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June 29, 2014
Durham 129 for 2 (Mustard 54, Stokes 49*) beat Derbyshire 125 (A Hughes 43*, Hastings 4-26) by eight wickets
Phil Mustard struck a 25-ball half-century before Ben Stokes' unbeaten 49 ensured that Derbyshire were never at the Blaydon races by finishing a crushing, eight-wicket victory with consecutive sixes. Durham's third win of the season, which keeps their interest in the competition alive, was teed up by John Hastings' best T20 figures and finished with aplomb by the batsmen, who spared Derbyshire the effort of bowling seven overs in the chase.
The Derbyshire innings was played almost entirely beneath a cloud of persistent drizzle, before the skies cleared and allowed Durham to knock off the runs. It was as good an example of pathetic fallacy as you will see (and that is not just a dig at Derbyshire's batting).
This has been a tough week for Derbyshire, in the middle of a tough season. On Saturday, it was confirmed that three more players, including the experienced former England Lions opener Stephen Moore, were to leave the club with immediate effect; Tim Groenewald has already moved on loan to Somerset after indicating he would not be signing a new contract. They lie second from bottom in Division Two of the Championship and were winless from their opening seven matches of the T20 Blast.
A scrap of encouragement came in Friday night's victory at Warwickshire, when they chased down 190. The closest they have come to a run of success was Wayne Madsen's expertise at the coin toss - but even that failed them at Chester-le-Street, as Derbyshire's captain conceded the choice for the first time in this year's T20. Having been asked to bat, they then ceded the advantage in little longer than it takes to flick a coin, spinning towards earth at 63 for 6 inside the first ten overs.
They managed to almost double that total but, in setting Durham 126 to win, only three players made it into double-figures. Two of those were academy graduates, Alex Hughes and debutant Greg Cork - son of former Derbyshire and England allrounder Dominic - and they combined in a 32-run stand for the ninth wicket that was a Derbyshire record in T20, as well as the highest of the innings.
Cork showed commendable fight, something which his father was known for, with the bat but his first over in professional cricket was a chastening experience, as Mustard mercilessly thrashed 22 runs from the 19-year-old's left-arm medium-pace. For Cork, as for Derbyshire, things can surely only get better.
It was Alex Hughes who provided a faint glimmer of positivity for the visitors. An unbeaten 43 was his highest T20 score, improving on the 24 he struck at Edgbaston two days ago, and came a few days after making 82, another career-best, in Derbyshire's Championship defeat to Kent.
The stand between Alex Hughes and Cork was ended by a fine Stokes catch in the deep, running in and scooping up the ball with a full-length dive. When Durham lost two wickets in three balls, it was Stokes who strode out to smash eight boundaries and 49 out of 61 in an ebullient, almost mocking stand.
Hastings, Durham's Australian overseas player and a man who looks like he would be handy in a battle, took a wicket in each of his four overs - though he needed two cracks at removing Gareth Cross, who was initially taken by Mustard after top-edging a swipe before replays shows that Hastings had overstepped. Hastings continued to rumble in like a medieval siege tower and had Cross well caught by a diving Paul Collingwood at backward point, making light of the falling rain to snag a greasy ball.
Wes Durston had carted Hastings' first ball high over fine leg for six but was then trapped on the crease by one that nipped back. Chesney Hughes swatted the second of Derbyshire's three maximums over deep midwicket off Usman Arshad and struck some powerful blows down the ground before being defeated by a leg-stump yorker, as Hastings cut his fingers over the ball. Marcus North was Hastings' fourth victim, providing Collingwood with a simpler catch. The damage, for Derbyshire, was irreparable.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderickFeeds: Alan Gardner
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