Ed Barnard picked up two wickets as the Worcestershire CCC bowling unit produced a disciplined performance to be proud of on the opening day of the LV County Championship match with Essex at Chelmsford.
The four pace bowlers bowled accurately and tightly on a good batting wicket which offered them little assistance or movement.
Brett D’Oliveira also provided sterling support during an excellent spell in freezing conditions unhelpful to a leg spinner.
The reigning champions were made to work hard for their runs and given few balls to hit during a day of hard-fought and competitive cricket.
Barnard was rewarded with Nick Browne and Dan Lawrence’s scalps after Charlie Morris capped an impressive initial spell by dismissing England’s record Test run-scorer in Alastair Cook.
Essex captain Tom Westley was unbeaten on 84 when bad light halted play for a second time at 207-3 from 81.2 overs.
Westley won the toss and elected to bat on a sunny but chilly morning. It was a proud day for batsman Gareth Roderick who was handed his Worcestershire first-class debut after his move from Gloucestershire.]
Club Captain Joe Leach and Dillon Pennington took the new ball. The pair quickly settled into a good rhythm, and Alastair Cook played and missed at a fine Leach delivery from around the wicket.
Pennington bowled a testing over to the other opener, Nick Browne, who was then fortunate to inside edge Leach wide of keeper Ben Cox for four.
But the County were rewarded with the prized scalp of Alastair Cook.
Cook on 15 pushed forward to a ball of full length from Morris and was plumb lbw with 30 on the board in the 14th over.
Barnard was the fourth bowler to be used, and his second delivery found the edge of Tom Westley’s bat but fell short of Riki Wessels at first slip.
Browne grafted his way to a patient 26 off 74 balls but then fell victim to a superb catch by Jake Libby.
The left-hander drove at Barnard but only picked out Libby at cover, and he dived to clutch onto the ball inches off the ground with the total 57-2.
The total had moved onto 74-2 from 31 overs by lunch, and only ten boundaries were scored during the morning session.
Leach and Morris continued in the same vein in a tight contest between bat and ball.
Lawrence on 10 was fortunate to see a leading-edge off Leach fly short of Tom Fell at gulley, and Westley played and missed against a fine ball from the same bowler.
A cut for four by Lawrence off Pennington brought up the 100 in the 41st over. Barnard asked questions of Lawrence, who edged a ball just short of second slip, but he had his reward in the same over.
Lawrence (46) was leg before to a delivery which jagged back to end a stand of 73 with Westley in 27 overs.
Barnard continued to test the Essex batsmen while leg spinner D’Oliveira bowled on the spot during a lengthy spell leading up to tea which was reached with Essex on 167-3 from 64 overs with Westley unbeaten on 64.
Play continued similarly after tea, with no quarter given by either side before the light’s deterioration led to the floodlights being switched on 75 minutes before the close.
Paul Walter was fortunate when he hit a D’Oliveira delivery onto his pads, and it almost rolled onto his stumps. D’Oliveira then dived full length to his right as a Walter drive fell inches short.
After a 48 minute delay for bad light, the second new ball was immediately taken by Barnard after 80.1 overs. But only seven balls were possible before play was called off for the day.
When play was halted for the day, Leach had figures of 15-3-40-0, Pennington 16-2-51-0, Morris 14.2-5-31-1, Barnard 16-5-38-2 and D’Oliveira 20-3-42-0.