Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes hailed Saeed Ajmal as "a magician" as he helped promotion-chasing Worcestershire overpower Essex by 72 runs in an LV = County Championship Division Two clash at New Road.

Spin star Ajmal followed up his first innings figures of 6-75 with a return of 7-19 in 13.5 overs as Essex were dismissed for 136 mid-way through the second session on the third day. It took his wicket tally to 28 in three matches since he rejoined the county for a second spell and propelled them back to the top of the table.

But the contribution with the bat of skipper Daryl Mitchell, wicket-keeper-batsman Ben Cox, paceman Jack Shantry and recalled all-rounder Joe Leach were also important factors.

Mitchell has now finished as the leading run-getter in Worcestershire’s last four innings after scores of 109, 151 not out, 97 and 38.

Rhodes said: "This has been a strange game because it was almost like both sides didn't want to win with the way they batted!

"I'm delighted for Daryl in particular but for Saeed to bowl as well as he did in that last innings, as well as the first innings, was superb and it's been a monumental effort from all the fielders and bowlers.

"If we can get the third part of our cricket right, the batting, we will play a lot better in matches but to not play so well and win is a good sign and we will certainly take that.

"It didn't turn a great deal but there was a bit of turn from the footholds for Monty which made it awkward because he is a very accurate bowler and, with Saeed, he has got eight different deliveries.

"He maximises them and bowls them all and if there is not a lot of turn he bowls his fast stuff and, when they start jabbing at it, he bowls his slow doosras.

"Playing against him is extremely difficult. He doesn't necessarily want it turning square but he is just a real magician as you have seen in this game.

"He has got wonderful figures and showed the international class that he has got in winning the game for us.

"Cox again made useful first innings runs but also pulled off two superb legside stumpings to dismiss Greg Smith in the first innings and Jaik Mickleburgh in the second.

Rhodes said: "Ben early in the season had the match (against Kent) where he got 80 plus and kept wicket beautifully in that game as well.

"He excelled it this game I thought. He was wonderful. He is really showing his presence behind the stumps now.

"With the wickets at the moment being a little bit slow, it is another dimension to have someone behind the stumps up to the stumps and in the face of the batsmen and also keeping them in the crease for the lbws.

"It goes a bit unnoticed the job he has done. To get two legside stumpings in a game is great but the second one was superb and there was a very good catch off a doosra yesterday as well.

"He has done very, very well and I'm pleased for him because he is slowly maturing and definitely got more presence as a keeper and as a batter now."