County Championship 2021: Leicetershire Preview

What Happened Last Year

Leicestershire finished 5th in a very competitive north group, winning 1, losing 2 and drawing 2 games. The season couldn't have started any better as they beat Lancashire by 7 wickets, but inconsistency the rest of the way resulted in that being the only mark in the win column.

Having had 5 different players average over 30 last season, I'm sure Leicestershire would have been disappointed to only come away with a single victory.

Dutch club captain Colin Ackermann led the way for the Fox's averaging 54.14 and scoring over 350 runs in 5 matches. Ben Slater who was on loan from Nottinghamshire for a short period proved an excellent piece of business with the 29-year-old averaging 49.25 with the bat across the season, which included a 172 for Leicestershire against Lancashire.

Bowling wise there were contributions across the board with Callum Parkinson (8 wickets at 24) and Ben Mike (9 wickets at 31) leading the way in the wickets column, however, with seam friendly conditions, Leicestershire didn't possess the potent attack of many other counties.

Key Player for 2021

It was a down year for Hassan Azad who entered the season averaging 50.27 in his first-class career, including 4 centuries. The promising England batsmen who's a left-handed opener averaged just 18 across 8 innings with a top score of 58. Count the 2020 season as an anomaly, the expectation is that Azad returns to his pre-2020 form as soon as the new season gets underway.

Azad is a patient opening batsman that can score all around the ground. Opening the batting in the county championship isn't easy with the majority of the season taking place in seamer-friendly conditions. However for Leicestershire to be successful in 2021, they'll need the likes of Azad to set the foundation for their middle order.

England Hopeful

Despite his down year, Azad is a stylish opening bat that should have England aspirations. Things didn't go his way in 2020, but despite that 18.00 average, he still holds an excellent 43.97 first-class average. England are shaky at the top of the order, so he'll be hoping to prove that 2020 was a mirage, and if he can get that average back around 45 for a full season then there's no reason he can't put his name in the conversation.

Looking further ahead, batsman Rischi Patel is an interesting name to watch. Having previously been with Essex, he'll be looking for more opportunities with Leicestershire to stake his claim.

The Target for This Year

Leicestershire don't have the finances to bolster their squad with top-class overseas talent, so they'll be relying on their homegrown crop to get the job done.

They have brought on Australian opener Marcus Harris to try and steady the top-order, but Harris has historically struggled in England when touring with Australia. In 6 innings he averages less than 10.

They had brought on Wiaan Mulder from South Africa for 2021. The all-rounder who was previously with Kent in 2019 possesses a 38.22 first-class average and has taken 100 first-class wickets at 24.75. However, he withdrew from his commitment due to potential clashes with international matches.

With Slater having returned to Nottinghamshire, the Foxes will need Azad to recapture his form and other batsmen to step up to the plate. There is a lot of young talent on this roster and if they strike it lucky with a few of them and Ackermann continues to perform then they may surprise a few people this year.

Leicestershire have been drawn into the same group as Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Middlesex, Somerset and Surrey. It'll be difficult for the foxes to escape that group and the bowling unit will need to improve with the amount of batting talent they'll face in 2021.

Overseas players: Wiaan Mulder (South Africa), Dieter Klein (Germany), Naveen-ul-Haq (Afghanistan, T20 only)

2021 Prediction: 4th in Group Two


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