While Stockton again extended their lead as table-toppers, Gateshead Fell lifted themselves off the bottom of the league to leave South Shields in desperate straits and now under threat of relegation.
And with his fellow countrymen showing better form just a few miles away at the Emirates ICG, it seemed appropriate that Sydney teenager Adam Whatley should become the top performer in one of the most crucial games in Fell’s far from happy season.
The 18-year-old Aussie, who has been spending his first summer in the UK, hit a magnificent century against South Shields after taking vital wickets to help Fell to just their second victory in 16 games, and the 23 points they gained saw them leapfrog Shields and go 15 ahead of them with just six games remaining.
Whatley, who joined Gateshead from Sutherlands CC to gain experience in English conditions, has quickly adapted to the change and his outstanding innings of 107 was his best performance.
Alongside another teenager, Sam Roseby, who was unbeaten on 59, he chased 207 to register the crucial victory by six wickets. The cock-a-hoop Aussie had already taken three wickets to demolish the middle order batting as South Shields crumbled to an all out total of 206. Andy Porter (3-40) and Jaspreet Singh (2-60) were Whatley’s other successful team-mates.
Stockton’s lead as champions-elect is now a staggering 107 points, 23 more than they started out with before their latest win over Hetton Lyons, who posted 222 from 64 overs but were still soundly beaten.
Half centuries from Jack Burnham and Jarvis Clay gave the Lyons hope of a bigger score, but Jamie Harrison, who is enjoying a superb spell of form, bagged another five wicket haul and with Richie Waite (4-67) bowling equally well in 20 overs, there was nothing given away. Harrison’s 17 overs also cost just 67 runs.
Keaton Jennings then gave the leaders their usual solid start with another half century before Matthew Brown hit an unbeaten 85 at just under a run-a-ball to clinch the win. He reached the boundary 14 times.
Chester-le-Street regained second place as they beat Sunderland by 36 runs. Liam Simpson enjoyed one of his most successful days with his eight wicket blast accompanying his efforts in being second highest run scorer.
His 29, along with an unbeaten 48 from Andrew Bell, lifted the Cestrians to 175 after they had been 64-6 at one stage. Arsalan Rahim (48) and Michael Nunn (34 not out) then staged a late fight back to lift the Wearsiders from a disastrous 50 for seven, but Simpson’s 8-40 proved to be the match winning contribution.
In other top flight games Stephen Humble’s six wickets set South North on their way to a six wicket win over the Academy, Jacques du Toit (82 not out) and Ben Raine (50 not out) shared a 140-run match winning partnership to lift Newcastle from 20 for three to a seven wicket win over Tynemouth, and Zohaib Khan’s 6-33 wasn’t enough to save Benwell Hill from a seven run defeat at Blaydon.
Sacriston are the new leaders of the First Division after a Tony Claughan century, that included 7 sixes, lifted his team to a 50 over total of 263 for four before Washington crashed to 76 all out as Graham Hubber (7-32) ended their one week stay at the summit.
Whitburn remained in the hunt with an emphatic eight wicket win at Willington, but Brandon are now second, just two points behind Sacriston, after an easy seven wicket victory over Seaham Harbour who sank to the foot of the table after Felling defeated South Hetton by six wickets.