WORCESTERSHIRE emerged from a thrilling CGU National League battle at Chelmsford yesterday with their sights firmly on the First Division title.

A duel with several twists and turns saw them squeeze home by three runs against Essex.

Now they only have to win their final two games against Hampshire and Lancashire to collect the silverware.

Tom Moody and his men appeared to be fighting a losing battle when Richard Illingworth stepped up to bowl the 42nd over.

Essex were then 23 runs short of overhauling Worcestershire's 211-6, and Paul Grayson and Robert Rollins seemingly in control having put on 87 in 21 overs, to rescue their side from 103-5.

But from his first delivery, Illingworth persuaded Grayson to drive into the hands of Elliott Wilson to bring to an end a workmanlike innings of 66 from 90 balls.

That paved the way for Alamgir Sheriyar to make a match-winning impact.

In the next over he had Ashley Cowan caught off a skyer by Wilson in the covers, and then the fast bowler struck twice in the final over of the match which arrived with Essex nine runs short of the winning post.

After his first delivery was called a wide, Sheriyar had Rollins caught behind off his next and bowled Dave Thompson with the fifth.

Another wide followed but Peter Such could only gather a single from the final ball, leaving the Worcestershire players leaping in delight.

Sheriyar was to finish with four for 42 from five overs, but it was medium-pacer Gavin Haynes who proved Worcestershire's real hero.

Brought on at a time when Stuart Law and Essex were seizing control he underlined the value of line and length to claim 4-28 in his nine-over spell.

Law was among his victims, driving ferociously to Graeme Hick at short extra cover to end an innings which had produced 45 from 38 balls.

Wilson, who played for Essex Seconds a few seasons back, marked his return to Chelmsford with a battling 60 and helped Moody put together an opening stand of 99 in 21 overs.

But Wilson had his share of good fortune. Having made nine he was caught by Stuart Law at slip off successive Cowan deliveries, the first a no-ball, and then from the subsequent free ball.

Without addition, he was also put down by Nasser Hussain in the gully - but once into double figures he confirmed his promise with some forceful driving before holing out on the mid-wicket boundary attacking off-spinner Such.

Worcestershire lost their momentum after that, but as later events were to prove, not their desire or nerve.


Wilson c Prichard b Such 60

Moody st Rollins b Grayson 42

Hick c Prichard b Such 23

Solanki c Cowan b Irani 27

Driver c Rollins b Irani 3

Haynes c S. Law b Such 6

Rhodes not out 25

Illingworth not out 5

Extras 20

Total (6 wkts 45 overs) 211

Fall of wicket: 1-99, 2-130, 3-142, 4-147, 5-170, 6-192.

Bowling: Cowan 8-1-43-0; Irani 9-1-45-2; Anderson 8-1-39-0; Thompson 2-0-15-0; Grayson 9-0-37-1; Such 9-0-27-3.


Hussain lbw b Sheriyar 2

Prichard b Haynes 16

S. Law c Hick b Haynes 45

Irani lbw b Haynes 5

Grayson c Wilson b Illingworth 66

D. Law c Rhodes b Haynes 1

Rollins c Rhodes b Sheriyar 51

Cowan c Wilson b Sheriyar 2

Anderson not out 4

Thompson b Sheriyar 1

Such not out 1

Extras 14

Total (9 wkts 45 overs) 208

Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-64, 3-69, 4-82, 5-103, 6-190, 7-199, 8-204, 9-206.

Bowling: Newport 7-1-32-0; Sheriyar 5-0-42-4; Moody 6-0-36-0; Haynes 9-0-28-4; Illingworth 9-0-26-1; Catterall 7-0-29-0; Hick 2-0-12-0.