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Happy to end long wait for silverware

Posted in Domestic Cricket

Wes Durston

Wes Durston had plenty to celebrate as Derbyshire won the Division Two title

Division Two champions!

It still hasn’t quite sunk it but nothing can change what has happened this summer as Derbyshire won their first bit of silverware for nearly 20 years in a tense but exciting final day.

For the last two months after our disappointing T20 campaign, all I’d been thinking about is the championship table and how we were going to get over the line.

Our fast start in the championship meant that we were for a long time in a very strong position in the table, but that counts for nothing in August.

We knew we had to regain our form and momentum if we were going to make history. We’ve seen it in recent seasons happen to others and we were a hair’s breadth away from doing it ourselves.

Although we were in a very strong position, we knew we had a very tough run in against teams near us in the table - meaning, if we didn’t get our act together, teams who could get on a good run were going to eat into the points deficit very quickly, as it proved.

For a number of games, we seemed to struggle to get first-innings runs which meant that we constantly had to play catch up.

Our bowlers kept us in lots of matches, but, unfortunately, we weren't scoring the runs to win those.

The best thing about those situations, however, was that we were fighting very hard in order not to lose them. This showed our strength in depth as our lower-order batsmen were battling in order to get past follow-on scores and picking up the odd batting point.

A massive win along our way was our victory against Kent at Derby. For almost two and half days in that game, we were way behind and I remember giving an interview for the Derby Telegraph saying we'd need a minor miracle in order to get anything out of that game.

Tony Palladino provided that performance taking seven wickets in the third innings, reducing Kent to about 160 all out; this gave us a tough but not insurmountable victory target of 250.

The batsman stepped up with the top five all making vital contributions, especially Dan Redfern pairing up with our number 10 Tim Groenewald in seeing us home - which gave us an incredible victory.

It dented Kent’s hopes but more than that hopefully showed the rest of the division that we had good bottle and meant business.

From there, though, we didn’t kick on and escaped with two draws in our next two games. We also had to watch as other matches were being ‘set-up’, allowing our rivals to make up more ground on us.

Usman Khawaja & Ross Whiteley

Usman Khawaja and Ross Whiteley were at the crease when Derbyshire sealed their place in the top-flight - a moment Durston won't forget in a hurry

Those types of matches have been common place and we, too, have been part of them in order to rise up the table in the past, but I guess this year was different because we had the points on the board from very early on in the season.

That said, however, it was frustrating. Yet it meant with two rounds of matches remaining it was very much all to play for with four teams having a strong chance off winnings the division.

Yorkshire were playing their best cricket at this point and we weren’t; it felt like we were running on sand, especially when we lost to Kent, making things very tight with one game remaining.

It came down to a straight one-off match versus Hampshire at Derby. They were out of the championship race but that made them more dangerous as the pressure was off and they could just play freestyle cricket, knowing they had the CB40 final straight after that match.

Kent and Yorkshire were behind us but close enough to make it all very exciting (for the spectators).

After two days we had played pretty well but we were conscious of the fact that Yorkshire were in a strong position against Essex in their match.

But, on that day, Robert Croft and his team-mates did us a huge favour by ripping Kent out, thus, ending their chances of promotion.

It was a great but strange feeling arriving for the final day of the season having already secured promotion. That in itself was amazing but we were desperate to win the trophy so it still hadn't felt like we hadn't achieved anything, yet!

At the start of play on the final day, Hampshire had a lead of roughly 150 with four wickets remaining. We knew it wouldn't be easy but all we'd worked hard for all season was there for the taking.

If we could get the remaining wickets and knock off the deficit then we'd be champions of Division Two. We felt a chase of 200 was achievable but anything more would be seriously hard work, especially with their attack and avoiding any weather.

Yorkshire were not going to let us just draw to win either, and they had their match sewn up by mid-afternoon. We then knew only one result would see us as winners.

That day became a bit of a blur (but not as much as the night) - though certain things will live long in my memory. Paul Borrington's catch to claim the first wicket of the morning was special, Usman Khawaja’s mature unbeaten knock to see us home was vital and also Ross Whiteley's five sixes took our run tally down very quickly in the end.

It all meant that, in front of our home crowd on the final day of the season, we pipped Yorkshire to the title by virtue of winning the most matches with both teams’ final points total the same on 194.

It has been a memorable season with claiming promotion and the Division Two title, and it has come from excellent preparation in the off-season with a very productive winter tour that set us up for our early-season form and just about continuing that until late September.

But, without getting carried away, we know that our white-ball form again was too inconsistent and erratic to progress to the latter rounds, and going up into Division One for 2013, it’s going to be a huge step up and we are going to have to face our challenges head on next year.

But, until we report back, we are going to enjoy this moment and always be able to look back fondly at what we achieved this season.