Khawaja anchors Derbyshire bid
Derbyshire 167 for 5 (Khawaja 71*, Palladino 58) trail Hampshire 272 (Vince 114) by 105 runs
The combination of intermittent rain and live TV coverage generally leads to a lot of hanging around between umpires' inspections, especially on a ground such as this where a flick of a floodlight control switch can make light meter readings irrelevant and bring cricket where there would otherwise be none.
There was no such indecisiveness from Mark Benson and Stephen Gale, however. They abandoned play at 4.10pm, which meant Derbyshire were unable to prevent Yorkshire taking advantage of clearer skies at Chelmsford and moving ahead in the Division Two table, displacing the leaders from a position they have occupied since May.
But Wayne Madsen, the Derbyshire captain, was not unduly concerned, not least because the unravelling of Kent's chances against Glamorgan in Cardiff may well mean that his side already have enough points to be playing in Division One next season.
Even if Kent were somehow were to manage a draw from what looks like an impossible situation, one more batting point will be enough to end Derbyshire's exile after 12 consecutive Division Two seasons.
The Division Two title, however, is an incentive to finish the season with a win and though Derbyshire still trail by 105 runs, with five wickets down, the presence of Usman Khawaja at the crease with an unbeaten 71 to build on against a ball now 48 overs old left Madsen reasonably optimistic.
"It was frustrating not to be able to bat on this afternoon but there were signs the ball was starting to spin, which will bring our spinners into play for the next innings," he said. "The weather is supposedly set fair for the next couple of days and we will be in a good position if we can get to them and hopefully past them.
"The key here is to get through the first half-hour or hour without losing wickets but with the ball a little older it might assist us. It will be important to have Usman there after the first half an hour because he is playing a fantastic innings."
It is a bonus, too, for Derbyshire, who added 117 runs in the 30 overs possible, that one of the two wickets to fall was the nightwatchman, Tony Palladino, who made profitable use of his 90 minutes at the crease by making 58 before he chipped a ball from Sean Ervine direct to the fielder at mid-on.
Palladino, the former Essex seamer, made a century against Australia A in the same role earlier in the season and demonstrated again that he is a capable batsman even under pressure, passing 50 in a first-class match for the fifth time in his career. There was some playing and missing during the opening overs, as you would expect, but once he had settled he began to hit the ball cleanly, picking up eight fours and pulling James Tomlinson, the left-arm seamer, for six twice in the space of three balls.
Dan Redfern, who never looked comfortable, gave Ervine the second wicket when he edged one to second slip.
Derbyshire still have some work to do to achieve parity with Hampshire's 272 but Khawaja, in good enough form now that he might prefer the season to go on a little longer, played with the kind of calm authority required, while following Palladino's lead with a touch of aggression from time to time. He hooked a short ball from David Griffiths for six and lofted the left-arm spinner Liam Dawson into the seats at deep midwicket.
The Pakistan-born left-hander, the first Muslim to play for Australia, has passed fifty four times in his seven matches since replacing Martin Guptill as Derbyshire's overseas player, converting one of them to a hundred. If Khawaja was showing the benefit of his experience, Madsen admitted that nerves among the younger players had been a factor to which the Derbyshire coaching staff had needed to pay attention this week.
"It is the biggest game a lot of our guys have played in their careers so it is difficult not to feel under pressure," Madsen said. "It is the responsibility of the coaches and myself to keep the guys as focused as possible. We have played good cricket all season and we deserve to be in this position because of it. We have reiterated to the team to just concentrate on what we have been doing up to now.
"It is hard not to have a sneaky little look at what is going on around the country, especially when you have the rain breaks, but we do have to try to focus on what is going on here. It doesn't matter about losing the lead in the division overnight. What matters is to be in a good position where we could potentially get a result on Friday."