Shankar issue overshadows on-field action
Worcestershire 77 for 2 v Nottinghamshire 223
Just as Kate Middleton would have been conspicuous by her absence had she not been at the Royal Wedding, Adrian Shankar was conspicuous by his absence at New Road. It's not that he was expected - he certainly was not - but the repercussions of Shankar-gate continue to be felt here. And throughout English cricket.
In the latest development, the England and Wales Cricket Board will launch an internal investigation into the background and implications of the case. While it seems that Worcestershire will escape censure - no-one is claiming they have been anything other than naive - there is concern over how easy it was for a man to doctor a photocopy of his passport and talk his way into a two-year county contract. Worcestershire, at least, feel that the ECB failed to carry out all the usual checks with due diligence.
Whether the club are completely beyond reproach is debatable. Shankar actually represented the county's second XI in 2003 and, at the time, gave his date of birth as May 1982. When he reappeared this season, however, it had changed to May 1985. It seems no-one at New Road bothered to cross-check the information.
Worcestershire might also reflect upon how they came to sign a player with such a modest record in second XI cricket. Yes, they were duped by records purporting to show Shankar's success in Sri Lanka - similar fictitious records exist suggesting a prolific season in the Central Lancashire League - but he must have also impressed in the nets.
That's a bit of a surprise. As Mike Green, the President of Bedfordshire County Cricket Club, put it: "Frankly we were amazed when we found out he was signing for Worcestershire because he would have struggled to get into our side. He hasn't been good enough to get into our first XI for a good six or seven years."
Either way, Worcestershire have confirmed that they have released Shankar without paying him a penny and that they would not have signed him had they known he was over 26. Quite what the ECB intend to do about the young player incentive payment due to the club for fielding Shankar in the Championship match against Durham remains unclear.
Lancashire's role is also unclear. Shankar first lied about his age during his time at Old Trafford, but exactly when the club became aware of that - and why they decided to remain silent - is something of a mystery.
In an unlikely twist, Shankar has now claimed that he fears for his safety. Declining to speak on the phone after claiming his line might have been bugged - quite who by is hard to say - he sent a series of texts stating: "I have a family with young nephews and nieces and our safety is at risk here… I have already notified the police… I need to secure the safety of my family."
With the talented Mr Shankar, however, it's sometimes hard to tell where the lies end and the truth starts.
Meanwhile, 12 wickets fell on the first day of Worcestershire's Championship match against Nottinghamshire. On a pitch offering substantial assistance and some variable bounce, ball dominated bat throughout and Nottinghamshire's first innings score of 223 may not prove to be too far below par.
Only two men rose above the surface to make batting look a pleasurable business. For Nottinghamshire, Rikki Wessels, the 25-year-old former Northants player who is making his Championship debut for the champions, made a pleasing 67 containing 10 crisply-hit fours and a short-arm pull for six off Alan Richardson.
Generally, however, Worcestershire experienced seamers - Richardson, Damien Wright and, to a lesser extent, Gareth Andrew, exploited the conditions expertly. Maintaining a probing line on off stump, they lured Akhil Patel into a loose drive before Mark Wagh, Samit Patel and Adam Voges were also lured into edges off fine balls that left them sharply.
Wessels and Paul Franks played across straight balls and when Chris Read's spirited defiance was ended by another fine catch by the excellent Ben Scott - his fifth of the innings - Nottinghamshire's tail fell away quickly.
Vikram Solanki led Worcestershire reply with a sparkling half-century. Timing the ball superbly off front and back foot, Solanki produced some delightful drives as well as one powerful pull for six. In partnership with the stubborn Matt Pardoe (93 minutes for his 13 runs so far), Solanki added 65 for Worcestershire's second wicket and was only undone by a horrid delivery that kept impossibly low. That it was easily the highest stand of the day speaks volumes: this pitch is decidedly lively and batting is likely to remain tricky.