T. S. Eliot was almost certainly at Grace Road when delivering this message: “Success is relative. It is what we make of the mess we have made of things.” While it would be far from fair to dub Leicestershire’s season a “mess”, there is certainly some inclinations of success to take from another disappointing season on the field in the Midlands.
Following a disappointing few years on the pitch, Wasim Kahn’s introduction to the club exactly 12 months ago brought about a resurgence in ambitions, with a bid to transform performances and results that had slumped in seasons previous.
But Kahn was not the only new face to Grace Road, with Andrew McDonald and Mark Cosgrove joining the management side, while the signing of Australian Clint McKay was somewhat of a coup for the Foxes.
Despite the fresh faces, the trend that had seen Leicestershire winless in the County Championship looked set to continue, with the 244-run battering by Lancashire, in which the Foxes were bowled out for 78, a particular low-light among three defeats from five games in the longer format.
Successive Natwest T20 Blast wins over Derbyshire and Durham alluded to signs that the squad was coming together as one, but the real moment of the season was to come in the depths of East Anglia.
Chelmsford has often proved to be a fortress for Essex, but it was Leicestershire who made it their own with a six-wicket Championship victory. Not just any win, but their first in the competition for 993 days to bring emotional scenes for a proud county.
Having shown a great deal of promise in the early stages of the season, victory at Essex was a just reward for the East Midlands outfit, but more was still to come from the Foxes, with their first home Championship win for almost three years coming against Derbyshire in August, recovering from 50/4 to chase down 273 in the fourth innings.
Two Championship victories marked a welcome improvement, but it wasn’t enough to stop Leicestershire from being rooted to the base of Division Two for a third consecutive season.
While the longer format showed glimpses of improvement, the limited-overs cricket at Grace Road showed the complete opposite. Early exits in both the Royal London One-Day Cup and the Natwest T20 Blast were all-but inevitable, with the Foxes failing to win any of their 50-over matches, spared the embarrassment of a point-less campaign with a rained-off encounter in July.
The performances in the Blast were fractionally better, as Leicestershire took four victories from a hotly-contested North Group, including a commanding display over Birmingham at Edgbaston, but the knockout stages proved a step too far for Cosgrove and co.
Kahn has stipulated the need to push on next year, turning their capabilities into results, and should they keep hold of their young talents, then this concept is entirely plausible. As the only county in England without debt, alongside partial development of Grace Road, then optimism is sure to be higher when 2016 rolls around.
LV County Championship: 9th, Division Two
Royal London One-Day Cup: 9th, Group A
Natwest T20 Blast: 7th, North Group
Leading LVCC run-scorer: Mark Cosgrove – 1093 runs
Leading LVCC wicket-taker: Ben Raine – 59 wickets
Win % (all comps): 15
Player of the Season
Fifty-nine wickets in the Championship earned Ben Raine the top-spot in the Leicestershire wicket-taker’s list after playing all 16 games for the Foxes. Raine also chipped in with two half-centuries with the bat, and is set to be a star in the making for the Grace Road outfit in the upcoming years.
Leicestershire have unearthed a gem at the top of their order, and if they can hang on to Angus Robson, will surely keep picking up those wins next season. The 23-year-old was integral in getting the Foxes’ first win since 2012, making 120 – a career-best – and 71 against Essex at Chelmsford on his way to 967 runs in Championship season.
Could have done better
After a stellar 2013 in which he averaged over 50 in first-class cricket, Ned Eckersley has struggled to match his efforts since, making just 26 per innings this year. The top-order man had put his name on England’s radar a couple of years ago, but has since fallen away. Expect him to come back stronger next year, however.
Need to work on
Unfortunately for Leicestershire, this list could feature a number of improvements, but it’s perhaps the batting that needs working on most. Raine, McKay and Charlie Shreck all took 50+ wickets, but they’ll need support from those further up the order to convert those decent bowling performances into match victories. The signing of Mark Pettini from Essex should help that.
Tweet of the Season
Heading home. Proust said his dreams acquired an address after he'd been to Venice. For @leicsccc fans, it's Hayes Close, Chelmsford.
— Richard Rae (@RichMRae) June 3, 2015
My intro alluded to the relativity of success. Ultimately it was not a great season, winning just two games in the Championship, but that’s still two more than the previous two campaigns. The limited-overs game was likewise a flop. 3/10