THE form book meant nothing on Saturday as surprise results at the top and bottom of the Dukes North East Premier League Premier Division table included defeats for Sunderland and Chester-le-Street.
But Hetton Lyons maintained their title challenge with a win over South Shields, who, since the arrival of New Zealander Tom Latham, have hardly put a foot wrong.
Latham, though, was on T20 duty with the Black Caps’ international squad and was badly missed.
Shields made a fight of it though, losing by only 17 runs after Lyons had posted an all-out score of 173.
Gary Scott (44) and Sean Tindale (40) had to be at their best to overcome the power of Matthew Muchall, whose 18 overs brought him six wickets.
Lal Kumar was again Hetton’s inspiration, collecting four wickets in 19 overs, seven of which were maidens. He conceded just 42 runs and, along with Tindale (3-30 in 10.3 overs) and Martin Stephenson (2-18), put so much pressure on Shields that they struggled to 156 all out despite a half-century from Chris Rainbow.
Chester-le-Street had an especially bad day at the office as they were pushed out of second place and their title challenge was dented by Benwell Hill.
Hill restricted their rivals to 205-9 and Chester were only boosted by an unbeaten last wicket stand worth 41 runs. Usman Arshad (52) and Chris Youldon (41) looked to have put Chester’s poor start behind them after early successes for David Rutherford (3-33) and Matthew Rodger (3-31), but it needed a gritty late fling by Andy Bell (27 not out) and Josh Wilson (22no) to get them beyond the 200 mark.
Zohaib Khan then made an unbeaten half-century to add to a generally sound batting display which saw his team win by seven wickets. Opener Sameet Brar set the pace with a confident 46 before Khan (52no) and Alistair Maiden (38no) produced the match-winning partnership.
Sunderland were beaten for a fourth time, but it turned out to be one of the most unexpected results of the season as it brought the very first win of a wretched campaign for the victors, Gateshead Fell.
Fell restricted the Wearsiders to 206-9 and then powered to their first win. Despite an unbeaten century for Tom Skilbeck, Fell’s bowling duo of Mark Lockey (4-55 in 17 overs) and Jaspreet Singh (3-26 in 9.1 overs) made sure the other Ashbrooke batsmen found runs hard to come by.
In reply, Fell reached their target with three wickets in hand after a half-century for Michael Cairns and an unbeaten 67 from David Hill.
Leaders Stockton were held to a draw by Newcastle but still extended their advantage over the chasing pack to 38 points – as 78 runs separated the teams after a high scoring contest at the Teessiders’ Grangefield ground.
An excellent batting display put Stockton in the driving seat on 275-6 with a declaration after 53 overs. Peter Howells (65no), Matthew Brown (59), Kevin Ward (56) and Keaton Jennings (45) were all on top form, but it remained a tough day for bowlers as Newcastle rarely looked in trouble in reaching 197-4 by the close. A top score of 79 by Jack du Toit included an important partnership with Wearsider Ben Raine (41no).
South North defeated Tynemouth by 54 runs despite six wickets from Ruhan Pretorious, and the Durham Academy youngsters had a day to forget at Blaydon where their hosts romped to a seven-wicket win in a match lasting just 74 overs.