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Ajmal turns screw to send Worcs top

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Saeed Ajmal bowled Worcestershire back to the top of LV= County Championship Division Two with a career-best 7-19 and a 13-wicket match haul in the 72-run victory over Essex achieved with four sessions to spare at New Road.

The Pakistan spinner's remarkable seven wickets in succession – the best figures in the championship this season – ensured he was the match-winner for the second time in three games since joining last month, although the visitors were not entirely without blame for their downfall.

Ajmal has taken 26 scalps at just 11.5 runs apiece to underline his importance to Worcestershire, who need to make full use of his services before he is called away mid-summer for six weeks to play in a Test and one-day series against Sri Lanka.

With some early cloud cover left-arm seamer Jack Shantry, bowling around the wicket, opened the door to victory with the first three scalps of Essex's 209-run chase and, with the pitch offering assistance to spin but not much bounce, Ajmal obligingly swept through to finish with match figures of 13-94.

The visitors' left-arm spinner Monty Panesar was left in the shade somewhat by Ajmal's performance, although his miserly return – which took his tally to 17 for the season – saw him concede just 23 in 18.4 overs.

Saeed Ajmal is congratulated after having James Foster stumped for his third of seven scalps en route to figures of 7-19

Worcestershire's second innings was wrapped up inside half an hour today as Matt Salisbury capped a profitable championship debut by bowling Ajmal to finish with 4-40 before Panesar's almost belated appeal for lbw against Joe Leach was followed by an even more delayed reaction from umpire Neil Mallender to send the batsman on his way.

Essex's chances of chasing down 209 were diminished as Shantry removed Mark Pettini, whose loose clip to the leg side was well held by Matt Pardoe, Tom Westley and Jaik Mickleburgh, who overbalanced attempting a flick off his pads allowing Ben Cox to take a stumping.

Ajmal's first victim came from a quicker delivery which bowled Greg Smith on the stroke of lunch, with Essex 68 for four, and after the interval Jesse Ryder went lbw and James Foster would have been leg before had the ball not deflected onto the stumps.

Ajmal enjoyed one stroke of good fortune when an edge from Graham Napier looped up off the boot of Daryl Mitchell at slip for Ross Whiteley to claim close in down the leg side.

Salisbury and Ben Foakes, with 34, put on 50 for the eighth wicket before becoming the 14th and 15th lbw dismissals of the match, and Panesar's swish presented Ajmal with a caught and bowled to claim his 500th first-class wicket.

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