New Road (day one of four): Worcestershire 146 (D H Wigley 4-43, D S Lucas 4-49) v Northamptonshire 134-6 (R A White 58).
Worcestershire’s bowlers bailed their batsmen out of trouble on day one of their Championship match against Northamptonshire at New Road.
Having produced the sort of witless cricket the Pears will have to eradicate in order to have any chance of securing promotion to Division One, an intriguing second day’s play awaits after Kabir Ali and Matt Mason shared five quick wickets late in the day to get their side back in contention.
An hour earlier the situation had looked bleak with Northants cruising on 99 for one and accumulating runs at more than five an over.
Steve Rhodes, Worcestershire’s director of cricket, said: “If I was their coach when they were 90-odd for one chasing 146 I would have been ecstatic. Now, I would be very disappointed because that was quite a collapse.
“We batted well in parts but we threw some wickets away as well. That can happen when the ball is darting around.
"I was very disappointed with the way we started with the ball but we showed some character to bounce back and take those six wickets. The wicket was conducive to doing one thing, which was bowling line and length and when Matt [Mason] came on he showed that and the others learnt from it.”
Thank heavens they did because until then day one was stolid stuff. Play started on time – credit to New Road’s tireless groundstaff and new drainage system – but at 6pm, following four breaks for rain, there were still 20 overs to be bowled.
As a result, by the time the most interesting passage of play came the vast majority of supporters had gone home.
Worcestershire’s innings was memorable only for a dropped catch. Graeme Hick, the beneficiary, had started his lonely walk back to the pavilion after top-edging a pull off Lance Klusener.
But for some reason, after comfortably making up the ground to short leg where the ball was due to land, the ham-fisted South African inexplicably let it plop from his grasp. Cue howls of derision and laughter.
The day’s play for both sides was one of mini-collapses punctuated by delays and brief shoots of recovery.
Put into bat, three of Worcestershire’s top four were dismissed inside 12 overs with 22 runs on the board.
Captain Vikram Solanki slashed to point, Ben Smith played all round a beauty from Johan van der Wath, who had earlier persuaded opener Daryl Mitchell to edge behind.
Hick (46, 74 balls, eight fours) and Stephen Moore (42, 86 balls, five fours) consolidated with a stand of 82 before poor dismissals in the middle order once again proved Worcestershire’s downfall and led to the home side collapsing from 103 for three to 146 all out.
With the greatest respect to David Lucas and David Wigley, both average seamers with career averages in the mid-30s, they should not be celebrating four wickets apiece at tens, no matter how helpful bowling conditions.
Worcestershire’s problems in that area are not a lack of talent or ability but application, a foible best displayed by Steve Davies.
He has made double figures every time he has batted in the Championship this season but is yet to make a half century in 14 efforts. He fell for ten against Northants.
If the middle order followed the lead of Mason, who showed true character to finish with two for nine from his six overs in only his third first class game since September 2006 following torrid run of injuries, Worcestershire’s batting, like its bowling, would be a force to be reckoned with.
* Ajit Agarkar, as revealed by The Birmingham Post, is in talks with Worcestershire about becoming the club’s new overseas player.
Rhodes said: “I am currently speaking to seven players and Ajit Agarkar is one of them but he has not given us an indication of what he wants to do.”