Burns reveals value of experience

Hampshire 311 and 102-4 Leicestershire 300-9 dec

Jon Culley
Friday 15 November 2013 05:15
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Leicestershire's need to keep an eye on the balance sheet may have led the veteran wicketkeeper Neil Burns to wonder whether there will be another contract on the table when his current deal expires in September, especially with two eager understudies waiting in the wings at Grace Road.

Stephen Adshead, the 22-year-old who would step up were Burns to be injured, and England's Under-17 keeper Thomas New have both made strong claims for advancement. Yet, in much the same way that Alec Stewart hangs on as England's senior glovemaster, Burns is making himself difficult to discard.

Yesterday, with help from Michael Bevan and later Philip DeFreitas, Burns emphatically underlined his usefulness, rescuing his side from a perilous overnight position against Hampshire with an innings that grew in authority and deservedly brought him a first century of the season.

Leicestershire had limped to 96 for 5 in the 63 overs possible on a wet second day, after which Burns and Bevan were understandably reluctant to take risks when they resumed yesterday morning. Bevan had been at the crease more than four hours when he completed his half-century.

Once the surface, though still prone to variable bounce, had gained their trust, however, they began to progress in a manner scarcely recognisable from Thursday's crawl, when the first 15 overs yielded 11 runs.

Burns exceeded that number in three consecutive blows against Dmitri Mascarenhas as Leicestershire passed the follow-on mark.

Bevan fell just after lunch, chopping a ball from Chris Tremlett on to his stumps to end a partnership of 107 with Burns, but the arrival of DeFreitas further increased the pace. He wasted no time in launching into Shaun Udal's off-spin with two beefy midwicket sixes.

In between, a 13th boundary for Burns took him to three figures, his second 50 taking 57 balls compared with 135 for the first. He and DeFreitas soon departed, but a brisk 18 from Carl Crowe gained a third batting bonus point and prompted a declaration.

The move paid dividends for the home side as Hampshire lost Will Kendall and John Crawley, both without scoring, in the same over as DeFreitas, bowling beautifully, found the edge. When Giles White became a third victim for the 36-year-old, Hampshire were up against it before Robin Smith and Neil Johnson put on 55 for the fourth wicket.

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