Durham edge closer to glory
Durham are close to seeing off the notional threat from Nottinghamshire but must still convert their domination into a handful more points at Riverside to confirm a second successive LV= County Championship title.
Nottinghamshire and Somerset remain the two teams who can still, mathematically at least, stop Durham - but the northerners are set to eliminate both over the next two days.
They finally allowed Notts an opportunity to bat on the second afternoon, declaring on 648 for five declared.
Michael Di Venuto failed to add to his overnight 219, going to the first ball this morning from Luke Fletcher. But Shivnarine Chanderpaul (109 not out) and Dale Benkenstein (105) made it four individual hundreds in the innings, in the process sharing a fourth-wicket stand of 203.
Both men hit just eight fours, Benkenstein adding a six too from 178 balls and Chanderpaul staying put for 222.
Notts replied with 65 for two at stumps and know they must better 400 tomorrow to stay standing as one of the two clubs who can keep Durham’s celebrations on hold.
Somerset’s hopes of disputing the title are in the realms of fantasy but they are handily placed against Lancashire and doing enough to make Durham work a little more yet, despite a career-best 173 for Paul Horton in the visitors’ 344 all out at Taunton.
Opener Horton finished with 28 boundaries from 287 balls faced. But his opposite number Marcus Trescothick duly responded in kind with 102 at the top of the order for Somerset - 18 fours and two sixes from 145 balls - in an opening stand of 193 with Arul Suppiah (95). At stumps, Somerset were 266 for three.
Relegation will surely be the only live issue in the final two rounds of matches - and Hampshire are taking their chance against already-doomed Worcestershire to try to ensure they will not be the second team going down.
They could turn 357 for eight into only 383 all out at New Road, where occasional off-spinner Moeen Ali finished with a career-best 4-29.
But bottom club Worcestershire swiftly found themselves in the all-too-familiar position of following on - after being bowled out for just 159, leg-spinner Imran Tahir taking 4-18.
They stumbled to six for three second time round, Dominic Cork taking 3-1, but recovered to 102 for four to at least take the match into its third day.
Sussex cannot breathe easily yet, and have already conceded a first-innings deficit of 48 and counting to Warwickshire at Hove.
The visitors closed on 302 for five, thanks largely to a 210-ball 104 from England batsman Ian Bell which contained 17 fours.
Division Two leaders Kent continued their pursuit of this summer’s top spot with a first innings of Durham proportions, thanks to Darren Stevens (208) and Justin Kemp (138 not out) in their 652 for seven declared against bottom club Middlesex at Uxbridge.
Stevens equalled his career-best, having hit 34 fours from 255 balls, and shared a fifth-wicket stand of 228 with Kemp - who finished with 18 fours and a six from 201 deliveries.
Middlesex’s batsmen found things less easy and closed on 109 for four.
Second-placed Northamptonshire are fighting a losing battle to stay in touch with Kent but do appear set for a first-innings lead against struggling Surrey at the Brit Oval.
The hosts were 305 for five overnight but could muster only 376 all out. Northants replied with 331 for four by stumps, on the back of hundreds from Niall O’Brien and Riki Wessels.
Opener O’Brien hit 17 fours and a six in his 181-ball 128, while Wessels’ more aggressive 109 came at better than a run a ball and featured 15 fours and three sixes.
Glamorgan’s match at home to Essex began a day after everyone else’s - and after choosing to bat first, they posted 311 all out.
Opener Gareth Rees (122) was the mainstay, collecting 10 fours from 245 balls and defying the constant threat posed by prolific leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, who claimed 7-111.