AFTER the worst start to a season on record, Warmseal Durham Senior League clubs are now bracing themselves for a period of intense action.
After spending much of the last month twiddling their thumbs as the rain poured down, inactivity will not be an issue in the next 22 days with six league matches scheduled to be played between Saturday and June 17, including two double headers.
The first double header is this weekend and one team who can’t wait for the action to start in earnest is Castle Eden, who have somehow managed to dodge the weather and flown out of the traps with three wins in their three matches to date.
They sit just nine points behind leaders Felling with a precious game in hand and the arrival of their overseas player has provided a further boost, if any were needed, to their confidence.
Having encountered problems in getting their original target, Ryan D’Souza, into the country, the club did not rest on their laurels and moved swiftly to source a replacement.
Indian Swarupam Purkayastha arrived last Thursday and was pitched straight into the match at Horden, where he featured with both bat and ball. He then followed up with a six-wicket haul in the midweek cup tie against the same opponents, to have regulars drooling.
The 22-year-old, a right-handed bat and off-break bowler, has played top-level cricket in his home country for Assam. In his seven first-class games, he averages 28 with the bat and 22 with the ball.
Next to face him are Marsden, who visit Castle Eden on Saturday, and Boldon, who host the challengers on Sunday.
Castle Eden are at full strength on both days, but Marsden have a number of injury concerns, with Stephen Neilson definitely out with ankle ligament damage, and Connor Elliott and Paul Hobson missing.
Paul Carr, Colin Mann and Paul Snaith are drafted in for the double, which seems them entertain Durham City on Sunday.
Nick Sampson-Barnes is set to make his seasonal debut for Boldon after recovering from a serious eye problem, and he replaces Gareth Smith for the home double, which starts against surprise package, third-placed Norton.
Burnmoor, on the other hand, face two away tests, starting at Whitburn and ending at Norton.
Moor will be missing Alec Linsley and David Lowther for both games. James Davidson earns a call-up for both games, with Graeme Stoker playing on Saturday and McKenzie Wright on Sunday. South African quickie Brandon Scullard provided a sample of his potential with a six-wicket haul last weekend and, with the wickets now firming up, he looks well capable of causing problems.
Eppleton have just the one game – at Horden on Sunday – but they have been hit by the news that Elliott Woods’ cricket season is possibly over following a car accident earlier this week.
Woods was due to leave for Australia anyway at the end of June to play pro football and it is thought unlikely he will be back to full fitness before then.
Craig Scurr does return this weekend, but the ever-changing story on Aamer Sohail is no nearer a definitive conclusion.
Horden entertain Durham City, back after a week off, on Saturday before tackling Eppleton. Philadelphia also have two home games, against Felling and Whitburn. South Hetton host champs Kimblesworth on Saturday but can rest up 24 hours later.