Sunderland, hoping for a brighter future after the traumas of the last couple of years, were dealt an opening day blow by Sacriston.
Relegation from the Premier Division in 2014 came as a last-gasp bolt out of the blue, and the Wearsiders’ first spell at the lower level was also another difficult experience as they finished just above the bottom spot, but with several new faces on board it was hoped that 2016 would be the start of the revival.
Sacriston, who finished just one place above Sunderland last time out, have also been busy over the winter months, culminating in the recent capture of Graeme Bridge from Blaydon.
But while Bridge contributed to his new team’s success in this game, it was Melvyn Betts, home again, who set Sunderland back on their heels with an opening four-wicket blast, and, despite 36 from number nine Ian Stephenson, the visitors could only muster 129.
The run chase was not without its problems, another returning player Craig Burke (39 from 67 balls) having to steady things following the loss of early wickets, but Sacriston eventually eased to victory in the 40th over with three wickets to spare.
Like Sunderland, Boldon were hoping to start off in a positive manner, but their trip to Willington proved to be a chastening affair, with the home side racking up an impressive 286-6 in 55 overs, and then dismantling the Boldon batting inside 39 overs to win by 133 runs.
Boldon were unable to stem the flow of runs from their hosts who had three men making half-centuries, and then a promising start in which both openers, Chris Ellison and Nick Sampson-Barnes, scored 27, was completely undone when the middle order collapsed.
Jeff Sargon, batting at number 10, provided a late defiant flourish with 38, but by then the horse had bolted.
There was a great Burnmoor debut for 17-year-old Liam Burgess, but it wasn’t enough to inspire his new team-mates to victory as visitors Felling emerged with the major share of the spoils from a stalemate.
Much-fancied Felling got off to a great start, with Gary Scott hitting five fours and two sixes in his 77, and Stuart Walker (48) accompanying him in an opening stand worth 93 runs, but, after the visitors progressed to 139-1, Burgess began to work his magic, completely taking the steam out of the visitors, who lost eight wickets for 56 runs before closing their innings on 195-9.
Burgess ended with an outstanding return of 6-31 from 9.1 overs.
The Burnmoor response proved a laboured affair against a decent attack, Neil Young’s half-century the major contribution as the home side opted for safety on 159-6 from their 55 overs.
Washington and Seaham Harbour will have to wait another frustrating week for their first taste of league action. After the complete wipe out of the week before, the Washington ground was still feeling the effects of the weather-lashing and their meeting was abandoned.
The weather also played a part at Brandon where the game was abandoned after 26 overs of the second innings because of rain and bad light.
Blaydon, trying to come to terms with the relegation that had pushed them into their first season of second tier cricket, had made it to 76-3 after being set 178 by their hosts.
The division’s other new boys, Mainsforth, wasted little time in notching up their first victory, swatting aside the challenge of Tudhoe by seven wickets after routing them for a paltry 62.