Esh Winning still waiting ... along with South Hetton and Mainsforth

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The waiting goes on in the local cricket scene!

The decision regarding whether promotion from the Readers Durham Cricket League to the Dukes NEPL will be granted to DCL champions Esh Winning has still not been announced.

Esh Winning secured the championship a fortnight ago but, as with all promotion candidates, they had to be inspected by the NEPL executive to ensure their ground, facilities and infrastructure met the minimum standards required at the higher level.

Given a decision was unable to be announced immediately, it is clear that some areas of concern have been raised with the club which they have been given time to answer.

Before the last weekend NEPL secretary Gordon Halliday explained: “We hoped to make a decision on whether Esh Winning meet our criteria for entry into the NEPL before Saturday’s matches.

“However, in view of the significance of the decision we need to make, it looks like it will be early next week before we can get all the necessary information and the views of all the members of our Management Committee.”

It is the Echo’s understanding that the final decision will be made at a full NEPL league management meeting tonight.

As well as extending the anguish for Esh, this has also left the two other affected clubs, NEPL First Division wooden spoonists South Hetton and DCL runners-up Mainsforth, in a little bit of limbo, although both are fully prepared to meet in a play-off on Saturday if called upon to do so.

South Hetton fixtures secretary Ian Houghton said today; “We understand the meeting is tonight, and as you can imagine we are fully prepared to play if asked to do so as it would give us a last gasp opportunity to avoid relegation.”

And if a play-off takes place Ian is happy enough with the team he would be able to turn out. “With no other games that day we would be able to use a couple of our experienced second teamers, captain Andrew Hillas and opening bowler Steven Massey, in the first team.

“They have first team abilities but we have played them at second team level all season to give some experience to a very young side. In addition to those two Rameez Nawaz would definitely play, despite missing last week’s game at short notice. In effect, we would be able to put out the best team available to us.”

As for Mainsforth they, too, would jump at the promotion opportunity presented by a play-off, and they are also fully prepared for that eventuality.

Skipper Andy Allen is in no doubt his club are ready for a step up in status: “The club is geared up for promotion should we be granted a play-off opportunity and manage to win that game,” he said.

“New changing rooms, shower areas and bar area were all installed this season and mean our facilities are really good.”

It is understood they would meet NEPL criteria.

In terms of the team’s performance this season, Allen summarized a relatively successful campaign: “The team has done well this season despite some bad luck with our overseas professionals meaning that we played nine games without one.

“Initially we had re-signed Muhammad Nawaz who had such a great season last time, but he was asked to return to Pakistan for a development camp.

“He only played one game and then his replacement, Faisal Iqbal, only arrived in early June. He averaged over 150 with the bat in the league before he, too, was recalled to his homeland to captain one of the T20 franchises.”

And the home grown players didn’t do too badly either, with several close-season signings shining.

“Garry Cummings has proved consistent with bat and ball and Martin Lower has once again shone with the ball. New players Lee Hutton and Jonny Barnes have integrated well with Lee scoring over 500 league runs and Jonny just falling short of 50 wickets in the league. And Brady Smith, out of the younger players, has shown great improvement with the bat.”

If the decision of the NEPL is to reject Esh Winning’s promotion, then the play-off would take place this Saturday at South Hetton, with the game to be played under Banks Salver, 45-overs per side, rules.

With Hetton able to field a full strength line-up Mainsforth would probably also be close to fielding their optimum X!.

“Rob Chismon would be our only doubt as he may have work commitments,” confirmed the skipper.

“Anyway, if we do play I hope the weather behaves itself as we also have the Tom Burn Cup final at Esh Winning the following day.” Now that could prove to be an interesting encounter!