NEW ROAD remains an impenetrable stronghold for Worcestershire's one-day cricketers this season but they survived yesterday only after an unexpectedly threatening fightback by Northamptonshire was repelled.
Allan Lamb's team appeared lost when they were dismissed for 128 by a team defending a 100 per cent record - seven wins from seven - in limited-overs matches at their riverside headquarters.
A comfortable win for the Benson and Hedges Cup finalists seemed the only likely outcome but in the event a determined effort by Northamptonshire's bowlers - Curtly Ambrose in particular - whittled the margin down to two wickets, subjecting the crowd to an afternoon of unforeseen tension before Steve Rhodes, the England wicketkeeper, guided Worcestershire into the last four.
Rhodes' 90-minute innings followed some excellent work in his principal role, which earned him the man-of-the-match award. He played a part in five dismissals, combining three times with Phil Newport, whose four wickets began with an important breakthrough to remove Rob Bailey and later those of Kevin Curran and David Ripley in consecutive balls.
Rain delayed the start by 50 minutes, and in overcast conditions Worcestershire were looking toward the semi-finals from the moment Tim Curtis won the toss. Their confidence appeared justified. With variable bounce and movement in the air and off the seam, Northamptonshire were in difficulties from the outset.
The first ball of Tom Moody's second over had Alan Fordham caught at gully without a run on the board and Northamptonshire lost Russell Warren and their captain to a splendidly accurate Neal Radford, whose eight overs cost only three runs, and by the time they reached 12 their scoring rate had been restricted to just one an over.
Mal Loye, whose 34 included two sixes and three fours, attacked with gusto but the recovery never came.
To their consolation, Northamptonshire found there was plenty of life left in the pitch when Worcestershire batted and Ambrose posed a constant threat. His second spell brought him 2 for 5 in five overs, setting up a tense final session by removing Moody immediately after tea, at which point Worcestershire were 86 for 6.
Moody had not helped his team's cause by running out Adam Seymour and Gavin Haynes with ill-judged calls, but Northamptonshire were always defending an unlikely position and Rhodes's calm as tension mounted was ultimately the decisive factor.Reuse content