Worcestershire possess a lead of 35 with nine second innings wickets intact at the halfway stage of the LV=CC game against Leicestershire at Grace Road.
Ramnaresh Sarwan (46, 122b) and Josh Cobb (63, 108b) shared 102 to take the County score to 162-3 but Worcestershire hit back to bowl Leicestershire out for 278.
The team ended with momentum despite the fightback as a last-wicket stand of 38 between Nathan Buck (25*, 33b) and Charlie Shreck (19*, 18b) helped the team claim a first innings lead of 41.
Buck picked up an early wicket but Worcestershire closed on 76-1 with captain Daryl Mitchell (44*, 86b) and Tom Fell (24*, 57b) sharing an unbroken 58.
County resumed on 58-2 but lost a wicket without further addition as Greg Smith (22, 72b) was lbw to Jack Shantry. It was tough going as the dark clouds continued to hover above Grace Road but Sarwan and Cobb settled to form a crucial partnership.
Cobb twice drove Joe Leach to the mid-on boundary in the 7th over of the morning and two consecutive fours were scored by Cobb in the next over from Shantry. The batsman drove handsomely through mid-off before uppercutting over the slips.
Sarwan cut both Leach and Ross Whiteley for four and Cobb took ten runs off the first three balls of Shantry’s 18th over as the alliance reached 50. A third boundary of the over came as Cobb used soft hands to guide down to third man.
Charlie Morris (22.2-6-76-4) came on for his first bowl of the day at the Pavilion End and Sarwan played a cute stroke to pick up four down to third man. Sarwan also cut Whiteley (4-0-14-0) to record another boundary.
Worcestershire turned to Saeed Ajmal (18-3-46-1) with the score having reached 136-3 after 43 overs and Cobb showed intent by drilling his second delivery through mid-on for four. A straight six off the international off-spinner by Cobb brought up an excellent 84-ball 50 (8x4, 1x6), and a single from the number five took the score to 150.
Leicestershire were nicely placed on 156-3 at lunch with Sarwan on 46 and Cobb 59 but Worcestershire had a strong afternoon session. Things started with promise as Cobb smashed Shantry (26-9-66-3) over backward point to pick up a ninth four that took the stand into three figures but that was the final score off the bat in the partnership.
Both set batsmen fell with the score on 162 as Cobb guided Shantry to Fell at gully and Sarwan pulled to Matthew Pardoe at long leg in the following over.
O’Brien and Redfern initially played watchfully as Leicestershire regrouped. O’Brien went on to unleash a couple of drives to pick up boundaries and Redfern timed a stroke through mid-wicket off Shantry to get off the mark with a four.
O’Brien also clipped through the leg-side, and a beautiful stroke through mid-on off Shantry brought Redfern another four. Ajmal replaced the left armer, who had bowled 26 of the first 65 overs, and Redfern nudged the spinner to the boundary. O’Brien cut Leach (18-3-56-2) to the ropes as County picked up a first batting point.
Another O’Brien cut went for four, this time over the cordon, and the stand then reached 50 in the 72nd over. The duo had played well but the Worcestershire bowlers kept chipping away. O’Brien offered a sharp chance to Whiteley at short leg off Ajmal and although it went to ground, a cluster of wickets then fell.
Redfern (21, 66b) edged to Mitchell at second slip and O’Brien (29, 61b) then nicked Leach to Cox. Ajmal built on the seamer’s tidy work as Jones (3, 9b), who was looking to leave, gloved to Mitchell at slip.
Buck struck two fours to put Leicestershire into the lead but the ninth wicket went as Ben Raine (7, 20b) was adjudged to have gloved the returning Morris to Cox. A useful last wicket stand then developed to frustrate the co-leaders. Shreck clattered his first ball off Morris over the slips for four and the team picked up another batting point as Buck picked up a three through mid-on.
Tea was delayed as the duo continued to gather runs. Buck gloved one from Morris that flew through the keeper’s gloves and ran away to the boundary while Shreck smoked over mid-wicket later in the over.
Buck played a super cut off Ajmal that also raced away. The new ball was taken and Shreck dispatched the first ball through mid-on. Morris gained revenge by having Shreck caught behind and tea was taken at this point.
There were 27 overs to be bowled, and Worcestershire would have been pleased to have just lost one wicket by stumps. Pardoe drove Shreck (8-2-14-0) down the ground for four in the third over and Mitchell pulled Buck away in the sixth amid some solid defence.
Jones (6-1-21-0) came on for an early burst at the Pavilion End and Buck then struck in his fourth over as Pardoe (7, 19b) edged to Smith at second slip. Fell knuckled down before pulling Jones to the fence while a glorious drive by Mitchell off Buck also went for four.
Fell twice flicked off his pads for further boundaries before Mitchell guided a four to put Worcestershire ahead. The 50 came up at the end of Raine’s first over - the 19th of the innings - as Mitchell cut a three and Fell drove to the backward point boundary.
A Mitchell glance off Raine recorded the fourth boundary of his innings and the stand then passed fifty. Mitchell clipped the penultimate ball of the day for four as he moved within one blow of fifty but the visitors' advantage is still slender despite his good work. There is all to play for in this intriguing match.