Azad and Dexter break second wicket record

DAY 1 | Leicestershire CCC 343 for five v Gloucestershire CCC

SCORECARD | Available from Cricinfo HERE

REACTION | To follow

REPORT | Hassan Azad and Neil Dexter set the records tumbling as Leicestershire CCC posted a commanding 343 for five on the opening day of the Specsavers County Championship fixture against Gloucestershire CCC.

The duo shared the all-time second wicket partnership record for the Foxes as they homed in on a fourth batting point at the Fischer County Ground.

Azad and Dexter put on 320, with the former beating his own record of 309 shared with Ateeq Javid against Loughborough MCCU earlier this season.

It was also Leicestershire CCC’s best ever second wicket stand in the Specsavers County Championship, eclipsing the 289* that Chris Balderstone and David Gower shared against Essex at Grace Road in 1981.

For Dexter, it was a first-class career best score of 180 (284b, 27x4, 1x6) as he went beyond 8,000 first-class career runs, while Azad (137, 257b, 17x4) was recording his maiden Specsavers County Championship century.

Gloucestershire CCC stuck to their task and claimed four wickets late in the day, including the two centurions.

Tremendous work by the groundstaff ensured a prompt start at 11am, which was some going given all of the rain experienced in the region over the last seven days.

Due to that rainfall over the past seven days, the visitors followed the footsteps of Middlesex CCC and declined the coin toss.

Captain Paul Horton and Azad opened the batting and Gloucestershire CCC made the breakthrough in the fourth over. They claimed the wicket of the captain courtesy of a brilliant one-handed diving catch by Gareth Roderick. It was a first wicket in the competition for visiting overseas seamer Chadd Sayers.

As the Foxes found themselves sitting on six for one, Dexter made his way down the Grace Road pavilion stairs to join Azad, who had all of the runs to his name at that point.

It did not take long for Dexter to get into his groove, hitting three boundaries early on in his innings, encouraging Azad to do the same as they both began to make some headway against the opening bowling attack of David Payne and Sayers.

Dexter then went on to break a personal milestone as with the 37th ball received of the day, he flicked away his third four and earned himself his 8,000th run in first-class cricket.

And the landmark figures kept coming from Dexter, as he brought up the 50 partnership with Azad – which was brought around in superb fashion following four straight fours. Then, the No.3 batsman reached his own half-century with his tenth boundary of the day from just 56 balls.

The first session of the day then began to play itself out with the Foxes approaching the 100-run mark for the loss of one wicket, which, after 19 balls of the day, was a fine effort.

Dexter certainly livened things up for the Foxes after he posted 63 runs from just 81 balls, and it already looked like the beginning of a pivotal partnership in this fixture.

County took lunch at 89 for one, and the duo took it into three figures after only three overs of the second session. Dexter got County there after driving his 16th boundary of the day.

The second session brought much more of the same as the first session; confident, assured batting from both Azad and Dexter saw them both reach personal milestones.

Firstly, Azad reached his half-century from 128 balls in typically collected fashion. This was quickly followed up by the first 2019 Specsavers County Championship century for the Foxes, and indeed the first since Colin Ackermann’s sparkling innings against Middlesex CCC this time last year.

Dexter reached three figures in just 136 balls (19x4) – this in turn, was followed quickly by the 150 for the Foxes.

This partnership was going from strength to strength as the sun very aptly bloomed over Grace Road.

The alliance soon passed the previous second wicket record of 153 against Gloucestershire CCC, which was set by Barry Dudleston and Chris Balderstone in 1979 at Bristol.

With the second session of the day coming to a close, the Foxes sat on 210 for one as Azad and Dexter post an unbeaten session between them. The question on everyone’s lips was how far could this partnership go?

The answer was emphatic. They went beyond the all-time Leicestershire CCC record against Gloucestershire CCC, the 268 set for the third wicket by Norman Armstrong and Stewie Dempster in 1937, and on to break the record.

Similarly to the second session, the third period of the day was full of milestones as Dexter saw himself over the 150-run mark, and Azad became the second centurion of the day after earning his maiden Specsavers County Championship ton from 220 balls.

The accolades did not dry up as the game was approaching its last hour, though, as Dexter passed his previous first-class high of 163no.

Unfortunately, though, for Azad, he fell just short of passing his first-class best of 139 set against Loughborough MCCU earlier this year.

The batsman’s wicket fell after edging Payne’s delivery through to Roderick who took a comfortable catch. Dexter finished at 180 after falling victim to Josh Shaw, Roderick claiming the catch.

After the record-breaking stand, nightwatchman Chris Wright and Mark Cosgrove came together. Cosgrove (1) became the fourth successive batsman to be caught behind by Roderick after edging Shaw. 

Will Davis (2) came in as the Foxes opted for a second nightwatchman, but he lofted Sayers to Chris Dent at mid-off. Ackermann came out and did not have to face a ball as Wright successfully saw out the final over the day.

TEAM | Horton (capt), Azad, Cosgrove, Ackermann, Davis, Dearden, Dexter, Hill (wk), Klein, Wright, Abbas.

Gloucestershire CCC | Dent (capt), Hammond, Bracey, Roderick (wk), Howell, J Taylor, Higgins, van Buuren, Payne, Sayers, Shaw.

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