Naik, seamers give Leicestershire edge in low-scorer

Leicestershire gained their second Natwest T20 Blast victory of the season, and their third victory in a row against Durham with a comprehensive eight-wicket victory over the Jets, as Grace Road watched a low-scoring encounter.

On a green pitch in the Midlands, the game looked set for the seamers from the word go but Durham captain Mark Stoneman decided to bat first – a decision vindicated as he and Phil Mustard took 15 from the first over.

Spinner Neil Pinner – making his T20 debut for Leicestershire – was given the ball despite the track favouring the quicker bowlers, with a misfielded four and three overthrows followed by two crunching cuts from Stoneman the visitors were on their way, on a pitch offering less spin than an abandoned carousel.

That was about as good as it got for Durham, however, with the next four overs going for just eight runs as Leicestershire clawed their way back. Rob Taylor was particularly impressive, going for just 15 runs from his full allocation, getting a bit of extra bounce from a testing line. He was duly rewarded with the scalp of Stoneman, chopping on for 10.

Taylor was not alone in his exploits, with Clint McKay and Ben Raine providing ample support to limit the Jets to 28/1 after the Powerplay, but it was Jigar Naik who was the surprise and welcomed threat.

Having watched Pinner be carted around Grace Road, a few eyebrows would have been raised to see another spinner into the attack, but the all-rounder – formerly a batsman who could bowl, but now a wicket-taking threat on the batting card at 11 tonight – followed up his three for 23 against Derbyshire last time out with just 19 runs conceded from his four overs, with the wicket of Paul Collingwood (3 from 11 deliveries) to boot.

Like Collingwood, the majority of the Durham batsmen were scratchy, with no sixes scored in their innings – a feat they themselves had achieved when Stoneman and co. had defeated Lancashire in their previous game. Mustard provided the odd doses of release with six fours in his 43-ball 45, but once he departed as one of two wickets to Kevin O’Brien, the chances of a decent total fell by the wayside.

In truth, it was a strange innings from a side who have struggled in the shortest format in recent years, only losing five wickets despite making just 123, although Gordon Muchall (31*) and John Hastings (21*) at least spared some blushes in the later stages.

Leicestershire’s reply began strongly with a boundary-fest from Mark Cosgrove – including a big six to the players’ car park – and put the Foxes well above the rate by the time the skipper departed for 29. That scalp – Cosgrove trapped lbw by Borthwick – prompted the hosts to bide their time, with no boundaries for six overs until the leg-spinner returned for Durham, going for 20 runs in the 12th over.

From there, there was only to be the one winner, despite the impressive hold-up work by Hastings and Collingwood, as Kevin O’Brien blitzed his way to 48 off just 34 balls, whilst Grant Elliott provided an equally-impressive 34 from 23 deliveries to see the hosts to the line with 27 balls remaining.

The eight-wicket victory was just rewards for a Foxes side who dominated in every area, despite being second-favourites before a ball was bowled. Durham have now surrendered their 100% record, and must recover ahead of the Yorkshire Vikings’ visit to the Emirates ICG on Friday evening, while Leicestershire will look to take their momentum forward to Worcestershire. A first last-eight berth since their last tournament win in 2011 could well be within reach.


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