Judgement day arrives for Twenty20 finalists

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Chester-le-Street are the host club for the NEPL T20 finals day on Sunday when four sides will battle it out to determine the winners of this year’s competition, which is once again sponsored by Co-operative funeralcare.

And there will be an additional incentive for the winners, in that they will then qualify for the last 32 of the ECB National T20 Cup, with the area finals to be hosted on an NEPL ground.

Just three more wins would then take the victorious side through to the national finals day, which is televised live on Sky.

The all-action day will begin at Ropery Lane at 11am, when the Cestrians will meet old-rivals South Northumberland, with the second semi-final scheduled for 2pm and featuring Stockton and Sunderland.

The two winners will then meet around 5pm to determine who will be the 2013 T20 champions.

This is the sixth year that the competition has been running, but even this limited over format has been dominated by the two giants of NEPL cricket with Chester, the current holders, having won three of the five titles and the Bulls the other two.

So the meeting between the pair of them should be as competitive as ever.

The four clubs enjoyed varying fortunes in the group stages with South North winning all five of their games.

Chester lost once, but progressed on net run rate. Stockton also lost once, but go through on the back of four victories.

Sunderland lost two of their four matches, but still qualifying in second place.

Before the action-packed Sunday, it’s the nitty gritty of league cricket again on Saturday, with runaway leaders Stockton now enjoying an imposing 64 point lead over second-placed Chester. and Benwell Hill a further 13 points back in third.

With just nine games left to play, Chester have little option but to go for victories which will bring them as many points as possible and hope Stockton blow up on a few occasions in the run-in.

That may well depend on the availability of their Durham players and they don’t currently have any information on that for their difficult game at South North.

Although, the home team will be missing last week’s match winner with Lee Crozier at a wedding.

Meanwhile, Chester hope to be at full strength when they entertain the Academy.

At the opposite end of the table, nerves are jangling with just ten points separating South Shields from bottom-club Gateshead Fell, as they battle to avoid the almost certain relegation that will accompany this year’s wooden spoon.

Shields entertain Newcastle, with the two sides in contrasting form, the home team go into the match on the back of five straight defeats and Newcastle buoyant following four successive victories.

Former Leicestershire man Jacques du Toit has proved an inspiration for the visitors, and with Durham’s Michael Richardson returning to the side to replace the injured James Davidson, the hosts face an uphill task to secure their first victory of a disappointing season.

It had been hoped that New Zealand international Tom Latham would provide the spark to lift the team, and for a short while he did, but he has not featured in the last couple of weeks after complications with his visa.

And with the player due to leave the club in mid-August anyway, it left little time to apply for a new one and so he will not be appearing again this summer.

With Latham out of the equation, the Fell may sniff an opportunity to recover what has looked like a lost cause for most of the season.

They make one change for the home game against Hetton Lyons, with Cameron Oliver replacing Jack Jessop.

The Lyons will be unchanged with Shaun Birbeck available to captain again.

In Saturday’s other games, Dan Shurben is back from his best man duties to lead a Sunderland team which will also include Arsalan Rahim at Benwell Hill.

Meanwhile, Ben Debnam is on holiday, so Andrew Smith captains Tynemouth in their home game against Blaydon, and he will have leading bowler David Hymers at his disposal following his return from holiday.