Leicestershire make a trip north this week to Chester-le-Street to face a confident Durham side. The batting looks strong, with them having reached 351/3 in their game against Glamorgan, before a dash for quick runs saw wickets tumble. Alex Lees led the way, ending on 182 not out and his defences looked impenetrable. They will be further strengthened by the arrival of Keegan Petersen, who had a steady, though not exceptional series for South Africa against Bangladesh.
The quartet of seam bowlers, led by Chris Rushworth were all in the wickets in Cardiff and look a quality attack, especially in the second division. Off the field, there has been no further word following the allegations by Yuzvendra Chahal against the Durham coach, James Franklin and we will wait to see if there are any repercussions.
Leicestershire meanwhile will also be in a positive mood given that the draw they extracted against Worcestershire must have felt like a win. Set a target of 370 they finished on 218/9, the last pair holding out for 154 balls. The hero of the hour was opener Hassan Azad, who carried his bat for the Foxes, ending on 104 from 280 balls – England take note! Lewis Hill reached 93 in the first innings, but they will want a couple of their fellow batsmen to post a score if they are to put up a fight this week.
The seam attack is due to be strengthened by Wiann Mulder, also returning from Test Match duty with South Africa. However, the Foxes supporters will have to wait a bit longer as he seems unlikely to be available, having been substituted during the last test due to COVID. Fellow South African, Beuran Hendricks will be hoping that he can get off the mark in the wickets column this week, having failed to take a scalp against Worcestershire.
Overall Durham look too strong for this Leicestershire side and it might take all of Paul Nixon’s motivational skills to keep them in the game.
For Durham, opener Alex Lees will be wanting to further cement his Test opener spot this week. Having missed out on a double century against Glamorgan he looks hungry for more runs. Following the modern trend of taking guard outside off stump to right arm seamers bowling around the wicket, there was no obvious way through his defences.
After his resolute effort last week, Leicestershire will be hoping that Hassan Azad can lay the foundations for a competitive first innings total. At 28-years-old he is not a youngster, but with a first class average of over 40 and his focus on red ball cricket, perhaps it is time for England to look at experience as a key factor in selection. The other question is whether runs in the second division are a strong currency, but Lees is in the same boat. It will be revealing to see how he fares against the Durham attack, which is as good as most in Division One.
Durham squad: TBC
Leicestershire squad: TBC
Weather and Conditions
Temperatures are rising around the country and it looks set to reach 16°C in Durham this weekend. It is also forecast to be dry so hopefully a full four days of cricket.
The Riverside has a historical reputation of being seamer-friendly and that would be supported by the dismissal on day 1 of the eventual county champions, Warwickshire for just 87 in the game played at the end of April last year. While the feeling is that batsmen have been better served in recent years, I expect whoever wins the toss to want to choose to bowl first.
Date: 14th-17th April 2022
Ground: The Riverside, Chester-le-Street
Odds (SkyBet): Durham 8/15, Leicestershire 11/8