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D'Oliveira keeps Worcestershire above water

Brett D'Oliveira runs the ball away Getty Images

Worcestershire 270 for 4 (D'Oliveira 121, Mitchell 58) trail Leicestershire 404 (Dexter 114) by 134 runs

This has been another generally miserable season for Leicestershire but they are at least giving Worcestershire a fight. Who knows, they might even break their duck for the season, which would not be the outcome the home side had in mind when they lowered Nottinghamshire's colours last week.

That result not only ended the treble-seeking Division Two title favourites' unbeaten record for the season but created the possibility, with Nottinghamshire out of action this week, that Worcestershire could knock them off the top. Their mood going into this match could hardly have been more buoyant.

Apart from the first hour of the opening day, though, Leicestershire have had the upper hand. After recovering from 25 for 3 to be 325 for 7 at Tuesday's close, they continued to prosper in the blustery sunshine of the second morning, missing out on a full set of batting points but at least enjoying the satisfaction of putting 400 on the board, something they had not done since May.

Worcestershire are not out of it, by any means. Brett D'Oliveira played magnificently for his third hundred of the Championship season, yet they need another 134 to achieve parity, let alone a lead of any substance.

It fully vindicated Mark Cosgrove's decision to take his chance with the toss. R Ashwin, who took eight wickets on his debut here a couple of weeks ago, on a used wicket, was not nearly so effective, finishing with 2 for 132, although he might reflect, looking ahead to India's tour here next summer, that the experience of bowling in less helpful English conditions could actually be quite educational.

Neil Dexter, who extended his 102 overnight to 114 before Ashwin had him leg before, was the fulcrum, having batted 13 minutes short of four hours. The former Middlesex allrounder has had a difficult year in many respects, off the field as well as on, yet gave glimpses of his best in this innings. It will have pleased the Leicestershire hierarchy, too, that the innings did not peter out, as it might have done, after Dexter was eighth out at 354.

Zak Chappell, the 21-year-old who looks a good prospect with bat and ball, followed Dexter back in the next over, out to a sharp catch at short leg by Tom Fell, but Dieter Klein and Callum Parkinson batted positively to add another 44 for the last wicket, giving the total a psychological bonus.

Yet Worcestershire achieved their first objective by taking maximum bowling points - which always seems faintly absurd when the opposition have scored 400 - and completed a second late in the evening session when the partnership between D'Oliveira and George Rhodes for the fourth wicket guided them safely past the 255 required to avoid the follow-on.

D'Oliveira and opening partner Daryl Mitchell have been the bedrock of Worcestershire's success this season, scoring almost 2,000 runs behind them, their partnerships often the key to a win. They shared 119 before a wicket fell this time, and it might well have been many more had Mitchell, going after Callum Parkinson's left-arm spin, not fallen victim to a superb catch by Klein at deep extra cover. The shot was miscued high into the air but Klein had to cover a lot of ground to be under it, with a gusty wind adding an extra degree of difficulty.

Parkinson finished with three wickets on the day, claiming a bonus in the last over when Rhodes, who had played solidly for his 47, offering sensibly measured support to D'Oliveira, chipped wearily to Michael Carberry at short midwicket.

Mitchell's season has been phenomenal, encompassing six Championship hundreds and eight partnerships of 106 or more, including three with D'Oliveira. His statistics alone deserve the reward of promotion.

It has been a road he has travelled before, of course. Worcestershire have been promoted to Division One four times since he made his debut, five times in all since the Championship was divided. They have also been relegated five times. No county has yo-yoed quite like them.

The win at Trent Bridge created a wide enough gap between themselves and the chasing group to suggest they will pull it off again, potentially with an added cause for satisfaction if Warwickshire do pass them in the other direction, which now seems all but certain. Not since the Championship went to two divisions in 2000 have Worcestershire been in the division above their Midlands neighbours.