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Moeen shows that home is where the hurt is

Moeen Ali inspired Worcestershire's run chase Getty Images

Worcestershire 296 for 9 (Moeen 114, Cox 80, Stone 4-71, Brookes 3-57) beat Warwickshire 292 for 7 (Ambrose 75, Rhodes 69, Hain 68, Moeen 3-40) by one wicket
Scorecard

When Moeen Ali left Warwickshire a dozen or so years ago, the club made a point of confirming that he would always be made welcome on his return.

But they probably didn't mean like this. For here Moeen, with three wickets and a century of the highest class, guaranteed his 'new' side, Worcestershire, a home semi-final and at the same time sentenced Warwickshire, their local rivals, to the exit.

In what became, effectively, a knock-out match - Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire both leapfrogged Warwickshire with their victories - Moeen helped Worcestershire withstand a blistering opening spell from Olly Stone on the way to his first List A century in domestic cricket for five years. The previous one was also against Warwickshire at Edgbaston. There's no place like home.

In truth, a wonderful game - full of moments of youthful brilliance - deserved better than the moment that sealed it: Keith Barker skidding on a dewy outfield and allowing a single to become a boundary. That tied the scores and meant there was no way Warwickshire could progress. Worcestershire's home semi-final was guaranteed moments later when Ed Barnard, admirably calm amid the mounting drama, forced one through the off side field for four.

It is often said there is no pace in county cricket. But here Warwickshire - even without the injured Chris Woakes - fielded two young men capable of generating 90 mph. Both Stone - who was timed at 91.4 mph at one stage - and Henry Brookes - who was timed at 89.6 - hurried and harried the Worcestershire batsmen and shared seven wickets between them. To see an international batsman, Callum Ferguson, beaten for pace by Stone was heartening. To see 18-year-old Brookes - who beat Brett D'Oliveira for pace - lose little by comparison will have had selectors taking note. To see Brookes relishing the responsibility and rising to the moment was to see a special talent start to blossom. Warwickshire - and probably England - may well have unearthed a gem here.

Only Moeen appeared to enjoy the extra pace. Upon a surface on which Worcestershire's attack had relied on cutters, Warwickshire's somewhat unsophisticated approach - if fast doesn't work then bowl faster - played into his hands a bit. Moeen equalled his own record (Joe Leach shares it) for Worcestershire's fastest List A half-century: a 25-ball affair that included three sixes; the best of them a drive over long-on off Stone.

He hasn't been in much form since returning from the IPL. His last three innings had produced 10 runs and two ducks. But here, presented with a relatively big occasion - there was a time such a game would have generated a crowd in excess of 10,000 - and a chance to put one over on Worcestershire rich neighbours, he looked imperious.

With nobody else in the top five able to make 20, Moeen was grateful for the arrival of Ben Cox. The pair added 95 in 12 overs, with Moeen negating the threat posed by Jeetan Patel and punishing Warwickshire for their absence of a fifth bowler. Aaron Thomason, who has a side strain, was missed.

It's probably churlish to find fault in such an innings. But, by the time Moeen mistimed a rare slower ball to mid-off - Dominic Sibley making a tricky catch appear straightforward - Worcestershire needed 105 from 24.4 overs; a rate only a fraction over four-an-over. The hard work had been done. It seemed an unnecessary stroke.

The same might have been said for Cox. Having just seen Ross Whiteley superbly caught at short third-man, Cox's well-paced innings ended when he attempted to pull one too full for the stroke and played on. It left Worcestershire, with seven wickets down, chasing 19 more runs.

That set-up a nerve wracking finale. With Patel forced to go all-in in the search for wickets - Worcestershire were miles ahead of the run-rate and had more than 10 overs to score those 19 runs - Brookes, Stone and Barker bowled out their allocation. Time and again, ball beat bat but, though Brookes yorked Leach, Dillon Pennington - on first-team debut - somehow survived for 23-balls in helping Barnard add nine runs. It doesn't sound much, does it? But every one had to be chiselled from granite and, by the time Barker trapped him leg before, just four were required for the tie.

Earlier Warwickshire's batsmen appeared to struggle for fluency on a pitch that may have been a little slower than they wished. Despite Worcestershire being without Josh Tongue, who was ruled out with a foot injury, and soon losing their skipper, Leach, to a back injury - he was required to come back out and field for a few overs before George Rhodes arrived from a second XI match in Stourbridge to lend support - Warwickshire were unable to progress as they would have like against a disciplined attack.

It took a stand of 133 in 25 overs between Tim Ambrose and Will Rhodes to drag Warwickshire to respectability. The pair helped their side plunder 103 in the final 10 overs of their innings - and 66 from the final five - as Worcestershire started to wilt in the field. Twice balls that should have cost a single - at most - were allowed through legs and to the boundary, while there were four wides in the final two overs; one of them going down the legside for four.

For a while it seemed Warwickshire's superior fielding may prove the difference. But if the highlight was Patel's direct hit from mid-off to run-out Daryl Mithcell, it was all forgotten when Barker's slip let through the ball at a crucial moment.

As an aside, it will never be Trott's fault again. The result confirmed that this was the final List A match of his career. The game has, in many ways, moved on in recent years but Trott's record - the 23 List A centuries, the ODI average of 51.25 - remain exceptional. But for a few minutes of madness at this ground in the Champions Trophy final of 2013, he would have been part of a side that won England's first global List A trophy. It wasn't to be but, for a while, England went to No. 1 in the world and he won many games - and a few trophies - for club and country.

Worcestershire need not worry about that. For a second year in succession, they have earned themselves a home semi-final. To have done it with a largely home-grown squad - and Moeen didn't have to come too far, either - provides an excellent example to many richer rivals.

Worcs 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st0MM AliJM Clarke
2nd22CJ FergusonMM Ali
3rd62DKH MitchellMM Ali
4th9MM AliBL D'Oliveira
5th95MM AliOB Cox
6th84RA WhiteleyOB Cox
7th2OB CoxEG Barnard
8th5J LeachEG Barnard
9th9EG BarnardDY Pennington
10th8CAJ MorrisEG Barnard