Sunderland’s Dukes North East Premier League championship ambitions suffered an unexpected setback when they lost for the first time this season on Saturday.
But they hung onto the lead at the top of the table as their three principal challengers all featured in drawn finishes and failed to take full advantage.
The leaders were beaten in a Tyne-Wear derby which had extra spice following the recent signing of Durham all-rounder Ian Blackwell by Newcastle. He proved the crucial difference, grabbing four wickets and top scoring with 61 as Sunderland failed to deal with his special talents.
The Wearsiders, who batted first, made their usual solid start as Michael Turns, with 30, helped them up to 60-1. But they suddenly collapsed as Blackwell (4-19) and Joe Reynolds (4-38) were brought into the attack, and only 54 more runs were added as they slid to 114 all out.
Blackwell bowled 15.5 overs, seven without conceding a run, on what proved to be an exceptional debut
as only two of the eight batsmen who faced him got into double figures. Then he prevented a Newcastle collapse after their first two wickets fell for just 12 runs, smashing nine fours and two sixes in a 72 ball innings of high quality. His 61 runs gave Newcastle only their second win in 14 games and cost Sunderland their unbeaten record.
Although having seven points trimmed from their lead they are still ahead of second-placed Blaydon by 10 after their closest rivals were unable to overcome the challenge of South Northumberland, last year’s champions, who had the better of a drawn finish.
* Full round-up in tonight’s Sunderland Echo