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Dextrous Dexter shows credentials at reborn Grace Road

Leicestershire 252 for 7 (Dexter 107*, Cosgrove 54) v Gloucestershire
Scorecard

Without wishing to be disrespectful to the progress Leicestershire have made in the last year and a half, I have to admit that one sentence in a match preview I read before play began here caused me to do a double take. "A win for either side," the sentence read, "could put them top of the Division Two table if Kent fail to beat Derbyshire."

For either side, including Leicestershire. The same Leicestershire that only 13 months ago finally ended that extraordinary run of 37 matches - 993 days - spanning more than two full seasons - without a win, the worst run by any county in post-war Championship history. Excuse me for needing a moment to take that in.

Then again, it isn't the same Leicestershire. The appointment of Wasim Khan as chief executive appears to have been a move every bit as smart as it seemed at the time, as has the engagement of Andrew McDonald as coach.

The Australian all-rounder, a former player here, has changed the mindset of the dressing room, convincing players that they should expect to win matches rather than lose. Meanwhile, Khan has given the club a sense of progressiveness and optimism.

Even the ground itself, for so long hidden away within a grid of anonymous urban streets, now demands to be noticed. Six towering floodlight pylons are an obvious help in that respect. Yet more subtle changes are significant, too, such as the replacement of the high perimeter wall along the Milligan Road side of the ground with open railings, allowing passers-by to appreciate a vast green space that some, quite possibly, would not have known was there.

On the field, Khan has strengthened McDonald's hand with some shrewd signings. Paul Horton, Neil Dexter and Mark Pettini have all brought authority and experience; and a desire to invigorate their own careers by being part of a meaningful project.

McDonald sees them taking his influence on to the field, reinforcing the messages he tries to impart in the dressing room. Apart from that, there is a good chance one of them will deliver a performance, too.

The bad days have not yet been banished entirely. Their dismissal for 44 against Worcestershire in the last four-day match here is evidence of that. Yet they are not happening with anything like the same frequency.

Horton and Pettini failed on this occasion, the former Lancashire opener lbw to David Payne for five during an opening spell that also accounted for Angus Robson, Pettini edging a good ball from Liam Norwell to depart for the same score. However, Dexter delivered handsomely.

The former Middlesex all-rounder finished the day unbeaten on 107, a second hundred since his close-season move to Grace Road to go with the 131 he made against Kent in April. Conditions in the morning were difficult, with the ball swinging and nibbling off the pitch, and the Gloucestershire attack only occasionally surrendered easy runs, yet Dexter maintained his concentration and discipline. And given that Robson, completely misjudging a ball that knocked out his off stump, was dismissed by the fifth delivery of the match, he had effectively batted all day.

Gloucestershire had sensed there was something in the pitch and a toss of the coin was not required. By the fifth over, Leicestershire were 18 for 2 but in partnership with Mark Cosgrove, his captain, Dexter helped add 101 for the third wicket.

Cosgrove, who hit 10 fours in a half-century despite at times struggling to time the ball, departed early in the afternoon session when he struck a drive straight to mid-on, possibly deceived by a ball held back a little by Kieran Noema-Barnett, and when Pettini was out Leicestershire were in danger of letting a good position slip at 130 for 4.

Dexter was rarely troubled, however. A bright 30 from Aadil Ali, who did the day's only six off the spin of Graeme Van Buuren, helped the fifth wicket take the score to 188 before he was bowled by a straightish one from Craig Miles.

Noema-Barnett picked up two more wickets in the evening session and Leicestershire were into the 95th over before they secured a second batting point. But, in a match likely to be disrupted by the weather in the next couple of days, their total might not be a bad one.