For a County whose dressing-room has been described as a "vipers' nest", Derbyshire proved themselves to be misrepresented: more scorpions than snakes, with a sting in the tail that left David Byas's team smarting, red-faced and frustrated until they came to bat at Headingley yesterday.
All the winter speculation that the Peakites would be sundered by the desertion of so many senior players has been proved mistaken by a bright start in far from helpful conditions. Yesterday began as gloomily. "Oh, oh," said an Ilkeston man when he heard that Byas had won the toss on a bleak, grey morning and saw Darren Gough rolling his shoulders and fondling a new ball.
But, by tea, when the first glimmer of a blue sky had appeared, a nadir of 79 for 5 had been transformed to a healthy 237 for 8 and grumbles about the pitch had subsided.
Neither side can show a full cast: Yorkshire are still without Chris Silverwood, Anthony McGrath, Paul Hutchison and Richard Harden and, with an England training camp due next week, which will cause the loss of their contracted trio of Gough, Craig White and Michael Vaughan, fitness reports are scanned daily. Derbyshire are without their captain and leading all-rounder, Dominic Cork, who has a gashed knee.
All began as every Tyke on the ground - and there were more than might have been expected in such a cold north wind - hoped, with Matthew Hoggard, all bristling aggression, taking advantage of some variable bounce from the Grandstand End to shoot out the top three for 17 runs in six overs. Michael Di Venuto's response was Tasmanian and tigerish, successive off drives for four, another boundary from a cut, followed by a flashing cut for six, all off Gough.
The Dazzler, looker trimmer than in South Africa, did not have a good day although he might have had two wickets had mid-on been a little sharper and had not Alan Whitehead no-balled a smacking delivery that brought a swift slip catch.
Derbyshire's recovery began when their vice-captain Karl Krikken, mostly content to nick and nudge, joined Di Venuto, the 51 coming off the next 14 overs was a major improvement. The Australian's departure, just after lunch, was a surprise, a simple slip catch after a cracking 70 off 88 balls including a second six, a pull off Gavin Hamilton. In the circumstances he thoroughly deserved three figures.
By then the ball was behaving more predictably, the shine had gone and Yorkshire lost their rag, and their length, as Derbyshire's tail, in the traditional manner of this fixture, offered a few fingered salutes from behind their ramparts. Krikken and Paul Aldred raised 62 in 25 overs, Tim Munton and Trevor Smith were equally obstructive and it needed Craig White, in one over after tea, aided by the ubiquitous Richard Blakey, to find the right length to finish them off.
Yorkshire have no regular opening pair but Byas and Michael Vaughan gave a passable imitation, the latter playing the day's smoothest shots as they cantered along at just over three an over in poor light. Derbyshire's new-found spirit will be most tested when the pitches dry and level out.
Apologies to readers expecting to hear of bribes and betting. All we had here was a good day's county cricket.
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