Ross Whiteley and Brett D’Oliveira led a strong Worcestershire recovery with a century partnership on day two of the Specsavers County Championship match with Gloucestershire at Cheltenham.
Whiteley batted with great responsibility in making his season best Championship score of 88 and looked set for a well deserved hundred until he was dismissed half an hour before the close.
D’Oliveira also showed great determination as he and Whiteley rescued Worcestershire from 68-5 in reply to Gloucestershire’s first innings total of 354 all out in 103.2 overs.
By the close D’Oliveira was undefeated on 66 from 149 balls with eight boundaries out of 232-6 from 83 overs.
Gloucestershire resumed on 339-7 this morning and Worcestershire Club Captain Joe Leach quickly polished off the last three wickets.
Leach defeated the defensive push of David Payne (8) who was bowled and then claimed the 300th first class wicket of his career when Ethan Bamber (3) fell to a superb diving catch by keeper Ben Cox (see separate story).
The innings was concluded when Tom Smith (84) sliced Leach over backward point and D’Oliveira on the boundary palmed the ball up for Ed Barnard to complete the catch.
Leach’s three wickets came in the space of 18 balls this morning and the County secured maximum bowling points.
Worcestershire ran into trouble when they replied with Riki Wessels (12) caught at first slip by Benny Howell off Bamber with 24 on the board and one run later Callum Ferguson (1) nicked to Nick Hammond at second slip from the bowling of Payne.
Barnard was promoted to number four for the first time in his Worcestershire first class career and himself and Daryl Mitchell saw the innings through to 40-2 at lunch.
The England Lions player (6) was unfortunate to be strangled down the legside when he flicked the second delivery after the resumption from Ryan Higgins through to keeper James Bracey.
Mitchell (18) fell to the same combination in Higgins next over with Bracey this time standing up to the stumps.
Cox (13) pushed forward to Payne and provided Howell with another catch at first slip.
But then the picture gradually changed with Whiteley joined by D’Oliveira.
Whiteley was understandably initially very watchful and did not collect his first boundary until the 43rd delivery he faced.
But it was just what Worcestershire needed in the circumstances and Whiteley gradually blossomed and opened up.
He lofted Bamber over mid wicket for six and Matt Taylor suffered the same treatment backward of square.
Whiteley brought up his 50 off 103 balls.
D’Oliveira survived one chance on three but also played superbly, mixing staunch defence with some fine stroke play.
Since coming back into the side against Sussex at Kidderminster, the all-rounder has played several important knocks and made important contributions with the ball.
Some of his late cuts were a delight on the eye and the 100 partnership with Whiteley came up in 28 overs.
D’Oliveira completed his half century with a back foot cut for his seventh four against Bamber – from 92 balls.
Whiteley was on course for his first Championship hundred since his superb 101 against a powerful Yorkshire attack at Scarborough in July 2015.
But on 88 he edged Matt Taylor and, although Bracey could only parry the ball, Howell was on hand at first slip to complete the catch.
In all he faced 184 balls and hit three sixes and seven fours.
The second new ball was taken with three overs remaining at 226-6 but it was safely negotiated by D’Oliveira and Wayne Parnell who survived a run-out scare to the penultimate ball of the day.