Despite having four points cut from their handsome lead at the top of the table South North moved one step closer to clinching the championship when they defeated Blaydon.
While at the opposite end of the table Gateshead Fell’s fate looks all but sealed after they squandered a golden opportunity to make significant inroads into the deficit they face.
The Bulls didn’t start too well at Denefield, losing their first three wickets with just 42 on the board, but then Adam Cragg joined forces with Jonny Craigs to ensure the table-toppers took firm control of the game. The pair shared a fourth wicket partnership of 91 before Craigs went for a watchful 69 made from 139 balls, and then Cragg went on to record a century before eventually falling for 101 which included eight fours and a six.
Four wickets for Joe Reynolds, and three for Ryan Buckley, the latter’s from a 20 over stint, kept a lid on the innings, but the leaders were still able to declare on 229 for eight in the 62nd over to put them in charge.
Blaydon’s run chase just never got up a head of steam as wickets fell at regular intervals, Ross Nicholson’s 43 the highlight in an all out total of 168, spin king Lee Crozier bagging a five wicket haul to seal the win with more than eight overs to spare.
With South North taking 26 points for their efforts Hetton Lyons did manage to lop four points off their lead, although it still remains at an imposing 40 points with just five games to go.
The Lyons mauled hapless Sunderland, a Gary Scott century (143 from 133 balls) lifting Hetton to an eye-watering 294 for four declared in just 50 overs before the Wearsiders collapsed in a heap, bowled out for 63 inside 28 overs as all five visiting bowlers filled their wicket taking boots.
The Fell appeared to have done all the hard work when they bowled the Academy out for 176 in their game at Maiden Castle, Cameron Oliver and Andrew Porter sharing six wickets as only Luke Henderson (51) put up much resistance.
But then having moved to the brink of victory, with only 39 more needed on 138-5, the last six batters made just 25 between them, and when the brilliant Aussie, Adam Whatley, went for a cracking 92 which included 8 fours and 5 sixes and came from just 62 balls, the game was more or less up, Fell falling for 168 to lose by a mere 8 runs. Barry McCarthy (5-52) and Ben Whitehead (3-43) sealed their fate, and probably in more ways than one.
Another run glut at Jesmond saw almost 550 scored as Stockton failed to defend a first innings total of 273 for nine. The defeat was particularly harsh on Richard Waite who hit 19 fours and 2 sixes on his way to 140, however he could only then admire the unbroken third wicket stand of 198 between Graham Clark (111 not out from 120 balls) and Jacques du Toit (113 not out from 99 balls) which powered Newcastle to an eight wicket win – and they still had more than 11 overs to spare.