Chesney Hughes hit his first Derbyshire century in over two years as he shared on opening stand of 204 with Ben Slater, who also hit 95, as Derbyshire put themselves in position to push for victory on the final day against Northamptonshire.
Hughes and Slater’s mammoth stand set the platform for Derbyshire’s 407-5 declared with Wayne Madsen also adding a half century before setting Northants an unlikely 427 to win. In the eight overs that remained Mark Footitt removed Stephen Peters and Kyle Coetzer to leave Northants 40-2 at the close.
Hughes hasn’t scored a Championship century since his 270 against Yorkshire more than two years ago and came up in 249 balls with 13 fours. However he would fall, trapped LBW to Rob Keogh, the over after hitting the 270. Afterwards he admitted he was glad to end that barren patch and put the team in a position of command.
“I’m happy with that, proud of myself for the way I played and battled through the two tough years where runs were hard to come by,” he said. “To go out and play the way I did I’m pleased and put the team in a good position.
“The game was in the balance at that stage, we needed to bat and put ourselves in a good position so there was pressure and it was a case of soaking that up, thought 200 run partnership was enormous, we just wanted to get through the first 36 overs [last] night and see where we end up.
“It’s the ideal situation, give them eight overs to bat and see if
you can take a couple of wickets and we did just that so credit to Mark – he’s top class, he’s one of the best in the country so we almost expect that from him.”
Hughes and Slater had seen off the new ball with comfort on the second evening, and continued in the same cautious way for the majority of the morning adding 93 that saw two short stoppages for showers.
The pair brought up Derbyshire’s first 200 plus opening stand since Northants’ last trip to Derby in 2012, and two balls later Hughes reached three figures; despite appearing to be run out attempting a quick single with the umpire badly placed to make a decision.
Hughes would be Keogh’s only success in a marathon spell that saw the part-timer bowl 33 overs unchanged from the Racecourse end, starting shortly before lunch and only finishing when Derbyshire declared at 5.45.
Slater batted for over five hours but couldn’t follow Hughes to three figures however as his frustration eventually got the better of him, chasing a wide delivery from David Willey and edging behind.
Hashim Amla’s first appearance for Derbyshire ended with disappointed as Willey uprooted his off stump for only 20 to add to his first innings single.
As Derbyshire looked to up the pace, Scott Elstone also edged a wide Willey ball behind, the stand in captain finishing with 3-70, with Shiv Thakor scoring 28 from 25 balls before being bowled by Steven Crook.
Harvey Hosein joined Wayne Madsen in adding an unbeaten 68 before the declaration; Hosein with five boundaries and a six in his 46 while Madsen reached his half century shortly before pulling out.
Needing the highest fourth innings score in the county history to win, Northants’ reply got off to the worst possible start as Peters tamely chipped the first delivery from Footitt to midwicket, and four overs later Coetzer, who had already been dropped by Amla off Tom Taylor, nicked Footitt behind for 11.
Nightwatchman Mohammed Azharullah found the boundary four times in reaching 19 by the close, and will resume with Rob Newton on 8* as Northants require a further 387 to win on the final day. They will likely be without captain Alex Wakely who injured his hand fielding on the opening day.
Keogh had only previously bowled 88 overs in 22 First Class matches and admitted it was a tough day for his side’s bowlers, but with a deep batting line-up has confidence they can either secure a draw or an unlikely win.
“I think I’ll sleep well tonight,” he said. “The pitch started
to spin so I knew I was going to be bowling some overs, wasn’t
expecting that many on the bounce though.
“It was very tough for the seamers, wasn’t much movement very slow and low, just knew after the first hour our job was to try and restrict them as much as possible and try and keep them to as low a run rate as possible to make our job easier.
“Looking at our batting order we bat all the way down, missing Al
[Wakely] unfortunately which is going to be a struggle for us, but they showed, they scored nicely and freely and if we dig deep I’m sure we can try and pull through.”