April 26, 2003

Captains lead from the front as Essex and Warwickshire tie

Division One

Kent v Leicestershire, Canterbury
Paul Nixon added another half-century to his first-innings 113 not out, as Kent were reminded of exactly what they will be missing this season. Leicestershire had been set an unlikely target of 387, and were in some strife at 27 for 3, when Nixon bounced to the middle. But he added 75 for the fourth wicket with Darren Stevens, before Damien Brandy chipped in with a half-century of his own. Martin Saggers, Alamgir Sheriyar and Amjad Khan all picked up two wickets, but Phil DeFreitas and Jeremy Snape batted out to the close.

Lancashire v Nottinghamshire, Old Trafford
Chris Read, widely touted as Alec Stewart's successor in England's one-day team, did his chances no harm at all by guiding Nottinghamshire to a draw on the final day at Old Trafford. Notts were still more than 200 runs adrift when Peter Martin (5 for 54) embarked on an inspired spell of seam bowling. But Read dug in for a 91-ball 57, and by the time he was eighth man out, Lancashire's prospects of an unlikely win had evaporated.

Middlesex v Sussex, Lord's
Middlesex produced the highest score of the match to record a tense three-wicket win at Lord's. It was a performance far removed from their inept first-innings display, and Middlesex's captain, Andy Strauss, led the way with 83. Ed Joyce and Paul Weekes both made vital contributions as well, but all three fell to Sussex's James Kirtley, who was the pick of the bowlers with 4 for 87, all lbw. Kirtley took the new ball and dismissed Joyce and Weekes in the same over to set up a tense finish, but Ben Hutton and Simon Cook batted sensibly to inch Middlesex to their first victory in the top division of the championship.

Warwickshire v Essex, Edgbaston
Ashley Giles and Ronnie Irani produced a brace of stunning performances - as captains and players - to transform a soggy mess of a match into a thrilling tie. They agreed to forfeit one innings each, after the best part of two days had been lost to rain, which left Essex needing 381 to win. Irani led the way with a rollicking 87, adding 132 for the fifth wicket with Andy Flower, but Giles (5 for 115) matched him every step of the way. Essex still needed 81 to win when Irani was sixth man out, but sensible contributions all down the order ensured the tightest finish imaginable.

Division Two

Hampshire v Glamorgan, Cardiff
Matthew Maynard continued his majestic start to the season, by converting his overnight 63 into his 53rd first-class century. But that was the sole highlight of another drab rain-hit day in Cardiff. After Glamorgan had replied well to Hampshire's impressive 531 for 7 dec, there was no prospect of a result, and play was called off at tea. Wasim Akram grabbed his seventh wicket of the season, but the pick of Hampshire's attack was Chris Tremlett, who returned figures of 3 for 101.

Northamptonshire v Gloucestershire, Wantage Road
Jonty Rhodes cracked a delightful 128 from 131 balls century to give Northamptonshire one or two jitters at Wantage Road, but in the end the weather had the final say as the match descended into a battle for bonus points. Rhodes cracked 55 runs in just five overs before lunch, before Jack Russell and Mark Alleyne secured Gloucestershire secured their full quota of batting points with a 72-run stand for the sixth wicket. By the time Martyn Ball had added two more wickets to his five in the first innings, Gloucestershire had won the day, but not the match.

Somerset v Durham, Taunton
Somerset bounced back from the disappointment of last week's eight-run defeat against Gloucestershire, cruising to a six-wicket win over Durham. Needing another 119 runs for victory with eight wickets in hand, Peter Bowler's unbeaten 67 ensured there would be no mishap after Steve Harmison had removed Jamie Cox in the first over of the day. Bowler added 89 for the third wicket with James Bryant (51), before Richard Johnson, his confidence sky-high after a maiden first-class century last week, biffed three sixes and a four in seven balls to seal the win.