Worcestershire’s batsmen put their early season battles behind them as a century from Joe Clarke and a return to form by Tom Fell helped them to secure four bonus points on the third day of the Specsavers County Championship clash with Surrey at the Kia Oval.
Clarke showed all his class and quality but was also prepared to dig in as Worcestershire amassed 469-6 and secured a first innings lead of 35 – with power to add on the final day.
He struck 18 boundaries in his 280 ball innings spanning almost six hours.
But equally delightful for Worcestershire supporters was to watch Fell making his first half century since the tail-end of the 2016 season after a challenging time last summer.
His 88 plus Travis Head’s first half century for the club and 42 not out from Ed Barnard – after Daryl Mitchell (81) had laid the foundations yesterday – was a heartening sight after the dominance of ball over bat in the opening three games.
Worcestershire resumed on 135-1 off 45 overs with Mitchell unbeaten on 77 but he added only four more before being trapped lbw by Rikki Clarke in the third over of the morning.
Mitchell, who added 91 in 30 overs with Fell, struck 12 boundaries in his 139 ball knock.
Fell, who began the day on 27, then found another able ally in Clarke and the third wicket pair saw Worcestershire through to lunch without any further setbacks.
A handsome cover drive by Fell at the expense of Conor McKerr took him to his half century off 126 balls with six fours.
Worcestershire reached 228-2 by the interval with Fell 76 not out and Clarke on 33.
Fell had battled for 220 balls across almost four and a half hours, hitting nine fours, when he chipped Sam Curran’s second delivery with the second new ball straight to mid wicket in the 87th over
His stand with Clarke was worth 113 in 39 overs.
Australian left hander Head also made an attractive 50 before becoming the first of 19-year-old off spinner Virdi’s two scalps when he was bowled attempting to cut.
Keeper Ben Cox was leg-before to the next ball, the last of the 107th over, but Clarke calmly pushed forward to keep out Virdi’s hat-trick ball at the start of the final over before the tea interval.
Clarke scored the 12 more runs after tea he required to go to three figures and added 124 for the sixth wicket with Barnard to take Worcestershire past 400 and then into a first innings lead.