Cricket: Worcestershire's tail wags wonders

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The Independent Online
Somerset . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .236 and 151-8 dec

Worcestershire . . . . . . . . . . . . . .142 and 246-8

Worcestershire win by two wickets

WITH 86 needed, four wickets remaining and Mushtaq Ahmed twirling away at one end, Worcestershire looked certain to become Somerset's third victims of the young season. But Worcestershire had two factors in their favour: their tail, led by Steven Rhodes and Phil Newport, is armoured in experience of tight finishes, and 19 overs remained.

By the time Newport departed, the pair had added 77 in 17 and Somerset's championship ambitions were checked. Mushtaq has now taken 15 wickets in two matches and, had Andy Caddick been playing, this would have been a different result.

Somerset's immediate ambition, on a morning of quickly-rising temperature, was to add rapidly to their overnight lead of 94 from their remaining seven wickets. But Newport, resuming from the Diglis End, had Nick Folland leg before with six added and Graham Rose caught behind.

With Chris Tolley bowling Neil Burns and Mushtaq, Somerset would have fallen into total disarray had not Richard Harden suddenly hit two sixes off Tolley. Mushtaq was trying to follow his example when he departed, late-cutting off his leg stump. Newport bowled beautifully in the conditions, 22-7-31-4 in the innings, yet Chris Tavare, the Somerset captain, decided that a target of 246 off 73 overs was enough.

What was clear was that Somerset had no seam bowler to match Newport or, indeed, Tolley; if they were to win then Mushtaq and Graham Rose would have to take the wickets.

Mushtaq found the surface too soft, but the wickets fell regularly and when Stuart Lampitt was pinned by a quicker googly with 86 still needed, four wickets and 19 overs remaining, a Somerset breakthrough still seemed imminent.

Rhodes and Newport ticked along. Three chances off Mushtaq dropped in vacant space; Newport then departed, and, with nine needed off the last 12 balls, Tolley was caught at long on. With two needed Neal Radford swung the second ball of the last over through mid-on to leave Rhodes on 54 not out. Yet the day belonged to Newport, still a class performer in English conditions.