Not many could see it coming after the opening two days, but Nottinghamshire have Division One in their sights...
SUSSEX v NOTTINGHAMSHIRE
Chris Read made a century in his final game as Nottinghamshire all but secured promotion in the Specsavers County Championship.
The 39-year-old captain scored 124 – his 26th first-class hundred, while Billy Root made 132, his maiden century in the Championship, to help their side recover from 65 for 5 to make 477, a deficit of 88 against Sussex at Hove.
The Notts legend said: "I would feel extremely satisfied if I have helped to get the draw and the job done because of my innings.
"Promotion was we set out to do at the start of the season and whatever happens it has been a truly remarkable year for us, winning two white-ball trophies as well. Hopefully we can finish the job off with a good day tomorrow."
Bad light prevented Sussex from starting their second innings and with a day to go Notts only have to draw the game to secure their return to the top flight with Worcestershire.
If they do it will be in no small part because of Read, who came together with Root when his side were in deep trouble to perform the sort of rescue act with the bat that has been his trademark during a 20-year career.
Having resumed on 108 for 5 Read and Root went on the offensive in the morning session, taking full toll of some poor bowling.
Read did give a difficult chance on 71 which sub fielder Tom Haines dropped at mid-wicket but he reached his hundred with a six over fine leg off Stuart Whittingham and departed to a standing ovation after lunch for 124 when he pulled a bouncer from Jofra Archer to deep mid-wicket, having faced 152 balls with 16 fours. Archer had earlier been awarded his county cap during the interval.
Root’s only other first-class hundred came at Hove in 2016 when he was playing for Leeds-Bradford MCCU. A square drive to the rope off Abe Sakande took him to three figures and he didn’t give a chance until falling lbw to the same bowler working to leg. His runs came off 168 deliveries and included 16 fours. The pair had added 242 in 48 overs for the sixth wicket.
Notts still had work to do. When Root was seventh out they were still 71 short of avoiding the follow on but the tail wagged furiously. Chris Jordan did make two breakthroughs with the new ball including a superb catch off his own bowling to remove Brett Hutton for 31.
But Matt Carter and Luke Wood secured maximum batting points and even when Wood was caught at second slip for 32 to make it 404 for 9 Nottinghamshire weren’t finished. Last man Harry Gurney, who has a career average of five, put bat to ball in entertaining style to make an undefeated 42, eclipsing his previous best of 26, as the follow-on was saved.
Carter too wielded the long handle to good effect as 73 were plundered for the last wicket. Sakande finally ended the innings when Carter was caught behind for 33, also a career-best. In 76.3 overs Notts had scored 369 runs with Archer and Whittingham each picking up three wickets.
There were still 25 overs left but even with the floodlights on conditions weren’t fit and umpires Billy Taylor and Martin Saggers abandoned play for the day at 5.15pm.
WORCESTERSHIRE v DURHAM
Worcestershire now face the challenge of trying to become established in Division One of the Specsavers County Championship after making sure of promotion on the third day of the home encounter with Durham at New Road.
It was their sixth promotion since the two-division format came into force but only once - in 2011 - have Worcestershire avoided making an instant return to the second tier. The Pears have put the accent in recent years on nurturing home grown talent and 10 of the side in action against Durham are Academy products.
Whether Director Of Cricket Steve Rhodes opts to supplement the current squad with a couple of experienced old hands will become clear in the forthcoming months as was the case in 2015 when Alex Gidman was recruited from Gloucestershire.
But many of the players already at New Road can fall back on the knowledge of that season of First Division experience two years ago when they only narrowly failed to survive amongst the elite.
The likes of Daryl Mitchell, Clarke, Ed Barnard, John Hastings - who is returning as the main overseas player - and skipper Joe Leach will have key roles to play in ensuring the County give themselves every chance of securing a foothold in the top division.
Worcestershire bowled out Durham for 208 after claiming their final five wickets this morning to wrap up the maximum of six points required before the game. But promotion was actually sealed 70 miles when one of their rivals, Northamptonshire, were bowled out for 202 against Leicestershire at Grace Road.
That meant they were unable to accumulate the same points tally as Worcestershire who then got to work themselves in eking out a first innings lead of 127. Worcestershire will also go up as champions IF they avoid defeat on the final day and Nottinghamshire fail to overcome Sussex at Hove.
Durham resumed on 142-5 and lost their last five wickets for 66 in 24.4 overs with only Michael Richardson offering much resistance in moving from his unbeaten 12 overnight to 45 not out. Leach made the first breakthrough as Ryan Pringle (2) was caught behind - his 66th victim of the season - and then Liam Trevaskis (5) was trapped lbw by Ravichandran Ashwin.
Leach now has 66 Championship wickets - his best ever haul for a season. MGNIFICENT EFFORT— Worcestershire CCC (@WorcsCCC) September 27, 2017
Barnard struck twice in quick succession as Mark Wood (0) played back and was bowled and Chris Rushworth (9) fell to a low catch by Mitchell at second slip. A lifter from Pat Brown ended a last wicket stand of 30 between Richardson and Graham Onions who gloved a lifter to Mitchell.
Onions shared the new ball with Rushworth and was successful in his second over as Brett D'Oliveira (4) was lbw. But Mitchell and Tom Fell cemented Worcestershire's position of strength during a free-scoring stand of 113 in 25 overs.
Fell has experienced a disappointing season but he looked in good touch in making his top score in 2017 of 41 before he tried to work Ryan Pringle to legand was lbw. Joe Clarke (5) depared in Pringle's next over with Graham Clark taking a smart catch at short leg. When bad light and rain intervened, Mitchell, who has scored six Championship centuries this summer, was unbeaten on 68 out of 157-3 - an overall advantage of 284.
KENT v GLAMORGAN
Glamorgan chalked up their third win of the Specsavers County Championship campaign with more than a day to spare after reaching 192 for five in Canterbury to inflict a first home defeat of the season by five wickets upon a weary and downcast Kent side.
Having dismissed the hosts for a meagre 115 in their second innings, Glamorgan made the best of starts to their pursuit of a 189-run victory target when openers Nick Selman and Connor Brown posted 96 – the best partnership for any wicket in the match.
Brown ought to have departed with 15 to his name when Darren Stevens downed a regulation slip catch off the bowling of Calum Haggett, then Haggett was again the luckless bowler when Selman, on 64, was dropped by Zak Crawley at third slip.
Brown finally went for 33 to Haggett, caught at point at the second attempt by substitute fielder Oli Robinson, then, with his score on 70, Selman flayed at a wide one from Stevens to be caught behind for his 62nd first-class wicket and a career-best season’s haul.
With is next ball 41-year-old Stevens pegged back Kiran Carlson’s off stump via an inside edge then, just before tea, Jack Murphy flayed a wide one to Zak Crawley in the gully to give the Kent veteran five wickets in the match.
Only 10 balls after tea Chris Cooke drove a return catch to left-arm spinner Imran Qayyum, so it was left to David Lloyd, who scored a pugnacious inbeaten 35, to see his side over the win line with a slog-swept six off Qayyum.
Admittedly, conditions on day three fell with outrageous good fortune in Glamorgan’s favour – they bowled on a steamy overcast morning and batted under blue skies all afternoon – but for Kent it was pretty much all gloom and doom as their last day’s action of the season ended with a second championship defeat of the summer and their first red-ball defeat to Glamorgan on home soil since 1992 [Glamorgan secured an eight-wicket victory in an experimental pink-ball, four-day game here in 2011].
At the start of the day, one-time promotion-chasers Kent resumed on their overnight score of 98 for six – a lead of 171 – and with top-scorer Adam Rouse, the county’s understudy wicketkeeper and substitute for Sam Billings, at the crease. But home hopes of setting a testing 200-plus target were soon quashed as Kent lost their last four wickets for nine runs in the space of 26 balls.
Haggett started the collapse, aiming an ambitious push drive at the ever-consistent Michael Hogan, Haggett played outside an off-cutter that darted down the Canterbury slope to pluck out middle stump and give Hogan five-wickets.
Rouse’s resistance ended for 44 when he toe-ended an attempted pull against Lucas Carey to mid-on, then, five balls later, Carey struck again by having Kent debutant Grant Stewart caught in the cordon by former Kent 2nd XI batsman Nick Selman.
Hogan polished it off by having last man Imran Qayyum caught behind for a first-ball duck to finish with six for 43 and career-best match figures of 10 for 87.
GLOUCESTERSHIRE v DERBYSHIRE
Young guns George Hankins and James Bracey registered unbeaten half centuries as Gloucestershire launched a concerted recovery on the third day of the Specsavers County Championship match against Derbyshire at Bristol.
Replying to Derbyshire's first-innings 460, the home side advanced to 224-2 before rain forced the players off midway through the afternoon session on a day when 56 overs were lost.
Gloucestershire still trail by 236, but an unbroken stand of 170 for the third wicket between Academy products Bracey and Hankins has, barring unforeseen circumstances on a flat pitch, rendered them safe from the threat of defeat.
Derbyshire began the day in the ascendancy with Harry Podmore removing makeshift opener Benny Howell in the third over as the home side slipped to 54-2. Intent upon staging a repeat of the big hundred he posted against Glamorgan at Cardiff last week, Howell played on to a length ball and departed for 36 on this occasion.
Yet any thoughts Derbyshire might have harboured of applying concerted pressure were repulsed by the twin rocks of Bracey and Hankins, who held sway for 45 overs to carry their side to a position of relative safety. Demonstrating a maturity beyond the years, the 20-year-old batsmen offered defiance aplenty in the face of a severe examination at the hands of South African paceman Hardus Viljoen.
Unfortunately for the visitors, the South Africa A bowler lacked support at the other end and, having initially opted for circumspection against the swinging ball, Bracey and Hankins became more expansive as conditions eased.
Playing with a straight bat, Bath-born Hankins looked the part as he dominated a restorative partnership, punishing anything short or wide and serving notice of his aggressive intentions when smashing a ball from Imran Tahir straight back over his head for an imposing six.
He raised a 57-ball 50 with a cover-driven four at the expense of Will Davis, the ninth of his innings, and went on to eclipse the 73 he made against Northants last month, his previous highest score of the season. His confidence high after registering a maiden first-class hundred at Cardiff last time out, Bracey knuckled down to the task in hand and his watchful 50 occupied 110 deliveries.
The talented young left-hander accelerated after lunch, mustering 82 not out from 159 balls to move ahead of his partner in the pursuit of three figures by the time the rain moved in. He has so far accrued 11 boundaries and requires a further 18 runs if he is to achieve the notable feat of posting hundreds in back-to-back matches.
NORTHAMPTONSHIRE v LEICESTERSHIRE
Northamptonshire need 197 to complete a ninth victory of the season, and remain in with a chance of securing promotion, after Leicestershire lost their last five second innings wickets in adding just 39 runs.
Shorn of leading wicket-taker Rory Kleinveldt through injury picked up the previous day, the visitors' bowling attack looked to be struggling with the Foxes on 228/5 at tea.
Mark Cosgrove appeared to be taking the game away from the visitors in racing to 80, but seamer Ben Sanderson won a leg before decision against the Foxes' skipper, before all-rounder Ben Raine hooked a bouncer from the same bowler straight to deep square leg to open an end.
On-loan left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan had Zak Chappell stumped as he dragged his back foot attempting a straight hit, Richard Gleeson had a disbelieving Lewis Hill leg before and Kerrigan bowled Dieter Klein to leave Northants with a target of 197 to win. Luke Procter and Rob Newton reduced that by 17 before bad light and rain ended play 16 overs early.
Earlier the visitors had picked up a batting bonus point before losing their last two wickets, Josh Cobb caught behind driving to give Raine his fifth wicket of the innings before Sanderson was bowled by Klein.
REPLAY | Here's the moment Raine completed his five wicket haul pic.twitter.com/di8dtdYQp5— Leicestershire CCC🏏 (@leicsccc) September 27, 2017
Leicestershire openers Michael Carberry and Sam Evans took the score to 27 before Carberry was leg before to a quick in-swinger from Gleeson. Ned Eckersley, who was dropped by wicket-keeper David Murphy off Luke Procter when he was on 12, added only seven more runs to his score before being trapped in front by Sanderson.
Shortly before lunch, the 19-year-old Evans, having battled his way to 29, was unfortunate to become the third leg before victim of the innings, replays suggesting he had been hit outside the line of off-stump when given leg before to off-spinner Rob Keogh.
With the sun out, Leicestershire lost just two wickets in the afternoon session. Aadil Ali, having hit the previous delivery for four, charged down the wicket, missed and was easily stumped off Kerrigan for 37, and Neil Dexter had scored just 2 when he edged a bouncing, turning delivery from the same bowler to slip.
Cosgrove however took full toll of the tiring Northants attack, hitting seven fours and a six in going to his 50 off 84 balls. He found good support from Hill, the pair adding 57 for the sixth wicket before the break.