Smith guides Worcestershire to victory

Worcestershire 218-8 Leicestershire 141 Worcs win by 75 runs
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The Independent Online

Ben Smith made a triumphant return to his old stamping ground by leading Worcestershire to a comprehensive victory in the quarter-finals of the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy yesterday. Smith's former county subsided tamely on the second day of the match, allowing Worcestershire to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 1994 - the year they won the competition when it was known as the NatWest Trophy.

It was also a triumph over adversity for the visitors, who are in the middle of a staffing crisis thanks to a clutch of injuries and international call-ups for the one-day international triangular series. "It is something of a crisis for us," admitted Smith, the Worcestershire captain, "but it is a great opportunity to see our young players in action."

Smith, who is still Leicestershire's top catcher in this competition, although he left the county two seasons ago after a 12-year career at Grace Road, took two more, one a fine dive to account for the stubborn Paul Nixon. The lower order knuckled down bravely, but it was all over.

Leicestershire's troubles had begun with the first ball of the day from Matt Mason, who pitched it well up to Virender Sehwag, and the India Test batsman played across the line, missed and departed lbw.

Well as Darren Stevens tried to seize the initiative with some spirited shots in his 26-ball stay, the pitch did just enough to thwart his best efforts and it was the same for Phillip DeFreitas later in the innings as the Leicestershire captain smacked an identical score but managed to survive for just one more ball.

All the while the Worcestershire bowlers kept bagging away. With Sehwag under his belt, Mason went on to have John Maunders caught at mid-wicket, which sparked a collapse. The hapless home side lost four wickets in as many overs and, although the tail wagged for a while, Andrew Hall and Mark Harrity were able eventually to dock it.