Ruel Brathwaite added to title chasers

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THERE’S little doubt about Saturday’s match of the day as Dukes North East Premier leaders Sunderland travel to Chester-le-Street.

The Ropery Lane clash is set to be influenced significantly by the availability or otherwise of County players, with Chris Rushworth definitely not playing for the Wearsiders after appearing in Durham’s Championship match against Warwickshire this week.

But Sunderland have taken the decision to bolster their table-topping squad and are hopeful of signing Durham fast bowler Ruel Brathwaite as their overseas player in time for the big game.

Barbados-born Brathwaite, 26, played his first season for Durham in 2011, and his career first-class record extends to 22 matches in which he has taken 60 wickets at an average of 33. With Rushworth a Durham regular this season, Brathwaite will add an extra dimension to the Sunderland attack as they seek to build on their flying start to the season.

Chester are unlikely to be able to play Scott Borthwick, given his involvement in the Championship match, but they do have an otherwise full-strength squad at their disposal as they look to make further inroads into the 10-point lead their opponents hold over them.

The Durham Academy youngsters could do the title chasers a favour as they travel to Blaydon, where the home team are in superb form and have moved to within four points of Sunderland. Both sides are unbeaten.

Blaydon have injury concerns once again over leg spinner Chris Varley. Following ten weeks spent recovering from a broken elbow sustained in a football match, Varley made his long-awaited return to league action last weekend only to break a bone in his hand.

However, the youngster from Seaham played in a cup tie last night, and proved his fitness with a haul of four wickets for 35 runs.

In the injury stakes, few have had a tougher time recently than Hetton Lyons, but they are gradually easing their way back to a full-strength squad.

Skipper John Tindale and top all-rounder Ryan Pringle are set to return in their game at Benwell Hill, although Pringle is unlikely to bowl this weekend.

Gateshead Fell are in the all-too-familiar position of propping up the rest. They spent much of 2011 in the same predicament, winning just twice and eventually finishing 35 points adrift.

But, with Durham bowler Jamie Harrison likely to be missing from the Stockton attack, and home advantage in their favour, Fell have an opportunity to break their duck. They make two changes with Malik Javed and Michael Cairns replacing Ajay Sangha and Luc Durrandt.

In Saturday’s other games, South Shields are unchanged for the visit of Tynemouth, while thigh strain victim Paul Coughlin is unlikely to appear for South North when they entertain Newcastle.

There are another round of T20 games tomorrow night, with Sunderland at home to South Shields, Hetton Lyons hosting Tynemouth and the Cestrians making the short trip to Gateshead Fell.