Cricket: Feeble Essex fall to Lewis

Essex 252 & 150 Leicestershire 424 Leics win by innings and 22 runs
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The Independent Online
A MATCH with all the elements - rain, drama, heroics and even farce - of great entertainment. The edges of seats were worn thin as Leicestershire pressed relentlessly towards what was a comprehensive victory yesterday. They did not even have to bat again.

If the Essex bowling had been ineffectual, their batting was positively feeble. If it had not been for fast bowler Ashley Cowan showing his batting betters how to score runs their second-innings total would have been even more pathetic.

There was no doubt as to where the respective sides had finished last season. And the top and bottom of things on this showing is that they could well repeat that this year.

Leicestershire were ruthless. Chris Lewis, having led the way with his first-innings century, then came up trumps with the ball. He made the initial breakthrough when the morning was five overs old, having Paul Prichard leg before with one that kept low; since the Essex opener had been dropped on two the evening before and again when on seven yesterday justice was served.

When Lewis found the edge of Ian Flanagan's bat there were resigned shrugs among the long-suffering supporters.

Lewis had a hand in the fourth wicket to fall, a moment which bordered on pure farce, but ultimately epitomised the team-work and spirit of the defending champions.

Stuart Law had fallen lbw to the second ball of Jonathan Dakin's first over and on the last ball Darren Robinson edged behind. Paul Nixon juggled frantically, finally flipping the ball to first slip where Darren Maddy chased it before he knocked it up to Lewis who took the simplest of catches, the second of six to the slick slip cordon.

And so the Essex luck ran out. No runs. No breaks. No application. Just a procession out and back in. Cowan had other ideas on his arrival after lunch and after a slow start began putting edge to ball and frustrating each bowler in turn. As his confidence increased so did the area of bat he presented, so towards the end there were some genuine shots.

That spirited resolve fostered hopes of a repeat of Cowan's heroics last season when he scored his career-best 94 at Leicester. He and Mark Ilott had added an annoying 39 when Maddy took his third catch to dismiss the left-hander leaving Cowan to salvage something with the last man Peter Such, who was sporting a bandage on his badly bruised right hand, a legacy of Lewis's hard-hitting the day before. To heighten the tension there were gathering clouds overhead. As things turned out Essex were beyond redemption.

Such only had to negotiate two balls after which Cowan fell leg-before to Dakin having stuck it out for almost two hours in which time he had helped himself to half a dozen boundaries and a casually flicked six.

There was one last huddle from Leicestershire then, as a shower - short- lived as it turned out - started to fall, they trotted in with a maximum 20 points. A champion start for the defending champions.

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