CHESTER-le-Street crashed to a sensational Bank Holiday Monday defeat against their closest rivals to let slip their comfortable lead at the top of the North East Premier League table, writes CHRIS WEST.
With 20 points to make up on the Cestrians, South Northumberland came out fighting at Roseworth Terrace as Jonny Wightman (4-71 in 19 overs) and Lee Crozier (3-43 in 18 overs) combined to peg the leaders back to a score of 174 in 58.1 attritional overs.
No Chester batsman was able to dominate the home attack, the measure of their stranglehold being that skipper Quentin Hughes was the top scorer with 30.
And despite an early strike by the visitors, Chris Hewison started to take control with a measured innings of 75 that included eight boundaries. With Adam Cragg (35) supporting him , South North looked primed to charge to an easy victory when they stood on 136-3.
But then the champions bit back as Andrew Tye (5-52 in 16 overs) and Richard Waite (4-49 in 20 overs) shot out six batsmen for just 38 runs.
With the scores tied, the last pair of Lee Crozier and Richard Brook scrambled through for the most important single of their careers to leave Chester beaten by just one wicket.
Amazingly, the points differential proved equally as fascinating as South North gained exactly 20 points more than Chester to draw level with them at the top of the table and set up a fascinating battle for the championship over the final two games.
Sunderland’s chances of a top-four finish receded when they slipped to a ten run defeat at the hands of lowly Stockton who successfully defended a total of 195 made despite Joe Coyne’s 15 over return of 5-30.
Skipper Ashley Thorpe (45) and Chris Youldon (39no) looked as though they might inspire a victory after a very poor start to the Wearsiders’ innings, but in the end no one else was able to match their efforts as they went down for 185 in a lengthy 64.1 overs.
Hetton Lyons lea frogged Sunderland in the table as they walloped Tynemouth by 182 runs after Gary Scott (109) and Kamran Shah (50) helped them put on 251-8 in 60 overs, and this despite David Hymers returning the excellent figures of 5-37.
Ryan Pringle then continued his outstanding form with a return of 6-30, and with Shah bagging 4-14 Tynemouth were rolled over for just 69.
Things have gone pretty badly for Gateshead Fell this season, but they hit their lowest point, literally, in their game against the Durham Academy when they were bowled out for a paltry 30 – the lowest total by any side in the history of the top division.
Jamie Harrison (6-18) and Josh Bousfield (4-4) were the destroyers, Fell skittled in just 16.1 overs to lose by 196 runs after the Academy had posted a target of 226-9 which included half centuries from Graham Clark and Paul Coughlin.
With the Fell crashing again, South Shields’ six-wicket win over Newcastle, courtesy of a five-wicket Matthew Muchall haul, means they are now almost certainly safe from relegation.