NEW ROAD (first day of three): Worcestershire 201-2 v Loughborough UCCE 104 all out
Worcestershire chose the visit of a team of students to demonstrate the benefits of keeping up a good cricketing education.
Kabir Ali had Loughborough University reeling yesterday morning when he took a wicket in five of his first six overs of the day to have them reeling at 21 for six.
Loughborough nobly recovered to at least reach three figures, before they were finished off by three wickets for Worcestershire Academy graduate Richard Jones on his first-class debut.
Then it was Daryl Mitchell's turn to hand out the punishment, chalking up his second first-class century for the county to do what he said he would do and try and force his way into Worcestershire's County Championship team purely through weight of runs.
The recalled Mitchell was unbeaten by the close on 101, his second century in three matches to follow on from his first at Colwyn Bay last August. And the way he played yesterday afternoon against the Loughborough lads, showing an impressive array of shots, hints at a a lot more to come.
It was men against boys right from the very first ball of the day when Kabir took out Liam Lewis's middle stump.
Ed Foster, one of two Worcestershire Academy players up against their county employers, hit three pleasant run-scoring shots, then stopped on a drive at Nadeem Malik to spoon a well-taken return catch. And then Kabir really got to work, beating Matthew Spriegel for pace, forcing a thick edge from the other local boy Will Gifford, who was taken well by Mitchell at third slip, trapping Arun Harinath and clean bowling Richard King.
"Kabir bowled beautifully," said coach Steve Rhodes. "He kept it very straight, made the batsmen play and carried on the work he started up at Old Trafford.
"Sometimes you can struggle early on at New Road, but you have to bowl in the right areas, and he did just that."
At 21 for six, Loughborough, coached by Worcestershire old boy Graham Dilley, were in desperate straits. And they saved face only with a stand of 46 for the seventh wicket between Chris Murtagh (19) and Jonathan Hughes (45), two of
only three visiting batsmen in double figures. That was ended when Murtagh edged Roger Sillence and, just to show that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, Graeme Hick took off at second slip to claim a blinder of a catch one-handed to his right. Not bad for a man who will be 41 in a month's time.
Ruel Brathwaite then edged to Ben Smith at first slip to give Jones his first wicket before they lunched on 83 for eight. And it took less than half an hour to wrap things up on the resumption, when Jones finished things off with two more lbw verdicts.
Mitchell and Stephen Moore then came together to make things look easy in the run-up to tea, taken at 106 for no wicket. And, having clocked up 345 together this time last year in another early season friendly against the students of Bradford/Leeds (who do not enjoy the same first-class status as Oxford, Cambridge, Durham or Loughborough), they looked on course for a repeat.
But Moore was bowled by Hughes trying to turn on the leg side, skipper Vikram Solanki missed out, getting caught behind and it was Smith, needing runs himself, who helped Mitchell through to three figures again.
"We all know Daryl loves occupying the crease," said Rhodes. "But he showed us a different side to his game today.
"He has obviously come on even more playing out in Perth this winter and moved up a level. He's now got a more all-round game.
"He'd looked good batting in the nets the day before but it's different doing it in the middle.
"This was a big occasion for Daryl, but it's typical of the sort of character he is and I've got a lot of admiration for him."