Foxes edged out in Cheltenham thriller

DAY 4 | Gloucestershire CCC 504 for nine declared & 48 for four beat Leicestershire CCC 252 & 299 by six wickets

SCORECARD | Available from Cricinfo HERE

POINTS | Gloucestershire CCC 22 points, Leicestershire CCC 4 points

REACTION | Head Coach Paul Nixon spoke to BBC Radio Leicester's Adam Whitty towards the end of the Cricket Show, which is available HERE

REPORT | Leicestershire CCC lost out in dramatic fashion despite some final day Specsavers County Championship heroics from Hassan Azad at Cheltenham.

Azad posted his third Specsavers County Championship century against Gloucestershire CCC in four innings and posted 1,000 first-class runs for the season as the Foxes came tantalisingly close to a draw at Cheltenham.

The opener batted for two full sessions as County fought so hard, and at tea looked set to clinch a share of the spoils given they were three runs ahead at 255 for four.

But Azad fell to the first ball of the last session and the Foxes were ultimately dismissed for 299 late in proceedings.

That left Gloucestershire CCC a target of 48 in eight overs and County started well, restricting the festival hosts to 28 for two from the first six overs.

But a couple of lusty blows from Ryan Higgins and Gareth Roderick, each of which cleared the fence, steered Gloucestershire CCC to a six-wicket success with three balls to go.

The final day got underway with the Foxes looking to bat the day out to earn something from the fixture after Gloucestershire CCC made the initial breakthroughs yesterday with the wickets of captain Paul Horton and Neil Dexter.

Azad and Ackermann opened the day at the crease and soon enough the left-hander was earning himself a customary half-century that came from 134 balls and included just two fours. It was a typically battling innings when his side needed it the most.

The duo went from strength to strength following this with each batsman seeing the ball well having got themselves in at the crease.

Soon enough the 100 was brought up for the Foxes and then the 150 followed as both batsmen played the perfect role in succeeding in getting through to the second session of the day without the loss of any more wickets.

There was one half-chance in the session. With Azad on 69, Jack Taylor failed to take a sharp chance offered to short-leg off left-arm spinner Tom Smith.

Leicestershire CCC lunched at 168 for two, with Azad on 82no and Ackermann on 41no after the partnership added 90 runs on to what was posted at the end of day three.

The teams came out for the second session and all of the hard work put in by Leicestershire in the first session was undone by Matt Taylor with his second ball of the first over of the afternoon session.

Ackermann (41) nicked the delivery through to wicket-keeper Roderick, and Gloucestershire CCC had their breakthrough on the final day.

Harry Dearden came into bat for Leicestershire and helped Azad on his way to his third Specsavers County Championship century – incidentally, all three have come against Gloucestershire CCC. The hard-working ton came from 256 balls and contained eight fours.

The new ball became available after the 80th over, and the home side opted to take it straight away, and, in similar fashion to Leicestershire’s new ball, made an immediate impact.

Higgins came in and bowled Dearden (19) with his seventh delivery of the new ball after smashing the middle and off sticks.

Ben Mike helped to cancel out the 252-run lead that Gloucestershire CCC took into the second innings.

During their partnership, Azad reached 1,000 personal first-class runs for 2019 upon recording his 106th run; it was his 975th seasonal run for County, and he also scored 25 for Loughborough MCCU against Kent earlier this campaign.

It was youngster Mike that took the Foxes into the lead with a thick edge down to third man off Ethan Bamber for an easy single.

The second interval of the day came with stalwart Azad (121no) still at the crease having earned his fourth first-class century alongside Mike (12no).

With six wickets in hand, Leicestershire looked to be honing in on yet another draw in the Championship as they sat on 255 for four.

But the first ball after the break raised Gloucestershire CCC hopes again as Azad edged Ethan Bamber to Miles Hammond at slip to end six hours and 22 minutes of intense concentration.

Mike was caught behind off Taylor, whose hostile post-tea spell brought him one for six from seven overs. Then, after Harry Swindells and Callum Parkinson had added 33 to take Leicestershire to the brink of safety, both fell in quick succession.

Swindells was well caught by Benny Howell at first slip off Higgins and the following over saw Parkinson nick Chadd Sayers to Hammond at second slip. When Will Davis (0) was lbw to Higgins, three wickets had fallen in 14 balls.

There were still more than 15 overs remaining and the Foxes led by only 41 at 293 for nine. Amid growing tension, Sayers ripped through Chris Wright’s defence to bowl him and end the innings with only six runs added.

A mini T20-style session was perfect practice for Leicestershire CCC as the Vitality Blast gets underway tomorrow - and Abbas and Wright so nearly defended the 47 runs they had to play with.

Gloucestershire CCC’s frantic second innings saw Chris Dent (6, 5b) bowled by Wright, who also had Miles Hammond (12, 17b) caught on the boundary, while Abbas had Jack Taylor (8, 4b) caught in the deep before a Higgins (13no, 16b) straight six off the last ball of the penultimate over left nine runs needed.

Benny Howell (1, 1b) was run out seeking a second run off the first ball of the final over. But Roderick (8no, 2b) came out to hit a two before his extraordinary match-winning shot, a lofted drive over cover.

Figures (1st inns) | Abbas 29-8-82-1, Wright 31-3-89-3, Davis 29-8-73-3, Dexter 17-2-53-0, Mike 18-2-82-0, Parkinson 21.1-3-74-1, Ackermann 9-2-33-0.

Figures (2nd inns) | Abbas 4-0-22-1, Wright 3.3-0-26-2.

TEAM | Horton (capt), Abbas, Ackermann, Azad, Davis, Dearden, Dexter, Mike, Parkinson, Swindells, Wright.

Gloucestershire CCC | Dent (capt), Hammond, Roderick (wk), J Taylor, Howell, van Buuren, Higgins, M Taylor, Sayers, Bamber, Smith.

IMAGES | Thanks to John Mallett of Outside Off for providing the images throughout the game.

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