Continuing our season reviews, here is an assesment of Worcestershire's campaign.
Championship Division Two – 2nd; (2nd)
Friends Provident Trophy – 3rd, South West Conference; (Group Stage)
Twenty20 Cup – 5th, Mid/West/Wales Division; (Group Stage)
Pro40 Division One – 7th (4th)
Worcestershire began the 2008 season with high hopes of regaining their division one status in the county championship, as well as cementing their place as one the most consistent one day teams in the country.
Boosted by high profile winter signing Simon Jones, as well as the promise of young talents such as Darryl Mitchell, Stephen Moore and Steve Davies being nurtured by the more mature Kabir, Hick and Smith it looked as though the season held real promise.
At the beginning of the campaign Worcestershire found themselves with an Aussie leading the attack, as surprisingly Simon Jones was injured! Steve Magoffin came with a good pedigree from Western Australia, and was filling in for the internationally committed Fidel Edwards. Magoffin bowled manfully, for long spells throughout the start of the season and when he left mid season it was with a respectable 23 wickets at 32.
However, the real early season column inches were being filled by the other two seamers, Kabir and Simon Jones. It was almost a certainty that one or the other would take a five wicket haul every innings, and before injury curtailed Jones’ season he had taken a staggering 42 wickets at just 18.
The other star performer of the early season was Stephen Moore. The first man to reach 500 championship runs (in a really poor season for batsmen all over the country) Moore finished the season with 1288 first class runs at 54 with 5 hundreds. He finally signed a new deal with the club during the season and is now firmly established as one of the finest openers in the country.
As well as Worcestershire’s solid start to the championship campaign there was a more than reasonable attempt at the Friends Provident Trophy. Although the value of this trophy seems to be rated higher than the Pro40 league, it is unlikely that any Worcestershire player would complain too strongly if this early season farce was scrapped. With too many games affected by the weather, this is simply a distraction and a further congestant to the fixture calendar that the players don’t need. With too many dead overs in the middle the game lasts too long and doesn’t make for attractive viewing.
In terms of other domestic one day competitions Worcestershire flattered to deceive again in the T20 cup, and despite possessing such potential stars as Solanki, Hick and Ali Worcestershire just can’t seem to get to grips with twenty over cricket. Again, Hick was the clubs highest run scorer in the competition and this is just one area in which the club will struggle to replace the great man.
Strangely, although having to contest a place in the end of season play off in the Pro40, this was probably the clubs most successful one day competition. It certainly was for one young man, who after an impressive season in championship cricket (698 runs at 38) had a blistering finish to the season in the Pro40. Steve Davies scored 491 runs at 82 in Pro40 and if another good season follows next year an England call up surely cant be too far away.
However, despite all of the seemingly endless one day games Worcestershire marched on in the championship and in an amazing spell won four out of five championship matches, three by ten wickets and the other by an innings. This really was the spell when promotion was clinched for the club.Eventually the club stumbled over the line, hampered by injuries to key players (including, unsurprisingly Jones) and eventually lost the title to rivals Warwickshire.
Funnily enough, this was not the biggest event of the final few weeks of the season. A fairly innocuous 14 made at Kidderminster, ironically the ground where he first came into English cricket, saw the end of the greatest career in the modern game. Graeme Ashley Hick was forced to retire before the end of the season and there is nothing to said really apart from thanks Graeme, and enjoy your retirement because we have certainly enjoyed watching you over the last twenty-odd years. A staggering 64000 runs in all cricket make him the highest run scorer ever, and although he is humble about his achievements now – that is the way of the man – I am sure one day he will look back and allow his chest to swell just a little with pride about his career at New Road.
So, to the future. Who replaces the great man, and who do Worcestershire need to bring in to survive in the now ultra competitive division one. The batting has looked vulnerable, and Moore will need a couple of new recruits around him to take the pressure off. Spin bowling has been lacking as Gareth Batty’s powers have waned over the last couple of years and the seam department still looks light on the ground, especially with the possibility of Simon Jones breaking down at any moment.
Player of the season:
Tough to choose between Kabir (59 wickets @ 18.74) or Moore (1288 runs @ 53.66). The fact that Moore carried the batting on his own on more than one occasion gives him the edge.
Most disappointing player:
Fidel Edwards for not turning up would be the easiest to say, but probably Gareth Batty. 393 runs @ 28 and 25 wickets @ 38 makes pretty poor reading and this is possibly an area for Steve Rhodes to look at. However, he has been bowling on a soggy New Road pitch and may profit from drier grounds such as Hove, Trent Bridge and Taunton.
Back to back 10 wicket wins in the middle of that purple patch in July confirmed the club were headed for promotion.
Difficult to pick one on the playing side, but it would probably be the retirement of the greatest Worcestershire batsman ever. However the club choose to honour him will be fitting, but not only is he one of the greatest cricketers of the modern era, he is a terrific human being, too. A sad loss to our game.
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