It was billed as the ‘Last Tango In South Hetton’, but they were dancing in the streets long into the night on Saturday as the home side saved their North East Premier League First Division skins with a dramatic play-off victory over Mainsforth.
The last month or so has seemed like death by a thousand cuts for South Hetton, who have known for that length of time that they would finish bottom of the First Division, but they did not find out until late on Wednesday night that they were going to be granted a shot at salvation.
That came via a play-off against Durham Cricket League runners-up Mainsforth after the door to promotion was slammed shut on champions Esh Winning when, after a protracted assessment of whether or not they met the required criteria, they were finally told they had failed to make the grade. And so it all came down to fronting up at Front Street.
But just a few overs into the play-off, South Hetton looked as good as gone after superb opening stints from Jonny Barnes, who took 3-14 in his nine overs, and Martin Lower (2-19 in nine overs), left their innings in tatters on 18-5.
But, as Barnes and Lower retired from the attack, home confidence began to return via Nathan Adamson, the No 4 batsman playing one of the most important innings of his life.
Finding stubborn allies in Alex Nicholson (29), with whom he shared a seventh-wicket partnership of 75 priceless runs with, and then Rhys Wilson (16) as another 27 were added for the eighth wicket, Adamson held his side together.
Even though he was eventually left stranded on 72 not out after the last three wickets went down in a flurry for just five runs, his 10 boundaries had provided real hope as the home team ended with a semi-decent 158 on the board.
The Mainsforth run chase began well enough, with 24 in the book before the first wicket fell, but then self-doubt began to manifest itself in the visitors’ batting as a trickle of wickets turned into a torrent, seven going down for the addition of 54 runs, with Adamson in the thick of the action again with two of those.
Still some 80 away from victory, an eighth-wicket stand of 35 briefly rekindled Mainsforth hopes, only for those to be finally dashed as Tony Murphy (3-31) and Steven Massey (2-12) cleaned out the tail for the ecstatic hosts, leaving South Hetton the winners by 39 runs.
And so, after a league campaign which saw them win just twice and finish 59 points adrift at the foot of the table, South Hetton managed to pull back from the brink and salvage their Premier League status.