|Specsavers County Championship Division Two, Blackfinch New Road (day one):|
|Worcestershire 221: Wessels 72; Higgins 4-55, Payne 3-57|
|Gloucestershire 87-4: Barnard 3-16|
|Gloucestershire (3 pts) trail Worcestershire (1 pt) by 134 runs|
Gloucestershire did their Division Two promotion hopes no harm as they bowled out Worcestershire on day one.
After resting all-rounder Moeen Ali ahead of Saturday’s T20 Blast Finals Day, the hosts totalled just 221, as Ryan Higgins (4-55) and David Payne (3-57) did the damage.
Having slumped to 71-5 just after lunch, Riki Wessels made 71, aided by Ed Barnard (30) and Joe Leach (26).
Barnard then took three wickets as the visitors closed on 87-4 at New Road.
Medium-pacer Daryl Mitchell also took his first Championship wicket of the season in fading light before Gareth Roderick (17) and Ben Charlesworth (6) saw their side to the close, still 134 runs in arrears.
An hour’s play was lost at the start of the day after drizzle, before Gloucestershire opted to bowl via an uncontested toss, and made quick inroads when they captured three home wickets in four balls to reduce the Pears to 24-3.
But most of the overs lost were made up as they played almost an hour longer than the scheduled 17:30 BST close of play time.
Gloucestershire, looking to reclaim top-flight status for the first times since 2005, began their penultimate game in third, five points behind second-placed Northants – and nine clear of fourth-placed Durham.
There was one casualty during the day, umpire Nick Cook, who was suffering from a knee problem and had to be replaced by Mike Burns midway through the afternoon session.
Pears batsman Riki Wessels told BBC Hereford & Worcester:
“It would have been nice to maybe have them five or six down but obviously we got done by a bit of bad light there and if we had tried to bowl the fast bowlers at that stage, we would have come off.
“To have four wickets down and not having the big guys firing, we would have probably taken that.
“The pitch felt a bit slow, a bit sticky, similar to last week’s game here, but it had been undercover for a few days and for an extra hour this morning.
“Barny had a fantastic day. We’ve asked a lot of him this year, up and down the batting order at times and bowling some hard yards and hard overs as the fourth seamer. And he got his reward.”
Gloucestershire captain Chris Dent:
“It is a pretty even game. It is going to be a big day to decide who gets on top.
“There were two great catches from Tom Smith and Ryan Higgins bowled well, taking a four-for in the end. He has been fantastic for us. Mr Reliable with bat and ball.
“There is quite a bit in the wicket. It was nipping around a fair bit. You would have liked to be only two down at the end of the day, but it was doing quite a bit out there.
“We’ve still got some batters in the shed so hopefully we can get some runs.”