Derbyshire 120 for 7 (Lamb 3-35, Balderson 3-49) trail Lancashire 219 (Bohannon 94; Melton 3-46, Reece 3-54) by 99 runs
Liverpool's pavilion might have been designed to host cricket in the Covidian age. For one thing it is huge. The three-storey pile was one of the largest in England when the ground was opened in 1881 and even now it could be mistaken for a venerable county headquarters. Certainly it was a splendid location for scenes in The Forsyte Saga. During this game Lancashire have been allotted the enormous dressing rooms on the third floor while Derbyshire have the use of the squash changing rooms at ground level plus The Century Pavilion, which is normally used for hospitality, and a small tent on the boundary. The umpires have their own facilities so there is no need for either teams or officials to come into contact beyond the boundary.
But after yesterday morning's play Derbyshire probably appreciated the chance to have time to themselves. A score of 17 for 4 hardly creates the ideal atmosphere for small talk over the melon and couscous. Billy Godleman's men probably preferred to take tea alone, too, given that by the second interval they had subsided to 71 for 7 against a Lancashire attack four of whose five members had not played any first-class cricket before the Bob Willis Trophy began.
Facing a deficit of 138 and with only three wickets in hand, it was easy to see how Lancashire might build a position of Vizigothic dominance by the close. Too easy, perhaps. There has been a healthy helping of Peak District grit about Derbyshire's cricket this season and this was apparent again in a gloomy and glorious evening session during which Harvey Hosein and Mattie McKiernan added most of the 59 runs in their unbroken eighth-wicket partnership. It may not be enough to save Derbyshire from defeat in this match, much less give them a hope of the victory they need to qualify for the Bob Willis Trophy final. But it was fine cricket and all it needed to make it perfect was the appreciation of supporters who knew good stuff when they saw it.
Qualification for the final at Lord's final must wait for the third or fourth day of this game when the results of the games at Chelmsford and Worcester are known. To judge from various discussions everything seems to depend on a range of factors, which may include the Doppler Effect, the Turkish bank rate, the Brexit withdrawal deal, Jurgen Klopp's inside-leg measurement, the average temperature in the Atacama Desert, the mating pattern of Mexican spiders, Priti Patel's IQ and the length of time it takes to cook a cheese soufflé in the Hindu Kush. At some stage we will add the points up and see who's got the most.
None of it troubles Lancashire's coaches. Their side's chance of reaching the final has long since disappeared and they are enjoying the sight of a fine crop of young cricketers making the most of their opportunities. And no one did this with greater relish during this heavily clouded Monday on Merseyside than Danny Lamb and George Balderson, both of whom took three wickets.
In the second over of Derbyshire innings, Lamb pitched one on off stump and the left-handed Luis Reece edged a catch to George Lavelle, thereby becoming the keeper's maiden first-class victim. In Lamb's next over Godleman departed in like fashion except that his snick was taken by Keaton Jennings at first slip. Three balls later Leus du Plooy played across a very full inswinger to give Steve O'Shaughnessy another easy decision. And just before the persistent rain showers prompted a two-hour lunch break Wayne Madsen played outside a straight ball from Balderson and was leg before to one of Lancashire's most promising cricketers.
On the resumption Matt Critchley and Fynn Hudson-Prentice attempted to rescue the innings. It was not a foolish quest; Derbyshire's short season has contained many wonders. But having helped Hudson-Prentice add 27 for the fifth wicket Critchley fell, and was nearly felled, when he ducked into a full toss from George Burrows and was leg before wicket for 14 when patently playing no shot.
Some thought the ball might have been missing off stump but their number did not include Graham Lloyd. And there was no doubt about the slip catches taken by Tom Hartley and Jennings which subsequently removed both Hudson-Prentice and Anuj Dal off the bowling off Balderson. Hartley's low catch was particularly fine and there is currently scarcely a session that passes without him or Balderson showing something which proclaims their professional pedigree. Lancashire will not win the Bob Willis Trophy but this has been a valuable season for the club. It is good news in these febrile times.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications