Date: Friday 24 August 2012
An astonishing last-wicket stand of 168 in 22.4 overs between Chris Wood and David Balcombe could not prevent Leicestershire from wrapping up a deserved 126-run LV=CC win against Hampshire at Grace Road.
Seam was expected to be County’s main weapon on the final day but the leg-spin of Will Jones claimed three victims – including two important wickets in two balls – as the team reduced Hants to 146-9.
Jones’s figures of 3-71 represented a career best effort and a pre-lunch victory looked on the cards. But there was a dramatic twist as the final pair played out of their skin and rain came.
The situation was getting worrying but Nathan Buck bowled Balcombe for a joint career-best 73 with the first ball after the stoppage as Hampshire were dismissed for 314.
It was Buck's 100th first-class wicket and that left Wood, who made his maiden first-class century, on a swashbuckling 105 not out.
Leicestershire won and also managed to drag back their over rate from an overnight position of minus three to ensure they finished with 23 points. The team moved up two places to 7th as a result and are only 24 points behind third-placed Yorkshire.
After a slow opening to the morning, Leicestershire claimed three wickets in the space of four balls as the session exploded into life.
Hampshire resumed chasing an unlikely target of 441 on 77-4 with Liam Dawson (49) and nightwatchman James Tomlinson at the wicket.
The duo safely negotiated the opening twenty minutes as Matthew Hoggard and Buck strived hard, with Dawson hitting a lovely on-drive for good measure.
Dawson then drove and pulled to the fence as Wayne White entered the attack., The first of those fours moved the score into three figures and Jones came on for an early bowl.
The move was an inspired one as Tomlinson pushed forward and was caught off bat and pad by Matthew Boyce and Sean Ervine, who was the not out batsman in the first innings, miscued a pull and was bowled first ball.
Those wickets completely changed the complexion of the game and White then bowled Michael Bates off the inside edge from his first ball in the next over to leave Hants on 110-7.
Dawson decided attack was the best form of defence as he launched Jones for four over mid-on and the batsman then pulled White to the ropes. The ball only just evaded a diving fielder so chances were still coming.
Number nine Wood flicked off his pads to the fence and then drove Jones for six and four in the same over. But Hoggard stuck with his slow man and Jones repaid the faith by having Dawson stumped by Ned Eckersley.
A mix-up between Wood and Kabir Ali resulted in the latter being run out by a direct hit from Hoggard at mid-wicket and a prompt victory looked to be within Leicestershire’s sights. Wood had other ideas as he continued to play his strokes. The batsman clouted a boundary off Jones and two through the leg-side off White.
The batsman then swept Jones for four, edged to the ropes and drove over cover for three consecutive boundaries at the start of his 8th over as he moved to a 37-ball 50. The innings contained eight fours and a six at that stage and a ninth four for Wood came from the fifth ball through a cut stroke.
Seventeen came off the over in total and a pull in the next took his fours tally into double figures. Balcombe helped the partnership past 50 with his fifth run and Wood continued his fun by driving for four.
Balcombe was dropped in Wyatt’s third over of the morning by Michael Thornely at slip and that proved to be costly. The last man went on to deposit a six over mid-on and a four over the bowler’s head.
Wood went past his personal best score in the 64th over while Balcombe twice pulled to the ropes and then hit over mid-on in the next over sent down by Wyatt as he continued to enjoy himself. White returned before lunch but Balcombe still continued to look strong on the pull as he gathered a fifth four.
The stand moved to three figures in the 32nd over of the morning, the 68th of the innings, sent down by Josh Cobb and County claimed the extra half hour before lunch given Hampshire were nine down. Wood then guided White down to the vacant third man boundary and a pull brought another four.
Balcombe drove to pick up his 7th four as he moved to a 47-ball 50 - the innings also included a six - and Wood hit a straight four and six off Wyatt as he moved into the nineties.
Another powerful straight strike from the last ball of the over took him to 97 and after picking up a single upon Jones’s return, he paddled the last ball of the over for two to move to a maiden first-class ton. The landmark came from 80 balls and included 15 fours and two sixes.
Balcombe hit a four and six in the lunch over as Hants went in on 305-9, requiring 136 to win. Balcombe hit a four down the ground after the break and rain, which had fallen during lunch, then came to bring a halt to proceedings.
The Grace Road faithful may have been starting to get a little nervous but Buck bowled Balcombe with the first ball after the restart to seal the win. Leicestershire have the weekend off before a busy five days of action at Grace Road.
Gloucestershire visit in the final CB40 match of the season on Bank Holiday Monday (1.45pm start) and Kent are our next LV=CC opponents (Tuesday, 12pm start).
* Thanks to Ed Melia for providing the photograph.