Just one game reached a conclusion in the North East Premier League with South North brushing aside the challenge of Blaydon to move into second place in the table and reduce Stockton’s mammoth lead from 107 points to 87.
Stockton never really got the chance to add to their lead at the top as the rain only allowed 48 overs of play at Grangefield where the Academy stood on 142 for five, James Thompson making a patient 53 from 141 balls.
But whilst the Bulls are famed for a number of successful last gasp title charges the Teessiders remain near certainties for their first ever honour with just five games left to go.
Stephen Humble (7-32) caused chaos amongst the Blaydon batting ranks, the home team bowled out for 57, losing their last seven wickets for just 16 runs, and their last four without a run scored. Joe Coyne, with an unbeaten 34, then showed the necessary application on a bowler friendly pitch to secure a seven wicket win.
With the threat of relegation hanging over both South Shields and Gateshead Fell, the last thing either team wanted was for the weather to throw a spanner in the works, but it did just that at the weekend with Shields denied a victory opportunity, and the Fell handed salvation.
Gateshead Fell were saying a huge thank you after clinging on for a draw at Tynemouth, and with South Shields only able to squeeze one more point from their rain affected game against Benwell Hill there was no material change in the relegation standings with Gateshead still 14 points ahead of their rivals.
The Fell did the first part of their afternoon’s job well enough, taking eight Tynemouth wickets as their hosts struggled to 205 before declaring after 52 overs.
Graeme Hallam (45 not out) and Marcus Turner (39) were the mainstays of the home innings, but Andy Porter’s 18 over stint produced a return of 5-50, and with Jaspreet Singh picking up the other three wickets Fell were able to garner some crucial bonus points.
But that was all they were able to garner as their batting imploded in spectacular style against the bowling of David Hymers and 15-year-old Finn Lonnberg, and it was only the rain that prevented a humiliation as the heavens opened with the Fell on 14 for eight after just 9.5 overs.
Lonnberg claimed two of the wickets to fall, while Hymers ripped out five batters at a personal cost of just 5 runs.
Shields did some fine work in the field to restrict the powerful Benwell Hill team, and with Matty Muchall picking up 3-51 in a 17 over spell, and Sam Embleton claiming 3-51 from 13 overs the Hill were bowled out for 195 in the 54th over.
Only 9.4 overs were possible when the home team began their innings, and whilst they lost two wickets during that time they were scoring freely enough on 36 with Gordon Muchall still at the wicket.
The individual highlight of the day came at Jesmond where Chester-le-Street’s Simon Birtwisle continued his superb form with 12 fours and five sixes in a dominant innings of 137 scored from 165 balls. Chris Martin (40) and John Coxon (37 not out) added even more lustre and the Cestrians powered on to 269 for six in 61 overs. Only 7.4 overs were possible when Newcastle gave chase.
Sunderland had to be content with a draw after failing to dislodge Hetton Lyons’ final pairing despite bowling seven overs at them.
The Wearsiders posted a 61 over target of 180 for nine after Mark Dale made 63. Gary Adey (4-31) shone with the ball for the Lyons but then Chris Rushworth usurped him as holder of the best match return when he claimed 4-25 in a 15 over spell.
But a defiant 23 by Jack McBeth batting at number ten, and a Sean Tindale and Adey rearguard action in the ever gathering gloom, salvaged a draw for the Lyons on 127 for nine.