SOMERSET v MIDDLESEX
Jack Leach went past 50 Specsavers County Championship wickets for the season as Somerset achieved First Division survival with a comprehensive 231-run win over Middlesex at Taunton.
The result left the visitors anxiously eyeing events at Edgbaston where only a Hampshire defeat would save them from Second Division cricket next season.
Leach finished with 5/57 as Middlesex were bowled out for 113 on the final day, from an overnight 40/3, chasing a highly improbable 345 for victory. Roelof van der Merwe weighed in with 4/22 and Somerset took 20 points to leapfrog Middlesex, who claimed just three, in the First Division table.
Stevie Eskinazi was first to go. Having made 16, he pushed forward to van der Merwe and edged to the kneeling Marcus Trescothick at second slip.
The 41-year-old former England opener has adopted that position in recent games to protect his back and was not praying for the victory that would keep his hopes of winning a Championship title with his beloved county alive.
The score had moved to 71 when Adam Voges played forward to Leach and edged a comfortable catch to Craig Overton at first slip. The left-arm spinner, considered by many unlucky not to have made the Ashes squad, brought up his 50 wickets when John Simpson, who had looked to counter-attack with 2 fours and six, fell leg-before for 19.
On a pitch that has turned throughout, van der Merwe proved an excellent selection by Somerset as third spinner. He had Paul Stirling snapped up by Overton at slip to make the score 80 for seven.
The South African all-rounder quickly followed up as James Harris top-edged a sweep and departed for 13. At 93 for eight, home supporters prepared to celebrate. Tim Murtagh lofted a six over mid-wicket off van der Merwe before being bowled in the same over.
And when Leach had an lbw appeal against Steven Finn upheld by umpire Mike Burns it sparked wild celebrations from a Somerset team, who looked doomed to the drop before winning three of their last four matches.
It was a satisfying end to his time as Somerset director of cricket for Matthew Maynard, the club having announced last night that he is leaving. The club intend to appoint a replacement and a new head coach in the near future.
Somerset skipper Tom Abell said: "It's far and away the best day of my career. I have been through some pretty dark times as captain this season, so to finish on such a high note is a very special feeling.
"We spoke at the start of the day about winning the game for Matt Maynard (director of cricket) and Darren Veness (head of strength and conditioning), who are both leaving. From where we were four games ago, it has been a terrific effort by the team and I am very proud of all the players. The future here is bright and there is a lot to look forward to.
"My overriding feeling is one of elation."
WARWICKSHIRE V HAMPSHIRE
A gritty rearguard action did the job for Hampshire as they secured the requisite draw against Warwickshire to preserve their Division One status.
Hampshire began the final day facing a simple equation: defeat would send them down while a win or draw would make them safe and condemn Middlesex to Division Two along with Warwickshire.
And it was Middlesex who plummeted after Hampshire survived a couple of scares, at 68 for four and 124 for six, to reach the close on 195 for seven.
Relieved Hampshire captain James Vince said: "It was another narrow escape for us but it has been different this season, we have played some much better cricket. Unfortunately it came down to this last game in the position we were, but the lads showed a lot of fight and determination to get through it."
After the loss of the first hour due to a wet outfield, they never showed any interest in chasing a victory target of 259 and when a flurry of wickets straight after lunch sent them dipping to 68 for four, nerves were jangling.
But captain James Vince made an obdurate 30 in more than two and a half hours and will fly out with England for the Ashes with Division One Championship cricket to look forward to again next season after Ian Holland and Gareth Berg calmly added 61 in 19 overs to keep the Bears at bay.
Hampshire resumed on the final morning on 20 for one and, after a truncated morning session, reached lunch without further loss as Tom Alsop and Sean Ervine took the score to 64. But they hit serious postprandial trouble with the loss of three wickets for four runs in 16 balls.
Ervine edged Ryan Sidebottom behind, then Jeetan Patel had Alsop taken at slip before George Bailey essayed a reverse-sweep, a staggeringly inappropriate shot in the context of the game, and fell lbw.
Suddenly, Hampshire's First Division status was looking precarious but Vince and Liam Dawson knuckled down diligently. Vince started positively then retreated into total defence while Dawson started in total defence and remained there.
At one stage seven overs passed without a run off the bat but the fifth-wicket pair hoovered up a vital 30.3 overs (in which came 41 runs) before Dawson, having scored nine runs in 109 minutes, edged the impressive Sidebottom to the wicketkeeper.
That left Hampshire 113 for five with a minimum of 32 overs remaining and they suffered another wobble when Vince (30, 124 balls, four fours) nicked a superb ball from Sidebottom.
But, to Middlesex's dismay, that was pretty much as far as Warwickshire got as Holland (21 not out, 90 balls) and Berg (34, 66) kept their nerve amid a posse of close fielders to see their side to safety.
"We gave it everything because we wanted to win the game," Warwickshire first-team coach Jim Troughton said. "We are down but it always nice to win a game of four-day cricket and it was nice to be in a position on the fourth day where you can set attacking field and push for a win. It is something we have not done a hell of a lot this year. But credit to Hampshire they stuck it out."
LANCASHIRE v SURREY
Lancashire knocked off the final 44 runs required without losing another wicket as they beat Surrey by seven wickets at Old Trafford to clinch second place in Division One of the Specsavers County Championship.
Chasing their victory target of 176, Lancashire resumed their innings on 132/3 with Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Liam Livingstone at the crease.
It took less than six overs for the pair to get the runs required, as Chanderpaul struck successive sixes followed by a four from Scott Borthwick to finish the match in comprehensive fashion. He finished unbeaten on 43 from 44 balls while Livingstone made 69.
It’s the first time since 2000 that Lancashire have won four matches at Old Trafford in a single County Championship season, with all five of their wins – including one at Southport – coming at home.
The second-placed finish represents Lancashire’s highest placing since clinching the Division One title in 2011. They finished 72 points adrift of leaders Essex. Surrey finish third, a further 13 points behind Lancashire.
Lancashire head coach Glen Chapple said: "It was identified as a difficult division this year and I don’t think it’s panned out the way that people thought. We have to be pleased with our efforts and how we’ve played and delighted with the lads work ethic. We have to be hungry to improve, ultimately all teams especially this club want to win trophies. All in all we walk away happy with our efforts and looking to get better all the time."