Warwickshire moved a significant step closer to securing their first County Championship since 2004 as a draw with Nottinghamshire at Edgbaston yesterday extended their lead over Sussex to 22 points with two matches left.
Should Jim Troughton's team win at Worcester next week and Sussex fail to beat Somerset at Hove, the race will be over. Nottinghamshire, six points behind Sussex, already believe they are out of contention.
"It is for other people to say if the title is ours to lose but I think we are strong favourites," Troughton said last night. "But we were possibly starting to look over our shoulders a bit in the last game against Middlesex, where we escaped with a draw really, and that was a wake-up call to make sure we take care of what we have to do."
After the loss of a day to rain, the chances of Warwickshire bowling Nottinghamshire out twice on an essentially flat wicket were always slim. Had they been able to make Nottinghamshire follow on, the odds would have been slightly shorter, but an unbeaten 155 by Alex Hales ensured that did not happen.
Nottinghamshire have been granted permission to name Hales and Michael Lumb for the first two days against Surrey at The Oval next week before the pair join England's Twenty20 squad.
Worcestershire's defeat at home to Middlesex, Joe Denly hitting 48 as the visitors chased down 204 to win, leaves the bottom two unchanged after Lancashire's match with Durham at Liverpool finished in a draw. Surrey, who drew with Somerset after a mercifully better-tempered final day at Taunton, have a 17-point advantage over next-to-bottom Lancashire, who have one more point than Worcestershire.
In the race for promotion from the Second Division, Yorkshire jumped ahead of Hampshire into second place after beating Gloucestershire at Scarborough, where Phil Jaques made 79 and Anthony McGrath 76 not out in chasing down a target of 318 from 84 overs with two wickets and 16 balls to spare.
Kent beat Leicestershire easily at Grace Road, where all-rounder Darren Stevens took 5 for 35 against his former county.