The Indian summer had to come to an end at some time, and the penultimate round of Championship fixtures were marred by poor weather, which made it difficult for teams to achieve conclusive results. At The Oval, title-chasing Surrey chose to field first against bottom side Northamptonshire. Karun Nair hit 150 to help the visitors up to an impressive total of 357, adding 114 for the eighth wicket with Tom Taylor, who made his eighth fifty (66). Twenty-year-old Tom Lawes finally dismissed Nair to give him the second five-wicket haul of his career. Surrey then struggled with the bat, bowled out for just 185, and were forced to follow on. But Rory Burns and Dom Sibley were able to bat out what little remained of the match, finishing on 142 without loss. Young Indian player Sai Sudharsan made 3 on his debut for Surrey.
That result left it open for Essex to close the gap at the top of the table, and the hosts chose to bat first at Chelmsford. Despite the loss of both openers cheaply, there were five batters who made fifties, with Adam Rossington going on to score 104 to see his side up to 447 for nine declared. Tom Prest made his maiden century (108) and it was enough to edge Hampshire past the follow-on target to a total of 334. Simon Harmer took six for 149, and finished the match with 60 wickets for the summer, making him the leading wicket-taker, ahead of Nottinghamshire’s Brett Hutton (on 55) and Durham pair Matthew Potts and Ben Raine (both on 54). With time running out, Essex raced to 153 for eight declared in just 28 overs, setting a target of 267. At 32 for four, Hampshire were in trouble before Liam Dawson joined James Vince. The pair added 184 before Vince fell, leaving Dawson to complete his third century of the summer (119) – he has 793 runs at an average of over 41 and 40 wickets at 22, making him arguably the most effective all-rounder on the county circuit this summer. Dawson fell 20 runs short of the target, but his side got there to win by three wickets. Essex’s valiant effort was all for nothing, and they go into the final round 20 points behind Surrey, while Hampshire are now third, six points behind their victims.
Warwickshire’s eight-wicket win at Lord’s ensured there will be a nervous last-round match for Middlesex, who lead Kent by one point in the race to avoid relegation. The away side chose to field first and were rewarded by dismissing the hosts for just 121, Oliver Hannon-Dalby taking five for 29. A century for skipper Will Rhodes (102) and 99 for Danny Briggs, his highest score for the county but falling one short of a second first-class century in his 141st game, were the only significant scores as the visitors reached 315. Tim Murtagh, who had announced his retirement at the age of 42, took six for 83 – his 40th five-wicket haul. Sam Robson (107 not out) carried his bat, but a total of 251 left Warwickshire chasing just 58 for victory, which was achieved in 8.3 overs.
Kent chose to field first at Taunton, but centuries from Tom Lammonby (109) and Lewis Goldsworthy (122 in his only first-class innings this summer) saw Somerset up to 404 for four declared. Joe Denly’s 73 was not enough to prevent Kent from falling to 235 all out and being forced to follow on, but there was little time left in the match, and they finished on 44 for two.
It was just as well there wasn’t much at stake at Old Trafford, where Lancashire took on Nottinghamshire. Only 84.1 overs were possible in the match, by which stage Lancashire had reached 272 for seven. Still, it was enough for 19-year-old Matthew Hurst, who finished on 54 not out on his first-class debut.
In the Second Division, Durham’s title-securing match at Worcester (their nearest rivals) was also marred by the weather. The visitors chose to field first and bowled out the home side for 313. There was some surprise when the prolific Alex Lees was out for just 60 (he leads the way with 1341 runs, ahead of Leus du Plooy, who has 1176), but skipper Scott Borthwick (134 not out) took his side up to 371 for four by the time the match ended in a draw. Durham are a massive 47 points clear of Worcestershire, who lead third-placed Leicestershire by 22 points. Durham have won six games this summer, while the other counties in the division have mustered just 13 between them; 32 games have ended in draws.
At Leicester, the hosts asked Yorkshire to bat first and dismissed them for 155, Will Davis taking four for 28. Leicestershire struggled to 140 for nine, but a 93-run last-wicket partnership between Harry Swindells (73) and Davis (44 not out) saw them up to 233. Yorkshire batted out the rest of the match, finishing on 225 for four.
Sussex were asked to bat first at Derby, and were skittled for just 100, Zak Chappell and Sam Conners both taking four wickets, but it was Brooke Guest who had most to celebrate, equalling the county record by taking seven catches in the innings, joining Bob Taylor (who did it twice, in 1966 and 1975) and Harvey Hosein, who did it on his first-class debut in 2014. Derbyshire replied with 229 for six declared, but Sussex batted out the remaining 32.3 overs, finishing on 84 for three. Sussex, having been docked 12 points for disciplinary reasons earlier in the week, were docked a further point for a slow over rate.