NEWLY-PROMOTED Essex came mighty close to inflicting a first home defeat on dual champions Durham in two years as rain and bad light thwarted their progress at the Riverside.
Leading by 286 runs from the first innings, the division one newcomers looked set for a shock victory.
But a record 212-run third-wicket stand between Michael Di Venuto (99) and Dale Benkenstein (98), and half-centuries from Ian Blackwell (52) and Phil Mustard (60no), helped the hosts to 352-7 before the weather brought the game to a premature end.
The early leaders in division one are Yorkshire, who recorded their second consecutive victory with a six-wicket success over Somerset.
A fluent 90 from opener Adam Lyth and a solid 64no from captain Andrew Gale helped Yorkshire to their victory target of 199 with 10.1 overs remaining to give them a first success at Headingley in exactly two years.
Lancashire also secured victory after bowling Warwickshire out for 197 in their unlikely pursuit of 319 at Old Trafford.
In division two, Glamorgan recorded their first win at Lord’s in 56 years after dismissing Middlesex for 296 – 78 runs short of their victory target.
Surrey cricket boss Chris Adams suffered a disappointing return to Sussex after his side crashed to a ten-wicket defeat with the hosts requiring just 33 to win from their final innings.
Leicestershire celebrated their first County Championship away win in four years after securing a second win of the campaign at Derbyshire.
Hants in advanced talks to sign Lee
HAMPSHIRE have admitted they are in talks to sign Australian fast bowling legend Brett Lee.
The 33-year-old retired from Test cricket back in February, but is in the Australia squad for the ICC World Twenty20 later this month.
Lee has been struggling of late with a side strain but a Hampshire statement confirmed: “These talks are at an advanced stage, and we will hope to make a further announcement in due course.”