WORCESTERSHIRE took another massive step towards promotion when they defeated Gloucestershire by eight wickets with a day to spare in a LV= County Championship Division Two encounter at Cheltenham.
Gloucestershire resumed on 10-1 after being asked to follow on and they were bowled out for 289 to leave Worcestershire a 51-run victory target, which was achieved for the loss of skipper Daryl Mitchell (15) and Richard Oliver (18).
The margin of victory would have been even greater but for a last wicket partnership of 137 between Craig Miles (78) and Liam Norwell (62 not out) – a record 10th wicket stand for Gloucestershire.
But it only delayed the inevitable and unbeaten Worcestershire’s seventh win in 12 games propelled them 43 points clear of second-placed Surrey, who were beaten by Kent and have played a game more, and 45 ahead of Hampshire.
Jack Shantry returned the best figures of 4-52 to take his Championship wicket tally for the campaign to 40.
But Charlie Morris (39) is not far behind the left-armer after picking up three wickets, with Championship debutant Mitchell McClenaghan adding two more.
It was the perfect riposte to those critics who branded the County a one-man team, reliant too much on Pakistan spin wizard Saeed Ajmal.
But the bowlers will be the first to recognise the importance of Mitchell’s marathon first innings knock of 167 not out.
McClenaghan opened the attack on day three and again bowled with great pace and aggression as he removed nightwatchman Tom Smith and Will Tavare during his initial four-over spell.
Mitchell employed an ultra-attacking field for Alex Gidman consisting of five slips, backward point and a short third man.
McClenaghan struck again when Tavare (11) attempted to pull and the ball came off the toe end and ballooned high into the air to Morris backward of square leg.
Alex Gidman played some fluent strokes in making 37 but he then played inside the line to Shantry who, in his next over, accounted for Marshall (15).
Gloucestershire reached 103-5 by lunch but lost their sixth wicket when Morris returned to the attack after the interval when Will Gidman (11) clipped straight to Shantry at square leg.
Ian Cockbain was struck twice on the helmet by McClenaghan during another testing spell and required a change of headgear. But it was Shantry who brought about Cockbain’s downfall after he replaced McClenaghan when he was adjudged lbw for 15 in his first over back in the attack.
Shantry’s 40th wicket of the season arrived when Benny Howell (24) shouldered arms to leave Gloucestershire on 136-8.
Joe Leach took his first wicket of the innings when wicket-keeper Adam Rouse (15) drove into the hands of Mitchell at second slip.
But then the Miles-Norwell stand, which lasted 33 overs, held Worcestershire up before the latter was bowled by Morris shortly after the second new ball was taken.