HETTON Lyons were delighted with wicketkeeper Jarvis Clay’s batting display in last week’s abandoned home match against Stockton.
Lyons were in all sorts of trouble on 11-4 when Clay came to the crease, but he batted superbly to score an unbeaten 91 and, along with Josh Coughlin (41) and Jonny Malkin (52), steered Hetton to safety and a declaration just before the rains arrived.
Clay spent the winter playing in Australia and has returned in tip-top form.
The Stockton result made it three draws from three games to date, with the next test coming at Blaydon on Saturday when record run-maker Allan Worthy makes another return to the club where he scored so many of those runs.
Lyons will field an unchanged team, while Blaydon, currently third in the table, have Joe Reynolds available again. Andrew Sturgeon remains sidelined by a broken thumb. so Geoff Stewart will reluctantly retain the gloves.
Chester-le-Street have a real chance to put some early daylight between themselves and the chasing pack when they entertain struggling Tynemouth on Saturday.
The Tynesiders have lost two of their three games to date, and, despite having the advantage of getting more playing time on the field than other teams in the rain-affected start to the summer, they currently sit just three points above bottom club Gateshead Fell.
Great things had been expected of new overseas professional Tahir Khan, but the 34-year-old Pakistani has yet to hit his straps, with just 66 runs in his three innings, and four wickets at an average of 38.
Chester will be hoping he does not hit form at Ropery Lane, where they will no doubt be gunning for another 30-point bonanza after flying out of the traps with two maximums, the third game being a complete washout.
The Cestrians hold a nine-point lead over second-placed Benwell Hill and, with Mark Turner expected to be fully recovered from his hamstring strain, they should be at full strength for this one.
At the opposite end of the table, Whitburn are in need of points.
They separate Tynemouth and the Fell in second-bottom spot, so a trip to Roseworth Terrace on Saturday is perhaps not what the doctor ordered for an early recovery.
They fell 134 runs short of Benwell Hill on their own patch last week and will be desperate for Durham’s Paul Coughlin to be in the team for the South North clash, although his availability has yet to be confirmed. Whitburn make one definite change, with Ross Carty coming in for Paul Shields.
Jaspreet Singh will make his Stockton debut in the Grangefield clash with Durham Academy’s youngsters, who have made a positive start to their campaign.
Singh joined the Teessiders from Sunderland just a week or so into the season, moving south to play alongside brother Rammy.
Richard Waite is a notable absentee from the home dressing room – he has a slight problem with a disc in his back and is rested.
In the day’s other games, Benwell Hill entertain South Shields, and Gateshead Fell go to Jesmond to face Newcastle, with David Daley replacing Jonny Roseby.
Hosts Newcastle have Dimi Ratnayake returning in place of Tom Berzins. With Callum Harding unavailable through work commitments, they hand a debut to Middlesex second-team seamer Sebastian Hatchett – Fell will be hoping there isn’t an omen in that name.
Sunday sees the next round of National Club Championship matches. with Chester-le-Street at home to Brandon.