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by Pete Johnson
A good final day lays in wait after Leicestershire and Kent continued to produce entertaining cricket in the Friendly at Market Harborough CC.
Alex Wyatt claimed four wickets but Kent closed on 279-9 in their second innings after Neil Pinner's unbeaten 89 helped Leicestershire post 233 in their first knock.
Leicestershire commenced Day two of the encounter on 192-6, holding a lead of 14 runs. The England Under 19 fixture at Grace Road had taken its toll on the attendance, and there were only a handful of spectators present when the game commenced.
A large black cloud graced us with its presence upon commencement of play. County had only added six to their overnight total when Eben Kurtz (27) was caught behind by keeper Matt Stibbard off the bowling of Matt Hunn. This had been another good, solid, and accomplished innings from the young Kurtz whose knock had taken up 58 balls, and proved valuable in the partnership with Pinner.
Wyatt and Pinner added 18 for the 8th wicket before Wyatt (7) was caught at slip via a juggling act involving all three slip fielders. First slip knocked the ball up, second slip parried it, and third slip, Nick Selman, took the catch. A cricketing equivalent of the Chuckle Brothers....From me to you, to you to me.
Last man Usmaan Muzaffer (0) joined Pinner, but was caught behind by Stiddard off Thomas, who had been working up a good head of steam from the Pavilion End. Pinner was left unbeaten on 89 (from 115 balls), a fine innings featuring some exquisite stroke play.
It was a real shame that Pinner had to miss a chunk of the season through an unfortunate arm injury. County's innings closed on 233-9 as Ben Raine was unable to take any further part in the game.
Bowling figures: Griffiths 10-1-56-0: Hunn 16-6-44-3: Thomas 14.4-4-59-3: Ball 6-0-28-2: Qayyaum 7-0-28-1: Piesley 1-0-4-0
Kent commenced their second Innings at 12.05pm, County having called up young seamer Alex Christie to replace Raine. Chris Piesley and Selman opened up for Kent, and Wyatt struck in his 4th over having Selman (2) caught at first slip by Pinner as Kent slipped to 6-1. Kent safely negotiated the remaining 45 minutes until lunch, Piesley (10*) and Adam Ball (17*) taking them in on 34-1 from 18 overs.
After lunch Piesley and Ball formed a strong partnership, Ball was first to his 50 (9x4/72 balls) with the score on 96-1 from 28 overs. Piesley went to his 50 (7x4/101 balls), with the score on 116-1 after 33.1 overs. Wyatt was shuffling his bowlers about, and Atif Sheikh, and Wyatt were catching the eye with very economical spells.
The partnership was broken when the score had reached 124, Ball (55) going lbw to Sheikh, from a delivery that left him hopping about in the crease. Adam Rouse joined Piesley, and the first innings top scorer went caught at short cover by Anish Patel off the bowling of Aadil Ali. An instinctive one handed catch by Patel, sending Rouse back for 7, Kent now on 135-3.
Piesley's fine knock came to an end when he had reached 87; he got a leading edge to a ball from Wyatt, the ball spiralled up, and Kurtz took a pressure catch in the cover area, Kent now 171-4. Zach Crawley (20*), and Matt Stiddard (9*), took Kent into tea on 190-4 from 57 overs.
The pair had added 14 after tea when Crawley (29) was caught behind by keeper Charlie Lowen off the bowling of Wyatt, Kent 204-5. Young Christie was now in his second spell, and dropped one in short to Matt Stiddard (24) who pulled it to deep mid-wicket where Chris Whittock took a comfortable catch. A special moment for Christie taking his first wicket in senior cricket. Kent were 214-6 at that stage.
Sam Weller joined David Griffiths and enjoyed a charmed life at first. Weller survived a chance to gully off Christie, but bore no malice, and really went to town as the next two balls he faced both went to the ropes. Weller's gig finally came to end when he was lbw to Muzaffar for 10, Kent now on 245-7.
David Griffiths was taking the lead role against the bowling, finding the ropes on five occasions. Imran Qayyum (1) went caught at mid on by Thornely from one he spooned up off Sheikh, Kent now 249-8. Thomas joined Griffiths, and there was some doubt in Thomas' mind when he faced the new ball attack of Sheikh and Wyatt, County taking the new ball in the 83rd over.
Thomas (10) went caught at 1st slip by Pinner off Wyatt, Bearders makes the art of slip catching look very simple at times, expertly snaffled with a minimum of fuss. Griffiths (36*) and last man Matt Hunn (0*) avoided any further alarms and took Kent into stumps on 279-9.
County's bowlers stuck well to their task, with Wyatt and Sheikh leading from the front, Ali getting through 9 overs, Christie taking on the challenge, and Muzaffar bowling with guile and flight. They were backed up well by Thornely and Whittock. I will not mention Lewis Hill's solitary over just before lunch, how did that slip out?
Bowling figures: Wyatt 20-5-61-4: Sheikh 20-6-41-2: Whittock 8-2-15-0: Christie 8-1-40-1: Muzaffar 17-4-46-1: Thornely 6-0-33-0: Aadil Ali 9-2-30-1: Hill 1-0-6-0
Play finished today at 6.53pm, I was ready for a sit down when I got home.............