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Champions chase elusive victory

Reigning champions Durham remain without Graham Onions and Jamie Harrison as they chase a first win of their Division One campaign.

Lancashire are the visitors to Emirates Durham ICG on Sunday in a meeting of the two teams who won silverware in the LV= County Championship last season.

Neither have enjoyed the current year quite as much, as they find themselves in the bottom three having shared one victory in 15 games.

Onions is still ruled out with a back problem for the hosts while Harrison's knee injury keeps him on the sidelines.

The Red Rose, meanwhile, are expected to hand a debut to overseas signing Usman Khawaja as they look for a first win in six games.

Skipper Glen Chapple is under no illusions about how important both this game and the one against Northamptonshire next weekend are for Lancashire's survival hopes. 

"I think we have to win one of those two games, if not both the games, to climb the table to the height we want to be,” he said.

Glen Chapple hopes to be celebrating at the Emirates Durham ICG, as 2013's Division Two winners face the reigning Division One champions“We want to be as high in the table as we possibly can, and there is still every chance that we can get up there. 

"We still think that we're gaining momentum - we're gaining a quality in our performances. 

“We're definitely making improvements, and we've got two big games coming up. We're hopeful of some good results.” 

The other team in that bottom trio is Northamptonshire, and the basement boys will look for their first triumph when they host Warwickshire, who - in sixth - will be desperate to move back into the reckoning at the other end.

The Bears are boosted by the return of skipper Jim Troughton, who has not played for the first team this season after undergoing surgery on his back in January. He scored a century for the second XI against Durham this week, and has been named in a 14-man squad for the trip.

Jonathan Trott will not be involved, despite scoring 138 in the same game, but Chris Woakes is having been left out of England's first Test against Sri Lanka at Lord's.

Second-placed Yorkshire need six points from their game away against Sussex - which starts on Monday - to go to the top of Division One with leaders Somerset not in action.

Jim Troughton, left, could make his first appearance of the season after recovering from back surgery

In Division Two, third-placed Essex hope to cut the gap on Hampshire in second when the two sides meet at the Ageas Bowl.

The difference curently stands at 34 points, but Essex head coach Paul Grayson is confident his side can eat into that.

"Our performances in the last two four-day games have been much improved and I think that but for the intervention of the weather during both those games, we might have gone onto get a couple of good results," he said.

"We did have a three-game blip against Leicestershire, Worcestershire and Surrey when we played at a pretty average level particularly with the bat but we asked for a positive response and got it.

"We (now) face a tough battle with Hampshire. At the start of the season, I fancied Hampshire to be there or thereabouts to go up, I think they've invested pretty well over the winter. 

"They've made a good start to the season but we are going down there in a positive mood with the intention of trying to win the game. That's the first thing on our minds but if we can't win it, we'll try to take plenty of bonus points and move onto the next game."

Hampshire welcome back Kyle Abbott to their squad after the South African seamer was rested against Worcestershire, meaning there is no room for Glenn Maxwell.

Kyle Abbott, centre, is back in the Hampshire squad having been rested for county's draw against Worcestershire

Derbyshire have named an unchaged squad following their first win of the campaign against Leicestershire last week - which saw the relegated side move off the foot of the table.

They host Surrey, who are still smarting from being unable to dislodge Ian Cockbain in their draw against Gloucestershire. Surrey recall Tom Curran, the seamer having missed the high-scoring game due to his A-Level exams. 

Glamorgan and Kent will follow up their NatWest T20 Blast thriller on Friday night with a four-day game that pits sixth versus seventh.

Both teams have played a game less than all those above them in the standings, which means the clash at the SWALEC Stadium is a huge opportunity for the winner.

Kent have replaced vice-captain Sam Northeast with Fabian Cowdrey, while Calum Haggett has been named as 12th man.

It's bottom versus top at Grace Road as Worcestershire look to continue their fine form with victory over Leicestershire.

Richard Jones, who joined Leicestershire on loan this week, is in their 14-man squad alongside fit-again Nathan Buck and Charlie Shreck but Ollie Freckingham and Alex Wyatt are injured.

Worcestershire have named Tom Kohler-Cadmore in their squad alongside the 11 players who competed against Hampshire.

LV= County Championship stats

* Paul Collingwood hit his last Championship century (114) in the last Championship meeting between Durham and Lancashire, at Aigburth in August 2012. 

* Warwickshire are unbeaten in their last 10 Championship visits to Northamptonshire, winning seven times and drawing three in this run.

* The home team has failed to win any of the last eight Championship meetings between Sussex and Yorkshire (six draws, two away wins).

* In their match against Gloucestershire, Surrey recorded the third highest lead on first innings (514) in a Championship match since 1937.

* In that match Rory Burns, Zafar Ansari and Jason Roy all recorded career-best scores. Roy also produced his best bowling performance, of 3-9 from four overs.

* Of those to deliver at least 100 overs in Division Two, Michael Hogan (35.2) and Graham Wagg (42.9) have two of the six lowest bowling strike rates.

* Against Kent Jesse Ryder took five wickets in both innings to record career-best match figures of 10-110. Before that match he had never taken more than four wickets in an innings.

* The last five Championship meetings between Leicestershire and Worcestershire at Grace Road have produced a winner, with the away team winning the last three.

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