Essex grasped the momentum against Kent at Chelmsford, bowling out the visitors for 205 and enforcing the follow-on. The hosts only added 40 to their overnight 330 for 7, and James Foster was an early victim, falling for 99, but Essex's bowlers made quick inroads into a shaky Kent line-up. Chris Wright and David Masters helped reduce them to 96 for 6, before there was a late and much-needed salvage operation from Wayne Parnell, who carved 69 from 80 balls with two sixes and nine fours. However, Maurice Chambers and Danish Kaneria mopped up the rest to dismiss Kent for 205, and Wright then made an early inroad with the new ball in Kent's second innings to leave them in a perilous position going into the third day.
An intriguing final day is in store at Wantage Road tomorrow with Northamptonshire requiring 171 runs to beat Gloucestershire, but only have five wickets in hand. The visitors were very well placed at the start of the day, on 105 for 1 in their second innings, but crumbled to 237 all out. Hamish Marshall and Chris Taylor each made fifties but there was little else in support as David Lucas added three more wickets to end with 4 for 39. However, Northamptonshire also suffered from a batting wobble and were reduced to 102 for 5 chasing 371 before Andrew Hall (50*) and David Willey (43*) stiffened their resolve with an unbeaten sixth-wicket stand of 98. The match is wide open with one day to go.
Middlesex were able to enforce the follow-on against Leicestershire at Southgate but found the visitors harder to break down for a second time. Boeta Dippenaar led the defiance as he moved to 85, adding an unbroken 96 for the third wicket with fellow South Africa, HD Ackerman. Dippenaar had earlier put on 79 with Tom New after Matthew Boyce was trapped leg-before early on by Tim Murtagh. The Middlesex attack had done an efficient job of wrapping up Leicestershire's first innings after Alan Richardson removed Josh Cobb for 60. James Taylor's 69-ball nine was cut off by Murtagh and Dawid Malan's part-time legspin claimed two lower-order scalps.
There was no play between Glamorgan and Derbyshire at Cardiff due to rain.
Adam Voges was the cornerstone of the Nottinghamshire batting with 95 as the battled hard to build a lead of over Lancashire at Old Trafford. Rain and bad light cut into the second day and for much of the time available it was closely-fought battle. Oliver Newby and Glen Chapple struck during the morning session to keep Lancashire in the game, but Voges began to take control. He lost Ali Brown for 21 before adding 67 with Chris Read and was approaching his century when, for the second time in a week, was cut-off short when Newby trapped him lbw. Graeme Swann bagged a duck and Lancashire had hopes of wrapping up the tail, but Read's good form continued as he and Paul Franks batted through to the early close on 263 for 6.
Rain washed out any chance of play at The Rose Bowl between Hampshire and Sussex.
For a full report from the third day between Somerset and Durham at Taunton click here.
For a full report from the third day between Yorkshire and Worcestershire at Headingley click here.