Joe Leach hits 84 as Nos. 8-11 pile on the runs against Nottinghamshire, who are 99 without loss in reply
Nottinghamshire 99 for 0 (Hameed 51*) trail Worcestershire 436 (Libby 117, Leach 84, Joseph 61, Mitchell 59, Barnard 58) by 337 runs
The great summers of Jim Griffiths are long past. Northamptonshire’s No. 11 played 138 innings in his 13-year first-class career, scoring 290 runs at an average of 3.33. His salad day – in truth it was little more than a lettuce leaf enrobed in a dab of Heinz – arrived on July 19, 1982, when he pummelled Gloucestershire’s attack for 16 at Bristol. Otherwise, spectators on the county circuit would talk fondly of the times they saw old Jim make no runs at all.
Griffiths the Prolific came to mind this lovely Friday afternoon as we watched Charlie Morris bat against Nottinghamshire. Morris is also a No. 11 but faced 67 balls for his ten unbeaten runs. Much more to the point, he kept Joe Leach company for 141 minutes as the pair put on 81 for Worcestershire’s last wicket, a partnership that delayed lunch by half an hour and extended the home side’s first innings until just after three o’clock. Morris used to be a member of the Number Eleven Club, albeit he was never remotely in Jim’s class. But he’s worked at his batting in the manner of the modern professional and who knows how many he would have made had he not run out of partner?
Morris’s stand with Leach was only the third in a series of trials for Steven Mullaney’s bowlers. At 4.30 on Thursday afternoon Worcestershire were 216 for 7 and the visitors could look forward to chipping away at a modest total. Nearly 24 hours later the last three wickets had more than doubled the score and it was therefore to the credit of Ben Slater and Haseeb Hameed that Nottinghamshire did not suffer the general chaos that so often follows a last-wicket stand.
The openers put on an unbroken 99 in 44 overs and our evening’s play ended with the sort of proficient strokeplay and quiet accomplishment that Walter Keeton or George Gunn would have recognised and appreciated. Hameed worked Alzarri Joseph down to third man, thereby reaching his fifty off 136 balls. The pick of his four fours was a clip through midwicket off Leach and this may yet be a significant innings for a 24-year-old who has yet to make a hundred for Nottinghamshire. Slater batted unobtrusively well, too, and such serene accumulation will have pleased the visiting coaches.
In truth, though, Worcestershire’s resistance had already given our cricket a curiously misshapen quality, with Nottinghamshire’s first innings being the appendix to the day rather than its main body. Certainly this New Road pitch suits batsmen intent on occupation, for it is predominantly low and moderately paced. It might well offer the spinners a little more assistance on Sunday but at present any variable bounce has been well covered by Hameed and Slater. That said, the openers were probably grateful for any help that was going; before their quiescent partnership this evening their highest opening stand of the season was 11 in four attempts.
Odd records were also set in Worcestershire’s innings. For example their total of 436 was the fifth occasion in eight red-ball games that they had made over 400 in their first innings. This was a fine effort, one that had been launched by Daryl Mitchell and Jake Libby‘s first-wicket stand but then maintained after a collapse by Joseph and Ed Barnard, both of whom completed their fifties this morning. Joseph made 61 before he chipped Zak Chappell to Joe Clarke at short mid-on and Barnard’s fine 58 ended when he tried to cut a ball from Liam Patterson-White that was too close to him and edged a catch to Tom Moores.
Which leaves us with that last-wicket stand, the eccentric centrepiece of our day. Leach took the main role, of course. After reaching his half-century off 99 balls, Worcestershire’s skipper whacked Mullaney for a straight six and followed it with a cover drive. Then, just before our delayed lunch Chappell bowled to Morris and Mullaney placed six close fielders, none of them in the slip cordon. It is a tactical stratagem roughly translated as: “Sod this for a game of soldiers. Stick it up his nose.”
After lunch Lyndon James bowled to Leach with the fielders practising an extreme example of social distancing. Off the fifth ball Worcestershire’s skipper managed a single and next over we went through a similar rigmarole. By the time Leach edged Patterson-White to slip Nottinghamshire’s ire was comparable to that of the local patriots who had noticed that someone had failed to honour St George’s Day by hoisting England’s flag on the cathedral tower. Shakespeare’s birthday was therefore marked by a hunt for the wide-chopped rascal, the bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog responsible for the insult. Investigations were continuing this evening. Hameed will continue tomorrow.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications