THE long awaited opening day of the Dukes North East Premier League First Division programme witnessed results in all five matches, with the main accolades going to Eppleton and South Shields, who pulled off impressive victories.
Sacriston, Brandon and Washington confirmed, with victories, that they are likely to be amongst the front runners as the season unfolds.
Eppleton left their moderate Mini League form behind them as they turned on a maximum display to crush Willington by seven wickets.
Rizwan Ullah took the lead role with a 10-over spell of 5-30. With Zaheer Shahbaz picking up 3-23, Willington were bundled out for 124 in 42.4 overs.
The home team had been doing well enough on 84-3, but when top scorer Steve Alderson went for 39 it heralded a collapse with the last seven wickets mustering just 40 runs.
An opening stand of 65 between Kyle Davis, who was first out for 48, and skipper Graham Hoban, soothed any frayed nerves, Hoban going on to see the job through with an unbeaten 39, helped by Gary Burlinson (19) and Liam Mallaburn (17no) as Eppleton won in the 35th over of their reply.
South Shields were relegated last year, failing to win a single league game in the whole of the 2013 campaign, but it took them just one match to get off the mark in 2014 as they triumphed at Boldon, who are expected to be battling it out in the upper reaches of the table.
Just two Boldon batters made it into double figures, Neil Mulvaney’s 28 being overshadowed by an impressive 80 from James Coyne, who included seven fours and two sixes in his one-man batting exhibition.
Chris Stewart led Shields’ strike force well with 4-39, and with Gordon Muchall picking up 2-15 the hosts were bundled out for a disappointing 148 in 45 overs.
Aussie Tim David then launched five fours and three sixes on his way to a rapid 78 that rushed Shields to a seven-wicket win inside 34 overs.
It won’t be often that a bowler takes nine wickets in an innings and ends up on the losing side, but that’s what happened to South Hetton’s Omar Shahid.
His 12.4 overs of destruction produced outstanding figures of 9-32 and left Brandon in tatters, all out for 94.
But then Eddie Watson replied in kind, taking 7-30, and even though Dan Douglas tried his best to hold things together with 31 from 85 balls, South Hetton succumbed for 85 to lose by nine runs. Omar Shahid and Rob Atherton both made 18, while Chris Winn bagged 3-36.
Seaham Harbour were indebted to a late, unbeaten 29 from number 10 Peter Hambleton as it helped lift them from a shaky 127-8 to a semi-respectable 161 all out.
Craig Stephenson had earlier made 47, while openers Dale Shaw (21) and Stuart Pattison (23) laid a decent foundation, but a good all-round Washington attack had kept the pressure on with all six bowlers taking wickets.
Melvyn Betts, Jak Gaff, Mark Watson and Ashley Thorp all pounced twice.
It was the same with the bat as the top five all contributed to Washington’s relatively trouble-free cruise to a five-wicket win inside 40 overs. Cole Pearce’s 38 led the way, supported by Dan Woolston (31), Tom Colledge (30) and Matthew Potts (21).
Sacriston were made to sing for their supper at Felling, but eventually triumphed by 21 runs after setting a relatively modest target of 177-9.
Skipper Ian Hunter fell one short of a half-century scored from 54 balls, but his was the top score with only Mo Ali (37 from 63 balls) providing any major support, although Bryan Potts’ unbeaten 23 from the number seven slot proved priceless in the final reckoning.
Young Aussie James Crosthwaite then put on another outstanding show for Felling, cracking 65 runs from 70 balls, and including eight fours and two sixes.
At 63-1 and 100-2, Felling looked poised for an upset, but Crosthwaite’s dismissal at that point pushed the door ajar and Ian Hunter (4-38) and Graham Hubber (3-30) had no hesitation in barging their way through as Felling’s last eight wickets dissolved for 56.