Recent Match Report – Essex vs Worcs Group 1 2021

Worcestershire 364 (Mitchell 67, D’Oliveira 67, Fell 53) and 129 for 2 (Libby 52*, Cook 2-7) drew with Essex 561 for 8 dec (Cook 115, Westley 113, Lawrence 90, Walter 65, Harmer 57*)

When spectators are finally allowed back into New Road, they will be greeted by something of a sad sight. Two of the horse chestnut trees that have overlooked the ground for many years have gone; felled to prevent the disease they suffered spreading to the fortunate remaining tree.

As this match has worn on, however, the suspicion has grown that the two trees were the lucky ones. Indeed, an alternate theory is they hacked themselves down as they could no longer bear to watch the grim cricket being played in front of them.

That is not to decry the efforts of the two sides in this match. Both fought hard throughout. There was no shortage of skill or commitment on offer in this game.

But 40 wickets have now fallen at this ground in eight days of cricket this season. And, while a total of 2,002 runs in that time might make it sound as if there has been a feast of batting, the run-rate has been 2.75 per over. It is not a wicket that is good for batters, bowlers or spectators. At times in this match, there were six fielders on the boundary and batters were more concerned with shovelling out low-bouncing grubbers than thinking of the stokes they might play. You could almost imagine the poor remaining tree calling out for a lumberjack.

Such a track has not been designed. Instead, the club are dealing with the consequences of severe winter flooding followed by a dry but cold March. As a result, there has been little grass growth. The groundstaff cannot be blamed.

It does make for pretty grim cricket, though. You wonder whether the use of heat lamps – to promote grass growth – or hybrid surfaces – which are now routinely used in limited-overs cricket – might play a part in finding a solution. But Worcestershire are going to find it desperately tough to win games here if the wickets are like this. The extra points provided for a draw this season do little to discourage such tracks.

“It was a low, slow, turgid wicket,” Essex head coach Anthony McGrath said afterwards. “It was tough for bowlers and not free-flowing for batsmen. When Simon Harmer isn’t getting any turn at nearly 5pm on the fourth evening, you know things are tough. It’s been a grind. It’s not made for great watching.

“I’d be open-minded about trials of hybrid pitches. In some circumstances, like those we’ve seen here, it might be worth experimenting.”

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