Leaders Essex relishing the pressure
Ante-post outsiders closing in on title
Division One & Two matches
Essex, 25-1 outsiders of eight in the ante-post betting for Division One, have surged clear in the title race after winning six of their last seven matches.
Promoted as Division Two champions last year, Essex have confounded expectations and avoiding defeat against their closest pursuers Lancashire would leave them on the brink of glory.
Lancashire came as close as any team to defeating the unbeaten leaders, who needed an epic rearguard century from Dan Lawrence to earn a draw in the opening game of the season.
More recently, though, Essex have been reeling off impressive win after impressive win, bowling out Somerset for 109 last week to clinch their fifth straight victory.
That success was achieved despite the absence of Mohammad Amir (back spasms) for much of the match but the Pakistan paceman should be fit to torment a Lancashire side who have to push for victory.
Essex are clearly buzzing in red-ball cricket and they are worth backing to claim a sixth win in a row at Old Trafford.
It's also first versus second in Division Two and treble-chasing Nottinghamshire are 8-13 to extend their lead over Worcestershire, for whom India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin claimed eight wickets on a successful debut against Gloucestershire last time out.
A better bet may come at the Riverside, where Durham have shown spirit and quality to haul themselves up to eighth despite starting the season with a 48-point deduction.
After failing to win any of their first six games, they are on a run of three victories in five matches with 177 from the redoubtable Paul Collingwood setting up their latest triumph against Derbyshire.
Kent's Championship campaign has gone flat after four draws and a defeat in their last five games and they may not relish the long trip north.
2pts 14-19 188Bet
2pts 10-11 general