Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Bumpy: 50 Over And T20 Knockout Stages And Promotion “achievable”

Bumpy: 50 Over And T20 Knockout Stages And Promotion “achievable”

Steve Rhodes believes reaching the knockout stages of the NatWest T20 Blast and Royal London One-Day Cup and gaining promotion in the Specsavers County Championship is "achievable" for Worcestershire in 2017.

Worcestershire reached the quarter-finals in the One-Day Cup last season for the first time since the competition was rebranded.

They also finished third in Division Two of the Championship after winning three of their last four matches and only champions Essex matched their six victories.

Worcestershire missed out by two points on a last eight spot in the T20 Blast after a fine start to a North Group which produced all four clubs on finals day at Edgbaston.

Rhodes, the County's Director Of Cricket, says the current line-up is capable of scoring the greater weight of runs required in County Championship cricket.

He also believes overseas signing John Hastings – who linked up with the County this week – will add an "edge" to the bowling combination.

Rhodes feels Worcestershire are slowly getting to grips with the challenges of 50 over cricket after claiming several notable scalps before losing to Somerset in the last eight at Taunton.

He also hopes New Zealand all-rounder Mitchell Santner can stay injury free for the T20 after the "massive blow" of breaking his finger in the opening game last season.

Here is Steve Rhodes report to members at the county's 2016 AGM:

He said: "With the Championship in 2016, it was always going to be quite a tough ask to get promoted with one from nine teams going up due to the eight-10 split the ECB wanted to happen.

"It was something I didn't agree with. I felt it devalued Division Two, certainly this season now we are down to 14 games and not 16 and we don't play everyone home and away.

"The third place out of the nine was a good effort. I thought Kent played well to pip us for second place and they are a dangerous side for this coming season and have got some very good young players like Sam Northeast, Daniel Bell-Drummond and Sam Billings.

"Essex were worthy champions with a powerful batting line-up and also bowled well and they are a good yardstick for us to take forward to this season and what we might want to achieve to try and get promoted.

"Joe Clarke got 1,000 runs which was a terrific effort culminating in his Lions selection and with the ball Joe Leach bore the brunt of the attack with 65 wickets which was a great effort.

"We were heavily reliant on Joe and with a bit of a helping hand this year, we should go better.

"What do we need, we need more runs. We have got the ability with the likes of Ben Cox, Tom Fell, Daryl Mitchell who generally scores very heavily. Dolly (Brett D'Oliveira) had a terrific start to the season and if he can carry that on, will also be up there with that run tally – and plenty of others.

"We have got the batting to do that and just need to perform a little bit better as a unit.

"With the ball, John Hastings will definitely give us a bit of an edge. Ed Barnard has definitely come back a better cricketer from Perth this winter where he has played in a good grade competition.

"I'm pleased to say Charlie Morris has definitely come back with a bit more zip and more of the traditional Charlie we saw a couple of years ago. That is very encouraging.

"The 50 over competition hasn't recently been a great competition for us but we did manage to get to the quarter-finals. Mahela Jayawardene played well in that quarter-final at Taunton and we didn't play as well as we could.

"But it was a big bonus for us to qualify. I do think the 50 over competition is going to be an interesting challenge for us this year. We are getting to grips with it very slowly and some of our plans we are putting in place for these games are bearing fruit now.

"We had good victories against Yorkshire at Headingley, Notts at Trent Bridge as well as beating Lancashire at New Road. We proved we can beat some of the better teams.

"Will we make it to the knockout stages, I think we've certainly got the capabilities to achieve that sort of thing.

"One of the problems we've had in the past is fire-power to bowl sides out in that competition. This year, Hastings will give us a bit of power in the middle of the innings to hopefully take a few wickets.

"The other lads Leachy, Barny, young Josh Tongue, may get a go in some of those games….we've got plenty of bowlers now who can take wickets.

"The T20 Blast was a big disappointment not to qualify. The side we've been putting out over the last couple of years is definitely one that can make it to finals day.

"To miss out on a quarter-final was a big disappointment. We started really well and it would be nice to finish those group stages on a high.

"We had some highlights, beating Birmingham Bears home and away, finalists Durham and Yorkshire and eventual winners Northants.

"All four finals day teams came from the North Group so it is not an easy group not to get out of.

"Why didn't we qualify? Losing Mitchell Santner was a really big blow to the club and the dressing room. We put a lot of time and effort into getting the right overseas player. I felt he was the perfect man for us in T20 cricket.

"Not just his spin bowling, but he is a very dangerous batter and the plan was to get him in the top six. It would give us another left hander with Ross Whiteley.

"Fingers crossed, we will have him for the whole tournament this year and to dovetail a bit with John Hastings.

"I think qualification is again achievable and once we get through, we all know where we would like to be.

"Joe Leach has taken over as captain and has some great qualities – man management is one of the things that stands out.

"He has already proven to the playing group and coaches what a good communicator he is. He is also a very good motivator, quite inspirational.

"He speaks well in front of the group. He definitely wants to shed this tag of being a 'young side.'

"The reality is, yes we are young, but I totally get where he is coming from and, to use Joe's words, the time is to make our performances do the talking for us and maybe that young tag should be put aside a little bit.

"Expectations for the season, two out of 10 is not going to be easy to be promoted in the Championship. We can do it, it is definitely achievable.

"Notts and Durham are tough teams although Durham have got a 48 points deduction.

"It won't be easy taking on those sides. Kent are a better side and also there have been a lot of foreign recruits added to Division One and Division Two teams, guys who are playing as non English players.

"That will make it very difficult but it can be done.

"The 50 over and T20 competitions, if you can get through to the knockout stages it is about on the day and we can certainly get further and further.

"I think another strength of ours will be our depth in both T20 and 50 overs. If you think at T20 in particular, numbers five to 10 with Santner coming in with Cox, Whiteley, Leachy, Hastings and Barnard….we've definitely got powerhouse of a back-end batting line-up that can chase scores down as well as set them."

Rhodes added: "It would be wrong of me not to thank Daryl Mitchell for his time as captain and especially to congratulate him on becoming PCA chairman.

"It is quite an honour to having one of our players as chairman and he follows in the footsteps of Tim Curtis and Vikram Solanki who also carried out that post with distinction.

"The development of players is really crucial and we've always gone down the path of trying to produce and play good English qualified players.

"Our pathway, our age groups from 10-19, is now with the county club and gives us a real opportunity to teach the young ways the 'Worcestershire Way' of playing and behaving as well.

"Our academy is really bearing fruit and there has been some excellent work by Elliot Wilson and the rest of the coaches but also the way we spread our net with our satellite academys in Shropshire and the Black Country with Paul Pridgeon and Dave Manning.

"The England Under-19 selectors were very kind to us and picked six players, all academy products, and the next crop, Josh and Jack Haynes, are very promising cricketers.

"There is a lad called Adam Finch, and Xavier Clarke, and a young lad called Dillon Pennington. The future looks bright on the acdemy."