County Championship: Worcestershire's Joe Clarke makes 105 against Essex
|Specsavers County Championship Division One, Blackfinch New Road (day two):|
|Essex 177 & 143-4: Cook 66; Tongue 2-17|
|Worcestershire 238: Clarke 105; Bopara 3-30|
|Essex (3 pts) lead Worcestershire (4 pts) by 82 runs|
England hopeful Joe Clarke scored his second County Championship century in a row for Worcestershire, before Alastair Cook led Essex's fightback at New Road.
Clarke's brilliant 105 was compiled as wickets tumbled around him - the hosts collapsing from 142-2 to 238 all out.
The 21-year-old was eventually out lbw to Ravi Bopara (3-30), having helped the Pears to a lead of 61.
Essex moved to 143-4 at the close of play, to lead by 82 with England opener Cook making 66.
The 33-year-old had negotiated more than two hours in tricky batting conditions when he was bowled by Steve Magoffin offering no shot.
Tom Westley went in the same fashion soon after to home captain Joe Leach, and Ravi Bopara edged paceman Josh Tongue behind just before stumps to leave the hosts hopeful of a first win of the season.
Cook, who played and missed against the lively Leach early on, has now scored 176 runs in four innings for the defending champions so far this season at an average of 44, going into England's first Test match of the summer against Pakistan starting on 24 May.
With the Test squad set to be announced on Tuesday, Clarke earlier strengthened his chances of joining Cook at Lord's,
The England Lions batsman struck 14 fours in his 168-ball innings on the back of his magnificent 157 against Surrey at The Oval in the last round of fixtures.
However, Worcestershire's vulnerability with the bat was demonstrated once again as they failed to pass 250 for the seventh time in eight innings this campaign.
Worcestershire's England Lions batsman Joe Clarke:
"I've had no contact with anyone at all. My main focus is this game now and trying to get us into a position where we can win and, come second time around, get a knock that can win us the game.
"Early season I was lacking time in the middle. We had played on some tough wickets so to get some batting time last week at The Oval and get into a good rhythm was good. I've been hitting it nicely in the nets and it was good to spend some time out there and contribute.
"Myself and Mitch played well this morning and we got ourselves into a position where we were really on top. The Essex boys bowled well and pulled it back but to get a lead on that wicket was nice.
"Josh Tongue helped me through to the hundred and it is nice to be able to trust him as a batter, to stick around and to contribute to the score as well. He has done the nightwatchman role a few times this year and looked pretty good against some attacks on some spicy wickets."
Essex bowling coach Dimitri Mascarenhas:
"It looks like this game is going to go down to the wire. We've obviously got a lot of work to do, effectively being 82-4, but the wicket is still nipping around.
"It is not an easy wicket to bat on so it makes Joe Clarke's hundred all the more better. It was a very nice hundred.
"We are going to have to try and dig in and bat for as long as we can.
"If we can hang in there until lunch and not lose too many wickets, then push on from there, hopefully we can set up a nice run chase."