Football: Derby take to the slow road

Derbyshire 355 and 130-5 Somerset 361

DERBYSHIRE HAVE surprised a good many people, themselves probably included, with some of their performances in the County Championship this season; but the magic proved elusive yesterday and, as a result, much remains to be done to deny Somerset victory here today.

Not everything has gone according to plan for anybody in this match. For instance, on a close cropped pitch designed to help the slower bowlers, no spinner has taken any of the 25 wickets to fall so far.

For all that, the pitch appears to be getting slower and lower, and Somerset's game plan, built around a typically disciplined century by Peter Bowler, was no doubt based on leaving themselves as little as possible to do in the fourth innings.

It never quite came to fruition. While Bowler dropped anchor for a chance- less 414 minutes in the obdurate way that used to endear him to the locals as a Derbyshire opener, Michael Burns made a purposeful 72 and Rob Turner a sensible 45, but no-one else kept Bowler company for long.

The ball, when it turned at all, did so only slowly for the two relatively inexperienced spinners, Ian Blackwell and Simon Lacey. Batsmen were usually able to adjust comfortably. But, by bowling 62 overs between them for only 132 runs, this pair did a valuable job for their side.

So, too, did the two medium fast bowlers Paul Aldred and Andrew Harris, who are both currently playing probably with more than half an eye on their future in the game. Deservedly they picked up five wickets apiece, and their ability to move the old ball around, plus the pitch's lack of pace, probably influenced Derbyshire into not claiming a new one.

Aldred, perhaps helped by a change of pace as well as movement, plucked a high return catch from over his head from Turner. Importantly, he then won a leg-before decision against Bowler, who had faced 373 balls and hit 18 fours and a six with few moments of worry. Somerset looked vulnerable at both ends after that.

But so, too, did Derbyshire. Michael Slater is going through one of those spells in which every mistake (and not only his) proves crucial. He was well caught at slip trying to pull a ball from Andrew Caddick that was too straight for the stroke and bounced into the bargain.

Matt Bulbeck's late movement caught Adrian Rollins flat footed on the crease and Steve Titchard contributed something of a collector's item when he offered no stroke to Keith Parsons and lost not his off but his leg stump. Paul Jarvis, dealing in swinging yorkers, posed major problems at the other end and Blackwell and Karl Krikken were relieved to get through unscathed.

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