Cestrians looking to close gap on South North at the top

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Dukes ECB NEPL Premier Division

With their first bit of silverware now tucked away, it is back to Dukes ECB NEPL Premier Division business this weekend for Chester-le-Street when they welcome Hetton Lyons to Ropery Lane.

The Cestrians proved deserving winners of the T20 last Sunday, the fifth time they have won the tournament in the eight years it’s been running.

They now advance to the Area Finals on Sunday August 2, at Seaton Carew, where they play the host club in the opening match of the day, with Barnsley taking on Wakefield Thornes in the other semi-final.

Seaton were the surprise winners of the NYSD T20 competition despite not having won a single league game this season, and they are currently significantly adrift at the foot of the NYSD Premier table.

Chester will start as heavy favourites to make further progress in their quest for success on two national fronts.

But before that, they need to try and rediscover the league form that took them to the top of the NEPL, form that has deserted them in midsummer with just one win in their last seven matches.

Last week’s frustrating draw at Tynemouth enabled unbeaten South North to open up a 15-point lead at the top of the table.

The first meeting between Chester and the Lyons ended in a 96-run win for the Cestrians, with Mark Turner and Andrew Bell sharing eight cheap wickets as Hetton were bowled out for just 127.

That defeat was the pre-cursor to a disastrous run which saw the Lyons lose four games on the trot and plunge towards the foot of the table, but that form has been turned around in recent weeks.

With three wins from their last five outings, Hetton are in a much better place having banished any relegation concerns.

With Shaun Birbeck and Jonny Malkin unavailable for the Lyons, the return of Martin Pollard is welcome, while David Lowther earns a call-up to fill the other vacancy. Chester expect to be unchanged.

Leaders South North have a home game against South Shields.

Whitburn found the Bulls too strong last week and slumped to their sixth defeat of the season, and it’s off to Jesmond this Saturday to tackle an in-form Newcastle side.

With Mike Turns unavailable, the return of Neil Ayre solves the one selection dilemma for Whitburn.

In other games, Graeme Bridge is still out, so Blaydon put out an unchanged team for the trip to Teesside, where Stockton will have skipper Kevin Ward back at the helm, .

Meanwhile, Gateshead Fell, 31 points adrift at the foot of the table, retain the same line-up who lost to Newcastle last week when they take on Durham Academy.