Worcestershire v Surrey, New Road, 2nd day

Worcestershire take points as Pietersen nets in rain

George Dobell at New Road

May 10, 2012

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Worcestershire 285 (Ali 61, Cameron 52) v Surrey
Scorecard


Moeen Ali plays a sweep shot, Worcestershire v Surrey, County Championship, Division One, 2nd day, New Road, May 10, 2012
Moeen Ali reached a half-century as Worcestershire began to address a dismal batting record this season © Getty Images
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On the face of things a first innings total of 285 looks a modest achievement. Bear in mind, however, that Worcestershire had before now failed to pass 157 in their first innings this season and their effort here appears more significant.

Worcestershire's batsmen have struggled this season. Until this game, they had managed only three scores over 50 between them and they were one of only two sides - Glamorgan were the other - without a single batting bonus point.

Now they have two. Not only that, but two more batsmen - Moeen Ali and James Cameron - contributed half-centuries and Vikram Solanki produced his best innings of a trying summer. On a pitch that had freshened up under the covers, batting was never straightforward and their total may prove about par.

Despite losing both openers within five balls early on the second day - Daryl Mitchell, stuck in the crease and playing on and Michael Klinger, beaten by one that nipped back - the pair had, at least partially, done their job. Solanki and Moeen were able to come in against a softer ball and added 102 for the third wicket, Worcestershire's second century partnership in the Championship this season.

Moeen remains an outside shot for a place on the India tour. His cricket, both with bat and ball, is certainly easy on the eye and his ability to bowl the doosra gives him an edge. Even in this innings, however, when he overcame a truculent surface to produce some lovely strokes, he showed a propensity to flash outside off stump and his dismissal, drawn into prodding at a fine short ball he could have left, suggests there is still work to be done adding substance to his style.

That wicket may prove to be the first of many for George Edwards. He is raw, certainly, but he has enormous potential and, at 19, has time to improve. In Tim Linley and Jon Lewis, immaculate in their line and length on the second day, he also has fine role models.

This was an important innings from Solanki, too. He is out of contract at the end of this season and his highest score in his seven previous Championship innings was just 22. While he has indicated that he is keen to carry on, his last contract, which made him Worcestershire's highest paid player, was signed during the boom years. His next deal will surely have to reflect the harsher economic times.

Familiar frailties were still apparent from the hosts. From 199 for 3, Worcestershire lost six wickets for 55 runs before an entertaining tenth-wicket stand of 31 between Cameron and Alan Richardson, who passed 1,000 first-class runs in his career with a cover drive that would have pleased Sobers. Cameron eventually fell to a catch on the boundary leaving Richardson stranded 87 short of a maiden century.

Kevin Pietersen, meanwhile, was obliged to take a net in the rain. Still awaiting his first bat in England for nine months, he was limited to one over of spin bowling and took his chance to bat in the nets when play was disrupted by rain. He did produce one moment of excellence in the field, though, swooping at cover and producing a fine throw over the top of the stumps to allow Steve Davies to run out Ben Scott after James Cameron called for an optimistic single.

Is it relevant that Scott and Davies are out of contract at the end of the season? It may be. The financial climate of county cricket has changed significantly since Davies left New Road for the Oval in a deal that made him one of county cricket's highest paid players. Wherever he plays his cricket, he will surely have to accept a pay cut and many at New Road would love to see him return. Scott, though a worthy keeper, has a highest score of just 13 this season.

Surrey rarely lose a player they want to keep. The salary cap and the club's productive youth system may have created remarkable competition for places. But they have several high profile players out of contract this year - Mark Ramprakash and Chris Tremlett among them - and it may well be that places and budget becomes available.

Worcestershire were also buoyed by news that Phil Hughes, the Australian left-hander, will be available as planned from May 27 for the rest of the season. The club had feared that Hughes might be involved in the Australia A side, but the Australian selectors have decided to give experience of English conditions to as many players as possible and allowed Hughes and Usman Khawaja to play county cricket.

Gareth Andrew, meanwhile, who underwent knee surgery over the winter was said by Steve Rhodes, the Worcestershire director of cricket, to have "an outside chance" of featuring in next week's Championship match against Sussex.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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