Such sets record for endurance

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The Independent Online
Essex 533-8 dec Leicestershire 515-9 Match drawn

Maybe, when Lord MacLaurin has done his best to put English cricket back on course, he could turn his attention to trying to eliminate this sort of match from the general scheme of things. As Essex were one of the sides concerned, he would probably find any scheme blocked by powerful local interests, claiming too much excitement on a fourth day is a bad thing.

Essex had batted on until near the end of the second day, 60 overs having been lost to the weather. Leicestershire's only hope after that was to try to avoid the follow-on and an innings defeat. On an extremely slow pitch they achieved their objective.

It goes without saying that this last day was excruciatingly boring. Peter Such took his tally of overs for the innings to 86, which constituted the largest number of balls ever bowled in a Championship innings, beating the 52-year-old Alfred Shaw's 100.1 five-ball overs for Sussex against Nottinghamshire in 1895. You cannot get much more exciting than that.

At the start, Leicestershire needed 68 more to avoid the follow-on. They soon lost Paul Nixon to a good low catch at short midwicket by Nasser Hussain off Paul Grayson from a ball which seemed to bounce a fraction more than most. Ben Smith and David Millns then took the score to 397 for 7 by lunch and their stand in all to 139 in 51 overs.

It was all slow-motion cricket, and when Millns was given out caught behind off Jonathan Powell (off-break) - this was Powell's first first- class wicket - they had put on 139 in 51 overs. Smith then came to his hundred before Matthew Brimson was ninth out lbw pushing forward to Grayson.

Fourteen were still needed to avert the follow-on, but as it was already mid-afternoon that had already become an academic point. The last pair batted for an hour and a half adding 45 runs, Smith batted for six and a half hours, Such's final figures were 86-49-94-4 and the Leicestershire innings lasted for 210 overs.

News filtered through from the pavilion during the afternoon that Paul Prichard at lunch had offered to set Leicestershire a target of 225 to win in 55 overs if they declared their second innings at the interval. The Leicestershire captain, James Whitaker, declined because apparently Iain Sutcliffe (cracked rib) and Neil Johnson (damaged ankle ligaments) would only have batted in an emergency. But then faint hearts never won anything, or deserved to either.

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