At 11:11 we begin to try and throw the draw away. Salt is lbw to Lilley for 59 and we are 90-1.
Evans strolls to the wicket but looks terrifyingly scratchy. I’m not saying the hosts pick up on this, but they surround the bat like a pack of braying dogs.
Wells makes the sort of 50, in this scenario, of which coach’s wet dreams are made. He takes 111 balls and then plunders a boundary to get over the line.
I have edged Evan’s aggression up and it has worked. He ticks along and they have to spread the field.
He is eventually well caught by Dearden off his boot straps from Lilley when he miscues a sweep for 22. 138-2.
Leicestershire’s lead is down to only 60, so we ought (“ought” very much being the operative word in that sentence) make them bat again.
There are 41 minutes to lunch.
Finch also didn’t exactly get the “bat time” memo. He races away, gets bogged down, then gets out. He is bowled by Klein for 26 off 31 balls.
With three minutes left to the interval, the sound of my teeth grinding can be heard in the middle. 179-3.
That brings Bopara to the wicket.
We tie the scores 13:51.
At 14:22 he spoons one to Evans off blinking Lilley and he’s out for 32. 226-4.
But, we have a lead. It’s a paltry 28 runs, so I won’t be putting the mortgage money on us suddenly winning or anything, but we’ve been in way worse shape than this so far this season.
Luke Wells manages to snick off and depart for 85. He’s taken 190 balls and batted beautifully. I’m going to pin his picture in my locker and coo sweet nothings to him. 233-5.
Ben Brown is bowled by Griffiths for 24 and we’re 277-6. Our lead of 79 is not going to be enough and, unless our tail wags like a dog reunited with a favoured owner – unlikely – Leicestershire are going to chase this down.
In a close match the finest margins matter. Like, for example, David Wiese – our best bowler and most dogged batsman – retiring hurt after stepping outside his off stump and getting rattled midships. 280-7.
We make it to tea. Unbelievably, really, considering that Claydon survives an lb shout and an appeal for caught behind in consecutive overs.
There are 2hrs 30 minutes left of the game.
We lead by 107 runs.
They have to get four wickets. There’s hope in the old dog yet …
Meaker coughs one up to Horton at short leg off Griffiths very soon. 305-7.
But Garton just goes after the bowling. When he is eventually caught by Malan off Klein he’s on 30 and we are 358-8.
There’s an hour and 44 minutes left in the day and they’re going to have to chase at least 160.
Claydon finishes our innings leg before wicket for 41. We’re 365 all out and their target is 167 in an hour and a half.
Close encounter this is going to be – not of the third kind, but of the fourth day.
Leicestershire’s Second Innings
We make individual bowling plans and dry up their runs.
It’s the 12th over before the breakthrough comes – Will Beer turning one square to dismiss Malan for 16 second ball – 27-1.
45 minutes left. 140 to get.
They start easing off the leash. They putter to 61 before Beer gets his second. Dearden caught by Evans. 61-2.
More importantly, there’s 16 minutes left and 106 to get.
“The draw is ooooon!” to the tune of the ‘Heat is On’ wafts from the dressing room. In my voice.
We bowl tighter than a mermaid’s bikini. The match is drawn, as Leicestershire run out of time at 82-2.
The two hours lost to rain, and the work of Wells and Wiese, has helped us out to quote the man with the funny tan, biggly.
Leicestershire do get 13 points to our 9, but we retain our fourth place. This leaves us with five games to go and 37 points to catch Glamorgan in second.
God, I love proper cricket.
Nip and tuck climax to a season ahoy!