Worcestershire 280 for 5 (Kashif Ali 93, D'Oliveira 90*) vs Yorkshire
Kashif Ali picked the perfect time to post a career best 93 as he helped steer Worcestershire towards promotion in the LV= Insurance County Championship during a positive first day against Yorkshire at Headingley.
Kashif, 25, had only scored 98 runs in four previous appearances dating back to last summer. Here, he led a recovery from 67 for 4, having been inserted, to 280 for 5 from 80 overs with 15 fours in 131 balls.
The start of this season-ending fixture was delayed until 12.40pm because of rain, and Yorkshire made use of a new-ball pitch.
Seamers Ben Coad and George Hill struck twice apiece for a Yorkshire side aiming to elevate themselves off the bottom of Division Two following their mid-season points deduction. But the Pears recovered strongly through Kashif and captain Brett D'Oliveira, who shared 155 either side of tea. The latter finished on 90 not out off 192 balls.
Worcestershire started the day knowing they would be promoted by reaching 300 inside 110 overs. Surely now, they will play Division One cricket next summer for the first time since 2018.
Kashif went beyond 50 for the second time this summer and D'Oliveira for the third time in as many matches, the latter also reaching 5000 first-class career runs in the process.
While Yorkshire's aim of avoiding bottom place is an important one, it is only to boost morale. They need to win to have any chance.
Coad struck twice early on, with Fin Bean and Adam Lyth - at third and second slip - taking good low catches to remove Gareth Roderick and Pakistan overseas batter Azhar Ali cheaply, leaving the score at 22 for 2.
Hill then trapped Jake Libby lbw for 32 and had Jack Haynes caught at third slip by Bean for 14, the visitors in some peril at 67 for 4 in the 20th over.
Kashif promises to be vital for Worcestershire in their bid for success in Division One. He has shown more progress in white-ball cricket since joining the Pears as the first product out of the South Asian Cricket Academy last summer.
But with Haynes going to Nottinghamshire this winter as one of a host of departures from New Road, a fair bit will rest on his shoulders against the red-ball next year.
Batting was difficult against the new ball but became a lot easier as the day progressed. While both Kashif and D'Oliveira were off-side dominant en route to their respective well-paced fifties, Kashif played one dreamy on-drive down the ground off Hill after tea which stood out from the crowd.
Just as Kashif will be important for the Pears going forwards, Yorkshire will hope Matt Milnes spearheads their bid for promotion in 2024. Milnes was Yorkshire's marquee signing ahead of this season, but this is only his second appearance. Just weeks after announcing his arrival last August, the England Lions quick suffered a back stress fracture in his farewell appearance for Kent.
He spent the entire winter rehabbing in the Headingley gym and nets and gained selection for the opening match of this summer, the home Championship defeat against Leicestershire.
Unfortunately, having encouraged in that fixture with four wickets and a first-innings 75 as a nightwatchman, he reported more pain and was diagnosed with exactly the same injury.
Milnes has recovered once more and has played three second-team Championship matches in the last three weeks. Yorkshire opted to reward the 29-year-old for his hard work with a season-ending return to first-team colours.
Milnes bowled three spells en-route to figures of nought for 46 from 14 overs and was at his most threatening in his first of six which cost 15 runs. He could quite easily have had a couple of early wickets like Coad and Hill.
But Kashif and D'Oliveira advanced Worcestershire's cause in eye-catching and confident fashion. They reached tea at 130 for 4 and later recorded their fifties off 62 and 78 balls.
Kashif fell when he miscued a return catch to Dom Bess - leaving Worcestershire 222 for 5 in the 64th over. D'Oliveira was dropped on 63 by Lyth at slip off Bess, surviving to share 58 unbroken with Ben Allison, 31 not out.
Worcestershire are almost there.