ALL is calm and quiet at Chester-le-Street as they seek to enhance their trophy chances on two separate fronts this weekend.
The most important of their two outings is at Lilywhite Terrace on Saturday, where a frustrated Hetton Lyons are their hosts.
Last year’s runners-up have endured a weather-induced stop-start beginning to their 2015 campaign.
Out of 480 overs scheduled playing time, they have lost almost 50 per cent, with only one of their matches unaffected.
The result has been four draws with just 43 points gathered to date, 35 fewer than leaders Chester, and it is easy to see why this game is already crucial to the home side as defeat would mean they would be cast well adrift of the leading pack.
The Cestrians, meanwhile, have been in fine fettle, particularly their batsmen who have seemed oblivious to the damp bowler-friendly conditions that have typified the opening weeks of the season.
And they are able to name an unchanged line-up for both Saturday and Sunday, their second game marking the beginning of their Banks Salver defence – with Stockton the visitors to Ropery Lane.
Lyons will hand a league debut to Durham University student Darrell Williams.
The youngster is a leg-spinner who normally plies his trade with Barnt Green in the Birmingham Premier League.
He has played half a dozen games for Worcestershire seconds and earlier this year made his first-class debut when representing Durham MCCU against Somerset.
He made his club debut in last week’s Salver tie at Blaydon and picked up a couple of wickets.
Whitburn also face an important double weekend, a home league game against Newcastle being followed by the delayed 2014 Austin Trophy Final at home to holders Darlington (1.30pm).
The Villagers are too close to the relegation zone for comfort, being just two points ahead of bottom club Gateshead Fell, so the news that Durham’s Paul Coughlin should play this week will be a big boost to their confidence.
Whitburn make just one change, with Mark Thursby coming in to replace Craig Henderson.
Newcastle are suffering from a surfeit of intellectuals – they will be missing three players who have exam commitments.
Dimi Ratnayake, James Carding and Ben McGee will all have their noses in books this weekend, so the return of Callum Harding is a bonus, with Tom Berzins and Dan Humble stepping up.
The Austin Trophy is the competition where each champion club from leagues in Durham compete in a knockout competition the following season, the Quakers having won the title in 2013 when they beat Swalwell in the final.
Having won through to the 2014 final, Whitburn were drawn to host it, but their end-of-season ground renovations meant a “carry-over” to 2015 was allowed, something that means the line-ups on Sunday will not necessarily resemble the team strengths of last year, particularly in Darlington’s case where they lost a significant number of their key NYSD championship-winning players over the close season.
South Shields, buoyed by last week’s excellent win at Benwell Hill, get an immediate chance to test their new-found confidence when they entertain champions South North. They hope to be unchanged.
Durham Academy, up into second place following a fine performance at Stockton last week, have every chance of enhancing their standing when they go to unchanged Gateshead Fell, while Tynemouth host Benwell Hill and Blaydon entertain Stockton.