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Gloucestershire Gladiators wrapped up the division two title with a 52-run victory over Derbyshire Scorpions at Bristol.
The Gladiators set a formidable total of 292 in their 45 overs, based upon valuable performances by several members of the side. 'Jack' Russell (42) and Craig Spearman (81 in 67 balls) ensured a great start for the hosts with an opening stand of 111. Tim Hancock (45 from 39 balls) and Mark Alleyne (54 from 49 balls) then continued the good work as the Scorpions bowlers suffered. Both Graeme Welch and Neil Gunther conceded 80 from their nine overs.
For a while it looked as though the Scorpions might manage the run chase. Chris Bassano (61) brushed aside the early loss of Michael Di Venuto and Steven Selwood (93) added 123 for the sixth wicket with Matt Dowman (45). But Gladiators' giants Jo Angel made a double breakthrough and there proved to be is no sting in this Scorpions tale. The last five wickets fell for the addition of just one run.
The Scorpions slip into the bottom four, a serious predicament these days as it means playing a third round tie against first-class opposition in next year's C&G Trophy.
Elsewhere Surrey Lions ensured their own promotion when Essex Eagles snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by collapsing in dramatic fashion.
To be fair to the Lions bowlers they stuck to their task when all seemed lost, and produced some nerveless overs at the death to defend a total of just 162.
Eagles were poised at 137-4, chasing just another 26 to reach the 163 required for victory with Ronnie Irani well set on 41 when Martin Bicknell bowled the Eagles captain, ending a stand of 74 with Paul Grayson, and started a dramatic collapse.
Adam Hollioake had Paul Grayson and Jon Dakin caught behind to drag his side back into the game but even at 159-7 - needing just four more - the home side should still have won.
But Ed Giddins bowled Mark Pettini and Ashley Cowan on that score and Hollioake, impressive as ever under pressure, trapped Joe Grant with the score on 160 to earn the visitors victory by two runs.
The Essex Eagles remain in a promotion position too, but if they should miss out in the last couple of games of the season (Northants Steelbacks could still catch them, though they missed a golden opportunity today, going done to Lancashire Lightening) this is the day they will rue.
Though Surrey Lions (whose final game is a tough encounter against the top team, Gloucestershire Gladiators) could be caught by either the Eagles or Steelbacks, the fact that the two chasing sides have to play each other means that Surrey are assured of first division NUL cricket next year.
Lancashire Lightning were indebted to Stuart Law for their 98-run victory over Northants Steelbacks. Law made 133 from just 99 balls, putting on 185 with Mark Chilton (61) for the second wicket, and helping his side to a challenging 270-5 from their allocation.
The Steelbacks never looked likely to win, with only David Sales (41) and Tim Bailey (44 not out) progressing beyond 20. Peter Martin continued his good season with 3-18, while Law underlined his fantastic worth to any side with 3-41.
Lightning move above Derbyshire Scorpions and out of the bottom four in the second division, while Steelbacks will feel they have missed a great opportunity to strengthen their promotion challenge.
In the top division at Taunton the already relegated Somerset Sabres enjoyed a rare victory in their disappointing season as they grounded Kent Spitfires, who are still in the race for a top-three finish.
The Sabres continued their policy of trying out some of the younger and rarely used players and were well rewarded with a fine century from Piran Holloway.
Holloway was one of the one-day players of the year in 1999, but has enjoyed few happy days since. Until today his highest score of the season in List A cricket was just 16, but that was all forgotten as he struck an unbeaten 112 to help Sabres to 244-6 in their 45 overs. Jamie Cox, with 41 and Keith Dutch 34, gave him sensible support.
With its charming surroundings and excellent pitch, Taunton is a popular venue for most cricketers. But Kent must be fed up with the place. Somerset scuppered their C&G aspirations a few weeks ago and today they did a similar thing for the Spitfires' hopes of a place in the top three.
Former Somerset favourite Steve Waugh struck a defiant 53 and Rob Key 32, but 79-1 became 126 all out as the Spitfires nose-dived in spectacular style. New England call-up Ian Blackwell finished with 4-24, remarkably all the victims of stumpings by 'keeper, Robbie Turner.
Sabres stay bottom with Spitfires now unlikely to finish in the top three.
Elsewhere in the top division Leicestershire Foxes breezed to victory over Yorkshire Phoenix. Neither side has too much to play for, being safe from relegation but adrift of the leaders so Phoneix took the opportunity to try out a few young players. It soon backfired as they succumbed to 45-7, but a stand of 89 between Richard Blakey (a one-day season's best of 60) and Richard Dawson (a career-best one-day effort of 41) revived them somewhat and they finished on 153. Javagal Srinath finished with 3-18 from his nine overs, while Jamie Grove and Vince Wells each took a brace.
The Foxes hurried to victory as if they had a plane to catch, with Iain Sutcliffe (54 not out in just 46 balls), Darren Stevens (30 in 19 balls) and Vince Wells (48 in 33 balls) all enjoying themselves. The Phoenix bowlers, however, may not look back on the day with such pleasure, as their bowling figures will remind them.
YorkshireSurreySomersetNorthamptonshireMiddlesexLeicestershireLancashireKentGloucestershireEssexDerbyshireEnglandNational League 1st DivisionNational League Division OneNational League Division TwoNorwich Union League Division TwoNorwich Union League Division OneNorwich Union League Division TwoNorwich Union League Division OneEngland Domestic Season