Pierson plays the predator

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ONLY rain, and lots of it, could have saved Durham after Leicestershire had played themselves into an unassailable position in the first two days.

Durham's capitulation came after only 95 minutes of the third day, giving Leicestershire their third Championship victory of the season, by an innings and 91 runs - the third consecutive season in which they have beaten Durham by an innings.

Durham have now lost four Championship matches on the trot and their misery is compounded by an injury list nearly as long as that of the remain- ing available players. James Daley, Alan Walker, Philip Bainbridge and Christopher Scott are all out of action but, more seriously, the bowlers James Wood and Steven Lugsden have been ruled out for the season, both with stress fractures of the back.

The promising 18-year-old Lugsden's absence is especially worrying as he had to miss out on last winter's England under-19 tour to the West Indies with a similar injury. Geoff Cooke, Durham's director of cricket, said: "It will leave a huge gap in our resources, not helped by the strike bowler Simon Brown's having to play with two niggling ankle injuries."

Leicestershire's victory was set up on the first day with a sparkling 92 by James Whitaker and made certain by a fine bowling performance from the off-spinner Adrian Pierson, who was awarded his county cap on Friday after taking five for 48. Pierson was also in good form yesterday, making good use of his 6ft 4in on a bouncy, turning pitch to pick up three wickets.

Durham failed to score a single run in the first eight overs but they did lose two batsmen to Pierson in consecutive balls. James Boiling fell to a bat-pad catch at silly mid-off by Gordon Parsons, who took six catches in the match, while Darren Blenkiron was leg before offering no stroke. Mark Saxelby was Pierson's third victim, caught at the wicket by a ball which bounced and turned steeply.

Alan Mullally pounded away at the other end and was unlucky as the batsmen played and missed repeatedly. He got his just reward when he had Shaun Birbeck caught at first slip. David Ligertwood and Simon Brown provided brief resistance with a flurry of fours, but David Millns wrapped up the innings by bowling Brown and Melvyn Betts, Brown falling to a yorker which removed his middle stump.

Leicestershire surprised many people last season by coming second in the Championship with a side bereft of big names. But they are making a habit of winning well inside the distance this season and are nudging the leaders at the top of the table.