Chesterfield (day 3 of 4): Worcestershire 151 (G G Wagg 4-66, C K Langeveldt 4-44) & 110 (G G Wagg 4-53) v Derbyshire 356 (D J Pipe 133, G G Wagg 56, S P Jones 5-74)
Derbyshire (21pts) beat Worcestershire (3pts) by an innings and 95 runs.
Had rain and bad light not accounted for half of day one, Worcestershire would have lost their Championship match against Derbyshire within two days.
It is hard to find the words to accurately describe how abysmal they were for the majority of the six sessions played - but even The Pears’ low standards plumbed new depths on Sunday when they were dismissed for 110 before lunch while chasing a first innings deficit of more than 200.
At least on the first day, when Vikram Solanki won the toss and his side crumpled to 151, some overcast conditions and a virgin track offered a reason for a swinging and seaming ball.
However, in bright sunshine on day three and on a flattening surface, which had yielded the second fastest Championship hundred of the season the previous afternoon, they were dismissed inside 25 utterly painful overs.
Some of the shots that Worcestershire’s more accomplished batsmen fell to were not only lazy but bad enough to draw grimaces like those when lemon juice is squeezed into an open wound.
They were ugly; not least Graeme Hick’s, whose flagrant and off-balance waft outside off stump was most uncharacteristic but best epitomised his side’s appalling display.
Director of cricket Steve Rhodes refused to condemn his recognised batsmen, none of whom scored more than 20 - in either innings. He said: “The key is to remain objective in these situations.
“We know we were poor in the game and we will address that by looking at the areas where we have been poor and trying to be positive and upbeat about how we can improve. It’s not so much about bollockings or throwing teacups around. Although there is room for that on the odd occasion, the main thing from this game is to see where we can improve.”
Being ‘objective’, the top six is the area most in need of attention.
Rhodes added: “They struggled against the swinging ball — that is not an excuse, but that is also good bowling.
“However, they are also professional batsmen who are well-equipped to deal with that sort of thing. I would not call it wasteful batting, or anything like that.
“I think the pressure Derbyshire put us under with good bowling had a lot to do with it. Certainly we could have batted better - but today wasn’t just down to that. Credit has to go to the opposition. That is the best I have seen Derbyshire bowl.
“We had fought back brilliantly and looked like getting them out for under 200, which is what we had planned, but I think James Pipe’s innings was very special.”
Ah yes, that blissfully bashful innings which illuminated day two. His 133 (121 balls, 18 fours, four sixes) equalled his career best and shredded any hope the Pears had of gaining a second successive victory in the competition.
Recovering from 157 for seven he put on 145 in 25 overs with Graham Wagg (56, 82 balls, eight fours), which proved to be the highest eighth-wicket partnership in a game featuring these two teams.
It must have been particularly sweet for Pipe, whose first team appearances during his seven-year stint at New Road was first hindered by Rhodes and then by Steve Davies.
Saturday, however, was all about him and his former team-mates could only watch the ball being smeared to all parts of the ground for his 71-ball hundred.
His second 50 came in 27 balls, much to the chagrin of his best-friend Gareth Batty whom he milked relentlessly, and the hapless all-rounder Gareth Andrew who, somewhat remarkably, caused even fewer problems with the ball than he did with the bat. He registered a pair and was wicketless from his eight overs, which went for 58 runs.
While Worcestershire’s demise could be attributed to many things - poor batting, an under-strength seam attack due to the illness of Kabir Ali, or an unusually out-of-form Steve Magoffin - the impact of all-rounders Pipe and Wagg, whose eight wickets and accomplished half-century made him this correspondent’s man of the match, was the most pertinent.
How Worcestershire could benefit from an established all-rounder themselves.
On the plus side for the visitors, Simon Jones took five-for from 15.3 overs. That chairman of selectors Geoff Miller saw the 29-year-old when he was at his most fierce would have done the Welshman’s quest for a return to international cricket no harm at all.
Miller gave nothing away, despite much probing in the Press Box about the fast bowler’s future, but he did suggest that in short bursts he felt Jones was a force to be reckoned with.