sport

Panesar keeps it tight

Monty Panesar's four-wicket return kept Essex in the County Championship fight at Worcestershire after Saeed Ajmal dominated the bowling.

Worcester spinner Ajmal cleaned up Essex's first innings with six for 75 as the visitors turned their overnight 52 for two into 203 all out on the second day at New Road.

The 36-year-old Pakistan slow bowler's hefty haul would have put Worcestershire in the box seat, had Panesar not produced fine figures of four for 18 from 14.2 overs, including six maidens.

Worcester slipped to 105 for eight at the close of the Division Two clash's second day: their lead of 193 is not yet compelling enough to ensure victory.

Worcester hit 291 in their first innings, and with overall scores defending, the hosts could face a battle to save a clash that Ajmal's haul so nearly teed up.

Essex resumed their first innings on 52 for two, only for Joe Leach to remove Jaik Mickleburgh lbw for 39.

Leach struck again as Ben Cox stumped Greg Smith on 31, with Essex 96 for four.

Ajmal then dispatched Mark Pettini for 11, caught by Cox, and Ben Foakes, lbw for one.

Jack Shantry trapped James Foster lbw for one run from 17 balls, before Ajmal struck again - claiming the scalp of debutant Jesse Ryder for 45.

Charles Morris accounted for Oliver Newby, caught Ajmal for no score, before Ajmal ended the innings by clean bowling Graham Napier, who made 37 from 48 balls.

Essex's 203 left Worcestershire with an 88-run first innings lead, but the wickets kept falling once the hosts were back at the crease.

Mathew Pardoe walked for a duck with Worcester one down without score, Matt Salisbury claiming the lbw dismissal.

Panesar removed Tom Kohler-Cadmore, again lbw, for three.

Salisbury then had Tom Fell stumped by James Foster for 14, before unseating Alexei Kervezee without score.

Daryl Mitchell, who made 97 in Worcestershire's first innings, found his touch again but could not reach another milestone.

The hosts' opener was removed by Panesar, lbw for 38, with the score 58 for five.

Ben Cox made seven before being bowled by Panesar, and Ryder claimed his first wicket by sending Ross Whiteley back to the clubhouse, caught by Foster for 10.

In the final act of the day, Panesar skittled Shantry for 11 from 40 balls, leaving Worcester still in need of racking up a buffer before any thoughts can turn to victory.