Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Worcs Can Look Back With Pride On Season To Remember

Worcs Can Look Back With Pride On Season To Remember

Worcestershire can look back with great satisfaction on Mission Accomplished after gaining promotion to Division One of the LV County Championship.

Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes' side won seven of the first 12 matches – and eight in total – to ensure a return to the top flight with the county's fifth promotion in 12 seasons.

And it is fair to say that the weather was not kind to them when strongly placed against Hampshire (twice), Kent (away), Surrey (away) and Glamorgan (away).

Worcestershire's achievements made a mockery of bookmakers pre-season odds of 33-1 to gain promotion and one broadsheet writer who predicted they would finish bottom of Division Two.

It was fitting that Rhodes should dedicate promotion to former Academy Director Damian D'Oliveira who passed away in mid-season.

He had played such a role in the development of many members of the current squad.

But Rhodes himself deserves great credit for putting the accent on youth after the departure of several established players at the end of the 2009 season.

He has formed a sound and effective partnership with assistant coach and bowling coach Matt Mason which has been further augmented by Kevin Sharp and Elliott Wilson's arrival as second eleven and academy coach respectively.

It is fair to say that the retirement of paceman Alan Richardson in February after collecting more than 250 Championship wickets in the previous four seasons was a big blow.

But the response to this setback was a positive one from the county's bowlers and it is testament to their efforts that Richardson was not missed.

Charlie Morris came into the side and finished with 52 Championship wickets, Jack Shantry 56 and the combined Gareth Andrew-Joe Leach tally 53.

They all complimented the spinning skills of Saeed Ajmal who finished with 63 wickets from just nine appearances.

It was a superb effort by Morris and he and Shantry both bowled nearly 500 Championship overs.

Andrew started the season with the new ball in superb form with 20 wickets from four matches before his back problem.

But Leach proved a capable deputy and has graduated into a genuine all-rounder after previously appearing to be a batsman who bowls a bit.

On the batting front skipper Daryl Mitchell led from the front with more than 1,300 runs and five centuries and he showed immense concentration and determination.

Moeen Ali showed his class when available although England commitments meant he could play in only half the 16 matches.

But the county's most experienced batting duo were well backed up for the majority of the season by a predominantly young batting line-up.

Alexei Kervezee had a far better campaign after the disappointments of 2013 while Tom Fell and his flat-mate Tom Kohler-Cadmore, who was playing schools cricket a year ago, showed great promise.

Fell scored two Championship hundreds and Kohler-Cadmore fell one short of reaching three figures for the first time against Leicestershire at New Road.

Ben Cox made significant strides forward with his gloves, earning glowing praise from James Foster, and with the bat as he achieved his maiden 100 against Hampshire.

The crucial factor was that for three quarters of the season someone always stepped up to the plate to make a crucial contribution when it was most needed.

For example, the century by Kervezee on a green wicket on the first day against Leicestershire at Grace Road should not be under-estimated.

Then Jack Shantry's Bothamesque performance with bat and ball against Surrey to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat – and secure promotion – at New Road will be remembered for years to come.

Now attention will shortly start to turn to the demanding challenges ahead in 2015 and no-one denies it will take another superb effort from all involved to survive in the top flight.

The county have already recruited Alex Gidman from Gloucestershire to help with that quest.

But the warm glow of what has been achieved this season will keep many a member and supporter going through the dark winter months ahead.

John Curtis

Website Editor