Smith guides Worcestershire run chase
Worcestershire 172 for 5 dec and 337 for 4 (Smith 98*, Moore 65) beat Yorkshire 319 and 188 for 5 (Rudolph 92*, Rashid 73*, Ali 4-40) by six wickets
Worcestershire registered their first Championship win of the season in superb fashion. Set 336 to win in 65 overs by Yorkshire at Kidderminister, they applied a mixture of courage and good fortune in racing home by six wickets with eight overs to spare, in what was inevitably a declaration match. It was a good team performance, with Ben Smith's top score of 98 not out sealing the victory.
Yorkshire resumed their second innings on a shaky 32 for 4. The day began with a wicket, as Doug Bollinger yorked Gerard Brophy for his overnight 13. Then the balance swung back in Yorkshire's favour, as Jacques Rudolph and Adil Rashid responded aggressively. Rudolph produced many aggressive drives through the covers, one of them bring him his fifty off 63 balls, while Rashid, not content to rest on the laurels of his first innings century, looked like a specialist batsman as he played with vigour and maturity. The bowlers began to look innocuous as the batsman scored almost at will, but they did better than they had first time round in conceding only four extras, compared to 48. Kabir Ali this time lacked the inspiration to break through.
Yorkshire, as desperate for victory as Worcestershire, declared at 188 for 5 and Worcestershire were left to score 336 to win in a minimum of 65 overs; some felt this generous on a good pitch, but the home team's batting has not inspired much confidence this season.
They were given a cracking start by Phil Jaques, who hammered 44 runs off 33 balls, mixing powerful drives with boundary snicks and actually having 40 on the board, out of 49, before his partner Stephen Moore, who had little of the strike, got off the mark. He was out in the ninth over (62 for 1), but his innings was crucial. It set the spirit for the run chase and Worcestershire never lost it.
Vikram Solanki found some good form with a brisk 44, while Moore played the anchor role with 65. Graeme Hick helped with 31, including three fours in an over from Darren Gough, but the man to see the side home was Smith, whose place in the side had been questioned due to his poor form. He was left stranded on 98 at the end, denied the century he deserved for an innings full of strokes all round the wicket and superb running.
Worcestershire did enjoy considerable luck, scoring quite a proportion of runs through edges that all seemed to reach the boundary, but fortune favoured the brave; Yorkshire, for their part, were at times sloppy in the field. Rashid was unable to follow his batting scores with bowling success; though the attack never fell to pieces, neither did it ever look dangerous.
County matches are always difficult when much time is lost to the weather, but the two captains, Solanki and Gough, deserve credit for doing the best they could to turn a lemon into lemonade, and bringing about a good finish without reducing the play at any time to a farce. For Worcestershire, although still bottom of the table, the victory will lift their spirits; for Yorkshire, the result will almost certainly extinguish their Championship hopes for this year.