Hampshire and Sussex smell victory
Hampshire are on course for a crucial victory after setting Worcestershire 532 for victory at Kidderminster and claiming four second-innings wickets. Shaun Udal claimed two as the Hampshire attack chipped away, while Shane Warne trapped Steven Davies lbw for 2. Moeen Ali offered the main resistance with an unbeaten 73, but faces a near-impossible task to save his side. The first half of the day brought relentless accumulation from the Hampshire top order with Michael Carberry (120) helping himself to his second century of the match. He and Michael Brown opened with 199 then James Adams (82 not out off 55 balls) and John Crawley (75 off 55 balls) laid into a demoralised attack as Hampshire raced towards their declaration.
Sussex took a firm hold against fellow title contenders Yorkshire at Hove as Andy Hodd's 123 lifted them to nearly 600 before Mushtaq Ahmed began to work his magic with the ball. Hodd built on the solid work from the opening day, hitting 12 boundaries in his career-best score. After useful forties from Robin Martin-Jenkins and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Saqlain Mushtaq dominated an eighth-wicket stand of 97, with an unbeaten 56 off 94 balls. Yorkshire's batsmen didn't fare much better than the bowlers, Michael Vaughan falling early to Jason Lewry. Mushtaq nailed Anthony McGrath then former Pakistan team-mate Inzamam-ul-Haq and removed Andrew Gale for a fighting 51 as Yorkshire lurched towards the follow-on.
An astonishing day at Blackpool ended with 18 wickets having falling as Lancashire and Durham traded blows. Ottis Gibson continued his glorious season with a six-wicket haul as Durham fought back after collapsing for 166 during the afternoon session. Glen Chapple, with a career-best 7 for 53, was the main destroyer following a steady start from Durham who reached 91 for 1. Chapple claimed seven of the last eight wickets to falling, including Michael Di Venuto for the day's top score of 78, but Lancashire slumped to 13 for 4 in reply. They rallied somewhat as Luke Sutton grafted an unbeaten 51 and everyone was glad for the close of play so they could draw breath.
Warwickshire lost their way on the opening day against Surrey at Edgbaston, losing their last eight wickets for 92 runs after reaching 193 for 2. Mike Powell (82) and Jim Troughton (76) set a solid base, but the innings fell away after Troughton edged Matt Nicholson. Young allrounder Chris Jordan again impressed with the ball and Murtaza Hussain, a Pakistani offspinner signed on short notice, claimed a coupled on his debut.
Middlesex made Gloucestershire follow-on at Bristol and are well on their way to a convincing victory. Tim Murtagh claimed four wickets in the first innings, but it was 20-year-old Danny Evans who impressed with the key scalps of Hamish Marshall and Alex Gidman. Grant Hodnett's 35 was the top score in a poor effort from the home side and he was battling hard again in the second innings with an unbeaten 43. However, two late wickets for Murali Kartik - including Craig Spearman - have left Gloucestershire staring down the barrel.
Table-toppers Somerset are coursing towards victory against third-placed Essex at Chelmsford. A gutsy rearguard action from Essex - after Somerset cut a limp top-order to shreds - took the game into a third day, but Andrew Caddick's two wickets just before tea prevented the home side making a competitive total. Somerset now need 132 runs for the win, and they're one man down.
Northamptonshire had the better of the second day at Grace Road, leaving Leicestershire who had started on 57 for 0 in first-innings arrears after dismissing them for 236. While John Maunders moved on from 26 to post his half-century, he was the only batsman to do so: fellow opener Tim New falling short with 45. David Lucas weighed in with his third first-class five-for, and received good support from the other four bowlers, who each opened their wicket account. Andrew Crook's fifty furthered Northants' lead, and they were sitting in relative comfort with five down and a lead of 234 when bad light stopped play.
Stephen Fleming hit an unbeaten 217 as Nottinghamshire gorged themselves on a weak Derbyshire attack at Chesterfield. The visitors raced along throughout the day, closing on 500 for 6. The match had been more in the balance when Fleming was joined by Chris Read with Nottinghamshire on 195 for 5. But they pulled away from Derbyshire, adding 186 before Read fell ten short of his century. Fleming, though, kept on going eased past his double century before the close, forming an unbroken stand 119 with Graeme Swann.