LIVERPOOL VICTORIA COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION TWO
Surrey trail Worcestershire by 262 runs
Worcestershire really will miss Phil Jaques when he completes his scintillating stint at New Road and heads back to Australia next week.
Thanks to the stop-start summer created by this newly wed Australian's private needs and his country's even more exhausting demands, Jaques will have played in only half of Worcestershire's scheduled 16 County Championship matches. But, as with the 63 wickets with which fellow overseas signing Zaheer Khan has weighed in, Jaques' contribution to the New Road cause has been prodigious.
It takes a class batsman to be out for 95 and still merely have matched his average for the summer, as Jaques did in this top-of-the-table battle against Division Two leaders Surrey yesterday afternoon. But it says everything about the sheer size of his efforts that Worcestershire have so far won five and drawn the other two Championship matches in which he has played.
As to whether yesterday's innings will prove enough to record another win over Surrey to match the fabulous victory charge Worcestershire pulled off at The Oval in May, it is still too early to say.
Despite Daryl Mitchell bolstering Jaques' efforts with another typically-disciplined and hard-fought half century, Worcestershire's all-out total of 304 was low by some of their own recent standards.
The fact that their main promotion rivals knocked off 42 of those runs by the close carried with it an ominous hint that the home side may already be on the back foot.
Certainly, given that nine of Surrey's wickets came from their spinners, Worcestershire's decision to leave out Ray Price already looks questionable. Jaques did not take long to make it look easy against the Surrey pacemen yesterday morning, hitting 28 out of the day's first 29 runs.
But his opening partner, Stephen Moore, had at least narrowed the gap between them by the time he became the only man out in the morning session, lbw to Ian Salisbury on 44, with the pair just three runs short of a century stand.
Four balls after lunch, skipper Vikram Solanki joined him, tamely lobbing the ball back off a leading edge to give a return catch to Salisbury's spin twin Anil Kumble.
With Graeme Hick out injured, that was made to look even more serious when Salisbury, who had seen Ben Smith missed at short leg in his previous over, had him stumped instead.
Salisbury then struck again to land the biggest prize, when he outfoxed Jaques, who played back and was also adjudged lbw.
When Steven Davies became the third LBW victim, when Kumble snared him for 23, that was half the team out to spin. Azhar Mahmood broke the sequence when he found the edge of Gareth Batty's flashing blade to have him caught at first slip. But no matter what the mode of dismissal (and Matt Mason looked distressed with his lbw verdict) as Kumble went on to take five wickets and Salisbury four, the rejuvenated former England man reaching 50 for the season, nothing could prise out Mitchell.
The young man with the limpet-like qualities once again showed his inclination for a scrap as he saw it through to the bitter end on 54 not out.
That left 11 overs for Surrey openers Scott Newman and Jonathan Batty to negotiate. Although Newman in particular had one or two alarms, they reached 42 without loss with unnerving swiftness.