COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP (at Chester Road, Kidderminster): Hampshire 444 (M A Carberry 127) & 376-2 dec (M A Carberry 120) v Worcestershire 289 (S M Davies 84, Abdul Razzaq 78) & 158-4 (M M Ali 73 no)

When Moeen Ali signed for Worcestershire last autumn, he was certainly not expecting to have to wait almost a year for his County Championship debut.

But the former Warwickshire man made up for lost time as he hit a half century to spare Worcestershire from a three-day defeat.

Inevitably, it will prove a mere stay of execution, given the challenge Worcestershire have been set of scoring what would be a Championship record-breaking 532 to win. They have already lost four wickets, one of them the key scalp of Graeme Hick, are a man short as Ben Smith will not bat after breaking a bone on the knuckle above his right index finger.

Few expect the final day to last much longer than lunch. But Moeen is still there, with a bit of a point to prove, it has to be said, after waiting so long for a sniff. And, already he has mirrored what he also managed to do on his Warwickshire debut in May last year by scoring a half century.

That day at Trent Bridge, Moeen came in at No 8 on the card to hit 68 for the Bears.

Yesterday at Kidderminster, halfway back to his old cricketing home at Edgbaston, in a 'Pears' shirt, he was a little higher up the order, batting No 3.

Having been given his big chance only by international calls and injury, he finally took that chance to show that he may yet have the class to inherit the slot never truly filled since Hick was invited to bat a little further down the order two winters ago.

Already, in reaching 73 not out, Moeen has passed his previous highest first-class score — and he is in the mood to plunder a lot more today.

The anguished cries of the Hampshire fielders and bowlers which pierced the glorious late summer's afternoon air as incongruously as a couple of pub drunks at closing time suggested to the naked ear that Moeen had a hard time of it. But not a bit of it.

Hampshire are simply a bit loud with their incessant appealing, well not loud so much as annoyingly loud.

The visitors are admittedly closing on a win that would keep their Championship title hopes very much alive.

With a captain like Shane Warne to turn to for advice on how to deport oneself correctly on the cricket field, his men can hardly have expected to be stood there like monks silently miming polite inquiries of the umpire.

Hampshire's victorious position in this contest has been set up ever since an emotional Michael Carberry marked the passing of his Caribbean-born grandfather Clarence by hitting 127 on the first day. There was no let-up yesterday.

Having resumed yesterday morning at 12 for 0 after Warne had opted not to follow on, Carberry struck his second ton of the match (and only the 10th of his career), 120 this time from 158 balls before cutting Ray Price to slip.

By lunch, he and Michael Brown had put on 192 for the first wicket. And although Brown went for 88, to become an excited Price's second victim, caught behind straight after lunch, the whole day so far had simply been a matter of when Warne would declare.

That he duly did once John Crawley had celebrated the award of his benefit next year by biffing an uncharacteristically quick 75 off 55 balls, outgunned only slightly by Jimmy Adams' 82 off 58.

After the carnage of 364 runs scored in little more than three hours came the other side of the coin as Shaun Udal got rid of both openers Daryl Mitchell, with only his third ball, and Stephen Moore.

Hick looked like he might soon start outscoring Moeen when he struck Udal for a four and six in successive balls. But Warne brought back James Tomlinson, Hampshire's first innings five-wicket hero, and Hick steered to second slip.

When Warne himself came back on to account for Davies, who he bagged for the third time in a month, this time lbw, already relegated Worcestershire were in another fine mess.