Pick's persistence pays off

Leicestershire 381 and 335-9 Nottinghamshire 364
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The Independent Online
HEROIC deeds, shifting fortunes: on a day when the rain fell everywhere else, it was a pity there were so few spectators to watch a good day's cricket. After the first decent innings at Grace Road by the South African Hansie Cronje put Leicestershire on top, the middle order collapsed - four wickets for five runs - and Leicestershire suddenly seemed to surrender.

They recovered, however, thanks mainly to a young man named Jonathan Dakin, who learnt his cricket in Johannesburg, and in spite of brave bowling by Andy Pick. At the close Leicestershire were 352 ahead and the wicket was taking turn and bounce.

The prize for elegance went to Cronje, but the award for guts went to Pick. His colleague Greg Mike could not bowl; Kevin Evans had a groin strain and the captain appeared not to trust Bobby Chapman.

That left the left-arm spinner, James Hindson, and Pick, who was favouring a gammy knee. They would have done well to have contained Leicestershire; as it was, the persistent Pick took five wickets (including four for 40 in his longest spell) to share the honours with Cronje.

At the crease Cronje looks shorter than 6ft 4in. He holds his bat low on the handle and crouches, holding his bat away from his body like a baseball player. He has scored runs in county games (124 against Kent, 66 against Hampshire) but at Grace Road he had managed 61 in six innings.

Jack Burkenshaw, Leicestershire's cricket manager, who also coaches Cronje in the Orange Free State and helped to tempt the South African captain into an English summer, says Cronje's problem at Grace Road has been an anxiety to please, trying to bat attractively too early in his innings.

Yesterday, he promised Cronje was going to try harder not to get out, but unless you had been told this, you would never have known. He played fluent, exciting cricket right from the start, driving through the covers off the front foot and playing straight and square off the back foot.

His 50 came off 62 balls, and there were 17 fours in his 100, which he celebrated with a big straight six. He was out hooking and missing, caught behind the wicket off Pick; he paused just long enough to show he was disgruntled. His 113 had taken only two minutes less than three hours.

When Cronje was out Leicestershire were 98. Four overs later James Whitaker, Paul Nixon and Ben Smith had gone for the five runs and Leicestershire had to rely on Geoff Parsons (Cronje's brother-in-law) and the 22-year- old Dakin. He had scored 101 not out in the first innings of his second championship game, and now he batted calmly for a half-century in two and a half hours. David Millns cannot bowl tomorrow but Leicestershire are still well-placed.

Millns, who scored important 11 runs, has an Achilles tendon problem. After close of play tomorrow it will have to be put in plaster for two weeks, but even without him Leicestershire are in a strong position to win the match and consolidate a place in the top half of the table.