Having matched their tally of victories for the whole of 2001 by defeating Glamorgan in their opening Championship match, Derbyshire entertained hopes for a while yesterday that they could make this their best start to a season for 45 years by winning their second fixture as well. However, after the craft and bravery of the England Under-19 captain, Nicky Peng, had denied them a substantial first-innings lead, the balance of the match shifted so markedly in the closing session that Durham are now favourites for victory.
Derbyshire last won both of their first two fixtures in 1959, which is a surprising fact even for a county as used to lean times as they are. They might have to wait another year for the chance to do it again after their second innings collapsed yesterday evening, taking the contest in a much different direction to the one it had appeared to be following in the morning.
Derbyshire had Durham in trouble then, taking five wickets in the opening session. At 168 for 7, Durham's faltering reply to 263 all out pointed towards a sizeable home advantage.
It was denied them, however, by a superb century by the excellent Peng, who not only batted with considerable skill but no little courage too. A reminder that Durham's most exciting prospect is still only 19 caused momentary surprise. Continuing an innings that began late on Wednesday, Peng saw the left-armer Kevin Dean strike two blows in the first hour, cutting one back to have Paul Collingwood leg before, then removing Gordon Muchall with the help of a brilliant catch by Andrew Gait at gully.
However, after Andrew Pratt had lost his middle stump to Mohammed Bukhari, Peng may have seen very little for some moments after a short, fast delivery from Derbyshire's new recruit followed Peng's swaying head and made contact with some force, sending the batsman reeling. He was on 48 at the time, having made confident progress with some splendid shots among his seven boundaries, and it would have been a shame for it to have ended there.
Happily, it did not. After taking a few moments to regain his balance, Peng promptly completed his 50, gathered his senses fully over lunch, by which time Graeme Bridge and Neil Killeen, and re-emerged to play magnificently, scoring most of the 66 runs added to the total.
By the time Dominic Cork had him caught behind, the fourth of the Derbyshire captain's five wickets, Peng had batted for three-and-a-half hours to complete his second first-class hundred and a career-best 108, hitting 15 fours, including five in one over to finally see off Bukhari, whose 22-over spell had been full of hostility.
Mark Davies, only 21, deserves mention also for the 98 minutes he survived after the early loss of Steve Stubbings. A second-wicket partnership of 66 in 15 overs between Gait and Michael di Venuto extended Derbyshire's lead to 80 but the innings went downhill from there, the Durham seamers improving considerably on Wednesday's patchy effort to reduce the home side to 190 for 9 at the close.
There were four dropped catches, too, one of them put down by Peng in the slips, forcing him to leave the field in the third over, nursing a bruised hand.Reuse content