SUMMER might be just about over, but the heat is really on in the Readers Durham Cricket League First Division this weekend.
Sunday’s F15 finals day at Philadelphia brings the cup season to a climax and Saturday’s league game between Tudhoe and Burnmoor is the [emultimate showdown, with the championship well and truly on the line.
Add to that a relegation battle royal at Hylton and local cricket fans may need to get out the valium!
It’s dangerous to talk about points differences, given the every shifting sands of what points teams think they have gained, and what they actually have, but, at the last count, Burnmoor were six points ahead of Tudhoe and a victory for them would all but ensure they will claim a second consecutive title.
There’s little doubting that the top two are the best sides in the league, so it’s perhaps fitting it should all come down to this game.
Certainly Burnmoor skipper Alec Linsley could not be more focused, telling the Echo: “The game at Tudhoe should be a cracker! Our pro returns and we will be as confident as ever.
“It’ll be tough, but I think it’s apt given that Tudhoe have been the most consistent side all season. It’s almost like pistols at dawn!
“We’ve been up there plenty in recent years, so hopefully our experience will pay off. Either way, to secure promotion with two games left means the main objective has been achieved.
“We had our facilities inspection last week and that seemed to go well. It would be nice to top the season off as champions though.”
South African Brydon Carse missed last week’s demolition job on Esh Winning. He had a touch of tendonitis in his Achilles, so a decision was taken to rest him, and that looks to have paid dividends as he will play on Saturday.
That puts the Moor at full strength and they will select from a squad of 12 if Owen Lancaster is free from work commitments.
Tudhoe will go into the game minus their overseas man, South African Kushen Kishun having returned to his first-class franchise in preparation for their new season.
His replacement has not been named as yet, but he will be the only absentee in an otherwise unchanged line-up.
Down at the opposite end of the table, there is confusion over the points situation, so it’s a matter of watch this space.
Marsden are confident that they have more points than has been published and have requested the league to check the position ahead of this week’s games. They feel they have around the same number as Hylton, which would really make their head to head on Saturday a duel to the death.
Whatever the score, it is a case of winner takes all as victory should ensure safety.
Hylton, who have home advantage, expect to be at full strength with the return of Gav Barnes, who dropped out at the last minute last week, and Kev Mustard, while an unexpected bonus was last week’s cameo by Owen Williamsion, the senior veteran being dragged out to play and sending down eight excellent overs so it is likely he will feature again.
Marsden have gained a lot of confidence from their victory over Philadelphia, and the return of Paul Snaith, their leading wicket-taker, means they too will be at optimum strength.
Crook are the other team in the relegation equation.
Their drubbing at the hands of Tudhoe dropped them right into the quagmire near the foot of the table, and they will not find any easy pickings in their home game against Horden.
There is a doubt of Andrew Pratt’s fitness because of a groin strain, however Lee Formosa will come back into a squad which is said to be down to the “bare bones”. Horden show one change, with Lee Gilbert back and replacing Paul Franks.
Dawdon have their final home match of the campaign against Boldon CA, while Esh Winning visit bottom club Evenwood, Philadelphia welcome Easington to Bunker Hill and Mainsforth are at home to Castle Eden.
In Division Two, Bill Quay need 18 points to be absolutely sure of promotion.
They entertain Murton who will be missing Keith Chapman and Richard Lowes, but do have the Vout brothers, Matthew Aiken and Ian King available again. The Quay will pick from 12, with just Micky Orridge missing from their full-strength line-up.
Whiteleas need Quay to slip up, and they also need to go for maximum points at Ryhope, where their hosts have Chris Errington and Joe Tomlin back to strengthen the side.
Leas skipper Ray McRae remains upbeat, saying: “The main objective this season was promotion, therefore, if we miss out, it’ll be a disappointing end to the campaign. However, whilst there’s still an outside chance, the players will be giving their all and we’ll be going all out for a high return.
“It was great to get a big win last Saturday against Silksworth, as it means Bill Quay have to play to win and sometimes that pressure can affect teams.
“We’ve had some great results this season and some fantastic individual performances, but the bottom line is, the top two teams deserve to go up.
“If we are one of the teams, fantastic. If not, we learn and build for next season.”
The other fixtures see Seaham Park hosting Langley Park, Ushaw Moor visiting Peterlee and Silksworth tackling Shildon Railway at home.
Whiteleas are one of the four teams contesting the F15 finals day at Bunker Hill on Sunday. They take on Horden in the first semi-final at 11am, followed, at 1.45pm, by Philadelphia against Mainsforth. The final starts at around 4.45pm.