Cricket: County Championship: Essex made to sweat by Moody: Leaders wait for thrill of the chase - Gloucestershire display their potential - Northants' England discard back to his best

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The Independent Online
Worcestershire 364-4 v Essex

WHILE Essex arrived here on a roll, in a town noted for its carpets, it was Tom Moody who loomed large yesterday on a flat and friendly looking strip, first use of which had been granted to Worcestershire. Underneath such generosity, though, lies a preference for the thrill of the chase.

In truth, Essex had been showing us that they can do it in just about any way they wish. And with a lead of 51 points in the Championship at the start of the day after just securing their fifth win in six matches, it is the rest who are constantly concerned with chasing.

For the time being, though, Essex had to sweat it out in the sunshine following a four-over stoppage for a passing shower. Worcestershire, perhaps, could have pushed it along a bit, but then Moody's nigh-flawless innings of 178, his third and largest Championship century of a summer curtailed by an ankle ligament injury, was a pleasure to watch.

Chester Road, unlike some out- grounds, will continue to stage county cricket when the full four- day format is introduced next season. Moody, however, moved closer to his Worcestershire farewell - he heads home to Australia for Sri Lankan pre-tour training after the next game against Derbyshire - and a good crowd here would love to see him return.

Moody is a class bat and he was soon in action, Tim Curtis skying a short ball from Steve Andrew to Mark Ilott at long leg in the 12th over. That was a fine catch and the one taken by Nadeem Shahid diving forward at short leg to get rid of Phil Weston was also a beauty.

Worcestershire were then 69 for 2 and a period of consolidation was called for, David Leatherdale content to play second fiddle as Moody began to make sweet music, seven fours in his first 50 and another 10 as he accelerated to three figures.

Essex - missing their Test men Gooch, Pringle and Childs, and the injured Nick Knight - did not call on the off-spin of Peter Such until the 60th over, though he had been limbering up for some time. When he did get on, Leatherdale edged the first ball straight to Mark Waugh at slip, ending a stand worth 113.

Essex then had another long wait while Moody and Damian D'Oliveira added 153 for the fourth wicket. Moody, finally, was the one to go after just over four hours at the crease when Ilott took a second catch at long leg, this one a superb effort. That still left D'Oliveira on 87 at the close, a first century of the summer in his sights.