Young batters show their mettle in response to a weighty first inning from Worcestershire.
Phillips, 19, scored a career-best 80 in only his second senior game,
Worcestershire 406 (D’Oliveira 90, Baker 75, Waite 64, Roderick 53) trail Gloucestershire 212 for 4 (Phillips 80, O Price 75*, T Price 41*) by 194 runs.
Youngsters On day two of the LV=County Championship match versus Worcestershire at the Cheltenham Festival, Joe Phillips and Ollie Price teamed to keep Gloucestershire afloat.
Both outperformed their more experienced teammates, striking important half-centuries on a day when the hosts recovered from 120 for 4 to close on 212 for 4 in response to Worcestershire’s first inning 406.
Phillips, 19, scored a career-best 80 in only his second senior game, while Price, 22, concluded on 75 not out, waging a successful rearguard action with his elder brother Tom, who is unbeaten on 41.
Worcestershire took the lead after Joe Leach took three wickets in 16 balls, but Gloucestershire is behind by 194 runs and can yet equalize when play resumes in the morning.
Brett D’Oliveira had earlier top-scored with 90, while Josh Baker had a career-best 75 as the hosts were forced to work hard, with Worcestershire’s last three wickets resulting in a 224-run victory.
Phillips could easily have passed up this latest opportunity to make a strong impression just a week after making his debut on this same pitch in the draw against Glamorgan. After battling his way to 24 not out, Adam Finch unceremoniously uprooted his off stump, only for the Worcestershire bowler to be no-balled.
Finch went to his knees, head in his hands, and, evidently distressed by his transgression, managed two more costly overs before being removed from the attack. Phillips, determined to capitalize on his good fortune, positively blossomed, plundering four boundaries at the expense of Finch to give his innings a boost.
With his eighth four, a smooth cover drive at the expense of Baker’s slow left arm, the Cornishman reached his maiden first-class fifty from 87 balls, visibly gaining in size with each run scored. Ollie Price was the ideal foil in a second-wicket stand that yielded 100 off 171 balls. With tea approaching and a hundred within reach, Phillips experienced an untimely lapse in focus, pushing at a ball outside off stump from Leach and gifting a simple catch to first slip.
His 127-ball innings contained 13 fours and more than made up for the early loss of fellow opener Chris Dent, who was caught at the wicket off the bowling of Dillon Pennington in the eighth over.
After Phillips’ dismissal, Leach completed an incisive burst of three wickets in 16 balls by dismissing Miles Hammond and James Bracey in quick succession after tea to reduce Gloucestershire to 120 for 4.
Unfazed by the chaos at the other end, Ollie Price went about his business quietly, grinding his way to a 128-ball 50 in conjunction with his brother Tom. These two worked tirelessly in an unbroken 92-run stand, defying everything Worcestershire could throw at them for 34 overs to get their team back into the game.
Worcestershire resumed on 265 for 7, adding 141 runs in the morning session, thanks in large part to skipper D’Oliveira’s continuing obstinacy. After contributing 83 for the sixth wicket with Matthew Waite on the first day, he arranged lucrative stands of 141 and 49 for the eighth and ninth wickets with Baker and Finch, respectively.
It was a difficult pill to chew for Gloucestershire’s bowlers, whose ranks had been weakened by Matt Taylor’s absence due to an infected cut on his foot. After reducing their opponents to 182 for 7 and hoping to eliminate them cheaply, the home side was forced to pay as Worcestershire’s final three wickets yielded a further 244 runs.
Baker, not happy with his first half-century of the season, struck a new career-high score of 75, surpassing his 61 against Middlesex in a match at Lord’s in September 2021. He was eventually caught behind off van Meekeren’s bowling after facing 135 balls, hitting a six and seven fours, and establishing a new record eighth wicket stand for Worcestershire in matches against Gloucestershire, surpassing the 124 made by Steve Rhodes and Stuart Lampitt at Bristol in 1997.
Gloucestershire received the new ball, only to have it fly to the boundary with increasing frequency as Finch took up the cudgels, straight-driving Zaman Akhter for four to raise 350 and then square-cutting him for six. Rhodes had delivered his highest total of the season, hewn from 164 balls and studded with 10 fours, and was only 10 shy of a century when he took on van Meekeren and top-edged a draw shot to mid-on.
Pennington, the last man, drove van Meekeren for four to reach 400 and a fourth batting bonus point before top-edging the Dutchman to mid-on, having taken 26 from 20 balls. The final wicket yielded 34 runs, and Finch finished unbeaten on 33, equaling his highest total in Championship cricket.
Slow left-armer Zafar Gohar bowled 13 overs for 29 runs, while van Meekeren and Akhter concluded with 4 for 93 and 3 for 88, respectively. Gloucestershire’s seamers were guilty of bowling too many short deliveries, and the team went off at the lunch break looking exhausted.
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