Dice rolls for Blaydon
Things could not have gone much better for Blaydon on Saturday when their depleted team easily overcame the challenge of bottom side Gateshead Fell at the same time as all their title challengers were failing to force victory in their own games.
The combination of results left the Blaydonians 23 points clear of the field, and with just six games to go they are beginning to dream of a glorious end to a long wet summer.
Blaydon decided to bat first when winning the toss, and they were given impetus by a fourth wicket stand of 69 between opener Paul Freary (61) and Cole McConchie (32).
Mark Drake then followed on with 8 boundaries in his half century and even though Gateshead kept plugging away a declaration came when the ninth wicket fell with the score on 211.
A horrible start saw the Fell two down with only 12 on the board, but Shoaib Khan (29) and Jack Jessop (39) gave cause for hope in a third wicket partnership of 62.
But then disaster struck as a triple wicket maiden from Ben Raine (5-40) blew a hole in the home batting order, and Graeme Bridge then hastened their demise with 4-6 from seven overs.
South North lost crucial ground in their home game against Hetton Lyons, and came perilously close to defeat with their last pair at the wicket when time was called with ten runs still needed for victory.
The Bulls did have the Lyons by the throat at one point on 70-6, but youngsters Jack Burnham (40) and Jack McBeth (46) came to the rescue in a stand of 94 and despite Johnny Wightman and Joe Coyne sharing eight wickets Hetton were able to post a target of 178.
A half century from skipper John Graham then looked to be smoothing the way to victory for the home side but two more youngsters, Anthony Watson (3-46) and Ben Whitehead (4-60), stifled their challenge.
Almost two and a half hours were lost to the rain at Ropery Lane where Benwell Hill ended on 97-8 in reply to the Cestrians 156 all out.
Graeme Race, Harry Munton and Zohaib Khan had given the Hill hope by claiming all ten home wickets, but then Liam Simpson and Andrew Tye shared eight wickets to leave Benwell on the brink.
Sunderland’s game at Stockton failed to even reach the half way point – possibly just as well for the Wearsiders who had done some ball chasing as their hosts piled on 272 for seven, the highlight being a century from Richard Waite.
In the day’s other games South Shields had just one wicket to spare when passing the Academy’s modest total of 131, while Newcastle and Tynemouth couldn’t force a result after over an hour was lost to the weather.