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Date: Friday 14 September 2012
Leicestershire finished in 7th place in LV=CC Division Two after a thrilling last-day two-wicket victory against battling Gloucestershire at Grace Road.
Jon Batty (40, 68b, 4x4, 1x6) and Liam Norwell (7, 72b) put on 42 in 20 overs for the last wicket to set Leicestershire 236 to win in a minimum of 75 overs.
Michael Thornely (36, 72b, 6x4) and Greg Smith (26, 35b, 5x4) got the innings off to a good start and a terrific fourth-wicket stand of 99 between Ned Eckersley (63, 108b, 11x4) and Josh Cobb (65, 51b, 11x4, 1x6) saw the team to 205-3.
But a collapse instigated by Will Gidman (15.3-4-42-3) and James Fuller (17-2-75-3) followed and Leicestershire were dramatically reduced to 218-8.
Wayne White (14*, 18b, 3x4) and Nathan Buck (6*, 9b, 1x4) saw the team home with an unbroken stand worth 19 and White was then handed his county cap by skipper Matthew Hoggard.
It was a well-deserved award for the all-rounder, who ended the season with 616 first-class runs and 43 wickets, which was the most by any Leicestershire bowler to build on an excellent 2011 campaign.
Earlier in the day, Gloucestershire’s last pair really dug in to set County a testing target. Batty cut a four second ball and the six runs gathered from the opening over ensured Leicestershire would be chasing 200 or more.
The keeper swept a four in the sixth over of the day and Gloucestershire got through ten overs of White (15-3-49-4) and Claude Henderson (28-6-72-3). Jigar Naik came on from the Bennett End and Batty immediately reverse-swept for four.
Buck then took the new ball for the 83rd over but the duo kept resisting. Hoggard (9-1-30-3) eventually made the breakthrough as he bowled Norwell at the end of the 88th over.
Thornely and Smith opened the batting and Smith drove through point for four in the third over. Thornely punched through mid-wicket to the fence and Smith thrice cut away as the openers got stuck in.
Smith also pulled through the leg-side to the fence and Thornely drove back past Gidman for his second boundary. Thornely then clipped Jack Taylor through mid-wicket for four in the lunch over as the team went in on 42-0, requiring a further 194 from a minimum of 64 overs.
There was a blow after the interval as Smith was caught at square-leg by Taylor off Norwell with the score on 45. Eckersley picked up three early boundaries and Thornely drove down the ground and then pulled through mid-wicket to pick up two fours off Taylor.
Thornely continued to look good as he struck Fuller through mid-wicket but the bowler gained revenge next ball by bowling the opener. Eckersley continued to score freely as he nicked through the cordon and then pulled powerfully for four while Matthew Boyce swept to the ropes as the 100 came up.
However, Boyce was pinned lbw on the back foot by Taylor with the score on 106 and Gloucestershire had their tails up. Cobb thrice struck through mid-off and also hit over mid-wicket as he started aggressively while Eckersley drove for two to take the target into double figures.
Cobb pulled a Norwell bouncer out of the ground while a nick went between keeper and slip for another four off the same bowler. Eckersley guided a four down to third man as he moved into the forties while Cobb belted three consecutive fours as Fuller returned.
The number five had now overtaken his colleague but Eckersley drew back level with a superb drive down the ground. Cobb moved to a breathtaking 33-ball 50 with his ninth four – he also hit a six in the landmark – while he crashed two further drives to the ropes later in Fuller’s 11th over as he continued to dominate.
Leicestershire went to tea on 197-3 with Eckersley on 49 and Cobb 65. Only 39 runs were needed at that point but it proved to be hard work. Eckersley moved to an 81-ball half-century with his 9th four, a tickle off his pads, while another stroke raced down to the third man boundary.
Cobb was snared lbw by Will Gidman but Eckersley continued on his way. A nice drive off the back foot brought Eckersley an 11th four before a flurry of wickets set the pulses racing. Thakor was trapped lbw by Fuller, Naik fell leg-before to Gidman, Eckersley got a touch on a leg-side ball from Fuller and was held by Batty while Henderson was bowled by Gidman.
With five wickets falling for the addition of just 13 runs, Leicestershire needed 18 with two wickets left and Buck guided a four past the keeper. White cut for four and a Buck single took the target into single figures.
White pulled to the fence and with three needed, White glanced to the fence to ensure Leicestershire took 21 points from the exciting game. Gloucestershire deserve great credit for taking the game right to the death but this was to be Leicestershire’s day.