White leads short charge

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The Independent Online

The good news from Derby was that play began at 1.00pm; it was hardly news at all when it stopped 85 minutes later. The rainfall was light enough for the players to walk off. Karl Krikken, Derby's wicketkeeper, was deep in conversation with Don Shepherd. They had plenty to discuss: Krikken had broken the wicket five times as Yorkshire's batsmen groped forward, and each time the umpire had given them not out.

It was a rare privilege to have seen any play at all in what is, with eight days left, the wettest April on record. At 11.00am, the covers were already being rolled back. The clouds were fairly high; there was no wind in the bare black poplars that ring the County Ground in Derby; there were even a few spectators around.

There were no leaves on the trees, of course. Right now, it seems like a good idea to rule that first-class cricket should not begin until there are proper leaves on proper trees, except that there have been recent Aprils in which hardly a day's play would have been lost.

Yesterday, Derby's luck seemed to be holding. They have completed two of their three matches so far and head the northern qualifying group of the Benson & Hedges by a point. Now Dominic Cork won the toss and sent Yorkshire in on a drying wicket.

Cork was appealing exuberantly from the outset. Tim Munton, formerly of Warwickshire, got David Byas caught at second slip off his second ball; he is an old fox and decided to concentrate on line and length.

Krikken stood up, and was soon making the first of his stumping appeals with Richard Blakey at the crease. Krikken is an unusual figure in this Derbyshire team. After 13 players left the squad last winter, four of the first team are still at the stage of making introductions. Krikken, aged 31, has been in place for more than a decade and is Cork's vice captain. He deserved better yesterday.

Yorkshire seemed to be in trouble, but Craig White and Blakey survived the appeals, and put on 74 before Blakey groped and missed, and was bowled by Paul Aldred. Then the rain came, and got heavier, then stormed, and the puddles it left in the outfield meant another abandonment.

Derby are the strongest contender for a place in the quarter-finals, but qualifying for the Benson & Hedges Cup this spring depends not on skill, but on the stars.

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