Hoggard sets up Yorkshire
Matthew Hoggard ripped through Worcestershire at Headingley to set Yorkshire up with an outstanding chance of their third Championship win of the season. Play didn't start until 2.30, but Hoggard quickly made up for lost time with a rush of four wickets which sent Worcestershire sliding to 72 for 7. With the first Test against West Indies six days away, Hoggard was in prime form after a solid three weeks of action. He struck with his fifth ball to remove Phil Jaques with the aid of a fine catch by Darren Gough at mid-off and trapped Graeme Hick pushing half forward. Gough chipped in and the lower order was wrapped up by Jason Gillespie following brief resistance from Roger Sillence and Gareth Batty. After enforcing the follow-on, Gough removed Stephen Moore to leave Worcestershire facing a long battle to save the match.
Durham built a strong lead of 311 over Kent at Chester-le-Street to set up an intriguing final day. Liam Plunkett's five-wicket haul secured a narrow lead of seven and the top order quickly set about adding to it. After his first innings duck, Paul Collingwood sped to 58 of 44 balls and added 95 with the prolific Michael Di Venuto (58). Kent fought back with four wickets for 29 following a rain break, but the innings was stabilised by an unbeaten stand 131 between Dale Benkenstein (66*) and Gary Park (57*). If the weather stays fair, Durham will be confident of pushing hard for victory on the final day but won't want to leave Kent anything less than 350 on what has been an easy-paced pitch.
Andrew Flintoff battled his way to 61 between the downpours against Hampshire at The Rose Bowl. Lancashire fought hard to lose only two more wickets in tough batting conditions. Flintoff and Law added 61 during a rare extended period of play during the morning, then Sutton joined Flintoff to add 66 for the sixth wicket. Flintoff went to fifty, in his first first-class innings since the Ashes, before falling to Shane Warne as he attempted to slog-sweep. With just 50.3 overs possible over three days this match is heading nowhere without a full final day's play and collusion between the captains.
The Surrey top order put in a strong response to Warwickshire's 329 with consecutive century stands at The Oval. Scott Newman and Jon Batty opened with 117, broken when Newman edged Dale Steyn behind, then Batty added an unbroken 109 with Mark Ramprakash. As the England wicketkeeping debate rages, Batty again went about his work with the minimal of fuss to show he's one of the best on the county circuit. Warwickshire used eight bowlers without much joy, although Steyn again produced a wholehearted effort.
David Sales struck an unbeaten 150 to guide Northamptonshire to a draw on the final day against Somerset at Northampton. Resuming on a precarious 130 for 3, Northamptonshire were steadied by Sales's typically belligerent strokeplay before declaring on 400 for 7 to deny Somerset the chance of claiming a third bowling point. They were, though, still trailing by 241 and were asked to follow-on by Justin Langer. There was little time for Somerset's bowlers to make an impact, though Andrew Caddick nipped out both openers in quick succession.
Derbyshire's seamers piled the pressure onto Leicestershire at Derby by removing four cheap wickets as the visitors struggled to wipe out a first-innings deficit. Ireland's Boyd Rankin struck with the new ball to remove Tom New and Tom Lungley's two wickets in three balls meant Leicestershire were three down and still eight behind. After edging into the lead Graham Wagg claimed the key wicket of HD Ackerman for 27 before bad light prevented any further inroads. Derbyshire's useful advantage was down to Simon Katich and Jamie Pipe, who added 67 for the sixth wicket, and a cameo 25 from Travis Birt. When Katich fell six runs short of another century the tail subsided as the last five wickets went down for six to Charl Langeveldt and Mansoor Amjad.
The gloomy conditions at Trent Bridge matched Middlesex's disposition on the third day against Nottinghamshire, with the visitors crashing to 176 all out. Charlie Shreck's excellent form continued with 6 for 79, cutting through their lower-order with ease. The two Eds, Smith and Joyce, were going along nicely at 126 for 3 but thereafter Middlesex collapsed all too familiarly, losing 7 for 50. Andrew Strauss struck a flurry of boundaries and remained unbeaten on 27 before the rains fell, with Middlesex still trailing by 116 going into the final day.