Tuesday 22nd June 2021 – The T20 Vitality Blast at The County Ground, Derby
I was pleasantly surprised when I checked on the Derbyshire website about ticket availability for this game that there was one available. And when I mean one, I didn’t mean that in the context of one for me, but just one left according to their ground map. We are not only in the Post-Covid restriction lifting, pre-full restriction lifting phase, which has seen most counties have to roll back on their plans for increased attendances and thus mass ticket refunds, but it was also clashing with England’s final group game in the Euros. But I didn’t mind missing the visuals for the football – I would have the audio which is often far more interesting than the pictures when you are watching England play.
In normal circumstances the County Ground would have been rammed for this local derby. With all respect to Derbyshire and their financial situation thanks to Covid-19, I am glad it wasn’t rammed. Trying to negotiate the Pentagon roundabout in the rush hour is bad enough, but with a full stadium it would be a nightmare. No such delays tonight and I was given the best parking space at the ground, as I was to find out later.
Once again visiting the smaller country grounds, the welcome I got was warm, with stewards taking time to explain where the main facilities were. I grabbed a beer, having to pay £1 for a souvenir cup which I could take home with me as a momentum of the occasion (their words not mine) and took my seat in row A, in direct line of any right-hander sweeps or left-handed square cuts.
Neither team had started the T20 competition well. Derbyshire had won two out of their seven games, Leicestershire one out of six coming into this game, meaning with half the games still to play, a win was essential to stay in the competition. The home side won the toss and decided to field first.
The County Ground is a smart, intimate venue for cricket. No big stands, beautiful background with the sun slowly setting on one of the longest days of the year. Would that cause an issue for the Leicestershire batsman, especially with a pace attack? It seemed so after the first over faced by Steel, who struggled to get anything on the ball from van Beek. But he soon got into his stride and the opening pair scored almost eight an over before Inglis was caught with the score on 39. Steel’s 46, Ackermann’s 37 and finally Kimber’s 53 off 28 balls saw Leicestershire reach a decent 174, which included an exciting last over that saw three sixes and two wickets.
One notable wicket was that of Rishi Patel. The number 5 batsman lasted one ball, departing to a Duck whistle as he was bowled by Critchley. I would imagine when Patel started his career in cricket a few years ago, he was the most famous Rishi in England. Then along comes the Chancellor and nobody ever wants to be “the second most famous…”. What I found amusing was that a former work colleague of nearly five years was also called Rishi, and he always claimed he was the “original Rishi”. Alas, he now becomes the third most famous Rishi. He wasn’t amused when I told him, although his point that he would have backed himself to have lasted more than one ball I couldn’t disagree with.
With the game at Wembley hardly raising the pulse rate, the crowd readied themselves for a run chase from the home side. When these sides met two weeks ago at Leicester, the Falcons scored over 200 to win, but recent shy batting performances didn’t bode too well to deliver over eight an over. But they started in confident fashion – never quite at the run rate required although not too far off it, with Harry Came far more effective and attacking that his similar namesake at Wembley, scoring 40 off 31 balls. But when he became the first wicket to fall with the score on 60 the rot set in.
Fellow opener Reece was run out three balls later and the Falcons then lost three more for just twenty five runs. A brief period of resistance from Guest and Thomson gave the fans some hope but five non-caught wickets fell, leaving them needing sixty six from three overs. I headed for the car, the short walk seeing wicket eight fall. The exit to the car park had been opened, which was basically a wire fence directly in front of my car. The walk from ground to car seat was 3 steps. The movement of the fence also meant I had the perfect view of the crease. My best seat in the house lasted for four balls, with McKerr and finally Guest falling to see the Falcons fall 42 runs short.
I’d love to say the drive home was textbook but the now common motorway closures saw me having to do a midnight tour of various Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire villages, and Robbie Savage spouting his usual rubbish on the radio. I’d be seeing the Falcons in action in 48 hours again when they headed south to Birmingham to see whether they could avoid a mauling at the hands of the Bears.