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Ward turns on magic in Stockton finale

Champions Stockton ended their glorious summer with another emphatic performance which brought them the distinction of setting a new league points record.

Fittingly it was triumphant skipper Kevin Ward who turned in the perfect all-round performance to lead his side to their wonderful finale.

But the Grangefield clash with Tynemouth wasn’t a one-sided affair with the visitors doing their very best to spoil the party before their challenge ran out of puff in the face of Ward’s dynamic display.

Stockton opted to bat first when winning the toss, but when they slid to 37 for three and then on to 108 for five in the face of more fine bowling from David Hymers (4-69 in 20 overs), it looked as though their dreams of a new record were about to disappear because of a lack of batting points.

But Ward put in the perfect riposte, striking 10 fours and 2 sixes on his way to a rapid 80 scored from just 57 balls faced, and although he went after reclaiming the initiative Josh Bousfield (45) and Tom Coulthard (20 not out) then put together a ninth wicket stand of 62 which set up the chance for the hosts to reach their goal, and a declaration came on 228 for nine in the 51st over.

The simple aim was then to bowl Tynemouth out, but visiting skipper Ben Debnam, taking a leaf out of his opposite number’s book, proved a stubborn opponent, his opening 64, which included eight fours and two sixes, lifting his side to a threatening 104 for two at one stage to put the game in the balance.

But enter Ward once more. In a short but devastating 8.4 over burst he blew away five batsmen, including Debnam, at a cost of just 18 runs and it was perhaps fitting that he claimed the final wicket as well to lift Stockton to a points total of 486, one more than Chester-le-Street’s 2009 record.

South Shields final top flight game for a while proved to a relatively short lived affair as the match, played at Boldon because Wood Terrace was required for Great North Run duties, was done and dusted by late afternoon with Durham Academy triumphing by seven wickets.

Shields were on the back foot from the off, losing their first two wickets with only 6 on the board, and a brief Gordon Muchall (22) led recovery failed to spark the relegated club as their last seven wickets crashed for just 33 runs. Andrew Ireland (5-30) and Peter Chase (3-17) were the principal destroyers who set up the comfortable run chase for Graham Clark (35 not out) to lead.

Hetton Lyons gave themselves a chance of finishing third with a 60-run home victory over Benwell Hill, Ryan Pringle their inspiration with an undefeated century and four wickets, while Newcastle managed to defend a modest total of 108 to win the Wear-Tyne derby against Sunderland by 15 runs and secure a top half of the table finish.

With the threat of relegation lifted from their shoulders Gateshead Fell still couldn’t trouble Blaydon, who bowled their hosts out for 115 with Graeme Bridge bagging 5-16 and then knocked off the runs with six wickets to spare, Allan Worthy making exactly 50.

A deflated Chester-le-Street made the long journey back from London on Saturday after seeing their dreams of National T20 glory scuppered by the lottery of a bowl out, and they were due to play their league final game at South North yesterday until, in a supreme but unappreciated irony, that too was washed out.

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