Edgbaston on the third Friday afternoon in September.
A few moments ago Dan Christian was chatting about Nottinghamshire’s second appearance in three years at the Vitality Blast T20 Finals Day. Christian has played for Australia, Barbados Tridents, Brisbane Heat, Deccan Chargers, Delhi Daredevils, Hobart Hurricanes, Melbourne Renegades, Multan Sultans, Rising Pune Supergiant, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Trinbago Knight Riders.
In a few minutes’ time Moeen Ali will be explaining what it might mean were Worcestershire to retain the trophy on Saturday. Moeen has played for Royal Challengers Bangalore and was in England’s World Cup winning squad.
At the moment, though, Billy Godleman is talking about the same occasion. Godleman plays for Derbyshire.
Derbyshire have never been to Finals Day.
And yet you sense this is simply part of the motivation Godleman enjoys: a chance to tweak a few noses. His eyes are bright with enthusiasm as he talks about it all.
“I see it as an opportunity,” he said. “We have no pressure or expectation on us. At the start of the competition no one expected us to get to the quarter-finals let alone a semi-final. So we are happy to go fly under the radar and turn up and play some good cricket on the day.”
Godleman makes a good point. Derbyshire needed to win their last three matches in the North Group to qualify for the last eight. They did so. They travelled to Bristol for the quarter-final in which they were expected to lose to Gloucestershire. They won. And tomorrow they will take on Essex in the second semi-final at Edgbaston.
One gets the impression that Godleman cannot wait to get stuck in. But he is by no means the only member of Derbyshire’s squad bristling at such a prospect. The Finals Day freshmen have been coached to excellent effect this year by Dominic Cork, another cricketer who relished taking the world’s expectations and depositing them in the nearest incinerator.
“Corky played for the club for the majority of his career,” said Godleman. “He knows what it is to be a Derbyshire player: the underdog who has the opportunity to ruffle a few feathers among the bigger counties. That is something we relish.
“He’s brought lots of energy and for me as captain he has been incredibly insightful,” he continued. “I’ve been very fortunate to know Corky for a number of years now and he’s one of the finest cricket brains that you could wish to meet. For me to have access to his cricket nous on a one-to-one basis as coach-captain has been very beneficial. Corky is very much about us going out and playing our best cricket with freedom. His view is that cricketers play their best when they have that freedom and that’s what we have tried to create in this campaign.”
Plainly it has worked so far and it will be fascinating to see how Derbyshire’s players react when presented with a full-house at Edgbaston and the pressures of the biggest occasion most of them have encountered.
“We like to think we have a method and we are just really excited to have the opportunity to play a semi-final and maybe a final as well,” said Godleman. “There’s a range of emotions and everyone’s different. There is a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of excitement, a lot of nerves and a lot of apprehension but what I’ve sensed from the group is that the overriding emotion is the excitement of the opportunity to play in Finals Day.”
And should Derbyshire younger players need even more experienced advice tomorrow afternoon, the squad also includes Ravi Rampaul, whom Godleman rates as one of the best bowlers in the tournament, and Darren Stevens, 43-year-old Kent loanee, who this week scored 237 and took seven wickets in that side’s 433-run thrashing of Yorkshire.
“Stevo’s on fire,” said Godleman. “Every time he goes out there he gets either a five-fer or a double hundred. He’s another really good cricket man. He hasn’t played as much as we expected or he expected but that’s not to disregard what he’s brought off the field and the way he shares his experience with the guys. That’s been a massive boost for us.”
So we are all set up for another Finals Day. Everyone is wondering whether Worcestershire can win back-to-back trophies; or whether Nottinghamshire can rescue their season; or whether Essex can win the first of what may be two pots in a week. Of course Derbyshire can’t do it. No chance.
“Please keep taking like that,” Billy Godleman might reply.