Sunderland’s title hopes fade

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SUNDERLAND’S dreams of Dukes ECB NEPL title glory suffered another blow when their game at Stockton was abandoned following a torrential downpour, and with Blaydon crushing bottom club Gateshead Fell, the Wearsiders are now 38 points adrift of the leaders.

The game at Grangefield was not going their way when the rains arrived in sudden and dramatic fashion, the home team having just declared on 272-7 after 58.3 overs when Jaspreet Singh took his third wicket.

It had been a chastening afternoon for Sunderland’s attack as South African Keaton Jennings and Richard Waite had shared a 132-run third wicket stand that took the game away from the visitors. Jennings eventually went for 77, but Waite continued on to a century that included 15 boundaries.

The washout resulted in just eight points for Sunderland, and Chester-le-Street also suffered a setback to their own hopes as they were held to a rain affected draw at the Lane against Benwell Hill.

Chester got off to their now almost mandatory poor start, stumbling from 14-3 to 49-5 before John Coxon restored sanity with an 84-ball half century. A late and belligerent 17-ball 31 from Andrew Tye then lifted the Cestrians to the semi respectability of 156 which gave their bowlers something to work with, something they did well as the Hill were reduced to 97-8 in 41 overs, Liam Simpson and Tye sharing all the wickets to fall.

Hetton Lyons managed to put a spoke in the South North championship wheel with several youngsters excelling in a closely fought contest which ended with the Bulls on 169-9 chasing Hetton’s 178 all out.

Lyons looked likely to be caged when they stumbled to 70-6, but Jack Burnham (40) and Jack McBeth (46) belied their tender years with mature innings that helped their team recover composure, and then young bowling guns Anthony Watson (3-46) and Ben Whitehead (4-60) had the Bulls cornered when time ran out.

With their three closest challengers only managing to draw a depleted Blaydon team cemented their position as leaders with a 112-run victory at the Fell, and they now hold a 23 point lead over South North while Chester are right off the pace some 50 points behind the top dogs.

South Shields and the Academy played out a thriller at Dean Road with Shields emerging victorious by just one wicket in a nerve tingling finale.

The Academy were going along quite well at one time on 80-2, but the dismissal of Cole Pearce for a top scoring 39 heralded a collapse as the last eight wickets went down for just 52 runs, Rameez Shahzad (5-53) and Mattie Muchall (3-27 in 20 overs) headlining with the ball.

Shields then hit their own batting buffer as they slid to 115-9, Max Morley bagging a five wicket haul for the youngsters. But number ten bat Mark Appleton kept his cool to hit 16 priceless runs, and with last man Anthony Marshall defying all attempts to dislodge him the last wicket pairing secured the 17 runs needed for a breathless victory.

More than an hour’s play was lost at Jesmond and it possibly cost Tynemouth victory. They had bowled Newcastle out for 192 with Patrick Botha (5-43) and David Hymers (3-57) on song, but a slow start, which saw early wickets fall, inhibited progress as the visitors ended just ten runs away from victory on 183-7.