LV= County Championship, Thursday September 13
4.50pm: Jon Culley at Derbyshire v Hampshire
We could do with a booming announcer here. The news that Kent had been bowled out at Cardiff, leaving Glamorgan to score 61 to ensure Derbyshire's promotion, might have been greeted with greater excitement if the PA man here would remove the sock that is evidently covering his microphone.
Yorkshire seem to have given themselves a day plus about 11 overs to bowl out Essex at Chelmsford after declaring 387 in front, but Derbyshire will be champions if they win this match. To that end, they have Hampshire 117-4, which means the lead is 114. Liam Dawson was caught behind driving at a ball from Mark Turner outside off stump before James Vince popped up a return catch to David Wainwright. Bilal Shafayat has 34 off 112 balls.
4.40pm: Paul Edwards at Glamorgan v Kent
We’re nearly done here. Kent were bowled out for 280, leaving Glamorgan to get just 61 to win. Three wickets for Jim Allenby after tea and the 1175th and last wicket of Robert Croft’s first-class career (Charlie Shreck ended a list which began with Graham Thorpe in 1989) was enough to break Kent’s resistance. This game had threatened to last until the fourth day but the damage done by Kent’s collapse in the first innings could not be repaired by their relative fortitude in the second.
Croft was presented with a framed shirt listing his achievements on his departure from the field for the last time. There was a standing ovation, of course, and a booming announcement. Thankfully, all the accolades were deserved.
3.25pm: George Dobell at Essex v Yorkshire
Apologies for lack of updates from Chelmsford; busy days with news stories.
You haven’t missed too much, though. Yorkshire wobbled for a while but, through Azeem Rafiq and Anthony McGrath have steadied them with a patient stand of 94 in 36 overs. It means they lead by 340 with four sessions to spare. A declaration should be imminent.
Rafiq looks a tremendous cricketer. Quite apart from his off-spin - and he is one of very few English spinners who can bowl the doosra - he looks a tough, determined batsman. It was interesting to see him marking his guard even as the other players were leaving the playing area at tea: shades of Jonathan Trott, perhaps.
He was dropped once, though. On 33, with the score on 174-6, when he carved Reece Topley to point where Tom Craddock put some a simple chance.
The chances of them winning the Division Two title have receded somewhat, though. By claiming a second batting bonus point, Derbyshire have ensured they will top the table if they win their game against Hampshire. Kent, too, have at least ensured Glamorgan will have to bat again, though Yorkshire will not be too nervous just yet.
3.15pm: Paul Edwards at Glamorgan v Kent
We’ve taken an early tea here with 39 overs still to be bowled. The reason is that a sprinkler on the edge of the square has sprung a leak and the umpires decided to take the break early to allow repairs to be effected.
Meanwhile, Kent’s fine resistance has continued this afternoon. Powell was caught at slip by Allenby off Croft for 41, but that was Glamorgan’s only success. Jones is unbeaten on 64, his seventh fifty of the Championship season, and James Tredwell is on 19. Kent are 226 for six and the lead is a mere six runs. You would think Rob Key’s men need another 150 runs or so to make it interesting, very interesting.
3pm: Jon Culley at Derbyshire v Hampshire
Derbyshire are doing their part to set up what could be a gripping last-day decider in the race for the Division Two title, assuming Kent's remaining batsmen don't turn the match at Cardiff completely on its head.
They scraped a lead of three on the back of Ross Whiteley's unbeaten 57 and dismissed both Hampshire openers on 16 as Michael Carberry edged a ball from Tony Palladino that left him late and Jimmy Adams nibbled one down the leg side off Tim Groenewald, both pouched by wicketkeeper Tom Poynton.
A win now guarantees Derbyshire the title, although with Yorkshire building a substantial lead over Essex at Chelmsford they will probably need the win.
Hampshire's Bilal Shafayat and Liam Dawson are doing their best to dig in, although it may dawn on them soon that they have a Lord's final on Saturday and that an early departure might not be entirely without attractions. Derbyshire may hope so. Hampshire are 37-2.
2.15pm: Paul Edwards at Glamorgan v Kent
This could be cricinfo’s day for fascinating discussions. Following on from George’s colloquium with Darren Gough, I spent a proportion of the lunch break talking to Glamorgan’s chief executive Alan Hamer. He was most enlightening on the reasons for the county’s name change to Welsh Dragons and the reversion to simply Glamorgan. A piece will follow in due course, but it already seems a cautionary tale for those advocating wholesale changes in the English domestic game.
Meanwhile - and I know how very silly these words may sound in an hour or so – Kent (now there’s a catchy “brandname” for you) are making a fight of it at Cardiff. They have miles and miles ot go yet but Key’s men are 184 for five with Mike Powell on 40 and Geraint Jones on 44. The sixth-wicket partnership has yielded 88 runs and no wicket has fallen since lunch. Both men are playing well on a wicket which is giving the bowlers limited assistance. 56 overs bowled. All this is another illustration of the quality of the County Championship. Surely Kent can’t get out of this hole. They need to win this match for heaven’s sake. All the same……
12.45pm: Jon Culley at Derbyshire v Hampshire
Having secured a second batting point, Derbyshire have put the Division Two title in their own hands, in that a victory in this match will clinch the major prize irrespective of what happens to Yorkshire in Chelmsford. And given that they are 18 behind at lunch, being eight wickets down need not be a disadvantage, assuming that David Wainwright can do his stuff on a pitch expected to become increasingly spin-friendly.
It has been friendly already to spin in one sense. Michael Carberry, who walks up to the crease to bowl off-breaks so occasionally they had not been called on at all this season before today, took a wicket with his second ball when Tom Poynton was caught by Jimmy Adams at leg-slip.
Carberry has taken 14 first-class wickets in his career at an average of 63.64, which probably explains why he isn't thrown the ball more often.
Ross Whiteley, who will be hoping that this is a birthday to remember with special affection, is unbeaten on 55 at lunch. Wainwright, dropped on six, added only a single before he was caught at first slip off James Tomlinson.
12.15pm: Paul Edwards at Glamorgan v Kent
Very soon, all that will be at stake at Derby and Chelmsford is the destination of the second-division championship. John Glover has taken three wickets (Northeast, Nash and Stevens) in eight balls to leave Kent floundering towards defeat on 108 for five. Mike Powell and Geraint Jones are attempting to give a patina of respectability to matters but it’s surely a matter of time before we have a three-day finish here. Kent need 112 to make Glamorgan bat again. Robert Croft will be bowling soon and there’ll not be a dry eye or an unwaved daffodil in the house.
11.05am: Paul Edwards at Glamorgan v Kent
Morning from Cardiff, where a few good judges reckon that Glamorgan will complete their victory today and will thus finally end any doubts about who will be promoted to Division One. There’s also a bit of speculation as to how many wickets one Robert Croft will pick up on what may be his final day as a first-class cricketer. His career tally currently stands at 1,173.
The only slight incongruity about Croft’s appearance yesterday was his stylish sunglasses, and last evening he explained the two reasons why he wears them: the first is that he doesn’t like the batsmen to see his eyes; the second is that the glasses have a brownish tint and they therefore “make the pitch look browner”, thus making it appear more susceptible to spin. I merely pass these nuggets on.
Meanwhile Kent have moved on to 68 for two and still need 152 to make Glamorgan bat again. No great alarms this morning, though.
11am: Jon Culley at Derbyshire v Hampshire
Unless Kent somehow pull off a miracle in Cardiff -- and it would take one for them to beat Glamorgan from two wickets down and still 187 runs short of making their hosts bat again -- Derbyshire are already assured of promotion, whatever happens today. All that remains is for them to secure a couple more batting bonus points and win the game and they will be Division Two champions.
Their success has already prompted Michael Atherton, notorious in these parts for having once labelled Derby as "a satellite town for Nottingham" and not worthy of being home to a first-class county, to redress the balance, praising Derbyshire in his latest column in The Times for being "prepared to break out of this cycle of defeat and mediocrity". In doing so he risks inviting more derision and deserves credit for raising his head above the parapet.
Actually, though his choice of phrase might have been a tad unwise, the arguments he raised so contentiously were quite valid and indeed were acted on by Chris Grant, the chairman who saw that Derbyshire's perpetual reliance on a team of Kolpaks and other counties' cast-offs could not continue and now has a strong rump of home-grown talent in the side.
One of them, Ross Whiteley, is at the crease currently, alongside David Wainwright, the former Yorkshire spinner who will hope to prosper later today when Hampshire bat again.
Unfortunately, Derbyshire's plans to build a strong platform for him have suffered a significant setback with Usman Khawaja already out, without adding to his 71 overnight, caught behind by a diving Michael Bates after offering a poor shot to a wide ball from Sean Ervine, who has now seen Wainwright (on six) dropped by Bates off a top-edged pull. Derbyshire are 186-6, still 86 behind.
11am: George Dobell at Essex v Yorkshire
Morning from Chelmsford.
Bit delayed today as have had long chat with Darren Gough. A piece will follow in due course, but Essex supporters will be interested to hear that he believes the club are close to securing the services of a world-class overseas fast bowler for next season. He also had some interesting insights on the Kevin Pietersen situation.
There were only two singles in the first six overs of play this morning as Yorkshire look to stabilise after a sloppy start to their second innings last night. It will take a miracle to deny them promotion now.
10am: Alex Winter with the form guide
Yorkshire! Yorkshire! Yorkshire! They're getting closer and took a major stride towards promotion by bowling Essex out for 177 yesterday. George Dobell watched as they time their promotion push to perfection. A big lead means only a shocker with the bat today will give Essex even a sniff of getting back into the game.
Even if Essex can throw a spanner in the works, it might not matter for Yorkshire because Kent, the only team that can overhaul them, are being stuffed by Glamorgan. Robert Croft's swansong is going perfectly to script. He took his 51st five-wicket haul in first-class cricket yesterday as Kent totally fell apart after a good start with the bat. They lost 8 for 33. You don't gain promotion playing like that.
That collapse also mean good news for Derbyshire, who were trying to respond with the bat against Hampshire before rain ruined most the day in the East Midlands.
So it looks as if that's that, we're all done and dusted. A Yorkshire win would seal the title if Derbyshire don't win and at the bottom, Glamorgan are going to avoid the wooden spoon - that will go to either Leicestershire, if they fail to beat Gloucestershire, who would prop up the table if they lost.
In Division One there were more runs for Nick Compton, a century serving as a timely reminder to the England selectors, who have delayed naming the tour party to India until Tuesday. Who would be your pick at the top of the order?
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo