Moeen and Hughes star for Royals
Moeen Ali and Phil Hughes struck dazzling half-centuries as Worcestershire got their Friends Life t20 Midlands/Wales/West Group campaign under way with a comfortable 47-run victory over Gloucestershire at New Road.
With both sides having their opening fixtures washed out on Friday, it was Worcestershire who seized the momentum with Moeen’s Twenty20-best 82 from 44 balls setting up an imposing total of 213 for two.
With Hughes equally punishing in reaching an unbeaten 78 from 48 deliveries, the target was too much for the Gladiators. Jack Shantry claimed 4-33 and Gareth Andrew snared 3-20 as Gloucestershire folded for 166.
Not even the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan could hold up Worcestershire’s charge, but the 40-year-old Sri Lankan was the most economical bowler with 27 runs conceded in four overs.
Although targeted for one of Moeen’s four sixes, Muralitharan managed to pose one or two problems, which was some sort of achievement as the batsmen tucked into a mixture of seam and spin on offer from a hard-pressed attack.
Moeen gave a hint of things to come with four fours off David Payne in the second over and the pace only quickened when Vikram Solanki - no slouch himself with 16 from 12 balls - missed a full toss from James Fuller.
That brought in Hughes to trade blow for blow with Moeen in a left-handed partnership which made a mockery of any plans that Hamish Marshall may have had in his first match as Gloucestershire’s designated T20 captain.
Moeen posted the hundred stand in under 10 overs with a six over midwicket off Kane Williamson but he was bowled next ball attempting another big hit off the spinner.
That dismissal brought no respite for Gloucestershire as the hard-hitting Andrew marked his promotion up the order with an unbeaten 32 in a five-over alliance of 65 with Hughes.
The pressure quickly got to the Gladiators’ batsmen. A quick-fire 43 by Marshall gave them some hope and fellow New Zealander Williamson threatened with 37 until brilliantly caught on the boundary by Solanki.
Fuller, with a huge six over the New Road stand, was the best of the rest with 36 from 22 balls but the result was all but confirmed when he was caught at long-off to give David Lucas his one success in three overs for only 13 runs.