Bulls charge to last gasp glory
On a sensational final Saturday of the season South North emerged as champions after Blaydon crashed to their first defeat of the summer to leave the title door wide open.
And, exactly as in 2011, the Bulls charged to glory on the very last day after they hammered visitors South Shields by 122 runs to pick up a maximum 30 points and overtake heartbroken Blaydon who’s home defeat by Tynemouth left them an agonising six points adrift.
As ever, South North did their part of the job with ruthless efficiency, rattling up 258 for eight in just 54.2 overs before declaring to give themselves the maximum amount of time to secure the victory that was imperative if they were to take advantage of any slip-up by the long time leaders.
And when they mopped Shields up inside 44 overs it was wait and see time as news filtered through that an upset could be on the cards at Denefield.
Adam Cragg steadied a listing ship after the Bulls first five batsmen mustered just 40 runs between them. He hit 9 boundaries in 60 before number eight Stephen Humble played a crucial innings of 89, which included 10 fours and 2 sixes, to lift his team to unexpected heights.
Then, after a relatively sedate start, Shields collapsed to the spin of Lee Crozier, the old master picking up 5-36 in 14 overs to clinch victory.
Meanwhile over at Denefield Blaydon looked to be setting themselves up to be crowned champions, reaching 233 for seven in 60 overs before declaring.
There were contributions throughout the top order, Paul Freary’s opening 46 in 107 balls providing a solid platform which Cole McConchie made the most of that base with a run-a-ball 56.
And when Ben Raine claimed a Tynemouth wicket without a run on the board it looked like the highly efficient home attack would once again come up trumps.
But then the course of the game, and the championship, altered as opener Phil Morse settled the innings with 68 from 83 balls, and with South African Patrick Botha hitting six fours and two sixes in 76 Tynemouth broke Blaydon hearts, the coup de grace being applied by Durham’s Mark Wood as he claimed a six wicket win with an unbeaten 41.
And so the title stayed at Roseworth Terrace, the Bulls eighth triumph in ten years - and the third time in six they’d won it at the very last gasp.
In comparison to the amazing events at the summit everything else had an end of season air to it, even Gateshead Fell’s heavy defeat at the hands of the Durham Academy which meant they picked up a second consecutive wooden spoon.
Newcastle posted the highest score of the day – 328 for six – with Durham’s Mark Stoneman (114) and Michael Richardson (83) dominant in a 96-run win over Benwell Hill, while John Coxon was another final day centurion as Chester battered Stockton by 194 runs.