A successful fitness test for Moeen Ali and a century for Tom Fell in his first Division One appearance in the LV= County Championship guided promoted Worcestershire to 264 for eight until bad light ended the opening day against champions Yorkshire at New Road.
In making 62 while batting for 163 minutes, Moeen passed the first hurdle in his recovery from a side strain suffered at the World Cup four weeks ago. If he is able to bowl satisfactorily, he could rejoin the England touring party in the West Indies later this week.
An absorbing first day saw wickets for four of Yorkshire’s six seamers, a partnership of 118 between Moeen and Fell, and a score that could become workable for Worcestershire on a dry surface.
Fell scored centuries in successive Division Two innings against Leicestershire and Glamorgan in the middle of last summer and for him to get to the next one at the higher level is further reward for Worcestershire’s faith in their young players.
The team here is heavily based on the personnel who came up from the Second Division in time for the county’s 150th anniversary this summer.
Winter signing Alex Gidman was lbw to Tim Bresnan for seven, Sri Lanka spinner Sachithra Senanayake is keeping a place warm for the return of Saeed Ajmal and all-rounder Gareth Andrew showed his value with an unbeaten 42 after missing most of last season with a back injury.
Yorkshire are without their captain Andrew Gale as he completes a suspension at a time when they have six players in the England squad.
Yet their core strength is mostly intact in the battery of seam bowlers, including 20-year-old Will Rhodes on his Championship debut.
Jack Brooks, last year’s leading wicket-taker, was quickly back in the old routine with a spell of two for 10. Richard Oliver was out third ball, giving the first of three catches to wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd, and Daryl Mitchell was well taken by Jack Leaning at third slip.
Moeen’s innings could have ended when he got off the mark with an edged four off Ryan Sidebottom, bisecting Hodd and Ales Lees at first slip, and he also gave a chance at short extra cover on 21. In general it was a polished performance, more circumspect than eyecatching, although the trademark flamboyance was not forgotten. But having hit 10 fours, an expansive drive off Bresnan led to another dismissal for Hodd.
Gidman and Tom Kohler-Cadmore fell in quick succession, the latter pulling over a ball in Brooks’s afternoon spell, and Ben Cox (10), was brilliantly caught by Bresnan at third slip.
Fell might have been caught by Hodd in the 60s but he had 99 at tea and completed his century in the first over after the break with four off his legs. He fell aiming a similar shot, clipping a chance to Hodd’s left after making 114 from 234 minutes. In all he hit 16 boundaries from 196 balls. Finally Jack Shantry was lbw to Steve Patterson for 15 shortly before bad light ended play.
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Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie praised his men for sticking to their duties.
“Overall we’re quite happy. The pitch and outfield are a bit slow, so it was a patience game really, and we had to work hard. By and large we stuck to our task quite well,” he said.
For Fell, it was a case of soaking up the moment of cashing in against the defending champions.
“I came in at a difficult situation,” he said. “It wasn’t necessarily doing a lot off the wicket, it was just the areas they bowled in. There was a little bit of swing, Brooks and Sidebottom bowled really well and gave us nothing. Yorkshire have got one of the best attacks in the Championship. That makes a bit more special, playing against the 2014 champions.”