Spin twins put County in control of season finale
The excellent work of spin-twins Claude Henderson and Jigar Naik gave County a measure of control over the course of the first day of their Championship match against Gloucestershire at Grace Road yesterday.
The pair claimed five wickets between them as the visitors' first innings stalled and they were dismissed for a modest 234.
County might have taken a firmer grip on the final game of the season but they lost early wickets in their reply reaching stumps on 94-3.
Pitches at Grace Road in the last month of the season have tended to be of the 'green' variety but there was noticeably less grass on the surface yesterday and it was no surprise when Gloucestershire chose to bat when they won the toss on a fresh day.
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The morning session initially belonged to County's seamers as Nathan Buck and Wayne White claimed early successes, while Shiv Thakor found the right length to pick up a couple of wickets which left the visitors struggling on 71-4.
Hamish Marshall and Ian Cockbain then countered either side of lunch and an enterprising stand of 96 was beginning to threaten County's position when Buck tempted Marshall outside off-stump and he edged behind.
The real key to Leicestershire's performance, though, lay in the tandem of slow left-armer Henderson and off-spinner Naik, who rattled through their overs in the afternoon to turn the screw.
Henderson finished with 3-32 and Naik 2-36 – and both bowled considerably better than those figures might suggest.
Each found a surprising amount of turn and bounce and how Jonathan Batty and Will Gidman managed to fashion 50 runs for the seventh wicket is anybody's guess given the number of times they were beaten by the County spinners.
Naik, who has seen the bulk of his season wrecked by injury, eventually removed both batsmen to lbw decisions,
Henderson then wrapped up the innings with two wickets in consecutive deliveries shortly after tea.
Had County reached the close without the loss of a wicket, or maybe even just one down, they could truly have said they had dominated the day.
However, that has not been the way with Leicestershire over the course of this season when the loss of early wickets has been the norm and, with 28 overs left before stumps, few home supporters would have been anticipating a trouble-free ride.
So it was and, with only nine runs on the board, Michael Thornely was pinned leg before by Will Gidman.
Ned Eckersley looked in good touch until he fell for 25 with the total on 50, bowled as he attempted to drive Liam Norwell and add to the boundary count.
Matt Boyce then added just 10 before he became the game's latest lbw victim, Gidman having switched his attack to round the wicket four overs before the close.
The major plus for Leicestershire, in terms of batting, was the performance of Greg Smith.
The young opener has had a lean time this season but was recalled to the first team after hitting an excellent unbeaten century in the Second Team championship final last week.
He continued in that confident frame of mind to reach 47 not out at the close, an innings which has included seven boundaries thus far, the product of a series of sweetly-timed drives on either side of the wicket.
As the game heads into day two, County's task is to build a significant first innings lead and then let Henderson and Naik work their magic on a pitch which is not likely to become any easier for the batsmen.