Last chance to qualify for T20 finals day

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THE final round of group fixtures in the Co-operative Funeralcare Twenty20 Cup take place tomorrow night.

But the disastrous weather in this excuse for a summer has already scuppered the chances of a number of teams of qualifying for the finals day on July 15.

In Group A, it looks odds on both Blaydon and South North progressing, but South Shields have an outside chance if they can defeat Newcastle by a big enough margin to significantly improve their net run-rate.

They do have home advantage in their favour, but progression would then depend upon one of the other two sides losing.

For Sunderland, it’s game over as they cannot overtake the leading pair no matter what the result in their last match at South North. Two abandonments and a tied match have scuppered the Wearsiders’ chances, but they will want to go out with a show of pride.

In Group B, only an amazing series of results will stop Chester-le-Street qualifying.

The Ropery Lane men can be caught by any of the four teams below them, but their net run-rate is such that they are already virtually assured of going through. The Cestrians end their group programme at Stockton and will use the match as an opportunity to test Gary Scott’s fitness.

The former Durham man had a shoulder operation in March and, following a long recuperation, he should finally get back into action with the T20 run-out. If there is no adverse reaction, he will make his league debut in Saturday’s home league match against Tynemouth.

Who will accompany the Cestrians into finals day action is another question entirely. Stockton, Hetton Lyons, Durham Academy and Tynemouth are level on points, so there is real meaning to the game between Lyons and the Academy, while Tynemouth’s chances are still strong as they visit struggling Gateshead Fell.

The ultimate prize for the winners is qualification for the national T20 rounds, which end with a Sky-televised final under floodlights at Edgbaston.

Back in league action on Saturday, table-toppers Sunderland face a trip to Benwell Hill, who have had a season of struggle so far.

Just one win sees the Denton Bank men in second bottom spot, so the Wearsiders will start as favourites to hang on to their status. Chris Hooker is back this week and they hope Ruel Brathwaite will make his long overdue debut.

Hetton Lyons skipper John Tindale reports that Ryan Pringle should be able to bowl this week and he will prove a welcome addition to their attack at home to Durham Academy.

Lyons have decided to play some of their promising youngsters, with Jack Burnham, Sean Tindale, Ben Whitehead and Jack McBeth set to turn out.

And in an interesting postscript to this season of unprecedented weather interruption Lyons’ frustrated Pakistani under-23 international Kamran Shah has suggested league fixtures should be moved to Mondays and Tuesdays as they are the only dry days in Hetton.