Double title tilt excites Whitburn

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WHITBURN are pushing hard for a double title success going into the last weekend of the inaugural North East Premier League First Division season.

The Villagers’ first-team, gunning for a first league championship since a Lance Gibbs-inspired Durham Senior League triumph in 1964, are just 12 points adrift of leaders Sacriston, ahead of the final-day visit of Washington.

Whitburn must secure the maximum 30 points if they are to stand any chance of winning the league, as well as relying on help from neighbours Boldon, who entertain Sacriston. A Boldon draw or win, coupled with 30 points for Whitburn, will guarantee the title for captain Andrew Turns and his men.

Middle order batsman Turns has enjoyed a fine first season as skipper, with Whitburn spending the first two thirds of the season sitting comfortably at the top of the table, before holidays and injury concerns hit hard.

Professional Stuart Walker has topped 900 league runs (1,300 in all competitions), including three fabulous centuries, with good support from Michael Turns and youngster Lee Henderson, who have 400 runs apiece, plus opening partner Neil Ayre, who has scored two centuries on his way to 700 runs so far.

Mark Elliot has been the pick of the bowler, with his unorthodox off spin landing 28 wickets.

Meanwhile, the seconds have enjoyed great success with a young, but balanced side. They go into the final game 14 points head of Sacriston, with the championship trophy in their sights.

Captain Craig Henderson has led his men to 14 wins in 17 games this summer, hitting an impressive 700 runs himself, nearly 1,000 in all competitions.

Big hitter Eden Elstob has weighed in with 400 runs, while seam bowler Dan Quinan, despite dislocating his shoulder four games into the season, has bagged 40 league wickets, 60 in all competitions.

Chairman Russell Muse is relishing the excitement of a double title tilt, saying: “I’m delighted with the performances of all our teams and players this year.

“We have performed well and I would love to see either the firsts or the seconds crowned champions.

“The NEPL Premier Division is the highest standard of cricket in the region and I feel it’s time our club became part of it.

“We work hard to keep a high standard of cricket, and we welcome youngsters and newcomers to the game with our comprehensive junior coaching programme.

“I would be delighted to see us join the cricketing elite of the area.”

Whitburn are enjoying success at junior levels, too, with the Under-11s winning the Benfield Durham Cricket Board Junior League Shield, beating Dawdon in the final, while the U13s and U15s also have finals to look forward to.

Fixtures secretary Dan Quinan said: “It’s a delight to see our kids doing well and playing cricket at such a competitive level.

“They form the building blocks for the future of our club, and without those forming the foundations, 15 years down the line we would be unable to survive.

“I’m now 22 years old and, after 13 years at the club, I have never seen such a collection of talent throughout juniors and seniors.”

The club will welcome all spectators for Saturday’s big match, with admission free.