Ben Raine took two wickets in two balls in the final session to wrest the initiative back for Leicestershire at the end of an absorbing first day of their Specsavers County Championship match against Sussex at the Fischer County Ground.
Raine produced fine seaming deliveries to bowl first Luke Wright, who had looked set for a century, and then Ollie Robinson after Sussex had recovered strongly from being 52 for three at lunch.
Pakistan seamer Mohammad Abbas, making his debut for the Foxes, bowled an outstanding opening spell, conceding just four runs from seven overs and taking one of the three wickets to fall during the opening session after Sussex skipper Ben Brown had won the toss and chosen to bat.
Openers Luke Wells and Phillip Salt received very few bad balls as they battled through the first hour. Wells faced 25 balls in scoring two runs, and had been hit on the shoulder by Abbas before he edged Raine to wicketkeeper Lewis Hill.
If that was a straightforward take for Hill, the catch he took to dismiss Salt off Abbas in the following over was anything but – a thick edge flying towards first slip – but the wicketkeeper took it beautifully two-handed to his right.
In the final over before lunch Harry Finch drove loosely at a Neil Dexter out-swinger, failed to keep the ball down and saw Colin Ackermann take a smart catch at gully.
Wright and Stiaan Van Zyl dug in and began to prosper against a seam attack which, while accurate, was understandably less penetrative with the older ball on a pitch flattening under unbroken sunshine.
The batsmen had extended their partnership to 63 when Leicestershire captain Michael Carberry turned to spinner Callum Parkinson, and the left-armer was successful with just his second ball as Van Zyl’s uncertain push resulted in an edge to Ackermann at slip.
Wright reached his 50 off 92 balls, which included nine fours, shortly before tea, and he and Brown had brought up a century partnership before Abbas made the breakthrough with the new ball as Brown, on 64, was caught at slip off an out-swinger.
Raine then struck twice, including Wright for 88, to give Leicestershire a slight advantage to take into the second day.
Wright remained optimistic and was happy with his score after beginning the season with a duck.
“I was pretty nervous after getting a first-baller last week, against Warwickshire, so it was nice to get a few,” he said. “We were in a bit of trouble at 52 for three, and at 254 for seven it’s pretty hard to say who has got the advantage.
“I felt in a really good place – as though it was going to take a good ball to get me out, and in fairness Ben Raine bowled one! It would have been nice to have got a hundred at the club where I started, but after last week I’d have taken 88.”