Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
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Worcestershire 390 (Roderick 102, D'Oliveira 85; Ball 3-60, Hutton 3-86) beat Nottinghamshire 128 (Barnard 4-26, Pennington 4-31) and 183 (Hameed 58; Waite 3-34, Gibbon 3-44) by an innings and 79 runs
To arrive at New Road on the morning after the drama we savoured on Wednesday is a little like volunteering to wash up after a wonderful party. Although there'll be some good food left and the odd bottle of decent booze to sup, the fun's over. Such a simile might appear deeply disrespectful to Tom Moores and Liam Patterson-White, doughty battlers both, and also to that heavily whiskered cliché about cricket's uncertainty, but it really did not seem so after 21 balls of this day's play.
By that point in the first session, with the cathedral having just cast off its morning shadow, Nottinghamshire's overnight batters had departed lickety-split, Moores caught by a scampering Brett D'Oliveira at backward point and Patterson-White lbw to a ball so straight he nearly walked when it hit his pad. Both those wickets fell to Dillon Pennington and they made it very plain that barring the intervention of Lazarus, Worcestershire were going to win this game, almost certainly by an innings and almost certainly quite soon.
What followed was the cheery knockabout much beloved by spectators in which two tailenders boost their averages and aggregates with some uncomplicated edging and thwacking and then suggest to the top-order that they, the 'non-batters', had not found the bowling unplayable. So Jake Ball and Brett Hutton put on 40 runs in 47 minutes with most of Ball's boundaries coming behind the wicket and most of Hutton's in front of square.
Eventually the vaudeville ended. Ball was caught behind when fencing at a ball from Josh Tongue and seven balls later, Dane Paterson, who rarely keeps anyone waiting for their lunch, nicked Matthew Waite to Gareth Roderick, who pouched his fifth catch of the innings and his seventh of the match. This completed a lovely three days for Roderick, who had made a century in the first innings, and also for those in the crowd who like to see good blokes get their rewards in life.
As to the broader canvas of promotion and relegation, not too much has changed. Despite this victory Worcestershire's chances of promotion remain arithmetical, although after the last three days, folk in this glorious corner of England will hazard a dream. Nottinghamshire, meanwhile, know that if they beat Durham next week, they will be Second Division champions. Precise calculations, even of the hypothetical variety, must await the results of the games at Bristol and Leicester but it still seems very likely that Steven Mullaney's team will collect their due rewards for their season's work
But harvests come in many forms and not all of them glitter in cabinets. Rather like woodland animals, those of us who love cricket spend these latter days squirrelling away the things that will sustain us when autumn deepens and time returns us to darkness. Animals store food to nourish them and foliage to keep them warm, of course, whereas we collect images and recollections that remind us of the days we value most in this threatened world.
Something like six months ago I watched Jack Haynes cover-drive his way to a century in The Parks. The weather was kind beyond a man's desire and the season lay banqueted before Haynes and the rest of us. On Tuesday he took two perfectly similar fours off Nottinghamshire's bowling and I thought I might not see him stroke the ball like that for six months, maybe longer. So I garnered the memories and will keep them safe, for it is no use saying the cricket we will watch on television over the winter carries the same intimacy.
And there have been other personal achievements within these tapestried days. Nottinghamshire's year is ending, quite probably with a title to toast, and Ball must have been heartened to take 3 for 60 in his first game of Championship cricket for 17 months after recovering from a long-standing back problem. Then Roderick, whose first season at Worcestershire was hardly blessed with delights, greeted Wednesday morning with a lovely straight drive off Ball before reaching his second century in successive innings with a pushed single off the same bowler.
Tongue's return was more modest, two wickets from 19 overs in the match, but they will not seem so to a fine bowler who was making only his second first-class appearance since June 2021 and whose career once seemed threatened by a serious shoulder injury. Tongue's delivery to dismiss Haseeb Hameed was the very best of a game that was played on an outstanding pitch.
And the great thing about watching cricket at New Road and many other grounds around the country is that spectators celebrate with the players and also for them. Their perspectives might be different and their degrees of knowledge vary wildly but they are bound together by a game that has sustained them for decades. That game must be protected as never before; it must be defended to the last redoubt.
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