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Billy Godleman hundred guides Derbyshire as Foxes face challenging times

Colin Ackermann Getty Images

Derbyshire 266 for 3 (Godleman 106, du Plooy 73*, Madsen) beat Leicestershire 312 for 8 (Ackermann 119) by seven wickets (DLS method)

Leicestershire were unable to give Karen Rothery an introductory win in the week she became county cricket's second female chief executive. Instead, she was met with a frantic finish, a last-ball defeat and a dressing room wondering what might have been. The likelihood is that Leicestershire's interest in the Royal London Cup will now end at the group stage. How's that for an immediate reality check?

Colin Ackermann, Leicestershire's classiest batsman, summoned an untroubled 119 from 117 balls before slog-sweeping Luis Reece to deep square. Their 312 for 8 was rejigged to a Duckworth-Lewis-Stern target of 266 from 39 because of rain. Derbyshire moved towards it as floodlights cut through the gloom with the sort of calm that suggested victory was inevitable only for chaos to descend as they belatedly realised it wasn't.

Eight were somehow needed off the last over, bowled by the left-arm seamer Dieter Klein, and when Derbyshire's captain Billy Godleman ran himself out for 106 from 115 balls, seeking a second run to deep square with the non-striker Leus du Plooy, the latest of the endless stream of South African Kolpaks to arrive in county cricket, entrenched in his crease, they still needed six from three.

Du Plooy then swung and missed at the next, pulled a long hop for four over long leg and hacked the last ball to long-on, getting home for the second run with a second to spare to finish with 73 not out from 52 balls and a Derbyshire victory which fortunately for him allowed him to look his captain in the face on returning to the dressing room.

Godleman, again excelling in 50-over cricket, already has more than 300 runs in the Royal London Cup this season after two successive hundreds. He might not be the most elegant batsman around, but his record cannot be quibbled with. Derbyshire's bowling attack had looked pedestrian - unlike last season there are no bowlers of international pedigree in Duanne Olivier or Hardus Viljoen - but they bat better than they bowl.

Time for Rothery to adopt her first brave face then, and the likelihood is that there will be many more to come, even though Nixon's return to Leicestershire guarantees vigorous defiance of the pessimists on a daily basis. If only 500 or so come through the gates when the Royal London Cup is still a reputable tournament, how many will bother next season when it understudies The Hundred, a developmental tournament to give the professionals not chosen for the ECB's controversial new short-form competition something to do?

Rothery has returned to Leicester, her home city, after a career which has included spells as commercial director at England Netball and more than three years as CEO at Surrey Sports Park, a venue which reeks of privilege with a state-of-the-art gymnasium, squash courts and an eight-lane Olympic-sized swimming pool among its attractions. Grace Road has a county cricket club looking for relevance in a changing landscape. It is a big challenge.

Her predecessor, Wasim Khan, was a darling of the ECB, but he departed after four years to become managing director of the PCB without quite managing to inspire Leicester's considerable multi-cultural population - around 30% have Indian heritage, the highest in the country - to feel a sense of belonging.

She offers a familiar refrain. "I think Leicestershire has made a very positive step in appointing only the second female CEO in county cricket history," she said recently. "But it is not only about gender, it's about age, it's about disability, it's about ethnicity. I want us to be an inclusive club for everybody.

"We in Leicester are probably best placed to try to encourage more people from the local ethnic groups. We have embraced multiculturalism here for many years and we need to take advantage of that. Maybe being a woman coming into a largely male environment fighting to make female sport noticed, maybe will take a slightly different approach towards engaging with our local community."

Those who do come on days like this must be unnerved by the silence. There is no quieter county ground in the land, even allowing for the man with a vuvuzela who must be there on sufferance and the presence of the eternally optimistic chatterbox Paul Nixon as coach. Too often, it feels like a ground resigned to its fate, unloved by the financial obsessives in the higher echelons of the ECB. But it has its good days, too. It was reportedly livelier over Easter when another Ackermann hundred helped them see off Worcestershire with their highest List A score against a first-class county.

While the ECB imagines a potential in The Hundred that may well not exist, Rothery must grapple with reality: a perpetual battle for survival. The Hundred might deliver an annual £1.3m handout, but it won't deliver prestige. If she caught much of her first match in charge, it would have been to see Leicestershire set a decent target despite some horrible dismissals, Mark Cosgrove's leg-side whip to a ball outside off stump from Luis Reece a strong contender for the worst of the lot.

From 245 for 7, the tail thrashed 67 from the last 35 balls, the inexperience of Derbyshire's young pace bowlers exposed. Enough for a win perhaps? A century stand from Godleman and Wayne Madsen seemed to have put those thoughts to rest. And even as the match boiled up again in that frantic last over, it felt like two up-against-it East Midlands counties passionately striving to do good things against ever-rising odds.

Derbyshire 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st30BA GodlemanLM Reece
2nd105WL MadsenBA Godleman
3rd125BA GodlemanJL du Plooy
4th6JL du PlooyMJJ Critchley