Chesney Hughes hit an unbeaten century, whilst Derbyshire captain Billy Godleman made 94 as the final day of the match against Northamptonshire petered out into a predictable draw, the ninth in 11 Championship matches played at Wantage Road.
Richard Levi completed his century on the fourth morning before Northants were bowled out for 470, but despite a lead of 146 they couldn’t get near to forcing a result as Hughes and Godleman shared an opening stand of 215. Derbyshire finished 229-1.
The only two results at Wantage Road in the last 11 have been inside three days on green seamers, and head coach David Ripley said they were reluctant to produce similar pitches with the new toss rules dictating they will have to bat first.
With Wantage Road lacking natural pace and bounce, it has meant two pitches offering little assistance for the bowlers so far this season, a theme seemingly developing across the country, and Ripley said there was a concern pitches could go too far in the opposite direction.
“I think that is a danger. I’m sure everyone is thinking the same as we are, that you want a good balance between bat and ball,” he said. “We’re certainly liaising with the ground staff, who are working hard to put in what sometimes we haven’t got naturally which is pace and bounce in these wickets without leaving green grass on.
“If you leave the green grass on it and with the rules as they are we’ll end up batting first which is a difficult tactic to take on.
“It’s still early and I guess pace will come when pitches harden up a bit, we’ve got options of leaving a bit more grass on or making it particularly dry, so we’ve got other things we’ll try but it’s a bit of work in progress, you need the raw materials in terms of pace and bounce and that is hard for us to get.
“It is encouraging a bit of spin, more runs are being scored and games are lasting four days so that is a positive, but I think we still need a better balance between bat and ball than we are getting around the county circuit at the moment.
“I think it’s early season; no-one wants to get marooned with defeats. You want to feel your way into the season.
“If they stay flat what I think we will see as we go through the season is people declaring behind and some good last day run chases like we used to see in old three day cricket.”
The final day’s action at Wantage Road saw little of note as Hughes and Godleman progressed their stand with few alarms. However, just when the contest looked to be petering out to a draw, there was a major moment of controversy surrounding the Derbyshire captain.
Godleman drove Steven Crook out to Jake Libby on the cover boundary, the fielder appearing to take a low but clean catch, only for Godleman to stand his ground. A huge debate followed, with Northants adamant it had carried but after discussion with the umpires he was allowed to remain.
The decision left a bitter taste, however Libby did enjoy the last laugh. With Godleman looking certain to follow Hughes to three figures, he stepped on his own stumps off the bowling of the on-loan Nottinghamshire man, whilst Hughes almost gave wicketkeeper Ben Duckett a maiden first class wicket, only for Azharullah to drop a slip catch from what proved to be the final delivery.
Reflecting on the situation Ripley felt it could set a dangerous precedent, and was one the umpires could have handled better with a clear decision instead of what turned into a lengthy debate.
“I thought it was out. If you’re caught on the boundary 80 yards away it’s a difficult precedent to set to stand there, it looked a clean catch to me.
“Perhaps the umpires just needed to nip it in the bud and give him out, which is what I personally would have done.
“It’s effectively saying our lads were cheating so that’s going to lead to a bit of ill feeling. There was nothing in the game; it was done and dusted as a draw. Billy had got 60, it’s not like he was on naught or they were eight or nine down.”
Derbyshire coach Graeme Welch added: “It’s up to the umpires – they should have made the decision quicker I think. It ended up a bit like football with players crowded around the umpires.”
For Northamptonshire the draw saw them get back on track following the crushing innings defeat at Chelmsford last week and, despite that result, Ripley is positive about his sides position, with injured players such as Olly Stone and Rob Keogh set to return to the side for the trip to Leicestershire starting on Sunday.
“Our first game we set it up, got 500 on the board at home. Sussex would have been under pressure and we didn’t get the chance to live that out. We were poor at Chelmsford, but we’ve had more points here so we feel we’re in reasonable shape.
“It would be nice to feel we’ve really dominated a game and won a game. Everyone’s looking for that first win, but wins are harder to come by given the surfaces we’re playing on.
“When you get an opportunity that’s the key, if the door’s open for you in a four day game you’ve really got to make the most of it so we’ll go to Leicester and hopefully set up that opportunity.”
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