Grace Road (day one) Leicestershire 288-6 (H D Ackerman 173 no) v Warwickshire
There have been some harsh words exchanged between the management of Leicestershire and Warwickshire in recent weeks.
Divergent views over the Kolpak issue have reduced the relationship between Ashley Giles, Warwickshire’s director of cricket, and Keith (KD) Smith, Leicestershire’s chief executive, to stony silence.
That’s a shame. There should be far more that unites than divides them and both have much to offer English cricket. While Giles has clearly made an excellent start to the enormous job of rebuilding Warwickshire cricket, Smith has evidence to suggest he is also making progress. Both want the same thing - to develop young English-qualified players - but disagree on the methods.
While Giles believes Kolpak signings simply impede the development of young Englishmen, Smith insists that the right choice of import can help their progress. With four youngsters in the England age-group sides (including two in the Under-19 team who would have played in this match) it would suggest there is some logic in his methods.
On the evidence of yesterday’s play here, both will feel their approach has been vindicated. Warwickshire, fielding 11 England-qualified cricketers, worked their way through the hosts’ batting on a blameless surface and begin the second day with their noses in front. For a side lacking both opening bowlers, Chris Martin (hamstring) and Chris Woakes (England U19 duty), that’s not a bad effort.
Leicestershire could also feel some satisfaction, however. Led by the admirable HD Ackerman, their side (which contains three Kolpak registrations and an overseas player) recovered from a perilous start and was boosted in particular by the contribution of 17-year-old Joshua Cobb.
Their batting has been awful of late. Not since May 31 had they picked up a batting bonus point (meaning they failed to reach 200 in their first innings for three matches in succession), so to resume on the brink of a third is, relatively, plentiful.
It also reflects somewhat on the Warwickshire attack. This pitch is slow and flat and there was precious little swing available. Ian Salisbury found some turn with his leg-spin but generally this is another surface that will only encourage attritional cricket.
In such conditions Warwickshire’s seam attack, sans Woakes and Martin, looks thin. Though Jimmy Anyon bowled an impressive ten-over opening spell (two for 30), Naqaash Tahir was distinctly underwhelming and Jonathan Trott, a somewhat surprising choice of first change, bowled a tight but unthreatening spell. In such circumstances, the new ball takes on even more importance but Naqaash’s insipid seven-over opening spell troubled none of the batsmen. It was telling that he was not recalled into the attack until the second new ball was taken. Fortunately, the club are confident Martin should be fit to return for the match against Northamptonshire next week while Woakes will also have finished his England duty.
Anyon started well, however. The third ball of the match accounted for Matt Boyce, who fell across one that nipped back at him, before Boeta Dippenaar was well caught at second slip driving without foot movement at one that left him. Had Paul Nixon, on 12, been held by Salisbury at gully off the same bowler, Leicestershire would have been in some trouble.
Nixon fell to the first ball after lunch, missing a straight one, before James Allenby was bowled by a sharply turning leg-break - the only ball that turned significantly all day - that pitched outside leg stump and hit the top of off.
When Cobb and Ackerman came together ,the hosts were 79 for four. Ackerman, in scoring his fifth championship century of the season, was clearly the dominant partner, displaying some excellent timing off his legs and dismissing anything short with ease, but Cobb, a local lad who finished his A Levels only a few weeks ago, provided solid support and increasing fluency. Together they added 139 in 43 overs for the fifth wicket.
Would Cobb have prospered without the calming influence of Ackerman at the other end? He might. But the pair spoke often and the young man surely benefited from the composed way in which his senior partner conducted himself. It allowed Cobb to make unhurried progress and provided some compelling evidence to support Smith’s argument. Besides, is signing a Kolpak player like Ackerman so different from signing the likes of Salisbury for his experience? Both have merit.
Finally, Cobb was well caught at slip driving lavishly before the Dane, Johan Malcolm-Hansen, was bewildered by Salisbury’s googly. An unbroken partnership of 67 between Tom Smith, the loan signing , and the immaculate Ackerman (270 balls, 24 fours and one delightful straight drive for six off Ant Botha) saw Leicestershire to the close
*Steve Kirby will not be joining Warwickshire. The 30-year-old fast bowler has signed a new contract with his current club, Gloucestershire.
* Calum Macleod took five wickets for 33 off 18.3 overs and fellow pace bowler Tim Groenewald had three for 50 off 13 as Northamptonshire, led by opening batsman Ben Howgrego with 134, scored 292 on the first day of the three-day Second XI Championship match at Wantage Road. Warwickshire are 52 for two in reply, Jonathan Webb (1) and Nick James (15) being the batsmen dismissed.
* Championship leaders Nottinghamshire had the better start in their top-table match against Durham at Trent Bridge.The third-placed visitors were 15 for two before Will Smith scored 85 off 182 balls in a total of 266. Charlie Shreck took four for 69 and dropped England paceman Stuart Broad three for 47.