New boys’ timely boost for Academy

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WITH another weekend of Dukes North East Premier League cricket virtually washed away, and the forecast not wonderful for the next few days, at least one team has had the chance to nurse a few wounds and contemplate progress.

The Durham Academy went into the season with a fairly tight squad of 18 players, and with three of those playing for rival Premier League clubs – Paul Coughlin (South North), Ryan Pringle (Hetton Lyons) and Keaton Jennings (Stockton) – together with exchange player Cole McConchie (New Zealand) playing for Blaydon, the pressures on the remaining group have been fairly significant, despite the lack of prolonged action.

Academy manager John Windows recognises his squad is “creaking a little” and the recent additions of left-arm spinner Max Morley and fast bowler Ollie Ashford, both from the Huddersfield area, has helped ease the burden on the other youngsters and allowed some to rest niggling injuries.

Among those on the treatment table recently have been Josh Bousfield (ankle), Adam Hickey (back) and James Weighell (side), but, despite this, the Academy are one of only three unbeaten sides in the league.

Their star performers with the bat have been keeper Cole Pearce, who has scored 244 runs and is averaging 49, and Jack Clark, whose 224 runs have come at an average of 37.

Off-spinner Ryan Buckley, named in Durham’s CB40 squad last week, heads the wicket-taking charts alongside Andrew Ireland.

The youngsters’ next league test is at Denton Bank on Saturday, when they take on a Benwell Hill team which has surprisingly struggled this year and sit second bottom of the table.

Before that, the Academy play at Chester-le-Street tomorrow night in the T20, a competition that has also suffered at the hands of the weather.

With five rounds of group games to be played, tomorrow represents the fourth of those and every team has already lost one game to the weather, with the forecast suggesting a second series of abandonments is a possibility.

With the end goal qualification for the national T20 rounds, the fixture schedule needs to be tight to ensure the Premier League finals day goes ahead as planned on July 15.

The unchanged Cestrians face a heavy workload if the weather does stay fine, with a league game at Newcastle following the T20. On Sunday, another attempt will be made to play the home Banks Salver tie against South North.

Chris Rushworth has been named in Durham’s T20 squad, and table-topping Sunderland also miss Chris Hooker for the crucial home game against second-placed Blaydon. However, Ruel Brathwaite will make his Ashbrooke debut.

Hetton Lyons hope the extra week’s rest will enable Ryan Pringle to bowl in their home game against rock bottom Gateshead Fell, while South Shields name an unchanged line-up at Stockton.

Shields host Blaydon in the T20 tomorrow, while Sunderland welcome Newcastle and Hetton Lyons entertain Gateshead Fell.