Worcestershire reward Rhodes’ grow-your-own policy

Worcestershire 218 for 5 (Mitchell 67, Kohler-Cadmore 63) beat Derbyshire 238 (Thakor 60, Barnard 3-37) by five wickets (D/L method)

Worcestershire have secured a home semi-final in the Royal London Cup with a five-wicket victory over Derbyshire with four overs to spare.

Despite the absence of three leading players – Moeen Ali, John Hastings and Joe Clarke – to international duty and injury, Worcestershire clinched their sixth win of the campaign (they have lost only once) to secure top spot in the North Group.

It gives them a decent chance of a first Lord’s final appearance since 2004. They last won a trophy there in 1994, though they also won the 40-over league in 2007.

To make their success all the more satisfying, it was achieved almost entirely through the efforts of their locally developed players. After Ed Barnard and Josh Tongue, aged 21 and 19 respectively, had claimed four wickets between them, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Daryl Mitchell both contributed half-centuries to break the back of the run-chase.

Rhodes said: “It’s going to be a nice pay-day for the club and I’m very proud of what the team have done in finishing top of the group. We’re a small club and we like to play our young academy players. We don’t venture off too much with the non-English players and it’s a nice feeling to finish top.”

Perhaps most encouraging were the performances of Tongue and Kohler-Cadmore. Tongue, a young man who has been in the Worcestershire set-up for more than half his life, is blessed with height and natural pace – he is already the quickest bowler at the club – and looked to have an exciting future as he hurried batsmen and regularly hit high on the bat. He is certainly a man the England selectors will be watching closely.

Kohler-Cadmore, meanwhile, thumped his first ball for six – he skipped down the wicket and drove Ben Cotton over long-on – and soon repeated the stroke off both Cotton and Hardus Viljoen. Facially he looks remarkably like David Cameron, but the power with which he hit the ball and the presence he is beginning to show at the crease was just a little reminiscent of Graeme Hick. One pair of boundaries off Viljoen – a drive through extra-cover followed by a pull – were especially pleasing.

While he was not able to see his side home – he was brilliantly caught by Daryn Smit who was outstanding standing up to the stumps – and Viljoen precipitated a minor stutter, Ross Whiteley thrashed a straight six against his former club to see Worcestershire home.

While Clarke, who has a hamstring strain, is expected to return well before the semi-final dates (June 16 or 17), it remains to be seen if Hastings or Moeen are available. The final of the ICC Champions Trophy does not take place until June 18 so if either Australia or England are involved there is no chance they will be released. Perhaps Nathan Lyon was included here with one eye to the knock-out stages: players are only eligible if they have played in the group stages.

It was adversity that proved the making of this current Worcestershire side. At the end of 2009, with the club crippled financially and reeling from the departure of several of their best players (notably Steve Davies, Gareth Batty, Kabir Ali and Stephen Moore), the future looked grim.

While some might have turned to the Kolpak market, the Worcestershire director of cricket, Steve Rhodes, resolved to redouble his efforts to uncover local talent. Mining the resources of local private schools – notably Malvern, Shrewsbury, Bromsgrove and Oakham – he also strengthened the relationships with neighbouring non-first-class counties – notably Shropshire – and was rewarded with a crop of outstanding young players that are the envy of many far better resourced clubs.

It is telling Worcestershire have beaten Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire – all Test-hosting clubs – in this campaign. They will fear no-one in the semi-finals.

Keeping hold of such talented young players may prove problematic with Kohler-Cadmore the latest to gain the interest of Warwickshire. But wherever the likes of Clarke and Tonuge and Kohler-Cadmore end up playing, Worcestershire supporters can take pride in the seminal part their club has played in their emergence and satisfaction from the fact that they are contributing admirably to the general strength of the English game. Many clubs would do well to learn from them and they provide a reminder of what can be achieved if talent is identified, encouraged and given opportunity.

Derbyshire might feel a bit unfortunate after this match. Put in on what appeared to be a slightly tacky surface, they struggled to build momentum against an accurate seam attack (there were three maidens in the first 10 overs) in an innings that was interrupted by rain after 10.4 overs.

Shiv Thakor, especially impressive against the short ball, contributed an impressive half-century off 56 balls (all five of his boundaries at that stage were off Tongue) and Alex Hughes struck the spinners for three straight sixes, but from 147 for 3, Derbyshire lost their way against a disciplined attack and, in losing four for 22 just as they would have hoped to accelerate, were unable to set anything more than a par total.

It was not a perfect performance from Worcestershire, either. They dropped five chances in all – some of them fiendishly tough – but they are a side bursting with bowling options, who bat beyond the horizon and are playing with well-deserved confidence. They thoroughly deserve their place in the semi-finals.

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