INSIDE COUNTY CRICKET: Fantastic Foxes look to end 38 years of hurt

RICHARD GIBSON: Fantastic Foxes look to end 38 years of hurt as Leicestershire reach the Metro Bank Cup semi-finals, while Somerset’s Andy Umeed leads the way for South Asian cricketers

  • Leicestershire have reached their first semi-final in over two decades  
  • They will face Gloucester or Lancashire in the final four of the Metro Bank Cup
  • Somerset’s Andy Umeed has excelled in the tournament with over 600 runs

Leicestershire are just two victories away from securing their first one-day cup title for 38 years after their players made the most of Hundred snubs.

The Foxes’ most recent limited-overs knockout success came back in 1985 when a side captained by David Gower defeated Essex by five wickets at Lord’s.

They have not even featured in a semi-final since 2001, but that will change next Tuesday when they entertain the winners of Friday’s quarter-final between Gloucestershire and Lancashire.

Leicestershire earned direct passage to the semi-final, and the right to host the match, as winners of Group A of the Metro Bank Cup, edging out Hampshire on run rate after their rivals for the top spot failed to beat Kent by a sufficient enough margin in the final round of matches.

While the squads of rival counties were picked over like items with yellow stickers dwelling on supermarket shelves, the strength of Lewis Hill’s team was barely diluted by the ECB’s 100-ball competition.

Leicestershire are on track to win their first one-day trophy since David Gower’s time at the club

They have made their first semi-final in over two decades and will face Gloucester or Lancashire for a place in the Metro Bank Cup final

No team lost fewer players, with only spinners Rehan Ahmed and Callum Parkinson making the initial cut. Although Colin Ackermann was later called in as a replacement.

The retention of a senior core and a fair wind with injuries were undoubtedly contributing factors in them winning seven of eight, but as with the other five teams qualifying for the competition’s knockout phase they face a dilemma from now on as there is nothing to stop players previously away with the Hundred being picked once their involvement in it is ended.

Leicestershire were also one of the few teams to retain quality overseas players for the month of August with two internationals – Australia wicketkeeper-batter Peter Handscomb and South Africa all-rounder Wiaan Muller – both averaging in excess of 50.

The midlands club’s biggest 50-over fixture at Grace Road for more than two decades is a floodlit affair, starting at 2pm.

Win that and they will travel to Trent Bridge for the final on September 16 – and a potential reunion with their former head coach Paul Nixon.

Ex-England wicketkeeper Nixon only reached a mutual agreement to leave Leicestershire last month but has since worked with Hampshire, developing their young talent while director of cricket Giles White was otherwise engaged with Southern Brave.

For Hampshire to keep their side of the bargain, English cricket’s most successful white-ball side of the 21st century – they have claimed seven pieces of silverware all told – must now defeat Worcestershire and Warwickshire, who finished first in Group B.

They have been boosted by the loss of just four players to the Hundred, while established players such as South African all-rounder Wiaan Mulder have stayed

Australian batter Peter Handscomb has also remained with the squad and averaged over 50

Gloucestershire’s success can be put down to them receiving the most favourable Hundred hand of all: Miles Hammond, one of two players picked in the draft, returned for later group games, meaning only David Payne from their regular ranks was absent. They also invested in imports, using Anwar Ali alongside his fellow Pakistan international Zafar Gohar in some matches, and parachuting in Ireland batsman Harry Tector for others.

Batting big is a decent template for any form of the game and while Gloucestershire’s group stage featured the second-biggest one-day innings by an Englishman in the form of James Bracey’s unbeaten 224 versus Somerset, it was not in isolation.

Bracey’s team struck seven of the group stage’s 50 hundreds – the latest by Ben Wells on Tuesday seeing off the challenge of Durham. Wells was only playing after Graeme van Buuren injured himself in the warm-ups at Bristol.

Lancashire snuck into the eliminator equation at the last fence by virtue of coming out on top in a shoot-out with Nottinghamshire for third place behind Leicestershire and Hampshire.

And in a competition lacking out and out pace, veteran Oliver Hannon-Dalby was comfortably the most prolific of the bowlers, taking 24 wickets in just eight appearances, striking every 17 deliveries for semi-finalists Warwickshire.

Meanwhile, Hannon-Dalby’s new-ball partner Ed Barnard can lay claim to being the MBC’s MVP, opening the batting and bowling for the Bears, hitting 590 runs at a strike rate in excess of 100 and also claiming 11 victims with his seamers.

Umeed leading the way for South Asian cricketers 

Somerset’s Andrew Umeed is the highest scorer in the Metro Bank Cup group stage with 613 at an average of 88

Andy Umeed’s outstanding Metro Bank Cup campaign shone further light on the brilliant work done by the South Asian Cricket Academy.

Somerset’s Umeed, 27, was the first graduate of the scheme to sign a multi-year deal with a county 13 months ago, accepting a second chance as a professional cricketer following release earlier in his career by Warwickshire.

Somerset might not have enjoyed the best of 50-over tournaments, hampered by the loss of 10 players to the Hundred, but the Scotland-born batter excelled, his career-best 172 not out against Derbyshire making him the leading run scoring in the group stages with 613 and ensuring his team finished on a winning note.

When it launched at the start of the 2022 season in conjunction with Birmingham University, SACA described itself as an ‘intervention programme designed to tackle the inequalities highlighted by research regarding the lack of British South Asian representation in professional cricket.’ 

It revealed that while there was a huge 30% representation of British South Asians in recreational cricket in England and Wales, the same ethnic group made up only five per cent of county cricketers.

Subsequent performances in matches against county second XIs showed that players like Umeed, who has shed his dogged image with more expansive strokeplay in the MBC, were hiding in plain sight and his move to Somerset followed the shorter-term agreement that Kashif Ali signed with Worcestershire.

He averaged just 20 in One Day cricket last year but hit a career-best 172 against Derbyshire to end the group stage on a winning note


Quarter-finals: Gloucs v Lancs (Bristol, Aug 25); Hamps v Worcs (Southampton, Aug 27)

Semi-finals: Warwicks v Hants/Worcs (Edgbaston, Aug 29); Leics v Gloucs/Lancs (Leicester, Aug 29)

Final: Trent Bridge, Sep 16

Umeed said his personal journey had shown how much he loved playing the sport and that being out of it had provided him with perspective.

Last season proved a struggle – he averaged just 20 in five one-day appearances, for example – but his new-found form could not be more timely. Firstly, he is out of contract at the end of the season. He will also be hoping the club view his run-glut as transferable across formats with the County Championship starting back up again next week. His highest score in three Division One innings for the club so far is 16.

‘I am just trying to make as many runs as I can and let selection take care of itself. Hopefully, I am in the thoughts of the coaches and staff,’ he said.

‘I knew I was going to get a run in the one-day cup, so I was excited before it started. Up until then, I had been given a couple of opportunities and hadn’t got as many runs as I would have liked.’

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