Cricket: Such leans on the brake

Essex 533-8 dec Leicestershire 316-6
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The Independent Online
It Is 22 matches and 14 months since Leicestershire were defeated in the Championship. They clearly have every intention of extending those figures and will not mind too much how they do it. Such bloody-mindedness is not necessarily attractive on the eye but in a competition which is regularly derided for the number of its soft touches, that does not make it any less heartening.

Against Nottinghamshire in their previous match, Leicestershire clung on for a draw with only one wicket standing. The point is they did cling on. Yesterday, it was predicted that they were staring down at least one barrel with the Colchester pitch likely to turn late in the match. But Leicestershire know they are hard to beat. Their players do not pass the buck.

From 18 for 2 overnight they lost two more wickets in the morning, and in the afternoon were happy to grind it out. There were nine successive maidens at one point, but there was never much doubt that Iain Sutcliffe would complete his second century of the season. It took 206 balls and if it seemed longer that was to his immense credit.

At the end of the proceedings they were still 68 runs short of making Essex bat again, but they had not wilted. Sutcliffe began the day with Adrian Pierson, who did what nightwatchmen are supposed to do and frustrated Essex to distraction. He played no shot worthy of the name, he just batted. Sutcliffe was scarcely less becalmed, but he was willing, if the ball was indifferent enough, to deliver an appropriate handsome riposte as he demonstrated with a pulled six off Ashley Cowan.

The batsmen's main adversary was Peter Such, who took the ball at the scoreboard end at the start of the day and did not release it until way after lunch. In all he bowled 48 overs in the day, and if the pitch did not fizz as he might have desired, he ran through an impressively patient repertoire.

Eventually, he persuaded Pierson to flick - rather casually after such stout resistance - to short leg. He accounted for James Whitaker before lunch, too, the Leicestershire captain being confined to his crease and late on the stroke as the ball sneaked through. This was 100 for 4 and Essex scented an opportunity.

But Sutcliffe began to flourish. Partnered in the afternoon by Neil Johnson, who was put down at the wicket when he was three and the total was 107 (he went on to 91, by which time the score was 303), Sutcliffe increased and reduced the tempo as the occasion demanded.

Essex, needing to win to sustain their immediate challenge for their first title in five years, were perhaps not as adventurous as they could be. The 18-year-old debutant Jonathan Powell, another off-spinner, waited 49 overs of the day for his turn. Such resistance to giving a youth a fling, said not to be in the best interests of English cricket generally, was probably not in the best interests of Essex, either.