In contrast to the Northamptonshire batting on the second day, Essex took a more considered approach to their first innings in Northampton and it paid off as they reached 256 for 2. The top four all passed fifty and Ravi Bopara was unbeaten on 65, with Mark Pettini having reached a brisk 50 off 57 balls with three sixes. The platform was laid by an opening stand of 113 between recent signing John Maunders (62) and Jason Gallian (72). Monty Panesar made the breakthrough when he had Maunders - who had driven him over extra cover for six - caught off bat and pad. Spin also claimed the second strike when Gallian lofted to mid-on against Nicky Boje. However, Bopara and Pettini accumulated steadily during the final session and have so far added 88 for the third wicket. The route of this match depends on what negotiations Pettini and Boje have in the morning.
Life was breathed into the contest at Grace Road thanks to a collapse by Gloucestershire and a declaration by Leicestershire. Garnett Kruger took five for 57, his first five-wicket haul of the season and best figures for Leicestershire, as the visitors fell away to 281 all out after starting the day on 223 for 3. In total, Gloucestershire lost all ten wickets for 95 after an opening stand of 186. Their bowlers also made early inroads, Jon Lewis nipping out three as Leicestershire stuttered to 71 for 4. Young and old steadied the innings as Josh Cobb and Paul Nixon added 98 before Nixon pulled out 112 behind to set up a final-day run chase. However, Gloucestershire's attempts for some quick runs in the closing stages didn't quite go to plan as they slipped to 42 for 3 against Jacques du Toit's part-time offerings.
Click here for John Ward's report of Somerset against Durham at Taunton
Click here for Andrew McGlashan's report of Surrey against Hampshire at The Oval