AFTER the opening day skirmishes, many of which were blighted by the weather, it should be down to some serious action this weekend in the Readers Durham Cricket League.
Dawdon took the major honours on the opening day when they saw off stiff competition in the shape of Castle Eden to claim an early share of the league leadership with Burnmoor.
However, the Green Drive men’s flying start is set to come under the closest scrutiny this weekend as their double begins with a trip to Easington, who polished off a strong Marsden outfit on day one, and then they entertain Burnmoor in a Bank Holiday Monday cracker.
They will be missing Jamie Greenwood for the first match as he has a pressing engagement – he’s getting married – but he has still committed himself to playing in the Burnmoor game, providing he is fit enough!
Left-arm spinner Liam Cowell slots naturally into the vacant place after missing the opener through work commitments, while Tabs Shah earns promotion to replace Tal Khan.
Easington had five wickets to spare in their opener at Marsden, where new signing Sameer Haque, from Benwell & Walbottle, earned the bowling accolades after a four-wicket debut performance.
He plays again this weekend, although the club do have to make one enforced change with Jason Moses unavailable – his place goes to Michael Robson.
Both Easington’s games are at home, with Monday’s visitors being neighbours Horden.
With Moses still missing, Ryan Higgins is festival-bound and a decision on just who replaces him is being deferred until after Saturday’s match.
Burnmoor looked as solid as ever at Mainsforth last week, and they begin their home programme on Saturday when they entertain Boldon CA.
But they have been hit by a blow as, indeed, has Martin Thursfield, who fractured his thumb when attempting a slip catch last week. With an operation necessary, he could be sidelined for up to a month, so Moor hand 18-year-old batsman McKenzie Wright an opportunity.
Despite this setback, skipper Alec Linsley is happy he has the squad to cope.
Linsley said: “It was important to get off to a good start with the new lads on board and, looking round the team, we look to have a lot of options in both batting and bowling departments, so I have to feel reasonably confident we can be up there challenging again.
“Brydon Carse was recommended to us by Ray Jennings, the former South African national coach.
“His father bowled for Northants, so he has a cricketing pedigree. He’s only 18 and keen to improve, but he looks a threat with the new ball and will also bat in the top order.
“He seems to have adapted to the English way of life quite readily and we are looking forward to a successful season with him in our ranks.
“He even decided to watch a few episodes of Geordie Shore to help him understand our accents, but, with hindsight, we’re not sure if that’s a good thing or not!”
There were four top-flight winners last week, the other one being Philadelphia, and their upcoming double sees them on the road twice, with Saturday’s trip to Horden followed by a game at Castle Eden on Monday.
Last year’s star performer, Lee Innes, did play last weekend after all – he had been expected to miss out because of a calf injury – but he could not bowl and remains troubled by the problem.
He will play in the first game this weekend, although he won’t manage the second as he’s getting married on Monday.
Castle Eden have not recruited locally over the winter, although they have brought in opening bowler Prateek Dabholkah from Mumbai as their overseas player.
The new skipper is Keith Bailey and he is keen to give some of Castle Eden’s outstanding crop of youngsters their chance in the first team, and the club keep faith with the line-up which lost out to Dawdon for Saturday’s trip to Crook.
There is just one set of weekend games in Division Two, and with only two matches played on the opening day, and neither of those producing a winner, it’s almost as you were for a second go at getting the season underway.
Whiteleas had a blank weekend anyway, so their campaign really does start this week – they open with a home game against Murton.
There have been some changes at the South Tyneside club during the winter, with Owen Peterson stepping down as captain after a seven-year stint, but remaining as a player, and opening batsman Ray McRae taking over the reins.
McRae has four new players at his disposal – opening bowler Chris Nichol and all-rounder Sam Embleton have made the short journey from South Shields, and are joined by another all-rounder, Steve Martin, from Boldon CA.
Last year’s overseas professional, Sunzow Brahma, is replaced by Pakistani state cricketer Hamad-Ul-Hasan, a 26-year-old powerful middle order batsman and off-spin bowler.
Ul-Hasan is no stranger to the Durham Cricket League having plied his trade with Ushaw Moor last season, registering an impressive 900 league runs at an average of 42 and claiming 29 wickets.
Murton are missing four players from last week’s line-up.
Ian King, Phil Grimwood and Jordan Vout miss out because of work and holidays, while Rameez Nawaz has decided not to stay with the club after playing just one match.
Ian Cassap, James Watson and Ryan Lowes come into the side.
Ryhope have home advantage against Ushaw Moor and stick with an unchanged side, while Seaham Park travel to Durham City without Mick McNicholas and Graham Race, although they hope to have both Thomas Ferguson and Andrew Worthy in the team.
Silksworth are missing Paul Bradford and Eddie Woods and call on Billy Hedgeley and Darren Stoker for the home meeting with Peterlee, who have yet to decide who will replace the missing James Kemp and Harry Garraghan.