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Benwell Hill in contention

The Bulls and the Lyons recorded emphatic wins to stretch their advantage over the chasing pack at the top of the Premier Division  table, but it was Benwell Hill’s home victory over reigning champions Stockton that really took the eye as it established the Hill as genuine title contenders in their own right.

Having being asked to bat the Teessiders gave a decent account of themselves with Matty Brown’s 62 being the solid foundation around which a total of 237 for eight was compiled before a declaration came after 60 overs. Zohaib Khan took 4-39 to keep the lid on the Stockton innings, and he then provided the impetus to the run chase with 68 runs in 111 balls.

New signing Mark Dale (51) supported Khan in an important fourth wicket stand of 86, and then the Singhs, Rammi (35 not out) and Jas (25 not out), saw the home team through to a crucial four wicket win with almost three overs to spare.

Victory left the only unbeaten record in the top flight intact and kept the home team in touch with the leading pair, however defeat at the Hill left Stockton with a mountain to climb if they are to cling on to their crown.

South North ruthlessly exposed Sunderland’s current frailties when they hammered the Wearsiders by 145 runs.

Success was built on an impressive 54 over total of 263 for two inspired by a Jonny Craigs century which lit up a 167-run unbroken third wicket partnership of 167 with his skipper John Graham (74 not out from 96 balls).

The home team then slumped to 65 for nine as Jonny Wightman (3-25), Stephen Humble (2-13) and Lee Crozier (4-35) sliced them apart, and only a face saving last wicket stand of 53 brought some respectability before the final curtain came down on a total of 118.

Hetton Lyons had 61 runs to spare in victory at the Fell, but at one stage they looked in danger of featuring in the biggest upset of the season when they lost their first five wickets with just 34 on the board.

Cameron Oliver (3-19) caused the early panic before the experienced Shaun Birbeck (43 from 102 balls) and John Tindale (40 from 121 balls) put together an 87-run stand that began the healing process which eventually led to a declaration on 181 for eight in the 59th over.

Aussie Adam Whatley then cracked 4 fours and 2 sixes in a run-a-ball 51, but the home team’s lack of confidence took over when they slid from 56 for one to 120 all out as Ryan Pringle turned the screw with a spell of 6-40.

The win kept Lyons within 16 points of the leaders, but it’s looking bleak for the Fell as they are now 31 points adrift at the foot of the table.

Elsewhere in the top flight an unbeaten 73 from 79 balls by Ryan Buckley secured a two wicket win for Blaydon over Newcastle, Chester-le-Street’s Quentin Hughes was left on 98 not out when the Cestrians declared in their game against the Academy but were then unable to force a result, and Tynemouth (222 for seven) drew with Whitburn (190 for eight).