It’s the first of two double headers this weekend, and, with several major clashes being spread over Saturday and Sunday, it looks like it’s time to sort the wheat from the chaff.
The two in two heralds a hectic few weeks for clubs – we’re almost at the mid-point of the calendar year but so far teams have only played seven league games after a later than usual start to the season on April 30.
The catch-up begins this weekend, and over the next 22 days clubs will play six league matches, ending with another Sunday programme on July 10.
Saturday’s eye-catching match is at Seaham Park, where high-flying Burnopfield are the visitors.
The clash couldn’t have come at a better time for third-placed Park as it arrives directly on the back of arguably their best performance of the season, their 10-wicket demolition of Castle Eden.
Seaham will be unchanged for both games – they are at Durham City on Sunday – although John Sample and Thomas Ferguson are still unable to bowl and will once again play as batsmen only.
Club spokesman Michael McNicholas knows the importance of this match, and not only to his own team. “We will be hoping to carry last week’s form into Saturday’s big game and try and do the entire league a favour and beat Burnopfield,” he said.
Burnopfield’s core of three ex-Durham players is obviously their strength, as shown by the club averages which have Gareth Breese, Calum Thorp and Neil Killeen as their three leading batters having scored 750 runs between them.
Killeen has also provided the additional cutting edge that was missing last summer when they finished runners-up to Park in Division Two – he already has 21 league wickets at an average of 8.81.
The pick of the Sunday games is probably the Bunker Hill encounter between Philadelphia and Dawdon.
The two sides go into their double header in fourth and second places respectively, and both begin their programmes with home games, Dawdon entertaining Bill Quay and Phili at home to Crook, so this looks like being a defining weekend for both of them.
Phili have a bit of a player juggling act to do over the two days.
The fun begins on Saturday with Peter Greenwell away and Mattie Noble working. Ian Hauxwell, who rarely misses a game, is back after recovering from a hamstring injury, and Jamie Parkinson makes his seasonal debut.
Parkinson is a former player who has been playing for Barnard Castle, where he lived, but has now returned to the village.
He scored two half-centuries for the seconds and thirds last weekend and is drafted straight into the side.
Sunday’s line-up won’t include Greenwell, Noble, Gary Embleton and Alex Davison, so Michael Hall and Mark Emmerson join Hauxwell and Parkinson in the home dressing room.
Dawdon’s defeat of Crook last time out has given them additional confidence and they hope to go into the weekend with a settled side, with James Dent possibly returning after missing out through an injured finger.
Saturday’s opponents, Bill Quay, will have Mark Cuskeran back.
At the opposite end of the table, Castle Eden have the opportunity to lift their heads above the relegation parapet. Last week’s drubbing at Seaham Park left them in the bottom two, with only Hylton below them, and the two meet on Saturday.
There is also a double header lined up for Division Two teams where the promotion race could not be more intense.
Just 11 points separate the five teams placed from second to sixth, although a health warning may be advisable on that given that many still seem to be struggling with the complexities of a points system which continues to baffle quite a few.
As a result of a couple of adjustments, it was discovered that Peterlee managed to hang on to second spot despite their defeat at Murton last week, but, with Evenwood, Littletown, Ryhope and Whiteleas massing behind them, they will need to be on top form when they begin their double with a home game against in-form Littletown.
The second-placed side include Liam Chaytor against his former club. Chaytor has just returned from university and with Andrew Laidler also back the home team’s only absentee will be the working Ellis Dunn.
Littletown, buoyed by their success against Whiteleas, are at full strength now Matthew Dench has returned from the Chelsea Flower Show. They conclude their weekend with a home game against Ryhope, while Peterlee go to struggling Silksworth on Sunday.
Ryhope host on-song Murton on Saturday, while Houghton will hope to upset hosts Marsden, before entertaining Boldon CA 24 hours later, when Murton head to Langley Park.
Whiteleas have the perfect opportunity to resurrect their promotion challenge as they follow a home game against Silksworth with a trip to leaders Ushaw Moor.
Having slipped to sixth place, Leas know nothing other than a win against bottom side Silksworth will do in order to move back up the table.
Skipper Owen Peterson returns having missed last Saturday’s defeat at Littletown and is urging his players to show character following a difficult couple of games.
“After a great start to the season, we’ve dipped a little bit but the encouraging thing is both our defeats have been very close against two teams who will be up there come September,” he said.
But Leas have been dealt a huge blow with the elbow injury of vice-captain Steve Martin who has been unable to bowl for the last three games. He misses out for both games as does the holidaying Nick Quinn. Batsman Lewis Surtees returns.