Derbyshire duo grind down County

David Willey turned to spin as Northants toiled on the third day
David Willey turned to spin as Northants toiled on the third day

In April you would have got decent odds on Derbyshire leading the race for promotion from Division Two.

Given the fact they have spent all bar the very first season of two divisional cricket in the second tier, this would have been understandable but they are making a good fist of it and barring a collapse akin to the one the County achieved last year, they will be plying their trade in the top flight in 2013.

And if their efforts with the bat on the third day of the Championship encounter are anything to go by, their position at the summit of the table is no accident.

Showing plenty of resilience and determination, the visitors turned an unpromising position five minutes into the day’s play into a decent first innings advantage, a scenario that even the most one-eyed supporter wouldn’t have believed possible.

Led by the unflappable Wayne Madsen, who made a career best 223, Derbyshire scored 348 for the loss of three wickets, 259 of which came for the ninth which constituted a club record against this particular opposition and is only 24 short of the world record set way back in 1910.

He was assisted by Tom Poynton who weighed in with his career best of 105 from number 10 and the pair, who batted through both the afternoon and evening sessions, ensured that the hosts will be unable to snatch the victory their ever diminishing promotion hopes require.

The picture looked somewhat rosier at five past eleven when Ross Whiteley was caught down the leg-side from the final ball of the day’s opening over bowled by David Willey.

David Wainwright hung around for a while but when he fell to James Middlebrook, 44 runs were still required to avoid the follow-on.

But Jon Clare counter-attacked with a salvo of boundaries and with the new ball helping those doing the batting rather than the bowling, this target was passed the ball after he was dropped by Rob Newton on the square-leg boundary.

Clare then provided David Murphy with a regulation offering in the next over but that was the last bit of joy the County had for 71 overs as the placid nature of the pitch was highlighted ruthlessly by Madsen and Poynton.

Against an attack that became increasingly toothless – Willey’s left-arm spin even got an airing - the duo batted on and on, taking few liberties and being rarely troubled.

A case could have been made for a declaration when parity was achieved but only one of these sides needs to force the issue and it wasn’t the one at the crease and for that reason alone their attitude was hard to criticise.

With the surface showing next to nothing in the way of deterioration, the County should be able to comfortably see this game out and that is their only option because, after a chastening day in the field, they aren’t going to come out on top.