RIKI Wessels and Ed Barnard tipped the scales in Worcestershire’s favour on day one of the Specsavers County Championship Division Two match with promotion-chasing Gloucestershire at Blackfinch New Road.

Wessels played a major role with 72 in enabling the hosts to recover from 71-5 to total 221 all out after they had been put in via an uncontested toss in seamer-friendly conditions.

Barnard had accompanied him in a crucial partnership of 82 and then came on first change to account for openers James Bracey and Chris Dent plus Miles Hammond as Gloucestershire closed on 87-4.

Wessels mixed trademark strokes with responsible batting after Ryan Higgins (4-55) and David Payne (3-57) had given Gloucestershire early ascendancy.

He has slotted effectively back into a middle-order role after a brief experiment opening the innings and struck 10 fours and a six off Higgins over square leg in his 91-ball knock.

Wessels looked on course for a century until he attempted a similar stroke and was well held by Ben Charlesworth off the bowling of Josh Shaw.

Worcestershire encountered early difficulties against Gloucestershire’s new-ball attack of Payne and Higgins following an hour’s delay to the start after morning drizzle.

Under leaden skies Payne made the first breakthrough when Daryl Mitchell (10) fell to a fine catch taken above his head by Tom Smith at third slip.

The first delivery of the next over accounted for Hamish Rutherford (7) who looked to work a delivery from Higgins on the on-side and was lbw.

Two balls later Alex Milton (0) shouldered arms to the former Middlesex all-rounder and was bowled.

Jack Haynes (8) was undone by a ball from Payne which swung back in and trapped him lbw.

Smith produced another excellent catch, low down at third slip, to account for Ben Cox (2) off Higgins.

Barnard was a staunch ally to Wessels who completed a 58-ball half-century.

The England Lions all-rounder was eventually dismissed in Charlesworth’s first over as wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick held on to a low chance Leach struck a rapid 26 before he perished at extra over off Shaw and then Dillon Pennington (9) became Higgins’ fourth scalp when he was bowled.

Adam Finch and Charlie Morris (8 not out) added 25 useful runs for the final wicket before the former on 17 aimed a big hit at Payne and was bowled.

Barnard came into the attack and immediately broke through as Bracey (23) was caught behind and Dent (18) nicked to Haynes at third slip.

Mitchell collected his first Championship wicket of the season when Smith (9) was lbw and Barnard enjoyed a third scalp when Hammond (5) provided Cox with another catch.

Gareth Roderick (17no) and Charlesworth (6no) saw Gloucestershire through to the close without further alarm in adding an unbroken 31.

Umpire Nick Cook, who was suffering from a knee problem, was replaced by Mike Burns midway through the afternoon session.