A partnership between Jaik Mickleburgh and Greg Smith held up Leicestershire on the third day of the LV=CC game against Essex at Chelmsford.
Leicestershire made 433 with Ned Eckersley (110, 309b), Angus Robson (94, 186b) and Josh Cobb (70, 114b) all in fine fettle.
A last-wicket stand of 34 by Nathan Buck (8*, 33b) and Charlie Shreck (23, 28b) helped County claim a first innings lead of 152. Monty Panesar picked up 6-111 for the hosts.
Shreck then took an early wicket to put Essex on the back foot but Mickleburgh and Smith reduced the deficit to 51 as the hosts closed on 101-1.
Credit must go to Essex for their fightback but Leicestershire are still in a decent position and a couple of quick wickets in the morning would make things interesting.
Essex battled hard from the start and restricted Leicestershire to 70 runs in the first session as well as dismissing the overnight duo.
Leicestershire resumed on 255-2 and one run came from the first five overs as Eckersley and Robson got themselves back in.
Robson then steered through backward point to pick up three while Eckersley drove away to pick up the first boundary of the day.
But Eckersley did not add further to his tally as Tanveer Sikandar claimed his maiden first-class wicket. The ball clipped the pad on the way through to James Foster and the number three fell lbw with the stand one shy of 150.
An alliance of 41 developed as captain Cobb cracked a wide delivery from Newby to the ropes and another fine strike raced through the extra cover region. Robson drove two fours through the covers to take County into the lead and Cobb picked up eight in the 101st over, including a four.
Robson ran a single to record a third batting point and the batsman then drove Panesar to the fence as he moved to within one stroke of what would have been a well-deserved maiden first-class hundred. But the spinner gained revenge next ball as Robson was caught by Ben Foakes at short leg.
Leicestershire were now 306-4 and Cobb cracked a beautiful drive through extra while Michael Thornely got off the mark with a lapped sweep for four off Panesar. At the end of the bonus point allocation, Leicestershire had picked up six (three bowling and three batting) and Essex three. Cobb then struck his fifth boundary in the 112th over and Leicestershire went in on 327-4 with the skipper on 35 and Thornely 6.
Progress was good for a start after lunch as Cobb struck a couple of fours and Thornely thrice hit to the ropes, but Panesar then picked up three wickets in the space of four balls. Thornely (21, 71b) edged to Mark Pettini with the stand two short of 50, Rob Taylor (2, 2b) was bowled off the inside edge two balls later and Jigar Naik (0, 1b) was caught under the helmet by Foakes.
Panesar now had his first Essex five-for and there was almost a hat trick at the start of the next over as Cobb just got one back over the bowler’s head. He then moved to a 100-ball 50 in the 132nd over, hitting seven fours along the way. Another followed as a thin inside edge off Panesar passed the stumps and ran away.
The partnership continued to gather pace as Ireland clubbed three fours in the space of five balls and Cobb then struck a straight six off Sikandar. Cobb pulled the same bowler for four at the start of the 138th over but the all-rounder claimed his second wicket by trapping the batsman in front next ball.
The stand yielded 43 but one wicket brought two as Ireland (18, 34b) followed in the next over. The batsman skied Panesar and Pettini got under the steepler in the deep. A spirited last-wicket stand followed. It started as Buck picked up a single to take Leicestershire to their second score in excess of 400 while Shreck took the attack to the bowlers.
He clattered four boundaries in total; a stroke through mid-wicket was followed by two blows down the ground, and the final one by edging Newby over Foster’s head. The lead passed 150 with a leg bye but the innings was ended later that over as Greg Smith bowled Shreck.
Tea was taken with 33 overs left in the day and Shreck gave the team the ideal start with a third-over strike. Tom Westley (3, 8b), who was looking to leave, got an edge through to Eckersley and Essex were 3-1.
Smith launched a counter attack which started with fours courtesy of a pull and drive off Ireland (3-0-12-0). He then greeted Buck’s (5-0-25-0) arrival by pulling two further boundaries. Mickleburgh then collected his first four with a similar stroke.
Number three Smith drove back past Shreck (11-3-18-1) for four and Taylor (4-0-13-0) and Naik (11-1-27-0) came on. The score moved past 50 in the 15th over, and a three from Mickleburgh took the stand to 50 and the deficit into two figures in the next over.
Smith drove Taylor through mid-wicket to pick up his sixth four while Mickleburgh collected another four in the left-armer’s next over. Shreck was reintroduced and although he and Naik asked plenty of questions, there was no reward for their efforts.
Mickleburgh nudged Naik down to long leg for four and Smith cracked through the off side for another boundary. Mickleburgh also twice drove for four as he went to 47 not out, and Smith was on 43 as Essex got to stumps without further loss.