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8pm: Alex Winter signs off
Another heavily weather-affected round of matches with, bar one, draws all around. But some of them more interesting than others. Surrey and Lancashire lost three days but Leicestershire only just held on against Northamptonshire and Surrey came so close to a famous win after following-on at New Road.
Talking of famous wins...i've watched a thriller here in Bristol. The sun has shone, the cider has flowed and the cricket matched the glorious afternoon. Phil Jaques and Gary Ballance seeing Yorkshire to a target of 400 in 108 overs, a fantastic chase that sends a message to all that Yorkshire are back.
All the reports, all the best coverage, available on our county cricket homepage. CB40 action tomorrow and then we all be back next week for another enthralling round of matches, including Surrey v Somerset and Yorkshire v Hampshire. Here's hoping for decent weather. Keep dancing...
6.05pm: Alan Gardner casts an eye around
Ajmal Shahzad has three wickets on his Lancashire debut but that hasn’t stopped Sussex sailing merrily towards a second batting point in the dead game at Hove. There was also a murmur on Sky’s commentary that Lancashire might face a points deduction after they declared eight down, thus denying Sussex a third bowling point, earlier today. Dark clouds continue to hover over the champions ...
At Grace Road, meanwhile, Leicestershire took the Kenny Rogers route by agreeing to chase 341 against Northamptonshire but they’re now nine down, with captain Matthew Hoggard and Wayne White grimly clinging on to try and claim a draw.
6pm: Alex Winter at Gloucestershire v Yorkshire
Yorkshire have chased down their second-highest target in their history to win here by four wickets. Garry Ballance’s unbeaten century bringing them home with four, six, six after Phil Jaques 160 had set up the chase. This is a gamble that’s paid high dividends for Jason Gillespie and Yorkshire. It’s also the highest score ever chased at Bristol. Some effort, 370 runs in a day to win the match with three overs to spare. Bravo.
5.50pm: David Hopps at Durham v Somerset
Match drawn. Somerset came so close to pulling off what, in essence, would have been a win in two days. Had they done so, Durham would have felt the effects deep into the season. A spirited display by a young Somerset side.
5.45pm: David Hopps at Durham v Somerset
Durham nine down, 88 lead, less than 12 overs remaining. Somerset still have a sliver of a chance if they take the last wicket NOW.
Ian Blackwell is still blocking, into the thirties. Somerset have dropped two slip catches: Blackwell on 29 by Peter Trego and then Ruel Brathwaite, fifth ball on nought, by Alex Barrow off Trego's bowling.
5.40pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent
Draw, stalemate and disappointing end to some great cricket between the showers. Neither captain was interested in making a game, and the possibility was never directly discussed. Rob Key reckoned the pitch had become too easy and that the result could only have been draw or defeat. James Foster wanted to get more batting points and felt a declaration overnight 131 runs behind would be too much of a risk.
With Ravi Bopara and Alviro Petersen less than 100 per cent fit, one could see what he meant, so Key should have been tempted to offer Essex a target of 250-odd. Mr Fairly Angry in the press box realised that neither team held particular interest in the result at the start of a long season. Key missed a trick, in my view, so the final table might be the best indicator in September.
5.15pm: Alex Winter at Gloucestershire v Yorkshire
Into the last hour here where Phil Jaques has fallen for 160 and then Anthony McGrath brilliantly held at slip for 6. Yorkshire have Tim Bresnan and Gary Ballance, who’s chasing down a first century of the season, trying to steer them home. Another one for Gloucestershire could really throw things open again. As it stands, it’s a five-an-over chase. A thriller in the West Country sunshine.
4.45pm: David Hopps at Durham v Somerset
I don't want to be overly self-indulgent but I am writing a match report assuming that Durham v Somerset is a nailed-on draw, and they are now six down and there are north-eastern pessimists about who believe that Somerset are favourites again. Objectivity is difficult during such fleeting moments of selfishness. I refuse to believe it.
The captain, Phil Mustard, was the sixth man out with the lead 33 and the clock showing quarter-to-five. Ian Blackwell's foot movement has so far not been extensive enough to cross stepping stones on an Exmoor stream, never mind to save the game. The sides are unlikely to walk off at 5pm, but I still think this has draw written all over it... doesn't it? There were 71 overs left when Durham's innings began.
4.10pm: David Hopps on Ajmal Shahzad
Two wickets in his first over for Lancashire, and both lbw, is quite a retort by Ajmal Shahzad to Yorkshire, who released him because he would not follow team bowling orders. A couple of lbws suggests his first over at least was pretty disciplined.
Yorkshire, it seems, might pull off a highly impressive win in a manufactured run chase against against Gloucestershire, which is fortunate because it seems they might be in need of a smokescreen.
4.10pm: Paul Edwards at Worcestershire v Surrey
Surrey may be without Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker for this match but their stock of capable bowlers is very much on show with 19-year-old George Edwards who plays for Spencer Cricket Club in the Surrey Championship, preferred in this match to the highly rated Matt Dunn, taking the wickets of Michael Klinger and Vikram Solanki in five balls. A fine debut that could get better if he can lead Surrey to a remarkable victory.
Earlier Tom Maynard’s highest first class score of 143 from 154 balls allowed Surrey to declare, a remarkable improvement on their paltry first innings effort, and set Worcestershire 260 to win in 52 overs – a target looking most unlikely now. Can the home side bat out for a draw? I doubt the pitch is a good as the Worcestershire bowlers made it look.
4.05pm: Alex Winter at Gloucestershire v Yorkshire
Very good afternoon from Bristol. The weather is absolutely superb, hot and sunny and the cider is flowing among a good crowd. 150 paid on the gate today – good numbers for a four-day game apparently. But the home supporters are drowning their sorrows because Yorkshire are cruising to victory.
Phil Jacques has played brilliantly. Typically Aussie fashion, going hard at the ball through the covers off the back foot, not too much driving from him, there hasn’t been the need, plenty of chances to knock it around merrily. And as I predicted last night, absolutely no threat from Gloucestershire spinner Ed Young – my comments apparently upset a few members so says the ground manager! I replied I’m only playing catchphrase: say what you see – and I haven’t seen too many encouraging signs from Young.
Gloucestershire have taken the new ball and only three reasonably quick wickets will save them from a pretty dispiriting defeat. Yorkshire needed 370 to win in a day remember.
4pm: Alan Gardner rounds up the rest of the action
They're taking tea at Hove, where Sussex’s Chris Nash and Ed Joyce have put on a 58-run opening partnership in just 11 overs, in reply to Lancashire’s 141 for 8 declared. The first three days were washed out but when they won the toss this morning Lancashire, perhaps with an eye to totting up some batting points, decided to go in first. That plan didn’t really work and now their bowlers are labouring to get anything out of the very same pitch. How long until Ajmal Shahzad, newly recruited from Yorkshire, gets a chance to mix it up? That's the question being breathily whispered at flickering computer monitors up and down the nation. Shahzad made a 12-ball duck in his first innings for the Red Rose – which doesn’t say much for his allrounder pretensions, though with Karl Brown top-scoring for the visitors with 41, perhaps this wasn’t the stage for an innings to make Yorkies choke on their bitter.
Further north, in the match between Leicestershire and Northamptonshire at Grace Road, some more declaration jiggery-pokery has led to the hosts chasing 341 to win in a minimum of 85 overs. Having declared on their overnight 38 for 2, Leicestershire allowed Northants to plump up their target by 26 runs, before setting off in pursuit of
Eldorado 16 points for a win. They looked in troubled on 64 for 3 but Ramnaresh Sarwan (how much could the touring West Indians use him?) has seen them to tea four down, unbeaten on 67, with another 155 required.
4pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Middlesex
Middlesex are coming out at 48 without loss after tea. Given that they have scored 10 off the last eight overs it can be assumed that it will be handshakes all round at five o'clock, unless there is a dramatic clatter of wickets.
Relatively speaking, this has been a match that the weather gods have taken a shine too so it is a disappointing outcome. But runs have never come easily and Middlesex bowled well enough this morning to deny Nottinghamshire the spurt that might have tempted them to make an earlier declaration.
The good things from an England point of a view are that Andrew Strauss has scored 33 and only been dropped the once and Stuart Broad has bowled as well as he has all game, even if that isn't saying a lot. It was from his bowling that Chris Read put down the chance.
3.55pm: David Hopps at Durham v Somerset
Durham have almost got out of this one. Trailing by 142 on first innings, they are taking tea at 144-3 and it would take quite a decline to lose from here.
Phil Mustard, captain of a side that has yet to make a half-century in the top six, left the dressing room about the time the second wicket fell to have a lengthy chat with the England selector James Whitaker. With Mustard due in at No.7, and one wicket away from padding up, it could have been the shortest debrief on record, but he was able to extemporise to his heart’s content as Mark Stoneman and Paul Collingwood made the game safe.
Durham’s first championship half-century in the top six is still awaited. Collingwood reached 36 when he fell lbw to Craig Overton, who has lacked the consistency he showed in the first innings. “Rocky” Stoneman is 32 not out, 18 runs away from ridding Durham of an unwelcome statistic and removing an easy line for all those of us writing about it.
Collingwood settled in by pulling Peter Trego for four and looked in reasonable order, improving a sequence that had brought 37 runs in five knocks.
“I don’t think anybody has seen the wickets around the country do this much,” he said on the washed-out third day. “I’ve spoken to people like Andrew Strauss and we just laugh about how much the ball’s doing. You’ve just got to in many ways forget about technique and things like that and find a way of scoring runs. You can be technically absolutely fantastic and be out second ball. It really has been difficult.”
3.35pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent
Reporting from Snorrrford. Rob Key and Scott Newman are having a net against keen bowling. Kent 35 for 0 off 13 overs, having taken nine off Tymal Mills's first over. Ravi Bopara not in the field, resting his injury.
I hope Yorkshire are rewarded with a victory at Bristol to show that risks can be worth taking. Pity no one here at Chelmsford has had the bottle to create something.
3.20pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Middlesex
Nottinghamshire's declaration suggested they are not too keen on giving away a match that they have dominated for the most part. It left Middlesex to chase 298 from a minimum of 51 overs.
On a turning pitch it looks like a tall order, especially if Graeme Swann can tie them down at one end. That said, Swann gave his left elbow a vigorous rub during the last but one over he bowled and then nipped off the field. Whether the two developments are connected is not yet known. But he's bowling again now so clearly there is nothing seriously amiss.
Andrew Strauss is looking in fairly decent order, although so is Stuart Broad for about the first time in the match and almost got him with the old one-two, fizzing one ball past his nose and following up with one back of a length that found the edge. Unusually, Chris Read put the chance down behind the stumps.
Strauss has 26 and Middlesex are 40 without loss from 14 overs.
2.50pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent
Essex all out 181, giving Kent a 44-run lead to suggest a dead-cert draw at Chelmsford. Ravi Bopara was the last wicket to fall in a classic runner mix-up. Having played the ball into the covers he and his runner Greg Smith ran simultaneously, and from the 'safety' of the bowler's end he then realised he was doomed with no chance of returning home. Village stuff...
2.40pm: David Hopps at Durham v Somerset
I have to say that I am with George Dobell when it comes to the subject of Vernon Philander. He might be a class act when he plays for South Africa, but for Somerset after lunch he just looked another workaday county bowler. Perhaps he will stir himself later.
Eight new-ball overs for 33 carried minimal threat when Somerset needed an uplifting spell to convince then that victory was possible on a fourth-day pitch with enough life in it for a bowler willing to put in some effort looking for it. As it is, Durham, trailing by 142 on first innings, have reduced that by 85 in the first 18 overs.
Not that it has been achieved without damage. Both openers have departed: Will Smith was caught at third slip – after second had parried – as he drove loosely at Peter Trego and Michael Di Venuto has just slapped one to cover.
Philander’s record remains impressive – 17 championship wickets at 19.29 which is enough to put him top of Somerset’s bowling averages – but I expected more, that’s all.
2.30pm: David Lloyd at Hampshire v Derbyshire
When Wes Durston is teeing off, no target looks safe. Dropped this morning by Liam Dawson, at second slip, off Sean Ervine with only 37 runs to his name, Durston made the most of that good fortune by charging to a century from 97 balls – with his second 50 taking only 32 deliveries.
Maybe Derbyshire should have agreed to a double forfeiture and settled on trying to chase down 352 from 96 overs. But that is a big target at any level of the game and it’s no real surprise they were looking for something along the lines of 250 from 70.
None of which matters much now, of course. This match will be drawn and – with Derbyshire 194 for three and 56 overs left - the teams are playing for what bonus points remain on offer.
1.25pm: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Middlesex
You would expect there might be an imminent declaration here if Nottinghamshire are to give themselves a chance of winning. They are 124-4, which puts them 247 ahead with Steven Mullaney and Michael Lumb both completing their second half-centuries of the match. There are 64 overs left in the match.
Mullaney could have gone on 47, though, had Ollie Rayner been a bit quicker off the blocks at point when one ballooned off the shoulder of the bat. He was just too late, however, and denied Joe Denly a wicket with his leg breaks.
After the hoo-hah over the man in the red jacket behind the arm at the Pavilion End the other day it is slightly surprising that a young man in a similarly vibrant top and a lady in pink have been happily parked there all morning without troubling either batsman.
Then again, when Ollie Rayner is bowling there is more of a problem from planes on the descent into East Midlands Airport.
1.20pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent
This match looks dead - nearly wrote dead in the water, which would have sounded offensive to those in certain wet venues. Ravi Bopara, not out at lunch, is struggling for mobility with his thigh injury, and we can be fairly sure that he will not make the Test side at Lord's next Thursday, as predicted in many quarters. Essex 158 for 7 and going nowhere in the bright sunshine.
It appears that Kent, 131 ahead overnight, were not interested in setting up a run-chase. This needs confirming, and such an attitude would be hardly credible as they hold most of the cards. Kent's seamers have looked very threatening, with Mark Davies walking into lunch with figures of 21-11-20-4, and in James Tredwell they have an England off-spinner. Now that Bopara and Petersen are both hobbling, Essex's potential with the bat has drastically been reduced.
If it is true that Kent decided against looking for victory, Mr Angry will be mounting his soapbox and sounding off. Right here...
1.10pm: Alex Winter at Gloucestershire v Yorkshire
Good day from Bristol where an exciting run chase is in prospect. Yorkshire in pursuit of 400 have lost Adam Lyth and Andrew Gale this morning but, in the words of Jason Gillespie, will be going for the runs today. They’re making swift progress too. 252 to win in 65 overs at lunch.
The mood has been dampened by the news of the death of Martin Stovold aged 56. Both Gloucestershire and Yorkshire flags have been lowered to half-mast. He played 25 times for Gloucestershire between 1979 and 1982, scoring 518 runs with two half-centuries. His link with Gloucestershire continued after his playing days finished, he became a Geography teacher at Cheltenham College.
His family have significant pedigree in these parts. Most notably his brother Andy, who played for Gloucestershire for 18 years from 1973 to 1990, keeping wicket and scoring 17,705 first-class runs. He also ran the youth structure until a few years ago. His nephews, Nick and Neil, have played in the Western Premier League for Thornbury and have represented Gloucestershire Board XIs and minor counties too. And Martin’s 21-year-old son plays for Cheltenham and has played for Gloucestershire Second XI.
12.55pm: David Lloyd at Hampshire v Derbyshire
Kabir Ali has had precious little luck, fitness-wise, since joining Hampshire in 2010. Knee injuries did for him in his first two terms and he missed the start of this campaign after damaging an ankle, through treading on a ball, during the pre-season tour of Barbados.
Kabir showed Derbyshire how to use the new ball here, though. A day earlier, the visitors had not made Hampshire’s top order play nearly enough but Kabir – and James Tomlinson, for that matter – barely wasted a delivery for 10 overs.
Their reward was a scoreboard reading 37 for 3 – and Derbyshire’s caution during those fruitless negotiations this morning seemed more sensible by the minute. Wes Durston and Dan Redfern needed some good fortune to steady the ship but they had taken their side into three figures before lunch.
12.45: Paul Edwards at Worcestershire v Surrey
Surrey are really setting up a victory charge, scoring 90 from 14 overs in the first hour. Tom Maynard’s century was the first by a Surrey batsman this year, his friend and captain Rory Hamilton-Brown has also made a brisk century, from 144 balls; quite a turnaround for the pair who made ducks in the first innings. Both cruelly bullied a bland Worcestershire attack, shorn of their talisman. The partnership of 225 is a record for Surrey’s fifth wicket against Worcestershire.
They will try to leave Worcestershire around 250 to chase and not much cash will be gambled in their favour. It’s all Surrey.
12.40pm: David Hopps at Durham v Somerset
Durham were bowled out for 125 in 46 overs first time around. They begin their second innings 142 behind with 70 overs left on the final day. If they do not produce an authoritative batting performance for the first time this season, they are clearly vulnerable against Somerset at Emirates ITC.
Craig Kieswetter, borrowing a few legside shots straight from IPL, finished unbeaten on 96 and scored 36 of the 47 added by Somerset on the final morning after rain had washed out the second and third days. It would be a major turn-up if this pitch calmed down. It is the sort of day where you look to your overseas fast bowler, in this case Vernon Philander, to put a serious shift in.
Kieswetter’s assault forced Durham to field four legside boundary fielders for Mitch Claydon and it was one of them, Mark Stoneman, who eventually ran out the last man, George Dockrell, at the bowler’s end from deep midwicket as Kieswetter tried to farm the strike. Graham Onions was harder to slog. Onions had Max Waller caught at the wicket in his first over of the morning and he looked more poker faced by the minute as Kieswetter made merry.
12.40pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent
Whoops! What's happening now? After five balls of various batsmen running up and down from all directions, both runners left the field together. Then one of them, Greg Smith, returned before another ball to assist Ravi Bopara after the Essex physio ran on to the field for a brief chat, leaving the hobbling Alviro Petersen to bat on his own.
12.20pm: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent
Ivan Thomas, the Leeds-Bradford University student from Blackheath, has taken his maiden Championship wicket, thanks to a brilliant flying catch by Brendon Nash in the covers. James Foster was the victim, clearing the way for Alviro Petersen to emerge with a runner, Tom Westley. Next batsman must be Ravi Bopara, with his runner. Mark Pettini just out for 92, missing a very good century.
12pm: Paul Edwards at Worcestershire v Yorkshire
Surrey are taking this game by the scruff of the neck. They have only won once following on since 1868 but they are after a famous win today. Tom Maynard has gone through to a hundred with a six over long on and they are starting to tuck into a depleted bowling attack – Alan Richardson is injured and not bowling; the injury is potentially serious too.
Six, going on seven-an-over has been the rate this morning. Chris Adams said the best way to try and win the game would be to follow on and they are putting Worcestershire under pressure here. They will have a nasty afternoon to bat but how large will their target be?
11.50am: Jon Culley at Nottinghamshire v Middlesex
Quite a battle going on here. The ball is only 24 overs old and there is a bit in the pitch, although the reason Notts are finding the going tough is that Ollie Rayner and Steven Finn have asked some questions and not given much away.
Rayner, according to an interview he game last night, was slightly miffed at being asked to bat as nightwatchman, considering himself now to be a "valued batter down the order" rather than someone good only for keeping a team-mate out of the line of fire.
"I used to do the job earlier in my career but I thought I'd left that behind," he told my esteemed colleague from the wireless, Kevin Howells. He revealed also that he expected his duties in this game to be limited to carrying the drinks rather than carrying his bat for five and a half hours and was hoping he might be excused to attend his cousin's wedding.
Rayner bowled five overs for eight runs this morning before giving way to Gareth Berg at the Pavilion End. Michael Lumb, who had faced 14 balls without scoring last night, negotiated another 24 before finally getting off the mark, but he has let loose with a couple of boundaries since then and Notts are 58-4, with a lead of 181.
11.40am: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent
Paul Grayson, Essex's coach, has just confirmed that Ravi Bopara will bat with a runner to prove to the England management that he can recover from a "slight tear" in his right thigh, which doesn't sound very convincing. Alviro Petersen, with a sore ankle, is due to bat with a runner as well. It is possible there will be four Essex batsmen on the field at some stage, so watch this space.
11.15am: Charles Randall at Essex v Kent
Well, at Chelmsford there is no sign of a deal that might produce a win-loss result. No word has emanated from the dressing room, so Essex look as though they plan to bat for bonus points and a draw. But Billy Godleman fell lbw to Mark Davies with adding to his overnight score. and perhaps the course of the game will unfold naturally.
There have been mixed messages and confusion here over Ravi Bopara's thigh injury, but he is expecting to bat here. Presumably Alviro Petersen's ankle injury will allow him to bat at some stage, but this is another foggy issue.
10.55am: David Lloyd at Hampshire v Derbyshire
We’ve got cricket. But, barring something extraordinary, we haven’t got a game. In other words, optimistic talk last night of a deal involving declarations and forfeitures proved wide of the mark and it looks as though bonus points and a draw will be the order of the day.
Apparently, various permutations were suggested but Hampshire – with their first innings runs (352-8) and batting points (4) on the board – were keener than Derbyshire to set something up.
It’s a tricky one. Derbyshire have worked hard to get themselves top of the table and probably feel they have more to lose at this relatively early stage of the season. But then again, sometimes you need to speculate to accumulate.
Of course, Hampshire could always dismiss the visitors twice in a day and win anyway. But given the slowness of the pitch, that hardly seems likely. They’ve declared, though – allowing Kabir Ali and James Tomlinson to get cracking with the ball for the first time this season following injuries.
9.30am: David Hopps with the slip, slap, slop
Yes, it's that time again. The sun is out, The Beach Boys will be blaring out of car windows and the over-optimistic will be about to make the fatal mistake of leaving the house in one layer of clothing.
Not before time a round of county championship matches reaches its final day with a semblance of decent weather. Barely 24 hours after Prince Charles reading the weather forecast received such publicity (so confirming this as every English person's dream), the natty newspaper headline "Long to rain over us" no longer seems quite as apt.
Seven games reach a climax today and we have reporters at five of them. Their updates will come along as we reach 11 o'clock, with what we hope is a sun-bright sense of enthusiasm.
For the most comprehensive county reports around check yesterday's action on our county pages.
Video highlights of yesterday's matches are available here. Make sure you come back, mind. We are still awaiting a call from the ECB to tell us whether we can show them for the first game of the season. Wheels turn slowly.
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David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.