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May 18, 2014
Worcestershire 291 (Mitchell 97, Pardoe 45) lead Essex 52-2 by 239 runs
As with the mushrooming housing estate and planned retirement home at Canterbury, so it will take some while to come to terms with a Premier Inn on the boundary at New Road. A lifetime - or more - in all probability. Still, all credit to Worcestershire for staging first-class cricket on a square that only 11 weeks ago was 11 feet under water. And to Daryl Mitchell, their captain, for batting so impressively on it that he now averages 125.80 this season.
Mitchell missed, by three runs, a third century in succession. Among a decent crowd - even if the architects who constructed the Premier Inn have missed a trick by not building balconies attached to numerous rooms overlooking the ground - was James Whitaker, the national selector, who would have been more concerned with how Monty Panesar was bowling for Essex. Yet Mitchell, who collects runs without ever seeming to become becalmed, can only have made an impression.
Given he will be 31 this year, Mitchell is a little long in the tooth to be selected for England for the first time. Yet there have been other openers before him who did not always catch in the eye in their 'twenties: Brian Luckhurst, for example, whose first Test cap came against Australia in 1970 at Mitchell's age.
Mitchell has now made 629 runs in seven innings this season, and this one was played after a 2 am return from Old Trafford following a floodlit match the previous evening. He would have been pleased not to have had to field all day after that.
Batting first was evidently the right decision, for there was some turn and low bounce which will only be accentuated come Wednesday. Mitchell and Matt Pardoe put on 117 in 27 overs against an Essex attack lacking three injured front-line bowlers in David Masters, Reece Topley and Tymal Mills. Matt Salisbury bowled briskly on his championship debut, taking one wicket, but it was an occasion for the overs to be evenly shared.
Panesar and Greg Smith took four wickets between them and Worcestershire were also stymied in mid-innings by the medium pacers. Mitchell himself fell through a leading edge to mid on off Graham Napier's bowling, his 97 including 17 fours, Alexei Kervezee again struggled to progress beyond a score in the 'twenties, Ross Whiteley launched himself once too often at the spinners and Ben Cox, who made 38, went to an excellent right handed catch by James Foster. Whitaker was right in line with this. Only some late hitting by Joe Leach, playing in his first championship match of the season, took the total to as much as 291.
Worcestershire, for their part, were without Gareth Andrew, who has been as effective this season as Masters has in the past at much the same pace for Essex. They struggled for a breakthrough until Saeed Ajmal came on and removed both Tom Westley and Salisbury, the nightwatchman.
There is no Alastair Cook or Ravi Bopara for Worcestershire to contend with on a pitch cut relatively close to the pavilion and flowering horse chestnuts that draw the eye away from anything unappealingly modernistic.
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