On the final day of the Pro40 Division Two league, Durham and Somerset earned automatic promotion, with Durham the champions, while Middlesex will now play off against the third-from-bottom team from Division One
Durham fans have waited a long time - well, 16 years to be precise - for a season such as this. They picked up their first-ever silverware with the Friends Provident Trophy earlier this month and have now added the Pro40 Division Two champions title thanks to their 70-run victory against Glamorgan at Chester-le-Street. Once they've sipped some more champagne and caught their breath, they will head to Canterbury for the final Championship match where they also have a slim chance of picking up the ultimate county title, too.
A whopping 271 for 8 gave them a solid headstart - with fifties from Michael Di Venuto and Dale Benkenstein - and their bowlers duly did the rest. Ottis Gibson was inevitably in on the act, and he removed opener Richard Grant for 1, before returning for Robert Croft (5), while Liam Plunkett and Gareth Breese also took some vital wickets.
Speaking of vital, Middlesex earned the promotion play-off place with a crucial seven-wicket win against Somerset at Taunton thanks to a pair of cool Eds. Joyce (77) and Smith's (80) opening stand of 154 paved the way for Andrew Strauss to chase down their target of 212 with three overs left. Earlier, Somerset recovered from 25 for 3, thanks to Justin Langer's 54 and Neil McKenzie's 86, but Middlesex checked the innings late on, to reduce them from 203 for 5 to 211 for 9.
They will now go forward to a home play-off on 23 September against the third-from-bottom in Division One. They will find out their opposition following the conclusion of the Division One season on Sunday.
Somerset, leaders heading into this match, couldn't quite grab the title, but will settle for automatic promotion at the end of a satisfying summer which Andrew Caddick described to Cricinfo recently as "very cut and dried".
Surrey pulled off a last-ball, last-wicket, last-gasp victory against Leicestershire at Grace Road - only to lose out on the play-off place to Middlesex whose net run rate, of +4.82 was only slightly superior than Surrey's, at +4.00. Surrey will look back on their near-miss against Somerset this week and think what could have been - though they have the consolation of Championship safety.
Tim New and James Sadler made fifties to lift Leicestershire to 221, while Surrey's youth trio - average age 19 - did the damage with the ball. There were three wickets each for Chris Jordan and Rory Hamilton-Brown, and two for Jade Dernbach. James Benning had a forgettable match, his one over going for 22 and out for a duck, starting off Surrey's innings poorly - he and fellow opener Scott Newman left their side 16 for 2.
Surrey then turned to their old heads, Mark Ramprakash (72) and Mark Butcher (62), who took them within striking distance - and Matt Nicholson (57*) weighed in with a half-century of his own to secure the narrowest of wins on the last ball after nearly running out of partners. Leicestershire's bowling youngsters also showed their best - Jerome Taylor and Jigad Naik both grabbing three wickets - but it wasn't enough.
Michael Vaughan's 95 set up Yorkshire's dead-rubber victory against Derbyshire at Headingley . Yorkshire amassed 236 for 5 which proved far from assailable, crushing the visitors by 107 runs. Deon Kruis led the way with four wickets.