THERE were five winners out of the six opening day matches in the Dukes North East Premier League First Division, but the real thrills were experienced at Eppleton, where visitors Boldon somehow managed to avoid defeat.
Even now, some 48 hours later, Eppleton will be wondering why they aren’t celebrating a victory with the other five.
It’s cold comfort, but at least they can look back on being a part of the game of the day in the second tier.
Boldon set a target of 228-7, made in 50 overs, new skipper Joe Coyne top-scoring with 60. Eppleton then looked to be steaming towards victory as Kyle Davis cracked 116 from just 128 balls, but there followed a late collapse which was almost inexplicable.
From 226-5, with just three runs needed for victory, the home team lost four wickets for two runs and the game ended with the scores level, Coyne cashing in as he added four wickets to his earlier runs, and then ran out Zaheer Shahbaz from the final ball of the game to leave the home team feeling short-changed.
Sunderland’s first game at this level, following their shock relegation in the dying moments of the 2014 season, did not produce the morale-boosting success they yearned for as Brandon won comfortably at Ashbrooke.
Usman Arshad showed his class with a 108-ball 86 that earned the Wearsiders a respectable 50-over score of 226-8, but Brandon had a match-winner in new signing Ryan Nicholson, who crashed 17 fours and a six on his way to an undefeated 130 from 157 balls, the visitors coasting home with more than three overs and six wickets to spare.
Promoted Burnmoor got off to the perfect start to life in their new surroundings, coming out on top by 15 runs in a low-scoring game at Felling.
A couple of big-name winter signings suggest Felling will go better this time around than their second-bottom performance last time out, but it was two established players, Paul Leonard (4-32) and Ant Trotter (3-25), who really shone as the Moor were turned over for 136, skipper Alec Linsley’s 33 from the number 10 slot eventually to prove worth its weight in gold.
Opener Stuart Walker (38) did his best to try to inspire his new side when the run chase began, but a steady trickle of wickets was followed by a late collapse that ended home hopes.
Ian Conn (4-25) started the rot, and Sri Lankan Irosh Samarasooriya (4-34) wrapped things up for 121.
The other new boys, Tudhoe, found life a little tougher than they perhaps imagined would be the case, and they crashed to a 106-run pasting at Sacriston. There were a number of contributors to the home success, but the final rites were administered by new signing Lee Murray, who polished off Tudhoe with a burst of 4-22.
Seaham Harbour were doing OK after being put in to bat at Willington, the top three putting on 62 between them, but then four ducks followed as Connor Hodgson (3-16 from 14 overs) and Calvin Stephenson (4-23 from 14.3 overs) wrestled back the advantage.
With spirit sapped, the Harbour lights went out for 98. There was a brief fightback as Seaham bagged two early wickets for just one run, but that was as good as it got and, with skipper James Stock (38) and Jake Louth (38no) steadying the ship, Willington had the runs in the bag inside 29 overs.
Washington underlined their title credentials by blowing away visitors South Hetton for a paltry 68 before romping to a nine-wicket success.
Tariq Aziz (27) was the only man who looked likely to break free of the stranglehold exerted by new boys Martin Hubber (3-35) and Trent Mais (5-9), and there really was nowhere to hide as youngster Matthew Potts rushed Washington to their win with an unbeaten 41.