Hardinges' hundred fends off Essex victory charge

Mark Hardinges' maiden Championship century was the major feature at Chelmsford as Gloucestershire drew withEssex.

Essex started with a realistic hope of victory in the Second Division match, Gloucestershire resuming 120 ahead with only five second innings wickets left, and they were soon boosted by Varun Chopra's diving catch at slip to get rid of Ian Harvey with the visitors' lead just beyond 150.

Harvey's dismissal heralded the arrival of Hardinges, who put paid to Essex's ambitions. With Stephen Adshead and Martyn Ball his most reliable partners, Hardinges shared in half-century partnerships to carry the game beyond the home side.

Bad weather ruined Northamptonshire's bid to beat the Second Division leaders Derbyshire after play was washed out without a ball being bowled. The umpires, Jeff Evans and Neil Bainton, finally called play off at 3pm, deciding the pitch was too waterlogged after three inspections.