Grace Road was not half-full, but there was a decent Saturday crowd, and roughly half the spectators in the public seats were Pakistani by origin. They had come to see their team go through their paces before the first of the NatWest Series at Old Trafford on Tuesday. They missed some familiar faces, as did we. No Wasim, Inzamam, Saeed Anwar, no Saqlain or Waqar or Shahid Afridi.
They watched some young players for the first time, and several showed real promise. We will surely hear more of the openers Imran Nazir and Muhammad Hafeez, and the medium-fast swing bowler, Umar Gul.
They were charged £15 (£8 for juniors and OAPs) and as they settled down they were given their instructions over the PA system. There was to be no excessive drinking - not that this would be a problem for the Muslims present; no incursions on the playing surface at any time, and anyone who left the ground without a pass-out would not be readmitted under any circumstances. You would never have guessed cricket was a troubled game in search of a new audience.
This young Pakistani team look as if they might prove a good advertisement for it, though they had to be saved from a short, sharp middle-order collapse by two old pros, Rashid Latif and Younis Khan, who put on 81 for the sixth wicket in 10 overs and saw Pakistan home comfortably with three overs to spare.
There are no great personalities in this Pakistan team, not yet, at least, except for Shoaib Akhtar. The pitch was slow but Shoaib made it look fast enough after he got over an undisciplined start. However, he will not be troubling the batsmen at Old Trafford since that is the third game of a three-match ban for ball tampering. (He was not guilty, of course, according to Pakistan's pressman.)
Shoaib is still threatening enough to give batsmen bad dreams. That would not be true of his new-ball partner Shabbir Ahmed, a gangling man who has had trouble with his action and yesterday was having even more trouble with his direction and his run-up - conceding nine wides and three no balls off one 14-ball over.
When Leicestershire got to 50 without loss, the extras tally stood at 19, a total that rose to 43 in the full 50 overs of the innings. The Indian Virender Sehwag was the first to go, caught by Rashid at the wicket off the swing bowling of the skinny 19-year-old Umar. He moved the ball both ways and had Sehwag playing and missing and edging to the leg side. A score of only 19 was another disappointment from Leicestershire's principal import.
Umar is a good bet for the Old Trafford eleven, along with Mohammad Sami, Surrey's Azhar Mahmood and Middlesex's Abdul Razzaq, who is familiar enough already even though he is only 23. Razzaq had joined the team for this series so recently that his name was still being stitched on his shirt and he was wearing the kit of Nazir. But his neat, upright action gave him away. He soon had Darren Maddy lbw, then went on to bowl Trevor Ward; Jeremy Snape was lbw two balls later and Paul Nixon was out to a steepling drive which was caught at cover point by the real Nazir.
Razzaq had 4 for 55 off his 10 overs. It was a reassuring performance for a team in transition who badly need reliable performers.
The most intriguing spell was from Hafeez, a 21-year-old who bowls off-spin as well as opening the batting. Hafeez is a new Afridi, though he scores more steadily, and spins the ball sharply enough to confuse the batsmen. He sometimes dropped short without being punished, and completed his 10 overs for 26 runs.
Brad Hodge, an import from Victoria, top scored for Leicestershire with 47 but took 28 overs of unpardonable dreariness to get there. By comparison, the Pakistan top three made run scoring look like a doddle. Hafeez went to his fifty with a six to long on before holing out, and when five were suddenly down for 151 Rashid and Younis came in to show the youngster how to finish an innings.Reuse content