Leicestershire have made an imperious start to their Specsavers County Championship Division Two clash against Durham, posting 301-4 on day one.
The visitors gleefully punished Durham captain Paul Collingwood for inserting the visitors at the Emirates Riverside.
Michael Carberry, Paul Horton and Mark Cosgrove all made fifties as the home side’s bowlers toiled on a flat pitch, leaving them with a huge task ahead of them to get back into the contest.
The toss was contested and Collingwood opted to send the visitors into bat, despite the bright sunshine. Carberry and Horton were watchful at the crease in the early stages of the innings to see off the threat of the new ball. Once Chris Rushworth and Nathan Rimmington were removed from the attack, boundaries flowed off the bowling of Barry McCarthy and James Weighell as Leicestershire coasted into lunch 80-0.
Horton remained composed after the break and notched his fifty off 114 deliveries - his second on the bounce in the County Championship. The visitors eased past the 100-run mark before Carberry reached his half-century as he guided a shot down to the boundary, reaching the milestone slightly quicker than his partner in 97 balls.
The opening partnership of 146 was broken when Horton played a loose cut off the bowling of Rimmington, drilling the ball straight to Cameron Steel at point for 75. Carberry followed for 73 when he was adjudged lbw to Barry McCarthy in a tight call. Colin Ackermann found the boundary with regularity, notching five fours and six, and was looking comfortable at the crease as Leicestershire passed 200.
However, the South African fell one delivery shy of the tea break when he edged behind a delivery from Weighell for 36. Mark Cosgrove found his feet and was able to compound his side’s advantage, blunting Durham’s attempts to break back into the contest. McCarthy notched his second breakthrough of the game when he snagged Ned Eckersley lbw for nine.
Cosgrove remained composed and reached his fifty with a boundary, nudging a McCarthy delivery through gully. The Australian’s half-century was the quickest of the lot, taking only 80 balls, with nine boundaries in his innings.
Durham took the new ball with the hope of making further inroads, but the attempts of Rushworth and Rimmington were in vain as pitch continued to offer little assistance. Cosgrove and Lewis Hill continued to put runs on the board and they took Leicestershire’s total beyond 300 in the final over the day, with the Aussie unbeaten on 66.
Leicestershire batsman Carberry said: “It was a good day. We started with a solid partnership up front. Through the day we had to get through some tough spells.
“Durham held it nicely after lunch and we had to fight hard, but I would have taken that at the start of the day. It looked a good wicket and I thought we would get the best of it and hopefully it will deteriorate during the four days.”
“Rushworth is a class act as we know.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a flat wicket, there’s still enough there to keep the fast bowlers interested if you bash away.
“There’s a little bit of variable bounce at times so it made scoring runs quite tough at times when they were bowling straight.
“We were able to get through that and put the bad balls away. We keep the intent throughout the day, which was good.”
On scoring his first Leicestershire fifty and 100 partnership with Paul Horton, the former England Test opener added: “You’ve got a job to do at the top of the order. I don’t look at my numbers too much, it’s just doing a job for the team.
“When you get in you try to get us off to a good start then the rest of the batting unit have to build around it.
“I was pretty pleased [with my innings]. As a group it has been one of our main focuses to get those partnerships – more century partnerships between us as a group.
“It goes a long way to getting us to 400 and above.
“It was key phase in the game against the new ball. Rushworth bowled really well during the day so it was important that we saw him off and came in four down rather than five or six down.
“Hopefully we can close the door on it tomorrow. The first hour tomorrow is going to be tough, they’re going to make us work and we’re going to have be prepared to do that.
“Hopefully we can do that and make a large score.”