Sussex close in on Championship title
Sussex closed in on their third Championship in five years after enforcing the follow on against Worcestershire at Hove and reducing the visitors to 190 for 5 at close, still 129 runs short of making Sussex bat again. It had appeared that the match would be done and dusted inside three days when Mushtaq Ahmed grabbed three wickets in as many overs to reduce Worcestershire to 117 for 5, but Moeen Ali (72*) and Gareth Batty (32*) put on an unbeaten 73 for the sixth wicket to take the game into a fourth day. Earlier, Mushtaq took 6 for 93 and Jason Lewry 3 for 44 as Worcestershire lost their last seven first-innings wickets for 61. With the weather forecast good for tomorrow, Sussex will fancy polishing off proceedings in the morning.
Durham put themselves top of the Championship - if only for a day - with an eight-wicket win over Kent at Canterbury. Kent, who resumed on 99 for 3, offered little resistance, losing their last seven wickets in the morning session. Paul Wiseman, who finished with 4 for 45, and Ottis Gibson, who took his season tally to 80 wickets, polished off the tail. Durham took 10.1 overs to knock off the 52 runs they needed, although Kent, who bowled Robert Key and Geraint Jones - Martin Saggers kept wicket - hardly pressed them.
Lancashire entered this match with hopes of their first outright Championship victory since 1934, but to achieve that they will first need to complete the highest run-chase in their 150-year history, after Mark Ramprakash batted them to a virtual stand-still with his second century of the match at The Oval.
Ramprakash, who had put the skids under Lancashire's title challenge with his first-innings 196, was once again unstoppable as Surrey appointed themselves king-makers at the end of an unproductive season. After bowling Lancashire out for 234, a deficit of 193, Mark Butcher opted not to enforce the follow-on, and Ramprakash capitalised on a demoralised attack with 130 not out, his second century of the match, his tenth of the summer, and his 97th in first-class matches.
It was the sixth occasion in his 401-match career that Ramprakash had made two centuries in the same game, and with his 104th run he reached 2000 runs for the second season in a row. By the time Butcher had declared with a massive lead of 488, Ramprakash's average for the summer was sitting pretty on 101.30 from 25 innings. In reply, Paul Horton and Mark Chilton reached the close untroubled on 27 for 0, but with Durham already home and dry against Kent, and Sussex well placed in their home match against Worcestershire, Lancashire have no option but to go for glory and take on the 462 runs still required.
Ramprakash did not have to wait long to get back into the action, as Scott Newman fell to Dominic Cork with just two runs added to Surrey's overnight score. Thereafter he and Jonathan Batty rumbled towards an indomitable position, and Batty had designs on his own landmark of 1000 runs in the season before he mistimed a pull to midwicket off Oliver Newby for 45. Butcher and Ramprakash then added 77 in even time for the third wicket to push the lead up past 350.
Butcher was caught behind for 47 off Glen Chapple, who also induced a miscued pull when Ramprakash was on 79. It was the closest he came to being dismissed all innings. He went to tea unbeaten on 99, and reached his hundred soon afterwards with a tucked single through midwicket. James Benning got off the mark with a six over long-on as Surrey pressed towards a declaration total, leaving Lancashire with ten overs to negotiate before the close.
There was no play between Hampshire and Yorkshire at Headingley.
Includes all points up to the close of play