Dukes North East Premier League Premier Division by Chris West
WHITBURN came of Premier Division age on Saturday when they claimed their first ever top-flight scalp – and what a scalp it was!
Just one week earlier, Chester-le-Street were playing the multi-talented South North outfit off the park, but they were brought back down to earth with a thud as Whitburn fought like tigers to secure a famous victory.
The Cestrians were inserted by their hosts after losing the toss, and it looked to be a good decision as the visitors slid to 120 all out in 40.5 difficult overs, the key turning point in the innings coming when a mini-revival had seen Chester reach 80-5 after early difficulties.
Then Michael Bittlestone snapped up three wickets in five balls to derail any recovery, and he ended with 4-31 to complement an impressive spell from young Aussie Scott Condy (3-14 in 10 overs) and two early wickets from Craig Smith.
George Harrison exempted himself from any criticism in the dressing room, the youngster battling valiantly though the whole innings to end on 57 not out from 107 balls.
When Whitburn lost their first five wickets with just 55 on the board, Harrison’s innings looked as though it would prove to be the difference between the sides.
But Ross Carty (29 not out from 84 balls) dug in before finding support from Condy, who hit a breezy 32 from just 38 balls to lift the Villagers to within sight of victory.
Though three wickets then fell for the addition of just five runs, the two-wicket win duly came up in the 44th over.
Hetton Lyons suffered a major setback to their hopes of making a bid for the championship when they lost surprisingly to a Blaydon side which had lost both of their opening two games of the new season.
Tipped by many pundits as likely championship contenders, the Lyons, with a win and a winning draw already to their credit, had started the day as the league leaders.
But the defeat, even though it was in a nail-biting finish, pushed them down to third place and they now trail South North and Benwell Hill.
Lyons found themselves struggling for runs against Blaydon’s three-pronged attack of Ryan Buckley (4-28 from 11.1 overs), Joe Reynolds (2-25) and Gary Stewart (2-32) and their all-out score of 116 was always going to be difficult to defend.
But their opponents found runs hard to score, too, and were soon in trouble at 17-3.
They limped to 92-8, with Lyons still hopeful they could snatch the victory, but Graeme Bridge made a patient, unbeaten 45 in a nerve jangling final session.
Ryan Pringle (4-36 from 17.2 overs) led the Hetton assault on Blaydon’s batsmen and he received splendid backing from Lal Kumar (2-22) and Martin Pollard (2-20), but they could not tempt last man Craig Wallis to make a false stroke and had to admit defeat by just a single wicket in a tense finish.
Sunderland maintained their unbeaten record, but they could not quite pull off their second win of the season after becoming involved in a high-scoring match with Durham Academy at Maiden Castle.
A century from James Thompson took the County youngsters to a high-class 268-5, to which the Ashbrooke club responded with exactly 200 runs for the loss of seven wickets.
Opener Chris Peareth hit a superb 76, and the Wearsiders also had excellent contributions from Greg Applegarth (40) and David Hill (39 not out).
Elsewhere, Tynemouth moved into the top four with their first win of the new campaign against strugglers Gateshead Fell, and South North became the new league leaders after defeating champions Stockton at Gosforth.
Benwell Hill’s second win in three games (against Newcastle) took them up to second place.