Harsh lessons that have to be learnt
Back-to-back heavy defeats in the LV= Insurance County Championship second division will test the character of our young team so early in the season. For a minute it looked like we could replicate the miracle at Derby from last week, but Worcestershire played well and now we need to put it right against Durham.
We started all right at New Road, as in we took a couple of early wickets to slow their initial onslaught, but we probably could have bowled a little bit better with the new ball. I think we sort of struggled in the middle period to group enough balls together and it sort of got away from us.
Brett D’Oliveira, the Worcestershire captain, batted pretty well for his 169 not out. Once he got his head down, it didn’t seem like there was too much that was fazing him or stopping him. There’s definitely something to learn from this for us as a young group and hopefully we can put it right come this Thursday.
They did get off to a flyer with openers Ed Pollock and Jake Libby going at more than five an over until we went bang, bang, bang to reduce them to 95 for three in the twentieth over. How they went from there — D’Oliveira and Ed Barnard (75) put on 166 for the fourth wicket after Pakistan overseas player Azhar Ali (20) was unlucky to be given leg-before — is probably something for us as a batting group that we can take from. They showed once you get in, they try and go big.
It was a few positives in the game, I think. There was a little period there where we pegged them back and could have had a little bit more control if a few things had gone our way. But that's cricket.
At the end of the second day, we were still in the match at 169 for five with me and Chets (Cheteshwar Pujara) still at the wicket. We started to build something. That was just our chat, trying to build a partnership, get through a tricky period. Our 42-run stand was the second-highest of the innings. The conditions sort of suited them, suited to bowlers. The wicket was doing more than enough and we were just trying to be as solid as possible but still looking to score.
We started well in that first hour or so on day three, then it was unfortunate — I just tried to go too square on one that I probably should have hit a little straighter and was bowled for ten. That was my downfall, but credit to Chets, he played well for his second straight hundred for us (109 from 206 balls with 16 fours). It was nice to watch it from the other end. Obviously, I didn’t see the majority of it from the other end — also from the balcony — but it was a pleasure to share the field with him at that time.
We battled to 269 all out after Chets fell at 202 for seven but Worcestershire had no hesitation in asking us to bat again — ahead by 222 on first innings with their bowlers still fresh.
They got into us pretty quickly with two wickets in the fifth over and the big one of Chets for 12 to the first ball of the thirteenth. I was in 11 overs later at 61 for five at the loss of Mohammad Rizwan for four — his fourth successive low score since joining us. He has had the misfortune of having to keep wicket for 150 overs in back-to-back matches, which rarely happens in Test cricket, so that had to take something out of him. But it’s only a matter of time before he comes good: in this game or the game coming up, he’s going to put in a nice performance for us and show how good he really is.
I tried to take the game to the bowling team in my second innings, which was a departure from ten runs from 47 balls in 71 minutes first time round. When I play my best, I’m always trying to take the positive option, and here I thought I took pretty good options. Especially to the spinner, I just looked to sweep to the shorter edge of the boundary and to move a few fielders around. I thought I was actually moving pretty nicely. Started to build something with opener Ali Orr.
Then came the run-out while on 19 from 26 balls, when I went for a quick single to cover as non-striker, was sent back and just failed to make my ground. I felt it could have been a similar situation to last week when we batted almost two days against Derbyshire to get a draw, but I think it was a different wicket and the bowlers weren’t too tired. I was still trying to take the scoring options and trying to be as positive as possible, potentially get a lead and something to bowl at. It’s unfortunate to be run out like that, but that’s how it goes.
Worcestershire were really up for it at home for all three days of this four-day match. That’s one of those games that whoever was in that mood, they were coming out on top. Credit to them, and like I said earlier, we can take something from that and learn from it, too.
But for now we have to pick up the pieces. Our situation in terms of playing personnel was not helped when Kent recalled Grant Stewart from his one-month loan after only one match! He did really well for us with two wickets taking the new ball in Worcestershire’s only innings and then smashing 67 not out at No 9 in the second innings when the game was gone.
I’m assuming that there will be a few options that the club are looking to, trying to get someone else on loan, who knows. Hopefully, there’s a few guys who have had some niggles that could potentially be available. You just have to wait and see what happens, and where they are on the day.
It would be great to get back Ollie Robinson, who had a tooth infection, but that is a decision that rests with England after an injury-troubled winter. Speaking of which, the debate to see who replaces Joe Root as England captain has been a hot topic.
First, it will be interesting to see who they bring in as head coach. That will probably have a big say who takes over the captaincy role. But you would have thought that Ben Stokes is up there as favourite, definitely. Again, it’s one of those things about who works well with whom. The next phase of English cricket could be exciting. We may be having a few fresh faces in the Test team and it will be exciting to see where it goes.
Funny enough, it’s possible we may see Stokes in action against Durham today, depending on his availability from England. They look pretty decent now, too, with some senior figures. It will be another challenge, another tough four days, but hopefully with some of the lessons we’ve learnt from the past two or three games, we can put it right and put in a positive performance.
• Delray Rawlins was talking to Dexter Smith