Blackwell stuns Sunderland on debut
On a day when not one of the top four won it was lowly Newcastle who took the headlines as England and Durham star Ian Blackwell made a sensational debut to blow a huge hole in Sunderland’s title ambitions.
With South North and Blaydon slugging each other to an almost expected standstill in their head to head, and Chester being surprisingly held by a battling Gateshead Fell, the chance was there for the Wearsiders to surge well clear at the top.
But the ‘Durham connection’ which has served Sunderland so well this season came back to bite them in the shape of Blackwell.
The leaders started the game solidly enough with Michael Turns (30) helping them advance to 60 for one, but Blackwell’s introduction to the attack changed the course of events - - he joined with Joe Reynolds to share eight wickets as the visitors slumped to 114 all out.
He was then back on the field almost immediately when Newcastle lost their first two wickets for 12 runs, and he quickly took the game away from the table-toppers with an imperious 61 from 72 balls, a knock that included nine fours and two sixes and propelled his new teammates to a five wicket win.
Sunderland managed to hang on to their leadership by simple virtue of the fact that the three other teams in contention all drew, Blaydon (208 for nine) and South North (182 for seven) happy enough to live to fight another day, but Chester (241 for six) a little taken aback by Gateshead’s (208 for six) battling display which belied their position at the foot of the table.
Stockton continued their upward trajectory with victory over Hetton Lyons in another low scoring game at Grangefield where run scoring proving difficult.
The Lyons laboured through 44 overs before eventually succumbing for 122, Shaun Birbeck’s 73-ball 23 and Jonny Malkin’s 72-ball 40 indicative of the hard work put in on a bowler friendly surface. South African Keaton Jennings (3-23) and Richard Waite (3-27) led the home attack well to maintain consistent pressure throughout.
Skipper Kevin Ward (34 from 32 balls) and Jonathan Rickard (31 from 40 balls) then looked capable of seeing the Teessiders through to a nerve free victory, but when six wickets fell for just 44 runs there were a few furrowed brows before the relief of a two wicket win released the tension.
The young cricketing students of the Durham Academy handed out a lesson to hosts Tynemouth as they hammered them by eight wickets, victory lifting them to the fringe of the title chasing quartet at the top of the league.
The home team were bowled out for just 91 in 29.1 overs, and it could have been even worse as they were 34 for seven at one stage. James Weighell started the rot with a spell of 4-15 in 8 overs, and then Andrew Ireland finished the job with 4-36 in 10.1 overs, Tynemouth thankful for a battling 35 from Sam Robson which helped them save a little face.
The Academy were never in trouble as Jack Clark (36no) anchored the successful run chase after Graham Clark opened out with a breezy 26. James Thompson (27 not out) then helped Clark steer Durham home as they enjoyed an unbroken third wicket partnership of 46.
Benwell Hill overcame an awful start at South Shields, when they lost three of their top five batsmen for ducks to the bowling of Mattie Muchall (5-64). Rammi Singh (62) led the fight back to 197 and this proved 54 too many for Shields as Zohaib Khan (5-41) spun them out.