Chris Dent ton hands Gloucestershire lead over Leicestershire

Chris Dent drives Getty Images

Gloucestershire 275 for 6 (Dent 125, Smith 84) lead Leicestershire 252 by 23 runs

Chris Dent and Tom Smith staged an unlikely third-wicket stand of 195 in 66.1 overs as Gloucestershire forged a potentially decisive first-innings lead on day two of the Specsavers County Championship match against Leicestershire at Cheltenham.

Skipper Dent posted a superb 125 and Smith raised a career-best 84 on a day when bat dominated ball for long periods, the hosts reaching the close handily placed on 275 for 6 in reply to Leicestershire's 252.

If Gloucestershire's intention was to bat only once on a pitch that is expected to deteriorate over the course of the next two days, they were made to re-evaluate their plans when Chris Wright took three wickets in as many overs with the second new ball to redress the balance. The hosts are 23 runs ahead with four first-innings wickets in hand and bottom-of-the-table Leicestershire will feel they are still in with a chance against opponents who have lost back-to-back matches and must bat last.

Only playing because of an injury to teenage all-rounder Ben Charlesworth, spin bowler Smith was enjoying his first Championship outing since September 2017. And how he made up for lost time, registering his highest red-ball total after being promoted up the order to help take the shine off the ball and protect Gloucestershire's middle-order stroke-makers.

Arriving in the middle with the score on 46 for 2 - Miles Hammond and Gareth Roderick having succumbed to Mohammad Abbas and a Neil Dexter run out respectively - Smith adopted a low-risk strategy to frustrate Leicestershire's bowlers.

Having scraped just seven runs in his first hour at the crease, the former Middlesex and Sussex man eventually attained only his third first-class 50 from 155 balls. Accelerating after tea, he eclipsed his previous highest score of 80, made against Surrey at Bristol six years earlier, entertaining Festival-goers with nine boundaries and visibly growing in confidence the longer he remained at large.

Dent in particular has proved a thorn in Leicestershire flesh this summer, compiling a substantial innings of 176 in the drawn match at Grace Road last month. Initially subjected to a stern new-ball examination at the hand of Pakistan Test paceman Abbas, the Bristolian lived a charmed existence before moving up through the gears to register a patient 50 from 95 balls shortly before lunch.

Taking charge of an inreasingly progressive third-wicket partnership in the afternoon, Dent raised his third hundred of the summer via 202 balls with his 14th four, despatched just backward of square leg at the expense of Callum Parkinson and eliciting a standing ovation from an appreciative Festival audience.

By the time he departed midway through the final session, caught at the wicket off the bowling of Wright, Gloucestershire's captain had faced 231 balls, harvested 16 fours and held sway for a little over five hours.

Having worked so hard to build a platform, Gloucestershire were no doubt disappointed by what followed, Smith losing his off stump to a Wright in-swinger and Graeme van Buuren falling to the same bowler, held by Colin Ackerman at second slip later in the same over.

Ryan Higgins was then bowled by Will Davis for 14 shortly before stumps, at which point Gloucestershire had lost four wickets for the addition of 32 runs, leaving the seventh-wicket pair of Jack Taylor and Benny Howell to negotiate the final three overs.

Smith said: "It was a bit of a new role for me, one we only discussed after Ben Charlesworth went down with injury. I'd opened the batting for the second eleven a few times, but not played against this quality of bowling. My initial intention was to bat time and help screen the guys who were coming in after me. Batting became easier the longer I was out there and it was nice to score a 50. It's been quite a long time coming."

Gloucs 4th innings Partnerships

1st9CDJ DentMAH Hammond
2nd15MAH HammondRF Higgins
3rd9JMR TaylorRF Higgins
4th7BAC HowellRF Higgins
5th8GH RoderickRF Higgins