Sunday, April 9th, 2023


Worcestershire are celebrating winning their opening LV=Insurance County Championship match of the season in style after century-maker Jake Libby and Azhar Ali powered them to an eight-wicket win over Derbyshire at the Incora County Ground.

They were set a 192 target after taking the last four Derbyshire wickets for 74 runs in 25.5 overs today, including three for pace bowler Josh Tongue.

Opener Libby and Azhar then batted with great authority during a decisive second wicket stand of 139 as Worcestershire triumphed with 24.5 overs to spare.

Libby had defied the Derbyshire attack for six hours to score an unbeaten hundred and earn Worcestershire a draw in last season’s corresponding fixture in which Azhar also contributed 88 and 60.

This time his century ensured a sparkling win and was completed off 139 balls with one six and 12 fours.

It was Libby’s 13th first class century of his career and his eighth for Worcestershire since making the move to New Road for the 2020 season.

Worcestershire collected a haul of 22 points consisting of 16 for a win, three for batting and three for bowling.

They fought back impressively from a challenging first session with the ball to seize the initiative for large proportions of the rest of the game.

Matthew Waite’s first game since signing for Worcestershire on a permanent basis was a memorable highlight, with a maiden century and five wickets.

But there were many other significant contributions in an impressive start to Alan Richardson’s reign as Head Coach.

Club Captain Brett D’Oliveira, Libby, Jack Haynes, Azhar and tail-ender Ben Gibbon, in a vital last wicket stand of 82 with Waite, played major parts with the bat and Joe Leach and Gibbon with the ball.

Tongue found his rhythm with three wickets in quick succession today, and a superb stumping by Gareth Roderick was also a highlight.

There was also the encouraging sight of Dillon Pennington bowling before the start of play and during the lunch interval after missing this game with a niggle.

Derbyshire resumed on 269-6, and Leus du Plooy and Zak Chappell extended their partnership to 89 before the second new ball – taken at 307-6 from 80 overs – led to a flurry of wickets.

Some brilliant work by Roderick when standing up led to the dismissal of Chappell for 45 off Joe Leach at 324-7.

Chappell tried to play the ball on the on-side, but he overbalanced, and in a flash, Roderick collected the ball down the legside and whipped off the bails to stump the all-rounder.

It was a razor-sharp piece of wicket-keeping to give Leach his fifth wicket of the game.

Ben Aitchison survived a chance before he had scored, but Tongue came into the attack and struck in successive overs.

Aitchison had still not troubled the scorers when he chipped Tongue into the hands of Gibbon at wide mid on.

Sam Conners (4) then drove at Tongue and edged through to Ed Pollock at first slip.

Tongue wrapped up the innings with his third wicket as Suranga Lakmal  (0) was plumb lbw to a ball of full length which swung back in.

It left Du Plooy undefeated on 95 from 138 balls.

Tongue ended with figures of 21.5-0-98-3, Leach 30-7-86-3, D’Oliveira 13-0-37-2, Gibbon 16-2-57-1 and Waite 15-4-56-1.

Ed Pollock was full of attacking intent when Worcestershire set about chasing down their target.

He twice collected fours in the first over from Lakmal with flashing square drives and then guided the same bowler to third man for another boundary.

But on 13, Pollock was caught behind off Aitchison in what was the last ball before lunch, with Worcestershire 17-1 from 3.1 overs.

Libby was joined after the interval by Azhar, and the pair also showed plenty of aggression in maintaining a scoring rate of around five an over for long periods.

Azhar twice cover-drove Chappell to the ropes, and Libby leg glanced Conners for four to bring up a 50 partnership from only 60 balls.

The opener brought up his chanceless half-century from 61 balls with eight boundaries.

Both batters looked in control of the situation, and the 100 partnership was completed from 130 deliveries.

Azhar then went to his 50 from 72 balls when he leg-glanced Matt Lamb for his fifth boundary.

The stand had taken Worcestershire to within 36 runs of victory when it was broken from the final ball of the session.

Azhar, having made 62 from 86 balls with seven fours, was lbw to Chappell to leave Libby undefeated on 77 at tea.

Jack Haynes joined Libby in the middle on the resumption, and the third wicket pair hurried their side towards the finishing line.

Libby advanced to 99 with a straight six off Lamb, and then a single off the same bowler took him to his hundred later in the same over.

He then leg glanced Dal to the boundary for the winning runs.