Durham Cricket League: Kadam's Ranji Trophy call-up hits Littletown's Second Division title push
Second Division leaders Littletown must fancy their chances at home to bottom club Silksworth, who have only won once this season.
But they miss Brian Conlon and inspirational professional Shashikant Kadam, who has been called up to play in the Ranji Trophy in India.
Paul Cassell makes his seasonal debut on Saturday, after a series of weekend work commitments.
Potentially any one of eight teams could feasibly gain promotion, if a run can be put together in the last six remaining games.
Only 49 points separate those eight teams and, with so many still in with a chance, there are some intriguing fixtures that could make or break the season for some teams.
Whiteleas occupy the second promotion place, with a 17-point cushion over Peterlee, in third, and they travel to Murton, who are 38 points behind them.
Following last Saturday’s comprehensive 30-point victory over Boldon CA, Leas jumped two places into second, reducing Littletown’s lead to just nine points in the process.
Skipper Owen Peterson is forced into three changes, with Scott Oliver now taking up football managerial commitments with Hebburn Town in the Northern League, while Rob Scorer (work) and Nick Quinn (holiday) are also missing.
However, the captain is satisfied with the calibre of replacements to back-fill at such a crucial time. He said: “It’s the time of year when most clubs will miss players due to the holiday and football seasons kicking in.
“Of course, we’re disappointed that we’re missing three key players, but, in Ryan Hale, Alan Beadle and Sonu Pathak, we have suitable replacements who have all done very well in the second team this season.”
Peterlee travel to Boldon CA, who have veteran George Lincoln available to play. In addition, Boldon have Mark Cox and Stuart Smith back from holiday.
The visitors have David Craig back to bolster their promotion push.
Skipper Paul Griffith was disappointed with last week’s defeat, admitting: “We were poor in the field and we must produce the goods this weekend.”
Ryhope, in fourth place, are at home to Marsden, in fifth, and the loser of this game will probably be eliminated from the title race, so it’s all to play for in this match. The hosts have Chris Lawrence back, but they are missing Dan Douglas.
Ushaw Moor, in sixth, are 35 points behind second-top Whiteleas and they entertain lowly Houghton, who sit in third-bottom spot.
Evenwood, the least likely of the eight teams still in the hunt, are 40 points below the second promotion spot, but they will be unchanged as they travel to Langley Park.
In Division One, there are just six games left now until the end of the season, so it’s do or die for some clubs still involved in title ambitions and clubs in fear of the dreaded drop.
Dawdon, in second place and in pursuit of the title, have a tough away fixture at Horden, who are fourth after a great run of form.
The visitors have won their last three league games and are coming into form at the right time to mount a title challenge, but they have probably left it too late.
Horden will be unchanged after a great win last week against Burnopfield, where the whole team contributed to the win.
Burnopfield have a 63-point advantage at the top ahead of an intriguing match against in-form Castle Eden. With only one win in the last four league games, the leaders have struggled a bit of late, whereas Castle Eden have climbed away from danger at the other end of the table, with four league wins out of their last five.
They hope to have James Radcliffe and Jack Hughes back in the team.
Easington, in third, must win if they are to keep the pressure on at the top.
They welcome Philadelphia to the Welfare Ground, with Phili having fallen away in the title race after winning only one of their last four league games.
The visitors are on a high after blasting Premier League side Boldon on Monday in the Hedworth Williamson Cup. “It was one of our best performances for a long time,” said captain Shaun Smith.
“We are not going to win the league – Burnopfield have it just about wrapped up – but we are still left in five cup competitions, so we could bring some silverware back to Bunker Hill.”
On Saturday, Phili’s only absentee is Gary Embleton, who is working.
At the bottom, Hylton probably have too much to do to beat the drop . They welcome Esh Winning, who sit comfortably in mid-table and have Lee Goodwin and Richard Hurst back.
Second-bottom Bill Quay, 12 points adrift of Crook, have come into some form of late with a win and two draws in their last three league games.
This weekend, they entertain Durham City, who are probably safe after two wins and two draws in their last four.
City make one change, with opening bowler Andrew Hutchinson returning. Fourteen-year-old Jonathan Bushnell retains his place after impressing last week.
Crook, on the other hand, have not won since July 2 and are badly need of some points at Seaham Park, who are themselves not safe, although they do have a 21-point cushion over Town, who are still without professional Tearan Gleeson.