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A fourth-wicket partnership of 181 between Thilan Samaraweera and Tom Fell meant that Worcestershire almost restored parity on the second day of the LV=CC game at Grace Road.
Leicestershire were only able to add four to their overnight score of 270-7 as Alan Richardson took a hat-trick spread over two overs to end with 5-57 off 24.2 overs.
Matthew Hoggard (19-5-38-2) picked up a brace of wickets as Worcestershire slipped to 55-3 before Samaraweera and Fell combined to good effect.
Shiv Thakor (9-0-24-2) took a couple of quick wickets to bring County back into the game but Samaraweera closed on a chanceless 99 (202b) as his side made steady progress in posting 265-5 from 89 overs.
That means the Pears will start day three nine runs behind with five first innings wickets intact, but the new ball is only six overs old, so it promises to be an interesting first session.
County resumed with Raine on 16 and Freckingham 22, and the seamer moved to his career-best first-class score by guiding down to the third man boundary for four in the opening over of the day.
But Freckingham departed to the last ball of the seamer’s second over of the day as he edged to a diving Daryl Mitchell at second slip. Richardson then trapped Hoggard and Alex Wyatt lbw with the first two balls of his 25th over to complete the first treble of his career, Raine remaining unbeaten on 16 (63 balls).
Mitchell and Matt Pardoe opened for Worcestershire, and there was an early success for Hoggard as he trapped Pardoe (2, 13b) in front. That brought the LV=CC leading scorer Moeen Ali to the wicket and he got off the mark by playing down to third man for four.
Freckingham came on to bowl the 9th over and Mitchell launched into a flowing cover drive to pick up four at the end of it. Moeen got into his stride by taking ten off the 13th over, including two superb drives through the off-side, and the batsman then dispatched a Freckingham full toss to the fence in the 15th over.
Mitchell cut Raine for four to bring up the 50 in the next over before Hoggard came back in place of Freckingham at the Bennett End. Hoggard bowled a good comeback over before Raine struck a crucial blow in having Moeen (25, 40b) leg before.
Hoggard then landed Leicestershire a bowling point as he trapped captain Mitchell (23, 57b) in front. County had their tails up and did not need the luncheon interval to come when it did.
Fell hit two fours before the break as the visitors went in on 65-3, Samaraweera on 1 not out at that stage. But the afternoon session belonged firmly to Worcestershire as they added a further 117 without loss.
The former Sri Lanka international opened his boundary account by clipping through mid-wicket in the first over of the afternoon session and Fell pulled Freckingham to the ropes in the next over. Another wristy Samaraweera stroke raced away before the batsman unleashed a superb off-drive to pick up a second four in the 27th over.
Cobb continued to make changes in a bid to unsettle the batsmen. Hoggard returned in place of Freckingham (10-1-49-0), while Sykes came on to bowl the 30th over from the Pavilion End. Samaraweera was initially watchful before pulling and driving for four in the spinner’s third over. The first of those boundaries took the score into three figures, and the second registered the 50 partnership.
Samaraweera cut Sykes for four in the 36th over, and when Raine came back in place of the spinner, Fell played a nice drive through mid-on to collect his fourth four. There was a double change as Wyatt replaced Hoggard, who had done a fine job in returning figures of 12-4-22-2.
Wyatt (21-4-54-0) continued Hoggard’s good work by starting with three maidens and Raine was also tidy. There was only one scoring shot in five overs, although Worcestershire did profit when one Raine delivery kept low and hit the helmet behind Niall O’Brien.
County had build pressure but Worcestershire did not buckle and then started to find the boundary. Fell drove Raine (8-2-22-1) through mid-wicket for four and Samaraweera collected two off side boundaries in the next over from Wyatt. Fell then swept delicately for four when Sykes re-entered the attack.
Four milestones came before tea as Worcestershire moved to 150, Samaraweera progressed to a 98-ball fifty, the stand reached 100 as the overseas player struck an exquisite four through mid-on, and Fell went to 50 from 97 deliveries.
Cobb (3-1-4-0) had bowled before tea in tandem with Sykes, Worcestershire moving to 182-3 at the break with Samaraweera on 65 and Fell exactly 50. The young batsman picked up two fours in the first two overs after tea and Samaraweera produced a textbook back foot drive to register the first batting point.
It was all change as Sykes and Thakor came on in tandem, a single from Samaraweera off the spinner taking the stand to 150. Fell glanced Thakor down to fine leg before producing a wonderful straight hit off Sykes (19-3-54-0), Worcestershire now 217-3 off 68 overs.
Sykes then switched to over the wicket and it was an intriguing battle. Fell signalled his intentions by advancing to loft just over the head of cover in the second over, but Sykes generally caused problems with the new line of attack.
Fell picked up a couple more boundaries down to third man and fine leg off Thakor, but the bowler responded well by having the youngster expertly caught behind by O’Brien, who was standing up.
A huge leg before appeal came against Joe Leach (0, 6b) from the next ball but the batsman survived. However, Thakor dismissed him in his next over as the batsman was well caught by Smith as he tried to guide down to third man.
Michael Johnson settled alongside Samaraweera and the new ball was taken after 83 overs – there were six to go. Johnson drove Wyatt down the ground for four to bank the second batting point, while Samaraweera played a similar stroke off Hoggard to move to 96.
Samaraweera moved to 99 in the antepenultimate over and that is how he finished. Johnson hit through mid-on in the 88th over to pick up his second four and a single meant he took strike for the whole of the last over. He got through unscathed, collecting a single off the last ball for good measure.