With the weather finally perking up as we headed into the Bank holiday weekend, champions Essex’s revival also continued, as they beat Durham inside three days at Chester-le-Street in Group One. Put in to bat, they relied on a career-best 92 from Michael Pepper to see them up to a modest first-innings score of 182, with Chris Rushworth and Ben Raine each taking four wickets, with the former ending the match on 37 for the season, one ahead of Craig Overton of Somerset. But that effort was put in context when Durham could make only 99 in reply, Sam Cook picking up four for 38. Essex took control in their second innings, though at one point they were struggling on 53 for five. Adam Wheater’s 81 was the centrepiece of a total of 301 as Raine took five for 64. Chasing 385 for victory, Durham’s batsmen again succumbed to the Essex attack, with Jamie Porter leading the way with four wickets, and were dismissed for 189 to lose by 195 runs. David Bedingham’s 32 was enough to ensure he remained the leading runscorer of the summer, with 666.
Essex’s main rivals, Nottinghamshire, had a much tougher task at Edgbaston, where Warwickshire were put in to bat. Dane Paterson returned his best figures for the county, five for 90, as the hosts made 341. The away side replied with 297, and by the close of the third day Warwickshire were 201 for six, a lead of 245, with the match finely poised. They were eventually all out for 264, setting a target of 309. But in the second innings, none of Nottinghamshire’s batsmen made it to 30, and Danny Briggs followed up a fifty with four for 36 to secure an away win by 170 runs as the hosts made just 138. The result left Warwickshire eight points behind Essex (on 108) with Nottinghamshire sandwiched between on 102, though Essex have played one game more than their rivals.
At New Road, the two stragglers in the group met, and Worcestershire chose to bat first. Twenty-year-old Jack Haynes made a career-best 97, falling three runs short of his maiden century, and Ed Barnard (90) continued his excellent form with the bat as the home side made 421 all out. Dillon Pennington took charge with the ball in Derbyshire’s reply, taking four for 44. Only Matt Critchley, with 81 not out, offered significant resistance as the visitors were all out for 270, just failing to avoid the follow-on. With 648 runs this season, Critchley is just behind Bedingham in the race to 1000 runs for the season. Pennington went one better in the second innings, picking up five for 32, his second career-best of the match. Derbyshire were all out for 128 to lose by an innings and 23 runs.
In Group Two, leaders Gloucestershire had a very tough time of things at The Oval. A superb exhibition from Hashim Amla, who made 173 in 347 balls took Surrey to a daunting total of 473, thanks also to some lower order runs from the bowlers, among whom was Sean Abbott (40), making his debut for the county. A battling 77 from Miles Hammond was the only significant score from the visitors, who fell away to 158 all out. Spinner Dan Moriarty took six for 60, the best figures of his career. Following on, Gloucestershire were again in difficulties, despite the efforts of loanee wicket-keeper Jonathan Tattersall, who made an unbeaten 86. It wasn’t enough as the visitors were bowled out for 268 to lose by an innings and 47 runs. Gloucestershire stayed top of the table, with 107 points, three ahead of Somerset, both sides having played seven games, while Surrey are third on 101 having played one more game.
In the other match in the group, at Grace Road, the two bottom sides were in action together. Middlesex chose to bat first and scored 295, with John Simpson’s 95 not out the key component. Leicestershire lacked any such figure, and fell away to 136 all out, with Martin Andersson taking four for 27, his best figures for the county. Middlesex decided not to enforce the follow-on, and made 218, with the experienced Chris Wright finishing with a haul of six for 48, his best figures for Leicestershire. That left the hosts with a target of 378 to make in a day and 32 overs. You’d have probably got long odds against them achieving it, but a third-wicket partnership of 243 between Marcus Harris (185) and skipper Colin Ackermann (126 not out) saw them most of the way to a remarkable five-wicket victory. It was Leicestershire’s third highest successful run-chase in the County Championship, bettered only by their 382 for seven to win against Northants in 1980 and 394 for seven against Derbyshire in 1947.
In Group Three, Northamptonshire were comfortable winners at Hove, after Sussex chose to bat first and made just 175. It could have been even worse, as they were 67 for eight at one point, but Jack Carson (52, his maiden half-century) and Henry Crocombe (46 not out, his highest score) added 99 for the ninth wicket. Ben Sanderson took five for 45. The visitors hit back with a score of 256. Tom Haines (103, his second century of the summer) and Ben Brown (95) saw Sussex up to 298 all out, with Simon Kerrigan taking five for 70, his first five-wicket haul for the county and his first since 2016. A target of 218 could have been challenging, but in fact the away side lost just three wickets along the way.
The top-of-the-table clash at Old Trafford was dominated by Lancashire against their Roses rivals. Yorkshire chose to bat first but made just 159, with Harry Duke top-scoring with 52, having made a first-ball duck in his only previous first-class innings. Keaton Jennings (114) and Josh Bohannon (127 not out) set Lancashire on the way to a formidable total of 509 for nine declared, leaving Yorkshire with about a day and a half to bat out to save the match. They made a decent fist of it, batting well into the final session, but Saqib Mahmood chose the right time to deliver a career-best performance, taking five for 47, as Yorkshire were all out for 271, beaten by an innings and 79 runs, as Lancashire extended their lead in the group to 24 points.