County are teetering on brink of Cup exit
Derbyshire are on the brink of an early exit from the Twenty20 Cup after a shuffle failed produce the winning formula yesterday at Leicester.
Defeat at Grace Road was the Phantoms' third out of four games played and that is about as many games as a side hoping to make it to the quarter-finals can afford to lose. Quite simply, they have to win their last four just to be in with a chance of going through.
At least they were not as hopelessly out of contention this time as in their previous two beatings but it is tempting to suggest that was more by luck than judgement.
David Houghton's response to his side's batting failures involved only one change in personnel but was radical nevertheless.
It involved pushing three lower-order batsmen up to the top five, effectively to pinch-hit. The Derbyshire batting order looked more like it had been selected by a bingo machine.
Because their batting had failed in the first three games, it might be argued that there was little to lose from such a bold change but it still didn't have the desired effect.
The Phantoms needed Michael Di Venuto to give them a good start but he was out early again, lbw to his Tasmania colleague, Adam Griffith, in the second over for one. It was a huge blow and his loss of form is a concern.
Graeme Welch was sent in to open the innings with him but had the most ignominious exit of all - caught at slip off Derbyshire reject Nick Walker, who has been signed by the Foxes for the rest of this season.
Walker's only other Twenty20 appearance was as a batsman in last season's quarter-final defeat by Lancashire but he bowled very well, three overs for 14, and really enjoyed his wicket.
After Welch had gone at 13 for two, Jamie Pipe lasted no time at all to make it 18 for three and only Graham Wagg of the designated swingers paid off at all as he made 27 off 17 balls with four fours and a six before he was deceived by a David Masters slower ball at 52 for four.
The arrival of the proper batsmen almost salvaged a victory for the Phantoms.
Marcus North, sent in at six, added 14 and should have gone on from there but Steve Stubbings, who came in at the fall of the first wicket, stayed almost to the end for 57 off 49 balls with six fours.
He and Chris Taylor shared a stand of 57 for the sixth wicket but they could not raise the tempo as was required in the final four overs and Leicestershire won by 18 runs.
After losing the toss again, Derbyshire bowled pretty well to hold the Foxes to 161 for six, though no single bowler really excelled.
HD Ackerman led the way with 53 off 44 balls, including five fours and a six, but it was the final push that settled the game in Leicestershire's favour.
Their last five overs brought them 49 runs, while Derbyshire's last five produced only 30 and with no margin for error remaining, the Phantoms are still looking for the right combination.