August 7, 2013

County cricket

Is this it for Worcestershire?

Craig Nicholson
Alexei Kervezee made 44 in 40 balls, Glamorgan v Worcestershire, Friends Life t20, Midlands/Wales/West Group, Cardiff, July, 23, 2013
A hindrance not a help: Twenty20 did not do Worcestershire any favours this year  © Getty Images
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I suppose I should have expected this really. While several of my Supporters Blog counterparts look forward excitedly to the closing weeks of the season I'm left with that familiar feeling of emptiness. Somerset blogger Nicky's brave acceptance of her crickoholism followed by James' joy at an exciting month ahead for Durham only made me feel worse.

Here we are in the second week of August and all Worcestershire fans have to look forward to is the completion of a scar on the landscape masquerading as a hotel. Even the Ashes offers no prospect of a thrilling end to the season following a premature, if slightly clumsy retention for England. Soon the footballing behemoth will engulf us again (not that it ever really went away) and we will be counting down the months until April all over again.

Of course it didn't have to be like this. After a surprisingly impressive first half of the season I hoped against hope that Worcestershire would offer fans at least a gentle push at promotion, only to see our hopes dashed in the late September gloom against a formidable Northamptonshire foe.

The problem of course is that Twenty20 came along and ruined everything. The competition has been declared a success this year with formidable weather and no World Cup to distract people resulting in record crowds - a move to a fixed Friday night slot next year should confirm its resurgence. But after an almost unthinkable quarter-final appearance last summer, Worcestershire reverted to a scattergun approach which resulted in some thumping defeats. Almost inevitably we pulled two improbably victories out of the bag against Somerset and Northants when it mattered not.

After ten years of failure, I view Twenty20 as either a welcome distraction or a frustrating interlude depending on how our season is going. The fact Worcestershire were well-placed in the Championship before the commencement of this season's slogfest ensured my overwhelming feeling towards T20 was one that varied between annoyance and disinterest. I can't be the only one who finds it ridiculous that during weeks of glorious sunshine cricket grounds across the country were sitting empty until teatime.

The Championship challenge was undone during a mad half hour at Cheltenham where the Pears collapsed from 18 for 0 to 22 for 6, which paved the way for an inevitable defeat. A drab, rain-affected draw against Kent over the weekend simply put to bed any faint hopes of a worthwhile season's end.

There have been positives - two very big plusses in fact in the shape of Joe Leach and Tom Fell. The patchy form of the middle order has given the two youngsters an opportunity to make a name for themselves, which they have done quite superbly. Leach's maiden first-class ton was the shining light of the Gloucestershire defeat while Fell was denied the chance to reach the same milestone in just his fifth first-class match by Monday's rain.

The worry is that, for whatever reason, they don't go on to great things at New Road as is seemingly the case with the talented yet troubled Alexei Kervezee and former England under-19 international Aneesh Kapil. 20-year-old Kapil has rarely featured this season and he seems set to leave at the end of the season after turning down a new contract. Meanwhile another miserable season in first-class cricket for Dutchman Kervezee places a big question mark over his future.

I predicted a season of rebuilding, with disappointment along the way but reasons to believe 2014 would offer greater hope. The dozen dead games that remain may not excite this supporter but they do give the coaching staff an extended period to decide which players are good enough to make Worcestershire a stronger side next summer.

On the whole we are a patient set of fans who understand the club must live within its means. But another season of disappointment on the pitch may be the final straw for many. We're more interested in premier innings than Premier Inns.

Craig Nicholson describes himself as a cricket writer masquerading as a magazine sub-editor. Guilty of excessive hashtagging on Twitter here

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Craig Nicholson
Craig Nicholson describes himself as a cricket writer masquerading as a magazine sub-editor. After spending five years exiled and educated in Yorkshire, he returned to his roots in rural Worcestershire. He was brought up on a diet of Glenn McGrath and Graeme Hick, successive Lord's finals (okay, we lost them both) and the most beauteous setting in world cricket. These days he is just happy if he can get through a summer without the ground flooding. @CraigSWFC

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