A FINISH within three days is on the cards at New Road today after Worcestershire’s clash with Essex moved on at pace with 16 wickets falling on day two.

Providing the forecast heavy showers don’t intervene, the finely-balanced LV= County Championship Division Two contest should be concluded on day three.

The County hold a slender lead of 193 with two wickets remaining, but Essex face the prospect of batting last on a difficult pitch with Saeed Ajmal looking to add to his six first innings scalps.

Essex resumed on 52-2 and were soon shot out for 203, but the tumbling wickets then continued for the hosts, who stumbled to 105-8 at the close of day two.

With Saeed’s career-best Worcestershire figures of 6-75, Steve Rhodes’ men secured a lead of 88 after both teams had batted once.

However, a combination of variable bounce in the pitch and some injudicious strokeplay saw Worcestershire batsmen returning to the pavilion with regularity.

Matt Pardoe was unfortunate to be dismissed lbw without scoring as Matt Salisbury’s delivery looked to have pitched outside the line of leg-stump.

However, Tom Kohler-Cadmore was plumb in front to Monty Panesar’s second delivery as the 19-year-old right-hander’s struggles continued. He has now made just 65 runs in eight First-Class innings.

A remarkable piece of athleticism by James Foster accounted for Tom Fell (14) as the former England wicketkeeper gathered a leg-side delivery from debutant Salisbury, before leaping back to his right to remove the bails in a flash.

Alexei Kervezee and Ross Whiteley both threw their wickets away with very poor shots, driving at wide deliveries and edging to Foster, while skipper Daryl Mitchell (38) looked in good touch before being undone by a ball from Panesar that kept devilishly low.

Joe Leach and Jack Shantry added a modicum of stability with 23 for the eighth wicket. However, in the final over, Panesar squeezed one through Shantry’s defences to bowl him for 11 and bring an interesting day’s play to a close.

Earlier, Jaik Mickleburgh (39) and Greg Smith (31) made steady progress, but all-rounder Leach struck in successive overs to rock the Essex reply as they slipped from 87-2 to 96-4.

Mickleburgh was trapped lbw, before Ben Cox underlined his ever-improving credentials behind the timbers with a superb bit of work to have Smith stumped for 31.

Cox then held onto a thin inside edge from Mark Pettini off Saeed.

Essex overseas signing Jesse Ryder looked dangerous despite the clatter of wickets around him.

The burly left-hander smashed seven fours in his 45 and it took an excellent catch by Fell – two-handed diving to his left at point – to dismiss the dangerman.

Graham Napier briefly frustrated the hosts to add 38 for the last wicket with Panesar (1).