White boosts Northants' chances
Northamptonshire gained most from the opening day of the final found as a stand of 268 in 47 overs between Rob White, with his first hundred of the season, and Andrew Hall powered them to 465 for 6 against Leicestershire at Wantage Road. It had been a very different picture during the morning session as the top order slipped to 44 for 4 with James Benning claiming two wickets. The counterattack was launched by Rikki Wessels - who reached fifty with three fours in an over - then continued in grand manner by White and Hall. The score raced along to such an extent that Northamptonshire had their full hand of batting points after 88 overs - stage one in their quest to leapfrog Essex into second spot. White couldn't have picked a better moment to finally reach three figures, while Hall lost nothing in comparison and passed 1000 runs for the campaign. Leicestershire, with nothing to play for continued their worthwhile policy of blooding youngsters, were powerless to stem the tide.
Gloucestershire's new-ball pairing of James Franklin and Jon Lewis gave the Division Two champions, Kent plenty to think about as they shared nine wickets between them on a seam-dominated first-day at Bristol. With Ian Saxelby chipping in with the scalp of Justin Kemp, Kent were rolled over for 264, despite having at one stage reached 101 for 1 thanks to a second-wicket stand of 81 between Rob Key and Geraint Jones. However, both men fell for the addition of six runs, as did Darren Stevens for a second-ball duck when he shouldered arms at Franklin who found consistent swing, and at 139 for 6, Kent were deep in the mire. But Alex Blake glued the innings together with 47 before Simon Cook leathered the Gloucestershire attack to all parts in a violent 60 not out from 39 balls - including 10 fours and two sixes on a outfield where the boundary ropes at been brought in to aid the home side's bid for full batting points In reply, Gloucestershire reached 21 for 0 before bad light curtailed the day.
Usman Afzaal dented Glamorgan's hopes of promotion with an unbeaten 170 as Surrey finished on 334 for 4 at The Oval. The visitors enjoyed the best of the early exchanges as Surrey slipped to 51 for 3, but Afzaal turned the around along side Arul Harinath and Matthew Spriegel. Afzaal added 103 for the fourth wicket with before Harinath (57) was caught at leg slip off Robert Croft, but Glamorgan were made to toil as the fifth-wicket stand reached 180. Afzaal reach his hundred from 136 balls and dominated the rest of the day alongside Spriegel as Glamorgan struggled to make an impression.
Essex had promotion on their own hands as they took on Derbyshire at Derby. Andrew McGlashan watched the action.
Lancashire made great strides towards ensuring their survival in the top flight, while at the same time denting Warwickshire's chance to challenge for the runners-up cheque of £225,000, as VVS Laxman's half-century built on a Glen Chapple masterclass at Old Trafford. Chapple produced the astonishing figures of 14.4-6-19-6, as Warwickshire were skittled for 148 in 44.4 overs, with only a 73-run stand for the seventh wicket between Jim Troughton and Neil Carter offering any resistance. Warwickshire's demise was a mixture of good bowling, poor batting and a helpful pitch. Carter top-scored with 58 before being caught at second slip and though Lancashire wobbled in reply, with Paul Horton falling early to Chris Woakes, Laxman's class shone through as he stroked nine fours in 108 balls, to leave Lancashire just 22 runs adrift at the close with six wickets still standing.
Sussex are facing relegation as they take on Nottinghamshire. Jon Culley reports from Trent Bridge.
Yorkshire and Hampshire still need a few points to be assured of safety. John Ward watched the action at Headingley.
The champions, Durham, struggled to raise their intensity against the long-relegated Worcestershire. George Dobell was at New Road.