Notts within sight of title

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Nottinghamshire can extend their lead at the top of the table to 40 points should they succeed at the Emirates Durham ICG

Nottinghamshire have the opportunity to take a potentially decisive step towards the LV= County Championship title when they face Durham today.

Notts have a healthy 16-point cushion over second-placed Somerset at the top of Division One, and a further three-point advantage over Yorkshire in third.

With neither of their closest rivals in action this week, Notts will be keen to make best use of their game in hand at the Emirates Durham ICG, and a victory - particularly one yielding anything approaching a maximum 24-point haul - would all but seal the championship with only two matches remaining.

Notts will be without Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, both of whom remain on England duty, while Durham are missing fellow international Paul Collingwood.

Avoiding relegation is Hampshire’s primary focus, and they are boosted by the presence of Australia opener Phil Hughes for the clash with Lancashire at Liverpool.

The left-hander, who had a controversial yet successful spell with Middlesex prior to the Ashes last year, has joined on a short-term deal and will make his championship debut after scoring 32 on his first appearance for Hampshire in the Clydesdale Bank 40 defeat by Kent yesterday.

The game is likely to be Neil McKenzie’s last for the club ahead of his return to South Africa to take charge of the Highveld Lions in the Champions League.

Opening batsman Michael Carberry and seamer David Balcombe are also included in a 13-man squad but face late fitness tests, while Liam Dawson and 20-year-old Chris Wood, who has yet to play in the championship, provide cover.

Hampshire manager Giles White said: “[Liverpool] is generally a result wicket, which suits us, so we’ll go there with high hopes.

“We’ve got Phil Hughes with us now and Neil McKenzie, so our batting is strong, and hopefully we can put some runs on the board. If we can also do the right things with the ball and put it in good areas we can get the right result.”

Gareth Cross assumes Lancashire wicketkeeping responsibilities from Luke Sutton, who has announced his decision to leave the county after five seasons.

Lancashire’s title ambitions were all but ended by last week’s defeat by Notts at Trent Bridge.

Hampshire squad: Jimmy Adams, Sean Ervine, Liam Dawson, Dominic Cork (captain), James Vince, Michael Carberry, Michael Bates (wicketkeeper), Danny Briggs, James Tomlinson, Chris Wood, Neil McKenzie, Phil Hughes, David Balcombe.

Lancashire squad: Glen Chapple (captain), Karl Brown, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Mark Chilton, Steven Croft, Gareth Cross (wicketkeeper), Kyle Hogg, Paul Horton, Gary Keedy, Simon Kerrigan, Daren Powell, Sajid Mahmood, Tom Smith.

Warwickshire and Kent - third and second bottom in the table respectively on equal points - meet at Edgbaston in a match that threatens to prove crucial in the battle to beat the drop, while

In the only Division Two encounter this week, promotion-chasing Gloucestershire entertain bottom-placed Derbyshire at Bristol.