Foxes foil careful County

Northants celebrate the fall of a Leicestershire wicket
Northants celebrate the fall of a Leicestershire wicket

An overly cautious declaration proved costly as Leicestershire hung on for a draw in the County Championship derby at the County Ground.

Starting the day 311 runs to the good, the hosts opted to add to their tally but in the process used up valuable time and overs.

And when the Foxes, who never threatened to reach what they had been set, closed on 227-8 it was a clear case of opportunity missed.

As things now stand, the County are in sixth in the table with four games remaining, 15 points behind second-place Hampshire who they face from Wednesday.

Perhaps stung by their defeat to Glamorgan last month when the Welshmen chased down a significant total in the fourth innings, the hosts opted for conservatism rather than potential risk.

But using up half an hour in the morning to add 41 pressure-free runs bordered on the pointless, especially in a game where the pre-match talk was all about a contest that had to be won.

However, whether a declaration is well-judged or otherwise depends on the eventual outcome and the initial overs of the Foxes’ chase went exactly to plan.

For all the rigidity of his captaincy, Andrew Hall does lead by example on the field and, taking the new ball, it was he who made the breakthrough early on when Michael Thornely picked out mid-off with a nothing sort of back-foot shot.

Michael Jones didn’t last much longer as, after easing a drove through the covers off David Willey, he rashly attempted the same a couple of balls later but with the execution lacking this time, could only find David Sales at second slip.

It got even better a short while later when Ramnaresh Sarwan’s frenetic stay came to a close – he had already been dropped by Alex Wakely at third slip off Hall – when Willey, from round the wicket, rearranged his furniture as he looked to find the gaps on a scarcely populated leg-side.

After an 11-ball duck on Saturday, Matthew Boyce took 26 further deliveries to get off a dreaded pair and looked in little trouble until he went after a wide Olly Stone offering and edged behind.

While all of this was unfolding at one end, Ned Eckersley was holding the fort at the other.

The number three, possessed of sound technique and with the willingness to try and hit whatever was loose, went past a deserved half century only to hit in front by one from Hall that scuttled through.

The Foxes had long been in the batting out time mindset and, five down at tea, lost Josh Cobb who tarnished a fairly disciplined stint with a loose drive at Willey and James Middlebrook got rid of Wayne White as he span one through an intended drive.

With a fraction more than 24 overs remaining, that brought Clause Henderson in to partner Shiv Thakor, the pair who combined so well in the visitors’ first innings, and they picked up where they had left off with yet more defiance.

There was one confident shout for lbw against Henderson off Hall and another for a bat-pad catch against Thakor, but those aside they played with little in the way of difficulty.

So it was something of a surprise when Henderson was bowled by Middlebrook in the 86th of 88 overs but that was the last moment of joy for the home side who were left looking rather dejected when they dragged themselves off the field.