Hughes holds Warwickshire at bay
Phil Hughes’ first LV= County Championship century for Worcestershire placed another obstacle in Warwickshire’s path at Edgbaston in their bid to regain momentum in the title race.
After five games without a win, the Division One leaders would have hoped for an easier ride against relegation-threatened local rivals but left-hander Hughes resisted all their efforts in making an unbeaten 135 in a total of 246.
Worse followed for Warwickshire when Varun Chopra and Ian Westwood were lbw within eight balls from Alan Richardson and the pacy newcomer Chris Russell.
Richardson also had Will Porterfield taken in the slips before the troubled hosts closed on 19 for three.
Hughes became the first Worcestershire player to carry his bat since Stephen Moore in this fixture in 2008, but they missed out on a second batting point when their last five wickets fell for seven runs.
The 23-year-old Australian brilliantly transferred his prolific one-day form into the championship with a cascade of strokes sweeping him to his 18th first-class century. In a five-hour innings he hit 19 fours and a six from 207 balls.
The leading scorer in both the Friends Life t20 and Clydesdale Bank 40 competitions, Hughes had made only two fifties in seven championship innings.
It was Warwickshire’s misfortune that he chose this game to find his best form - though they made a good start in taking three wickets for 98 before lunch and would have fared even better but for an escape for Hughes.
He had reached 40 with little trouble when the third ball in Boyd Rankin’s first over lifted steeply, found the outside edge but eluded Tim Ambrose as the wicketkeeper stretched high to his left.
It was only when Hughes was joined by Vikram Solanki that Worcestershire had two batsmen firing together - and for too long for Warwickshire’s comfort, in a high-quality partnership yielding 124 in 31 overs.
The conditions may have become a little easier after a morning session in which the ball swung for Warwickshire’s seamers.
Daryl Mitchell was first to depart, leg-before to Chris Wright, and Keith Barker, recalled in the absence of Chris Woakes on England Lions duty, was rewarded for an excellent spell when Matthew Pardoe edged a drive to Ambrose.
A similar dismissal when Moeen Ali went after a full-length delivery began a new chapter in Rankin’s career, after his announcement that he is to retire from international cricket with Ireland to bid for an England place.
Solanki began to rebuild Worcestershire’s innings with six fours, as well as two sixes off Jeetan Patel, but having reached 57 he gave the off-spinner his 300th first-class wicket when sweeping to Barker at deep square-leg.
Joe Leach, one of three championship debutants in Worcestershire’s team, was out for a duck, but Brett D’Oliveira, grandson of Basil, did much better with 19 out of a partnership of 42 with Hughes. Both were caught in the slips off Wright.
Rankin and Patel, who finished 4-72 quickly polished off the tail, but there was further drama to follow.