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    Friday 30 January 2015

    Leicestershire and Rutland Cricket Chief Executive Wasim Khan MBE has been an extremely busy man and is loving every minute of his new job.

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Eckersley and Sykes dig in for County

Ned Eckersley moved to within nine runs of back-to-back LV=CC centuries as Leicestershire moved 126 ahead of Worcestershire with four second innings wickets intact.

Thilan Samaraweera took his overnight 99 to 144 not out as Worcestershire claimed a first innings lead of 64 in being dismissed for 338. Matthew Hoggard finished with excellent figures of 4-62 from 26 overs.

County lost four wickets before they got back on level terms and then slipped to 120-6 shortly after tea.

But Eckersley (91*, 159b) and James Sykes (22*, 87b) shared a crucial unbroken 70 for the seventh wicket, their gutsy work enabling County to close in better shape on 190-6.

The Pears resumed day three on 265-5 with Samaraweera on 99, and the batsman reached three figures off the first ball he faced at the start of the second over.

The landmark was his second hundred for the county - the previous one came in the first meeting between the sides – and was recorded from 203 deliveries with eleven fours.

Samaraweera then played a superb cover drive to record a further boundary while Johnson cut for two to take Worcestershire into the lead. But the keeper was trapped leg before for 17 (65b) by Hoggard with the score on 276, Leicestreshire now having two bowling points.

A fine shot through mid-wicket off Alex Wyatt (25-5-68-0) brought Samaraweera a 13th four and Ben Raine (12-3-32-1) then came on in place of the seamer. But runs were generally hard to come by and Hoggard claimed a fourth wicket as he got one to nip off the seam to take the top of Shaaiq Choudhry’s (0, 16b) off-stump.

Samaraweera then shared an important stand of 47 for the eighth wicket with Jack Shantry, who made an important 22 (30b). The overseas player collected two further boundaries as he produced a square drive off Hoggard before clipping Raine through square leg.

Shantry then picked up three useful boundaries in the 103rd over, which was the last over of Hoggard’s spell. The left-hander cut down to third man to move Worcestershire to 300, before driving in the same region and seeing an inside edge fly past Niall O’Brien.

Ollie Freckingham replaced Hoggard and Samaraweera guided just beyond the grasp of Greg Smith, who was the only fielder next to O’Brien but stationed around second slip. Shantry then clipped Freckingham off his pads for four as nine came from his first over, and Sykes (22-3-62-2) then replaced Raine at the Pavilion End.

Worcestershire’s lead was 48 at that stage and Samaraweera played a late cut to take the advantage to 50. But the spinner turned Leicestershire’s fortunes as Shantry nicked to O’Brien before Graeme Cessford was bowled first ball.

Samaraweera, who now opted to monopolise the bowling, smashed Sykes over mid-on to pick up his 17th four. But County got Richardson (1, 8b) on strike in the 111th over and Freckingham (13.5-1-67-1) removed his leg-stump to end the innings.

That left County 15 minutes to bat before lunch and the team went in on two without loss, both runs coming to Smith. O’Brien twice drove through the off side for four after the interval and strokes from both openers then ran down to the third man boundary.

However, County suffered two key blows as O’Brien (12,26b) miscued Cessford (14-3-43-3) to Shantry at cover before the seamer removed Smith’s (7, 37b) off stump. Eckersley glanced down to fine leg for four but a third wicket fell before the deficit had been halved as Shantry trapped Shiv Thakor (1, 16b) in front.

After Richardson’s first spell (10-4-10-0) came to an end, Eckersley took ten off Joe Leach's (2-0-16-0) second over to relieve some of the pressure. The batsman drove and cut boundaries before collecting a brace to move beyond 1,100 first-class runs for the summer.

Wells drove Shantry for four as the 50 was registered before Choudhry (17-3-46-1) replaced Leach at the Pavilion End. Wells played a superb drive down the ground off Shantry (15-5-30-2) and that prompted the left armer to switch to over the wicket. The move reaped immediate dividends as Wells (17, 45b) opted to leave the next delivery – it held its line and clattered into the off stump.

Leicestershire were still one behind at the point that captain Cobb came to the wicket. The team moved into the lead, and Eckersley drove successive boundaries through extra and backward square leg. Cobb (11, 33b) went on to hit Choudhry over the top for four but he fell in the tea over, driving Cessford to Samaraweera at extra cover.

County were 97-5 at that stage, which represented a lead of 33, with Eckersley unbeaten on 44. Raine joined him at the crease after tea and opened his boundary account with a tickle off the pads.

A booming cover drive and fine stroke through straight mid-wicket off Choudhry brought Raine further boundaries, the lead now worth 54. Raine added another two before he fell in unfortunate fashion, a defensive shot off Choudhry rolling back to hit the base of the stumps.

Eckersley then took 14 off the next over from Richardson (16-6-32-0), the first of three fours helping him post a gritty 106-ball half-century. Sykes was a really good foil to Eckersley, who struck a 9th four courtesy of a pleasant mid-wicket shot.

A two from Eckersley stretched the lead into three figures and Sykes went on to nick Shantry for four to take the alliance to 50. Eckersley dispatched a Moeen Ali (8-3-13-0) full toss for four before driving the penultimate ball of the day to the ropes to ensure County ended the day on a high.


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