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Graham Hardcastle at Grace Road
August 4, 2013
Leicestershire 154 (Smith 3-35) and 128 for 5 trail Lancashire 380 by 98 runs
Leicestershire could still get out of this match with a draw, something that seemed inconceivable at approximately 12.45pm on Sunday. Some kamikaze batting at the start of their second innings, having been asked to follow-on, had seen them slip to 41 for 3 with a deficit of 185, only seven wickets left and a little over five sessions remaining. Then the heavens opened on the cusp of lunch.
Only 27 overs were possible after 5pm, in which time they lost a couple more wickets, and the popular opinion is that more rain will follow to ruin the fourth day, with Lancashire still needing five wickets and potentially a few runs as well in their second innings. Leicestershire currently trail by 98.
A draw would not damage the Division Two leaders' chances of promotion, but a fourth win from five will surely see them with one foot back in Division One even at this stage, with five matches still to play.
Leicestershire were at least boosted by a late fifth-wicket partnership of 55 between unbeaten Niall O'Brien, who reached 35, and Matt Boyce. But should the weather not come to their aid, they will need much more of the same on day four.
"We were obviously trying to knock them over, but we expected them to show some fight," a philosophical Simon Katich said. "They hung in there well when they got back on, and we've still got five wickets to get tomorrow. Hopefully the weather, which doesn't look good at this stage, doesn't cause us problems. But who knows?
"There's nothing we can do about it. Sometimes it goes in your favour when you're hanging on, and sometimes it doesn't. I guess if it's across the country, then we won't get on. The only danger is if others get on and we don't.
"We got out of jail at Colwyn Bay earlier in the season, but we were robbed by the weather in terms of setting up the first two games against Worcester and Kent. That happens, and other teams will have had it as well."
Leicestershire lost six wickets in just over an hour and a half's play this morning, with Michael Thornely and Ned Eckersley the most culpable of poor play in the second innings, which they started 226 behind.
After Kyle Hogg had Greg Smith lbw with the first ball of the innings thanks to a memorable outswinging yorker, a ball that would have troubled batsmen of higher standing than Smith, Thornely and Eckersley threw their wickets away.
Thornely drove Hogg chest high to Katich at mid-off before Eckersley was sent back by Shiv Thakor going for three to deep midwicket. Thakor also gave it away after the resumption when he clipped Glen Chapple to square leg before Boyce was caught behind off Andrea Agathangelou's offspin just before close.
Lancashire are the only unbeaten side in either division of the Championship this season. While their top order has rarely fired, the likes of middle-order duo Katich and Ashwell Prince and their bowlers have set the county out as a cut above their rivals in Division Two.
So it was no surprise to see them wrap up Leicestershire's first innings within the first half an hour of play. Tom Smith took two of the three wickets to fall from 127 for 7 to finish with impressive figures of 3 for 35 from 17 overs in only his second appearance of the season.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.