Hampshire secured their first win of the season in dramatic fashion to climb off the bottom of the season, whilst Durham eased to victory at Edgbaston to climb into second place.
Hampshire set up a thrilling finish by declaring at nine down to leave a tantalising total of 304 for Nottingham to chase down in just over two sessions. Knowing that they would probably only require nine wickets with Chris Read missing with an injured hand, the hosts enjoyed a dream start with fiery West Indian Tino Best bagging two early wickets for the south-coast club. He removed the returning Jake Libby – who returned from a loan spell at Northampton for this game. The opener edged Best behind to Wheater to fall for four as Hampshire got the start they desired. And that start got even better when the West Indian trapped Michael Lumb leg before to leave the visitors in trouble on 21/2. Steven Mullaney and the impressive Brendan Taylor restored some calm into proceedings adding 29 for the third wicket before Mullaney edged through to Jimmy Adams in the slips off the bowling of Ryan McLaren and suddenly the hosts were favourites. Even more so when McLaren struck again 18-runs later inducing another edge to give Wheater his second catch of the innings with Riki Wessels the man to depart for 6. That brought Samit Patel to the crease and alongside Taylor, he began to turn the tide in the visitors favour. The pair added 108 for the fifth wicket with Taylor making his half-century in the process. He struck ten fours during his stay at the crease making 71 before hitting Mason Crane down the throat of Best to leave the score at 176/5. That turned out to be the key wicket as separating the pair pushed the advantage towards the hosts. Dan Christian, Nottinghamshire t20 captain looked to up the ante striking three fours and a six as he looked to push for victory, but his departure sparked a collapse. He saw his middle stump go cartwheeling after a pumped up Best nipped one back into the Australian and suddenly it was very much game on, especially when the hosts knowing they only required a further three wickets for victory. Four balls later, Hampshire were firm favourites as Brett Hutton (in for the England bound Jake Ball) cut Best to third man – where Crane took a fine catch to remove the tail-ender for a duck. The onus was now firmly on Samit Patel, who had now passed his half-century, but he edged through to Ervine off the bowling of youngster Crane. And Crane sealed the victory with his very next ball when Harry Gurney swiped the leg-spinner straight to the hands of Michael Carberry and Hampshire were off celebrating their first win of the season.
Keaton Jennings' century and Paul Collingwood's steady 44 were enough to see Durham home on what turned into a comfortable final day for the Northerners. They began the day needing 84 more runs to seal victory against a Warwickshire side looking to take 6 wickets to steal the win. Jennings and Collingwood began the day in fine fettle, Jennings reaching his third century of this season before eventually being bowled by the experienced Jeetan Patel with 40 still required. One would have expected nerves, but the Tyneside outfit dug in their heels and Ryan Pringle hit a crucial, nerve-easing 19*. Collingwood, too, fell to Patel but it was too little too late – and fittingly it was left to youngster James Weighell, fresh from his maiden first-class five-fer in Warwickshire's second innings, to score the winning run with an edge off the New Zealand off-spinner. Warwickshire will be disappointed having been in such a strong position after Chris Woakes' day two heroics – but Durham's resolve shone through, fighting back and having the Bears all out for 114 in their second dig kept their run-chase well within reach. The triumph sealed a second consecutive win for Durham and left them sitting second in the County Championship standings – with Warwickshire falling one position behind their conquerors in third.
Middlesex were left frustrated by poor London light and James Hildreth as they were forced to settle for a draw. After Jack Leach completed his five-wicket haul to dismiss the hosts for 423, the visitors lost two early wickets to suggest the Middlesex member may have a result to celebrate. Tim Murtagh removed both openers to leave the visitors still behind the eight ball on 16/2. And they still trailed by eleven when the experienced Chris Rogers edged a turned ball from Ollie Rayner to John Simpson behind the sticks. Middlesex sniffed victory, particularly when James Harris removed Jim Allenby cheaply when the lead at just 10. But at the other end, Hildreth looked solid as a rock to continue his fine early season form. He finally found support from Peter Trego – who played in typically aggressive fashion hitting six fours and a six in his latest half-century of the season. After sharing 99 with Hildreth, Trego departed to Ollie Rayner caught by Harris for 58, and indeed, his departure sparked a mini-collapse. With the very next ball of the match, Rayner was off celebrating again when he dismissed Lewis Gregory first ball. Ryan Davies didn’t last long either as the off-spinner bowled the wicketkeeper for a duck to leave the visitors on 158/7 with a lead of just 111. Hildreth and Craig Overton (19 not out) ensured there were to be no further scares to see the visitors through to a draw as bad light brought a premature end to proceedings with Hildreth left unbeaten on 85.
In Division Two, Kent narrowed to gap at the top of the table after securing a remarkable win in Derby. After trailing by 80 runs on first innings, Kent knew they would have to bowl the hosts out cheaply on the final morning to have any chance of victory. Resuming on 9/3 Derbyshire reached 49 before losing their first wicket of the day when Neil Broom hit the impressive James Tredwell straight to Adam Ball to fall for 18. Tredwell’s spin alongside Calum Haggett’s pace was causing the hosts all sorts of problems as wickets continued to tumble. Wayne Madsen was the next to fall with the score on 61, and the lead at a precarious 141. The former Derby captain was pinned in front by Haggett to fall for 37 (the top score of the innings). Billy Godleman returned to the outfield after retiring hurt the night before but could only muster one before he was trapped LBW by Tredwell, and suddenly Kent were in complete control of the match. Haggett was the beneficiary of another successful LBW appeal when he trapped Tom Poynton in front for his second wicket of the match. And when Tredwell rocked back the stumps of first-innings centurion Shiv Thakor (10) the games was suddenly the visitors to lose. Tail-enders Tony Palladino and Matthew Critchley added 10 before Haggett claimed his third wicket of the day pinning Critchley leg before for 18. The paceman then finished the innings off two runs later picking up another successful LBW to leave his side with just 175 to chase for victory. After his heroics in the first innings, Sean Dickson could only muster 16 before Tom Taylor bowled him, but Ball promoted up the order shared 54 for the second-wicket to calm any nerves on a pitch that was offering some movement. He alongside the in-from Daniel Bell-Drummond played in an aggressive fashion as the pair looked to wrap up victory quickly. Indeed, their half-century stand came at five-an-over with Bell-Drummond peppering the boundary ropes on a consistent basis. Ball did eventually depart though for 23 falling leg before wicket to Palladino. By the time Same Northeast strode to the middle Bell-Drummond had already surpassed the fifty mark off 68-balls striking seven fours in the process. Northeast and DBD continued the assault though sharing a fifty stand off just 59-balls as the race for victory continued. Northeast, the Kent skipper struck three fours and two sixes in his 30 before Chesney Hughes removed the skipper 23-runs short of the victory target. He needn’t have feared though as just four balls later the game was over. Bell-Drummond smashed the final ball of Hughes' over for six before Alex Blake (the new man in) plunged Critchley for three successive sixes to seal the win in style as the visitors secured a seven-wicket victory to climb into the second spot just 6 points behind leaders Essex.
Will Bragg’s magnificent unbeaten 161 wasn’t enough to secure Glamorgan their first victory of the season as Essex survived a scare to snatch a draw at the SWALEC. With a lead of 242-runs at the start of the final day, the Welshmen continued to bat through the morning before declaring just before lunch to leave Essex with an unlikely target of 334 from 70 overs. In that 90 added Bragg went past his career-best score of 129 through to a maiden 150 and beyond as he helped to set the Eagles a daunting target. Indeed, during the four remaining overs before lunch, the visitors lost Jaik Mickleburgh cheaply off the bowling of the impressive Timm van der Gugten who had the Essex opener fending to Michael Hogan in the slips. Things got even better for the hosts soon after the interval as Essex’s in-form men Tom Westley (8) and Ravi Bopara (6) both fell cheaply to van der Gugten and Michael Hogan respectively. Nick Browne though looked at ease at the other end, batting time and hitting the bad ball away when required. Whilst it became obvious Essex would never be in with a shout of victory, it was becoming equally as evident that the departure of Browne was key. He, alongside Dan Lawrence shared a dogged 32-run stand coming from 18 overs to ease any Eagles nerves. But when Lawrence shouldered arms to a delivery from Hogan soon after the tea interval and saw his off-stump disturbed those butterflies started to return for the visitors. Browne though still looked becalmed at the crease and added a further 44-runs with an uncharacteristically defensive Jesse Ryder to make the draw look the most likely result. Browne completed a well deserved and crucial half-century as his dogged nature proved to be vital for the Essex cause. He fell though for 71 to renew the hopes of a home win when Graham Wagg’s part-time off-spin trapped the Essex opener leg before. Suddenly the hosts believed again but Ryan ten Doeschate and Ryder showed good resilience to ensure the visitors would leave Wales with a share of the spoils.
Finally, a brilliant batting effort from Rob Newton and Steven Crook secured a draw for Northampton in Bristol. In a game that saw Gloucestershire dominate for large spells Newton and Crook both struck fine centuries to frustrate the hosts. Opener Newton resumed unbeaten on 58 and continued to resolutely bat through the day and went past three figures off 208-ball and taking his side to a narrow lead in the process. The experienced opener had struck 18 fours in his 235-ball stay for 108 when David Payne - who finished with figures of 3-72, bowled him. Indeed, every Northants batsmen contributed with Rob Keogh and Adam Rossington both passing 30. But the second key contributor was Steven Crook who produced a brilliant match-saving century to add to his score of 60 in the first innings. Crook marshalled the tail to finish unbeaten on 103, which included 17 boundary fours when hands were shook to signal a draw with the visitors on 399/8.
Reports by David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu) and Charlie Jennings (@AVCJX)
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