Academy rescued by rain

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THERE WERE a few shafts of cricketing light amidst the gloom of a rain-ravaged Saturday which saw many Dukes North East Premier League games failing to start, and those that did curtailed by the weather.

At least the Emirates witnessed plenty of runs and a bit of excitement, with the youngsters of the Academy sharing a closely fought encounter with Newcastle, although even that was eventually cut short when a result was in sight.

The game was reduced to 55-46 in terms of the allocation of overs, and when Newcastle won the toss they stuck the youngsters in only to find little joy in the field.

A second-wicket partnership of 99 between Jack Clark (53 from 74 balls) and Jack Burnham set the tone, and when Asher Hart joined Burnham after the fall of the third wicket they added another 93 before a declaration came with the total on 241-3 after 53 overs.

Hart was 45 not out at the time, but Burnham had gone on to record a fine unbeaten century in an innings which lasted 127 balls and included 10 fours and three sixes.

Hart was then beating even faster as he grabbed two early Newcastle wickets, but that opened the door for Jacques Du Toit to join Alistair Shields in a pulsating third-wicket stand of 164 before Du Toit fell for 90 scored from just 72 balls and including 13 fours and three sixes.

Shields made it to 65 before he fell with the score on 203, and then James Carding launched four sixes to bring Newcastle to within four runs of the Academy score before the heavens opened and the rain returned with a vengeance.

South North scored 191-7 in 49 overs at Hetton Lyons, the total representing something of a recovery after they lost their first four batsmen for just 21 as Lal Kumar (2-20) struck early blows.

Adam Cragg (38) began the rebuilding job in partnership with Jimmy Miller, who went on to top score with six boundaries in his 60, and with Dave Rutherford adding some late impetus with an unbeaten 35 the Bulls managed to set a challenging target.

Lyons’ ambitions of a successful run chase were soon downgraded to a fight for survival after Steve Humble (3-34) and Jonny Wightman (2-23) put them on the defensive, only Kumar (42) managing to stem the flow of wickets as he cracked five fours and a six.

But his fight ensured the hosts would be successful in keeping the Bulls at bay, their innings closing on 100-7 after 39 overs.

With South North gathering 13 points from the exercise, they extended their lead at the top of the table to 20 points over Benwell Hill, with Lyons remaining third, just one point further back.

The only other top flight game to see any play was on Teesside where Stockton were put into bat by Chester-le-Street after the first hour had been lost. They limped through 25.3 overs in bowler-friendly conditions before play was ended with their score on 63-4, Andrew Bell gleaning the most personal satisfaction from the game by claiming two of the wickets to fall.

The final round of First Division Mini-League matches turned into a miniscule programme, with four of the five scheduled games abandoned without a ball being bowled; a massive disappointment for Washington who had just needed a win to take the title.

Unfortunately for them the one game that did go ahead was at Brandon, who went on to secure the victory which ensured they came out on top, though it was not without a few scares.

The game against Felling was reduced to 37 overs per side, and after electing to bat the visitors were in early shock as Chris Winn (3-23) reduced them to 0-2.

Aussie James Crosthwaite then took centre stage, cracking 12 fours and eight sixes in a blistering one man display that saw him make an unbeaten 136 from just 112 balls to lift Felling to a challenging 211-7.

After a half-century from Stuart Poynter Brandon looked in control of the run chase, but his dismissal came in the midst of a spell which saw three wickets fall for six runs to leave the hosts on 203-8 and the game in the balance. Gary Henderson, 15 not out from eight balls, then produced an invaluable mini innings that took Brandon past the target with seven balls remaining.