IT’S as you were at the top of the Dukes NEPL First Division as a rain-ruined programme saw all five games forced into early finishes.
With both Brandon and Sacriston managing to squeeze ten points from their wash-outs, the pair of them go into the final two matches separated by just four points, but for Whitburn time is running out when they dropped further back after taking only eight in their match.
There were 63 overs in total possible at Brandon where the league leaders took almost 49 to bowl out Eppleton.
Aussie Ned McCormack typified the fighting Eppleton spirit with four fours and two sixes in a bright 49, but Jamie Robinson was again in fine fettle, picking up 3-20 from a 14-over stint, and, with Ruel Brathwaite also grabbing three wickets, the visitors eventually succumbed for 179.
Two early strikes by Craig Scurr then gave Eppleton a toe-hold in the match, but, with Karl Turner still menacing on 32 not out, Brandon looked to just have the edge on 62-2 when the final downpour arrived after 15.3 overs of the chase.
Sacriston’s home game against South Hetton followed a remarkably similar pattern, the visitors bowled out for 151 and the title chasers standing on 42-1 after nine overs of the reply.
John Leslie (40 from 41 balls) and Ryan Dowse (38) gave early purpose to the Hetton innings, and with Murtuza Hussain cracking six fours and a six on his way to a 35-ball 36 the visitors looked poised for a useful total when they stood on 134-5.
But Moh Ali’s five-over intervention, in which he grabbed four wickets for just eight runs, saw a rapid decline to 151 all out. Tony Claughan gave some early impetus to the Sacriston response, but when he fell for a run-a-ball 27 that was the final action of the match.
Whitburn are now 16 points off the summit after managing only 37 overs of play at Seaham Harbour.
The former leaders got off to a flying start to their innings through Stuart Walker and Lee Henderson, the openers putting on a stand of 108.
Walker was the more belligerent of the pairing, cracking six fours and two sixes on his way to 65 from 64 balls, and once he’d gone Henderson went on to make 68 from 104 balls before his dismissal proved to be the final act of a soggy drama as the curtain came down with the visitors on 162-3.
Runs were in much shorter supply at Boldon where Felling were bundled out for 80 in just 25.3 overs, Phil Shakespeare outstanding in 13 unbroken overs as he took seven for 35. Lawrence Wood took the other three to fall at a personal cost of just nine runs as Chris Goudie’s 33 represented a lone act of defiance.
But then Boldon were battered by Paul Leonard as he smashed through the home team’s first six batsmen, and with the score on 26-6 things looked even grimmer than the weather. A mini recovery took the score to 55-7 after 14 overs before the rain brought a merciful end to the torment and spoilt what might have been a nerve-shredding ending.
The other game at Willington, where Washington were due, failed to come under starter’s orders, sealing the visitors’ already known fate of being out of a title race they led just a few short weeks ago.