Foxes reply with 273 on day three

DAY 3 | Northamptonshire CCC 299 v Leicestershire CCC 273 for seven

SCORECARD | Available from Cricinfo HERE

REACTION | Leicestershire opener Hassan Azad spoke to BBC Radio Leicestershire’s Richard Rae as stumps were called. Click HERE to listen to the interview.

REPORT | Hassan Azad narrowly missed out on a third consecutive hundred as Leicestershire CCC almost restored parity on day three of the Specsavers County Championship game at Wantage Road.

Replying to Northamptonshire CCC’s 299, the Foxes closed at 273 for seven with Azad posting a solid 92 and Mark Cosgrove scoring 63 valuable runs.

Following a century in each innings against Gloucestershire CCC in his last match, Azad again demonstrated a thirsty appetite for occupying the crease and blunted a game home attack who operated with good control throughout the day and found some movement.

The 25-year-old left-hander showed excellent judgement to leave well and was proactive in his defence, often advancing at the bowling to negate the moving ball.

Captain Paul Horton and opening partner Azad walked out to the crease after a frustrating day two which was abandoned without a ball bowled.

The Foxes opened the third day at six without loss with both Horton and Azad having posted identical scores in their past two visits to the crease – three not out on the first day here, and an unbeaten 100 apiece to finish the game with Gloucestershire CCC last week.

The duo negotiated the opening hour successfully after answering everything that Ben Sanderson, Matt Coles and Brett Hutton sent down at them.

They put on 32 runs including four leg byes as they both went about their business in typically calculated fashion, choosing to play only high percentage shots in what were favourable overhead conditions for the bowling attack.

The outfield was proving to be hard to deal with – as it was for Northants in their innings – as both Horton and Azad had been sold short with the ball stopping inches from the boundary restricting them to just two or three runs when a four, on a less saturated field, would have been more likely.

However, the duo brought up the 50-run partnership as Azad pushed a delivery out to mid-off to run up a single alongside captain Horton – the performance mirroring that of their second innings partnership against Gloucestershire less than a week ago.

With just over half an hour to go until the revised lunch break, the Foxes lost their first wicket as Nathan Buck struck against his former county.

Horton (29) was enticed into a mistake from the bowler as he thick edged to Hutton at second slip, who caught at chest height.

The captain had fulfilled his role in seeing off the new ball after being in the middle for 28 overs, earning 29 runs from 83 balls.

Neil Dexter came in saw the Foxes through to the delayed lunch as Leicestershire sit on 87 for one.

The No.3 opened his boundary account just before with a superb cut down to the deep point boundary off Coles.

Thirty minutes after the tea interval and Dexter rode his luck a little from a delivery of Sanderson. He nicked it ever so slightly, and the ball flew towards Alex Wakely at second slip who could not grasp the opportunity.

It did not prove costly as only four balls later, Hutton pinned Dexter for 27 - only three runs before his and Azad’s partnership would have reached the half-century mark.

Cosgrove came out to join Azad at the crease and soon opened his account with a boundary, driving a delivery of Hutton through mid-off.

Azad then soon moved to his third half-century in a row, flicking Coles out to square-leg to pick up a single. He earned his 50 off 132 balls, collecting three fours. This half-century meant that, at this point, Azad had earned 287 runs for being out once.

The duo were in and were comfortably playing shots that were available to them without putting themselves under any unnecessary pressure. With this, the 150 was up for the Foxes which meant that the follow-on was officially avoided - not that it was ever in doubt - as Cosgrove drove Buck down down the ground superbly to pick up a boundary.

The tea interval came with the Foxes placed at a comfortable 178 for two with Cosgrove (41) and Azad (67) at the crease.

With just three overs of the final session gone, the Leicestershire CCC batsmen came back out with good intent as both Azad and Cosgrove earned swift boundaries.

Cosgrove then went on to post his half-century from 87 balls including six fours. The batsman had to earn it though, as he looked to collect seventh four of the day through mid-on - but the slow outfield aided the Northants field. The Australian had to run a three to get over the 50-run mark.

This was then followed by the 200 being brought up for the Foxes, picking up their first batting bonus point of the game in the 74th over.

Azad soon found himself making his way back to the pavilion, though, after being caught well by Coles at leg gully off Luke Procter.

The Foxes then found themselves another wicket down as Colin Ackermann (0), Azad’s replacement, was pinned lbw by Procter taking his second wicket of the day.

Leicestershire CCC then lost a third wicket in 12 runs as Harry Dearden (7) was superbly caught by home ‘keeper Adam Rossington, who dived low to his left to catch with one hand from the bowling of Sanderson.

Lewis Hill walked to the crease with the Foxes at 234 for five and was soon welcoming a new partner at the crease as Cosgrove was pinned lbw by Sanderson for 63.

Dieter Klein came in with a flourish, striking his way to three quickfire boundaries to try to settle the Foxes at the crease following the damage caused by the new ball.

Leicestershire CCC nearly found themselves another wicket down as Hill was dropped at second slip from the bowling of Sanderson.

Hill struck the first six for Leicestershire of the game but minutes later, Klein was trapped lbw by Coles for 15. The duo put some runs on to improve Leicestershire’s position to 270 for seven – 29 runs shy of the 299 Northants posted.

As the clock struck 6 o’clock and with 15 overs left in the day, umpires Neil Mallender and Rob White decided to take the players off the field due to bad light.

Twenty-two minutes later, it was official. Bad light had ended day three at Wantage Road.

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

Northamptonshire CCC | Rossington (capt and wk), Newton, Vasconcelos, Wakely, Bavuma, Keogh, Procter, Hutton, Coles, Buck, Sanderson.

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