BURNMOOR may well have the chance to regain top spot in the next 10 days as leaders Esh Winning face two of their most challenging games of the season, beginning with a renewal of old rivalries on Saturday in the Readers Durham Cricket League.
Prior to Kimblesworth earning promotion to the Durham Senior League a couple of years ago, they were a dominant force in the County League where Esh Winning were their greatest rivals.
And there was a definite hint of concern in the voice of an Esh official earlier this week when discussing the forthcoming challenge.
At times, Kimblesworth have seemed a shadow of their former powerful selves, but, in the last few weeks, with a settled team, they have put on one or two show-stopping displays with their two leading players, Stephen Meek and Paul Craig, rediscovering their best form, most notably in last week’s run-fest against Ryhope when they racked up an eye-watering 303-1.
Both teams are unchanged for this clash of the former County League giants, but Esh indicate that they will be about four players short next weekend when they have to go to Tudhoe, who are in the form of their lives.
So the championship door could be pushed open by Burnmoor if they can make the most of their next two game,s in which they entertain Hylton and then go to Shildon Railway.
The good news for Moor is they should be at full strength, with veteran bowler Ian Conn hoping to be free from work commitments.
Tudhoe’s scintillating form, which has seen them win eight of their last nine matches and extend their unbeaten run to 18 games, marks them out as the very clear dark horses of the title race. With all the top teams still to play, they can really put the cat among the title-chasing pigeons.
They begin their five-game run-in with a home match against Whiteleas, who ended a four-match losing streak with a convincing victory over Shildon last week.
Tudhoe have a full squad to choose from following the return of Ross Hodgson, Dan Hardaker and Tim Smalley, while Whiteleas welcome back batsman Scott Baxter and all-rounder Dom Slater, although Alan Beadle is unavailable.
Castle Eden are just five points behind Tudhoe in fourth. With Alan Unsworth back, they should have too much power for visitors Shildon on Saturday, although after that game they have some pretty tough assignments lined up in their last four matches.
The fight goes on for top 14 places (and a slot in next season’s top flight), with Durham City edging ever closer to that target.
Despite only drawing last week, City were able to move to within nine points of Hylton, who currently occupy 14th place. With Hylton unlikely to find much comfort at Burnmoor, the opportunity is there for Durham as they have a home game against struggling Peterlee.
City have to reckon without Danni Hazell for the next few weeks as she is playing for the England women’s team in their Ashes series against Australia, so they are likely to be unchanged unless Subhan Christudas is free from work commitments.
The one team sandwiched between Hylton and Durham is Ushaw Moor, but they have a difficult game on Saturday when they entertain the improving Seaham Park who, after opening their season with a winless 12-game sequence, have started to bare their teeth.
They had a bit of a hiccup last week when they lost at Crook by nine runs after an Aussie-style collapse from 130-1 to 164 all out, but, with brothers Thomas and James Ferguson back, they expect to do well this weekend.
As ever in early August, the dreaded tentacles of the football season begin to curl around the cricket season, and Sunderland’s home game on Saturday sees a number of teams losing players – a situation that will have a few old players shaking their heads in bewilderment.
Boldon CA expect to be losing three to football, and with Carl Purvis unavailable through work the returns of Brian Conlon and Steve Martin are welcome for the difficult trip to Evenwood.
Ryhope and Silksworth are another two teams suffering with big ball absences, although Connor Johnson and Mickey Thorpe are back for Ryhope’s game at Dawdon, who have Liam Cowell returning from holiday, and Silksworth are able to include Craig Nield, Michael Waterson and Paul Howe when they entertain Murton.
In Saturday’s other games, Bill Quay are bolstered by the return of Jeff Tudor and Davey Brown when they tackle Easington, Adrian Hedley puts Horden at full strength for their trip to Marsden, and Philadelphia will be missing Stephen Robinson, and last week’s century-maker David Baxter, when they entertain rock-bottom Langley Park.