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Good contest developing at Grace Road

The LV=CC match between Leicestershire and Hampshire at Grace Road is evenly poised at the halfway stage.

Hampshire resumed on 321-8 and added a further 11 runs before being bowled out for 332 as Nathan Buck (22-6-84-5) picked up a five-for for the second consecutive match.

The Leicestershire innings of 296-9 was almost a mirror image of the Hampshire effort given lots of batsmen made valuable contributions without going on to reach a three figures.

Ramnaresh Sarwan (60, 81b), Angus Robson (54, 100b) and Rob Taylor (53, 71b) all scored half-centuries while Josh Cobb (37, 95b) and Ned Eckersley (34, 111b) battled hard.

There was also a useful unbeaten 18 (17b) from Buck, who added an unbroken 15 for the final wicket with Charlie Shreck as County reduced the deficit to 36 while edging towards a third batting point.

New ball duo Kyle Abbott (22-9-55-4) and James Tomlinson (18-9-49-3) shared seven wickets for the visitors, who bounced back after County had reached 187-3 at tea.

Earlier in the day, Jigar Naik (15-1-49-1) and Buck opened the bowling, and Abbott was fortunate to see an inside edge off Buck race away for four. Anthony Ireland (20.1-2-75-1) then replaced Naik after one over and Briggs drove to the extra cover boundary.

Buck made the important breakthrough as Abbott (40, 85b) nicked and Greg Smith took the catch in the slips. The innings then came to an end two balls later as Briggs (18, 45b) cut Ireland to Cobb at point.

There was a new opening partnership with Robson batting alongside Smith, and the latter batsman got off the mark with a driven four behind point. But Abbott struck in his next over as Smith edged and James Vince took a good low catch at second slip.

Robson nicked Tomlinson down to the vacant third man boundary before playing two beautiful strokes off Abbott. The first went through mid-off while the second flew like a tracer bullet through backward point.

Eckersley edged Tomlinson but the ball dropped just short of ‘keeper Michael Bates before Robson hit another couple out of the screws off Abbott through cover and mid-on to land further boundaries. A cut on the up off Abbott also flew to the fence and Hampshire opted for a double change.

Sean Ervine (10-3-36-0) entered the attack in place of Abbott from the Bennett End and Robson drove for four through the covers before flicking a three through mid-wicket to register the team’s half-century. Eckersley had a watchful start before pulling Matt Coles (8-1-44-0) to the fence before driving a two to take the stand to 50.

A quiet period followed but Robson broke the shackles by cutting another four. Briggs had his first over from the Pavilion End before Eckersley pulled and drove down the ground to collect boundaries. Leicestershire went to lunch on 79-1 with Robson on 48 and Eckersley 17.

County picked up where they left off as eight came in the first over of the afternoon session, including a lovely boundary from Eckersley through mid-on. Robson then clipped behind square to record a fine 88-ball 50 with his ninth four.

Tomlinson was causing problems; after an Eckersley edge was parried by Bates, the duo combined to dismiss Robson. The seamer, who was now operating around the wicket, got one to lift and the ‘keeper took the catch with the score on 92.

The wicket came as part of a period where 40 consecutive dot balls were bowled, and there was also a big leg before appeal against Eckersley after he offered no stroke. The runless spell was ended as Sarwan drove Briggs for three and Eckersley followed that up with a glorious cover drive that raced across the lush outfield.

Sarwan carved the returning Coles over the off-side for four to take the score to 100 and he followed that up with a fantastic on-drive for four next ball. A cut and pull from Sarwan registered further fours while Eckersley used his feet against Briggs to drill through mid-wicket.

Although Sarwan drove Coles to the cover boundary, a third wicket came as Briggs slid through an arm ball and hit the top of Eckersley’s off-stump. But there was no respite for the visitors as another alliance developed.

Sarwan drove and cut successive Coles deliveries for four and the batsman also cut Briggs away between two Cobb boundaries. Sarwan cut Ervine for four as he homed in on 50, while Cobb smashed Briggs (22-6-63-1) down the ground for the first maximum of the innings.

Sarwan reached 50 from 74 balls (9x4) with a cut for two off Briggs, and a single for Cobb took the stand to 50. Sarwan pulled James Vince for six in the penultimate over before tea as County went for a cuppa on 187-3 after 58 overs. Sarwan was 60 not out at that stage and Cobb had 25 to his name.

The break proved useful for Hampshire as Abbott struck twice in quick succession. The South African international took a wicket with the first ball back as Sarwan pulled high into the air and Coles took the catch at mid-wicket. Niall O’Brien (8, 12b) hit successive fours off the seamer at the end of the 61st over but the overseas player gained revenge by having him caught by Will Smith at gully in his next over.

Leicestershire were now 195-5 but Cobb and Taylor shared 49. Cobb hit down to third man to record a bonus point while Taylor opened his boundary account with a flowing back foot drive.

Taylor then hit Vince (5-0-28-0) for three fours and a three, and the all-rounder also drove Briggs off the back foot to the ropes as he started like a train. A four through mid-wicket followed as Will Smith (4-2-6-1) entered the attack but the off-spinner landed success later in the over as Cobb (37, 95b) feathered a catch to Bates.

Naik flicked his first delivery away for four and the spinner also banked a second batting point in the 78th over. Briggs was getting turn out of the footholes and he saw Bates put down the sharpest of chances after finding Taylor’s edge. The batsman responded by using his feet and driving exquisitely through the covers.

The new ball was taken immediately by Abbott and Tomlinson and Taylor hit successive boundaries at the end of the left armer’s comeback over. Taylor then cut Tomlinson down to third man to register a 63-ball 50 with his tenth boundary.

The left armer struck twice in the space of three balls after Taylor reached his landmark as Naik (8, 27b) dragged on and Ireland fended to Vince at second slip. Buck gloved down to fine leg before picking up another four with a lovely drive through extra.

Abbott collected his fourth wicket as Taylor got a leading edge to Jimmy Adams at mid-off but County kept the innings alive. Shreck (5*, 7b) smashed through extra, and Buck also nicked and drove away for fours before stumps.

* Thanks to Chris Roe of Chadwicks for the photo of Angus Robson.


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