Lancashire and Hampshire set for tense final day
Hampshire's match against Lancashire is intriguingly poised going into the final day at Old Trafford, with the hosts leading by 190 but with only three second-innings wickets in hand. Hampshire were bowled out for 288 in their first dig, with Dominic Cork trapping Michael Brown lbw before Nic Pothas edged him to second slip. Cork later took a fine, diving catch at mid-off to remove Chris Tremlett, but after bowling Hampshire out mid-afternoon, Lancashire's promise with the ball failed to materialise with the bat. In the blink of an eye, they slipped to 54 for 4, but Francois du Plessis played a dogged hand of 31 to steady Lancashire. On a tricky pitch, a score of around 230 could really test Hampshire, and the fourth day looks to be a fascinating duel.
Leicestershire's captain, Paul Nixon, frustrated Northamptonshire with a fighting 73 on the third day at Northampton, but the home side stuck to their task and completed an emphatic eight-wicket win shortly before stumps. Following on, Leicestershire began the day on 8 for 1, and it appeared Northamptonshire were walking to victory when Nicky Boje had Tom new caught for 11 and Jacques du Toit dismissed for just 2. Once Boeta Dippenaar fell for 15, Leicestershire had slipped to 92 for 6, still trailing by 108. But Nixon refused to be so easily beaten, and found excellent support in Tom Smith, the 22-year-old, who lasted 89 minutes for a courageous 31. The pair put on 66 for the eighth wicket and, after passing his fifty from 92 balls, Nixon edged Leicestershire past the 200 mark to ensure Northamptonshire would have to bat again. However, he fell to the impressive David Lucas, top-edging him to fine-leg, as Leicestershire set Northamptonshire a facile 27. Though they lost Niall O'Brien and Stephen Peters, David Sales and Robert White eased them home.
Worcestershire romped to a bruising 10-wicket win over Middlesex, inside three days at Lord's. The hosts trailed by 61 in their second innings, and experimented by opening with Ed Joyce. It failed miserably, as Joyce edged Kabir Ali behind for a third-ball duck. Ali, who bowled beautifully, then removed Nick Compton before deflecting a firmly-struck drive by Owais Shah to run out the unfortunate non-striker, Eoin Morgan. When Shah fell, Middlesex were 24 for 4 but Dawid Malan - their up-and-coming left-hander - cracked 52 while Ben Scott made 58, in a spirited stand of 113 in 25 overs. And then Gareth Batty took over, ripping out five wickets in 34 balls, with a combination of sharp spin and clueless Middlesex batting. Worcestershire were set 105 to win, and Stephen Moore (55 from 56) and Daryl Mitchell (48) powered them home in just 17 overs.
Essex are on the brink of a thumping win over Gloucestershire after dismissing the visitors for 184 on the third day at Chelmsford. Gloucestershire, who resumed on 70 for 6, didn't fold submissively however, as Steve Snell dropped anchor with 53 from 164 balls. There was little of any substance from the lower-order, and Danish Kaneria mopped up the tail to register 5 for 53 from 32.3 probing overs. Gloucestershire had set Essex a facile 181 to win, but the home side lost Varun Chopra and Jason Gallian to set the nerves jangling, before Neil Dexter (60*) and Ravi Bopara (83*) put them back on course with an unbeaten third-wicket stand of 143. With a full day tomorrow and the forecast balmy, Essex only need 31 to record their fourth win of the season and leapfrog Middlesex.