NEW ROAD: Warwickshire beat Worcestershire by seven wickets
Warwickshire have sustained their impressive start to the Twenty20 Cup season with a resounding victory over local rivals Worcestershire at New Road.
The margin of victory – cavernous in such encounters – does not lie: ten balls and seven wickets. While Warwickshire were disciplined and calm, Worcestershire were sloppy and prone to error.
After just one victory from their first four group games, they are already facing an uphill struggle if they are to progress to the quarter-finals.
A glance at the scorecard might convince you that Jonathan Trott supplied the match-winning performance. Certainly his measured half-century – the highest score by a Warwickshire batsman in this season’s Twenty20 campaign – was a welcome return to a form.
His shot selection, his timing and his cool head were reassuringly impressive from a Warwickshire perspective. But the key moment in this game came when Neil Carter deceived Graeme Hick with a well disguised slower ball.
Hick had looked imperious until then. On the day he equalled Graham Gooch’s appearance record, Hick (nine balls, three fours) had already taken three successive boundaries off Chris Woakes, when he advanced down the wicket to Carter’s second delivery.
The bowler saw him coming, however, and held the delivery back cleverly, resulting in Hick dragging his shot straight to Woakes at mid-on.
His departure seemed to knock the stuffing out of his team and their supporters. From 44 without loss at the end of the fifth over, they added only 97 runs in the final 15 overs as they produced a worryingly lame performance.
Vikram Solanki (48 balls, eight fours) made his sixth Twenty20 Cup half-century, but lacked support and the final total of 141 equalled Worcestershire’s lowest against Warwickshire in this competition.
The absence of Gareth Batty is certainly a mitigating factor for Worcestershire but his loss does not explain the poor fielding (Moeen Ali and Stephen Moore both let balls slips through their hands to the boundary), the loose bowling (the attack bowled seven wides) or the feckless batting.
Certainly the shots played by Moeen and Solanki yesterday seemed somewhat obliging. Neither player could have picked out the man on the boundary edge more precisely had they been conducting fielding practice, while Moore’s stumping, charging down the wicket far too early and allowing Ian Salisbury to fire the ball through to Tony Frost, was simply foolish.
The unsettling conclusion for their supporters is that Worcestershire appear far too reliant on their opening partnership and are no closer to replacing Hick than they were a decade ago.
Simon Jones’ maiden Twenty20 experience was certainly not a happy one. He conceded 20 runs in his second over as he drifted on to the pads time and again and Trott simply clipped him behind square.
Warwickshire, meanwhile, look a well-drilled team. Despite all the setbacks endured on the eve of the competition, they are unbeaten in four games, currently lie second in the group table and are playing the sort of committed, organised cricket that could take them further.
For the second game in a row, they did not concede a wide or a no-ball, they bowled with excellent control, fielded almost faultlessly and, generally, batted sensibly. They may not have the most daunting line-up in the competition, but they are making the most of themselves. No supporter can reasonably ask for more.
Carter was especially impressive. Varying his pace between decidedly sharp and impossibly slow, he hardly delivered a poor ball and conceded just 14 runs from his four overs. Chris Martin is growing in stature by the game, too, while the Ian Salisbury and Ant Botha spin partnership is looking an increasingly potent weapon as Warwickshire take the pace off the ball.
Trott (49 balls, eight fours) made sure there were to be no mistakes en route to victory. Timing the ball particularly well off his legs, he compiled his fourth Twenty20 Cup half-century and third against this opposition, adding 57 runs in seven overs with Jim Troughton and 60 in seven with Frost.
Perhaps it was just as well. While Carter was faultless for his dismissal – miraculously caught at leg slip by Kabir Ali off a full-blooded pull of Steve Magoffin – Troughton again gave his wicket away when set. Only a run a ball was required when he charged Jones – a bizarre tactic - and was bowled.
Frost fell to a brilliant catch at short-extra-cover, but Ian Westwood was on hand, as ever it seems, to clip the winning runs. It was only Warwickshire’s third victory against their local rivals in this format.
Perhaps that explains the flat atmosphere at New Road yesterday. A full house of over 5,000 spectators was worryingly subdued as they watched this much-anticipated encounter fizzle out.
Twenty20 cricket might be fine when the games are close, but those who seem in thrall to the format would do well to remember that when they are as one-sided as this, they can be remarkably dull.
* Chris Woakes was yesterday named in the England Under-19 squad to face Bangladesh A in the first match of their tour at Loughborough starting on July 6.