The battle of the batting giants could decide just who emerges from this weekend as the favourites to take the First Division title and pitch for a place in the North East Premier League.
Unbeaten Esh Winning are probably at the top of most people’s list to be there or thereabouts come September, but they face perhaps their most difficult match of the season to date when they travel to Green Drive to take on the team just one place and 14 points below them, Dawdon.
In the first meeting between these DCL titans back in early May, the weather was the only winner, with the game abandoned with home team Esh standing on 123-4.
Their skipper, the irrepressible David Lawlor, top- scored with 43, form that he has continued throughout the summer as he has led his team from the front.
And it’s a fairly similar story at Dawdon, where their own captain fantastic, Stephen Gale, has also been in tremendous form.
As well as battling for the title, the two skippers are also vying to be the league’s leading run scorer, with Lawlor currently just ahead in that little side issue with 609 to date, but Gale right on his case, having notched up 560.
Of course, both sides have plenty of other key players, and two of those return to the Esh starting line-up this week with their opening attack of Jonathan Hodgson and Paul Chivers both back to put them at optimum strength.
Dawdon can also put up the “full strength” signs for the big clash, with Richard Ede returning after missing last week’s win over Castle Eden.
Esh are one of two unbeaten teams, the other being Mainsforth who have slowly edged their way up the table to third place despite some rather uninspiring performances from time to time.
And with Pakistani international Faisal Iqbal now showing definite signs of settling down following his late arrival, they are certain to pose a threat to the leading sides as the season heads towards its climax.
Hylton host Mainsforth, with their top-flight future in the balance. With Boldon CA 120 points shy of safety, and as nailed on as you can be for relegation at this stage of the season, the battle to avoid the drop revolves around the one remaining position, which Alan Mustard’s men currently have in their possession.
With 22 points to make up on the team directly above them, the heat is on.
The positive news for the hosts is that they expect to be able to field an unchanged side, which is almost their first-choice line-up with only Gary Frater missing.
Meanwhile, Mainsforth have to cover for Rob Chismon once more because of his work commitments, so 17-year-old Ryan Dawson is handed an opportunity.
Castle Eden, still well in the title frame despite their heavily depleted side losing to Dawdon last week, should be almost back to normal for their trip to Bunker Hill to take on a Philadelphia team who need to start winning a few games if they are to climb out of the bottom half.
Phili will be missing Mattie Noble this week, although his replacement has not yet been named, while skipper Shaun Hauxwell should be the next batsman to break the 500 league runs barrier this week as he currently stands on 498.
Easington visit Crook, Horden go to Bill Quay and Durham City will look to win at bottom club Boldon CA.