Nottinghamshire on the brink of victory
The abject weather forecast for the south is all that can prevent Nottinghamshire thrashing Kent at Canterbury after they were left to make 22 in their second innings. A sixth-wicket stand of 138 between Azhar Mahmood and Martin van Jaarsveld (79) was all that spared Kent from an innings loss after they slipped to 85 for 5, and although Mahmood completed a battling 116 the damage had already been done by Nottinghamshire's seamers.
Only 11 overs were possible at The Rose Bowl, with Hampshire losing Michael Lumb during 40 minutes bitterly cold play against Sussex. Lumb added five to his overnight 77 before he was trapped in front by Robin Martin-Jenkins when trying to whip one through midwicket, ending a stand of 80 with Greg Lamb. The drizzle finally halted mid-afternoon but at 5pm play was abandoned for the day and Hampshire will resume on Saturday - weather permitting - on 319 for 7.
The Warwickshire era under Ashley Giles isn't starting too well as they had to watch centuries from Vikram Solanki (140) and Graeme Hick (101) ease Worcestershire to a lead of 481 at Edgbaston. Warwickshire then collapsed to 26 for 3 by the close with Gareth Batty taking two wickets in a four-over spell. Their day had started poorly was they were unable to shift the nightwatchman Kabir Ali who added 100 with Solanki, whose first hundred since June came off 162 balls. Hick, showing no signs of an elbow injury, then followed with a 135-ball ton to put the match out of Warwickshire's reach. Worcestershire were still without Simon Jones but it is expected his sore neck will have eased enough for him to bowl on the final day.
Northamptonshire are facing a huge defeat after being reduced to 42 for 4 in their second innings by Essex at Chelmsford, where bad light brought an early end. David Masters knocked the top off the order with a fine new-ball burst that brought three wickets while Ravi Bopara chipped out the other. Bopara had carried his innings on to 150 as Essex built a lead of 223, aided by some distinctly average fielding, with Jason Gallian eventually removed for 171. Mark Pettini, the captain, made a brisk 80 before calling an end to the innings and was able to watch his attack make rapid inroads.
Gloucestershire are well placed to open their season with a victory despite a battling performance from Derbyshire at Bristol. They require another 145 to win after Jon Lewis, Marcus North and Anthony Ireland shared nine wickets to bowl out Derbyshire for 362, a considerable improvement on their first-innings 124. Derbyshire's hopes of setting a tougher target were dealt an early blow when Rikki Clarke top edged a hook off Ireland to deep square leg for 27, but David Pipe made a fighting 62 with nine boundaries. Graham Wagg (25) and Tom Lungley (24) chipped in, but they needed another century to match Chris Rogers' effort yesterday. Stephen Adshead took his tally of catches to nine, putting him second in Gloucestershire's list behind Andy Wilson. Needing 172 to win, Gloucestershire were 27 for 1 when drizzle ended play early.
Middlesex were left staring down the barrel as they slid to 112 for 5 in their second innings against Leicestershire at a bitterly cold and windy Grace Road, a lead of only 19. Andrew Strauss failed for the second time and it took a dogged, unbeaten 49 from Owais Shah to give the innings any rigidity, and with David Nash he ground out the last hour. HD Ackerman's tenth hundred for Leicestershire had guided them to 405, a lead of 93, after Tom New had managed to add only five to his overnight 104. Steven Finn, with 4 for 80, was the pick of the Middlesex bowlers.