In the South Group, Essex won the toss at Hove and chose to field first, and Jamie Porter had plenty of success in taking five for 60 as Sussex made 194. George Garton did even better, picking up a career best five for 26 to send the visitors tumbling to 140 all out. A lead of 54 for the hosts began to look significant as they reached 119 for five, only for Simon Harmer to run through the tail on the way to taking five for 54 and bowling out Sussex for just 141. Although it was never straightforward, 60 from Dan Lawrence, the highest score of the match, ensured the away side always had the stronger hand, and they eased home to win by three wickets, Garton picking up another four victims. Essex are the only county to have won three out of three in the Bob Willis Trophy.
A little further west along the coast, Hampshire hosted Surrey at Arundel, as their home ground was being occupied (rather more infrequently than many would have liked to have seen by the England and Pakistan sides). Surrey chose to bat first, and Ian Holland took a career best six for 60 as the visitors were bowled out for a disappointing 172. Tom Scriven had Jamie Smith caught behind for his maiden wicket on his debut. A partnership of 121 between Tom Alsop (87) and Sam Northeast (81) put Hampshire in a strong position, which they didn’t make the most of, reaching a total of 298. Amar Virdi added to his growing reputation by taking six for 101. Surrey’s second innings was an embarrassment, as they crumbled to just 74 all out, with James Fuller taking a hat-trick, removing Laurie Evans, Gus Atkinson and Morne Morkel. Hampshire’s victory was a crushing one by an innings and 52 runs, and they are second in the group after picking up two wins.
Finally in the group, Kent decided to put Middlesex in to bat at Canterbury. Robbie White made a frustrating career-best 99, which was the visitors’ highest score in their total of 269. The evergreen veteran Darren Stevens was the main threat, picking up five for 79. At the opposite end of the experience scale, Fred Klaassen took four for 44, his best figures. Joe Denly’s 89 was the only significant innings in Kent’s reply of 191, as Miguel Cummins took five for 62, his best analysis for the county. With so much time lost in the first two days, a definitive result was always unlikely. Middlesex declared on 169 for one, and Kent reached 70 without loss, chasing 248. Jack Davies was a late call-up for the visitors, making 13 on his debut.
In the North Group, the weather ensured all matches were drawn. At Trent Bridge, the hosts dominated early on, with Ben Slater making a career-best 142 and Ben Duckett 116, leaving Lancashire’s bowlers toiling in vain as the home side reached 343 for two. Some vigorous late-innings shots saw them up to 472 all out one ball before the innings closed. But with no play on day two, the Red Rose county always looked safe. However, they tumbled to 173 all out in reply and were forced to follow on, when Keaton Jennings and Alex Davies scored 120 without loss to bat out the rest of the match.
At Headingley, Derbyshire chose to field first, but only 79 overs were possible on the first two days, with Yorkshire eventually declaring on day three on 400 for six, Dawid Malan scoring a career-best 219. In reply, the visitors got to 300 for seven, Anuj Dal top scoring with 78 not out, as the match ended in a draw. George Hill made his first-class debut for Yorkshire, scoring 4 not out but failing to take a wicket. The two sides lead the table, with Derbyshire two points clear of Yorkshire.
Durham were still to complete the first innings of the match at Leicester on the start of the fourth day, eventually declaring on 291 for eight, David Bedingham making 96. Leicestershire’s first innings and Durham’s second were then forfeited in pursuit of a result, but the hosts could make only 208 for three.
In the Central Group, Worcestershire were the only winners after they were put in to bat at Northampton, their victory leaving them one point clear of Somerset. Their total of 219 was largely due to a 78-ball innings of 88 from Riki Wessels, with Blessing Muzarabani taking four for 28, his best figures for the county. Things were in the balance after the hosts’ reply of 212, Ed Barnard picking up four wickets. Tom Fell’s unbeaten 110 took the visitors up to 255 for six. Chasing 263, Northamptonshire reached 48 without loss, but then slipped to 94 for six. There was no comeback from that, and they were bowled out for 184.
Somerset dominated the game at Edgbaston, bowling out the home side for just 121, Tom Abell taking three wickets in seven deliveries at the end. In reply, they had reached 226 for eight, but then things changed dramatically. Steven Davies (123 not out) was joined by Jamie Overton (120 in 92 balls, his maiden century coming in just 84 balls) and together they put on 180 for the ninth wicket, missing out on a county record by just three runs. Oliver Hannon-Dalby and Tim Bresnan both ended up with four wickets, but even they couldn’t stop Somerset from reaching 413 for nine declared. With just four wickets to take on the final day, the visitors seemed on the verge of victory, but only 15.4 overs were possible, and Warwickshire finished on 140 for eight.
At Cardiff, Gloucestershire won the toss and fielded first, a decision vindicated when Glamorgan were bowled out for just 116, thanks to David Payne’s five for 31. The visitors hit back with 181, with wickets shared among the attack. Glamorgan had just begun their second innings at the start of the final day, and batted throughout the day to reach 197 for eight as it meandered to a draw.