Durham extend their lead at the top of Division Two, while the chasers close the gap on Surrey in Division One.
Division One leaders Surrey played out a bland draw against Nottinghamshire at the Oval. Surrey were asked to bat first and reached 355 thanks to a century from all-rounder Jordan Clark. Lyndon James took 6/74. In reply Nottinghamshire established a 44 run first innings lead, posting 399 thanks to 145 from New Zealand’s Will Young, playing the first game of a short stint at Trent Bridge. James backed up his bowling with a half century. Second time around Surrey made 340, with little in the way of urgency in their batting to set up a possible run chase. The target of 297 from a minimum of 52 overs was never challenged and the players shook hands with Nottinghamshire on 118/1.
Warwickshire have closed the gap to Surrey with an innings defeat of Kent and remain with a game in hand on the teams above them. Choosing to bat first at Canterbury, Kent were dismissed for 171, Oliver Hammond-Dalby taking 4/56. Warwickshire then made 549/7 declared, Rob Yates batting through the innings for 228 not out. Half centuries from Harry Finch and Jack Leaning saw Kent to 332 in their second innings, Hannon-Dalby again topping the wicket-taking with 4/59, but they were still 46 runs short of making Warwickshire bat again.
At Taunton, Somerset rested most of their first choice eleven, while their opponents Hampshire took a difficult approach to their preparations for T20 finals day on Saturday. Somewhat surprisingly it was the youngsters who enjoyed much the better of a drawn game, 19-year-old James Rew leading the way with his maiden double century. Somerset posted 500 and their bowlers, who included two 19-year-olds and a 22-year-old with 16 first class games between them, then dismissed Hampshire for 330. The visitors were indebted to Felix Organ (97) and Kyle Abbott (89 not out) who put on 177 for the ninth wicket. Asked to follow on, Hampshire were able to see out the final day, finishing on 215/7, Nick Gubbins making 50 not out off 241 balls and Liam Dawson 68 not out off 141 balls.
The game at Blackpool between Lancashire and Essex went down to the final session, with Lancashire set a target of 430 from 96 overs. Essex chose to bat first and 135 from the captain Tom Westley guided the visitors to 282, Tom Bailey taking 6/59. Lancashire were then dismissed for 145, Sam Cook leading the wicket-taking with 4/42. Second time around, Essex lost both openers without a run on the board, but 135 off just 125 balls from the departing Dan Lawrence took them to 292/8 declared, Bailey taking a further three wickets. This left Lancashire requiring 430 from the 96 overs on the final day. Rather than block it out, the Lancashire batters looked to make up for the inadequacies of their first innings performance and runs from Luke Wells(75), Josh Bohannon (68) and Rob Jones (111) saw them to within touching distance of the target. However, they fell 46 runs short with Jones the last wicket to fall, dismissed by Doug Bracewell who finished with 3/50. The win keeps Essex in second place, ten points ahead of Warwickshire.
The final game in Division One saw the rare occurrence of a draw where the scores are equal. In this situation the side batting last, in this case Middlesex, gain eight rather than five points. Northamptonshire elected to bat first and reached 219, Saif Zain top-scoring with 49. Middlesex then made 277 thanks to 64 not out from Ryan Higgins. A century from Sam Whiteman helped Northamptonshire to a second innings total of 380, leaving Middlesex a target of 323 from a minimum of 92 overs. Steve Eskinazi was promoted to open as Middlesex set about the chase, but he was forced to retire in the second over with a recurrence of a finger injury sustained earlier in the game. Sam Robson then came to the crease and it was his undefeated century (the first of the season for a Middlesex batter) that saw them close in on the target. He was backed up by 75 from John Simpson and a rapid 34 from just 18 deliveries off the bat of Toby Roland-Jones. The Northamptonshire bowlers had managed to keep a lid on the run scoring and it came down to ten needed off the last over. That became three off the last ball which Robson could only steer to mid-on. They scrambled back for two and the scores were level. The result leaves the two teams at the foot of the table, although they have closed slightly on Kent who managed just two points this week.
Durham defeated Gloucestershire by nine wickets at Chester-le-Street and increased their lead at the top of Division Two to 47 points. Electing to bat first, the visitors made 316 thanks to 85 from Chris Dent and 52 from Miles Hammond. Matt Parkinson, currently on loan to Durham, took 3/59. In reply, 195 from Alex Lees helped Durham to 453 and another maximum batting bonus points haul. 22-year-old Dominic Goodman took 4/73 in his first game of the season for the Gloucestershire first team. Despite another half century from Hammond (86), Gloucestershire were dismissed for 188 in their second innings, Matty Potts taking 4/55 and it required just 11.1 overs for Durham to reach the target of 52.
Leicestershire, who occupied second place at the start of the week, drew a game with Glamorgan that had all but 17 overs of the first two days play washed out. Glamorgan, asked to bat first were reduced to 93/7, at which point James Harris joined Michael Neser (released by Australia for this game) at the crease. The consensus is that the Kookaburra ball becomes batter-friendly after 30 overs and that certainly seemed to be the case as the two all-rounders put on 128. Harris was dismissed for 47 and Mitchell Swepson continued the recovery as he and Neser put on a further 123 for the ninth wicket. Swepson made a career-best 69 and Neser finished on 176 not out as Glamorgan declared on 403/9, leaving the Leicestershire openers seven overs to negotiate at the end of the day. This they did and on the final day they settled for accumulating batting points as the captains could not agree on a run chase. Rishi Patel continued his excellent form this season with a career best 179 and after tea the Leicestershire batters cut lose as they bid for an unlikely full haul of batting points. The Glamorgan bowlers obliged with some indifferent bowling and this was taken full advantage of by Louis Kimber who made 61 off 35 balls. Leicestershire finally declared on 450/6 and the teams shook hands, Leicestershire taking 14 points against Glamorgan’s 11.
Weather also impacted the game between Worcestershire and Yorkshire at Worcester. Having been inserted, Yorkshire made 407, Finlay Bean scoring his third century of an excellent season so far. Adam Finch took 5/100. In reply, the home side were dismissed for 242, Ben Coad taking 5/33 and number eleven, Ben Gibbon top-scoring with 41 not out. Having been asked to follow on, Worcestershire had reached 142/2 when the teams shook hands.
Sussex and Derbyshire fought out a draw at Hove, a win by either side still possible up until the last over. Sussex, asked to bat first, made 402, Tom Clark (96) and Tom Haines (86) putting on an opening stand of 150. George Scrimshaw, in his first Championship match of the season, took 5/49. In reply, Derbyshire reached 407, Brooke Guest making 105 while Henry Shipley and Aristides Karvelas both took four wickets. 180 from James Coles then saw Sussex to 384/9, leaving Derbyshire a target of 380 from 58 overs. Despite an asking rate of over 6.5 runs per over, Derbyshire took on the challenge reaching 200/4 in the 37th over. The target was down to 100 from the last 12 overs with Louis du Plooy and Haider Ali scoring freely, but then Ali fell for 73 off 54 balls. They had put on 145 off 122 balls for the fifth wicket. Shortly after, du Plooy reached his century from just 103 balls. The loss of wickets did not halt the chase and while du Plooy was still there Derbyshire looked favourites. He was eventually dismissed for 128 off 117 balls, leaving the equation as 54 from 41 balls with four wickets in hand. The seventh wicket fell with the score on 348, Dal top edging a slog sweep off the bowling of Nathan McAndrew, having made 26 off 24 balls. McAndrew struck again in the 57th over as Alex Thomson holed out to deep midwicket for a run-a-ball 14. With 11 balls left and 21 runs needed there was a switch to survival mode and that Derbyshire duly did. A great game of cricket! The draw keeps Sussex just behind second-placed Leicestershire.
Surrey have faltered slightly with a loss and a draw in the last two rounds and the chasers are eking into their lead. Warwickshire have a game in hand and may pose the biggest threat to the current Champions. At the bottom of the table it is Middlesex and Northamptonshire’s batting that continues to struggle, with only three batting bonus points between them. Northamptonshire are now 16 points adrift, while Kent are still within touching distance of Middlesex.
Durham now look nailed on to finish top of Division Two, with a 47 point lead over second placed Leicestershire. It is their ability to take 20 wickets and win games that has set them apart from the rest. There are 16 points between second and fifth placed teams and it would just take one of these counties to post a couple more wins to take them clear. Yorkshire have also fought back from a poor start to the season and can put themselves in the mix with the game they have in hand.
Current Championship tables:
LV County Championship Division One
LV County Championship Division Two