THE signing of Durham bowler Callum Thorp has put a new spring in the step of Dukes North East Premier League Premier Division side Chester-le-Street.
After a lacklustre opening day draw against Hetton Lyons, Thorp’s arrival helped inspire a 147-run hammering of old foes South North, who were many people’s tip to regain the championship this time around.
Now it’s the Cestrians that everyone is talking about as serious challengers again after a superb bowling performance cornered the Bulls.
Thorp and Liam Simpson proved the most potent of opening attacks, and once they had retired from the frontline, the game was up for a shell-shocked visiting team.
There was then the added bonus of youngster Stephen Cantwell nipping in to take his first ever Premier wickets in a five-over spell which earned him figures of 2-14.
The all-round attack will be back to full strength this weekend with spinner David Foster set to return from university. Chester’s only doubt for Saturday’s trip to Premier new boys Whitburn surrounds the fitness of Max Morley.
Whitburn found life tough on the opening day at Stockton, and, with their much anticipated trip to the Emirates washed out last Saturday, they find themselves with just eight points, so a visit from the newly invigorated Cestrians was perhaps not on their immediate wish list.
The home team make one change to their line-up, with Neil Johnson coming in to replace Mike Turns.
The early-season table toppers are Hetton Lyons, who followed up the solid performance at Ropery Lane with a resounding victory over Tynemouth which earned them a maximum and took them five ahead of reigning champions Stockton.
Premier League legend Allan Worthy has made a fabulous start to his Lyons career.
The former Blaydon star has already scored 149 runs from his two knocks to date, lifting him to an Premier League career aggregate of 8,720, well ahead of second-placed John Graham.
Worthy should certainly feel at home on Saturday as he returns to Denefield to take on his old Blaydon team-mates.
Bowlers have generally held the upper hand at Blaydon over the years, but that did not stop Worthy prospering with the bat in his time there, and he is expecting nothing less than a “lively encounter” as Lyons new-found status is put to the test.
Sunderland’s disappointment at the abandonment of their game last week was palpable, as indeed was that of hosts Benwell Hill.
The cancellation meant that the euphoria of the opening day victory over Newcastle could not be built upon, but hopefully Ashbrooke will provide a game this weekend when the youngsters of the Durham Academy visit.
Skipper Dan Shurben is able to name an unchanged side, although news is still awaited of Durham all-rounder Usman Arshad’s availability.
Two players from Yorkshire are on an extended trial period with the Academy. Charlie Parker is a 19-year-old all-rounder from Harrogate who spent the winter playing in New Zealand, while Dylan Budge, from Bradford, is an 18-year-old with an unorthodox action among his all-round skills.
Whilst there are no games on Bank Holiday Monday, there is still plenty of action across the rest of the weekend with the first round of the Banks Salver being played on Sunday, although Chester-le-Street will be travelling to Park Drive to face Hartlepool as a second attempt is made to play the National Club Cup match which fell victim to the weather last week. Whitburn entertain York.