It’s a double weekend for the league after England’s defeat to Croatia on Wednesday night.
A World Cup final featuring England would have meant a cancellation of cricket fixtures on Sunday – but France v Croatia just doesn’t have the same pull!
First Division leaders Easington welcome struggling Philadelphia on Saturday and are expected to be at full strength for both their games – they face Esh Winning on Sunday – as Dane Wilson returns to the team after being away on holiday.
Secretary Peter Booth said: “We’re hoping to keep our unbeaten run going and extend our lead at the top, including the match at Esh Winning on Sunday.”
Philadelphia will be unchanged, starting at Easington on Saturday and then home to Tudhoe on Sunday.
Captain Shaun Smith said: “Our league form has been disappointing but in cup ties, the club overall has done very well. If only we had been able to replicate our cup form into the league, we would be challenging for the title.”
Crook, in second place, journey to Whiteleas & Harton on Saturday and are at home to Bill Quay on Sunday.
Saturday’s opposition Leas will be unchanged and skipper Andrew Potts said: “Crook are a very strong side and one of the favourites for the league, so we have to be on our game.
“As for Horden on Sunday, they’re in a similar position to us and will be fighting for every point. It’ll be tough both games, but we have to believe in ourselves and hopefully we will do well.”
Esh Winning, in third place, welcome Durham City on Saturday and are without Connor Surtees.
Secretary Brian Gott said: “We face a hard game yet again, but we’re looking to win. Some of our players struggle with back-to-back games, but we hope to get two wins.”
Tudhoe, in fourth place, travel to Bill Quay. Chairman Stephen Thexton said: “Ben Wicling returns to the squad, taking us back to full strength. We’ll be looking to bounce back from our early-season defeat against Bill Quay.”
Bill Quay have Joe Oliver stepping in for Neil Cuskeran.
Secretary Chris Little said: “We have tough games this weekend against teams in the top five. We feel like we’re capable of beating anyone on our day, but we’ve been very inconsistent.
“We’re hoping we can make ourselves hard to beat in the second half of the season and it will help us as injured players come back in the next few weeks.”
Fifth-top Seaham Park welcome sicth-placed Marsden. Vice-captain Michael McNicholas said: “On Saturday, we will be missing bowlers Anthony Watson (injured) and Dave Gilbert (work), but John Sample returns from holiday and Umar Akhtar is back, after having to work last week.
“On Sunday, for the home game against Seaham Park, Umar Akhtar and John Sample are unavailable. These matches will be another two tough games, but ones we have got to be looking to win, if we want to mount a serious challenge in the second half of the season.”
Marsden chairman Paul Snaith, who himself faces a late fitness test on an injured hamstring, said: “Paul Hobson is pushing for a recall, having recovered from a broken finger. Conor Elliott comes into contention following a string of impressive displays for the second team and Patrick Jackson will be on holiday, so he will be missing.”
The bottom two sides meet up as Mainsforth welcome Horden. They are without Nathan Wall, Will Reynard and Glenn Donaldson.
Chairman Tony Johns said: “We just hope to carry on playing as well as we have been. Even though we’ve still been getting beaten recently, it’s been by narrow margins and we’re getting better.
“We hope to continue to improve and start to pick up some points, including the game at home to Marsden on Sunday.”
Horden travel with a full-strength team, with Wayne Birks and Adam Hall returning.
Dan Stephenson has joined the team from Eppleton, to bat at the top of the order and bring some much-needed runs to the line-up.
Captain Scott Birks said: “It’s a massive weekend for the team, as we are at home to Whiteleas on Sunday, and nothing else than wins are acceptable for us, to try and claw back some points and move up the table.”
In Division Two, second-top Evenwood travel to Peterlee on Saturday and then host Silksworth on Sunday.
The team is unchanged from two weeks ago. Secretary Luke Bannister said: “After losing our last two games, we hope to change our fortunes around. We’re flying high in second place and hope to get a win to close the gap on leaders Ushaw Moor.”
Dawdon, in third, journey to Ushaw Moor on Saturday and are at home to Ryhope on Sunday.
They will be at full strength for both games. Secretary Steve Dent said: “We’re hoping for maximum points to help our promotion aims. We’ll be looking for maximum points again on Sunday.”
Fourth-top Ryhope welcome Langley Park and chairman Ian Lawrence said: “We will be at full strength for our home game with Langley this weekend. We hope to build on our victory from our last game.”
Littletown, in fifth, host Hylton and are without Bryan Conlon who is at a wedding, and Patrick Stephenson, who is still injured.
Head of cricket development Gregg Arundel said: “It will be a tough game against a resurgent Hylton side, who have had a great couple of weeks. We go into the second half of the season still positive that we can make the impact we want.”
Hunwick host Boldon CA and Chairman John Pratt said: “We’re looking forward to hosting Boldon CA on Saturday, with only one player missing with a broken finger.”
The bottom two teams meet up as Murton host Silksworth. Murton chairman Ian Graham said: “The only change this week is that Alan Welburn is not expected to be available, due to work commitments.
“Other than that, we should be unchanged and the same will be for the game at Hylton on Sunday. We know it will be a difficult game for us, but we are hoping to pick up some points and close in on the teams at the bottom of the league nearest to us and hopefully get a bit of a stronger start to the second half of the season.”
Silksworth travel without Robbie Jones. Captain Andy Barrass said: “This is a big game against a team just below us in the table, so we’ll be hoping for a good performance, to pull us away from basement club Murton.”