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Impressive Foxes land comfortable win

Anthony Ireland and Greg Smith led the way as Leicestershire Foxes made it a NatWest T20 Blast double against Derbyshire Falcons at Chesterfield.

Ireland's career-best 5-22 were the third best figures in the Foxes' history and helped restrict the Falcons to a below par 143 all out.

Smith then helped to pace the chase to perfection with an unbeaten 65 off 56 balls, the Foxes winning by five wickets with four balls to spare.

Although that margin of victory appears relatively small, the Foxes were dominant for most of the afternoon in their best all-round performance in the competition.

The only blip in the entire game came when Ben Raine dropped a low chance at mid-wicket off Charlie Shreck (2.1-0-29-0) when Wes Durston, who top-scored with 89 off 63 balls, was on 25.

Queen's Park can be a difficult ground to defend, particularly given the position of the wicket today. One of the square boundaries, like the straight hits, was not huge. The biggest boundary on the ground sloped away and the outfield was lightning-fast. With all that in mind, Josh Cobb decided to let his unchanged side bowl first.

The Foxes conceded 12 extras, so the other ten batsmen only totalled 42 between them. When you consider that Marcus North made 20 of those, you can see that Leicestershire generally outfoxed the Falcons.

Thirteen came off Shreck's first over including a boundary apiece for Chesney Hughes and Durston. They were far from clean strikes off the ball, so it looked like it could be a long afternoon for the bowlers.

Ireland had other ideas and his figures read 1.1-1-0-2 at one point as he knocked out the middle stump of Chesney Hughes (7, 8b) before unsettling the off peg of Gareth Cross (1, 5b) with a terrific yorker.

Durston was playing with a freedom that none of his teammates was able to match. The opener had struck a further four boundaries before being put down in the 5th over, and he hit three consecutive fours off Ireland in the 6th as the Falcons moved to a healthy 55-2 after the powerplay.

It was an ideal platform but the home side were not able to capitalise. Things started to go downhill when Wayne Madsen (3, 6b) attempted a reverse sweep that had danger written all over it given Scott Styris’ first three balls had been right on the money.

The captain fell lbw as Styris (4-0-25-1) and Jigar Naik (4-0-20-1) ensured only 14 came off overs 7-10 and the Foxes were now in control with the score on 69-3 at halfway.

A Durston single took him to a 34-ball 50 (8x4) in the 11th over and two leg-side fours at the end of the 12th were a welcome relief for the Falcons.

North slog swept Cobb for four in the 14th over but he was generally well tied down by the Foxes attack, who had suffered at the hands of the Australian in the first meeting of the sides.

Durston was proving harder to contain, and an edge for four in the 15th over was followed by a pulled six. As well as putting a slight dent in the figures of the excellent Styris, the maximum took the stand past 50.

The partnership needed ending and the ever-economical Naik did the trick with a brilliant return catch to dismiss North (20, 24b). Although Scott Elstone (9, 9b) hit a straight four in the antepenultimate over from Cobb (2-0-17-0), he was the first of six wickets to fall in quick succession.

Elstone hit Raine (4-0-25-2) to Boyce at deep cover and Durston, who scored 50 of his runs in boundaries, then drilled the all-rounder to Ned Eckersley at long-off.

The last over was eventful to say the least. Shreck had to come off after bowling a second high full toss of the innings, and Ireland returned to devastating effect.

Ireland took two wickets with his first two balls as Tony Palladino (1, 2b) and Alex Hughes (1, 2b) holed out to Smith and Eckersley at long-on and long-off respectively. There was no hat-trick but Greg Cork (0, 1b) was then cleaned up as he stepped right across his wicket.

A fourth wicket came in the space of five balls as Mark Turner was run out in a chaotic incident. Turner (0, 1b) missed the ball, David Wainwright (0*, 1b) survived as Niall O’Brien threw at the stumps, Turner was almost run out at the other end, and the number 11 was eventually dismissed by an Eckersley-O’Brien combination as he attempted a second.

The Falcons had lost their last six wickets in the space of nine legitimate deliveries, and it was the second time the Foxes had bowled a side out in the Blast inside three days, which is no mean feat.

Derbyshire gave the Foxes a trial by spin, with Durston bowling the first of 15 overs of tweak. The off-spinner continued to be a thorn in the Foxes side as one came off his first over.

Skipper Cobb cut a four and O'Brien twice found the fence with well-timed strokes as 15 arrived off the second over from paceman Turner to get the scoreboard moving.

Madsen snapped up a sharp chance at cover off North to dismiss O'Brien (10, 7b) in the third over but Cobb flicked a four off Chesney Hughes in the next over, and Smith swept Durston to the boundary in the fifth.

Cobb (19, 16b) clubbed Chesney Hughes (3-0-29-1) for a six over mid-wicket at the start of the 6th but the slow left armer enticed a leading edge with the next ball and Alex Hughes took a decent catch running back from cover. Smith lofted a four later in the over, and further boundaries came from the in-form batsman in the 7th and 8th overs.

Eckersley played a fluent cameo, including the shot of the day when hitting Wainwright inside-out for six in the 9th over. Another drive off Chesney Hughes over the extra cover region sprinted away for four in the next offering as the Foxes cruised to 75-2 at halfway.

Smith hit back over Chesney Hughes' head before edging a three in the 12th over but after the stand reached 52 in the next over, Eckersley (21, 15b) struck North (4-0-25-2) to Alex Hughes at long-on.

A four from Smith recorded the 100 in the next over and Matthew Boyce (18, 15b) swept a six and cut for four in the 15th over. The left-hander picked out Cork off Durston (4-0-23-1) in the 17th over as the 29 run stand came to an end. Smith then progressed to a well-constructed half-century (48 balls), his third of the season to go with the wonderful hundred against Nottinghamshire.

Wainwright (4-0-26-0) completed a tidy spell with an over that went for six singles to leave the Foxes requiring 18 off the last two overs. A four apiece from Smith and Styris arrived as 12 came off North and although Styris (8, 7b) was caught by Elstone at deep mid-wicket off Turner at the start of the last over, Smith clattered a four over cover to finish the job.

The result keeps the Foxes in the mix for a quarter-final berth and the team now face a huge game with Lancashire Lightning on Friday night at Grace Road. The game starts at 5.30pm.

* Thanks to Ed Melia for the photograph of Anthony Ireland.


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