Durham Academy, enjoying some of their best ever form, recorded another emphatic victory on Saturday, their fourth on the trot, to move up to joint third in the Premier Division table.
Their latest success came at the expense of hosts Whitburn who, by contrast to the youngsters, were suffering their fourth successive defeat, a run which has seen them drop to ninth place, just 39 points clear of the relegation slot.
Two innings stood out as the Academy posted 272-7 before declaring after 56 overs. Jack Burnham hit 11 fours and two sixes on his way to an opening 78.
When he departed with the score on 146, it was over to John Boyle, who included 17 fours and a six in a classy century made from 108 balls. Scott Condy and Ian Elliot, with three wickets apiece, did their best to keep a lid on the run-scoring, but Whitburn were left with a mountain to climb.
The Villagers’ reply started well enough, Dan Shurben (39) and Dan Woolston (47) putting together an opening partnership of 80. When Michael Turns added another 46, the scoreboard looked promising on 164-3. But then Liam Trevaskis burst on to the scene as third change bowler, and the home innings melted away.
The last seven wickets went down for 34 runs, Trevaskis ending with 6-47 from his 16 overs.
Chester-le-Street maintained their title tilt with a not altogether convincing win at Blaydon, only their second victory in their last nine league matches.
An opening 38 from Simon Birtwisle, and 60 from number three Andrew Smith, helped lift the Cestrians to a promising 126-2, but then a fine spell of bowling by Ryan Buckley (5-37 from 17 overs) condemned the visitors to some hard graft, seven wickets going down while just 47 more runs were added.
Blaydon then decided on a cautious approach to the run chase, but, as the wickets ebbed away, they were eventually bowled out for 149 after almost 62 overs at the crease. Mark Turner (4-44) and Birtwisle (3-35) were the men causing the most problems and keeping Chester in the title hunt.
South North eked out one more point than Chester managed when they won at Tynemouth by 56 runs, Marcus North (71) and John Graham (46) taking the Bulls’ innings by the horns and lifting them to 184-9.
Dave Rutherford’s immaculate 20-over stint, in which he claimed 5-33, then secured the win that took his side into a 16-point lead at the summit.
Hetton Lyons recovered from a rocky start against Benwell Hill to secure an important 48-run victory that lifted them into the top half – a far cry from the relegation concerns of just a month ago.
Their run of four wins in seven matches has banished the blues, but it might have been different on Saturday after they slid to 32-4.
Jarvis Clay (79 from 114 balls) and David Lowther (66 from 85 balls) were the men turning the game around in a fifth-wicket partnership worth 140 runs, although the innings concluded as it had begun, a late clatter of wickets, including four for just seven runs, leaving them on 193-9. Matthew Muchall took 4-57
The Hill run chase also hit the early buffers on 9-3 before Zohaib Khan (45) put up some resistance. But Martin Pollard (5-36) was not to be denied, the visitors slipping to 145 all out in the 52nd over.
Jonathan Malkin and Josh Coughlin both struck twice.