Worcestershire all-rounder Moeen Ali sparkled with the ball on day three of the Specsavers County Championship match with Somerset at Blackfinch New Road – but the home side are facing a last day battle to salvage a draw.
The England player registered his first five-for in the Championship for five seasons and ended with figures of 33.5-3-107-5.
It gave the 31-year-old match figures of 55.5-9-172-8 and was achieved in front of England selector James Taylor ahead of the squad for the first Test with India being selected on Thursday.
International calls naturally have restricted Moeen’s Championship appearances but it was his first five wicket return since his 6-77 against Northamptonshire at New Road in the final match of the 2013 season – a game which was Head Bowling Coach Alan Richardson’s last appearance for the County.
Moeen’s final victim today was Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali who scored a century on his Somerset debut.
His dismissal for 125 at 362-9 in Somerset’s second innings led to a declaration and left Worcestershire a 443 target.
By the close they had lost the wickets of Daryl Mitchell (6) and Moeen (7) but Travis Head remained unbeaten on 36 out of 50-2 in his final Championship match for the County.
Worcestershire will now be looking to show the same determination and steel evident on the final day of the drawn match with Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge when they batted a total of 115 overs.
Somerset resumed on 47-0 and openers Marcus Trescothick and Ed Byrom extended their partnership to 97 before Moeen came into the attack and struck three times in the space of four overs.
Bryrom (28) played back to Moeen and was lbw and in his next over the 31-year-old claimed his 300th first class wicket as Trescothick (71) took a pace down the wicket and was stumped by debutant Alex Milton.
James Hildreth survived a dropped chance to short leg on five off Moeen but it was not a costly miss for the home side as he failed to add to his total before being leg before to Moeen when caught on the crease.
Azhar and Tom Abell added 73 for the fourth wicket before the latter on 31 was bowled by Steve Magoffin to leave him within three victims of 600 in the first class game.
Moeen returned to the attack to account for former Worcestershire team-mate Steven Davies (18) who went back to cut and was lbw.
It became 239-6 when Peter Trego (4) went for a ugly heave across the line and was bowled by Ed Barnard.
In the penultimate over before tea, Craig Overton (29) was run out by Brett D’Oliveira’s direct hit from mid on after attempting a risky looking single off Moeen.
Jamie Overton (14) holed out to cover off Dillon Pennington and Azhar finally perished attempting a reverse sweep against Moeen with Milton completing the catch.
When Worcestershire batted again, Mitchell was trapped lbw by Josh Davey and then a superb delivery from Jamie Overton bowled Moeen from the final ball of the day.