Worcestershire Head Coach Alex Gidman praised Ed Barnard’s superb 163 not out against Nottinghamshire as “one of the finest innings I’ve seen.”
Barnard defied a top class attack in Stuart Broad, Luke Fletcher and Dane Paterson, who shared all 20 wickets in the LV=Insurance County Championship encounter at Trent Bridge.
It proved to be in vain as Worcestershire, without the injured pace bowler Dillon Pennington, fought hard and went down by five wickets.
But Gidman saw a massive improvement compared to the performance in the corresponding game last season despite Nottinghamshire having a far more experienced side.
He said: “All the players, we work as hard as we can with them, and Ed puts in a huge shift.
“We made quite a big change with him mentally a year, 18 months ago, in being a batter who bowls as opposed to a bowler who bats.
“We started to put a lot more work into his batting and, massive credit to him. He has put the hard yards in and has got the rewards now quite consistently since he moved up to number six.
“This innings today was one of the finest I’ve seen, with great discipline, great shot selection, chanceless I think, and he was supported with some really healthy contributions throughout.”
Worcestershire pushed their opponents all the day despite having only three front-line seamers and spinner Josh Baker.
Gidman said: “We are a bit raw at the moment, and disappointed to be on the losing side of things but a really good game, extremely competitive with great skills on show.
“The character and resilience we have shown at times has been unbelievable alongside some great skill.
“I’m really delighted with so much of the game and just gutted for the guys that we didn’t quite do enough at certain times to get ourselves in an even better position.
“I just can’t fault the effort or the application throughout the game. It was a great effort and we came so close.
“I firmly believe that we are an improving team and Nottinghamshire’s players had something like 1200 first class games between them and we have 700, of which 250 is from Azhar Ali, so there is a huge difference in experience.
“But I thought we competed extremely well. If we wind back the clock 12 months, we got absolutely pumped when we came here in two days.
“That is a remarkably improved performance and one we can be proud of. We are disappointed we lost the game, and that is a hugely different mindset to when we left here last year.”
On Pennington’s injury, Gidman said: ““Dillon picked up a niggle in the first innings which sadly got worse and worse.
“We don’t know the extent of it yet but it was obviously why he was unable to bowl today.
“These things happen occasionally but we are fortunate with Josh (Baker) in the team that we have got that out and out spin option.
“It was a real tough challenge for him today but I know he will have learnt a huge amount from these last three days. It was tough without the extra bowler.”
Gidman expects Joe Leach to be back to face Durham at New Road starting on Thursday after he missed this game through illness.
He said: “Joe missed this game with a really bad stomach bug and he was in no state to play, but all things being equal, he will be available again (for Durham).”