There wasn’t a breath of air to be had on one of the warmest cricketing days for two years, but the winds of change were blowing at the top of the NEPL.
Leaders Stockton were feeling the heat, South North’s chances blown away by old rivals Chester-le-Street and Benwell Hill given the cold shoulder by Hetton Lyons.
Tynemouth were the team ending Stockton’s unbeaten run, and they did so in spectacular fashion by snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
A total of 201 owed much to a half century from South African Ruhan Pretorius, but it didn’t look enough to stop the rampant Teessiders notching up yet another victory when they stood on 187 for six with almost 10 overs left of the run chase.
But needing just 15 to win Stockton lost their last four wickets for nine runs in a dramatic collapse that left them beaten by 5 runs, Pretorius (3-48) picking up the last two wickets to back up the earlier work of Phil Morse (3-48) who bowled 20 excellent overs.
That defeat left the door open for both Benwell Hill and South North to lop a sizeable chunk off Stockton’s lead, but both failed, and in the Bulls case defeat at Ropery Lane probably means they can now fully focus on their cup exploits as the league looks too tall an order even for them.
The Bulls had contributors throughout the order as they posted 229 for nine first up, Adam Heather the main man with 63, and when the Cestrians lost their first two wickets with just six on the board, and their third at 39, the visitors were in control. But then Andrew Smith (65) and Usman Arshad (55) put together a stand of 98 that gave the home team belief and they eased to a two wicket victory with three overs to spare.
The Hill lost for the first time since the opening day of the season, going down by 47 runs to Hetton Lyons.
Dave Rutherford maintained his superb form with 4-43 from another 20 overs, but with just 188 to chase down Hill made the task look mountainous as Jon Malkin, who had earlier top scored with a half century, took the undoubted man-of-the-match honours with 6-65, the hosts crumbling to 141 all out.
Blaydon compounded Gateshead Fell’s problems with an emphatic Denefield drubbing, Graeme Bridge (5-13) and Gary Stewart (3-39) combining to blast Fell out for 95 and set up a seven wicket win that moved their own team back on to the fringes of the title race, and at the same time anchored Gateshead even more firmly to the foot of the table.
In the other top flight games Newcastle won the Tyne-Wear derby with some ease, Ben Raine (74) and Callum Harding (4-22) headlining in an 82-run victory, and South Shields are still searching for that first win after suffering a hefty 103 run pounding at the hands of the Academy.