THERE are few more valued scalps in NEPL cricket than that of South Northumberland, and Chester-le-Street claimed that most prized of victories when they crushed the Bulls by 144 runs at Ropery Lane on Saturday.
Their cause was undoubtedly helped by the eleventh hour signing of Callum Thorp, and the Durham man contributed hugely on debut, but before he lent a hand South North’s decision to field after winning the toss looked to be spot on when they reduced the Cestrians to 60-5, with Jonny Wightman providing the main cutting edge by claiming three of those early wickets.
Home skipper John Coxon then gradually coaxed his team into life, sharing a sixth wicket stand of 59 with Chris Youldon (37), and when the captain departed after a well-made 53 from 106 balls the stage was set for Thorp to provide lift off.
And this he duly did by blasting 50 from 34 balls, an innings that included three fours and three maximums.
A declaration came in the 62nd over with the hosts on 208-9.
What then followed was nothing short of mayhem as Thorp and Liam Simpson decimated the visitors in a hostile opening burst that saw the Bulls on their knees from the start.
From 8-3, to 22-6 and 43-8 there was just nowhere to hide, and when Lee Crozier was last man out with the score on 64 only 27 overs had been bowled.
Thorp’s nine overs cost just eight runs as he claimed three wickets, while Simpson closed with figures of 4-27 from 11 overs.
After doing well at Ropery Lane last week to claim the Lyon’s share of the spoils, Hetton Lyons went to the top of the early-season table as they garnered maximum points from a 147-run drubbing of Tynemouth.
The opening trio of Gary Scott (41), Allan Worthy and Ryan Pringle prospered to set the scene.
For the second week running, Worthy reached the 70’s, and with Pringle cracking a crisp 82 from 75 balls, including eight fours and three sixes, Hetton closed after 47 overs on 241-6.
This proved well beyond the reach of Tynemouth, who found Lal Kumar (4-15 from seven overs) in tremendous early form.
Skipper Ben Debnam dug in to try and stem the wicket flow, making 40 from 84 balls, but Pringle helped wrap up the game with a spell of 3-19 as the visitors slumped to 94 all out in the 42nd over.
There was major disappointment for Sunderland when their game was called off.
They hung around with hosts Benwell Hill to try and give the conditions at Denton Bank chance to improve but the umpires deemed that play would be impossible, and it was a similar story at the Emirates ICG where the weather was the only winner in the game between the Academy and Whitburn.
In the two other games, champions Stockton made it two wins from two home matches as they defeated Blaydon by nine wickets.
In a much-reduced game, the Tynesiders looked to be doing well at 35-1, but the run out of Craig Burke changed the mood, and with seven wickets going down for 59 runs Blaydon could only post an inadequate 94-8 from their 29 overs.
Keaton Jennings (3-20 and 48no) did the rest as the title-holders grabbed the win inside 18 overs.
Two wickets each for Ben Cant and Jacques Du Toit gave Newcastle a foothold in their game at Eastwood Gardens, and with Ollie McGee striking four times Gateshead Fell were indebted to a battling 99-ball unbeaten innings of 49 from Adam Whatley for easing them up to a 49 over total of 138-9.
Two early setbacks in the run chase then only served to inspire Du Toit who cracked 11 fours and two sixes in a 61-ball 75 not out which rushed his team through to victory by six wickets in just 30 overs.