Leicestershire 88 for 8 (Pennington 3-24) trail Worcestershire 178 (Mulder 3-27, Salisbury 3-56) by 90 runs
On the day their most famous cricketing old boy claimed his 600th Test wicket, Oakham School hosted first-class cricket for the first time in 16 years and saw 18 wickets fall in one day as Leicestershire closed on 88 for eight in reply to Worcestershire’s 178 in a clash of potential promotion rivals in Division Two of the LV= Insurance County Championship.
Matt Salisbury’s three for 56 – his best figures so far since moving to the East Midlands from Durham last winter – included the wicket of Pakistan international Azhar Ali, who was Worcestershire’s top scorer with 34.
Having been asked to bat first under overcast skies and with plenty in the pitch, Worcestershire would have been more than happy to be 74 for only one loss at lunch.
The ball had beaten the bat with encouraging regularity from Leicestershire’s point of view but found the edge not often enough, with Jake Libby the only casualty, the right-hander jabbing at one that came back at him and nudging it into the hands of wicketkeeper Peter Handscomb.
It was the first of three catches for the Australian, whose stay at Grace Road has been extended by Akinkja Rahane’s continuing unavailability, the next two of which came off the second and third balls after lunch as Mulder – bowling for the first time in seven weeks after a niggling back problem – dismissed Gareth Roderick and Jack Haynes in near identical fashion, squaring up the batter with balls that took the edge as they moved away.
Chris Wright, unlucky before lunch, then had Adam Hose leg before and from 74 for one, Worcestershire were 81 for four, which was probably a more accurate representation of the degree of difficulty faced by the batters.
Indeed, as the afternoon’s activity intensified the value of that morning to Worcestershire’s cause was further enhanced as Azhar, who had walked out at the fall of the first wicket midway through the opening session, watched one new partner after another come and go.
After Handscomb’s busy period, it was second slip Colin Ackermann who seemed to be a magnet for the ball as Brett D’Oliveira, Matthew Waite and Joe Leach edged one by one to second slip.
Salisbury, who was able to obtain rapid revenge after Waite had struck him for three fours in an over in a brief flurry of counter-attack, picked up a second wicket as Josh Baker, looking to help one on its way down the leg side, was snared by Handscomb, and then a third as Mulder, at first slip, executed the catch of the day, one-handed low to his right, as Azhar, who had made 225 against Leicestershire at New Road in 2022, at last departed.
Salisbury’s pleasure was slightly diluted by the last Worcestershire wicket adding a potentially valuable 33 runs, all but two of which followed his dropping of a pukka dolly at midwicket when Adam Finch was on five.
The 33 overs Leicestershire were left to face were never likely to be straightforward and Worcestershire’s total began to look like a decent effort as the host county stumbled to 85 for eight inside 32 of them
Rishi Patel was an early casualty, edging behind off Pennington, before Finch dismissed captain Lewis Hill with one that came back so sharply it took out leg stump.
Matthew Waite, who took seven wickets in the match as Worcestershire inflicted Leicestershire’s only previous defeat in this season’s Championship, picked up where he had left off by removing Louis Kimber’s off bail before inducing an edge from Ackermann to third slip.
Finch – the bowler nominated to stand aside for Tongue – inflicted another blow when he brought one back to uproot Handscomb’s middle stump, and after a wicketless first spell, leading wicket-taker Leach returned to knock back Mulder’s off stump for his 35th success of the season.
Pennington then had Scriven caught behind on the leg side and Wright edging to slip.