Thornely's ton repays the faith
Leicestershire 336 for 9 (Thornely 115, Boyce 77, Thakor 53*) trail Essex 434 for 3 dec by 98 runs
Michael Thornely continued to repay Leicestershire's faith by scoring his second Championship century to lead his side to 336 for 9 in response to an Essex total of 434 for 3 in their Division Two battle at Chelmsford.
Thornely, the 24-year-old right-hander, was released by Sussex at the end of the 2010 season and was playing for the Unicorns in the Clydesdale Bank 40 competition earlier in the campaign when offered a trial by Leicestershire.
He showed his appreciation by scoring 97 and 131 on his debut against Glamorgan at the end of May, a performance that earned him a two-year contract. Thornely's latest innings of 115 was further proof of his ability to make his mark at first-class level. It combined solid defence with bursts of aggression whenever the opportunity arose.
His century came up from 209 balls and in all he smashed four sixes, two each against spinners Harbhajan Singh and Tom Westley. All of them were superbly timed drives, while he also collected eight fours before he was snapped up in the gully by Westley to provide fast bowler David Masters with success.
It was Masters, playing against his former county against whom he returned career-best figures of 8 for 10 at Southend last summer, who led a fine Essex fightback on his way to figures of 6 for 47 from 24 overs.
Masters was not long adding to his two overnight victims when Harbhajan took a superb catch above his head at second slip to get rid of Ramnaresh Sarwan. But it was another 57 overs before Essex were able to celebrate another success.
Thornely and Matt Boyce were responsible for such a long delay with a partnership of 178 against bowlers who, apart from Masters, rarely posed problems. Boyce's contribution was 77, including nine boundaries, before Masters struck with the first delivery with the new ball by trapping him lbw with the total on 241.
Thornely followed in Masters' next over while Wayne White and Paul Dixey also departed, victims of Maurice Chambers and Harbhajan, before they reached 285 to avoid the follow-on.
That left the impressive Shiv Thakor to usher Leicestershire to a third batting point. Still only 18, Thakor, completed his maiden Championship half-century from 62 balls with the help of three fours and a six, this an off-drive against Harbhajan who had to settle for his solitary success at a cost of 88 runs from 34 overs.
Thakor and captain Matthew Hoggard have so far added 33 runs for the last wicket as their side ended the day 98 runs adrift on first innings going into the final day.