Another dour, hard-fought day at the Cheltenham festival play ended with Gloucestershire on 54/2 in their second innings, 56 ahead of Leicestershire.
On a slow pitch which repaid patient application by the batsmen Leicestershire were all out for 215, two short of the Gloucestershire first innings total. They were indebted to skipper Mark Cosgrove and young batsman Aadil Ali who scored half the total between them and showed the way to prosper in these conditions is by employing the sort of old-fashioned virtues which often seem to have disappeared in these days of white-ball dominance.
Gloucestershire’s pursuit of a score large enough to set Leicestershire a formidable target in the fourth innings, thought by coach Richard Dawson to be in the region of 220, is hampered by the absence of captain Ian Cockbain who is out injured for the rest of the match with a fractured wrist.
On a murky morning Leicestershire resumed on their overnight 56/3 after 21 overs with Mark Cosgrove on 26 and Jigar Naik on 1. They moved the Foxes on to 89 before Naik was caught at slip by Chris Dent, driving at Benny Howell. Meanwhile Cosgrove was playing a rather uncharacteristic anchor role in the knowledge that reaching Gloucestershire’s total largely rested on his shoulders. The Australian, in the first year of his captaincy of the Foxes, passed 50, compiled from 94 balls with eight fours.
Greg Smith, who moved to Nottinghamshire at the end of last season and is back at Grace Road on a two Championship match loan came and went for 20, caught and bowled from a leading edge by Kieran Noema-Barnett. Smith’s appearance at the crease had added to the confusion caused by the idiosyncratic scoreboards at the festival as he appeared in a shirt with twelfth- man Ollie Freckingham’s name and squad number. It added some intrigue to what had been a rather drab morning’s play.
But Leicestershire will have been pleased to have got to lunch just losing two wickets for a total of 131/5 from 52 overs with Cosgrove 63 not out and Leicester-born right-hand batsman Aadil Ali, making his second Championship appearance following his debut against Kent last week, unbeaten on 8.
Cosgrove looked to be on course for a dogged hundred but it wasn’t to be. In an act of revenge for his dismissal by the Foxes’ skipper yesterday, Noema- Barnett persuaded him to drive expansively outside the off-stump to be caught behind for 74, scored from 155 balls with ten fours, to leave Leicestershire on 149/6. Wicketkeeper Lewis Hill joined Ali in a useful stand of 38 for the seventh wicket which mixed watchful defence with some pleasant shots before Liam Norwell, showing the value of pitching the ball up and bowling straight, something the home bowlers had not consistently done, clean bowled Hill for 18.
When the new ball was taken shortly before tea Raine was caught and bowled by Miles for 7 with the first ball of new spell. This was the signal for tea, taken at 202/7 after 84.1 overs with Ali 40 not out.
Immediately after tea James Fuller bowled Ali for 40 scored from 119 balls. It was a patient innings in which he looked solid and secure and was an extremely valuable one for his side. Some robust hitting from Clint McKay was ended when he skied Fuller to Miles who took a splendid running catch on the long- on boundary. Leicestershire were all out for 215, two short of the Gloucestershire first innings.
Fuller produced the best bowling figures of 4/35 from 15.2 overs. The home bowlers produced a tidy bowling performance on a pitch which did not appear to give the bowlers as much help as on the first day.
With the match position level Dent and Will Tavaré set about the Gloucestershire second innings and improving their recent poor form. Things progressed in untroubled fashion until Tavaré was bowled by Charlie Shreck for 8. 27/1 became 32/2 when the veteran Cornishman took his second wicket, trapping Dent lbw for 23. Michael Klinger joined Gareth Roderick in a partnership for the third wicket which may have an important bearing on the outcome of this match. In the absence of Cockbain and Marshall, missing this game with a calf injury, the home side are very dependent on these two. At the close, Klinger, now captaining the side, and Roderick, were both unbeaten on 11.
Cockbain told the Gloucestershire website that he had fractured his wrist in a pre- match practice this morning, facing a beamer from one of the Academy players. He received immediate treatment from the hospital overlooking the College ground. His wrist will be in cast for five weeks so will miss the majority of the rest of the season, an unfortunate blow for a player who has a chance to cement a place in the side and make a bid to be appointed captain on a permanent basis.