Cricket: Leicester gallop in vain

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Nottinghamshire 168 and 261-4 dec

Leicestershire 252 and 134-6

Match drawn

A TARGET of 178 in what proved to be 28 overs was beyond even a hyperactive Leicestershire batting line-up yesterday and with rain falling on everyone else's parade, an outside chance of making ground in the Championship race slipped away.

Nottinghamshire's declaration, coming rather late on a day when Leicestershire had tried in vain to bowl them out a second time, was such a surprise (not least to the home team) that there was a tendency to speculate on some behind-the-scenes drama involving their captain, Tim Robinson.

Had he been the victim of a palace revolution? Had he been locked in the lavatory while someone else made the declaration (which actually happened to a county captain of my acquaintance)? Or was he simply injured and taking no chances?

The latter, a bruised chestbone, proved to be the case. Mark Crawley took over the reins and had his spinners on after four overs, well aware that this was a slow turning pitch which while it inhibited strokeplay, was not one on which batsmen intent on staying put would easily be dislodged.

So Nottinghamshire knew their main hope lay in Leicestershire making a decent fist of things and probably felt that the early rush of strokes and flailing bats, which brought the wickets of James Whitaker, Justin Benson and Winston Benjamin was probably a bit too much too soon for both sides.

One problem for Leicestershire was that Tim Boon had been off the field injured and therefore could not bat until five wickets were down; this cost them the opportunity of making a more orthodox start, based on his understanding and quick running with his captain Nigel Briers, who kept things moving by regularly thrusting his leg down the pitch and whipping the ball through midwicket.

Laurie Potter helped him to add 57 in 10 overs before perishing trying to hit Andy Afford over the top and when Eddie Hemmings bowled Paul Nixon behind his legs in the next over, and Boon played on, Leicestershire were obliged to call a halt with six wickets down.

Briers ensured that one end remained blocked and Nottinghamshire were left to reflect what might have happened if he had been stumped by the young apprentice Steve Bramhall when he gave Hemmings the charge with 10 overs remaining.

Earlier, Chris Broad's fifth century of the season, a chanceless if not entirely flawless four-hour affair, eased Nottinghamshire out of potential trouble with a below-strength side after Derek Randall was lbw offering no stroke to the first ball of the day which was very straight - not least for a loosener.

After that, the fate of both sides probably hinged on Gidley and Hawkes, who are not a firm of gents outfitters but Leicestershire's young spinners, Martyn and Chris (they deal more in inside edges than inside legs), but their lack of experience was all too evident.

Mark Waugh scored the first century of Australia's tour of Sri Lanka when he hit 118, including one six and 11 fours, out of a first-day total of 312 for 9 against a Southern Province Comined XI at Matara. Damien Martyn, playing his first match of the tour, made 61. Ian Healy was unbeaten on 78 at the close.