West Indies paceman Alzarri Joseph was rewarded with two wickets for Worcestershire on a day dominated by Sir Alastair Cook’s chanceless century for Essex in the LV=Insurance County Championship match at New Road.
Joseph dismissed Essex opener Nick Browne to break an opening stand of 71 and then returned after tea to dismiss Cook for 115 after he had put on 139 with captain Tom Westley.
The Worcestershire bowlers stuck to their task and once again bowled with considerable discipline and accuracy on a slow pitch and they saw three difficult chances not quite go to hand.
Joseph ended with 2-81 from 20 overs as Essex closed on 266-2 from 96 overs on another cold day.
Essex captain Tom Westley opted to bat on a wicket with a shortish boundary on the Cathedral side of the ground.
It was a proud day for Jake Libby, who skippered Worcestershire for the first time with Club Captain Joe Leach rested as part of the club’s rotation policy for their bowling attack.
Charlie Morris and Dillon Pennington shared the new ball in the cold conditions, and Essex opener Nick Browne had a couple of early escapes.
He edged a low one-handed chance to second slip off Pennington when on eight and another on 13 from the bowling of Morris high and to the left of second slip, although both chances were difficult.
Cook dug in and did not collect a boundary until his 29th delivery when he square drove Morris to the ropes.
Joseph asked questions of the batsmen and then Ed Barnard, who almost brought about Cook’s downfall on 29.
England’s record Test run-scorer was deceived by a delivery by the England Lions all-rounder, which lobbed up inches short of Pennington’s dive forward at mid-on.
Essex reached 64-0 by lunch – the fifth successive session without a wicket falling at New Road – and it was another disciplined performance from the home attack which may have brought a more significant reward on another day.
But Joseph made the breakthrough 25 minutes into the afternoon with just seven runs added.
Browne was beaten by a pacey full-length delivery and was trapped lbw for 26 after Joseph went around the wicket.
Cook brought up his half-century with a steer past second slip to third man off Joseph for his eighth boundary from 124 balls.
New batsman Tom Westley looked in good form and produced successive on drives for four off Morris, although Brett D’Oliveira beat him on 30 after pushing forward.
Cook completed his third century in four Championship games at New Road with a single to fine leg off Pennington. It came from 231 balls and contained 15 fours.
Westley survived another sharp chance, low and behind the wicket, off Barnard when on 45 before completing a 144 ball half-century.
Joseph returned, and his persistence paid off when he ended Cook’s fine knock on 115 when he dragged a delivery back onto his stumps.
Westley remained unbeaten on 75 and Dan Lawrence 33 in a stand so far worth 56.