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Leicestershire slip to defeat on enthralling final day

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Leicestershire ultimately went down to a four-wicket defeat at the hands of Essex at Grace Road yesterday.

But that statistic barely tells the story of an enthralling final day, which could have gone either way.

The visitors, having been set 161 to win in 40 overs, eventually won with 22 balls remaining.

However, when they were tottering on 47-4 in the 22nd over of their run chase there was a whiff of victory in the air for County.

That had seemed highly unlikely during the opening stages of the day. Leicestershire resumed on 91-4, just 37 runs ahead, and needed to bat a good deal of time as well as score runs to stave off the threat of a second Championship defeat.

Yet they plunged to 135-8 midway through the session and the writing looked pretty much on the wall.

It was at that point that Jigar Naik dropped anchor and, with the support of Matthew Hoggard and Alex Wyatt, he frustrated Essex for the rest of the morning's play and a further 90 minutes into the afternoon to give County an outside chance of salvaging a draw or, should Essex fold, even a win.

Naik finished unbeaten on 47 from 141 balls adding 43 in 21 overs with Hoggard (24) and a further 36 with Wyatt (17), whose wicket was the last to fall as Leicestershire were dismissed for 214.

On the face of it, a run chase at four-an-over looked pretty straightforward.

This was an Essex side, though, who had been rolled over for just 20 in their second innings against Lancashire in their previous match and a couple of early wickets were always likely to raise the ghosts of that debacle.

Hoggard and Wyatt both bowled superbly asking questions of the batsmen with the new ball.

Wyatt captured the wickets of both openers, Jaik Mickelburgh and Tom Westley, as well as removing Owais Shah while Hoggard's opening spell really ought to have earned him more than just the scalp of Nick Browne.

Even so with Essex rocking on 47-4, Leicestershire were back in the hunt and they further raised the stakes when Mark Pettini was caught at cover off Ollie Freckingham to leave the visitors on 79-5 with 13 overs remaining.

How County dealt with the likes of Ryan ten Doeschate, James Foster and Graham Napier was always likely to be key – and the batsmen won that battle and with it the war.

Ten Doeschate and Foster went through the gears adding 66 in just eight overs and when Foster, who was the major difference between the sides in the game, was out for a 28-ball 42 Essex needed just 16 more runs from five overs.

Ten Doeschate held his nerve with an unbeaten 37, Napier hitting the final runs as he made a brisk 13 to see Essex over the line.

It wouldn't have taken Leicestershire much more to fight their way out of bother on the final day, maybe half-a-dozen overs more at the crease.

However you look at it, though, they came up short and remain rooted to the foot of the Second Division.

Leicestershire slip to defeat on enthralling final day


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