Eckersley among released Foxes quartet

Ned Eckersley is leaving Grace Road Getty Images

Leicestershire, already reeling from the loss of Ben Raine and Zak Chappell, have prepared ground for their winter recruitment by releasing four players, including their long-serving wicketkeeper Ned Eckersley.

Eckersley, 29, is Leicestershire's longest serving player, having made his first-class debut in August 2011, and made 205 appearances in all competitions. But his recent seasons have been disappointing at a time when he should have been reaching his peak.

Academy graduates Tom Wells and Rob Sayer and the veteran former Essex batsman Mark Pettini will also not have their contracts renewed at the end of the 2018 season.

Leicestershire showed signs of improvement in early season under their new head coach, Paul Nixon, but recent results have slipped back into familiar ways.

Eckersley scored 5,646 first-class runs for Leicestershire at an average of 32.26, including 14 centuries and a best score of 158. He also contributed 1,014 List A runs at 29.79 with a best of 108, and 673 runs in T20 cricket at an average of 15.65, while claiming 208 dismissals across all three formats of the game.

Wells has been a regular in the T20 side, making 62 appearances in that competition. Offspinner Sayer made his Foxes debut in all formats during the 2015 season.

Nixon said: "It is an extremely sad time of year where you have to make tough decisions in planning for the future. Ned is our longest serving player and I know that he was proud to wear the gold fox having been awarded his county cap in 2013.

"On behalf of the whole club, I would like to thank Ned, Tom, Rob and Mark for their efforts over the years, and wish them all the very best for the future."

With Raine, a combative allrounder, heading for Durham, and Zak Chappell snapped up by Nottinghamshsire, Nixon faces a challenge in refreshing his squad to maintain improvements made this season.