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Leicestershire’s bowlers produced a disciplined performance as the LV=CC game against Derbyshire continued to ebb and flow.
County were 113-5 at one point on the first day before reaching 311, and Derbyshire’s first innings took a similar path.
Leicestershire reduced the visitors to 115-6 before top-scorer David Wainwright (83*, 167b) was involved in two substantial partnerships.
Alex Hughes (60, 125b) scored a maiden first-class 50 as he and Wainwright put on 91 for the 7th wicket, and Wainwright then added an unbroken 48 for the ninth wicket with debutant Tom Taylor (20*, 61b) as Derbyshire closed on 279-8.
Ben Raine was terrific in returning figures of 22-9-34-3 for Leicestershire while Alex Wyatt (23-9-61-3), Anthony Ireland (21-4-53-2) and Rob Taylor (18-5-42-0) also got good movement on an attritional day.
Derbyshire will resume day three 32 runs behind, so everything is set up for a good game at Grace Road.
Derbyshire resumed on 12-0 and there was a wicket in the second over as Paul Borrington (6, 28b) edged the lively Ireland to Greg Smith at second slip.
The seamers got plenty of swing in muggy conditions but Stephen Moore (18, 76b) and Wayne Madsen (27, 60b) battled hard. The captain thrice drove Ireland to the cover boundary as he occasionally cut loose but Moore was tied down and fell lbw to Raine.
Wyatt and Raine bowled four consecutive maidens to keep the batsmen under pressure before Madsen broke the shackles off the last ball of the 27th over by driving through extra for four.
Raine beat Marcus North with an absolute gem as he continued to make the ball talk, and Madsen produced another trademark cover drive off Wyatt to collect a boundary. Rob Taylor replaced Wyatt and moved one past Madsen’s outside edge in his first over of the day as the bowlers continued to ask questions.
A sharp shower came after that delivery, so the players left the field with the score on 67-2 after 30.3 overs. Lunch was taken at 12.50pm and there was a restart immediately afterwards.
Raine had bowled beautifully in the first session and the all-rounder picked up where he left off by dismissing key man Madsen. Raine got the ball to lift off a length and Ned Eckersley took a very smart catch at first slip as Leicestershire picked up their first bowling point.
Scott Elstone clipped his first delivery down to fine leg for four and Raine now had figures of 10-5-13-2. North and Elstone hit another couple of boundaries apiece but Elstone (13, 23b) then chased a wide Wyatt delivery and Niall O’Brien completed the dismissal.
Australian North struck consecutive fours either side of the wicket in the 41st over off Taylor but Wyatt beat Alex Hughes on several occasions. Hughes then nicked the accurate seamer through the slips for four to add to his frustration.
A key wicket arrived as North (23, 68b) edged an attempted drive off Ireland to a diving O’Brien. Ireland bowled the left-hander after his splendid quickfire 90 in the NatWest T20 Blast game between the sides last month, so this completed a notable double for the seamer.
County recorded a second bowling point as Wyatt clipped the top of Gareth Cross’ (0, 4b) off-stump with one that nipped back beautifully. But a stand developed between Hughes and Wainwright as Derbyshire avoided the follow-on.
Hughes twice found the ropes off Wyatt in the 52nd over before surviving a big lbw appeal from Ireland. The young all-rounder drove James Sykes (16-1-41-0) through mid-off in his second over while both he and Wainwright swept to the ropes in the spinner’s next offering.
That prompted a change as Rob Taylor returned at the Pavilion End, and Hughes flicked for two off his first ball back as Derbyshire reached 150. With the earlier delay, umpires Richard Kettleborough and Graham Lloyd set the tea interval for 3.40pm. The score had moved to 157-6 at that stage with a further 43 overs still to be bowled.
Four leg byes ensured Derbyshire avoided the follow-on as well as taking the partnership to 50. Both sides continued to adopt an extremely patient approach at the start of the mammoth session before Hughes pulled and nudged fours as he moved to 50 from 112 balls (8x4).
Derbyshire finally recorded a batting point in the 81st over with a Hughes single, and Wainwright pulled Josh Cobb (5-1-21-0) for four. The new ball was taken in the 83rd over, and a wicket came in the next over as Hughes pulled a Wyatt delivery straight to Raine at mid-wicket.
The wicket provoked a counter-attack as Wainwright, who had collected two fours from his first 116 balls, found the fence five more times in the space of six deliveries. The left-hander drove, cut and pulled Ireland for three successive fours before edging two consecutive boundaries in the next over off Wyatt. The first of those boundaries took him to a 121-ball 50 (6x4).
Tony Palladino (2, 18b) chipped Raine to Robson at mid-wicket but Wainwright and Tom Taylor kept going. Wainwright hooked down to the boundary while Tom Taylor played a nice cover drive for four. The duo took the score to 250 and Tom Taylor then edged his second four.
The deficit came down to 50 and Wainwright and Tom Taylor then found the fine leg boundary in the 102nd over from Rob Taylor. Tom Taylor also pulled Cobb away as Derbyshire got to stumps without further loss, so the match is on a knife-edge at the halfway stage.
* Thanks to Ed Melia for the photo of Ben Raine.