Ashbrooke on a high for the Hill

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A BUOYANT Sunderland are in great mood as they prepare for another trip to Newcastle this coming weekend in the Dukes North East Premier League Premier Division.

A sensational batting performance saw the Wearsiders open their league programme with victory at Jesmond, a game in which skipper Dan Shurben excelled in a successful, record-breaking run chase, although his day did not start out too well.

Shurben said: “Clearly, it was a good game to win, but I was thinking what have I done when I put them in and watched the ball going around the park every over.”

The first innings saw Newcastle amass an eye-watering 328-1, and when the generous declaration came after just 45 overs it looked as though it would be a long haul for Sunderland to save the game.

But Shurben (84) and Simon Brown (61) took the visitors up to 180-1 and suddenly a sensational victory was on. The eventual win came with two wickets and two overs to spare, and brought with it a new league record total for the jubilant victors.

This week it’s back across the Tyne to Denton Bank where hosts Benwell Hill await after notching up an opening day success themselves, although in vastly differing circumstances.

While Sunderland were coming out on top in a game in which 658 runs were scored while nine wickets fell, the Hill were winning at Blaydon where 19 wickets tumbled and the run count totalled 158.

The outstanding home pro, Zohaib Khan, was straight into a familiar groove, bagging 6-12, and he is likely to be the main threat to the rampant Sunderland batters.

But the Wearsiders are likely to be nearing full strength, with Tom Skilbeck and Imran Shah, who missed last week, back in the reckoning, and the Ashbrooke club are also hopeful that Durham’s Usman Arshad will be allowed to play.

There was no honeymoon period for Whitburn as their first foray into top-flight cricket got off to a disastrous start when they were reduced to 50-8 at title holders Stockton, but there was real fighting spirit shown as they fought back to post a semi-respectable 126.

The Villagers then ruffles a few home feathers with the ball before going down by five wickets.

This weekend, they get the chance to sample the delights of the Emirates ICG as they travel to take on the youngsters of Durham Academy, who squeezed out a draw at Tynemouth last week.

As ever, the Academy have some new additions to their Premier League squad this summer, with Callum Buckley, Jack Burnham and Grant Nicholson the new kids on the block.

Like his brother Ryan, Callum Buckley is an off-spinner from Darlington RA and came to prominence with an eye-catching display in the 2013 County Championship Under-17 final against Kent, when he claimed a match winning bag of 5-7 from 15.3 overs.

Burnham is a medium pace all-rounder who joined the Academy last season from Hetton Lyons, while Nicholson is an opening bowler from Blaydon.

Ropery Lane plays host to the game of the day when Chester-le-Street tackle South North.

The two big guns of Premier League cricket lock horns in an early season battle, and the Cestrians will be only too aware of the sensational South North debut of Karl Turner, the ex-Durham and Notts man creating an individual batting record for his new club with an unbeaten 209 on the opening day.

Turner heads a strong South North line-up that will include Jonny Craigs, who comes in for Tom Hodnett.

Chester-le-Street are hoping that Durham’s Max Morley will be declared fit enough to make his debut. If so, he will be the only change in their team.

Hetton Lyons came out of their tough opener at Chester with the major share of the spoils in a drawn game, and their first home match of the summer sees them take on Tynemouth, who were involved in the other stalemate of last week’s programme.

There will be only one change in the home dressing room, with leg spinner Chris Varley included on his return from holiday.