Leicestershire CCC can almost taste victory in thrilling finale
Leicestershire's hopes of ending the County Championship season with a final-game win against Gloucestershire remained intact as a fascinating third day drew to a close at Grace Road.
The momentum swung one way and then the other yesterday, and it appears the final day will centre on a tricky run-chase for the home batsmen.
After County had posted a first-innings advantage of 61 – considerably fewer than they would have liked – the visitors closed on 254-9 in their second dig, a lead of 193 which, if not gargantuan, was certainly one of significant proportions in the context of the game.
Leicestershire caused their own problems in the morning session, when careless batting at the start of the day undermined the promising position they had built.
Resuming on 220-5, just 14 behind Gloucestershire's first-innings total, Plan A was to gain a three-figure lead which, with Shiv Thakor and Wayne White seemingly entrenched in a sixth-wicket stand, hardly appeared beyond the realms of possibility.
However, James Fuller's decision to switch his attack to around the wicket and bang the ball in short completely unsettled Leicestershire, who crumbled to 236-8 in the day's first 30 minutes.
White simply fended off to short leg and was caught for 25, and Jigar Naik, clearly intent on taking on Fuller, miscued a pull to midwicket for six.
The Gloucester seamer then returned to bowling over the wicket and claimed a third scalp at a cost of five runs in only 10 deliveries when Thakor, who had added just five to his overnight 68, was caught behind.
Nathan Buck and Claude Henderson halted the slide with some good, solid play and, when Buck was lbw for 25, County did at least have a handy lead of 39.
Henderson opened his shoulders to extend that to 61, lashing Fuller wide of midwicket twice and also hammering Liam Norwell over long-on into the Cricketers pub for a mighty six.
One attempt too many at a big shot saw him caught for 34, but at least Leicestershire had regained some of the initiative as they were finally all out for 295.
Wickets were initially tough to come by as Gloucestershire began their second innings, and while Henderson was at times unplayable, the edges evaded him.
As a result, the visitors inched ahead and at tea were 55 to the good on 116-2, Dan Housego unbeaten on 40 at that stage.
But a remarkable over from Wayne White turned the game back in Leicestershire's favour.
County's leading wicket-taker had both Alex Gidman and Hamish Marshall brilliantly caught down the leg-side by Ned Eckersley, and he then dismissed Ian Cockbain first ball as Eckersley pouched another chance.
At 136-5, Gloucestershire were wobbling but Housego and Will Gidman showed absolutely no signs of capitulating.
While Housego continued to play with great discipline, Gidman produced a high-quality, intelligent innings as he dealt with the spin threat of Henderson and Naik with a series of well-timed sweeps and reverse-sweeps.
The pair added 77 at a good rate for the sixth wicket and it took the return to the attack of County skipper Matthew Hoggard to end Housego's stay at 62, Eckersley completing his fifth catch of the innings.
Jack Taylor tossed away his wicket to present Hoggard with a second success before two late wickets for Henderson gave Leicestershire a slender advantage.
Eckersley was back in the thick of things as he produced some smart work to stump Gidman for 72, Henderson then removing the threat of Fuller who was lbw attempting to sweep in the penultimate over.