Derbyshire28 for 0 trail Middlesex 251 (Pettman 3-40) by 223 runs
If you walk westwards down Saltergate out of Chesterfield town centre, your attention will almost certainly be drawn towards two huge white statues that stand in front of an otherwise unprepossessing red-brick building. The offices within accommodate a firm of solicitors but the inscriptions on the statues’ plinths make it plain that it has not always been so.
Both of them pay tribute to former officials of the Derbyshire Miners Association, William Edward Harvey and James Haslam, each of whom served the organisation for over thirty years around the turn of the 20th century. Fittingly, the statues are smeared black but their moustachioed subjects are wearing fine frock coats and they sport watch chains, like badges of affluence, across their waistcoats. Ozymandias could not radiate a greater air of entitlement than these relics of Chesterfield’s industrial past.
Does some similar indignity lurk in the shadows for first-class county cricket?
It seemed foolish to think so this perfect June morning when Queen’s Park was hosting its 409th red-ball game and some of the trees that witnessed the first in 1898 threshed in the playful breeze…
…And absurd again when over thirty former Derbyshire cricketers turned up to watch the opening day of this match, their eyes bright and their handshakes firm as they revisited old battles on this famous field and met some of the current team…
Both Pettman and Watt made their Championship debuts today and both have had to wait their turn while also being a trifle uncertain whether it would ever come. Watt has played four first-class games for Scotland but has also been seen as a shorter-form specialist. So one could understand his glee just before lunch when he turned one past the middle of Stephen Eskinazi’s bat and it brushed the outside edge en route to the off stump. Some four hours later he added Hollman’s wicket to his bag.
Pettman, by slight contrast, came into this game with 33 first-class wickets on his CV but all were taken when he was at Oxford University, where he gained a double-first in Classics and you don’t get those with Nectar points. However, it was his seam bowling that caught the eye of the Nottinghamshire coaches and he is in the middle of his second one-year deal at Trent Bridge.
A short loan spell at Derbyshire offered him a perfect opportunity to play some Championship cricket and he had both openers dropped in his first seven overs from the Lake End. Having conceded just 11 runs in that spell, he took his first wicket just after lunch when Max Holden’s authentic leg-glance was caught by Brooke Guest, and Pettman then removed both Thilan Walallawita and Tim Murtagh to end Middlesex’s innings just after the visitors had picked up their second bonus point.
Of course, Watt and Pettman had help. Luis Reece took the first of his two wickets when he swung one back in to Sam Robson, and Anuj Dal’s 15 overs for a mere 13 runs also included the wickets of Mark Stoneman, taken at slip by Madsen for 37, and Robbie White caught behind for 26. The accuracy of Billy Godleman’s bowlers compounded Middlesex’s difficulties on a wicket we thought testing until we saw Masood make 27 not out on it. And as outfields are mown and pitches are covered across England spectators in Chesterfield can reflect on a day that two young Derbyshire bowlers, one seam, one spin, will also not forget.
You see, the fundamental point about Pettman and Watt is that they have both needed time to develop their contrasting skills and no-one can yet be sure where their cricket will take them. What’s more, there are other players on both these sides in similar situations. Their destinations might not include the game’s gaudy palaces; Pettman might vote now and again but that’s as near to a franchise as he’s likely to get. But their careers and their contributions will be all the greater for their experience of first-class county cricket and this is a privilege it seems some would deny them.
Most of those crowding the bank to the left of the pavilion or ringing the boundary at Queens Park today believe young cricketers should get opportunities to see what they can achieve in the game; Kevin Pietersen reckons they should get jobs in call centres. But then it was Ranji over a century ago who observed that some men “grow grey in the service of the game and are astonishingly ignorant about it.”
All the same, this day was not about Ranji or Pietersen and it was not even about the old boys in their chocolate, amber and pale blue ties enjoying the hospitality in the marquee adjoining the press tent. County cricket is not a branch of the heritage industry and never should be. This day was about opportunity and how precious it is to young players like Hollman and White. Such things lie above nostalgia and even the warmth of reminiscence. They turn statues back into blocks of stone.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications