Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Clarke Hits Brilliant Century As Worcestershire Fight To Earn Draw

Clarke Hits Brilliant Century As Worcestershire Fight To Earn Draw

Joe Clarke scored a magnificent 177 not out as Worcestershire batted through the final day to earn a draw in the Specsavers County Championship clash with Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.

The England Lions player batted for more than five hours in the hot conditions and struck 23 fours in his 214 ball knock.

Worcestershire closed on 368-8 from 115 overs after being set a 462 target to acquire a precious extra five points from sharing the spoils to add to their four bonus points.

But, while Clarke deserves plenty of plaudits from what is one of his finest innings, he will be the first to acknowledge the support he received from the likes of Tom Fell, Ben Cox, Ross Whiteley and Ben Twohig with whom he shared partnerships of 63, 56, 54 and 80 respectively.

For Twohig in particular, in what was only his third Championship match, it was an heroic effort of 35 from 100 balls as Clarke showed faith in his ability by allowing him much of the strike in their partnership.

The experiences that Twohig and debutant paceman Dillon Pennington will have gained from this match will be priceless in terms of their cricketing education.

But once again Worcestershire showed that they can compete at this level and, since losing inside two days at home to Nottinghamshire, they have produced excellent cricket against Surrey, Essex, Lancashire and now at Trent Bridge.

Luke Fletcher, three for 54, and Harry Gurney, with three for 91, were the mainstays of the home attack in a match – played under lights with a pink kookaburra ball – that was a superb advert for Championship cricket.

Only when just one ball remained, did Nottinghamshire give up their quest to break down the magnificent resistance of interim skipper Brett D’Oliveira and his side.

Openers Daryl Mitchell and Martin Guptill had laid the foundations yesterday evening by batting through 19 overs in the tricky ‘twilight’ session in making 43-0.

They added 17 runs from the first two overs but then lost Mitchell, tickling Gurney down the legside to ‘keeper Tom Moores for 33.

Guptill on 29 was caught at silly mid-off to give young Nottinghamshire pace bowler Matt Milnes a maiden wicket on the ground.

Moores left the field after being struck by a delivery from Fletcher and handed over the gloves to Riki Wessels in the same way as Worcestershire keeper Ben Cox (rib) had made way for Clarke yesterday.

Moores immediately pouched an edge by Tom Fell (26) from the bowling of Chris Nash.

The fortunes of the game were never more closely magnified than in the early overs of the second session.

Jake Libby, who scored a century in Nottinghamshire’s second innings, experienced the highs and lows of life within the space of a few minutes.

Libby pulled off an outstanding catch when he dived horizontally to take D’Oliveira (14) one-handed at backward point, off Gurney.

The same bowler then thought he’d conjured up a repeat when Cox (27), fit enough to bat in his number six slot, chipped the ball to the same fielder and saw it put down.

He was eventually caught in the covers off Fletcher and, like Nash on the first day, Clarke went into the tea break unbeaten on 99 but reached his 12th career hundred from 157 balls, soon afterwards.

The normally free-scoring Whiteley’s rear-guard effort – 10 from 60 deliveries – typified the determination of Worcestershire to cling on.

His resistance came to an end when he nicked the second new ball behind off Gurney.

In came Twohig who came of age in the testing twilight conditions of the final hour and showed great fight and composure before being bowled by Fletcher with four overs left.

But that was the end of Nottinghamshire’s success as Charlie Morris and Clarke held on and now Worcestershire are only 14 points behind seventh placed Yorkshire.