A RAIN-ADDLED opening day to the cricket season saw most NEPL games washed away.
However, the fact that Sunderland’s match against the Academy at the Emirates ICG defied the elements for long periods proved a decidedly mixed blessing for the Wearsiders, who were eventually delighted to see the storm clouds coming to their rescue.
The new drainage system at the Riverside proved its worth, with the Durham youngsters able to take first bite of the batting cherry in a prompt start.
Chris Rushworth and Kieran Waterson then provided a stiff examination of Academy temperaments in bowler-friendly conditions, but for the most part the youngsters proved up to the challenge, with a trio of debutants excelling.
Opener Jack Clark (Benwell Hill) held firm for long periods, easing his way to 43 in 109 balls and when James Thompson (Washington) joined him in a third wicket stand of 86, the Academy were on their way to a decent total.
Thompson eventually fell for 45, a knock that included seven boundaries, but his departure brought the third new boy to the wicket and James Weighell (Stokesley) provided the late innings impetus that set Sunderland a real challenge.
Weighell rattled up three sixes and three fours in a 57-ball top score of 47, sharing in a last wicket stand of 29 with the “daddy” of the team, Academy manager John Windows, that pushed their side up to a score of 223 in 64 overs.
Waterson closed with figures of 4-57 from 18 overs, while Rushworth’s 16-over stint yielded a return of 2-33.
When Sunderland batted, it was literally the calm before the storm.
They eased their way to 15 without loss, but then the roof fell in as Weighell, enjoying the most dramatic of debuts, took out the opening pair in quick succession and opening partner Josh Bousfield ripped through the middle order to leave the visitors in complete disarray on 39-7.
But with defeat seemingly inevitable, the rains came to the rescue, with the Wearsiders on 49-7 after 18 overs, Bousfield robbed of the chance of adding to his impressive figures of 4-20 in nine overs.
The only other game to see a start was at Gosforth, where champions South North did their best to get their game on against last year’s wooden spoonists, Gateshead Fell.
In all, 26 overs were managed, with the Bulls on 60-1 when a cloudburst abruptly ended proceedings for the day.
Sacriston would dearly love to bring the NTSL title home in their final season in the league before taking up their slot in the new NEPL second division in 2013, their determination typified by the fact that their home match against Tynedale was the only one in the top flight to witness any play on Saturday.
And they appeared well on course to steal a march on their other title rivals as Ryan Moralee enjoyed a great start to his summer with a 13-over spell in which he picked up five Tynedale scalps for just 39 runs.
His penetration caused the visitors to slump to 112-7, despite a fluent half-century from skipper Mark Drake, who included six fours and a six in his 52.
However, Richard Byerley and Richard Darling then put on a defiant unbeaten eighth wicket stand of 58 that took their team to respectability on 170-7.
A disastrous start to the home innings then left them tottering on 16-3 after nine torrid overs, David Newton bagging two wickets for just a single run, before rain came to the rescue, a heavy shower driving the players from the field and ending the match.