Barnett basks in title tilt

Derbyshire 341 and 377-8 dec Nottinghamshire 317 and 72-4
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The Independent Online
This attritional match is sustaining Derbyshire's Championship ambitions. Joint fourth, they exploited the game's best batting conditions to set lowly Nottinghamshire 402 for victory from a minimum of 115 overs. It would have been more but for Andy Afford's worthy six for 87 in 33.5 overs. Even though the left-arm spinner had three victims caught on the heave at square-leg, it did not detract from his perseverance.

Nottinghamshire finished distinctly on the back foot. Devon Malcolm bowled Tim Robinson, Paul Pollard was struck on the helmet and retired hurt, Paul Johnson was dismissed for a duck, and Ashley Metcalfe and Usman Afzaal swiftly followed.

While runs already stacked away cheered Derbyshire (Kim Barnett and Chris Adams both made hundreds), their Trentside neighbours, with an albeit excessive staff of 28, recently pruned to 25, have produced precious little this summer. They are next to bottom of both the county and second XI championship tables and a further clear-out is inevitable at the end of the season. Over the years, Nottinghamshire have had the drop on Derbyshire with 58 wins to 40 in this fixture but the dourness of these contests is illustrated by 86 draws, Derbyshire's highest number against any opponents.

This game was unlikely to have any frills against this backcloth. Thrills, aplenty, as Barnett and Adams shared a secondwicket partnership of 177 in 45 overs as Nottinghamshire looked in vain for a stand-splitter. A half-century from Tim O'Gorman caused them more anguish.

Chris Tolley, along with Metcalfe another curious winter signing, even operated with an embarrassing long-off for Adams and then dispensed with the solitary slip to conserve runs. At 28, Tolley, medium fast, and Metcalfe, a batsman four years older, represent Nottinghamshire's investment in the past, rather than the future.

Until Adams and Barnett perished in pursuit of a quicker tempo, Nottinghamshire's solitary and muted success was dismissing Matthew Vandrau, the nightwatchman. Adams hit Tolley for six over extra-cover and also struck 17 fours from 118 balls in his fifth first-class century of the summer. Barnett had waited patiently for his second, despite interim 90s against Surrey and Lancashire. Derbyshire players have now amassed 17 individual first-class hundreds as they seek only their second championship title, and that after a 60-year wait.

Nothing comes easily at the top, especially in matches between geographically adjacent counties. A few on-field words have been exchanged with the Antipodean tones of Dean Jones and Chris Cairns notably audible. Bob White, the umpire, has probably heard it all before. In his Nottinghamshire off-spinning days under Sir Gary Sobers' captaincy, this corresponding fixture was played at Ilkeston. They are now threatened with a fifth consecutive championship defeat while Derbyshire target a fifth win in seven games, confirming that they are no longer the poor relations.

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