Knappett stars in losing cause
Worcestershire avoided further embarrassment by the Unicorns after a rousing effort by their former reserve wicketkeeper, Josh Knappett, in the Clydesdale Bank 40 clash at New Road.
Knappett made a defiant 91 from 100 balls – beating his previous best in the competition by a single run – but the Unicorns’ total of 181 for nine was not quite enough for them to repeat their victory when the teams met at Kidderminster last month.
After seven consecutive CB40 defeats, the Royals made it two wins in a row when edging home by five wickets with 12 balls to spare in a match trimmed to 37 overs a side because of rain.
For Knappett it was special day back at Worcestershire, where he spent three seasons but never played a competitive match for the first team.
Now back playing for Finchley in the Middlesex Championship, he has made his appearances for the Unicorns a showcase for his ability with the bat. This was his third half-century while scoring 300 runs in 10 innings.
Given that he scored a first-class hundred for Oxford UCCE before joining Worcestershire, it was no surprise to see him playing with such authority after the county attack had removed both Unicorns openers inside six overs.
Jackson Thompson clumped Jack Shantry’s second ball to mid-on and Chris Murtagh gave Chris Russell a debut wicket in the competition when Vikram Solanki held a slip chance at the second attempt.
The part-timers ran into more bother when skipper Keith Parsons was caught behind off former Somerset team-mate Gareth Andrew.
But Knappett built a new platform in successive stands of 50 with Sean Park and Neil Hancock, the Devon-based Australian who hit two sixes off Shakib Al Hasan in making 29.
Knappett, having hit 10 of the 15 boundaries in the Unicorns’ innings, cruelly missed the century he deserved when he attempted to pull Andrew and dragged the ball on to his stumps.
Andrew and Shantry finished with three wickets each in keeping Worcestershire’s target below 200 and Moeen Ali launched their chase with 40 from 26 balls in an opening partnership of 55 with Solanki.
When Moeen departed in the seventh over, driving ex-Surrey seamer Neil Saker to mid-off, the early momentum was lost as Hancock conceded only 17 runs in seven overs and took two wickets, including Solanki - caught at deep midwicket - for 39.
Off-spinner Chris Brown also kept things tight in an eight-over spell that cost 33 and Knappett held a chance to remove Daryl Mitchell for 23, but James Cameron, with 25 not out, and Shaaiq Choudhry, who made an unbeaten 21, kept their nerve in a match-sealing stand of 44.