Derbyshire sense chance against depleted Surrey
Derbyshire 237 and 136 for 1 need 272 more runs to beat Surrey 391 and 253
An intriguing final day looms at Chesterfield as Derbyshire look to establish a new county record for a fourth-innings run chase. Set 408 to win, the hosts have taken encouragement from an unbroken second-wicket stand of 91 in 25 overs between Garry Park and Wayne Madsen. They resume on the final day requiring another 272 runs to win.
They can also take encouragement from the increasingly threadbare nature of the Surrey attack. Already without Stuart Meaker, Jade Dernbach and Chris Jordan going into this game, they have been further weakened during its course.
Though Tim Linley batted with a runner, he is unable to bowl after sustaining a foot injury, while Andre Nel was reduced to operating off four paces after suffering from a tight hamstring. Gareth Batty is suffering from a problem with his ankle ligaments, while wicketkeeper Gary Wilson required prolonged treatment after sustaining a blow to the thumb. Unlikely though it may sound, Chris Tremlett is the only fully fit man left in the attack. There's a sentence you thought you'd never see.
But while Surrey might resemble Monty Python's Black Knight in terms of affliction, they seemed to lack his fighting spirit. In circumstances in which a team is expected to show their mettle, their ground fielding wilted and heads dropped. Chris Adams really has taken on an enormous job here.
History does not favour Derbyshire, however. Not only have they never made 400 in the fourth innings of a first-class game (their highest to date is 396 against Leicestershire in 2007), but the highest fourth-innings total by any side at Queen's Park is 336 (by Derbyshire against the Australians in 1968). Derbyshire lost both games.
They shouldn't get anywhere near. Not only does this pitch offer turn for the spinners, it offers unpredictable bounce for the seamers. Glenn McGrath would love it.
In such conditions, Tremlett should be a horrible proposition. Yet, though he lacked neither effort or pace, this was a disappointing display from a man blessed with so much ability. In circumstances in which his captain, his coach and the England selectors would all love to see him to rise to the challenge, he was surprisingly anodyne, lacking control of either line or length and proving largely ineffective. It says much that Rory Hamilton-Brown, bowling seam, replaced him in the attack.
Derbyshire's resilience was especially impressive bearing in mind the early departure of Chris Rogers. It might have been expected that the Australian was the one man who could have led such a chase. But though he started well, cutting Batty for a couple of fours and unleashing a glorious cover drive off Tremlett, his departure, edging a fine delivery that turned sharply, appeared likely to precipitate an inevitable demise.
It was not to be. Madsen and Park defended stoutly and, utilising the fast outfield and short boundaries, inched their way up the mountain. They have a long way to go, but Madsen's conversion rate offers encouragement. He's not been dismissed between 50 and 100 this season.
Earlier Nel top-scored in Surrey's second innings as the visitors squandered a chance to put the game out of Derbyshire's reach. The hosts deserve credit for an impressive bowling performance, however, as they demonstrated the length to bowl on such a wicket.
Arun Harinath had to play a beauty that bounced to take the edge, while Usman Afzaal edged an arm ball and Younis Khan's pleasing innings was ended by a good inswinger. Mark Ramprakash, 11 short of 1,000 first-class runs in the season, most uncharacteristically steered a ball to slip, while Stewart Walters was drawn into driving at a ball they turned and took his edge.
Had the last two wickets not added 52, Surrey would have been sitting much more precariously. But Tremlett resisted sensibly and Nel swung judiciously to take the lead above 400.
If Derbyshire do fall just short, they may rue the no-ball that reprieved Nel. On just 13 he was very well caught by Lee Goddard only for Tom Lungely to be called for over stepping. In an increasingly tight match, such moments could be crucial.