Derbyshire 147 for 8 (Godleman 34, Griffiths 4-35) beat Leicestershire 143 for 4 (Dearden 36*, Cohen 2-23) by four runs
Leicestershire Foxes suffered a setback in their bid to reach the quarter-finals of the Vitality Blast as Derbyshire Falcons pulled off a first victory of the season in a low-scoring North Group affair at the Fischer County Ground, Leicester.
Having restricted the Falcons to 147 for 8 from their 20-over allocation, seamer Gavin Griffiths taking a career-best 4 for 35, the Foxes fancied their chances of cementing their position as one of the third-placed sides chasing qualification, especially after defeat for Birmingham Bears in the Central Group earlier in the day.
But despite an unbroken stand of 68 for the fifth wicket between Harry Dearden and George Rhodes, building on a useful 32 on home debut from Nick Welch, the Foxes fell short of their target, some tight and intelligent death bowling from Dustin Melton and Michael Cohen pinned them down over the final three overs, when neither batsman could find the rope.
Having opted to bat first, the Falcons were 42 for 1 after the Powerplay overs, largely down to Wayne Madsen, who had made 26 of them off 16 deliveries but was almost out without scoring, backing away a little to a ball from Callum Parkinson, the left-arm spinner, that missed leg stump by a whisker and was given as four after evidently taking a deflection off the bat as it sped past wicketkeeper Lewis Hill. The same over had seen Luis Reece dismissed as Parkinson read the batsman’s intention to step down the pitch and turned the ball away from him to facilitate an easy stumping for Hill.
Madsen made the most of his good fortune with boundaries of a more authentic nature off Griffiths and Will Davis, including the night’s first maximum as he lofted the latter over long-on, and though a bowling change at both ends stemmed the flow of runs a little, Madsen looked well set at 33 off 22 balls in the 10th over when Billy Godleman’s poor decision to take a single as George Rhodes swooped to field at short extra gave his experienced colleague no chance to make his ground, leaving the Falcons 64 for 2 at the halfway stage.
It was a scratchy innings by Godleman, who loosened his arms to launch Parkinson over long-off in the 13th over but was out next ball as the left-armer beat him in flight and enabled a second stumping for Hill. Matt Critchley and Leus du Plooy kept the board turning over but at 101 for 3 after 15, Derbyshire needed to build some momentum to post a competitive score.
It did not help that Du Plooy, having helped one round the corner for his second boundary, was out to the second ball of the 16th over, his steepling drive dropping for Davis at long-on, and when leg-spinner Gareth Delany bowled Critchley in the next over the Falcons were looking at a relatively modest total, even though Anuj Dal announced his arrival with a six muscled over wide long-on.
A slower ball from Griffiths accounted for Dal at the start of the final over of the Falcons’ innings and after Alex Hughes swelled the total with six over the bowler’s head, new batsman Mattie McKearnan and Hughes were caught in the deep off the last two balls as Griffiths claimed three wickets in the over.
The Falcons’ 147 for 8 left the Foxes needing to score at 7.4 runs per over to register a third win of this truncated season, a rate of which they were quickly ahead as openers Delany and Nick Welch helped themselves to half a dozen boundaries in the first three overs. Welch, the 22-year-old Zimbabwean making his home senior debut, picked up two in the same over off his compatriot, Dustin Melton, and dispatched him for a towering six over deep mid-wicket, clearing the roof of The Meet.
But the left-armer Michael Cohen struck back for the Falcons, dismissing Delany via a swivel-pull scooped up at short fine by Hughes and Arron Lilley, whose uppercut turned into a catch taken low down by Melton at third man as the Foxes completed the Powerplay overs only marginally in front and with two important batsmen lost.
Colin Ackermann found his range immediately, lifting Matt Critchley’s leg spin for six over long and slog-sweeping four in the same over before repeating the feet in Critchley’s next. Welsh pulled Cohen to the rope and the Foxes seemed to be back on track until Hughes entered the attack to remove the threat of Ackermann, taken by wicketkeeper Brooke Guest standing up.
The Foxes had now slipped marginally behind the required rate at 72 for 3 after 10 and suffered another setback when Critchley produced a lovely ball to bowl Welch for 32, leaving Harry Dearden and George Rhodes with a rebuilding job.
Although the two found boundaries hard to come, they kept the total building with intelligent placement, yet entered the final five overs of the contest with still 42 required. Hughes and McKearnen, the other leg-spinner in the Falcons side, kept the pressure on and though the left-handed Dearden picked up a boundary off each the Foxes still required 20 from the last two overs, which came down to 10 off the final six balls.
It proved too much, Melton coming up with an excellent final over to leave the Foxes five short of their target. Rhodes could have won the match with a six off the last ball. He failed and although he was dropped in the attempt Derbyshire’s joy was not diminished.