NATWEST PRO40, Division One
Gloucestershire Gladiators 270-9 Innings Complete (C M Spearman 71, A P R Gidman 63) v Worcestershire Royals 271-4 (S M Davies 84, M M Ali 72) Worcestershire beat Gloucestershire by six wickets
Worcestershire put their flood-ravaged season behind them in stunning style as they gloriously won their first major title in 13 years.
Young batsmen Steven Davies and Moeen Ali were the stars of the night as their opening stand of 151 from the first 16 overs enabled them to chase down a big total under the Nevil Road floodlights and win the Pro-40 title.
It was a first one-day triumph for the bubbling Pears since the 1994 NatWest Trophy win over Warwickshire. That further rubbed the Bears’ noses in it on the day when their closest local rivals joined Worcestershire in being relegated to Division Two of the County Championship.
In contrast to Warwickshire's double relegation, Worcestershire have proudly responded to their demotion in four-day cricket with the gutsy run of six successive wins in seven weeks that has earned them their first 'Sunday League' crown since the golden days of Botham and Dilley in 1988. To do it against Gloucestershire, their one-day destroyers in recent seasons, made receiving the silverware all the sweeter.
The home side have enjoyed something of a stranglehold over the neighbours from just up the M5, having won 16 of their previous 21 one-day meetings. But it turned out all right in the end when Gareth Batty, stand-in skipper for Vikram Solanki, maintained this season's unfortunate habit of losing the toss.
Gloucestershire opted for first use of a good, even-paced pitch. They made a bright start as Worcestershire old boy Kadeer Ali, fresh from Sunday's century, raced to 31 inside eight overs.
But, after proving particularly severe on Kabir Ali, his cousin had the last word, having him caught behind. The visitors struck another big blow when Hamish Marshall, the home side's main dangerman and scorer of a rapid Twenty20 century at Kidderminster earlier this summer, tried to guide Abdul Razzaq's fourth ball down to third man and chopped on to his stumps.
Alex Gidman and Craig Spearman put on 115 for the third wicket, both hitting half-centuries. But it was their parting, in the 26th over, that caused the run-rate to slow.
After an early interminable delay on an earlier 'not out' third umpire stumping decision, there was no doubt the next time Davies had the bails off sharply to get rid of Gidman off Ray Price for 63.
A good piece of fielding at long leg by Kabir ran out Chris Taylor and then top scorer Spearman all but sacrificed his wicket on 71, at virtually a run a ball, with a suicidal second to Stephen Moore on the deep cover boundary. David Brown saw it through with a quickfire 30 in 19 balls as late wickets fell all around him. Although 270 for nine was a decent target to set under lights, there was a feeling that it was 30 runs short.
Worcestershire's two young left-handed openers did not take long to set about their task. Davies, the junior partner on Sunday, was the first out of the blocks this time. It soon became clear that Moeen, struggling to acclimatise at the other end, was not going to score another 46-ball century this time.
But Moeen gathered pace nicely and, having received the lion's share of the strike, was the first to reach his 50, off 40 balls, nine of which had gone for four. Davies then followed with a swat over mid-wicket for his tenth four to reach his own half-century off 38 balls. They carried on plundering to bring up the 150. At that stage it looked as if they would be home and hosed with ease.
Moeen offered the home side a chance when clean bowled for 72 off only 51 balls. With Stephen Moore's arrival at the crease inevitably slowing the pace, Davies slapped one straight to mid-off for 84 — topping his previous one-day best of 83 at Taunton three weeks ago.
Graeme Hick, after getting away with an unclaimed skier to extra cover, helped to settle the ship. However, there was another late scare when, with only 24 needed from 40 balls, the Nevil Road lights went out.
The 15-minute delay proved enough of a distraction to trigger the dismissal of Hick for 34 and Abdul Razzaq. But stand-in skipper Batty proved man enough for the task, his coolness helping Moore (45 not out) to see their side home with 11 balls to spare.