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Vithushan Ehantharajah at Chelmsford
May 5, 2014
Leivcestershire 255 for 2 (Eckersley 104*, Robson 69*) trail Essex 281 (Foster 82, Pettini 71, Buck 5-76) by 26 runs
"Maybe we should put an ad in the paper," joked Essex bowling coach Chris Silverwood as drinks were being taken, with 15 overs left in the day. By then, Leicestershire were on the cusp of 200 for the loss of two and Silverwood's already depleted attack was another one short, with Tymal Mills succumbing to a side strain during his 11th over.
Seeing Tanveer Sikandar with the second new ball, bowling at a pace best described as "extra medium", it was hard not to sympathise.
The crowds here are quicker than most to mutter their disdain for poor performance, much to the dismay of those in the radio booths, who end up having to close their windows to prevent their microphones from picking up the odd expletive muttered between huffs.
The absence of David Masters and Graham Napier blunted Essex's attack considerably, but the appreciation for those fit enough to take to the field was audible. Naturally, it waned as the day wore on, breaking off for applause as Ned Eckersley brought up a classy and patient hundred. That Leicestershire were 2 for 1 was a very distant memory.
Lancastrian loanee Oliver Newby took the wicket with his second ball for his new county; a cracking delivery that decked across the left-handed Matthew Boyce.
An over after his success, he came agonisingly close to another intervention. On nought, Smith was hurried into a pull shot by Mills, who had struck his torso the ball before. The ball sailed high towards the Hayes Close End, where Newby made good ground from fine leg but was unable to catch the ball cleanly after diving.
For all the crowd's initial understanding, easier balls were misfielded. Kishen Vellani dropped Ned Eckersley at point on 37 and missed a close run out chance after the same batsman had passed fifty for the first time this season.
There is a lot of wisdom dotted about this ground. Retired players from glory days litter the place like yesterday's wedding confetti, but with none of the nuisance.
Graham Gooch spent the last couple of days floating around Chelmsford, spending the lunch interval speaking to members. Grant Flower was also a visible presence.
In the press box, the former England-Essex duo of Keith Fletcher, still heavily involved in the club's next generation, and Derek Pringle, the eyes and words of the Daily Telegraph for this match, indulged in nostalgia. They reminisced of a fast bowler in the eighties who, having convinced the 2nd XI coach to give him a chance to open the batting in a four day game, planted the first ball of the innings over the River End, onto the dual carriageway.
Remembrance and sensibility were side by side today - and nothing in the present day intrigues those associated with the club more than Mills.
A hush descends on Chelmsford whenever he reaches the top of his mark. It is a hush that is as much patience as it is anticipation. For them, the potential was evident since the first time Mills managed to don that fitted white shirt over his cruiserweight boxer frame.
But they have seen the succession of deliveries down the leg side, the sky-high bouncers that have James Foster clutching for the stars and the wides that have first slip wincing. He had good balls in among this mix and the word is that an assessment on the extent of his injury will be made in the morning. For Angus Fraser, present at Chelmsford in his guise as England selector, Mills' lack of control will not have gone unnoticed.
It is important to congratulate Leicestershire for their professionalism throughout. It would have been easy for their batsmen to show little respect to this bit part attack. But a tactful approach, characterised by Eckersley's 275-ball century, sees them well in control of the game.
Nathan Buck built on his fine work yesterday to bowl aggressively this morning and to produce a beauty to finish off Velani and then another take out Newby's middle stump. Those wickets gave him career best figures of 5 for 76. Plagued by injury since an impressive 2010 season that saw him take 49 Division 2 wickets, this was only his second five wicket haul.
Eckersley started scratchily compared to Smith, who brought up his third fifty-plus score of the season with great fluency. There was a second century of the season in the offing, but a misjudged sweep off Monty Panesar found the hands of the sub fielder at square leg.
Angus Robson ensured there was no further loss, using a flattening pitch and a tiring attack to put his pair against Glamorgan in the previous match behind him.
His second career fifty featured some nicely timed drives down the ground. Even now, in only his sixth first class match with no hundred to his name, it is hard to imagine he will ever have an easier opportunity to bring up three figures. The same goes for Leicestershire and their first Championship win for nearly two years.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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