Archie Lehham adds Championship memory to his teenage dream

Leicestershire 210 and 195 for 5 (Patel 67*, Azad 54, Lenham 3-47) trail Sussex 450 (Clark, 138, Carter 72, Haines 50) by 45 runs

Nearly a year has elapsed since Archie Lenham made a dramatic entrance into county cricket as a 16-year-old having a whale of a time in the T20 Blast.
In all that time, Sussex have failed to win a Championship match, a winless run stretching back to April 2021 in Cardiff when Ollie Robinson bowled them to victory, but Lenham has promised to end their anguish after adding a Championship memory to his teenage dream.

As he is a year older now, a young shaver no longer, it is probably wise to intimate that no more do spectators come over all protective if anybody hits him a long way. He looks slightly less vulnerable now, more game-hardened. He will doubtless be mightily relieved about that and, anyway, by the time his third over had finished with three wickets for eight runs to his name he had underlined the point for himself.

A coltish legspinner in T20 has the advantage of time pressure on the batting side and can take wickets by hanging in there. And by looking particularly young which can lead to batters muttering “play the ball not the bowler” in a desperate attempt not to be psyched out by the experience. In the Championship, especially when the opposition are faced with a deficit of 240 and can pick him off at will, the challenge is much harder.

In his third Championship match, spread over three seasons, he was more than up to it. As tea loomed, and Leicestershire had chipped away 94 runs with relative comfort, Sam Evans their only casualty, he changed the face of the match. Hassan Azad, the Foxes’ most anchored batter, was lbw on the back foot against his third delivery. At the end of his third over he struck twice more in successive deliveries, bowling Colin Ackermann with a ball that dipped and left him to graze off-stump, and then befuddling Lewis Hill, first ball with a turning googly as the new batter blindly propped forward.

The pitch is turning (it is a fine sight as many surfaces have refused to wear this summer) and Leicestershire have a decent spinner in the slow left-armer, Callum Parkinson. They will be desperate to give him something to bowl at, and woe betide them if they don’t because judging by his exasperation if people misfield off his own bowling, he is a hard taskmaster, his standards not undermined by the county’s position at the foot of the Second Division.

They finished the third day still 45 runs adrift, heartened by Rishi Patel‘s unbeaten 67 from 201 deliveries. It was a worthy effort, and he is an attractive player, but there is an uncontrolled element to his game which can make his attacking shots rather less than a done deal. One of those, on 30, should have brought about his downfall when he mis-pulled Henry Crocombe to backward square leg only for Delray Rawlins to get himself into a good position but shed the catch.

Leicestershire had fielding follies of their own as Sussex added 64 to their overnight score. Robinson reached 26 thanks to drops off consecutive balls from Ben Mike, by Patel at second slip and Hill at third man, but it is luck with the ball that Robinson needs if he is to attract the England selectors and today at least it was Lenham who was attracting attention. Spinners bowled 36 overs in all, limiting Robinson to 11 wicketless overs, solid enough, but no clear message to England’s selectors in only his second match of the season about his form or stamina levels.

Lenham also added a personal-best 48 with the bat before he was dismissed trying to pull Chris Wright. “Two PBs, so a good day for me,” he said. “I was a bit annoyed to get out on 48, but never mind, I had a dream start with the ball and those three wickets got us right back in the game. I just feel lucky to be playing first-class cricket early in my career, and I’m loving it. That said, it feels like a long day and I’m pretty tired right now.”

(With Inputs from ESPN)

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