Worcestershire's relegation confirmed
Worcestershire 159 (Tahir 4-18) and 102 for 4 (Cork 3-1) trail Hampshire 383 (Pothas 93, Adams 91) by 122
It was, perhaps, fitting that Worcestershire's relegation should be clinched by another woeful batting performance.
Their failure to secure a single batting bonus point here - the seventh time this season they've suffered such a fate this season - left them no hope of avoiding the drop and obliged them to follow-on for the fifth time in the campaign. For the third time, their experience of life in division one has lasted just a season.
On the evidence of recent weeks, it may be some time before they're back in the top division. With spineless batting and toothless bowling, their main aim now is only to avoid setting a new record for the lowest points tally in the history of two division championship cricket. Glamorgan's tally of 88.5 - set in 2005 - suddenly looks rather large.
The club management point to a decent showing in the Pro40 by way of mitigation, but there should be no concealing the extent of the club's decline. While there have been some impressive displays in limited-overs cricket, there has also been defeat against Ireland. The fact that the main architect of their Pro40 success has been the departing Steve Davies is hardly cause for wild celebration, either.
Instead the club should embark on a period of honest reflection. The management should stop blaming the greed of players for their desire to leave the club and instead listen to their concerns. As Oscar Wilde might have said, to lose one player is carelessness, to lose half a dressing room is a sign that something is rotten in the county of Worcestershire. Discontent is the first necessity of progress; there is scope for plenty of both at New Road. But by deluding themselves that success in the Pro40 masks the problems, the management are doing the club a disservice.
Certainly there was little cause for optimism from the performance of Worcestershire's batsmen in this game. At one stage they managed to lose 13 wickets for 95 runs in the space of 43 overs. Though there were periods of resistance, most notably from their opening batsmen in the first innings, they remain as brittle as a biscuit.
Neither the pitch or the bowling provide a thorough answer. While Hampshire bowled well enough, most of the wickets were the result of feeble batting. Daryl Mitchell pushed at one angled across him, Stephen Moore played on as he attempted to cut one far too close to him, a crease-bound Vikram Solanki edged a good one that left him slightly and Ben Smith, who seems to remain in the XI through habit rather than merit, prodded forward hopefully and edged to slip.
Imran Tahir, held back until the 47th over, struck with his first delivery when Alexi Kervezee lunged at another straight ball, before Steven Davies pulled to midwicket and the googly proved too much for Richard Jones and Matt Mason. It left Worcestershire 224 runs behind on first innings.
It was no better second time around. Dominic Cork, reaping remarkable rewards for simply bowling straight, claimed three wickets for one run in 13 deliveries, as Mitchell and Solanki missed straight ones and Smith again prodded forward like a blind man reaching for a light switch that isn't there. Moore impressed for a while, but when he pulled to mid-wicket, it left Worcestershire facing the prospect of a three-day defeat.
From a Hampshire perspective, this was a much-improved performance. While victory would not ensure them of survival, it would ease their concerns considerably. Though they would admit they were somewhat flattered by the obliging nature of Worcestershire's batting, they complemented each other well as a unit with David Griffiths, working up a sharp pace, and Tahir's, turning the ball both ways with only subtle changes of action, particularly impressive.
To add insult to injury, Hampshire are now picking over the bones of the Worcestershire side. Hampshire are interested in both Kabir Ali and Simon Jones and held talks with the former after play on the second day. Their interest must raise questions about the future of Chris Tremlett at the club, however. The fast bowler is currently languishing in second XI cricket. Warwickshire, Sussex, Durham, Nottinghamshire and Surrey are also all thought to be interested in talking to Kabir.