County opt for safety as Leicestershire easily claim draw

Ben Duckett made a half-century on his first-class debut but Northants had to settle for a draw against Leicestershire
Ben Duckett made a half-century on his first-class debut but Northants had to settle for a draw against Leicestershire

Niall O’Brien struck a half-century against his old club as Leicestershire secured a draw on the final day of their LV= County Championship match at Northamptonshire.

The hosts cautiously declared just after lunch on 215-8 with 18-year-old wicketkeeper Ben Duckett making an unbeaten 53 off 65 balls to give Leicestershire an unlikely target of 337.

The visitors unsurprisingly opted to settle for the draw, which they comfortably achieved as the two captains shook hands with the score 168-3 - O’Brien making 59 off 118 balls.

Northamptonshire began the day on 94-5, 215 runs ahead of their opponents with Andrew Hall resuming on two and Rob Keogh starting his innings.

Keogh, however, was only able to make 10 before he was superbly caught by Leicestershire captain Ramnaresh Sarwan at slip off the bowling of Robbie Williams.

Another terrific catch then did for Hall when Greg Smith snared him while diving to his left in Williams’ next over to leave the hosts on 112-7.

David Willey walked when he edged Jigar Naik to O’Brien behind the stumps.

Northamptonshire reached lunch on 190-8 but, to the surprise of many, did not declare during the interval despite their advantage now being 311.

Duckett, on his first-class debut, went past 50 off 64 balls in the second over of the afternoon, which finally prompted the hosts to declare leaving Steven Crook on 34 not out as part of a partnership of 82.

With 63 overs to survive, Leicestershire’s openers started confidently although Smith fell one run short of his second half-century of the match when he was taken at first slip by Hall off Crook.

That broke an opening stand of 80 with O’Brien, but the setback did not seem to unnerve the visitors, who went in at tea on 100-1.

Ned Eckersley was then run out by Willey from short third man after a bright 42 off 39 deliveries after O’Brien sent him back from running a quick single off James Middlebrook.

O’Brien hung around to complete a patient half-century off 114 balls but he perished when he edged Trent Copeland to Duckett.

Only one more over, bowled by Willey, was possible before the players called it a day just after five o’clock.

It meant that Northamptonshire were denied their fourth County Championship win in a row, but they come out of this match with 10 points with Leicestershire claiming seven.