Nicholson gives Surrey winning chance
Lancashire's match against Worcestershire fizzled out into a draw at Old Trafford, but the final day was brightened by Paul Horton's excellent maiden hundred. Horton shared in a 165-run opening stand with Mark Chilton (59), but struggled in the nineties, spending some 12 overs battling through the nerves before easing Gareth Batty to long-on for his 212-ball ton. Lancashire's middle-order fell away - from 244 for 1 to 296 for 7 - as the match ended in a draw.
Matt Nicholson continues to prove his worth for Surrey, bowling them into a winning position against Sussex at Hove. He took 5 for 89 to make the home side follow on after falling for 365 and he continued to show no mercy, uprooting their openers second time out to leave them quivering at 35 for 2. These wickets, added to his three from his first match in their last outing - a draw against Warwickshire which halted their losing slide - have quickly helped him become a valuable component of the side, as Surrey aim for their first win. Murray Goodwin's century frustrated Surrey, but he was one of the fallers as Sussex slipped from 313 for 4, losing their last six wickets for 52. Although Mark Butcher used seven bowlers, the other five wickets were shared between Rikki Clarke, who bagged three, and Nayan Doshi, with two.
On another day interrupted by rain at Edgbaston, Warwickshire's bowlers cut into Durham's middle order to restrict them to 214 for 5, after Graham Onions grabbed 8 for 105 - his best bowling figures in first-class - to dismiss Warwickshire for 335 and send a reminder to the England selectors. Durham's reply began poorly when Michael Di Venuto was caught behind off Dale Steyn for just 9, and though several batsmen got starts, only Dale Benkenstein showed the necessary application in his unbeaten 214. Durham trail by 121 runs.
Seventeen-year-old James Harris wrote himself into the record books as he became the youngest player to take a seven-wicket haul in the County Championship. His 7 for 66 was central to Glamorgan bowling out Gloucestershire for 219 at Bristol. They were asked to follow-on and lost Ian Fisher for 0 to leave a tough battle ahead of the draw. But the day belonged to Harris, who already had three wickets overnight, and soon removed Stephen Adshead caught behind and Mark Hardinges, lbw pushing forward. Marcus North offered the main resistance, but Harris nailed him too, six runs short of a century, as Gloucestershire slipped further into trouble. They will be grateful that 53 overs were lost to bad light and would gladly take more help from the weather on the final day.
Leicestershire's match against Essex finally got underway on the third day at Grace Road, producing some enthralling batting from the hosts, desperate to make up for lost time. They raced along at over four runs-per-over with Paul Nixon, licking his wounds, stroking a calm 85 while Daniel Rowe smacked 85 from just 69 balls. Graham Napier took 3 for 55. In reply, Essex stumbled to 39 for 3 in 22 tough overs, with Ronnie Irani, the captain, unbeaten at stumps on 27.
Alan Richardson's 5 for 50 earned Middlesex a slender first innings lead of 23 against Derbyshire on the third day at Derby. He manfully shouldered an increased workload after Tim Murtagh could only send down 11 deliveries. He broke a threatening stand of 61 between Travis Birt and Simon Katich by removing both Australians in the space of three runs. Graham Wagg's 42-ball 40 reduced the deficit but Chaminda Vaas and Chris Silverwood supported Richardson with five further wickets between them. Middlesex made steady progress in their reply with an opening stand of 56 between Billy Godleman and Nick Compton but Derbyshire managed to late strikes toward the end of play.