Cricket has been played in the county of Derbyshire since the eighteenth century and the first definite reference is dated Thursday, 1 September 1757 when a match took place on Brampton Moor, near Chesterfield, between Wirksworth and Sheffield. This was played for fifty pounds a side and Wirksworth won. A report has been found in the Derby Mercury newspaper on Saturday, 9 September 1757 which hints that earlier matches had been played in the county.
The earliest record of a county team is an odds match at the Holmes Ground in Derby from Monday, 27 to Wednesday, 29 August 1749. The All-England Eleven (AEE), captained by William Clarke, played against Twenty of Derbyshire, who included the professionals Tom Hunt, John Paxton and Cris Tinley as given men. These three made all the difference and Derbyshire won by an innings and 7 runs, Hunt top-scoring with 61 and the other two sharing eighteen of the AEE wickets. The match put Derbyshire onto the cricket map, so to speak, because the AEE were back next season and a total of nine matches were played to 1861. By that time, county cricket was definitely in vogue and organisations all over the country were busily founding the county clubs which exist today.
Walter Boden (1837–1905) was a keen cricketer in Derby and, since 1867, he had campaigned unsuccessfully for the creation of a Derbyshire county club. In July 1870, a team of Derbyshire players toured the south of England and played two matches against the Gentlemen of Kent at the Angel Ground, Tonbridge and Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) at Lord's. These matches were not first-class but Derbyshire won them both and their success revived interest in Boden's campaign. As a result, Derbyshire County Cricket Club was founded on Friday, 4 November 1870 at a meeting in the Guildhall, Derby, and Boden became the club secretary. He later played in a couple of first-class matches for the team.
The new club's inaugural first-class match took place in May 1871 against Lancashire at Old Trafford and their first home match, also against Lancashire, later in the season. That match was played at the Derby County Cricket Ground in Nottingham Road. The county ground was first established in 1863 within Derby Racecourse, which had itself opened in 1848. Racing terminated in 1939. The cricket field was for a long time referred to as "the racecourse ground". In 1868, it had hosted a match between South Derbyshire and the touring Australian Aboriginals team. In September 1884, Derby County Football Club was founded as an offshoot of the county cricket club and they played at the county ground until 1895 when they relocated to the Baseball Ground. Derbyshire have always used the county ground as their primary venue but, like all other county clubs, they have tried to represent the whole county and not just one town or city. Other grounds in frequent use have been Queen's Park Cricket Ground, Chesterfield, since 1898; Rutland Recreation Ground, Ilkeston, from 1925 to 1994; and Park Road Cricket Ground, Buxton, from 1923 to 1986.
Derbyshire had a chequered career in their early days. On foundation, they were immediately elevated to first-class status for their matches against Lancashire, but the team were generally unsuccessful and the club was demoted to minor status after the 1887 season. In May 1894, Derbyshire again became a first-class team and played in eleven matches that season, but none of them counted towards the official County Cricket Championship, which had begun in 1890. Derbyshire joined the County Championship in May 1895 as one of five expansion teams. They made their debut that month against Warwickshire and finished their first season in a creditable fifth place, having won five of their sixteen matches.
Derbyshire have nearly always lived in the shadow of their mighty neighbours Yorkshire and have generally been fourth of four among English cricket's northern clubs (indeed, they have been fifth of five since the emergence of Durham). Even so, Derbyshire have enjoyed some success and none greater than their County Championship title in 1936, after finishing third and second in the two previous seasons. That team was led by Arthur Richardson and owed much to a strong bowling attack consisting of Bill Copson, Alf Pope, Tommy Mitchell and Les Townsend. The batting included opener Denis Smith and England all-rounders Townsend and Stan Worthington. The wicket-keeper was another England player Harry Elliott.
Derbyshire's greatest-ever player is without doubt Bob Taylor who holds the world record of 1,649 dismissals by a wicket-keeper in first-class cricket. He played for the county from 1960 to 1988, holding a world record 1,473 catches and completing 176 stumpings. Pace bowler Les Jackson, who played from 1947 to 1963, took a club record 1,670 wickets. The club's best-ever bowling performance was by seamer Billy Bestwick, who took ten for 40 against Glamorgan at Cardiff in 1921. Other England players have been paceman Cliff Gladwin, off-spinner Geoff Miller and batsmen Donald Carr and Kim Barnett. Among Derbyshire's overseas players have been Eddie Barlow, Michael Holding and Peter Kirsten.
Derbyshire call their limited overs team the Derbyshire Falcons and they have won three trophies. These were the NatWest Trophy in 1981, the Sunday League in 1990 and the B&H Cup in 1993. The Falcons' best in the Twenty20 Cup has been reaching the quarter-final in 2005 and 2017.
- Bowen, Rowland: Cricket: A History of its Growth and Development. Eyre & Spottiswoode (1970).
- Derbyshire County Cricket Club: Official club website.
- Maun, Ian: From Commons to Lord's, Volume Two: 1751 to 1770. Martin Wilson (2011).
- Playfair: Playfair Cricket Annual. Playfair Books Ltd (1948 to present).