Derby keep title in sight

Cricket: Worcestershire 238 & 303 Derbyshire 471 & 71-1 Derbyshire won by 9 wickets
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Free admission on a potentially short day tempted fate for Derbyshire but their tilt at the title was duly sustained. A thousand or so spectators wandered around, as liberated as the Queen's Park wild fowl, but the century maker Reuben Spiring and Steve Rhodes fettered Derbyshire's attack.

It took almost three and a quarter hours to capture the final four Worcestershire wickets, Richard Illingworth being unable to bat because of a broken finger. Derbyshire, with a mixture of relief and elation, ran up the runs needed for their seventh win in nine games from 10.3 overs.

This was their first Championship victory over Worcestershire in 11 years, thus ending their leanest present run against any team. Winning at Chesterfield was also a novel experience, with only one success in the 10 previous first-class games here.

A pitch growing increasingly flat made Derbyshire appreciate the excellence of the three catches which dismissed Tom Moody, Graeme Hick and Vikram Solanki on the previous evening.

High-class fielding has helped to elevate Derbyshire into the top three with the wicketkeeper Karl Krikken setting lofty standards. Spiring was still dropped twice, on 19 by Dean Jones at first slip on Friday evening, and on 84, by Phil DeFreitas, at short backward square leg off Dominic Cork.

Crikken's athleticism was again in demand because Derbyshire's much- vaunted seam bowlers were wayward and frustrated during the fifth-wicket stand of 146 in 39 overs.

When Spiring straight drove back to Andrew Harris, the bowler shied wildly at the batsman's stumps, the throw deflecting off Harris's pads to the third man boundary.

Ball rarely beat bat during Spiring's plucky partnership with Rhodes, which prevented an innings defeat. A flurry of 21 fours swept Spiring beyond 100 for the third time this season. Rhodes completed 10,000 first- class runs for his county and Devon Malcolm achieved his 500th wicket for Derbyshire, who lost their happy knack of evicting the opposing tail.

With Jones off the field suffering from bruised ribs, DeFreitas used himself as an off-spinner after lunch. Two wickets rewarded his experiment, in a return of four for 70.