Cheltenham (day one) Gloucestershire 283 (M J North 98, D O Brown 83, Kabir Ali 6-94) v Worcestershire 24-1.
If the current Test series between England and South Africa has exposed the ability of Geoff Miller and his fellow England selectors to make sound judgments, Kabir Ali further undermined their credibility.
Figures of six for 94, his third five-wicket haul in as many matches, made him the first bowler to take 50 first-class wickets this season and helped Worcestershire to a dominant position after the first day of their championship Division Two match against Gloucestershire.
Of those who have played more than two championship matches this season from either division only his team-mate, Simon Jones, can boast a better strike rate than Kabir’s 30 and only a few have managed a better average than his 18.
A startling 31 of those wickets - at even better rates - have been taken in the past month. The selectors should make a late amendment to the 30-man Champions Trophy squad.
Kabir said: “I am just controlling what I can do, which is taking wickets and not going for many runs. If I keep knocking on the door and something comes along, then I will definitely give it my best shot. To get 50 wickets was my end-of-season goal, to be honest, so to get there with five games to go is pleasing. If I can keep taking wickets, then you never know what might happen.”
Sadly, you don’t: in any other sport Kabir’s international selection - especially in a squad of 30 - would be a guarantee.
He was devastating with both new balls on a true, batting-friendly pitch.
However, from struggling at 110 for five, Gloucestershire mounted a familiar middle-order resistance to post a respectable total. One thing that Gloucestershire don’t do is give in.
The highest sixth-wicket partnership between these two sides helped them recover from 85 for five to 411 for six by the end of the first day at New Road in May and it was once again a strong sixth-wicket rearguard which came to their rescue in these stunning grounds
The 130-stand between Marcus North and David Brown did not quite rank up there with the 222 put on by Stephen Snell and Chris Taylor in the reverse fixture but it did much to make this match competitive.
Worcestershire were totally dominant before lunch, especially Kabir. Perhaps most pleasing was the wicket of his cousin, Kadeer Ali, purely for bragging reasons - “it’s always nice to get a member of the family” - but those of Alex Gidman, Hamish Marshall and North (98, 176 balls, 14 fours) were perhaps more important in the context of the match given that they are Gloucestershire’s best batsmen.
Marshall lasted only three balls before edging to Steven Davies while Gidman was subjected to a working over. He played and missed like a Sunday hacker before eventually edging to Ben Smith at first slip.
From that point Worcestershire did not help themselves, even though Jones breached the defence of Snell for 27 and Gareth Batty got the benefit of a bat/pad appeal off Taylor, a decision which left the batsman acutely unimpressed.
Brown (83, 123 balls, 12 fours, one six) was dropped twice - by Smith at first slip on 34 and by Batty in the gully on 55 - and went on to record his highest first-class score in what was his maiden appearance for Gloucestershire this season.
Worcestershire’s seamers simply bowled poorly to North, whose fine 98 was the third time he has been dismissed in the nineties this season.
After Brown had gone there was little else. Vikram Banerjee faced 27 balls for one and then got a brute of a yorker from Imran Arif before the new ball was taken and Kabir polished off the tail, picking up Oliver Newby, which marked Graeme Hick’s 1,000th catch in first-class cricket, and Steve Kirby.
Worcestershire lost Daryl Mitchell in the reply when he was caught behind but a decent batting pitch awaits Vikram Solanki and Stephen Moore today.
* Derbyshire’s bowlers were again made to suffer at the hands of Northamptonshire’s former South Africa Test star Lance Klusener at Chesterfield.
The 36-year-old all-rounder was dropped twice early in his innings and took full advantage by scoring 135 out of 382 for six. Klusener had scored half-centuries in his two previous Championship innings against Derbyshire and, with Riki Wessels making 79, Northants underlined the quality of the pitch and the speed of the Queen’s Park outfield.
Derbyshire sprang a surprise before the start when skipper Rikki Clarke was left out for the second consecutive Championship match. Klusener
At Southend, rock-bottom Glamorgan failed to find an upturn in fortunes as they were dismissed by Essex for 139 in 54.1 overs after winning the toss.
The home team had reached that total before the close with five wickets still intact.