Cricket: Leaders keep title challenge on course

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The Independent Online
A brilliant 79 from Lancashire's former England batsman Neil Fairbrother could not prevent Warwickshire cruising to a 21-run victory at Old Trafford and staying top of the Sunday League.

The home side were 107 for 2 in the 20th over but the Warwickshire bowlers fought back, with Dougie Brown finishing with 3 for 43. Neil Fairbrother and Graham Lloyd put on 69 in 11 overs but Red Rose side collapsed to 198 for 9, chasing Warwickshire's 219 for 9, in which Trevor Penney scored 57.

Peter Martin was the pick of the Lancashire bowlers with three for 32 to keep his place as the leading Sunday League wicket-taker in the country with 25.

A half-century from the England all-rounder Mark Ealham helped Kent to secure a 107-run victory over Essex at Canterbury and move into second place in the table. Ealham, dropped by England for the fifth Test at Trent Bridge, hit 50 off 67 balls in a stand of 89 with Graham Cowdrey to help his side set Essex a target of 224.

Essex raced to 24 without loss but then collapsed to 81 for 7 as Alan Igglesden and the leg-spinner Paul Strang took control. They were all out for 106 in the 27th over, their lowest score in the competition this season, with Igglesden claiming 3 for 29 and Strang finishing with 2 for 23.

Stuart Lampitt earned Worcestershire a thrilling victory at Northampton and kept alive their slender title hopes. Lampitt tore into the former England off-spinner John Emburey to steer Worcestershire to their target of 208 with two wickets and one ball to spare.

Worcestershire needed 16 off the final over to win and with Emburey bowling the odds were stacked in Northamptonshire's favour, but Lampitt hammered a six off the first ball and finished on 38 after Russell Warren had earlier top scored for Northampton with 44 from 42 balls.

Dominic Williamson claimed a Sunday best 5 for 32 as Leicestershire kept their league title hopes alive with a 44-run win over Sussex at Eastbourne. It was the bottom side's fifth defeat in six games as they were dismissed for 140 chasing a target of 185 - Ben Smith top scoring for Leicestershire with 71. Williamson, one of six uncapped players in the Leicestershire line-up, took four of the last five wickets.

The Surrey opener Mark Butcher, struggling for runs in the County Championship, went some way towards rediscovering his form with an innings of 81 to help his side to a seven-wicket victory over Durham at the Oval.