Leicester will be a city in celebrations this weekend as the football team lift the Premier League trophy on Saturday afternoon, and the cricketers will be hoping the feel good factor can spread down to Grace Road as they prepare to host Northamptonshire.
Whilst not yet a story to rival that of Claudio Ranieri’s men, Leicestershire have enjoyed an excellent start to the season, with the Foxes looking an entirely different beast to the side that have finished bottom of division two for the last three years.
The additions of the experienced trio Paul Horton, Neil Deter and Mark Pettini saw them trash Glamorgan by ten wickets in the opening game, before enjoying the upper hand in draws against Kent and Sussex, to sit second in the time behind early leaders Essex, and whilst it’s questionable how the aging side will fare in the future, it is certainly brining short term benefit.
Northants meanwhile have had a less favourable start, sitting eighth and only above Glamorgan after drawing at home to Derbyshire last week after a crushing innings defeat to Essex.
Injuries have hampered their already small squad, but the quartet of absentees are all nearing a return, whilst Monty Panesar continue to move closer to selection, and whilst this week it likely to come too early for him, Alex Wakely should be able to bring in some fresh faces into his squad.
Wakely and Josh Cobb are both set to make their 100th first class appearances at Grace Road, fittingly for the latter as he returns to the place where he started his career.
There is still question marks over Olly Stone’s fitness but Northants have badly missed the 22-year-old so far, and it will be a massive boost if he, as expected, makes his comeback on Sunday.
The young quick has been frustrated by injury, both at the start of the season, and during the winter, when a back injury forced him to pull out of the England Performance Programme, but he will be eager to make up for lost time, whilst his genuine pace will give the Northants bowling attack a different diminution.
After 12 years at Lancashire it hasn’t taken Paul Horton long to adjust to his new surroundings as the opener has started his Leicestershire career with aplomb, two half centuries playing an important role in the win at Glamorgan before hitting a century against Sussex last week, and in partnership with the promising Angus Robson gives the Foxes a solid opening stand after years of chopping and changing at the top of the order.
Northants head coach David Ripley was hopefully Olly Stone and Rob Keogh should be fit to return having missed the opening three games, although it is likely to be too earlier for both Rob Newton and Monty Panesar.
Northamptonshire squad: Alex Wakely (C), Mohammed Azharullah, Ben Duckett, Josh Cobb, Steven Crook, Rob Keogh, Rory Kleinveldt, Richard Levi, Jake Libby, Adam Rossington (WK), Olly Stone, Ben Sanderson, Graeme White.
Leicestershire will likely still with the same side that drew with Sussex, with Ned Eckersley continuing his recovering from a broken finger in the Second XI this week, with Tom Wells replacing Lewis Hill in the only change in the 13 man squad.
Leicestershire squad: Mark Cosgrove (c), Paul Horton, Angus Robson, Neil Dexter, Mark Pettini, Niall O’Brien, Adil Ali, Tom Wells, Wayne White, Ben Raine, Clint McKay, Jigar Naik, Charlie Shreck.
Weather and conditions
Summer seems to have finally arrived, and the opening two days at Leicester will see temperatures in the mid 20s, a far cry from the snow of only a couple of weeks ago. Showers are forecast however for days three and four.
Date: Sunday May 8th – Wednesday May 11th.
Venue: Fisher County Ground, Leicester.
Umpires: Paul Baldwin, Peter Hartley
Odds: Leicestershire 8/11, Northamptonshire 11/10