THE climax to Worcestershire’s 2014 campaign is beginning to turn into a rather tense affair.
Having hurtled towards promotion for much of the summer, the County have seemingly started to stutter at the crucial moment.
Although Steve Rhodes’ side are still odds-on to secure a place in LV= County Championship Division One next season — they are, after all, still top of Division Two — it is not looking as certain as it was.
After a superb run of 12 matches without defeat, Worcestershire lost to Gloucestershire by seven wickets at New Road before yesterday’s 138-run defeat at Derbyshire.
With two more games to come against Surrey and Essex, there could be a few more nail-biting moments before the end of the month.
It is possible that nerves are creeping in and, if that’s the case, who can blame them?
Worcestershire are predominantly a young side which, although having blossomed, is still relatively inexperienced. Many, such as Richard Oliver (pictured), who managed just one run in two innings at Derby, have not featured at the business end of a season before.
There would also have been extra pressure on them to get at the very least a draw at Derbyshire knowing the opposition to come.
Then they could have gone into next week’s final home match against Surrey with promotion virtually in the bag, rather than it still in the balance.
It is also fair to say that Worcestershire have not been helped by the bizarre scheduling of the ECB.
Because of the Royal London One-Day Cup campaign, the County played just one four-day match — the defeat to Gloucestershire — between July 24, the end of their eight-wicket win against the same opponents, and this week’s Derbyshire defeat.
While every team had a lengthy break in the four-day calendar, it saw the momentum firmly taken away from Worcestershire and stopped them in their tracks.
Having to go from a 50-over match to the championship overnight last month was also unhelpful.
Had the one-day competition not been so heavily loaded towards the end of the season, the County may have wrapped up promotion by now.
Instead, it is a nervy finale.