Chester-le-Street managed to lop three points from South North’s lead at the top of the Premier Division table on Saturday, and that could prove crucial as the big clash of the top two looms.
The Cestrians were unable to bowl out a stubborn Benwell Hill, who batted through 67 overs to end on 247-6 after the home team had rattled up 280-7 before declaring in the 53rd over of their innings.
But the 15 points Chester took from the match still proved priceless as South North struggled firstly with the water, then with their opponents, and finally with the sun over at Blaydon.
Chester found run-scoring easy throughout at Ropery Lane, Simon Birtwisle’s 52 at the top of the order being followed by contributions right down the list, including 39 from John Coxon, Cole Pearcer’s 38no, Mark Turner (37) and Andrew Smith’s 36, all at better than a run-a-ball.
In contrast, Benwell set their sights on salvation. Skipper Phil Nicholson set the tone with a rock solid opening 71 from 147 balls, then Mark Dale followed on with an unbeaten 60 from 112 balls. Josh Wilson and Turner both struck twice.
Meanwhile, a saturated ground at Blaydon needed time to dry out, causing a 90-minute delay.
Understandably, the home team inserted South North in the damp conditions, and when they reduced their visitors to 27-4 a major upset was in the offing until Stephen Humble (86no from 92 balls) changed the complexion of the match.
South North regrouped on 150-7, declaring to give themselves 47 overs to try to force a win, but with Blaydon labouring to 95-6, the sun ironically ended proceedings early as it dropped low behind the bowlers’ arm to make conditions too dangerous to continue.
While South North took 12 points, the sun burned Blaydon ended up with just six, and that return saw them drop to the foot of the table after the amazing Gateshead Fell resurgence continued apace with a victory at South Shields.
A staggering career-best (by a long way) six wickets for seven runs by Malik Javed was the unlikely match turner.
Shields crumbled to 120 all out, and though it took Gateshead almost 40 overs to triumph that was of little consequence as their win took them off the bottom of the table for the first time since the opening weeks of the season.
Fell’s success was bad news for Whitburn as they could only take 11 points from a home draw against Stockton, and they are now hovering just above the dreaded drop slot with only 10 points to spare.
Dan Woolston’s opening 65 was the best home effort in 251 all out in 63.4 overs, backed by Scott Condy (44) and Ross Carty (35).
Only thanks to the bowling skills of Mark Elliott were the Villagers able to claw something out of the game as the Teessiders romped to 122-0. Elliott then began a 20-over spell in which he took six wickets for 48 runs, and it was the visitors who were begging for the end as their last pair played out three overs to secure a draw on 217-9. Kieran Waterson took 3-69.
Josh Coughlin (4-27) headed a four-man Hetton Lyons strike force which bundled Newcastle out for just 67 to set up a nine-wicket win.
Only Jacques Du Toit (34) reached double figures as Coughlin led Lyons’ onslaught, backed by two wickets apiece from Martin Pollard, Gary Scott and Lal Kumar.
Allan Worthy (38) and Scott (29no, with six boundaries) steered Lyons home.
Dylan Budge’s unbeaten 101 for Durham Academy (180 all out) was in vain as Tynemouth triumphed by three wickets, despite George Harding’s four-wicket haul and two from Liam Trevaskis.