Bopara hits a century as Essex close in on victory

Ravi Bopara, big score for Essex Photo: PA

Ravi Bopara, big score for Essex Photo: PA - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Worcestershire 94 & 140/4 trail Essex 474/7d by 240 runs

Ravi Bopara scored his second Specsavers County Championship century of the season as Essex edged Worcestershire closer to relegation.

All-rounder Bopara ticked the Essex innings along, putting on century stands with half century makers Adam Wheater and Simon Harmer, and reached a clam three figures of his own to hand Essex a heavy advantage at Chelmsford.

Worcestershire are facing a quick return to Division Two, having been promoted last season, and defeat in this match would confirm their demotion.

And with Essex bowling them out for 94 on the first morning and then piling up a first innings lead of 380, there was a looming fear of being sent down.

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But England-hopeful Joe Clarke’s classy evening 74 gave Worcestershire hope of at least forcing Essex to bat again, with the overnight deficit at 240 with six second innings wickets remaining.

The day belonged to former England all-rounder Bopara, though, who had started the day unbeaten on 36, after a watchful start to his innings on day one, and continued in more fluent style in the morning.

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He appeared in almost constant control and arrived at his 53rd first-class half century with a glorious cover drive, his 136th delivery.

Bopara was accompanied brilliantly by Wheater in a 117-run stand for the sixth wicket, the wicketkeeper claiming a fifty of his own in 70-balls.

Although both Bopara and Wheater were indebted to a series of dropped catches.

Wheater, who had been shelled on 24 the previous evening, rode his luck again on 59 when Tom Fell saw the ball slip through his fingers at third slip.

Bopara was given lives on 45 and 58, formerly dropped by Alex Milton at deep-midwicket and latterly by Daryl Mitchell at second slip.

Wheater was bowled by Ed Barnard, but that only started a third century stand of the Essex innings, this time Harmer joined Bopara.

Bopara, whose only other red-ball ton of the campaign came against Somerset, brought up the milestone with his 212th delivery, during an entertaining 134-run partnership with Simon Harmer.

Harmer collected his first 50 of the season from 78-balls before he was bowled attempting to charge Ben Twohig.

Essex eventually declared on 474, Bopara unbeaten on 133, to give them full bonus points from the match, and an imposing first-innings lead of 380.

Worcestershire response didn’t start strongly. Tom Fell departed for a single in the third over when he saw his middle-stump sent cartwheeling by Jamie Porter for the second time in the game.

Four balls later, Mitchell was given out lbw after a low shooter from Porter – his ninth wicket in the match – before Oliver Westbury was leg before to Matt Coles.

But Clarke unfurled a series of beautiful drives to drag his side from another collapse and rapidly moved to a 72-ball half-century – the third time he has pasted the landmark this year, he has converted the other three into three figures.

He added a chic 94 with Milton, before the latter was lbw to Simon Harmer having earlier been dropped by second slip Dan Lawrence, and concluded the day unbeaten on 74.

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