Essex set up promotion chance
Graham Napier and Tom Westley added 36 in four overs as Essex gave themselves a real chance of promotion after a thrilling four-wicket victory with one ball to spare against Northamptonshire at Chelmsford, leap-frogging their opponents into second place. Set 242 in 52 overs after the visitors battled to 195 in their second innings, John Maunders and Alastair Cook set the platform with an opening stand of 130. However, the chase became tight as Johan van der Wath picked up regular wickets - including Cook for 87 - and Essex stumbled to 205 for 6 when James Foster departed. But Napier brought his one-day power and Westley showed maturity with 15 off 13 balls and they scrambled a bye to secure the win. Earlier it looked as though Essex would have a much simpler chase when Napier and Craig Wright reduced Northamptonshire to 90 for 7. Andrew Hall then added 60 with David Lucas, who made a career-best 55 after being dropped on 18 by Mark Pettini, acting as a stand-in keeper for James Foster who suffered a damaged cheekbone in the warm-up. However, when Napier ended the innings the enthralling final stage was set up.
A brave two-hour innings from Adam London, with a broken and dislocated finger, and defiance from Tim Murtagh enabled Middlesex to force a draw in their final Championship match against Derbyshire at Uxbridge and in turn put a dent in the visitors' promotion hopes. Last-man David Burton survived six balls as the last-wicket pair batted out 2.4 overs. Derbyshire batted on for 18 overs to set Middlesex 330 but had to work hard for breakthroughs as Dawid Malan and Neil Dexter carried the score to 135 for 2. Then Dexter was bowled by Garry Park and with the door ajar, Greg Smith burst through with his offspin to take a career-best 5 for 65. He claimed four quick wickets as Middlesex slumped to 149 for 7 and Derbyshire were sensing victory. London and Murali Kartik added 57 in 12 overs, but there was still time to dismiss Middlesex when Kartik fell to a top-edged sweep against Mark Lawson. However, Murtagh provided London with great support as the pair survived 21 overs. There looked to be a final twist when Smith removed London, but last-man David Burton blocked out six balls while Murtagh did the rest.
Kent were awarded the Division Two trophy, but Leicestershire easily secured a draw and Mark Pennell watched the action at Canterbury.
Glamorgan had to fight hard to build on a substantial lead against Gloucestershire in Cardiff, but closed 293 ahead. James Harris took two wickets to clean up Gloucestershire's tail in 15 overs, but the home side lost Mark Cosgrove early. Gareth Rees continued his productive form before he was lbw to Richard Dawson for 43 and then Steve Kirby and Jon Lewis both struck to leave the innings on 102 for 5, with Jim Allenby falling to a stunning catch from Chris Taylor. Mike Powell batted for more than two hours for his 40 but became Lewis's third wicket - this time a fine grab from William Porterfield at backward point - and Mark Wallace fell to Dawson. Robert Croft eked out important runs before the light closed in and an intriguing final day is in prospect with both teams desperate for victory.
Rory Hamilton-Brown picked a crucial time to make a career-best 171 - his first Championship hundred - as he led Sussex to a crucial haul of batting points and a first-innings advantage against fellow strugglers Yorkshire at Hove. He and Murray Goodwin (63) carried their stand to 128 before David Wainwright broke through when Goodwin was bowled sweeping, but Andrew Hodd (22) helped Hamilton-Brown forge another crucial stand of 99. Hamilton-Brown brought his eye-catching one-day strokeplay into the first-class game and reached his hundred from 126 deliveries. Ajmal Shahzad broke through and also removed Dwayne Smith before Wainwright collected the tail to leave Hamilton-Brown stranded. Jacques Rudolph and Joe Sayers erased the deficit before the latter was caught behind and Michael Yardy broke another useful stand of 51 between Rudolph and Adam Lyth. Rudolph, though, remained solid until the close and draw looms, which will leave both teams - and a couple above them - sweating during the final week of the season.
Worcestershire have a real chance of a consolation victory against Somerset. John Ward watched the action.
Events at the Rose Bowl drifted to a draw as bad light ate into the final day, but Steve Harmison had time to claim his 400th wicket for Durham as Hampshire reached 384. The home side comfortably moved past the follow on as Nic Pothas (78) and Sean Ervine (67) added 78 for the seventh wicket. Pothas was bowled by Ian Blackwell and seven overs later Harmison had Dominic Cork caught behind to reach his milestone. The final three wickets fell without addition and Blackwell removed Danny Briggs to finish with a hard-earned 5 for 110. Durham only faced 3.5 overs before the light faded and now have one match remaining to secure their unbeaten record for the season.