WORCESTERSHIRE launched the 2019 season in superb style with an innings and 18-run victory over Leicestershire in the Specsavers County Championship Division Two clash at the Fischer County Ground.

Leicestershire resumed on 132-4 in their second innings on the final day and were bowled out for 233 with Charlie Morris returning career-best figures of 7-45.

It was the third five-wicket haul of his career, surpassing his 5-54 at Derby in 2014 and 5-71 versus Somerset at Blackfinch New Road in 2015.

The previous Worcestershire player to take seven wickets in an innings was West Indies paceman Miguel Cummins with 7-84 against Sussex at Hove in 2016.

Morris’ efforts completed an excellent all-round performance by Worcestershire to mark Alex Gidman’s first competitive match as first-team coach since taking up the role during the winter.

The County amassed 553-6 with three century-makers in Daryl Mitchell, Hamish Rutherford and acting skipper Ben Cox alongside significant contributions and invaluable early-season time in the middle for most of the other batsmen.

Then pacemen Josh Tongue, Ed Barnard, Morris and Wayne Parnell showed their quality with the first three reaping the benefits of the work done during the winter months with bowling coach Alan Richardson.

They exercised great skill, discipline and patience in the cold conditions on a pitch in which they had to work hard for their success.

It meant Worcestershire secured a maximum haul of 24 points — five for batting, three for bowling and 16 for their outright victory.

Now the County will have to put red-ball cricket to one side for the next month as they switch the focus to the Royal London One-Day Cup, starting with Wednesday’s clash with Lancashire at Emirates Old Trafford.

Leicestershire resumed on 132-4 and added only two runs before Tongue made the first breakthrough of the day.

Nighwatchman Chris Wright (2) was comprehensively bowled by a delivery which cut back sharply but also kept low.

It became 135-6 in the next over when Morris, bowling around the wicket, beat the defensive push of Harry Dearden (0) who lost his leg stump.

Morris then completed a five-wicket haul in the same over without addition to the score when wicketkeeper-batsman Lewis Hill (0) nicked through to Cox.

The County paceman then had the superb figures of 13.5-8-18-5.

Resistance for Leicestershire came from the eighth-wicket pair of Colin Ackermann and Tom Taylor although the latter was dropped on seven by Cox off Parnell.

But Cox made no mistake 25 minutes before the scheduled lunch interval when Ackermann (69) was undone by a ball across him from Ross Whiteley which he feathered through to the keeper.

It ended a partnership of 59 in 20 overs with Taylor.

Worcestershire opted to take the second new ball with Leicestershire on 200-8 from 80 overs with Tongue and Morris sharing the attack.

Morris collected his sixth scalp when Ben Mike (6), who survived a one-handed chance to Mitchell at second slip from the previous delivery, edged into the hands of Tom Fell at third slip.

Lunch was delayed but Morris ended proceedings when Taylor (57) went for a pull and lofted the ball to Whiteley who made no mistake.

Cox said: “I’m really pleased with the lads — to come here in our first game and produce a team performance like that I thought was exceptional.

“It was just a really good team performance.

“The pitch was good throughout — that’s why I think we had to enforce the follow-on. I think we needed as much time as possible.

“It was an outstanding cricket wicket, to be honest, though 550 was probably too many.

“Charlie has been our most consistent bowler pre-season and he thoroughly deserves those figures, it’s the culmination of a huge amount of hard work on his part.

“Everybody contributed but everybody’s really pleased for him.”

Leicestershire head coach Paul Nixon admitted: “We didn’t do our basics well enough unfortunately and Worcestershire played well.

“The younger players will learn from the way the likes of Rutherford, Mitchell and Cox played.”