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Studious Mitchell hits College Ground ton

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Daryl Mitchell returned to the scene of one of his finest hours to score a classic LV= County Championship century as Division Two leaders Worcestershire ran up 299 for seven on a competitive opening day against Gloucestershire at the College Ground.

The experienced opening batsman finished unbeaten on 102, having shown exemplary application in facing 228 balls and hitting 13 fours without giving a chance.

Richard Oliver smacked 62 off 49 deliveries at the start of the innings and Ben Cox also impressed with a half-century as he made 56 in Cheltenham.

Craig Miles claimed 4-53 on his first appearance of the season for Gloucestershire, while Tom Smith returned 3-68 from 31 overs.

It was at the College Ground in 2010 that Mitchell hit two centuries in the corresponding game, his 134 not out in the second innings seeing Worcestershire claim an unlikely six-wicket win.

Again he was prepared to be patient is assessing the festival pitch, taking 22 balls to get off the mark. Having scored a half-century in his previous two championship appearances, Oliver dominated the opening stand of 71.

The fifty partnership came up in the 11th over, with the 24-year-old left-hander having made 44 and Mitchell six. Oliver's own half-century soon followed and occupied just 42 balls, featuring seven fours.

He continued to attack and perished to a full-blooded drive at Miles in the 15th over, Michael Klinger accepting a chest high catch at second slip.

It was a sweet moment for 20-year-old Miles, who claimed 43 championship wickets last season, but had not played in the competition since September because of a back problem.

It was 118 for one at lunch, with Mitchell on 29. Tom Fell had moved more briskly to 24 when he was pinned lbw by Miles in the second over after the interval, the ball striking pad before bat.

Gloucestershire's fightback continued as Alexei Kervezee was caught and bowled by left-arm spinner Smith for seven, having been dropped at short-leg off the same bowler, to make it 130 for three.

And the home side struck again with the total on 140, Tom Kohler-Cadmore advancing to Smith and being smartly stumped by Adam Rouse.

Mitchell was set, advancing steadily at his own pace. He found another positive partner in Cox, who got off the mark by pulling a short ball from Smith over midwicket for six.

Mitchell was first to his half-century off 124 balls, with eight fours, the same number as Cox struck in reaching the same milestone off 58 deliveries.

By tea the pair had Worcestershire back in command at 228 for four. Miles, used sparingly, had figures of 2-30 from nine overs at that point.

It was Smith who struck again with the total on 242 as Cox pushed forward defensively and was caught at short-leg by Will Tavare off an inside edge.

Miles followed up by gaining a leg-before verdict against Joe Leach before he had scored.

Gloucestershire delayed taking the new ball until the second delivery of the 86th over with the score 276 for six and Mitchell five short of his ton. He lost another partner when Shaaiq Choudhry top-edged a pull off Miles and was caught at midwicket for 21.

It was 284 for seven when Mitchell reached three figures, having faced 223 balls in what was an old-school knock of immense value to his team.

Worcestershire director of cricket Steve Rhodes was pleased with Mitchell's performance and he said: "Daryl is having a wonderful season.

"Batting through a day is not easy with the concentration levels required and the fatigue that sets in, but he stuck to his plans and I'm delighted for him."

Miles, who celebrated his 20th birthday yesterday, said: "It's great to be back with four wickets.

"There was more movement in the air than off the pitch and I just tried to ease myself back in and get the ball in the right place."

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