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Worcestershire CCC - 2021 Season
#51
[Image: Worcs1.jpg] [Image: Worcs-Sussex-CCCLogo.png]


Day Four


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Morning: Still plenty of clouds above early on Thursday, and a positive start for Worcestershire with Adam Finch banging in a short ball that Archie Lenham top-edged through to the keeper on the pull for 9. A few overs later, just before the new ball became available, Jack Carson got a little too eager to advance the score and pulled Finch straight to a diving deep square leg for 7, leaving the visitors 234-8. A spellbinding passage of play followed the new nut, with 16-year-old Dan Ibrahim bidding to become the youngest centurion in the history of the County Championship, having already become the youngest to a half-century in June, while the Pears looked to wrap things up quickly. Having taken the lead beyond 300, Henry Crocombe lobbed up a leading edge to cover for 6 off Dillon Pennington, leaving Ibrahim (in the absence of a declaration) to try and write his name in the history books off the last-wicket stand. In the end, with Worcestershire pulling every fielder back to the boundary, he came within six runs before falling at the final hurdle; Joe Leach sent down a legside ball that drew a wild pivoting swing across the line with no result except a simple catch for the keeper, prompting a late and somewhat half-hearted appeal from the skipper alone. Having been asked the question, the umpire instantly adjudged the ball to have been gloved behind and cut Ibrahim's knock short on 94, bringing the Sussex innings to a close on 263 and setting Worcs what seemed like a nominal target of 315 to win. Resuming at quarter past noon, the openers made a positive start, but on the stroke of lunch Daryl Mitchell was bowled off the pads by a ball that jagged fiercely back in, and the home side went into the interval 39-1.

Afternoon: He may have intended to simply keep up the attacking intent, but it all went horribly wrong once again for Tom Fell after cutting his first delivery away for four. Having been reprieved once by a dropped catch behind, the number three soon departed to a poorly-judged and poorly-executed pull that dropped into the hands of midwicket for just 4. On the verge of an all-too-familiar collapse, it required a patient and watchful stand from Jake Libby and Jack Haynes to steady the ship. Though the former enjoyed a little luck here and there - his first delivery was edged through a vacant fourth slip, and a couple of further edges fell short of the cordon - he reached his half-century in assured style, and tea was taken with Worcestershire 129-2 and no longer in imminent danger of losing the match.

Evening: For the first time in a cloudy and chilly week, the sun broke through and lit up New Road splendidly as the batsmen motored along on a flattening pitch. Haynes completed his own fifty in the first over after the resumption, but a note of caution was sounded soon after when a ball from Fynn Hudson-Prentice stuck in the pitch and had the young man caught and bowled for 62. Nevertheless, Sussex were perhaps guilty of going a bit too defensive a bit too soon with their field, and with no slips to threaten him, Libby was all too happy to bash Henry Crocombe all around the ground as he raced to his tenth first-class century. For his part, Ben Cox got stuck into the spinners with his full array of slog-sweeps and straight drives, and though the required run-rate had climbed to a run a ball by the time he was caught at long-on for 37, with just a few dozen to knock off and wickets in hand it was a fairly simple equation. Dolly promptly came out in T20 mode and made mincemeat of whatever the young guns threw at him, reaching a 28-ball half-century with identical back-to-back sixes from simple legside flicks. In the end, it was all wrapped up with overs to spare; not necessarily a miraculous win, but certainly an unexpected and welcome one.


Worcestershire WIN by six wickets


The Verdict: The final day turnaround may well have been an age-old tale of youth coming unstuck against experience, as Sussex's undoubtedly talented line-up of teens - who'd enjoyed the better of the first three days - lost their way little by little when the momentum of the chase swung against them. They can take heart from some excellent performances, and hopefully Worcestershire can likewise find a bit of confidence after getting the basics right with bat and ball for the first time in a long while.


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#52
They played us in a 50 over game at Sedbergh they made 270 plus and had us on the rack but like your game lack of experience showed
Have you heard about the news on Mizar 5
People got to shout to stay alive

@themaclad  twitter account
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#53
County Championship, Division Three

vs Leicestershire

Day One


[Image: Worcester148.jpg]


Morning: Leicestershire won the toss and elected to bat as welcome September sunshine flooded New Road on a balmy Tuesday, and with their shadows stretching long over the wicket, the opposition formed a respectful guard of honour to welcome Daryl Mitchell onto the field for the final match of his career. It was no less an occasion for Joe Leach after announcing his decision to resign the captaincy at season's end, and the skipper led the way as ever, drawing an edge from Hasan Azad in his second over that was snaffled at second slip for 2. There was a sense of deja vu for a spell after that, with one dropped catch, LBW shouts being denied, and bad balls being driven to the boundary with alarming regularity; but the Foxes were guilty of growing a little too complacent, and Rishi Patel threw his wicket away on 22 when he chipped Ed Barnard straight to mid-off. Another rebuild followed, but one more vital scalp before lunch - that of ex-Pear George Rhodes, who shaped to attack a fullish ball from Dillon Pennington, then changed his mind and attempted to leave with a flourish of the bat, only to glance the rising ball straight to first slip for 27 - allowed Worcestershire to claim even honours going into the interval with the score 88-3.

Afternoon: The Pears kept the pressure up after the break, and Ed Barnard was rewarded with the big wicket of Lewis Hill, who drove at a ball swinging violently away from him and edged to first slip for 40. Coming into the attack, Josh Baker then coaxed some early turn from the surface, enticing Ben Mike to hole out to mid-off for just 3, and then in his next over deceiving youngster Sam Bates with a bit of extra bounce, the ball lobbing up off the debutant's forward defensive to be caught at short leg for a duck. It became an irresistible charge for the home side when Charlie Morris sent down a classic pacey nip-backer that bowled Ed Barnes for 13, and with four wickets in the session leaving Leicestershire 171-7, the Pears undoubtedly had the session and the match so far in hand.

Evening: Nevertheless, the visitors offered some resistance in the lazy post-prandial light, with Louis Kimber making a vital half-century as part of a rearguard that lifted the Foxes up to their first batting point. There were to be no more wickets with the old ball, but when Leach took the new nut around five o'clock, it was all over in minutes; Kimber departed LBW for 71, Pennington dismissed Callum Parkinson for 17 in the same fashion, and then Leach knocked back Chris Wright's off-stump for 2, reducing the Foxes from 218-7 to 222 all out. Minutes later, a suitable ovation greeted Mitch as he strode out to the middle for what was liable to be his penultimate innings; however, despite a decent start, it wasn't to be a fairytale finish this time round as a cracking ball on the stumps from Chris Wright swung away towards the off-peg, drawing Mitch into a tentative defence which sent an edge flying directly to second slip for 8. There was, however, sufficient time remaining for Jake Libby to reach 1000 Championship runs for the season - by my reckoning, the first Worcs player to manage the milestone since 2017 - and together with nightwatchman Charlie Morris, Worcestershire closed on 30-1, trailing by 192. Having lost the toss, that showing is just enough to claim the day's honours, but will still require a strong performance on Wednesday to take the match firmly by the scruff of the neck.


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#54
[Image: Worcs1.jpg] [Image: Worcs-Leics.jpg]


Day Two


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Morning: The splendid weather continued into Wednesday, as did Worcestershire's batting fortunes. On 9, nightwatchman Charlie Morris was dropped at first slip, and the number eleven - fresh from his first century in any format for the second XI a few weeks ago - proceeded to punish the visitors for the error with a series of assured attacking shots. Jake Libby was also in typically fluent form, reaching his half-century off seventy-two balls around noon, and with the last ball before lunch, Morris pulled George Rhodes to the boundary to complete his own maiden Championship fifty as Worcestershire completed a wicketless session and moved into firm command of the match on 138-1.

Afternoon: If it all seemed a little too good to be true, the resumption offered a dose of reality as Morris was bowled by Callum Parkinson without adding to his 50, then Libby nicked off to first slip for 77. Gareth Roderick, finally finding a bit of form, eased his way to 35 before perishing in the most absurdly unlucky fashion, inside-edging an Ed Barnes yorker onto his foot which then looped directly up to second slip. But despite those three wickets offering a little consolation to Leicestershire, the Pears strode into the lead as the afternoon wore on and took tea on a very promising 252-4.

Evening: Not for the first time this year, Brett D'Oliveira came in on a run-a-ball mission, finding the boundary off his first delivery and continuing to swat away balls with disdain as the overs went by. But it was always a style that invited a cheap dismissal, and after a useful 37 off thirty-four balls, the wee man chipped Parkinson straight to short extra cover to hand the Foxes an easy wicket. Shortly afterward, Jack Haynes - having once again set himself well and looking good for a big score - became the second fluke casualty of the innings when a ball he edged onto the keeper's pad ricocheted onto the wicket while his back foot was up, sending him back to the pavilion for 44 as victim of the most bizarre and fortuitous stumping of the season. But it was to be the last stroke of luck Leicestershire would have as Ben Cox and Ed Barnard calmly and methodically built an imperious partnership in the evening sun, the former making his half-century in the final overs before Worcestershire closed on 378-6, with a commanding lead of 156 runs. Maximum points may just be beyond reach with only three overs left in the morning to reach 400, but the Pears are very much on top, and the only question mark hangs over the timing, wisdom and spirit of an eventual declaration. Has the pitch flattened into placidity as it did so often in the spring? Would an early declaration allow the Foxes back into the match? Could sentimentality deter us from batting them well out of the game, and potentially denying Daryl Mitchell the chance of one last knock in the process? A pleasant headache for the skipper to have in his final game in charge.


[Image: Worcs-Day-Two.jpg]
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#55
[Image: Worcs1.jpg] [Image: Worcs-Leics.jpg]


Day Three


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Morning: The equinox might be gone, but the sun remained on Thursday to see the season out. Sadly, there was no half-century to cap a good season with the bat from Ed Barnard, who edged behind for 48 in the opening overs of the day. Ben Cox departed in the same fashion for 59, and though Joe Leach showed his usual boundary-blasting enthusiasm as he lifted the Pears up to 400, he holed out to mid-on for 12 before he could add any more to the score. There was no need for a declaration in the end, as last man Josh Baker top-edged to cover for 3, and with those quickfire 44 runs piled onto the overnight total, the Pears were all out for 422 with a satisfyingly round lead of 200. Leicestershire then dealt with the new ball about as convincingly and successfully as they did the first time, losing Rishi Patel bowled for a duck, Hasan Azad caught behind for 4 and Lewis Hill snaffled at first slip for 2 - all casualties of a fired-up Joe Leach - before Charlie Morris got some sharp bounce from a straight ball as Louis Kimber showed him the maker's name, clipping the shoulder of the bat and being gobbled up by third slip for 4 with the last delivery of the session. 35-4 was the damage at lunch, and it seemed the day might be a short one.

Afternoon: In one of those odd sentimental quirks of the game, the ensuing Leicestershire recovery was well-received among a home crowd who still wanted to see a fantastic club servant given the send-off he deserved. The fifth-wicket partnership added a useful 88 before Ben Mike fell LBW for 58 to a pacey ball nipping in from Ed Barnard, and the all-rounder then doubled up as he got Sam Bates feathering to first slip for 6. On his old stomping ground, George Rhodes completed an assured half-century and then moved to his first-class career-best, but for the second session in a row Worcestershire struck in the closing over, with Josh Baker sending down an arm-ball that bowled Ed Barnes through the gate for 5, reducing the visitors to 146-7 at tea, still trailing by 54.

Evening: And still the crowd willed the Foxes on towards parity and a second Worcestershire innings, counting off the runs as Rhodes and Callum Parkinson formed a stubborn partnership for the next ninety minutes. They were eight runs away from levelling the scores when a full ball from Dillon Pennington drew Parkinson into a drive that was edged to second slip for 21, opening the door for some late drama. George Rhodes took Leics into the lead, giving the crowd what they wanted, but then cruelly perished ten short of his maiden century when he edged behind for 90 off Pennington; then, with the prospect of an all-but-redundant fourth day looming over New Road, Worcs made the last over count for the third time in the day as the big lad had Abidine Sakande caught at third slip for 4.

Leicestershire were all out for 211; the Pears needed 12 to win with the extra half-hour taken, and so with sunlight dappling the cathedral and long pikestaff shadows stretching over the turf, Daryl Mitchell - serenaded with cheers and applause from every corner of the ground - walked out to the middle one final time. There were more than a few gasps as he flung the bat at the first ball up, narrowly missing an outswinger from Chris Wright; then a collective sigh of relief that registered on the Beaufort scale as he edged with soft hands along the ground through third man for four, avoiding the dreaded duck. After slashing somewhat unnecessarily at a short ball, another boundary through third man followed, this one a classic and controlled late cut. With eight runs knocked off, Jake Libby briefly showed willing to give his partner the chance of hitting the winning runs for the ultimate fairytale finish, limiting himself to a couple of singles where more aggressive strokes would normally have been the order of the day. But with two more required for the victory, Mitch was happy to make the run that tied the scores his last contribution to a proud and distinguished career; an appropriately selfless touch to close the curtain on the season as Libby wrapped up the win and the first burst of a standing ovation spilled from the pavilion.


Worcestershire WIN by ten wickets


The Verdict: An emotional day and a happy finish to a season that was too often sub-standard. Plenty of questions remain to be asked, and plenty of changes need to be made through the winter, but with the Pears climbing to third in the Third Division, this was at least a high note of consolation that gave Daryl Mitchell - after 224 first-class matches, 13,903 runs, 39 centuries, 300 catches and 33 wickets - the send-off he richly deserved.


[Image: Worcester105.jpg]
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#56
Worcestershire County Cricket Club

2021 Season Review


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Our long-awaited return to a full summer schedule of cricket wasn't always blessed with the weather we might have hoped for, though actual wash-outs were rare. Yet somewhere along the road of a campaign that began with cautious optimism, the wheels came off the Worcestershire wagon in all formats, and led to final placings with more than a whiff of mediocrity about them. When Joe Leach tendered his resignation as captain in September after five summers in the role, it was perhaps a measure of just how underwhelming the season had been.

The excuse that we're in a period of transition has hung around New Road since at least 2018, and if there's some truth to the claim, then it's hardly helped by the revolving door of personnel. In July, Riki Wessels was deemed surplus to Worcestershire requirements; Ross Whiteley followed him to the exit the following month after failing to agree terms, and reserve keeper Alex Milton was another to be given his marching orders. Daryl Mitchell's retirement had an air of inevitability to it, and no one would suggest that Mitch owes the county any more than he's given for the last sixteen years, but nevertheless, the timing makes this winter's rebuild bigger than ever. The Pears have already made a start by signing Matty Wade as overseas player in all formats, bringing in Ed Pollock from Warwickshire (presumably as a replacement for Wessels & Whiteley) and Ben Gibbon to provide a left-arm pace option to a rather samey bowling attack, but there's no disguising the weaknesses that still exist in the team.


Batsmen

The slow decline in run-scoring from Daryl Mitchell - who averaged 800 a season across his entire first-class career - continued unabated in 2021, as he clocked in with 470 at an average of just 21.36, down on 559 in his last full summer in 2019. His brief spell of form in the 2020 Bob Willis Trophy will forever remain a tantalising glimpse of what he and Jake Libby could achieve together as an opening partnership when both men were on song; as it was, after one final century versus Warwickshire in July and a winning farewell against Leicestershire in September, the time had clearly come for him to step aside on a high. Mitch will leave a colossal gap at the top of the line-up, and finding a partner for Libby is a number one winter priority.

As for Jake Libby himself, as the second most prolific scorer in the country - weighing in with 1075 runs at 56.57, behind only Tom Haines of Sussex - the world seems his oyster right now. Comfortably the county's highest-scoring batsman in the Championship (with four centuries and four half-centuries to his name) and second-best in the T20 Blast with 315, there's very little criticism to be made of his play, and the only real frustration in watching him at work is the knowledge that at times he's practically carrying the whole team single-handed. Could his instant impact with the bat and near-legend status with fans translate into a captaincy? Or would adding to Jake's responsibilities only hinder his scintillating form at the crease?

Another summer of woe for Tom Fell, whose 324 runs were scored at 17.05, an even lower average than he managed in 2019. Everyone at New Road is desperate for Tom to succeed, but it felt like a minor mercy when he was finally dropped in September, as the number three role places a weight of expectation on him that's clearly doing him no good. That long-awaited "comeback" century at Wantage Road in 2020 showed that Tom still has it in him to succeed, but spending some time down the order may be necessary for a while.

Replacing Fell at number three was new man Gareth Roderick, who had his own troubles and strife during an opening month of games in which he scarcely made it out of single figures. Despite becoming a bit of a whipping boy for supporters, Roderick did rally somewhat in the autumn and ended with a total of 167 runs scored at 18.55, with a best of 42 not out. It would be a flagrant lie to say that this represents a successful signing, but Roderick's fighting spirit is to be applauded, and hopefully he can carry it over into 2022 for a better season all round.

Jack Haynes continued to impress in his development, making the number four slot his own during a summer when he weighed in with 491 runs at 35.07, including four half-centuries (two of which were near-misses on completing the full ton). Haynes also finished as the county's best batsman in the One-Day Cup, a competition which saw hiim score his maiden century, ending the tournament with 362 runs to his name. Seldom falling cheaply, Jack just needs to shake off the James Vince Syndrome of getting out for 30s and 50s, and work on occupying the crease to really make his name as a top-order batsman.

The departure of Riki Wessels proved controversial with supporters, as he was mysteriously dropped from the line-up for the last couple of T20 group games - which saw Worcs fail to make the quarter finals despite being in a strong position - before the final announcement was made. His Championship contribution was a numerically satisfying 202 at 20.20, while his comfortable 300 in the T20 Blast underlined his importance in the shortest format. The powers-that-be may feel that the incoming Ed Pollock delivers the same white-ball bang while also offering more promise and longevity in red-ball cricket, but one way or another, those are going to be big shoes to fill.

The future for Ross Whiteley may well be wowing crowds in the Hundred, but before leaving New Road he supplied 34 more Championship runs at 11.23, and 237 in the T20 Blast at 26.33. An unnecessary luxury for a cash-strapped county, or a club legend allowed to slip through our grasp too soon?


Wicketkeepers & All-rounders

It was something of an average season for Ben Cox with the bat, contributing 413 Championship runs at 21.73 with a high score of 60 not out, along with a couple of hundred in the T20 Blast this year. His keeping remains top quality though, and after some uncertainty regarding his contract, it was a relief for the county to get his signature on the line.

Not for the first time, Moeen Ali was something of a phantom presence ghosting in and out of New Road for a grand total of four T20 matches in the entire season. Providing 106 runs at 26.50 with one half-century, and 4 wickets at 21.00 with an economy rate of just 6.46, Mo was nevertheless a positive influence, and his leadership proved crucial in one of the highlights of the campaign; pegging Notts back to a near-impossible tie when it seemed like the game was lost.

Not for the first time, it was a mixed bag of a summer for Brett D'Oliveira, who contributed his largest first-class run-tally since 2017 with 480, but scored at a lower average than his last full season; only 25.26, down on 37. Having previously said that Dolly should focus on the red-ball game, I may have to eat my words, as his place in the white-ball side seems assured after staking his place as our best T20 batsmen with 358 runs, and coming only second in List A games with 267. Towards the end of the season it very much looked as though his function in Championship matches was increasingly to come in and hit a few dozen at a run a ball from the middle order; that's perhaps intended to go hand in hand with a defensive role as and when needed, but that side of his game is noticeably weaker than the happy-hitting carefree slogger persona. Springtime also saw Dolly given the longest run of his career as a frontline red-ball spinner, with fairly limited success; 15 wickets at 53.86 suggests that being a part-time leggy is Dolly's destiny in the Championship. But in the T20 Blast, though taking only 5 wickets, an almost superhuman economy rate of 5.90 made him the meanest of all players who bowled more than ten overs in the tournament, which is indicative of Dolly's real strength.

In striving to become a genuine all-rounder, it may have been a case of one step forward and two steps back for Ed Barnard, who enjoyed comfortably the best season of his career so far with the bat, but at a cost in his returns with the ball in hand. With 746 Championship runs at 49.73 including two centuries, Ed was second only to Jake Libby in the run-scoring stakes, but where previous summers have seen him consistently take forty-something wickets at a very competitive average, his efforts in 2021 yielded only 25 at an eye-watering 42.08. Things were slightly better in the One-Day Cup, in which 9 wickets at 29.44 made him the county's best bowler, but I sense a decision may have to be made soon on whether Ed's ambitions lie more with bat or ball.


Bowlers

Joe Leach maintained his high standards as a lower-order batsman, scoring 377 Championship runs with a high score of 84, and though he certainly led from the front and ended up as the county's top wicket-taker, that he achieved that distinction with a total of 38 wickets at 30.02 tells its own sorry tale of a frequently toothless attack. In his post-captaincy career he'll doubtless remain a vital man with the new ball; we can only hope that with the burden of leadership lifted from his shoulders, there'll be an uptick in form to match.

Injuries continued to be the bane of a frustrating career for Josh Tongue, whose season lasted for 116 overs and yielded 14 wickets at a team-best average of 25.57. On both an individual and a team level, Josh really needs that season in which he can get a run of games together and bounce back to his best.

Adam Finch continued his development in his occasional cameos, his 8-wicket season haul in the Championship slightly down on 2019, but his average of 31.25 vastly improved. Plenty of promise and cause for optimism.

Dillon Pennington has also come a long way since the last pre-COVID summer of cricket, and 29 wickets at 30.96 represents an improvement for the young man. His Achilles heel has tended to be a wandering radar early in his spells, with plenty of bad balls dispatched to the boundary before he finds his line and length; with that under control, there's no reason why Pennington shouldn't go from strength to strength. In the white-ball game, Dillon also finished the Blast as the county's third best wicket-taker with 13 at 20.00, and a competitive economy rate of 8.38.

Having enjoyed a superlative 2019 and decent 2020, Charlie Morris didn't quite have things go his way this summer, with just 19 scalps at 32.68, nearly a third of them coming in his six-wicket haul against Middlesex in September. But he was the county's best wicket-taker in the T20 Blast with 17 at 23.41, an achievement marred only by a tendency to get walloped around the park when used as a death bowler; and coupled with a maiden first-class fifty and a century for the seconds, Charlie continues to evolve into a more-than-handy tail-ender.

Josh Baker was one of the summer's refreshing discoveries, the left-armer emerging as a replacement for the departed Ben Twohig and carving himself a place in the starting XI during the second half of the season. Finishing with 12 wickets at 34.00, together with an unbeaten half-century that advertised his batting skills, there's a fair chance that the problem of spin - for so long the weak point in Worcestershire bowling attacks - may now be solved.


Overseas Players

Alzarri Joseph came highly recommended, but alas, the West Indian quick struggled from the off in English conditions, frequently failing to get his length right and supplying only 15 wickets at 38.26; a contribution far short of what's required from an overseas bowler.

Ish Sodhi was much more on the mark, claiming a six-wicket haul at 24.66 in his sole Championship appearance, and 11 at 32.81 in the T20 Blast. Though occasionally on the receiving end of some tap, his economy of 7.68 highlighted his ability to strangle the run-rate in the middle overs; always a key factor in Worcestershire's wins.

As for Ben Dwarshuis, the Aussie came from the Big Bash with a big reputation, and at first it seemed he might flop as batsmen targeted him for all kinds of humpty in the powerplay and death overs. But 15 wickets at 27.93 - the second-best record behind Morris - redeemed the Antipodean somewhat, though perhaps not quite enough to be invited back next year.


Highlights of the year? Jake Libby's near-record knock down at Chelmsford and Ed Barnard's maiden first-class century were an early joy to watch. An innings victory over Derbyshire was well deserved, and all the sweeter for the wait. We held Notts to an unlikely tie and demolished Northants days later, before our T20 mojo gradually left us. We marmalised Essex in similar fashion before our one-day mojo likewise deserted the building. And of course, we gave Daryl Mitchell's career as close to a fairytale finish as reality would ever allow, closing one chapter in the hope of opening a better one next year.

And so until 2022, it's a fond farewell to New Road.


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