Worcestershire: T20 Blast victory at Edgbaston could help Pears retain best players

Worcestershire supporters have already seen two successful Moeen Ali-inspired raids on Edgbaston this season
Worcestershire supporters have already seen two successful Moeen Ali-inspired raids on Edgbaston this season

Worcestershire chief executive Matt Rawnsley says winning the T20 Blast this Saturday on the club's first appearance at Finals Day could help keep hold of their prize assets.

Centrally-contracted England all-rounder Moeen Ali, who will lead Worcestershire back on his old home ground, remains their star attraction.

But they also have batsman Joe Clarke, whose contract is set to expire.

"People have questioned our ability to retain those players," said Rawnsley.

"That will always be a challenge. But ultimately my role is to create an environment to attract really good players and keep the best players we bring through.

"Success like we're having, particularly with our one-day side, means we can both generate and keep that environment. Success means we keep those players."

In the wake of Steve Rhodes' departure as director of cricket last winter, Kevin Sharp's promotion to head coach has helped a host of young players he had previously worked with as Second XI/batting coach maintain their progress.

As well as England candidate Clarke, his long-time former Shropshire and England Under-19s team-mate Ed Barnard remains highly rated, fast bowler Dillon Pennington looks an exciting new discovery and Pat Brown has emerged as the T20 Blast's top wicket taker this season.

In addition, in Rhodes' time in charge, as well as Clarke, both Ross Whiteley and Brett D'Oliveira have also earned selection by England Lions.

"Our goal as a first-class county is to be a production line for potential England cricketers," Rawnsley told BBC Hereford & Worcester.

"We're very well known and respected across the country for having a good academy and bringing young players through to play first-class cricket.

"It's about how can we be more consistent on the field with the right financial stability moving forward."

Sharp excited by Finals Day

Worcestershire go into their first Finals Day still uncertain over various areas of team selection.

Brett D'Oliveira missed this week's County Championship defeat by new champions Surrey with a finger injury, Clarke bagged a pair after being plagued by a back spasm and wicketkeeper Ben Cox was dropped.

South African paceman Wayne Parnell, who was in the Kent side which reached the semi-finals in 2009, also suffered a webbing injury on his bowling hand, but should be patched up to play.

Worcestershire head coach Kevin Sharp
Kevin Sharp was the man credited with bringing on England captain Joe Root while on Yorkshire's coaching staff

Parnell is likely to be their only overseas player, although Sharp has not yet given up on New Zealand international Martin Guptill, who suffered a hamstring injury on Caribbean Premier League duty with Barbados Tridents.

"As we stand at the moment we only have one overseas player," Sharp told BBC Hereford & Worcester. "We will do our best to get Martin Guptill back if it works out in the Caribbean.

"I know it's going to be tough for us in the Championship now. My old club Yorkshire won. They've got a bit ahead of us. We have to win the last two and hope other results go our way. But, in the meantime, we've got something very special to look forward to at Finals Day.

"The lads can be very proud of themselves to fight and scrap like they did against Surrey. You wouldn't have known it was a top versus bottom clash. It was a terrific game of cricket that could have gone either way. The lads have gone toe to toe with the county champions.

"The Morne Morkel spell on the third evening was the difference. I think he was going to be coming off and then he bowled Ed Barnard with the last ball of an over. He then bowls a bit more, bowled fantastically well, and got two or three wickets."

The Finals Day ticket fiasco

Worcestershire CEO Rawnsley remains disappointed about the allocation of just 500 tickets for Saturday, along with equally disappointed supporters of the other three semi-finalists Lancashire (who Worcestershire meet first up), Somerset and Sussex.

But he is nonetheless looking forward to the day, having arranged for the club's support staff to be there at Edgbaston too.

"To get to Finals Day is a great achievement," he said. "Worcestershire and Derbyshire were the only two clubs who hadn't got here. For us to do it now is the culmination of many years of progress.

"But there just haven't been enough tickets to go around. We've learnt some lessons. And hopefully we'll get the chance to address that if we qualify again next year.

Matt Rawnsley took over as Worcestershire chief executive in March
Former Pears spinner Matt Rawnsley took over as Worcestershire chief executive in March

"We had an allocation of 530, of which 500 come from Edgbaston, administered by the ECB, and 30 come direct from the ECB for the players, coaches and support staff. But 30 isn't enough.

"For most of the cricketers and the support staff, this is the biggest day of their career. So, out of that 500, we've taken 30 more to give to the players and the support staff, and to the people who work here at New Road. It's a big event we can share in, to lay on transport for the staff here and take them up the M5. That reduced the allocation we could sell.

"But the root cause is the allocation. That is the issue. It was a misappropriation of tickets. I can understand why they did what they did, based on past sales of tickets. And they have recognised that the allocation was way too low.

"To have less than five per cent is really low but at least means that there will be people there who may not have come to cricket before and that is good for the growth of the game."