Critch­ley gives Der­byshire space at the top

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Cricket - By Scyld Berry at Le­ices­ter Der­byshire (408 & 12-1) beat Le­ics (199 & 220) by 9 wick­ets

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

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