Record-breaker Viljoen says he is ‘blessed’ to play for Derbyshire

Derbyshire, who were inspired by record-breaking South African Hardus Viljoen in their victory over Sussex.
Derbyshire, who were inspired by record-breaking South African Hardus Viljoen in their victory over Sussex.

Record-breaking South African Hardus Viljoen has told how he feels “blessed” to play for Derbyshire after bowling them to only their second win of the Specsavers County Championship season.

Viljoen had the statisticians thumbing through the archives when returning figures of 7-80 and 8-90 in a 45-run victory over Sussex at Hove.

He became the first Derbyshire player to take 15 wickets in a match since Cliff Gladwin in 1952 and he produced the fifth-best match-analysis in the history of the club.

But Viljoen revealed that he might not be playing at all had he not been able to shrug off a succession of injuries.

“I’ve had to work a lot month my fitness,” the big 28-year-old said. “I do have a tendency to bowl long spells, but I’ve had a groin injury, then a knee niggle and then a groin strain agaain.

“But my body is getting better. I’m fit now and I feel blessed to play for Derbyshire. I’m getting back to where I know I can be. I actually feel better than I have ever felt. I have learned more skills in England and, mentally, I have grown a lot too.”

Viljoen was the first bowler to bag 15 wickets in a County Championship match this season, and his figures were the best at Hove since 1955. He was also the first non-English bowler to take that many wickets in a game for Derbyshire.

It was all the product of 43 overs of fast, accurate and sustained hostility that left Sussex’s Second Division promotion hopes in tatters. One particular devastating post-tea spell on the final day reduced the hosts from 267-3 to 318-8 as they chased a big victory-target

Viljoen added: “It was just my day, and if it’s your day, you have to run with it. I’m not a big stats man, but it was a privilege and an honour to be able to do that.

“It was great to get the lads over the line for only the second time this season in the County Championship. No-one panicked while Sussex were putting on the runs. We knew that two or three quick wickets would put us back in the game, and we took the crucial wickets of Stiaan van Zyl and then Luke Wright.

“We are getting some good belief back now. We have a really good team-culture.”

Derbyshire began their penultimate four-day fixture of the campaign on Tuesday against Kent at Queen’s Park, Chesterfield. The season concludes with a trip to Bristol to take on Gloucestershire, starting next Monday.