DURHAM PROMOTED TO DIVISION ONE
For the first time since 2016, Durham will play their red-ball cricket in Division One in 2024. Their promotion under the helm of head coach Ryan Campbell and captain Scott Borthwick has been a thrill-a-minute, their swashbuckling style helping them to six wins with two matches remaining. Promotion was confirmed during a week in which they do not play, with Leicestershire failing to claim any batting bonus points at Sussex.
In Alex Lees, Durham have the leading run-scorer in the division, his 1281 runs his best-ever seasonal return, and he has done it at a fair lick, striking at 74. Ollie Robinson (835) and David Bedingham (824) complete the club's top three scorers, both scoring even faster. It means 14 of their 19 innings have been at more than four an over, and they've gone big so often too. Their 46 batting bonus points is 16 more than any other Division Two team.
Durham's maximum batting bonus points
Their wickets have not been quite as spread around. Ben Raine and Matthew Potts have dominated with the ball, taking 51 wickets each. Next on the list is Brydon Carse and loan signing Matt Parkinson, both with 19. But Potts has proved the quality which got him international recognition and Raine has continued his consistent county form - since his 2013 Championship debut, only seven bowlers have more wickets.
The visit to Worcestershire in the penultimate round gives Durham a chance of the Division Two title, to put the cherry on top of a magnificent red-ball season.
SUSSEX WIN NAIL-BITER
When Leicestershire were dismissed for 108 in their first innings, trailing Sussex by 154, few would've expected the match at The 1st Central County Ground to be a thriller. Fewer still when the hosts racked up 344, setting Leicestershire a target of 499.
It would've been the 10th-highest successful chase in first-class history, and the third-highest ever in the County Championship. And for a long while, it looked like they would get it. Colin Ackermann's brilliant 134 alongside Umar Amin's 94 helped them to need 278 in the final day. Half-centuries for Ben Cox and Tom Scriven got them closer.
But Sussex signed the international quality of Jaydev Unadkat for good reason. 46 runs were needed at Tea, after which Unadkat claimed two of the three wickets remaining. With 43 needed, hope looked lost. But Chris Wright and Matthew Salisbury would not give in, Wright smashing two successive sixes against the club he's joining next season. Palpable tension, broken by Unadkat with 16 to win by bowling Wright.
Unadkat finished with 6/94, Sussex finished with 20 points which keeps them well in the hunt for promotion, and the watching public finished with an afternoon of cricket they're unlikely to forget.
BURGESS SALVAGES BEARS WIN AFTER SANDERSON HAT-TRICK
Warwickshire were 108 runs behind on first innings, and still batting, going into the final day at Edgbaston. So, an agreement between captains Will Rhodes and Luke Procter: Warwickshire allow Northamptonshire to level out their -5 over rate, then allow the visitors to set a target which kept both sides interested.
That target became 176 in 60 overs and to many observers, that seemed generous. When Ben Sanderson got into his work, it seemed less so. In his fourth over, he had Rhodes caught in the slips, bowled Sam Hain first up with a peach, and then saw Dan Mousley edge to fourth slip a ball later to complete Northamptonshire's first first-class hat-trick in 13 years.
A wicket later and, at 24/5, hope looked lost for the Bears. Enter Michael Burgess, who batted nearly three hours, dragging the match slowly but surely back into his side's favour. He wasn't alone: Oliver Hannon-Dalby put on 52 in 103 with the wicket-keeper, with Burgess smashing sixes into the Hollies Stand in three successive Jack White overs, the last of which sealed an epic two-wicket victory, and leaves the visitors 32 points from safety at the bottom of Division One.
DANE VILAS LEAVES THE COUNTY SCENE
Dane Vilas announced in the middle of August that he would be retiring from county cricket at the end of the season. But his departure from Emirates Old Trafford has come sooner than advertised, the South African choosing instead to bow out on a high: a 10th first-class hundred for Lancashire in what he decided should be his last.
Since signing a Kolpak deal with Lancashire in 2017, Vilas has been an excellent servant for the club. He played in 87 first-class matches (plus 39 List A and 85 T20 matches - 211 in all), captaining the club in 54 of those (plus 11 List A and 61 T20). Only in the Covid-19-reduced 2020 season did Vilas not score a red-ball century.
His farewell, on a personal level at least in a drawn match, was perfect, his 124 helping Lancashire recover from 96/3 to 330/5 in pursuit of a position from which they could win. Vilas stroked the ball around for the first half of his innings, and then didn't strike a boundary between being on 55 and 99, but as he cut the ball to the boundary to bring up three figures for the final time in the English game, no one would begrudge him the moment - certainly not his teammates on the balcony or the fans at Emirates Old Trafford, who provided a standing ovation.