Sunderland hoping Claydon can target Benwell Hill

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SUNDERLAND may be forgiven for hoping that Mitch Claydon does not make the Durham team for the four-day match which starts at The Oval tomorrow – as that would mean he would be available to play for them in Saturday’s Ashbrooke game against Benwell Hill in the Dukes North East Premier League Premier Division.

The paceman has made a big impact in the two opening league games for his club side, but was in the Durham squad that travelled south for today’s Yorkshire Bank 40 match and the Championship game to follow.

If he is not selected for the second match, the intention is that he will travel back to the North East tomorrow and be available for Sunderland.

Claydon, with eight wickets to his name already, has provided the cutting edge along with Kieran Waterson that has been mainly responsible for the Wearsiders’ flying start, in which they have won both their opening matches to move into a challenging third place, just seven points behind leaders South North. If he makes it, Sunderland will be unchanged.

Benwell Hill got their campaign off to a poor start when losing against Stockton on the opening day, but the arrival of their trusted overseas professional, Zohaib Khan, coincided with a much improved performance last week against Durham Academy and they expect to be at full strength at Ashbrooke.

Surprise package Stockton followed up the defeat of Benwell Hill by toppling Chester-le-Street last week, meaning that the Cestrians already have some ground to make up.

They have no reported injuries so can pick from a full squad for their game against the Academy at the Emirates ICG.

The youngsters have a keeping problem. Cole Pearce has a back injury that may well require rest, and with both back-up keepers, Jack Hardy and Tyler Easton, unavailable because of student commitments, the search is on to find a replacement.

Hetton Lyons shrugged off two indifferent league performances to turn on the style in last week’s Banks Salver tie against Eppleton.

Pakistani Lal Kumar struck glorious form with a pulsating 142, so they should go into the home game against Gateshead Fell on Saturday in more confident mood, although skipper Shaun Birbeck misses this one because of work commitments. Gary Scott deputises and Aaron Watson is handed an opportunity.

Lyons have collected just seven league points so far, but South Shields are bottom and face a tricky trip to in-form Newcastle on Saturday.

Shields must wait until the end of the month for international Tom Latham to join the club, once New Zealand’s Test series against England is concluded.

Run-scoring has proved difficult in the first two games and Latham would potentially solve that problem, particularly if he is paired with Gordon Muchall at the top of the order.

A couple of local clubs are involved in National Club Championship matches on Sunday, former holders Chester-le-Street travelling to Harrogate and Hetton Lyons hosting Stockton.