BOLDON CA are in the twilight zone of the new Readers Durham Cricket League, standing 15th in a 26-team set-up where finishing in the top 14 is all important for those ambitious clubs who want to be in the top flight next summer.
They have a home game on Saturday against a Crook Town side who are languishing in the bottom two when they had been expected to be challenging at the other end of the table.
On results to date Boldon, with home advantage, would appear to be well-placed to record their third victory of the season, but a week of ins and outs has given this fixture an intriguing twist.
Karl Bellerby has left his home club for the second time in as many years, having been signed by Burnmoor, but CA have snapped up Rajan Kumerasamy, a medium-fast opening bowler and middle order batsman who has moved to the area.
He will make his debut against Crook. With Gary Frater back after missing out through work commitments, a move into the top 14 beckons against a visiting side who have been in disappointing form.
They were formerly one of the stronger County League outfits and with Steve Chapman available to them for most of the season, and his Aussie connections bringing in David Embleton, Town had been expected to be one of the front-runners.
Also locked in the “grey area” around mid-table are Murton, who are 12th and 29 points clear of the bottom 12.
But this Saturday they face a real test of their strength in depth when they entertain high-flying Marsden, who have been the real surprise package.
In normal circumstances, Murton would be expected to test their visitors’ unbeaten credentials, but if they are to do so they will have to overcome significant selection problems with Paul Smailes, Keith Chapman, the Vout brothers and Phil Grimwood all missing for a variety of reasons.
They hope to have Graeme Robson and Richard Lowes back in harness to help fill some of the vacancies, and will otherwise have to dip deep into the second team pool.
Marsden have the luxury of a settled team, which probably has much to do with their splendid form, and they make just one change. Gary Malcolm is missing, but Lee Bays makes a timely return.
Six defeats and two draws from their eight games means Silksworth are propping up the rest, so a trip to play unbeaten Easington would not be first choice on their wish list.
However, a change of leadership and returning players give them a fresh feel. Original skipper Steve Hutchinson has left the club, with Malcolm Nicol taking over the captaincy duties, and he is able to call on the services of Michael Nicholson after he reversed his decision not to play this season.
Nicholson returns on Saturday and, with Craig Nield free from work commitments, the team will be in decent spirits at Easington, who miss Andrew Price. Brian Fenwick senior bridges the gap.
Whiteleas were jolted by the scale of last week’s defeat at Ushaw Moor, but they have the ideal chance to set the record books straight as they prepare to host table-topping Esh Winning, who have won seven out of seven.
Scott Baxter’s return from a broken ankleis perfectly timed to strengthen the batting, while Andrew Bell replaces Iain Jones to make his debut.
Burnmoor continue their hunting down of Esh when they go to Peterlee, who are probably already resigned to finishing in the bottom 12 despite an improved showing on last year’s form.
Karl Bellerby will make his debut for Moor after leaving Boldon CA, and he slots nicely into the vacancy created when Matthew Sampson-Barnes left the club last week to return to Premier League club Boldon.
The hosts reckon without skipper Andrew Laidler and promising youngster Liam Chaytor for this one, but they do have Ben Green and Shaun Taylor making timely returns to fill the gaps.
Jamie Greenwood is set to make his seasonal debut for Dawdon at Kimblesworth.
Greenwood suffered a badly twisted ankle just before the season began, so his return is welcome against an unchanged home team, still missing Stephen Meek, who are looking to bounce straight back after last week’s shock defeat at Tudhoe.
John Errington replaces the working Chris Lawrence when Ryhope entertain Castle Eden, while Subhan Christudhas and Tom O’Neill are back for Durham City’s game at Shildon Railway.
David Craig plays for Philadelphia at Hylton, and Craig and Darren Robinson earn promotion for Seaham Park after scoring runs for the seconds, with visitors Horden able to include fit-again Matthew Bilyard.