Brett D’Oliveira continued his remarkable transformation from spin bowler to opening batsman when narrowly missing a third consecutive century in the Specsavers County Championship as Worcestershire piled up 382 for four on the opening day of the Division Two match with Sussex at New Road.
The 24-year-old was out for 99 after scores of 128 against Essex and 202 not out against Glamorgan. His hot streak even spilled into the Birmingham & District League on Saturday when he made 150 for local club Ombersley in their defeat by Walsall.
England Lions prospect Joe Clarke shared some of D’Oliveira’s frustration in missing a hundred when he was dismissed for 82 after making 135 against Gloucestershire and 133 against Glamorgan.
Sussex may have thought D’Oliveira was out first ball but their appeal for a catch behind the wicket off Ollie Robinson was rejected and the innings was into the 50th over before he was caught by Harry Finch when cutting a ball from Luke Wells.
Until Kevin Sharp joined the county’s coaching staff in 2014, D’Oliveira was batting at No 8 in the second team but was moved up to open that season, confirming his potential with a century against Hampshire Second XI.
By the end of last summer, he was opening for the first team and now he is established in the new role with 598 first-class runs this season, having made 122 in the opening fixture against Oxford MCCU.
Strong on back foot, punching a number of his 15 boundaries from short of a length, he made the most of a good batting surface by completing a century stand with Daryl Mitchell in a gloriously sunny and warm first session.
Steve Magoffin was the one bowler to impose restrictions, his 12 overs in two spells yielding only 19 runs, but it was largely trouble-free for the batsmen until Mitchell, who won the toss, miscued a pull off Stuart Whittingham low to Magoffin at mid-on.
The first pair put on 113, the fifth time D’Oliveira has been involved in a three-figure partnership in the championship this summer.
Sussex plugged away and finally claimed their first bowling bonus point soon after tea when Alexei Kervezee, in his first championship appearance for nearly 12 months, was bowled by Stuart Whittingham after making 29 in a stand of 54 with Clarke.
There was a scare for Clarke when a crashing drive only just cleared Lewis Hatchett at mid-on but a hundred was looking there for the taking before he got himself out, popping up the simplest of return catches to Wells. In a measured innings, he hit nine fours from 117 balls.
Sussex’s hopes of a significant breakthrough were blunted by an unbroken partnership of 101in which Tom Kohler-Cadmore (43 not out) and Ross Whiteley (54 not out) both survived chances. Whiteley came into form with seven fours and a six from 63 balls in his first half-century of the season.
Worcestershire’s director of cricket, Steve Rhodes, said: “It’s a good wicket. We know that this one goes through a little bit so it came on quite nicely for the batters. They still needed to bat well because there are balls in it that can get you out.
“I was really pleased with the team batting effort today. Daryl Mitchell and Brett D’Oliveira put in a good foundation. Dolly again played wonderfully, as did all the players - Joe Clarke coming in as he did, Tom Kohler Cadmore’s contribution and then Ross Whiteley at the end. It was just a general good team effort.”
Sussex’s head coach, Mark Davis: “I think it’s been their day. They batted well. That said, I think they have given us a couple of wickets as well and that kept us going.
“I think Steve Magoffin was outstanding with the ball and Luke Wells showed he’s an ever improving as a leg spinner. Stuart Whittingham ran in and bowled quick as well, so there are a lot of good things to take from today.”
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