Durham Cricket League: Intriguing double header will be crucial in tight fight for top-flight survival

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Attention turns to the relegation battles at the foot of Division One this weekend.

Only 33 points separate second-bottom Durham City and Easington, who are sixth from the top!

This incredible position now involves six teams looking upwards and downwards and over their shoulders, as we move into the second half of the season.

Understandably with it being so close, the fixtures have thrown up some very interesting games on this double weekend.

Durham City travel to Dawdon on Saturday and host Esh Winning on Sunday, both very difficult games against high-fliers.

Dawdon have Dave Lowther away on holiday and Esh will be without Michael Oughton on Sunday.

Bill Quay will be looking to capitalise on home advantage as they are at home on both days, taking on Philadelphia (Saturday) and Horden.

Phili are looking to finish runners-up this year and have no doubt that Indian professional Amarjeet Singh has played a big part in the side’s rise up the table.

So far this season, he has taken 25 wickets at just over 12 runs apiece.

Club chairman Malcolm Pratt MBE said: “Arma is a model pro both on and off the field. His bowling is impressive and he’s on course to take 50 wickets during the season and he’s also a more than useful batsman, as he showed last week when his undefeated half-century against Seaham Park was a particularly good innings.”

Captain Shaun Smith and Steve Wright are unable to play, but Gary Braithwaite is available on Saturday.

Smith returns on Sunday and also included is Tommy Wray, since neither Braithwaite nor Gary Embleton can turn out.

James Hayden, a promising batsman, has joined the Bunker Hill club from Greenside. He is the second player to come in during recent weeks, following the return of Jamie Parkinson from Barnard Castle.

“James has great potential and will be a valuable addition to our squad,” added Pratt.

Injuries, though, continue to deplete the squad, a factor in the points difference at the top. Alex Davison, who has played several first-team games this season, is likely to be out for a number of weeks with a broken finger and Greg Halliday, who ended last season in the first team, remains on the sidelines.

Horden play two of their closest rivals, with marooned Hylton at home on Saturday and a trip to Bill Quay on Sunday, so they have the chance to perhaps move clear of trouble.

Castle Eden entertain Crook Town in a crucial match and travel to Phili on Sunday. Crook welcome runaway leaders Burnopfield on Sunday.

Easington, the side least likely to get dragged into the relegation scrap, travel to Seaham Park on Saturday before hosting Hylton.

Seaham Park, unbeaten in five games, have opening batsman Kit Allen and all-rounder Bradley Robinson on holiday and will delay final selection until John Sample has a late fitness test on his fractured finger.

On Sunday, they will be out for revenge against neighbours Dawdon, having inflicted the biggest defeat on the Green Drive outfit this season.

Division Two also sees a double weekend, with just 15 points separating the top six teams.

Whiteleas, in third, travel to Langley Park on Saturday and welcome Houghton on Sunday.

Owen Peterson’s side will be hoping to remain with the chasing pack by returning to winning ways after last week’s draw with Ryhope.

The skipper has hailed overseas player Abdul Ameer, who has impressed with both bat and ball.

Peterson said: “Abdul has been a breath of fresh air for the club with his professionalism and attitude. He has taken 42 league wickets and is averaging just under 50 with the bat - which is remarkable when we are only halfway through the season.

“He’s a pleasure to have around the place and, if his superb form continues, I’m sure we can have a good second half of the campaign.”

Leaders Evenwood travel to Littletown on Saturday and host bottom team Silksworth on Sunday.

Sandwiched in between Evenwood and Leas, are Murton who welcome mid-table Marsden before visiting lowly Boldon on Sunday. Boldon will miss Lee Woodward, but Craig Pirie comes in.

Langley Park, just ahead of the bottom two ahead of Sunday’s game at Peterlee, are nearly at full strength, with Craig Robertson returning, although James Coxon is in Canada on a rugby tour.

Fourth-bottom Houghton will look to beat Silksworth at home on Saturday to ease their drop fears.