WHERE did that one come from? Sunderland pulled off one of their best victories in several years when they toppled unbeaten champions Chester-le-Street in a five-star performance at Ashbrooke.
Even though Joe Coyne gave the Wearsiders a good start with an opening 65, there was no hint that the home side were on their way to a win as the efficient Chester bowling machine whittled its way slowly through the home line-up.
Ashley Thorpe added some mid-order resilience with 36 and Chris Rushworth provided a late flourish with 31, but the home total of 187 didn’t look enough to stretch the previously invincible leaders.
However, Rushworth then plucked out the first three Chester batsmen for just 15 between them and it was game on.
Youngster Chris Martin fought back with a half-century, but when Rushworth returned to claim his wicket, Jaspreet Singh was able to bamboozle the tail and the Cestrians collapsed uncharacteristically to an all-out score of 129.
Singh ended with figures of 4-53, while Rushworth closed with 4-21.
The defeat was Chester’s first for exactly a year and this late July weekend will probably be one they’ll want to avoid in future seasons.
But at least it did not do any damage to their hopes of retaining the title as closest challengers Blaydon crashed to an eight-wicket defeat at the hands of South North and fell further behind, as they only picked up two points to Chester’s six.
At the other end of the table there was much-needed relief for South Shields as Queenslander Matt Jensen powered them to only their second victory of the season with a superb display of seam bowling.
Tynemouth were skittled by the brilliant Australian, who destroyed them in two tremendous spells.
The home team were in immediate trouble at two for two and then 10 for three and though Barry Stewart (28) battled hard to keep Jensen at bay, when he became another Jensen victim the game was up as Tynemouth slumped to 101 all out.
Jensen finished with figures of 11.4 overs, four maidens and eight wickets for 28 runs, with Mattie Muchall bagging the other two to fall.
Shields then tried to make things difficult for themselves by slumping to 72-6 and it took the steady nerves of Chris Watson (18no) and Nathan Watson (13no) to see them through to a crucial victory.
Hetton Lyons couldn’t quite finish off bottom club Gateshead Fell, having to be satisfied with a draw as their opponents clung on at 185-9 in reply to 244.
Shaun Birbeck (92) and Gary Scott (55) were the pride of the Lyons, but some inspired bowling by Jimmy Lloyd (6-49) pulled things back for the Fell.
Matt Milton then hit 107, but with Kamran Shah picking up four cheap victims, Gateshead’s ambitions waned.
Elsewhere Newcastle defeated Stockton by three runs in a thriller at Jesmond, while a Durham Academy team that included Ben Stokes picked up an excellent 17-run victory at Benwell Hill, even though the home team had the star performers in Joe Kilpatrick (6-57) and Ali Maiden (105).