Essex held up by dogged Worcestershire batting
- Credit: Nick Wood
Essex worked their way through some dogged Worcestershire batting to continue their push for victory on the third day of their LV=Insurance County Championship match at New Road.
In reply to the champions' 561 for eight declared, the home side closed the third day on 302 for five.
Essex were held up by two stands of 111, between openers Daryl Mitchell (67, 141 balls, 11 fours) and Jake Libby (41, 94 balls, four fours, one six) and then fourth-wicket pair Tom Fell (53, 162 balls, eight fours) and Brett D'Oliveira (67, 147 balls, seven fours).
The bowlers persevered, though, led by spinner Simon Harmer whose figures of 39-12-75-3 included a late-morning burst of three for four in 22 balls.
The home side has work still to do to reach the follow on figure of 412 on the final day. If they achieve that, the game appears destined for a draw.
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Worcestershire resumed on the third morning on 37 without loss and Mitchell and Libby took their alliance to 111 in 36 overs.
Libby, captain in the absence of the rested Joe Leach, looked in excellent form and lifted Harmer straight for six but then missed an attempt to cut the spinner and was bowled.
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Harmer quickly followed that with two more wickets in three balls. Mitchell bat-padded to Ryan ten Doeschate at short leg before Gareth Roderick's lean spell continued when he was bowled through the gate by one that turned.
At 132 for three, having lost three wickets for 21 runs in 69 balls, the follow on figure seemed a long way away for Worcestershire, but Fell and D'Oliviera knuckled down impressively.
The fourth-wicket pair batted throughout a rain-trimmed afternoon session which brought 84 runs for no wickets from 33 overs. Harmer wheeled away throughout the session while the seamers rotated at the New Road End.
The new ball finally brought the breakthrough after tea when Sam Cook prised some bounce from the sluggish pitch and Fell edged to wicketkeeper Adam Wheater.
The keeper pounced again six overs later when D'Oliveira, having reached his first half-century of the season, nicked one to give debutant Shane Snater his 21st first-class wicket and first for Essex.
Further wickets in the closing overs would have put Worcestershire under serious pressure but Rikki Wessels and Ben Cox did well in fading light to add an unbroken 43 in the last 18 overs.
Debutant seamer Snater said: "It was great to get my first wicket for the club. Once we got that second new ball, it started doing a bit more than it was doing, so it was nice to get the breakthrough.
"It was frustrating early on but, on a wicket like that, you have just got to patient and wait for one to stay low or take off and that one took off and it was a nice catch by Adam Wheater.
"All three seamers put on good pressure with the second new ball and we were in the driving seat. Unfortunately, bad light closed in so we had to turn to the slower bowlers, but we have another day tomorrow and we will have a good crack at it."