SUNDERLAND get the chance to repeat their opening-day victory at Wood Terrace when they meet South Shields again – at Ashbrooke in the first round of the National Club Championship on Sunday.
At first glance, the Wearsiders’ resounding 105-run victory looked comprehensive, but at one time Ashley Thorpe thought he had made a big error in winning the toss and electing to bat.
When Sunderland slumped to 40-5, it needed skipper Thorpe to step up to the plate, which he did brilliantly to turn the game on its head.
His century, during which he shared good partnerships with Chris Rushworth and Jas Singh, proved to be a match-winning effort as it propelled his team past the 200 mark, and that was followed by a good all-round effort in the field as Shields folded.
Before the cup match, Durham Academy visit on league duty on Saturday. Despite only drawing their opener at Newcastle, the Academy youngsters showed enough quality to suggest they will be extremely competitive again, and they draft in promising Middlesbrough off-spinner Ryan Buckley for this one.
Sunderland’s only doubt surrounds Loughborough University student Michael Turns, although the club are hopeful he will be available as they strive to build on their excellent start.
Chester-le-Street will also make a determined bid for national honours, and they begin their attempt to regain the title they won in 2009 with a home match against Durham County League outfit Crook Town.
Crook are led by the irrepressible Steve Chapman, who spent the winter coaching Dandenong to the Victorian Premiership in Australia, his side containing players such as Peter Siddle and Darren Pattinson.
Before that, the Cestrians travel to Tynemouth, who suffered a mauling at the hands of Blaydon last week. The hosts have availability problems as Dan Newton, Matt Brown and Josh Koen are all tied up with exams.
Chester have a full-strength squad to choose from, although they will be without Ian Hunter on Sunday as the former Derbyshire man will be playing for Northumberland in the Minor Counties Championship.
Buoyed by their battling victory over a strong Benwell Hill side last week, Hetton Lyons face one of the ultimate tests as they travel to Gosforth to take on South Northumberland on Saturday.
Lyons are able to name an unchanged side, although their hosts are ominously stronger following the return of Jimmy Miller and Mark Wood.
South Shields are awaiting news from Durham over the availability of batsman Gordon Muchall, but British Universities opening bat Luc Durrandt, who has played a number of first-class games in recent weeks, definitely plays at Blaydon.
Benwell Hill play Stockton, the pair desperate to bounce back from their first-day defeats, while Gateshead Fell are also in need of a pick-me-up when they tackle a Newcastle team that will include Durham wicketkeeper Michael Richardson.