If there was an opportunity for Surrey to cast aside their woes as another season of underachievement beckons, it was in this match, particularly with Ricky Ponting on hand to add some quality and know-how to the mix.
Yet they have their work cut out even to escape with a draw. Derbyshire may find themselves cast as the whipping boys of the First Division but they are a stubborn bunch, determined to make this a learning experience that actually counts for something.
So it was that they batted on from 232 for 2 overnight to almost double that score, building handsomely on Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s Thursday century. It was revealed that the Guyanese had been labouring with a heavy cold for most of his innings and he looked less at ease yesterday morning. But no matter, Wayne Madsen looked in rude health, outscoring Chanderpaul, who succumbed for 129 when a short ball from Stuart Meaker took his glove and looped to Ponting in the gully.
Madsen went on to reach 152, scoring with impressive fluency, hitting 17 boundaries. As Surrey’s bowlers failed again to bowl testing lines frequently enough to build pressure, he looked comfortable enough to have gone on, perhaps threatening even to make a double hundred for the second time in his career. He was furious with himself when Meaker beat his drive with a ball angled in that took his off stump.
It left Derbyshire facing a difficult moment, 336 for 6 having been 294 for 2. Would they now fall away, allowing Surrey to limit the damage? The answer was provided by their wicketkeeper Richard Johnson, whose 72, equalling his career-best, took them to 452, aided by some stout support from a long tail. In its own way, it was a knock as significant as the two that preceded it in reaffirming Derbyshire’s sense of self-worth.
Johnson was last to fall, caught at first slip off Chris Tremlett, who will have done his own confidence some good by finishing with five wickets, the first time he has done so for Surrey and the first time for anyone since he took 6 for 48 for England against Sri Lanka in 2011.