STUART Law struck a brilliant unbeaten 133 to knock Worcestershire off the top of the table with a four wickets defeat at the hands of Essex at Chelmsford yesterday.

But the Essex star will be the first to admit he was helped by bowlers who struggled to find line and length and were made to pay a high price for their shortcomings.

Essex were faced with a target of 286 which should have presented them with a problem on a pitch where the occasional delivery misbehaved and offered some turn.

They were also a batsman short, Darren Robinson nursing a broken thumb, but in the end they won with more ease than the margin suggests. At one stage they stood on 258-2 before Glenn McGrath caused a few flutters by taking three wickets in a nine-ball spell.

But long before then, Worcestershire had surrendered the initiative with a bowling display that gave the batsmen too much width.

Even McGrath was among those guilty. He was so out of sorts with the new ball that he conceded 34 in his opening four overs and although he got his act together later on, he was still punished for 75 in 18.5 overs.

Off-spinner Vikram Solanki also conceded 75 while sending down 18 overs and of the six bowlers used, only slow left-armer Matthew Rawnsley performed with sustained accuracy

After Paul Pritchard had been removed by Kabir Ali for a swift 20, Law came out to share in a second wicket stand of 118 in 37 overs with Paul Grayson.

Grayson was the first to move through the gears, needing only 87 balls to reach his half-century, while his Australian partner required 123 deliveries to reach that landmark.

But once Grayson clipped David Leatherdale to Stuart Lampitt after making 69 which included ten fours, Law stepped up a gear.

He need just 54 deliveries to score his second 50 and was the dominate force in a third wicket stand of 103.

Ronnie Irani made 35 of them before holing out to mid-on, paving the way for McGrath's burst.

But Essex were soon celebrating, Law walking off to a standing ovation with 19 fours and a six to his credit.