None of the three players in England’s Champions Trophy squad had a great day here in the opening round of the Royal London One-Day Cup, but a lad who might just squeeze into England’s next World Cup squad did.
Alex Hales was a victim of circumstance when Nottinghamshire were forced to bat first on a cloudy morning and a pitch which camouflaged the Outlaws in their green uniform.
Hales illustrated how he uses his height to full advantage – when punching off the back foot – but not his reach: he was trapped leg-before for 13, half-forward to Worcestershire’s new captain Joe Leach, and departed without profiting from the short boundary on the Cathedral side.
Moeen Ali, his head now shaven, had a much better day with ball than bat. He took a couple of wickets which kept Notts in check in mid-innings: when Michael Lumb might have accelerated to his century and beyond, he had to rein in because of Moeen and the threat he posed, and did not get to three figures until the 47th over, a rather old-fashioned rate.
As the rain set in after Notts had totalled 273, Worcestershire were set to score 168 off 22 overs. Moeen, opening, played a shot a ball before that became necessary and was dismissed when trying to pull a length ball from Jake Ball and was caught at mid-off.
Ball, the third member of England’s Champions Trophy squad on show, took two wickets – both Worcestershire openers – in his second over, but his day went downhill.
It was fiendishly difficult to defend the short boundary, whichever end a bowler tried, but Ball pitched short too often, and he did not try the variations which had earned him a place in the squad ahead of Steve Finn.
Like the rest of Notts’s pace bowlers, Ball responded to the pressure of the run-chase by bowling flat out, without trying slower balls which would have been more confusing than normal because the light deteriorated until it was dingey-dark – and Worcester has no floodlights.
In this darkness Joe Clarke was a very bright spark, and his 40 was the innings of the day. He has Joe Root’s ability in 50-over batting to score off almost every ball, plus the capacity to hit over the boundary.
He pumped momentum into his side’s innings by slog-sweeping Samit Patel for six, cut Stuart Broad twice in an over for four, then ramped Luke Fletcher and Broad to put Worcestershire ahead of the required rate. Some clubbing by Ross Whiteley finished off the job.
A brother of another member of England’s one-day squad also had a good day: Will Root, younger brother of Joe, and more rubbery as a batsman, in that he easily went down on one knee to get under the ball, and faster as a fielder. But Clarke stands out as a young batsman who could enter England’s one-day side by the 2019 World Cup.