DEFENDING champions Burnmoor face a tough double header as they bid to build on their 25-point lead at the top of the Readers Durham Cricket League Division One.
Teams in both divisions play two league matches in two days, and with the halfway point of the season rapidly approaching it is likely that the battle lines for the run-in will be more clearly defined come close of play on Sunday.
Burnmoor possibly have the toughest twosome of any of the leading teams, although they do enjoy home advantage in both games – against Esh Winning (Saturday) and Tudhoe (Sunday).
Skipper Alec Linsley was delighted by last week’s success at Easington, where his team displayed true grit in successfully overcoming a couple of crisis points. With his team in familiar territory, the confidence is coursing through his veins.
Linsley said: “It was nice to open up a bit of a gap at the top, especially with the double weekend looming.
“We’ve got two tough looking home games against Esh Winning and Tudhoe, so to be on a winning roll and taking confidence into those matches can only be a good thing. We are certainly looking forward to the challenges ahead.”
Esh probably present the toughest challenge as the now confirmed decision to allow their abandoned match at Boldon CA to be re-arranged means they have a game in hand on the three teams above them, which if won would put them into a promotion slot.
However, their hopes of mounting a serious championship challenge could hinge on the fitness of skipper and key man David Lawlor, who may miss a large chunk of the campaign if he does not get to the bottom of a persistent groin problem.
Under the leadership of Lawlor, Esh chased Burnmoor all the way last summer before having to concede the title to their rivals by just 12 points.
Many put their success down to Lawlor’s astute leadership and the skills he showed, not only with the bat but also in the way he ensured his side successfully coped with the significant change in playing format.
Lawlor has been getting by with painkillers, and he may well do so again at the weekend, but longer term he could be facing surgery which would potentially rule him out for the rest of the season.
Dawdon still retain second spot despite last week’s reverse, and their double sees them entertain Hylton before travelling to unbeaten Boldon CA.
Skipper Umar Akhtar misses the first match but returns at Boldon, and David Renwick is drafted in as his temporary replacement. Hylton have Liam Foster returning to put them at full strength on both days, with their second match at Marsden.
Three consectuve wins represents a dramatic turnaround in form for Castle Eden given their inauspicious start, and their new-found consistency has lifted them into the thick of the promotion battle. Last week’s 134-run hammering of Tudhoe confirmed their return to the limelight, and if they can emerge successfully from a double header that sees them visit Horden and entertain Mainsforth then they will be extremely well placed to mount a challenge for honours.