by Pete Johnson
Leicestershire beat Durham by four wickets with two balls to spare in a thrilling Second XI Trophy encounter at Grace Road.
Durham won the toss and elected to bat in warm and sunny conditions. Graham Clark and Calum MacLeod opened the batting for Durham, and added 34 before Clarke (12) was first go with the score on 34 from 7.1 overs, caught behind by Lewis Hill off the bowling of James Pearson.
Pearson was working up a lively pace from the Pavilion End, and in his next over trapped dangerman MacLeod (23) in front, leaving Durham on 41-2 from 9.3 overs. MacLeod has made appearances for Scotland but the Flying Scotsman's innings came off the rails quite early on this occasion.
Ryan Pringle and Ram Singh then had a period of consolidation for Durham, Singh was pushing singles here and there, but Pringle found the ropes four times in consecutive overs with some very crisp shots.
Their partnership was broken with the score on 94 from 17 overs when Pringle (33) was caught behind by Hill off Atif Sheikh, who was operating from the Bennett End. Then followed a partnership of 63 between Singh and Stuart Poynter, before Poynter (41 from 62 balls), was lbw to Aadil Ali, leaving Durham on 157-4 from 33.1 overs.
Next to go was Singh (33 from 57 balls) was run out by Tom Wells, with the score on 164-5 from 33.5 overs. Usman Arshad (2) was soon after bowled by Ali, who was turning in an impressive spell from the Pavilion End, apart from three wides, two of which went all the way to the ropes. Durham were now on 166-6 from 35.1 overs.
Then followed Durham's highest partnership of the innings – 87 between Paul Coughlin and Ryan Buckley. Coughlan really caught the eye with his electric running and huge strides between the wickets; when running at full throttle his personal best at running the length of the wicket was an astonishing seveb paces.
Their alliance came to an end when Anthony Ireland had Buckley (42) from 45 balls caught by Matt Boyce, in an area between cover and mid-off. This was just reward for Ireland, who had beaten the bat on a number of occasions.
Ireland’s busy and energetic run up conjures up a picture of a passenger running along a railway platform at, say, 1.29pm just as the last carriage of the 1.28pm departure is slowing trundling along about 20 yards in front of him.
Coughlin (42* from 51 balls) and Matthew Milnes (1) safely saw the innings to its conclusion, Durham closing on 263-7 from their 50 overs.
Bowling figures: Ireland 9-0-46-1: Sheikh 6-0-32-1: Pearson 8-0-55-2: Tariq 10-1-39-0: Thakor 6-0-30-0: Thornely 6-0-22-0: Aadil Ali 5-0-34-2.
Michael Thornely and Boyce began Leicestershire's reply with the previous sunny conditions now being replaced by cloud cover. Thornely (2) went caught behind by Poynter off Milnes in the second over leaving County on 4-1.
Usman Tariq joined Boyce, and the pair added 33 before Tariq (11) was another victim for the Poynter/Milnes combination, County now on 37-2 from 10 overs.
Boyce and Thakor then developed an excellent partnership of 112. Boyce was particularly venomous on any width he was given, and also introduced the reverse sweep on a number of occasions. Thakor meanwhile was playing a number of textbook shots around the ground.
The left-handed Boyce went to his 50 (8x4/58 balls) with the score on 89-2 after 20.4 overs. Ten overs later, Thakor reached his half century (5x4/61 balls) with the score on 148-2 from 30.4 overs. A further single had been added when Boyce was out to a magnificent catch by Coughlin, who took the catch one handed diving to his right in the point region.
Boyce made an excellent 73, the highest score of the match, from 89 balls. Thakor (61 from 69 balls), went soon afterwards, caught at mid-on by Buckley off Max Morley. This left County on 172-4 from 36 overs, requiring 92 to win from 14 overs.
Young duo Wells and Hill added a further 21 before Hill (15 from 16 balls including a maximum), was caught at mid-off from a full-blooded shot off Arshad that MacLeod caught high above his head. County now on 193-5 from 40.2 overs, still needing 71 from 9.4 overs.
Wells was playing a very patient innings by his somewhat explosive standards, having smote just one solitary maximum in his innings. Wells was joined by Ali, and the pair put County on the doorstep of victory.
Ali, like his name suggests, sure does pack a punch when he hits the ball, and it was lovely to see a somewhat unsung young stalwart of the second team go a long, long way to making this victory possible.
Wells eventually went for 38 from 51 balls, caught by keeper Poynton who pouched a skier off Gavin Main. County now on 242-6, with 22 needed from 20 balls. Sam Johnson joined Ali, and the pair judged the assault on the target magnificently to get over the line with two balls remaining.
Johnson found the ropes twice in his 11 not out from 10 balls, but it was Ali with an eye-catching undefeated 32 from 27 balls who batted with maturity beyond his years to seal the victory with two balls remaining. County took a further two points to maintain their place at the top of the Northern Group Trophy table, with three games left to play.
Bowling figures for Durham: Coughlin 8.4-0-59-0: Milnes 10-1-31-3: Main 10-0-50-1: Pringle 5-0-19-0: Arshad 6-0-38-1: Morley 4-0-33-1: Buckley 6-1-27-0.
The two teams now meet in a Championship game at Hinckley Town CC from Tuesday to Thursday. There is an 11am start on each of the three days.