HAPPY Hetton Lyons kept up the pressure on Dukes North East Premier League Premier Division leaders South Northumberland when Saturday’s return of fine, sunny weather put the smiles back on everyone’s faces.
Six wickets for Durham spinner Ryan Pringle made sure the Lilywhite Terrace outfit avoided a threatened “banana-skin” story as they comfortably defeated bottom side Gateshead Fell, who are still seeking their first win after nine matches.
Lyons had Shaun Birbeck (43) and John Tindale (40) to thank for posting a challenging 181-9, with a declaration coming after 59 overs.
They shared in a sixth-wicket stand of 87 after Gateshead’s opening attack of Cameron Oliver (3-19) and Mark Lockey (2-26) had created early problems. Coming together at 34 for 5, they took their time in putting the Lyons on top, Tindale facing 121 balls and Birbeck 102.
It was just as well they kept their concentration as only Chris Varley, who made 22, was able to counter the late efforts of David Daley (3-37).
Their lowly opponents made a battling start to their reply and, with Adam Whatley completing a half-century, Fell provided the Lyons with a few anxious moments as they reached 85 before their third wicket fell. But three wickets then went down on the same score as Pringle (6-40) was called into the attack.
Among them was Whatley, whose 51 came from just 56 balls, with four fours and two sixes. Pringle was joined by Lal Kumar (2-30) and the Fell collapsed to 120 all out to be beaten by 61 runs.
The Tynesiders are now 31 points adrift of safety.
There was little joy for Sunderland, who could not defend themselves against the powerful South North challenge.
Jonny Craigs hit a spectacular century at Ashbrooke as the Wearsiders lost by 145 runs and they managed just a single point from the game.
Craigs was unbeaten on 112 after sharing an unbroken 167-run partnership with skipper John Graham (74 not out) which took the visitors to 263 for the loss of just two wickets.
Sunderland lost their way against the bowling of Lee Crozier (4-35), Jonny Wightman (3-25) and Stephen Humble (2-13), slumping to 65 for 9 before a last-wicket stand worth 53 was led by Ian Stephenson (31 not out). The Wearsiders were finally all out for 118.
Chester-le-Street and Durham Academy played out a closely fought draw, with just 31 runs separating the teams at the close.
The Cestrians made 230-7 before declaring at the end of the 60th over, with Quentin Hughes left just two runs short of a century.
Alan Smith hit 34 and Callum Thorp made 24 before Asher Hart (4-37) finished as the Academy’s best bowler.
The youngsters responded well when it was their turn to show their batting skills, and they finished on 199-6, with Adam Hickey (43) their top performer.
Whitburn worked themselves into a decent position at Tynemouth, where they had their hosts 86-5, but late runs from Graeme Hallam (68) and Phil Morse (32no) allowed the home team to scramble up to 222-7 after 60 overs.
When Stuart Walker and Neil Ayre then went cheaply in Whitburn’s response, it took some resilience from Lee Henderson (80 from 148 balls) to hold the home attack at bay and secure a share of the spoils on 190-8.
Benwell Hill outplayed champions Stockton to move into third place, 19 points behind Hetton Lyons.
Matty Brown, with 62, was top scorer for the Teessiders who made 237-8, but the Hill took up the challenge to finish as winners by four wickets after Zohaib Khan (68) headed their exciting run chase.