Blaydon poised for first title
Blaydon stand on the threshold of their first ever NEPL title after a convincing victory over Newcastle left them needing just 13 points from their final game of the season on Saturday against Tynemouth.
The 11th win in an unbeaten campaign had a relatively slow start with the champions elect carefully picking their way through 60 overs at the crease to declare on 211 for nine, but then their momentum increased as Newcastle lost their first two wickets with just 3 on the board before slumping to 98 all out in only 30 overs.
The 113 run triumph was a real team effort as Ben Raine (40) and Paul Freary (28) gave Blaydon the solid start they were seeking with an opening stand of 57.
With Kiwi Cole McConchie cracking 10 boundaries in his 49, their only slight dip came when three wickets were lost with the score on 119.
However a late 40 from Geoff Stewart ensured the 200 came up to hand their bowlers all the incentive they needed.
Early strikes from Ben Raine and Martin Pollard then shook the home team and despite a battling unbeaten 34 from Niall Penfold it was one way traffic in Jesmond as Raine (3-47), Craig Simpson (3-16) and Graeme Bridge (3-8) eased Blaydon to within touching distance of the coveted crown.
South North still cling to the hope that Blaydon will implode at some point, and they ensured they would take the fight into the final day when they picked up maximum points on Teesside with a seven wicket win over Stockton.
The home team looked to be making solid progress when they reached 104 for two, but their last eight wickets went down with a clatter as Stephen Humble (4-27) and Michael Craigs (3-21) suddenly ramped up the pressure to pick up the last eight for just 30 more. Skipper John Graham (43) and Sam Jobson (58no in 55 balls) then made things look easy.
Tynemouth limbered up for their Salver final with a bit of a shocker, thrashed by ten wickets on home turf as Aussie Andrew Tye continued his blistering recent form with a 12 over burst in which he picked up five wickets for just 10 runs. Simon Birtwisle (41 not out) and Quentin Hughes (39 not out) then took Chester to comprehensive victory as they knocked off the 79 required inside 22 overs.
In the day’s other games Mattie Muchall (4-18) became the first to 50 league wickets as South Shields thumped Gateshead Fell by 152 runs, Benwell Hill crashed by 155 runs at Ashbrooke where Ashley Thorpe pummelled a century, and the Academy proved 80 runs too good for a youthful Hetton Lyons.