Essex frustrated by Worcestershire after enforcing follow-on
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
Worcestershire frustrated Essex’s victory bid on the final day of the LV=Insurance County Championship match at New Road - but the real winner was the pitch.
A slow and sluggish surface offering little encouragement throughout the four days meant there was only a small chance of a positive result even after Worcestershire were asked to follow on 10 minutes before lunch 197 runs in arrears.
Essex paceman Sam Cook was the only player on either side to consistently extract any life from the conditions as he continued his impressive start to the season with overall figures of 40-19-67-6.
Even spinner Simon Harmer – so often the match winner for the visitors – was largely blunted.
Jake Libby, captaining Worcestershire for the first time in place of the rested Joe Leach, ensured the two teams shook hands with 14 overs remaining and he was unbeaten on 52 out of 129-2.
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Worcestershire had resumed on 302-5 in their first innings but Cook swung the match in Essex’s favour with three wickets in the space of 16 balls.
Riki Wessels added 54 with Ben Cox but then on 33 attempted to cut Cook and chopped the ball onto his stumps.
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Cox made 37 before he pushed forward and was bowled through the gate by Cook who then trapped Alzarri Joseph lbw for a second ball duck.
Ed Barnard made only a single before he was bowled by a Harmer delivery which turned but the last wicket pair of Dillon Pennington and Charlie Morris frustrated Essex for 15 overs.
Pennington deposited a delivery from Dan Lawrence over the mid-wicket boundary but then was bowled attempting a similar shot after contributing a useful 30.
Cook ended with figures of four for 60 and Harmer four for 85 and there were 67 overs remaining when Daryl Mitchell and Libby began Worcestershire’s second innings shortly before lunch.
Mitchell collected three boundaries in the space of two overs from Peter Siddle when play resumed but on 20 shouldered arms to Cook and was bowled.
Libby was joined by Tom Fell and the pair kept the Essex attack at bay for the remainder of the afternoon session.
Fell survived one sharp chance off Harmer on 14 but the second-wicket pair were watchful and experienced relatively few alarms.
Libby cut and then drove Dan Lawrence for boundaries as the 100 came up in the 34th over.
There was an initial scare for the home side immediately after tea when Fell on 35 was lbw to Cook after adding 81 in 22 overs with Libby.
But that was Essex’s last success as Libby and Gareth Roderick batted out the remainder of the game.
Essex head coach Anthony McGrath said: “We saw the result the last game here against Nottinghamshire (a draw). There looked like there was a bit more grass on it and we thought it might carry and bounce a little bit more.
“But it was pretty apparent after the first session that it would be a slow, low turgid wicket and that’s how it turned out to be.
“We felt the best way to try and win the game was to bat big and make them follow on. We did the first part and we tried everything and even to the last minute when we touched elbows, we were still trying to get wickets and make something happen.
“It was a huge effort from the guys. The key was trying to get batsmen out early. Once you got in, it was very easy paced and the wicket just didn’t break up. You expect at the very least for that to happen on the last day but that wasn’t the case.
“Twenty wickets fell in the game and it was tough going, especially for the bowlers but we’ve got to look on the positives. We will take our 12 points from the game and move onto Trent Bridge.”