Cricket: Walsh sparkles after the rain: Leicestershire's title hopes recede

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Gloucestershire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .350-4 dec

Leicestershire. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .167-3

A DAY and a half of steady rain followed by a short sharp shower of classy fast bowling from Courtney Walsh must have finally washed away any lingering hopes Leicestershire may have harboured of pipping Warwickshire for the County Championship.

The loss of 178 overs to the weather and the subsequent Gloucestershire declaration at their first day's effort denied Leicestershire three possible bowling points. It also left Gloucestershire's Tony Wright unbeaten, 16 runs short of his maiden first-class double hundred.

With 42 overs left to them yesterday, Leicestershire made something of a fist of it. But they need more than a salvage operation if they are to dredge anything from this soggy mess of a match.

Leicestershire's West Indies opener, Phil Simmons, was dismissed in the first over by his new Test captain Walsh, when he cut the fourth ball chest high to Mark Alleyne in the gully. Half a dozen deliveries later the Gloucestershire captain struck again, getting one to pop up wickedly and finish in Wright's hands at second slip via the shoulder of Nigel Briers' bat. The next ball to James Whitaker could have given Walsh his 84th wicket of the summer, but the ball flew just wide of third slip. Whitaker then hooked Walsh for the first of his two sixes off the West Indies fast bowler.

Whitaker had clearly decided to ride his luck and this presented Walsh with another chance with the Leicestershire vice-captain on nine. But Alleyne could only bruise a finger as a hard cut whistled over his head.

Whitaker sailed on, injecting a sense of urgency into his batting, and even the loss of Tim Boon, after the pair had put on 81 failed to deter him. He had reached 50 - his sixth half-century of the season, in addition to two hundreds - when Walsh brought himself back on.

A hooked six from Whitaker, a clip and a pull for four from Vince Wells and he withdrew again, that over yielding 21 runs to Leicestershire. A lot depends on what the two captains agree to today. But there are still 16 points at stake for the Leicestershire cause.