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Leicestershire can reflect on an excellent start to their LV=CC campaign after picking up ten points from a draw at Kent.
Leicestershire declared their second innings on 259-5 after Greg Smith made the first century of the campaign and Angus Robson posted his highest first-class score of 81.
The duo shared a terrific 147 for the fourth wicket as Kent were set 324 from a minimum of 42 overs.
It looked an unlikely target for the home side and they had no choice but to dig in after the County attack reduced them to 36-4.
Leicestershire had their tails up but Daniel Bell-Drummond (39*, 110b) and Darren Stevens (34*, 50b) ensured Kent also claimed ten points as their unbroken stand of 53 guided the side to 89-4.
County resumed on 39-2 - a lead of 103 - and Ned Eckersley punched Doug Bollinger (11-0-48-2) through the leg-side to pick up three in the opening over.
Two boundaries came in Robbie Joseph’s first over as Eckersley pulled away and Smith cracked through the off-side. Eckersley collected another four off Bollinger and the partnership reached 50 in the 19th over.
Smith hit Mitch Claydon (14-1-76-1) to the cover boundary in the following over but the former Durham man went on to take the wicket of Eckersley (23, 45b), who edged to Stevens at first slip.
There was great intent from new batsman Robson as he picked up two consecutive boundaries in each of Claydon’s next two overs.
Robson continued his boundary gathering by driving Stevens (8-1-30-0) through the covers, punishing a short Claydon delivery and striking Riley (14-1-62-2) through the off-side.
Smith then moved to a 94-ball fifty (8x4) and the opener continued to impress by twice driving to the ropes. A single picked up inbetween registered a brisk 50 partnership and another Smith single stretched the lead to 200.
Robson struck his eighth four in the 35th over bowled by Riley and the young batsman moved to a maiden LV=CC 50 from his 51st delivery – the last ball before lunch – as County went in on 156-3. That represented a lead of 220 with Smith on 73 and Robson 50.
Smith hit a boundary off Bollinger in the first over after lunch and both batsmen found the fence off the Australian paceman in the 45th over. The stand was now into three figures and there was an all-action period as County looked to accelerate.
Robson used his feet to loft Riley over the top and Smith nicked through the slips to move to 96. Robson was put down by Claydon at mid-off off Riley before Smith completed a 156-ball ton with a three. The seventh first-class ton of his career contained 13 fours.
Smith then carved Claydon miles into the air but Joseph (12-1-41-0) put the opportunity down. A wicket did arrive shortly afterwards as Robson was taken at mid-wicket by Rob Key off Riley.
Leicestershire’s batsmen continued to put their foot down and Smith produced a well-timed sweep off Riley to pick up his 14th boundary. The opening batsman fell later in the over as he sliced the tweaker to Bollinger at point.
Niall O’Brien got off the mark with a four through extra and Josh Cobb’s (11*, 12b) first boundary came courtesy of a nice shot down the ground. O’Brien (10*, 8b) picked up another four off Riley, and Leicestershire called time on their innings shortly afterwards.
County had the perfect start as Sam Northeast drove the first ball back to Charlie Shreck (8-1-22-1), who was on a hat-trick after claiming Sam Billings with the final delivery of the Kent first innings. Bell-Drummond poured cold water on the opportunity by whipping the ball away for four.
Key and Bell-Drummond recorded further boundaries and Cobb brought on Naik (15-2-34-2) to bowl the sixth over. Anthony Ireland (6-0-11-1), who had taken the new ball, then replaced Shreck and struck just before tea as Key (7, 24b) edged a drive to Robson in the gully.
Bell-Drummond and Brendan Nash played watchfully after tea but the bowlers continued to cause problems. Rob Taylor (5-3-7-0) found the edge of Nash but the ball was dipping as it got to Naik at slip.
The off-spinner gained reward for a great period of Leicestershire pressure by pinning Nash in front and bowling Ben Harmison in the same over. Kent were in all kinds of bother on 36-4 with 23 overs to go but Bell-Drummond and Stevens dug in.
There were plenty of men around the bat but Stevens hit four boundaries as he tried to play his natural game. The overs were ticking away and the spin of Robson (1-0-10-0) and Eckersley (1-0-4-0) then entered the attack. Stevens and Bell-Drummond hit fours as the stand went beyond 50 before the teams shook hands at 5.35pm.
It was always going to be difficult to produce a positive result after the first day was lost to rain but County went close. The team gave it absolutely everything and will feel that the good all-round performance sets a platform for the season. The next match is against Glamorgan on Sunday (11am start), which is our first game at Grace Road in 2014.