Richard Clark in Kidderminster
This is an intriguing season for Worcestershire, who last season achieved the notable distinction of suffering relegation to Division 3 in 50 over cricket, whilst simultaneously earning T20 promotion to Division 1.
Thus far the county has made good strides towards the aim of regaining their second tier Championship place, and that continued with a third win from four games in glorious Kidderminster sunshine against Shropshire on Sunday.
In the end it was a comfortable – but not flawless – victory by 114 runs, built on a textbook batting performance. Electing to bat after winning the toss, the Pears got off to a solid start. But the loss in quick succession of Chloe Hill and captain Lauren Rowles left them 62 for 3 in the 19th over and needing a partnership.
It came from Clare Boycott (53) and Issy Wong (49), who bedded themselves in before beginning the acceleration as the third 50 came in just seven overs. Rachel Howells continued the good work alongside first Wong and then Ellie Fleck, whilst Emily Arlott contributed 14 off ten balls at the end.
Seven fours off the final 14 balls of the innings helped Worcestershire to an imposing 249-6 (their fifth highest Championship score), with the impressive Howells finishing 64 not out from 54 balls. It had been a perfectly-paced innings, showing the value of wickets in hand allowing batsmen to “catch up” after a patient start. Worcestershire had been 81-3 at halfway.
It felt like enough, and perhaps Worcestershire thought that too as they helped Shropshire along in the early overs with some wayward bowling, allowing the visitors to keep ahead of the required rate largely through the wides column.
Ashleigh Heath played a decent hand with 32 but partners came and went at the other end and although it wasn’t until the 29th over that Shropshire’s “worm” dipped below that of their opponents, and by that stage they were seven wickets down and fighting a lost cause.
Off-spinner Izzy Watson was chief tormentor, rattling through the middle order as she had done against Leicestershire a week earlier, adding 5-29 to her 6-21 from that match, whilst Wong showed good pace in conceding just 12 runs in her seven overs.
For the visitors, Zoe Griffiths and Jordi Matthews deserved credit as they dug in for the ninth wicket, Griffiths ending as second-highest scorer with 18, but Shropshire were never able to lift the rate to any extent once Worcestershire tightened up their bowling, and were eventually bowled out for 135 in the 37th over.
Worcestershire will be happy with the win, which moves them to the top of Group E, but will know that such profligacy with the ball could cost them against the tougher challenges of Staffordshire and Leicestershire next weekend.
Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68