Stevens Sinks Sussex
Darren Stevens already had two half-centuries in the match at Hove but on the fourth morning, in a closely contested fixture, he provided the decisive passage of cricket. Sussex's opening pair of Nash and Finch had put on 59 without too much trouble but they were suddenly 83 for six, Stevens taking five of the six wickets. Matt Coles took three as Sussex were then dismissed for 200, a substantial defeat. It's been a great week for one of the County Championship's elder statesmen and, just a fortnight before his 41st birthday, it's fair to say his appearance shows his age more than, say, the evergreen Kumar Sangakkara. What's in no doubt is the all-rounder's enduring effectiveness at this level. And let's take a moment to remember Sam Northeast's innings at the end of day three - a brutal evening session saw him to 173 not out and set up the final day for the Kent bowlers.
Hampshire Run Out of Steam
This game threatened to catch fire on a few occasions, only to splutter and cough, but it was keenly contested throughout and nearly gave us a grandstand finish. Middlesex had to fight tooth and nail in the second innings and were grateful to a wagging tail as they recovered, both from 135 for eight and 215 for nine, to make it to the handshake of safety. The prognosis on Fidel Edwards' hamstring will be important for Hampshire's prospects this season, but to follow up a great win at Headingley by having the upper hand in this arm-wrestle with the champions shows they are a side to be reckoned with.
Honours Even at the Oval
Lancashire dominated the second and third days of this match and, on a grey morning at the Kia Oval, they had real hopes of forcing a win, even more so when Stephen Parry drew Mark Stoneman down the pitch mid-morning and Alex Davies demolished the stumps. Unfortunately for them, Kumar Sangakkara and Scott Borthwick then settled in for the long haul. Using boundaries economically they had no delusions of victory, but they made sure that Lancashire's captain Liam Livingstone, bowling himself and his two frontline spinners heavily, never got a sniff of a breakthrough. When Sangakkara was finally bowled around his legs for 136, the captains shook hands on a draw to leave Borthwick unbeaten, and it was a result well-earned by both sides.
250 run partnership between Sangakkara and Borthwick, an incredible achievement given the game situation 👏👏👏— Surrey Cricket (@surreycricket) April 17, 2017
Barnstorming Finish at Derby
Declaration cricket isn't for the purists, but we did get an awesome finish at Derby and what more could you ask for? While Billy Godleman & Luis Reece probably did feel a little self-conscious about their record-breaking opening stand of 333 for Derbyshire, few begrudged them the odd freebie after they batted so well on the third evening. The target of 326 to win looked a fair chase in two sessions, but the ballistic capabilities of the Northants line-up are strong and deep, and they made light work of the run-rate before the nerves set in. Richard Levi was the only Northants player not to bowl a ball in Derbyshire's second innings, but he got his money's worth from the game, scoring 99 to back up Rob Newton's 98 before the pressure told. Levi looked a certainty to pass 100 when he popped up a catch to Gary Wilson off Jeevan Mendis; Max Holden then holed out on 44 and the nerves set in. Four an over quickly became a run a ball, and it came down to the penultimate ball of the match when an uncharacteristically shaky Rory Kleinveldt cleared the boundary to seal the win. Declaration cricket, ladies and gents, is proper cricket.
Keaton Carries Bat but Notts Triumph
An unbeaten second-innings century from Keaton Jennings, watched by England selector James Whittaker, wasn't enough as his lower-order colleagues fell regularly on the final morning at Chester-le-Street. Durham were all out for 250 half-way through the session and Notts strolled to their victory target of 108 shortly after lunch. With Stuart Broad sitting this one out, Jake Ball had been a more than capable replacement and he combined well with James Pattinson and match-winner Luke Fletcher to torment Durham's mixed-experience order. Home fans will have been kicking themsleves to see the heavens open an hour after the conclusion to this match, but in truth they had been second best...just. The match pivoted on a brave first-innings partnership between Samit Patel, batting at number three, and Michael Lumb. They came together with Notts seven for three and put on 85, enabling Luke Fletcher and James Pattinson to open their arms later in the innings. Another close game but back-to-back wins for Notts who have come through two tough fixtures to cement their position as Division Two title favourites.