CHESTER-LE-STREET saw the Dukes North East Premier League title snatched away from them in a dramatic final day of the season, as South North reclaimed the championship crown they last held in 2008.
But the weather had a big bearing on the final moments for the two clubs, with the Cestrians’ game against Durham Academy abandoned, while a few miles away South North were able to carry on long enough to win their match before the rain arrived.
Sunderland’s jubilant visitors had pulled back 86 points in the latter part of the season to overtake the Cestrians, whose unfortunate loss of form looked likely to end in defeat against the Academy before the rain washed out the game at Ropery Lane.
The bad weather took slightly longer to reach Ashbrooke where South North, who had made 203-9 before declaring their innings, bowled out Sunderland for 153 to win by exactly 50 runs.
The newly-crowned champions had to win to take the title – a draw would not have given them enough points – and they achieved it with rain starting to fall and within just a couple of minutes of a downpour which would have ended the game and cost them the title success.
Sunderland gave a good account of themselves in the field when South North took first knock.
Kieran Waterson (3-36 from 12 overs) and Jaspreet Singh (3-78 from 17 overs) shared the bowling honours after Chris Rushworth (2-41) had grabbed early wickets to put their visitors on the back foot. But Adam Heather, with 62, made sure the new champions got past 200 in the 57 overs they faced.
A battling 65 from Michael Turns led a Sunderland batting recovery after both their openers went early and although Stephen Humble (4-30 in 11 overs) caused the Wearsiders most problems, the final wicket of Rushworth, taken by Mark Wood, proved the championship winner.
Chester-le-Street’s unhappy final day of the season saw Andrew Tye, with an unbeaten 47, turn the score beyond 200, but he couldn’t weave any magic with the ball as the Academy youngsters responded positively.
With 83 from 119 balls by Ben Raine they were just 21 runs short of victory, with plenty of overs left to score them, when the heavens opened.
Taking just seven points from the draw as South North grabbed 28 for their win, saw their pre-match lead of five points – and the champions’ crown – disappear in the gloom.
It wasn’t a good end to the league season for Hetton Lyons, either, who were beaten by third-placed Blaydon and slipped a place to finish fifth.
The Lyons were bowled out for just 83, although they hit back to take six of their opponents’ wickets before conceding defeat. Kamran Shah (3-29 from nine overs) led the fightback.
Elsewhere, Gateshead Fell finished as wooden spoonists, despite winning for only the second time after bowling out Tynemouth thanks to seven wickets from Mark Lockey, while there was stalemate in the other clash at the foot of the table between South Shields and Stockton when rain caused it to be abandoned.