Worcestershire fight back on Day One at New Road
A late surge of wickets by Worcestershire all-rounder Ed Barnard turned the opening day of the Specsavers County Championship match with Lancashire at Blackfinch New Road on its head.
Lancashire’s Australian paceman Joe Mennie had ripped through the middle order as bottom placed Worcestershire were bowled out for 247 in 63.5 overs despite a fine century from Daryl Mitchell.
But four wickets in 16 balls by Barnard saw Lancashire nose-dive from a comfortable 77-0 to 86-5 by the close.
Mennie, who has played one Test and two ODIs, was brought in this winter along with Graham Onions to bolster the fast bowling department after the departure of Kyle Jarvis and Ryan McLaren from Emirates Old Trafford.
The 29-year-old finished with 4-43 from 12 overs to justify acting skipper Dane Villas’ decision to bowl first via an uncontested toss with Jordan Clark (4-56) mopping up the lower order.
But then came the Barnard blast as nightwatchman Stephen Parry, Haseeb Hammed, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Rob Jones were all dismissed for ducks in quickfire fashion.
Worcestershire’s plight when batting would have been worse but for the typical endurance and defiance displayed by Mitchell in registering his first Championship century of 2018.
In the process he moved into the top 10 of Worcestershire’s all-time century-makers in first class cricket, moving level on 31 tons for the County alongside Basil D’Oliveira and Alan Ormrod.
Mitchell had also scored a century against Lancashire in the Royal London One-Day Cup match between the two counties on the same ground last month.
He fought a virtual lone hand until being support by Barnard and Ross Whiteley in partially rescuing his side from 81-5 via stands of 66 and 79 for the sixth and seventh wickets respectively.
Opener Martin Guptill was presented with his county cap ahead of making his Worcestershire debut but he was dismissed for only two.
The New Zealander tried to leave a Onions delivery which followed him as he edged through to keeper Vilas.
Onions’ new ball partner Tom Bailey then bowled Tom Fell (10) but it was first change bowler Mennie who inflicted major damage to Worcestershire.
He clipped the off bail of Joe Clarke (21) and then struck twice in two balls as acting captain Brett D’Oliveira was lbw for eight and keeper Ben Cox (0) nicked a widish delivery to Vilas.
Barnard (21) dug in to help Mitchell attempt to retrieve the situation before he was bowled by Mennie on his return to the attack.
Whiteley, making his first Championship appearance of the season, hit two sixes in his quickfire knock of 32 before he was yorked by Clark who quickly polished off the innings.
He had Charlie Morris (0) caught behind and Steve Magoffin (0) held at cover by sub Saqib Mahmood before Mitchell skied a chance to Bailey at cover.
Mahmood was fielding as a replacement for Hammed who suffered a blow to the finger when fielding at slip attempting to catch a nick by Mitchell off Bailey when on 67.
Alex Davies replaced Hameed in the opening role and shared an untroubled stand of 77 with Keaton Jennings before, on 43, he pulled a Morris delivery and saw Guptill pull off a stunning diving catch at mid wicket.
Parry came in with still eight overs remaining but he failed to trouble the scorers before giving a return catch to Barnard.
His dismissal saw Hameed finally come to the wicket but he offered no shot to Barnard and was bowled for nought.
Chanderpaul (0) then drilled the next delivery from the former England Under-19 player to Pat Brown at point.
Rob Jones survived the hat-trick ball but also fell victim to Barnard, lbw for nough to the final ball of the day.