Moeen short of work after Worcestershire collapse
Warwickshire 340 (Bell 111, Shantry 5-92) beat Worcestershire 243 (Clarke 50, Barker 4-65) and 80 (Rankin 3-23, Barker 3-26) by an innings and 17 runs
James Whitaker will have gleaned little that he did not already know from his visit to New Road. Ian Bell made a century, the 50th of his career in first-class cricket, and Worcestershire collapsed miserably to an innings defeat, which is sadly not a rarity either.
What the national selector wanted to see, you supposed, was a little more of Moeen Ali bowling, given that the purpose of the England offspinner's return to red-ball county duty was to get in some overs. Yet Moeen's ration, curiously, in a Warwickshire first innings spanning almost 92 overs was limited to six.
This might look like an odd state of affairs, although Daryl Mitchell, the Worcestershire captain, should be cut some slack. He had Saaed Ajmal back for his first Championship match of the season, and having reaped the benefits of the Pakistan offspinner's 63 wickets in nine matches last year he was hardly likely to ask him to play second fiddle to Moeen.
In the event, Ajmal bowled 17 overs and conceded 82 runs without taking a wicket, which raised immediate questions over whether the powers he could summon up before his action was deemed illegal have gone. The remodelled version appeared to hold no mysteries for anyone.
Moeen might have been given another chance in the second innings but none was required after Worcestershire were bowled out inside 33 overs for 80, the lowest all out total for the county since the match against Warwickshire in 2012 when they were dismissed for 60 and Warwickshire clinched the title.
Bell, who made 111 before he was leg before to Jack Shantry as one of five wickets for the left-arm seamer, looked in good order. To say he has been dropped by England is not really accurate. His omission from the one-day series is more a case of allowing him a break from the treadmill after a relatively lean run of form in the Test side and to suggest he is fighting for a place in the Ashes series is an exaggeration.
In any event, this was an impressive statement of his wellbeing. The way this match concluded may give the impression of a one-sided contest but Warwickshire had been 35 for 4 on Sunday evening before Bell had settled in and on the second morning a difficult opening session had to be negotiated.
Bell was hit on the hand by one that jumped off a length from Shantry, who had Tim Ambrose caught behind by Ben Cox, standing up, and should have seen off Rikki Clarke by the same method when the allrounder was on 9, only for the wicketkeeper to let the ball slip through his hands. Clarke had a second escape before lunch, dropped at second slip off Charlie Morris. But Bell, a model of concentration and exemplary footwork, completed his hundred from 181 balls with three to midwicket off Ajmal in the fourth over after lunch.
The evidence is that returning to county cricket usually brings Bell back into form. In his last nine appearances for Warwickshire, he has not failed to make at least a half-century in one innings and four times gone on to make a hundred, something he acknowledged afterwards.
"Yes it has been a tricky few Tests but it is not that long ago that I made my last hundred for England and I hope to be part of that for a while to come," he said. "I have been through highs and lows with England and you go in and out of form and it is nice sometimes to step away from the spotlight, work hard in the nets and hopefully with a bit of form I can get into the Ashes and hit the ground running."
Bell shared partnerships of 71 with Ambrose and 135 with Clarke, as Worcestershire's optimism of Sunday evening began to dissolve. After Bell and Clarke had ensured that Warwickshire would have a lead, Keith Barker stretched it to 97 with an unbeaten 50 off 54 balls.
It was a good lead on a pitch that you felt was likely to help Jeetan Patel as the sun grew in intensity but Worcestershire must have felt they could make a game of it, at least. Instead, they were abject and most of the damage was done even before the New Zealand offspinner became involved. Chris Wright, later to hold a very good catch from a steepler put up by Shantry, removed Mitchell and Richard Oliver in his second over. Moeen pulled him for six but was the bowled pushing at one from Barker and a sense of impending doom seemed to descend in that moment.
Resistance was almost non-existent as Boyd Rankin bowled Tom Fell and then Alex Gidman, gaining a third success when Joe Clarke prodded at one outside off stump that Bell caught at third slip. Barker added a couple more to give him seven in the match and Patel wrapped things up, the match ending in the 33rd over of the innings when Charlie Morris hit Patel tamely to mid-off.
Warwickshire, for the moment, climb to second in the table. Worcestershire, who have lost eight times in a row now to their nearest neighbours, have been competitive in several matches so far and have that win over Somerset in the bank. but they will need to shake this out of their system quickly.