Leicestershire completed their third Championship win of the season beating Gloucestershire by six wickets at the Cheltenham Festival.
Bowling the hosts out for 215 before lunch, the Foxes’ successful pursuit of the victory target of 181 was built on half centuries from skipper Mark Cosgrove (56) and opener Paul Horton (73).
It was a solid effort from the Leicestershire top-order on a pitch which had dried out in the afternoon offering the home bowlers less movement than had been evident before lunch when Gloucestershire lost six wickets for 82 runs.
This morning Gloucestershire resumed their second innings on 133/4, 98 runs ahead of Leicestershire with skipper Michael Klinger on 43 and Jack Taylor on 13. Klinger soon passed his 100 ball 50.
But Gloucestershire’s Aussie run-machine today wasn’t to go on a get the big score his side needed, thin edging Ben Raine to wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien for 57 at 155/5.
Overnight partner Taylor was lbw in the same over for 24. The visitors’ tails were up as Gloucestershire were effectively 121/6.
With the ball moving around, troubling all the batters, Craig Miles nicked Clint McKay behind for a single and David Payne was bowled first ball by one from McKay that kept low.
Liam Norwell prevented the hat- trick but at this stage the hosts’ lead of 125 looked slender. McKay then grabbed his third victim of the morning clean bowling Norwell for three.
The Foxes’ hopes of a low total to chase then was threatened by an exciting last- wicket stand from Benny Howell and Josh Shaw. With a combination of edges and stylish shots, including a marvellously timed pushed cover drive to the Pavilion boundary, Shaw reached a career best 29 before he was out to Shreck leaving Howell not out 20.
The pair had put on a priceless 51 for the last wicket in a stand which gave the Festival crowd hope. Gloucestershire were all out at 12.40 for 215. The visitors’ winning target of 181 was more than Gloucestershire could have hoped for an hour earlier.
The Foxes’ bowlers had made the most of some helpful conditions this morning after last evening’s rain had left early dampness in the pitch. McKay (3/43) in particular caused the home batters constant problems
Leicestershire started their victory pursuit in the worst possible fashion, Angus Robson edging a Payne out swinger to slip in the first over. But Horton and Neil Dexter held firm until lunch which was taken on 11/1.
After lunch there was immediate controversy when Will Tavare appeared to catch Horton at second slip off Payne. The batsman stood firm waiting for umpire Graham Lloyd to adjudicate. He consulted square leg umpire Michael Gough who indicated his inability to see clearly, so Horton remained. But in the next over Dexter shouldered arms to Norwell and was bowled for three- Leicestershire 16/2.
But then Horton and Cosgrove settled into the task of winning the game for the Foxes. They batted with caution, waiting for the bad ball. Accurate though much of the Gloucestershire bowling was, the pitch contained little of the venom of earlier in the day. Cosgrove reached his 88 ball half century but soon after he was out, caught off the slow left- arm of Graeme van Buuren for 56 to make Leicestershire 124/3.
At tea Leicestershire were 128/2, Horton 49 not out, with victory clearly within their sights. Horton quickly reached his 137 ball 50 after tea. But on 142/3 there was a remarkable repeat of the earlier controversy when Horton was given not out. This time it was Mark Pettini who, like Horton earlier, nicked Norwell to Tavare at second slip.
Again Tavare claimed the catch, again umpire Lloyd consulted his colleague and again the decision was to be in the batter’s favour to the clear annoyance of the fielder. It was not Gloucestershire’s day.
Before the end Horton became van Buuren’s second victim when he was lbw for 73 but for the hosts it was too late. Pettini (18) and O’Brien (11) saw the visitors home.
Leicestershire’s haul of 20 points moves them to fourth place in the Division Two table, Gloucestershire (3 points) remain third.
After the game Leicestershire’s Elite Performance Director Andrew McDonald paid tribute to his bowling unit, in particular Clint McKay and Ben Raine both of whom he thought were outstanding contributors to an excellent team performance.
The improvement in the Foxes’ red-ball cricket is there for all to see.