Shannon Gabriel demonstrated at Headingly the difference a fast bowler can make to a team and Derbyshire were given a glimpse of what might have been this season when Hardus Viljoen claimed his first five wicket haul for the county.
Gabriel’s vivid pace was a key factor in the West indies remarkable victory at Leeds and while Viljoen could not prevent Durham taking control of the County Championship match at Chester-le-Street, his performance was a reminder of what Derbyshire have missed.
Injuries prevented the 28-year-old playing any four-day cricket until the first week of August and, with Will Davis also sidelined since the first two games of the season, Billy Godleman’s team lost its cutting edge.
Viljoen’s ability to touch the 90 mph mark helped Derbyshire reach the quarter-finals of the NatWest T20 Blast for only the second time and the South African is now aiming to end a frustrating first summer at the County Ground on a high.
“In four day cricket, it’s my second game in eight months so I’m still getting into it but I’m happy to be where I am at the moment and my body is doing alright,” he said.
“I always give my best, doesn’t matter who I play for and I’ll always take the ball and run in as much as I can until I can’t do that.
“People close to me know how frustrating a period for me it was because it just feels like you are disappointing everyone because people have expectations towards you.
“But that’s the nature of sport and you just have to be professional about it and get yourself ready as quickly as possible.”
Derbyshire will hope Viljoen, who bowled 25 overs on the opening day of the game against Durham, can help them improve a disappointing campaign in the County Championship in the remaining three matches.
“It wasn’t probably the perfect thing to have done to bowl 25 overs in the day but in the context of the match for me it felt like that’s what I needed to do so I’ll never turn the ball down.
“The T20 came at the right time and the intensity that was so high actually helped me with my match fitness to get going.”
With Davis, who took 13 wickets in the first two games before a side injury ruled him out, back in contention, Derbyshire could finish with the attack they planned to start with.
The loan signing of 23-year-old Middlesex seamer Harry Podmore has provided another option and director of cricket Kim Barnett said: “Harry comes highly recommended and has performed well in first-class cricket, averaging in the mid-twenties.”