Cestrians braced for a weekend double-header
Chester-le-Street have the perfect chance to kick start their season when they take on struggling Gateshead Fell on Saturday, and then the following day, play their opening fixture in the Royal London Club Championship.
Both games will be played in the surroundings of Ropery Lane and are against opposition they know very well, but with the Cestrians still to register a league win, and unusually languishing in the lower reaches of the table, nothing will be taken for granted.
And that will be particularly so against Fell who, despite once again looking potential relegation candidates after two successive defeats, will have the massive boost of being able to include Graham Onions in their starting line-up.
Onions could bring tears to Chester eyes if he is on song, and secretary Stephen Devenport is anticipating the impact he will have: “We are looking forward to Graham playing – he brings much needed experience and is also a good bat at this level.”
Onions replaces Jonny Buell in the Gateshead team, while Chester have Stephen Cantwell fit again.
The national cup tie on Sunday pits them against South Shields, who they played only last week, getting much the better of a drawn encounter.
Whitburn are back on home soil this weekend after the chastening experience of their 10-wicket defeat at Jesmond, and they hope to be able to field an unchanged side, although there is a doubt over Kieran Waterson.
Hetton Lyons are the visitors, suitably buoyed by their victory in the local derby against Eppleton last time out, and expecting to have Durham’s Brydon Carse available to them to provide additional firepower.
The 20-year-old South African, who enjoyed a season at Burnmoor before his induction to the County squad, got plenty of bowling at the Oval earlier this week and would present home batsmen with a real challenge if he plays.
Eppleton haven’t made the start in the top tier they wanted, and they face another difficult game when they return to Church Road.
They host Benwell Hill, who are second in the table after an impressive win at Ropery Lane, and then a ‘winning draw’ in a weather curtailed match against Stockton.
Although in between those two league matches, their confidence was dented by a 161-run thrashing in the Royal London Cup at Sheriff Hutton Bridge.
Eppleton could be without Craig Scurr, but other than that, expect to be at full strength against visitors who will be led by Kyle Coetzer.
South Shields managed to cling on to their unbeaten record when they squeezed a draw against the Cestrians, and they now travel to Teesside where their hosts Stockton have enjoyed a similar outcome of one win and one draw from their opening fixtures.
The Shieldsmen received a late blow to their line-up last week when Gordon Muchall was included in the Durham squad to travel to the Oval, but he is expected to return to bolster their ranks.
Durham Academy’s youthful squad have found life tough, losing both their matches so far, and hosts Tynemouth, with Andrew Smith fit again and Niall Piper returning, will be hoping to build on last week’s win over Gateshead Fell when their bowlers managed to play their ‘get out of jail free’ card on behalf of their batsmen.
In Saturday’s final game, champions South North are already feeling bullish about winning an eleventh title in 14 seasons, but Newcastle could well provide their toughest test to date in the match at Roseworth Terrace.