Derbyshire and Durham will each be hoping to continue their surge towards very different targets when they meet at Derby in the pick of this week’s LV= County Championship fixtures.
Durham have won five of their last six games to emerge as front-runners for the title, a 285-run trouncing of Sussex putting them 14.5 points clear of nearest challengers Yorkshire.
Yet the Division One leaders are likely to have their hands full against a Derbyshire side also finding their best form of the campaign.
After failing to win any of their first 10 championship matches, Karl Krikken’s men have earned three victories in four outings and boast renewed hope of avoiding an immediate return to the second tier.
Last week’s thrilling two-wicket win over Somerset at Taunton lifted Derbyshire out of the relegation zone - at the expense of their opponents - by a solitary point.
“We know two good performances could keep us in this division and we will put everything into getting two positive results,” said Derbyshire skipper Wayne Madsen on his club’s official website.
Left-arm seamer Jamie Harrison is available again for Durham after missing out last week with an ankle impingement. Fellow youngster Ryan Buckley also returns to a squad still shorn of the injured Mark Wood and England all-rounder Ben Stokes.
Derbyshire have added Mark Turner to the 12 players on duty at Taunton.
An unchanged Yorkshire party travels to Sussex having had a week off following their loss to Durham at Scarborough.
Tykes seamer Liam Plunkett said: “It is galling to have been leading the table for most of the season only for Durham to go clear now. The pressure is on us to respond.
“All we can do is play positive cricket and aim to win our remaining matches. There is a lot of cricket to be played and so much can happen between now and the end of September.”
Sussex welcome back England’s Matt Prior, Ireland’s Ed Joyce, their captain, and Scotland’s Matt Machan. Left-arm spinner Ashar Zaidi is included in the squad on non-contract terms following his trial with the second XI. Andy Miller boosts the seam-bowling options, while leading wicket-taker Steve Magoffin hopes to shake off a virus.
Neither Somerset nor Surrey will feel they can afford to lose at Taunton. Surrey are 15 points adrift at the foot of the table but do boast a game in hand over this week’s opponents, who suffered a morale-sapping eight-wicket defeat to Notts Outlaws in yesterday’s Yorkshire Bank 40 semi-final.
Somerset must do without seamer Jamie Overton, who played yesterday but rejoins England's NatWest Series squad today, yet have George Dockrell back from Ireland duty and Peter Trego fit again.
Likewise, Surrey have Gary Wilson back from Ireland action while Chris Tremlett is set to play after being rested last week and Zafar Ansari has recovered from a thumb injury. Arun Harinath has been dropped, with Dominic Sibley to make his first-class debut in the opening batsman’s place.
Third-placed Middlesex, 28.5 points behind Durham having played a game more, host Nottinghamshire, who have slipped perilously close to the relegation places, in the other top-flight fixture.
Middlesex are minus Toby Roland-Jones, who is likely to miss the rest of the season with a knee problem, and fellow seamer Corey Collymore, who has returned to Barbados for personal reasons but will be back for next week’s match with Yorkshire.
Notts have batsman James Taylor, who played just the second half of last week's draw with Warwickshire due to England duty, available for the whole of this game.