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Match drawn at Wantage Road

An interesting final day resulted in Northamptonshire and Leicestershire shaking hands on the draw at Wantage Road.

Leicestershire started well as Robbie Williams (8-0-54-2) picked up the scalps of Rob Keogh and Andrew Hall, and when Dave Willey (10) was caught at slip by Ramnaresh Sarwan off Jigar Naik, Northants led by 254 with two second innings wickets intact.

The visitors had their tails up but Ben Duckett (53*) and Steve Crook (34*) batted until just after lunch to set an unlikely target of 337 from a minimum of 63 overs.

County played well in their second innings as former Northants batsman Niall O’Brien made 59 (118b) and shared 80 and 59 with opening partner Greg Smith (49, 68b) and Ned Eckersley (42, 39b) respectively.

However, sustaining a scoring rate at 5.35 an over was always going to be tough and with Leicestershire on 168-3 after 42 overs, both sides settled on the draw with Northants claiming ten points and Leicestershire seven.

Keogh and Hall were not allowed to score at pace early on - the duo only scored one boundary apiece in the opening half-hour as Ollie Freckingham (16-2-63-3) and Alex Wyatt (19-4-46-2) excelled - and the Leicestershire pressure resulted in wickets.

Keogh edged Williams to Sarwan at slip and first innings centurion Hall followed courtesy of a terrific Smith catch at backward point in the seamer’s next over.

Although Willey and Duckett each found the fence, Naik (10-0-38-1) came on to good effect to dismiss the dangerous all-rounder. Northants were 133-8 after 18 overs on the final day so they had not really capitalised on their first innings lead.

But their lower order has produced the goods on a number of occasions and today was no different. Duckett found the fence in consecutive overs and by the time the stand had reached 50, Crook had only struck one four in a busy unbeaten 28 from 33 balls. Duckett then hit a four just past Freckingham - a sharp catch would have presented the seamer with a 10th wicket of the match - as Northants went to lunch on 190-8.

A declaration at that point was anticipated and would have seen Leicestershire chasing 312 from a minimum of 65 overs but Northants decided to bat on and Duckett completed his maiden half-century.

The young ‘keeper twice cracked Naik to the fence in the first over after lunch, including a well-played reverse sweep, and two sets of four byes were added to the tally. Duckett hit Freckingham to the boundary at backward square leg as he moved to a 64-ball 50 and Northants called time at the end of the over.

Smith again started with intent as he hit Willey for four boundaries in the left-armer’s first four overs and the batsman also struck Trent Copeland to the boundary boards at the end of the 10th over. O’Brien hit his first four in the next over courtesy of a flowing cover drive before picking up a further boundary in the same region in the 13th.

Smith struck Crook for two fours in the 15th over and repeated that feat in the all-rounder’s next offering. The stand moved beyond the 62 shared in the first innings in the 18th over and after Smith moved to 49 with his tenth four, O’Brien twice struck Hall to the fence as County went to 80-0 after 22.

Unfortunately Smith was not able to register his second half-century of the match as he was well caught by Hall at slip off Crook. Eckersley opened his boundary account in the antepenultimate over before tea and the batsman also found the ropes in James Middlebrook’s first over.

O’Brien and Eckersley took fours off the final over of the session from Crook as Leicestershire went in on 100-1. A further 237 were therefore required from 36 overs in the final session of the game.

Leicestershire attacked after tea as Eckersley, who played a number of lovely shots down the ground in his innings, took Copeland for ten in the second over after the interval. The number three continued to impress by striking the Australian for another four in his next over.

O’Brien hit former teammate Middlebrook for four and Eckersley again punished Copeland as runs continued to flow. A lovely flick off the pads brought Eckersley for four took the batsman beyond 400 LV=CC runs for the season and the stand was now worth 53.

To underline how well he played again, Eckersley had scored 41 of them. O’Brien was also playing an important role and a lovely drive off the backfoot took him to within three of 50.

Disaster then struck as Eckersley was run out by Willey after a mix-up but that did not bring about a change of tack. Sarwan (17*, 19b) twice drove the returning Willey for four in the final bat of his first spell at Grace Road before O’Brien picked up three through mid wicket to move to a 114-ball, seven-boundary 50.

Leicestershire were 151-2 after the end of 38 overs and O’Brien drove to the fence in the next over. Nine came from the 40th over as Leicestershire continued to attack but the key blow came as O’Brien nicked Copeland to Duckett for the second time in the match - this time the seamer found the outside edge.

Sarwan and Josh Cobb (1*, 8b) played out eleven more deliveries before the teams decided to shake hands. Leicestershire’s next game is a home LV=CC encounter against Glamorgan on Tuesday (11am start).

 
 

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