THERE will be plenty of cricket lovers glued to their TV sets tomorrow as Chester-le-Street try to break their finals day hoodoo and win the prestigious ECB National T20 Cup for the first time.
The Cestrians were travelling down to London by train this afternoon to get settled into their hotel accommodation ahead of tonight’s ECB dinner at the Kia Oval, and then it’s back to the famous ground tomorrow for the big event, which will be televised live on Sky.
This is the third year running that Chester have made the finals day, and they are desperate to erase the memories of the previous two occasions – they were overhauled in the final at Chelmsford in 2011 before last year’s day out at Edgbaston ended prematurely with a heavy semi-final defeat.
Chester looked a nervous shadow of their normally confident selves 12 months ago, but, with the experience of regular appearances on the big stage behind them, they expect to be able to conquer the nerves and deliver the big prize this time around.
They play in the second semi-final against Ormskirk from the Liverpool Competition, the match starting at 3pm, and if they are successful they will then meet either reigning champions Wimbledon or Banbury from Oxfordshire.
Quentin Hughes again captains the Chester line-up, which also features John Coxon, Andrew Smith, Simon Birtwisle, Cole Pearce, Liam Simpson, Chris Martin, Chris Youldon, David Foster, Andrew Bell and Jon Kean, with Jack Harrison 12th man.
Club spokesman Tony Birbeck hopes to make it a double celebration after he appeared in the successful Durham side who won the Over-50s County Championship when defeating Essex last Sunday, and he outlined the feeling of anticipation at Ropery Lane, telling the Echo: “Everyone at the club is excited about the day.
“The supporters’ bus leaves the Lane at 8am on Friday morning, but for those not going to the match the club itself is expected to be full on Friday afternoon with the big screens on.
“This is our third year running in the final, the guys have been practicing hard all week, and we are praying its third time lucky.”
Chester do not have to worry about rushing back tomorrow night in time for the final round of Dukes North East Premier League fixtures on Saturday as the league have sanctioned the re-scheduling of their game against South Northumberland at Roseworth Terrace to Sunday.
In reality, there is nothing at stake in that match with all the key issues now decided, including the runners-up spot which already belongs to South North.
If Chester are suffering from a hangover and end up dropping points on Sunday, then Hetton Lyons would have the opportunity to snatch the third spot in the table, which would be comfortably their best performance since returning to the league in 2010.
Lyons end their programme with a home game against Benwell Hill on Saturday, but they will have to negotiate the final hurdle without overseas pro Lal Kumar, who has returned home – Cameron Grimwood takes his place with everyone else available.
Sunderland wind up their season with a home Wear-Tyne derby against Newcastle, who also could sneak into third place if results go their way, and again this would represent a best ever finish.
The Ashbrooke men make two changes, with Simon Brown and Ian Stephenson back in place of Craig Burdon and Greg Applegarth.
South Shields will be glad to see the back of this campaign. The relegated club will make one final attempt to win a league game when they take on the Durham Academy in a match that will take place at Boldon’s Sunderland Road ground as Wood Terrace is being used as a camp site for Great North Run competitors, and Westoe are staging their first home game of the rugby season.