THE next few days are set to be some of the most important in Hetton Lyons’ recent history as they attempt to reach T20 finals day, look to improve their best ever standing in the Dukes North East Premier League rankings, and try to book a spot in the Banks Salver semi-finals.
Having won through to the Co-operative Funeralcare T20 quarter-finals, Lyons have earned a plum home draw against short format cup kings Chester-le-Street, and that game takes place at Lilywhite Terrace tomorrow (6pm).
The League T20 is a relatively new competition, having only begun in 2008, but the Cestrians have dominated the honours board with three wins out of the five tournaments, and if they repeat that success this year then the holders will make it a hat-trick of titles.
But Lyons were the form team in their group, going through the league phase undefeated while Chester had to rely on run rate to squeeze through in second place from their section. Lyons look to be in with a real chance of progressing to the last four.
If anyone is looking to league form as a pointer then the two sides can’t be separated as they are locked together in third place on the same points total. But while the Cestrians are used to even loftier positions, this is nose-bleed territory for Lyons whose previous best finish was fifth in 2011 – their only top-half finish.
Lyons should start Saturday’s home game against Tynemouth as favourites as their visitors are languishing in the bottom three, and with Ryan Pringle free from Durham duties, and Gary Scott fit again, they are almost at full strength, although they must reckon without skipper Shaun Birbeck because of work. Scott will captain the side in Birbeck’s absence.
Chester-le-Street are still without top bowler David Foster, who has university commitments, but other than that it will be the same team who slipped up at Benwell Hill last week who take the field at Eastwood Gardens where a suddenly revitalised Gateshead Fell await them.
Fell’s first win of the summer came at Ashbrooke last week and lifted the spirits of a team who previously looked resigned to their relegation fate, but the disappointing news is that their match-winner, David Hill, is unavailable for this one. With Michael Dicks also out, David Daley and Stephen Devenport move on up.
Tom Latham played for New Zealand in Tuesday’s T20 international against England, and is also involved in today’s match, but he is expected to make it back to South Shields in time for their home game against leaders Stockton, although whether he gets back for tomorrow night’s T20 quarter-final at South North remains to be seen.
Stockton miss the injured Josh Bousfield, but are otherwise at full strength.
With Sunderland’s Jekyll and Hyde league form effectively eliminating them from the title race after nine matches, a lot of eggs will be being placed in the T20 basket, which is taken to Willington tomorrow night.
Saturday’s league opponents are Blaydon, but the Wearsiders have to cope without last week’s century maker Tom Skilbeck as well as Ian Stephenson and Craig Burdon at Ashbrooke. With Simon Brown on honeymoon, the return of Mattie Dench from injury, along with Greg Davison and Arsalan Rahim, provides some succour.
Elsewhere, Durham Academy entertain Newcastle and Benwell Hill go to South North v Benwell Hill.
Sunday is Banks Salver quarter-finals day, with Hetton Lyons away to Benwell Hill, Durham Academy visiting Willington, Chester-le-Street heading to Tynemouth and an all-Division One meeting of Whitburn and Brandon.