THE shape of top-tier club cricket in the region in 2013 became a little clearer this week when the Dukes North East Premier League executive confirmed that invitations to 10 clubs to form a Second Division next season had been accepted by those clubs.
The pioneering 10 are Boldon, Eppleton, Felling, South Hetton and Whitburn from the Durham Senior League, Seaham Harbour and Washington from the Durham Coast League, Brandon and Willington from the Durham County League, and Sacriston of the Northumberland and Tyneside Senior League.
What happens below that structure is still extremely unclear, with each affected league asked to submit proposals to the Durham Cricket Board on their views of the way forward, and meetings planned between the key parties towards the end of the month.
One thing is certain, it’s going to be a busy May.
After the wettest April on record, it is to be hoped that this month at least brings better weather so that the off-field politics can be overshadowed by events on the field, and one person hoping for warmer and drier conditions is 22-year-old South African Patrick Botha.
The Free State player flew into the country only last Friday, but it still didn’t stop him performing with the ball on his Tynemouth debut the next day when he took four wickets in the drawn home game against Hetton Lyons.
Botha’s skills are not confined to bowling – he already has two first-class centuries to his name, and made a ton against Warwickshire in their recent pre-season tour in his home country. He will be back at Preston Avenue on Saturday when Tynemouth entertain a Durham Academy side who are unchanged for the third week in a row, something of a rarity for the youngsters who started the season brightly against Sunderland, only to fall victim to the weather last weekend.
Chester-le-Street are licking their wounds after their defeat to South North, something that may spell trouble for Gateshead Fell, Saturday’s visitors to Ropery Lane.
The Cestrians have named the same team, the only doubt being George Harrison, who faces a late fitness test, however Fell are able to include Luc Durrandt, Ajay Sangha and James Lloyd.
An early-season Wear-Tyne derby is scheduled for Ashbrooke, with Sunderland, much happier after a stronger performance at Gateshead last week, taking on an unchanged Newcastle team, who are chomping at the bit to get their season underway after successive washouts. The Wearsiders have one doubt, with keeper Chris Youldon suffering ligament damage in a midweek football match.
Hetton Lyons entertain a Stockton team who look capable of ruffling a few feathers, with their new signings performing well in their opening match, while South Shields show three changes at Benwell Hill, with Nathan Watson, Chris Stewart and Michael Dunn earning call-ups, and unchanged Blaydon take on a full-strength South North.
Not a single game in the whole country was completed in the national club cup’s first round last Sunday – the first time in history this has ever happened.
Indeed only one, at Blaydon, even started, and that lasted just two overs.
Clubs will try again this Sunday, with South Shields at Blaydon, Chester entertaining Richmondshire and Sunderland at home to Benwell Hill.