Godleman application gives Derbyshire sniff of rare win
Nottinghamshire 229 (Mullaney 76, Palladino 4-44) and 67 for 2 trail Derbyshire 363 (Godleman 121, Madsen 56) by 67 runs
So highly was he rated as a schoolboy cricketer, Billy Godleman was awarded a contract by Middlesex when he was 17, having made his first-class bow the year before in the very same match that Steven Finn made his first appearance. Finn was Middlesex's youngest first-class debutant, Godleman - 52 days older - the second youngest.
He was tipped to play for England and the early signs were only good ones: 149 not out for England Under-19s against Pakistan; a maiden first-class century in 2007. Yet somehow the next step eluded him. He left Middlesex for Essex in 2009, and Essex for Derbyshire in 2012, having still not discovered what he needed to do.
It was only when he was then left out of the Derbyshire side, midway through his first season, that the penny seemed to drop. It came after Dave Houghton, batting coach at the time and frustrated at Godleman's habit of making rapid 20s and 30s but failing to kick on, urged him to think about accumulating runs, rather than simply playing shots.
The century he made in this match as Derbyshire built a solid first-innings lead was his 10th since he took Houghton's suggestions on board and reshaped his game. Taking on the captaincy, moreover, appears only to have done him good. With Nottinghamshire two down and still 67 runs behind at the close, he might even give himself another reason to celebrate by leading his side to a rare win.
Godleman is borderline obsessive compulsive in the way he likes to set himself at the crease, working through a series of fidgety movements, and it does not take much to be going on behind the arm to persuade him to step away, sometimes when the bowler is almost in his delivery stride. Yet the method is serving him well now.
Put down on 12 on Friday evening, he made Nottinghamshire pay for their error in a way that not too many opponents have so far this season. He shared a partnership of 112 with Wayne Madsen, whose dismissal on 56 shortly before lunch spoiled what would have been a blemish-free morning for Derbyshire after an opening day as good as any they have enjoyed for some time.
No one else could come up with anything as substantial as Madsen by way of support, although one or two who tried to provide it might consider themselves unlucky. Gary Wilson was given out caught behind only after standing umpire Patrick Gustard consulted with his fellow official Graham Lloyd to determine whether the ball had touched the bat. Daryl Smit watched the finger go up as the ball was speeding towards the third man boundary, having chopped the ball away a nanosecond after it struck him on the pad.
Godleman completed his century - his third this season - with his 11th boundary, helping a leg-side delivery from Harry Gurney - not his first - on its way to the boundary. His total also included four overthrows on what was not the best day in the field for the Division Two leaders. He is the first Derbyshire player to make a first-class century against their regional rivals since 2004, although of course they have mostly played in different divisions.
Late runs from Tom Taylor stretched the lead to 134 as well as claiming a fourth batting point, raising the prospect that Derbyshire's two full years without a Championship win - the last having come in June 2015 - might be about to end where they least expected it.
It is probably too soon yet for optimism to be superseded by confidence. Despite the loss of Jake Libby and Cheteshwar Pujara - both caught behind - in the 14 overs before the close on a day extended by eight overs to compensate for Friday's rain, Nottinghamshire have the potential in their deep batting order to get themselves out of trouble and more.
Yet there is a question mark over their bowling. In the absence for the first time this season of any of their frontline international bowlers - Stuart Broad, Jake Ball and James Pattinson - Nottinghamshire's attack here is the least potent they have put out so far. It may be weakened further, moreover, with concerns over Luke Fletcher, who is feared to have aggravated a pre-existing elbow injury.