Worcestershire fall short in chase
Middlesex 206 (Dexter 48, Andrew 3-42, Shantry 2-25) beat Worcestershire 182 (Solanki 61, Berg 4-24) by 24 runs
Middlesex's buoyant start in the County Championship spilled over into the limited-overs arena when they began their Clydesdale Bank 40 campaign with a 24-run victory over Worcestershire at New Road. Unbeaten leaders in Division Two in the four-day game, the Panthers made five changes after beating Derbyshire on Saturday but their re-jigged bowling line-up was up to the task in defending a total of 206.
Despite a free-flowing 61 from 58 balls by Vikram Solanki, Worcestershire could muster only 182 as both teams had problems on a sluggish surface.
Middlesex earlier reached 157 for 3 before losing seven wickets for 49 in 11.1 overs and the home side completely lost their way after Solanki and Moeen Ali had launched their challenge with a stand of 78 in 12.5 overs. Offspinner Ollie Rayner removed the openers in quick succession and the innings went into reverse gear.
In a disciplined bowling performance Middlesex gave nothing away as Toby Roland-Jones took 2 for 28 and allrounder Gareth Berg cleaned up with a one-day best of 4 for 24 in seven overs. James Cameron provided the only resistance, token as it was, until he was last out for 41, having edged the previous ball from Tim Murtagh for the only boundary since the 15th over.
For Worcestershire, already beaten twice on their return to Division One in the Championship, this disappointing performance was reminiscent of last year when they began this competition with seven consecutive defeats.
There was an early knock-back to confidence with an unhappy return to first-team cricket for Richard Jones. The former England Under-19 seamer was unfairly heckled by some of his own supporters as he conceded 33 runs in three overs, although he got a wicket with Solanki's head-high slip catch to dismiss Dawid Malan.
The impressive Jack Shantry compensated with 2 for 25 from a full ration. Paul Stirling, the Irishman who made a World Cup century in 70 balls against the Netherlands, was caught at short third man for 21 and Scott Newman (34) crashed a loose delivery to mid-off.
Middlesex got over these mishaps but then lost direction as soon as Worcestershire's spinners had broken the biggest partnership of 72 with two wickets in the space of four deliveries. Berg, who straight-drove the only six of the day in making 31, opened the door when he was bowled off stump by Moeen and Neil Dexter (48) gave up his wicket with an ill-timed chip to long-on off Shaaiq Choudhry.
Australian Tom Scollay and wicketkeeper Ben Scott were only other batsmen to reach double figures as Gareth Andrew claimed three of the last four wickets.