Young impresses on debut

Cricket: Gloucestershire 245 Leicestershire 99-3
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The Independent Online
They hoisted the Championship pennant in a pre-match ceremony here yesterday. Later, quite unscheduled and out of context with what had gone before, Shaun Young and Jack Russell unceremoniously hoisted Leicestershire's bowling to all parts in a manner that the champions will not want to see repeated too often this season.

It was the sort of thing, though, that can happen in the best of circles on the first day of the season and allowing for various indications of rustiness and the odd fielding lapses, Leicestershire probably felt that dismissing Gloucestershire for under 300 on a good pitch was not a bad day's work.

Alan Mullally probably thought so. When last sighted he was spraying the ball to all parts on England's behalf. Yesterday under the gaze of David Lloyd, but more likely because he is again under the tutelage of Jack Birkenshaw, he bowled very straight, picked up five wickets and troubled the two left-handers, Russell and Young, more than anyone.

There was still not much evidence of any ability to bring the ball back into the right-hander but, until Mike Smith appeared in the evening, no one swung the ball much anyway. Mostly it moved off the seam, and then only under cloud cover. When the sun shone for lengthy periods, batting looked straightforward.

Thus Gloucestershire must have cursed the combination of early-season errors and inadequate footwork which plunged them to 84 for 5. That was their lowest point, not least when Mark Alleyne, their new captain, found himself in no-man's land and was leg before without scoring to James Ormond.

Positive action was called for at this stage and Russell provided it, which probably eased any pressure that Young might have been feeling in his first Championship innings. Russell was soon busy dabbing and nudging as well as leaving extravagantly alone. In their frustration, Leicestershire bowled too short and were robustly hooked and pulled for their pains.

Young has played League cricket for Fleetwood and toured here with Young Australia two years ago. When Gloucestershire were seeking a replacement for Courtney Walsh, his pedigree was vouched for by a trio of knowledgeable cricketers in Terry Alderman, Brian Davison and Dave Gilbert; but one straight drive for four off the back foot would have been enough for many connoisseurs here.

On quicker pitches it is not difficult to imagine his forthright strokeplay causing a stir, even at somnolent Bristol. Here both he and Russell were helped when Leicestershire, having obtained their early successes by bowling to a fullish length, degenerated to a foolish one on this pitch. Richards and Young helped themselves and added 112 in 29 overs.

Leicestershire have signed the Natal all-rounder Neil Johnson, who replaces the West Indian all-rounder Phil Simmons on a one-year contract.