Saeed Ajmal's superb seven wicket haul propelled Worcestershire back to the top of Division Two of the LV = County Championship as they defeated Essex by 72 runs at New Road. Ajmal finished with 7-19 from 13.5 overs – and match figures of 13-94 – as Essex were bowled out for 136 in 40.5 overs chasing a 209 target.
It took his wicket tally to 28 in three championship matches this season as Worcestershire maintained their 100 per cent home record following the previous wins over Kent and Derbyshire.
Paceman Jack Shantry's contribution was also crucial as he removed the first three wickets before Ajmal took centre stage. But equally important was skipper Daryl Mitchell's scores of 97 and 38 in a match where few batsman made a sizeable contribution.
Worcestershire collected 21 points to forge back in front of Hampshire who are the next visitors to New Road on Sunday, June 8.Worcestershire had resumed on 105-8 and added only three runs before Ajmal (0) attempted to pull a ball of full length and was bowled by Matt Salisbury.
Joe Leach pulled Monty Panesar for four to take the lead past 200. He was eventually adjudged lbw to Panesar for 25 with the total on 120. Panesar finished with 5-23 from 18.4 overs and Salisbury 4-50 from 16 overs.
Essex opened with Pettini instead of Mickleburgh in partnership with Westleyand the duo put on 24 in seven overs. But then Shantry struck for the first time when Pettini (17) him off his legs to Matt Pardoe who took a fine catch at mid wicket. Shantry made his second breakthrough in the next over when Westley (18) played back and was trapped lbw.
Ben Cox produced his second superb stumpingof the game to dismiss Mickleburgh down the legside off Shantry for 10 with the total on 59. Then with what proved to be the final delivery before lunch, Ajmal produced a delivery of fuller length and yorked Greg Smith for 5.
Jess Ryder on drove Shantry for four but having reached 20 he was adjudged lbw to Ajmal.The Pakistan star then bowled Essex skipper James Foster (3) via the pad with a delivery which kept low.
It became 85-7 when Graham Napier (0) edged Ajmal and the ball hit the left boot of Daryl Mitchell at slip and ballooned up to Ross Whiteley who took a reflex catch at leg slip. Resistance came from Ben Foakes and Matt Salisburywho added 50 in just 10 overs.
But Ajmal claimed his fifth wicket of the innings when Salisbury (19) prodded forward and became another lbw victim. Wicket number six for the 36-year-old came when Foakes (34) perished in the same manner. It was all over when Monty Panesar (0) miscued his shot up in the air and Ajmal held the catch off his own bowling.