This match had potential to reward the hardy spectators with an exciting finale, a fourth innings run-chase that could have offered either club a glimmer of hope of avoiding relegation if they sneaked a victory. Ronnie Irani, the Essex captain, was game. Sadly, his Leicestershire counterpart, Darren Maddy, was not, refused the declaration- and-forfeit compromise, and a dire day was played out in desultory fashion.
Quite why the bottom club eschewed the best route to a result is difficult to fathom. Leicestershire have failed to win a Championship match all season, and unless they upset the form book and start a sequence of wins, are destined for Division Two. So Irani's offer was not only fair, but timely. Drowning men have clutched at flimsier straws, but not the East Midlanders. They, like the band on the Titanic, will go down sticking to the playlist.
If they had dared allow adventure to enter their thoughts they would have realised that taking 10 wickets to win but risking defeat would have been a lot easier than trying to take 14 wickets. The draw is no more value to them than a loss, so they should have wanted batters playing shots and taking risks.
They did at least enforce the follow-on by taking the remaining four wickets before lunch, but there was little chance of taking another 10, especially in the 71 overs left and with the wicket still flat. At least James Middlebrook thought so. Undefeated on 82 at the close of the first innings, he duly volunteered to open the second, albeit with less success, as he was caught low down at short extra-cover.
His opening partner, Will Jefferson, opted for an extended net session, crawling to his first half-century in 14 innings off 136 balls. Andy Flower, the first-innings centurion accumulated without fuss or alarm. The rain, when it stopped play in the final session, was blessed relief, Leicestershire having only taken five of the 14 wickets they needed.
The expected return of Devon Malcolm next week will at least give them an attacking thrust in the field, but Leicestershire's survival is not just about taking the chances his bowling will create in the field, but taking a few in the gambling sense.
Essex understand this, but with only five matches remaining and their two leading seamers, Scott Brant and Jon Dakin, injured, it seems that they will suffer the same fate as Leicestershire.Reuse content