Match Report - Dent & Smith lead the charge on day two

16 July 2019

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.

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