Ed Barnard scored his maiden first-class hundred as he and fellow century-maker Jake Libby rewrote the record books for Worcestershire on the third day of the LV=Insurance County Championship encounter with Essex at Chelmsford.
England Lions all-rounder Barnard has often spoken of his ambition to reach three figures. Reaching that memorable milestone was perfectly timed as part of a splendid recovery by the County.
There was great joy when Barnard flicked Jamie Porter away on the leg side and returned for the second run, which took him to his century.
It came off just 168 balls and contained 15 boundaries.
His unbroken partnership of 205 with Libby is a new Worcestershire seventh wicket record against Essex and surpassed the previous best of 126 by Graeme Hick and Duncan Catterall at Chelmsford in 1999.
It also enabled Worcestershire to clock up three batting points as they fought back from being 43-4 and closed on 350-6 in reply to Essex’s 490-9 declared.
Libby ended unbeaten on 141 from 369 balls with 13 fours in a knock spanning almost eight hours. Barnard’s 116 not out came off 190 deliveries with 17 boundaries.
It was a continuation for Libby of the outstanding form which had seen him finish as the country’s second highest scorer in the Bob Willis Trophy during his debut season at New Road.
The 28-year-old completed his seventh first-class hundred in the final over before tea, quickly taking two through the legside off-spinner Simon Harmer.
Libby batted with great calmness and authority after Sam Cook had picked up four early wickets for the home side.
He was given magnificent support, initially by Riki Wessels and then with Barnard in rebuilding the innings.
Libby added 89 with the aggressive Wessels for the fifth wicket before he and Barnard steered Worcestershire to 316-6 in the 110 overs permitted for bonus points.
Worcestershire resumed on 43-3 from 21 overs in their first innings, in reply to Essex’s 490-9 declared, with Libby unbeaten on 21.
Brett D’Oliveira (six) was lbw to the second delivery of the day from Sam Cook – his fourth wicket of the innings – but new batsman Wessels looked full of attacking intent from the start of his knock.
He got off the mark with a drive for two off Cook from the first delivery he faced.
Wessels, who scored two centuries against Somerset and Kent during the pre-season programme, straight drove Jamie Porter for a handsome boundary.
Libby also accumulated effectively as the fifth-wicket pair hurried the score along and, when Cook returned to the attack, Wessels hammered him through the covers for four.
A square drive to the ropes off Ben Allison by Wessels brought up the half-century stand with Libby from 92 balls.
Libby used his feet to drive Simon Harmer for four and complete an excellent fifty off 110 balls.
Wessels was particularly aggressive, helping a short ball from Harmer around the corner and twice driving Porter for boundaries.
His fifty came from 82 balls with eight fours before he was leg before to Porter for 54 after adding 89 in 27.4 overs with Libby.
Ben Cox joined Libby, who had advanced onto 54 out of 142-5 by lunch after a session that had yielded 99 runs from 32 overs.
Cox (7) was lbw sweeping at Harmer in the first over after the resumption.
Libby, on 59, survived an lbw shout from Harmer after playing no stroke but generally looked assured and came down the wicket to loft the spinner over mid-on for four.
Barnard provided solid support for Libby but opened up with a leg glance and cover drive for boundaries in the same over from Cook.
He looked in good touch and twice drove Ben Allison through the covers to the ropes.
The second new ball was immediately taken after 80 overs, but Libby and Barnard continued to accumulate.
A single on the leg side off Harmer enabled Barnard to complete his half-century from 90 deliveries with nine fours.
Then just before the tea break Libby went to three figures with the quickly run two off Harmer.
The next milestone came after the resumption with the Libby-Barnard 100 partnership completed off 213 balls.
They accelerated to such an extent that only another 65 deliveries were needed to extend it to 150.
Barnard went past his previous individual best score of 75 versus Durham at New Road four years ago and moved into the 90s with a boundary off Paul Walter.
Then came his delight at reaching three figures, with the coaches and teammates acknowledging his magnificent achievement before he celebrated with Libby.
Next up was the double century stand from 392 balls, of which Barnard scored 114 and Libby 84.