LV County Championship - Division Two
Northamptonshire 299 (A J Hall 85, Danish Kaneria 5-86) & 195 (D S Lucas 55 no, C J C Wright 4-43) v Essex 253-8 dec (R N ten Doeschate 75) & 242-6 (A N Cook 87, J J van der Wath 5-71)
Essex (19pts) beat Northamptonshire (4pts) by 4 wkts
Essex claimed a four-wicket LV County Championship win over Northamptonshire with just one ball to spare at Chelmsford on Friday.
Resuming on 41-2, Northamptonshire were bowled out for 195, setting Essex a target of 242 runs for victory.
Paceman Chris Wright fashioned the opportunity for the county's fifth victory in the County Championship this season by taking three for 37 as the visitors capitulated rapidly from 55 for two to 90 for seven.
A 60-run partnership between David Lucas and Andrew Hall bolstered the faltering innings before Danish Kaneria finally broke the stand when Hall was bowled by a googly for 29 leaving Northants 150 for eight.
Monty Panesar contributed 19 out of 33 before Wright, who finished with four for 43, made him his fourth victim and Graham Napier (three for 46) had last man Lee Daggett caught at slip leaving Lucas stranded on 55 not out.
Essex then set about their chase with Alastair Cook and John Maunders putting on an opening partnership of 130 before Johan van der Wath, who finished with five for 71, provided problems for Essex as the bowler claimed the first four wickets, all caught by wicket-keeper Niall O'Brien.
Maunders went for 46, Cook for an outstanding 87 from 116 deliveries, Matt Walker for 39 and Ryan ten Doeschate for seven to leave the hosts on 192 for four.
With Andrew Hall bowling Mark Pettini for five and Van der Wath claiming a fifth victim when he dismissed James Foster for five, the match was in the balance with Essex 205 for six.
Twenty-eight runs were required form the final three overs but then Van der Wath conceded a defining 16 runs including a six by Napier and two fours to tilt the balance back towards Essex.
Just three runs were needed from the final over of an enthralling match and although Van der Wath yielded just two runs from the first four deliveries, a scrambled bye saw Essex home and lifted them into second place in Division Two.
Essex took 19 points from the match whilst Northamptonshire took four points.
Northamptonshire hold an 85-run lead after finishing day three of their Division Two encounter with fellow promotion hopefuls Essex at 39-2 in their second innings.
With the first day's play at Chelmsford completely washed out, Essex skipper Mark Pettini declared his side's first innings at 253-8 to concede a first-innings lead of 46 in an effort to make up for lost time.
Resuming on the third morning at 3-0, Essex slumped to 128-5 before Ryan ten Doeschate rescued the innings with a hard-hit 75 off just 74 balls.
The Dutchman hit 12 boundaries and was given solid support by James Foster (28) during a sixth-wicket stand of 89.
Both departed in quick succession to medium pacer Andrew Hall (2-38) and Pettini - aware of his side's greater need for a victory in the chase for second place behind Kent in Division Two - declared shortly afterwards.
Second-placed Northants, who came into the match with a 12-point advantage over Essex in third, were pegged back to 39-2 in their second innings by the close.
David Masters (2-10) accounted for Stephen Peters (2) and Paul Harrison (3) but Niall O'Brien stood firm with an unbeaten 28 and will resume on the final morning in the company of Riki Wessels (5no).
Danish Kaneria continued his superb finish to the English summer with 5-86 as Northamptonshire were bowled out for 299 at Chelmsford.
The Pakistan leg spinner took his tally for the LV County Championship this season to 68 wickets, though the hosts did let their promotion rivals off the hook.
After the opening day of the crucial Division Two fixture was lost to rain, Northants slipped to 180-7 after being put into bat.
However Andrew Hall engineered a tail-end recovery, the former South Africa all-rounder making a crucial 85 from 118 deliveries.
He put on 71 for the eighth wicket with David Lucas (20) before Monty Panesar continued the fightback, his unbeaten 32 including six fours.
David Masters eventually ended the innings by bowling last man Lee Daggett for a duck, the wicket giving the seamer final figures of 3-57.
Essex faced just three overs at the start of their reply before the close of play, John Maunders scoring all their runs as they finished on 3-0.
Rain has prevented any play on day one of the crucial Division Two match between Essex and Northamptonshire in Chelmsford.
The situation is bound to frustrate the home side, who are looking to close the gap to promotion rivals Northants and join Kent in Division One.
With one match to come, Essex stand third in the table and must make up a 12-point gap to their opponents.
The weather had already forced an early lunch before the rain finally ceased at 2.30pm.
Groundsman Stuart Kerrison and his team then removed the covers and commenced mopping-up operations.
Umpires Barry Dudleston and Nigel Cowley were able to carry out an inspection at 3.30pm and it was decided that play would start an hour later.
However, the rain promptly returned to dash hopes and at 4pm play was formally called off for the day.