A sensational game at Ashbrooke ended in the most dramatic fashion on Saturday as Eppleton secured a one-run victory to vastly enhance their promotion hopes.
The first day of August could prove a significant one in the Eppleton calendar as they once again showed their powers of resilience and fight to snatch an improbable victory against the odds, lowly Sunderland giving the table-toppers the fright of their lives before their last four wickets crashed for 11 runs to lose a game they appeared to have in the bag.
The Ashbrooke match featured two splendid centuries, Kamran Shah hitting 11 fours and two sixes in an unbeaten 121 as he shared an unbroken sixth-wicket stand of 116 with Craig Scurr (66no from 50 balls), which encouraged Eppleton to declare on 264-5 after 52 overs.
With 53 overs to chase, Sunderland looked supremely confident as they rattled along to 169-2, the charge led by Bravesh Shetty. The Indian went on to make a magnificent 120 from 122 balls, but when he became the seventh wicket to fall with the score on 252, and just 13 more needed for the win, the nerves began to jangle as David Wilkinson turned the screw.
A run-out, and two more wickets for Wilkinson, who finished with a match turning 5-49, saw an ecstatic Eppleton claim the victory wicket with just three balls remaining. Among a number of massive personal performances, Wilkinson proved the match-winning hero with 5-49, having a hand in the last six wickets to fall, and taking out Shetty when the Indian looked certain to secure victory for the Wearsiders.
The win enhanced Eppleton’s lead as it provided them with more points than Washington, who slipped down to third after picking up just 20 in their victory at Sacriston.
Burnmoor went second after they took the maximum from an imposing display at Brandon, where they effectively ended the home team’s faint but flickering hopes of re-kindling their own title challenge.
The Burnmoor bowlers were in dominant form, all four picking up wickets as Brandon slid to 151 all out in 41 overs, but Kevin Dixon (3-2) and Ian Conn (3-28) taking star billing.
Despite losing Stephen Meek early in the reply, Paul Craig (77 from 89 balls) and Irosh Samarasooriya (59no from 60 balls) took complete control in a second-wicket stand of 129 that effectively ended the game as a contest.
Sacriston’s demise at the hands of Washington was comprehensive enough. They were whipped out for just 91 in 37.5 overs as three wickets apiece from Mel Betts and Mark Watson, plus two each from Trent Mais and Martin Hubber, had Washington on top from the off.
Graham Hubber (3-43) tried to fight back for his team, but the visitors were never in any real bother as they gathered a six-wicket win, youngster Matthew Potts (27) and Martin Hubber (21) leading the way.
Although taking just two points from the game, Sacriston’s position near the foot of the table did not worsen as South Hetton failed to squeeze out any more from their match at Seaham Harbour.
South Hetton’s hopes of avoiding relegation were dealt a body blow.
It was plain sailing for Harbour as they cruised to an eight-wicket win after bowling South Hetton out for 120, only Tariq Aziz, with 63 from 128 balls, showing the necessary application.
A run-a-ball half century from Ian Pattison, and 33 not out, with 30 in boundaries, from Dale Shaw, then had the game won for Harbour in just 19.4 overs.
At 35-4, Boldon were tottering at Tudhoe, but Neil Mulvaney (40) then joined Mo Hossain in a fifth-wicket stand of 85, and then Anthony Brown (40no) provided further valaubale support as the pro hit 94 from 130 balls to lift Boldon to 267.
Danny Thexton (85 from 103 balls) then gave Tudhoe hope, only for Brown to remove it as he claimed a tremendous haul of seven wickets.
However, the last pair managed to survive 21 balls to secure a draw for the home team on 238-9.