Leicestershire dig deep to secure draw and thwart Gloucestershire

Cricket

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Leicestershire 371 (Patel 117, Currie 72, Taylor 3-62) and 377 for 7 (Handscomb 81, Rehan 55, Hill 54, Patel 51) drew with Gloucestershire 706 for 6 dec (Bancroft 160, Charlesworth 126, van Buuren 103, Bracey 92)

Half-centuries from Rishi Patel, Lewis Hill, Peter Handscomb and Rehan Ahmed saw Leicestershire secure a hard-fought draw after being asked to follow on in their Vitality County Championship match against Gloucestershire at the UptonSteel County Ground, Grace Road.

But just four overs remained when Gloucestershire captain Graeme Van Buuren shook hands on the draw after an outstanding two-day effort on the part of his weakened and largely inexperienced bowling attack.

Beginning the final day on 24 for 0 and needing another 311 runs simply to make the visitors bat again, the Foxes lost three wickets in the morning session, including that of Patel.

Only one wicket fell in the afternoon, but with the hitherto largely unresponsive pitch beginning to offer turn, young spinners Ben Middleton and Ollie Price, along with seamer Josh Shaw, picked up three wickets after tea to give Gloucestershire hope of pulling off what would have been a remarkable win before Ben Mike and Tom Scriven steered the Foxes to safety.

Needing an early breakthrough when play began, Gloucestershire were handed one on a plate when Marcus Harris, his feet planted, reached for a wide delivery from Shaw and bottom-edged a catch through to wicketkeeper James Bracey. A shot that would have embarrassed a club player, from an Australia international opener with his side fighting to save the game it was unaccountable.

Louis Kimber, a big-hitting young batter yet to establish himself at No.3 in the Leicestershire batting order, was bowled driving at a straight delivery from Beau Webster, and Gloucestershire’s lunch must have tasted even better when, with the interval approaching, first innings centurion Patel, who had once again batted beautifully in going to 50 off 131 deliveries, hitting six fours and a six, pushed forward at a Price delivery that turned and bounced. Bracey flung himself forward and managed to scoop up the ball one-handed just before it hit the ground.

The afternoon session saw only one wicket fall however, as Hill and Hanscomb first dug in and then began to play more expansively. Van Buuren mixed up his bowlers, and a deliberate policy of inviting Hanscomb to glance down the leg side almost paid off when the Victoria captain guided a Taylor delivery to leg slip, only for Price to fail to hold a low chance to his right.

Hill passed 50 for the first time this season, the half century coming from 107 balls and including eight fours, and Handscomb – who already had three fifties and a hundred to his name this season – reached the landmark in the same over, although his only occupied 63 balls and included nine fours.

Just when it looked as though they were going to bat through the session however, Hill, who had already had one fortunate escape when a sweep at Middleton only just cleared Taylor at backward square, attempted to repeat the shot, missed, and was bowled behind his legs.

Ahmed, a firm believer in attack being the best form of defence, charged to a half-century at almost a run a ball, but was then stumped by Bracey after being beaten going forward to Price, and when Ben Cox, caught at slip after Shaw flogged some life from the pitch, and then Hanscombe, also stumped by Bracey, this time off Middleton down the leg side, went in short order, Gloucestershire still had hope. It was extinguished by Mike and Scriven, who compiled a chanceless unbeaten partnership of 61 for the eighth wicket.

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