Worcestershire CCC’s penultimate LV=Insurance County Championship of the season with Middlesex at Lord’s was dominated by the bowlers as 18 wickets fell on the opening day.
Club Captain Joe Leach’s decision to put Middlesex into bat on a green pitch was justified as the home side were bowled out for 144 in 50.6 overs.
Ed Barnard returned his best bowling figures of the summer – 4-43 – and there were three more wickets for Leach who again bowled impressively.
But Worcestershire also experienced testing challenges with the bat on a day where the ball nipped around all day for the seamers.
Gareth Roderick top-scored with 42 on his return to the side batting at number three and there were useful contributions from Leach and Charlie Morris down the order as Worcestershire partially recovered from 44-6.
When bad light ended play early, they had reached 113-8 from 33 overs.
Worcestershire batsman Josh Dell was unable to make his first Championship appearance of the season after suffering a reaction to his recent thumb during a pre-match net session.
Roderick and Morris came into the side for Tom Fell and Adam Finch in two changes from the eleven in action against Kent at Canterbury.
Leach opted to field first and Worcestershire were rewarded for some bowling during the morning session by picking up five wickets before lunch.
Openers Mark Stoneman and Sam Robson put on 33 but then Worcestershire started to make the inroads into the home batting line-up that their performance deserved.
Leach, who has been in prime form in recent games, made the first breakthrough when Stoneman (12) offered no show and was lbw.
After an excellent opening spell of 7-1-15-1, Leach made way for Morris and he struck with his first delivery in trapping Steve Eskinazi (7) leg before.
Barnard came into the attack and he won a third lbw shout of the innings to account for Rob White (1).
Leach swapped ends and came back for a second spell before lunch and a superb delivery ended the resistance of Sam Robson who lost his off stump and was bowled for 20
A successful first session was completed when Martin Andersson (0) edged a delivery from Leach and Daryl Mitchell held onto a fine low catch at second slip.
The wickets continued to tumble after the interval when Middlesex keeper John Simpson (12) chopped a Dillon Pennington delivery onto his stumps.
Barnard then struck three times in successive overs to push home Worcestershire’s control.
Luke Hollman (4) played and missed at successive Barnard deliveries before he was bowled by the England Lions all-rounder.
Max Holden had provided strong resistance in making 52 but he then fell victim to a magnificent catch by Mitchell.
He nicked a ball from Barnard and in an instance Mitchell flung himself to his right to hold onto a low one-handed effort.
Barnard claimed a fourth scalp when bowling Toby Roland-Jones (1) and then Pennington wrapped up the innings thanks to another excellent head high catch by Jake Libby at mid on to dismiss Tim Murtagh (6).
The conditions were equally testing for the Worcestershire batsmen against Tim Murtagh and Ethan Bamber.
Mitchell (4) was caught behind off Murtagh and Jake Libby (13) was given lbw to a Bamber delivery which nipped back.
Jack Haynes (0) also went leg before to a full length Murtagh delivery and Brett D’Oliveira (3) chipped Bamber to short mid off.
Roderick off drove Murtagh for four but it became 37-5 when Barnard (4) pushed firmly at Murtagh and nicked to first slip.
Ben Cox (0) departed in the same manner – off Bamber) before Roderick and Leach led a counter attack.
Roderick picked up three boundaries at Andersson’s expense via a cut, a clip off his legs and a steer to third man while Leach chipped Bamber straight back down the ground.
The seventh wicket pair added 37 before Toby Roland-Jones found the edge of Roderick’s bat. His 63 ball innings contained four fours.
Charlie Morris, a century-maker last week for the Seconds, looked in good touch and turned Andersson through mid wicket and upper cut him over gulley for boundaries.
Leach (21) became Murtagh’s fourth scalp – another lbw victim before proceedings were ended for the day.