BURNMOOR returned to their devastating best to demolish Easington on Saturday, but with Esh Winning overcoming a modest batting display to defeat Hylton there remains a 10-point gap between the leading pair in the Readers Durham Cricket League.
But the dangermen in the title race are Tudhoe.
An eighth win in nine outings, and an 18-game unbeaten run, was embellished by an emphatic 10-wicket thrashing of Peterlee.
With each of the other three title contenders still to play in their final five games, the title race may yet turn out to have a dramatic final twist in the tail.
Burnmoor had it easy against Easington after setting their opponents a target of 185-7.
South African Brandon Scullard scythed through the visitors in eight frenetic overs, picking up 6-15. With Paul Davidson bagging 3-10 at the other end, Easington crumbled to a paltry 41 all out.
Earlier, Mark Robson (47), Paul Davidson (32) and Karl Bellerby (48) had hit the boundary boards on 16 occasions between them, and, even though Ryan Higgins nipped in with an eight-over spell in which he bagged 4-30, Moor were in control.
Leaders Esh Winning had to work for their home win after Hylton restricted them to 141-9, but Paul Chivers ensured there was no slip-up as he routed the visitors in their reply.
Adam Bewick (3-28 from eight overs) and Owen Williamson (3-25 from seven overs) did most to rein in the home batters. With nine wickets down, Esh declared after only 39 overs despite their modest total.
Chivers, just back from honeymoon, then ripped through Hylton in nine devastating overs as he claimed seven wickets for 28 runs. With Jon Hodgson picking up the other three wickets, Hylton crashed for 64 to lose by 77 runs.
Tudhoe’s outstanding form continued as they demolished Peterlee to move up to third place, although the victory over the strugglers was no more than expected.
Having said that, West Indian Shawn Findlay showed no mercy as he bagged 5-10 in 10 overs to leave a paltry target of 64 for his batsmen to chase down, which they duly did in just 10 overs without losing a wicket.
The other side with title potential, Castle Eden, lost ground despite winning a low-scoring home encounter against difficult opponents in Boldon CA.
Castle Eden were turfed out for just 112 as David Batty and Ian Male shared three cheap wickets, the home team labouring through almost 47 overs to get that modest total.
But the long slog proved worthwhile as CA failed to recover from a disastrous start, when both openers went for ducks. With Jude Dinushan (5-32) turning the screws, Boldon slumped to 72 all out.
Away from the leading pack, it’s all about the late scramble to secure a top 14 slot, and thereby a place in next year’s top flight.
Crook Town, who started the year badly, have suddenly moved into contention following four consecutive victories, the latest a nine-run success over improving Seaham Park.
Steve Chapman bade farewell to Town with a fine performance. The former Durham man is on his way back to Australia now, but he signed off with an innings of 75 scored from 110 balls, and this set Crook up for a decent total of 173-9.
Gaurav Jathar (3-28) added more wickets to his burgeoning aggregate, but he could not get the 14 runs he needed to reach the 1,000 league milestone, falling five short. Despite a promising start provided by Alan Anderson (87), Park imploded to finish up 164 all out.
Crook are now just 19 points off the 14th spot, but Ushaw Moor and Durham City failed to capitalise on Hylton’s defeat and remain 15th and 16th respectively after disappointing draws.
City found new Mainsforth overseas man Adeel Malik in sensational form.
He smashed 10 sixes in a 56-ball innings of 113 not out and City found a target of 264-2 too stretching.
Ushaw Moor’s overseas interest, Hamad Ul Hassan, was also on the ton trail – he made 105 from 88 balls but, set a target of 244-8, Silksworth would not be budged and ended on 204-3 as Darren Stoker defied the home team with an impressive, unbeaten 71.
Philadelphia’s penchant for draws continued. A stalemate against Murton was their 12th out of 20 games, and while they are virtually assured top-flight status in 2014 there are no title ambitions remaining.
To be fair to Phili, their batsmen could do little more, David Baxter hit 15 fours and three sixes on his way to 105 not out scored from just 90 balls, and with Lee Innes making 64 at exactly a run-a-ball Phili were in a position to declare on 248-3 after only 43 overs at the crease.
Murton gave the run chase a real go, Davey Hanson’s opening 43 giving the stability, before a later injection of pace took the visitors to within nine runs of the target, but, with just one wicket standing, John Sample’s unbeaten 71 was worth its weight in draw-saving gold.
Peter Greenwell and Stephen Robinson shared six wickets as Murton ended on 239-9 in 46 overs.
Ryhope’s young team did a great job of keeping their heads up at Kimblesworth, where the home team’s batting giants, Stephen Meek (150 not out) and Paul Craig (103), lifted their team to a mammoth 303-1.
Led by Luke Anderson, with an unbeaten 75, Ryhope earned an honourable draw as they ended on 170-6.
Elsewhere, Whiteleas got back to winning ways with a seven-wicket success against Shildon, Dawdon brushed aside Langley Park’s 104 in just 16 overs after Mark Ewart (5-21) had put them in charge, and Horden went down by nine wickets at Evenwood despite a half- century from Lee Gilbert.