Cowan picks up hat-trick

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Ashley Cowan performed a hat-trick on his way to career-best figures of 5 for 68 against Gloucestershire at Colchester. The 21-year-old Essex fast bowler removed Richard Davis with the last ball of his 14th over and then dismissed Martyn Ball and Andy Smith with the opening two deliveries off his 15th.

Cowan ended the Gloucestershire innings by getting rid of Jack Russell for 63 as the visitors slumped from 242 for 5 to 280 all out. By the close Essex, seeking their fifth successive victory to maintain their challenge for the Championship, had seized the initiative with Graham Gooch and Darren Robinson taking their unbroken opening stand to 72.

The Warwickshire spinner Ashley Giles staked another claim for England 'A' recognition by teaming up with last man Tim Munton to frustrate Worcestershire at New Road.

Giles, who has taken 48 first-class wickets this season, wielded the bat to good effect to reach his second Championship half century during an unbroken stand of 86 with Munton which rescued the side and set a Warwickshire record for the last wicket in this fixture. Warwickshire's South African fast bowler, Shaun Pollock. will leave the county next week to return home for an immediate operation on his injured left ankle.

Kent's progress towards the top of the table was threatened by heavy rain that restricted the first day of their match against Glamorgan in Cardiff to only 42.5 overs in which they made 128 for 1. The Kent batsman Graham Cowdrey could face a disciplinary charge from his county following his criticism in a newspaper column of the England chairman of selectors, Ray Illingworth. Cowdrey, 32, accused Illingworth of "not having the guts" to patch up his differences with fast bowler Devon Malcolm following their public fall-out in South Africa last winter.

Phil Simmons hit his second century of the season and Paul Nixon compiled an unbeaten 67 to keep Leicestershire's challenge on course against Hampshire at Grace Road. The pair came together with Leicestershire in trouble at 167 for 5, and they revived the home side's innings with a partnership of 109 in 34 overs. Leicestershire recovered to reach 343 for 8 at the close.