Surrey dent Lancashire's title hopes
Lancashire's hopes of their first outright Championship title since 1934 are fading with every passing day at The Oval. Surrey declined to enforce the follow-on after dismissing them for 234 before extending their lead to 214.
Surrey bowled tidily as a collective, with Matt Nicholson and Chris Jordan particularly impressing. Nicholson exploited the early swinging conditions, and a lifting pitch, to remove Steven Croft for a duck and to trap Mark Chilton for 4. Stuart Law and Paul Horton rallied with 45 and 48 respectively, and it was left to VVS Laxman (53) and latterly Dominic Cork (46 not out) to limit the first-innings deficit.
Laxman batted with his customary authority until he fell, pulling hard to long leg off the rapidly emerging talent Jordan, who has slotted right into first-team cricket. Those in the know are already tipping him as Young Cricketer of the Year for 2008.
Like Nicholson, Jordan used the conditions to bowl with pace and hostility; his last two victims - Oliver Newby (0) and Gary Keedy (2) - were both beaten for pace and fended through to the keeper, although replays showed the ball had brushed Newby's arm. Cork was the lone battler and he enjoyed the challenge, even smacking an audacious six for good measure. But not for fun: Lancashire badly want this title.
It's not of their reach yet, however, although if they do prosper it will be in spite of Mark Ramprakash's gleaming best efforts. He fell short of his double-hundred, making 196. Still, it could prove ultimately costly, given he could have been run out on nought, and was also dropped on 4.
Bad light brought an early close in the other three matches.
Sussex had another excellent day against Worcestershire at Hove as they continued to press their own title claims. They gained maximum batting points thanks to Robin Martin-Jenkins, who will at once rue, and be delighted with, his 99 and Chris Liddle, who demonstrated an eye for the big occasion with his maiden first-class half-century.
Following Mushtaq Ahmed's dismissal (382 for 8), Sussex needed a further 118 for five points; Martin-Jenkins and Liddle duly delivered, with a ninth-wicket partnership of 120. Worcestershire showed heart with an opening stand of 79 and they had reached 93 for 2 by stumps; Moeen Ali (1) soon following Stephen Moore (48) to the hutch.
Michael Carberry's unbeaten century for Hampshire was the highlight against Yorkshire on day two at Headingley. After finishing off Yorkshire's first innings for 195, Hampshire drew level with four wickets down. John Crawley also contributed a fifty.
Dale Benkenstein struck a century to hand Durham the lead following another tidy day against Kent at Canterbury. By the close, Kent had come close to erasing the deficit in their second innings; they now trail by ten with seven wickets left.