The latest round of Specsavers County Championship fixtures drew to a close on Thursday, with neither Hampshire nor Yorkshire getting the results they would have wanted to keep up the pace with Division One leaders Essex.
Hampshire were held to a draw by Surrey and Yorkshire lost out to Somerset although all the excitement was at Warwickshire, where Middlesex pipped their hosts by a single wicket thanks to an unlikely starring role with the bat from Tim Murtagh.
In the second tier, Durham were comfortable victors at Derbyshire, with the match between Kent and Northamptonshire finishing in a draw, but there was plenty to leave the punters happy from across both divisions.
Sean Dickson's form heading into Kent's game against Northamptonshire was hardly formidable, with seven scores of 12 or fewer in his last nine innings (including four ducks). But shifts in form hardly come more dramatic as he piled on 318 - the second highest score in the county's history and the first triple in the county championship since Kevin Pietersen signed off with 355 two years ago.
TWEET OF THE ROUND: "Just a mere 25 years separating Qadri & Collingwood" - The official Specsavers County Championship feed flags up Derbyshire's 16-year-old spinner dismissing 41-year-old Durham captain Paul Collingwood at Chesterfield and instantly captures the format's endearing inclusivity. If you're good enough, you're old enough.
It took Hampshire 756 minutes to dismiss Surrey captain Rory Burns in a limpet-like showing at the Oval. The Surrey skipper carried his bat for 219 in the first innings - still not enough to avoid the follow-on after the visitors' mammoth 648/7d. So he went straight back to work and batted for another two-and-a-half-hours for 68 in the second dig. When he eventually succumbed it was an ill-fitting end, stumped off a leg-side wide from Sean Ervine.
OVERTON AND OUT
Somerset's Craig Overton recorded career-best first-class figures in his side's victory over Yorkshire at Scarborough, with a match haul of nine for 134. The paceman has long been rated a future England international but, after five years on the circuit, needs to start giving the selectors are firmer nudge to avoid being overtaken. This was just the kind of performance he needs, taking out the White Rose on their favourite outground.
ALL IRELAND AFFAIR Middlesex and Warwickshire were neck and neck for most of a pulsating match at Edgbaston, making identical first-innings scores of 334, then keeping each other in tight check throughout the second innings. Deep on the fourth afternoon it came to Ireland team-mates Boyd Rankin and Tim Murtagh to settle matters, with Warwickshire needing just one wicket and Middlesex three runs from victory. Rankin delivered and Murtagh, a number 11 batsmen with 10 first-class 50s to his name, did the necessary for the visitors.
OFF THE BOTTOM Durham's victory not only stretched their unbeaten run to four matches but also lifted them off the Division Two basement. For a side who started the campaign with a 48-point penalty due to the terms of a financial bailout by the ECB, that represents significant ground gained. Leicestershire could yet leapfrog them in the final two days of their game against Sussex, but it now seems unlikely Durham will end the season propping up the standings.
NEXT CHAMPIONSHIP FIXTURES DIVISION ONE, August 6: Hampshire v Lancashire, Middlesex v Warwickshire, Yorkshire v Essex. August 7: Somerset v Surrey.
DIVISION TWO: July 9: Gloucestershire v Worcestershire. August 6: Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire v Durham, Northamptonshire v Gloucestershire, Worcestershire v Sussex.