it might be so.