Derbyshire look beyond title glory
Derbyshire 275 (Khawaja 71, Whiteley 57*) and 197 for 6 (Khawaja 72*) beat Hampshire 272 (Vince 114, Ervine 61) and 198 (Shafayat 81) by six wickets
Derbyshire had already started planning for life in Division One long before the Division Two title added a final shimmer of gloss to a season that ends after 12 years the longest exile of any county from the top tier of the County Championship.
The chairman, Chris Grant, under whose leadership Derbyshire have made a determined bid to escape a past dominated by rows off the field and underachievement on it, announced immediately that steps would be taken to keep predatory hands off a promising group of young players and that head coach, Karl Krikken, would have the wherewithal to strengthen his squad in the hope that the work involved with in winning promotion would not be wasted.
Derbyshire, who had a target of 196 from 77 overs after bowling Hampshire out for 198, became aware shortly before 2pm that Yorkshire had beaten Essex in Chelmsford, which meant that only a win of their own would cap the promotion of which they were already assured with the title.
Two wickets down after openers Wayne Madsen and Paul Borrington had been dismissed just before lunch, they had still needed 101 more runs when the news of Yorkshire's victiory came through, but Usman Khawaja and Wes Durston had already compiled a rapid half-century partnership by that point and if Hampshire's thoughts had not been drifting towards their CB40 final Lord's it would have been a surprise.
Given Derbyshire's history of heroic failures, a collapse was never out of the question but somehow, even though Durston and Dan Redfern were also out with 53 still to get, there never seemed any doubt they would pull it off.
Khawaja, who has contributed significantly to almost every match since he replaced Martin Guptill as overseas player, was in confident, commanding form and found a new partner bristling with confidence in Ross Whiteley, who had hit an unbeaten half-century on Thursday, his 24th birthday, and added to it a couple of key moments as Derbyshire took the last four Hampshire wickets on Friday, running out Bilal Shafayat for 81 and holding a fine catch at cover to dismiss the last man, David Griffiths.
Whiteley, one of the academy products to emerge under Krikken's guidance, started as he meant to go on by getting off the mark with a straight six off Liam Dawson, rode his luck when he was dropped at slip next ball but then launched into Michael Carberry's offspin with two more maximums in the next over, bringing the runs required down to 24. His fifth scoring shot, when he drove Dawson again high over long-off, brought his fourth six, and he went after the left-arm spinner again at the next opportunity, two overs later, finishing the job with a slog-sweep over the rope at square leg.
"I haven't got a lot of runs or a lot of wickets this season but I have managed to score crucial runs at the right time and to finish it off as I did today was pretty special for me," he said.
Whiteley more than most has benefited from Grant's drive to build a side around a core of home-grown players. "It has been good for me," he said. "I had a couple of tough seasons when I was at university when I did not know what the future held but I have had a breakthrough season, which was crucial for me.
"With the club putting the emphasis on bringing on players from the academy it has created an atmosphere to give everyone confidence not to be worrying about whether they would have a job or not. It is a fantastic dressing room. There have been no arguments, everyone gets on. We've believed in ourselves right from the start of the season, really, with the way we beat Northants in the opening game and then went on to win down in Essex.
"We knew towards the end that it would be tough and when we lost to Kent last week and our lead disappeared we were a bit nervous. But promotion was still in our hands if we could get a result in this match."
There was a certain irony, or perhaps just plain dim planning, in the ECB's nomination of Peter Wright, the Nottinghamshire chairman, to present the Division Two trophy to Madsen, the captain, in front of a crowd that by then contained a fair number who had already enjoyed a celebratory drink or two. Wright, representing as he does one side of this region's fiercest sporting rivalry, was booed when he was introduced.
Grant, conducting interviews a few minutes later, insisted that all the county chairman shared "a camaraderie born from facing the same issues". Yet he was clear enough which counties might be casting predatory glances towards the likes of Whiteley, Redfern and others who may emerge. If step one in the plan to drive Derbyshire away from their difficult past had been ticked off by winning promotion, the next was to provide the incentives necessary to keep Krikken's burgeoning side together.
"We will make sure that the pay differential between us and the county down the A52 is reduced and hope to fend off interest in our players," he said. "If we get the pay and rations right this team can build and become a very combative unit."
Derbyshire have been well served by their bowlers this year. David Wainwright, the left-arm spinner signed from Yorkshire last winter, has joined seamer Tony Palladino in taking 50 first-class wickets and the other strike bowler, Tim Groenewald, was not far behind. The batsmen have been less consistent, however, and recruitment plans will focus on correcting the imbalance.
"We topped the table in bowling bonus points, but were mid-table in batting, so you can see where the weaknesses lie," Grant said. "But we might need an extra seamer because you can't reply on Palladino and Groenewald all the time.
"Krik will do things his way. We've had people telling us all week that we'll need seasoned campaigners next year but I know Krik wants to build a team rather than buy one. He will want to bring in players who fit in with the spirit he has created in the dressing room."
Grant, aged only 43 but already with the wealth of a successful career in stockbroking to sustain him, could bankroll a team from his own pocket but would rather the club stood on its own feet.
"The fact is that we don't owe anyone a bean," he said. "A lot of other counties are heavily indebted. We don't owe anybody anything and yet we have made great strides in what we have tried to do with the ground. We have a very bright future.
"For me personally to be champions is a great moment, a money-can't-buy moment. I grew up in Derbyshire, I played village cricket here and I've been a supporter since I was a boy. You can have a nice car in the driveway but you can't buy this. To be able to put something back is absolutely brilliant."