Gloucestershire v Leicestershire, Bristol, 3rd day September 11, 2014

O'Brien, Eckersley keep runs flowing

Press Association

Gloucestershire 646 and 23 for 1 lead Leicestershire 565 (Eckersley 119, O'Brien 119) by 104 runs

Niall O'Brien hit a run-a-ball century as Leicestershire extended their first innings total to 565 all out on the third day of the batsmen-dominated match against Gloucestershire at Bristol.

He hit 13 fours and five sixes before eventually falling for 119, sharing a third-wicket stand of 180 with Ned Eckersley, who also made 119, in a spirited reply to the home side's huge first innings total of 646.

O'Brien then snapped up Gloucestershire opener Chris Dent off the bowling of Ollie Freckingham as the hosts closed on 23 for 1 in their second innings, leading by 104.

However, with the pitch showing no sign of deterioration, a draw looks the inevitable final day conclusion to a match that has already produced one double-hundred and four centuries.

Dan Redfern contributed 60 to the Leicestershire total and, even though their last six wickets fell for only 36 runs, the visitors looked to have done enough to avoid defeat.

Leicestershire began the day on 246 for 2, still requiring 251 to avoid the prospect of being asked to follow-on. It never looked likely as Redfern built on his overnight score of 17 to reach a half-century off 90 balls, with seven fours, before being caught and bowled by Liam Norwell off a miscued pull shot.

Eckersley, also 17 not out overnight, moved to 50 himself, having faced 123 deliveries and hit five fours, and lunch was taken at 349 for 3. The first ball after the interval gave Gloucestershire hope as Josh Cobb was well caught by the diving Will Tavare at point for 16.

But it proved the hosts' last success until after tea. Eckersley and O'Brien batted without alarms to take the total to 387 for 4 by the end of the 110th over, securing four batting bonus points.

Eckersley was first to his hundred with a single to cover off slow left-armer Tom Smith, taking the score to 470 for 4 in the 123rd over. He had faced 215 balls and hit eight fours without giving a chance.

O'Brien cut loose after reaching a 64-ball fifty and needed only 36 more deliveries for his century, pulling left-arm seamer David Payne for three sixes in an over to bring it up just before tea.

The final session saw O'Brien out attempting another big back-foot shot off Craig Miles and skying to Ian Cockbain at cover. By then Leicestershire were 529 for 5, with the follow-on saved.

Suddenly wickets tumbled with regularity as the later order went on the attack. Smith claimed three of them to finish with three for 138.

Dent fell for 2 as Gloucestershire looked to build on their lead, but there were no other alarms in the closing overs.

Gloucestershire director of cricket John Bracewell was critical of his bowlers, while admitting that the pitch - prepared for the washed-out one-day international between England and India - had baked hard and was excellent for batting.

He said: "We brought Leicestershire into the match quite quickly by leaking runs at one end and it cost us the right to set up a decent finish.

"Will Gidman was unable to bowl because of a sore muscle in his front shin, but I expected better of the others. Liam Norwell and Craig Miles did their best to apply the team plan, but our spinners faded and were very disappointing.

"Leicestershire's left-handed batsmen should have been under threat from our left-arm spinners, but they weren't. We have had to work hard for our wickets all season here and, while this pitch is particularly good, we should have applied more pressure."