Pressure off Derbyshire for Vitality Blast quarter-final says Alex Hughes

Alex Hughes of Derbyshire
Alex Hughes of Derbyshire

Alex Hughes believes there will be less pressure on Derbyshire when they take on Gloucestershire in Saturday’s Vitality Blast quarter-final at Bristol.

The Falcons reached the knockout stages in 2017 when Hughes was one of six members of the current side who were thrashed by a Shahid Afridi-inspired Hampshire at the Pattonair County Ground in Derby.

Derbyshire are the only county not to have made T20 Finals Day, a statistic Hughes admits may have weighed heavily on them two years ago.

“As a team we are growing as to where we are now compared to where we were in 2017,” he said.

“The quarter-final then was a big surprise but now we’ve got there twice in three years it doesn’t feel like this is our only chance to get to Finals Day which it may have done at the time.

“Now we’ve shown we are one of the best teams in our group, I don’t think there is as much pressure on us to feel that way. I think it’s more about enjoying the experience and enjoying the fact we can get to a Finals Day.

“If it doesn’t happen life will still go on and we’ll just look to go one better next year or the year after, it’s not going to be the end of the world whereas in the Hampshire game it felt like this was the time and maybe we put a bit too much pressure on ourselves.”

Hughes’ bowling in the middle overs has been an important ingredient of the Falcons’ success in the closing North Group games with stand-out figures of three for 13 in the victory against Northants which was the first of a hat-trick of wins that secured a quarter-final berth.

That comprehensive win over the Steelbacks demonstrated the character in the team after they had been soundly beaten by Leicestershire Foxes in the previous home game.

“I think everything happens for a reason and we took our eye of the ball for that Leicester chase, it was one of those days where everything seemed to go wrong,” he said.

“It was disappointing but in terms of performance I personally didn’t look a lot into it. It was a one-off bad game and I had no question in my mind in the next game we would right those wrongs.”

The Falcons have momentum going into Saturday’s game but Hughes is aware that Gloucestershire are also on a good run after ending the group stages with three consecutive wins.

“The fact that everyone wants to get to Finals Day is discussed quite a lot but they will really want to get there as well,” he said.

“Everyone keeps writing them off which is what everyone has been doing to us so we know the dangers of that.

“They came second in their group for a reason, we have to play them on their home patch so it’s going to be a good challenge.”

Hughes has good memories of Bristol and scored a century there in the Specsavers County Championship match at the start of the season.

“I really like playing there, I’ve got a couple of hundreds in the red ball and been involved in a couple of wins there and it’s a ground that’s pretty similar to Derby.

“Not sure what the pitch is going to be like but throughout the year we’ve played on different surfaces so I’m not really too fussed. I think we’ve got enough bowling in all departments for all surfaces which is why we’ve got to the quarter-finals.”