Leicestershire 191 (Dexter 87) and 237 (Raine 65, Horton 50, Hogan 5-61) beat Glamorgan 178 (Aaron 4-65) and 247 (de Lange 90, Raine 4-44) by 3 runs
Leicestershire were as relieved as they were jubilant after winning their first county championship match of the season, and their first for 19 matches, after Marchant de Lange's stunning innings of 90, hit off just 46 balls and including eight sixes, had come within a few metres of taking Glamorgan to a truly extraordinary victory.
The game looked done and dusted after the visitors, needing 251 to win, subsided to 139 for 8. But de Lange had other ideas, smashing a series of huge sixes, endangering cars and threatening to fill Leicestershire with despair. This was a county, after all, that had claimed a first-innings lead of 256 against Durham a few days earlier and then capitulated when faced by a manageable final-day run chase.
De Lange put on 56 with Timm Van der Gugten for the ninth wicket and then 52 with last man Michael Hogan before, incredibly, hitting a full toss from Ben Raine high to long on where Callum Parkinson held the catch on the boundary. It would have been the winning hit, enough perhaps to break Leicestershire's season. Instead, it was the signal for an outpouring of relief.
"I'd been striking it so nicely but it came down to one ball, and it didn't go our way," de Lange observed.
Paul Nixon, the latest Leicestershire coach charged with guiding them out of the doldrums, enthused: "It was an unbelievable game of cricket, absolutely extraordinary. The fight shown by both sides, it swung one way and the other from the first day on. I'm almost speechless.
"We tried to bat more positively as the ball got older, and Ben Raine did that for us, and perhaps de Lange saw that. But what an innings he played; how well did he strike the ball? Not just over the boundary but over the stands, and he came so close to winning the game.
"Sometimes a full toss isn't a bad ball, and it hit quite high up on the bat, but with de Lange's power it still flew down to long on, but "Parky" [Callum Parkinson] has a great set of hands and never looked like dropping it.
"It's a win for the whole club, those on the field and off it. It's been a long time coming for people who care passionately about the club. Championship cricket is the truest test, physically and mentally, and to come out on top at the end, there's nothing like it."
The morning session had seen Leicestershire, who resumed their second innings on 119 for 2, struggle from the start, losing four wickets while adding just 23 runs to their score.
Hogan, finding swing and movement from the Pavilion End, had Colin Ackermann caught at first slip attempting to drive, before producing a superb delivery to the left-handed Mark Cosgrove which straightened from around the wicket to find the edge of the bat.
Ateeq Javid was palpably leg before to a Hogan in-swinger before Neil Dexter too edged behind driving. Glamorgan's fielding was playing a huge part in keeping up the pressure on the Leicestershire batsman, with Kiran Carlson outstanding, and when Lewis Hill was bowled off the inside edge as he attempted to force a Timm Van der Gugten delivery through point, it looked as though Glamorgan would be chasing less than 200 to win in their second innings.
Raine, however, adopted an aggressive approach that paid off as he hit Van der Gugten for a huge straight six. He found an adhesive partner in Parkinson, and then Aaron, going to his 50 off 61 balls before holing out to deep square leg. Leicestershire, thanks largely to Raine, had achieved a lead that good judges reckoned would be adequate on a pitch showing a tendency to keep low.
That view soon looked vindicated when Raine had Nick Selman caught behind, a defensive push finding a thin edge, before Gavin Griffiths picked up the wicket of Australian Test batsman Shaun Marsh with a superb delivery that squared him up before clipping the off-stump. In the commentary box, seeing Marsh so utterly beaten, a Glamorgan observer even ventured that he might be feeling unwell.
The wickets continued to tumble, Glamorgan's young batsmen showing the lack of confidence that has resulted in a series of low scores this season and undermined the confidence with which they went into the season. Jack Murphy lost his off-stump leaving a delivery from Raine, Aneurin Donald was bowled between bat and pad, and Chris Cooke was dropped twice before being caught behind, again off Raine.
That looked like that, but de Lange connected again and again, and Leicestershire, without a win in their previous 18 games began to look increasingly nervous. Parkinson had Van Der Gugten leg before with a ball that turned and hit him on the back pad, but Hogan held out, and when Raine served up a full toss, it looked as though de Lange would pull off the impossible.
For once, however, the South African did not time it perfectly, and Parkinson made no mistake to spark wild celebrations by the Foxes.
Robert Croft, Glamorgan's head coach, summed up: "We were dead and gone, but we saw something rather special from de Lange there. He hit it as cleanly as I've ever seen, including great batsmen, and he brought us to within a blow of winning a match we probably didn't deserve to win."