It is that time of the year when England's fringe players expend every ounce of their energy to cap up a good season and highlight their stakes in the national team. In the wake of the Twenty20 onslaught, many would have signalled the death of the County Championship especially after the England Cricket Board decided to have two Twenty20 tournaments from 2010 onwards.
But people are taking note of the emerging talent. In the last three weeks, more than five million people have logged on to the internet for the latest news. The last round of the four-day battle started yesterday - and in the right earnest with as many as four teams - Nottinghamshire, Hampshire, Durham and Somerset - within a chance to lay hands on the winner's trophy. And that could be natural if you consider that the bag of riches is getting bigger by the day and there is lot at stake.
Nottinghamshire, leading the table, started off on the right note by putting Hampshire on the mat at 166-7 by tea. Notts need to win convincingly to be the champions. If they draw or lose bonus points, Durham and Somerset could sneak in. Stephen Harmison's four wickets gave Durham the right fillip as Kent were battling to cross the 200-run mark. They were 190-9 and are in danger of even relegated. Somerset need nine more points than Nottinghamshire to win the title, as long as Durham do not accumulate two points than Somerset's points total from the game.
That looked a nervous affair as Somerset barely touched 202 against Lancashire as they rode on a brilliant 81 from Peter Drego, but two quick wickets from the ageing warhorse Andy Caddick put them back in. Lancashire were 16-2 at the break as they too struggle to remain afloat. Durham can win the County Championship if they beat Kent and accumulate 10 more points than Nottinghamshire. They will move above Somerset - on greater number of wins - if they collect two more bonus points than their challengers. Durham need one bonus point to avoid relegation.
Yorkshire were 57-3 against Sussex when bad light stopped play. firstname.lastname@example.org