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Blaydon races towards title

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With Blaydon sailing serenely on towards their first ever NEPL title it was lowly Gateshead Fell who captured the attention on Saturday with a thrilling win over fellow strugglers Benwell Hill to raise hopes of a phoenix like rise from ashes.

It was billed as the battle of the bottom two, and what a game it proved to be with the Fell holding their nerve to grab the most dramatic of victories with just one wicket and one ball remaining of a hotly contested encounter.

The Hill looked on course for a big score when they reached 181 for four, but the loss of opener Dan Young, who made 95 from 163 balls, set their cause back and with Shoaib Khan grabbing a late 3-18 the visitors lost five wickets for just 36 runs prompting a declaration on 217 for nine.

And that bold move looked entirely justified when the Fell slipped to 27 for three as Harry Munton (3-45) made some early strikes. Shoaib Khan then took over, hitting 11 fours and one six in a brilliant 106, and taking his ailing side up to 210 for seven, eight away from an improbable victory.

But then the game turned again when Khan was out, and when the ninth wicket fell with the score on 215, Jamie Arkle (12 not out) managed to keep his head as Gateshead secured a sensational success.

The victory, Fell’s second in four games after opening the season with 14 winless matches, brought them to within eights points of their beaten opponents and gives them a real chance of avoiding the wooden spoon.

Up at the summit Blaydon’s only real worry was the weather, the heavy overnight rain causing a delayed start and a reduced 107-over game against Hetton Lyons, but the leaders showed championship class in notching up 214 for seven in 53 overs, and then bowling out their opponents for 146 with more than six overs to spare, returning skipper Graeme Bridge headlining with 60 from 70 balls and 3-31.

South North are now the only side in with a real chance of catching the table-toppers in the four games left of the season. They ended Sunderland’s chances with an 81-run win that featured a half century by Joe Coyne before Lee Crozier (5-28) spun the Wearsiders out of contention.

Tynemouth had the worst possible preparation for the Salver final, going down to a 95-run thumping on Teesside where Stockton’s Richard Waite turned in a staggering all-round performance by cracking 112 from 126 balls and then following up with 5-52 in a 19.3 over spell.

In the day’s other games South Shields and Newcastle played out a low scoring draw in a heavily truncated game, while Chester-le-Street just about kept their snouts in the championship trough by picking up a maximum points haul against the Academy, Andrew Tye (8-37) once again in scintillating form.