Wednesday, July 19th, 2023


Worcestershire’s four-pronged pace attack led a powerful fightback to put their side in the ascendancy by the end of the opening day of the of the LV=Insurance County Championship match with Leicestershire at Oakham School.

Worcestershire reached 178 all out thanks chiefly to the excellent efforts of Gareth Roderick and Jake Libby before lunch on a seamer-friendly pitch, and then the skill and experience of Azhar Ali.

When Leicestershire batted, Matthew Waite and Finch, who added 33 for the last wicket with Dillon Pennington, came on first and second change and picked up two wickets apiece in reducing Leicestershire to 50-5 at one stage.

Pennington added to his scalp with the new ball with two late strikes as Leicestershire closed on 88-8 from 33 overs, still 90 runs in arrears.

It was a day in which virtually every run had to be fought for in conditions weighted heavily in favour of the bowlers if they put the ball in the right areas which was generally the case.

Roderick and Libby gave another example of their flourishing opening partnership and, given the challenges in front of them, their stand of 45 was an outstanding effort.

It meant only one wicket fell before lunch – and their efforts were put into perspective as a further SEVENTEEN tumbled in just two sessions.

Azhar was also made to work for just about every run but showed his quality in scrapping away for 101 balls to make a top score of 34.

Worcestershire made two changes from the side in action against Yorkshire with skipper Brett D’Oliveira and Dillon Pennington replacing Ed Pollock and Ben Gibbon.

They were put into bat by Leicestershire captain Lewis Hill and openers Libby and Roderick showed great application and skill in conditions very much in favour of the bowlers.

They saw off the probing new ball attack of Chris Wright and Matt Salisbury and, when Wiaan Mulder came into the attack, Libby cut and square drove him for boundaries.

The partnership was worth 48 in 15 overs when Libby (24), having taken his run tally to 725 for the campaign, pushed forward to Tom Scriven and was caught behind.

Roderick completed 500 runs for the campaign and new batter Azhar Ali got off the mark in spectacular style by pulling Salisbury for six.

It was job well done during the morning session as Worcestershire reached 74-1 from 27 overs by lunch with Roderick unbeaten on 28 and Azhar Ali 11.

But the picture altered in the immediate aftermath of lunch when three wickets fell for seven runs in the space of 11 balls.

Roderick nicked the second ball after the resumption from Mulder through to keeper Peter Handscomb and Jack Haynes (0) departed first ball to the same combination from a superb delivery which nipped away.

Adam Hose (5) edged Wright to the third man boundary but was lbw in the same over aiming a drive down the ground.

Mulder claimed his third scalp of the afternoon when D’Oliveira was pouched by Colin Ackerman at second slip.

Waite was given a life by Ackermann off Mulder before he had scored and then counter-attacked to pick up three boundaries in an over from Salisbury.

But the all-rounder on 15 looked to turn Salisbury on the leg side and was caught off the outside at second slip in an indication of the movement still evident for the bowlers.

Leach (5) drove at Scriven and also edged to second slip and Josh Baker (8) was strangled down the legside off Salisbury with Handscomb holding onto a fine catch away to his left.

Azhar Ali had showed all his experience and know how to defy the Leicestershire attack and he followed Roderick in passing 500 runs for the season.

But on 34 he played a wristy flick at a delivery from Salisbury after taking a stride down the pitch and departed after Mulder excelled with a brilliant one-handed catch at first slip.

Worcestershire were then 145-9 but Finch (16 not out) again showed his promise with the bat in adding 33 for the final wicket with Pennington (20).

He was dropped at mid-wicket off Scriven but then cut spinner Callum Parkinson for four and a short arm pull against Wright also brought him a boundary.

Pennington, who survived a difficult caught and bowled against Scriven, turned Parkinson through mid-wicket for four and clipped Wright off his legs to the ropes before he was bowled by the pace bowler.

The Worcestershire bowlers also hit their straps when Leicestershire began their reply after tea.

Leach (5-0-15-0) and Pennington (6-4-9-1) asked plenty of questions and the wickets soon started to tumble.

Rishi Patel has hit four Championship hundreds this summer but Pennington found the edge of his bat after making three and keeper Roderick did the rest.

Louis Kimber was dropped at third slip off Leach when on two and Lewis Hill was squared up a delivery from Pennington which lobbed up into the silly point area between the fielders.

But the home side were reduced to 34-4 after three wickets fell in quick succession.

Finch, fresh from his second five-for of the season against Yorkshire, struck with his third delivery when knocking out the leg stump of Lewis Hill (12).

Waite came into the attack and made a double breakthrough.

He hit the top of Kimber’s off stump on 15 and then Ackermann (2) fell to a razor sharp catch by Baker low down at third slip.

There was more joy for Finch with the great sight for a fast bowler of seeing the middle stump cartwheeling out of the ground to account for Handscomb (5).

Leach came back into the attack and brought an end to Mulder’s quickfire 21 with another accurate delivery which bowled him after being caught on the crease.

Pennington ensured it was a positive end to the day for Worcestershire as he had Scriven (0) caught down the legside and then Wright (3) who fenced at a delivery and was taken by Haynes at first slip.

Leach finished with 7-1-17-1 – his 35th wicket of the season – Pennington 11-4-24-3, Waite 6-2-14-2 and Finch 9-2-31-2.