Cestrians edge further clear

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CHESTER-LE-STREET’S luck with the weather not only kept them in front of their rivals as leaders in the Premier Division, but improved the margin of their advantage.

After overcoming the effects of the rain which washed out half of the League’s top-flight programme, the Cestrians extended their lead from nine points to 15 despite only managing to draw their game with Tynemouth.

The match was drastically reduced and finished up with just 70 overs shared, with the hosts being put into bat first when their visitors won the toss.

Simon Birtwisle (61) and George Harrison (54) made a lively start, sharing an opening partnership worth 123 runs, with 15 boundaries making sure the scoreboard was constantly changing.

Birtwisle hit nine of the fours from the 68 balls faced, while youngster Harrison kept up the momentum at the other end with his 65-ball innings.

Harrison became the first of Tahir Khan’s five wickets as Tynemouth not only brought a halt to the runfest but hit back in spectacular style.

Andrew Smith, Chester’s first-wicket replacement for Harrison, made a run-a-ball 28 with two fours and a six before Khan had him caught out too.

Chester then lost five more wickets in adding just 18 runs, collapsing from 150-2 to 168-7.

Tynemouth’s third-change bowler, Ryan Macciocchi, grabbed four wickets for 32 runs in 8.3 overs and the home side finished on 180-9.

The visitors’ reply was steady with the first wicket falling at 41, and, at 90-2, they looked capable of mounting a real challenge.

But when the Cestrians introduced Quentin Hughes into their attack, Tynemouth began to struggle. His three wickets in a nine-over spell put them on the back foot and his own side took back control of the game.

Hughes conceded just 29 runs and his opponents dropped from 90-3 to 121-7 in what proved the final 10 overs.

The versatile Birtwisle grabbed two of the other wickets to fall for just six runs in four overs, three of which were maidens.

The drawn finish gave Chester 13 points, and with their pre-match closest rivals, Benwell Hill, beaten their position as current championship favourites improved.

South Shields were the day’s only winners in the three games played, their first victory since being promoted back to the top division, and in fact their first victory in the top flight since 2012.

Benwell Hill were bowled out for just 58 runs in reply to the 40-over total of 148-4 by their visitors.

Liam Dixon was in superb form in taking six wickets for just 14 runs from 10.4 overs with six in which he didn’t concede a single run.

Gordon Muchall maintained the momentum with three of the other four wickets in an equally frugal six overs. He conceded just 15 runs and bowled t

ree maidens.

In Shields’ earlier innings, opener Tim David batted unbeaten for a splendid 79 runs from 112 balls, with seven fours and a six.

It was a positive day for Durham Academy, who moved into second place in the league table after almost beating former champions, Stockton, but having to settle for a draw. Nevertheless, they are now in their highest league position for a number of years.

Jack Burnham (69), Dylan Budge (32) and Brydon Carse (30) continued their good early-season form to take the Academy to 151-8 in 43 overs before Adam Hickey (4-41) had Stockton tottering on 106-9.