County Championship round-up: Rayner seals instant return to the top flight for Sussex

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The Independent Online

Sussex confirmed they will be back in the First Division next season after sealing promotion on the second day of their match against Northamptonshire at Hove yesterday.

Resuming on 236 for 2, needing to reach 350 to claim the three extra batting bonus points required for them to be certain of going up, they put on 87 before losing a cluster of wickets shortly before lunch, including that of Chris Nash for 169, one of three wickets in four balls for the Northamptonshire seamer David Lucas. However, Ollie Rayner hit the runs which took them to 350, and earned Sussex, champions in 2003, 2006 and 2007 but relegated 12 months ago, an instant return to the top flight after just a year's absence.

In the First Division, rain ended play early at Taunton, but not before Somerset's batsmen had put the title contenders in a strong position against Lancashire. Craig Kieswetter played the standout innings, hitting 84 off just 80 deliveries before becoming Gary Keedy's fifth victim. They were welcome runs for the England wicketkeeper, who has had a torrid season with the bat that has made him a doubt to travel to Australia as England's reserve Test keeper to Matt Prior.

At that stage Somerset's first-innings lead was only 17, but Murali Kartik and Ben Phillips frustrated the visitors – who themselves retain an outside chance of winning the Championship – with an unbeaten eighth-wicket stand of 74 to leave Somerset 91 ahead when the weather closed in.

The match also moved on at Chelmsford, where Durham were at one stage 5 for 4 in reply to Essex's first innings of 268 before recovering to a comparatively respectable score of 177 all out. Tony Palladino and Chris Wright made the early inroads before Ben Harmison and Ian Blackwell steadied the ship with a stand of 53. Harmison went on to top-score with 66 for the champions, but Essex had extended their lead beyond 190 by the close, England opener Alastair Cook leading the way in their second innings with an unbeaten half-century.

A late start at Canterbury saw relegation-threatened Kent fail to take advantage of having dismissed Hampshire for 204 in their first innings, the home team being bowled out for 182 in reply. Dominic Cork had started the rot by bowling opener Sam Northeast for a duck on Tuesday evening, and wickets fell at regular intervals today. Joe Denly made 42, but no Kent batsman passed 50 as Cork finished with 3 for 44 and James Tomlinson 4 for 59.

In the Second Division, Glamorgan's hopes of joining Sussex in winning promotion were dented by Surrey on a rain-shortened day at The Oval. The Welsh county need a total of 25 points from their final two fixtures to be sure of going up, but resuming on 324 for 6, Kevin Pietersen's new team – as Surrey seem to have been temporarily nicknamed – were bowled out for 380, with Chris Schofield making 63.

Glamorgan then lost Gareth Rees and Mark Cosgrove in reaching 72 for 2 before the weather forced an early close, but will have taken some consolation from the fact Gloucestershire, also aiming for promotion, had an even worse day at Grace Road. Replying to Leicestershire's first-innings 295, Gloucestershire were bowled out for just 159, with Hamish Marshall's 61 comfortably the highest score.

Leicestershire then went on to reach 147 for 1 at the close with Greg Smith 70 not out.