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COME on own up, who thought Worcestershire would have been relegated this season?
I have to admit I personally didn’t give them much of a chance, and I’m more than happy that they have proved me wrong.
But let’s be honest, I wasn’t the only one who thought that Steve Rhodes’ men were for the drop.
The bookmakers had them at 20/1 on for relegation and the pundits didn’t need to think twice about condemning Worcestershire.
The New Road director of cricket always said that keeping his team in the top-flight of the LV= County Championship this season would rank as one of his greatest achievements.
And this is from a man who had who a number of titles as a player and a coach, as well as playing for England in the Ashes.
That’s just how big a job that Worcestershire were facing.
The County had of course played in Division One, in 2004, 2007 and 2009, and they were relegated each time.
The budget they for those campaigns was bigger than the one that they have now too.
What’s different this time from the last, is the team spirit. I’m not saying that Worcestershire didn’t have that before, but this time around it was even greater.
But spirit alone doesn’t get the job done, some stand-out performers were needed too.
When Rhodes signed Alan Richardson a couple of years ago, a few eyebrows were raised about the former Warwickshire seamer’s fitness record.
But the now 36-year-old has been one of the finest signings ever to be made by any county.
In his first season at New Road, Richardson played 14 matches and took 55 wickets as the County secured an unlikely return to Division One.
If anyone thought that was a fine effort then it had nothing on this term.
While Richardson did not play in a single one-day match this season, the former Middlesex bowler played in every game in the championship.
Not only did he surpass last season’s efforts, he went on to secure a career-best haul and finish as the leading wicket-taker in Division One with 73.
But Worcestershire’s survival was not about just one man.
Gareth Andrew enjoyed a stellar campaign, in fact he was ranked the second best player in the country, taking more than 50 wickets and scored over 600 runs.
Australian all-rounder Damien Wright also shone for the bowlers in the opening seven matches taking 31 wickets.
Wicketkeeper Ben Scott came back into the side on loan from Middlesex and shored things behind the stumps and added valuable runs lower down the order.
Former skipper Vikram Solanki was the pick of the batsmen with more than 1,100 runs and while the rest struggled in comparison, that will not matter for now.
In Worcestershire’s three previous attempts at maintaining their Division One status, winning games had been the problem.
In 2004, the New Road side won three, in 2007 they only picked up won, while in 2009 the County went through the entire campaign without tasting a single success.
This time however, they picked up four wins — but even that was one short of the target they had set back in April. The first victory came against the then reigning champions Nottinghamshire where the Trent Bridge side set the County a total of more than 250 to chase down.
A solid platform was laid by Matt Pardoe and Solanki before Andrew and then Moeen Ali and Alexei Kervezee guided them home.
Worcestershire then secured a second win on the back of that success with Shakib Al Hasan, in his only match of the season, picked up seven wickets and scored a half-century.
A Saeed Ajmal inspired County then stunned Sussex at Horsham with a remarkable 34-run success.
The biggest win of the campaign came against the team that went on to win the title — Lancashire.
So frail in their batting, Worcestershire’s bowlers Richardson, Andrew, Kemar Roach and Richard Jones ripped them apart at New Road as the County recorded a 10-wicket success.