IN a Readers Durham Cricket League fixture list that runs to 13 games every week, it’s often difficult to pinpoint the match of the day.
But few would argue that Saturday’s Jack Clark Park clash between Marsden and Philadelphia is likely to take some beating, featuring, as it does, two “re-born” teams.
Philadelphia are sitting pretty in eighth place, having successfully negotiated a very testing set of fixtures in the first few weeks, with some strong performances suggesting that their form is more permanent than temporary, and certainly a far cry from their last Senior League campaign which ended with the wooden spoon.
Hosts Marsden have perhaps had an even more difficult time in the last few years, their brief County League “adventure” proving the most testing period in their history, and something that was one of the catalysts of the dramatic changes to the structure of league cricket in the region.
But they, too, have started exceptionally well, three wins and a draw placing them fifth, just 24 points off top spot.
Skipper Chris Mann could not control his delight at the progress he feels the club have made: “This is what we have been building towards for the last 10 years. We have suffered some stressful times during that period, but the investment in our youth system is now reaping great dividends and we couldn’t be more happy with the way things have gone this season.
“The team spirit is second to none.”
Another Mann is contributing to the success – 16-year-old Colin, Chris’s nephew. “Colin’s been a match turner for us,” said the admiring uncle. “We have three top seamers, but Colin’s often stepped in to change the course of the game in our favour.”
Both take their place in an unchanged full-strength line-up to face Phili.
The Bunker Hill boys also have a settled team. Chairman Malcolm Pratt said: “The win over Bill Quay took us up to eighth spot and moved us towards the right end of the table.
“Before the season, our aspiration was to be in the top five and, having started well, that certainly seems possible. We have had two tough drawn games against Burnmoor and Castle Eden, who were champions and runners-up respectively in the Senior League last year.
“I think those results showed that we have added wisely to our squad during the winter. We have also beaten Evenwood away and travelling to those clubs who were previously in the County League adds to the interest,as many of the lads have not played at those grounds.
“Signing Lee and Gary Innes during the winter has provided us with a great boost. Lee’s start with the bat has been really good, with his scores in the four matches reading 94, 75, 37 not out and 62.
“There is an air of optimism about the club – it’s amazing what some good results can do.’
There is little surprise that two champions are now leading the way, powerful former County League outfit Esh Winning leading a rapidly acclimatising Burnmoor by five points.
Esh face a potentially difficult trip to Mainsforth where their sixth-placed hosts are able to include fit-again Neil Pratt.
This may push the leadership door ajar for Burnmoor, who should have too much in their armoury for a Seaham Park side who lost players in the close-season and are anchored in the bottom four after three defeats and a draw.
Moor have determined they will go for maximum points each week, knowing they have to cash in when playing the weaker teams. They stick with the same side, as do Park, although they stlll have three key players unavailable.
Third-placed Easington are at full strength away to Dawdon, Manchester City fan Ryan Higgins returning forlornly from Wembley to reclaim his place in the team. The Green Drive hosts retain the same line-up that beat Horden to climb into the top half.
Boldon CA were hit by a couple of late cry-offs just before last week’s game at Kimblesworth, and it cost them dear, but they expect to have David Batty and Brian Conlon back for the visit of Tudhoe.
However, news is still awaited about the extent of Carl Purvis’s injury, the opening batsman having suffered a suspected dislocated knee on Bank Holiday Monday, something that could well sideline him for some time.
Durham City have endured a difficult start – three defeats and a draw putting them at the wrong end of the table – and the departure of skipper Mark Woodhead to join Washington, where his Aussie colleague Ash Thorpe is in charge, means there is little light at the end of the tunnel.
A trip to Horden beckons this weekend.
Elsewhere, Silksworth hope to have Adam Fairley and Mark Forster back in harness for Evenwood’s visit, while Murton have to reckon without Graeme Robson and Gary Stokoe has injury problems ahead of the home game against Castle Eden.
Hylton welcome back Darren Walton and Liam Foster as they face powerful Kimblesworth.