Worcestershire 329 for 3 (Fell 167*, Kohler-Cadmore 97*) lead Middlesex 98 (Gabriel 5-31) by 231 runs
Rarely has relegation tasted so sweet. Worcestershire may be heading back to Division Two, but they do so in the knowledge that they have a crop of young players who promise better times around the corner.
It was a sense underlined on day two of this game when two men aged 21 dominated against an attack that proved too good for Yorkshire last week and a side that has been beaten just once this season. Really, if you had arrived at the ground not knowing which side was relegated and which was fighting for second place, you would have done well to guess Worcestershire were the stragglers.
The two Toms - Kohler-Cadmore and Fell - have so far added 219 for the fourth wicket. It is by far Worcestershire's highest stand of the season and takes their lead over Middlesex to 231. It is a fine effort from men who were born two years after Glen Chapple made his first-class debut.
Fell, with his third century of the campaign, became the tenth man this season to 1,000 runs in Division One and the youngest by some distance. He didn't give a chance until he had reached 158 - and even then his sliced drive off Tim Murtagh may not have carried to Nick Compton running in from the cover boundary - though, perhaps, had Murtagh been on the rope rather than a few yards in, his pull for six off James Harris when he had 76, might have been taken. It is the second time this year he has recorded a career-best score against Middlesex.
Especially strong on the drive - some of his front-foot strokes through cover were a delight - he also showed some nice strokes on the back foot, with the cut and late cut deployed effectively. And, if he may have to develop his leg-side play - 111 of his runs have been scored on the off side - it bodes well for his future that he deals with deliveries on or just outside off stump so capably.
Kohler-Cadmore, who only came back into the team when Alex Gidman broke his finger the day before the Durham match last week, was three short of his maiden first-class century when bad light ended play with 29.5 overs unbowled. It may result in a nervous night in a flat these two young batsmen share. Kohler-Cadmore has been close to the landmark before but, having reached 99 two years ago against Leicestershire, was bowled by the part-time spin of Dan Redfern.
Not unlike a right-handed Graeme Smith, Kohler-Cadmore joined the Worcestershire academy from Malvern College. But, before that, he represented Yorkshire in age-group cricket, where he broke the U15 record for most runs in a season. It was a record previously held by Michael Vaughan. He generally plays admirably straight, but has the ability to whip anything back of length through the leg side. He did not give a chance, but reached his fifty with an edge through vacant third slip off Toby Roland-Jones and saw another edge fall just short of the cordon.
In other circumstances, Worcestershire might worry about retaining such players. But both these two are signed up for the long-term, with Moeen Ali having spoken to them, and other promising players, and convinced them that they were part of something special developing at New Road. As his own career illustrates, it is quite possible to achieve international ambitions while remaining with the club.
Shaaiq Choudhry and Gareth Andrew, however, have been released by Worcestershire; the latter largely due to his injury issues, though he hopes to continue his career elsewhere. Some doubt remains about the future of Richard Oliver, too. He has been offered a contract but on the condition he remains in England this winter to work on his game. For a man with a long and happy association with Geelong City CC in Victoria, that may prove a sacrifice too far.
Perhaps, had Middlesex had a bowler of extreme pace available - as Worcestershire do in Shannon Gabriel - it may have been different. This pitch is now slow and, while there remains some movement available, the edges are not carrying and there was little to prevent the batsmen waiting on the front foot and putting away the over-pitched ball. Gabriel may prove more adept at exploiting any assistance that remains.
Middlesex's three main seamers will reflect that they did not maintain the tight line and length that they managed against Yorkshire, however. Murtagh has already conceded more than 100, while Harris has gone for in excess of five an over. By 4pm, the early wickets of Brett D'Oliveira, who mis-hit a long-hop to mid-on, and Joe Clarke, outstandingly well caught by Ollie Rayner diving low to his right at second slip, seemed a long time ago.
It leaves Middlesex uncomfortably placed as they fight to retain second place in the table; a difference of £81,000 in prize money over the third-placed team. They were unfortunate with the toss, for sure, with conditions now more favourable for batting and their bowlers drawn into chasing the game. But with only 16.5 overs left in which to gain bowling bonus points, they have so far gained just one point from the match and, well behind on their over-rate (-3 at present) and facing the possibility they will not have an opportunity to make it up in the second innings, they may come to look back on this match as an expensive end to the season.