Chester-le-Street embark on the most congested weekend of their season tomorrow night when the start of the NEPL T20 competition sets in motion a spell of four games in four days in four different competitions.
The Cestrians are T20 specialists, the current holders having won the Co-operative funeralcare sponsored cup in four of the last five seasons, and they begin the defence of their crown with a home game against First Division Burnmoor.
They remain at Ropery Lane for Saturday’s league game against Eppleton, but then face a trip to North Yorkshire on Sunday when they meet NYSD side Richmondshire in the regional semi-final of the National Club Championship, before rounding off the bank holiday, weather permitting, with a home Banks Salver tie against Newcastle or Burnmoor who hope to complete their own first round match the day before.
Those players turning out in all four matches are facing the potential of 340 overs of cricket spread over just 74 hours, and it will take some pretty persuasive home debating skills for those committed to the full marathon!
But Chester do have a full complement of players available to them at the start of the weekend, their only slight doubt being over keeper Cole Pearce who sustained an injury last week but is expected to play on Saturday.
Saturday’s visitors, Eppleton, who also begin their T20 campaign with a home tie against Stockton tomorrow, have a slightly less intimidating programme to face.
The current Salver holders will not play on Monday as they won’t have any opponents with the first round tie between Stockton and South Shields not due to be completed until then.
That gives Eppleton the chance to fully concentrate on their league game at the Lane where they will be seeking to make it three consecutive wins in their first season of top flight cricket.
They have one enforced change with Gary Burlinson unavailable and Graham Hoban drafted in to replace him.
Hetton Lyons have an opportunity to build on the form that has seen them rise to third place in the table, but Saturday’s home game against fellow challengers Newcastle is set to be the farewell match for some time for overseas star Faiz Fazal who has been selected in the Indian T20 squad.
The 30-year-old has played in the IPL with Rajasthan Royals, as well as appearing for India A, so his selection presents a great opportunity for full international honours, but his departure will leave a big hole in Lyons’ resources which are also being stretched by the success of Brydon Carse with Durham.
Fazal will no doubt want to take his leave by adding to an already impressive runs aggregate of 297 at an average of just under 60, and with Carse expected to be the only absentee Hetton will be hopeful of becoming the first team to defeat the Tynesiders this season.
Meanwhile, Whitburn have the perfect opportunity to move well clear of the relegation slot when they travel to Gateshead to take on rock bottom Fell. Currently tenth in the table, Whitburn have a 35-point lead over their hosts, but will want to ensure that increases against opponents who have lost all five matches played so far.
They are able to field an unchanged line-up for the Eastwood Gardens game, which means the free-flowing Joe Coyne, who lies second in the current league run scorers list with 321, will get the chance alongside their other heavy runs scorer, Dan Shurben, to put some clear daylight between their team and the danger zone.