With only three games to go in the Premier Division title race, Chester-le-Street have a very healthy lead of 43 points.
One more win, from their last three games, should see them crowned as champions, but they face three very tough matches in the run-in, starting with Saturday’s trip to defending champions South North.
Without a win in three games, the team from Roseworth Terrace have fallen away from the title race and allowed Chester to power away on their eight-match unbeaten run, including seven wins in a row.
South North are 48 points behind in third position and it is a must-win game for them to ensure the title race goes to the last two games.
Chester skipper John Coxon said: “We will be without batsman James Thompson and this will be our toughest game of the season so far, as they have a very good team with lots of experience, but we are looking forward to the challenge.
“We are playing well, winning the key moments in matches, and are full of confidence. We will be looking to win the game and extend our lead at the top, going into the last two games.”
After this weekend, Chester host Durham Academy and then travel to second-placed Newcastle, in their last game of the season
Newcastle will be hoping that South North beat or draw with the leaders and they win at home to South Shields, to close the 43-point gap.
Callum Harding returns to a virtually full-strength team. Doug Hudson, from the club, said,: “It’s that time of the season where we must win games. We have to be realistic and win all the last three to have a chance of the title.”
Shields have Gordon Muchall back to play and official Jim Elliott said: “It will be a tough game, but we will be disappointed to come away with nothing.”
Eppleton, promoted last season, are in second-bottom spot and need a win to stretch their 33-point lead over Gateshead Fell in the fight for survival.
Ahead of a tough trip to fourth-top Tynemouth, director of cricket John Smithson said: “It’s all to play for and how we perform that matters.”
Durham Academy could do Eppleton a favour as they play Gateshead Fell and will be looking to finish the season strongly.
Fell will be trying to get their “great escape” challenge going again, with Durham paceman Graham Onions again set to figure.
Coach John Windows plays for the Academy, along with Alasdair Appleby and Jonathan Pears, but Liam Trevaskis, Matthew Potts and Ross Greenwell are with the North England Under-17s squad.
Hetton Lyons entertain Benwell Hill, who will be looking for points to ensure their survival, but they look to have done just enough to survive.
Whitburn host Stockton in a mid-table clash, looking to repeat June’s seven-wicket defeat of the Teessiders.
On Sunday, Eppleton continue their defence of the Banks Salver with a tough-looking semi-final clash with Chester-le-Street.
The Church Road side have knocked out Stockton and Felling, following a first-round bye, and are determined to give their all against the Cestrians in a bid to retain the trophy.
The match starts at Eppleton at 1pm.
The winners will tackle Benwell Hill in the final.