EDGBASTON: Warwickshire beat Worcestershire by 38 runs
Warwickshire moved to the brink of the quarter-finals of the Twenty20 Cup with a convincing victory over local-rivals Worcestershire at Edgbaston.
Unbeaten in six games and with four wins in succession, Warwickshire are likely to require two victories from their final four home games to progress. The lucrative reward of a home quarter-final beckons should they top the group.
It was not, perhaps, the thrilling encounter that a crowd of around 16,000 anticipated. No one player stood out and there was a piecemeal quality to both the batting and the bowling performances.
But while that may not make the most riveting entertainment, it will delight Warwickshire’s director of cricket, Ashley Giles. For this was another victory built about team-work and discipline. A performance where every man knew his role and chipped in with a contribution. It’s the characteristic of good limited-overs sides.
For Worcestershire, however, this was a demoralising evening. Their squad this year appeared well-suited to the format, but their hopes of progressing are now minimal and there was a weary familiarity about the way their batting subsided.
They should be better than this. Even without the injured Steve Magoffin, they possess a potent bowling attack, but the batting is lacking composure and confidence and is in danger of ruining their entire season. While they might claim that their problems are limited to this competition, it’s worth noting that the championship debacle at Chesterfield preceded the Twenty20 campaign.
The decision to play Chris Whelan ahead of Moeen Ali didn’t help. Whelan did not bowl and has no pretensions as a batsman. It effectively left the team a man down.
Most of all, however, Warwickshire out thought and out performed them. Given a brisk start by Neil Carter and Jonathan Trott, Warwickshire kept their heads when their progress stumbled and set a total which, of it was not daunting, was certainly competitive.
Carter (19 balls, four fours and a six) plundered 14 from three deliveries from Simon Jones, with a flicked six the highlight, while Trott (31 balls, five fours) was again impressive off his legs. Though Carter, again, was undone as soon as spin was introduced, Jim Troughton (28 balls, three sixes) looked more composed until falling to a miraculous catch, diving backwards on the long-on boundary, while Michael Powell and Tim Groenewald put on 32 in the final four overs.
Still, this was no better than a par score. Gareth Batty and Daryl Mitchell slowed the pace with well-controlled spells, while Gareth Andrew also impressed by bowling a series of yorkers at the end.
But while Warwickshire’s batsmen played the percentages, happy to block the good balls if necessary, there was a frenetic quality to Worcestershire’s reply. Vikram Solanki, after driving Chris Woakes for a couple of sweet boundaries, suddenly attempted to pull a full delivery, before Steven Davies played across a straight one, Ben Smith drove to mid-off, leaving Hick, as ever it seems, to shoulder the responsibility.
For a while he looked capable. Martin and Woakes were both cut to the boundary with customary power, while Salisbury’s first ball, a filthy full toss, was pulled to the boundary with disdain.
But that was as good as it got for the visitors. Salisbury’s next delivery, a well-disguised top spinner, defeated Hick’s attempted pull and the rest of the batting folded meekly. Kabir Ali (22 balls, one six) flourished briefly, but Worcestershire never for a moment looked as if they thought they could win.
But if Worcestershire’s batting is deeply unimpressive, Warwickshire’s bowling was excellent once again. No side has yet scored more than 158 against them in the competition this season and the variety of their attack does give them copious options. Chris Martin is growing in pace and stature by the performance, while Ant Botha and Salisbury are forming an effective role in the middle of the innings in suffocating opposition batsmen. Carter, who really should be considered for England’s Twenty20 team, has become a very fine limited-overs bowler, while Groenewald is also improving by the game.
Salisbury took the man of the match award, but it could have been one of several Warwickshire players. He hardly bowled a poor ball, picked up two more wickets as flustered batsmen tried to slog their way out of trouble, and finished with his best Twenty20 analysis.
It was an impressive performance off the pitch from Warwickshire, too. While spectators numbers elsewhere are down, this was a decent-sized crowd, while the performance of the scoreboard, announcer and stewards were all faultless. There was, inevitably it seems, one streaker (though only after the players left the pitch) but it is to be hoped that the team’s on-going success will prove enough of an attraction to make many return.
The streaker who ran on at New Road on Thursday night was arrested after allegedly assaulting the club’s chief steward.