Billy Godleman ton leads good day for Derbyshire batsmen against Middlesex

Derbyshire 372 for 4 (Godleman 102, Hudson-Prentice 99, Reece 96, du Plooy 50) v Middlesex

Middlesex’s decision to forego the toss and bowl might have looked the logical route to follow given the colour of the pitch here. Instead, it exposed their bowlers to a day of mostly unrewarding toil on a slow surface that offered them little apart from the slightly unreal experience of watching Billy Godleman, once a Middlesex player, compile a 115-ball hundred.

By his own confession, Godleman’s default approach in red-ball cricket, for the most part, in a career that had him tipped to play at the highest level in his formative years at Lord’s, has been based on survival first.

This is the Godleman who went back to Lord’s in only his second match as a Derbyshire player in 2013, opened the batting on day one against his former employers and took 244 balls to reach fifty, the slowest in the history of the County Championship, allowing himself the liberty of just one boundary. He is not quite so conservative these days, yet still hardly a dasher.

So it must have been quite an eye-opener for the likes of Steven Finn and Dawid Malan as Godleman took it upon himself to throw caution to the wind and attack the new ball in a way that had seasoned followers of the Derbyshire captain scratching their heads to recall anything quite like it.

Wielding the bat in a way that suggested he had woken convinced that the day would be his, even the fact that his first boundary almost took out his stumps off an inside edge and the second flew over the slips did not alter his mood. At one point, to general consternation, he went down the pitch to Toby Roland-Jones and belted the ball over long-off for six.

This time he reached his half-century in 35 deliveries, which a check through his career record confirmed was unprecedented, as everyone watching suspected.

He should have then been out almost immediately, dropped at backward point by Steve Eskinazi without adding to the 51 he had scored up to that moment. It was the leg-spinner Nathan Sowter’s first over and the chance could not have been more straightforward.

Now Godleman became a little more watchful. His next 12 runs took him seven balls longer to acquire than his first 51. Luis Reece began to catch him up, reaching his own half-century from 92 deliveries. Curiously, given that he had batted with a much more conservative approach than his partner, he should have been out twice, dropped by Max Holden at midwicket without scoring off Roland-Jones and again at slip by Sam Robson on 33, in the unlucky Sowter’s second over.

They reached lunch on 113 without loss. The Middlesex bowlers may have bemoaned their luck but they had also offered too many relatively easy run hits, either by bowling too short or too wide.

Godleman pushed on again in the second session, completing what was also the fastest hundred of his first-class career when he cut Sowter to the third-man boundary for his 16th four, raising his arms above his head in celebration and shouting something as he looked towards the heavens. Again, he offered a chance immediately after passing the milestone. This time it was taken, at slip, as Sowter’s luck improved as he found some turn and bounce to find the edge.

Reece, joined by the splendidly-named Fynn Hudson-Prentice, who will never be troubled to remember his Championship debut for Derbyshire, was by now scoring runs with increasing confidence and a hundred seemed to be his for the taking too. It was no wonder, then, that he threw his head back in disbelief as he was dismissed on 96, wondering what had possessed him to meet a seemingly innocuous ball from seamer George Scott straight to Roland-Jones at mid-on.

Yet if Reece could consider himself unlucky, it was nothing compared with the agony that would befall Hudson-Prentice, whose maiden Championship innings for the county was just one run from turning into a dream start.

A 23-year-old all-rounder who was released by Sussex, his home county, at the end of the 2016 season, Hudson-Prentice has been given the chance to resurrect his county career after spending last season and the start of this one on the MCC Young Cricketers’ programme at Lord’s, where his progress will have been noted by Steve Kirby, the former MCC head coach who is now Derbyshire’s assistant coach.

He made a good enough impression there to earn some Second XI cricket with Derbyshire this early summer, two hundreds in May convincing the county to offer him a contract until the end of 2021.

So far, it looks a good decision. Well organised at the crease, he took on a high-quality attack with confidence and no little skill, numbering some crisp drives among his 13 fours and lofting Sowter for a towering six. Middlesex took the new ball and Tom Helm had him edging to second slip only to be called for over-stepping. It seemed destined to be a perfect day.

Yet, on 99 and facing the same bowler, an attempt to pull away a short ball went just wrong enough for the ball to travel upwards rather than flat. He looked on from the crease, willing Middlesex’s bad day in the field to continue, before dropping his head in stricken resignation as square-leg Finn clasped the ball safely to his chest. Helm struck again in the same over, dismissing Alex Hughes with the best delivery of the day to claw back something for Middlesex.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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