Essex 252 for 5 (Vijay 85, Westley 55) lead Worcestershire 94 (Porter 7-41) by 158 runs
Researchers have often concluded that different drinks can cause worse hangovers: in terms of spirits at least, the darker the drink, the more severe the effects. If such studies are correct, it can only be surmised (none too seriously) that Worcestershire's Blast-winning squad must have had their fair share of jet-black shots at Birmingham's infamous Walkabout bar on Saturday night, as they found themselves on the receiving end of a career-best effort from Jamie Porter on a day which appeared to condemn them to relegation.
Plenty of questions have been asked of the end-of-season pitches around the country since the return of red-ball cricket, but there were few demons in this Chelmsford wicket. Instead, after a season of glorious defeats, what ifs and nearlys, Worcestershire's batsmen folded meekly against an attack that nagged and probed in the morning session.
The Finals Day aftermath rarely affects teams quite this badly. Even the victorious Northants sides of 2013 and 2016 bounced back from their fabled Birmingham nights out with scores of 500+ in their next Championship game. Soul II Soul would have provided an apt backdrop to their batting display; after the ethereal, otherworldly feel to their magnificent triumph at Edgbaston, this was a case of back to life, back to reality.
After Tom Fell had his middle stump uprooted to the fourth ball of the day, Worcestershire found themselves four wickets down before three overs had been bowled. Sandwiched between two more orthodox dismissals - Daryl Mitchell's edge behind and Porter plucking out Alex Milton's off stump - was a mix-up of unbelievable magnitude.
Joe Clarke, facing the first ball of what is expected to be one of his final innings for the county ahead of his move to Nottinghamshire, skipped down the track and flicked Porter through midwicket. Tom Westley gave chase, and threw to the non-striker's end, by which point Clarke had completed his third run; Ollie Westbury, however, had only managed a second. With both stranded at the bowler's end, Porter's wild hurl towards fine leg nearly saw the easiest of chances blown, but Adam Wheater recovered to complete the most comical of run-outs. It had to be seen again to be believed, and by 5pm, some 40,000 had watched the clip on Essex's Twitter feed - who needs the Hundred with this sort of entertainment readily available?
Ben Cox, Saturday's hero, and Ed Barnard both followed before Porter's opening spell was up; Worcestershire were reeling at 32 for 6, and it took a stand of 28 between Clarke and Wayne Parnell - a teetotaller - to stop things getting too embarrassing.
Porter soon returned to complete a seven-wicket haul that proved his international credentials - though his timing could hardly have been worse. Moments before the final wicket fell, England selector James Taylor walked into the press box after a morning of meetings ahead of the ODI squad's release tomorrow: "have I missed much?" he asked.
Porter would let nobody down if picked this winter, but it may prove a blessing in disguise for him if he is left out of the Test tour to Sri Lanka.
Fast bowlers played no meaningful role in South Africa's series there, and a debut at home next summer must be a more enticing prospect for the most archetypal of English seam bowlers.
In the end, Taylor spent most of his time watching a classy innings from Murali Vijay, India's discarded opener. A pair of lofted drives off Ben Twohig for six and four were the shots of his innings, but Vijay's foot movement and timing throughout his 85 were those of a completely different player to the man dropped after a pair at Lord's. With Cheteshwar Pujara, Ishant Sharma and R Ashwin all extolling the virtues of county cricket in the past year, it seems that reports of its terminal decline are premature.
Tom Westley continued his return to form with a fifth score of 40+ in his past seven innings with a battling knock, and Worcestershire never looked like applying much pressure or turning the screw in the evening session despite Barnard's battling, Stakhanovite spell. Essex go into tomorrow with a healthy lead, and their hopes of a top three - or even two - finish firmly alive; for Worcestershire, the outlook is bleak.