NE Premier League: Benton, Shurben and Coyne get Whitburn off to a flier
Whitburn kick-started their 2016 campaign with a confident home performance against a youthful Durham Academy side, knocking off a target of 205 with the minimum of fuss and plenty of time to spare.
The County youngsters took some time to settle down after being asked to bat first, and, at 94-5, looked in some trouble until a partnership of 86 between Chris McBride (62) and Sam Dinning (40) restored stability.
But, after all the hard work in reclaiming much lost ground, the innings then closed rapidly, with the last five wickets going down for 19 runs. Debutant Kiwi Jeremy Benton hastened the Academy’s demise as he claimed 4-40 from a near 16-over stint.
Whitburn flew out of the traps in their reply, Dan Shurben leading the onslaught. He raced to 66 before the first two wickets fell with the score on 88, and then he handed over the attacking baton to Joe Coyne. The pair then glided effortlessly to their target in an unbroken partnership of 118, Shurben ending with 106, which included 14 fours and four sixes, and Coyne cashing in with an unbeaten 71 from 68 balls.
Eppleton endured a tough top-flight debut at Church Road, but they showed some real fight to cling on for a draw when defeat looked almost inevitable.
Visitors Newcastle eased to 226 in 61 overs, mainly thanks to an opening partnership of 95 between Ben McGee (42) and Aussie Nick Hobson, whose 67 was comfortably the highest score in the match. David Wilkinson took the honours in the Eppleton attack, an outstanding 18-over stint returning 6-44.
The home response just never got going, wickets slipping away at regular intervals, and it took a battling 32 not out from 67 balls from number seven Liam Dixon to keep home heads above water. But bowling hero and last man Wilkinson was still called upon to face 19 balls which he duly negotiated to defy the Tynesiders at the very last. Eppleton closed on 93-9 from 55 overs.
There was a major shock for Chester-le-Street as they slid to a five-wicket home defeat at the hands of Benwell Hill after being bowled out for 196.
The Cestrians’ innings was full of cameo performances, but lacked a show stopper, skipper John Coxon top-scoring with 36. Sameet Brar had proved the major problem for Chester, his 20 overs producing figures of 4-56. But he hadn’t finished there, an unbeaten 52 from 57 balls lifting Hill to opening day glory as he accompanied skipper Kyle Coetzer (78 from 101 balls) in a fourth wicket stand of 85 that sealed Chester’s fate.
For the last three years, Gateshead Fell have finished just above the relegation slot, but if they thought they might be due to a stress-free summer they were given a rude awakening as South Shields swamped them by 182 runs.
Tim David picked up where he left off last year for Shields, blasting 22 fours and a six on his way to a 119-ball 113, and there was no let-up when he departed as Gordon Muchall continued the pummeling with an unbeaten 107 from 111 balls.
Facing a target of 285-2, Fell where then blasted out for 103 by Matty Muchall, returning to Shields after a spell with Benwell Hill. The paceman took 7-47 in 14 torrid overs to leave Gateshead on the ropes and bottom of the early heap.
There was little joy for Hetton Lyons either. After pinning hosts Stockton down to just 136, Lyons failed to roar in their reply, sliding to 97 all out.
The one bright feature was that new pro Faiz Fazal enjoyed a decent debut with four wickets and a top-scoring 32.