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Pettini's record takes Leicestershire to new heights

Leicestershire 363 for 7 (Pettini 159, Wells 67, Ali 52, Barker 3-65) beat Warwickshire 260 (Hain 103, Ambrose 83, Griffiths 3-35, Wells 3-44) by 103 runs
Scorecard

A record-breaking innings from Mark Pettini helped Leicestershire to a crushing 103-run victory over Warwickshire at Grace Road.

Pettini thrashed the highest score by a Leicestershire batsman against a first-class county in the club's List A history. It was also Leicestershire's highest score against a first-class county and the second-highest score ever conceded by Warwickshire in List A cricket.

Pettini won excellent support from the home-grown pair of Tom Wells, who registered his maiden one-day half-century and finished with career-best bowling figures, and Aadil Ali, who made his second half-century in succession. Both took full advantage of a fine batting surface - the same one used for Sunday's defeat against Worcestershire in which 680 were scored - and a jaded attack, suggesting they had the ability to carve out successful careers at this level.

Sam Hain made a polished 103 in reply. But from the moment Dieter Klein trapped William Porterfield, beaten by a ball that swung from leg to middle and hit him on the boot, and Jonathan Trott, edging one that swung the other way to take his outside edge, in his first spell there was only going to be one winner.

Ian Bell drove to cover and though Tim Ambrose helped Hain add 118 for the fourth wicket, when the pair fell within a couple of overs of one another - Hain courtesy of an outrageously good diving catch from Ali - Warwickshire's reply fell away. They lost their last six wickets for the addition of only 14 runs and their last five in the space of 15 balls. It was their second chastening defeat in two days and means their defence of their title is already hanging by a thread.

On paper, this should hardly have been a contest. It featured, after all, last year's champions against a team who finished eighth in their group. Not only that, but it featured a side containing six players with international experience at the highest level against a side which featured one man who had played international cricket and was missing its two first-choice seamers (Ben Raine and Clint McKay) due to injury.

And it's true, it was hardly a contest. From the moment Leicestershire's openers plundered 72 from the first seven overs of the game, Warwickshire looked just a little slow, just a little tired, just a little old. In the field, with the ball and with the bat, they failed to match the athleticism of their unheralded rivals. You could easily be forgiven for mistaking which was the team from the Test-hosting ground and which was the unfancied small club with only two List A wins in the whole of 2016.

Pettini, fed over-pitched deliveries at the start of his innings, drove gloriously and, when Warwickshire pulled back their length, cut savagely. Able to hit anything of good length over the top and on a surface offering no assistance to the spinners, Warwickshire had no answer.

It was, in fairness, the sort of pitch that makes a bowler wish they'd become a plumber, a butcher or a Big Issue seller. But it was noticeable that, while Warwickshire's medium-paced attack could get nothing out of the surface, Leicestershire's extra pace asked a few more questions of the batsmen. Gavin Griffiths finished with career-best bowling figures.

So while it's true that Pettini's timing was beautiful and the pitch was merciless, this was not a performance that many of the Warwickshire bowlers - or fielders - will look back on with any joy. Bereft of the pace to force the batsmen onto the back foot - anything short was dispatched - and reluctant to rely on the yorker with the straight boundaries much shorter than the square ones, they instead relied upon slower deliveries. But when the stock delivery is slow, the effect is diluted. Really, Leicestershire's batsmen just waited and plundered.

It is hardly surprising then that Warwickshire have recently made the first of their 28-day approaches to players coming out of contract at other clubs by the end of the season. Tom Kohler-Cadmore, of Worcestershire, is one target but they require bowlers as well as batsmen. They have the money to recruit, but attracting players to Edgbaston has not, historically, been easy. They have also announced a new partnership with Staffordshire Cricket, hoping to attract their best young players into their development system.

As for Leicestershire, they seem to be finding a pleasing mix of youth and experience in their side this season. Whereas last year the balance veered too much towards experience, the new coach, Pierre de Bruyn, has seen the importance of creating opportunities for home-grown youngsters alongside a few experienced pros.

Zak Chappell finished wicketless, but he has pace and potential that any club would relish, while the catch taken by Ali to end Hain's innings was the highlight of the match. Running every bit of 30 yards from mid-on to long-on, somehow keeping his eye on the ball despite the floodlights and the proximity of the boundary, he clung on to an almost impossible, diving chance. If there's a better catch taken this season, it will be quite some spectacle.

It was not a perfect day for Leicestershire. Staging this as a day-night match in response to feedback from potential spectators who suggested they could be attracted to come after work, they were unfortunate to find the evening bitterly cold. Few, if any, of the 450 schoolchildren offered free tickets stayed until for the late ending (it is a school night, after all) and few of working age took advantage of the cheap - or even free - tickets available for the second innings. Leicestershire remains a club fighting for relevance in its community.

But if they play like this, if they field a team that represents the community and offers hope to young local players, if they continue to reach out to potential spectators, they have a chance. This was a heartening evening that suggested, for the huge amount of ground they have to make-up, they are heading in the right direction.