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Leicestershire can be pleased with their efforts on the first day of the LV=CC match against Division Two table-toppers Hampshire at Grace Road.
After losing the toss and having to bowl on a good pitch in hot conditions, County restricted Hampshire to 321-8 with Nathan Buck continuing his fine start to the season by taking 4-78 from 20 overs.
Jimmy Adams and Will Smith shared an opening partnership of 75 and the impressive James Vince (70, 88b) added 92 for the fourth wicket with fellow half-centurion Adam Wheater (57, 55b), but Leicestershire’s attack kept chipping away.
After the NatWest T20 Blast launch on Friday, it was back to LV=CC action for two teams who are yet to lose in four-day cricket.
Ramnaresh Sarwan came into the Leicestershire side for his first appearance of the season in place of the unwell Matthew Boyce, while Niall O’Brien returned after playing for Ireland and replaced Michael Thornely.
Hampshire were missing Michael Carberry (international duty) and Liam Dawson (injured), so Smith and Joe Gatting were promoted to roles of opener and number three respectively.
There was a tidy start to the day by new-ball duo Charlie Shreck (25-7-73-1) and Anthony Ireland (19-2-71-0).
Shreck bowled two beauties to Adams in the fifth over of the day from the Bennett End; the first shaped back in and almost bowled the captain as he offered no stroke while the second moved across him and almost found the edge.
Smith nudged down to third man for the first boundary of the game in the sixth over and another four came in that region at the end of the 11th over. Adams then drove Buck down the ground in the 14th over.
Ireland came on for a second spell in place of Shreck, who had fine figures of 7-3-9-0 at that stage. Smith again found the vacant third man boundary - this shot was of a more authoritative nature - as the openers continued to frustrate.
Buck had an appeal for caught behind off Adams turned down in the 16th over and Ireland produced a jaffa that ripped past Smith’s outside edge. The batsman responded with an excellent cut strike that raced away to the fence.
An eventful 18th over then followed from Buck as Adams clipped, pulled and drove to the ropes before offering a sharp chance off the last ball. Ireland couldn’t hold on after a valiant attempt to make up ground at fine leg.
The Hampshire 50 arrived in the 19th over as Smith punched a two through cover point and a well-timed pull brought the former Durham batsman a fifth boundary two overs later. A run out nearly occurred at the non-striker’s end as Adams drove back to Taylor but Smith just made his ground.
Jigar Naik came on to bowl the 24th over and Taylor (17-4-42-2) switched to the Bennett End. Adams worked a delivery from the left armer down to long leg to pick up a fifth boundary before producing an excellent sweep off Naik that went very fine.
The bowlers had been patient and were rewarded with the wickets of both openers before lunch. Taylor produced the first breakthrough as Smith (35, 86b), who had worked hard to set up his innings, was unfortunate to see an attempted pull clatter into leg stump. Shreck built on the success as Adams (40, 92b) nicked to O’Brien with the score on 79.
Vince edged and drove two successive fours before Gatting punched through mid-on as Hampshire started the afternoon session well. But they were pegged back as Buck, now coming down the hill, found the glove as Gatting (6, 20b) attempted to pull and Angus Robson pocketed the chance in the gully.
Hampshire had now lost three wickets for 16 runs but Vince and Wheater unleashed a counter-attack. Vince drove through point to take the score into three figures in style and another flowing off-side drive also raced to the boundary boards as he took 13 from the 37th over.
Wheater drove Buck through mid-off for four and then squirmed a drive through gully off Ireland. Vince powered a stroke through mid-on as he continued to dominate, and Wheater then drove and pulled consecutive Ireland deliveries to the fence.
Wheater twice drove away to the fence in the 45th over - the first of those boundaries recorded the 50 partnership. Vince struck through mid-wicket to score four more and although Taylor then found his edge, the ball was dipping as it got to a diving Naik at slip.
Three more fours were scored by Wheater and when he offered a chance, Taylor couldn’t quite cling on to a return catch. Wheater moved to a 47-ball 50 with his tenth four and he carved Naik over backward point to collect another boundary. Wheater’s lively knock was ended as he edged a quicker Naik delivery through to O’Brien.
The in-form Vince moved to a 71-ball 50 with his eighth four – a tickle down to fine leg – and the batsman used his feet to drive Naik through the covers for four. Sean Ervine then drove a full toss to the fence to record Hampshire’s first batting point.
Vince collected three further boundaries through mid-wicket, the covers and cover point but Buck ended his innings with a slow and full delivery that clattered into the base of off-stump. A second wicket arrived in the over as Michael Bates (0, 5b) got an inside edge onto his pad off Buck before being held by Robson at gully.
Leicestershire now had two bowling points, and Hampshire were 229-6 at tea with Ervine on 10 and Matt Coles on 7. Ervine (40, 84b) hit a brace of fours in the 67th over while Coles tickled his second four down to long leg in the 69th over, by the end of which Hampshire had recorded a second batting point.
Coles (21, 40b) drove through mid-off for four and the partnership had reached 41 when the all-rounder feathered a leg-side delivery from Taylor to O’Brien. Kyle Abbott (33*, 69b) got himself in before hitting Naik (14-1-48-1) for a four and six off consecutive deliveries and the new ball was taken as soon as it was available.
Abbott drove through mid-on for four and the partnership reached 39 before Buck found Ervine’s edge and Greg Smith took a superb catch at second slip. Danny Briggs picked up a single to take the score to 300 and the duo took their stand to 22 before stumps, with Briggs (14*, 36b) scoring three of the four boundaries gathered.
Ireland thought he had made a late breakthrough but a Briggs edge was dying as it got to 'keeper O’Brien. The match will resume at 11am tomorrow morning.
(Other bowling figures on the day - Robson 1-0-5-0)
* Thanks to Ed Melia for the photograph of Nathan.