Number nine signs on the dotted line

David Willey hit a half-century against Derbyshire on day two
David Willey hit a half-century against Derbyshire on day two

On the day he committed his future to the club for the next two seasons, David Willey provided the highlight of a routine day at the County Ground.

There was a distinct sense that the County’s season is drifting to a conclusion – this is their final outing on home turf after all – and a couple of interruptions for squally showers hardly helped matters in this regard, but Willey at least gave a glimpse of why his services are valued.

Batting at number nine, a couple of places too low and surely something to be amended come next April, the Northamptonian hit a breezy half-century in the morning session as the hosts posted a solid total on day two of the Championship clash with Derbyshire.

James Middlebrook advanced his overnight score to 71 but by and large it was all Willey who, in his trademark liberated style, thrashed and dashed his way to an unbeaten 60.

The hosts’ tally represented a decent effort on a turgid and lifeless surface and it was countered in the main by that of Tony Palladino who persevered gamely for his third five-wicket haul of the campaign.

He had David Murphy and Lee Daggett taken at the wicket driving and ended the innings by hitting Jack Brooks in front. In between, David Wainwright spun one past Middlebrook’s outside edge.

The Derbyshire openers, Matt Lineker and Usman Khawaja, looked in little trouble in the initial stages of the reply but they both fell within a couple of minutes of each other, the latter hit by a Lee Daggett inswinger and the former leaving a Willey delivery that rattled his off stump.

Wes Durston, a mighty straight six off Middlebrook aside, didn’t contribute much and it was Dan Redfern who led the way for the visitors after they had slumped to the relatively dangerous waters of 80-3.

Badly dropped by Murphy when on just six, the compact left-hander made an assured half-century that contained 80 per cent in boundaries, collaborating well with Wayne Madsen to stabilise things, and the pair cruised along in no difficulty.

So it came as something of a surprise when Middlebrook found Redfern’s edge 20 minutes from the close and that brought in the nightwatchman in the shape of Palladino who lasted all of five balls before he was unluckily strangled down the legside off the same bowler.

The target now will be to work through the lower order in an attempt to enforce the follow-on because, with Hampshire struggling at Grace Road, a win might just drag the promotion hopes out of the gutter.