Solanki and Ali tons force draw
Worcestershire 405 for 3 dec (Solanki 206*, Ali 153) drew with Yorkshire 460 for 6 dec (Rudolph 198, McGrath 120)
The expected verdict on this drawn match was that the weather robbed Yorkshire of likely victory. However, going by the run of play on the final day, with innocuous Yorkshire bowling on a placid pitch, they might well not have won anyway had the match gone the distance. Having said that, Worcestershire's two batsmen of the day, Vikram Solanki and Moeen Ali, put up a fine batting performance and the team came out of the match with great credit.
Michael Vaughan did not take the field today, having strained his knee playing football. The Yorkshire authorities said it was not serious and he was just being rested as a precaution to ensure he was fully fit to play over the weekend. Play started on time, with Worcestershire on 100 for 2, under bright sunshine, but the weather flattered only to deceive. A draw was inevitable, barring exceptional circumstances, but both sides had bonus points to play for.
In the second over Solanki drove a ball from Matthew Hoggard handsomely through extra cover for four, but then survived a confident appeal for a strangled catch to the keeper down the leg side. Apart from this, the first hour was virtually featureless, as the Yorkshire bowlers toiled manfully but without success or inspiration, and Worcestershire concentrated on survival, scoring only when it was safe to do so. Then came a magic moment, as Solanki reached his century by swinging a ball from the left-arm spinner David Wainwright over long-on for six. It had taken him 186 balls.
At the other end Ali was playing a very mature, composed innings, and he too decided to reach the landmark of his 50 by launching Wainwright for a six over long-on - only, as he is left-handed, the ball travelled to a different part of the ground. It had taken him 156 balls, but this was exactly the type of supporting innings his team needed him to play. He had an escape on 54, as Wainwright was unable to hold a low return catch, but this was the only chance either batsman gave until late in the day. He celebrated with another six over wide long-on. Just before lunch Anthony McGrath amused himself by bowling a few bouncers over the batsman's head, bouncing like a tennis ball - a silent comment on the condition of the pitch, perhaps.
The second new ball was taken soon after lunch but it made no difference, as the Yorkshire bowlers appeared to be as flat as the pitch, although they did not bowl badly - only innocuously. Ali showed no nerves on approaching his maiden first-class century, apart from slightly miscuing his final stroke, a slice over point for four. The light was now worsening, but the sides were keen to keep playing as both wanted bonus points, still available. The conditions were no handicap to Ali, who lofted two consecutive leg-side sixes off Steve Patterson, followed by a four. But in the end the light won, even when Yorkshire resorted to their spinners, and they left the field at 318 for 2.
Play, rather unexpectedly, restarted at 4.35 after another improvement in the light. Both teams wanted to play in search of bonus points, but by now the players outnumbered the spectators. The light again began to decline, and at one point Hoggard, at mid-off, ducked a drive from Solanki which he couldn't see, and which in fact did not even reach the boundary. The stand passed 300, the largest Worcestershire partnership against Yorkshire. Finally, after scoring 153 runs off 281 balls, with 12 fours and 4 sixes, Ali slashed at a ball from Ajmal Shahzad and was caught at the wicket. For a youngster especially, it was a magnificent innings. Yorkshire had finally secured a bowling bonus point, after a partnership of 317.
Solanki hit a remarkable six over extra cover just before reached his equally creditable double-century, which came off 313 balls. Almost immediately afterwards he was dropped at long-off attempting a straight six. That shortly preceded Worcestershire reaching their fifth batting point and the draw was concluded. The rain may be blamed for a drawn match but the final day showed clearly that the real villain was another non-result pitch. Until the points system is changed, drawn matches will continue to be in the majority in county cricket.