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Cricket: Worcester crumble to three-day defeat
[May 13, 2006]

Cricket: Worcester crumble to three-day defeat

(The Birmingham Post Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)Pre-season optimism seems a distant memory after Worcestershire crashed to their second consecutive home defeat in Division Two of the County Championship.

Vikram Solanki's side followed up a disappointing 227-run loss to Somerset with an entertaining but ultimately distressing reverse to a rejuvenated Derbyshire outfit.

They might have shared 18 wickets between them on this, the third, day but these two teams appear to be moving in opposite directions.

The visitors remain unbeaten but Worcestershire sit bottom of Division Two with a paltry eight points. With Surrey to visit next the arrival of Australian batsman Phil Jaques cannot come quick enough.

The fact that they came within a decent stand of winning this match should not be allowed to paper over the cracks. They owe their proximity on the scoreboard to a kamikaze last-wicket stand of 60 in less than nine overs.

When Ray Price and Nadeem Malik came together on 114 for nine the match was up, although the Zimbabwean pulled, cut and hoiked his way to an enjoyable half-century.

They were chasing a total of 210 after Derbyshire had been skittled for 149 in their second innings but in truth their batting could not withstand the vagaries of difficult pitch and humid overhead conditions, which offered massive assistance to the bowlers.

Graeme Welch and Steffan Jones took four wickets apiece and, Price aside, the home resistance crumbled.

But Steve Rhodes, the Worcestershire coach, believed the match turned on the Derbyshire first innings in which they scored 338. "I thought that was 40 or 50 runs too many and you can't play catch-up in four-day cricket, you have to nail things in the first innings," he said

He refused to be downcast about his team's plight, however, saying: "I am disappointed rather than concerned. This season is a marathon not a sprint - there are a lot of games to play and if you start getting into a downward spiral it is difficult to escape."

He was pleased with his new-ball pairing of Kabir Ali and Zaheer Khan who took all but two wickets between them, nine each.

Where Zaheer was the star of the first day, Kabir did most of the damage yesterday. He bowled beautifully and fully deserved his seven for 43 and his best return since he took eight for 53 at Scarborough nearly three years ago.

Not only did he harness the conditions expertly, he worked up a real head of steam that had some observers claiming it was the fastest he had bowled in recent memory.

Starting at 68 for two, Derbyshire quickly lost their first wicket, the dangerous Travis Birt being caught behind off Zaheer with the score on 75. The first card had been removed and the whole house caved in.

Hasan Adnan decided to withdraw his bat too late and Kabir found its edge offering Hick a fiendishly difficult chance which he accepted with great athleticism.

Kabir was energised. Zaheer knocked the next one over but it was the England international who dominated as he raced through the visitors' middle and lower order. He claimed all five of the remaining wickets. Michael Di Venuto leant forward and found Hick as did Mo Sheikh before Jamie Pipe became only the second batsman to be bowled in three days.

Although he had only 12 to his name the former Worcestershire wicketkeeper can be well pleased with his first return to New Road.

As well as an immensely satisfying 57 on the first day, he took eight catches and effected a stumping in the two innings. It was an eloquent response to his critics here.

Mitchell caught Steffan Jones just before lunch and when the batsmen re-emerged Ian Hunter had his stumps redistributed to become Kabir's seventh scalp.

That left the hosts needing 210 to win, eminently makea-ble in normal conditions but the devil's own job for a side short on runs and confidence and in a chase that would be interrupted by three rain-breaks.

They set about their task well as Stephen Moore tucked into Hunter with great relish, 27 runs and extras coming off his two overs.

Worcestershire werecruising at 45 for no wicket and looked as though they might go on to claim their first championship win of the season. But once they lost their first wicket the cancer had taken hold.

Four went down in the space of 12 balls for the addition of only five runs. First to go was Moore, caught by Pipe off Jones, then Mitchell went the same way to Welch.

Next up Solanki was sent packing by a desperation dive from Steve Stubbings at first slip a split-second before the ball went to ground.

By the time Hick had gloved a heinous delivery from Jones that kicked like a mule from just short of a length, the home team were 51 for four and defeat was a question of when not if.

Ben Smith flirted with resistance, Steve Davies didn't even get that far and Roger Sillence, Kabir and Zaheer didn't stick around. In the end Price and Malik's cameo was all for nought.

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