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By Pete Johnson
Leicestershire won a thrilling Championship encounter with Durham at Hinckley Town/CCA by 51 runs following a spirited performance after tea.
The game ebbed and flowed during the day, but it was Leicestershire who came out on top, and they now lead the 2nd XI Championship table by 14 points with three games remaining.
Leicestershire resumed on their overnight score of 101-0 with Matthew Boyce on 56 and Michael Thornely on 42. The spectators present were soaking up the burning sun like lizards.
Boyce and Thornely had only added 9 to their overnight partnership when Boyce (60 from 104 balls) was caught behind by keeper Poynton off Usman Arshad.
Batsmen came and went rapidly as County tried to build a lead, at the same time giving themselves enough overs to bowl Durham out.
The only constant at the crease during the batsman procession to and from the pavilion was Thornely, who played a commanding innings, and acted as the lynchpin throughout. His 50 came from 97 balls and included four fours and a six, the score being 117-1 after 34.2 overs when the landmark was reached.
County progressed serenely to 135-1 before slipping to 197-7. It started with the wicket of first innings centurion Usman Tariq (5), who was caught by Calum MacLeod off Matt Milnes. Shiv Thakor (0) was bowled by Arshad and Tom Wells (12) was caught by Ryan Pringle off Paul Coughlin.
Lewis Hill (4) was caught by MacLeod off Coughlin, Aadil Ali (12) was another victim to the Pringle/Coughlin combination and Sam Johnson (3) was caught behind by Stuart Poynter off Coughlin.
Amidst all this carnage, Thornely was keeping the scoreboard ticking over, and finding the ropes on regular occasions. Alex Wyatt, at the dizzy heights of number 9, occupied the crease just before lunch to ensure Thornely got his well-deserved hundred (13x4/1x6, 171b). It came up in the penultimate over before lunch with the score on 206-7 after 59.2 overs.
County went into lunch on 214-7 with Thornely undefeated on 108 and Wyatt 2. Leicestershire declared their innings at lunch, leaving Durham requiring 307 to win in a minimum of 49 overs plus 16 in the last hour. Coughlin was the pick of the Durham bowlers, taking 4-41 off 12 overs.
Openers Reece Carr and Graham Clark got the Durham innings off to a fine star, taking the score to 60 before Carr (29) was required to take a U-turn and head back to the pavilion after being caught behind by Hill off Atif Sheikh.
Ryan Pringle, centurion in the first innings, joined Clark, and the pair took the score to 96 before Clarke (40) was another victim for Hill and Sheikh, Durham now 96-2 after 22.2 overs.
Ram Singh joined Pringle and the pair were taking the game Durham's way. The pair took Durham into tea on 104-2 from 26 overs. Your esteemed scorer decided to consume his culinary delights in the comfort of the pavilion today, as yesterday he returned to the scorebox with his tea, which promptly did a disappearing act that Penn and Teller would have been proud of!
The magic after tea came from Leicestershire's persistent attack – but not before Durham had given themselves a good chance of chasing down their tricky target.
Durham required 203 to win from a minimum of 39 overs in the final session, and Pringle moved to his 50 (7x4/1x6) from 52 balls after 32 overs with the score on 142-2. The dangerous Pringle reached 54 (55b) before being caught by youngster Cameron Sharp just behind square off the bowling of Tariq, the score now being 153-3.
This was a real pressure catch by young Sharp, and one of such tender years should be congratulated in taking it. Sharp had replaced Anthony Ireland who was unable to take any part in proceedings today as a result of the injury to his nose yesterday. It was good to see Ireland at the ground though later in the day, and there is no truth in the rumour that he has joined the staff of Hooters in Nottingham!
Next to go was the equally dangerous Singh (35), who struck the wrong note when he offered a sharp chance to Aadil Ali in the square leg area off Tariq. Ali shuffled around the outfield to take a good running catch. Durham now on 171-4, needing 136 from 27.3 overs.
MacLeod and Poynter then threatened to win the game to Durham taking the score to 217, before key man MacLeod (26 from 33 balls), played on to Wyatt. Wyatt at the Pavilion End and Sheikh at the Football Ground End were slowly edging the game back Leicestershire's way.
The last hour commenced at 5.30pm with Durham needing 88 from 16 overs, with five wickets remaining. Coughlin (0) was next to go, gleefully snaffled by keeper Hill off Sheikh. This left Durham on 224-6.
Wyatt then struck again, Poynton (36 from 41 balls), tried to hit the big fella over the top, but picked out Ollie Freckingham who took a great running catch, in the mid-off area, the ball spilling out of Freckingham’s hands when he hit the ground, but he managed to scoop the ball up before it hit the turf. This left Durham on 234-7 now needing 73 to win off 13.2 overs.
Arshad then got after the bowling clubbing two fours and a six in one over, taking Durham to within 59 of their target with 10 overs remaining. Sheikh, who was bowling a lively spell, then had Ryan Buckley (6) caught by Ali at short mid-wicket.
The innings, and victory, was then wrapped up in spectacular fashion by Freckingham. The fearsome Freckingham removed the dangerous Arshad (15 from 12 balls), when he was caught at point by Tariq, attempting a square cut. Freckingham then bowled his next ball to last man Gavin Main, it rattled into his stumps to leave County victorious, Leicestershire taking a maximum 24 points to Durham's 8 points.
Bowling figures: Wyatt 15-1-57-2: Freckingham 8.3-2-36-2: Sheikh 12-4-52-4: Wells 4.3-1-23-0: Thakor 2.3-0-15-0: Sharp 4-0-25-0: Thornely 3-1-10-0: Tariq 6-0-30-2.
An enjoyable three days as guests of Hinckley Town/CCA. We would like to offer sincere thanks to Barry Orton, and his team of helpers on the groundstaff side of things, Loraine for all her hard work in the kitchen over the three days, and Geoff Coe for lunchtime 'Security' duties, and not forgetting Graham for all his numerical 'nous' in the scorebox.