Come the 21st of September 2019, the cricket quiz question “Who are the only County side to not reach T20 finals day?” will become obsolete as all 18 counties have now made it to the showpiece event.
Derbyshire, after 17 attempts have finally joined the rest.
They have come close before, having lost twice in the quarter-finals – once in 2005 when they lost to Lancashire and two years ago, being vanquished by a Shahid Afridi inspired Hampshire side.
2019 was different, though. Defeating Gloucestershire in the last eight and putting smiles on the players, officials and supporters of Derbyshire, smiles that are yet to be wiped off.
Derbyshire have a small squad, only using 13 players in the whole group stage, but they have been a 13 who have played for each other, lead well by Dominic Cork, a proven winner brought in as T20 Coach at the start of the season.
He made some big calls, like making Billy Godleman captain. Godleman captains in First Class and 50 over cricket, but has previously not been in charge in T20 cricket.
He also brought in Keeper Daryn Smit from captaining the seconds, recognising that in T20 your best pure keeper can make a difference – and make a difference he has, taking some spectacular catches and affecting excellent stumpings and run outs.
Smit wasn’t the only surprise in the Derbyshire squad. Darren Stevens was brought in on loan from Kent and Derbyshire old boy Boyd Rankin was brought in as a second overseas signing.
Neither have had the impact they expected or wanted, but they have experience of winning the competition and have both played their part in the side reaching finals day.
On finals day they will face Essex Eagles in the second semi final. Essex finished fourth in the South Group but they beat Lancashire, the North Group toppers, in the chill night air of Durham – proving positions in the table mean little when it is a one-off game.
It has truly been a team effort for Derbyshire in reaching finals day, with everyone contributing. It has been the top four batsmen, whoever, who have proved key for the Falcons in this campaign.
Godleman, Luis Reece, Wayne Madsen and Leus du Plooy have contributed exactly 1500 runs between them, including 14 half centuries and many match winning performances.
Derbyshire’s key men with the ball are very much Yin and Yang. One, the veteran seamer Ravi Rampaul, has rolled back the years this summer taking 22 wickets with his pace and aggression, the most by a Derbyshire player in a T20 campaign. The other is Matt Critchley who, with his ever improving leg spin, has taken 17 wickets, using flight and guile to tie up the middle overs.
Both bowlers have not only taken wickets, but have also bowled economically, with both their economy rates being under seven for the season.
Road to Finals Day
When Derbyshire lost to Leicestershire, being bowled out for just 94, the odds of them reaching Finals Day were similar to me beating Usain Bolt in the 100m sprint.
They looked all at sea and sinking fast. Instead of sinking though, they used that result as a catalyst and went and won their last three matches, including an impressive away victory at Lancashire to qualify in third place, level on points with Notts in second.
In qualifying the Falcolns did the double over Yorkshire and beat Worcestershire, who have also qualified for finals day. They finished with 7 wins, 5 losses and 2 games abandoned due to rain.
Record on Finals Day
The monkey is off their back! It’s the Falcons’ first time there but they aren’t just happy to be there, they want to do what Worcestershire did last season – win the tournament on their first appearance and take the trophy back to Derby.
Derbyshire have 2 overseas players. In Logan Van Beek, they have a wholehearted right-arm fast bowler who has grown into his role as the season has gone on. He bowls a heavy ball and hits the bat hard, and will usually bowl an over in the powerplay. Expect him to have an impact on Saturday.
The other is Irishman Boyd Rankin, brought in part way through the campaign and as yet has struggled to make an impact. I would be very surprised if he plays on finals day. The bowlers who have got them there will likely be given the chance to win two more games.
Squad Prediction: Billy Godleman, Luis Reece, Wayne Madsen, Leus Du Plooy, Alex Hughes, Matt Critchley, Fynn Hudson-Prentice, Anuj Dal, Daryn Smit, Logan Van Beek, Ravi Rampaul will be the 11 then expect Darren Stevens and Boyd Rankin to travel, and maybe Mattie McKiernan and/or Hamidullah Qadri, too.