Worcs v Essex: Clarke puts champions on back foot
PUBLISHED: 19:13 12 May 2018 | UPDATED: 19:13 12 May 2018
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Joe Clarke delivered a perfectly timed message to the England selectors before they choose the side for the opening Test against Pakistan with another superb century in the Specsavers County Championship Division One clash with Essex at Blackfinch New Road.
He followed up his 157 against Surrey at the Kia Oval last week with his 11th first class hundred in only his 52nd match.
Clarke has made no secret of his ambition to play for his country since making his county debut three years ago this month.
Three Lions tours have further whetted his appetite and he will be keeping his fingers crossed that he gets the nod for the opening Test at Lord’s beginning on May 24 – two days before his 22nd birthday.
Clarke has always exuded class and the selectors had witness at first hand his century for the North versus South in the Caribbean this winter.
Now he has put his name firmly in the hat with these back-to-back hundreds and his efforts also held the Worcestershire first innings together.
Clarke, who also played for England Under-19s in the 2014 ICC World Cup, was eventually lbw to Ravi Bopara for 105 off 168 balls with 14 fours and left the ground to a standing ovation.
Worcestershire were eventually dismissed for 238 – a first innings lead of 71.
By the close the visitors had lost four wickets – the first three of them bowled after not offering a shot – including Alastair Cook (66) in reaching 143-4.
Worcestershire had resumed on 47-0 but, with the exception of Daryl Mitchell who made a determined 41, Clarke fought a virtual lone hand against a quality attack.
He and Mitchell added 86 in 21 overs for the third wicket but otherwise the Essex bowlers steadily worked their way through the Worcestershire batting line-up.
Brett D’Oliveira added only three to his overnight 34 before he fell to Peter Siddle (2-56) who was the pick of the Essex bowlers in the last appearance of his spell with the champions.
Mitchell battled it out for 41 overs before his dismissal – leg before to Bopara at 142-3 – led to a steady procession of wickets with only Clarke standing firm.
Jamie Porter (2-70), Simon Harmer (2-29) and Bopara (3-30) were the other wicket-takers.
Essex openers Cook and Varun Chopra negotiated six overs in reaching 12-0 by tea and continued to prosper in the final session.
They had steered their side to within three runs of wiping out the first innings deficit when Chopra (21) shouldered arms to Josh Tongue and was bowled.
Cook was in defiant mood in his last Championship appearance before the first Test and his ninth boundary – a cover drive off Joe Leach – took him to an 82-ball half century.
But he left alone an inswinging Steve Magoffin delivery and was bowled and then Tom Westley lifted his bat to Joe Leach and saw his off stump knocked back.
Tongue struck again in the penultimate over as Bopara (13) nicked through to Cox, leaving Essex just 82 runs ahead with six wickets remaining.