Sussex have half a hand on history
Frizzell County Championship Division One
Mushtaq Ahmed takes his 100th wicket of the season
Leicestershire 179 v Sussex 137 for 1 at Hove
Sussex needed only six points to secure the title for the first time in their history, and they are now halfway there after a reassuringly dominating display against Leicestershire. After losing the toss and being asked to bowl first, Leicestershire were skittled out for 179 to secure all three bowling points for Sussex. They now need to score exactly 300 to take the title out of Lancashire's reach. There's a little way to go yet, but already the champagne is starting to flow down at Hove - when Mushtaq Ahmed bowled Brad Hodge for 36, he completed 100 wickets for the season. From 111 for 1, Leicestershire lost five wickets for seven runs, as Mushtaq, in an marathon spell of 25 overs from the sea end, ende with 4 for 71. His performance-related pay might have cost Sussex over £10,000 more than they bargained for, but if the title does arrive at Hove then it will have been money well spent. On a pitch which gave every indication of being a belter, Leicestershire's limp capitulation showed why they will be playing in division two next season. After losing Richard Montgomerie early, Murray Goodwin (71*) and Tony Cottey (47*) then cut and pulled Sussex towards their first Championship.
Nottinghamshire 376 for 9 dec v Lancashire 3 for 0 at Trent Bridge
Warren Hegg's decision to field first on winning the toss meant that either his bowlers had to deliver or that he expected relegated Nottinghamshire to roll over and die. In the event neither happened and by the close Lancashire's title aspirations were hanging by a thread. Darren Bicknell (75) and Jason Gallian (83) put on 165 for the first wicket, and then Russell Warren and Kevin Pietersen added 87 for the fourth, as Lancashire's bowlers turned in a decidedly below-par performance. In the final session Lancashire did finally find something extra, grabbing the five wickets for 58 runs to secure the precious third point, but the feeling was that the damage had already been done.
Surrey 318 v Essex 112 for 1 at The Oval
The importance of this match was reflected when Surrey named a side containing only four first-team regulars against an Essex team captained by Andy Flower in Ronnie Irani's absence. Jon Batty has become a more well-known name this season and he again shone with a powerful 87 before playing-on to Graham Napier. Batty added 103 for the second wicket with Nadeem Shahid before Essex slowly clawed things back through James Middlebrook, their top wicket-taker this season. Shahid's entertaining 54-ball 67 ended with an uncontrolled reverse sweep, and that triggered a mini collapse. But Ben Scott scored a handy 58 not out on debut as Surrey were bowled out for 318. In Essex's reply, Alistair Cook, another name to look out for, unveilled a string of sublime strokes on his way to a 32-ball fifty, ending the day on 63 not out with Flower unbeaten on 47.
Kent 379 for 3 v Warwickshire at Canterbury
Ed Smith capped off a season to remember with an unbeaten century to put Kent in charge of Warwickshire at the St. Lawrence Ground. Smith scored a patient 121 not out and built on the good early work from openers David Fulton (51) and Rob Key (54), who put on 95 together. While Smith continued the steady ground work, Andrew Symonds went a level higher with a dashing 88 from 85 balls, including 17 fours and a six. And there was no respite for Warwickshire. Matthew Walker then chalked up a fifty as Kent closed on 379 for 3.
Frizzell County Championship Division Two
Yorkshire 476 v Gloucestershire 5 for 0 at Headingley
It began as a tense must-win encounter for Yorkshire, but it turned into an end-of-term jamboree, as Damien Martyn routed the Gloucestershire bowlers with an astonishing double-century. Gloucestershire had enjoyed the upper hand at first, as Ian Harvey helped reduce Yorkshire to 51 for 3. But that was as good as it got. Martyn romped to his century off 65 balls, to beat Bilal Shafayat's previous-best of the season - 73 balls against Durham UCCE. And, with Matt Wood playing the straight man, Martyn burst past the 200-mark as well, off 128 balls to beat Ian Blackwell's recent record. He was eventually prized out for 238 with the breathtaking stats of 159 balls, 38 fours and seven sixes - his highest first-class score. Martyn made Wood's 116 from 236 look positively snail-paced, but the pair put on a whopping 330 together. Richard Dawson then rubbed it in with 48 not out as Yorkshire raced to a daunting 476.
Northamptonshire 196 v Worcestershire 139 for 6 at Wantage Road
As it has done all season, the Wantage Road pitch continued to favour the spinners as the first day of the top-of-the-table clash between Northamptonshire and Worcestershire ended with honours even. Gareth Batty continued his good late-season form with four wickets as Worcestershire initially took the upper hand. Batty took 4 for 53 and Shaftab Khalid, an offspinner, weighed in with 3 for 70, including the wicket of top-scorer Jeffrey Cook for 57. After Mike Hussey, who has scored five hundreds and a fifty in his last six innings, was run out for 4 early on, Northants never got going and they soon stumbled to 146 all out. Worcestershire then seized the initiative when Stephen Peters (69) guided them to 109-2 in reply. But Graeme Swann struck back with four wickets for 25 runs late in the day to leave Worcestershire trailing by 57 with four wickets in hand.
Derbyshire 317 v Hampshire 76 for 0 at Derby
Both teams will want this season to finish as quickly as possible as they battle it out to avoid the wooden spoon, but at least Hampshire had something to smile about against Derbyshire today. James Hamblin took a career-best 6 for 93 and Shaun Udal nipped out 3 for 52 in Derbyshire's 317. Hasan Adnan led the way with 84 after Andrew Gait (63) and Michael Di Venuto (35) put on 82 for the first wicket, but Hamblin gave Hampshire the edge with his six of the best. Derek Kenway (38*) and Jimmy Adams (32*) then steered Hampshire to 76 for no loss in reply.
Durham 142 for 4 v Glamorgan 270 at Chester-le-Street
Glamorgan's slender hopes of promotion to Division One became even slimmer after the first day of their match against Durham. Glamorgan needed maximum batting points, but collected only two as they collapsed from 171 for 3 to 270, losing their last seven wickets for 57 runs. Mark Wallace got them on the right track with 121, and an opening stand of 127 with Jimmy Maher (63). But Neil Killeen got the big wicket of Wallace which started the slide before Graeme Bridge (3-26) wrapped things up. Mike Kasprowicz and David Harrison then hit back with two wickets apiece as Gary Pratt ended the day on 58 not out to keep Durham afloat.