Hayden's men close to sealing silverware

Northamptonshire continued to close in on the Second Division title yesterday, despite the loss of all but 70 minutes play on the third day of their match against Essex at Wantage Road.

Northamptonshire continued to close in on the Second Division title yesterday, despite the loss of all but 70 minutes play on the third day of their match against Essex at Wantage Road.

Matthew Hayden's men progressed from 337 for 7 overnight to 397 for 9, picking up another batting point before steady drizzle prevented further play. His side have a lead of 164 with one wicket standing, and a draw will now be enough to earn them the trophy following Glamorgan's seven-wicket defeat by Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.

David Ripley (54) and Paul Taylor (27) carried their eighth-wicket stand to 69 before Ricky Anderson, armed with the second new ball, dismissed both men in successive overs. Taylor clipped a straightforward catch to Paul Grayson at square-leg while Ripley edged to Stuart Law at slip.

The last pair, Darren Cousins and Jason Brown, came together with 11 runs needed to secure the fifth and final batting point and they had scored eight when the weather intervened. It was a low-key sequel to the events of the first two days when Northamptonshire gained the points they needed to wrap up promotion, then faced the prospect of losing them before an inspection panel exonerated their pitch.

Ian Harvey claimed match figures of 10 for 32 as Gloucestershire strengthened their late bid for promotion to the First Division by destroying Sussex by an innings and 18 runs at Hove.

Sussex, 89 runs behind on first innings, were routed for 71 in 25 overs to dive to their fourth Championship defeat in the last five games.

Harvey bowled impressively to take 4 for 13 after hitting a fluent 60 as Gloucestershire, resuming on 74 for 2, were bowled out for 227, 50 minutes after lunch.

Sussex, top of the table five weeks ago, have now won only one of their last 10 matches in all forms of cricket and are in danger of finishing bottom.

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