Middlesex keep the winning habit
Middlesex’s buoyant start in the LV= County Championship spilled over into the limited-overs arena as they began their Clydesdale Bank 40 campaign with a 24-run victory over Worcestershire at New Road.
Unbeaten leaders in Division Two in the four-day game, the Panthers made five changes after beating Derbyshire on Saturday but their rejigged bowling attack was up to the task in defending a total of 206.
Despite a free-flowing 61 from 58 balls by Vikram Solanki, Worcestershire could muster only 182 as both teams had problems on a sluggish surface.
Middlesex reached 157 for three before losing seven wickets for 49 in 11.1 overs and the home side completely lost their way after Solanki and Moeen Ali had launched their challenge with an opening stand of 78 in 12.5 overs.
Off-spinner Ollie Rayner removed the openers in quick succession and the innings went into reverse gear.
In a disciplined bowling performance, Middlesex gave nothing away as Toby Roland-Jones claimed 2-28 and all-rounder Gareth Berg cleaned up with a one-day best of 4-24 in seven overs.
James Cameron provided the only resistance, token as it was, until he was last out for 41, having edged the previous ball from Tim Murtagh for the only boundary since the 15th over.
For Worcestershire, already beaten twice on their return to Division One in the championship, this disappointing performance was reminiscent of last year when they began the competition with seven consecutive defeats.
There was an early knock to confidence with an unhappy return to first-team cricket for Richard Jones. The former England Under-19 seamer was heckled by some of his own supporters as he conceded 33 runs in three overs, although he did pick up a wicket when Dawid Malan provided Solanki with a head-high catch at slip.
The impressive Jack Shantry compensated with 2-25 from a full ration. Paul Stirling, the Irishman who made a World Cup century in 70 balls against the Netherlands, was caught at short third man for 21 and Scott Newman crashed a loose delivery to mid-off after reaching 34.
Middlesex got over these mishaps but then lost direction as soon as Worcestershire’s spinners had broken the biggest partnership of 72 with two wickets in the space of four deliveries.
Berg, who straight drove the only six of the day in making 31, opened the door when he was bowled off stump by Moeen and skipper Neil Dexter gave up his wicket on 48 with an ill-timed chip to long-on off Shaaiq Choudhry.
Australian Tom Scollay and wicketkeeper Ben Scott were only other batsmen to reach double figures as Gareth Andrew claimed three of the last four wickets.