Ian Saxelby's six outguns the Sarwan sunshine at cricket festival
RAMNARESH Sarwan provided a dash of Caribbean class before being outshone by Ian Saxelby's six of the best at the Brewin Dolphin Cheltenham Cricket Festival.
Having been ensconced in the pavilion for a day-and-a-half due to rain, the County bowlers tore into Leicestershire's top order with superbly controlled aggression to suggest it was no bad toss to lose.
Sarwan memorably notched 117 in a losing cause for Gloucestershire against Sussex at the College in 2005, and his unflappable 50 yesterday was again a cut above the rest as Saxelby bagged six for 48 to skittle the Foxes for 162.
A now painfully familiar wait for the outfield to dry out meant play did not get started until after lunch, with 24 overs lost in the day.
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And the Festival faithful were robbed of the chance to see Leicestershire captain and former Ashes hero Matthew Hoggard in action, a sore back ruling him out of the contest.
The hosts almost made the perfect start, Greg Smith fortunate to see a nick off the first ball of the match drop just short of Benny Howell at third slip.
But Ian Saxelby's frustration did not last long, as five balls later a leaden-footed Smith (0) dangled his bat and was caught behind by Jon Batty.
Both Saxelby and Liam Norwell extracted decent carry from the pitch with the new ball, making life extremely uncomfortable for the batsmen.
Saxelby struck again from the Chapel end in the seventh over, bowling a tentative Michael Thornely through the gate for three.
And the visitors plunged to 13 for three in the eighth, Ned Eckersley (8) completely misjudging a shorter one from Norwell and shovelling back the easiest of return catches.
Sarwan and stand-in skipper Josh Cobb were the first pair to halt the slide with a stand of 48, but Alex Gidman's decision to switch James Fuller to the College Lawn end paid rapid dividend when Cobb (23) sliced to Ed Young at point.
A diving Young missed a tough chance in the same position to get rid of Sarwan three overs later, his failure to cling on denying Saxelby a third scalp.
It looked like being the last breakthrough opportunity of the session for Gloucestershire, only for David Payne to strike with the last delivery before tea.
His victim was Cheltenham-born Matthew Boyce (22), who gloved behind to Batty to halt a partnership of 52 with Guyana's finest.
Leicestershire resumed after the interval on 118 for five, and there was soon warm applause for Sarwan as he reached 50 off 94 balls.
The 32-year-old was less than a roaring success during his brief stint at Nevil Road seven summers ago, but most in the ground now feared he was booked in for the long haul.
Not so, as two deliveries later he was beaten comprehensively by Payne and bowled – making it 127 for six.
Wayne White's breezy 22 was ended by Saxelby, Ian Cockbain taking a sharp catch in the cordon, and the flame-haired paceman was on a hat-trick two overs later.
First Paul Dixey (13) was snared behind by Batty, then Gidman pouched a low chance to send Robbie Joseph packing for a first-ball duck.
There was to be no treble for Saxelby, but he made it six within the space of an over when Nathan Buck (0) gave Batty a fourth catch of the innings.