Lancashire 8 for 1 trail Derbyshire 153 (Anderson 5-18) by 145 runs
Unlike Worcester, which pays a heavy price for its glorious proximity to the Severn, Derbyshire's home ground can normally handle a deluge with few far-reaching effects. Last week's downpours were exceptional, though. Spectators encouraged by a warm, drying wind to anticipate a prompt start arrived to see a huddle of Lancashire bowlers toeing dark patches of turf at the Racecourse End, exchanging shrugs and shakes of the head.
No one looked less enthused at the idea of running in than James Anderson, although England's finest fast bowler seldom looks enthused even when he is. He bent down and touched the ground with the palm of his hand, warily examining the droplets of water that attached themselves. Six weeks away from what may be his last Ashes series, by which time he will have turned 37, you can imagine what thoughts were in his mind. Having made his senior Lancashire debut here in 2001, he may well have a soft spot for this ground but he had no wish to jeopardise his summer by turning his ankle in one. Yet his captain had already determined that, if there were to be any play, Lancashire would bowl first.
There was no play before lunch. Showers were forecast for later. Yet by 1.40pm the groundstaff had squeezed out enough moisture for umpires Nick Cook and Ian Blackwell to determine that even limbs as vital to the national interest as Anderson's would be no more than normally at risk. Under an overcast sky, the air nicely humid, Derbyshire batsmen were now wishing the officials had decided on a longer delay.
Opening at the City End, Anderson's line was not perfect at the start, although twice he thought he had Luis Reece, his one-time county team-mate, caught off the glove. His appeals were well supported by keeper and slips but Blackwell was unmoved.
Anderson's new-ball partner, that other evergreen, Graham Onions, was more on the money. Billy Godleman survived a confident shout for caught behind as the ball whistled close to the outside edge but was reprieved only momentarily, edging the next one to gully with a rather loose drive.
It was not the Derbyshire captain's first mistake of the day, having earlier signed off a teamsheet that included a player he had actually left out. Despite the late start, play was under way before the error was spotted. Informed over his earpiece, umpire Cook had to halt proceedings before informing his colleague and asking Dane Vilas, Godleman's opposite number, if he was happy with Sam Conners playing instead of Tony Palladino.
Having drawn first blood in this mini-contest with Anderson, his senior by just a couple of months, Onions surged ahead. Wayne Madsen, also tempted to drive, was taken at first slip by Keaton Jennings, whose height made a difficult catch look deceptively easy. Then Tom Lace, playing across a full length swinging delivery, was leg before.
Derbyshire were 14 for 3. It was the kind of fragility their followers had easily envisaged against the Division Two leaders and Anderson was not even started. Onions took a breather with 3 for 9 off six but Anderson kept going, no hint of reluctance now. Reece, after his early survival, was beaten for pace and bowled; Harvey Hosein was trapped in his crease, trying to work away a full delivery.
Now Anderson did rest and, for a while, it seemed a different game. Richard Gleeson, Lancashire's leading wicket-taker before this match, was not selected, which says something about the strength of the Red Rose's bowling resources. Yet neither Josh Bohannon, a skiddy seamer who adds also to the depth of batting, nor Saqib Mahmood could duplicate the control exerted by the new ball pair. Alex Hughes and Matt Critchley added 62 in 14 overs and, from 24 for 5, Derbyshire went to tea at 86 for 5.
All changed again, however, as Anderson returned, refreshed, immediately afterwards. The fifth ball of his new spell accounted for Critchley, caught behind jousting outside off stump; the third over saw Hughes beaten by one that clipped off stump and Logan van Beek leg before to one that clipped his pad. Suddenly, for all his earlier foreboding, Anderson had his second five-for of the season, his 17th in first-class cricket for the county.
"We did well to get out there are play," Anderson said afterwards. "It was very wet and there were a few issues with the ground but once we did get out there it was not too bad under foot.
"I thought we bowled really well to start with and having had them 25 for five I felt we could have pressed home that advantage a bit more than we did.
"We felt we let them off the hook a little bit. You need all four bowlers to be on it to bowl sides out and maybe we did not have that today. But we are relatively happy with where we are."
It might have been worse for Derbyshire had Leus du Plooy's unbeaten 39 not been supported with late-order runs from 20-year-old Conners on debut and Ravi Rampaul, the last two wickets adding 62. All out for 153 hardly felt like grounds for optimism, however.
More rain, perhaps torrential, is on the radar for Tuesday into Wednesday, another test for the groundstaff. The local forecast is that Lancashire may not need much playing time to register a fourth win of the season, although Reece landed a late counter-punch with the wicket of Jennings.