Leicestershire take a ‘significant step’

Andrew McDonald. Picture courtesy of Neville Chadwick Photography
Andrew McDonald. Picture courtesy of Neville Chadwick Photography

Director of Elite Performance Andrew MacDonald believes the final day of Leicestershire’s drawn match against Sussex at Hove this week marked what he called “a significant step” in terms of the team moving forward this season.

The Foxes came impressively close to forcing victory on a very flat wicket, and it took an outstanding innings from Sussex opener Chris Nash, who batted for more than seven hours and faced 315 deliveries in compiling a chanceless 144, to prevent them recording their second win of the season.

Even so, 12 points from the match leaves Leicestershire second in Division Two, 21 points behind leaders Essex but with a game in hand. MacDonald, however, said he was not concerned about the table.

“That will take care of itself over 16 games, to me it’s about the style of cricket we’re playing and the game plan we put in place,” said the Australian. “If we keep playing the way we are, and executing like we have been, the results will take care of themselves.

“When you prepare well for a season you expect individuals to perform from the start, and that’s what both the batters and bowlers are doing.”

Paul Horton and Mark Pettini both hit centuries on the south coast, which with Neil Dexter’s 131 against Kent the previous week, means all three of MacDonald’s winter signings have already registered three figure scores this season.

Pettini, who moved to Leicestershire from Essex after being starved of opportunities in championship cricket, said: “It’s been a good start for all of us but it’s important we use our experience to get runs. For myself it’s just been fantastic to get a chance to play four-day regularly again. It’s been a great move for me. I have always believed in my four-day cricket.”

Having struggled for consistency with the bat last season, Leicestershire’s scores so far this season have been 427, 114-0, 401-9 declared, and 473-8 declared.

“Things have been going really well in that respect, and it’s good to see,” said Pettini. “ ‘Horts’ is playing fantastically well, scoring runs like he is at the top of the order against the new ball is setting us up so nicely, and it is also allowing the bowlers to get a break and come in hard.”

Northants are the visitors to the Fischer County Ground from Sunday, and MacDonald is hoping the match will be played on a pitch similar to used in the game against Kent, when head groundsman Andy Ward produced a strip with more pace and carry than seen at the ground for several years.

This week has also seen the new floodlights at the ground successfully tested in preparation for the forthcoming T20 tournament.

Leicestershire have no new injury concerns, with captain Mark Cosgrove, who bruised a hip in the field at Hove, expected to make a full recovery. Pace bowler Zak Chappell is still unavailable after picking up a side injury against Kent, while batsman Ned Eckersley has just begun playing again after recovering from a broken finger.

As MacDonald points out, however, Leicestershire have become a difficult team to break into.

“We knew positions would be hard to obtain, which means if you get an opportunity you have to take it - and more importantly, do what’s required for the team,” said MacDonald. “It’s tough on guys who are not in the side, but otherwise I’m pretty sure they’ll be happy with where the club is at.”