Cricket: Donald hits the heights

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Warwickshire. . . . . .284

Leicestershire . . . . .188

IT CAME as something of a surprise to those who strolled into Grace Road, blinking like new-born rabbits in the bright sunlight, that play would not begin until late afternoon at the earliest.

Overnight showers had left the square, including a two-yard stretch of the wicket, sodden and unplayable. With the new pounds 500,000 stand gleaming in the sunshine, the opinion that a few tenners might have been spared for some decent covers was being muttered into more than a few pints of the local brew.

The news was frustrating for Warwickshire, who have had victory in sight from the moment Allan Donald bagged his sixth wicket. For Donald, who flies out to South Africa next week for a year of international duty and will not be returning to England until the three Test series next summer, the delay was particularly irritating.

'I've not been bowling well this season, but I have been watching videos of myself when I was at my best and have managed to sort out the technical problems I had at the start of the season,' he said. 'My confidence has returned and I am bowling well again.' No Leicestershire batsman will argue with that.

In the 32 overs of play that were possible, Leicestershire succeeded in scoring the 31 runs needed to avoid following-on in spite of the hostility of Donald's first spell and in spite of losing two wickets early on. Laurie Potter fell to a brilliant bat-pad catch by Dominic Ostler at silly mid-off from Neil Smith's off spin and Winston Benjamin edged a more straightforward chance to Dermot Reeve at first slip in the following over.

With the help of Paul Smith, who dropped two catches - one of them a sitter at deep mid-on, the other a potential blinder - the home side, or rather Paul Nixon with his third half-century of the season, added a thin film of respectability to their first innings total.