Brandon join title race

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Dukes ECB NEPL Division One

ONLY two games were completed, but one of them provided the opportunity for Brandon to become surprise challengers for the Division One championship.

The dark horses moved into second place, just 17 points behind leaders South Shields, after pulling off one of the best victories of their 15 match season.

They needed a brilliant unbeaten innings from lower order batsman Andrew Walker to clinch their success, but they now have more victories than any other club in the division.

Opponents Seaham Harbour made 150 in their 32.3 overs with Dale Shaw (45) and Ian Pattison (38) enjoying a 57-run partnership before Jamie Robinson (5-37 in 12.3 overs) got Brandon firmly into the game.

Seaham, after being in control on 95 for 2, saw their last eight wickets fall for the addition of just 55 runs.

But they were far from out of the game as a brilliant burst from Shoaib Akhtar put them back in the driving seat. He took five wickets for just 18 runs in nine devastating overs to leave Brandon struggling on 82 for 8.

That was when the hard hitting Walker, batting at number nine, made a match winning unbeaten 43 in a superb partnership of 69 runs with Jordan Grosert (8 not out).

Brandon, winners in 34.1 overs by two wickets, had earned 22 points and moved up two places to become a threat to South Shields’ promotion hopes.

Shields were among those whose games were abandoned on a hit or miss afternoon by the storm clouds. A reduced game at Sacriston saw the home team pile on 186-5 in 35 overs, their cause boosted by a second wicket partnership of 140 between Mo Ali (49 from 67 balls) and Dan Anderson, who cracked 12 fours and three sixes on his way to a 103-ball 84. Shields were just starting their reply with Durham county star, Gordon Muchall, getting into his stride when the weather became the only winner. They took just seven points from their frustrating day’s work as they closed on 39-1 after five overs.

The meagre return exposed their dominant lead at the top of the tree, and with the leading pair set to meet in two weeks’ time it looks like that head to head could well be a title decider.

Washington, who were challenging in second place before the day’s play began, got in even less time on the pitch as their game with Felling (21-3) was washed out after just 8.3 overs.

There was better luck for Willington, at the other end of the table, who were able to get in a full match against Boldon and relieve the pressure on their lowly league position with a four wicket victory which lifted them close to mid-table.

Boldon were confined to 142-8 with skipper Chris Ellison hitting a splendid 60 runs, but his dismissal with the total on 106 sparked a mini collapse as five wickets fell for 35 runs.

A second wicket partnership of 67 then set Willington up for their win, Gaurav Jathar (52) and Steve Alderson (36) inspiring the home team to a four wicket success.

Eppleton look like they will have to wait until next season to further their promotion ambitions. Their scheduled home game against rock bottom South Hetton, where they were hoping to pick up a major points haul, never even made it to the starting gate and they are now 31 points off the lead with just three games left to go.