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Leicestershire produced a good performance on an entertaining opening day of the LV=CC game against joint leaders Worcestershire at Grace Road.
Conditions suited the seam bowlers throughout, so Alexei Kervezee (102, 142b) deserves great credit for holding together a Pears first innings that yielded 237.
Wickets were shared among a lively Leicestershire attack as Charlie Shreck picked up three victims while Nathan Buck, Ben Raine and debutant Richard Jones, who also initiated a brilliant run out, took two apiece.
Leicestershire closed on a hard-working 58-2 from 21 overs in reply with Greg Smith (22*, 67b) and Ramnaresh Sarwan (13*, 30b) the unbeaten batsmen.
County made four changes to the side that lost to Derbyshire as Dan Redfern and Jones made their first-class debuts for the Club - the latter against his former county - while Buck and Shreck returned from injury.
Worcestershire made one switch from the side that drew to co-leaders Hampshire as batsman Tom Kohler-Cadmore was in for spinner Shaaiq Choudhry.
The pitch had a green tinge and there was heavy cloud cover when the coin was flipped, so it was little surprise when the visitors were asked to bat first after skipper Daryl Mitchell called incorrectly.
Shreck (20.4-6-65-3) and Buck (20-4-84-2) took the new ball against Mitchell and Matt Pardoe, and the latter glanced away at the end of the second over.
Disaster then struck from a Worcestershire point of view in the 6th over as Jones continued to make his mark at Leicestershire. The seamer had a terrific NatWest T20 Blast debut against Lancashire Lightning with a career-best 5-34 – but on this occasion his fielding caught the eye.
Mitchell called Pardoe (8, 16b) through for the sharpest of singles and the non-striker was beaten by an extremely athletic piece of work as Jones sprinted in from mid-off and took out the middle stump.
It was a testing period for Mitchell and Tom Fell, but the captain drove Shreck through mid-off to record his first four in the 11th over. The batsman then survived an appeal for leg before from the experienced seamer.
Jones (14-3-36-2) came on for his first bowl in place of Buck at the Pavilion End and he sent down an impressive first over. Mitchell then edged a rising Shreck delivery over the slips as the bowlers continued to threaten.
Buck switched to the Bennett End for a second spell and it immediately paid dividends as Fell (2, 26b) fell leg before to his first ball. Kervezee was subject to another lbw appeal later in the over – this was good stuff from Leicestershire’s leading wicket-taker.
Jones was unfortunate to see a ball find its way through the cordon off Mitchell’s edge while Kervezee glanced the seamer down to fine leg to get off the mark with a boundary. A bonus point then arrived for on-song County as Buck picked up another leg before verdict to dismiss key batsman Mitchell (26, 53b).
A fourth wicket nearly arrived as Kohler-Cadmore edged Buck but Ned Eckersley dropped the chance at first slip. Kervezee twice punched Shreck down the ground and Kohler-Cadmore cut the seamer over the cordon for four, but it was County’s session as Worcestershire went in on 66-3 from 30 overs.
Worcestershire started to move the scoreboard more freely in the afternoon session. Kohler-Cadmore pulled Raine for four before Kervezee nicked Buck down to the vacant third man boundary two balls running. Kervezee drove Buck for four and three before Kohler-Cadmore cut the young seamer to the ropes to record the 50 stand.
Shreck swapped to the Pavilion End for his second spell, and Kervezee struck the second ball over the cordon to take the score to 100. Another boundary came later in the over as Kervezee drove through extra.
There was a short rain delay but Kohler-Cadmore worked the first delivery after the restart down to fine leg for four. Kervezee and Kohler-Cadmore each picked up four in the 40th over.
Shreck ended the 77-run stand in the 42nd over as Kohler-Cadmore (32, 73b) edged an attempted drive straight to Angus Robson at gully. Jones had an lbw appeal turned down against Kervezee before the batsman clipped a two to move to an 82-ball 50 (9x4).
A couple of beauties from Jones beat Kervezee and Ollie Cox respectively and the seamer then picked up some deserved reward for his endeavours. Cox (8, 18b) got a tickle to a leg-side delivery and Niall O’Brien completed the dismissal.
It had been a decent period for Leicestershire but Jones briefly had to leave the field through injury at the end of the 47th over and Kervezee then picked up a trio of boundaries.
Shreck continued to work hard - his 19th over was the 52nd of the innings - and he twice beat Ross Whiteley with good deliveries. A mistimed pull by Kervezee off Buck somehow found its way over the cordon for four but Raine (13-3-45-2) helped County record a second bowling point after Shreck had a well-earned breather.
The all-rounder trapped Whiteley (8, 40b) and Joe Leach (0, 1b) lbw with successive deliveries before beating Jack Shantry with a gem with the hat-trick ball. Shantry (11, 12b) went on to strike a couple of fours before seeing his off-stump knocked back by former teammate Jones.
Kervezee had pulled a four prior to Shantry’s dismissal and a single took the batsman to 90. Kervezee then moved to three figures in the space of three deliveries at the start of the 64th over. The batsman got an inside edge for four, flicked away for two, then uppercut over the slips head for the 16th boundary of his innings.
Worcestershire now had a batting point in the bank and they went to tea on 209-8. Leicestershire were looking for a swift end to the innings and Shreck struck a key blow. Kervezee chipped back towards the bowler, who took a good one-handed diving return catch.
Ajmal (27, 19b) hit five fours in the space of seven balls but his cameo came to an end as he edged an attempted cut off Shreck to O’Brien. There were still 26 overs scheduled, so it was going to be a tricky period for the batsmen.
Robson had a positive start as a cut for four off Charlie Morris took him to 10 off nine balls. Smith also nicked Shantry to the ropes but a couple of wickets fell to check progress. Robson (12, 22b) edged Morris to Mitchell at second slip, and Eckersley made 7 (6b) before nicking Shantry to Cox.
Life was certainly tough for the batsmen given the bowlers were getting bounce and movement in deteriorating light. Smith inside edged Leach’s first delivery for four before outside edging the second ball to the ropes – but the battling batsman had earned his luck.
Conditions were perfect for Worcestershire’s frontline seamers but it was now even gloomier and Ajmal and Mitchell bowled in tandem. The duo had an over apiece before umpires Nigel Llong and Steve Garratt took the players from the field – and stumps were drawn shortly afterwards.