IT IS down to a straight shoot-out between Murton and Dawdon for the 3D Durham Coast League title after Easington’s fading hopes were finally extinguished by the weather while the leading pair were recording victories.
Heavy overnight rain meant there was no play at Hylton where Easington were due, and that left the third-placed team 41 points behind leaders Murton with just three games left to go. Dawdon remain just nine points behind in second, but they came desperately close to seeing their title dreams turn into a nightmare as Silksworth gave them an almighty fright.
The Silks showed true fighting spirit as skipper Paul Smailes led from the front with 33. His grit was needed as his first six partners mustered just 35 runs between them to leave the home team close to collapse, but Ian Laverick then came to the rescue with a splendid 67 from the number eight slot, his innings including 10 fours and two sixes.
This fightback took Silksworth up to an unlikely 149 in 36.3 overs, David Coates (3-26) and Liam Cowell (4-21) the only bowlers to be spared Laverick’s lashing. But Dawdon then looked in total control in the run chase, Shoaib Akhtar (39) helping to push them to within sight of victory until a dramatic clatter of wickets turned the game on its head once more.
When Steve Wright snared Akhtar numbers seven to ten failed to register a single run between them, and from a position of comfort Dawdon crumbled to 135-9 and looked like heading to a potentially ruinous defeat. But Bobby Stephenson was still there, and with Coates (5no) providing valiant support he took his side through to a one wicket win with just one over of the match remaining.
Stephenson ended with the best half century he will ever score, his innings thwarting Wright (4-46) and Michael Kelly’s (3-56) attempts to turn the form book upside down.
Murton featured in another low-scoring affair, but this time avoided the batting traumas that have been their hallmark recently to secure a comfortable six wicket home victory over Seaham Harbour.
Richard Bentley (4-22) headed a five-pronged attack who all picked up at least one wicket, Andrew Boal (33) the only port in a batting storm for Harbour. Dave Hanson (34) then did what he does best, anchoring the run chase to ensure his side avoided the banana skins littering the road to success.
Meanwhile, retiring champions Boldon CA continued their amazing transformation with a fifth consecutive league victory. CA went the first 14 games of the season without a win but have turned that form on its head in dramatic fashion, the latest success coming by 96 runs over Seaham Park.
Boldon declared after 46 overs with 176-8 on the board, Gary Frater top scoring with six boundaries in 51. Park were then shunted aside for 80 in 37 overs as Tommy Nixon (4-11 in 9 overs) and Ian Male (3-14 in 10 overs) inflicted serious damage.
Ryhope inflicted Peterlee’s 11th defeat of the season on them, bowling their hosts out for just 62 with James Summerside (4-13), Mickey Thopre (3-16) and Alex Catcherside (2-2) fully exploiting the bottom club’s batting frailties. Home skipper Anthony Laidler (4-28) then did his best to bite back, but Luke Anderson’s unbeaten 44 was enough to secure a six-wicket win.
The game at Washington, where Bill Quay were due to play, failed to start when the two sides couldn’t agree on the fitness of the ground, and with no umpires in attendance the game was abandoned with the eventual outcome now resting in the hands of the League’s executive.