Hill and Parkinson lead Foxes fightback

Kent versus Leicestershire, Specsavers County Championship, Day 1:

SCORECARD | Available through ESPN Cricinfo HERE 

INTERVIEW | Lewis Hill spoke to BBC Radio Leicester's Richard Rae at stumps, the interview is available HERE

HIGHLIGHTS | The highlights of the first day will be available HERE

REPORT | Lewis Hill and Callum Parkinson hit unbeaten half-centuries as Leicestershire fought extremely hard to post 326 for 9 on the opening day of the Specsavers County Championship game against promotion-chasing Kent.

County were 174 for 8 at one point before Hill (77 not out) shared 54 with Clint McKay (32) and an unbroken 98 with Parkinson (career-best 59 not out), Leicestershire’s highest tenth wicket stand against Kent.

Mark Cosgrove and Neil Dexter earlier made 40 apiece but both fell victim to former Leicestershire all-rounder Darren Stevens, who took the first seven wickets to fall in returning 7 for 59 off 23 overs.

The Foxes showed five changes to the side that last played in this competition as Michael Carberry, who made his Championship debut for Kent on this ground against Leicestershire in 2003, completed an unusual 'first game double'. 

Captain Cosgrove, McKay, Ben Raine and Mat Pillans returned after missing the Durham game through injury, the quintet coming in for Paul Horton, Aadil Ali, Ajmal Shahzad, Dieter Klein and Gavin Griffiths. 

Cosgrove won the toss and elected to bat on a glorious day at Canterbury and the openers made a steady start in taking the score to 24 in the tenth over.

But Leicestershire lost Harry Dearden (11), Carberry (18) and Colin Ackermann (6), all lbw in an initial eight-over spell from Stevens as he returned 3 for 8.

Cosgrove and Eckersley rebuilt; the latter was watchful while the skipper struck seven boundaries in the first session that arrived mainly as a result of flicking off the pads or driving through the off-side.

County reached 74 for 3 at lunch with Cosgrove on 32 and Eckersley 7 and the captain went on to collect a pair of leg-side boundaries early in the afternoon session.

But Stevens was soon causing more problems. Cosgrove got a leading edge that looped to Sam Northeast at mid-on to end the stand at 47 before the all-rounder moved one back to beat a defensive stroke from Eckersley (11), leaving Leicestershire at 88 for 5.

Dexter and Hill joined forces for an important stand that yielded 67. The former faced more of the bowling and did the majority of the scoring with fours being struck mainly through the region between backward point and extra cover. 

All-rounder Dexter also found time to dismissively pull Adam Milne through mid-wicket while Hill produced a cover drive to the ropes as the 50 partnership was recorded.

Northeast turned to the man with the golden arm after a quiet period and Stevens struck for a sixth time with a jaffa. A ball pitched on middle and moved away off the seam to beat Dexter's defensive push and clip the top of off stump.

Stevens then had the astonishing figures of 7 for 23 from 18.5 overs as Raine (6) edged a full delivery. Matt Coles took a good low catch at second slip with umpires Russell Warren and Martin Saggers getting together to confirm that it wasn't a bump ball.

Leicestershire lost an eighth wicket in the penultimate over before tea when Pillans, who scored 11 off just six deliveries, edged to Billings. Hill, crucially, was still there at the interval having soaked up 84 balls for 18 while McKay was unbeaten on 2. 

The duo took the attack to the bowlers after the interval. Stevens had only conceded 27 in his first 20 overs but Hill and McKay both lofted down the ground as 13 came off his 21st over. The first batting point was banked shortly afterwards.

Hill collected his fourth boundary before McKay clattered a couple of fours over the off-side off Coles in the 70th over, prompting a change of tack. Slow left arm spinner Imran Qayyum entered the attack and ended the alliance at 54 when McKay skied to Milne at deep extra cover.

County continued to scrap and Parkinson, who punched the ball through the off-side whenever the opportunity arose, was the latest batsman to get his head down alongside Hill. 

The team registered their second point before the new ball was taken and the 'keeper then moved to 50 from the 129th ball of a 209-minute milestone with a fifth four.

Parkinson continued to be aggressive, greeting the return of Stevens by taking 15 off the 83rd over, including a six over mid-on and a brace of fours.

Hill swivelled to send a ball to the fence as Leicestershire moved to 300 before Parkinson brought up his maiden first-class half-century from just 48 deliveries (4x4, 1x6) with a single off Qayyum.

By stumps, the duo had set a new last wicket best against this opposition, surpassing the 96 runs shared by George Geary and Alex Skelding at the Aylestone Road Ground in 1925. It was a brilliant effort with Hill batting for just under four-and-a-half hours in searing heat in the south east.

TEAM | Carberry, Dearden, Ackermann, Cosgrove (capt), Eckersley, Dexter, Hill (wk), Raine, Pillans, McKay, Parkinson.

* Thanks to John Mallett for the photograph of Lewis Hill and Callum Parkinson celebrating the spinner’s maiden first-class 50 today.

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