Cricket: Top-order collapse corrected by Nixon

Leicestershire 343 v Derbyshire
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The Independent Online
LEICESTERSHIRE BATTED with a certain amount of abandon here yesterday. Maybe the knowledge that the championship is now a lost cause had lifted any pressure they were feeling. Maybe it was simply a case of treating Derbyshire's bowling on its merits after being put in.

Either way, wickets were given away as if at some end-of-season clearance sale and too many batsmen failed to develop a good start until the estimable Paul Nixon pieced together an intelligent 72 before he, too, succumbed.

Derbyshire, needing every available point in their battle for First Division status next year, would not have worried unduly. Their decision to bowl first might have been slightly defensive in the light of some recent batting displays, though the pitch certainly had a tinge of green.

On a balmy autumn day, though, any early juice would have soon disappeared, as indeed did one or two Leicestershire batsmen, of whom Darren Stevens and Iain Sutcliffe both paid the price for attempting too much too soon against the new ball.

Among the bowlers who benefited was the inexperienced Trevor Smith who, although not always locating the right length for such a mild pitch, at least took the prized wicket of Darren Maddy, whose irritated gesture suggested he felt it was a ball he might well have left alone.

If Aftab Habib's first scoring stroke off Dominic Cork had not narrowly eluded gully, Leicestershire might have been something like 50 for 4. This produced a more circumspect partnership between Habib and Vince Wells until Habib was given out lbw offering no stroke to an off-break.

Wells restored an air of sanity to the proceedings with some well-timed strokes off the front foot. But, after thumping two successive fours off Smith, he fell to a superb catch attempting something similar from the next ball, the sort of dismissal which would have earned him a severe rollicking from the captain - except that he is the captain.

Cork added to the bizarre nature of the day by managing to bowl two bouncers while his wicketkeeper was standing up, one vanishing over his head for four byes; but this ploy at least enabled him to prize out Jonathan Dakin, leaving Nixon and Michael Kasprowicz to steady the innings in a seventh- wicket partnership.

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