Godleman's grit holds up best friend Finn
Derbyshire 205 for 9 (Godleman 55, Finn 4-36) v Middlesex
A day dominated by the two youngest men to represent Middlesex in first-class cricket ended with Derbyshire in the sort of parlous position that many would have predicted after they had lost the toss and were inserted. Had it not been for Billy Godleman, who debuted as a 16-year-old for Middlesex in the same match as Steven Finn back in 2005 and made a stoic, 244-ball half-century for Derbyshire here, the situation could have been far worse.
In taking 323 minutes, Godleman's is a contender for the slowest-ever Championship fifty - though he was still half-an-hour quicker than "The Barnacle" Trevor Bailey with his 350-ball effort in the first Ashes Test of 1958-59. Godleman's innings, assembled in the painstaking manner of a man constructing a model ship in a bottle, was ended six minutes shy of six hours, though it might have felt longer to the smattering of Middlesex members who attended the opening day of the season at Lord's.
"I just love batting," Godleman said, "I don't necessarily see it as grinding, although the spectators might have a different view." When it was suggested he may have set a record, he replied with a grin: "It wouldn't surprise me, because it was pretty slow."
Godleman is at his third county in Derbyshire, having been released by Essex last year. His first full season at Middlesex, in 2007, brought 832 runs at 38.27 but he has never bettered that return and left his native London at the end of 2009. His Camden twang is still distinct and, although their paths have diverged he refers to Finn - who took 4 for 36 in his first outing of the season - as his "dearest friend".
The innings will undoubtedly long live in the memory - whether those present want it to or not - though it did not provide Derbyshire the platform it might have. Still, Godleman was pleased to have acquitted himself back at HQ. "Lord's is always a special place but for me specifically, having grown up here and Middlesex being my boyhood club and facing my best friend opening the bowling against me, yeah."
It was a burst of 3 for 11 in six overs from said friend that most severely undermined Godleman's graft, as Derbyshire's 132 for 3 at tea rapidly became 150 for 6. In Hamlet, Laertes warns his sister Ophelia that the "best safety lies in fear" but, having countenanced the danger and avoided it well enough in morning, Derbyshire's batsmen became comfortably complicit in their demise. Dan Redfern and Chesney Hughes both poked at Finn deliveries they could have left on length, though Shivnarine Chanderpaul's departure before the interval, pulling loosely to midwicket, was the most surprising.
If the morning session had been billed as a horror show, with Division One newcomers Derbyshire put in under cloudy skies against one of the most-vaunted pace attacks on the circuit, it was to prove disappointingly short on video nasties. Finn's second delivery was a leg-side wide and his opening spell of 7-5-5-0 camouflaged what had been a mixture of the unplayable and the unreachable.
Toby Roland-Jones - who took eight wickets in the win over Nottinghamshire last week - was also wayward, though Tim Murtagh should have seen Godleman on his way when he had made just 2 but a low chance to third slip wriggled out of Sam Robson's grasp.
There was one early breakthrough and Wayne Madsen's eminently preventable run-out foreshadowed the eventual path of the Derbyshire innings. In digging out a Finn delivery, a pinball ricochet sent it via Godleman, the non-striker, towards Chris Rogers at mid-off who was unerring in throwing down the stumps as Madsen belatedly realised his mistake in trying to get off the mark.
Wes Durston and Godleman added 83 for the second wicket, the former looking increasingly assured right up until the moment he pulled Finn confidently straight to deep fine-leg and gave the bowler his 300th first-class wicket. That the ensuing collapse unfolded in slow motion was appropriate, though Godleman's grit may yet prove vital for Derbyshire.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo