Cricket: `Engine room' rescues Derby

Leicestershire 343 & 81-4 Derbyshire 308
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CONDITIONS WERE perfect for batting here yesterday - a mild pitch and cloudless sky, not to mention a selection of below par bowlers - but not until Phil DeFreitas hit a wonderfully fluent hundred did Derbyshire make the most of them.

DeFreitas, timing the ball almost effortlessly from the start, reached three figures from only 106 balls with 17 fours and two sixes. He supervised a spirited piece of batting from Derbyshire's "engine room" which not only erased fears of following on but perhaps ought to have earned them some sort of a lead.

A careworn attack that was scarcely able to put two successive balls in the same place certainly invited it, but DeFreitas, far from mentally taking a fresh guard, could not change tempo and was caught on the mid- wicket boundary.

For all that it was an innings which clearly gave Derbyshire's morale a badly needed boost on a day when luck eluded one or two batsmen, notably Steve Stubbings and Steve Titchard, whose departures in quick succession led to a grim struggle against the pace of Michael Kasprowicz.

When you see DeFreitas bat like this, stroking the ball through the covers or driving it back over the bowler's head, you wonder why England no longer need him, at least in one-day cricket; then you discover that he has scored only 208 runs in his previous 12 Championship innings this season.

This indeed was only his second hundred for Derbyshire since 1994. Even allowing for his modus operandi there should have been many more, surely. Few batsmen strike the ball as cleanly. One of his sixes landed on the committee balcony - never a bad place to aim when you are batting against a former county.

When DeFreitas appeared, Derbyshire had only three wickets standing and still needed 50-odd to avoid following on for the second successive match after sending the opposition in. Lady Bracknell might have had something to say about that.

Karl Krikken played a selfless supporting role in contributing a 150- ball 60 to a partnership of 152 in 33 overs. The impact all this must have had on the dressing room was reflected in the lively new-ball bowling of Trevor Smith and Dominic Cork.

Smith, who had bowled with great heart in the first innings, dismissed Darren Maddy for the second time. Worryingly, Maddy seems not to be playing with his usual textbook straightness these days and he paid the price for playing across an outswinger.

Aftab Habib, with a certain amount of daylight showing between bat and body, played on to Smith and when Cork produced a good one for the benefit of Iain Sutcliffe and then prised out Vince Wells, Derbyshire ended the day somewhat better than they had started it.