Cricket: Malcolm blasts Derbyshire to top of the table

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The Independent Online
Derbyshire 341 and 377-8 dec Nottinghamshire 317 and 98 Derbyshire win by 303 runs

Sadly, there cannot be too many people still around who took part in the celebrations when Derbyshire won the County Championship for the only time in 1936. Their present supporters, who will include a sprinkling of the old, have every right now to hope for a second Championship after Derbyshire gained such a decisive victory over their neighbours and keen rivals Nottinghamshire.

Dean Jones' side are at the top of the table with barely a month to go and four more matches in front of them: they play Worcestershire at Chesterfield, Somerset at Taunton and Warwickshire and Durham at Derby. There are worse prospects than that.

The manner in which they disposed of Nottinghamshire was impressive. The enigmatic and currently irrepressible Devon Malcolm was inevitably the bowler who did the business, with Phillip DeFreitas as a lively and most willing accessory.

Chris Cairns had the impertinence to try to hook in Malcolm's first over and paid the penalty when the mishit stroke was clutched by Adrian Rollins on the square-leg boundary.

This acted as a sort of clearing of the throat for Malcolm, who proceeded to bounce in with his rhythm in full working order and blast Chris Tolley's off stump out of the ground with a ball he never saw, so much so that he left it alone.

This stunned DeFreitas, who immediately meted out similar treatment to the off stump of Kevin Evans, who also forgot to play a stroke. The odd push and a couple of edges took the score to 98 when Malcolm again grew impatient. Wayne Noon pushed hopefully from the crease at one which seemed to come back into him and Rollins dived like a gymnast to his right at short leg and held on.

It only remained for DeFreitas, in his next over, to find the edge of Mark Bowen's drive and Jones gleefully held a stinging catch two-handed to his right at third slip. As Paul Pollard was still unfit to bat after the blow he had on the helmet from Malcolm on Saturday, it was a short and most convincing day's work for Derbyshire.

It was appropriate that Jones should have held the last catch because it is, more than anything, the Australian influence which seems to have made the difference to Derbyshire this year. When Jones was first contacted about the job of captaining Derbyshire, he said he would only accept if he could bring his coach and friend, Les Stillman, with him.

Derbyshire agreed and it has been a happy and fruitful relationship. Jones has relished the challenge, he has batted well and as a captain his single most important act is to have given Malcolm back his self respect. I do not suppose any England captain or selector would want to have a talk with Jones, but Derby is not all that far away.

In 1936, Derbyshire were captained by Arthur Richardson. Wisden says of him that he captained the side with "a shrewdness and geniality which brought the best out of the cricketers under him." Jones would not be unhappy with that testimonial. At the moment, Derbyshire are a vibrant club and they will take some holding.