The opening weeks of the season have endured almost everything that the weather can throw at them – rain, wind, hail and snow featuring prominently.
That only really left fog, so it was no surprise to see it rolling in from the North Sea on Saturday as several games became enveloped in the stygian gloom to lose some more playing time.
Nine overs of play were lost at Whitburn, which might just have been the home team’s saving, although they had shown plenty of backbone in the overs leading up to the abandonment.
They stood on 179-6 when a halt was called, this in reply to an impressive 311-7 from Hetton Lyons, a score that featured a maiden century for the club from Faiz Fazal, who hit 104 from 101 balls, and included 13 fours and four sixes.
Durham’s Brydon Carse was unbeaten on 59, while Jarvis Clay hit six fours and a six in his 50 and Eddie Watson finished 36 not out. Jeremy Benton bagged 5-68 in his 20 overs.
After being two wickets down with just one run on the board, Durham batting starlet Jack Burnham set about trying to restore order for Whitburn, lofting six sixes before he was sixth man out two runs short of his century. Joe Coyne made 39.
At that stage, the home team were on 142-6, and the Lyons circled their prey, but skipper Ross Carty and Craig Smith dug in to defy the visitors for 110 balls until night fell. Cameron Grimwood took 2-30.
There was even more time lost at Eppleton – 32 overs in fact.
Benwell Hill had posted 222-9 first up, with half-centuries from Adam Hickey, Kyle Coetzer and Jck Clark, while Paul Davidson grabbed 4-83, backed by two wickets apiece from Liam Dixon and David Wilkinson.
In reply, the hosts stood on 132-5, boosted by Gary Burlinson (36) and Dean Musther (29) when light, or rather the lack of it, ended proceedings early at 7.12pm.
The one positive aspect to emerge from the murkiness was that the title race suddenly became more engaging as South North were pegged back to a draw by Newcastle, and three teams managed to defy the elements and win. That squeezed the leading pack a little closer, and now just 18 points cover the top half dozen sides.
Chester-le-Street secured a first win of the season against hapless Gateshead Fell, who once again face a battle for survival.
But it wasn’t plain sailing for the Cestrians, a stoical 79 from 154 balls needed from opener George Harrison to provide Chester with a reasonable total of 229-7 from 60 overs. When Fell eased their way to 52-0 after coping comfortably with the home pacemen, there were one or two furrowed brows.
But Gurman Randhawa put the squeeze on with 4-19 from 12 overs, before Richard Waite (2-7) and Andrew Smith (3-0) mopped up in double quick time, Gateshead felled for 138 in 43 overs, victory moving the Ropery Lane men up to joint third.
The other two winners were South Shields and Tynemouth, who consigned the Durham Academy to a third straight defeat.
Gordon Muchall timed Shields’ run chase to perfection at Stockton, a brilliant 119 not out coming from 147 balls as they won by four wickets with eight balls remaining.
Chris Rainbow (62 from 103 balls) provided wonderful support to Muchall in a third-wicket partnership of 146.
Captain Ben Debnam’s 58 was the top score at Tynemouth in a match in which bowlers generally held the upper hand. Tahir Khan provided the necessary cutting edge with 5-39 as the Academy were bowled out for 162, George Harding making 31, to lose by 20 runs.