May 5, 2013

Leics look for reasons to be cheerful

Despite two poor defeats, there is room for optimism at Grace Road with Ramnaresh Sarwan chivvying his young squad that have potential

Freckingham. If pronounced with the appropriate amount of venom on the first syllable, it makes an excellent imprecation. When asked to lead the Leicestershire bowling attack in his second and third first class matches, this product of England's smallest county makes a competent replacement for more senior injured players.

Fortunate really, as by the fifth day of the season Leicestershire's list of injured bowlers read: Nathan Buck, Alex Wyatt, Anthony Ireland and then Matthew Hoggard, prompting the obvious joke about it being less a bowling attack than a defence. It must be especially frustrating for Hoggard, last spotted terrorising, or possibly being terrorised by, son Ernie outside the boundary ropes.

After a mixed bag of two draws against sides touted for promotion (or 'from the south'; often the same thing, I've found) and two losses, the county now need to take advantage of the fact that their next game is against Worcestershire, also without a win in the Championship. Experience suggests that this will presage defeat, but we can always hope.

The trip to New Road is always one to be anticipated, as every Championship fan knows; lovely views, decent beer and, crucially, the cakes. Supporters making the return trip to Grace Road will find we can provide similar facilities these days. The view from inside the Meet has always been preferable to one of it, but it can now offer all-day breakfasts and cakes the equal of the Ladies Pavilion, but served all day, every day, rather cheaper and without the vague concern over whether the car's been parked on land above the flood line.

Blind optimism dictates that the failure to beat (ok losses to) Leeds/Bradford and Gloucestershire can be put down to experience; realism, on the other hand, dictates that runs are needed from players batting above No. 6, and quickly.

Shiv Thakor at No. 7 goes from strength to strength with both bat and ball, and is fast becoming the reason to turn up on a gloomy morning, while one place above him, Matthew Boyce has started the season none the worse for his "wild walk" from John O'Groats to Land's End over the close season. We could now do with Ned Eckersley, whose one-day innings at Worcester last season gave an excellent indication of his ability to score runs aggressively, giving us a repeat performance and going one better than his determined innings at Southampton in round one.

Kent's second innings, which predictably petered out at 4.50pm on the final day, gave us a glimpse of unorthodox captaincy from Ramnaresh Sarwan, although whether he sees fit to employ it in less relaxed circumstances remains to be seen. By the end of the innings, we had not one man in that Nasser-annoying-Ganguly "on the drive" position, but three. Answers on a postcard to what you call fielders numbers two and three there.

The new captain, despite the force nine gale more suited to Wellington Harbour (all ready to welcome New Zealand for the Lions game next week), has been diligent in his chivvying of the young squad and now needs to balance that with scoring some runs himself. In short, before entering another game with no bowlers and a side of batsmen dismissed twice by a university, reasons to be cheerful, honest.

Tessa Cooke combines watching Leicestershire with the study of Olympians ancient and modern at Leicester University. Bowls off the wrong foot