The august time for bold Championship statements is nigh. Leicestershire, joint leaders with Surrey, made theirs. Put in by next-to-bottom Northamptonshire yesterday, their opener Vince Wells passed 150 for the fourth time this summer in all matches on his way to a career-best 202 not out, with 30 fours and a six.
Northamptonshire have a rag, tag and bobtail look without Rob Bailey, Richard Montgomerie, Russell Warren and David Sales. Doubtless, acting captain Alan Fordham opted to field, allowing a pause for thought. It could be extra-long as Leicestershire bat on today.
Wells, 31 next Wednesday, came to his adopted county from Kent as a bits and pieces player with a medium paced bowling brief four years ago. He attracted Northamptonshire's own attention when he was leaving Kent after the 1991 season but with Tony Penberthy around they could scarcely duplicate another all-rounder role.
He has since climbed the batting order. A heady double-hundred against Yorkshire was followed by 197 off the Essex attack in his next Championship innings and, when reaching 182 yesterday, he completed 1,000 runs in a season for the first time.
Yesterday his command was unerring, with the marginal exception of a mis-hook on 131, off Paul Taylor, which fell short of Mal Loye, the onrushing fielder at deep square leg. Without James Whitaker, who has a torn calf muscle, Wells assumed additional batting responsibilities. Lacing diligence with bravado, he reached a century from 157 for 3 and shared a partnership of 152 with Phil Simmons.
Northamptonshire faltered in the field as Simmons made 75, with 11 fours from 140 balls. They endured a torrid afternoon session in which Leicestershire added 139 runs for the loss of Aftab Habib, caught off a Curtly Ambrose delivery of rare, extra bounce.
Ambrose bowled 17 economical overs before Jeremy Snape, the off-spinner introduced in the 81st over, dismissed Simmons with his first delivery, and Greg McMillan three balls later. Simmons was bowled off a glove and McMillan caught at slip. Suddenly, Northamptonshire were animated but Leicestershire kept doing what they have all season - heads down and emphasising their drive to win the title after a 21-year gap.
John Emburey, the county coach and No 1 off-spinner, who bowled four and a half hours earlier than Snape, pitched the ball on the proverbial sixpence and no one took liberties. Wells still hit 17 boundaries in his hundred and Emburey was first to slap him on the back when taking the single from his bowling to complete a double century.
Others had fallen by the wayside on a pitch likely to sympathise with spinners as the match progresses. Wells apart, only Simmons made a half- century. For Wells, this was a third double hundred, together with a near miss, in his golden six-week spell.Reuse content