THE weather put a dampener on proceedings in the Dukes North East Premier League First Division with only one game managing to reach a conclusion.
Nowhere was the disappointment more palpable than at Eppleton, where the much anticipated top-of-the-table battle managed just 25.5 overs of play.
The home team had been asked to bat after losing the toss, and, with rain threatening, it was entirely understandable that Shields took that option as it gave them the opportunity to pick up bowling points in the limited time available.
Shields struck early, reducing Eppleton to 4-2, and, when the fourth wicket fell at 52 after a mini recovery, there was some concern in the home dressing room.
But Rizwan Ullah calmed nerves with an undefeated 34 that ensured the visitors were unable to pick up more bonus points than the two they had already earned.
Gareth Dunn (2-18) was the pick of the Shields attack and, as a result of his handiwork, Shields were able to marginally increase their advantage at the top of the table to 41 points with eight games left to play.
Ten points further back from Eppleton in fourth are Sacriston, who had to concede one place in the table to opponents Washington, who took the lion’s share of the spoils in a fast paced but ultimately drawn game.
In a match reduced to 73 overs, Washington made a solid start, Dan Shurben (nine fours and asix in 57) and youngster Matthew Potts (56 from 98 balls) sharing an opening partnership worth 104 runs.
The game then exploded when Darren Hickey reached the crease. He launched nine sixes in a 33-ball innings in which he scored 86 not out, the blitz lifting his side to a declaration on 232-2 after 37 overs.
With 36 overs at their disposal, Sacriston certainly tried, but, with the ball in the air quite a lot, they lost seven men to catches and had to settle for the draw on 191-7.
Mo Ali hit five fours and three sixes in opening out with a 44-ball 52, while skipper Ian Hunter spared any concerns that the game might be lost when he scored an unbeaten 53 from the number six slot.
There were just 22 overs of play possible at South Hetton, and they proved of little value to the home side as they reached 110-6 against Seaham Harbour before the game was halted.
Skipper Robbie Atherton was the only man who looked comfortable as he hit seven boundaries on his way to an unbeaten 40, while Shoaib Akhtar’s return to action for Harbour saw him pick up 3-27.
South Hetton collected just the bare five points for their efforts, and they had to endure a drop into the bottom slot as a result.
Willington had gone all season without a win until last week, and they followed that up with another victory to make an upward move.
Stuart Poynter hit a superb century for Brandon, finishing on exactly 100 not out from 101 balls and contributing handsomely to his team’s 34-over declared total of 154-4.
Willington then secured victory courtesy of skipper Calvin Stephenson, who launched five sixes and six fours in a bruising 63 scored from just 24 balls, the home team snatching a five-wicket win from the first ball of the 35th over.
In the day’s other game, Boldon stood on 76-3 after 28.3 overs at Felling, Michael Walker’s unbeaten 28 the only score of note after Jonny Nicholls had grabbed a couple of early wickets.