Cricket: Worcestershire stand their ground

Warwickshire 252 Worcestershire 133-2
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The Independent Online
You would have got long odds against a side going through an entire session without taking a wicket on this seam bowlers' pitch yesterday, but Warwickshire managed it, and inside their dressing-room the inquest probably went on long after play was abandoned with only 39 overs bowled.

It would not have been the two dropped catches that enabled Richard Illingworth, the night-watchman, to progress to an unbeaten 76 that bothered them so much as "the catch that wasn't" when Graeme Hick had made 10.

A lengthy innings by Hick, with his ability to put the loose ball clinically away, would clearly be crucial in what is potentially a low scoring match; in the fourth over of the day, he forced Dougie Brown hard off the back foot and Nick Knight, at cover, scooped the ball up from somewhere near his ankles and claimed what would have been a superb catch.

Knight was immediately surrounded by congratulatory colleagues, as is fashionable nowadays, but Hick was not so sure and stood his ground. Umpire Chris Balderstone also had his doubts, his colleague at square leg, Barrie Meyer, was too far away to be consulted and so Hick stayed.

He will be there again this morning to dig in once more against an attack which clearly missed the problems the extra pace of Allan Donald, who is unfit, would have caused on this pitch. So will Illingworth, who was badly missed by Keith Piper, the wicket-keeper, off Graeme Welch at 11, and by David Hemp, at slip, off the same bowler at 23.

It was Illingworth's first Championship innings of the season and it showed. Not too many members of the fielding side felt obliged to join in the applause when he reached 50 via a thick edge for four. But night- watchmen have always been noted for their dogged devotion to duty rather than their elegance, and so far Illingworth has frustrated Warwickshire for 146 deliveries, hitting 11 fours.

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