Specsavers County Championship - 15 July 2019

Venue: Cheltenham College

Gloucestershire v Leicestershire

DAY 4

Ryan Higgins claimed five wickets as Gloucestershire moved into the Second Division promotion race with a thrilling six-wicket Specsavers County Championship win over Leicestershire at Cheltenham.

Hassan Azad’s battling last day hundred helped the visitors extend their second innings total from an overnight 78 for two to 299 all out, Higgins returning five for 71, but did not prove enough in an exciting finale.

The visitors collapsed from 255 for four at tea and Gloucestershire were left with eight overs to score the 48 needed for victory. They got home with three balls to spare, Gareth Roderick ending the game with an amazing six over point off Chris Wright.

The home side took 22 points to move within ten of third placed Northamptonshire with a game in hand, while Leicestershire had to be content with four.

Azad, who had hit 137 and 100 not out in the corresponding game at Grace Road this summer, began the day on 38, with occupation of the crease was his primary objective as his side chased the 174 more runs needed to make Gloucestershire bat again.

He offered just one chance in the morning session, on 69 when Jack Taylor could not grasp a sharp catch at short-leg off the bowling of left-arm spinner Tom Smith.

Colin Ackerman helped frustrate the home attack on a fourth day pitch offering little other than some variable bounce for the seamers, although there was some evidence of turn out of the rough.

He and Azad maintained their third-wicket partnership until lunch, which was taken at 168 for two, Azad having progressed to 82 after reaching a 134-ball fifty.

The second ball after lunch saw Ackerman edge Matt Taylor to wicketkeeper Roderick and depart for 41. Leicestershire still trailed by 83 and it looked an important breakthrough with a new ball not far away.

It was taken at 205 for three and Higgins made good use, sending Harry Dearden’s middle stump cartwheeling after he had made 19.

Azad remained unruffled, having combined excellent defensive technique with neat footwork against spinners Smith and Graeme van Buuren to reach his hundred off 256 balls.

By tea, he and Ben Mike had taken the total to 255 for four, a lead of three runs. But the first ball after the break raised Gloucestershire hopes again as Azad edged Ethan Bamber to Miles Hammond at slip to end six hours and 22 minutes of intense concentration.

Mike was caught behind off Taylor, whose hostile post-tea spell brought him one for six from seven overs. Then, after Harry Swindells and Callum Parkinson had added 33 to take Leicestershire to the brink of safety, both fell in quick succession.

Swindells was well caught by Benny Howell at first slip off Higgins and the following over saw Parkinson nick Chadd Sayers to Hammond at second slip. When Will Davis was lbw to Higgins for a duck, three wickets had fallen in 14 balls.

There were still more than 15 overs remaining and the Foxes led by only 41 at 293 for nine. Amid growing tension, Sayers ripped through Chris Wright’s defence to bowl him and end the innings with only six runs added.

Gloucestershire’s frantic second innings saw Chris Dent bowled by Wright, who also had Miles Hammond caught on the boundary, while Abbas had Jack Taylor caught in the deep before a Higgins straight six off Abbas off the last ball of the penultimate over left nine runs needed.

Benny Howell was run out seeking a second run off the first ball of the final over. But Roderick marched out to hit a two before his extraordinary match-winning shot.

DAY 3

Jack Taylor and Benny Howell batted Gloucestershire into a very strong position on the third day of the Specsavers County Championship match at Cheltenham College.

Having come together the previous evening, the pair kept their stand intact throughout the morning session and eventually added 157 for the seventh wicket to help their side to a first innings total of 504 for nine declared, a lead of 252.

Taylor fell one short of what would have been an eighth first class century, while Howell also made his highest score of the season in contributing 76. Will Davis and Chris Wright finished with three wickets each.

Jack Taylor said:

"Obviously I would have liked to get one more run. I think I have been out once before for 99 and it was back in my Oxfordshire Under-17s days.

At the start of play we were not far ahead with six wickets down so the partnership with Benny Howell was vital.

Now our bowlers have to stay patient tomorrow and if they get the ball in the right areas I am confident we will come away with a win. The spinners could be important because there is some rough out there that they can exploit against the left-handers."

By the close Leicestershire had responded with 78 for two in their second innings and trailed by 174. Hassan Azad was unbeaten on 38.

The day began with Gloucestershire 275 for six and leading by only 23. Taylor, unbeaten on 15 at the start, and Howell, who had not opened his account, had to play watchfully on a pitch offering some variable bounce for the seamers.

Leicestershire’s bowlers did not enjoy much luck, beating the bat on several occasions before the two batsmen grew in confidence, Taylor, in particular, punishing anything over-pitched with some sweetly timed drives.

He brought up a third batting point with a four and a single off Mohammad Abbas before taking a liking to the slow left-arm spin of Callum Parkinson, hitting 11 runs off his first four deliveries. Taylor reached a 93-ball half-century, well supported by the steady Howell. At lunch the total was 387 for six and Gloucestershire’s lead had extended to 135.

The afternoon session saw Howell go to his half-century from 115 deliveries before Taylor fell agonisingly short of a deserved ton, bowled by Davis with a ball that looked to keep a bit low. He had faced 173 deliveries and hit 12 fours.

At 430 for seven, Gloucestershire had already taken a stranglehold on the match. A further 33 had been added when Howell also fell to Davis, lbw playing down the wrong line. A breezy 33 not out from Chadd Sayers added to Leicestershire’s woes before home skipper Chris Dent closed the innings, at which point tea was taken.

Azad and Paul Horton began the visitors’ second innings in solid fashion, taking the score to 48 and seeing off the new ball attack of Sayers and loan signing Ethan Bamber before Horton fell lbw to Ryan Higgins for 26. Under increasingly overcast skies, with rain in the air, batting looked tricky and Hammond held a sharp chance offered off Higgins by the driving Neil Dexter, who departed without scoring.

Higgins finished an impressive eight-over spell from the College Lawn End with figures of two for 15 before a couple of showers ended play a couple of overs early.

DAY 2

Chris Dent and Tom Smith staged an unlikely third-wicket stand of 195 in 66.1 overs as Gloucestershire forged a potentially-decisive first-innings lead on day two of the Specsavers County Championship match against Leicestershire at Cheltenham.

Skipper Dent posted a superb 125 and Smith raised a career-best 84 on a day when bat dominated ball for long periods, the hosts reaching the close handily-placed on 275-6 in reply to Leicestershire's 252. 

If Gloucestershire's intention was to bat only once on a pitch that is expected to deteriorate over the course of the next two days, they were made to re-evaluate their plans when Chris Wright took three wickets in as many overs with the second new ball to redress the balance. The hosts are 23 runs ahead with four first-innings wickets remaining.

Spin bowler Smith was enjoying his first Championship outing since September 2017. And how he made up for lost time, registering his highest red-ball total after being promoted up the order to help take the shine off the ball and protect Gloucestershire's middle-order stroke-makers.

Arriving in the middle with the score on 46-2 - Miles Hammond and Gareth Roderick having succumbed to Abbas and a Neil Dexter run out respectively - Smith adopted a low-risk strategy to frustrate Leicestershire's bowlers.

Having scraped just seven runs in his first hour at the crease, the former Middlesex and Sussex man eventually attained only his third first-class 50 from 155 balls. Accelerating after tea, he eclipsed his previous highest score of 80, made against Surrey at Bristol six years earlier, entertaining Festival-goers with nine boundaries and visibly growing in confidence the longer he remained at large.

Tom said:

"It was a bit of a new role for me, I'd opened the batting for the second eleven a few times, but not played against this quality of bowling.

My initial intention was to bat time and help screen the guys who were coming in after me. Batting became easier the longer I was out there and it was nice to score a 50. It's been quite a long time coming!

Obviously, it was disappointing to lose those wickets near the end, but we have plenty of batting left. We need to get a lead of about 100 if we can and then trust to our bowling."

Dent in particular has proved a thorn in Leicestershire flesh this summer, compiling a substantial innings of 176 in the drawn match at Grace Road last month. Initially subjected to a stern new-ball examination at the hand of Pakistan Test paceman Abbas, the Bristolian lived a charmed existance before moving up through the gears to register a patient 50 from 95 balls shortly before lunch.

Taking charge of an inreasingly progressive third-wicket partnership in the afternoon, Dent raised his third hundred of the summer via 202 balls with his 14th four, this despatched just backward of square leg at the expense of Callum Parkinson and eliciting a standing ovation from an appreciative Festival audience.

By the time he departed midway through the final session, caught at the wicket off the bowling of Wright, Gloucestershire's captain had faced 231 balls, harvested 16 fours and held sway for a little over five hours.

Having worked so hard to build a platform, Gloucestershire were no doubt disappointed by what followed, Smith losing his off stump to a Wright in-swinger and Graeme van Buuren falling to the same bowler, held by Ackerman at second slip later in the same over.

Ryan Higgins was then bowled by Will Davis for 14 shortly before stumps, at which point Gloucestershire had lost four wickets for the addition of 32 runs, leaving the seventh wicket pair of Jack Taylor (not out 15) and Benny Howell (not out 0) to negotiate the final three overs.

DAY 1

Matt Taylor and Ethan Bamber led the way with three wickets apiece as Gloucestershire bowled out Leicestershire for 252 on the opening day of the Specsavers County Championship match at Cheltenham.

Left-arm seamer Taylor returned three for 39 from 18 overs and debutant Bamber three for 53 from 22.3 overs after the visitors had won the toss and elected to take first use of what looked likely to be a good batting wicket.

Neil Dexter (56) and Paul Horton (47) top scored for Leicestershire, who were reined in by more miserly bowling from Ryan Higgins (two for 44) in sunny conditions at the College Ground.

The opening day of the annual Festival began with new loan recruit Bamber taking a wicket with only his second ball for Gloucestershire as Hassan Azad was caught behind down the leg side by wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick in the second over.

Signed yesterday to replace Josh Shaw following his recall by Yorkshire, the 20-year-old Middlesex seamer went on to beat the bat on several occasions in sending down 23 overs.

It was soon looking a decent pitch as Horton and Dexter added 73 for the second wicket under sunny skies before Horton fell lbw to Taylor, having faced 60 balls and hit 8 fours.

Dexter was unbeaten on 29 at lunch, which was taken at 92 for two. That became 124 for three in the afternoon session when Colin Ackermann, on 21, miscued an attempted pull shot off Taylor and skied to Graeme van Buuuren at mid-wicket.

Taylor’s six-over post-lunch spell from the Chapel End included three maidens and saw him concede only three runs.

Harry Dearden and Ben Mike, the latter playing in place of Mark Cosgrove, who suffered a blow on the head batting in the nets before the game, could make only seven apiece before being bowled by Higgins and Benny Howell respectively.

When Dexter’s patient 178-ball knock ended with an edge to second slip off Sayers, Leicestershire were 151 for six and in danger of not collecting a batting point.

But either side of tea, Callum Parkinson and young wicketkeeper Harry Swindells added 46 in solid fashion before Parkinson, on 19, became a third victim for Taylor, lbw looking to play a full delivery through the leg side.

The second new ball was taken at 199 for seven by which time Chris Wright had joined Swindells and quickly began to assert with some meaty boundaries.

Swindells produced one of the shots of the day to square drive Higgins through the covers for four, but departed leg-before to the next delivery for a well-made 32 on only his third first class appearance, with the score on 226.

Wright also played well for his 30 before being bowled by Bamber with less than three overs remaining in the day’s play. Last man Mohammad Abbas then secured a second batting point for Leicestershire by clipping Higgins off his toes for two before being caught in the slips off Bamber to end play.

Gloucestershire were without young batsman Ben Charlesworth because of a hand injury and selected left-arm spinner Tom Smith for his first Championship appearance of the season, believing the pitch will turn as the match progresses.



Scorecard

Leicestershire won the toss and elected to bat.


Gloucestershire
Christopher Dent | Miles Hammond | Gareth Roderick | Tom Smith | Ryan Higgins | Graeme van Buuren | Jack Taylor | Benny Howell | Chadd Sayers | Ethan Bamber | Matthew Taylor |


Leicestershire
Mohammad Azad | Paul Horton | Neil Dexter | Colin Ackermann | Harry Dearden | Benjamin Mike | Harry Swindells | Callum Parkinson | Chris Wright | William Davis | Mohammad Abbas |


Gloucestershire win by 6 wickets
 
Leicestershire second innings
299 all out
Gloucestershire second innings
48 - 4

Leicestershire First Innings How out Runs Minutes Balls 4s 6s
Hassan Azad Caught Gareth Roderick Bowled Ethan Bamber 1 5 7 0 0
Paul Horton L.B.W. Matt Taylor 47 83 60 8 0
Neil Dexter Caught Miles Hammond Bowled Chadd Sayers 56 228 178 4 0
Colin Ackermann Caught Graeme van Buuren Bowled Matt Taylor 21 90 59 3 0
Harry Dearden Bowled Ryan Higgins 7 22 15 1 0
Ben Mike Bowled Benny Howell 7 24 23 1 0
Harry Swindells L.B.W. Ryan Higgins 32 123 89 3 0
Callum Parkinson L.B.W. Matt Taylor 19 77 65 1 0
Chris Wright Bowled Ethan Bamber 30 62 54 4 0
Will Davis Not Out 8 39 19 0 0
Mohammad Abbas Caught Tom Smith Bowled Ethan Bamber 3 10 10 0 0
Extras 4b 5lb 12nb 0p 0w 21
Total 252

Fall of wickets

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1 74 124 132 143 151 197 226 246 252

Bowlers

Overs Maidens Runs Wickets
Chadd Sayers 24 4 77 1
Ethan Bamber 22 2 53 3
Matt Taylor 18 4 39 3
Ryan Higgins 17 4 44 2
Tom Smith 8 3 16 0
Benny Howell 6 1 14 1


Gloucestershire First Innings How out Runs Minutes Balls 4s 6s
Miles Hammond Caught Colin Ackermann Bowled Mohammad Abbas 0 3 6 0 0
Chris Dent Caught Harry Swindells Bowled Chris Wright 125 301 231 16 0
Gareth Roderick Run Out Neil Dexter 22 60 39 4 0
Tom Smith Bowled Chris Wright 84 255 230 9 0
Ryan Higgins Bowled Will Davis 14 56 31 2 0
Graeme van Buuren Caught Colin Ackermann Bowled Chris Wright 0 3 4 0 0
Jack Taylor Bowled Will Davis 99 227 173 12 0
Benny Howell L.B.W. Will Davis 76 218 157 8 0
Chadd Sayers Not Out 33 55 39 5 0
Ethan Bamber Stumped Harry Swindells Bowled Callum Parkinson 15 32 24 2 0
Matt Taylor
Extras 9b 9lb 18nb 0p 0w 36
Total 504

Fall of wickets

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0 46 241 252 252 273 430 463 504

Bowlers

Overs Maidens Runs Wickets
Mohammad Abbas 29 8 82 1
Chris Wright 31 3 89 3
Will Davis 29 8 73 3
Neil Dexter 17 2 53 0
Ben Mike 18 2 82 0
Callum Parkinson 21 3 74 1


Leicestershire Second Innings How out Runs Minutes Balls 4s 6s
Hassan Azad Caught Miles Hammond Bowled Ethan Bamber 121 379 302 10 0
Paul Horton L.B.W. Ryan Higgins 26 76 56 4 0
Neil Dexter Caught Miles Hammond Bowled Ryan Higgins 0 17 7 0 0
Colin Ackermann Caught Gareth Roderick Bowled Matt Taylor 41 166 120 5 0
Harry Dearden Bowled Ryan Higgins 19 62 44 3 0
Ben Mike Caught Gareth Roderick Bowled Matt Taylor 14 80 65 2 0
Harry Swindells Caught Benny Howell Bowled Ryan Higgins 12 79 47 1 0
Callum Parkinson Caught Miles Hammond Bowled Chadd Sayers 17 60 46 2 0
Chris Wright Bowled Chadd Sayers 2 30 17 0 0
Will Davis L.B.W. Ryan Higgins 0 5 7 0 0
Mohammad Abbas Not Out 1 20 14 0 0
Extras 12b 14lb 20nb 0p 0w 46
Total 299

Fall of wickets

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
48 56 169 213 255 259 292 292 293 299

Bowlers

Overs Maidens Runs Wickets
Chadd Sayers 25 7 49 2
Ethan Bamber 22 4 50 1
Ryan Higgins 24 2 71 5
Matt Taylor 27 7 56 2
Tom Smith 16 4 38 0
Graeme van Buuren 5 2 9 0


Gloucestershire Second Innings How out Runs Minutes Balls 4s 6s
Chris Dent Bowled Chris Wright 6 5 5 1 0
Miles Hammond Caught (Sub) Bowled Chris Wright 12 25 17 1 0
Ryan Higgins Not Out 13 32 16 0 1
Jack Taylor Caught Harry Dearden Bowled Mohammad Abbas 8 5 4 1 0
Benny Howell Run Out Will Davis 1 3 1 0 0
Gareth Roderick Not Out 8 2 2 0 1
Tom Smith
Graeme van Buuren
Chadd Sayers
Ethan Bamber
Matt Taylor
Extras 0b 0lb 0nb 0p 0w 0
Total 48

Fall of wickets

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
9 24 33 40

Bowlers

Overs Maidens Runs Wickets
Mohammad Abbas 4 0 22 1
Chris Wright 3 0 26 2