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Topley and Smith put Essex on top

Reece Topley and Greg Smith were the major stars as promotion hopefuls Essex took full control of their LV= County Championship Two match against Worcestershire at Chelmsford.

After 19-year-old paceman Topley returned career-best figures of 6-29 while the visitors were routed for 102, Smith followed up his century against Gloucestershire in the previous match with 94 as the home side reached the close on 199 for four.

Topley bagged Matthew Pardoe and Tom Fell before lunch, which arrived with Worcestershire on 73 for four after they had won the toss.

But it was after the break that he embarked upon his destructive mission to ensure there was no recovery as he picked up four more wickets at a cost of eight runs in seven overs.

Control and swing were his main weapons on a pitch that offered the pacemen a degree of help, but nowhere near as much as Worcestershire's efforts would have one believe.

Occasionally the ball reared off a length, as did the delivery that accounted for Shaaiq Choudhry, but the visiting batsmen were often the architects of their own downfall.

Michael Johnson was bowled by David Masters without offering a stroke and Ross Whiteley was caught behind while seeking to withdraw his bat against Topley.

Joe Leach scored 24 from 48 deliveries before becoming another Topley victim, a departure that signalled a rapid decline in the innings that ended when Graham Napier took a magnificent leaping catch on the boundary to get rid of David Lucas.

That provided Masters with his third wicket at a cost of 33, while Napier himself claimed the other.

Essex suffered an early setback when they replied, Nick Browne falling to Alan Richardson when he played forward to a delivery only to see the ball roll back into his stumps.

Browne's departure came while he strived to get off the mark but, following a couple of anxious moments early on, Jaik Mickleburgh and Smith settled in to take full control of the situation and made sure the efforts of their bowlers were rewarded.

Smith, fresh from a career-best 177 at Bristol last week, was soon driving and pulling with confidence as he reached his half-century from 65 balls with seven boundaries.

Mickleburgh was slightly more circumspect, needing 81 deliveries to complete his fifty, but his judgment in picking the right ball to attack brought him nine fours in moving towards that milestone.

The partnership was worth 158 in 33 overs when Mickleburgh, on 65, popped up a simple catch round the corner to Daryl Mitchell off Moeen Ali.

Owais Shah collected one fortuitous boundary over the top of the slips before departing lbw without offering a stroke to a Richardson delivery that cut back sharply.

Two runs later, with the total on 172, Smith's fine effort came to an end when he drove Moeen into the hands of Richardson at deep mid-on when just six runs short of his century.

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