NE Premier League: Chester-le-Street team spirit can be major weapon in regional final showdown
After the rain-ruined league clash of last Saturday comes the next episode of the Chester-le-Street versus South North saga when the big two slug it out in the regional final of the National Club Championship at Ropery Lane on Sunday (1pm).
There is no secret about the fact that, of all the competitions they compete in, the two clubs covet the national where they have both enjoyed success in recent years.
Last week’s league meeting ended with honours broadly even after the loss of 45 overs to the weather, although no doubt the Cestrians will argue that, with only 47 more required, and five wickets left standing, they were in the box seat.
With that in mind, it did confirm the progress being made, with Chester just beginning to gather a head of steam after an unusually lethargic start to the season, something club spokesman Tony Birbeck pointed out: “We definitely had a slow start.
“Runs were hard to come by, with some indifferent form, but it always takes time for a team to gel.
“In Mark Turner and Graeme Cessford, who were out-and-out fast bowlers, as well as Gareth Wade, we lost a potent pace attack.
“With Liam Simpson returning to us, he had to shoulder a lot of the burden along with old-stager Andrew Bell.”
But the new boys are starting to settle in and Birbeck is delighted with how things are developing.
He added: “There’s a really good team spirit.
“You always get that from Richard Waite, and Gurman Randhawa has impressed everyone with his attitude – everyone speaks very highly of him.
“We also brought in James Thompson, who’s on the Lord’s groundstaff, and the form they are all showing bodes well.”
On Saturday, the Cestrians take on another team whose star seems to be on the rise, with the youthful Durham Academy team starting to pick up their form.
They put out the same team who looked to be in a dominant position against Gateshead Fell when the rain closed in, with Academy manager John Windows in more confident mood.
“The lads are starting to find their feet,” he said, “and we are really looking forward to the game with Chester.”
The one team to avoid the showers and pick up maximum points last week were Whitburn, and, having given themselves a ‘comfort blanket’ by moving 46 points clear of the relegation slot, they now have their sights trained on the team immediately above them.
Whitburn secretary Dan Quinan acknowledged that his side had the rub of the green last weekend. “We were lucky with the weather,” he said, “but that’s cricket and we now aim to push up the league the best we can.
“We are at home to Eppleton, on Saturday, who are just above us in the league, so it will be an interesting game and one we hope to win.”
The star of last week’s show was seven-wicket Kieran Waterson and Dan was quick to praise his strike bowler.
He added: “Kieran was brilliant. That takes him to 23 wickets this season.
“He has started the season very well indeed after a few niggling injuries during the winter.”
Waterson is expected to feature again in an unchanged team, although Eppleton have delayed selection until they ascertain the availability of one or two players.
Temporary pro Ockert Erasmus will feature for Hetton Lyons again after missing last week’s game. They entertain South Shields, who have Ollie Stedman back from playing professional rugby in Yorkshire.
Elsewhere, Gateshead Fell head to Newcastle, Tynemouth visit Benwell Hill and South North host Stockton.