Blackwell makes hay in Hove but it's gloomy for Yorkshire

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The Independent Online

There is always something to be said for points on the board. With less than two weeks remaining in the County Championship, Durham are back in front and while their lead may be fragile the onus is on Warwickshire and Lancashire to catch up. As Warwickshire settled for a draw against Yorkshire in a contest ultimately settled by bad light at Edgbaston – a result that effectively relegates Yorkshire – Durham's 208-run victory over Sussex at Hove leaves them seven points ahead of the Midlands side.

Given that they have only one game left while Warwickshire and Lancashire, three points further back in third, have two, they have to be considered as the outsider of the three. But that is not to say the gains made on the south coast yesterday in their first win since beating Lancashire at Liverpool at the end of June will necessarily have been eradicated by this time next week.

Lancashire next take on resurgent Hampshire, fighting for their lives and bang in form, who will see another likely result pitch at Aigburth as their opportunity to secure a fourth win in five matches.

Warwickshire must face outgoing champions Nottinghamshire, who have beaten Lancashire and Durham in the last month or so and will feel they have a point to prove.

Without a win since mid-July, Yorkshire needed to end that sequence to have a realistic chance of staying up after Worcestershire's two-day win over Lancashire, so when the umpires were obliged to take the players off at 4.55pm, with 21 overs left, after the light dipped below the minimum required, there was some sympathy for their fate.

Yet after Gary Ballance had completed his maiden Championship century they were probably too cautious, batting on until noon before asking Warwickshire to chase 349 from 78 overs, more to the point leaving their bowlers to take 10 wickets on a pitch that had flattened out. Warwickshire were 134 for 3 at tea, looking content not to lose.

Unable to budge Jim Troughton or Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and with the light fading, Yorkshire tossed their opponents easy runs to bring the target down to 150 from 23 overs. But it was no surprise when the quicker bowlers came back on that umpires Peter Hartley and Jeff Evans took the players off.

Ashley Giles, Warwickshire's director of cricket, sympathised with Yorkshire's plight and questioned whether current regulations on bad light, in which the umpires alone decide whether it is safe to continue yet make a judgment based on their opinion rather than technical aids. "It was unfortunate because they needed to win and I think it would have been a good contest," Giles said. "The umpires have to abide by the regulations but I wonder if they should be looked at because it is a professional game and we are relying on the naked eye."

Ian Blackwell finished with 5 for 102 as Durham returned to the top by dismissing Sussex for 312, despite a final flourish by Monty Panesar, who hit three sixes off the left-arm spinner.

An unlikely escape for Hampshire remains possible after victory by an innings and 61 runs on the final morning at Taunton, which probably ended Somerset's chances of winning the title. While still bottom, they are now only 19 points behind third-bottom Worcestershire.

Three years without any First Division cricket in London may be ended with promotion for Middlesex and Surrey after the latter completed a crushing defeat of erstwhile Second Division leaders Northamptonshire at Wantage Road. After four wins in their last six matches Surrey are 23 points behind second-placed Northants with a game in hand.