Northants missed out a return to Division One despite claiming their ninth win of the season, the most for a team that's not secured promotion
Leicestershire 128 & 270 lost to Northants 202 & 197/4 by 6 wickets
Sussex 565 & 229/7d drew with Nottinghamshire 477
Worcestershire 335 & 242/3d beat Durham 208 & 232 by 137 runs
Gloucestershire 224/2d & 223 lost to Derbyshire 460 & 144/0d by 157 runs
WORCESTERSHIRE V DURHAM
Nottinghamshire are back in Division One of after they drew their final game against Sussex at Hove. The 12 points they secured were enough to make sure of an immediate return to the top flight after one season along with champions Worcestershire, consigning Northamptonshire to third place.
With more than 60 overs lost to rain and bad light during the first three days the chances of a positive result dwindled when there was no play before lunch because of a wet outfield.
But Sussex captain Luke Wells was determined to finish the season in style, racing to a 97-ball hundred, his fourth of the season. The left-hander hit 13 fours and four sixes as he took his aggregate for the summer to 1,292 runs at an average of 64.60. He finished leading run-scorer in Division Two with only Surrey’s Kumar Sangakkara scoring more Championship runs.
While he and Harry Finch were putting on 123 at five an over there was the prospect that Sussex might declare and set Nottinghamshire a tempting target.
But Finch was caught off a top edge for 43 and Samit Patel ended Wells’ innings in his next over when he was bowled playing around a yorker-length delivery.
By that stage Notts had spinners operating at both ends and four substitute fielders on the pitch including their strength and conditioning coach Ross Herridge.
Matt Carter picked up three wickets with his off breaks either side of tea. Phil Salt (1) was bowled heaving across the line and top-edges accounted for Chris Nash (1) and Delray Rawlins (0). Patel took a third wicket when wicketkeeper Chris Read took the 1,051st and final match of his 20-year career to dismiss Michael Burgess for 19.
What an amazing season! Congrats to the lads for putting in a good performance at Sussex. Lovely to be back in division 1 #outlaws— FLETCH19 (@fletcherluke) September 28, 2017
Sussex had lost 5 for 24 in eight overs at that stage but Chris Jordan and Jofra Archer added 49 together before Sussex declared on 229 for 7, a lead of 317.
Archer had earlier signed a contract extension with Sussex until 2020, having been capped by the county on Wednesday.
Read was given a standing ovation by the Hove crowd and a guard of honour by both teams when he walked out for the final session of his career and another when he walked off at the end.
Fittingly he retires after one of the most successful seasons in Nottinghamshire’s history with promotion added to their success in the NatWest T20 Blast and Royal London One-Day Cup.
LEICESTERSHIRE v NORTHANTS
Northamptonshire's ninth victory of the season, completed with some ease in benign batting conditions at Grace Road, had a bitter-sweet element for the men from Wantage Road.
Events at Hove, where Nottinghamshire needed only to draw with Sussex to confirm they would take the second promotion place from Division Two, meant that Northamptonshire finish the season third - and it will be little consolation that no team has made more of its' collective ability.
"It is frustrating that nine wins isn't enough, especially with the points deducted in Nottingham," Northants head coach Dave Ripley admitted. "We deserved the deduction, but the circumstances were extraordinary.
End of another year. Proud of the lads. Pushed hard all the way but not quite enough in the end. We set out to entertain and hope we did! 👍— Alex Wakely (@AlexWakely1) September 28, 2017
"We've got some good players, and they've all contributed, but of there's an area we're looking to improve it's in the batting and turning good scores into big, match-winning scores. We're talking to Luke Procter - we need to recruit someone who can challenge our batters for a spot, and him coming in would do that."
Perhaps in sympathy, the conditions were very much in favour of the visitors, as has been the case throughout this game. Batting has been at its most difficult in the first hour or so of the morning, when the ball has swung and seamed, so the fact a saturated outfield prevented play starting until 12.40pm was ideal for Northants, who began the day needing another 180 to win with ten second innings wickets in hand.
By the time play began, a bright sun had taken any menace out of the atmosphere and indeed the pitch. Northants did lose Rob Newton, the opener pushing lazily at a wide delivery from left-arm seamer Dieter Klein to edge a catch behind, but Luke Procter and Alex Wakely added 121 for the second wicket in good time and - an early possible run-out of Wakely aside - without real alarm before Wakley top-edged a pull and was well caught by Sam Evans at deep backward square.
Two more wickets fell after the break, Richard Levi palpably leg before swishing across the line at Callum Parkinson - the young left-armer very much one of Leicestershire's few positives this season - and Procter, with a hundred very much on the cards, also leg before to a Raine delivery that kept a little low.
Northants were left to particulalrly run the 5 point deduction suffered after defeat at Trent Bridge earlier this month for a slow over-rate. Without that, Northants would have finished level on points with Notts - and ahead of them on wins.
GLOUCESTERSHIRE V DERBYSHIRE
Derbyshire finished their Championship season on a high, beating Gloucestershire by 157 runs at the Brightside Ground, Bristol.
Imran Tahir picked up five wickets and Matt Critchley and Harry Podmore two apiece as the visitors completed victory with more than 21.3 overs to spare. It was a disappointing end to the summer for Gloucestershire who, to their credit, had agreed to making a game of it by declaring on their overnight score of 224 for 2.
Gloucestershire then gifted Derbyshire 144 runs, in their second innings, to set up a second innings chase in a minimum of 80 overs. In pursuit of 381 to win, they suffered an early blow when Benny Howell (5) was caught behind by off the bowling of Podmore at 9 for 1 in the fourth over. Thereafter, they struggled against a Derbyshire attack led, before lunch, by seamers Podmore and Hardus Viljoen. Podmore then picked up his second wicket at 42 for 2 when he had Chris Dent caught behind, for 19.
The game gathered pace after lunch as Gloucestershire fought to establish a position of strength and Derbyshire, with equal purpose, did their bit to keep themselves in with a chance of bowling out their hosts. And they did that by swapping their seamers for spinners.
Imran Tahir was the catalyst for Derbyshire – the leg spinner taking three wickets in the game’s penultimate session to put Derbyshire back on top.
James Bracey, who played well for 44, was the first to fall. The talented left hander, who scored an unbeaten 82 in the first innings, chanced his arm once too often and was caught at deep mid-wicket off the bowling of Tahir.
Tahir then caught Hankins off his won bowling at 135 for 4, before trapping Jack Taylor lbw for 3, at 147 for 5. Gloucestershire had agreed to go for the target, regardless of what position they found themselves in. So, it was no surprise when Kieran Noema-Barnett opened his shoulders and struck six boundaries in quick fire time.
Sadly, for Gloucestershire, he perished for 30 at 180 for 6 and it was left to Phil Mustard to shoulder his side’s hopes. At tea, Gloucestershire were 197 for 6, needing another 184 for victory.
Their feint hopes disappeared shortly after tea when captain Mustard was bowled by Matt Critchley for 37. It was a long walk back to the pavilion for Mustard, who understandably fancied his chance of at least taking the game to the wire.
David Payne was next to fall, caught at slip by Wayne Madsen off the bowling of Critchley for 0, and Josh Shaw followed for 1, bowled shouldering arms to a ball that spun back from Tahir.
Derbyshire wound up matters when Tahir picked up his fifth wicket when trapping Matt Taylor lbw at 233 all out. And that was that.
Derbyshire's Gary Wilson said: "It's great to finish with another win, it really is. In fact we were unlucky at Notts, so we might have finished the season with four compared with no wins last season.
"It's hard for me to talk about last season because I wasn't at the club. However, I can say that I am looking forward to next season."