Sunday, April 10th, 2022


Brett D’Oliveira came within one wicket of celebrating his first match as Worcestershire’s official Club Captain with a victory in a tense climax to the drawn game with Leicestershire at the Uptonsteel County Ground.

Left-arm spinner Josh Baker’s career-best figures of 4-51 from 29 overs looked to have taken Worcestershire to victory as Leicestershire, set a 370 target, were reduced to 171-9 with 25.4 overs remaining.

But a defiant last wicket partnership between century-maker Hassan Azad and Beuran Hendricks kept them at bay despite D’Oliveira ringing the bowling changes in an effort to make the breakthrough.

Worcestershire had to settle instead for a match haul of 14 points – three for batting, three for bowling and eight for the share of the spoils from a game in which more than a day’s play was lost to the weather.

Although frustrated at the final outcome, there were plenty of positives to be taken.

Apart from a challenging first hour on Thursday, Worcestershire dominated proceedings for the bulk of the action.

On the batting front, Worcestershire showed the resilience and character to recover from a tricky situation of 45-4 on the opening day.

D’Oliveira deservedly earned many of the plaudits for his century on such an occasion for himself. He captained with imagination and saw many of his bowling changes bear fruit until Leicestershire’s late defiance.

The supporting knocks of Ed Barnard and Joe Leach were also crucial, and, in the second innings, Ed Pollock marked his first-ever Championship appearance with a memorable hundred as he and Jake Libby put on a superb 163 for the first wicket.

The bowling unit saw the four seamers all playing critical roles at different times in the game before Baker took centre stage on the final day.

But of equal importance was how their efforts were backed up by some superb fielding, including catches by Barnard and Pollock in Leicestershire’s second innings.

D’Oliveira declared on the overnight total of 234-5.

Charlie Morris bowled a probing opening spell with the new ball from the Pavilion End and was rewarded when Sam Evans (11) nicked a good which nipped away through to keeper Ben Cox.

Dillon Pennington quickly settled into a rhythm at the Bennett End, and he broke through thanks to the first of Barnard’s excellent catches.

George Rhodes (12) was confronted by a delivery that lifted on him as he went forward, and Barnard dived forward from point to hold onto the chance.

Baker came into the attack and put Worcestershire in control with a deadly three-wicket burst before lunch.

Leicestershire skipper Colin Ackermann (11) went to cut a shortish delivery, but Barnard anticipated his stroke and held onto a brilliant low catch moving around from slip.

Lewis Hill had made a fine 91 in Leicestershire’s first innings, but he managed only a single before being lbw to Baker after pushing forward.

Baker struck again in the penultimate over before the interval when Harry Swindells (0) was deceived by a quicker ball and played on.

Shortly after lunch, Leicestershire opener Hassan Azad completed a fine half-century from 110 balls with seven boundaries.

Ben Mike (9) accompanied him in providing stubborn resistance, but Pennington’s return to the attack brought about his downfall.

He was drawn into the shot by a ball that swung away, and Pollock pouched a low chance at first slip.

There was a fourth victim for Baker when Ed Barnes (15) was hit on the back pad.

D’Oliveira brought on Azhar Ali for the final over before tea, and it was another masterstroke move as Callum Parkinson (14) jabbed at a wide delivery, and Cox took a fine low catch.

Two wickets were needed into the final session, and Pennington had Wright lbw for 15.

Beuran Hendricks then provided staunch support to Azad, who completed his century from 243 deliveries with 11 fours.

The pace bowler had one slice of luck when one mistimed shot against Leach lobbed up on the legside in between three fielders.

But he and Azad held off all that Worcestershire could throw at them in a tense finale.