Leicestershire288 (Klein 87, Cosgrove 70, Gleeson 4-58) and 5 for 1 trail Lancashire 449 by 156 runs
Countrymen are wont to refer to a skulk of foxes but you will never find a side coached by Paul Nixon hiding itself away. Defeat is one thing; gutless capitulation another. So on an afternoon when Glamorgan went top of Division Two it was heartening to see another less fancied side taking to the barricades against the very warm title favourites.
Everywhere you looked in the final two sessions of this day you found foxes whose courage would have inspired John Masefield. Desperately placed on 82 for 5 at lunch, a score which had some home fans pondering a three-day finish, Leicestershire's lower order scrapped for every run and sold their wickets so dear that George Soros might have baulked at the price. The resistance was led by Dieter Klein, who was ninth out for 87, seven short of his career-best score, at the very point when his team had become favourites to save the follow-on. Klein was uncontroversially leg before to Richard Gleeson, and Leicestershire still needed another dozen runs to avoid one of cricket's most unpalatable invitations when Mohammed Abbas was caught behind by Dane Vilas without scoring.
Rather worse was to follow in the day's very last knockings as nightwatchman-opener Chris Wright was bowled by Graham Onions, playing no shot, for nought. All the same, if Paul Horton's men bat with the similar courage on the final day of this fine game they will collect five points for the draw and they will deserve them. We are set for another fine finish and another excellent advertisement for four-day cricket.
Yet such a prospect seemed distant indeed at lunch after a morning session in which the visitors had lost five wickets and may even have been comforted by the notion that things could have been so much worse for them. Both openers and Neil Dexter were removed by Onions and Tom Bailey with the new ball in little more than the first half hour of the day and suddenly the game became an 11 v 1 contest. Every shot, however secure, was accompanied by a cacophony from the slips, whose comments rang out across the bitterly cold air.
This was a session for the game's devotees but they needed to be properly insulated. Those at the River End huddled together like long-tailed tits on a branch in winter. It looked as though each spectator was giving his fierce attention to the game; well, either that or rigor mortis had claimed another scalp. Gradually Mark Cosgrove and Colin Ackermann began to make something of the innings, both batsmen punching fours through midwicket when the seamers searched too eagerly for an attacking length.
It remained cold. One fellow was seen unpacking a picnic and was generally judged to have lost his wits. This was a rug and Bovril day. After an hour's resistance Ackermann drove at Gleeson but only edged a catch to Vilas. Bury-born Harry Dearden lasted half an hour for his two runs but edged Liam Livingstone's final ball before lunch to Keaton Jennings at slip. The players went in and the sun came out. Aigburth became cricket's answer to the weather house.
Lancashire made further breakthroughs in the afternoon session but never as frequently as their supporters expected. The visitors' determination was epitomised by a 20-year-old debutant, Harry Swindells, who put on 50 for the sixth wicket with Mark Cosgrove. Swindells is slim, innocent and athletic, three adjectives which are rarely used in connection with Cosgrove. Yet the pair combined well and repulsed every Lancastrian challenge. The youngster's first runs were edgy in both respects but he soon warmed to his new environment and seemed unfazed by the yakking of Lancashire's close fielders. Indeed, Cosgrove was the first to depart when Onions brought one back off the pitch and had him lbw for 70. Swindells' first innings in his new surroundings lasted another half hour and he had accumulated a very respectable 37 when the ball ballooned off bat and pad and Keaton Jennings plunged forward from short leg to grab the catch which gave Livingstone his second wicket.
At that point Leicestershire were 150 for 7 and Lancashire had re-established their ascendancy. But the main battle had yet to be joined. It was led by Klein but he was ably assisted by Callum Parkinson, the twin brother of Lancashire's Matthew. For while Matt may be the better spinner, Callum has clearly secured a monopoly of the family's batting genes. In company with Klein, he added 119 for his team's eighth wicket. Neither the tea interval nor the taking of the new ball disturbed the pair; indeed it required a slightly generous leg before decision in favour of Gleeson to get rid of the other Parky for 37 when Leicestershire still needed 31 to avoid batting again tonight.
Lancashire's bowlers had become frustrated in the afternoon; perhaps they, too, were considering the attractions of a day off. But Gleeson recovered his discipline sufficiently to finish with 4 for 58 and set us up for a tense battle tomorrow. That is, if frostbite doesn't get us all first; but fingers are overrated anyway.