Two games scurried to a conclusion as Essex and Kent celebrated innings victories.
Essex, whose title was lost in the first part of the summer, and boosted by righteous indignation, have dominated both their Division Two games. They half-inched the five Gloucestershire wickets they needed before lunch, Simon Harmer walking off with four.
A “Stevo is God” flag dedicated to Darren Stevens flew over Canterbury as fans celebrated their wicket and run diva. Kent, who went into the Divisional phase without a victory, toppled Worcestershire with ease to chalk up their second win on the trot. Nathan Gilchrist, Grant Stewart and Stevens himself took three wickets apiece.
It was runs galore at Hove, as Sam Robson moved to a double hundred and Robbie White a century. Middlesex’s 676 for five declared was their highest ever total, as Sussex’s young bowlers toiled away on a picnic table of a pitch. Tom Haines and Ali Orr took Sussex to 103 for nought at stumps.
The other games were a celebration of the rearguard. In the zig-zagging Division one game at Edgbaston, Hampshire set Warwickshire 296 to win after Keith Barker and Brad Wheal shimmied the bat. Rob Yates and Dom Sibley then ground their way to a solid start, before Sibley tried a rogue sweep and was out for 47.
Lancashire, meanwhile, need another 329 runs to beat Nottinghamshire, an unlikely chase emboldened by the good start of George Balderson and Luke Wells who took them to 115 for one.
Maiden centuries for Brooke Guest and Anuj Dal, whose contact lens fell out mid-innings, gave Derbyshire a sniff of survival in their match against Leicestershire, with 65 more needed to avoid the follow-on.
While at the Riverside, Dan Douthwaite, caught for 96 going for a big one, and Andrew Salter, 82 not out, shovelled and nudged 163 for the seventh wicket to hold up Durham’s popping of the champagne. Still 73 shy of an innings defeat, it was a day of solid, if theoretical, defiance by Glamorgan.
A last wicket stand of 83 by Amar Virdi and Gus Atkinson helped Surrey set a formidable run-chase. After a couple of early Northamptonshire wickets, Rob Keogh and Emilio Gay played with panache to set the game up for an intriguing final day.