Leics impress in three-day affair
Leicestershire 333 and 39 for 2 lead Kent 269 for 7 (Bell-Drummond 58) by 103 runs
Leicestershire's season has begun at Canterbury, in front of one of county cricket's more charitable crowds, and after three days they would all agreeably concede that they have begun rather well. But they know what the cricket world will be thinking: small squad, financially stretched, bottom of Division Two last season, consigned to a similar fate this time around.
They were the last of the 18 counties to take to the field - for those not aware of the circumstances, it was almost as if they had been forgotten about - and they have had to make do without their captain, Ramnaresh Sarwan, and promising young buck Shiv Thakor.
But they have begun in spritely fashion. The first day was washed out, the second day they batted zealously, after which Leicestershire's Twitter feed proclaimed there was "great spirit in the camp" and that spirit quotient remained high as they followed that up by forcing Kent to declare 64 behind.
The running fox on Leicestershire's club badge could hardly be more appropriate because there are some who would harry them to extinction, overly sensitive towards their small spectator base, and seemingly oblivious to their constant success in producing young players of excellent quality. That such a small squad will be stretched seems certain, but they have so far had slightly the better of the game.
That Kent declaration was a blessing. Conversation - the conversation this correspondent was having anyway - had just turned to how counties no longer know how to play three-day cricket when they pulled the plug.
In the eight overs remaining, Doug Bollinger removed Matthew Boyce and Anthony Ireland in successive balls while Leicestershire stretched their lead to 103. Poor old Ireland: a maiden Championship fifty at No. 10 followed by a first-baller as a nightwatchman, lbw propping forward, perspective returned.
"It could be a little bit tingly tomorrow," said the PA announcer at the close. That is quite a promise. There are some spectators at Canterbury who have forgotten what tingly feels like.
Kent's declaration was welcome but a county more versed in three-day cricket (as this essentially game is after the first day was washed out) might have reached, say, 250 an hour or so earlier, still close enough to win from behind but maximising the time available for Leicestershire to set a longer chase if needs be.
Three-day cricket demands risk and emergency reassessments if things go wrong. Instead, Kent only got above three runs an over in the latter part of the day and overall scored at 3.25 runs per over, slower than Leicestershire's 3.43.
Much of that time was utilised by Daniel Bell-Drummond, whose 58 took 134 balls - useful perhaps to get a promising player into early season form. Brendon Nash was not much quicker in a third-wicket stand of 94 but the fact is that were it not for Darren Stevens' ebullient 48 against his former county this match might have headed off into the sidings.
Stevens' buccaneering style is eminently watchable. He struck eight fours and a six in his 48 until he hit the offspin of Jigar Naik flat to long-on. Naik can anticipate a heavier workload after the retirement of Claude Henderson and he kept Kent in check for much of the day. It is to be hoped his efforts result in a keen contest on the final day. There is no purpose in Leicestershire playing safe. Nobody will afford them any more respect if they do. They might as well give it a go.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo