NED Eckersley gave Leicestershire a good chance of dodging an unwanted double by smashing an unbeaten 72 from 44 balls to snatch an unlikely Clydesdale Bank 40 victory over Worcestershire at New Road.
With 92 wanted from the last 10 overs, the 23-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman transformed the game by clubbing seven sixes and two fours to see his side home by two wickets with an over to spare.
The victory sees Foxes climb off the bottom of Group A, moving a point above Worcestershire with one game to play, and gives them hope of avoiding a last-placed finish in both the CB40 and LV= County Championship Division Two, where they are currently 11 points adrift at the foot.
The race to beat the home side’s total of 223 for nine seemed to be going against them when Leicestershire skipper Josh Cobb was bowled for 51, the second of two wickets in four balls from Daryl Mitchell.
This followed a valuable spell of two for 35 by leg-spinner Brett D’Oliveira as the visitors slumped to 107 for six, but Eckersley suddenly wound up for a spectacular display of hitting.
One by one he took Worcestershire’s bowlers apart, showering six maximums into the crowd while racing to his first limited-overs fifty from 29 balls in a seventh-wicket stand of 87 in 9.1 overs with Wayne White.
White was lbw to Jack Shantry for 22 but James Sykes (12 not out) kept his nerve with Eckersley and nudged the winning single in a shattering penultimate over for Nick Harrison.
The young paceman delivered two no-balls, one of which was driven into the press box window while conceding the last 20 runs.
After losing the toss and being put into bat, Worcestershire openers Moeen Ali (30) and Vikram Solanki (41) gave their side a brisk start with 67 on the board before Eckersley held a brilliant catch to his left to remove Moeen.
Phil Hughes made only nine before finding mid-wicket off Sykes, the left-arm spinner who finished with two for 18 when Eckersley held another catch from Mitchell (five).
Solanki helped his side into three figures before White claimed his second wicket when Worcestershire’s former captain, soon to depart for Surrey, failed to clear Nathan Buck at deep square leg.
Neil Pinner, who scored a career-best 82 against Lancashire, lifted the scoring rate with 31 until Buck took wickets in each of his last three overs.
It might have been even better for Leicestershire but for Gareth Andrew’s 28 from 21 balls.