Hampshire victory eases relegation fears
Hampshire 383 and 7 for 0 beat Worcestershire 159 and 227 (Kervezee 54, Cork 5-14) by 10 wickets
Hampshire, and Dominic Cork in particular, must wish they played Worcestershire every week.
After failing to win any of their last seven Championship matches, Hampshire secured the victory they needed to lift them away from the relegation positions at New Road. They are not yet assured of safety, however, and probably need to avoid defeat in their final two games, against and Durham (home) and Yorkshire (away).
It was a particularly fine game for Cork. Now aged 38, he may have lost a little pace, but he showed that an ability to shape the ball away from the batsman and deliver a probing line and length are timeless skills.
They are not always rewarded so generously, though. This was his first five-wicket haul since June 2006 and only his second in the last five years. It also meant he had taken 12 for 81 against Worcestershire in the Championship season. Bowling is not always so straightforward.
There was some encouragement from a Worcestershire perspective. The batting of Alexi Kervezee - who was celebrating his 20th birthday - and Richard Jones - who is just 22, not only delayed the inevitable, but also suggested a little room for optimism at New Road. Here, at least, are a couple of players who might form the nucleus of a new Worcestershire.
Kervezee is a particularly exciting prospect. A short, compact right-hander, his drives through extra-cover bear the hallmark of real class, though he may have to curb his impetuousness if he is to flourish. His dismissal here, attempting a repeat of a delightful straight drive for six off Imran Tahir, was a case in point: Imran saw him coming and delivered a much shorter, quicker delivery that left Kervezee hopelessly out of position and resulted in a tame catch to mid-off. It was an unworthy end to a pleasing innings.
Jones is a neat, technically correct batsman, too. Though this was a career-best effort, there is no reason why he should not score far more runs.
Their resilience - the pair added 70 for the seventh wicket - helped Worcestershire stretch the game into the second session of the day and forced Hampshire to bat again. But it was only delaying the inevitable; the visitors required just nine deliveries to secure victory.
It was Worcestershire's tenth defeat in 14 Championship games this season and meant that they've now gone 18 first-class games without a win. Not since May 2004 have Worcestershire won a Division One game at New Road.
Earlier it had taken only 13 deliveries for Hampshire to breakthrough in the morning. Cork, finding some bounce, induced an edge from Steve Davies before Moeen Ali's indeterminate prod resulted in another slip catch.
Afterwards Stephen Moore remained non-committal about his plans for the future, though he did suggest he would come to a decision "within a month." Moore, who signed a three-year contract about 12 months ago, has a get-out clause in the case of Worcestershire's relegation so is now free to talk to other counties should he wish.
"Some time over the next month I'll have to come to some sort of decision," he said. "We've two big one-day games left, though, so it would be wrong decide now. I know I'll have to decide soon enough
"The key thing is to decide how I can best progress as a cricketer. My ambition is to play for England, so if I feel I'm not able to fulfil that ambition at the club - that the club can't offer what I need - then I'll sit down with the club and discuss things. I'll chat with the England management about how to progress.
"I'm not just trying to leave to make money. It's a about trying to be the best cricketer I can be. I love this place. I've really enjoyed every minute here and I've made some great friends, but I don't want emotion to get in the way of such a decision.
"I wouldn't want to go when things are bad. I've pride in my role and I'd like to leave a legacy here, so if I did leave I'd want to go on a high."
After an excellent 2008 season - when he scored six first-class centuries - Moore has struggled this year. He is averaging under 28 in the Championship and has failed to build on the form that had taken him to the brink of the England team.
"I can't put my finger on it," Moore admitted. "I do believe I'm a better cricketer now. I'm fitter, stronger and feel my balance is better. But my stats aren't in the same league as last year, are they?
"I don't think it's much to do with the higher division. I scored a century against the Australians [for the Lions], after all. I believe the stats don't lie over the long-term, so I've just got to work even harder.
"I've missed Graeme Hick, too, both as a friend and as a dressing room influence. He gave confidence just by his presence."