Worcestershire Royals stormed into the lead of the Norwich Union League First Division yesterday after Graeme Hick inspired a three-wicket win over Kent Spitfires at New Road. Kent looked to have set their hosts a difficult target when Matthew Fleming led from the front with a 68 as the Spitfires posted 213 for eight from their 45 overs.
However, the Royals, six points ahead of their third-placed rivals before yesterday's game, could count themselves lucky not to have faced a larger total after four needless run outs and the dismissal of dangerman Steve Waugh for only three. But the hosts quickly set about their task with Vikram Solanki smashing 46 off 38 balls, although fellow opener Anurag Singh fell for just six and his replacement James Piper last only four balls before departing for a duck. That brought Hick to the crease and he hit 77 not out as Worcestershire reached their victory target with five balls to spare.
In the other First Division game, Nottinghamshire Outlaws ran out of wickets as they failed to reach their target of 239 as they fell to a 51-run defeat by Warwickshire at Edgbaston. The hosts scored 238 for nine from their overs after Mark Wagh (49) and Shaun Pollock (39) set the Bears on the way. Ian Bell (54) and James Troughton (34) took over before Warwickshire's bowlers took a grip of the game. Chris Read hit the only meaningful score of the visitors' innings with a 69 but from 152 for five, Nottinghamshire slumped to 187 all out in the 42nd over.
In the Second Division Essex Eagles kept their promotion hopes alive by seeing off Lancashire at Old Trafford. Ronnie Irani celebrated his return to the England squad with two quick wickets and, although Stuart Law (36) led a brief revival, the hosts slipped to 159 for nine.
Peter Martin finished unbeaten on 23 and Gary Keedy 10 but on the whole it was a sorry story for Lightning in a match they had to win to maintain their faint promotion chances. Second-placed Northamptonshire Steelbacks suffered an unexpected six-wicket defeat by Sussex Sharks, who reached their 196 target in the penultimate over. Chris Adams spearheaded the Sussex victory charge with an unbeaten 64 as the visitors reached 197 for four with eight balls remaining.
Will Kendall cracked an unbeaten 110 as Hampshire beat Middlesex by 24 runs at The Rose Bowl. Hawks had slipped to six for three but Kendall and Shaun Udal (58) put on 103 for the first wicket as Hampshire scored 241 for seven before Udal weighed in with a brace of wickets as Middlesex were limited to 217 for seven.
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