CHESTER-le-Street fluffed their lines in Saturday’s home Dukes North East Premier League Premier Division game against Hetton Lyons.
Although they managed to cling on for a draw with their last pair at the wicket, the fact they took just nine points from the match left them trailing leaders Stockton by a daunting 40 points with just 10 games to go.
Pakistani Lal Kumar, rapidly approaching 1,000 runs for the Lyons in all matches this summer, blasted 17 fours and three sixes on his way to a 115-ball 136.
With Jarvis Clay adding 82, Gary Scott making 38 and Jack Burnham contributing 27, the Lyons mauled the home attack to the tune of 334-4 in 60 overs.
The loss of early wickets to Sean Tindale (2-26) then dented the Cestrians’ run-chase confidence.
Despite 74 from Andrew Smith and Usman Arshad’s 49, wickets for Kumar and Burnham, allied to a couple of run-outs, reduced the home team to 177-8 and survival became the only option. It was eventually achieved on 211-9.
Sunderland made it three wins in four outings when they dominated their fixture at South Shields, the victory margin of 68 runs enabling them to take a maximum points haul and move back within striking distance of a top-four placing.
Dan Shurben showed all his undoubted class in an innings of 126, carrying his bat through his team’s 55-over stay at the crease, cracking 18 fours and a six along the way.
With Greg Applegarth peppering his 55 with 11 boundaries, the Wearsiders amassed 273-5 before declaring.
Without Tom Latham and Gordon Muchall, Shields struggled from the off, and despite Chris Dorothy’s attacking 42 they eventually succumbed to Sunderland new boy David Hill (grabbing a brilliant 6-41) and established star Kieran Waterson (3-57), bowled out for 205.
Defeat left Shields with just five points, and they remain deep in the relegation mire as Gateshead Fell picked up seven with a feisty display against South North.
Indeed, they will be wondering just how they squandered a victory opportunity.
Standing on 180-4 in pursuit of 213-9, and with plenty of time left, Fell lost their last six wickets for the addition of 13 runs, with Adam Whatley desperately unlucky to finish on the losing side after cracking 13 fours and five sixes in a rousing 91-ball 112.
Durham Academy enjoyed a less fraught finish in a draw at Tynemouth, where the hosts made 267-5 including an unbeaten century from Ruhan Pretorius.
Ashley Hart took three wickets and then found himself playing out the overs when the Academy finished, in reply, on 202-4. Paul Coughlin (69) and Adam Hickey (63) shared the batting honours.
Blaydon felt the power of Newcastle’s Jacques du Toit for the second time this season. He destroyed them on the opening day of the campaign in April, and he did it again on Saturday when his six wickets and half century ensured Blaydon were never at the races.
Stockton are loving the fact they are getting appearance after appearance out of their Durham players, and Jamie Harrison delivered the goods again with a searing spell of 8-35 to set up a five-wicket win over Benwell Hill and lift the Teessiders into their impressive lead at the summit.
* First Division report in today’s Sunderland Echo