Wells swells his tally

Cricket: Essex 163; Leicestershire 304-6
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Becoming an opening batsman rated low in the ambitions of Vince Wells when the summer dawned. During the past fortnight in that role, he has amassed a cool 557 runs, adding 150 not out to two double hundreds.

Just as James Whitaker, his county captain, regarded the innings win over Yorkshire a fortnight ago as his own career highlight, Wells has enjoyed his finest sequence, by far, of an eight-year career that began in Kent. Wells and half-century maker David Millns shared an unbroken century partnership for the seventh wicket before rain ended play before tea. Fourth in the table, Leicestershire established a 141-run lead, with full bonus points in the offing and a 24-point maximum looking probable.

In his past four innings, Wells has made 200 against Yorkshire, six against them in the Sunday League, followed by 201 in the NatWest game against Berkshire. Not bad for a converted middle-order batsman, whose first inkling of a protracted uplift to the top was the knee injury that forced Nigel Briers to retire in May.

This pitch has not been the most accommodating for batsmen, which put Wells' five-and-a-quarter hour innings, with 22 fours, into sharper profile. It was an epic of concentration, while others around him succumbed to the ball moving around and the occasional sharp lifter, notably one from Steve Andrew that accounted for Phil Simmons.

Leicestershire lost three wickets in 10 balls bridging lunch but the Essex attack was mostly unconvincing. Even Millns seemed to possess a bat the width of a garage door. The fast bowler has always fancied himself as a stroke player and his assurance fortified Wells, especially after Simmons, Whitaker, Aftab Habib and Paul Nixon had departed in swift succession.

Wells' most prolific stroke was the extra-cover drive, sweetly timed and condemning Essex to hard labour. The penal servitude is not yet over for them, though their temporary escape may come from an unpromising weather forecast. They must bat better second time to avoid a fifth consecutive defeat in Championship games against Leicestershire.

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