The final tables in 2019 make for grim reading for the long suffering Grace Road faithful. Leicestershire finished bottom of both white ball groups and Division Two of the County Championship. However, the emergence of young talent such as Hassan Azad and Harry Swindells do mean there is hope for the future.
It all started so well for the Foxes, with an outstanding performance at Sussex in the opening Championship match. Azad made a crucial 59 on debut as Leicestershire successfully chased 222 on the final day to win by 7 wickets.
It would prove to be the Foxes’ only Championship win of the season but they came close, particularly at Lord’s against Middlesex where rain forced the players off the field with the Foxes just 79 away from victory.
Despite six defeats, the Foxes did pick up 7 draws including two occasions where they batted over four sessions to save the game.
The Royal London One-Day Cup was a largely forgettable campaign for the Foxes, with the exception of their home win over Worcestershire that saw Colin Ackermann and Lewis Hill both hit centuries in a total of 377-4.
On too many occasions, though, the bowlers were whacked around the park with the 433 conceded at Trent Bridge, the highest in the club’s history.
Leicestershire matched their T20 Blast points total of last season, 11, and only finished 4 points off the qualification places. After a slow start, which saw them reduced to 2-3 in the opening over of their first match against Birmingham, the Foxes picked up impressive away wins against all three of the North Group sides who would make it to Finals Day.
The highlight of the season was undoubtedly the home fixture against the Bears, where Colin Ackermann broke the world record for best figures in T20 cricket with 7-18 in his four overs.
While on the field results may not gone Leicestershire’s way, crowds at Grace Road for the Vitality Blast hugely increased, including a sell out for the match against Nottinghamshire – the first sell out since the 2011 quarter final against Kent.
SSCC: 10th, Division Two
T20 Blast: Group Stage, 9th
RLODC: Group Stage, 9th
Leading run scorers
SSCC: Hassan Azad, 1189 runs @ 54.04
T20 Blast: Colin Ackermann, 342 runs @ 28.50
RLODC: Colin Ackermann, 428 runs @ 61.14
Leading wicket takers
SSCC: Chris Wright, 47 wickets @ 30.95
T20 Blast: Colin Ackermann and Callum Parkinson, 12 wickets
RLODC: Dieter Klein, 12 wickets, economy- 6.69
Player of the season
Without Colin Ackermann, a difficult season for Leicestershire could have been an even worse one. He was top run scorer in both white ball competitions, but it was his record breaking T20 figures that really caught the eye.
4 overs and 7-18 are just ridiculous figures, but they happened on a balmy Grace Road evening against the Birmingham Bears. He followed that up with 3-9 in four overs against eventual semi finalists Derbyshire. Ackermann also hit a fabulous 152 not out against Worcestershire in the Royal London One-Day Cup, a career best for him.
It can be argued that Hassan Azad was not just Leicestershire’s breakthrough player, but the breakthrough player for the whole of the County Championship. His final run total of 1,189 was only topped by Dominic Sibley. He made three centuries, curiously all against Gloucestershire, with him scoring a hundred in both innings of the fixture at Grace Road. Above all, Azad provided a calm head at the top of a fragile Foxes line-up and he is crucial as the club look to rebuild.
Could have done better
Signed from Lancashire, things haven’t quite worked out as Arron Lilley would have hoped. Having gone wicketless in the One-Day Cup, Lilley had an inconsistent T20 Blast campaign. While his power hitting was shown with a 66 at Trent Bridge, he was frequently left frustrated with low scores with the bat. He will be hoping for better in 2020.
Need to work on
Consistent batting performances. Given how well the bowlers performed in the T20 Blast, if Leicestershire’s batsman had been a little more consistent they probably would have made the quarterfinals. Only twice in 14 matches did the Foxes pass160, and it proved their undoing on good wickets. In the Championship it was a similar story with the Foxes collecting 24 batting bonus points with only Durham picking up fewer in the second division.
Paul Nixon has promised to “get Leicestershire back in 2020” and with a number of young and local players already committed to the club, it could be an exciting campaign next summer. It might not be a bad idea for the Foxes to follow the lead of Worcestershire and Derbyshire and prioritise one of the white ball competitions.
Season rating: 2/10