Division Two: Worcestershire thrash Leicestershire on Saeed Ajmal's farewell; Essex edge past Hampshire
Last Updated: 16/07/14 7:01pm
Worcestershire gave Saeed Ajmal a winning send-off and extended their lead at the top of Division Two with a 204-run victory over Leicestershire at New Road.
The Pakistan off-spinner took seven more wickets in the match for a total of 63 in nine games, but this was by no means a one-man effort as a young seam attack, led by impressive all-rounder Joe Leach, played a big part in dismissing Leicestershire for 253 on the final day.
A sixth win in 11 games has given Worcestershire a significant cushion in the promotion race before they have to cope without Ajmal for the last five fixtures.
He will fly home to Pakistan on Thursday, with memories of a standing ovation as he led the team off the field with second-innings figures of 3-81.
New Zealand seamer Mitchell McClenaghan will now take over the overseas slot and will make his first championship appearance against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham on Monday.
Leicestershire were set a notional target of 458, which was 64 more than their record fourth-innings total in the Championship.
Opener Greg Smith (46) and Niall O’Brien (57) frustrated the hosts but spinners Leach (3-71) and Ajmal (3-81) and pace bowler Charles Morris (3-53) combined to hand Worcestershire a handsome win.
Their lead at the top of Division Two increased after nearest challengers Hampshire suffered a two-wicket defeat to Essex in a thrilling climax at Colchester.
After losing the entire first day to rain, Essex forced victory after skittling Hants for 171 on Wednesday, setting themselves 133 for an unlikely win.
Jesse Ryder (3-31) did the early damage and off-spinner Greg Smith (4-46) then ran through the tail to leave Hampshire stunned.
After stumbling to 29-4 and 55-5, Essex threatened to undo their earlier efforts with the ball, however Ravi Bopara (48no) saw the side home and to a 21-point haul which keeps their promotion bid on track.
Danny Briggs and Liam Dawson each finished with four wickets at a cost of 61 and 58 respectively - but their efforts proved in vain.
At Cheltenham, Derbyshire gained the upper hand by reducing Gloucestershire to 137-5 in their second innings on day three, a lead of 121.
Half-centuries from Ben Slater (70), Wayne Madsen (80), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (73) and Wes Durston (58) helped Derbyshire post 372 in the first knock and the bowlers then got to work with a slender advantage of 16.
Mark Footitt (2-29) maintained his fine form this season with the wickets of openers Will Tavare (0) and Michael Klinger (13) and quick wickets from Tom Taylor and Tony Palladino reduced Gloucs to 40-4.
But Hamish Marshall (43no) held firm to reach the close and set-up an intriguing final day.