Survival bigger than promotion - Krikken
Derbyshire 99 for 1 (Madsen 32*, Borrington 30*) v Durham
Those neutrals who want Derbyshire to stay in the Division One feel that way, for the most part, not because of any particular dislike for Surrey or Somerset, but because it would be a cracking story. Who would have thought, after they had lost seven of their first 10 matches, that they would have had even a small chance of survival?
They may still be relegated, given that both the aforementioned rivals have recruited from abroad again and Surrey have a game in hand, but thus far it has been a glorious, heart-warming effort from Derbyshire, bringing three wins in their last four games, in which none of the participants has been more deserving than Karl Krikken, their amiable Lancastrian coach, for whom avoiding relegation would be a greater achievement even than winning promotion last summer.
Krikken began this season believing his team could compete at the higher level, even though the gap between the divisions has become harder to breach, and grew more frustrated by the match, as one poor result after another made it harder for some players to share his faith. Matters came to a head in the away fixture against Durham in July, when Derbyshire lost by 279 runs. It prompted some changes in personnel and a few harsh words from Krikken.
"The Durham game was definitely a turning point," he said. "We were shocking, really. We played very badly and the body language and attitude was just not there.
"We made some tough decisions and although the next game against Yorkshire was not great, since they we have kicked on. We have been more aggressive, more in-your-face and we've kept going in games longer than the opposition. We have the knowledge of how to win games now and we've just got to carry on doing what we have been doing.
"After the start we had, to stay up would be a massive achievement, bigger than last year. But with two games to go we know that two wins keeps us up."
The start Derbyshire have made to this game has been encouraging, the loss of Ben Slater in the 12th over their only setback against the new Division One leaders, whose attack, though still missing Ben Stokes, and with two inexperienced seamers in Jamie Harrison and Usman Arshad, is still seen strong enough to maintain Durham's title challenge.
Slater played solidly enough until Chris Rushworth, who did not bowl as well as he did against Sussex last week, located his off stump with a full length delivery, but Paul Borrington has looked more steadfast. It was Wayne Madsen who offered the only other semblance of a chance, an edge off Graham Onions that fell short of third slip.
The choice of 22-year-old Harrison in preference to Mitch Claydon was another statement of Durham's faith in the new order. Claydon, in the words of coach Jon Lewis, "bowled so well" against Sussex, taking six wickets in the match after interrupting his loan spell with Kent to answer an emergency call.
"It was horses for courses really," Lewis said. "Bowling first we thought it might swing a bit and Jamie being a left-armer it is a nice angle to have, and he bowled really well in the couple of games before he picked up an ankle injury. So it was not a difficult decision, even if it was a bit harsh on Mitch."
Harrison had problems with overstepping, bowling three no balls in the space of five deliveries at one time, but he has enough pace to be a handful and after eight wickets in his two matches last month, including 5 for 31 against Surrey, he has much to offer and Durham's decision to go with his unproven potential ahead of Claydon's reliability and experience in a match of this importance is a strong show of support for him.