Jones breaks century drought
Kent's batsmen went on the rampage at Whitgift School to put their side well on course for victory over Surrey. Geraint Jones made his first century since his Test hundred, against New Zealand, in 2004, hitting nine fours and three sixes in his 100-ball innings. Darren Stevens, unbeaten on 32 overnight, reached his second Championship century of the season off 125 balls and continued until he was bowled by Ian Salisbury to signal the declaration. Surrey were woeful in the field with misfields and overthrows and were barracked by a healthy home crowd. They stumbled to 81 for 3 when Mark Butcher was caught at second slip and any hopes of an escape rest with Mark Ramprakash.
Muttiah Muralitharan's 5 for 73 put Lancashire on top against Sussex at Hove as the defending champions conceded a lead of 95. From 164 for 3 during the afternoon session they subsided, losing their last seven wickets for 71. Muralitharan, who earlier trapped Murray Goodwin for 0, started the slide by ending Michael Yardy's comeback 42 and then worked his way through the lower order. Sajid Mahmood, trying to keep the attention of the England selectors, played his part with two wickets including top-scorer Chris Nash for 47. Sussex fought back during the last session with three key wickets, including Brad Hodge and Stuart Law, leaving an intriguing final day in prospect.
Alex Loudon's third Championship century of the season guided Warwickshire to an unexpected lead of 93 against Hampshire at Edgbaston. Stuart Clark and Dimitri Mascarenhas shared five wickets as the home side struggled to 184 for 8 before Loudon found support from the last two batsmen. Dale Steyn made a typically aggressive 23-ball 26, then James Anyon hung around for 30 balls as the last wicket added 45. Loudon brought up his hundred with a straight six, sweep for four and a drive past mid-on off successive balls from Shane Warne. Hampshire's first innings had earlier subsided to 169 as the last five wickets fell for 36. Naqqash Tahir did most of the damage with three scalps and Anyon claimed Jimmy Adams early in the second innings.
Middlesex are within sight of victory at Lord's but Somerset produced a valiant fightback on the third day. As in their first innings the batting slumped and when Justin Langer was trapped lbw a quick finish was on the cards at 50 for 5. However, Cameron White and James Hildreth started the turnaround by adding 139. Still, when Chris Silverwood removed White and Ian Blackwell in two balls Somerset were still behind by 13. Hildreth found support, and plenty of runs, from Steffan Jones as the pair added 143 to set nerves jangling in the Middlesex camp. Hildreth's hundred, his third of the season, was eventually ended by Silverwood who finished with match figures of 9 for 62. Middlesex are well on course in their chase of 138, but Somerset have pushed them hard after Langer's gambling declaration on the second day.
Glamorgan missed out on making Essex follow-on by two runs at Swansea but are still well placed for a final-day dip at victory. Essex were in a deep hole at 85 for 5, but James Foster and Ryan ten Doeschate at least stopped the slide with a stand of 80. However, Robert Croft worked his way through the tail until James Middlebrook squeezed Essex passed the follow-on target. Glamorgan extended their lead to 260 and will aim for around another 80 runs in the morning before setting the spinners loose on Essex.
The captains opened up the chance of a result at Oakham School as Nottinghamshire declared their first innings 262 behind with the aim of setting up a last-day run chase against Leicestershire. Paul Nixon (98) and Jim Allenby (93) had fallen short of their centuries earlier in the day as they added 172 for the fifth wicket. Nixon faced 232 balls before he was caught behind of Charlie Shreck, but Claude Henderson's 32 helped Leicestershire to four batting points. Garnett Kruger struck twice with the new ball before the game was opened up by Fleming's declaration. The lead is 363 going into the final day.
Centuries by Marcus North and Alex Gidman put Gloucestershire in the driving seat against Northamptonshire at Gloucester. The pair added 174 for the fourth wicket as North signed off his county stint with 109. Play had been delayed by an hour due to a damp outfield but despite the early loss of Kadeer Ali progress was comfortable. When North edged behind Gidman continued the good work with his first century of the season. Monty Panesar, released by England, bowled economically except for one eight-over spell which cost 48 as North took to him.