Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Bumpy Gives Verdict On County Championship Campaign

Bumpy Gives Verdict On County Championship Campaign

Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes has reflected on Worcestershire's Specsavers County Championship campaign in which the County eventually finished third in Division Two behind champions Essex and Kent.

Worcestershire won as many matches – six – as Essex and Rhodes believes many of the squad have continued to progress in the right direction.

The former England keeper says bowling the opposition out was a struggle on flatter pitches with the new 'toss' rule despite the outstanding form of Joe Leach and hopes the arrival of John Hastings next summer will help to rectify that situation.

Rhodes also admits the performances from the top six in the batting order were inconsistent – with the exception of Joe Clarke – but that was to be expected as they are still developing as players.

He was full of praise for the contributions of Ben Cox, Leach and the lower order in retrieving challenging situations on more than one occasion.

Rhodes said: "To me, I wanted to be challenging in the top three going into September and we were more or less there so whilst, we haven't got promoted, in many ways the Championship season has not been a train smash.

"There have been some good victories, some really good performances, both individually and as a team, but we've also had some awkward days where it has cost us wins.

"To me, I'm trying to progress the sides and individuals for the benefit of the club and I think individuals, there are quite a lot of individuals who have progressed.

"As a team, we've probably slowly improved. "We found some things difficult this year, bowling sides out is one, and I'm very hopeful John Hastings and another year on for the guys will mean we will be able to take more wickets next year.

"Some of the bowlers have had a few problems but Joe (Leach) has manfully held the attack together. I thought Matt Henry did a great job at the start of the season and his statistics show that he had a good time of it (27 wickets in six matches).

"I also thought Miguel Cummins coming in, and that game at Sussex, has proved he has got real potential to be a wicket-taker so the two overseas boys there have been excellent.

"Kyle Abbott struggled a little bit and had a little niggle as well and so his stay was probably not as profitable as he would have liked and we would have liked.

"But Ed Barnard and Joe Leach have managed to play all the games and that's a sterling effort these days when they also play a lot of one-day cricket so there have been some really good parts with the ball and also some problems for us trying to get people out on flat wickets.

"The toss rule meant a lot more flat wickets early season and that did prove to be quite difficult for us."

Worcestershire wracked up the fourth highest number of batting points in Division Two after a series of impressive scores, chiefly during the first half of the season.

Rhodes said: "I think there were a few common denominators there. You look at Brett D'Oliveira's early season form and it was outstanding and it got him into the Lions squad and to score the amount of runs he did so quickly, we should never forget that.

"It hasn't been as good for Dolly later on in the year but it's not his fault he got his stack of runs at the start and he would have loved to have carried that on. But he did get a stack at the start and that helped us.

"Joe Clarke has been consistent all year and has been the outstanding batsman of the season as well as contributions from other batters at certain times.

"People do forget we missed Felly (Tom Fell) for half a season – and it was just great to have him back – but we shouldn't also forget some of the work done by the lads who do go in at seven, eight and nine, the likes of Ben Cox.

"I challenged him a little bit. I wanted him to be a person who when we did have our batting collapses at the top of the order, him coming to the crease was almost the word 'stop'

"He was the 'let's stop this slide' player and he really has managed to do that. Similarly with Joe Leach to get his 600 runs. It's a great effort for someone who spent a lot of time bowling his overs

"Barny (Ed Barnard) chipped in down there and Matt Henry played really well for us so we've got some good lower order runs as well which is always pleasing because, if we can get our batting top six sorted then we've got the ingredients that are going to help us win games down the order."

Skipper Daryl Mitchell ended as the second highest Championship run-getter after a vastly improved final three months of the season.

Rhodes said: "He did do well second half of the season and he will be pleased that he has managed to get 1,000 runs with the Oxford knock.

"But the one thing about our batting is Mitch is our experienced player so we really are desperate for him to churn the runs out all of the time and it puts a bit of pressure on the lad as well as captaincy. There is a lot on his shoulders.

"But I am a really big supporter of our young batters. They are up and down and they will be naturally because they are developing players.

"They are going to be up and down, they haven't found their games yet but to me, when I look at Clarke, Fell, Dolly, Pepsi (Tom Kohler-Cadmore), George Rhodes , even Ross (Whiteley) at 27, all of them can grow with the bat.

"What do we do, do we leave them out completely? No, we must try and help nurture them getting to where they can get to and help improving them.

"That's why, at times they have been frustrated, and we have been frustrated by the inconsistency of some of them, but we shouldn't be because 'can they play?' – and the answer is 'yes'"

*Steve Rhodes will also be looking back on Worcestershire's white ball season in which they reached the quarter-finals of the Royal London One-Day Cup and narrowly missed out on a fourth quarter-final in five years in the NatWest T20 Blast.