Essex's Graham Napier doesn't have the look at first sight of the archetype fast bowler but he changed the complexion of the first day's play at Chesterfield in the space of 31 balls immediately after tea
Essex's Graham Napier doesn't have the look at first sight of the archetype fast bowler. He's well under six feet tall, but his upper body is strong, he has legs like tree trunks, and his relatively short run up bristles with intent. He changed the complexion of the first day's play at Chesterfield in the space of 31 balls immediately after tea, then finished off the innings with the new ball.
In his devastating spell after the interval he was clearly on a mission to bowl fast and short and put an end to Derbyshire's resistance, which had prevented the loss of any wickets in the afternoon session.
In the first over after tea he hospitalised Wes Durston with a short ball that smacked the side of the batsman's helmet with an impact that resounded around the ground. Two balls later another quick one had Alex Hughes edging to wicketkeeper James Foster. Then he got the crucial scalp, Derbyshire captain Wayne Madsen caught behind for an excellent 90. Shortly afterwards David Wainwright steered a Napier delivery directly to gully, and the impetus was firmly back with Essex.
It had been a tough week and a bit for Derbyshire. Two key players and two others had departed in short time. Tim Groenewald had gone on loan for the rest of the season to Somerset, and leading Championship scorer Stephen Moore summarily retired from first-class cricket. Only Leicestershire stand below them in the County Championship.
Essex, by contrast, came here on the back of a ten wicket crushing of Gloucestershire at Chelmsford last week, where Jesse Ryder and Ravi Bopara both scored hundreds, and Reece Topley took seven wickets in the match.
Derbyshire won the toss and batted on a pitch that had more than a little green about it. Tom Moore, playing in only his fourth first-class match after a recommendation from his club captain at Brentwood, had Paul Borrington gloving down the leg side, then trapped Ben Slater on the crease. Shivnarine Chanderpaul, returning from Test match duty, offered optimism to Derbyshire after the recent departures, but lasted only 23 balls before a Reece Topley delivery struck him just above his boot.
This brought together Wayne Madsen and Wes Durston, who were to put on 146 together in 37 overs and stay undefeated throughout the afternoon session. Durston was playing his first Championship match since April but he looked composed and untroubled as he compiled his innings of 74. He reached his first fifty in eleven innings with a towering six over wide midwicket. Madsen batted for a couple of minutes under three hours and his 90 contained twelve boundaries.
Essex skipper James Foster was reluctant to deploy a third man, and 69 of Derbyshire's runs came in that area, 48 of them in boundaries. Madsen and Durston took their side into the tea interval with plenty of cause to be optimistic, but then Napier tucked into them. Once Durston had retired hurt, the remaining six wickets fell for 49 runs. When Tom Taylor edged Napier to James Foster the Essex captain had his fifth victim in the innings, following the nine he snaffled in the match against Gloucestershire last week. He doesn't miss a thing.
Essex had eleven overs to negotiate in the evening and lost Tom Westley when he middled a ball from Mark Footitt into the chest of Ben Slater at short leg and Slater managed to grab the rebound. But thanks to Napier's shift an hour earlier, the visitors ended the day well set.