After two frustrating draws on docile pitches, Warwickshire finally got their Championship season under way with a decisive 181-run win over local rivals Worcestershire at Edgbaston.
Jeetan Patel’s 4/69 included his 500th first class wicket, while he was well supported by Keith Barker (3/42) and Boyd Rankin, whose figures of 2/62 did not give him full reward for some hostile bowling.
For Worcestershire, Ben Cox continued his good form with a stylish 44 and Daryl Mitchell battled hard for almost four hours but no-one else threatened to deny the Bears the victory they deserved after dominating the match from Day One.
After the match, Warwickshire’s Director of Cricket Dougie Brown expressed his delight at having won against a Worcestershire side who had come into the game in a buoyant mood on the back of a victory against Somerset. “It’s going to be an incredibly competitive Championship this year,” he told Deep Extra Cover. “All we can do is play solid cricket and see what happens. It’s bound to be an exciting season.”
Worcestershire started the final day of this match on 89/2, a long way from their notional target of 349 and also many a long hour from the safety of a draw, which was realistically their only aim.
A stiff breeze and a mix of sun and cloud did not promise much swing for the Warwickshire quick men and so it proved. Nightwatchman Charlie Morris took 19 balls to get off the mark then had a life when he fended off Keith Barker into and out of Ian Westwood’s hands at short leg. Much good did it do him, however, as he immediately edged the same bowler into the safe hands of Rikki Clarke in the slips. The hallmark of a good nightwatchman, as of a true gentleman, is that he knows when to leave and Morris obviously decided that this was a job for the proper batsmen.
Tom Fell played some pleasing shots, stroking two half volleys from Barker for off-side boundaries. He then cut Chris Wright for another four to raise the thought that maybe 349 in the day might just be possible. By the end of the first hour, Worcestershire were 126/3, having added 38 runs off 14 overs.
Rankin was bowling with much life and energy and when Patel joined him in the attack, it seemed clear that the match was entering a crucial phase. Fell pulled a short ball from Rankin for six but the Irishman, newly-fledged as an all-rounder, got his reward for some wholehearted bowling when Mitchell could only fend off a lifting delivery to give Clarke his second catch of the innings. Alex Gidman almost ran himself out trying to get off the mark and then Fell, having batted so promisingly, spoilt it by playing across a good length ball from Patel to be trapped lbw. He became the third person in the innings so far to fall for 33. Gidman, still on nought, was saved by a thin edge when plumb in front to another excellent delivery from Rankin so Worcestershire tottered into lunch on 148/5.
After lunch, Gidman’s skittish innings continued with a couple of edges off Patel. He then tried a clumsy pull to a straight ball from the New Zealander and was lbw for 12. It was Patel’s 500th first class wicket in a career that, like a sturdy dahlia, remains in full autumn bloom.
Cox struck Patel for two off-side fours. and then swept two more to give notice that he was not going to go down without a fight. At the other end, though, Clarke, taking over from Rankin, compelled a false shot from Alexei Kervezee and Laurie Evans, falling to his right,took a good two handed catch in the gully. Worcestershire were now 188/7.
Ben Cox continued his good run of form by playing some decisive shots off Patel but flashed at him and edged to Tim Ambrose. We then enjoyed a lively last wicket stand of 32 during which the new ball was taken, Rankin was clubbed for six by Joe Leach and Patel found himself in the unusual position of bowling the second over with the new ball. It was too good to last. Sachithra Senanayake edged Keith Barker to Varun Chopra at slip and the Pears were all out for 255, leaving the Bears victorious by 181 runs.
Warwickshire will be delighted with their leap up the table whilst Worcestershire will be worried that maybe the Somerset win was just a flash in the pan.