County Championship: Joe Clarke stars with 157 as Pears find batting form at The Oval
|Specsavers County Championship Division One, Kia Oval (day three):|
|Surrey 434: Burns 193, Foakes 72; Leach 4-96|
|Worcestershire 469-6: Clarke 157, Fell 88, Mitchell 81, Head 50, Barnard 42*|
|Worcestershire (6 pts) lead Surrey (4 pts) by 35 runs|
England Lions batsman Joe Clarke led the way with 157 to ensure all Worcestershire's top five batsmen made their best score of the season against Surrey at The Oval.
Resuming on 135-1, Daryl Mitchell only added four to his overnight score before departing for 81.
But Tom Fell hit 88, his best first-class score since September 2015, prior to undergoing cancer treatment.
Australian Travis Head also hit 50 as Pears closed on 469-6, 35 runs ahead.
In the wake of Brett D'Oliveira's season-best 23 the previous evening, Head reached a half-century for the first time for Worcestershire, sharing a stand of 70 with Clarke, who made his first hundred in 11 months.
Clarke also enjoyed century stands of 115 with Fell and 114 with his former England Under-19s team-mate Ed Barnard (42 not out), who continued his good early season form.
Amar Virdi, Surrey's 19-year-old off-spinner, who has started the new season in style with four-wicket hauls against both Hampshire, removed Head and Ben Cox in successive balls just before tea.
But, on such a soporific pitch, there was generally even less joy for Surrey's bowlers than there had been for Worcestershire's attack over the first two days of a match now almost certain to end in a draw.
For Kevin Sharp's Pears, after starting their season with three straight defeats following promotion as Division Two champions last September, that would represent progress.
Surrey fast bowler Conor McKerr told BBC Radio London:
"We have to be more consistent with the ball. We set fields for bad bowling a bit too much.
"Personally, I was also struggling a bit for rhythm.
"We need to take their last four wickets as quickly as we can, so it's a big first hour for us in the morning."
Worcestershire centurion Joe Clarke told BBC Hereford & Worcester:
"It was nice to get a good pitch here. The guys at the top of the order started things off really well for us and, when I got in, I didn't want to give it away.
"I tried to keep remembering all the green wickets we have been playing on in the last few weeks and so tried to make the most of this one.
"I spoke to Daryl Mitchell about it. He's played a lot of cricket and he says it has been one of the toughest starts to the season for batsmen since he started his career."