Division 2 of the County Championship saw Kent and Warwickshire being promoted to Division One. Lancashire and Worcestershire have taken their places in Division 2 now. Despite having a mixed season this year; things are looking better than before for the Leicestershire Foxes. With some of the lowest ranked sides in the county circuit ‘decorating’ the Second Division table, things are bound to improve for the Foxes, given an influx of ‘Kolpak’ and local talent into the team.
A season full of ups and downs saw Leicestershire winning five of the 12 Championship games they played this season while losing the remaining seven. A major highlight of the season remained their exceptional victory against Kent. It was a victory that saw them defeating Kent within two days.
Having finished sixth in the Division 2 Championship table, above all other low-ranked teams such as the Northants, Durham, and Glamorgan, the Foxes showcased vast signs of improvement this year. In a season which saw heavyweights Lancashire being relegated to Division 2, the Foxes from Leicestershire showcased good resolve and temperament to stay at number six with 149 points.
A New Coach, a New Beginning
Before the beginning of the season, the Foxes were in dire straits. Pierre de Bruyn had resigned as the team’s coach. After his departure from the club, Leicestershire’s former wicketkeeper-batsman Paul Nixon joined the club as head coach. The atmosphere at the Grace Road has improved significantly since Nixon arrived at the club. Assistant coach John Sadler was also elevated from the second XI. Nixon’s arrival not only marked a new beginning for the club, but it also instilled a sense of self-belief and purpose within the players. Nixon, one of the best players to have played for Leicestershire, won the County Championship twice as a player in the 1990s.
Leicestershire’s fortunes relied heavy on Colin Ackerman, the wicketkeeper-batsman from South Africa who had been signed as a Kolpak player. A batsman with a sound technique, Ackerman was the fulcrum around which Leicestershire’s batting revolved. With 876 runs in 14 matches at an average of just about 40, he was the county’s best batsman this year. Also, the composure with which he batted against Middlesex during his innings of 196 not out spoke volumes about the 27-year-old’s temperament and his ability to soak the entire pressure all by himself.
The overseas recruit in seamer Mohammad Abbas was seen making steady inroads. The 28-year-old picked up 50 wickets in 10 Championship games this season. He was ably supported by youngster Ben Raine, who picked up 51 wickets in 11 Championship games this season. Numbers aside, the control, consistency, and accuracy with which both these players went about their business of dismissing the batsman were commendable. Mohammad Abbas’ exploits in England earlier this year (for Pakistan) made him a hot-favorite bowler in the game’s longest, and perhaps the most tiring format.
A Season of Mixed Fortunes
Despite showing a lot of promise, the lads from Leicestershire couldn’t quite turn the fortunes in their favour. The limited overs format brought little joy at the Grace Road. The Foxes couldn’t quite make their presence felt in coloured clothing. A severe lack of holding on to the game’s crucial movements was clearly visible every single time the foxes came out to bat. Though there were glimpses of brilliance on display every now and then, the Foxes lacked cohesion. When the bowlers came good, the batsmen let them down, and every time the batsmen put the runs on the board, the bowlers leaked runs during the powerplay to squander the advantage away.
A Bittersweet Affair
The T20 Blast saw the Foxes winning five games and losing eight, while a solitary fixture yielded no result. Despite having some of the most tried and tested international players in their ranks, including the likes of Mohammad Nabi and Mohammad Abbas, the team failed to encash the crunch moments in the game. Again, an acute lack of cohesion hit the team really hard, with the team failing to put on a consistent show regularly.
Despite being unable to progress to the knockout stages of both the limited overs competitions, the Foxes would feel that things are changing for the better. The winds of change have been slow and gradual, and there is still a considerable amount of work left to be done. Leicestershire is still a work in progress, but with someone of the stature of Paul Nixon leading them, the men from Grace Road would surely bring back the long-lost reputation of the club.