Kervezee fights Moeen, Mitchell deficit
Worcestershire 175 for 4 (Kervezee 65*) v Hampshire
Being shorn of Moeen Ali after his selection in the squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka next week was always going to elicit a mixture of pride and worry for Worcestershire supporters. Sitting top of Division Two, their success with the bat has very much been dependent on Moeen and Daryl Mitchell.
There was a moment before lunch that seemed to sum it all up quite neatly. With Mitchell already gone, Moeen, in training garb and pads, wandered around the outfield, greeted with applause as he passed each stand on his way to the main pavilion. He is set to be the county's first Test cricketer since Gareth Batty. In wishing him every success, they are well aware they may see little of him for the rest of the season.
With his family present, Moeen took the ovation with good grace, before practising his offspinners on an outer strip. At the time, his county were 85 for 2, having battled through a morning session in which Hampshire's attack bowled with good lines and patience.
A Moeen-less Worcestershire is a lesser team, but it was the early loss of Mitchell - the country's leading Championship run-scorer - that was a bigger blow in the context of the game. As evidenced this season, his presence has a huge bearing on their success, with his knack of accumulating runs via a sound and thorough game.
But David Balcombe, a brute of a bowler with a grunt that would make French Open champion Maria Sharapova blush, forced one to nip away from Mitchell, who had committed to a drive and edged through to Michael Bates. And so it fell to the others to share the burden, or at least try to, as Matt Coles and James Tomlinson, entrusted with attacking fields, operated from over and around the wicket, to good effect.
Matt Pardoe, on 4 from 22 balls, was lucky to survive when he nicked the ball between first and second slip, when Coles got one to deck across him. The reprieve, of sorts, loosened him up, as he thrashed behind point for another boundary in Coles' next over. But, having looked set, he played down the wrong line to Tomlinson and was trapped in front, much to his disappointment.
Tom Fell and Ross Whiteley did not fare much better, though the latter was responsible for a ball change when he hit Danny Briggs over midwicket for a big six.
It was only really Alexei Kervezee who provided staunch resistance and then a flow of runs to ensure that Hampshire did not claim all the glory on this rain-addled day. As the only member of the XI with a Championship century this season, his assurance compared to his middle-order teammates was apparent in his ability to hit effective release shots. He timed the ball off his pads well, and was the only batsman to show enough conviction to drive Coles through the off side and allow the slick outfield to do the rest.
Once he had reached his half-century off 97 balls, he looked to be picking up the pace with a fine charge and drive over the head of Briggs for the day's second maximum. His partnership with Ben Cox could well be the innings' last pairing of substance, as they saw out the day thanks to a downpour that cancelled out all but one over of the final session.