Mullaly at full pace

Derbyshire 256 and 173 Leicestershire 357 and 73-1 Leics won by 9 wickets
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ALAN MULLALY has been telling his local newspaper that he is fighting fit for England. Anyone who saw him rip through Derbyshire yesterday morning could be penning a note to Raymond Illingworth this very moment.

Mullaly argues that he is among the quickest bowlers qualified for England and that, as he is 6ft 5in and bowls left arm, thus offering both bounce and a different angle, he should be preferred. After watching 14 overs of hostile fast bowling containing lift and movement - eight of which were maidens - for a return of six for 20, it must be said that he has an argument.

Critics would say that Mullaly's form is inconsistent - 28 Championship wickets last summer - and that he does owe some of his figures to the pacy Grace Road surface. What is known is that the chairman of selectors does prize sustained effort over most virtues and that Leicestershire's Southend-born Western Australian candidate may have to repeat this feat a few times before it registers in Pudsey.

Derbyshire, starting 20 runs ahead with eight wickets standing on a cool, grey morning, found themselves in deep trouble from the tenth over, when Mullaly had Kim Barnett caught at slip and Tom Harrison leg before with his first and fifth balls respectively. Six overs later, with Derbyshire now defensive, Dominic Cork was leg before, while Phil DeFreitas could not resist a hook and was caught behind.

Colin Wells, who had seen most of these disasters from the other end and who had made an eminently sensible 61 off 149 balls, was then unlucky to play on and, just as Mullaly's career best was being checked (seven for 72 against Gloucestershire), Vince Wells, winning surprising lift for a bowler of his pace, interrupted to have John Owen caught behind by substitute wicket-keeper Darren Maddy.

Wells then further foiled Mullaly by removing Allan Warner, but our hero finished the innings spectacularly by flattening Andrew Bairstow's leg stump.

So Leicestershire needed 73 to win and proceeded as carefully as a fisherman on thin ice. Derbyshire did bowl accurately, but their England trio of Malcolm, DeFreitas and Cork were unable to find the same level of aggression. Although the run rate rarely exceeded a run an over, death by slow strangulation comes to the same conclusion. Derbyshire did not use Devon Malcolm, but then his first innings figures were two for 100.