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    Friday 30 January 2015

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County almost force victory

Leicestershire gave it everything but couldn’t quite force a win against Glamorgan in the LV=CC game at Grace Road.

Greg Smith scored a terrific 97 (131b) before being cruelly run out at the non-striker’s end as Leicestershire took their overnight score of 77-1 to 179-8 before declaring.

That set Glamorgan 321 to win from a minimum of 70 overs and it meant an interesting afternoon lay in wait.

The visitors might have fancied their chances when Jacques Rudolph (63, 89b) and Murray Goodwin made classy half-centuries on a pitch that was still playing well.

Glamorgan moved to 182-3 but were then reduced to 207-7 as Jigar Naik (27-6-76-3), who bowled beautifully throughout, combined with the threatening Anthony Ireland (14-2-54-2).

There were still 16.3 overs remaining at that point but Stewart Walters (57*, 115b) and John Glover (19*, 49b) dug in to ensure the visitors closed on 250-7 to claim a draw.

Leicestershire picked up 13 points from an excellent performance, while Glamorgan collected 11 points after playing their part in a good contest.

Leicestershire started with a lead of 218 and the team showed intent from the outset by going for their strokes and promoting their in-form batsmen. Smith played a sensible anchor role but also looked to score at every available opportunity.

Although the team lost more wickets than they would have liked in a frantic first session, you couldn’t fault the desire to try to force a win. Credit also has to go to Glamorgan, who made life tough as experienced duo Graham Wagg (14-1-65-4) and Dean Cosker (18-2-64-3) bowled for almost the entire period.

A wonderful shot over mid-on from Ned Eckersley (22, 15b) brought six off the second ball of the day delivered by Cosker and the number three also clattered Wagg over mid-wicket in the second over.

Eckersley was then stumped by Wallace off Cosker as he looked for another big hit and Niall O’Brien came in at four. Smith reached a 69-ball 50 (9x4) and two successive fours followed as he glanced down to long leg and smashed over the top. Thirteen came from Cosker’s second ball of the over all told.

There was a moment of ill fortune as O’Brien (1, 2b) got a little inside edge onto his pad off Wagg and Mark Wallace took a diving catch. Rob Taylor was in at five and steered a single off his first ball as the lead moved to 250.

Taylor pulled a terrific six off Wagg before launching into a crunching back foot drive off Cosker. It was struck with such power and precision that it comfortably beat a fielder who was never more than a few yards from the point where it reached the rope. Wagg then produced a good delivery that nipped in to bowl Taylor (15, 12b).

Captain Josh Cobb was in at six and there was a period of relative calm as Wagg and Cosker bowled tidily. Cobb (13, 15b) cut loose by striking Wagg over mid-wicket for six to bring up the 150 but he fell in the next over by holing out to Rudolph at long-on off Cosker.

Another couple of wickets came as Angus Robson (0, 4b) and Ben Raine (1, 14b) lofted Wagg to Cosker and Walters respectively. County now had to be a little more cautious and Naik (5*, 19b) pushed through mid-off to take the lead to 300.

After a quiet little period, Smith twice carved away as he moved into the nineties and the first bowling change of the session came at 12.40pm as Will Owen replaced Wagg. Smith was dreadfully unlucky to miss out on a second century of the season as Owen got a fingertip on a Naik drive and the batsman was run out at the non-striker’s end.

County called time on their second innings at that point and that left Glamorgan two overs to bat before lunch. Rudolph drove handsomely down the ground and Rees cut through backward point as the visitors went in on 11-0 after three overs.

That left 310 more to get from a minimum of 67 overs and Rees pulled and drove to the ropes as the target came down below 300. Rudolph drove Ireland through extra and Rees replicated that stroke in the 9th over bowled by Charlie Shreck. It was the first of three fours in the over as Rudolph then guided down to third man and fine leg respectively.

Another four followed in the 10th over as Rees (25, 39b) punched through the off side but a crucial wicket came in the next over as Rees edged Shreck to O’Brien. Will Bragg opened his boundary account by flicking Taylor through backward square leg and Rudolph again hit through the covers to collect a fifth four.

Naik entered the attack from the Pavilion End and started with a maiden. Taylor then struck in the next over as Bragg (7, 26b) was bowled as he attempted to leave for the second time in the game. This was now a key phase in the game given Rudolph and Murray Goodwin were paired at the wicket.

Rudolph twice drove for four as he continued to impress while Goodwin used his feet to strike Naik through extra cover. Rudolph then brought up a fine 68-ball 50 (6x4) and the 100 came up in the 26th over as a nick from the South Africa international off Raine (4-0-24-0) went through the cordon for four. Goodwin also cut away in that over to collect another four.

The 50 stand was registered and a big moment came when Goodwin advanced down the pitch but the ball spun past both him and keeper O’Brien. It went for four byes to rub salt into the wounds and the next ball also went to the boundary because of a misfield.

It was such bad luck for Naik but he gained some much-deserved success in his next over. Rudolph appeared to be in two minds and as a result, the ball looped to Raine at backward point as the 60-run alliance was ended. Glamorgan went to tea on 129-3, requiring 193 from a minimum of 37 overs at that point.

Shreck (18-3-58-1) had bowled a couple of good overs down the hill before tea and the seamer picked up where he left off with a maiden. Shreck then beat Goodwin with a jaffa but the batsman responded by clipping the next ball through mid-wicket.

Walters lofted Naik over long-on for six before driving Shreck to the cover boundary while Goodwin swept Naik for four. Ireland returned with the target now 155 off 27 overs. The 50 partnership was recorded at the start of the 46th over and Goodwin then moved to a 75-ball 50 (5x4).

The dangerman fell to the very next ball as he drove Ireland to Eckersley at cover. Naik capitalised on that breakthrough by claiming the first lbw verdict of the game as Allenby (0, 2b) was pinned on the back foot. Another wicket almost followed as Wallace edged Naik but a sharp chance to Cobb at second slip went down.

County certainly had their tails up and Naik had a leg before appeal against Walters. Wallace pulled Ireland to the ropes and the chase was down to 130 from the final 20 overs. Naik kept bowling a lovely line and he picked up a second lbw dismissal as Wallace attempted to sweep.

Wagg then lofted Naik high into the air and Eckersley couldn’t hold onto a steepler despite a valiant dive. Wagg (9, 13b) then carved down to third man for four but he fell to a terrific catch by Boyce in the deep after pulling a short ball from Ireland.

Walters put away a short ball from Naik to record his second four. There was a rush of blood as Glover pushed and set off for a single that was simply never there, but a shy at the stumps narrowly missed. The batsman picked up five to add insult to injury but it was the only chance offered by the resilient duo.

There were seven men around the bat with 12 overs to go but the duo continued to negate Leicestershire’s threat. Walters pulled and drove Taylor (6-1-27-1) away for four as he recorded a 98-ball 50 and although Leicestershire threw everything at Glamorgan, including the leg-spin of Robson (1.4-1-0-0), the Welsh County held on.

Leicestershire have taken 23 points from their first two games and dominated for the most part, so can look ahead to Sunday’s trip to Essex with confidence.


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