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Mitchell falls just shy of another ton

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Worcestershire captain Daryl Mitchell fell just short of a third successive LV= County Championship century as his side made 291 on the first day against Essex at New Road.

Mitchell hit back-to-back tons in the Pears’ draw against Glamorgan last time out and after winning the toss on a bright day had little hesitation in opting to bat.

The opener was three runs short of reaching the 100-mark again when Graham Napier had him caught at mid-on. Essex then closed at 52 for two as Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal claimed a pair of wickets at the end of the day.

Mitchell immediately embarked on a fine opening stand with Matt Pardoe of 117 after the visitors were hit for 31 from the first five overs.

Worcestershire were, therefore, showing little ill-effects from opening their NatWest T20 Blast campaign in Durham and Lancashire the two previous days.

The start was delayed an hour due to that recent schedule but the Pears powered to 132 for one at lunch, with Pardoe falling to lbw to Greg Smith.

However, following lunch Worcestershire were pegged back and after Mitchell fell for 97, in an innings that included 17 boundaries, the hosts were 156 for four.

Wicketkeeper Ben Cox subsequently offered the most resistance with 38 as Worcestershire lost their final four wickets for 29 runs.

On-loan Lancashire paceman Oliver Newby, Napier, Monty Panesar and New Zealander Jesse Ryder, on his championship debut, all picked up two wickets for the visitors.

Ajmal then got to work as he trapped Tom Westley leg before and then also did the same to nightwatchman Matt Salisbury for one.

Stumps was called after Essex had got through the 21 overs with Jaik Mickelburgh unbeaten on 21, with Smith on five.

Mitchell had earlier reached his half-century from 66 deliveries, including 10 boundaries, before the opening partnership was ended as Pardoe was trapped lbw by Smith.

Tom Kohler-Cadmore made just nine in less than half an hour at the crease when he was trapped lbw by Ryder in his first over.

Napier then soon bowled Tom Fell for a duck to leave the hosts at 143 for three, before Mitchell's resistance was finally ended when he was caught at mid-on by Newby.

However, once Ross Whiteley went for 27, caught in the covers by Mickelburgh off Newby and Alexei Kervezee soon followed on 25, Worcestershire were six down for 210.

The tail offered little after Cox edged behind off Salisbury, with Panesar accounting for both Joe Leach and then Ajmal.

Worcestershire made two changes from the side which drew against Glamorgan.

Fell replaced Alex Hales, following his return to Nottinghamshire, while a back injury sidelined leading wicket-taker Gareth Andrew, so Leach stepped up from the second XI.

Essex were without England captain Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara, who are both set to take on Sri Lanka in the upcoming limited-overs internationals.

Salisbury was handed a first-class debut for the county, having featured in a warm-up game against the tourists at Chelmsford earlier in the week.

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