Tom Fell surely possesses a unique perspective on playing cricket and it was a day for him to cherish deeply as his first red-ball hundred since beginning treatment for testicular cancer in 2015 helped his side to a second Bob Willis Trophy victory as Worcestershire beat Northamptonshire by 78 runs at Wantage Road.
His unbeaten 110 allowed Worcestershire to declare on the final morning and set Northamptonshire 263 in 68 overs, a target they defended as the hosts were bowled out for 184.
Fell was a rising star at New Road and as 21-year-old in 2015 made 1,127 first-class runs at 42. But the hundred he made against Middlesex that September was his last until now. Cancer cruelly halted his career progress but here was evidence that he still has much to give the game.
It was a touching moment when he took his overnight 81 to a sixth first-class century, nudging his 205th delivery to long leg off Gareth Berg. There was visible emotion on the visitors’ balcony.
And no doubt scenes of joy inside the dressing room after Worcestershire completed victory to keep up their challenge for a place in the final. After a poor 2019 in the County Championship, the Worcester Boys are again happy in red-ball cricket.
After Fell reached his hundred, the flare immediately went up and he and Ed Barnard launched 29 in two overs before the declaration came, Worcestershire no doubt mindful of running out of time against Glamorgan.
The target offered hope for Northamptonshire and they began brightly. Ricardo Vasconcelos cut two boundaries, flicked another and beautifully drove Brett D’Oliveira for another four to leave an exciting finish in prospect.
The hosts were going very well at 48 without loss but it was quickly ruined by their latest collapse at they lost 3 for 7 in 10 balls.
Both openers fell in identical fashion. But both decisions against Ben Curran, to Joe Leach for 17, and Vasconcelos, to Josh Tongue for 31, appeared to have some doubt with balls from right-arm over to left-handers that didn’t significantly straighten. Alex Wakely was on the receiving end of some surprising bounce, his back foot block ballooning off the splice to Tongue at mid-on.
Charlie Thurston nicked behind a brisk Barnard away-swinger soon after. Richard Levi then tried to turn Dillon Pennington to leg and got a leading edge to point where Barnard to a good catch diving forward. Pennington struck again before tea as Saif Zaib drove outside off and edged behind.
Northamptonshire went down swinging in the final session. Gareth Berg cut Leach for four but was bowled driving at Tongue. Adam Rossington pulled two boundaries and advanced at Leach to lift him over mid-on. He skewed another four over the slips cordon but eventually skied a catch to Cox off Leach.
The fun continued as Nathan Buck struck three sixes – Leach over midwicket, Pennington and Barnard over long-on, the latter after a sashay down the wicket.
Buck’s unbeaten 24 was the innings’ third-highest score and Northamptonshire took only four points from the game. Results not the focus for Head Coach David Ripley however, having declared his intention to use the Bob Willis Trophy as a development competition before the season began.
Worcestershire 219 (Muzarabani 4/29, Buck 3/67) & 255/6 dec (Buck 3/42, Zaib 2/57)
Northamptonshire 212 (Berg 45, Buck 32) & 184 (Rossington 44, Vasconcelos 31)
Worcestershire won by 78 runs.