Cricket: Rain puts damper on Leicestershire's push

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Nottinghamshire 168 and 31-0

Leicestershire 252

AT THE start of this game Leicestershire's seven wins were keeping them within mathematical reach of the Championship leaders Essex, and Nottinghamshire were just 15 points behind them. On a sporting Friday wicket Leicestershire's seam bowlers had served them well, preventing any Nottinghamshire partnership from developing. Leicestershire's most effective strike bowler, David Millns, is still nursing a foot injury, though he hopes to work his way back into competitive cricket in a week's time, with an eye on the NatWest final on 5 September.

At 65 not out yesterday morning, the home skipper Nigel Briers had formed the backbone of Leicestershire's healthy response to Nottinghamshire's 168. The weather seemed undecided - should it spoil a potentially fascinating match, or reluctantly allow it to continue under the constant threat of rain and bad light? The threat became real soon after lunch, but Leicestershire refused an offer of the light in pursuit of a third batting point.

Briers was set for a century, and Leicestershire for a plump first-innings lead, when an early-morning misunderstanding cost the captain his wicket. Briers pushed Chris Cairns towards Derek Randall at cover, the non-striker Martyn Gidley called and then cancelled a non-existent single, and the 41- year-old Randall assisted in a simple run-out. Gidley's main task now was to delay his next encounter with a somewhat disgruntled Briers. He hid in the safest place, the middle, until lunch.

Apart from a mystifying cabaret by Winston Benjamin - two overs to sight the ball, a majestic straight six and a silly slice to third man next ball - Leicestershire's lead was achieved by a quartet of left- handers - Gidley making amends, wicketkeeper Paul Nixon, spinner Chris Hawkes and Friday's most successful bowler, Gordon Parsons. Briers resisted the temptation to push on to the psychological advantage of a three-figure lead, perhaps because he saw the clouds lifting somewhat, suggesting that he could let Benjamin and Alan Mullally loose without worrying the umpires.

To accompany the rock-solid bat of Chris Broad, Nottinghamshire's skipper Tim Robinson sent in a jaunty Randall, No 5 on the card. With the weather still promising, but not quite deciding, to take a more positive role in the match Benjamin strove energetically for a mid-afternoon breakthrough.

It was not to come, but the drizzle did, sweeping in at 3.15 with increasing determination. A couple of doomed attempts to restart the game were made, but when the rain finally took over at teatime it had spoiled an intriguingly poised contest.