Hampshire hold narrow lead at Leicestershire

Owais Shah in England action
Owais Shah in England action
England's Mason Crane will make his England Test debut when the fifth Ashes Test begins at Sydney Cricket Ground tonight

Root: Hampshire talent will embrace Ashes debut

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Hampshire were on course to take a slender first-innings lead in their Championship division two clash at Leicestershire.

And away from the four-day competition, they have also bolstered their batting line-up for the Natwest T20 Blast after signing former England man Owais Shah on a match-to-match contract.

After resuming their first innings on 321 for eight at Grace Road, Kyle Abbott (40) and Danny Briggs (18) added 11 more runs to the total as Nathan Buck (five for 84) continued his impressive form from day one to complete a five-wicket haul.

Leicestershire then reached 296 for nine at stumps.

But Abbott (four for 55) and James Tomlinson (three for 49) picked up vital late wickets to hand the visitors a narrow advantage in a game that is well-poised at the midway point in the contest.

With a lead of just 36 runs and one wicket to take for Hampshire, it’s effectively come down to a one-innings game, with both sides feeling they will have every chance of recording a victory.

Leicestershire recovered well from the early loss of Greg Smith (four) after Abbott struck as Angus Robson (54) and Ned Eckersley (34) then put on 86 runs for the second wicket.

Ramnaresh Sarwan (60) became Abbott’s second victim and when Niall O’Brien (eight) also departed to the South African, Leicestershire looked in trouble at 195 for five.

But Josh Cobb (37) and Rob Taylor (53) then led the counter-attack for the home side.

They put on 49 runs and looked like going past the Hampshire total.

Abbott, however, removed Taylor late in the day after Tomlinson had picked up two wickets in an over to dismiss Jigar Naik (eight) and Anthony Ireland (nought).

That left Buck (18 not out) and Charlie Shreck (five not out) to attempt to steal a few extra runs at the start of day three before Hampshire set a target for Leicestershire to chase.

Meanwhile, Shah is a welcome addition to Hampshire’s depleted batting ranks.

He is set to make his debut in Friday night’s trip to Sussex.

After retiring from four-day cricket with Essex at the end of last season, the 35-year-old has initially committed to three games to cover the loss of Michael Carberry on England duty and Liam Dawson, who picked up a groin injury in the defeat to Glamorgan.

With Glenn Maxwell set to arrive after his stint in the Indian Premier League, Shah will add vital experience and quality to the batting order having played 94 internationals in all formats.

He said: ‘I was delighted to hear from Giles White when he approached me about joining the club and I’m very happy to be here.

‘I’d like to think I can offer some experience to the team and get some runs along the way.

‘I know they’ve got a very good formula here, but I just want to fit into the team, find out my role and then play to the best of my ability.

‘As long as the team functions well and we all work hard for each other, the results will look after themselves.’