Big double test for Ropery Lane men

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CHESTER-le-Street hope to relight their fires on a couple of fronts this weekend after a disappointing run over the last few weeks, writes Chris West.

The Dukes North East Premier League Premier Division victory over Newcastle a fortnight ago was hoped to be the springboard for further success, but last week’s washout left the Cestrians as frustrated as everyone else and still trailing the leaders, South Northumberland, by 41 points.

The day after the win at Jesmond came the disappointment of being knocked out of the national club cup by York, and that was followed by a shock defeat at Tynemouth in the competition they have come to regard as their own property, the T20.

Chester have won the Premier League T20 for the last three seasons, and have then gone on to make the national finals day, but they are in a tough group on this occasion, with league leaders South North, as well as champions Stockton, amongst the six team section.

With a win in the first game under their belts, and three games still to go in the group stages, there is plenty of time to claim a top two placing, and they should have too much power for First Division Felling, who visit Ropery Lane tomorrow night, although their overseas amateur, Aussie James Crosthwaite, can be a match winner on his own.

It’s then back to league action on Saturday against Durham Academy, and, with no injury problems, the Cestrians have a full squad to pick from.

Sunderland’s T20 task is significant. They have lost their first two games and will probably need to win all of their three remaining matches to qualify, beginning tomorrow night at Ashbrooke against Hetton Lyons.

With South North their league visitors on Saturday, it means they will be playing the top two teams in the division on successive days, and their success or otherwise could determine how their season pans out.

The Wearsiders’ hope is that Durham bowler Usman Arshad will be available this week as Simon Brown is struggling with injury.

The Lyons’ T20 campaign hasn’t been flawless, losing to Benwell Hill last Friday after an opening victory over Boldon, so they would also have their work cut out to qualify if they lose tomorrow night.

On the league front, they will be willing Sunderland to do well against South North, as that would present them with the opportunity to close the 14-point gap at the head of the table as they should be more than capable of picking up a big points return when they play at rock bottom Gateshead Fell.

As usual, Lyons are waiting for Ryan Pringle’s availability, but they do have one enforced change with Cameron Grimwood in for the working Rob Talbot.

Whitburn are sitting this round of T20 matches out as they play in a five-team group which is currently led by Brandon with two wins from two matches.

The rest allows Whitburn to concentrate fully on their next league challenge which involves a trip to Tynemouth, where home skipper Ben Debnam will be missing as he attends a wedding.

Andrew Smith skippers in Debnam’s absence, while Richie Straughan returns from university, and Graeme Hallam is recovered from injury and plays.

Whitburn make one change, with Mark Elliott replacing Luke Smith.

Sunday is a day of action at many grounds as the league’s second teams get their chance to taste T20 cricket, with three matches featuring throughout the day.

Hetton Lyons host the Group G matches against Seaham Harbour and Blaydon, and just along the road South Hetton entertain Sunderland and Gateshead Fell in Group B.