Leaders Stockton continue to overcome every challenge thrown at them in their best ever start to a North East Premier League season.The only unbeaten side, they now have a 29 point advantage over their closest rivals, Chester-le-Street, after a fifth win in seven games saw their lead increase by six points.
But they had to face their toughest challenge in defeating Sunderland who at one stage looked like turning the tables and springing a surprise. It needed a last ditch partnership led by Jamie Harrison (33) to reach a match winning score after the Wearsiders had taken eight Stockton wickets for only 106 runs.
The Teesside outfit, bowled out for 156, went on to win by just 37 runs as Richard Waite (5-41) and Jimmy Ward (3-23) took over Harrison’s normal role of wicket taking.At the other end of the table South Shields welcomed international batsman Tom Latham for what proved a stunning debut - a brilliant innings of 118 – and it moved them out of the relegation place at the foot of the league table. Latham, fresh from being in the New Zealand Test squad against England, faced Chester-le-Street’s seven strong attack and hit 14 boundaries as his side closed on 248 for eight.
The Cestrians had their own batting stars as they posted a challenging 276 for eight from 57 overs with 90 from Andrew Smith and half centuries from Liam Simpson and George Harrison.The day’s other century came at Tynemouth where Marcus Turner was unbeaten on 103 for the hosts in another drawn game.
His team-mate, Ruhan Pretorius, added 54 as they posted 230 for six but Benwell Hill never got close and finished 33 runs behind with three wickets still standing. David Rutherford (59 and 3-38) was their star performer. Third-placed Hetton Lyons had a disappointing day, losing to Blaydon by 77 runs. Lal Kumar (50 and 3-56 from 20 overs) did his utmost to rally the Lyons after the home side had posted 211 for six.
But Hetton lasted just 33 overs in reply as they were spun out for 134 by Kiwi left-armer, Theo van Woerkom, whose 5.5 overs brought him six wickets for just 11 runs.There were wins for South North, against Newcastle at Jesmond, and for Durham Academy who sent Gateshead crashing to the foot of the table. The youngsters enjoyed 60 overs by scoring 249 for eight with 73 from Andrew Ireland and 60 from Jack Clark, then Max Morley bagged 7-35 to send the Fell crashing to 120 all out.