Wainwright turn again crucial after pivotal move
Derbyshire 37 for 1 trail Essex 182 (Pettini 56, Wainwright 5-51) by 145 runs
What a difference a spinner makes. Last season Derbyshire had no specialist spinner to call on and won five matches; this season, after six games, they have won three. The contribution of slow left-armer David Wainwright in all three results has been significant. Here, his third five-wicket haul of the season has already set up the chance of a fourth victory.
His impact was, by Wainwright's own admission, unexpected. The pitch looked a well-mannered first-day surface but when Wainwright was handed the ball for the 26th over, his first delivery bounced and turned sharply on Owais Shah, who got a thin edge to Tom Poynton. A cracker.
Umpire Martin Bodenham said Shah did very well to nick it, which seemed like a flawed compliment. This was Shah's first innings of the season for Essex after playing for Rajasthan in the IPL, where he would have encountered high quality spin but perhaps played it in an entirely different manner. He probably didn't practise simply trying to keep out such a vicious delivery.
There were glimpses of IPL mode from Shah. He went at the ball very hard - a tactic that wouldn't have worked for long a few weeks ago but, in the sunshine against minimal sideways movement, proved adequate. But no matter where anyone had been playing, Wainwright's ball was too good.
That delivery was the start of spell which dismissed Essex for a below-par score. There was movement to deal with, nervy moments, unplayable balls and the wicket of Paul Borrington for Derbyshire as they faced 15 overs before the close but they will expect plenty of runs from this pitch on this small ground. They would have also batted first given the option but it was Essex that wanted to make first use of the wicket and Essex who succumbed to a bowler reborn.
Wainwright spent eight seasons at Yorkshire and got wound into fear: of being behind Adil Rashid; of rarely being picked; of going for runs when he did play. His move down the M1 in the winter lifted him away from those clouds which were preventing his talent being displayed: talent which has already helped Derbyshire to the top of Division Two. On debut, his second-innings 6 for 33 was his career-best return and bowled Derbyshire to victory against Northamptonshire. Last week against Glamorgan, 5 for 51 was the match-winning haul. Between his bowling successes came 51 not out in the reverse fixture against Glamorgan - an innings which set a target Derbyshire defended.
"I've bowled more overs than I've ever bowled in a season already," Wainwright said. "I got myself in a bubble at Yorkshire. Year after year I'd turn up to games and if it was cloudy, they'd only play one spinner and I'd miss out again. The move has given me a new outlook on the game. There's less pressure. It's a relief to turn up to a game and think I'll be playing today.
"I looked at the pitch and it looked good, I was gearing myself up for third, fourth day. But the first ball bounced and spun and I didn't look back. I try to be on it from ball one, I give it a bit of a rip and see what happens."
What happened was Shah's dismissal, part of a remarkable set of four new spells, three of which brought wickets with the first ball. His second spell saw Ben Foakes edge another spinning, bouncing ball behind. Three balls later, James Foster was edging a forward push to slip. Before tea, in the same spell, Greg Smith was superbly held low at short leg and after tea, another change of ends brought Mark Pettini's wicket - driving back to Wainwright after an valuable 132-ball half-century.
The changing of ends was out of necessity - the seamers held sway. "I was just the middle man," Wainwright said. "I said I'll bowl wherever - that's generally what happens, the spinner doesn't get a say until the second innings." His preference may have been ignored but he benefitted from the changes, finding more spin from the Hayes Close End, where he first bowled, and more bounce from the River End, where three of his wickets came.
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo