A SENSATIONAL day of cricket ended in joy and heartache in equal measure as Whitburn burst back to the top of the table at just the right time to become the first ever champions of the Dukes ECB North East Premier League First Division – but Sacriston endured the agony of final-day misery for the second time in three years.
Sacriston started the day knowing a victory in their final game at Boldon would be enough for them to take the glory.
But the first result in came from Brandon where the title outsiders had won at a canter to take 29 points and temporarily go back to the top of the table.
But then Sacriston lost their way at Sunderland Road to lose by 38 runs, having looked likely winners at one time, which meant Brandon were apparently sitting pretty with a 20-point lead over the only team who could catch them, Whitburn.
But, with tension mounting, Whitburn, who had led the way for almost three quarters of the summer only to slip away from the summit at the crucial time, managed to retain their composure to defeat visitors Washington by 29 runs and spark scenes of unfettered jubilation.
Leaders at the start of play, Sacriston looked to have held Boldon to a manageable total of 186-9 after inserting them, and they looked to be on course for glory, Graham Hubber’s three wickets seemingly giving them the upper hand despite a battling half-century from home skipper Chris Ellison.
The reply started soundly enough as Tony Claughan (41) and Harry Hubber (43) shared a third-wicket stand of 55 which lifted Sacriston to 92-2, but, needing only 95 more to take the title, the introduction of Lawrence Wood (3-24) and Masood Mirza (3-31) to the home attack proved to be the stuff of nightmares for Sacriston, who slumped alarmingly as their last eight wickets went down for the addition of just 56 more runs.
With Brandon having already brushed aside the challenge of Felling by six wickets, it was they who suddenly emerged as the potential champions as victory lifted them two points above the crestfallen Sacriston, so nothing less than victory from Whitburn was needed to secure the ultimate prize.
And they were doing everything right in their home game against Washington.
Stuart Walker was once again their batting inspiration, hitting 11 fours and four sixes in a 71-ball 92. With Ross Carty anchoring the side with an unbeaten 58, the home side declared their innings on 250-5 after 48 overs.
With half the job done, Whitburn still needed to bowl Washington out to realise their dreams, and all the while youngster Matty Potts (43) and Dan Woolston (42) were sharing a defiant third-wicket partnership, with Ash Thorpe following on with 36, the tension was increasing.
But once an end was opened up Steve Jones, six for 39 from 14 overs, and Mark Elliott, three for 42 from 12 overs, scythed through Washington, the final wicket falling with seven overs to go to deliver a golden victory and return Whitburn to the top of a table and the championship.
Things were more sedate at the other ground where play was possible, Seaham Harbour making a real fist of chasing an Eppleton target of 224-8 before finishing on 220-7 in an exciting drawn finish, while the ground at Willington, where South Hetton were due, was deemed too wet to play on after the torrential downpours of the previous day.