County round-up: Rain prevents second Hampshire miracle

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The Independent Online

On the day that it was announced Kevin Pietersen will pull on a Hampshire jersey in anger this season, the Rose Bowl club could not muster a second miracle. Hampshire, who sit at the bottom of the County Championship First Division, had Essex on the ropes – 99 for 6, chasing an unlikely 328 to win – but rain intervened.

None the less it was an encouraging display for the South Coast club, who will welcome Pietersen into their ranks for a Friends Provident t20 match this coming Sunday against Surrey. Given that he went through the entirety of the 2009 season without making an appearance in the club's colours, that's quite something.

Essex were indebted to Ravi Bopara, who hit a composed 61 to rescue his side from 14 for 4. Essex are now fifth having played nine games while Hampshire, who have a game in hand, are joint bottom with Warwickshire.

Yesterday's other First Division match saw Kent unable to turn an advantageous position into victory over Nottinghamshire at Tunbridge Wells, but large crowds on the first two days will have given the Hop County's Chief Executive Jamie Clifford something to smile about.

A tinder dry and slow pitch that offered little or no assistance to either spin or seam ensured there would be no result: Darren Stevens, who has been far and away Kent's best batsman this season, was out for 197 before Notts reached 210 for 3 and that was that.

There was rather more action in the Second Division, where Northamptonshire completed a thumping nine-wicket victory over Middlesex at Lord's having bowled out their hosts for 285.

Andrew Hall, the South African who became Northant's captain this season, took four wickets before Ben Howgego and Rob White secured their county's fourth win of the season. Middlesex, who have won just twice, are third from bottom.

Surrey were not playing yesterday but Andre Nel, their South African paceman, has a knack for being in the spotlight whatever the circumstances. The England and Wales Cricket Board have handed him three penalty points – in addition to an internal suspension placed on him by Surrey – in relation to an incident in which he appeared to throw the ball at Northamptonshire opener Niall O'Brien in a match at the end of May. He was subsequently issued with a two-match ban by his county.

Nel, whose volatile on-pitch persona has got him in trouble in the past, now has six penalty points, with a total of nine enough to earn a formal ECB ban.

The only other match yesterday saw Sussex – third in the Second Division – stumble as they looked to establish a winning lead going into the final day. Luke Wright took five for 65 to help bowl Derbyshire out for 337 but the visitors then lost seven wickets for just 71 runs by the close. Robin Petersen, a slow left-armer from Port Elizabeth, took four for 10 as Sussex reached stumps 163 runs ahead.