It is a statistic that has brought a blushing hue to the Red Rose for longer than most Lancastrians can remember, let alone care to. They have not won the County Championship outright since 1934. Yet again they are pretenders to the crown, and after Glen Chapple took what had been a tight contest away from Essex with an unlikely century, they will have hoped to bowl out the home side at Chelmsford and thus keep pace with leaders Surrey. It was not to be, however: after a tardy declaration, they were denied by one wicket.
Though they were already 337 runs ahead, pace bowler Chapple went on to an unbeaten 132 off 211 balls with 11 fours and two sixes, and skipper Warren Hegg hit 61 not out before finally calling a halt at 383 for 7, leaving Essex 394 to win. Roles were then reversed as Carl Hooper, exponent of the silkiest batting skills, took 6 for 51 with his off-spin. Andy Flower and Aftab Habib, with 69, resisted but Essex slipped from 170 for 3 to 236 for 9, Scott Brant and Graham Napier surviving the last two balls.
The outlook is not good for Derbyshire, who regard others as the cause of their travails. And they can still see all the others above them from the foot of the Second Division following a 10-wicket defeat by Yorkshire at Derby.
The captain, Dominic Cork, must appear before the ECB beaks for casting aspersions on the sportsmanship of Leic-estershire's Brad Hodge, and the club have developed a siege mentality over the ECB's pitch liaison officers, who condemned a Twenty20 surface while failing to punish Northamptonshire for a substandard pitch in their last Championship match.
Resuming on 238 for 5, they did avoid an innings defeat as Graeme Welch, the bowling hero of the first innings and the win at Headingley in May, hustled runs out of the tail, but their total of 383 left Yorkshire 68 to win. It was Derbyshire's fifth consecutive Champion-ship defeat, and Yorkshire's second win in a row after a barren couple of months. The 2001 champions' hopes of returning to the top flight have been resurrected after the ignominy of their relegation.
Two other contenders for promotion were seeking an edge on a good pitch at Taun-ton, both looking for their first win since May. Gloucestershire, with a lead of 187 over-night, took their safety- conscious second innings to 611 for 9 before setting Somerset a notional target of 363.
Australian all-rounder Ian Harvey was unbeaten on 128 off 164 balls with 16 fours, and Martyn Ball made 75. Somerset had little trouble ensuring a draw as they made 115 for 3.