Mason and Cox revive Worcestershire
Northamptonshire 3 for 1 v Worcestershire 287
Worcestershire exploited Northamptonshire's recent uncertainty by recovering to post 287 on the opening day of their County Championship Division Two clash at New Road.
When the visitors took six wickets for 104 in the afternoon, it seemed they would restate their promotion credentials after a four-day mauling by Surrey and a painful defeat by Somerset in the Friends Provident t20 quarter-final.
However Worcestershire's oldest and youngest players turned the day on its head. Teenager Ben Cox made an inventive 59 from 86 balls and 36-year-old Matt Mason thrashed his first half-century for six years.
The last three wickets added 129 and Mason struck a further blow by dismissing Stephen Peters as Northants replied with 3 for 1 in six overs.
Worcestershire secured no immediate benefit from winning the toss despite a gritty 50 from 150 balls by rookie opener David Wheeldon. Even when Wheeldon anchored the morning grind to 55 for 1 at lunch, Northamptonshire's seamers frequently caused problems in favourable conditions.
With the ball moving around under cloud cover, it was a battling effort by Worcestershire to lose only one wicket when Daryl Mitchell, after surviving until the 25th over for 23, skimmed a catch to James Middlebrook at gully.
That proved was a first success for Elton Chigumbura and there were more to come after lunch, although the initial breakthrough was the work of David Lucas. The strapping left-armer had Vikram Solanki and Moeen Ali taken in the slips by Peters and Alex Wakely in the space of five balls.
A brief interlude of spin brought a wicket for Middlebrook when Alexei Kervezee chopped on after breezing along to 28 with five fours, but it was Chigumbura who finally found a way to break Wheeldon's concentration. The left-hander collected 11 fours, several from nicks or steers behind the wicket, before he played on attempting to force the medium-pacer through the offside.
Wheeldon has certainly proved he has the determination to supplement a sound technique. Recalled for last week's game against Derbyshire, he has made 84 from three innings stretching over seven hours and 20 minutes.
Chigumbura's next success put a dampener on the home debut of Shakib Al Hasan in the presence of the Bangladeshi High Commissioner, Dr Sayeedur Rahman Khan. However, Shakib, the first player from his country to play professionally for an English county, made only nine in 18 balls before a flashing attempt to drive resulted in another catch for Peters.
Wicketkeeper David Murphy went some way to his left to take James Cameron's edge off Lucas, but Cox and Mason led the revival after tea. Cox eventually fell to Hall, giving Peters his third catch, after hitting seven fours and a six, and Mason was unbeaten with 51 from 33 balls when Alan Richardson was lbw to Lucas (4 for 68) after a last-wicket stand of 54.