Test star Onions helps Sunderland closer to safety target

Graham Onions
Graham Onions
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Dukes North East Premier League Premier Division by Chris West

NOT a single game reached a conclusion on Saturday, but there was a shock in store for Gateshead Fell when Sunderland turned up with former player Graham Onions in their ranks for the crucial relegation battle.

The England international began his career at Eastwood Gardens, so his return there to face his home club in such a vital match had a certain irony to it.

Even though the game, like all the others, ended in a weather-beaten stalemate, the Wearsiders emerged the happier of the two sides as they managed to earn three points more than their rivals to end the day 37 clear of their frustrated opponents.

Unsurprisingly, with Onions and rain providing a real threat, the Wearsiders asked Gateshead to bat when they won the toss.

With sentiment cast aside, the paceman combined with James Davies to put the home side on the run. The pair shared 30 of the 37 overs bowled as the home team slid to 139 all out, the top scorer being extras with 30, and the next on the list being David Daley with 29.

Onions took 3-24 in his stint, while Davies outshone his illustrious colleague in the wicket-taking stakes with a return of 5-55.

Gateshead then hit back to reduce their visitors to 33-3 at one stage before Onions (18 not out) steadied the ship. When the rains arrived, Sunderland had reached 64-3 from 19.2 overs. Cameron Oliver picked up two of the wickets to fall.

At the opposite end of the table, there were eight points each for leaders South Northumberland and second-placed Hetton Lyons in their respective games, so the Bulls’ handsome lead of 44 points stayed completely intact.

Jonny Wightman (3-35) threatened to blow home team Whitburn apart in an opening burst that saw him dismiss the first three batsmen for just seven runs between them, but Michael Turns dug in to defuse the threat, making 52 from 76 balls.

With Ross Carty (30 from 85 balls) offering solid support, in a partnership of 73, the home side reached 94-3.

Dave Rutherford (3-18 from 13.3 overs) then removed both main run-scorers in quick succession and, with four wickets going down for just 19 runs, South North looked capable of forcing a result before the deluge arrived with Whitburn on 113-7.

Hetton Lyons found life at the crease tough after being inserted by Newcastle, but they managed to ease their way to a 54-over declaration on 170-9, with Ryan Pringle the top contributor with 43 of those. Callum Harding was the man causing the problems, his 16-over spell earning him impressive figures of 5-48. With Ollie McGee bagging 3-53 from his 19 overs, the Tynesiders were happy enough with their time in the field.

Only eight overs were possible in Newcastle’s reply, but Martin Pollard (2-7) struck twice to leave the visitors on 19-2 when the heavens opened.

Chester-le-Street and Blaydon managed just over 60 overs at Ropery Lane, with the Cestrians occupying the crease for most of those.

The home team struggled to make meaningful headway against the Blaydon attack, a second-wicket stand of 69 between Simon Birtwisle (29) and Andrew Smith (39) the best feature before Callum Thorp hit a late 34.

The problem was spin, Graeme Bridge outstanding in his 16 overs which produced figures of 6-46, and Ryan Buckley also turning the screw with 3-34 as the home team were bowled out for 184 in 54.5 overs. Thorp then struck two immediate blows when Blaydon batted, but, after seven overs, the heavens opened with the visitors on 27-3.

Durham Academy found it tough going at Benwell Hill who made 182-2 before the rain came, with Ramanpreet Singh four runs short of a century, while Zohaib Khan was also unbeaten on 56.

Richard Waite’s 59 steered Stockton to 215-9 declared, but Tynemouth failed to get off the mark before the weather intervened.