Cricket: Proceeding with caution: Niall Edworthy reports from Worcester

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The Independent Online
Worcestershire 266-9 dec; Derbyshire 246 and 52-0

WORCESTERSHIRE'S first century opening partnership of the championship has been a long time coming. It was brought about at a fittingly pedestrian pace three months to the day into the season and 47 overs into yesterday's play. It seemed to be an achievement that Tim Curtis and Phil Weston wanted to keep quiet as they cautiously nudged their way towards the holy grail of three figures. Not until the 37th over of the innings was the first boundary struck. Although there were terrors to be encountered in the Derbyshire pace attack in the form of Ian Bishop, Devon Malcolm and Dominic Cork, there were none to be found in a wicket which has not responded to the quicker stuff and has been sensitive only to spin.

The funereal march of the opening pair buried any excitement that might have been expected in the morning. In the end, however, their contribution proved to be invaluable as Worcestershire's middle order subsided in the afternoon. Under the sustained pressure of Richard Sladdin's nagging slow left-armers and a lively spell by Malcolm in which he took three wickets in 23 balls, Worcestershire slumped from a comfortable position of 122 for no wicket to the less commanding position of 199 for 6 before declaring 20 runs ahead.

With Hick absent on Test duty, Moody coming in at seven suffering from a 'flu virus and Radford batting with a bad back and a runner, there were some excuses for the failure to exploit their good start. These weaknesses might also explain the reluctance of Curtis and Weston to move the score along at a quicker rate. Curtis was on 86 when he was eventually beaten by Bishop's pace, before Weston was smartly stumped by Karl Krikken shortly after hitting his first boundary from his 153rd ball. Moody and Leatherdale provided momentary excitement before taking their place in the relentless procession of batsmen to the pavilion.

In their second innings, Kim Barnett and Peter Bowler were quick to erase the small deficit, moving the score along at a rate three times faster than their Worcestershire counterparts.

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