Cricket: Nixon empowers Leicestershire

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The Independent Online
Hampshire 225; Leicestershire 347-9

PAUL NIXON dominated Leicestershire's innings with a hundred, just as Robin Smith had done the previous day for Hampshire. The difference was that Nixon found superior support in achieving a career best, bridging a 66- year gap in the process.

While making a third Championship century this summer and his fifth in all, Nixon became the first Leicestershire wicketkeeper since Tommy Sidwell, in 1928, to complete 1,000 runs in a season. Roger Tolchard, a Devonian, had scored 998 in 1970 during his 18-year wicketkeeping career for the county.

In contrast, Leicestershire looked north for Nixon, reputedly the first Cumbrian to be involved in higher England echelons with his deserved selection for the forthcoming A tour of India.

Nixon weathered the distraction of four rain interruptions, shared the biggest partnership of the match, worth 102 for the sixth wicket with Vince Wells, and pulled Jim Bovill to the boundary to overtake his previous best of 115, against Essex two months ago.

Nixon, dropped on 53 by Giles White at silly point off Shaun Udal, merged the aggressive with the attritional, batting sensibly when a valuable first-innings lead was in prospect on a pitch of uneven bounce. His first 50 runs came from 71 deliveries, the second from another 152, with his hundred including two sixes, both from the wicket-less Udal over long on, and 11 fours.

From 90 for 5 on Nixon's arrival, Leicestershire built an unexpected first-innings lead of 122. He found lower-order support from a battery of fellow left-handers - newcomer Jonathan Dakin, Gordon Parsons and, finally, David Millns. It reversed the early pattern, though significantly both teams had lost quick wickets amid the morning dew on the opening two days.

Hampshire had been 54 for 4 in 21 overs and Leicestershire lost three wickets, two to the admirable Cardigan Connor, within the first 45 minutes before scoring 303 runs in a day born from adversity. They edged nearer to the prize of pounds 24,250 for finishing second in the table behind Warwickshire. Jim Bovill returned his best figures of 4 for 104, but the day belonged to Nixon.