In a meeting between the two sides that have struggled in the T20 realm in recent years, it was the hosts that found their form tonight and booked their first win for the tournament against local rivals, Derbyshire. The scorecard made things look deceptively close, but in truth Leicestsershire out-foxed their visitors and took a well-deserved victory.
Derbyshire Falcons had batting problems when they visited Headingley last Friday and things haven’t improved in the intervening week. With the exception of a rather Chesney-esque appearance from Chesney Hughes, the Falcons’ batting looked a touch lackluster.
Having lost the toss and been put in to bat, Derbyshire made a decent start reaching 33 before Hashim Amla was caught at square leg for eight in the fourth over. Wes Durston made a respectable 26 off 16 before being caught behind by Niall O’Brien in the eighth over. This was not the last Derbyshire would hear of the Irish gloveman
With the visitors on 69/2, Jigar Naik took hold of the ball. He removed three Derbyshire wickets for no run. By the time they had crawled to 78/5, the Falcons had added the nine runs in 12 balls and lost three wickets. It was time to worry.
As Shiv Thakor, Scott Elstone and Tom Poynton tumbled at Naik’s feet, only Hughes stood strong; and Hughes did what Hughes does: he smacked the ball around and built the runs up to a respectable level. He whizzed off to a half century in 37 balls, with five fours and three sixes in the mix. He might have thought the gods of cricket were smiling on him when Clint Mackay failed to catch him on 58, but in the following over, Hughes pulled Ben Raine right into the waiting hands of Grant Elliott at square leg.
Hughes was gone for 59 and it was the end of the only real sign of batting quality in the Falcons’ line-up. Billy Godleman added a useful 38 but without Hughes, the fire was gone. If 163/6 is a respectable total, there is only really Hughes to thank for it.
In reply, Mark Cosgrove was removed fairly quickly, caught in the third over by Amla off the bowling of Ben Cotton for just 8. The hosts recovered, though, and reached 85 before the next wicket fell just over the half way point.
It was spinner David Wainwright that got the breakthrough, catching Ned Eckersley off his own bowling for 39 and ending a powerful stand between him and Kevin O’Brien. In the following over, Durston removed the ever-dangerous Irishman as well, but it would be his brother who had the last laugh tonight.
Niall O’Brien came into the middle as his brother left it and the Foxes were still in need of 69 runs. On runs, the match still looked as though it could go either way. On performance, the Foxes were on top and O’Brien soon put it beyond doubt. With five fours, one six and a partnership with Elliott of 69 O’Brien showed poise with the bat that the visitors could only dream of tonight. O’Brien’s unbeaten 47 off 27 balls took the Foxes to a seven-wicket victory with an over to spare. Leicestershire will be celebrating tonight. Derbyshire have plenty of work still to do if they want to make any headway in the T20 format.
Man of the March – Jigar Naik (Leicestershire Foxes): It’s not often that Jigar Naik has been a matchwinner with the ball, but he proved his all-round capabilities with an excellent three wickets in six deliveries to halt Derbyshire’s middle-order, spinning the momentum towards the Foxes in the meantime. The 30-year old finished with figures of three for 23 from his four overs.