THE stage could be set for another “2007 moment” when the destination of the championship crown was not decided until the very last ball of the season.
On that occasion, Sunderland suffered heartbreak when the lack of a single run from the final ball of their last match meant they finished second to the all-powerful South Northumberland team of that era.
Fast forward to September 2011 and things could not be tighter, with South North once again in the thick of it.
Their dramatic one-wicket bank holiday Monday victory over Chester-le-Street earned them sufficient points to draw level with their rivals at the top of the table, and the pair of them go into their final two matches all square on 366 points.
That victory in Gosforth completed a quite remarkable comeback by the former champions who, just eight games ago, were 81 points behind Chester.
Although level on points, they now actually head the table as positionings, including the title, are decided on number of wins before any other factors come into play, and South North have one more victory in the bag.
Durham Academy look like having a significant say in the destination of the crown as they have both sides to play, beginning at Roseworth Terrace this Saturday, followed by a trip to Ropery Lane in the final round of fixtures.
Chester host South Shields this weekend, while there is a certain touch of irony in the fact that South North end their campaign at Ashbrooke, with Sunderland possibly having a significant and final say in matters.
The Academy look set to give both challengers a real run for their money. They have a fully fit squad at their disposal, following the return from injury of Jonny Killeen (ankle) and Callum Harding (back), and the whole squad will have a net session with the England one-day squad tomorrow just to put them in the mood!
South Shields are now as good as safe, so there is no real pressure on them when they go to Chester.
Mattie Muchall proved his return to fitness with wickets last weekend, although he won’t have Paul Muchall alongside him for this one, and Michael Dunn and Chris Dorothy are also missing. Nathan Watson, Adam Shaw and Sam Embleton are drafted in.
Chester select from a full squad, while South North are also able to put out their best side. Skipper John Graham is upbeat after his side’s tremendous run, saying: “We have two tough games left, but we seem to have the momentum with us.”
Chester spokesman Tony Birbeck also gave out a rallying cry: “It’s going to be an exciting end to the season. It’s all to play for and we are looking forward to the challenge.”
In Saturday’s other games, Sunderland go to Gateshead Fell, where the bottom side will be trying to recover from Monday’s humiliation when they were bowled out for 30 – the lowest score in the top flight’s history.
Hetton Lyons aim to make it five wins in a row when they travel to Stockton. They take a full side south, with Shaun Birbeck and Graeme Martin returning.