UNPREDICTABLE Chester-le-Street rocked the Dukes North East Premier League Premier Division championship hopes of Hetton Lyons with their first win in five weeks, and only their third all season.
The Cestrians, who have had an abundance of drawn finishes, had a bucket load of surprises ready to hand out to their more successful rivals, who. before the start on Saturday, were just 14 adrift of leaders, South North.
While their defeat did not affect their second placing, they are now 37 points behind the Gosforth-based side who were easy winners against bottom club Gateshead Fell.
Chester batted first at Lilywhite Terrace, with Andrew Smith helping himself to a brilliant century before departing on 136 to a catch from the bowling of Ryan Pringle, the most successful of Hetton’s strike force.
Smith faced 164 balls and hit 10 fours and five sixes in his attractive knock which was fractionally more than half his team’s overall score. Quentin Hughes shared a big stand with Smith as he made 87, with 15 boundaries from 146 balls, before becoming the second of Pringle’s four wickets.
The 209-run partnership for the third wicket came at an important time for Chester, who had lost both their opening batsmen with just eight runs scored. The 266 runs they finally reached with eight wickets down was far too challenging for the Lyons, who managed just 151 in reply from 52.1 overs.
The defeat, by 115 runs, was only the second suffered all season and was largely due to the excellent Cestrians’ attack of Max Morley (5-43) and Gareth Wade (4-40).
Morley bowled 18 overs with eight maidens and his team-mate was equally frugal with four maidens in his 12 overs. Only Allan Worthy (53) and Gary Scott (36) hit form before Chester bagged the final eight wickets for just 45 runs.
Sunderland were unlucky not to end a barren spell which has seen them drift down the league table.
They were just two runs short of what would have been their first win since mid-May when the overs ran out against Newcastle, who were just below them in the table prior to the start. But the drawn finish lifted the Tyneside club four points above the Ashbrooke men and out of the bottom three.
With 80 runs from opener Nick Corby, Newcastle posted 213-8 and it looked a racing certainty that the Wearsiders would be the victors when they reached 187-3, needing just 27 more.
This was on the back of a tremendous fourth-wicket stand worth 126 between Usman Arshad (70 from 88 balls) and debutant Sajad Ali (81 from 67 balls). But they were overcome by a dose of the jitters as they lost the next six wickets for just 25 runs before their last pair survived to take 11 of the 26 points in a nail-biting draw.
Whitburn’s defeat of Stockton has probably ended any hopes the Teessiders had of retaining the championship they won so comfortably last season.
It turned out to be a really tense match, with Whitburn batting first to make just 101 and looking likely to continue a run which had given them just one win in their previous eight games.
Scott Condy top-scored with just 17 not out, backed by Stuart Walker (16) and Lee Henderson (14).
But Durham opener Keaton Jennings, whose six wickets for 36 runs put them in a strong position, could only watch as his colleagues blew their big chance. Stockton were sent packing for just 90, with Condy (4-17) and Durham’s Paul Coughlin (3-21) in devastating form. The defeat, by 11 runs, left them a massive 95 points adrift of top spot.
In the day’s other games, Durham Academy (212-9) had the slightly better points return in a drawn finish against Tynemouth (163-8), and Benwell Hill won by eight wickets against Blaydon.