When April days were two-sweater days and seam bowlers filled their boots on damp green pitches there was scarcely point in a leg-spinner turning up for day one of the County Championship.
Those days will surely return but while the English climate continues to mistake spring for summer there are chances to be taken and Adil Rashid seized his here yesterday.
It may have been the earliest start yet to a Championship season but the sun shone on New Road as elsewhere as if it were late June. Ryan Sidebottom, back with his home county, claimed the first success of the day but even before lunch the initiative was with Rashid.
As Worcestershire, who had chosen to bat first, slipped steadily backwards from a strong start to be 286 all out, Rashid took five in an innings for the 14th time in his first-class career, ending with six for 77. As a player who seems perpetually to be waiting for a breakthrough, his timing could not have been better. Geoff Miller, England's selector-in-chief, had turned up to watch and Rashid obliged by taking two wickets even before lunch.
Last picked for a senior England team in 2009, Rashid's progress has stuttered at times but Miller and company have been patient. After taking 57 wickets in the Championship last year, his stock rose again and his winter included a dramatic dash to Colombo after Michael Yardy's withdrawal from England's World Cup squad. In the event, it was only to watch England's 10-wicket humbling by Sri Lanka but it was indication, at least, that he was back on the radar.
Yesterday's performance will have done his prospects no harm at all. The pitch was on the slow side, with no appreciable turn, but Rashid is becoming smart enough now to be effective in most conditions, as Worcestershire found to their cost.
Striking his first blow in the 25th over when Vikram Solanki, three times beaten, tried to hit him over the top, he soon had Daryl Mitchell leg before pushing forward as the home side slipped from 91 for one to 96 for three at lunch.
Alex Kervezee chipped to mid-wicket, Gareth Andrew was bowled playing an ugly swipe across the line, Damien Wright – the Australian all-rounder making his Worcestershire debut – fell leg before and Ben Cox was snapped up at short leg by Joe Root, the 20-year-old batting prospect making his Championship debut.
Yet, given that Wright's dismissal left them 197 for eight, Worcestershire made a decent recovery to claim two batting points. Mitchell and Andrew had cursed themselves for being out on 49 but 20-year-old Matt Pardoe made a promising debut, surviving 43 overs for his 26, and Matt Mason's 63 equalled his career best.
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