Warwickshire have been crowned as the 2004 County Champions, after Sussex - the previous title-holders and the only team that could have caught them - slumped to defeat in a topsy-turvy encounter against Middlesex.
Victory was the last thing on Middlesex's minds, after they had been bundled out for 135 in their first innings, but although Sussex helped themselves to a useful 142-run lead, they were powerless second-time around, and themselves slipped to 141 all out, after losing two wickets for no runs in the first over.
Mushtaq Ahmed, the man whose 100-wicket haul sealed the Championship last year, did his utmost to salvage the situation. He smacked 49 not out from No. 9, and followed up with three wickets, but Middlesex powered to victory, thanks to a century from their former captain, Owais Shah, and 50 not out from Paul Weekes.
It was an important win for Middlesex, who have eased their relegation fears, while plunging Sussex right back into the mire. They now face a crucial battle against Gloucestershire, while Worcestershire - who currently occupy the third relegation spot - take on Lancashire, who are seemingly doomed.
Elsewhere, Northamptonshire moved ever closer to the drop, as their dismal season continued with a 194-run defeat against Kent at Canterbury. Needing an improbable 582 for victory, they put up a fight through the efforts of Jeff Cook (114) and David Sales, who made 92 as the tail folded around him. Kent's star bowler was their Under-19 international, Simon Cusden, who took four wickets.
In the second division, Somerset completed a convincing rout of Nottinghamshire, who were off the boil for a change, having already secured their return to the top flight. It was left to a man who might have been featuring in the Champions Trophy, Ian Blackwell, to apply the coup de grace, picking up 7 for 90.
County Championship Division One
Middlesex 135 and 285 for 5 (Shah 108, Weekes 50*) beat Sussex 277 and 141 by five wickets
County Championship Division Two
Somerset 654 for 8 dec (Cox 250, Wood 113, Hildreth 108) and 1 for 0 beat Nottinghamshire 337 and 317 (Bicknell 142, Blackwell 7-90) by 10 wickets at Trent Bridge
Day 1 report: Ealham keeps Notts on course - The Times
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