Probably the first time we’ve played cricket on English soil while still in Greenwich Meantime; definitely the first time we’ve warmed up for a days play in the middle of a solar eclipse!
Leicestershire CCC kindly agreed to host us for two days of cricket to enable both teams to get out on grass for the first time since last September.
Instead of playing a typical 2-day game it was agreed to play two 45-overs per side games in a bid to give more guys a chance for meaningful practice.
The games weren’t played under one-day rules though – time in the middle and overs in the legs being the key aims.
With seven of our squad over in Abu Dhabi with the Combined MCC Universities team and two more over there with their counties, 8 of the 12 players who headed down to Grace Road for our pre-season friendlies against Leicestershire CCC were newcomers to the squad.
Welcome Steve Bullen, Billy Root, Logan Weston, Ryan McKendry, Archie Ogden, Chris Harwood, Kieran Grundy & Doug Pratt!
LEEDS BRADFORD MCCU: 170-4.
LEICESTERSHIRE CCC: 239-4.
Day one saw the Yellows bat first on a wicket and outfield that were in particularly good nick for the time of year. Henry Thompson (41) and Bullen (16) began the campaign steadily with a partnership of 46 in 12 overs.
Root played sweetly for his 27 before falling leg before to an attempted reverse sweep, McKendry fell without scoring and then Weston (59*) and Harry Rouse (22*) built a partnership of 53 in 14.3 overs before the innings closed on 170 for 4.
Again, time at the crease was key as opposed to AB de Villiers style strike rates.
Nine bowlers then turned their arms as the Foxes closed on 239 for 4, former Worcester batsman Neil Pinner looking particularly impressive with 89* and Tom Wells chipping in with 57.
There were wickets apiece for Pratt, Grundy, Rouse and Harwood – Pratt bowling particularly well with figures of 7-1-19-1.
LEICESTERSHIRE CCC: 211-7.
LEEDS BRADFORD MCCU: 217-7.
Day two saw the professionals have first knock. The Yellows on the whole bowled much tighter lines. At lunch Leics were 129/4 from 29 overs, their innings eventually closing on 211 for 7 with half-centuries from Dan Redfern and Pinner.
Wickets were shared with Ben Eckton hitting a nice rhythm. Despite going for 21 in his first over, he ended up with 1 for 36 from 6 – a great comeback.
Archie Ogden also recovered from a loose first couple of overs to finish with 2 for 30 from 6.
Steve Bullen laid into the experienced Charlie Shreck from the start of the Leeds Bradford innings, smashing him for 26 from his first two overs (including a maximum over extra cover).
Billy Root then took a liking to the 6ft 7” seamer, driving him for two sublime straight boundaries. Root went on to score a fluent 60 from 56 balls (13x4s) before being caught behind.
Weston added 32 to his unbeaten half-century the day before but when Rouse (9) became the sixth victim in the 32nd over, the Yellows were still 52 behind the Foxes total.
Stand-in captain Alex Lilley helped Ogden add 31 before falling to a return catch off Jamie Sykes, but Chris Harwood (18 from 21) and Ogden (32 from 42) helped us overhaul the Leics total with 2 balls to spare.
A superb workout for both teams and played in the right spirit. There have been much publicized back-room changes at Grace Road over the winter and the atmosphere there seemed so much better than when we beat them in a first class game two years ago.
Thanks to all of them for hosting us, particularly Head Groundsman Andy Ward and his team. All at Leeds Bradford wish them well for the season.