And then there were three. Somerset's completion of what was ultimately a remarkably straightforward nine-wicket victory over Lancashire at Taunton yesterday not only left the West Countrymen just two points behind the Championship leaders Nottinghamshire going into the final round of matches, it also ensured their opponents cannot win the title.
For Somerset, the prospect of their first ever Championship is now very real. Their final game of the season sees them travel to current champions Durham, and with a disheartened Nottinghamshire playing Lancashire at Old Trafford, and Yorkshire – five points behind Somerset – facing Kent at Headingley, Marcus Trescothick's men know victory will give them every chance of breaking their 119-year duck.
After being bowled out for 382, giving them a first-innings lead of 123, Charl Willoughby and Alfonso Thomas took three wickets each as Lancashire collapsed to 170 all out. Only Steven Croft (46) and a late stand between Kyle Hogg and Luke Procter offered any genuine resistance. Somerset raced to their target in nine overs.
Like Yorkshire, Somerset have a CB40 semi-final to play before the final round of Championship matches, in their case against Essex at Taunton. For their head coach, Andy Hurry, however, winning the Championship is the county's "holy grail".
"The aim before the season was to win some silverware, but the players know that becoming the first Somerset side to win the Championship would mean going down in history," Hurry said. "If we can play as well against Durham as we did here we will give ourselves every chance."
Kent appear favourites to join Essex in being relegated next season after a tough day against Hampshire at Canterbury. Having conceded a first-innings lead of 22, they saw Michael Carberry, Jimmy Adams and Liam Dawson score half-centuries before the visitors closed on 272 for 6. If Hampshire win today, the result would effectively consign Kent to the Second Division.
Glamorgan will almost certainly move in the opposite direction if they get three more points than Worcestershire, and four more than Gloucestershire, from this week's matches. Although their match against Surrey appears likely to end in a draw, Worcestershire are in deep trouble at 195 for 7 against Middlesex, giving them a lead of just 16, while only rain can save Gloucestershire at Leicestershire.Reuse content