It’s one of the biggest days in the history of Eppleton Cricket Club on Sunday when they play host to Chester-le-Street in the final of the Banks Salver (1.30pm), writes Chris West.
The club are expecting a big following for a match against one of the acknowledged giants of the NEPL, who will go into the 45 overs per side game as the undoubted favourites, although that fact won’t worry Eppleton as they have turned in some sparkling displays to reach this stage.
After a first round victory over Brandon by 21 runs, they followed up by toppling top flight Newcastle by four wickets, before going on to record an outstanding result in the semi-final when they successfully chased down a challenging total of 237-8 against high-flying Blaydon, who have a very similar Premier Division playing record this summer to the Cestrians.
Eppleton are almost at full strength for the NEPL showpiece, their only absentee being David Wilkinson who is setting off on his holidays immediately after the conclusion of Saturday’s league game at Sacriston.
Chester have a full squad to choose from following the return from holiday of Quentin Hughes, Gareth Wade and George Harrison.
Saturday marks the return league fixtures from last weekend, an unusual quirk at this stage of the season, but one that adds interest to a number of games, and none more so than the return encounter between leaders South Shields and Seaham Harbour.
Harbour looked to have holed Shields title bid below the waterline when they won a thriller by a single wicket in the first match, but, in an unusual combination of results, Shields actually increased their lead to 35 points as their main challengers also faltered.
Harbour’s cricket manager, Stuart Lacey, was thrilled by his team’s performance, including an excellent display in the field which held the visitors in check: “We won the toss and decided to bowl first to try and restrict them to a manageable total to knock off, so we were pleased to have restricted them to 200.”
But after a brilliant 92 from Ian Pattison, the game was back in the balance when he was dismissed and it took the skill and experience of a veteran to see them over the line: “Jeff Laws came to the crease with sixty still required,” said Stuart.
“He used his considerable experience to marshal the lower order and when the ninth wicket fell, we still needed four to win. Thankfully, Jeff managed to hit the winning runs with an over to spare, much to everyone’s relief.
“These tight games are great to win and hopefully we can use it to gain further self-belief. As it turns out we play Shields again in the reverse fixture on Saturday and let’s hope it is another cracking game.”
Harbour turn out the same eleven for the re-match, while Shields have Ryan West back from Scotland Academy duty to bolster their attack.
Whilst Shields were losing at the Harbour, second-placed Washington were suffering a similar fate at Boldon, where their hosts turned in a dominant performance to win by 53 runs.
Whether that result has any bearing on the confidence of either side remains to be seen, but no doubt Boldon will be emboldened.
They make one change for the game with Jamie Carroll called up in place of the unavailable Jamie Carroll.
In Saturday’s other return matches, Brandon will be looking to do the double over Felling having won convincingly last week, and their cause will be helped by the fact that Paul Leonard will be missing from the visitors dressing room with his place taken by emerging talent Sam Witherspoon.
South Hetton will be hoping that home advantage will help them against a Willington team, who have 17-year-old wicket keeper Elliott Foster returning to put the squad at full strength.