The confirmation of the Champions League - and its US$5million (A$5.27million) cashpot - threatened to overshadow first-class cricket in England this week. Yet a timely reminder of the magic of first-class cricket came in two matches, both involving Australians. Sean Ervine helped Hampshire to a nail-biting four-run win against Durham at Chester-le-Street as he contributed a fifty and 49 and his bowling contribution ought not to be overlooked.
He didn't bowl in the first innings, but second time around his nine overs went for 14 runs, including an important wicket. Ervine is now left to hope Hampshire can make it to the Twenty20 final after Western Australia dumped him at the end of their season.
His former Western Australia team-mate Justin Langer was involved in a close tussle at Taunton where Somerset finally subsided to a 40-run defeat against Yorkshire. Langer had a poor match with 4 and 10.
Even so, it can't be denied that the Champions' League buzz came just in time to warm up England's domestic Twenty20 season which kicks off this Wednesday. Adam Voges, for example, is in line for some extra practice. When Western Australia reached the Australia domestic final, along with Victoria in January, there had been plenty of excitement that they'd qualified for a dart at the cash, then things went quiet until Saturday's announcement.
Voges played his part in helping Nottinghamshire secure a draw against Lancashire at Old Trafford, who had been in the better position throughout the match. He hit 55 in the first innings and, although he received a blow on the left hand when batting in the first innings, he returned to the field the next day and had teased out an unbeaten 19. He should be fine for Twenty20, while his team-mate Darren Pattinson went wicketless in both innings.
Dirk Nannes - who qualified for the Champions League with Victoria - came back superbly for Middlesex in Essex's second innings, perhaps lifted by the news, after going for 25 from five wicketless overs in the first innings at Lord's. Marcus North's match went from good to bad as he hit 96 in the first innings for Gloucestershire, then bagged a duck as they slid away to a six-wicket defeat at the hands of a Kolpak-heavy Northamptonshire at Northampton.
Chris Rogers and Steve Magoffin - whose sides are both in the Champions League - did little to alter the final result at Chesterfield. While Magoffin topscored in Worcestershire's first innings, with 33 out of their 151, he couldn't help them second time around, with 6, and when Jonathan Clare dismissed him that was the end. Rogers had made 14 and didn't need to bat a second time. Jason Gillespie was on the losing end for Glamorgan against Warwickshire. He was economical but wicketless in the first innings, and in the second went at 4.80 per over snaring two victims as Glamorgan lost by five wickets at Cardiff.
In the one-day tournament there were plenty of Australian fallers in the quarter-finals of the FP Trophy. Only Michael Di Venuto made it through to the last four with Durham in a tight one-wicket win at Chester-le-Street against Nottinghamshire. Di Venuto watched his side nearly throw it away after he had made 70. He fell with the score 129 for 3, but although there were plenty of slip-ups, they scraped home. Voges made 13 and Pattinson took 2 for 46 for the visitors.
North's Gloucestershire ducked out at the quarter-final stage as they subsided to Yorkshire at Bristol, North caught behind off Matthew Hoggard for 1. Langer was also a loser as Somerset subsided to Kent, going down by 37 runs at Beckenham.