AFTER a rain-induced weekend of inertia, teams get back into Dukes North East Premier League Premier Division action with a vengeance this week, and for some there is the prospect of high intensity cricket on three consecutive days.
Tomorrow night, the first round of Co-operative Funeralcare T20 group games takes place, the first of five successive Fridays of short format cricket, and then, following Saturday‘s next round of league games, Chester-le-Street and Hetton Lyons attempt to make further progress in the National Club Cup.
The Cestrians are used to these type of weekends, and though the league and the national competition are both high on their success agenda, so too is the T20 where they have reigned supreme locally for the last three years.
They would love to have another crack at the televised finals day, in which rain cruelly robbed them of the chance to pitch for glory in 2013.
Their weekend starts with a T20 trip to Stockton, they then go in the opposite direction to Jesmond on Saturday before rounding off this hectic phase back at Ropery Lane on Sunday when they host arguably the cup tie of the whole national round, with York their visitors.
Both sides have been crowned national club champions in recent times, and York represent a formidable hurdle, having won the Yorkshire Premier League title for the last seven consecutive seasons.
Chester believe Max Morley is at last ready for selection after overcoming a number of niggling injuries, including a back problem.
Whether he plays in all three matches is open to question, but he should play in Sunday’s big game. One major absentee for the league match at Newcastle is Liam Simpson, but, apart from that, the full squad is raring to go.
Hetton Lyons begin their trilogy at Boldon in the T20 tomorrow night, then look to build on their fine start in the league, where they lie second just 12 points adrift of South North, with a game away to Durham Academy, before rounding off with a trip to Teesside to take on Stockton in the national cup.
The Lyons squad boasts a clean bill of health, and they expect Durham bowler Ryan Pringle to be available to put them at full strength.
The day before Hetton play Stockton, the Teessiders are the league visitors to Sunderland, who will be handing debuts to two new signings.
Wicketkeeper Paul Jenkin has joined them from Ryhope, where he only played a handful of games after his close-season move to them from Horden, and Arsalan Rahim has returned to the Wearsiders after a brief spell with Gateshead Fell.
There is no doubt these reinforcements are needed after the work-related move to London of Tom Skilbeck and the sudden departure of skipper Dan Shurben to Washington who, by strange coincidence, are the visitors to Ashbrooke tomorrow night in the T20.
Both Ian Stephenson and Imran Shah are missing this weekend, so the new arrivals slot straight into the starting line-up.
Whitburn moved into the quarter-finals of the Banks Salver on Monday when they hammered hapless Felling by 10 wickets, and they take that cup form into their first T20 group game tomorrow night, a home clash with Brandon.
But the Villagers do need to gather some league points with Saturday providing an opportunity as they travel to Denefield to take on the team who are tied with them in second-bottom place, Blaydon.
The two sides have a 26-point margin of safety over rock-bottom Gateshead Fell, but both will be anxious to improve their standing as quickly as possible.
Mark Elliott comes into the Whitburn side in place of Neil Johnson, while Blaydon welcome back Durham’s Ryan Buckley, who had to bowl in the nets at the Sri Lankans last week. Mark Drake remains sidelined by a back problem.