KIDDERMINSTER (second day of four): Hampshire 444 & 12-0 v Worcestershire 289
It has not been the happiest season for relegated Worcestershire in the County Championship.
But the floods that forced them to abandon ship at New Road have allowed the people of Kidderminster to see a bit more top class cricket. One resident, Steven Davies, dominated a sunbaked day's cricket at Chester Road yesterday.
The kid from Kidder started off the season as a genuine short-term contender for England's wicketkeeping vacancy. After a few early-season stumbles, Davies, in a most timely manner, has found top form again.
In the last 11 days, he has three times scored more than 80. His highest score in one-day cricket, 83 against Lancashire in front of the television cameras at Taunton, was also his best innings of the summer. A season's best, 87 last Friday in the Championship in front of England selector Geoff Miller at the Riverside, followed. He was within four runs of bettering his year's highest for the third match running yesterday afternoon when he became one of Shane Warne's two victims.
Many of the packed crowd at cheery Chester Road had come to see the cricketing legend and probably took great delight, too, in seeing him hit for 86 off 16 overs. But the taker of 708 Test scalps still knows how to buy the odd wicket as he showed when he finished off Worcestershire (Davies included, with only the second ball he bowled to him) at The Rose Bowl nearly a month ago.
Although Davies again finished short of the century he deserved when he popped up a batpad catch to short leg, he is simply pleased, especially on home soil, to be in the form that brought the 21-year-old 1,000 first-class runs in his first full season.
After playing his cricket locally for Victoria Carpets, Davies spent two years at Chester Road playing in the Birmingham League with Kidderminster. He said: "It's nice to bat well here when you're being watched by a few familiar faces. It's not been the best season. We haven't played as well as we should have, but there's still personal pride.
"I played a few too many loose shots early in the season. I was going for my shots too early in an innings when I had not got settled in. And I probably hadn't realised the difference in standard of cricket in the First Division, where all the bowlers are top drawer and you've got to graft harder for your runs."
Davies will probably end this season as third-best Worcestershire run-scorer behind Graeme Hick and Stephen Moore. With an England development squad being chosen to go to Chennai, as back-up while the main tour is in Sri Lanka in November, the odds on Davies being involved in one or the other have lowered. "All I can do," he said, "is keep scoring runs and taking my catches and see what happens."
Warne declined to enforce the follow-on against Worcestershire for the second time this season and Davies's innings, backed chiefly by Abdul Razzaq in a stand of 122 for the sixth wicket, made up for the earlier departure of that other 'local lad' Hick.
On the ground where it all began in this county for him 23 years ago, Hick stood on 29, well set, needing another 94 to pass his 1,000 runs for the season for the 20th time. Then came another of many, loud, over-the-top leg-before appeals. Apart from being 'outside off stump', 'going down leg side', 'too far forward' and 'the bit of bat' he got on it, this one, sadly for the home supporters, was adjudged 'plumb'!