August 13, 2012

LV= County Championship, Monday 13 August

Jon Culley

6.45pm: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

Leicestershire have escaped with a draw at eight wickets down, thanks to another fine performance from Shiv Thakor. I know I've mentioned it several times before these last few days but it is relevant: he is 18 years old.

He saved the follow-on in the first innings and has batted for two and a half hours here for his unbeaten 39, facing 105 balls, the last several of which saw him surrounded by up to seven close fielders in addition to wicketkeeper David Murphy as James Middlebrook tried in vain to winkle him out.

The draw probably means that Northamptonshire have seen their chance of a late run for promotion slip away. It leaves them 15 points adrift of the two teams in second place, which is probably a gap too far at this stage.

5pm: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

Normally, this is the point at which the umpires signal the start of the final hour with a minimum 16 overs left. In fact, despite 23 of the 69 overs so far being bowled by the off-spinner, James Middlebrook, there are 19 still to go, which draws no complaints from Northamptonshire, who need three wickets to clinch a win that would put them in the thick of the promotion chase.

Since tea, Leicestershire have lost Josh Cobb, who was caught behind attempting to drive David Willey, and Wayne White, who took a swish at a ball from Middlebrook that turned and was bowled. Middlebrook is bowling with two slips and three men in close positions in front of the batsman.

Again, Shiv Thakor is proving hard to shift. He has faced 53 balls for his 12. Leicestershire 176-7.

No evidence of Olympic comedown. Then again there was no evidence of Olympic fever last week, either.

3.45pm: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

We haven't lost an over to rain in this match, which for this summer is quite remarkable. Ominously, there is a breeze whipping up behind our temporary home in the signal box -- and that's the way the weather tends to come from here.

Still, fingers crossed. Northants need another five wickets after tea, with 36 overs left, to give their promotion prospects a real fillip. Win this match and they will be only two points off second place in a bunch of four counties vying to accompany Derbyshire into the First Division, assuming the Peakites don't do what Northants did last year and blow up going into the last few furlongs.

Young Shiv Thakor faces another test of his mettle. Andrew Hall has not long since claimed the wicket of Ned Eckersley, who was leg before playing back, after the wicketkeeper had played very well for his 57, spending five minutes short of three hours at the crease. The 18-year-old Thakor needs to think of himself as Shiv Chanderpaul for the next couple of hours or so. Leicestershire are 133-5.

3.10pm: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

The rain that the BBC website suggested would be here by three has not materialised so far, nor looks likely to very soon, thankfully. However, the bunch of wickets Northamptonshire hoped would advance their cause between lunch and tea are holding back, too.

There has been one, in the form of a good catch by David Murphy behind the stumps that followed a waft outside off stump by Matt Boyce at a ball from Oli Stone. At that point Leicestershire were 87-4 with 57 overs remaining but since then there have been 13 overs without another breakthrough and the total has moved on to 122-4. Ned Eckersley has completed an 110-ball half-century with seven fours.

1pm: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

The Sarwan drop did not prove costly. You would have said the West Indian was Leicestershire's big hope -- aside from the weather -- of holding out for a draw, but he had added only 11 more runs when, with left-armer David Willey bowling round the wicket, he somehow lost his off stump trying to work a fullish ball through the legside. That made it 45-3. James Middlebrook is causing problems with his off-spin from the Lynn Wilson End but Leicestershire have reached lunch at 58-3, with Ned Eckersley 21. Matt Boyce, who had an 11-ball duck in the first innings, has faced another 23 deliveries and is still looking for his first run in the match, oif which 68 overs remain.

12.20pm: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

So far, so good for Northamptonshire, who began with 88 overs in which to bowl out Leicestershire, who have a target of 353 to win. After 10 overs, Leicestershire are 30-2. The wickets to fall have been Michael Thornely, who drove Andrew Hall off the back foot straight to mid-off, and Will Jones, who despatched David Willey with a cracking drive through the covers for four only to edge to second slip two balls later.

That was 18-2. It should have been 28-3 when Ramnaresh Sarwan edged Hall to third slip but Alex Wakely let a high but very catchable chance go through his hands. Could be a costly miss...

11.40am: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

Northamptonshire declared after 25 minutes in what looks a somewhat formulaic game plan. After Robbie Joseph belatedly took a wicket (26 overs, 1-138 in the match) by bowling Rob Newton, Northants skipper Andrew Hall scored nine off six balls, gave his opposite number Josh Cobb a steepling catch to hold at mid-off and then invited Alex Wakely to accompany him back to the pavilion.

By this time, the lead had passed 350, although it seemed a scarcely necessary milestone to reach before declaring. Leicestershire would struggle to score 250 in the fourth innings on current form and with an overnight lead of 311 it would surely have been taking no significant risk for Hall to have given his bowlers a whole day to take 10 wickets. As it is they have 88 overs and will be keeping fingers crossed that they can get the job done before the rain arrives.

11.10am: Jon Culley at Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

Rain forecast for later but are away on time at Wantage Road. Northamptonshire are set on adding a few more to their overnight lead of 311, with Rob Newton 26 not out and Alex Wakely on 20. You suspect it would not be wise to waste too many available overs, however, if they are to give themselves time to bowl Leicestershire out a second time.

Apologies for some evident technical issues yesterday, the main consequence of which was that every entry posted before David Lloyd's 3pm offering oddly vanished. We'll try to keep everything nailed down today.

On the evidence of the first few balls today, Northamptonshire may be able to build on their advantage quite quickly. Robbie Joseph has already conceded his 18th and 19th boundaries of the match, as well as his 7th no ball. 234-3.

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