Critchley gives Derbyshire space at the top
Such was the biosecurity as the city which had been England’s coronavirus capital hosted its first match in the Bob Willis Trophy that one reserve player who had left his kit at the ground was not allowed back inside to collect it. But Derbyshire overcame all the obstacles to win by nine wickets and lead the way at the top of the North Group.
It is no surprise that Somerset lead the Central Group, while Essex will top the South Group if their offspinner, Simon Harmer, proves too much for Surrey a second time around. Essex won the County Championship last year while Somerset finished runners-up.
What is remarkable is that Derbyshire top the North Group, having beaten Leicestershire and, in their highest-ever county run chase, Nottinghamshire, so that they have the most points, 44, after two rounds.
In disposing of Leicestershire in their second innings the visitors were indebted to leg-spinner Matt Critchley, who took six for 73. A hot afternoon in the cricket season, Derbyshire with more points than any other county, and a young English leg-spinner the match-winner: county cricket seldom comes more surprising.
Having played 49 first-class matches, and averaged 49 runs each for his 66 wickets, Critchley took three wickets in one over in mid-afternoon to settle the issue. Wickets taken in the right manner too, starting with the high-class South African Colin Ackermann, who pushed forward at a leg-break and Wayne Madsen, at slip, could not have dived further to his right, or lower, to take the catch onehanded at full stretch.
Then Ben Mike pushed forward at another leg-break and was caught at second slip, and the next ball Dieter Klein was sent back by something quicker from Critchley.
Derbyshire had so much faith in Critchley, 23, that they gave him a four-year contract and funded his winters in Sydney, where he was coached by Australian wrist-spinner Stuart MacGill. Critchley does not yet have MacGill’s googly or patience, but he does have the pace and the leg-break to dismiss good batsmen. He is also a capable batsman, having become the youngest Derbyshire player, at 18, to score a first-class hundred.
Derbyshire have extended Critchley’s contract by two years. That may not stop Surrey popping a contract in the post as soon as they are allowed, but it would be very harsh on Derbyshire to lose a player in whom they have invested so much, now that he is blossoming.
It was only last week that Leicester’s pubs and restaurants opened for the first time since March. The home side changed in the Meet – the old supporters’ shed – and ate in the pavilion, while Derbyshire changed at the opposite end and ate in the indoor nets. The changing rooms were too small to allow social distancing, but the visitors’ excellent all-round cricket ensured a large gap between the sides.
It would be very harsh if they were to lose a player they have invested so much in