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Worcestershire captain Daryl Mitchell scored 172 not out as his side pressed for an improbable win against Hampshire in their opening game of the LV = County Championship season.
The skipper’s runs, followed by an early evening declaration, put the Royals into an uncomfortable position on day four. However, they managed to successfully negotiate 40 minutes at the crease, losing just one wicket in the process.
After the opening two days were decimated by rain, this game was seemingly destined for a draw. Worcestershire began the morning session of day four on 103/1 in their first innings with Moeen Ali (27*) and Daryl Mitchell (44*) at the crease.
Trailing the hosts by 160 they set about securing some bonus batting points. This ambition was aided as Mitchell soon brought up his half century in the opening 20 minutes of play. What followed was quite a steady build-up until Ali smashed Liam Dawson’s slow spin for six over long on just before midday.
That maximum kicked the England international - who recently returned from the World T20 in Bangladesh - into gear. Ali’s strokeplay was fluid, with some well timed cuts and flicks providing boundaries.
However, he had a scare on 49 when he was dropped at mid-off by Jimmy Adams. A delicate chip right down the throat of the Hampshire captain should have been held, but Ali’s reprieve allowed him to scamper home for one and bring up his half-century.
By now, he had put on more than 100 for the second wicket with Mitchell, who also began scoring at a quicker rate in the second half of the morning session. Three consecutive half volleys through extra cover resulted in David Balcombe being placed onto the bench of the bowling attack.
Worcestershire continued to close on Hampshire’s total, but lost the wicket of Ali (69) just after securing their first batting bonus point. The England batsman came out of his crease to Dawson, and - attempting another smash over the top - swung and missed the ball, with his middle stump being uprooted in the process.
Debutant, Tom Kohler-Cadmore (2), was the next man in but he was dismissed in the same over. This time Jimmy Adams was able to hold onto an easy catch at mid-off.
While the chances of this game producing a result were still slimmer than Piers Morgan winning a Test cap, the successive wickets did cast some doubt over whether or not the visitors would make the most of a strong foundation, and score as many batting points as possible.
Captain Daryll Mitchell returned to the pavilion for lunch on a nervous 99 not-out. The skipper completed his century soon after the interval, but it wasn’t long before he was again stood at the non-striker’s end, watching a batting partner trundle back to the hutch.
Will Smith’s gentle off-breaks were the demise of Alexei Kervezee, who was caught by Liam Dawson for 10. Spin bowling dominated the early overs of the afternoon session, which then saw Mitchell take control again, this time with Ross Whiteley alongside him.
The left-hander offered some support, scoring 23 before he also picked out Adams at mid-off, this time off Sean Ervine’s bowling to make it 279-5. A third batting point was assured for Worcs before Ben Cox was trapped LBW by Coles for 8.
Coles then got his third wicket of the match later in the same over, utilising the same method of dismissal to send Gareth Andrew back to the pavilion after a second-ball duck. Nevertheless, Mitchell continued his impressive knock to progress to 170* at tea.
Once 350 was reached and another batting point was in the bank, Mitchell called a declaration, leaving his side 26 overs to bowl at the home side, with a lead of 87. Moeen Ali - who also opened the bowling for England in the World T20 - was handed the new ball at 4:20.
He couldn’t find a breakthrough in the first over, as Michael Carberry recovered from a duck in the first innings to record his first runs of the season. But the opener’s shaky start to the season continued as he was edged Moeen Ali straight to Mitchell to go for 6.
Spin continued to operate from both ends, with Matthew Pardoe also bowling as Worcestershire raced through 17 overs, but they failed to take the wicket of Adams or Dawson, and the teams shook hands on a draw at 17:00.
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