Derbyshire responded to the shock resignation of elite performance director Graeme Welch by beating Leicestershire by four wickets in a tense T20 Blast game at Derby.
Only hours after Welch’s departure was announced, the Falcons bowled the Foxes out for 119 and then survived a top-order collapse to get home with two overs to spare.
New Zealand all-rounder Jimmy Neesham, who followed figures of 3 for 26 with an unbeaten 29, and acting skipper Alex Hughes, 27, shared a sixth wicket stand of 49 in eight overs to swing the game in the Falcons favour.
Former Foxes all-rounder Shiv Thakor took 3 for 17, and although Neil Dexter made 34 from 33 balls and then claimed two wickets, it was not enough to deny Derbyshire a second North Group victory.
Derbyshire also went into the game without injured skipper Wes Durston but Alex Hughes made an inspired move after winning the toss by opening with Wayne Madsen’s off-spin.
Madsen struck with his fourth ball, beating Mark Pettini’s attempted sweep, and in the next over, Mark Cosgrove was bowled for one driving at Neesham.
The Kiwi struck again in his his next over when Kevin O’Brien skied a drive to mid on and then took a stunning catch at cover to remove Umar Akmal for a duck.
When Ben Raine swept Matt Critchley to deep square leg and Niall O’Brien was brilliantly caught on the run by Chesney Hughes at long on, the Foxes were in desperate trouble at 53 for 6 after 10 overs.
Lewis Hill pulled Andy Carter for 6 and with Neil Dexter, took the score to 84 before Thakor struck twice to put the Falcons firmly in control.
Hill chipped tamely to mid off and Tom Wells had his middle stump uprooted three runs later before Neesham returned to have Dexter taken at deep midwicket and end the Foxes hopes of a late flourish.
Leicestershire had to take early wickets to have any chance of defending a modest total and they were back in the game when Clint McKay and Raine reduced the Falcons to 14 for 3.
Hamish Rutherford edged a drive at Raine to slip and then McKay had Billy Godleman caught behind and Neil Broom taken at slip first ball.
Chesney Hughes struck two sixes and with Madsen, put the Falcons back on course before Dexter removed them both in four balls in his first over.
Hughes was bowled trying to drive and then Akmal leapt to take a stunning catch at point to send back Madsen for 23 to reduce Derbyshire to 54 for 5.
But Neesham and Alex Hughes batted well under pressure before Thakor finished the contest with three fours in four balls.
Shiv Thakor on Graeme Welch’s resignation said: “It was a shock and hard to take but we had to come out and do a professional job. What’s happened is not in our control and so we just had to try and win a game of cricket for Derbyshire.
“I don’t know exactly what’s been going on and it was a shock to me personally but we’ve got to keep moving forward and thank Graeme for what he’s done for me and for the team.
“It helped that it was a great crowd tonight so we had to come out and give our best, we are proud to play for Derbyshire so we are focusing as much as we can on winning games.
“They are a very good team so it was a brilliant win and although it was close, it’s two points. We bowled well and restricted them and although we lost a few wickets, we all pulled together to get over the line.
“It’s a sign of strength that we have won games in different ways. Today we showed that we have the depth in batting and can chase a score when there is a lot to do and the boys have done that really well with a couple of overs to spare.”