No calm after the storm

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The rains that hit the region last Saturday night and Sunday morning have thrown the plans for the completion of the T20 competition into disarray and caused a major headache for league officials.

The Ropery Lane finals day was completely washed out and the problem now is that the national area finals, which will be hosted by the NEPL T20 champions, are scheduled to take place on Sunday, August 11, so there is a need to have the league competition completed before then.

The four clubs, Chester-le-Street, South North, Stockton and Sunderland are working to fit the fixtures into a busy schedule, which includes the national club cup on Sunday, when South North have a quarter-final appointment at Barnt Green in Birmingham.

Because of that, a simple replay of the finals day this Sunday was not possible.

It has therefore been confirmed that Chester-le-Street will play their semi against the Bulls tomorrow night (6pm start).

Should the Cestrians win, then the second semi, between Stockton and Sunderland, will be played at Ropery Lane on Sunday, followed by the final itself.

However, should the Bulls win their semi, then the Stockton v Sunderland match will be played on Sunday (venue not yet known), with the final to be played on a night, early next week.

It was perhaps tempting fate to arrange the finals day at the end of July, and so close to the first national round, but surveying the situation, a league spokesman reflected: “It’s not an ideal scenario, but with the national rounds fast approaching, we had to get a result as quickly as possible.

“From our point of view, it’s extremely unfortunate that after such a fantastic spell of weather, that all of July’s rain should fall overnight last weekend.”

The T20 is now Chester’s main hope of glory after last week’s combination of results that left them trailing leaders Stockton by 87 points.

Although, the signing of Durham’s Callum Thorpe, as overseas pro, this week signals an intention not to throw in the towel just yet.

With Usman Arshad also available, the absence of Quentin Hughes and John Coxon won’t be felt so acutely. Blaydon are due at Ropery Lane on Saturday.

With two big cup dates this weekend, South North have an injury crisis at the worst possible time, with Michael Craigs and Paul Hindmarch both now out for the season with back injuries.

Jonny Wightman is also a doubt, but Paul Coughlin has been re-signed, although, he is not yet ready to resume bowling.

Sunderland also have absences to cope with when they visit Roseworth Terrace on Saturday.

Tom Skilbeck is away for the weekend, while Greg Applegarth is on holiday, so David Hill and Greg Davison are drafted in to replace them.

Hetton Lyons, now more than 100 points behind Stockton, entertain the Academy and they do expect Ryan Pringle to be available, although, Gary Scott is doubtful with a knee injury and Martin Stephenson is at a wedding.

The Academy hope to turn out a team similar to the one that pulled off that sensational victory over Chester-le-Street last time out.

The only change likely is to be the return of a fit again Cole Pearce, to replace South North bound Coughlin.

At the foot of the table, the pressure is intensifying with each passing week, and neither of the relegation candidates has an easy game to contemplate - if there is such a thing at that end of the table anyway.

Gateshead Fell name an unchanged side for the visit of runaway-leaders Stockton, who will have Jamie Harrison in their team, but not Keaton Jennings.

South Shields, just 8 points ahead of the Fell, go to Tynemouth in search of their first victory of the summer.