It's going to be an interesting final day for Derbyshire and Durham, while Leicestershire's Clint McKay provided them with opening day bowling joy.
DERBYSHIRE v DURHAM
Alex Hughes ended a lean run with his first century of the season to give Derbyshire the edge on the third day of the Division Two match against Durham at Chesterfield.
Hughes had scored only one 50 in the County Championship this summer but he found form at the right time as his 108 out of 214 set Durham 282 for victory.
The century maker said: "It's probably my favourite hundred so far, I felt under pressure coming into the game with not really performing how I wanted to.
"I've played well at times without getting the runs and cricket is a very fickle game so days like this keep you loving it," he added.
Paul Coughlin had made an unbeaten 73 in Durham’s first innings 301 before he and Chris Rushworth blew away Derbyshire’s top order but Hughes led a recovery and at the close, the visitors were 36 without loss with an intriguing final day in prospect.
Durham had started day three needing to limit Derbyshire’s lead as much as possible and Coughlin and Barry McCarthy took their ninth wicket stand to 90 in 26 overs before Gurjit Sandhu wrapped up the innings with the second new ball by trapping McCarthy and Rushworth lbw in consecutive overs.
But a lead of 67 was still a handy one on a pitch where the bounce was likely to become increasingly variable although it was Durham who threatened to take control when Rushworth and Coughlin reduced the hosts to 31 for 3.
Rushworth struck with the third ball of the innings by having Ben Slater caught at first slip and Coughlin found some late inswing to pluck out Billy Godleman’s off stump.
When Wayne Madsen edged Rushworth behind, Durham sensed the door was opening but Hughes, first with Luis Reece and then with Matt Critchley, closed it again.
Derbyshire’s lead was past 150 when Reece was caught on the crease by Coughlin and Durham’s inability to build sustained pressure allowed Hughes and Critchley to add 52 in 16 overs.
Hughes has struggled for runs this season but he found the right combination of watchfulness and aggression to ensure Durham’s target would be a testing one.
To their credit, Durham’s inexperienced attack plugged away and they had another opportunity when three wickets fell in eight balls, one to a fine low catch at first slip by Paul Collingwood who, at 41, remains an outstanding fielder.
But just as he had in the first innings, Gurjit Sandhu frustrated his former colleagues as another 47 runs were added and Hughes deservedly completed the third century of his career with his 15th four before he failed to dispatch Ryan Pringle into the trees.
Time was not a factor for Durham but the 17 overs before the close was potentially a defining passage in the game and Michael Richardson and Cameron Steel came through unscathed to reduce the target to 246.
KENT v NORTHAMPTONSHIRE
Northamptonshire batsmen Max Holden and Adam Rossington filled their boots in sublime batting conditions at Beckenham where Northamptonshire reached 528 for seven in their first-innings reply to Kent’s mammoth 701 for seven declared.
The visiting fifth-wicket partners joined forces to bat through the entire mid-session and well into the final hour before Holden fell for a career-best 153. Soon after, Rossington followed him back to the pavilion for a season’s best 112 leaving Kent’s rookie seamer Matt Hunn to finish a tiring day with decent figures of three for 90.
Requiring 552 simply to avoid the follow-on, Northamptonshire resumed on their overnight score of 180 for one and suffered a huge blow to their survival aspirations when England batsman Ben Duckett perished to only the sixth ball of the day.
The diminutive left-hander, who hit a sublime double century on this ground last season, leant back to club Matt Coles’ fourth ball through mid-on to move to 105 but, in aiming an expansive drive two deliveries later, Duckett edged behind to Sam Billings, who was standing in for Adam Rouse behind the timbers.
Coles gave way at the Beckenham End after a spirited seven-over spell of one for 26 to be replaced by Hunn, who also enjoyed success in his first over of the day. Alex Wakely, the Northamptonshire skipper, misjudged the line of Hunn’s fourth delivery, shouldering arms to one that pegged back off stump to make it 219 for two.
At the Worsley Bridge Road End, Pakistan wrist-spinner Yasir Shah whirled away in a wicketless, 11-over opening stint. He got the occasional delivery to turn, while one to Holden spat alarmingly from the footholds, only to balloon to safety.
Yasir then switched ends to bamboozle Rob Keogh (19) with a darting top-spinner that rushed past Keogh’s back-foot force to peg back off stump in the penultimate over before lunch. It proved to be Yasir’s sole success from 34 overs bowled during the day.
Kent took the second new ball immediately after the re-start and, despite lung-busting efforts by Coles and Mitch Claydon, they were unable to make any impact other than beating the outside edge half-a-dozen times.
Pretty soon, spinners Tredwell and Yasir were twirling away in tandem with three or four close fielders around the bat, but Northamptonshire stood firm with Holden, the Middlesex loanee, reaching a patient half-century from 146 balls, with only five fours.
Rossington, the more aggressive of the pair, needed only 59 deliveries to reach the milestone hitting seven fours and a six along the way as Kent continued to toil throughout the mid-session without success.
After tea, Holden, the wiry left-hander, notched his second century in Northamptonshire’s colours from 216 balls and with 13 boundaries,while Rossington, seemingly content to bat time, went into his shell.
Holden received a healthy round of applause from the visiting dressing room balcony when passing 124 – his previous first-class best scored against Durham at Chester-le-Street last month – and they went up again soon after for Rossington’s 100, scored off 132 balls with 11 fours and a six. It was his first ton of the summer and the sixth of his career.
Their run-fest and a stand of 239 ended when Holden, aiming an ambitious short-armed jab to a length-ball from Hunn, clipped to deep square-leg where Rouse, taking a rest from keeping, took a stunning diving catch on the ropes to send Holden packing after five hours at the crease.
Rossington followed just before stumps for 112. Wearily chasing a wide one from Hunn to be caught behind, then Coles came on to have Steven Crook (12) well caught at second slip by James Tredwell to give Kent their sixth success of an arduous day in the dirt.
SUSSEX v LEICESTERSHIRE
Bowlers dominated on a fluctuating first day at Arundel where Clint McKay’s four wickets gave Leicestershire hope that they can win their first game of the season in the Specsavers County Championship.
The wholehearted Australian fast bowler picked up 4 for 59 in searing heat at Arundel as Sussex were bowled out for 262 and appeared to have squandered the advantage of winning the toss.
But a two-paced pitch, which is expected to turn, gave seamers assistance all day and Sussex’s new ball pair Chris Jordan and Jofra Archer each picked up one of the Leicestershire openers as they closed on 77 for 2.
It was a day to remember for Leicestershire’s 19-year-old debutant Will Fazakerley. Guernsey-born but educated just down the road from Arundel at Lancing College, he claimed his maiden Championship wicket when he had Jordan lbw for 34.
Clint McKay said: "It was a great day for us. After losing by three runs to Northants last week we wanted to bounce back and I thought our bowlers did that.
"It looked a beautiful wicket so to bowl them out for 262 was a great result. We stuck to our plans all day, kept running in and to see Will Fazakerley get his first wicket was a nice moment for him," he added.
Jordan was one of several Sussex players who got starts without pushing on. Eight of their batsmen got to 20 but only South African Stiaan van Zyl, who top scored with 49, looked capable of dominating a persevering Leicestershire attack.
Van Zyl shared in a fourth-wicket stand of 62 in 12 overs either side of lunch with Luke Wright, whose first scoring shot for the second successive game was a six.
But from 138 for 4 Sussex lost three wickets adding 27 runs. Wright played on to Richard Jones for 25, van Zyl was lbw half-forward to McKay after hitting nine boundaries before skipper Ben Brown drove McKay’s slower ball to cover for 19.
Jordan and leg-spinner Will Beer, who took 11 wickets at Arundel last month against South Africa A, put on 54 for the seventh wicket but Leicestershire wrapped up the innings with three wickets after tea, two of them to Matt Pillans.
Earlier, Luke Wells had passed 700 Championship runs after being restored to the top of the order. The left-hander lost opening partner Chris Nash (15), who played on to McKay before Harry Finch fell for a golden duck shuffling in front to a ball from Jones which nipped back.
Wells and van Zyl briefly prospered together, taking the score to 74 before Wells, who had struck eight fours in a fluent 42, was caught behind off Pillans.
By then umpire Martin Saggers was on the pitch, his arrival having been delayed by traffic congestion. Martin Bodenham, who retired from the first-class list last season but lives in nearby Ferring, stood at square leg before Saggers arrived.